“Sauer Notes” Wide Receiver Rankings for 2015: 40-59 (Part 4 of 6)

This week, we will take a gander at some pass-catchers who will be going in the late-rounds on draft day.  Some of these players find themselves on new teams, with new opportunities.  While other players may have their role expanded due to former players moving on to new teams.  Also, be aware of some of the position battles you’ll be reading about that, potentially, could open up some value for certain players.  Every year, some of these late-round WR exceed their value by a long-shot and help people bring home fantasy championships.  This article will help shed light and give insight upon who these players may be this year.

40. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints- This offseason, we saw the Saints’ move the likes of Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills.  This leaves the WR corps very inexperienced outside of Colston.  Last year, even with those two still in the fold, Colston still managed to accumulate 99 targets.  Only twice in his career has he not seen triple-digit targets, and with Graham’s (124) and Stills’ (85) gone this season, we can expect that number to exceed that threshold again.  The Saints’ will look for big-bodied Colston in the red-zone more often this year with Graham taking that role to Seattle.  Every year since Drew Brees joined the Saints’, he has had one of his pass-catchers end the season with at least eight touchdowns.  Colston, being the more prototypical red-zone target between he and Cooks’, seems like the better bet to end the season with that touchdown total.  Brandin Cooks will be the player flying off the draft-board in the early rounds, Colston should be a player you are grabbing late (11th-round ADP), that is the better bet to deliver extreme draft-day value.

41. Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens-  Steve Smith Sr. said he did not seriously contemplate retirement after the end of the 2014 season. On the other hand, Sr. said he doesn’t plan to play until he’s 40; he turned 36 earlier this month. Sr. was a pleasant surprise for the Ravens last season, catching 79/1,065/6.  He had a red-hot start to the season, eclipsing the 100-yard mark in four out of the team’s first six games.  Nevertheless, he really disappeared after that, and never reached the 100-yard plateau again. Coach John Harbaugh hopes to reduce Smith’s snaps to save wear and tear, but he’ll be heavily relied on with rookie Breshad Perriman  seemingly  replacing Torrey Smith.

42. Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings- Charles JohnsonA lot of changes being brought to the table for the Vikings’ offense in 2015.  For starters, we will see Adrian Peterson return to action after missing most of last season.  This will induce more eight-man fronts defensively for their opponents, and open up the field for the ascending Teddy Bridgewater in his second season.  They also brought in Mike Wallace, who will help stretch the field vertically, where Bridgewater thrived last season.  Charles Johnson trained with Rischad Whitfield, the “Footwork King,” this offseason. We know Johnson has ideal size 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, and speed (4.4) for an NFL wideout. Refining his route-running ability under Whitfield, who has Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins as clients, will only help him take the next step. Johnson operated as the every-down X throughout the entire offseason program. “He’s got everything you need to be a productive player in this league,” said OC Norv Turner. I would not be surprised if at the end of the season, Johnson is the Vikings’ leading WR.  But, in what seems to revert back to a run-heavy offense, his possible team-leading numbers may only pan out to be a WR2 on teams this year.

43. Torrey Smith, San Francisco 49ers-  Smith is no stranger to the 49ers, as he was part of the team that defeated the 49ers in the Super Bowl three seasons ago, but the Niners will be happy he is wearing red and gold now. Smith spent his four seasons in the NFL with the Ravens before signing with the 49ers in March. Smith averages 16.9 yards per catch, and he is just what the 49ers needed as a deep-threat.   Having a receiver like Smith will make the whole offense better. Smith is a fast receiver who will stretch the defense, something that the 49ers could not do with the likes of Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree (now signed with the Raiders). Smith has already gathered 3,591 receiving yards and 30 TDs in just 4 years. The fifth-year receiver will open room underneath for Boldin to go to work, and will be open for Kaepernick to find deep down the field. Smith will struggle at times against teams like Seattle or Arizona, but will enjoy playing against teams like Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, New York and other weaker secondaries. Smith is a great signing for the 49ers, and his production will be felt from the first game.  The consistency has lacked in his time with the Ravens’, and do not foreshadow that changing much with the inconsistencies of Kaepernick.  He is more of a week-to-week proposition when the match-up is favorable, and may be best suited for DFS usage.

44. Victor Cruz, New York Giants- Cruz said he will be 100% ready for the start of the season, and will avoid the PUP list.  This is great news for Eli Manning and the Giants’.   Obviously, if Cruz can return to form, the Giants offense will be that much more explosive, enhancing the fantasy value of Odell Beckham, Eli Manning and Shane Vereen, among others. At this point, we can only monitor the Cruz rehab reports to determine how much of an impact WR he will be in 2015. Even with the reports, we won’t know for sure until he is back in game action. Although, I fully do expect Beckham to continue being Eli’s go-to-guy for this season, and years to come. We must be remember that Cruz was Eli’s security blanket, and they had serious chemistry dating back to Cruz’s breakout season of 2011.  Cruz is a high-risk, high-reward pick this year in fantasy and his recovery is something to keep an eye on.

45. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins-  Garcon has moved from X to Z, which is ordinarily the featured position in coach Jay Gruden’s offense. This has no bearing on new X receiver DeSean Jackson, it’s just that the team plans on feeding Garcon more than they did last year.   When Garcon is fed the ball, he does a great job of creating yards after the catch. He had only 68 catches last year, so an increase will be most welcome.  DeSean Jagarconckson took a huge chunk out of Pierre Garcon’s value, but having three different quarterbacks all start at least three games each didn’t help either. The entire offense lacked chemistry last season. Garcon’s biggest dip in production was on third down, which is likely where the Redskins will use him as a security blanket this season. He was only targeted 15 times on third down in 2014, resulting in a mere five catches. Jordan Reed got more chances on third down than Garcon despite missing so much time last season. Even Andre Roberts received more third down opportunities. Expect the team to try to get Garcon 70-80 catches this season, especially since he has typically been productive after the catch on third downs since coming to Washington. Jackson is still the WR to own in Washington, and one should not draft Garcon expecting anything more than WR3 numbers.

46. Breshad Perriman, Baltimore Ravens-  The WR out of UCF has athleticism to impress all the scouts. Due to a hamstring injury, Perriman was forced to miss the combine, but at his pro-day he clocked a 4.24 and 4.27 in the 40-yard dash. Standing at 6-foot-2, 212 pounds, he has the size and speed to go up and win jump-balls. He should be able to blow the top off defenses and get open for Flacco over the top. He had some issues with drops in college, but those drops can be worked on with the new coaching staff of Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who love to throw the ball. His 20.9 yards per catch at UCF were a solid indicator that he possesses the threat of getting down field, much like Alshon Jeffery did in Trestman’s offense. Perriman presents huge upside as an immediate starter in the Ravens’ offense.  Torrey Smith, who has moved onto San Francisco, had a stat line of 49/767(15.7 YPC)/11. It’s speculation that Perriman will step right into Torrey’s role as the deep threat for Flacco.

47. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans-  Wright saw just 93 targets last season, Whisenhunt’s first season in charge of the Titans. He wasn’t allowed to freelance as much as he did in 2013, when he racked up 94 catches on 140 targets.

“I think a lot of things, but thinking and doing what I have to do are totally different,” Wright said. “So I just keep my thoughts to myself. I don’t even speak them out loud. Whatever I have to do, I’ll do.”

This sounds like a player just biding his time until he can leave Tennessee. With the accumulation of several other targets (Hakeem Nicks, Harry Douglas, Dorial Green-Beckham), the downward trend for Wright may continue.  One major factor that may keep Wright’s fantasy value afloat, is that of rookie QB Marcus Mariota.  Often times, we see a rookie QB develop tunnel vision to one WR, and develop chemistry strictly to them far and above others.  If Wright turns out to be this guy, he can hold some serious value as the top target in an offense that projects to pass the ball a ton, trying to catch up to other teams late in games.

48. John Brown, Arizona Cardinals-    Brown did well in a rookie season where he caugjohn brownht at least two passes in 15 games, finishing with a total of 48/696/5. Everyone around the organization has been raving about him all offseason. Many think he has a shot to lead the team in receiving this year.  The hype-train is full-steam ahead on Brown, who also impressed Carson Palmer during OTAs and minicamp after adding ten pounds of muscle over the offseason. A second-year wideout, coach Bruce Arians has likened to Marvin Harrison. Brown has some breakout appeal and remains affordable at his ninth-round ADP.  With Larry Fitzgerald being a year older, look for Brown to step up and help bolster the Arizona WR corps in 2015.

49. Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins- The Louisville Cardinal product was drafted into a newly-kindled offensive landscape in Miami.  The 6-foot-3, 209 pound athlete was forced to miss half of his senior season due to a foot injury.  Parker, who has looked impressive in OTA’s according to coaches and fellow teammates, recently just had a screw replaced in the 5th metatarsal of his foot.  Although the surgery was successful, they are expecting him to need about 8 weeks to fully recover, which would make him ready right before the regular season were to kick off.  The Dolphins opted to get this procedure done now as they think Parker can add a new dimension to their passing attack with his raw size and speed.  The health issues should not be a concern going forward, as Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas had similar procedures without any setbacks. I love the situation he finds himself in, with a young ascending talent in Ryan Tannehill, and not much threatening his playing time.  The only worry is the abundance of new toys the Dolphins’ acquired this offseason with the likes of Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, and Jordan Cameron. Clearly, Parker is the most talented out of the Miami pass-catchers, and if he develops chemistry with Tannehill, they can become a force to be reckoned with going forward.

50. Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys- Cowboys WRs Coach Derek Dooley said Terrance Williams made a “big jump” this offseason. With Dez Bryant skipping the offseason, Williams worked at X, Z and slot.

“He’s expanded his route inventory. Every route, every opportunity he had he took advantage of it,” Dooley said.

Williams’ progression as a third-year player and a likely uptick in targets as Dallas’ running game regresses make him an interesting pick at his 12th-round ADP.  A side-note to his progression, is that Tony Romo says he feels better than ever, and should show no hindrance of the back problems mitigating some opportunities over the last few seasons.

51. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers- The latter part of the bolded introduction says it all.  Green Bay Packers, which insinuates Aaron Rodgers buzzing the ball around to the would-be Packers.  That’s not all the buzzing Rodgers has done this offseason.  Rodgers, who previously went on the record saying Adams is “starting to reach” adamshis “humongous upside,” is talking up his second-year wideout every chance he gets.

“Davante is a very polished player, and he has an excellent demeanor for a guy who’s going to be a star.” -Aaron Rodgers.

That is very high praise, from one of the brightest stars in the NFL.  Now, do not overdraft Adams’, as you know, he plays behind guys named Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.  Regardless, third fiddle in this high-powered Green Bay offense is a pretty great place to be, and if any injury were to occur with the other two big-guns, he be vying for the lion-share of passes coming from Rodgers.

52. Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams-  Quick has progressed well after suffering a severe shoulder injury late last October. Quick participated in individual drills during the offseason program, and could be bumped up to team drills early in training camp. Rams WR Kenny Britt has taken to wearing Quick’s jersey in practice, and organizing positional group dinners to let the injured 3rd year WR know that he is not forgotten. A former 2nd round pick, Quick was on pace for 64/973/8 line before tearing his rotator cuff, and is someone you will want to take a chance on late in your 2015 drafts, providing he can return to full health.  The Rams’ also brought in QB Nick Foles, which saw Sam Bradford move to the Eagles’. This move gives the Rams’ a more secure feel for their starting QB to stay upright for a full season.  The Rams’ have a bunch of high-upside type WR,  just hoping they do not have to endure a season catching passes from the likes of Shaun Hill or Austin Davis again.

53. Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins-  The move to Miami comes with a few downgrades in situation.  First of all, Tannehill is no Drew Brees.  While there is reason to believe Tannehill is still ascending and can become a very good QB in his own right, he does not possess the same ability that Brees’ did in New Orleans.  This move looked good for Stills when he first arrived in Miami via trade.  He was locked in to the No. 2 WR role behind Jarvis Landry, but then Miami made a flurry of other moves.  They drafted highly-touted prospect Devante Parker at ten overall in this year’s draft, and brought in veteran Greg Jennings and tight-end Jordan Cameron.  There are 229 total targets that have departed to new NFL homes in Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brian Gibson.  If Stills can carve out a role in this offense, as maybe the slot WR over the likes of Jennings, he would be a culprit to see some of these targets.  It is a position battle to keep an eye on throughout the remainder of the off-season and preseason.  If he were to carve-out a substantial role in this offense, you could have a nice WR3 or WR4 for injury or bye-week fill-ins.  As it stands today, Stills may be better suited for DFS lineups to begin the season.

54. Percy Harvin, Buffalo Bills-  Bills new Head Coach Rex Ryan says he “expects Harvin to produce on the outside instead of the slot or backfield.” In his first two seasons, the Vikings gave Harvin a fairly big role in the offense. Since then, he’s become a jack-of-all-trades/gadget-type player. Harvin seems to believe he’ll flourish in a return to a traditional receiving option in Buffalo.  Harvin will have to fight for targets with Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Charles Clay, LeSean McCoy, and Fred Jackson. However, if Rex truly wants to get Harvin heavily involved in the offense, he possesses the high-upside coveted in a mid-late round draft choice.  There is one major problem in Buffalo, and the outlook of their offense in 2015. That would be the most important and integral position there is on the football field, and that is quarterback.  This offense could be poised to be one of the most explosive in the league, if they had anybody competent enough to get their play-makers the football.  With new OC Greg Roman, expect this offense to be very run-heavy, just like we saw in San Francisco the past few years.

55. Cody Latimer, Denver Broncos- latimerWith new coach Gary Kubiak, it is presumed that this offense will become a run-first/run-heavy type of offense.  Regardless, they still have one of the best QB in the NFL in Peyton Manning.  His arm may have diminished, but he gets his WR open using his brain, and setting up the right plays at the right time.   Latimer should be a fixture on offense in three-wide sets with Sanders kicking inside.  We have seen three WR be very relevant all simultaneously together in this offense in the past.  As noted before, it is going to be a new offense, yet, any WR catching the ball from Manning is viable.  Latimer is one injury away from being one of the hottest commodities there is, in terms of situation.  Do not reach too-high for Latimer in your drafts, but he is definitely worth a look with one of your late-round picks.

56. Dwayne Bowe, Cleveland Browns-  Bowe’s production has nowhere to go but up. Unfortunately, he left a bad quarterback situation to join an even lousier one. Longtime Cleveland writer Terry Pluto cites the fact that Ray Farmer was a member of the Kansas City front office when Bowe was drafted. There’s a chance the Browns know something about Bowe that the rest of the league doesn’t and Bowe bounces back this season.  He joins veterans Andrew Hawkins, and newly acquired Brian Hartline, alongside un-drafted second-year man Taylor Gabriel.  This team may be playing catch-up for most of the season and some garbage-time production will be in order.  He has the potential to be a nice late-round draft choice and gaining possibly a No. 1 WR on an NFL team, albeit not a great team.

57. Stevie Johnson, San Diego Chargers-  The Chargers’ official website confirms Stevie Johnson will play both in the slot and outside. The stars are aligning for Johnson, who was a misfit in San Francisco, but is set for a major role in San Diego. He’ll fill the inside Eddie Royal role, while also threatening to take outside snaps from a guy on the brink of retirement (Malcolm Floyd). The four-game suspension handed to Antonio Gates only opens-up more opportunity for Johnson, who is one of my favorite late-round targets.  We’ve seen him before put up consistent WR1/2 numbers in Buffalo, putting up three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, and that was with a lot less QB talent than Phillip Rivers.

58. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks-  baldwinThe Seahawks have not been a WR friendly offense in recent years, and do not project to change that this season.  We know about the ground-and-pound with the workhorse Lynch, who inked a new deal after their Super Bowl loss.  Also, big-time addition Jimmy Graham will further take away targets from the Seattle wide-outs.  Rookie Tyler Lockett will be the Seahawks’ primary return man on both punts and kickoffs. Baldwin, ever the glue guy, still wants to contribute.

“Just helping my team in any way I can to help us get to another Super Bowl,” he said.

Baldwin remains a low-ceiling PPR option as a slot receiver who projects for 60-70 catches.

59. Malcolm Floyd, San Diego Chargers- Entering his 12th season with the Chargers, Floyd will look to finish his career on a high note.

“All my chips are in,” he reiterated during a recent interview.

Coming off a 52/856/6 line in 2014, Floyd looks to add to those numbers.  Despite the optimism, expectations should be tempered for the soon to be 34 year old WR. With Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson, and Jacoby Jones searching for targets, Floyd will hold a WR4 value as a deep-ball threat in a productive offense.

Stay tuned for next week’s article when we will be divulging into the real knitty-gritty among the WR for 2015.

Find me on twitter: @zaksauer

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