There are quite a few sleepers in the 2017 NFL Draft class to keep an eye on. This article will provide you with three wide receivers to target in the mid to late rounds of your rookie drafts.
#1. Cooper Kupp– Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp is a wide receiver to keep an eye on in the late rounds of your rookie drafts. Currently, the Rams have Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Tavon Austin, Cooper Kupp, Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds, and Nelson Spruce as their wide receivers. Watkins is the Rams clear number 1 receiver. Austin is the team’s primary slot WR, and Robert Woods is projected to be the outside number 2 receiver, however, I do not believe Woods will be able to keep that job for too long. Woods was Buffalo’s number 2 wide receiver from 2013-2016, and his stats were underwhelming in that role. The Rams have another receiver who could possibly move ahead of Woods on the depth chart, and that is Cooper Kupp.
Kupp was taken in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft. He is an older rookie; 24 years old. Standing at 6’2, 205 lbs, Kupp dominated the college level at Eastern Washington University. Here is a look at the numbers he produced in college:
Year Games Catches Yards Touchdowns
2016 13 117 1700 17
2015 11 114 1642 19
2014 13 104 1431 16
2013 15 93 1691 21
As you can see, Kupp was very consistent from the start of his college career until the end. He never had less than 90 catches in a season, and he finished with at least 16 or more touchdowns in every year. In 2013, Kupp’s freshman season, he caught an impressive 21 Touchdowns, and he had nearly 1700 yards receiving. He put up similar numbers in 2016, his senior season, with 117 receptions, 1700 yards receiving, and 17 touchdowns.
One problem fantasy owners might have with Kupp is that his quarterback situation is not very good. Jared Goff was not the most efficient QB in his rookie season, and some people are already calling him a bust. To be fair, the wide receivers around Goff were not helping him in 2016. The Rams significantly improved their offensive weapons in 2017, and this should help Goff develop into a better, more efficient quarterback. Realistically, it is still too soon to call Goff a bust, so I am willing to take Kupp on most of my rosters late in my rookie drafts.
Kupp was more intriguing before Sammy Watkins was traded to Los Angeles. Watkins being in LA dampers the expectations for Kupp, but, he can still be productive for fantasy owners. If he can win the WR3 job, that would improve his fantasy value. Kupp has the potential to be a WR3, with higher upside for fantasy if everything goes right. However, Kupp will still have to earn his playing time.
#2. Ardarius Stewart – New York Jets
The Jets drafted Ardarius Stewart in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft. Currently, the team is in a transition period. From 2015-2016, the Jets WR core was Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Quincy Enunwa. It’s 2017 now, and Brandon Marshall has moved to the other MetLife Stadium locker room, as a member of the New York Giants. Eric Decker is now on the Titans, and Quincy Enunwa was recently placed on injured reserve; ending his season. There is a total of 273 available targets in New York, (Per FantasyGuru.com) which is the fourth most by any team in the NFL.
The Jets current WR’s are Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, Ardarius Stewart, Chad Henson, Chris Harper, and Jalin Marshall. Robby Anderson performed well towards the end of the 2016 campaign, but, that was with Bryce Petty as his quarterback. In 2017, it is not looking like Petty will be the starting QB for the Jets, as of this writing. The Jets also have Charone Peake, who we haven’t seen do much of anything to this point, and two rookie receivers, Ardarius Stewart, and Chad Henson.
Ardarius Stewart is a name to keep an eye on, late in your drafts. The rookie is a fast, big play receiver who plays well out of the slot. The Jets are going to more than likely be playing from behind quite a bit in 2017, meaning they will likely have an increase in pass attempts. If Stewart can rise to the top of the Jets depth chart, there is plenty of volume to be had.
At Alabama, Stewart was not the primary receiving option on his team, yet he still performed well in his junior and senior seasons, as seen below. If Stewart can keep finding his way into the end-zone, that will make him a fantasy relevant wide receiver.
Year Class Games Catches Yards Touchdowns
2016 Senior 12 54 864 8
2015 Junior 15 63 700 4
2014 Sophomore 6 12 149 0
I believe fantasy owners will be able to use Stewart as either a low-end WR3, WR4, or a nice flex option by the end of the season. Due to the lack of credible receivers on the Jets, Stewart is going to have an opportunity to ascend quickly to the top of the Jets wide receiver depth chart, and if he can do that, I see no reason not to draft Stewart in the mid to late rounds of your rookie drafts.
#3. Ryan Switzer – Dallas Cowboys
Switzer was drafted in the 4th round by the Dallas Cowboys. He can play wide receiver, punt returner, and kick returner. Switzer is a smaller WR, standing at just 5’8 inches, and 188 lbs. He is a younger version of Cole Beasley.
The main concern for Switzer’s outlook is his position on the Cowboys’ depth chart. Right now, he sits behind Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, and Brice Butler. If an injury happened to either of the secondary receiving options, (specifically Beasley) Switzer would get the opportunity to see the field. Fantasy owners need to be patient with Switzer, as he does not have an immediate path to playing time in 2016.
Below is a chart of Switzer’s stats from his time at North Carolina. Switzer saw a major increase in catches and yards when quarterback Mitch Trubisky took over the starting QB position for North Carolina in 2016. Switzer will have a capable NFL quarterback in Dak Prescott throwing to him. If Switzer can expand on his 2016 campaign, the Dallas Cowboys, and fantasy owners will really enjoy the production from Switzer.
Year Games Catches Yards Touchdowns
2016 13 96 1,112 6
2015 14 55 697 6
2014 13 61 757 4
2013 13 32 341 3
Switzer is very cheap to acquire in dynasty leagues. As a reference, he went undrafted in my 12 team PPR rookie draft, which was back in May. In a different, much deeper rookie draft, Switzer was taken at the back end of the 3rd round.
I am not expecting immediate fantasy production in 2017 for Switzer, though he is a name to keep an eye on for 2018 and beyond.
Those are my top 3 rookie wide receiver sleepers. Thank you for reading my article. Please follow me on twitter, @JoeyColonna, and check out all of the great content here at Dynasty Football Factory!