Due to the unpredictability of fantasy football, it is always a wise plan to research some of the talent that sits behind the No. 1 and 2 guys at each position.
With the top wide receivers and tight ends not lasting much beyond the second round of drafts, here is a list of 10 later-round, fantasy football sleeper options who have the potential to reward generously this season.
1. Markus Wheaton, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers need somebody else besides Antonio Brown to catch balls this year due to the one-year suspension of Martavis Bryant. This makes Wheaton, who falls quite low in mock drafts, a great late-round stash with possible WR2 upside.
While playing third-fiddle last season, Wheaton drew 79 targets resulting in 749 yards and five touchdowns. Noteworthy was that Wheaton averaged 17 yards per reception. While Brown draws double-coverage, expect Wheaton to see an increase in action.
2. Kamar Aiken, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens
Aiken really turned heads towards the latter part of 2015. Surprisingly, this was without Joe Flacco in the picture. Catching passes from the Ravens’ second-and-third string quarterbacks, Aiken was targeted a total of 69 times during Weeks 11-17. This amounted to 538 yards and three touchdowns.
This year, Aikin will see the return of Steve Smith Sr. and possibly Breshad Perriman. But that just screams injury-alert. And Mike Wallace has proven to have a knack of rubbing his new teams the wrong way. This could be Aikin’s breakout fantasy year with Flacco returning under center.
3. Sterling Shepard, wide receiver, New York Giants
Training camp hasn’t even started, but the buzz sure has regarding Shepard’s progress since being drafted.
In fact, defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo recently mixed up Sterling and third-year star Odell Beckham Jr. during practice.
With Eli Manning averaging 4,423 yards in each of his past two seasons, there should be plenty of fantasy action headed Shepard’s way even if Victor Cruz finally makes his way back into the mix. Shepard was drafted in the second round after recording 86 receptions, 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final year at Oklahoma.
4. Travis Benjamin, wide receiver, San Diego Chargers
Thankfully for the sake of fantasy football, Benjamin was signed during free agency to one of the NFL’s top passing offenses in the league. Catching passes from Philip Rivers versus whoever will be quarterbacking for the Browns automatically boosts Benjamin’s stock approaching fantasy drafts.
The Chargers of course have Keenan Allen returning as their No. 1 pass-catcher. But considering Rivers attempted 41.3 passes per game last year, there should be enough volume to make a strong case for Benjamin to evolve into a WR2. Currently, he is available in mock drafting in the ninth round on average, making him quite a fantasy steal.
5. Kevin White, wide receiver, Chicago Bears
With much to prove at this point after sitting out all of 2015, White will likely drop to the wee bottom of fantasy draft boards later this summer.
Though, he is worth a late-round flyer considering Alshon Jeffery is constantly getting dinged up. We must keep in mind that White posted 109 catches resulting in 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final year at West Virginia. Furthermore, he led the Big 12 with the most receptions that year.
White might just surprise as a fantasy option this year, considering Jay Cutler made some strides last season.
6. Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings
Getting the Vikings’ passing game up to par this season is of the utmost importance for the team to evolve this year. Hence, the Vikings spent their first-round pick on Treadwell to assist in making that happen.
The former Mississippi standout finished his 2015 college season with 82 catches for 1,153 and 11 touchdowns. Considering some fantasy mock drafts actually show Treadwell falling off the board before second-year receiver Stefon Diggs, this should be an indicator off good things to come. Situated opposite Diggs, look for Treadwell to have an immediate impact as a WR3 with plenty of fantasy upside in 2016.
7. Nelson Agholor, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
Agholor is an intriguing fantasy option heading into the season, considering he had a couple of games in his rookie debut when he averaged more than 20 yards per reception. He also recorded 104 catches for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns at his final year at USC.
But due to his overall lack of production and the fact he was only targeted 44 times last season, Agholor currently sits off the radar in mock fantasy drafts. If Sam Bradford stays healthy this season, Agholor could easily see an uptick in targets, bumping him into flex territory this time around.
8. Coby Fleener, tight end, New Orleans Saints
Fleener’s productivity dropped off quite a bit last year playing with the Colts’ revolving quarterbacks in 2015. Although prior to last year, he recorded career-highs across the board, including 774 yards and eight touchdowns.
He should continue to be a red zone threat, especially with Drew Brees hurling passes his way. Brees loves throwing to his tight ends as proven by former tight end Benjamin Watson’s 110 targets last year. This season, Fleener stands an excellent chance of creeping into TE1 territory.
9. Jared Cook, tight end, Green Bay Packers
After spending seven seasons playing for both the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams, Cook finally has a shot at becoming a legitimate fantasy option playing with Aaron Rodgers this season.
This could finally be the end of guessing whether Cook will reward 10 points or zero points as he had on a weekly basis in the past, playing with no-name quarterbacks. Likely to be drafted at the bottom of the barrel, Cook might just surprise (in a good way) this year.
10. Clive Walford, tight end, Oakland Raiders
Walford might just be that darkhorse sleeper fantasy owners can grab at the tail end of the draft. He is listed as the Raiders’ No. 1 tight end after recording 28 catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Noteworthy is that Walford saw an uptick in his targets (26) during the last five weeks of 2015. Quarterback Derek Carr is improving as well as the Raiders offense as a whole, which means there is plenty of upside for Walford to evolve into a fantasy-relevant tight end.