2021 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Sleepers

by Dennis Sosic
2021 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Sleepers

Welcome Fantasy friends and foes to the 2021 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Sleepers.

I came up with seven wide receivers that will gain you the advantage in your Fantasy drafts. Fantasy managers cannot be afraid to take chances in their drafts and the margin between winning and losing is minimal. Go big or go home! Take the plunge on the player you want!

Which wide receiver is always underrated and falls in drafts? Who will be the breakout receiver in 2021? Which new head coaches will catapult their receivers up the fantasy rankings? Find out the answers to those questions and a whole lot more in the 2021 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Sleepers.

2021 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Sleepers

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Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans

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Brandin Cooks continues to be one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL. Cooks is coming off a splendid season with the Houston Texans. He hauled in 81 receptions for 1,150 yards and six touchdowns. That makes it five of the last six seasons, Cooks has managed to rack up seasons with 1,000-plus receiving yards. He joins Brandon Marshall as the second player to record 1,000+ receiving yards for four different teams.

His consistency should not be overlooked. Cooks is fifth in receiving yards among all wideouts since 2015. The fact that he has never been to the Pro Bowl is a joke, but then again so is the Pro Bowl.

Cooks was targeted 119 times last season by Deshaun Watson, who had the most passing yards in the league last season. His production picked up when Will Fuller got suspended for six games for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Cooks averaged 7.3 catches on 10.3 targets per game in the games without Fuller,  which included consecutive 100-yard receiving games closing the 2020 season.

The legal situation facing Watson means we probably won't see the former Clemson standout play this season. This obviously diminishes the Fantasy outlook for Cooks and the Texans passing attack. There is an obvious significant drop in play going from Watson to veteran Tyrod Taylor or rookie Davis Mills.

However, Cooks will be the focal point of the Texans' passing attack. The expectation is that he should see enough volume to be a weekly starter and present excellent value as your WR3 in your Fantasy lineups.

Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills

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Gabriel Davis began the season behind Stefon Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley in the pecking order at wide receiver. However, he finished the season second behind only Diggs in receiving touchdowns with seven scores.
In the second half of the season, Davis proved that he could play a bigger role in the Bills offense when Brown dealt with injuries. He started nine of the final 10 games and the Buffalo Bills won every game that Davis started. In weeks 13-17, he accumulated 43.5 percent of his targets and finished third on the team in targets.
Four of his seven touchdowns came on 15 red-zone targets. He is a big-play threat who is tied to Josh Allen in a pass-heavy offense. The Bills head into this season with a new look at wide receiver. They released veteran John Brown due to salary cap reasons and replacing him with another veteran, Emmanuel Sanders.
Davis excelled in a complementary role that he played last season. Allen knows that Davis can be trusted with only three drops and an excellent drop rate of 4.8%. Beasley and Sanders are closing in on the twilight of their careers while Davis provides tremendous upside with compelling potential.
Gabriel Davis is a wideout that I am targeting in every one of my drafts as a breakout candidate this season.

Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons

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Fantasy managers realize why Russell Gage is on this sleeper list. In one word, opportunity. With the Atlanta Falcons trading superstar wide receiver Julio Jones to the Tennessee Titans, Gage should rank third on the team in targets behind Calvin Ridley and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts this season.

Gage set career-highs across the board last season with 72 catches on 110 targets for 786 yards and four touchdowns. His production was mainly tied to Jones missing seven games last season due to injury. In those seven games, Gage caught 30 passes on 45 targets for 340 yards and two scores. Not earth-shattering numbers but we will definitely see a new Falcons offense in 2021 with former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith taking over as the Falcons head coach.

The Falcons would love to scale back the pass attempts but their mediocre at best defense won't allow it. Matt Ryan will have to chuck the ball plenty enough for Gage to gain opportunities and more production based on volume.

Gage is worth the draft capital as your WR4 based on an elevated floor and ceiling with potential upside to climb into WR3 status.

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

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Michael Gallup had a down 2020 season with 59 receptions for 843 yards and five touchdowns. Of course, the injury to Dak Prescott played an enormous role in his struggles last season. The Dallas Cowboys' offense never recovered from the loss of Prescott. The domino effect of his loss was felt all the way to a disappointing 6-10 season for the Cowboys.

With Prescott on the field, Gallup was building upon his excellent 2019 season, when he had 66 receptions and averaged 16.8 yards per reception. In the five games together last season, Gallup had 50-plus yards in four of those games. He was on pace for 1,113 yards on the season before Prescott's injury.

Those impressive stats notwithstanding, Gallup was still the third option in the Cowboys' passing attack behind Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Nonetheless, Gallup is a deep threat who led the team in yards per reception (14.3) and had five receiving touchdowns which tied the team lead. He also led the team with 11.8 aDOT and 10.0 yards before catch per reception (YBC/R).

Gallup is one of the most underrated receivers in the league. With Prescott returning, the Dallas offense should pick up where they left off. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract this season. Gallup should see an increase in his Fantasy production this season. Gallup will get plenty of opportunities in this Cowboys offense. He will be a significant component of the Cowboys' vertical-based passing attack. Fantasy managers would be wise not to miss out.

Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears

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Coaches say the biggest jump usually comes immediately after a player’s first season. If that rings true, I can't wait to see what Chicago Bears sophomore wide receiver Darnell Mooney produces this season. Mooney finished his rookie season with 61 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns. He quietly collected the second-most targets on the team (98) and recorded the most receptions by a rookie wide receiver in Chicago Bears history.

Mooney climbed up the depth chart as the season progressed. He finished second on the team in receptions and receiving yards, behind only Allen Robinson. Mooney became a legit deep threat for the Bears, but the problem was that the Bears didn't have a quarterback who could hit an often wide-open Mooney downfield.

Mooney led the Bears in average depth of target with 11.5 but was not able to realize his upside with the weak quarterback play. He finished tenth with 739 unrealized air yards last season. In 2021, the additions of veteran Andy Dalton and rookie Justin Fields under center should provide success in the deep ball game. Mooney is already excited about his future with Fields as they offered multiple highlights at the team's OTA's. 

Fantasy managers can't wait to see Justin Fields take over as the Bears' signal-caller and what this will mean for Mooney and his ability to reach his potential. His upside to capitalize on those missed opportunities should place Mooney on every Fantasy manager's radar this season. Mooney is a home-run threat with speed that kills. Fantasy managers should assure themselves of securing the former Tulane star as their WR3 with the ability to hit near the 1,000-yard mark and seven to nine scores.

Laviska Shenault, Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

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The 2020 second-round pick is coming off a rookie season, where he touched the ball 76 times and had 691 scrimmage yards as well as five total touchdowns in 14 games. Shenault produced those numbers for the worst team in the NFL last season. The Jacksonville Jaguars ranked 28th in points allowed and 30th in points scored. Last season, the Jaguars had Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton, and Mike Glennon under center.

However, the Jaguars now have prized No.1 overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, under center at the quarterback position. New head coach Urban Meyer will scheme with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell lining up Shenault all over the field and Fantasy managers should expect improvement in Year 2.

His versatility is his biggest strength and the Jacksonville coaches are buzzing about Shenault. Lawrence will provide an immediate significant upgrade under center. The team provided weapons surrounding him with breakout rookie James Robinson and the draft addition of running back Travis Etienne in the backfield. They also have a nice combination with wide receivers DJ Chark and Marvin Jones, Jr., each of which will demand coverage and keep defenses honest. In contrast, the Jaguars' defense is still horrendous and will force negative game scripts throughout the 2021 season.

Urban Meyer is known for the offenses he coached in college. We will see Shenault be showcased with his game-breaking ability at every level of the field. Shenault has exhibited development as a pass-catcher so far in camp and should be on your Fantasy radar as a flex option in your Fantasy drafts this season.

Tre'Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints

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Fittingly, the deepest sleeper and the biggest deep threat is my final 2021 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Sleeper. New Orleans Saint wideout Tre'Quan Smith is the longest-tenured wide receiver on the Saints' roster outside of Michael Thomas.  After releasing Emmanuel Sanders this offseason, the Saints appear confident with Smith as the second option behind Thomas while the remainder of the wide receiver room is scraping for touches.

Smith is heading into his final season under contract and is coming off his best season, totaling 34 catches for 448 yards and four touchdowns. However, now that he is the number two option, his production has to be better.

I am projecting that Jameis Winston takes over for the retired future Hall of Famer Drew Brees as the Saints signal-caller. Winston and Taysom Hill will battle to take over the Saints offense. However, Fantasy managers need to pray that Winston will win the job for the overall Fantasy production of the Saints offense.

Winston projects to be the best antidote for the Fantasy success for Smith. He loves airing the ball out deep downfield. He won't hesitate to get Smith involved in the vertical passing game. Brees didn't possess the arm strength to throw the ball vertically to generate big plays, while Winston thrives and makes his living as a quarterback with his big-play ability.

Smith profiles as a downfield threat who finished eighth in target separation last season and should thrive with Winston behind center. Winston was Fantasy gold in 2019 when he lead the league with 5109 passing yards while throwing for 33 touchdowns. The 6'2" Smith should boom in as the No.2 in New Orleans and be a WR that Fantasy owners can be encouraged to select as one of their last selections in their Fantasy drafts.


Check out the rest of our 2021 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers!

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1 comment

2021 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Busts - Fantasy Six Pack July 5, 2021 - 1:31 pm

[…] my last article, I tackled the 2021 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Sleepers. In my latest, I analyze the other end of the Fantasy spectrum. I provided five wide receivers […]

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