Unproven wideouts valuable in fantasy football

By Steve Shonder

Fantasy football is back, baby.

Wide receiver is probably one of the more difficult positions to draft unless you’ve picked up Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green or Dez Bryant. They’re wildly inconsistent, especially if they play on teams quarterbacked by the likes of Chad Henne, Carson Palmer and Eli Manning.

That’s why the best bet is to pick up unproven players on wide receiver-thin teams like the Carolina Panthers or the Oakland Raiders.

It’s safe to assume everyone has already drafted their soon-to-be disappointing fantasy teams; that’s why I’m here to suggest the best available players for you to pick up in the coming weeks, starting with four sure-to-be-superb wide receivers.

Kelvin Benjamin

Kelvin Benjamin is my favorite of the wide receiver sleeper quartet.

The Panthers’ No. 1 receiver is Jerricho Cotchery, who put up nice numbers last season, scoring 10 touchdowns. But the problem with Cotchery is last year was his best since 2007. I doubt he’ll do that well this year or ever again.

Benjamin is the No. 2 wideout and is bound to become the No. 1 man in Carolina. Best of all, he’s available in 21 percent of Yahoo leagues. Act fast so you can stash him for the inevitable Week 2 breakout game. Quarterback Cam Newton loved throwing to Benjamin in the preseason. This, coupled with his ability to get into space with minimal separation, can make him a future stud.

Jarrett Boykin

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jarrett Boykin is another nice option for those in need.

Anyone who has owned a Packer wide receiver knows the pain of quarterback Aaron Rodgers spreading the ball around. Some games Jordy Nelson is the No. 1 choice, sometimes its Randall Cobb and sometimes it’s the guy from the parking lot who Rodgers thought had good route-running skills.

Boykin definitely isn’t the guy from the parking lot. He was third on the team in receptions, and even with the increased targets running back Eddie Lacy will get, it’s a safe bet Boykin is going to have a few big games this season. He’s owned in 39 percent of Yahoo leagues, so you might be able to wait on him, unless he has a huge Week 1, in which case you’ll spend most of the year kicking yourself for not grabbing him before the rush begins.

James Jones

Former Packer and current Raiders wide receiver James Jones is the sexiest of the sleeper picks. He’s two years removed from a 14-touchdown season before injuries to himself and Rodgers hurt his production last season. He can still be that guy.

Oakland is waving around a flashy new rookie quarterback in Derek Carr. Carr is going to need to rely on strong receivers to get his career off on the right foot. Conveniently for fantasy football players everywhere, he has exactly one: James Jones. Jones will likely be the focal point of the passing attack as neither Rod Streater nor Denarius Moore have been the receiving threats Jones is. Pick him up since he’s only owned in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin

For the final sleeper wide receiver, I’ve chosen two. I’m aware this is cheating, but the Cleveland Browns are murky in all things, especially offense. Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin are the Browns’ No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, respectively. Until Johnny Manziel becomes the starter, it’s hard to figure out who his favorite will be.

These two are worth keeping an eye on because Manziel is going to throw the ball and either Hawkins or Austin should be the target at least 70 percent of the time. Hawkins is available in 76 percent of leagues, while Austin can be found in 83 percent of leagues.