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Fantasy Football: 2015 wide receiver sleepers and busts

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Fantasy Football: 2015 wide receiver sleepers and busts

Wide receivers across the NFL are #blessed because of the way the league is trending towards chucking the pigskin all over the place.

While quality running backs may be hard to find, impact receivers are not. The group is so deep and filled with many options that can help you turn in to cash money.

Rookies stole the show in 2014 with guys like Kelvin Benjamin, Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and Brandin Cooks standing out (and that's just to name a few). Can this year's crop of rookies put on a repeat performance? Will the sophomore slump stink up the league? 

Outside of the stud muffins at the top (Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, etc) who should you be putting in your draft queue?

[MORE - Fantasy Football: 2015 Quarterback sleepers and busts]

So many options and so much to get to. Here are our top targets, sleepers and busts for the 2015 season.

Top Targets

DeAndre Hopkins, HOU: Putting him in this category has more to do with where he’s going in drafts right now than his new stardom on Hard Knocks. His swagger is fun to watch on HBO and despite his quarterback situation, he’s going in the early 30s with the potential to be a WR1. Knowing Hopkins could be there with my third pick allows me to feel comfortable potentially passing on receivers with both my first and second round picks. He will get the majority of targets in the passing game and that’s all you can ask for in a WR1. There aren’t a lot of quality receiver for the Texans who could threaten Hopkins’ workload. Sure, Brian Hoyer’s inability to throw a good deep ball worries me, but Bill O’Brien won’t let that hamper Hopkins and the offense. Don’t panic if Hopkins ends up being the first receiver on your team. You’re still in good shape. - John "The Professor" Paschall

Alshon Jeffery, CHI: Jeffery was already a Top 10 wide receiver before Kevin White went down and now with the rookie lost for possibly the entire season, it is officially the Jeffery show in Chicago. Now, there is some concern with his calf injury and anytime Jay Cutler is your quarterback, there is plenty of risk of bad games or bad weeks. But you also know Cutler is going to go downfield and throw into double or triple coverage to get to Jeffery, clearly his No. 1 guy. Let somebody else worry about Cutler's interceptions, just reap the benefits of Alshon coming down with some of those deeps balls and double-covered passes every now and then. - Tony Andracki

[PODCAST: Bears Insider John 'Moon' Mullin previews Bears season]

Brandin Cooks, NO: Cooks missed out on all of the rookie wide receiver fun last season, which only means he's going to make up for it in a big way in 2015. The second-year speedster out of Oregon State is currently projected to be drafted in the mid 30s. Sure, you can saddle yourself with a Julian Edelman or Keenan Allen in that range, but if you want to win your fantasy league you better shoot for the stars with a guy who’s capable of producing WR1 numbers like Cooks. We all know that Brees likes to sling it, and two of his favorite targets (Jimmy Graham and Kenny Still) were traded in the offseason. Cooks is the perfect type of receiver for the Saints offense with his ability to stretch the field vertically, use his speed to get open in the slot and take an end-around for six. Even Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said he's glad that his team doesn't have to play Cooks twice in the regular season - Cooks burned New England with four receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown last weekend. You'll be sharing the same sentiment as Belichick if you don't draft Cooks in your fantasy league. - Scott Krinch

Mike Evans, TB: If you read our quarterbacks preview on Wednesday you’re aware I love Jameis Winston. If you read our running backs preview on Thursday you’re aware I love Doug Martin. So, yes, today I’m touting Mike Evans as a guy who could wind up reaching WR1 status early in the year. Vincent Jackson is still a worthwhile fantasy receiver, but there’s no doubt as to who the top dog is in Winston’s arsenal. Evans caught six touchdowns in the final four weeks of the season, and that was with Josh McCown slinging the rock. Tampa Bay will be trailing a lot this year, which means Winston will be logging plenty of volume in the second half. The main recipient will be Evans, who is going to take another step toward stardom in his second year. - Mark Strotman 

[MORE: Fantasy sleepers and busts at running back in 2015]

Sleepers

Nelson Agholor, PHI: Perhaps it’s because of last season’s insane rookie wide receiver production, but I’ll try and get Agholor on every one of my fantasy teams this year. It helps that the speedster is taking over for Jeremy Maclin in Chip Kelly’s offense, and Kelly didn’t select Agholor in the first round of the draft to keep him on the pine. Jordan Matthews is still the No. 1 receiver in Philadelphia, but in Kelly’s offense there’s enough room for everyone to eat. His ADP of 82.4 is laughable; I’ll glady take him somewhere in the 6th or 7th round and have my flex shored up for the entire season. All aboard the Agholor train. - MS

Jarvis Landry, MIA: The Dolphins' second-year player is going as the 28th receiver off the board in drafts. But he's a rising star with an ascending quarterback in a highly-underrated offense. From Week 9 on last season, Landry had at least five catches in every single game. He's a PPR monster, sort of like a poor man's Antonio Brown. Look for Landry to build off last season's performance and scoot into the Top 20 WRs, especially in PPR leagues. - TA

[PODCAST: Previewing the Jets, AFC East]

Eddie Royal, CHI: Not very often is a surefire No. 2 wide receiver sitting around in either the 12th or 13th round of your perspective fantasy draft. But for some reason, people seem to be sleeping on Bears wideout Eddie Royal. The veteran went into training camp without much fanfare, but with rookie first-rounder Kevin White going down with a shin fracture, Royal will be asked to carrier a bigger burden in the Bears offense. The 29-year-old is coming off a solid season in which he hauled in 62 catches for 778 yards and seven touchdowns with the Chargers. Now Royal reunites with Jay Cutler (the duo connected 91 times for 980 yards and five touchdowns in 2008) and will be working primarily out of the slot in Chicago. With opposing teams likely to focus on Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, expect Royal to put up sneaky good numbers at an extremely cheap price tag. - SK

Steve Smith Sr., BAL: He’s going to go out in style. Mark it down. I’m sad Smith is leaving football because he’s been so fun to watch. He now also inherits a similar situation to Hopkins where he finds himself as the only legitimate threat in the Ravens’ passing attack. Outside of Smith, Joe Flacco is surrounded by rookies such as Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams. Will Michael Campanaro or Marlon Brown really put a dent in Smith’s value? Probably not. As everyone in Chicago saw last year, Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman loves to throw the ball. Expect Smith’s target numbers to go up in his final year. - JP

Busts

Odell Beckham Jr., NYG: This just comes down to where he's being drafted (16th overall). That would pit him as a possible first-round pick and he'd most definitely be gone by the end of the second round. Which would mean, in order for you to take him over one of the Top 10 running backs or some of the other first/second-round talent (Rob Gronkowski, Dez Bryant, Andrew Luck/Aaron Rodgers, Demaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown), you would need exactly the same kind of production from the Giants stud wide receiver as last season. But that's so tough to sustain. What if he has a sophomore slump? We don't yet know how Victor Cruz coming back will affect ODB's production. We know the rest of the league has heard of Beckham and will be keying on him every game this season, making sure somebody else beats them. It's just too much risk for that high of a draft pick. - TA

Julian Edelman, NE: Edelman's ADP of 50 screams "buyer beware" to me. The former Kent State quarterback has been Tom Brady's favorite target, other than Gronk, the past two seasons. But with Brady set to serve a four-game suspension for his involvement in Deflategate, Edelman's value will take a major hit. Without Brady until mid-October I can’t see Edelman reaching the 100-reception plateau for the second time in three seasons, and the fact that he won't score too much (11 total touchdowns since 2013), means you should be aiming for much-higher with your fourth/fifth round pick. - SK

[PODCAST: Previewing Raiders, AFC West]

Jeremy Maclin, KC: The wildest statistic of 2014 was the Chiefs wide receivers failing to catch a touchdown all year. That’ll change with Maclin heading to Arrowhead Stadium, but I’m still not in love with his prospects. He was in fantasy heaven playing in Chip Kelly’s offense, and even in that situation he faded heavily in the season’s second half. He’s Alex Smith’s No. 1 target on the outside, but realistically that No. 1 tag will fall on screens to Jamaal Charles. I like Maclin as a potential WR3, but he’s being selected in the 7th round range and I’d much rather have a guy like Mike Wallace, Jarvis Landry or Nelson Agholor, all of whom have stable quarterbacks tossing them the ball. If the price is right Maclin is fine. But more than likely, someone will grab him far too early. - MS

Sammy Watkins, BUF: Who is going to throw him the ball? I get it that he’s by far the Bills best receiving option but the quarterback situation is so bad in Buffalo I can’t feel good about Watkins’ outlook in 2015. Defenses will key on Watkins like crazy and try to take him out of the passing game. A deeper look into his rookie season shows someone who was very inconsistent. Watkins had four games of over 100 yards receiving (caught four touchdowns in those games) but also had six games of 30 yards receiving or less (only caught one touchdown over those games). He’s going somewhere in the fourth or fifth round in most drafts right now and that’s way too rich for me. - JP

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

Thomas Jones tweets plan to fix Bears' struggling offense

It didn't take Thomas Jones long to become a fan-favorite during his tenure with the Bears, which spanned three seasons from 2004-2006.  Jones, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, resurrected his career in Chicago with back-to-back seasons over 1,200 rushing yards in 2005 and 2006.

So, when he speaks about how to improve the offense through the running game, coach Matt Nagy and the rest of Chicago's offensive staff should at least give it a listen.

Technically, Jones tweeted his plan to repair the Bears' struggling offense. But, the point remains.

"Nagy should learn the history of the Bears," Jones tweeted. "When they've won in the past it's because they ran the ball 1st! The fans & the makeup of the Bears is blue-collar. Hard-nosed, physical fundamental football. Limit turnovers, chew up the clock & let the defense get you the ball back.

"And where is their fullback? How can you run the ball in Chicago without a fullback in the game? When u have a fullback in the game the linebackers know they have to strap up their helmets. It's going to be a physical game & some of them don't want that. Can't make it easy for them."

To be fair, fullback is a nearly extinct position in the NFL. But Jones' suggestion runs deeper than that; the Bears need to at least appear like they want to run the ball in order to make the defense respect the threat of a running game.

"They NEVER try to establish the run which puts all of the pressure on a young QB who is still learning & trying to figure out who he's going to be in this league," Jones said. "The O line won't get into any rhythm if they don't run block enough & the defense can only hold up for so long."

According to Jones, Mitch Trubisky isn't ready to be the centerpiece of Chicago's offense just yet.

"Mitch is too young to have all of that pressure on him at once. He's talented but he's not ready yet. You have talented backs & an incredible defense. The O Line just needs to gain confidence run blocking in real-time. They have to establish a running game or things won't change."

Jones drew on some experience from the 2005 season when the Bears kept things pretty basic for then-rookie quarterback Kyle Orton, who enjoyed some moderate success that year. He also chimed in on the Trubisky vs. Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson debate.

"Everyone matures at different times in the NFL. He's not those other guys so comparing him to them isn't going to help them win games right now. Establish a run game & take pressure off of him. Simplify the offense by giving him basic pass plays like we did with Orton in 05."

So how do the Bears get their offense back on a winning track? You guessed it: run the ball!

"It's not a old times sake thing. It's football. Every winning team establishes some sort of running game. Even if it's running back by committee or a running QB. The more tired a defense is from having to chase & tackle the more mental mistakes they're going to make.

"Which gives you a higher chance to win the game. When you run the ball you can take more chances throwing the ball downfield, running specialty plays such as screens and reverses. The defense can't just lay their ears back because they know they can get gashed at any time."

Head over to Jones' Twitter page to follow along with his complete Bears breakdown. It's pretty epic and is a great reminder of just how passionate he is about this team, this city, and winning.

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

Power Rankings Roundup: The free fall continues, and the NFC North is really good

The Bears' two-game losing streak is doing them no favors in The Web's power rankings, but even pessimistic reviews haven't totally sold them off yet (thanks defense!). What's a bit more daunting, however, is how quickly the other teams in the NFC North are rising. Some fun road games ahead huh?? Here's what they're saying: 

NFL.com –– #15
Trubisky is clearly pressing as the pressure mounts on his shoulders. He's taken a big step back in his third season ... how long can Matt Nagy stand by the former No. 2 overall pick?

ESPN.com –– #16
The Bears no longer resemble a playoff team -- not with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Chicago's offense ranks 30th in total yards per game, 30th in yards per play, 28th in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game.

CBS Sports –– #16
Their offense is woeful at times and just won't allow them to win many games. The defense hasn't been as good the past two games either, which makes Sunday's game against the Chargers a must-win for both teams.

Sports Illustrated –– #17
Maybe Matt Nagy isn’t a cure-all. Maybe the defense is feeling the weight of carrying the offense and starting to crack (36 points to a backup QB with two weeks to prepare at home). Or maybe, just maybe, this team was never that good in the first place.

Bleacher Report –– #13
To say that the Bears are having issues offensively is an understatement. In Mitchell Trubisky's first game back from injury, he had fewer than 100 passing yards into the final quarter. Chicago had seven carries for 17 yards on the ground—for the game.

Chicago Tribune –– #18
Classes in Offense 202 need to be canceled. Nearly all the students are failing miserably. That’s reality when the Bears have yet to total 300 yards of offense in a single game. High-powered offenses will come close to that total in a good half.

Sporting News –– #19
When the Bears don't play good defense and can't run the ball, they're in trouble, because it puts games on the right arm of Mitchell Trubisky. They have a few schedule breaks coming up, but they need their third-year QB to play a lot better for that to matter.

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