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Sneaky Rookie Wide Receivers to Watch for Fantasy Football

Everyone knows the big names and first-round picks, but Bryan Armetta has three sleeper rookie WRs to watch from the later rounds.

Everyone knows the big names and first-round picks, but Bryan Armetta has three sleeper rookie WRs to watch from the later rounds.

Spring is a time to dream in the NFL, but a bit of skepticism goes a long way. Front offices, having already made their picks in the draft, will espouse the virtues of their talented rookies. Early-round selections at any skill position will get plenty of hype, but it’s the slept-on names that can deliver a fantasy championship. Here are three rookie receivers that weren’t drafted in the first round to target this summer.

Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs (Round 2, Pick 55)

I know what you’re thinking …

Skyy Moore

Everyone’s favorite sleeper in 2022 turned out to be a major dud. Despite the loss of Tyreek Hill, the speedy Moore did not fill a void in the Chiefs’ offense. Instead, Patrick Mahomes turned to Travis Kelce and a rag-tag group of veteran receivers to keep the Kansas City offense humming. 

Perhaps the flaw in Moore’s hype train was that he was expected to replace a generational talent in Hill. Rice, a big-bodied wideout out of SMU, will have the far more realistic task of stepping into JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s role in the KC offense. While JuJu was solid during his time at Arrowhead, Rice could be even better. 

Aside from his natural talent and six-foot, 200-lb size, Rice could quickly move up the ranks of a middling wide receiver depth chart. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is nothing more than an occasional big-play threat, Kadarius Toney is perpetually injured and Moore has proven little as a pro. If Rice’s nose for the end zone (19 touchdowns in college since 2021) translates to the NFL, Mahomes will look his way more often than not.

Jalin Hyatt, New York Giants (Round 3, Pick 73)

While he’s not as polished, Jalin Hyatt‘s situation has some parallels to Rice’s. The Giants’ depth chart is thin, with no elite pass-catchers outside of newly acquired tight end Darren Waller. Names like Darius Slayton, Parris Campbell, and Wan’Dale Robinson will definitely be involved in the passing game, but it’s hard to see any of them emerging as a true number-one for Daniel Jones

That’s where Hyatt comes in. What the Tennessee Vol lacks in technical skill, he makes up for with game-breaking speed, something that was sorely missing in New York last season. With defenses playing up due to stars like Waller and Saquon Barkley, Hyatt should see plenty of single-man coverage in the secondary; if he and Jones are on the same page, things could get a lot more explosive in New York.

Hyatt may be a bit boom-or-bust, especially in PPR leagues, but he’s still a worthy flier late in drafts. The Giants are a perfect landing spot, and it’s clear the team views him as a major piece for the upcoming season. I’m willing to bet on a stellar situation and continued improvement under Brian Daboll’s coaching staff.

Tank Dell, Houston Texans (Round 3, Pick 69)

How about a deep sleeper? Tank Dell didn’t even have to move on draft night; the University of Houston alum was drafted by the Texans in the third round as a complimentary piece for new quarterback C.J. Stroud. At first glance, he appears to be a “complimentary piece,” given his lack of size at 5’8″ and 165 lbs. However, like our previous two wideouts, a combination of ability and opportunity makes Dell someone to consider at the end of fantasy football drafts.

It’s important to understand what Houston sees in Dell, considering his small frame. The man was born to make defenders look silly, as his agility was on full display in college. Projected to work out of the slot, the speedy rookie could be a top option for Stroud, who excelled at getting the ball to his superstar receivers while at Ohio State. Dell’s 109 catches and 17 touchdowns last season at Houston prove he can handle a heavy workload. 

As far as Tank’s situation goes, the Texans traded top wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Cowboys this offseason, and there isn’t much left on their roster as far as pass-catching talent. First-year quarterbacks and receivers often develop chemistry with each other during the offseason. Stroud’s push for the team to draft Dell is encouraging, and it will be something to watch for during OTA’s. Don’t break the bank trying to draft Dell, but he’s sure to get (literally) overlooked by your leaguemates.