For a complete list of sleepers and keepers, visit our draft kit.
No position sends more chills down my spine than receivers. More than any other position their success or failure largely depends on others. Namely the quarterback, offensive coordinator and head coach. Studs one year can turn into duds the next and vice-versa, simply because of factors beyond a player's control.
Because of this, I generally don't trust receivers from year to year. Unless someone slips, I don't like drafting receivers early. Instead, I'll take my chances on upside guys in the mid-rounds. The waiver wire will be waiting for me should they crash and burn.
So continuing on with our theme we take a look at the wide receiver breakouts, sleepers, keepers and caution signs for 2011.
Breakouts - Guys who are stepping into a starting role and ready for a breakout season. These are guys that are well-known and will go high on draft day.
Sleepers - Similar to the above, but of the lesser known variety and much higher risk. They may or may not be later-round picks in your draft.
Keepers - Lots of upside, but you may have to wait a year or two.
Use Caution - Sure-to-be-drafted players that may not meet lofty expectations.
Royce Pollard, Hawaii - Pollard is the only starting Hawaii receiver to return for 2011. Pollard had 64 catches for over 900 yards working at the right wideout spot last fall. Much more is expected from this veteran in 2011.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia - West Virginia is going to chuck it and chuck it some more. As of right now Austin is the only surefire starter at receiver. Stedman Bailey, Bradley Starks, Devon Brown and the rest still need to make sure they lock up starting spots in fall camp. Being an inside receiver, Austin holds more value in a PPR league. Receptions should be high, but the touchdown production may be a bit lacking.
Chris Owusu, Stanford - He has NFL size and speed and a future NFL quarterback throwing him the football. If -- big IF -- can stay healthy, he'll flourish. New head coach David Shaw has called Owusu out in subtle fashion, but without saying as much.
Darius Bright, Hawaii - Not since Michael Crabtree have we been so high on a receiver without playing a snap. Can Bright he live up the the same lofty expectations as Crabtree? That remains to be seen, but the similarities are uncanny. High octane offense? Check. Big, tall and fast? Check. Coming off a redshirt year? Check. Starting at an outside receiver spot? Check. We've been following Bright's career since he landed on the island last summer, and all signs point to him being a stud. Keep in mind with any product sight unseen, there is some risk and our gushing over him has elevated his draft stock.
Geraldo Boldewijn, Boise State - Similar situation to Hawaii, Boise State is in need of new playmakers out wide. Boldewijn - formerly Hiwat - has all the tools we look for in breakout fantasy receivers. He's big, has good speed and plays in a high-powered offense. One word of caution, don't overpay for Boise receivers. They can be feast or famine on a weekly basis. Boise runs the ball more than some people think, and Doug Martin may become your worst nightmare.
George Farmer, USC - One of the fastest receiver recruits in 2011. He'll see the field this fall and has the potential to be a star down the road.
Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia - The highly-touted recruit has been tearing up summer camp and quarterback Aaron Murray gushed over Mitchell during the SEC media days. Murray and Mitchell could be a deadly combo down the road.
Jaxon Shipley, Tex - Homework assignment. Look up who Texas' new offensive coordinator is and where he spent the last 10 seasons. While the quarterback situation is a mess and the running backs are a crap shoot, there is some value investing in young Longhorn receivers.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State - This is simply a situation where it will be difficult to exceed or even match the spectacular performance from last fall, and banking on that on draft day is a mistake. Remember the same thing happened to Michael Crabtree. Crabtree had 1,962 yards receiving and 22 touchdowns in 2007 and dipped to 1,165 and 19 touchdowns in 2008. Still ridiculous numbers, but a 98 point drop in total fantasy production. Blackmon had 1782 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns in 2010. Look familiar? Also factor in the loss of offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. I know they don't plan to deviate from the gameplan, but the fact is there is only one Holgorsen. All that said, Blackmon (along with Ryan Broyles) is a top fantasy receiver in the country and will go high in the first round. Too rich for my blood for any receiver. I'll pass and take a running back or quarterback instead.
Patrick Edwards, Houston - Remember when we cautioned owners that James Cleveland might not lead the Cougars in receiving last fall? Same rule applies. Edwards is the top receiver pick from Houston on draft day. In fact he's been on at least one of my fantasy squads each of the last three years, and I hope I'm fortunate enough to get him again. But, he is going to go high on draft day and Houston will spread the ball around. If you are looking for a value pick Tyron Carrier will go much later and has a chance -- much like we said Edwards had a chance last summer -- to lead the team in receiving.