There is little doubt that over the past decade few wide receivers have made a bigger fantasy impact than Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who has been a stalwart in point per reception leagues dating all the way back to the 2004 season when he hauled in 68 receptions for 838 yards and seven touchdowns.
It was that 2004 season that really brought Wayne to the forefront of fantasy football stardom. After that season, Wayne became one of the most dominant wide receivers in the NFL, posting seven consecutive 1,000 yard season, a streak highlighted by the 2007 season in which Wayne hauled in 104 passes for a league-leading 1,510 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Part of Wayne’s success obviously had to do with the fact that he caught passes for the venerable Peyton Manning for the first 10 years of his career. Unfortunately, last season Wayne had to play his first season with Manning and it predictably caused a slight dip in his production as he caught 75 passes for 960 yards, while also notching just four touchdown receptions.
It was the first time since that 2004 season that Wayne was held under 1,000 yards receiving but if one considers the group of veteran retreads throwing him the football and it is hard to fault Wayne. In fact, he should be commended that he was able to come so close to another 1,000 yard season with Curtis Painter as his quarterback for the majority of the season.
Despite the fact that Manning, Wayne’s long-time quarterback, left to sign as a free agent with the Denver Broncos, Wayne decided to sign a new three-year agreement to stay in Indy and help break in new rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who will be a definite upgrade in talent over the journeymen QB’s that Wayne caught passes from in 2011.
So why does all this matter for fantasy football owners?
Simple. Due to the fact that Wayne had a bit of a down year in 2011, coupled with the fact that the Sheriff (Peyton Manning) is no longer in town, Wayne has become a tremendous value in PPR league drafts.
According to fantasyfootballcalculator.com , Wayne’s current average draft position in PPR league drafts is the 82nd pick, which depending on the size of your respective league, is a late-seventh or eighth-round selection. Among the wide receiver position, Wayne’s ADP is 29th.
Now it may seem strange to call a player with Wayne’s reputation a fantasy football sleeper but the bottom line is that he can provide outstanding value for fantasy owners looking for a solid third wide receiver in the middle round of fantasy drafts.
In most cases statistics play a big part in determining sleeper candidates but an often overlooked aspect of identifying successful fantasy football sleepers is finding players like Wayne, who are going to get a significant number of opportunities.
Last season, Wayne’s production was hurt by his quarterback situation, yet he was still a relevant fantasy option simply because he received 131 targets. Due to the fact that he is still clearly the Colts’ no.1 wide receiver, he can expected to garner a similar number of targets in 2012. The only difference will be that Wayne will now have talented rookie Andrew Luck, the no.1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft throwing him the football as opposed a veteran re-tread.
That means that fantasy owners that are willing to wait and take a chance on Wayne in the seventh or eighth round of their PPR league draft could be rewarded in a big way because after finishing 25th among wide receivers last season playing with such poor quarterbacks, Wayne should easily be able to clear 80 receptions for over 1,000 yards this season and could easily be a top-20 receiver when all is said and done in 2012.
Volume players are key to finding success in fantasy football and Wayne is going to be the classic volume player in 2012. He may not be the fantasy superstar he was just a few years ago but he is more than capable of being a solid WR2-WR3 in 2012 and will be prove to be an excellent value as a mid-round PPR sleeper.