It's no secret that throughout the history of the National Football League, a number of wideouts have recorded statistical career bests in their third pro season. That trend, which includes Harold Carmichael, Steve Largent, Terrell Owens, Steve Smith and Sidney Rice (to name a few), has become a popular draft tool to help fantasy leaguers unearth potential sleepers and breakout candidates.
However, the recent success of Marques Colston, DeSean Jackson, Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall as NFL sophomores now expands our fantasy focus to include second-year wideouts. Let's look at 10 wideouts not featured in our breakouts or sleepers columns (Kenny Britt, Michael Crabtree, Julian Edelman, DeSean Jackson, Hakeem Nicks, Devin Thomas, Mike Wallace) who could be under the radar heading into the 2010 season.
Davone Bess, Dolphins: Bess, entering his third season, was a popular deep sleeper in 2009 but failed to meet expectations. While he did post career bests in receptions (76) and yards (758), Bess didn't record good enough numbers to hold a prominent role in standard fantasy leagues. He's still worth a late-round look, however, especially with defenses focused on Brandon Marshall.
Johnny Knox, Bears: Knox was a surprise fantasy contributor early in his rookie campaign, but the burner out of Abilene Christian faltered down the stretch. His value is on the rise entering his second season, however, as the presence of new coordinator Mike Martz makes Knox more of a threat in the team's vertical pass attack. With the potential to start opposite Devin Hester, Knox has some definite sleeper appeal in drafts.
Pierre Garcon, Colts: Garcon (third season) and Austin Collie (second season) both have fantasy appeal after producing nice numbers in 2009. The former is more attractive on draft day, though, as he's slated to start opposite Reggie Wayne while Collie must compete with Anthony Gonzalez for time in the slot. Regardless of the scenarios, the fact that these two wideouts have Peyton Manning throwing them the ball is a huge advantage.
Percy Harvin, Vikings: Harvin showcased his overall skills and abilities as a rookie and became a legitimate fantasy starter in 2009. With one season of NFL experience now under his belt, he should develop into an even more dangerous option moving forward. A viable No. 2 fantasy wideout, Harvin is worth a middle-round pick and has added value in leagues that reward players for return yards and touchdowns.
Mario Manningham, Giants: Despite the presence of Nicks and Steve Smith, Manningham was still able to finish in the top 30 among wide receivers in fantasy points on NFL.com last season. Smith can make plays and will remain a reliable option for Eli Manning, though sharing targets with his aforementioned teammates could limit his statistical upside. Overall, Manningham is worth a low middle-round look on draft day.
Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns: Massaquoi showed flashes of potential during his rookie season, posting two 100-yard performances while leading the Browns in receiving yards (624) and receiving touchdowns (3). His downfall for 2010 is the combination of a very difficult schedule and major question marks at the quarterback position, so Massaquoi likely won't be a major sleeper in fantasy drafts. In fact, he's worth no more than a late rounder.
Josh Morgan, 49ers: Morgan was considered a viable fantasy sleeper last season, but he failed to meet statistical expectations. Now with Michael Crabtree entrenched as the top wideout in the 49ers passing game, Morgan will be second on the depth chart in what should be an improved offense. While he won't put up huge numbers, Morgan is a talented player and could be worth as much as a late-round flier in most fantasy drafts.
Louis Murphy, Raiders: Murphy, a second-year receiver out of Florida, has some real upside as one of the top options in Oakland. He should benefit from the addition of Jason Campbell, who's a major upgrade at quarterback over JaMarcus Russell. Murphy should start opposite Darrius Heyward-Bey and is well worth a flier pick in all leagues. He's a definite playmaker who could be a useful reserve option for owners.
Eddie Royal, Broncos: Royal went from a fantasy darling during his rookie season to one of the biggest busts in 2009. His stock is back on the rise, though, as Royal seems destined to see more targets after the offseason trade of Marshall. Even if Demaryius Thomas and Jabar Gaffney start and Royal becomes the slot wideout for coach Josh McDaniels, he'll still be worth a middle-round look in 2010.
Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars:Fantasy owners remember Sims-Walker from last season - he became a viable starter in most leagues on the strength of his 63 receptions, 869 yards and seven touchdowns. Now in his third NFL season, he could be on the very of posting career numbers. As long as Sims-Walker can avoid injuries - which has been a concern - he'll be a threat to post 1,000-plus yards as the top option for David Garrard.