Using NFL Salaries To Find WR Fantasy Football Sleepers

Jun 1st 2023

Hayden Winks

Zay Jones was an absolute smash in 2022, but it wasn't that hard to predict. In fact, Josh Norris nailed it on the Underdog Football Show largely because he was:

  1. Starting in 3-WR sets (and maybe even in 2-WR sets)

  2. Was paid quite well by his team (3-year, $24M with $14M guaranteed)

  3. Was attached to an offense with upside

Today's column will be using salary cap numbers to predict the next Zay Jones.

Michael Gallup (Underdog ADP: WR61)

He's in year two of a 5-year, $53M contract. That's so much money. Gallup's number and tape weren't on par with his pre-torn ACL self last year, but he believes he's in better shape this offseason. His target competition is lightened from his breakout seasons when Amari Cooper, Dalton Schultz, and Ezekiel Elliott were around. Gallup needs to outproduce soon-to-be-30-year-old Brandin Cooks to pay off this ADP. It's also possible that Dak Prescott's fluky interception rate regresses to normal levels, and this Cowboys offense can support three spiked-week receivers. Gallup has a better in best ball profile.

Hunter Renfrow (Underdog ADP: WR77)

As of May 31st, Renfrow is an underrated trade candidate for me. The Raiders are a mess, and Renfrow could not be in their long-term plans after they signed a versatile slot receiver Jakobi Meyers this offseason. This is a fair price if Renfrow is just a No. 3 receiver for the Raiders this year, but he has the salary ($13M) to justify more upside if he's in fact traded. The Bills, for example, would makes sense to me as a fit. Vegas would save $11.2M with a Post-June 1st trade.

Chase Claypool (Underdog ADP: WR82)

He technically hasn't signed his second contract yet, but I'm still counting this. The Bears had two 2nd-round picks last year, and they sent the better one (32nd overall) to the Steelers to acquire Claypool. They clearly think highly of him, even if he's been an inconsistent big play threat through three years. He's unlikely to be a consistent player in a likely bottom-10 passing offense, but Claypool has spike week potential, especially if we assume this coaching staff manufactures him touches. Darnell Mooney (WR57) goes well ahead of Claypool on Underdog Fantasy, and I think they're tossups in most fantasy points this year. They both could pay off if D.J. Moore misses time or if Justin Fields goes to the moon.

Corey Davis (Underdog ADP: WR97)

This can pay off in two different ways. First, he could stay on the Aaron Rodgers' Jets and be the No. 2 outside receiver after beating out Allen Lazard and/or Mecole Hardman. That could be difficult but possible. Secondly, Davis could be released, saving almost all of his $11M contract. His do-all, X-WR traits are hard to find, and I think he's good enough to be a 2-WR set starter for some teams. He'd have plenty of interest if he's released. I could see him reuniting with Arthur Smith in Atlanta for example. Davis, 28 years old, is entirely free with undrafted-rate uniqueness on Underdog Fantasy. His career 1.65 yards per route run are fine, especially considering the slow, mid offense he's played in.

DeVante Parker (Underdog ADP: WR102)

He's 30 years old, but Parker actually played decent ball last year, registering a 1.7 yards per route run rate on a career-high 16.8 average depth of target. The Patriots are a team I like to pick later in drafts because I want to fade Matt Patricia as an OC. Parker could lose some snaps to second-year second-rounder Tyquan Thornton, but he's likely in most 3-WR sets next to JuJu Smith-Schuster. There's at least spike week potential, as Parker finished with 80+ yards in 3-of-9 healthy games last year. That includes a 2-TD game and a 156-yard game.

Russell Gage (Underdog ADP: WR105)

The haters will say it's fake, but Gage is in year two of a 3-year, $30M contract with the Bucs. How did that happen? I'm not sure, but it's not my problem. Anyways, Gage is locked into 3-WR sets and may kick into the slot in 3-WR sets. That's his natural spot in my opinion. More importantly, Gage has contingent-based upside if Chris Godwin or Mike Evans is eventually traded in a rebuilding year. Trading Evans would save $14M against the cap. Godwin, only $2M though he'd fetch more in assets given his relative youth.

Considered But Deemed A Trap...

  • Curtis Samuel: Slot surrounded by stud WRs and bad QBs.

  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling: 29yo with DeAndre Hopkins risk.

  • Tim Patrick: I did not know he'll be 30 years old! He's barely played!

  • DeVante Parker:

  • Allen Robinson: 30yo. Cooked. Career low 0.9 YPRR.

  • Robert Woods: 31yo. Cooked. Career low 1.1 YPRR.