There are a number of ways to be effective as an NFL receiver.
One way is to be able to out-jump any defender and contort your body in mid-air for ridiculous highlight reel catches. We’ll call that the DeAndre Hopkins method.
But for other, less physically-gifted receivers, creating consistent and solid separation is a more fitting option. That’s what the Yards of Separation (SEP) metric measures, the average amount of space a WR is able to create between himself and a defender in his routes.
To help give some context to the sleepers we’ll discuss shortly, here are some of the SEP numbers from some of the league’s top WRs in 2018. The higher the number, the more separation yards created:
Tyreek Hill – 3.1
Davante Adams – 3
Odell Beckham – 3
Adam Thielen – 2.9
Travis Kelce – 2.9
Antonio Brown – 2.6
DeAndre Hopkins – 2.5
Every potential sleeper that follows had a higher SEP than the above-mentioned studs, which could foreshadow a sign of good things to come, provided that their QBs and offensive coaches can take advantage of their separation abilities…
Adam Humphries, TEN
SEP – 3.6
Humphries created great separation last year, leading to 76 receptions on the season, tied for 24th in the league. Moving from the crowded WR group in Tampa Bay to a less formidable group in Tennessee could provide Humphries with more opportunities to take advantage of his separation skills.
Cooper Kupp, LAR
SEP – 3.5
When Kupp was on the field last year, he was an all-out stud, the clear #1 fantasy WR on the Rams. In just eight games, he caught 40 passes for 566 yards and six TDs. If Kupp can make a full recovery from last year’s ACL tear, expect more of the same from him in 2019, creating great separation to bolster the elite Rams’ offense.
Dede Westbrook, JAX
SEP – 3.5
Westbrook’s inconsistency last year can at least partially be credited to the atrocious play from Blake Bortles. Who knows what kind of astronomical SEP you’d need for Bortles to find you? Still, Westbrook reeled in 66 catches for 717 yards and 5 TDs, leading the Jaguars in all three categories. With Nick Foles taking over, there’s certainly some room for growth for the talented Westbrook if he can continue to separate from defenders.
Taylor Gabriel, CHI
SEP – 3.5
The speedy Gabriel is no surprise on this list. The Bears utilized his speed in a plethora of ways in 2018 and he should remain a heavy part of the team’s game plan going in to 2019. With Gabriel and Tarik Cohen on the field together, the Bears are able to spread the field in some extremely unique ways that give defenses all kinds of trouble.
Dante Pettis, SF
SEP – 3.4
A trendy sleeper going into 2019, Pettis showed a knack for quit-cutting routes in his rookie season. He’s shown a bit of prime Golden Tate in his game. Give him a full season with the accurate arm of Jimmy Garoppolo and his separation skills could enable him to be an extremely valuable fantasy WR.
Will Fuller, HOU
SEP – 3.3
Fuller made waves across the league right from the start with his ability to get behind defenses with his blazing speed. Now going into his fourth season in the NFL, there’s little doubt that he can be a game-changing WR, it’s really just a question of whether he can stay healthy. He’s an absolutely perfect complement to DeAndre Hopkins with his field stretching ability and he’s shown great rapport with QB Deshaun Watson when the two have both been healthy.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, GB
SEP – 3.3
This is the most surprising name on the list by far. MVS sort of just seemed like “the next guy up” in Green Bay, a relevant WR by default of Aaron Rodgers having no one better to throw the ball to. But apparently, that’s selling the 2nd year WR short. Green Bay didn’t make any significant adds to the WR group for 2019, so MVS should have an opportunity to continue to provide Rodgers with an open target under the new regime of Matt LaFleur.
By Andrew Ericksen, Contributor
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