Jarius Wright of the Minnesota Vikings has all the makings of a rising 2013 fantasy football sleeper, and today we're going to examine just why this is possible.
Let's start by looking at the "definition of a fantasy football sleeper". Now, before I continue, be aware that fantasy football terms often fall under scrutiny depending on who comprehends what and why, and as the years pass, most terms become generally accepted—like the following:
Fantasy Football Sleeper: A draft term for a NFL player that an owner believes is going to have a breakout season. These are usually players who are not rookies, but they can be. For the most part they are not well known NFL players. For example, Edgerrin James would not have been a sleeper for the 1999 season, because many people knew he was going to have a good to very good season. However, Kurt Warner would have been because very few people expected much performance from him, yet he was the leading player in most leagues in 1999. Usually sleepers are drafted in the middle to late rounds of a draft.
In essence, this summation is just about right. You'll notice, however, that a sleeper can also be considered a "breakout" player is some regard.
I don't think anyone really comes here to wax semantics, so let's move onto Jarius Wright.
There are a few angles to look at regarding Jarius Wright's potential sleeper status. In 2012, Wright showed us flashes of potent speed, solid hands and above average route running. In just seven games Jarius Wright caught a modest 22 balls for 310 yards and 4 touchdowns. This was a guy who was averaging 14.2 yards a catch for the Vikings, displaying Wes Welker-esq abilities.
But this isn't the only reason why I see Wright as a 2013 fantasy football sleeper.
Jennings will help Jarius Wright excel.
2013 Fantasy Football Sleeper: Jarius Wright, WR. The Jennings Equation:
After missing the boat on Anquan Boldin, the Vikings realized Jennings was a must grab. This acquisition was a good move—as explained here—and it was one that will eventually help the Vikings get Jarius Wright in the mix.
Keep in mind however, fantasy football fans may need to wait if they are looking to cash in on Minnesota's deal; something I'll get to in a minute.
Once Jennings begins to establish himself as a viable outside threat within Minnesota's system, teams will be forced to change the way they defend. This is a potential "game-changer" for those considering adding Jarius Wright to their 2013 roster.
Onto to the breakdown.
Analyzing the Defenses:
Since the advent of RB Adrian Peterson, many teams that have faced Minnesota have basically played Cover 2 or variants of Cover 2 in an effort to stop them. The defensive scheme has been highly successful because of Peterson...well sort of.
The Vikings haven't had a solid set of receivers. There's been nobody on the outside to create separation and nobody from the slot to disrupt the SAM and MIKE backers.
This has allowed teams to stack the box while also clamping down the outside passing lanes.
Enter Jarius Wright, and again, Greg Jennings.
Defenses will respect Jennings' presence, and they will value him over second year man Jarius Wright. However, I do not think they will value Jennings over Adrian Peterson—re-enter the Cover 2...for now.
The Vikings want to utilize more play-action which is perfect for a guy out of the slot and now they can with Wright. The Vikings want to continue to hammer defenses with Peterson, and teams will be forced to dedicate an extra defender against him—also perfect for a slot man.
And again, once Jennings establishes himself, the lanes are bound to be wide open across the middle no matter what the defensive scheme is—also perfect for a slot tech.
Ponder is better than you think!
Putting it all Together: Don't Underestimate Ponder
A lot of people say that Christian Ponder doesn't have the arm to get the ball downfield, and that isn't an accurate assessment. Ponder's outside receivers were about as bad as it gets when it came to getting open downfield.
Jerome Simpson was injured all last season and didn't have the speed or agility to break jams off the line and Michael Jenkins couldn't get himself open in an empty field. This relegated Ponder to more short-yardage passes where he's SICK DEADLY as a passer.
This season the Vikings want Ponder to not only pass more but they feel they can finally open things up with Wright and Jennings in the mix.
The Vikings will still offer their short-yard passing game, and I believe it will be Jarius Wright who will be featured here. Ponder faces the entire NFC East this season—a division he is most successful against thus far in his career ( 67.3% CMR, 83.2 QBR)—and that was with a sub-par WR corp.
And getting back to that arm for a second, we'll get to see just how strong his arm is this year...trust me.
In the end it all shapes up like this:
Jarius Wright IS a slot guy. He's shown a little bit of what he can do already at the pro level. At Arkansas, he was not only the most reliable receiver out of a stacked bunch he was also the most utilized—especially as an underneath route runner.
Ergo, the Vikings now have their man in the slot.
The Vikings upgraded with Greg Jennings and plan on passing more now that the Vikings have their man on the outside. Factor in the defensive compensation for Peterson as well, and there really isn't much leftover to defend that slot.
When you really look at the possibilities, there's little reason to think against the notion of Jarius Wright becoming a 2013 fantasy football sleeper.
And for a guy averaging out as a 12th rounder???????????
Well, that's just a potential pot of gold.