2014 Fantasy Football Deep Sleeper: WR Justin Hunter

By Meng Song
Justin Hunter Tennessee Titans
Getty Images

When the Tennessee Titans released RB Chris Johnson this offseason, the team lost the only real star player it had in terms of fantasy football value. Many fantasy players are hopeful that WR Kendall Wright might become the new fantasy star on the Titans, but most are forgetting another possibility. 2014 could very well be the breakout year for a different Titans WR Justin Hunter.

Let’s discuss two reasons why Hunter could potentially outperform Wright this year. It’s certainly conceivable that Wright improves upon his 2013 stats. After all, he broke out and totaled 94 receptions for almost 1,100 yards. The only problem was that he only managed to secure two TDs last year.

Many proponents of Wright in 2014 are arguing that he is a WR2 this year with upside. After all, had he managed to snag another five or six TDs, he could’ve been a top-10 WR. But there’s an underlying reason Wright didn’t have more TDs last season: He is 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds.

Wright’s speed makes him a great possession receiver who can run the underneath routes and gain yards after the catch (YAC). In fact, Wright was the fifth-ranked WR in the league in YAC behind only Demaryius Thomas, Pierre Garcon, Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown, but it’s hard for a 5-foot-10 receiver to fight for TDs in the end zone.

Of course it’s possible. Guys like Wes Welker manage to get TDs regardless of their smaller build. However, it’s a lot easier with a QB like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning throwing to you. While Jake Locker isn’t the worst QB in the league, he doesn’t have the zip and accuracy to deliver precise bullets to Wright in the end zone like Brady or Manning.

On the other hand, Hunter is 6-foot-4 and 203 pounds. Locker doesn’t need to deliver the ball right into his hands in the end zone. Hunter is capable of going up for those jump balls and boxing out defenders. He scored four TDs last year compared to Wright’s two, and I expect Hunter to come up with even more in 2014.

Another matter is the hiring of Ken Whisenhunt as the new head coach in Tennessee. While he was the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers in 2013, the team flourished under him and finished fifth in the NFL in total offense.

Whisenhunt made Keenan Allen a breakout star last year while Eddie Royal managed only 600 yards receiving (his TDs were a bit fluky as five came in the first two games of the season). Allen happens to be 6-foot-2 and measures up much more like Hunter while Royal’s 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame is much closer to Wright’s build.

Wright is far more talented than Royal of course, and the Titans will change up the offensive play-calling based on what they have. Whisenhunt will utilize Wright well, and he should serve as a solid WR2, particularly in PPR. However, from prior track record, Whisenhunt seems to favor the bigger WR in his plays, and Hunter should be the primary red zone target.

I have no problem with anyone drafting Wright this year. In fact, he is also a steal as his current ADP is hovering around the eighth round. However, Hunter is often going undrafted in many leagues, and he is most definitely worth one of your last-round draft picks. He has tremendous upside in his sophomore season, and you can drop Hunter in the first few weeks if he fails to produce.

Meng Song is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ms0ng, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your Google+ network.

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