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Anthony Miller: The fantasy football sleeper to target at WR

The Bears’ third-year receiver could be a major sleeper in fantasy football leagues in 2020.

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Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

In the grand scheme of things, Anthony Miller hasn’t entirely lived up to the expectations the Bears had for him as a second-round pick in 2018.

An ultra-productive wide receiver during his time at Memphis, Miller projected as a seamless fit in Matt Nagy’s West Coast-oriented scheme, which would get him in space and allow him to make moves after the catch, a strength of his coming out.

Durability concerns and a mental adjustment to the NFL game have derailed his overall momentum through his first two seasons in the league. In 31 career games, Miller has 85 receptions, 1,079 yards and 9 touchdowns. While his production hasn’t been bad by any means, he hasn't quite lived up to the hype in a 2018 draft class that has featured a handful of high-quality receivers thus far.

However, Miller did catch fire late in the 2019 season, tallying 34 catches, 433 yards and two touchdowns from the span of Weeks 11-16. Had he kept that pace all season, he would have topped both 1,100 yards and 90 receptions on the year.

That late-season surge is cause for some optimism in his production heading into 2020, thus making him an intriguing option as a fantasy football sleeper this year.

During that aforementioned span, Miller reached double-digit fantasy points with PPR scoring in all but one matchup. A spark seemed to ignite in his game after starting off the season on a disappointing note. He wasn’t perfect, sure, but he improved his decision-making on option routes coming out of the slot and didn't make as many errors in lining up the wrong way or running the wrong route. That increased mental acuity, combined with his physical gifts and natural feel for route running, made him a name to watch out for late in the season.

Miller should also face less competition for touches at the wide receiver position, too. Allen Robinson is the clear-cut No. 1 weapon in the Bears’ offense and should see a considerable target share come his way, but after that lies plenty of uncertainty.

Riley Ridley and Darnell Mooney are respectively either fairly unproven or completely new to the NFL game. Cordarrelle Patterson is more of a gadget player than a full-time offensive piece. Javon Wims’ ceiling appears to be capped off to some extent, and Ted Ginn Jr. is 35 years old and has fallen off statistically in recent years. With no Taylor Gabriel on Chicago’s roster, Miller should be the bonafide No. 2 option at his position.

Fantasy experts also expect the Bears’ receivers to face an easier schedule from a fantasy perspective. FantasyPros has given the Bears the easiest fantasy schedule for wide receivers in the NFL heading into 2020, while RotoBaller has given them the same ranking. PFF has the group placing with the seventh-easiest wide out schedule. Regardless of the algorithm being used, seemingly all major fantasy sites that track positional strength of schedules believe the Bears’ receivers have an easier road to success ahead of them.

Despite his hot end to the season and a favorable schedule, NFL Fantasy has Miller ranked as the 52nd wide receiver in fantasy this year. CBS Sports’ three experts have him anywhere between 43rd and 53rd in PPR leagues, while ESPN’s consensus PPR rankings have Miller ranked 56th. For leagues that have already drafted, Miller’s average draft positioning on ESPN is 167.7, which would make him an undrafted free agent in the typical 10-team, 16-round drafts.

Granted, concerns regarding Chicago’s quarterback situation are warranted. Regardless of whether the team boasts Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles under center, they will likely experience below-average play at the position. Foles starting would presumably be the better option for Miller’s fantasy value, as the veteran quarterback has a penchant for targeting slot receivers—from 2017 to 2018, he had the sixth-highest rate of targeting slot receivers in the league. While not as physically gifted as Trubisky, Foles is generally a safer option who does a better job of scanning the field, going through progressions and making his reads. It’s entirely hypothetical until either quarterback steps onto the field, but a quarterback who is typically more accurate in Foles should provide for more opportunities for Miller.

Miller may not necessary reach that 1,000-yard mark he was on pace to top in the condensed few weeks of the 2019 season, but he should see considerable touches in Chicago’s offense, and he has shown signs of improvement since entering the league. 2020 could be the season he puts it all together, and it could be the year fantasy owners find a potential steal late in their drafts.