The Pittsburgh Steelers have one of the best wide receiving corps in the NFL. The depth chart is absolutely stellar with Pro Bowl wide out Antonio Brown leading the way, second year receiver Martavis Bryant about to explode in his sophomore season and Markus Wheaton.
Wheaton is often the forgotten receiver of the group, but with news of the NFL upholding Bryant's four-game suspension to start the 2015 regular season, Wheaton's stock is rising at a rapid rate.
The third year receiver has shown tremendous progress every year since turning professional. After a disappointing rookie campaign, Wheaton's production saw an incredible increase in 2014. His 53 catches for 644 yards and two touchdowns was a promising step in the right direction for the Oregon State product.
In 2015, through just two preseason games, Wheaton has shown he is ready to pick up where he left off in 2014. His preseason stat line reads 4 catches, 62 yards and a touchdown. He is averaging 15.5 yards per catch, and has shown a visible rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It is that connection with No. 7 which should have fantasy owners moving Wheaton up on their draft board, at least for the first four games of the 2015 season.
Without Bryant in the lineup, Wheaton will benefit most from the increased playing time, but will also draw more one-on-one matchups from opposing defenses as teams will look to roll coverage and bracket Antonio Brown on the opposite side of the field. If the preseason has been any indication, Wheaton is poised to win those matchups, and Roethlisberger is looking for him when it matters most.
Wheaton won't necessarily replace Bryant on the field. After all, not many can match the speed, size and athleticism Bryant possesses; nonetheless, from a positional standpoint, Wheaton will move to the slot when the team uses any three or four wide receiver sets. Some fantasy owners might view this as a downgrade, but the truth is plenty of players have made a living, and therefore their fantasy owners as well, from the slot. Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and so many more have abused opposing defenses from the interior of the formation.
Wheaton was the team's No. 2 receiver on the depth chart before Bryant's suspension, and will stay there for the foreseeable future. All the more reason to look for Wheaton in the mid-rounds of your fantasy football draft...he could pay huge dividends to your team in the early portion of the season.