Is Russell Gage a fantasy football sleeper?

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Even though many thought the Falcons might select a wide receiver in last month’s NFL Draft, they rightfully focused on defense with all but one of their selections, setting up Russell Gage to take over as the team’s third wide receiver behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.

A lot of people are expecting Laquon Treadwell — a former first-round pick out of Ole Miss that the Falcons signed this offseason — to compete with Gage for reps. And while I’m as intrigued as anyone by Treadwell’s potential, there’s a reason why he’s only caught for 701 yards over his four-year career and had nine receptions all of last year. Gage took over the WR3 role after Mohamed Sanu was traded to the Patriots, and he thrived in just his second season, catching 45 balls for 402 yards in the final nine games. With another year of experience under his belt and more targets up for grabs following the departure of Austin Hooper, he could be in for a breakout 2020.

The former sixth-round pick out of LSU was a special teams star as a rookie but stood out from the beginning of training camp as a receiver in his second season. Gage possesses tremendous speed and athleticism, but it’s been his improvements as a route runner that have allowed him to exceed expectations thus far in the NFL. He’s a smaller receiver that should thrive in the slot, considering most of the attention will be placed on Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.

For fantasy purposes, he should be a reasonably productive option in PPR leagues on a matchup basis and is worth a bench spot in the later rounds of the draft. There’s also the upside that he could become a primary target in what looks to be a high-powered Atlanta offense in 2020. Both Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley always seem to be nursing a minor injury, and Gage proved last season that he could handle the WR2 role if need be. He will be on my radar, as I see him hauling in somewhere between 70-80 catches for around 800 yards and possibly even more if someone suffers an injury.

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