Deep diving: Five wide receivers to target late in drafts

August 10, 2021

The core pieces of a fantasy roster come early in drafts. People think hard about those early picks, carefully mock drafting patterns out to find one they like. Some continue it into the mid-rounds, the “plant your flag” territory with more volatile prospects. 

But those later rounds… those are the fun ones.

It’s where drafters can truly make a league-changing decision with the least amount of risk. Finding the hidden treasure in your draft is fun, and there’s no position quite as deep as WR.

Only players being drafted in the 10th round or later in half-PPR scoring will be included. The list will go in descending ADP from Fantasy Pros

5. Mike Williams. ADP: 125th overall, 10th round, WR48. 2020 finish: WR45

He has a 1,000-yard season. He has a 10-touchdown season. Entering a contract year, Mike Williams has the talent to put it all together and, finally, the quarterback to do it.

Armed with offensive rookie of the year Justin Herbert, this Chargers offense is ready to do some serious damage. Williams only commanded a 15.7 percent target share last year, which seems very possible for a sizable jump. But Williams is a player that doesn’t need 130 targets to succeed. He stretches the field and scores touchdowns, both of which can happen with Williams’ talent and skill set. He faces minimal competition for targets outside of Keenan Allen and legitimately has top-15 upside thanks to his big-play ability.

His biggest question mark is his health, but that still is not a metric you can predict. For a 10th-round price as the WR48, he’s well worth the investment.

Perhaps most importantly, this franchise still believes in him. They paid over $15 million through the franchise tag to bring back Williams and have been singing his praises ever since.

“I’ve seen him put it together in this league,” head coach Brandon Staley said of Mike Williams after a practice. “I’ve seen him be a 1,000-yard receiver, I’ve seen him average over 20 yards per catch in this league, I’ve seen us prepare a plan that has a lot in store for him because we have that type of feeling about him.”

“This guy’s going to be a weapon. He’s going to be a feature player.”

4. Marvin Jones Jr. ADP: 143rd overall, 11th round, WR53. 2020 finish: WR17

D.J. Chark is the common name. Laviska Shenault is the exciting, second-year leap prospect and a good value where he’s at. But Marvin Jones Jr. is criminally undervalued in drafts. 

Urban Meyer and the Jaguars made it a point early in free agency to sign Jones, quickly inking a two-year deal worth over $12 million. Any time a new coach makes it a priority to sign a new player to a meaningful contract is noteworthy, particularly when that coach makes it a point to take a shot at the incumbent Chark for having “well-below average” strength in 2020.

Guess who’s a big, physical receiver with a nose for the end zone? Jones.

Now Chark is dealing with a broken finger where he’s expected back for Week 1, but it can’t be guaranteed. That gives all of August for Jones and rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence to build a connection that Chark can’t. Jones will be the big, trusted target for a rookie quarterback who can stretch the field just as easily as he can work possession. The 31-year-old wideout scored nine touchdowns in both 2019 and 2020 — as a Detroit Lion, no less — and is easily the most proven weapon in this offense. 

Jones is a terrific value in drafts as a potential FLEX option with WR2 ceiling.

3. Russell Gage. 168th overall, 14th round, WR59. 2020 finish: WR37.

Russell Gage, who already saw a respectable 110 targets in 2020, is entering must-draft territory given his value. Julio Jones is gone. The highly drafted Kyle Pitts is still the assumed No. 2 target in Atlanta, but it’s more likely he directly takes over Hayden Hurst’s volume (88 targets) with increased efficiency. Gage already saw and will see again at least 110 targets in ideal game scripts with a proven quarterback, yet he’s nearly a WR5 in drafts. 

In 2020, only two receivers who saw 110 targets finished outside the Top 4. That would be Cooper Kupp, who finished as the WR27 because he scored a measly three touchdowns, and Jerry Jeudy, who finished as the WR44 as a rookie because of drops and horrific quarterback play that resulted in the second-most uncatchable targets for the 2020 first-round pick.

Gage doesn’t have that quarterback question, and touchdowns are a fickle stat to predict. Even just three scores would make Gage a fantastic value given his ADP. He’s well worth a shot at the end of the draft.

2. Amon-Ra St. Brown. ADP: 214th overall, WR72, 17th round. 2020 finish: N/A

Amon-Ra St. Brown was one of my favorite players to scout leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, and it’s no surprise Detroit picked him in the fourth round. Head coach Dan Campbell has preached toughness, and Brown brings it as a mean, big slot receiver that is a willing blocker.

A wide receiver room of 2020 fifth-round pick Quintez Cephus and veterans Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams doesn’t inspire too much fear. None of them accompany the slot either, which sets up Brown for a role early and often.

Brown has been productive in camp, constantly training against 2020 first-round pick Jeff Okudah. When Brown wins a rep, Okudah asks for a rematch. When Okudah wins a rep, Brown does the same. He’s that type of wide receiver, and he’s worked in the slot and on the outside in camp. Given the unstable depth chart in Detroit and the whopping 216 vacated targets by Marvin Jones (115), Danny Amendola (69), and Kenny Golladay (32) it’s very possible for Brown to smash his low ADP.

Nobody should be surprised if Brown leads all rookies in receptions and targets in 2020. That type of upside shouldn’t be buried.

1. Bryan Edwards. ADP: 280 overall, WR90, undrafted. 2020 finish: WR131.

It fascinates me how human memory works.

A year ago, Edwards was a rising star. He was the best receiver in camp, lined up for a big rookie year. He started the season as a starter who improved his yardage over three straight weeks before breaking his hand, derailing the season. Edwards returned six weeks later as he was eased in, and never really got back on track save for an impressive touchdown grab in Week 17.

Now entering his sophomore year Edwards is left for dead despite the team’s No. 1 target, Nelson Agholor (82 targets), leaving in free agency. Edwards is built to be the volume receiver in this offense and has the college profile to be an elite option. Agholor was the WR29, and I believe Edwards is a much better player than Agholor. 

I have yet to leave a draft without Edwards, and it’s rare to be able to draft a receiver with the potential to be the No. 1 wide receiver on his team. For the excellent price of your last pick, you can draft a receiver who can potentially record over 1,000 yards (Agholor had 896 receiving yards) with the size to be a touchdown threat too.