There is plenty of value to be had at the WR position this year, even as you get deeper into your draft. In this article, I am going to talk about WRs currently being drafted in the 10th round or later in 12-team ESPN leagues. Some receivers I am going to list will be quick contributors come Week 1. The other receivers I list might need a week, or two to blossom into a player you can trust in your fantasy lineup on a weekly basis. I find this topic extremely important because you can never have enough depth on your team.
As you get deeper in to your draft make sure you aren’t just throwing stuff on the wall hoping that something sticks. Make sure you are making conscious/alert picks that will help your team in the long run. Enough strategic, and motivational talk though. Let’s get started.
1) Torrey Smith – Current ADP 115.1 – Say all you want about Chip Kelly, but the man has provided fantasy goodness from his primary WR options ever since he came into the NFL as a head coach. DeSean Jackson slashed an 82/1,332/9 stat line in 2013, Jeremy Maclin slashed an 85/1,318/10 stat line in 2014, and Jordan Matthews finished with an 85/997/8 stat line in 2015. Torrey Smith should put up solid stats this season as the No. 1 WR for the 49ers.
There are two reasons why I feel strongly about this. One, Chip Kelly has proven to the fantasy community that he can provide stats for his primary pass catcher. And two, the 49ers will be trailing a lot this season, which means game flow situations will lead to Torrey Smith getting garbage time stats. Las Vegas currently has the 49ers over/under on wins at 5.5. All the writing is on the wall for a bounce back season for the former Super Bowl champion. I would not be surprised if Smith clears 1,000 receiving yards, and scores 7 receiving TDs once the season draws to an end.
Another thing I wouldn’t worry too much about is whom the QB will be for the 49ers come Week 1. I say this because like I stated before, this 49ers team is so bad that they will have no choice but to throw the ball, whether the QB of the team is Colin Kaepernick, or Blaine Gabbert. Basically, game flow situations will take care of the bad QB play that Torrey Smith has to deal with this season.
2) Vincent Jackson – Current ADP 119.8 – Vincent Jackson has really matured from his early days when he was playing for the San Diego Chargers. His work ethic ever since he got his huge contract in 2012 has actually improved! It can be said with confidence that Jackson is one of the team leaders on the Buccaneers. Jackson isn’t just a mentor trying to motivate the youngsters on his team though. The 6’5″ WR out of Northern Colorado can still play as well.
With Jameis Winston only having 2 other legitimate, and trustworthy passing options at his disposal (Mike Evans, and Charles Sims) I can see Jackson pushing for 120 targets this year. Now although Mike Evans is the de facto number one passing target on this team, Jameis Winston will have no other choice but to look for Jackson when he is covered. I say this because the TE position on Tampa Bay is one big question mark at this point (Is ASJ still on the team or what?).
Look for Jackson to stay healthy this year and put up close to, or just above 1,000 receiving yards when the season draws to an end. If Mike Evans were to get injured at any point during the season, Jackson would turn into a high-upside weekly WR2.
3) Markus Wheaton – Current ADP 125.8 – One of my favorite late round WRs available in fantasy drafts this season is Markus Wheaton. Early camp talk in Pittsburgh suggests that Sammie Coates will man the outside spot in their base formation, and Markus Wheaton will man the slot. This is nothing to worry about though because, 1) Wheaton plays best when he is running routes at the slot position, and 2) The Steelers’ base formation is a 3-WR set so Wheaton will have plenty of opportunities to contribute on a weekly basis. Also we can’t just assume every single outside receiving snap opposite Antonio Brown will go to Sammie Coates.
Wheaton is in a good situation however you look at it. The Steelers have one of the best QBs in the NFL and that reason alone should embolden people to draft Wheaton. Another reason that I like Wheaton this year is because the Steelers love to pass the ball. In games where Ben Roethlisberger played last season, the Steelers averaged 40 pass attempts a game (and that’s with Big Ben leaving early in 2 games). With Martavis Bryant suspended for the year, Wheaton can become Roethlisberger’s No. 2 passing target. Wheaton’s coming out party last season was his amazing performance against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Ever since that game, the Steelers awarded Wheaton with 7.8 targets per game. I believe Wheaton can push for 8-9 targets a week easily, while putting up low-end WR2/high-end WR3 numbers for your team on a consistent basis. If Wheaton is available to pick by Round 9, you must take him! Take advantage of his ADP, or you might have some remorse once fantasy season comes rolling along.
4) Tavon Austin – Current ADP 126.9 – Is it safe to say that the best QB Tavon Austin has ever played with is a QB that hasn’t even thrown a pass in a competitive NFL game yet? I would think so. Austin had some very funky weekly splits last year. He actually had 2 games in which he scored both a receiving, and rushingTD. Then there would be other weeks where Austin would give you 4 fantasy points. This occurred because the QB situation for the Rams last year was horrific. Either way, Jeff Fisher and company found a way to get the ball into Austin’s hands by rushing the ball. He actually only had 39 less rushing yards, than receiving yards last year.
Another thing we can’t forget is the fact that Tavon found the end zone 9 times last year. Jeff Fisher was on record saying that he thinks Austin can catch up too 100 balls this season. I found that number a little too high; I do however believe that 80 receptions in a healthy 16-game season is plausible. The Rams are very thin at the WR position so Goff will look Austin’s way on many occasions. Look for Tavon to have close to 80 receptions, and a little less than 1,000 yards this season. His rushing stats will drop a bit because he will be in a more formidable offense now, but that’s ok, you don’t draft WRs on your fantasy team to get rushing stats.
6) Mohamed Sanu – Current ADP 140.6 – One of the biggest head-scratching contracts this NFL free agency period went to Mohamed Sanu. The Atlanta Falcons gave the 4-year veteran a 5-year, $32 million dollar deal this offseason to start opposite Julio Jones. Now although the contract might be bad, the deal does speak volumes on what the Falcons want out of Sanu. With no TEs stealing targets away from the WR group, and only Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman for Matt Ryan to really throw too, you can look for Sanu to have north of 110 total targets this season.
Another thing to point out is that Sanu had 790 receiving yards back in 2014 on 98 targets. If Sanu plays at the same level that he did in 2014, you can look for him to smash his current ADP. Sanu is currently getting drafted in the 11th round in 12-team drafts. I wouldn’t have a problem with someone taking him in the middle of the 9th round
7) Kamar Aiken – Current ADP 143.0 – Kamar Aiken very quietly had 944 receiving yards on 75 receptions last season. What makes that stat even more impressive is that fact that in three of his 16 games last season he had 6 receiving yards or less. Basically, the point I’m trying to get across here is that there is much room for statistical grown with Aiken this season. The only real issue with Aiken is that there will be competition at the WR position for the Baltimore Ravens.
With the addition of Mike Wallace, and the return of Steve Smith, and Breshad Perriman from injury, you can bet Aiken will have to earn his way on to the field this season. However, this is something I would not worry about. I think Kamar can hold off all three of these WRs once training camp is over and he can definitely lead his team in targets. Kamar’s current ADP is in my eyes 2-3 rounds to late. Aiken has way too much upside in a pass happy offense to be available at pick 143. If Aiken is still on the draft board by Round 9 you should consider drafting him.
8) Sammie Coates – Current ADP 143.8 –
Sammie Coates literally had 1 reception last season but that is not holding back the fantasy community from drafting him on their teams. Coates has monster upside in a pass happy offense so the reason for extreme optimism from fantasy owners is correct in my eyes. Camp talk has had nothing but positive things to say about the 2nd-year man out of Auburn, and for this reason alone he is worth a skeptical draft pick on your team.
Coates is a playmaker with the ball in his hands; the only question mark in his game is his route running abilities. If he fixed his route running woes during his second offseason then the NFL should be put on notice. Coates might need a couple of weeks to hit top form so make sure if you draft him you don’t just drop him after 2 games.
If Coates can gain the trust of Big Ben this season then watch out! Coates can put up weekly WR3 numbers if the starting WRs on the Steelers remain healthy all season, or he can gain value to a possible WR2 if either Antonio Brown (HEAVEN FORBID), or Markus Wheaton were to get injured during the season. Coates’ current ADP is a round or 2 late in my opinion. I would have no issue drafting the athletically gifted Coates starting at pick 120.