Every fantasy football player must have strategies for midseason pick-ups and potential injuries lest they find themselves the sucker in their league. Andrew Jordan offers a look at some mid-to-late round wide receiver options whose usage might help head off problems.
It is tempting to be two or three rounds into your fantasy football draft and adore your starting wide receivers – so much so that when it comes to selecting flex and bench players, your mind either flips on the autopilot or starts taking miscalculated risks. Fantasy players last year, for example, could have landed Dez Bryant, Randall Cobb, and Keenan Allen all on the same squad.
Feeling safe with their early round talent at fantasy’s most important position, the next step may have been to draft multiple running backs and backup quarterbacks. Come time for the fantasy playoffs, these types of teams were easy matches who found mid- to late-round gems like Michael Crabtree, Doug Baldwin, and Allen Hurns.
Owners that keep their foot on the gas with smart picks that maximize value are the most dangerous fantasy players in any draft. Having three quality WRs is nice. Adding three more to your bench can prove devastating to your competition.
Here are five wide receivers being selected at various points in fantasy drafts that can step into your starting lineup this year if injuries strike your starting, early round receivers .
ADP values are from Myfantasyleague.com as of 8/29
[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Emmanuel Sanders –- 75 OVR ADP, WR #32
Two years ago, Emmanuel Sanders enjoyed his best year as a pro, and in 2015 drafts he was selected as a low WR1-high WR2 picked near players like DeAndre Hopkins and Brandin Cooks. He has now dipped down to the middle of the 7th round in 10-team leagues after suffering through abysmal quarterback play last year. As bad as Sanders’ season was perceived to be, he actually finished as WR19 in PPR leagues, 18th in standard scoring.
And say what you want about the Denver Broncos QB situation this year but, for fantasy purposes, 2015 was about as grim as it gets. Tyler Lockett and DeVante Parker (both going in front of Sanders) might be sexier picks, but rolling with a proven veteran in your flex spot will allow you to take risks in later rounds.
Want three more reasons to grab Sanders? First, his role is set in stone with the Broncos; second, he is consistently impressive with the ball in his hands; and third, his versatility to line up outside and in the slot will keep him involved in the passing game no matter the opponent.
[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Marvin Jones –- 87 OVR ADP, WR #37
ITP’s Justin Twell recently covered the Lions’ primary receivers and highlighted Marvin Jones’s savvy downfield route running. What makes this even more impressive is that when Jones came into the NFL, he was largely thought of as a possession receiver. That receiving talent carried over into his new duties, leaving Jones with one of the NFL’s lowest drop rates at 1.9%. Jones has a unique understanding of how to shield defensive backs from the ball with his body, giving him an advantage in contested catch situations. This talent has proven, and will continue to prove, useful in the redzone, keeping his QB happy.
While it is only the preseason, Jones has displayed promising chemistry with Matthew Stafford, gaining 106 yards on 12 targets through three contests. Jones is looking more like option 1A for the Lions, which means he is an absolute steal in the 8th round of drafts. Jones is, on average, going 39 spots later than Golden Tate and even after unproven players like Chicago’s Kevin White. He’s worth a look in the 60s in leagues that can start four WRs and will still provide superior value from that spot.
[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Devin Funchess – 124 OVR ADP, WR #49
With Kelvin Benjamin coming back from the ACL tear he suffered last preseason, Funchess is no longer the only big-bodied target on the outside for the Panthers. Yes, Ted Ginn Jr. is still running with Benjamin in two wide receiver sets through the preseason, and maybe that’s why we’re all discounting Funchess. After flashing briefly in the Super Bowl, Funchess has quietly been trending upwards throughout the offseason. Recent reports from coaches even have Funchess pushing Benjamin for a role as the team’s lead receiver.
As evidenced in his drive-extending catch against the Broncos in Super Bowl 50, nobody else on the Panthers has the go-up-and-get-it ability that Funchess does. Much like Sanders and Jones, Funchess is a player that his team cannot afford to leave off the field. He has a knack for getting in the endzone, scoring 5 times on 64 targets last season.
An uptick in usage, combined with the deep speed of Ted Ginn Jr., the return of Kelvin Benjamin, and the ever present receiving threat that is Greg Olsen, means defenses simply cannot focus on every Panthers’ receiver at all times. Opposing defenses will need to pick their poison while still making sure Cam Newton doesn’t break contain. Funchess has the tools to continually benefit from the system into which the Panthers have inserted him, and players with his kind of talent and opportunities are not found outside of the top 100 overall too often.
[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Kenny Stills 220 OVR ADP, WR #85
Kenny Stills, like Mike Wallace before him, found himself as Ryan Tannehill’s underused deep threat last year. Posting the lowest reception and yardage totals of his three-year career, Stills figured to be the odd man out with DeVante Parker having posted impressive plays down the stretch and Miami adding to the position with the draft selection of Leonte Carroo. Sidelined with a hamstring injury early in camp, Parker left the door open for Stills and it appears he has sprinted right through it.
Running in two WR sets, Stills has had the look of a different player through three (albeit preseason) games. The offseason additions of Adam Gase, Laremy Tunsil, Arian Foster, and Kenyan Drake should help improve the efficiency of Miami’s offense, opening up all levels of the field and thus making it easier for Stills to operate. Players like Robert Woods,Terrance Williams, and Jaelen Strong are all going ahead of Stills, whom I would rather have.
With the first four games of the Dolphins season being on the road in Seattle and New England before traveling home to face Cleveland and then heading to Cincinnati, owners will see whether or not Stills’s fit in Gase’s system is the real deal. If he is, you got a steal with a pick in the waning rounds of your draft. Stills is considered day to day after suffering a back injury recently in practice. He is still a player to willing, if not eagerly, stash on the back end of your roster.
[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Tajae Sharpe 164 OVR ADP, WR #62
No wide receiver, rookie or otherwise, has seen the rise that rookie Tajae Sharpe has seen this preseason. The cat is out of the bag, but let’s review: A fifth-round pick out of the University of Massachusetts, Sharpe came into camp with the reputation of a technician and immediately started working his way up the Titans depth chart. Initially thought of as a motivational tactic by the Titans brass, it became clear all too quickly that Sharpe was genuinely outworking his in-house competition.
Sharpe has become the only clear-cut starter in Tennessee as the preseason winds down, surpassing intriguing players like Rishard Matthews, a contract-year Kendall Wright, and dynasty-league darling / enigma and now departed wideout Dorial Green-Beckham. Tajae Sharpe has built impressive chemistry with franchise QB Marcus Mariota and has shown impressive speed on the field, which was a concern of some during the pre-draft process.
Here’s the caveat with Sharpe: Large scale ADP data is slow to react to trends, so you might not be seeing Sharpe on the board at 160. Grabbing him in the late 12th, early 13th round is optimal if you’re looking for an injury substitution at the flex spot with impressive, and still-unknown upside. Additionally, you can draft him and name your team Sharpe Dressed Man; the potential here is endless.