Finding positional value in the later rounds of fantasy football drafts is imperative for success. Identifying players with usable upside requires nuance in leveraging projected fantasy production against value. In this article, I used PFF's fantasy projections and consensus rankings — along with a practical approach — to identify promising, high-upside wide receivers to target in redraft fantasy drafts.
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All average draft position (ADP) info sourced from FFPC for the month of June 2020.
Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions | ADP: 125.1
Only a handful of wide receivers had the uphill climb that Jones did in 2019. Competing alongside Kenny Golladay — who ranked No. 22 in targets and No. 6 in receiving yards — is a tall task for any wide receiver in the NFL. However, Jones took to that task nicely. His 2019 fantasy campaign saw him average 14.9 fantasy points per game and log a total of eight top-36 or better finishes in PPR leagues.
Jones was a consistent weapon both downfield and in the red zone in 2019. On targets 10-plus yards downfield, he had a 72.7 catch percentage (third in the NFL), four touchdowns (second), 381 yards (22nd) and managed 3.63 yards per route run (16th). His reliability shined in scoring situations, as he logged a 30% red-zone target percentage (No. 7 among wide receivers with 60 or more targets) and hauled in all nine of his touchdowns inside the red zone.
Jones’ established role in the Lions passing game, particularly near the goal line, makes him the ideal blueprint for a late-round redraft wide receiver in 2020. With no notable offseason acquisitions and Matthew Stafford’s gunslinger style of play, Jones is poised to retain his role as the team's highly used No. 2 WR. Relative to his average draft position of WR43 in FFPC drafts, Jones is a screaming value at cost. That's reflected by his current ranking of 20th among wide receivers in PFF's fantasy projections.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots | ADP: 106.3
No player with Edelman's 2019 stat line should be on a late-round wide receiver list. With that said, his current ADP in redraft leagues makes him a must-plug here. Edelman finished last year ranked fifth in overall fantasy points and 10th in fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. He finished fourth in targets, fourth in receptions and 16th in receiving yards.
Logging 147 total targets with an average of 9.1 targets per game, Edelman’s fantasy value was rooted in consistent volume as New England’s top wide receiver. He dominated the team's target share, with Phillip Dorsett‘s 54 targets ranking second on the team among wide receivers (James White had 95). Edelman’s 1.77 yards per route run (No. 29 among wide receivers with 60 or more targets) and his 9.29 average depth of target (aDOT) don’t scream “hyper-efficient” or “big play ability.” He has simply outlasted his counterparts by seizing opportunity with reliable production.
The signing of veteran quarterback Cam Newton adds a new wrinkle in the Patriots' offseason, and Cam projects to elevate Edelman yet again to the centerpiece of the receiving game. Edelman has made a living aligning in the slot, where Newton has accumulated 28.1% of his career passing yards and 27.9% of his career attempts over his nine-year career in the NFL. The connection between Newton and Edelman will be palpable and one that owners should reap the rewards from in fantasy.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers | ADP: 112.6
Johnson was a welcomed surprise amid a lackluster Steelers offense in 2019, earning a 68.8 overall PFF grade as a rookie. With JuJu Smith-Schuster dealing with injury and James Washington largely a boom-or-bust fantasy play on a weekly basis, Johnson led the team with 161.1 total fantasy points and averaged 10.1 points per game in PPR leagues.
Johnson cemented himself as the top outside option for Pittsburgh in 2019, with 51 receptions, 629 receiving yards and five of his touchdowns coming from outside alignment. But even though he saw the majority of his volume split out wide, Johnson didn’t only rely on an abundance of opportunity. Rather, he made the most of his opportunity, balancing his volume with high-level efficiency. Among wide receivers with 60-plus targets aligned out wide, Johnson ranked No. 26 in yards per route run and No. 11 in yards after the catch per reception.
With Ben Roethlisberger set to make his return from elbow surgery this season, Johnson’s projected ceiling takes a huge leap in a pass-heavy offense suited to his play style. Roethlisberger has averaged 581 pass attempts per season over the last three years and supported two top-12 fantasy wide receivers in 2018 in Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown. Johnson is in line to blow his current FFPC ADP of WR40 out of the water in 2020.
Darius Slayton, New York Giants | ADP: 120.7
Since Odell Beckham Jr.‘s departure, deciphering the Giants wide receiver room has been tough, to say the least. In Beckham’s absence, the Giants fielded a makeshift trio of Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton. None of these players proceeded to dominate in terms of volume, as all three hovered just north of 80 targets last season. However, Slayton stood out far as production and solidified a role within the passing game.
Slayton made the best of increased opportunity after Shepard missed an early portion of the 2019 season with a concussion. From weeks 6-10, Slayton (34 targets) trailed only Tate (46 targets) for volume supremacy and averaged 13.1 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. His massive 34.1 fantasy point performance in Week 10 buoyed this per-game mark, but that was just the beginning of Slayton’s rise as he averaged 14.4 fantasy points per game from weeks 12-17 despite the return of Shepard in Week 12.
Slayton’s dominance in the back half of the season saw him rank No. 1 among the Giants' receiving trio with 375 receiving yards, 1.87 yards per route run and a whopping 5.3 yards after the catch per reception from weeks 12-17. With Tate and Shepard trading roles in the slot, Slayton produced above expectations as the primary outside wide receiver and has earned himself a substantial role heading into 2020.
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings | ADP: 150.2
This may seem bold on the surface, but Jefferson is absolutely a guy you want to target late in your draft, even in redraft format. Don’t sleep on the impact of a rookie wide receiver — Jefferson is walking into Minnesota coming off a prolific season that saw him rank No. 3 in receiving yards, No. 9 in targets and No. 2 in touchdowns among all NCAA wide receivers.
The Vikings knew exactly what they were getting when they selected Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft. And, believe it or not, a player's draft status has a profound effect on his chances of fantasy success. Players with Jefferson’s profile — a young breakout age with high production and early draft capital — have a high probability of logging early fantasy success: a 66% hit rate landing inside the top-24 fantasy wide receivers within the first three years, to be exact.
Despite Minnesota deploying a more run-heavy offensive scheme in 2019, Jefferson has a path to valuable volume right out of the gate. With Adam Thielen the only real threat to soak up wide receiver volume, Jefferson is in line to fill the role of starting slot receiver from Day 1. He made a career at LSU by earning his volume and producing amongst prolific talent like Ja’Marr Chase. There isn’t anything stopping him from doing the same in Minnesota.
Jamison Crowder, New York Jets | ADP: 137.5
Crowder a resurgent first year in New York, establishing himself as a premier target for Sam Darnold. He ranked 15th in targets and 16th in receptions among all wide receivers in 2019 en route to 197.8 total fantasy points and an average of 12.3 fantasy points per game. Crowder posted a team-high 66.1% catch percentage, ultimately leading to five top-12 fantasy finishes in PPR leagues.
The intrigue for Crowder as a late-round wide receiver asset stems largely from his abundance of volume. But it's fair to point out that he was efficient with his touches, logging 364 of his 834 receiving yards after the catch. Crowder showed he doesn’t only rely on volume to rack up extra fantasy points — his aDOT was only 8.1 but he racked up 4.7 yards after the catch per reception.
The Jets parted ways with Robby Anderson — who saw 92 targets last season — and added Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims. Perriman came on strong at the end of last season, with 506 receiving yards and five touchdowns in his final five games in Tampa Bay. Mims brings a big body and solid profile as a second-round pick to the group. That said, the Jets have thrown the ball on more than 60% of their plays over the last two seasons — Crowder’s reliability and rapport with Sam Darnold will yield plenty of opportunity to hold the WR1 spot in New York.