2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: A gold mine of mid-round breakout wide receivers
Ben Gretch has made the case for avoiding running backs in the middle rounds. Here, he names 12 potential breakout wide receivers to target instead.
You should avoid picking running backs in PPR leagues from about the middle of Round 3 until several rounds later, possibly until all the single-digit rounds are done. I made the case for why last week when I introduced. Toward the end of that piece I threw in a note: "It helps that there is an absolute gold mine of young wide receiver talent throughout the dead zone."
It's amazing how this has overlapped; 2019 has become one of my favorite years to draft. As the Fantasy community expects more (and more efficient) passing, we've frequently discussed the depth of viable quarterbacks and, in turn, viable passing games.
Along with that, we could easily see a higher rate of breakout wide receivers, even those who are No. 2s in their offenses. We may not necessarily see all these players become Fantasy WR1s or even necessarily WR2s, but where they finish in a ranked list isn't especially important.
In other words, it's possible we see an increase in the number of wide receivers hitting a certain threshold — say, 200 PPR points – and if that's the case, we're splitting hairs about where they ranked. Meanwhile, a few of these players — Tyler Boyd, Calvin Ridley, Kenny Golladay — already posted 200-point WR2 seasons in 2018, but can still be had several rounds into 2019 drafts.
It should be a gold rush, but the demand isn't high enough. The supply is there. That the historical trends suggest forgoing running backs in these rounds should be all you need to know to recognize these players are likely all undervalued by ADP. Instead, in nearly every draft you can easily nab at least one and sometimes as many as three or four, if you're as inclined, to build out your wide receiver depth as I am.
Here are 12 of my favorite options. Because I typically don't take RBs in this range of drafts, I'm targeting all of these players at their costs. Thus, I've sorted the players by FFPC ADP.
Coming out of Northern Illinois, Golladay had the production profile to suggest he was a future star, but didn't have quite the hype in NFL circles. That changed when the Lions somewhat surprisingly took him in the third round in the 2017 draft and he answered with two touchdowns in his first career game. After battling hamstring injuries his first year, Golladay posted a 1,000-yard season in 2018, but scored just five times. The concerns about Detroit's stated desire to lean toward the run are valid, but with Golden Tate's target share out of the picture, Golladay can be a star if the Lions do wind up throwing more than anticipated.
The comparisons Bruce Arians has made to Larry Fitzgerald may be a bit premature, but in terms of usage, they should be exciting for Fantasy players. Godwin appears set to play largely out of the slot, a role that helped Fitzgerald post at least 107 receptions for three straight seasons under Arians. His elevated ADP may seem a bit premature, but it's hard to argue he should go later than his WR19 status when he finished WR26 on fewer than 100 targets in a part-time role in 2018.
Moore is my favorite target in this group after he put up 163 PPR points in his rookie season despite just two touchdowns and not playing a full snap share until late in the year. He first broke a 50% snap share in Week 8 and first went over 90% in Week 12, yet still posted 960 yards from scrimmage in part thanks to an impressive 172 rushing yards on 13 carries. His rookie season left no doubt that his impressive profile would translate, a profile that includes a 98th percentile breakout age, a 97th percentile dominator rating, 92nd percentile SPARQ-x athleticism, and first-round draft capital. And now there's nothing stopping him from playing full snaps throughout 2019.
Ridley's rookie season was the stuff of legend; he became the first rookie wide receiver to post double-digit touchdowns on under 100 targets since targets were first tracked in 1992. Atlanta might be in line to throw a bit less in 2019 if their defense holds up, but it also might be difficult for each of Ridley, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Austin Hooper to play 16 games, as they all did in 2018. Even if that happens, Ridley can likely approach his WR23 ADP; if targets open up, so does Ridley's ceiling.
It took Boyd a couple seasons, but he lived up to his prospect profile in 2018. Boyd was a three-year stud while at Pitt, posting a 93rd percentile breakout age and 95th percentile dominator rating. That paid dividends for those who stayed faithful, as Boyd was the WR15 in just 14 games. Yes, he was marginally better with A.J. Green on the field in 2018, but that was a small sample and Boyd still paced for a 200-point PPR season with Green out. Plus Boyd's history suggests he should be fine, and that the locked-in target increase makes him a solid play as this Draft cost.
Williams would qualify for the same stat that made Ridley's rookie season stand out, but last year was technically his sophomore campaign after missing much of 2017 to injury. Much like Ridley, it will be difficult for Williams to maintain the otherworldly touchdown rate. But for Williams, targets are already opened up after Tyrell Williams signed with the Raiders this offseason. If Melvin Gordon does truly hold out, this team could throw more than expected, plus the Keenan Allen does have an injury history. Much like the theme from above, we saw good evidence Williams' first-round pedigree translates to the NFL level, and there are paths to which targets could open up his volume ceiling in 2019.
Would you believe Allen Robinson is only a couple months older than Kenny Golladay, and younger than guys like Tyler Lockett and Cooper Kupp? Robinson may seem out of place on this list, but when I miss on some of the names above, he's a second breakout option I'm considering. Robinson finished WR39 in his first year with Chicago, but he missed three games and posted a 13-10-143-1 line in the Bears' lone playoff game with Philadelphia. If we pace the 14 games he did play to 16 games, his line would have put him at WR20. He's not a priority target in an offense that may not need to throw too much, but he's also not without upside at this ADP.
With Kirk, you're betting on Kliff Kingsbury's scheme and on Kyler Murray being a solid passer in year one. The offense will feature plenty of wide receivers out in routes most plays, so Kirk's target share may be a bit capped, but they want to play fast and that could elevate everyone's raw target numbers. Kirk backed up his plus prospect profile that featured a 93rd percentile breakout age by posting an impressive 8.7 yards per target as a rookie in what was an atrocious offense.
While Pettis may wind up the No. 1 wide receiver in San Francisco, we know George Kittle will be the team's top target. But that doesn't mean Pettis is without upside; it's less clear than many of the names above given Pettis doesn't have quite the collegiate production profile, but a ridiculous 10.4 yards per target in his injury-plagued rookie season indicates the upside's there. If Jimmy Garoppolo elevates this offense and if Pettis does see legit No. 1 routes and targets, he'll beat this ADP.
You know the drill with Fuller. His efficiency with Deshaun Watson is otherworldly. He's had a hard time staying on the field. And while Keke Coutee, another player who could fit on this list if I were to stretch it out further, ate into his targets a bit while both were healthy last year, Fuller's downfield role isn't in jeopardy. Fuller's lived up to his first-round draft pedigree and 92nd percentile dominator rating, now he just needs a little health luck. The plus is the injury risk is baked into his ADP; he's a great consolation prize should you miss out on the names above.
I went Marcus Mariota's throwing arm injury. Davis still posted a solid 8.0 yards per target despite losing some downfield targets, an area he thrives. That was also likely impacted by Mariota's injury, as Mariota's average throw depth cratered. Davis also earned a legit No. 1 target share at 24%, and while Tennessee added some names and likely still wants to be run-heavy, Davis has been less of a bust as a player than his situation has been. He's still a Fantasy option with upside if the Titans' pass volume rebounds in a big way.earlier this offseason, but the short version is while he was certainly inconsistent last year, so too was the offense, and their ridiculously low 437 pass attempts were certainly impacted by
Samuel's ADP is rising, and for good reason. The star of nearly every Panthers' camp report, the recent buzz is whether Samuel is a better target than D.J. Moore, who goes much earlier in drafts. Of course, that doesn't need to be an either/or proposition. As with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in years past, drafters are probably overstating the concerns about whether both of these guys can thrive. While Christian McCaffrey will eat up plenty of work and Cam Newton's rushing doesn't help the skill players, there isn't another Carolina WR going in the top 100 at the position in Fantasy drafts, and Greg Olsen is drafted as the TE21 on average. Much like Moore, Samuel's playing time was inconsistent last season; much like Moore, the expectation is clearly that Samuel will be a full-time player in 2019. And that means the answer to "Moore or Samuel?" is both. But Samuel's certainly the better value; he's an easy target at this cost given his production last year on limited touches, the expected uptick in playing time, and the overwhelmingly positive camp reports.
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