Late-Round Wide Receiver Targets
There are many strategies when it comes to drafting in fantasy football, e.g. zero wide receiver, zero running back, modified zero wide receiver, modified zero running back, late-round QB (which everyone should be following), etc. All have their merits and detractions. I personally like to employ the zero-WR and modified zero-WR strategies. Running back is relatively shallow with only 20 or so RBs that I would feel as my top-two RBs. On the flip-side, wide receiver is extremely deep with many WRs that could end up being top-24 by years end available in the double-digit rounds of drafts. Thus the premise of this article. Below are four WRs that are going late in drafts that have a legitimate chance inside of the top-24 WRs in 2019.
My personal favorite late-round WR in 2019, “Bert” is going the latest of any of the receivers on this list. This is largely due to concerns with Wilson’s health and the Miami Dolphins offense as a whole. However, there are a lot of reasons to believe Wilson can break out in his sixth season.
First, Wilson produced career highs in several statistical categories despite only playing in seven games and starting three. He set career highs in yards per reception, yards per game, yards per target, catch percentage, and total touchdowns. If Wilson had played all 16 games at his seven-game pace, he would have finished with 59 receptions on 80 targets for 894 yards and 9 touchdowns. Unfortunately, a hip injury sidelined him for the last nine games of the season.
In terms of fantasy, he was on pace for the best season of his career. In weeks 1-7, he was the WR27. Wilson was also extremely efficient with his touches. Looking at points per opportunity, Wilson exceeded two elite wide receivers in Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins.
The Miami Dolphins also had a lot of turnover this offseason. First and foremost, they fired Adam Gase and co. and brought in former Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores. Flores, in turn, brought in Patriots wide receiver coach Chad O’Shea. This bodes well for Bert because these coaches should be bringing in the Patriots offensive scheme. Wilson profiles best as a slot receiver. In fact, before his injury, he was the most efficient wide receiver in the league from the slot. Unfortunately, he was only able to take 29% of his snaps from the slot due to the presence of Danny Amendola, who took 76% of his snaps from the slot. Fortunately, the Dolphins cut Amendola this offseason and Wilson should step into that role.
#Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (@iThinkIsee12) has been the most productive slot WR in the league (and third overall) this season in terms of yards per route run⬇️👀#FinsUp pic.twitter.com/9ThCEPZUHJ
— PFF MIA Dolphins (@PFF_Dolphins) October 16, 2018
The Patriots have featured slot receivers under offensive coordinator under Josh McDaniels. Since 2009, when O’Shea started as the wide receivers coach, slot receivers, namely Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, led the Patriots in targets in all but three seasons and led the wide receivers in targets in all but one season. Welker and Edelman also led or tied for the lead in fantasy points in every season but one. They had 9 of the top 14 fantasy performances over the period as well.
The Dolphins quarterbacks also turned over, with Tannehill being traded and Osweiler not being re-signed. The Dolphins signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and traded for Josh Rosen, both of whom should compete to be the starter. Regardless of who is the starter, Wilson should see plenty of targets. Despite common misconception, Fitzpatrick has actually targeted the slot receiver the most from 2009 to present at over 26%. Rosen, while a small sample size, also targeted the slot receiver in 2017 24%.
Good news for Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills? 🤔
— PFF MIA Dolphins (@PFF_Dolphins) July 17, 2019
Currently, Wilson’s redraft ADP is going 225th overall as the WR75. He is going around the same area in dynasty startups. With the ability to produce WR3 and possibly back-end WR2 fantasy numbers, Wilson is an extreme value going as a WR6. Bert is a low risk, high reward WR this year. You need to be grabbing him everywhere you can, if only for the possibility to yell “BERT ALERT!”
The Carolina Panthers wide receiver seems to be one of the favorite “sleepers” for many in the fantasy football industry. Despite this, Samuel’s ADP is still relatively depressed. Take advantage because Samuel could be the best Panthers wide receiver in terms of fantasy football in 2019.
After a brutal ankle injury ended his rookie season in 2017 and forced him to miss the first three weeks of 2018, Samuel made an extremely successful comeback for the rest of 2018. On the surface, Samuel did not have a great season, finishing as the fantasy WR47. However, if we dig down, Samuel actually had a good season. From Weeks 4-17, Samuel was the fantasy WR34. In terms of points per opportunity, he matched guys like Davante Adams and Antonio Brown, who finished inside the top-five at the position in 2018. Samuel finished 18 spots higher in fantasy points than opportunities.
Samuel is an extremely proficient route runner, according to @MattHarmon_BYB‘s Reception Perception. He excelled on almost all of the routes he ran and was successful against man and press coverage.
Curtis Samuel is one of my top potential breakout WRs for 2019 based on #ReceptionPerception:
– 76.6% success rate vs. man coverage (94th percentile)
– 74.6% success rate vs. press coverage
– 73.7% contested catch rate.
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) June 6, 2019
Samuel’s ADP is still relatively late. While it has climbed over the past several months due to hype by fantasy football analysts, he is going around the 10th round in redraft leagues as a back end WR4. In dynasty startups, he is going in the 12th round as a back end WR5. Comparatively, teammate DJ Moore is going the fifth round in redraft and third round in dynasty. With the possibility that Samuel matches or exceeds Moore’s production in 2019, you are getting a lot more bang for your buck taking Samuel much later in drafts. Regardless, Samuel is a potential WR2 at WR4 or WR5 value.
Many may be wondering “why do you have the Houston Texans’ WR3 on this list?” And my retort would be “he quite possibly is the WR2.” The Texans offense is one of the more concentrated offenses in the NFL with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee garnering nearly 50% of the target share in 2018 despite Fuller only playing in seven games and Coutee in six. With no significant additions at RB and TE that would garner more targets, suffice it to say that the three WRs should continue to draw a significant amount of targets.
In the seven games that Coutee played, Deshaun Watson targeted him a healthy 22.4% of the time. Meanwhile, Coutee out-targeted Fuller 22.2% to 14.1% in the games they were on the field at the same time. This transfers over to fantasy football as well. While admittedly a small sample size, Fuller scored 14 fewer PPR points per game with Coutee on the field. His position rank without Coutee was WR1, his rank with Coutee was WR38. To add, Coutee outscored Fuller in terms of fantasy points in three of the four games they were on the field together.
In the four week range in Weeks 4-7 that Coutee was healthy, he was the WR33.
There is one more thing that is leaning in Coutee’s direction. Fuller tore his ACL in Week 8. Generally, it takes approximately a year to return to form after an ACL and many who suffer from a torn ACL deal with compensatory injuries, like a hamstring strain. Fuller is likely more prone to the compensatory injury as he has a history of soft tissue injuries dating back to his rookie season. FFStatistics’ own Dr. Ethan Turner (@ETurnerFF_PT) speaks on what we can expect from Fuller’s recovery.
” An ACL tear in Week 8 of last year ended what could have been a breakout year for Will Fuller. Typical return to play for this injury is 9 months, however, pre-injury production can take 11-13 months. Fuller’s history could heighten his risk of a compensatory injury, such as a hamstring strain, as well. I’d only be drafting him in leagues where I can get a steep discount.”
– Dr. Ethan Turner
This means that Coutee could see even more targets being the de facto WR2 on the field, especially for the first half of the season.
Currently, Keke Coutee is being taken early in the 10th round in redraft as a WR4, just ahead of Samuel. In dynasty startups, his ADP is in the middle of the ninth, also as a WR4. He is likely being drafted at his floor and has WR2 upside. In a concentrated offense likely as the Texans’ WR2, Coutee is definitely worth the “risk”.
The final wide receiver on this list is also the most “expensive”. However, he may also be the safest. Despite the Jacksonville Jaguars gaining the sixth-fewest yards and scoring the second-fewest points, Westbrook still finished as the WR33 in 2018.
Like Wilson, Westbrook also saw a lot of turnover that could end up being a positive for 2019. First, the Jags hired John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator. He most recently was the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings after being the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles during their Super Bowl run. The Jaguars also signed QB Nick Foles in the offseason, reuniting him with DeFilippo. The last time Foles and DeFilippo were together was in 2017, winning the Super Bowl.
How do these changes help Westbrook, you may be asking yourselves. The answer is that both like to target the slot wide receiver. Last season, Westbrook took 74% of his snaps from the slot. In 2017, Nelson Agholor played 58% of his snaps in the slot. Foles targeted Agholor 22 times for a 22.5% target share, second only to tight end Zach Ertz. Foles also had a 107 passer rating when targeting Agholor. In 2018, Agholor took 47.2% of his snaps from the slot and Foles targeted him 36 times for 21% target share, second again to Ertz.
As was mentioned, DeFilippo was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings in 2018 before being fired after week 14. Under DeFilippo, wide receiver Adam Thielen, who played 46.7% of his snaps from the slot, set an NFL record with eight straight 100-yard receiving games to start the season. On the season, Thielen was targeted 153 times for a 25.2% target share. While Westbrook is not Thielen and the Jaguars are not the Vikings in terms of passing, you get the idea.
As was mentioned above, Westbrook is the most “expensive” WR on this list. He is currently being drafted in the middle of the ninth round in redraft as WR40. In dynasty startups, Westbrook is going in the 11th round as WR52, which makes him a huge value.
Westbrook finished as a fantasy WR3 in a bad offense in 2018. Last season, the Jaguars attempted only 588 passing plays while the Vikings attempted 646. In 2017, the Eagles attempted 708 passing plays. The addition of DeFilippo could result in more passing plays. Combined with the addition of Foles, who likes to target slot WRs, Westbrook could be in for increased targets in 2019. This could lead to WR2 production from Westbrook at WR4 or WR5 prices.
A story can be told where each of the wide receivers above finishes the 2019 season as a fantasy WR2. All are being taken as a WR4 or later in both redraft and dynasty startup drafts, presenting extreme value. While there is a chance that none of these guys return on your investment, the potential reward is high enough and the risk low enough that drafting each and everyone one of these WRs is worthwhile.