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Three Late-Round Receiver Breakout Candidates - Footballguys

This week's Gut Check examines three wide receivers available after the 11th round that possess legitimate break-out potential. Matt Waldman tells you which one is the truth. 

Regardless of your early- and mid-round draft strategy, you should be back-loading your roster with as many wide receivers and running backs as possible. Fantasy-worthy running backs are more difficult to find after the draft, but wide receivers are the safest late-round choices.

Receivers are the most liquid commodity on the trade market. The position is also less game-script dependent than running back. Because most NFL offenses use base sets of three receivers and frequently expand to four- and five-receiver sets, opportunities aren't as dependent on injuries. Best of all, fantasy owners have an easier time predicting favorable match-ups based on scheme tendencies and the opponent's weaknesses with its personnel.

While you should continue taking late-round shots at running back, intermixing those choices with a healthy dose of receivers builds a roster with usable depth and high upside. Every year, there are a handful of receivers available after the 11th round of drafts that deliver valuable fantasy production.

Receiver Average Draft Position (ADP) And Production Value By Year (PPR)

Player
Year
ADP
WR Rank
Rookie?
2017
12.11
22nd
No
2017
15th+
18th
No
JuJu Smith-Schuster
2017
15th+
33rd
Yes
Jermaine Kearse
2017
15th+
28th
No
2017
15th+
30th
No
Terrelle Pryor
2016
14.02
21st
No
Rishard Matthews
2016
12.06
19th
No
2016
15th+
18th
No
Tyreek Hill
2016
15th+
23rd
Yes
2016
15th+
29th
No
2016
15th+
26th
No
2015
13.1
19th
No
2015
13.04
10th
No
Rueben Randle
2015
13.04
23rd
No
Amari Cooper
2015
15+
21st
Yes
2015
15+
34th
No
2015
12.04
17th
No
2015
12.06
36th
No
2015
15+
32nd
No
2015
13.1
30th
No
2015
15+
29th
No
Tavon Austin
2015
15+
28th
No
Kamar Aiken
2015
15+
27th
No

There are insights worth filing away from this three-year list:

  • 42 percent of the receivers on the list earned no worse than fantasy WR2 production in lineups.
  • Only three receivers on this list were rookies.
  • At least four were injury replacements.
  • Four were second-year players.
  • 11 played at least three seasons in the NFL.
  • 9 of those 11 with at least three seasons in the league never earned fantasy starter production during the season's prior.
  • 15 receivers on the list were playing with a new quarterback.
  • 12 were playing in a new offense and with a new quarterback.
  • 11 either played in the slot or were the third receiver in a three-option rotation.
  • 10 have the speed of prototypical vertical threats and 5 others have the size and rebounding ability of a perimeter-red zone option.

Although this small sample is not statistically significant, we often see 30-45 percent of start-able fantasy receivers available after the 11th round in drafts on an annual basis. We often observe 1-3 rookies emerge into immediate fantasy starters, regardless of the round they're drafted.

If the data is consistent across several years, it's notable that new quarterbacks and new situations alone aren't more or less helpful to a receiver emerging into a fantasy starter. It's also notable that a player failing to emerge during his third year isn't doomed.

Here is where the three receivers about to be profiled match or differ from the points above:

  • None of them are rookies.
  • The only receiver on the list to top-36 production at the position in the past was the No. 36 option last year in PPR leagues.
  • One is playing in a new offense with a new quarterback.
  • Two are second-year players.
  • Two earn significant time in the slot.
  • Two options are the third receiver in three-man rotations.
  • Three have prototypical speed.
  • All three possess rebounding skills that make them potential mismatches on 50/50 targets.

Listed below are these three options. Each has a video scouting report of their strengths, and potential fit with their 2018 offenses. Fantasy advice is based on their ADP, the surrounding talent at their ADP, and the context of specific draft strategies.

While all three have the potential for fantasy-relevant years — and even top-15 production — only one of them is worth their asking price at this time.

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