The Gut Check No.470: Late-Round Wide Receiver Bargains

Matt Waldman lists eight receivers with the talent and opportunity to deliver a far greater fantasy return than their current draft value.

Plan your fantasy season backward. If you want to understand your skill as a fantasy manager and craft your strategy around it, you must begin at the end and work your way backward.

It means asking yourself these questions before you plan your draft strategy:

  1. Do you select the best matchups for your December lineups—even when it means choosing a less-proven player over a well-known option?
  2. Do you have an active and astute waiver-wire strategy that includes sound budgeting of funds?
  3. Do you have an easy time facilitating trades or is every negotiation either difficult to initiate and/or gain an agreement?

If you're good at these three facets of the game, then you should be drafting proven talent early and upside potential late.

If you're not active on the waiver wire or a flop on the trade market, then your late-round picks should be a mix of proven reserves with starter potential and upside picks. Even so, you should maintain current with your knowledge of upside plays if you want to improve your in-season skills as a fantasy manager.

This week's Gut Check is an introduction to eight wide receivers with the skills and opportunity to deliver as massive fantasy bargains in 2019. Some may creep into the middle rounds of summer drafts, but most are late-round picks that aren't even earning a selection in many leagues.

Four are second-year options, three are rookies, and three are undrafted free agents. All eight possess starter upside in the NFL and are worth your immediate attention as you monitor breakout players during the summer.

8. Keke Coutee (Houston)

The Texans knew it got the real deal in Coutee after watching him perform in 2018's minicamp and OTAs. A big-time threat after the catch in the middle of the field, Coutee also gave Texas Tech a true vertical option from the slot.

It's what Houston hoped to give Deshaun Watson when it drafted Coutee, but the rookie injured his hamstring early in training camp. Although Coutee returned from the injury and performed well, the injury required far more rest than what Coutee could get during the season. The injury limited him to a short-area slot receiver.

Even so, Coutee earned no fewer than 5 targets in the 4 games where he saw at least 40 snaps. At his healthiest during Weeks 4 and 5, Coutee earned 22 targets while playing 137 snaps against the Colts and Cowboys, catching 17 of those passes for 160 yards and a touchdown.

As his hamstring deteriorated and cascade injuries occurred, Coutee only earned 16 snaps by Week 7 and missed nearly 5 weeks. A rested Coutee earned 9 targets, 5 catches, and 77 yards when he returned in Week 11, but suffered another injury in Week 12 that cost him the rest of the year.

Last year is a good indication that a somewhat healthy Coutee is at least a high-volume threat. A fully healthy Coutee will earn shots in the vertical game that we didn't see in 2018.

Coutee spent the offseason addressing his body—a common factor that differentiates talents who progress forward and talents who stagnate. If he stays healthy, Coutee should earn terrific mismatches in space and on vertical routes against mismatched linebackers, safeties, and nickel corners thanks to the threat of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller V on the perimeter.

An excellent talent, a healthy Fuller will turn the Houston passing offense into a fantasy juggernaut. Fuller's route running and speed could elevate Watson to a 5,000-yard passer and scorer of 35-40 touchdowns. Unfortunately, a "healthy Fuller" is quickly becoming akin to spotting a leprechaun or a unicorn that shoots Skittles from its hind parts.

Regardless, Coutee should deliver top-100 fantasy production this year in standard and PPR formats. If Fuller misses significant time again, Coutee could become a top-20 fantasy receiver because of his versatility and potential for a consistently high volume of weekly work.

7. A.J. Brown (Tennessee)

The Titans didn't throw the ball a lot last year. Marcus Mariota can't stay healthy and when he can, he's not a good NFL starter. Corey Davis and Delaine Walker are the target gatherers in this run-oriented offense on the occasion it throws the football.

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