Under the Radar Draft Targets: WR (Fantasy Football)
Another NFL season has concluded but there is still plenty of work to be done to get ready for the next year of football. That includes fantasy football fans, as the next wave of NFL rookies prepares to take the field in Indianapolis for the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
The growing popularity of dynasty leagues has only increased the interest in scouting fantasy football’s next crop of incoming rookies. In fact, many find the period between the Combine and the NFL Draft as their favorite part of the year. Well-prepared fantasy football fans can really improve their overall odds of success by researching which rookies have a chance to stand out in Indianapolis.
Let’s take a look at some of the incoming rookie wide receivers that could be drafted in the middle-to-late round of the 2018 NFL Draft but could still be in a good position to make an early impact in the pros.
Anthony Miller (Memphis): Draft Projection: Round 2-4
At five-foot-11, 190, Miller will likely be drafted as a potential slot receiver, but he was highly versatile while putting up outstanding numbers at Memphis. Miller led the nation with 18 touchdown receptions in 2017 and finished third with 1,462 receiving yards on 96 grabs.
Miller lined up all over the field for the Tigers and is a strong route runner who displayed the type of toughness that should make him a solid prospect as an inside receiver. He’s not the biggest wideout, but Miller should run in the low 4.5’s and does a lot of things well.
Drops were a concern and the lack of top-notch opposition while starring in Mike Norvell’s spread offense, but Miller checks off a lot of boxes that make him an intriguing PPR prospect that could sneak into the top-15 rookie draft or dynasty targets.
Deon Cain (Clemson): Draft Projection: Round 3-5
Cain was tremendous as a sophomore, averaging a healthy 19.1 yards-per-catch and producing nine touchdowns for the national championship squad at Clemson. It wasn’t a shock that Cain’s production fell off without Deshaun Watson, but his combination of size, speed, and athleticism could push his draft stock much higher than is currently anticipated in the draft community.
That drop in production explains why Cain is being overlooked, and a 2015 suspension due to a failed drug test also raises some red flags. Perhaps he was frustrated as a junior, but Cain also had lapses in concentration that led to a handful of negative plays.
On the plus side, Cain offers excellent size (six-foot-two, 210), strength, and the speed to blow by opposing cornerbacks and safeties. He’s also a heady player who knows how to use his physical gifts to maximize his impact on every play. Cain has a real shot at running a 4.45-second 40-yard dash time, which could make him a candidate to be picked as early as Day Two.
Dante Pettis (Washington): Draft Projection: Round 3-5
Has a pro pedigree (father Gary played 11 seasons in MLB) but made a name for himself as a big-time college receiver. Hauled in 15 touchdowns for the Huskies in 2016 and doubled as an elite punt returner. Broke DeSean Jackson‘s Pac-12 record with nine punt return touchdowns and averaged 13.8 yards-per-return in four seasons at Washington.
Pettis (six-foot-one, 190) has plus size and next-level speed, as witnessed by his prowess as a return specialist. Pettis has solid hands and should excel as a slot receiver or outside deep threat with dangerous yards-after-catch ability. Many NFL personnel, and draft insiders like our own Mike Tagliere, seem to be much higher on Pettis as a pro prospect than the general fantasy community currently is, which makes him a solid dynasty value.
As a senior and the Huskies’ number one wideout, Pettis had a disappointing 2017 season, averaging just 12.1 yards-per-catch and dropping from 15 to seven scores. There are also some concerns about a thin frame and how his speed will translate to the pros, but Pettis looks like he’s being undervalued in the dynasty community and will be a Combine name to monitor.
Cedrick Wilson (Boise State): Draft Projection: Round 4-6
Father played 100 NFL games and has only been out of the league for 11 years, but the younger Wilson is bigger (six-foot-three, 191) and was far more productive in college, where he finished second in the nation with 1,511 receiving yards in 2017 and boasted an impressive 18.2 yards-per-grab.
In addition to his plus size and collegiate productivity, Wilson is an excellent route runner with good hands. He also has plus return skills and has the size to play in the slot or outside.
As with most players coming out of the Moutain West, there are concerns about how Wilson’s skills will translate to the NFL level, but he did show up big against both Washington State (9-147-2) and Virginia (13-209-1) which should alleviate some of those fears. Wilson needs to show he can run under a 4.6, but if he can there’s a solid chance he can become a productive pro pass catcher.
Simmie Cobbs (Indiana): Draft Projection: Round 4-6
A polarizing prospect, Cobbs has the size (six-foot-four, 220) to make an intriguing red-zone threat in the pros but also lacked consistency and comes with concerns about his hands and speed. If he can run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash time at the Combine, Cobbs would vastly improve his draft stock.
Cobbs showcased his ability to use his size to take advantage of smaller cornerbacks by catching eight touchdowns for the Hoosiers in 2017 after missing all of 2016 with an ankle injury. Drops were sometimes an issue and despite the impressive frame, Cobbs struggled to get open as much as NFL personnel men would like to see.
For Cobbs to improve his draft stock, he’ll need to utilize his size to gain separation from defensive backs and minimize concentration drops. The 40-yard dash might be the most important drill for Cobbs, as a fast time could give him a chance to contend for playing time as a potential red-zone threat.
Javon Wims (Georgia): Draft Projection: Round 5-6
Wims is a rising prospect who quickly rose from junior college to national prominence with the Bulldogs. He’s a little raw, but an impressive six-foot-four, 215-pound frame combined with 4.5 speed and dependable hands make him an interesting name late in the draft.
A converted basketball player, Wims needs to improve his physicality in order to develop into a potential short-yardage option. The good news here is that he has all the natural tools to keep getting better and could blossom with the right coaching staff.
Jaleel Scott (New Mexico State): Draft Projection: Round 5-7
Another late-round project that is surging, Jaleel Scott is huge (six-foot-five, 215) and has excellent instincts. Scott knows how to use his size on jump balls and has his timing down. If he can consistently get open in the pros, Scott would be an enticing target on end-zone fade routes against smaller cornerbacks.
His size is good, but Scott is also a bit thin and has trouble shaking press coverage. He showed a lack of that “next level” speed that could impede his ability to get open consistently. The 40-yard dash in Indianapolis will be critical towards Scott’s draft stock.