Under the Radar Draft Targets: WR (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Jeremy Browand | @DFF_Madman | Featured Writer
Feb 28, 2019

For a receiver as dynamic and versatile as he is, Diontae Johnson is overlooked too often

Each year, players that fly under the radar during draft season eventually takeoff to become reliable NFL starters. Without high draft capital, it’s true, many players do not get a legitimate shot on NFL teams. Unless they show out on practice squads or play special teams, they may never see the field on gamedays. 

However, WRs from the third- and fourth- rounds often find success in the NFL. While not as likely as first- and second-round picks, great prospects do crawl from the middle depths of the NFL Draft to become known quantities. Sometimes, as a nurturing dynasty owner, you get lucky and become a happy beneficiary when a star is born. Let’s take a look at three undervalued WRs who offer versatile skill sets coveted by NFL teams.

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Terry McLaurin (Ohio State) – 6’1″ & 205 lbs.
If you want to bet on a player making an impact on an NFL team, without necessarily being drafted in the first two rounds, then place your money on Terry McLaurin. As an older prospect at 24 years old, it simply means he’s closer to pro-ready and his prime NFL WR years of 26-29. The bright side is you won’t have to wait as long to see him on the field. McLaurin is a seasoned Big Ten WR with the speed to take the top off of defenses:

Blessed with a more prototypical NFL body type at 6’1″ and 205 lbs., McLaurin is more than just speed. I’ve been watching him play football over his entire Ohio State career. He’s an excellent blocker who is not only willing to play special teams, but excels at it. He’s a savvy wideout with great balance and good use of body positioning to make tricky catches for bonus gains.

McLaurin stated he would do whatever it takes to play pro football. Senior Bowl feedback on his personality and football intelligence was nothing but positive. You may have heard he also caught a lot of attention during Senior Bowl week with his speed, big plays, and special teams work. It’s certainly important to focus on metrics and stats, but intangibles are also important to a player’s potential success in the NFL.

NFL beat writer Omar Kelly stated that McLaurin was “the top talent at the Senior Bowl.” That’s high praise for a player looking in from outside the first two rounds.

Unlike the foremost players from other schools, on a team like Ohio State, it’s tougher to stand out with a huge market share by comparison to their peers. The Saints’ Michael Thomas‘ collegiate numbers at Ohio State trapped many analysts the same way. Efficiency is probably a better tool to use in evaluations like this and McLaurin was an efficient WR. He was also a reliable target who averaged 20 yards per catch last season. McLaurin is likely to be drafted by the end of the third round. I can’t wait to watch him further raise his stock at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Diontae Johnson (Toledo) – 5’11” & 181 lbs.
We are sleeping on this dynamic playmaker who is ranked too low among rookie WRs. When you play at Toledo, that can happen to a fella…just ask RB Kareem Hunt. As possibly a Day 2 draft pick, Johnson is fast, athletic, and tough enough to be an NFL slot receiver. He’s also not a tiny guy by comparison to many slot WRs in this class. He has a more traditional NFL WR body type.

Johnson does some really great unconventional things from the WR position. He’s a solid route runner with an ability to create on his own to make plays. At times, he looks more like an RB before and after the catch. 

He accelerates quickly, fights to get open on routes, and has a keen ball-tracking ability with the bonus of natural hands. His quickness makes him dangerous all over the field and at varying depths of the field. He can also play well outside the hashes.

Versatility is the word that comes to mind after watching this player. While special teams abilities could get him on the field sooner, Johnson is another value WR likely to be drafted no earlier than the third round.

I can’t paraphrase any better than this:

Anthony Ratliff-Williams (UNC) – 6’1″ & 205 lbs.
Even with QB play that was unsteady at best, Ratliff-Williams stood out on gameday. A former QB himself, this kid really made an impact in the form of big plays from his newfound split-end role. He was one of my favorite college WRs to watch, and he presents value as a rookie. With an adept ball-tracking ability and excellent vision after the catch, Ratliff-Williams is an instinctive runner who makes plays before and after the ball arrives. 

He has a propensity for making contested catches look easy. After the catch, he is a machine. Determined to get more yardage, he plays very tough against DBs through innate tenacity and a brutal stiff arm.

Ratliff-Williams is a versatile WR ala JuJu Smith-Schuster he’s greater than the sum of his parts. He was successful off the line and played well versus both zone and man coverage, including press. His collegiate success forecasts him as a starting WR in the NFL. He needs to work on his hands to become a more consistent pass catcher, but he is too dynamic to overlook in this class. His ability should transcend his draft position and enable him to become a fantasy-relevant WR.

Unfortunately, we won’t see Ratliff-Williams at the NFL Combine, but we will keep tabs on his pro day performance. You can expect speed and explosive routes. With solid blocking and special teams chops, this ACC receiver has additional skills to get him on the field early for an NFL team. Ratliff-Williams is likely a third-round-and-down kind of draft pick; however, I have him ranked much higher on my draft board. You can read more great things about Ratliff-Williams as a prospect here.

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Jeremy Browand is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jeremy, check out his archive and follow him @DFF_Madman.

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