Early Undervalued Wide Receivers (2021 Fantasy Football)
Just as I wrote in my “Tight Ends To Avoid” piece from earlier this week, I need to remind readers how early we are in the 2021 fantasy football process. The Super Bowl was played this month. We still have free agency and the NFL Draft to get through, which means a lot is going to change over the next few months. The below analysis could change if-and-when team situations change. Yet it’s never too early to start getting a feel for which players might be enticing draft targets come training camp. Below are three wideouts who currently appear undervalued according to the latest expert consensus rankings.
Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) referenced is using 0.5 PPR FantasyPros ECR
Diontae Johnson (WR – PIT) ECR WR: 21
The second-year receiver was a trendy breakout pick entering 2020. For the most part he delivered, though it came with some frustrating injury situations. Johnson’s health woes weren’t just that he missed games. He left several contests early, which meant that managers were saddled with very few fantasy points despite starting him.
However, in the 12 full games that Johnson started and finished, he received double digit targets in 11 of them. It’s an annual debate whether or not earning targets is a skill (I personally think it is) but if you agree with that line of thinking then Johnson’s year was more impressive than it might’ve seemed. He dealt with drops and a stagnant Pittsburgh offense at times, so it wasn’t the most efficient campaign, but the workload was there.
Despite all the injuries, Johnson’s 144 targets ranked sixth in the NFL. It’s clear that Ben Roethlisberger, who will be returning in 2021, loves feeding the 24-year-old. With JuJu Smith-Schuster expected to leave as a free agent, Johnson and Chase Claypool should be in for all the looks they can handle.
I believe there are folks within the fantasy industry who grew tired of Johnson’s injuries and inefficiencies, but volume remains king when it comes to fantasy football, and I’m projecting another huge workload for him in 2021.
Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF) ECR WR: 27
Aiyuk hit a stretch during his rookie season where for six straight games he operated as a bona fide WR1 in fantasy. Below are his numbers during this time:
Aiyuk’s ascension didn’t happen in consecutive weeks as the 49ers dealt with some COVID-19 outbreaks. Still, he was a highly usable fantasy asset during this time and wound up leading San Francisco in targets, receptions, and yards. It’s no secret that Aiyuk benefited from the lengthy absences of George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, but he still showed enough to be heavily involved entering 2021.
After averaging 4.8 YAC per reception and adding in some rushing ability, fantasy managers should treat the 22-year-old as an upside WR2 entering free agency and the draft.
Tee Higgins (WR – CIN) ECR WR: 32
Continuing the theme of young wideouts due for an increased role in 2021, Higgins should also benefit from an improved offense next season. As expected, the rookie’s stats suffered once Joe Burrow tore his ACL and was sidelined for the year.
Yet he still had a strong first year in the league. Here are some of the highlights of it:
- Higgins ranked fifth among rookie receivers in PPR points per game (12.3)
- Ranked third in yards per route run among rookie receivers (1.83)
- Had the third most receptions of 15+ yards among rookies
While he might not have had the dream season Justin Jefferson did, Higgins still had a solid first year in the NFL despite his questionable supporting cast. Heightening enthusiasm for a sophomore breakout will be the 104 targets A.J. Green‘s expected departure opens up. Tyler Boyd will get some of those looks as well, but it’s clear the passing attack will flow through Boyd and Higgins next season. The time to buy Cincinnati’s passing attack is now.
Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to more advanced strategy – like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? – to learn more.