WR3s with WR1 Potential (2021 Fantasy Football)
Due to position scarcity and a lower percentage of elite-level performers, I prefer to target running backs early in drafts. The pool of starter-worthy wide receivers is much deeper, making it easier to snag a quality one in the mid to late rounds than a running back. Last season, Stefon Diggs, Calvin Ridley, Justin Jefferson, DK Metcalf, and Adam Thielen all had ADPs outside of the fourth round, but they all finished inside the position’s top 10 in scoring.
Whether you hold off on the position or need upside later in drafts, here are some WR3s with WR1 potential, in my order of preference.
WR3 are players ranked outside of the Top 24 at the position. Average draft positions (ADPs) are from the NFFC based on the last 30 days.
Diontae Johnson (PIT): ADP 55
JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s return may cap his ceiling slightly, but Diontae Johnson is still the top dog in Pittsburgh. His command in this offense is undeniable, as his whopping 139 targets not only outpaced Smith-Schuster’s 125 but was among the highest in the league. The only wide receivers who bested him in targets last season were Stefon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, and my boy, Davante Adams.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only mark Johnson was known for, as his 14 drops were the most among wide receivers. It’s not difficult to overlook drops when someone’s so heavily targeted, though. Since he didn’t have that problem his rookie season, I’m willing to chalk it up to a case of the “yips” anyway.
Besides, Johnson is way too talented and is the receiver on the roster with the most ability to win one-on-one matchups. I’m not overly concerned about Chase Claypool either, as he only averaged roughly 43% of the snaps last season. It’s also not a good sign that he’s reportedly building a reputation for being a “diva.”
Courtland Sutton (DEN): ADP 88
A few issues are suppressing Courtland Sutton’s value. Concerns stem from his knee injury, subpar quarterback play, and competition from second-year receiver Jerry Jeudy.
In Sutton’s absence last season, Jeudy failed to cement himself as the team’s go-to guy. Although Jeudy was targeted a healthy 113 times in 16 games, he and Drew Lock only connected an abysmal 46% of the time. Their lack of chemistry should help Sutton reclaim his alpha status in 2021. Considering he was Lock’s favorite target in 2019, that should be a relatively easy feat.
Sutton is a monster of a receiver, as evident from highlight reels of his circus-like catches over the top and his ranking among the top five in contested catch rate. Despite Lock’s inconsistent play, he finished as the WR19 with 72 receptions for 1,112 yards.
Reports on his rehab have been highly favorable, and sports injury doctors are confident he’ll fully return to form. (Go to the 26:55 mark for Sutton.)
— Edwin Porras, DPT (@FBInjuryDoc) March 31, 2021
Sutton has proven he can perform with Lock, but if the Broncos make an upgrade at quarterback, the sky’s the limit for him in 2021.
Robby Anderson (CAR): ADP 94
I will continue to talk ad nauseam about Robby Anderson, who finished WR19 last season. He is being drafted near the seventh round while his teammate, D.J. Moore, is going about 24 picks earlier. Moore possesses the measurables and high draft capital that make him the preferred option in fantasy. However, in Anderson’s first season with the Panthers in 2020, offensive coordinator Joe Brady converted his role from a vertical threat to a lower aDOT complier who can win after the catch.
As a result, he out-targeted Moore 136 to 118 and was the 10th-most targeted wide receiver in the league. It was also Anderson’s first 1,000-yard season.
Anderson reached those numbers with Teddy Bridgewater under center. Now he will reunite with Sam Darnold, whom he played two years with for the Jets. The former No. 3 overall pick is looking to reset his career after his tumultuous start. While Darnold shares the blame, the Jets had one of the worst supporting casts and substandard coaching under Adam Gase.
Anderson was Darnold’s favorite target his rookie season and was only out-targeted by Jamison Crowder the following year. He should also benefit from the 97 targets Curtis Samuel vacated when signing with Washington. That potential gain in production should offset the catches he could lose due to Christian McCaffrey‘s return. Other than Moore, there aren’t any other noteworthy mouths to feed. Dan Arnold and Ian Thomas will split snaps at tight end, a position often overlooked in this offense.
If he re-establishes his chemistry with Darnold, Anderson can easily reach another 1,000-plus yards. Darnold also has the arm to return Anderson to a deep threat. That increases his chances to improve on his three-touchdown performance a season ago. Moore can undoubtedly outpace Anderson, but snagging a WR2 with WR1 upside in the seventh round is too enticing to pass up.
Laviska Shenault (JAC): ADP 105
As a hybrid-type player who received a lot of hype entering his rookie year, Laviska Shenault had a disappointing season. He didn’t get many opportunities, though, seeing just 79 targets and 18 rushes. Shenault capitalized on his chances, however, finishing 26th in the league in fantasy points per touch.
66 seconds of Laviska Shenault making plays pic.twitter.com/zTTqfEeyUI
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 6, 2021
His overall performance was very encouraging, considering the musical chairs played at quarterback for most of the campaign. Jacksonville will likely select Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick next week. If he teams up with Shenault under new head coach Urban Meyer, the wideout could take a significant step forward in Year 2.
He’ll contend with DJ Chark and Marvin Jones for targets, but it helps that Shenault primarily works out of the slot. Although Lawrence scored more touchdowns on deep passes in his college career, his average target depth was 9 yards. Amari Rogers became Lawrence’s favorite receiver at Clemson last season while playing 82% of his snaps from the slot. Shenault led the Jags with a 20% target rate per route run as a rookie. That number rose to 23.6% when he lined up in the slot.
Shenault is the ultimate “chess piece” for Meyer, who has maximized these types of players throughout his Ohio State tenure. Add stable quarterback play, and it’s easy to envision a breakout year.
Deebo Samuel (SF): ADP 102
A broken foot and hamstring issues pretty much wiped out 2020 for Deebo Samuel. In his rookie season the prior year, Deebo finished 31st among receivers in fantasy scoring and had three 100-yard receiving games. He is an electric piece in this offense who can be used as a running back, slot receiver, or on the outside.
Fellow receiver Brandon Aiyuk excelled in his absence last year, but Samuel showed that they could co-exist. Not counting his first two games back from injury, Samuel averaged nearly 15 points per game when the two shared the field. The duo could be a nightmare for defenders, who also have to account for George Kittle.
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