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Bounce-Back Wide Receivers (2021 Fantasy Football)

Jul 27, 2021

Every off-season, you’ll see articles that try to predict which players we can count on to outperform their current ADP. Whether those players were affected by injuries or other factors, a player may not have lived up to expectations in 2020, leading to a decline in their current draft position. Every fantasy manager out there is looking for an edge in their drafts, and that’s why everyone loves to find their own bounce-back candidates to hit on. 

But there is a real risk when looking for bounce-back players, especially at the receiver position. Just last year, we saw three rookies finish in the top 24 in PPR formats: Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN) (WR8), CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL) (WR20), and Tee Higgins (WR – CIN) (WR24). The game is evolving, and the trusted method of drafting veteran players in redraft because of their ability to provide a safe floor is slowly going away. Just think how many fantasy analysts’ included some combination of Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE) and T.Y. Hilton (WR – IND) in their bounce-back articles last off-season. Sometimes a player’s decline is precisely that: a decline. Navigating the murky waters between a bounce-back candidate and a declining player can be difficult. 

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In this article, I wanted to provide you with three receivers who will bounce back this year and help you compete for a fantasy championship in 2021.

Average Draft Position (ADP) referenced is FantasyPros consensus ADP.

Kenny Golladay (WR – NYG)

2019 PPR Finish: WR9 | 2020 PPR Finish: WR101
Redraft ADP: Overall 59.00 WR23

Let’s face it. There were a ton of fantasy managers that got burned by Kenny Golladay last season, including myself. After finishing as WR9 in 2019, he was one of the hottest names during drafts last season, and for a good reason. In 2019 he had 65 receptions for 1,190 YDS and 11 TDs, which led all receivers in the NFL. Also, according to Pro Football Focus, he ranked seventh in the NFL in contested catch rate. He was also hitting the prime of his career and playing with a top 12 quarterback in Matthew Stafford. Unfortunately for Golladay and fantasy managers everywhere, he just couldn’t stay healthy in 2020. After a new regime came to Detroit, they opted to let Golladay walk in free agency, and he eventually signed a four-year $72 million contract with the New York Giants.

Many are looking at the move to the Giants as a negative, while I think it won’t affect Golladay as much as everyone is saying. He finds himself as the true Alpha in that passing offense. While the room looks crowded with Darius Slayton (WR – NYG), Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG), Kadarius Toney (WR-NYG), and John Ross (WR – NYG), none of those receivers are at the same level as Golladay. The Giants also have Evan Engram (TE – NYG) and Kyle Rudolph (TE – NYG), but I don’t see either of them affecting Golladay’s targets. Golladay looks even better with the news that Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG) will start training camp on the PUP list and may be limited to start the year. That sound you hear is Golladay cashing in the targets and you accumulating fantasy points.

Also, we need to shut down the narrative that Daniel Jones (QB – NYG) and Jason Garrett limit Golladay. Over the past two seasons, Jones has ranked fourth in deep pass target rate. Jones can and will push the ball downfield. His primary target will be Golladay, who is one of the best field-stretching wide receivers in the league when healthy. Also, Jason Garrett has proven to support true Alpha WR1’s in his time at Dallas. There is no real scenario where Golladay doesn’t outperform his current ADP unless he gets injured. Realistically he could get around 125 targets in that offense, and he’s easily one of my biggest targets in redrafts this fall.

Julio Jones (WR – TEN)

2019 PPR Finish: WR4 | 2020 PPR Finish: WR46
Redraft ADP: Overall 41.00 WR13

Before his trade to the Tennessee Titans, Julio Jones was being left for dead in fantasy circles. The rumblings that his age had finally caught up to him could be heard from fantasy managers everywhere, and his ADP reflected their thinking. Then the trade to Tennessee happened, and it has undoubtedly shot up his ADP. So the real question for managers out there is, can you trust Julio at his current ADP? My answer is yes. 

Many forget that Julio Jones finished as the overall WR4 just two seasons ago, where he put up the following stat line: 99 REC 1,394 YDS 6 TD. Even in an injury-riddled season last year where he missed seven games, he still was able to post 51 Rec for 771 YDS and three touchdowns. Not impressive numbers, but if you look at his efficiency numbers from PlayerProfiler, he was seventh in true catch rate and third among receivers in yards per target and yards per route run. He also posted a career-high 75% catch rate. So Julio’s demise is vastly overrated. While injuries for receivers with his body type are concerning, he also rushed himself onto the field last year, which undoubtedly cost him more games. That shouldn’t happen in Tennessee. 

Julio will also benefit from playing with Ryan Tannehill (QB – TEN) and AJ Brown (WR – TEN). Tannehill is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league. Tannehill has been in the top five the last two seasons for touchdown rates, providing Julio with plenty of opportunities to score. Something all Julio managers have wanted to see seemingly for his whole career. Tennessee should also be a more balanced offense this season. We all know that Derrick Henry (RB – TEN) will get his volume, but I expect the Titans to finish near the middle in passing volume next season. AJ Brown should also free up Jones to see more one-on-one coverages in that offense. There is a real possibility that Julio will finish with around 120 targets next season. Some analysts point to Corey Davis‘ (WR – NYJ) ninety-two targets last season as his ceiling, but Julio Jones is a much better player and should earn more targets. If Julio can get to 120 targets, he will not only justify his ADP, but he will be a league winner. 

Mike Williams (WR- LAC)

2019 PPR Finish: WR39 | 2020 PPR Finish: WR52
Redraft ADP: Overall 134.00 WR52

There is no one I am more adamant about drafting than Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams. While he hasn’t had the career that everyone has hoped for since being taken 7th overall out of Clemson. The talent is there. He has a 1,000-yard season under his career belt to go along with a ten touchdown year. If Williams can find a way to put them together, we could be looking at one of the most significant values in fantasy football. He’s currently being drafted as WR52, and that is just too low!

Let’s dive into the reasons why you should be drafting Williams in your leagues. First and foremost, he’s paired with one of the best young quarterbacks in football, Justin Herbert (QB – LAC). Herbert showed last season just how talented he was, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns. We could see Herbert throw for over forty touchdowns in 2021, benefiting Williams’ size,big-play threat, and ability in the Redzone. Not to mention, Williams is the clear number two option behind only Keenan Allen (WR – LAC). While I like Josh Palmer (WR – LAC) and Jalen Guyton (WR – LAC), I don’t see them taking away targets from a healthy Williams. The Chargers also lost tight-end Hunter Henry (TE – NE) to the Patriots in free agency. Henry was always one of the Chargers’ primary Redzone targets and with him gone, look for that to benefit Williams. Williams will also be playing in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system. Lombardi most recently worked with New Orleans as their passing game coordinator, which saw Michael Thomas (WR – NO) put up record numbers with the Saints. By all accounts, it would seem that Williams will assume that same “X” role in the Chargers offense. If that doesn’t excite you nothing will. 

While Williams will compete with Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC) and Keenan Allen for targets this year, he is a no-brainer for me in redraft at his current ADP. Others that are being drafted around him just don’t have the same upside. For example, I’d much rather have Williams over receivers like DeVante Parker (WR – MIA) (WR45), T.Y. Hilton (WR – IND) (WR48), Michael Gallup (WR – DAL) (WR49), and Corey Davis (WR51). If Williams can stay healthy and show consistent numbers, there’s no reason not to think of him as a low-end WR2 option in PPR formats. He is the biggest value in fantasy drafts right now. 

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Kevin Coleman is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kevin, check out his archive and follow him @Daboys_22.

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