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WR3s With WR1 Potential (2021 Fantasy Football)

Jul 21, 2021

The wide receiver position is incredibly deep right now, to the point where you can wait on the position in your fantasy drafts and still end up with decent contributors. But most of us don’t want just decent contributors – we want to get players that can potentially help put us over the top and be league winners. This article will help you find these potential difference-makers for your team by looking at some wide receivers that have massive upside in 2021 but are currently ranked as WR3’s or cheaper in 12 team leagues (0.5 PPR). Without further ado, let’s dive in!

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Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE)
ECR: WR28, ADP: 67th overall
Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off of an ACL injury. Yes, he plays in a low-volume passing attack.

But the bottom line is the talent is there and the Browns will be scoring lots of touchdowns this year. Odell Beckham Jr. is an athletic freak who posted a 4.43 forty time, a 3.94-second shuttle run, a 6.69-second three-cone drill, and a 10.93-second 60-yard shuttle run at the NFL combine back in 2014 and also made one of the greatest catches in NFL history during his rookie season. He has finished as a top 10 wide receiver multiple times in the past (2014-2016) and has been dominant on a per-game basis, averaging 83.3 receiving yards per game over the course of his 82 game career.

Considering he's still just 28 years old and plays in one of the better offenses in the league, there's a good chance that he can bounce back and post a strong fantasy year in 2021. If you're looking for upside, Odell Beckham Jr. is a great choice at his current ADP.

Jerry Jeudy (WR - DEN)
ECR: WR35, ADP: 100th overall 
Jerry Jeudy (WR - DEN) has a tremendous amount of talent which is a big reason why he was one of the first wide receivers off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft. Jeudy was being touted as the best route runner in the 2020 wide receiver draft class, and Jeudy's route-running ability popped out on tape last year. He had 1536 air yards, which ranked as the 6th best among all NFL receivers and 965 of his air yards were unrealized which was the 2nd most among WRs. What this means is that if he can turn these unrealized air yards into tangible production, his fantasy value could skyrocket. And there's a decent chance that happens for the 22-year-old with a more normal offseason in 2021 and a potential quarterback upgrade if Teddy Bridgewater (QB - DEN) can beat out Drew Lock (QB - DEN) for the starting job. Jeudy has all the pieces to break out next year - it's just a matter of putting them together. And at his current ranking, it's worth the gamble.

DeVonta Smith (WR - PHI) 
ECR: WR40, ADP: 102nd overall
To have a shot at being a WR1, you need to have a few things. For starters, the player needs to have talent. DeVonta Smith has this as he won the Heisman Trophy last year after catching 117 passes for 1856 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns in just 13 games. He's clearly proven himself to be an elite route runner and pass catcher.

The other thing that a player needs is a good situation. The Eagles will need to throw the ball to someone other than Dallas Goedert (TE - PHI), Zach Ertz (TE - PHI), and Miles Sanders (RB - PHI), and they did not have a clear #1 wide receiver last year. DeVonta Smith has a real opportunity to seize the role as the #1 wide receiver over Jalen Reagor (WR - PHI), Greg Ward (WR - PHI), Travis Fulgham (WR - PHI), and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (WR - PHI) in 2021, and end up with a nice percentage of the team's targets. Smith should seize the number one wide receiver role here, and he's got the talent that makes him a good bet to outproduce his current ADP.

Antonio Brown (WR - TB)
ECR: WR44, ADP: 112th overall
Antonio Brown may have a lot of competition for targets with Mike Evans (WR - TB) and Chris Godwin (WR - TB) on his team, but he's proven himself to be one of the best wide receivers in the league for most of his career and appears to be criminally underrated in fantasy drafts right now.

Take a look at the table above. In each year from 2013 to 2018, Antonio Brown was a top-eight wide receiver in every single fantasy format. He hasn't played much in the last two years due to off-the-field issues but when he's on the field he's still been one of the better receivers in the league. In fact, between Weeks 9-17, when Antonio Brown was eligible to play with the Buccaneers, he was WR24 in standard, WR21 in 0.5 PPR, and WR22 in PPR. With a full offseason where he can get more acquainted with the offense and continue to build chemistry with Tom Brady (QB - TB), he could be even better on a per-game basis in 2021.

Mike Williams (WR - LAC)
ECR: WR47, ADP: 131st overall
There are three main reasons why Mike Williams is a great investment at his current ADP this year: his talent, the new coaching staff, and his quarterback. To start, we'll look at him as a talent. In 2020, Mike Williams averaged 1.57 air yards per snap, 83.5 air yards per game, and had 27.5% of his team's air yards - all of these numbers were above average for a wide receiver. He's proven himself to be a very good deep threat averaging 15.4 yards per reception (2018), 20.4 yards per reception (2019), and 15.8 yards per reception (2020) in each of the last three years - all of these numbers were above average for a wide receiver as well. These stats show that Mike Williams is capable of putting up big numbers, it's just a matter of him and his quarterback developing enough chemistry to convert on them.

The next reason why Mike Williams is a solid investment this year is because of the offensive play-caller change this offseason from the duo of Anthony Lynn and Shane Steichen to pass-happy offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. When Joe Lombardi was the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator for 23 games in 2014 and 2015, his offense averaged 39.35 passing attempts per game, and his wide receiver room specifically averaged 13.48 receptions on 22.13 targets for 180.48 receiving yards and 0.87 receiving touchdowns over this time.

We've also already seen Joe Lombardi make some very positive comments about Mike Williams this offseason, with Lombardi stating, "If I were a betting man, I'd bet on nice numbers coming from him on the stat sheet, that's for sure." Lombardi then continued stating, "There's no reason why he cannot be majorly productive. I've been impressed with him mentally so far, getting lined up and knowing what to do. As much as this offense will resemble New Orleans, he plays the 'X' and the ball has always kind of found the 'X' receiver in this offense. I think that there will be some natural production that comes his way because of the nature of the offense." Hearing this from Joe Lombardi is a great sign for Mike Williams's fantasy value in 2021, and suggests that he may have more upside than one would perceive at first look.

Lastly, Mike Williams has a great quarterback throwing him the ball in Justin Herbert (QB - LAC). Herbert had the most passing touchdowns (31) and completions (396) by a rookie QB ever. Herbert's talent should be able to support multiple fantasy-relevant wide receivers and makes not only Keenan Allen (WR - LAC) a player to watch but Mike Williams as well.

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Eli Grabanski is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Eli, check out his archive and follow him @3li_handles.

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