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3 Must-Have Wide Receivers to Draft (2024 Fantasy Football)

3 Must-Have Wide Receivers to Draft (2024 Fantasy Football)

The depth at wide receiver makes it fun to write a piece like this. While there’s elite talent at the top of fantasy drafts, there are also intriguing options in the middle and late rounds. Gamers don’t need a fantasy analyst to tell them the wide receivers with an average draft position (ADP) in the first round are studs. Instead, this piece has isolated players with ADPs in the fifth, 10th and 20th rounds of Underdog Fantasy best ball drafts.

Must-Have Wide Receivers

Jayden Reed (GB – WR): 50.2 Underdog Fantasy ADP/WR32

Jayden Reed had an encouraging rookie season in a burgeoning passing attack and blossoming receiving corps. Green Bay’s depth of weapons could result in the occasional weekly disappearance from Reed. However, he brings a different skill set to the table than his teammates at wide receiver.

Moreover, he was one of 25 rookie wideouts targeted at least 50 times who also earned at least a 74.0 Pro Football Focus (PFF) receiving grade since 2019. PFF isn’t infallible, but the following table shows he was in outstanding company.

The wideouts on the table were listed in descending order of their PFF receiving grade, and Reed was on the second page, sitting above only Jahan Dotson. Still, Reed also had other eye-catching metrics as a rookie, namely earning a target on 22.9% of his routes. Among the rookies on the table above, only eight from before 2023 had at least a 22.0% targets/route run rate, 3.8 receptions per game and 45.0 receiving yards per game, all thresholds Reed reached. The next table shows how those eight receivers performed in their second NFL season.

The medians for those wide receivers were 4.9 receptions per game, 65.8 receiving yards per game and four receiving touchdowns. If extrapolated across 17 games, those would amount to 177.5 half-PPR points and 10.4 per game. Among receivers who played over three games in 2023, 10.4 half-PPR points per game would have tied for WR32, identical to Reed's WR32 ADP in Underdog Fantasy drafts.

However, Reed is also a weapon as a runner. He ran 11 times for 119 yards (7.4 per game) and two touchdowns. Reed is an exciting pick with a likely outcome of at least breaking even on his ADP and wiggle room to provide excess value.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

Khalil Shakir (BUF - WR): 114.8 Underdog Fantasy ADP/WR52

The Bills picked Khalil Shakir with the 148th selection in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and he's slowly moved up the pecking order. He flashed some potential in his rookie season. Yet, the Bills brought in competition last offseason, and Shakir ran fewer than 10 routes in the first seven weeks of the 2023 season.

Shakir ran 20 in Week 7 and settled into a semi-prominent role the rest of the year, shoving Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield down the depth chart. Furthermore, he ran over 25 routes in seven of nine games after Joe Brady was promoted to offensive coordinator, and one of the games he fell short was when they steamrolled the Cowboys on the ground.

From Week 7 through through Buffalo's playoff loss, Shakir was third on the Bills in targets (51), third in receptions (45), second in receiving yards (646) and tied for second in receiving touchdowns (three).

Stefon Diggs and Dalton Kincaid were ahead of Shakir in the pecking order and should remain there this season. However, Gabe Davis is a free agent and unlikely to return to the Bills. They'll assuredly add wide receivers in free agency and the NFL Draft. Still, those players aren't a lock to absorb all of Davis's vacated playing time and targets.

The Bills could also pass at a higher rate than they did down the stretch in 2023. According to RotoViz's pace app, the Bills had the fourth-lowest situation-neutral pass rate (50%) from Week 11 (when Brady became the offensive coordinator) through the Super Bowl. Buffalo doesn't have to return to their pass-happy, pre-Brady ways to have a meaningful increase in their passing rate, which could enhance Shakir's production.

Fortunately, even an identical role with similar production would make Shakir's ADP a break-even price. If Shakir's 8.1 half-PPR points per game in his final 13 games were tallied in the entire season, he would have ranked as the WR50 among wideouts who played more than three games in 2023. Thus, Shakir is a low-risk option that could provide surplus value at his current ADP.

2024 NFL Draft Guide

Charlie Jones (CIN - WR): 239.4 Underdog Fantasy ADP/WR118

Sadly, Charlie Jones lost a significant chunk of his rookie season to an injury. Regardless, he would have been buried on the depth chart behind Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Chase isn't going anywhere, and Cincinnati placed the franchise tag on Higgins. They could still trade Higgins, but Andrei Iosivas is the more logical replacement for him as an athletic perimeter wide receiver.

Jones is a potential replacement for Boyd since the veteran wide receiver probably won't return to the only organization he's played for as a pro. The Bengals seemingly took a forward-looking approach when picking Jones in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. According to The 33rd Team, Boyd had an 81.1% slot rate in 2023. Jones had a 77.3% slot rate, albeit on only 44 snaps. The youngster profiled as a slot after a productive final collegiate season at Purdue.

Among FBS wide receivers targeted at least 50 times in 2022, Jones was 26th in yards per route run (2.70 Y/RR), second in receiving yards (1,399) and first in receptions (110) in 13 games. Tank Dell was the only wideout with more receiving yards, and he obviously took the NFL by storm before he had a season-ending injury.

Interestingly, Jones's rookie season wasn't entirely lost to an injury and his low standing on the depth chart. Instead, he flashed his dynamism as a punt returner, averaging 10.8 yards per punt return on 23 returns, including an 81-yard touchdown. Jones was also a productive returner in 2021 at Iowa. As Evan Silva and Adam Levitan recently noted when discussing incoming rookie Xavier Worthy on the Establish The Run podcast, return skills positively correlate with receiving production.

The Bengals could draft another slot wide receiver and only utilize Jones as a returner. Nevertheless, taking a chance in the last round of fantasy drafts on Jones being the primary slot wide receiver in Cincinnati's potent pass-happy offense that heavily relies on three-wideout formations is tantalizing. According to Sumer Sports, the Bengals had the fourth-highest 11-personnel rate (74.2%) in 2023 and the second-highest rate (83.9%) in 2022. Gamers should fire some last-round darts at Jones in best ball formats.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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