Marqise Lee has health concerns as well as a path to being the No. 1 WR for a Jaguars offense that now has Nick Foles at the helm
Unlike quarterbacks or running backs, the list of under the radar wide receivers to target in fantasy football drafts this season could be very extensive. So I decided I need to have some very specific qualifications when it comes to identifying "under the radar" candidates at the wide receiver position.
The first qualification I decided upon was that the player must be currently drafted as a WR3 (i.e. the top 35 WRs) on any site I researched. After years of hype, it seems Corey Davis is finally under the radar, but he's still going 27th on FanTrax. Dede Westbrook has an ADP that puts him outside of the top 100 (instead of inside where he should be), but CBSSports.com users are seeing him go 36th. Those are just two examples of receivers I excluded.
Depending on what site you use, I also tried to limit the number of picks going currently as WR4s. I also wanted to take at least two players that I see that are typically being drafted beyond the top 60 WRs (i.e. those being drafted as a 6th WR at best). And one of those is extremely deep.
Now that you know the guidelines, here are my top five under the radar WRs.
Tyrell Williams, Raiders
Williams is very similar to Corey Davis. He is a post-hype sleeper. But Williams is my favorite type of post-hype sleeper — two years removed from the hype. He registered a 69-catch, 1,069-yard campaign with seven touchdowns in 2016, so hopes were high that he would become strong WR2 for the Chargers next to Keenan Allen. Williams' numbers fell to across the board the following season and then again in 2018 when he managed just 41 catches for 653 yards (although his TDs went up from four in 2017 to five).
That drop-off made it easier for the Chargers to not make him a priority in free agency, so he instead signed with the Raiders. Expect Williams to show his former team the mistake they made by letting him sign with a division rival. Of course, that’s not the focus in Raiders training camp.
Amidst the circus surrounding Antonio Brown, Williams is quietly going about business. Should Brown not be the diva superstar receiver he is, I expect Williams to be the top target for the Silver and Black. Even if he's not the top wideout for the Raiders, I can still easily see Williams, at age 27, post numbers close to his 2016 levels or higher.
James Washington, Steelers
Sometimes it's just simple math. It's not that all 168 targets that went Antonio Brown's way are all going to go to Washington. Let's take around 10 percent off the top to bring us down to 150 targets just in the spirit of potential regression, as the odds of the Steelers throwing a league-high 689 times is less likely. It also keeps the numbers easier.
Do I think JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to see a bump in targets? Obviously. However, I don't see him reaching 200 so let's give him a generous 20 percent of the 150 created by Brown's departure. That's 30, which leaves 120 more. Yes, the Steelers signed Donte Moncrief in free agency. But even if we split the remaining targets available down the middle that would still give Washington an extra 60 for a total of 100. With that kind of volume, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Washington could in the neighborhood of 50 catches, 750 yards and four touchdowns. That's 124 fantasy points (Athlon scoring, 0.5 points per reception), which is on par with what Allen Robinson did last season and makes Washington a WR4 in a 10-team league. And those are somewhat conservative numbers considering Washington's track record in college (19.8 ypr over four seasons). Only a slight increase in production (say 55, 850, 6) would make him an every-week WR3 in a 10-team league. Given that he's currently not even one of the top 50 WRs being drafted, Washington screams value.
Albert Wilson, Dolphins
In general, most of the Miami wide receivers are being ignored, and for good reason. But when they are being discussed, I think most of the experts got it wrong. Number one on that list might be DeVante Parker. Sorry, it's not happening. Maybe a change of scenery could have helped him, but after four uninspiring years with the Dolphins, I don't see it changing it during his fifth and likely last season with Miami.
Another popular option is Kenny Stills. Wrong again. Stills is a homeless man's Julio Jones. He's a lock to have a couple of big games every year where he easily goes over the century mark and either scores twice or catches nearly 10 passes. But he's also a lock to have nearly half a dozen weeks with just one catch for not enough yards. And I hope you don't think Brice Butler or Jakeen Grant are going to stand in the way of Wilson's ascendancy.
Wilson was stuck in Kansas City's pre-Patrick Mahomes offense (i.e, run-first approach) but then got out at just the wrong time when he came to Miami last year. We quickly forget that Wilson was on his way to a breakout season when he got injured in Week 7. Of course, you don't get high marks for scoring against the likes of the Raiders and the Jets last year.
However, in Wilson's last full game last season, he torched the Bears (you know, the team that is often the No. 1 fantasy defense being taken this year!) for nine catches, 155 yards, and two touchdowns. Let's agree to talk up his injury woes so those of us in 14-team leagues can continue to grab him cheap. Hopefully, people will forget about the early part of last year.
Marqise Lee, Jaguars
And while they are forgetting about last year's season, hopefully, they will forget about last year's preseason when Lee was on everyone's breakout list before tearing his ACL before Week 1. And reports coming out of camp are not promising.
But if Lee can somehow get ready for the start of the season and stay healthy, he should absolutely be Jacksonville's No. 1 WR. And if anyone is going to see a jump in production with the switch from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles, it will be Lee.
Paul Richardson, Redskins
I'm not even thinking about taking Richardson within the first 200 picks of any draft. Even 250 is pushing it. But an ADP in the 300s? To quote Kris Kross, that's wiggedy wiggedy wack.
Sure, the Redskins are looking at a very sketchy quarterback situation. But if I spot you Josh Doctson, can those of you without any burgundy and gold in their closet name any other Redskin receiver right now? No, you can't.
The 'Skins wide receiver corps is such a menagerie right now that Richardson could easily emerge from the pile and become the team's top receiver. Admittedly, I am intrigued by Trey Quinn and Darvin Kidsy as far as late-round flyer options. But I like Richardson more.
The Arizona Cardinals finished last in the NFL last season in passing yards but their No. 1 receiver (Larry Fitzgerald) still had more than 700 yards (and six TDs). In 2017, his last season In Seattle, Richardson put up similar numbers (44 catches, 703 yards, 6 TDs) before he was limited to just seven games in 2018 because of injuries. Do you know how many WRs had more than six touchdowns last year? Nineteen. That means if you are in a 16-team league or bigger, even your third WR has far less potential than Richardson, but most are taking that WR3 about 200 spots earlier.
Of course, Richardson might be one of the few receivers I highlighted that are really under the radar based upon ADP for those that play in deeper leagues. Guys like Washington and Williams might go late, but most owners will know who they are. And as I mentioned earlier, the list of under the radar receivers could be miles long. Therefore, here are five others I believe most of your league will not know:
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Eagles
Miles Boykin, Ravens
Deon Cain, Colts
Hunter Renfrow, Raiders
Randall Cobb, Cowboys
Ok, so that last name is one most will recognize, but based upon his ADP of 255, he definitely qualifies to be included here!
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.