Best late-round fantasy values: Wide receivers
The early rounds of fantasy football drafts are where most people build the foundation for their teams. But it’s in the late rounds where you really craft a championship roster. Just ask anyone who took a shot on David Johnson last year. Those final rounds of your fantasy draft are where you can take a chance on players with upside without risking a ton of draft capital.
Because we are helpful sorts here at NFL.com — and also because it’s our job — we’ve put together a list of some of the best late-round options at all of the key fantasy positions that you can take a chance on. Amaze your friends! Astound your opponents! Be the smartest person in your league! Or something like that.
Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions: You’ve heard many of us crowing about Marvin Jones and the Lions’ passing game all offseason. With Calvin Johnson out of the picture in Detroit, look for Matthew Stafford to spread the ball around a lot more. Fantasy drafters have spent a lot of attention on Golden Tate, assuming that he’ll slide right into Detroit’s WR1 role. But reports suggest that it could be Jones who sees a majority of the targets in the offense. At worst, the two wideouts will have similar numbers when the season is finished. So why not wait until the double-digit rounds to get your guy?
Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders: Yes, I know that Amari Cooper is being considered a breakout candidate this year. There’s a good reason for that. But let’s not pretend that Crabtree is suddenly a non-entity in the Oakland offense this year. And let’s not forget that for a good stretch of last season it was Crabtree — not Cooper — who was Derek Carr’s security blanket. Crabtree is still an excellent red-zone target with reliable hands who could offer WR3-type production in 2016. He’s definitely worth spending a draft pick on in Round 9 or later.
Kamar Aiken, Baltimore Ravens: Aiken became a favorite of the NFL Fantasy Stronghold last season and nothing has changed except the date. As the only healthy and productive receiver returning from last year’s squad, Aiken is likely to begin the season as Joe Flacco’s No. 1 target. Oh and by the way, lest you think this is a case of “someone has to get targets” . Aiken is also a pretty talented receiver. But don’t take my word for it. Just ask noted wide receiver whisperer Matt Harmon.
Willie Snead/Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints: This one is a little tricky for me since I have an innate fear of Saints receivers. What makes the offense so good is that Drew Brees spreads the ball around. What makes them hard for fantasy enthusiasts to predict is that Drew Brees spreads the ball around. But if you don’t want to take an early-round chance on Brandin Cooks, then there are a couple more options to look at much later in the draft. Snead was quite productive for several weeks in 2015 while Thomas looks ready to slot into the role vacated by Marques Colston. There will be targets for both of these players. Just don’t expect to be able to start them on a weekly basis.
Torrey Smith, San Francisco 49ers: OK, get all of your laughing out of the way. You done? Good. Now we can be serious. Smith isn’t a name that’s going to excite you, especially because we’re all assuming that the 49ers aren’t going to be very good. But that’s part of the reason why Smith will have some late-round appeal. The Niners are likely to be trailing in a lot of games this season which means they’ll have to throw the football. Don’t worry that it could be Blaine Gabbert or (gasp!) Christian Ponder tossing the rock. Potential quarterback outcomes (read: interceptions) have no impact on receiver scoring. Plus, the outside receiver in a Chip Kelly offense has generally had a fairly good record of productivity. Don’t sleep here.
Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins: We have long since passed the time when we should stop talking about DeVante Parker. He’s just not a thing we should be concerned about right now. And Jakeem Grant? Let’s not get carried away. In the meantime, Stills has put together a solid preseason and has easily been Ryan Tannehill’s No. 2 target behind Jarvis Landry. The Dolphins’ passing game isn’t anything to write home about, but if you’re looking for someone else to count on in South Florida, then Stills is your guy.
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