Fantasy football drafts are just around the corner, which has everyone in a frenzy to prepare for their league’s draft. That’s especially the case for PPR (points per reception) leagues, where extra emphasis is placed on the wide receiver position.
It gets even trickier when you get past the first few rounds, as the top wide receivers are quickly flying off of draft boards and league managers start wondering which options in the middle and late rounds represent the most value. We’ve looked over the latest ADP (average draft position) results at FantasyFootballCalculator.com to see which wide receivers are flying a little under the radar and could potentially return serious value:
Jordy Nelson – Packers (Round 2)
Nelson missed all of last season with a torn ACL and is battling some tendinitis in his other knee, but he’s quickly looking like a major steal in drafts. Once a top-five fantasy receiver, Nelson is still in his prime and promises to be Aaron Rodgers’ top dog in Green Bay’s passing game.
The beauty here is that many fantasy owners will pass on Nelson because of his injury risk, and that could actually equate to him falling down draft boards even further. Ideally he can slide to you in round three, but either way he’s shaping up as a massive steal if he can stay healthy and return to form.
Mike Evans – Buccaneers (Round 2)
Evans might even pack more value, as he’s currently available at the very end of round two and in some mocks can slide even further. There is a negative stigma around him, both because Tampa Bay ran a lot last year and because he dropped a ton of passes.
The Bucs promise to balance things out more, however, and it’s tough to imagine Evans scoring just three times again – especially after finding the end-zone 12 times as a rookie. Evans is a scorer and Tampa Bay’s best weapon in the passing game. He’s going to crush his price tag in drafts this year.
Demaryius Thomas – Broncos (Round 3)
Is Demaryius Thomas the first round lock he was a couple of years ago? Apparently not, as fantasy managers are allowing him to slide to round three and later. DT’s scores did come down in 2015 due to a regressing passing game, but his role and production remains. He still hauled in 105 balls for 1,304 yards and six scores.
Thomas may not be a lock for 10+ touchdowns, but he’s going to get the ball and do good things with it. He’s a flat out steal right now in round three.
Golden Tate – Lions (Round 4)
Tate is another steal one round later, and for obvious reasons. Not only do a ton of receptions have to go somewhere with Calvin Johnson retiring, but Tate has already proven his worth with 189 catches in Detroit over the past two years. He did regress a bit in the system last year, but he turned things around beautifully, scoring five times over the last six games.
Now as the team’s locked-in top receiver, Tate could vie for hos best season yet. Even if he doesn’t, Tate is still part of an offensive system that thrived down the stretch in 2015. He could return crazy value out of the fourth round.
Jeremy Maclin – Chiefs (Round 5)
Maclin is going even later than Tate, likely because most fantasy owners don’t respect the huge season he enjoyed in KC last year. Well, they should. Maclin showed how valuable his jets and role are, turning 87 catches into 1,088 yards and 8 scores.
Maclin is well past his knee injury he sustained in Philly and he’s now put up back to back stellar fantasy campaigns, despite playing for two different teams over the past two years. Alex Smith handcuffs him a bit, but Maclin has a big role and can break big plays with ease. You can’t let him get past you in round five.
Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals (Round 6)
Fitzgerald may have to continue to prove his worth in the fantasy football community, as fantasy owners clearly don’t think he’s going to repeat his amazing 2015 run. Fitzgerald did slow down a bit late in the year, but he actually showed up big time in the playoffs and ended up turning in arguably his best fantasy run ever.
Repeating that could be tough, but Fitzgerald is clearly still a big piece of Arizona’s offensive puzzle. He’s going to be a threat for 80+ catches, 1,000 yards and 8-10 scores. That kind of value is hard to come by in round six usually.
Josh Gordon – Browns (Round 7)
Trusting Josh Gordon is impossible and we do need to consider his four-game ban. However, if the Josh Gordon of 2013 returns (87-1,646-9 line) then we have something to talk about. That’s no lock and the Browns have concerns at quarterback, but the mere possibility makes him an interesting mid-round pick.
Ideally you’re waiting to nab Gordon in round 8 or later, but if he’s there in round seven and you feel he’s worth the risk, he could be a fun gamble.
Marvin Jones – Lions (Round 8)
Jones was seemingly always held back in Cincinnati playing second fiddle to A.J. Green, yet he found a way to make an impact (14 touchdowns over the last two years). Heading into 2016, he’s set to have a big role with Megatron gone and it could end up being a huge season if all goes well.
We already know Jones is a red-zone threat, but he hasn’t had a chance to prove himself with a consistently large role. Betting on him with an 8th round pick isn’t much of a risk.
Markus Wheaton – Steelers (Round 9)
Martavis Bryant is gone for the entire 2016 season due to suspension, which means someone in Pittsburgh has to try to make up for his absence. Considering Bryant was a big play maestro, that could mean the guy who steps up opposite of Antonio Brown enjoys a career year.
Wheaton is still pretty erratic and at best unproven, but he has the speed and play-making ability to turn into a fantasy dynamo.
Vincent Jackson – Buccaneers (Round 11)
V-Jax is aging and had a rough 2015, but he’s still been a huge part of Tampa Bay’s passing game when healthy. With Jameis Winston set to take a step forward in year two, the Bucs could blow up in the passing game. Jackson could be a big part of that, even at age 33. In round 11, you’re taking chances on backups that may never amount to anything. Why not bet a small chip on V-Jax turning in a strong season before his career winds down?
Victor Cruz – Giants (Round 12)
The story could be similar for Cruz, who can be found one round later in fantasy football drafts, yet could potentially yield even more value than Jackson.
Cruz is obviously a major injury risk after missing most of the last two seasons, but he also is a former speedster who can spring big plays. With defenses dialed in on Odell Beckham Jr., we could see Cruz open a ton in 2016. Whether or not he stays healthy and keeps a big role is open for debate, but in round 12 it’s a risk worth taking.
Got some sleeper wide receiver values of your own for the 2016 fantasy football season? Tell us all about them in the comments below!