All right then, the first couple of rounds are over and you’ve locked up your surefire players, but now you need some depth.
There’s plenty of value to be found in the mid-to-late rounds, and below I’ve listed some wide receivers to consider in the later rounds of your draft.
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Sure, Thielen’s 2016 stats (69 catches, 92 targets and 967 yards) are a little padded with three monster games (seven catches, 127 yards against Houston in Week 5, four for 101 at Jacksonville in Week 14, and 12 catches for 102 yards at Green Bay in Week 16).
Even then, he finished fourth in the NFL with 10.6 yards per target, has a 72 percent career catch rate, and dropped just one target last year.
Thielen’s ADP right now is the 11th round, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. That’s the same round as Mike Williams, Taylor Gabriel, Rishard Matthews, Mike Wallace, and Kenny Britt. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take Thielen’s upside over pretty much all of those guys bar, maybe, Gabriel.
Thielen isn’t the No. 1 WR in Minnesota, but he still finished with 64 more yards and two more touchdowns despite 20 less targets than Stefon Diggs. After Diggs was moved to the slot, that’s really when Thielen started to make an impact.
Josh Doctson, Washington
Doctson currently has essentially the same ADP (13th round) as Sterling Shepard and slightly higher than Zay Jones, Kevin White, and Breshad Perriman.
Doctson’s sample size in the NFL is extremely limited as his 2016 season was cut short due to an Achilles injury, and he only he caught a pair of passes for 66 yards.
His WalterFootball profile has a lot to like, as he was praised for things like being an excellent red-zone weapon, going up after the ball and winning 50-50 passes, long arms, excellent body control and drew an NFL player comparison to DeAndre Hopkins.
Washington let receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson walk this offseason, brought in Terrelle Pryor, and former offensive coordinator Sean McVay is now head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. In all likelihood, Doctson will still be behind Pryor, Jamison Crowder, and Jordan Reed among Kirk Cousins’ passing options.
Doctson was regarded as arguably the best rookie wide receiver going into last season before his nagging Achilles injury, and he should have a higher ceiling in a spread-out offense than any of the other WRs going in the 13th round.
Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers
Speaking of former Washington wideouts, we have Garcon in a new home under Kyle Shanahan. Last time Garcon and Shanahan worked together, he was targeted 181 times and caught 113 passes for 1,346 yards and five touchdowns. Granted, that was four years ago, but hear me out.
Brian Hoyer is going to start under center for the 49ers. Hoyer has a tendency to latch on to one receiver and not look much elsewhere. Last season, Hoyer took over for the injured Jay Cutler in Week 2 before Hoyer’s season was ended with a broken arm against the Packers in Week 7. So let’s look at the four games Hoyer played in their entirety (Weeks 3-6).
In those four games, Cameron Meredith caught 26 passes on 35 targets for 295 yards and a touchdown. In Hoyer’s final two full games, in Indianapolis and against Jacksonville, Meredith put up monster performances with nine catches for 130 yards against the Colts and 11 snags for 113 yards vs. the Jaguars.
The year before, in 2015, Hoyer was the quarterback in Houston when DeAndre Hopkins had the best season of his career (111 catches on 192 targets, 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns). Sure, Garcon probably won’t put up those type of numbers, but I like his eighth-round upside, where you can also find Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, DeVante Parker, and Randall Cobb.
Eric Decker, Tennessee Titans
Decker, of course, is pretty well-known around the league and not a typical sleeper candidate, or at least probably not the one you’re looking for here. But Decker and Marcus Mariota is a match made in heaven by the fantasy football gods, particularly in the red zone.
Last season, Mariota had 18 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the red zone. Decker’s career 20 yards from the end zone: 61 catches on 114 targets with 40 touchdowns.
Of course, touchdowns are hard to predict, but this is about as nailed-on as you can ask in fantasy.
Decker’s current ADP is in the ninth round, where you can also find John Brown, Meredith, and Decker’s Titan teammate Corey Davis.