When making late-round selections in fantasy drafts, it’s important to build in latent upside for later in the season by drafting young, talented players. We don’t want to draft established mediocrity just because we think they are guaranteed some volume as bye-week or injury fillers. The waiver wire will help when these issues occur, but we expect our early selections to carry the load for us during the first half of the year.
With wide receivers going earlier than ever, you are going to need some later-round values at the position – especially if you can’t resist chasing the falling running backs. Any deviation from a wide receiver-heavy start will leave you searching for multiple values at the position in the later rounds. Here are three wide receivers who have incredibly impactful upside at their current prices:
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ADP: 131, WR60
An anticipated breakout sophomore campaign by Moore was unfortunately cut short in 2022 by a groin injury, but that presents us with a fantastic opportunity for a player who was far better than most recall during his healthy stretch last year. Let’s remember just how unique and explosive of a prospect he was coming into the NFL (credit to PlayerProfiler.com):
He was used near the line of scrimmage quite a bit and had to share targets with David Bell at Purdue, but his breakout age and athleticism are nothing short of fantastic. Here are some of his exciting comparable players coming out of college, per the RotoViz Box Score Scout:
|88||KJ Hamler||Penn State||46||0.29||0.28||0.31||0.62||178|
|70||Mike Wallace||Ole Miss||84||0.29||0.3||0.3||0.58||4.33||199|
|60||Elijah Moore||Ole Miss||34||0.29||0.3||0.42||1||4.35||185|
|42||Brandin Cooks||Oregon State||20||0.27||0.3||0.36||1.23||4.33||189|
Sim refers to the sim score for how similar each comparable player is. DP is the player’s draft position. CYMS is each player’s career receiving yards market share. CTDMS is each player’s career receiving touchdowns market share. FYMS is each player’s final year receiving yards market share. FTD/G is each player’s final year receiving touchdowns per game.
His mini-breakout in 2022 displayed an incredibly important skill: an ability to earn targets at a significant rate. With even more help from our friends at RotoViz (using their Game Splits App), take a look at Moore’s extrapolated numbers from his healthy Weeks 4-10:
During this span he recorded top-24 weeks in four games (three of them top-16), all of them playing with at least one of DeAndre Hopkins or Marquise Brown.
With DeAndre Hopkins gone and no other pass-catcher of note added, Moore is once again going to be a full-time player.
Especially with the price of wide receivers in fantasy drafts this year, finding a guaranteed 100+ targets (health allowing, of course) for an elite, athletic prospect with excellent draft capital and breakout age in the 11th round is highway robbery.
This is a cheap PPR asset on a team that is going to be very, very bad. In a division with the Rams (with a healthy Stafford and Kupp), 49ers, and Seahawks, they are going to be down early and often. The Cardinals will have no choice but to be pass-heavy in many games, considering the state of their defense.
Unlike deep-threat Brown, Rondale Moore isn’t necessarily going to need fully capable quarterback play to pay off. Moore will be fed targets closer to the line of scrimmage, which will lead to plenty of easy fantasy points. That’s good news, considering Kyler Murray isn’t likely to be ready for Week 1 after an ACL tear.
But that is part of the beauty of Rondale Moore: as your 11th/12th round selection, you likely aren’t going to need him to contribute right away. Murray is likely to return sometime in the middle of the 2023 season, and may not be running as much on his repaired ACL.
Getting Kyler Murray’s 1B target for the stretch run of the fantasy season (on a team where there will be garbage time aplenty) is a major win for a guy currently going as the WR60 off the board.
ADP: 189, WR82
Coming out of Kentucky as a rookie last season, Robinson’s play style and breakout age create a profile strikingly similar to Rondale Moore above:
He’s not as good of an athlete as Moore, but most importantly he was a 21-year-old rookie, productive at a very young age, and can handle a large target workload despite his size. He has some very exciting comparable players:
|89||Skyy Moore||Western Michigan||54||0.33||0.29||0.41||0.83||4.41||195|
|74||Elijah Moore||Ole Miss||34||0.29||0.3||0.42||1||4.35||185|
|31||Zay Jones||East Carolina||37||0.26||0.21||0.43||0.67||4.45||201|
With a vacuum at the top of the Giants’ wide receiver depth chart in 2022, Robinson was really coming on strong in the middle of the season. Here are his splits from when he began to see over 67% of the Giants’ snaps:
In devastating fashion, he tore his ACL at the very end of his breakout Week 11 game, where he had 9 catches for 100 yards on a whopping 13 targets.
The Giants added Darren Waller in the offseason as their likely top receiving target, but when Robinson returns he is unlikely to be limited by the veteran wide receivers on the Giants’ depth chart (not included here is rookie Jalin Hyatt, who is an inferior prospect to Robinson):
|Player||Draft Position||Age||Games Played/Max. Possible||Career-High PPG (Year)|
|Sterling Shepard||40||30||75/114||14.0 (2019)|
|Parris Campbell||59||26||32/66||8.8 (2022)|
|Darius Slayton||171||26||58/66||12.1 (2019)|
|Isaiah Hodgins||207||24||11/34||10.0 (2022)|
As we can see, the target competition at wide receiver is filled with older, oft-injured players or low-volume, low-draft capital guys with mediocre past production. Don’t forget that Isaiah Hodgins only began receiving a 60% snap share once Wan’Dale went down. Waller isn’t exactly the pinnacle of health either, having played double-digit games in only three of his seven seasons.
It’s unlikely that Robinson starts the season fully healthy but with an ADP in the 15th round, you shouldn’t need him in your 2023 starting lineups immediately. By the time he does reach full health, it’s a good bet that at least one of Shepard, Campbell, or Waller will be injured themselves.
On a team with ambiguity at wide receivers, we want to bet on the young guy with the best combination of age, talent, and draft capital. The cream will usually rise to the top in these scenarios, and it’s easy to argue that Robinson is the best of the bunch. Stashing him on your bench to start the year could prove to be a league-winning move.
ADP: 215, WR101
Coming out of Louisville, Atwell’s size made him a unique and divisive prospect. But like Moore and Robinson, Atwell has a lot of speed, high draft capital, and insane production at a young age:
While impossibly small, his draft capital and production earned him some better-than-expected comparable players:
|59||Josh Downs||North Carolina||79||0.32||0.36||0.3||1||4.48||171|
|32||KJ Hamler||Penn State||46||0.29||0.28||0.31||0.62||178|
|29||Titus Young||Boise State||44||0.24||0.21||0.29||0.69||4.43||174|
Potentially the second coming of DeSean Jackson, Atwell’s collegiate yards per route run metric is on par with Tee Higgins and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
It’s tough to ignore that through 1.5 seasons of his career, Atwell couldn’t be considered anything but a bust. However, he began to see real playing time at the end of last year, receiving targets as he was worked into the offense as a deep threat.
His 28 targets in the final six games may not seem that impressive, but we need to contextualize those numbers.
For one, Matthew Stafford being injured drastically changed the offense, and Atwell saw almost all of his playing time with Baker Mayfield. Take a look at how dramatically the passing production drops off when Stafford isn’t on the field for Sean McVay (via the RotoViz Team Splits App):
Some forget that Stafford threw for 41 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards in 2021, not to mention his penchant to throw deep with his howitzer of an arm. Stafford is now healthy and so is Cooper Kupp, ensuring that Atwell will see one-on-one coverage with a weaker corner on the vast majority of his routes.
Also, Atwell also had some peripheral numbers to suggest he’s worth more than meets the eye. Per the Stealing Signals tool, Atwell was 3rd in the entire NFL in average depth of target (a whopping 19.2 aDOT) and t-14th (among 141 qualifiers) with Justin Jefferson in weighted targets per route run, which factors in air yards.
He was just behind stars like Stefon Diggs and Amon-Ra St. Brown in this metric, and directly ahead of established producers Garrett Wilson, D.K. Metcalf, Amari Cooper, and Mike Evans.
Notably, he was ahead of Van Jefferson (an inferior prospect who will already be 27 years old at the start of the season) in all of these metrics. 2023 5th-round rookie Puka Nacua simply doesn’t have the athleticism (26th percentile or worse in 40 time, burst, and agility scores) to threaten Atwell’s deep role.
Sean McVay has already spoken about Atwell being a real part of the 2023 offense and is a candidate to produce multiple spike weeks in this much-improved situation. You can do much worse with your final selection of fantasy drafts, especially in best-ball leagues.