Right now, there are more young dominant fantasy wide receivers in the NFL than ever. There wasn’t a single analyst last year that could have predicted the meteoric rise and historical numbers put up by rookie Justin Jefferson. In some leagues, he was on the waiver wire until week 3; now, you would be hard-pressed to trade for him in a dynasty league. Finding talented and explosive WR’s at a value is super important to the success of your fantasy team. Wouldn’t you rather draft a player in the 11th round who puts up huge numbers than trading for him once the price goes way up? Here is my list of 5 wide receivers you should buy right now in fantasy football, 3 young guns and 2 more grizzled veterans. Whether you are acquiring them in dynasty leagues or drafting them at their current price you won’t be sorry when we make it to the season.
Brandon Aiyuk – ADP WR 25 / 59 Overall
While a 5th round price tag might seem high for a buy-low WR, this will be the cheapest you will be able to acquire Aiyuk for the foreseeable future. Aiyuk posted a WR 35 finish after only playing in 12 games. The injuries piled up on San Francisco last year with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Jimmy Garrapolo all missing time. Aiyuk emerged as a major player in this offense with the added opportunity from his teammates’ missing time. The one major knock on Aiyuk is that most of his production came when both Deebo and Kittle were not on the field. I think he did enough in his rookie campaign to command more targets and touches in his sophomore season. Aiyuk is also blessed with a top offensive play-caller in Kyle Shanahan that is a master in scheming his guys open. Not to mention, Aiyuk will have the NFL’s easiest schedule for WR’s in 2021, according to FantasyPros. The welcome addition of Trey Lance could only see Aiyuk’s stock rise. Getting someone with Aiyuk’s skillset, a QB that is willing to push the ball down the field is a great formula for success. I think the 23-year-old’s potential is through the roof, and you should buy him in your leagues before it is too late.
Robby Anderson – ADP WR 34 / 87 Overall
If there is one thing we learned in Matt Rhule’s inaugural season as the Panther’s head coach, it’s that he targets his guys- most of whom played for him at the collegiate level. Anderson was coached by Rhule at Temple, and the head coach aggressively targeted him in FA last offseason, clearly with a plan. Robby Anderson saw a total of 137 targets – 8th in the NFL – last season with Teddy Bridgewater throwing him the football; that’s an impressive 26% target share. Now the Panthers have moved on from the Bridgewater experiment and acquired Anderson’s former QB, Sam Darnold. The two put up impressive numbers while playing for the lackluster New York Jets. The massive amount of targets he saw in 2020 might be hard to come by in 2021 with the return of Christian McCaffrey and more emphasis being placed on DJ Moore to step up into the WR1 role on this team. This might lead to softer coverage on Anderson with a QB a little more willing than Teddy to push the ball downfield – the part of the game where Robby excels. Robby is also facing the 2nd easiest schedule for WR’s in 2021.
DJ Moore and Robby Anderson put up very similar stats in 2020 with a huge disparity in ADP for 2021. Moore is being taken in the 4th or 5th rounds where Anderson is dropping to the 10th in some startup drafts. You are simply picking the value of Anderson over the price tag of Moore for similar production. I still believe that even with the added competition for targets Matt Rhule will still lean on his guy in big moments. Draft Robby Anderson as your WR4/Flex and be happy.
Devonta Smith – ADP WR 39 / 107 Overall
The latest addition to the Philadelphia receiving corps was the Heisman Trophy winner out of the University of Alabama, Devonta Smith. In an attempt to rebuild and surround Jalen Hurts with weapons, the Eagles front office has now drafted two wide receivers in the first round in back-to-back years (the other being Jalen Reagor). The Biletnikoff Award winner posted a 35% target share and a 79.6% catch rate in a dominant season with the Crimson Tide. After his impressive show in 2020, the Eagles felt it necessary to trade up to draft him at 10th overall, leapfrogging the New York Giants. The Eagles have not had a difference-maker at the WR position since Jeremy Maclin in 2014, and they are attempting to build a great WR room with Reagor and Smith. There are plenty of targets to go around in this offense- many will go to TE’s because the scheme dictates it. However, at least one WR will be fantasy relevant in this offense, and I think that it can only be the Slim Reaper himself. The Eagles also added to their offensive line, and, if Jalen Hurts makes progress to become a better passer, this offense could make some waves in the hotly contested NFC East. Devonta Smith was one of (if not the) best route runners in the draft class and will get consistently open for Hurts in 2021. Like most rookies, he will probably get off to a slow start. Still, I expect Smith to heat up towards the middle of the season and to put up great numbers compared to the other players being taken around him in drafts. Take advantage of the slow start, acquire Smith soon before his price tag skyrockets.
Michael Pittman Jr. – ADP WR 45 / 106 Overall
The addition of Carson Wentz this offseason saw the fantasy stock of the Colts all trend upwards. One major benefactor of the Wentz trade was Michael Pittman Jr., the rookie out of USC. The second-round pick from last year had a very quiet rookie campaign, posting a 40/503/1 stat line with Phillip Rivers throwing him the ball. Now the Colts get an injection of youth, stability and a little athleticism at the QB position with Wentz coming in. I think that this makes the offense better overall. Another Colts rookie, Jonathan Taylor, will be looking to improve in 2021, perhaps taking attention off of Pittman and the other receivers. Pittman is a positive regression candidate for touchdown rate in 2021, only scoring once in his rookie year. For a player that was looked to in the RedZone 10 times last year (16% of his targets) only scoring once is an unsustainably low touchdown rate. Another reason why I believe Pittman will have a breakout year in 2021 is that there is less competition for targets than ever on the Colts roster. Pittman’s main competition is TY Hilton (rapidly-aging), Paris Campbell (often injured), and Zach Pascal (a UDFA). With Pittman taking a step forward in his sophomore year, the addition of a better-suited QB, and less competition for targets, I foresee a big leap forward in production for the prototypical-sized WR. Move in on him now before his price goes way up after week 1 of the regular season.
Antonio Brown – ADP WR 48 / 116 Overall
The final buy-low WR might come as a surprise to some people. Why try to draft/trade for a 32-year-old WR that is clearly the third receiving option on his team? Because that receiver is Antonio Brown. He only played in 8 games last season – missing the first half of the season serving a suspension. Brown immediately saw the field and massive targets from Tom Brady when he was eligible. If you look at Brown’s 16 game pace, based on the 8 games he played, he would have put up a stat line of 90/966/8 for a total of 241 fantasy points in full PPR. That would have made him the WR15 in 2020, but in 2021, he’s going as the WR48. Now, by no means am I telling you to draft Antonio Brown as a top 20 WR in 2021, but I am telling you that he is a massive value at his current ADP. It is hard to come by players in the 11th/12th rounds of drafts that have the ceiling of a top 20 finish at their position. During Brown’s 8 game season, he had a 20% target share with one of the more potent offenses in the NFL. AB also has a QB that has vouched for him at every turn, first bringing him to New England and now to Tampa Bay. Tom Brady believes in Antonio Brown, so shouldn’t that be enough for the fantasy community? As the team’s clear third option behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Brown might struggle to consistently receive meaningful targets. However, if one of those two receivers goes down with an injury, AB will immediately see a dramatic increase in targets and role. If you’re being honest with yourself, wouldn’t you rather have Antonio Brown over players like Mike Williams, TY Hilton and John Brown? All players with similar ADPs. I’ll take AB’s possible ceiling over any of those players 10 times out of 10.