Experienced or even novice fantasy football owners can easily and quickly rattle off their wish list of wide receivers: the Steelers' Antonio Brown, the Falcons' Julio Jones, the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr., the Texans' DeAndre Hopkins, the Bengals' A.J. Green, the Jets' Brandon Marshall, the Packers' Jordy Nelson, and the Cowboys' Dez Bryant.
Landing one, which will cost as much as a first or second-round pick, means you’re on the way to fantasy dominance. But somehow landing a second is next to impossible unless you burn both of your first two picks and pray a first or second-tier running back is available in the third round.
It’s a bold and costly strategy that will ultimately leave owners with gaping holes at running back and other positions since they’ll be scrambling for any sort of value late in drafts.
Instead, flip that strategy on its head and realize the plethora of WR1s and WR2s available much later in drafts. Depending on your standard league’s starting lineup format, as many as 24 to 36 receivers will start any given week and that number could expand to 48 if every owner starts a receiver in their FLEX spot.
Last season, 22 receivers gained 1,000-plus yards and half of them posted 1,200-plus yards, while 10 pulled down 10 or more touchdowns and, if you’re in a points-per-reception (PPR) league, 17 averaged five or more receptions a game.
So, rather than loading up on obvious superstars at wide receiver, wait until the third round or later to mine these seven value receivers and make your 2016 fantasy roster much more balanced. Each receiver's average draft position (ADP) comes via FantasyPros.com’s tabulations.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: No. 33 overall)
Despite Andrew Luck’s injury-riddled 2015, Hilton still made the most with Matt Hasselbeck and recorded a third-straight 1,000-yard season. He’s averaged 134.6 targets over the last three seasons and is unquestionably the top receiver with only Donte Moncrief and Philip Dorsett to steal away opportunities, especially with tight end Coby Fleener now in New Orleans. Even though Luck is still working back from injury, snagging his top receiver (who’s just the 17 th receiver off the board is a no-brainer.
Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins (ADP: No. 49)
Perhaps it’s the fact Landry caught only four touchdowns last season that's hurting his fantasy value, but he’s unquestionably one of the most athletic highlight machines in the league and should breakout even further after posting 1,157 yards off 110 receptions at 10.5 yards per catch in 2015. That’s incredible production and even if he slips a little, Landry should not be the 22nd receiver selected in any draft. With Miami opting not to re-sign running back Lamar Miller (instead picking up Arian Foster earlier this week) and only second-year receiver DeVante Parker and veteran Kenny Stills his main competition for targets, Landry is an excellent third or fourth round steal.
Kevin White, Chicago Bears (ADP: 85)
Combining power and breakaway speed, White likely would’ve been a fantasy stud and Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate last season had his shin not required surgery. However, recent reports suggest White looks fully healthy and downright scary. White will be part of an offense that currently can only call receiver Alshon Jeffery its best weapon, with running back Jeremy Langford trying to make up Matt Forte’s dominant production. White will have opportunities as he only has to beat out Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson for WR2 targets. Think along the lines of Raiders receiver Amari Cooper’s impact in his rookie campaign last season, especially since White is just the 35th receiver off the board.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: No. 92)
Blazing speed and elusiveness, on top of the athleticism to make incredibly acrobatic catches, Lockett’s a must-own in any league format. In his rookie year, Lockett unleashed 1,915 all-purpose yards with eight total touchdowns between receiving and punt and kickoff return duties. He’s currently just the 37th receiver picked, while less proven receivers like Philadelphia’s Jordan Matthews or ever-injured Chargers wide out Keenan Allen are going ahead of Lockett.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (ADP: No. 99)
With veteran Victor Cruz’s future in doubt and Beckham Jr. staring down every opponent’s best cornerback, the Giants need a solid second receiver and that very well could be the rookie Shepard. He’s presently the 39th receiver off fantasy draft boards, and that’s actually a fair assessment given he’s yet to take a real NFL snap. However, he benefits from the Giants glaring lack of a running game (No. 19 last season) and will have the opportunity to be Beckham’s running mate with only Dwayne Harris and Geremy Davis currently behind him on the depth chart.
Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: No. 113)
Running back Le’Veon Bell could miss the first four games of the season is now a possibility and Martavis Bryant is serving a year-long suspension, which increases both running back DeAngelo Williams and Wheaton’s fantasy values immensely. Wheaton’s long been the WR3 for Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, but now he moves into the No. 2 spot after catching a career-best five touchdowns and 17.0 yards per reception. According to FantasyData, Wheaton averaged only 6.7 points a week for owners last season, but he was targeted only 79 times and that number should jump with Bryant out and pass-catching back Bell facing a potential suspension.
Kamar Aiken, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: No. 145)
When 2014’s leading receiver Steve Smith and starting quarterback Joe Flacco both went down with major injuries last season, Aiken stepped up for the depleted Ravens and notched a team-best 944 yards and five receiving touchdowns off 127 targets, hauling in 75 receptions. Smith is 37 years old, and there’s no clear-cut answer as to when 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman will come back from another serious knee injury. The same could be said of Flacco and his knee, but as the 58th receiver off the board Aiken is worth the risk.