If you didn’t have Justin Jefferson on your fantasy football team last season, you’re probably spending the summer months searching for a last-round pick that can mirror your WR1 production at a low cost.
The Vikings rookie wide receiver won the league last season. Jefferson significantly surpassed his average draft position (123 overall, 49 at his position) in 2020 on his way to a WR6 finish at PPR. And he broke the rookie record for receiving yards in a season to start.
It is impossible to predict who the next Jefferson will be. You can choose between Ja’Marr Chase of the Bengals, DeVonta Smith of the Eagles or Jaylen Waddle of the Dolphins, but they all bring fair concerns regarding your situation. And each of them is going higher than Jefferson, which takes some of the value out of hitting a featured rookie.
But Jefferson wasn’t the only rookie catcher to make major fantasy hits last season. Less advertised first-year receivers like the 49ers ‘Brandon Aiyuk, the Bengals’ Tee Higgins, the Jaguars ‘Laviska Shenault Jr. and the Steelers’ Chase Claypool surpassed their ADP on their way to fantasy relevance.
All of these players had ADPs outside of the top 150 and Aiyuk, Higgins and Claypool finished as WR3. Shenault Jr. finished as WR4. If you’re looking for a Jefferson-level production outside of the top 150 (and trust me, we all are), good luck. But finding a Claypool or Higgins is not out of the question.
Below are some candidates currently drafting outside of the top 150 who could end up being a starting wide receiver on your fantasy team.
Terraza Marshall Jr., Carolina Panthers
ADP 227, WR 73
Marshall meets with Joe Brady, his offensive coordinator at LSU, this season in Carolina. The last time they were together, the Tigers won a national championship with the most prolific college offense in history. Marshall, despite not being the first, second or even third option in an offense that featured Jefferson, Chase and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, had 13 touchdowns. He followed that with 10 scores in 2020 despite a revolving door at quarterback and a minor offense after Brady and Joe Burrow left the NFL.
All this to say, Marshall has shown he can get his into an offense where he’s not the center of attention. He enters a Panthers offense that returns two 1,000-yard receivers on DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, brought in David Moore from Seattle and returns Christian McCaffrey, the NFL’s most prolific pass-catching running back. Marshall plans to start as the fifth option on offense, but could compete with David Moore for third receiver spot.
If Brady can unlock Sam Darnold, who Carolina acquired through a trade from the Jets, there will be plenty of offense for everyone. The Panthers’ third receiver in 2020, Curtis Samuel, left for Washington this offseason, releasing 97 goals. Marshall, a 6-foot-2-inch target, thinks he’ll get his fair share of those looks, and his college production shows what he can do with just a few taps per game.
Marshall is currently being selected one spot ahead of Jaguars tight end Tim Tebow (TE26) and three spots ahead of Dallas Cowboys defense (DST20). If he plays himself in the role of WR3 in this offense, he will far exceed his ADP.
Amari Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
ADP 321, WR 85
The value of having Rodgers on their team depends entirely on whether the Packers have Aaron Rodgers on theirs. The future of the reigning MVP in Green Bay will affect the market for much more hyped fantasy players, including Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan. But there is certainly room for Amari Rodgers to make a fantasy impact on the Packers offense if Aaron Rodgers sticks around.
Outside of Adams, Green Bay’s top two receivers in 2020 were Alan Lazard and Márquez Valdés-Scantling, each of whom managed just 33 passes. Lazard missed six games in 2020, but neither he nor Valdes-Scantling were huge beneficiaries of Aaron Rodgers’ otherworldly campaign. Amari Rodgers could quickly compete with Lazard and Valdes-Scantling for goals and would benefit from smooth coverage with Adams drawing the attention of defenses.
As the number one option in his senior year at Clemson, Rodgers eclipsed 1,000 yards. Green Bay spent a third-round pick, the highest the team has drafted a receiver since Adams in 2014, on what looked like an olive branch for embattled Aaron Rodgers. His size (5 feet 9 inches and 212 pounds) and speed make him an intriguing prospect. PFF compared him to TY Montgomery, a double threat running back who spent three and a half years in Green Bay.
Again, the value of this pick is completely dependent on Aaron Rodgers staying in Green Bay to pitch Amari Rodgers. But if you’re optimistic about that happening, you should be optimistic about Amari Rodgers, who is currently being selected one spot ahead of JaMycal Hasty (RB 94) of the 49ers and three spots ahead of the Las Vegas Raiders defense (DST27 ).
Josh Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers
ADP 256, WR 80
Getting into Palmer is a gamble on Justin Herbert and the Chargers are gambling heavily on Herbert in his second season. Los Angeles brought in offensive coordinator John Lombardi, the former Saints quarterback coach, and invested in protecting Herbert with offensive lineman acquisitions in free agency and the draft. Then the Chargers went and got Herbert another playmaker in Palmer.
He didn’t have big numbers in four years at Tennessee, but he wasn’t playing a quarterback like Herbert, either. He showed great playing skill, averaging 21 yards per catch in his sophomore season, but was hardly a threat in the end zone with just seven touchdowns in his college career. Third-year receiver Jalen Guyton is projected to be Los Angeles’ third wide receiver, but Palmer could easily cut that off. Tight end Hunter Henry left for New England in the offseason and his 93 goals are up for grabs.
Even if Palmer pushes Guyton for the spot in WR3, he could play fourth fiddle on offense against Keenan Allen, clear No. 1 Mike Williams, and running back Austin Ekeler, a pass-catching machine. Still, the Chargers’ offense was prolific in 2020. It is believed to be even better in 2021 and Palmer should get his share of that wealth. A spot is currently being selected ahead of Bears kicker Cairo Santos (K19).
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.