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Four Wide Receivers with High Upside in Fantasy Football

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What do Diontae Johnson, Brandon Aiyuk, DeVonta Smith, and Laviska Shenault all have in common? They all have WR1 potential.


Every offseason fantasy managers are searching for which players can take that next step in their development. We try to decipher which wide receivers have the most upside in the drafts. Of course, we know that Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, and A.J. Brown are all elite wide receivers and they are WR1’s. This poses the question: What wide receivers outside the top-24 have WR1 upside? The middle-late round wide receivers are where you can win your leagues. These players have the talent and ability to win you your league, but who do you draft? I will take a look at some wide receivers that I believe have WR1 upside that is being drafted as WR3’s or later.

side note: I will be using Underdog ADP for these rankings.

Diontae Johnson (PIT-WR)

Johnson is current right outside the top-24 wide receivers, but he has massive upside this season. We’ve seen flashes last year and he produced solid numbers. He caught 88 passes for 923 yards and seven touchdowns on 144 targets. He also left three games early due to injury, so these numbers would have looked even better. Ben Roethlisberger‘s elbow wasn’t the same either last season and had trouble getting the ball downfield. Johnson only averaged an inefficient 6.4 yards per target. He struggled with drops as well, racking up 14 of them. All this being said, Johnson has WR1 upside.

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When looking for these high-upside wide receivers, we want to chase volume. We’ve already seen Johnson get a massive target share in this offense. He averaged 9.6 targets per game which is ahead of players like Calvin Ridley. Allen Robinson, Tyreek Hill, and D.K. Metcalf. Even though he struggled with drops, Big Ben still targeted him without question. Diontae Johnson is a perfect draft target and has the upside to finish inside the top-12 wide receivers.

DeVonta Smith (PHI-WR)

Smith was the tenth pick in the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, and deservedly so. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner had an electrifying senior season at Alabama. Smith caught 117 passes for 1,859 yards and 24 total touchdowns and looked absolutely unstoppable. Yes, there are questions about his size and build, but he’s a straight-up baller. His route running ability is unmatched and his insane wingspan helps him corral jump balls downfield. I, personally, am not worried about his size. If there was going to be an “outlier” for a player his size, it’s going to be him.

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Now he automatically becomes the alpha wide receiver on the team. Jalen Reagor is still there, but he didn’t produce in his rookie season and doesn’t fit the prototypical alpha wideout. The main target competition for Smith is the tight ends: Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz (if he doesn’t get traded). Miles Sanders will also catch passes, but with a mobile quarterback in Jalen Hurts, it will be interesting to see how many targets are funneled his way. Smith could very easily lead this team in catches, yards, targets, and touchdowns. Even though he’s a rookie, he has massive upside if Hurts progresses as a passer. As WR32 off the board, he has top-12 potential if everything hits right for him.

Brandon Aiyuk (SF-WR)

Aiyuk had a productive 2020 rookie campaign and looked unguard-able at times. He caught 60 passes for 748 yards and five touchdowns on 96 targets. Aiyuk also proved his versatility with 77 rushing yards and two touchdowns. There is a path to a WR1 season for Aiyuk this season. Although he does have target competition with George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, he should be the number two target regardless. Combine this with his versatile skill set, he could emerge as the alpha wide receiver in the offense. Trey Lance would make the offense even better and more efficient, and Aiyuk could be the beneficiary in a major way.

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Laviska Shenault (JAC-WR)

Shenault is one of my favorite players to target this season. While his total numbers in 2020 weren’t anything to write home about, there is optimism. He has so many things going for him, it’s hard not to get excited about his potential. First, the man is going to be catching passes from one of the greatest quarterback prospects of all time in Trevor Lawrence. Second, there isn’t a true number one alpha wide receiver in front of him, so he could take that throne this season. Lastly, the defense isn’t going to be good, yet again. They’re going to be in a lot of shootouts this season, which means more pass attempts and more opportunities for Shenault.

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Closing Thoughts

Wide receiver this year, and the majority of seasons, is always deep. There is value to be found in the middle rounds, especially this season. All of these wide receivers have top-12 wide receiver upside but they aren’t being drafted as such. You’re getting these players at a discount. While you load up on other positions in the early rounds, you can draft these high-upside players. The middle rounds are where you can win your league, and I believe these players can put you over the top.


Thank you for reading! You can follow me on Twitter @ConbonNFL and check out more of my work on my IDP Guys Author page or my website
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