There’s a saying regarding early picks in fantasy football drafts. “You can’t win your league in the first round but you can lose it.” Do you know where leagues are actually won? The waiver wire. So we need to start thinking about the players we might like in the part of your fantasy football rankings where they are so deep in ADP that they aren’t likely to be drafted in your hometown league, even by you. And, if we plan to draft one wide receiver from a team, we need to know who the other potential fantasy football sleepers are from that team so we can pivot if the first guy is a bust or gets hurt. Maybe we even load up our deep benches in our keeper or dynasty fantasy football leagues to corner that market. So that’s what we are going to do today - build out our watch list.
Now, not every team is going to fit the bill here. The average redraft league has about 14 or 15 rounds which, in a 12-team league, is 168-180 picks. In 2022 for instance, we were able to pick Marvin Jones then quickly pivot to Zay Jones off waivers who was going undrafted at pick 209 (WR80). He finished as the WR26. This year, however, the Jacksonville Jaguars have Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram all going within the top 150 picks. No one is likely making it to waivers so that doesn’t help us. All the pass catchers on teams like the Jaguars, Bengals, Chargers, Ravens etc. are drafted. it also doesn’t help us much with teams like the Dolphins or 49ers where it’s obvious who the top options are. So, for this exercise, we are going to look at teams with a little uncertainty in target pecking order. We also will narrow it down to teams with only one or two pass catchers are being drafted on average in the top 15 rounds based on our composite ADP. So only players outside of the top 180 (referred to below as The Picks). Then we’ll discuss the other guys going outside that range that might be on waivers and could have some upside if the early players bust or get hurt (The Pivots). I’ll also throw in the name from “the pivots” on each team that I currently have on the top of my watch list.
- Marquise Brown (ADP 80) - Brown cracked 100 targets last year despite missing 12 games. He feels like a lock to be a top-two target in Arizona at least.
- Rondale Moore (ADP 138) - Moore played a full snap share at times when DeAndre Hopkins was out. The concerns for him have been related to his lack of size and his low aDot. If he develops a full route tree this year though, his explosiveness offers high upside.
- Trey McBride (ADP 198) - He wasn’t terribly efficient but rarely does a rookie TE have a ten-target game. If Zach Ertz starts slow coming off surgery, McBride could carve out a role.
- Zach Ertz (ADP 203) - He’s coming off a torn ACL but he was with new head coach Jonathan Gannon in Philadelphia. If he were healthy, he could be in line to be the second target after Hollywood Brown. But we don’t know how healthy he will be.
- Michael Wilson (ADP 255) - He’s got a couple of things going for him. He was handpicked by the new regime on day two of the 2023 NFL Draft. And, at 6’1” and 216 pounds he has at least four inches and 30 pounds on Brown, Moore, and Dortch. Could start at split end right away.
- Greg Dortch (ADP 266) - Dortch is more of a handcuff for Rondale Moore though he did fill in valiantly when Moore missed games last year.
- Zach Pascal (NA) - In most early drafts, Pascal isn’t getting selected even in deeper leagues. But he has some size and he played in Philadelphia while Jonathan Gannon was there.
Top of my Cardinals Watch List: Michael Wilson
- Adam Thielen (ADP 144) - Thielen signed the biggest free agent deal for the Panthers and it’s a three-year contract so they clearly believe in him. He may have lost a step but he still has that red zone prowess working for him.
- Jonathan Mingo (ADP 159) - Mingo was a second-round pick and the fifth WR drafted in this year’s draft. The unknown upside of rookies will always intrigue us but he also has the lowest floor.
- DJ Chark (ADP 183) - DJ Chark has been a bit of a “paper tiger.” The size and speed are there and he did have one great season with the Jaguars but has disappointed ever since.
- Hayden Hurst (ADP 292) - Hurst is the positional scarcity play. If the targets are spread evenly among the pass catchers, that TE eligibility makes him the most valuable.
- Terrace Marshall (ADP 286) - We had high hopes when they hired his college coach Joe Brady but Brady was fired by Matt Rhule fairly quickly. The new regime and new QB bring uncertainty however and, with that, anything can happen. We saw it in 2020 with this team when everyone loved DJ Moore but he was outscored by Curtis Samuel and Chosen Anderson.
Top of my Panthers Watch List: DJ Chark
- Christian Watson (ADP 58) - Drafting Watson was a bet on raw athleticism by the Packers and he flashed that talent on multiple occasions. He’s the best bet to lead this team.
- Romeo Doubs (ADP 134) - With a little help from injuries to other players, Doubs was playing a near 90% snap share by week three. However, injuries and the return of Christian Watson hampered the second half of his season.
- Jayden Reed (ADP 188) - One of these three receivers will be the odd man out for two WR sets. Reed has the athleticism we like and the draft capital we like as a second round pick so we just need those snaps.
- Luke Musgrave (ADP 199) - Musgrave is a wild card in that he’s an athletic specimen (former ski champion) who didn’t put up big numbers in college due to injury. He could play some slot and TE eligibility is quite valuable.
- Tucker Kraft (ADP 281) - Some might remember that Hayden Hurst was drafted by the Ravens in the first round of the same draft where they took Mark Andrews in the third. So we can’t rule something similar out here if Musgrave is a bust.
Top of my Packers Watch List: Luke Musgrave
- Dalton Schultz (ADP 125) - Dalton Schultz isn’t the craziest athlete but he can do damage with enough targets. The fact that he is a tight end helps.
- Nico Collins (ADP 145) - He has the size and speed to play split end. My comparison for him coming out of college was Kenny Golladay. He’s a front-runner for a full-time snap share on the outside.
- John Metchie 197 - I’ve actually been drafting Metchie with my last pick in a lot of spots. He was tremendous at Alabama which is why they took him in the second round but we have to see how he comes back from cancer treatment.
- Robert Woods 242 - Probably the most boring option but sometimes the veteran just wins the job. His great run blocking ability should help.
- Nathaniel Dell 259 - The knock on Nathaniel “Tank” Dell is that he’s undersized at 5’8” 165 but the game is always evolving and his college tape is impressive.
Top of my Texans Watch List: John Metchie
- Michael Pittman (ADP 72) - Pittman has established himself as the starting split end for this team on the outside. His ~97% snap share led the entire league.
- Alec Pierce (ADP 172) - Last year Alec Pierce was the odd man out for two-WR sets in favor of Parris Campbell but Campbell was poached away by the Giants.
- Jelani Woods 220 - This team is loaded up on tight ends and added another in rookie Will Mallory out of Miami. But Jelani Woods is the frontrunner for pass work so it boils down to who Anthony Richardson likes.
- Josh Downs 229 - Josh Downs was a slot MONSTER in college at UNC. The question is whether he plays slot in three-WR but comes out of the game for two-WR sets (like Tyler Boyd) or whether he plays slot in three-WR sets but stays in the game for two-WR sets (like Parris Campbell did last year for this team or Chris Godwin for the Bucs).
Top of my Colts Watch List: Josh Downs
- Cooper Kupp (ADP 8) - Not much needs to be said about Cooper Kupp. Everyone else is vying for the second target.
- Tyler Higbee (ADP 140) - With the injury to Kupp last year, Tyler Higbee quietly led this team in targets. He was fairly inconsistent from week to week but he could be top two again.
- Van Jefferson (ADP 186) - Jefferson is the son of an NFL WR coach and he does everything well but isn’t particularly amazing in any one aspect. But he could take a step forward this year with the empty WR room.
- Tutu Atwell (ADP 280) - Tutu Atwell is more of a speedy field stretcher but we’ve seen guys like DeSean Jackson, Brandin Cooks, Tyler Lockett, etc. develop enough versatility to be consistent in fantasy.
- Puka Nacua (ADP 183) - The fifth round pick out of BYU is someone to keep an eye on. At 6’2” 210 pounds he has decent size and his numbers in college were pretty solid.
Top of my Rams Watch List: Puka Nacua
- JuJu Smith-Schuster (ADP 120) - Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Jakobi Meyers, and now Juju Smith-Schuster. That seems to be the succession plan and it’s why he goes first from this crew. The last time Bill O’Brien called the plays for New England, Wes Welker got 173 targets. That’s more than ten per game.
- Mike Gesicki (ADP 171) - Bill Belichick on multiple occasions has referred to Mike Gesicki as “more of a big wide receiver”. That sounds pretty good for fantasy with his TE eligibility.
- Hunter Henry (ADP 205) - The last time Bill O’Brien called plays for this team was 2011 and Rob Gronkowski finished TE1 in fantasy, Aaron Hernandez was TE3. The only problem is that Hunter Henry is not Gronk and Gesicki is not Hernandez.
- Tyquan Thronton (ADP 208) - Probably the most exciting pick of the bunch because his 4.28 forty-yard dash is literally 100th percentile for the position. Can he carve out a full-time role though?
- Kendrick Bourne (ADP 254) - There was some drama with Bourne last year as Robert Kraft likes him, but Matt Patricia seemingly did not. Maybe he bounces back.
- DeVante Parker (ADP 265) - The big boy on the outside just got an extension for three years, upwards of $30 million. The move was mostly for cap reasons but he was also playing nearly 100% of the snaps early in the season. Maybe he can recapture some of that magic from his 2019 season?
Top of my Patriots Watch List: Tyquan Thornton
- Darren Waller (ADP 71) - Early reports are that they love Waller over there and he should be heavily involved, assuming he can stay healthy.
- Jalin Hyatt (ADP 192) - As they often do, folks are gravitating towards the shiny new toy in the 2023 third round pick. He did win the Fred Biletnikoff Award for the best WR in college football so the hype is not unwarranted.
- Parris Campbell (ADP 192) - The Giants acquired the oft-injured Campbell in free agency from the Colts. When healthy though he is a reliable slot wide receiver.
- Isaiah Hodgins (ADP 196) - Hodgins had only one regular season game with over 50 yards but a big postseason performance in round one is fresh in folks' minds which has gained him some steam.
- Wan'Dale Robinson (ADP 210) - This is a player I find myself actually drafting with a last pick in some spots. The former second round pick was impressive at Kentucky but battled injuries in his rookie season.
- Sterling Shepard (ADP 216) - When healthy, the Giants have peppered Shepard with targets - he averaged eight targets a game over the last couple of years when he plays more than 35% of the snaps. But he’s been incredibly unlucky tearing both his Achilles and ACL.
Top of my Giants Watch List: Wan'Dale Robinson
- Treylon Burks (ADP 83) - The Titans’ 2022 first round pick dealt with multiple different injuries but still flashed enough to showcase his skills. He seems far and away the best option here.
- Chigoziem Okonkwo (ADP 118) - I’m personally all in on Chigoziem Okonkwo based on what we saw with his limited sample size last year. With Austin Hooper and Geoff Swaim both gone, he could take a big step here.
- Kyle Phillips (ADP 274) - Chig technically isn’t a guarantee and Kyle Phillips did get a little hype early on last year before getting hurt. He should get some looks out of the slot.
- Chris Moore (ADP 283) - With a depth chart this thin, you can’t rule anything out. Someone needs to play opposite Treylon Burks.
- Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (ADP 287) - He quietly played the second-most WR snaps on this team after Robert Woods and now Woods is gone. He wasn’t terribly efficient though.
Top of my Titans Watch List: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine
Related NFL Links:
- 2023 Fantasy Football ADP Risers & Fallers: June 30
- 2023 Fantasy Football Player Profile: Miles Sanders is a Value at his Fantasy Football ADP
- 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Guide: Late-Round Fantasy Football Running Back Targets
- 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Guide: Wide Receiver Breakouts
- 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Guide: Wide Receiver Dynamic Tier Fantasy Football Player Rankings
- 2023 Fantasy Football QB2 Targets: Anthony Richardson Could Be Your Late Round QB Steal