2021 Fantasy Football Sleepers: 3 end-of-round rookie receivers with star potential


If you didn’t have Justin Jefferson on your fantasy football team last season, you probably spend the summer months looking for an end-round pick that can mirror his low-cost WR1 production.

The Vikings rookie wide receiver won the league last season. Jefferson is well above his draft average (123 overall, 49 at his post) in 2020 en route to a WR6 finish in PPR. And he broke the rookie record for receiving yards in a season to start.

It is impossible to predict who will be the next Jefferson. You can take your pick from Ja’Marr Chase of the Bengals, DeVonta Smith of the Eagles or Jaylen Waddle of the Dolphins, but they all bring with them good concerns about their situation. And each one of them goes higher than Jefferson, which takes away some of the value of hitting an escape rookie.

But Jefferson wasn’t the only rookie receiver to make a big, big impact last season. Lesser-advertised freshmen like Brandon Aiyuk of the 49ers, Tee Higgins of the Bengals, Laviska Shenault Jr. of the Jaguars and Chase Claypool of the Steelers have surpassed their ADPs on their way to fantastic relevance.

All of these players had ADPs outside of the top 150 and Aiyuk, Higgins and Claypool all ended up as WR3. Shenault Jr. finished in 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 a Higgins is not out of the question.

Below are a few candidates currently being selected outside of the top 150 who could become a starting wide receiver in your Fantasy squad.

Terrace Marshall Jr., Carolina Panthers

ADP 227, WR 73

LSU WR Terrace Marshall Jr.

Marshall is reunited with Joe Brady, his offensive coordinator at LSU, this season in Carolina. The last time the two were together, the Tigers won a national championship with the most prolific college offense of all time. Marshall, while not the first, second, or even the third option in an attack featuring Jefferson, Chase and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, scored 13 touchdowns. He followed that up with 10 scores in 2020 despite a revolving door in the quarterback and a lesser offense after Brady and Joe Burrow left for the NFL.

All of this to say that Marshall has proven he can get his own in an attack where he’s not the center of attention. He gets into a Panthers offense that sends back two 1,000-yard receivers to DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, brings in David Moore from Seattle and fires Christian McCaffrey, the NFL’s most prolific running back. Marshall expects to start as the fifth option on offense, but could potentially compete with David Moore for third place receiver.

If Brady can unlock Sam Darnold, who Carolina acquired through the Jets trade, there will be a lot of offense to be done. The Panthers’ third wide receiver in 2020, Curtis Samuel, left for Washington this offseason which released 97 targets. Marshall, a 6-foot-2 target, intends to get his fair share of these looks, and his college production shows what he can do with just a few touches per game.

Marshall is currently drafted one spot ahead of Jaguars tight end Tim Tebow (TE26) and three spots ahead of Dallas Cowboys defense (DST20). If he plays the role of WR3 in this attack, he will far outperform his ADP.

Amari Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

ADP 321, WR 85

The value of having Rodgers on your team depends entirely on whether the Packers have Aaron Rodgers on theirs. The future of the reigning MVP at Green Bay will affect the market for much more touted fantastic players including Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan. But there is certainly room for Amari Rodgers to have a fantastic impact in the Packers offense if Aaron Rodgers sticks around.

Outside of Adams, Green Bay’s top two receivers in 2020 were Alan Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who each made 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 rival Lazard and Valdes-Scantling for targets and would benefit from soft cover with Adams drawing attention from defenses.

As the No.1 option in his final year at Clemson, Rodgers eclipsed 1,000 yards. Green Bay passed a third-round pick on him, the highest the team drafted since Adams in 2014, in what seemed like an olive branch for struggling Aaron Rodgers. His height (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 at Green Bay.

Again, the value of that pick depends entirely on whether Aaron Rodgers stays in Green Bay to pitch at Amari Rodgers. But if you’re bullish on what’s going on, you should be bullish on Amari Rodgers, who is currently drafted one spot ahead of the 49ers’ JaMycal Hasty (RB 94) and three spots ahead of the Las Vegas Raiders defense (DST27).

Josh Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers

ADP 256, WR 80

Getting in on Palmer is a bet on Justin Herbert and the Chargers are betting heavily on Herbert in his second season. Los Angeles brought in offensive coordinator John Lombardi, former Saints quarterbacks coach, and invested in protecting Herbert with offensive lineman acquisitions in free agency and in the draft. Then the Chargers went to pick up another playmaker Herbert in Palmer.

He hasn’t recorded big numbers in four years at Tennessee, but he also didn’t play with a quarterback like Herbert. He showed great playing ability, averaging 21 yards per catch in his second season, but was hardly a threat in the end zone with just seven touchdowns in his college career. . Third-year wide receiver Jalen Guyton is expected to be Los Angeles’ third wide wide receiver, but Palmer could easily make up for it. Tight end Hunter Henry left for New England in the offseason and his 93 targets are up for grabs.

Even if Palmer pushes Guyton for WR3 spot, he could play the fourth fiddle in the offense against Keenan Allen, clear No.1 Mike Williams and running back Austin Ekeler, a pass-catching machine. Still, the Chargers’ offense has been prolific in 2020. It should be even better in 2021 and Palmer should get his share of that wealth. He is currently drafted a place ahead of Bears kicker Cairo Santos (K19).

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