Fantasy: 3 WRs you are sleeping on in 2021

By: Jeremy Shulan

Antonio Brown

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

ADP: 111.3, WR44

I get that Antonio Brown is no longer the sexiest fantasy football pick. However, all the guy does is produce when on the field. Yes, he’s 32 years old and, yes, he recently had questions about his health that caused a slight delay in the Bucs re-signing him, but the season is a long way out and you are too low on the former #1 overall fantasy stud.

First, a history lesson: from 2013 to 2017, Brown finished as either the #1 or #2 wideout in all of fantasy. In 2018, he finished #5. 2019 was lost thanks to a hot air balloon, cryo-feet and a league suspension, but 2020, on a per-game basis, was again excellent.

Last season, AB finished 2nd in all of football in Player Profiler’s Hog Rate. That means on a per snap basis, when he was on the field and the Bucs ran a pass, he was targeted more than nearly any other receiver and tied with Davante Adams in the metric. Additionally, AB garnered a 19.9% target share. Though close, that’s more than teammates Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.

Also, Brady loves the guy. And why wouldn’t he? AB is always open… still. The dude hasn’t lost much, he’s entrenched as a starting wideout for this squad and he’s getting a fifth of Brady’s targets when he’s on the field.

AB is old to be sure, and I have my suspicions about his mental health since Vontez Burfict rang his bell (a supreme understatement) back in 2016. Has AB ever been the same? Probably not. Has his play suffered because of it. Not at all.

AB is currently going off the board as a backend WR3 who could finish as a mid-WR2. Go get him in your drafts in all formats.

John Brown

Las Vegas Raiders

ADP: 158.1, WR73

This one is baffling to me. I’m grabbing John Brown everywhere because he is falling way too far down redraft draft boards this year. Brown is learning a new offense, needs to develop rapport with his new QB and needs to carve out a role in a mid-level passing attack that already features star tight end Darren Waller. Still, we’ve seen the likes of Nelson Agholor thrive on the outside just last season… and Brown is a better receiver.

Last year was tough for Brown. He only appeared in nine games and he was limited by injury in two of them. His target average also dropped from 25.7% in 2019 (10th in the league) to 16.8% in 2020 (56th). It’s no secret that this was due to the addition of alpha wide receiver Stefon Diggs and the increased looks given to Cole Beasley underneath, though both rates were probably because Brown couldn’t stay on the field.

If there’s a receiver you may think of as injury prone, it could be Brown. In 2016, he was diagnosed with the sickle-cell trait. Some have attempted to tie this to Brown and injury, but that’s just not been the case. In fact, Brown has played in at least 15 of 16 games in all but two of his seven years in the league.

So if he’s not an injury concern and his targets have only been undermined by a top 5 WR in the league, why is he going so low in drafts? I don’t see fellow wideouts Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards or Hunter Renfrow as much of a threat to his projected volume, though the youngsters could all get more work than last year.

For a wideout who could be his team’s #2 passing game option and, at worst, #3, I’m scooping up the speedy Brown with a late round pick and assuming he’ll thrive in a Nelson Agholor-esque role.

Breshad Perriman

Detroit Lions

ADP: 178, WR89

His last name isn’t Brown, and maybe Amon-Ra is the Detroit Lions #1 target from the jump, but Breshad Perriman’s ADP is criminally low in the early going. While teammate Amon-Ra St. Brown is the trendy pick this season, Perriman is better bet to earn the #1 target share in a wide-open competition for looks in 2021.

The Lions have a new coaching staff, a new starting QB and a bunch of new pieces in the wide receivers’ room, but all of this newness means the opportunity is there for someone to step up.

And why not Perriman? Last year, with Adam Gase calling the shots and Sam Darnold chucking the rock, Perriman flopped. His WR78 finish in PPR leagues came in just 12 games on just 60 targets. But, with only last year’s breakout TE TJ Hockenson locked in for volume, Perriman could easily see his target total double from a year ago. Here’s how:

First, the Lions are projected to lose, a lot. A mediocre defensive unit under a new regime with a tough schedule, all is in place for Jared Goff to be forced into slinging it all over the yard. Second, Perriman is a 4.3 speedster who can stretch the field as we saw at the end of 2019 when he was forced into action in Tampa. Over the final 5 games of the season that year, Perriman averaged 7.4 targets, over 101.2 yards and 1 TD per game. That’s the receiver the Jets got last year, though we all know about the Adam Gase production dip for all but slot receivers by now. I’m not a Goff truther by any means, but a Gased Darnold isn’t even in the same stratosphere as Goff and the Detroit line is actually decent, grading out as Pro Football Focus’s 13th best unit from a season ago and adding generational prospect Penei Sewell at sixth overall in this year’s draft.

Perriman was a product of his poor situation in 2019, after having seemingly put it all together a year ago. If he’s given the chance and the targets, Perriman should far exceed his ADP and you can steal him in the last round of drafts.  

Snag one or more of these WRs in your 2021 PPR drafts, and you’ll sleep like a baby… a baby whose fantasy lineups are strong from top to bottom.

*all ADP data used in this article sourced from: https://fantasydata.com/nfl/fantasy-football-ppr-adp-rankings/rb

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