Five middle round players that will win your dynasty league

Mike Williams can be a steal for your dynasty team

By: Keith James

The word sleeper is thrown around often in fantasy football. The truth is there aren’t many sleepers to be had these days. With the proliferation of websites, magazines, and data most fantasy football players can read about any player at any time. Instead of thinking of “sleepers”, think of guys that are drafted in a similar round that are better than the guys drafted before him. In this article, I will identify five middle-round players that will win your dynasty league.

Dynasty is great because once you draft a player he is yours as long until you decide he’s not. You can manage your players for 3 years or 3 months. You can keep players, trade them, drop them. Once you draft a guy, in that league, he is yours to manage however you would like. The thing about dynasty is patience. Should you wait on a guy to flourish in a year or two or should you trade him? 

It’s easy to fall in love with your first 3-4 picks. This will be your core and should love your core. They will be the reason for your greatness or for your failure. The core is what matters in sports. The same applies to fantasy football. Your core will likely produce 80% of all your fantasy production barring injury. I always say the core is how you score, the rest cleans up the mess. If you are able to draft guys in the middle rounds that enter that core, you will be able to better manage a top 60 fantasy asset. 

For the benefit of this article, I am considering the middle rounds, rounds 8-13 and I am basing my ADP off of sleepers’ latest ADP (August 1st). The start of round eight is player number 85 in 12 team leagues. So the top 85 dynasty assets are off the board, the queue is getting slim. There are guys you love but who should you draft while you are sifting through the tiers. 

The following are 5 guys that are going in round 8 or later that will help you win your dynasty leagues. These are players that may not hit WR2 in 2021 but the future is bright, a little luck and they could pay off this year. Mostly, you are waiting on these guys to develop in 2022, 23′, 24′, and beyond. They are green bananas that you have to give a little time and in a year or two they will be ripe for eating. Grab them in your startup drafts, HODL them, show them care, and wait for them to develop. You will be winning many fantasy games if you choose wisely. 

Laviska Shenault (ADP 86-Dynasty)

2020 may go down as the best fantasy football draft year of all time. With top players at all positions, 2020 may rival 2017. The same draft that had Mahomes, Watson, Dalvin Cook, Kamara, CMC, and George Kittle may be rivaled by the draft that produced Jonathon Taylor, Antonio Gibson, Cam Akers, D’Andre Swift, JK Dobbins, Justin Jefferson, Jerry Jeudy, Joe Burrow, Tua, and Justin Herbert. 

There are many more 2020 names but one name that has slid this offseason is Laviska Shenault. Laviska Shenault was drafted by the Jaguars in the 2nd round at pick number 42. Shenault was seen as an athletic freak coming out of Colorado but he had injuries that derailed a good portion of his career. He is not a blazer but he is seen as an AJ Brown type of physical receiver that can do damage with the ball in his hands. 

Shenault battled poor QB play and while missing two games he was WR46, putting up 157 PPR points at a little over 11 points per game (PPG). Known as a big play waiting to happen, Laviska has strong hands that snatch the ball and look to do damage with his large 6’1 220-pound frame. 

His current ADP is going at 97 (round 8 in 12 man leagues) and he is going as WR35. 

I’m looking for Laviska to be the focus of Trevor Lawrence’s targets this year both on intermediate routes and short routes where Shenault can work in space. With the crowded Jaguars receiver room consisting of DJ Chark, Shenault, and Marvin Jones it is hard to imagine Shenault owning the Jaguars target share in 2021 but in 2022 and beyond this will be Shenault’s team on the receiving end. 

DJ Chark is a free agent and Marvin Jones is 31 years old. Shenault is on a team-friendly deal for 4 more years and there is already talk out of Jaguars camp of “building the offense around” Laviska Shenault. I built a model that highlighted the top 12 receivers from the last 7 years. I looked at height, weight, draft capital, year in the league, and many other variables. Shenault fits the model of a WR1 to a tee. He has the build, the athleticism, the wow factor to chew up yards on easy catches and he should be between 20-25% target share once Chark moves on after this season. 

Grab Shenault in the 9th round of your start-up drafts and look for him to be a sound WR3 this year and build toward one of the most dynamic receivers in the league over the next 3-5 years. I also believe Shenault is worth a 2022 first-round pick if you are looking at assets to buy heading into this season. Make offers now, because his price may be much higher after an electric 2021 season.

Rashod Bateman (ADP 83-Dynasty)

Bateman was a case of COVID-19 derailing his momentum. If he was able to play in a full 12-13 game season last year he would have been a top 15 pick. Covid-19 hit and the Big Ten was only able to play in 6 games and Bateman caught the virus and was not able to finish the season with the Gophers. 

Make no mistake, however, Bateman can ball. He is another prototypical receiver that fits the making of a WR1. Taken with pick 27 by the Baltimore Ravens, Bateman has been a victim of where he landed. The Ravens are a run-heavy team. They lead the league in rushing attempts last year and were last in passing attempts. With Lamar Jackson’s skill set, they have created an offense around Jackson’s strengths. 

Jackson however has never had a receiver with the talent of Bateman and these two are about to tear up the AFC North for the next five years. Bateman is another prototypical WR1 in the making. As a rookie, his volume will likely keep him in the WR4 or WR3 category. Moving forward, he will be a problem for opposing defenses. At 6’0, 190 he is smaller than average WR1’s but he explains how he battled COVID last year and his weight is a little light. 

I believe he plays more around 200 pounds this year and in future years. Bateman runs a 4.43 forty (pro day) and has great hands. Watching his tape he reminds me of Reggie Wayne, I’m not saying he is the Great Wayne Manor but that’s what he looks like. Bateman runs clean, crisp routes, and tracks the ball great. He has great hands and he is open often. 

Bateman is currently being drafted at ADP 130 (WR43) behind Will Fuller, Henry Ruggs, and his teammate Hollywood Brown. I like Bateman much more than his current tier of WR’s in dynasty. Bateman figures to take a year or two before becoming an annual top 24 WR.

I love Bateman in round 10 earlier than he is being drafted and stashing him for upcoming stardom over the next 2-3 years. Bateman was my WR2 coming into the 2021 draft and I believe he would have been drafted in the top 15 if COVID didn’t ruin his season. Draft Bateman with glee and attach him to an established MVP QB who needs a big body, clean route runner, to improve his passing efficiency. Bateman is that guy for Lamar Jackson and he will be that guy for your fantasy team. 

Terrace Marshall (ADP116-Dynasty)

Terrace is a player that had some late injury concerns and was caught up in the wash of other great receivers playing at LSU at the same time as him. Terrace was a five-star recruit who took some time to establish himself after Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson were no longer around. Playing in an LSU passing attack that was a far drop from Joe Burrow’s historic 2019 season, Terrace established himself as his own big play waiting to happen. 

Marshall stands at 6’2, 200 pounds, and runs a 4.4 forty. The other thing I love about Marshall other than his size/speed combo is he did damage primarily from the slot in 2020. That is where I believe he thrives for the Panthers in 2021 and beyond. Marshall will be the 4th option on his new Panther team. With CMC coming back healthy he will eat up a lot of the targets both Robbie Anderson and DJ Moore (DJM) had last year. CMC is still the focus of that offense and will be leaned on in Sam Darnold’s first year. 

Anderson and DJM present a problem for Marshall in year one, but his understanding of the slot will help his cause seeing the field. Marshall has star potential written all over him and with Robbie Anderson likely leaving via free agency after the 2021 season, Marshall should be set to take control in 2022 and beyond.

I am of the belief having great players on the other side of you helps your cause, and does not hinder it. DJ Moore is set to become a household name and if the Panther’s offensive brain trust can unlock Sam Darnold’s talent then Darnold, CMC, DMJ, and Marshall will begin to push for annual top ten offensive productions. There is a lot of talent on that offense. 

Marshall is currently being drafted at ADP 116 (round 9) and at that price you are looking at another potential top 24 receiver that can help your squad this year in spot starts or at the flex position and if there is an injury to either Moore or Anderson, watch out, Marshall may become the next Chase Claypool. Marshall’s size and athletic ability make him a matchup nightmare especially with such skilled receivers as Moore and Anderson on the outside, lining up Marshall against smaller nickel backs in the red zone is money in the bank and will cash checks for your fantasy squad. 

Mike Williams (ADP134-Dynasty)

Mike Williams has become a hair puller. He’s a guy with immense talent, a size/speed combo with high draft capital that has not been able to consistently put it all together. Williams had a 1,000-yard season and a season with 10 touchdowns and he is fully capable of being a dude that has both this year. Working with Justin Herbert, Mike Williams will undoubtedly be the 3rd option behind Austin Ekelar and Keenan Allen but with a superstar QB that 3rd option will be deadly. 

Another reason I love Mike Williams this year is he is entering a contract year. With the Chargers knowing they will have to drop a bag for Justin Herbert in a couple of years, it is more than likely that Williams walks and can take over as an alpha receiver for a new team. At only 26 years old, Williams is entering his 5th year and he is in a prime position to help dynasty teams this year and the next 3 years. 

Williams stands 6’4, 220, and is prone to the deep ball. He can go up and get it. Williams is not a YAC guy, he is a jump ball, the contested-catch nightmare that is a perfect complement to Keenan Allens and his superior route running. Williams needs to see more targets to be a consistent performer but with the Chargers investing in the offensive line for the first time in what feels like forever, Justin Herbert should be a top 8 fantasy quarterback for the foreseeable future. Williams had 85 targets last year and 90 the year before, with the extra game I can foresee a 100 target season with 68 grabs, over 1,000 yards, and 9 touchdowns. I am predicting a breakout for the Clemson alum in his walk year so that another team can pay him next year and you can cash in 2021 and the next few years. 

Williams ADP has been moving up, the word is out. Camp reports say that Williams looks great and he is establishing himself with Herbert to be a true number two in LA, this should correlate to a top 24 finish, or better in 2021. Moving forward, when Williams balls out this year, teams will get a sense of how best to use Williams. He is at his best in jump ball, contested-catch areas of the field. Even with below-average speed (4.58 forty), Williams is still able to get deep. Williams has a 16.7 yard per catch average in his career, so he is looking to beat you to the outside and win a contested ball. 

Williams will man the X position in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s offense. This was the same position Michael Thomas played under Lombardi in NO. Williams will see an uptick in targets, use his skills on the deep ball, and be a jump ball receiver looking for a layup down by the goal line. The is the year Williams breaks out and he will ride that wave for your dynasty team now and into the future. 

Darnell Mooney (ADP 124-Dynasty)

With all the reports of Darnell Mooney lighting up Bears camp, his ADP has remained stagnant all summer. It’s shocking that a receiver who is the Bears leader for rookies in receptions with 61 last year has not budged in ADP all off-season. Here’s the deal, I’m a big Bears fan and I thought the after-season hype was more than I expected out of Darnell Mooney but with a much-improved QB situation in Chicago, Mooney will be able to get deep with his 4.38 speed. 

Mooney is also an intelligent player that uses smooth transitions in his routes to get open. There is a Twitter GIF showing Mooney’s skills when he duped Jalen Ramsay and got by him deep only to have Nick Foles overthrow the ball. Foles was under heavy pressure by his own goal line, but I digress. Mooney has the skills to become a star in the league. Reports are that Mooney was attached to Allen Robinson’s hip in the offseason and with a full year to grow in the offense, having a true NFL training camp, and refining his skills Mooney is set to go to the moon. See what I did there?

Mooney’s ADP is currently 122 (WR41) so you are getting a younger version of Tyreek Hill about to be linked to the most talented, productive, experienced quarterback prospect the Bears have ever had in Justin Fields. Fields is a dynamic deep-ball thrower, which will play perfectly for Darnell Mooney’s speed. What Mooney needed was a QB that could unlock his ability to get deep and make a game-changing play. Fields will be that guy. I believe Mooney has star potential and could become a top 20 WR and he can be had for a 10th round pick. Get him now and grow with him, watching your dynasty squad become elite.

Middle of the Road

No matter the drafting format, finding guys that hit in the middle to late rounds will always be a winning formula. In Dynasty, these guys are your future. They are your playmakers or traceable assets that can set you up to succeed for a half-decade. 

Laviska Shenault, Rashod Bateman, Terrace Marshall, Mike Williams, and Darnell Mooney are all guys that have an open window of success in the present and the future. They are all a little different but the best thing about this group is they will not cost you high draft capital. These are middle-round gems and if you can walk away with 2-3 of these guys you will have a top-flight receiving core that your league will have to contend with. These are playmakers that will be consistent names in rounds 1-6 for the next four years. 

In fantasy football, I am always looking for volume and value. What the five guys on this list present is high value with anticipated volume to increase their profile. What I like about all five of these guys in their ability to make plays and get in the zone. Touchdowns are the great decider between a top 30 WR and a top 15 wide receiver. Managing players that can be target hogs on their team and find the endzone will bring fantasy happiness. 

Find your way to the middle, look for these names and start to put together your wide receiver core while building the rest of your squad in earlier rounds. You better hurry though, talent wins in the NFL and each one of these players is getting buzz at their camps. These may be middle-round picks in 2021 but these are not middle-round players. They will go much higher next year and beyond. Go and get them on your dynasty teams and win bragging rights for years to come.  

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