During fantasy football draft season, managers are always looking for those hidden gems — the late-round wide receivers with the potential to outperform their draft positions.
This article identifies five wide receivers who could provide substantial value to your fantasy team. These players might not be the household names getting drafted in the first few rounds, but they possess unique qualities.
They are positioned in situations that could lead to viable fantasy production. Let’s take a closer look at these intriguing receivers.
Late-Round Fantasy WRs
1. Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills
Sleeper: 100 ESPN: 122
The Buffalo Bills added rookie TE Dalton Kincaid in the first round and didn’t make a significant addition to the wide receiver room. That is huge for Gabe Davis because the Bills have said they want to implement more 12 personnel, which will feature two tight ends.
Ken Dorsey took over play-calling last year. The Bills had 18.3 percent of their dropbacks out of 12 personnel, almost doubling their usage from the previous year under Brian Daboll. This personnel grouping puts two wide receivers on the field, which will help concentrate the volume.
Davis has run 146 routes with two receiver sets and averages 3.23 yards per route run while being targeted on 28.8 percent of his routes. Those numbers are exceptional.
However, it should be noted this formation has allowed Davis to win deep, and that’s a big reason for this production.
He was a fade in his draft position last year, but this season, he is a clear target in an offense that features a top quarterback in Josh Allen. I believe Davis will provide, on average, higher-end WR3 production.
But there will be weeks when he has a monster game and weeks where his production isn’t startable. Target Davis on teams looking for upside at the position and have high-floor producers.
2. Adam Thielen, Carolina Panthers
Sleeper: 121 ESPN: 142
The Minnesota Vikings put Adam Thielen in a role that did not make sense for his skill set but did for freeing up Justin Jefferson. Of Thielen’s routes, 31 percent were 7-9 (Post, Corner, Vertical); for reference, Stefon Diggs had 29 percent of his routes fall in the same category.
The Carolina Panthers‘ new coaching staff focuses on the intermediate area of the field, which is perfect for Thielen’s skills. He’s great at reading defenses and finding soft spots.
Bryce Young‘s football IQ is his elite trait. He should be on the same page with Thielen regarding finding these soft spots.
Thielen is set to be Young’s primary target, providing reliable fantasy points. While he might not reach elite wide receiver status, he’s a strong WR3 with a high floor and a decent ceiling.
Thielen isn’t getting any younger, but he can have a resurgent year in a new offense with a rookie quarterback who will trust him to get open.
3. Zay Flowers, Baltimore Ravens
Sleeper: 103 ESPN: 119
Todd Monken is the Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator. He heralds an exciting change in their offensive system with an increased emphasis on three-receiver sets.
This shift paves the way for Zay Flowers, arguably the team’s most elusive receiver, to enter the spotlight as the primary slot receiver.
Flowers’ college career showcased his proficiency in the slot, where he generated most of his production. Notably, among players who have run at least 500 routes from the slot since 2018, Flowers ranks an impressive 10th in yards per route run, boasting an average of 2.99.
Statistical insights from Sports Info Solutions reveal that the slot alignment has accounted for 52.1 percent of Lamar Jackson‘s targets since 2018. This aligns perfectly with Flowers’ skill set, as Jackson is known for his comfort in throwing to this alignment.
Furthermore, Flowers excels after the catch, with a remarkable 44.7 percent of his production from the slot coming from yards gained after receptions. His preseason performances have only solidified his potential in this role.
It is necessary to look beyond Flowers’ college production, which might not reflect his capabilities, especially considering the transition to a new offensive system.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that in 2022 and 2021, Boston College ranked outside the top 90 in throws on target or catchable, according to Sports Info Solutions.
I anticipate Flowers leading this wide receiver room in targets. He’s being drafted as a WR4 and can be a lower-end WR2 in production.
4. Tank Dell, Houston Texans
Sleeper: 191 ESPN: 219
Tank Dell, a late-round draft pick, can be a WR3-level contributor. My firsthand encounter with Dell during Senior Bowl practices highlighted a standout attribute: his ability to create separation from defenders in various ways, particularly off the line of scrimmage.
This skill was notably displayed in the one preseason game he’s played.
During his college career, Dell demonstrated his elusiveness with an impressive 21.3 percent of receptions, resulting in broken tackles and 37.5 percent of his yards gained after the catch in 2022.
Notably, Dell excelled against man coverage, boasting an average of 4.62 yards per route run. Dell was a standout college player and one of the top producers in the country.
The offense, run by Bobby Slowik, is expected to lean towards a run-heavy approach, which isn’t great for Dell’s overall upside. Still, this identity should force opposing defenses into more man-coverage situations, ultimately positioning Dell to emerge as a valuable asset in fantasy football.
5. Alec Pierce, Indianapolis Colts
Sleeper: 199 ESPN: Not Drafted
Anthony Richardson has secured the Indianapolis Colts’ starting quarterback position, and Alec Pierce is a perfect fit for the new offense. The team plans to rely heavily on the running game and exploit deep passing opportunities through play-action.
While Pierce’s catch rate is lower, he can make explosive plays. That makes him a valuable asset for your fantasy team, particularly during bye weeks.
Pierce was great on vertical routes as a rookie, ranking 22nd out of 164 players in yards per route run among those with 20 percent of their route tree as vertical routes and 400 routes run.
With Richardson’s arm talent and escapability, Pierce will have ample opportunity for these deep routes.
It’s noteworthy that Colts coach Shane Steichen comes from the Eagles. He utilized many vertical routes, allowing Jalen Hurts to generate a significant portion of his yards and passing touchdowns from these deep routes (23.8 and 36.3 percent, respectively).
Consider Pierce a late-round draft pick with the potential to make sporadic starts and deliver significant plays. While he might trail behind Michael Pittman Jr. in targets, Pierce could lead the team in receiving yards, offering a valuable boom-or-bust option for your lineup.
Finding those late-round sleepers in fantasy football can be the key to championship success. While stars dominate the headlines, the unheralded players often make the most significant difference in your lineup.
The five wide receivers highlighted each offer a unique blend of skills and situations that make them worthy of consideration in the later rounds of your draft.
Whether it’s Davis benefiting from the Bills’ offensive adjustments, Thielen thriving in a new system, Flowers stepping into a slot receiver role, Dell showcasing separation skills or Pierce capitalizing on the Colts’ deep routes, these players have the potential to produce viable weeks for your lineups.