Five late-round wide receivers to target

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Once the top 100 or so picks have come off your draft board, you'll find yourself in wild-card territory when it comes to wide receivers. By this point, your starting lineup in standard leagues likely is set, so you are culling your fourth, fifth or sixth wideouts with the hope that they will develop into reliable flex plays or, ideally, a potential WR2.

Last season, DeAndre Hopkins, Jordan Matthews, Malcom Floyd, Steve Smith Sr. and Odell Beckham Jr. were late-round picks (or entirely undrafted) but churned out WR3 or better production.

I won't pretend any of the following five players who are being selected outside of the top 115 picks in ESPN drafts will explode like Beckham did, but each has a decent shot at settling in as a WR3/flex play and has WR2 upside, if things break his way.

Breshad Perriman, Baltimore Ravens

ADP: 116.7, WR41

The Ravens used their first-round pick on Perriman in order to replace Torrey Smith, who left as a free agent. At 6-foot-2, 212 pounds, he averaged more than 20 yards per catch during his final two seasons at UCF and ran a 4.25 40 at his pro day. In other words, he has all of the requisite tools to settle in as a legit No. 1 NFL wideout.

There are long-term concerns about his drop rate and short-term concerns about a bruised knee that has cost him a week and half of training camp -- factors which likely are keeping his fantasy draft stock down. Still, with little in the way of competition, the rookie should slide right into the starting X spot across from Steve Smith Sr. as soon as he is healthy.

That's a position where Perriman could thrive in new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman's system. Sure, the Ravens keep saying they intend to run first and often, but Trestman's Bears offense had room for rushing and receiving. In fact, when wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were healthy in 2013, running back Matt Forte touched the ball 363 times, while Marshall had 100 receptions (163 targets) for 1,295 yards and 12 TDs and Jeffery had 89 receptions (150 targets) for 1,421 yards and seven TDs.

With defenses having to pay attention to Smith, Perriman will have room to operate and could be a sneaky end zone threat.


John Brown, Arizona Cardinals

ADP: 138.2, WR55

As a rookie last season, Brown reeled in 48 of his 103 targets and totaled 696 yards and five TDs. He did so despite the presence of Michael Floyd in the Cardinals' WR corps and having the likes of Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley throwing the passes in the second half of the season.

Just imagine what he could do in Year 2 if he passes Floyd on the depth chart and has Carson Palmer at quarterback for 16 games. Right now, that is exactly the situation, as Palmer has recovered from his torn ACL and Floyd is iffy for Week 1 after seriously dislocating three fingers last week during practice.

Entering last season, Floyd was on plenty of preseason breakout lists, but he ended up catching 18 fewer passes for 200 fewer yards than he totaled in 2013. Floyd could well get healthy and turn things around in 2015, but what if it takes longer than hoped to heal up and/or he fails to take things to the next level?

In those scenarios, Brown would have a wide-open shot at having a breakout of his own, working off of Larry Fitzgerald, who is still good enough to attract the attention of opposing defenses.


Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams

ADP: 142.5, WR59

We have only a small sample size on Quick, because he has caught just 54 passes in three years and missed the second half of last season due to a shoulder injury, which required offseason surgery. Combining those factors with being in a run-heavy offense, and it's no wonder that fantasy football owners are skeptical enough to let him fall in to the 15th round.

However, Quick brings plenty of potential. ESPN Rams reporter Nick Wagoner noted Monday that, "He's looked sharp and healthy in camp. Barring any setbacks, he'll likely start opposite Britt."

As the Rams' top option early last season, Quick saw nine targets in three of his first four games, totaling 21 catches for 322 yards and three TDs during that stretch. Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin shouldn't be a threat for his role atop the WR depth chart this season, rather, they (and eventually rookie running back Todd Gurley) should open up more space for Britt.

One more plus is that Nick Foles clearly is a better quarterback than last year's gang of Austin Davis and Shaun Hill.


Rueben Randle, New York Giants

ADP: 170, WR63

Just like Floyd, Randle appeared to be poised for a breakout season last year. However, some freak of nature named Odell Beckham Jr. stole the spotlight with his quasar-like star power. Lost in the Beckham hype was the fact that Randle did improve statistically, finishing the season with 71 catches (30 more than '13) on 127 targets (47 more) for 938 yards (327 more) and three TDs (three fewer).

That pace was good enough to generate WR4 value and use as an occasional flex play in standard leagues. For comparison, his 103 fantasy points were one fewer than Vincent Jackson's (currently ADP WR26) and one more than Andre Johnson's (current ADP WR20). Of course, Jackson and Johnson should go higher than Randle in '15 drafts, because they are established veterans with secure roles and improved quarterback situations, but that doesn't mean Randle is a castoff.

The key is the size of his role in the Giants' offense, which depends entirely on how good Victor Cruz proves to be after recovering from his ruptured patella tendon. I can't seem to get over the idea that his kneecap was up in his thigh 10 months ago, so I'm skeptical about Cruz proving to be an explosive player again.

Randle may not be a star in the making, but if things click, he should have little trouble providing flex value this season.


Stevie Johnson, San Diego Chargers

ADP: undrafted, WR72

Johnson's production fell off the map the past two seasons -- 52-597-3 in '13, 35-435-3 in '14 -- so it's no wonder people are sleeping on him in drafts. It may surprise you that he is just 29 years old, which means he isn't out of gas. His lack of production had to do with some injuries and playing in an extremely run-heavy San Francisco 49ers offense last season.

This season, he is in a pass-friendly system with the Chargers, where he will replace Eddie Royal. In '14, even with the injury-prone Malcom Floyd and aging Antonio Gates playing 16 games and Keenan Allen playing 14 games, Royal saw 91 targets for 62 catches, 778 yards and seven TDs.

Now, the 35-year-old Gates is suspended four games, and Floyd is 34 and entering his final NFL campaign, so Johnson could see a larger role than Royal did, especially if injuries hit those aging vets. Consider Royal's '14 production a realistic target for Johnson, with more upside if things break his way.