Fantasy owners are always looking for the next big thing. Whether it be finding undervalued gems through Fantasy Football Rankings or scouting up and coming rookies, it’s good to remember some of the more established players can be had at a discount on draft day. Whether coming off an injury-plagued season, a down year statistically, or simply suffering from a lack of recognition among most fantasy participants, one of the best things about these players is that they can round out your starting lineups and pad your bench depth after you use earlier picks to address other needs. Going into 2014, the following veteran receivers have the potential to out-produce their average draft position, making them nice value picks at your draft.
After six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons during which he averaged better than eight touchdowns per year, White suffered through an injury-plagued 2013. Ankle and hamstring issues caused him to miss the first games of his nine-year career and limited him through a number of additional contests in which he played at less than 100%. But once he was able to get healthy at the end of November, White played at an elite level during the final month of the season. In five December games, White averaged 8.6 receptions for 100.4 yards, finding the endzone twice over that period. Those were WR1 numbers down the stretch, which is what White has produced throughout much of his NFL career. Recent ADP data indicates White is being drafted as a low-end WR2 or even a WR3, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that he can outperform those expectations as the Atlanta offense gets back to business as usual following one bad year.
New Orleans Saints
Colston is another receiver that battled injuries during the first half of 2013. But after sitting out Week 9 to rest his balky knee, the eight-year veteran caught 48 passes for 601 yards and four touchdowns over the Saints’ last eight regular-season games. Colston also finished the year on a high note with an 11-catch, 144-yard performance in the playoffs against the Seahawks. During his strong second half, Colston was a top-15 fantasy wide receiver and ended up in the top-25 at his position for the season. However, he seems to be barely registering as a WR3 for fantasy owners at this point in drafts or mocks. Colston has a good chance to match last season’s totals in 2014, if not exceed them, especially with Lance Moore and Darren Sproles leaving New Orleans during the offseason, which frees up 108 catches, 1,061 yards, and four receiving touchdowns. Jimmy Graham is the number-one option in the Saints passing game, but as the top wide out in one of the more explosive offenses in the league, Colston can easily outperform his current draft position.
New England Patriots
In Week 1 of last season, Amendola caught 10 passes for 104 yards in his Patriots debut. Unfortunately, he also tore the adductor longus tendon in his groin during that game. He only missed four games on the season, but played through significant pain during most of the remaining games in which he was active. Coming off a disappointing year, it might be difficult for fantasy owners to trust the injury-prone receiver, but New England did little to upgrade the wide receiver position in the offseason and the team is intenton using more three-receiver sets in 2014. That should afford Amendola a great deal of opportunity if he can stay healthy, and he has been a dynamic player when not missing time or otherwise being hobbled by injuries. As a fourth-round fantasy pick a year ago, it was difficult to take a chance on him, but Amendola is barely being drafted as a top-50 receiver at this point and he still offers a lot of upside potential in the middle rounds.
Jennings got off to a slow start in his first year with the Vikings and battled knee and Achilles issues during the middle of the season. However, in five December games, the eight-year veteran caught 32 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns, with a quarterback change from Christian Ponder to Matt Cassel paying major dividends for Jennings down the stretch. He was a top-20 fantasy receiver over the last five weeks of 2013, and with Cassel or first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater expected to open 2014 as Minnesota’s signal caller (not to mention the addition of Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner), the Vikings passing game is likely to get off to a faster start this season. Jennings isn’t as sexy a fantasy pick as teammate Cordarrelle Patterson and his upside potential might be somewhat limited, but the veteran can be useful as a low-end WR3 or flex play. Based on a current ADP in the 12th-to-15th round, there is plenty of value to be had with that kind of return on investment.
Everyone remembers Percy Harvin’s kick return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. But do you also remember that Baldwin led the Seahawks in receiving yards in each of the team’s three playoff wins, including a six-catch, 106-yard game against San Francisco and five catches for 66 yards and a touchdown versus the Broncos? Everyone knows that Golden Tate had a breakout season in 2013 that earned him a five-year, $31-million contract from Detroit in the offseason. But did you realize Baldwin averaged less than one catch and 8 receiving yards per game below what Tate did a year ago, and that they both had five receiving touchdowns? Baldwin isn’t an elite receiver and he doesn’t play in a dynamic passing offense, but he’s coming off a productive season and will be shifting in 2014 to the “X” position that Tate occupied last year. He’s at least a decent bye-week fill-in, and if Harvin were to suffer another injury (he’s missed 22 games the last two seasons), Baldwin would become a lot more interesting. With an ADP near the end of most drafts, he could offer some very cheap value.