Wide receivers with fantasy value are easier to find these days than movies with superheroes in them.
The NFL is a pass-first league, so there are a lot more 1,000-yard receivers out there than there are 1,000-yard running backs. And while you need to draft running backs and quarterbacks in the early rounds of fantasy football drafts because they are in short supply, you can stockpile receivers in the later rounds and have terrific depth at the position on your roster.
Receivers in fantasy football are like outfielders in fantasy baseball. Both are in ample supply, so there will be plenty of players at the position in the middle to late rounds of fantasy drafts.
Because of this, taking flyers on young receivers who did not knock the socks off of stat nerds last season but have superb potential is an intelligent way to build up your fantasy roster.
So here are three receivers on the rise that you should draft:
Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
The salary-cap strapped Cowboys could not upgrade their receiving corps in the offseason, and Miles Austin and his gimpy hamstrings have limped off the roster. That means the No. 2 wideout spot belongs to Terrance Williams, and that could make him a 1,000-yard man in 2014.
Williams showed flashes of fantasy brilliance during his rookie campaign last year with 44 receptions for 736 yards and five touchdowns, although all five scores came over a six-game stretch in the middle of the season, and he was as quiet as Teller from Penn and Teller over Dallas’ final six contests.
Second-year wide receivers watched their fantasy values take gargantuan jumps last season. Chicago’s Alshon Jeffrey and Arizona’s Michael Floyd are prime examples. Neither did much during their rookie years, but both broke the 1,000-yard barrier as super sophomores in 2013.
This bodes well for Williams as he enters his second season, especially since he was more productive as a rookie than Jeffrey and Floyd were. And Dallas’ offense gives secondary receivers plenty of chances to rack up yards and touchdowns.
The aforementioned Austin and Laurent Robinson had superb seasons in past years with the Cowboys that no one saw coming.
Opposing defenses will be double-teaming Dez Bryant and keying in on Jason Witten when Tony Romo drops back to pass, so Williams should have plenty of one-on-one opportunities when he runs routes. Look for him to take his fantasy value to the next level in 2014.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
Pay no attention to the paltry 45 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns Cordarrelle Patterson put up in his rookie season. Do not bother worrying about which quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater or Matt Cassel, will be the one throwing the passes in Minnesota.
Just draft Patterson, shut up and watch the long-distance touchdowns roll in.
While Patterson was as mediocre as the average Jacksonville Jaguars receiver in 2013, the kid was electrifying on kickoff returns, topping all returners with a 32.4 average that was bolstered by a 109-yard touchdown.
He has quickly become one of the most dangerous returners in the NFL, if the not THE most dangerous.
While Patterson’s playing time was limited until late in the season due to needing extra time to learn the offense (he did not have a game with more than three catches until Week 12), he was targeted more often over the last month and provided decent results with 215 receiving yards and three touchdown catches in the Vikings’ last four contests.
Patterson will not just help fantasy owners with his receiving and his returning, though. His reverses will also come in handy.
Patterson rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns over Minnesota’s final five games last season. Rushing yards for receivers are a hidden gem that can sometimes steal fantasy wins for owners.
Patterson will still experience growing pains in his second season thanks to his lack of seasoning and the possibly subpar people passing to him. But it will be no surprise to see him break out in a big way and have several 50-yard-plus touchdowns during his sophomore season in the NFL.
His speed and size downfield will be virtually impossible to stop once he gets the hang of being a full-time receiver.
Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers
James Jones has moved on to the Oakland Raiders, and the Packers might have to move on from tight end Jermichael Finley. But Aaron Rodgers is still the quarterback, and Mike McCarthy is still the head coach in Green Bay, so that means good things for Jarrett Boykin.
Boykin did an admirable job filling in for the injured Randall Cobb last season, catching 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns. He proved he could start and play full-time and showed he can come up with big grabs whenever Rodgers threw in his direction.
Forget about any talk of Green Bay running the ball more in 2014. McCarthy is a pass-first coach, and Rodgers is not around to hand the ball to Eddie Lacy all the time and to make commercials where he does the Discount Double Check.
Boykin will get targeted several times per week without a doubt.
Jordy Nelson and Cobb are still ahead of Boykin on the pass-play pecking order, though. Boykin will be the third option in the passing attack at the start, but if either Nelson or Cobb get injured than Boykin will become more popular among fantasy owners than Katniss Everdeen is to District 12.
Rodgers’ receivers always get a ton of love in fantasy drafts, so do not assume Boykin will be drafted in the later rounds with the kickers and the team defenses just because he is a No. 3 WR.
Pick him as your fourth receiver on your fantasy roster, but do not be shocked if he becomes a more important factor on your squad as the season wears on.