Fantasy Football 2021: Sleeper Wide Receivers to Target in Late Rounds

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 9, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Sleeper Wide Receivers to Target in Late Rounds

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The modern NFL is all about the aerial attacks.

    That's most obviously seen in the fact we're living in the golden age of quarterbacks with future Hall of Famers young and old taking snaps across the league. This plethora of impact passers is the reason fantasy football managers are often instructed to not pay a premium at the position.

    It isn't quite the same at the wide receiver spot, where there's a wider gap between the haves and have-nots. But the pool of pass-catchers is still deep enough to provide significant value at the draft if you know where to look.

    Let's get that ball rolling now by identifying three sleepers—with an average draft position (ADP) outside of the top 100, per FantasyPros—at the position.

Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 110.3)

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Laviska Shenault Jr. spent his rookie season making the most of a bad situation. Nearly every position was a mess, as the Jags went 1-15 and made the kind of sweeping changes one might expect after such a disastrous season—new quarterback, new coach, new coaching staff, just about new everything.

    But Shenault produced even in that imperfect situation. He paired 58 receptions with 18 carries to deliver 691 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns.

    Now, imagine what he can do with the offensive upgrades all around him. He should become an early favorite of new quarterback (and No. 1 pick) Trevor Lawrence, as Shenault can do it all. He's a physical receiver with the shake of a slippery running back. He can separate underneath, stretch defenses down the field and make plays out of the backfield.

    "He's one of our best playmakers on offense," new Jags coach Urban Meyer told reporters. "He's a guy that's right, in the right position, at that age gap. I love who he is, I love the way he practices. ... He's a great puzzle piece for us to have on offense."

Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears (ADP: 143.0)

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Darnell Mooney took the fast track to fantasy relevance.

    In 2020, he drew early consideration on the waiver wire as a rookie first-round pick—while catching passes from Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles, no less. By season's end, Mooney had wrapped a quietly impressive campaign by turning his 98 targets into 61 receptions for 631 yards and four scores.

    Now, Mooney is poised to take advantage of the Bears' beefed-up quarterback room. Trubisky is gone, and Foles has fallen to third-string duties behind newcomers Andy Dalton and rookie first-rounder Justin Fields. Mooney, who benefits from the attention opposing defenses must pay to Allen Robinson II, could be on the cusp of a monster breakout.

    "Mooney is on fire with his route running," Bears coach Matt Nagy told reporters. "He's running some routes right now that I really hadn't seen him running. ... He's putting his own spin and stamp on more routes."

Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 178.0)

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    Kevin Sabitus/Associated Press

    Opportunity might second to only talent in terms of helping a sleeper realize his potential.

    Russell Gage already checked the talent box last season. The third-year wideout trounced his previous production levels with 109 targets, 72 receptions, 786 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

    Now, opportunity could be knocking for Gage to get to the next level.

    Atlanta split from longtime target-hog Julio Jones over the offseason, which pushes Gage further up the pecking order at wide receiver. While rookie tight end Kyle Pitts enters the equation, there should still be plenty of Matt Ryan passes up for grabs, as Jones averaged 161.7 targets between 2014 and 2019.