The 21 WRs To Draft On Underdog Fantasy

May 7th 2024

Hayden Winks

My full rankings are here, updated on May 7th. The WRs in this column are organized by Underdog Fantasy ADP. You can draft today for a chance to win a piece of the $15M prize pool. Click the link below to sign-up with a bonus offering:

Brandon Aiyuk (ADP: 17.9)

The reality is the entire 2nd round is undeserving of their ADPs. Here's where each player finished in fantasy points over replacement per game last year: Garrett Wilson (91st overall), Marvin Harrison Jr. (highest rookie WR ADP of all time), Saquon Barkley (26th overall), Jonathan Taylor (34th overall), Drake London (98th overall), Brandon Aiyuk (28th overall), Davante Adams (33rd overall), Chris Olave (58th overall), Kyren Williams (2nd overall), and De'Von Achane (5th overall)... If you want a WR in Round 2, you are projecting a finish that hasn't happened yet. That's not ideal, but we're all doing it. So who is the best of the worst???

Brandon Aiyuk. He's a consistent model dunker with +14%, +22%, +26%, and +47% fantasy points over expected based on his usage. Aiyuk is an elite downfield player because his route running has improved and he's a fantastic athlete. The 49ers' skill group remains crowded, but if a Deebo trade or just random injuries occur, Aiyuk has the looks of a Round 1 fantasy receiver or at the very least has the looks of a giga spike week receiver. The NFC West offenses look scary and the 49ers' defense isn't as good as it was in their peak, so San Francisco can potentially pass more in 2024 than they have during the Aiyuk era. Volume is the only thing that's held him back so far (WR36 in expected points per game). What if that unexpectedly changes?

Nico Collins (ADP: 24.1)

He's delivered on his developmental, high-upside prospect profile. Collins (6'4"/215 with 4.45 speed) was a top-12 real life receiver last year and was a perfect fit with C.J. Stroud's downfield accuracy and timing. Collins was one of the most efficient receivers in the NFL, leading to a wild +46% fantasy points over expected. He primarily did so by winning deep. His +18% completion percentage over expected on his deep targets were 9th best, and those led to multiple long scores. The Texans will have to throw more to justify adding Stefon Diggs this year, but Collins' 2023 tape and 2023 metrics looked much better than Diggs' and the Texans passed way more down the stretch after they figured out just how could Stroud is. Collins was the per-game WR7 last year and is drafted as the WR15 this time around. I'll buy that, especially in best ball.

DK Metcalf (ADP: 33.7)

New Seahawks OC Ryan Grubb designed my favorite college offense to watch last year. The Washington Huskies were 8th in pass rate and 4th in deep pass rate, plus they threw up 1-on-1s in the end zone. In other words, it was a full send. Geno Smith has the tools to deliver downfield strikes. He's the QB1 overall in completion percentage over expected since 2021 when he took over the starting gig, so we've been this close to a full DK Metcalf breakout. He's finished 38th and 41st overall in fantasy points over replacement in recent seasons, but this should be the most fantasy friendly environment for him of his career. Metcalf will be 26 years old, while downfield competitor Tyler Lockett turns 32.

Tee Higgins (ADP: 44.0)

Last season was a disaster. He missed 5 games and left 3 other games early due to various injuries. When Higgins was on the field, the results weren't the same. A huge part of his dip in efficiency were his downfield targets. In his first three years, Higgins had +1%, +11%, and +15% completion percentage over expected on his targets 15+ yards downfield. That was -15% last year. Joe Burrow wasn't himself on a bad calf and eventually a bad wrist, so I'm willing to call 2023 the outlier. If so, Higgins is a value with unrealized upside. He finished 37th overall in fantasy points over replacement in 2023. What happens if Higgins stays healthy and Ja'Marr Chase is the one dealing with injuries? I'm willing to find out in Round 4.

George Pickens (ADP: 48.9)

The 23-year-old is always talked about as an incomplete player, as if the other guys we draft in this range are well-rounded targets. It's odd to me because this is a very young, ascending high-caliber athlete with 5-star pedigree. Pickens already averaged 67 yards per game and finished as the 57th overall player in fantasy points over replacement per game as a 22-year-old sophomore, too, despite only running half of the available routes on the tree. We've seen similar players (DK Metcalf, Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins, Nico Collins, etc.) make improvements to their game around this time. Equally as important to his ascending profile is his elite fantasy environment heading into 2024. He's upgraded his QB group, play-caller, and offensive line, while also replacing Diontae Johnson (23% targets per route) with Van Jefferson and 3rd-rounder Roman Wilson (23% targets per route as a college senior). Pickens' downfield skillset is ideal for deep-target, play-action offense like OC Arthur Smith's, especially in best ball. He'll need more quick-hitting routes to truly arrive, but Pickens could be a top-12 fantasy receiver this year in similar ways to what we just saw with D.J. Moore in the Bears' talentless target void.

Amari Cooper (ADP: 53.2)

Cooper is priced as if we know Deshaun Watson is going to be awful. Is that likely? Sure, but there is room for a minor bounce back that isn't being priced in. Cooper has finished 27th and 33rd overall in fantasy points over replacement per game in unideal circumstances, and we've seen the Browns flip their offensive identity with Nick Chubb exiting his prime. In fact, if we remove the 4 weeks where the Browns had P.J. Walker or Dorian Thompson-Robinson as their QBs, the Browns had the 4th-highest neutral pass rate in the NFL last year. Cooper averaged 14.9 half PPR points in those 11 non-CFL QB games, which would've made him the WR10 per game last year. He's drafted as the WR30 on Underdog Fantasy. Amari will be 23 years old this season, of course.

Christian Kirk (ADP: 55.4)

He finished as the 34th overall player in fantasy points over replacement per game in 2022 as the Jaguars' lead receiver. We'll see if Brian Thomas immediately takes over as the top target as a rookie -- It's definitely possible. He's nice nice -- but if not, Kirk is looking prime for a bounce back season in terms of volume. He's been very efficient for his last three years (+19%, +10%, and +23% in fantasy points over expected) and remains in the prime of his career as a 27-year-old. All we need is better injury luck and for Trevor Lawrence to take his wildly anticipated leap into the top-8 QB conversation. The 25-year-old QB at least found upgrades at C (Mitch Morse) and LG (Ezra Cleveland) in recent months.

Marquise Brown (ADP: 63.4)

Let's try to put numbers to how different the 2024 Chiefs and 2023 Cardinals are. Brown had a career-low 15% fantasy points over expected last year while trying to catch downfield passes from Josh Dobbs and the boys. He only caught 8-of-31 deep targets for a -17% completion percentage over expected. That was 83rd out of 88 qualifiers. Yikes. Drops were a clear issue, but some of that was due to inaccuracies, a problem thwarted by playing with Patrick Mahomes. Since 2020, Mahomes is at +4% on his downfield throws. A normalization in his long completions will also lead to more TD opportunities during his age-27 contract year... On top of this, I want to short Rashee Rice, who I think is solid as an underneath option but is not nearly as good as what his rookie stats would indicate. Rice dominated because there were no other receivers who could get open, ever. He's not a first read guy, nor a downfield guy, nor a good guy. He's been in trouble twice this offseason and is lucky he didn't cause multiple fatalities. This is all after being off teams' boards for character issues at SMU. I'm expecting 4-8 games lost due to suspension given the extent of Texas law and the fact that there are 8 felony charges.

Brian Thomas Jr. (ADP: 73.4)

I can't believe people are concerned with Thomas' freshman year stats when we just watched him put up 91 yards and 1.3 TDs per game as a 20-year-old true junior against SEC competition. Thomas has the traits of a Pro Bowl deep threat (6'3"/209 with 4.33 speed), and Trevor Lawrence has the unrealized skills to give him the volume he needs. Watch our entire video on Thomas below. Just make sure to ignore Josh's thoughts on him:

Ladd McConkey (ADP: 73.8)

Justin Herbert's clear-cut top receiver isn't a 5th-rounder yet. One day, he will be. I was very high on McConkey's skills pre-draft. The landing spot makes a ton of sense, too.

Keon Coleman (ADP: 77.3)

It does make me nervous that Coleman is going to play a lot of outside receiver on the Bills because he's not fast enough to consistently win downfield, but Buffalo is desperate for WR talent and Josh Allen is willing to throw contested targets, especially on broken plays. Coleman has to be a full-time player with primary slot options Curtis Samuel and Khalil Shakir as his running mates, and Gabe Davis has been a boom-bust WR3/4 while not being a separator in this exact offense... with prime Stefon Diggs! There's a chance Coleman looks better in a more pro-styled offense, as the Florida State offense would often throw up prayers to Coleman that had no business being thrown. We had a great debate on Coleman's college film here:

Courtland Sutton (ADP: 107.7)

Only Ja'Lynn Polk (who we will get to below) is drafted later as their team's top pass catcher. Sutton is undeniably good at football, too, and there's seriously nobody around competing for targets, with Jerry Jeudy being replaced by a combination of Marvin Mims, Tim Patrick, Josh Reynolds, and Troy Franklin. Sutton was all boom-bust last year because Russell Wilson can't play in the quick game, but he could be more consistent this season with a quick-hitting (very productive and efficient) quarterback. Sutton was the WR21 on WR43 usage last year, yet is drafted as the WR51 right now going into his age-29 season. He's the perfect one-off receiver who will not be dragged up in ADP for stacking purposes. Sutton is just a nice slight win in the middle rounds.

Romeo Doubs (ADP: 115.4)

Matt LaFleur would be my 4th-best coach if I were doing rankings. He managed a ridiculously young offense last year and developed Jordan Love behind the scenes. Love was 2nd in EPA per play from Week 12 through the playoffs once the Packers figured out the roles and timing of their offense. Doubs is a key part of the operation, as he easily out-snapped everyone as the isolated receiver. He has the size and physicality of a classic X receiver, so his paths to snaps are clear. In the 9 post-bye games with a healthy Christian Watson, here were the expected half PPR points per game: Doubs (7.9), Watson (7.4), Jayden Reed (6.5), and Dontayvion Wicks (4.4). Those mirrored the routes run during the Packers' two NFL Playoffs games: Doubs (23), Reed (18), Watson (14), Wicks (14), Melton (7). Just don't expect any consistency in this rotation. Doubs at least has the "better in best ball" profile as a downfield and red zone threat.

Rashid Shaheed (ADP: 128.8)

The Saints had the worst coaching staff in the NFL last year, so it's good to see new OC Klint Kubiak now calling plays. He was the San Francisco pass-game coordinator last year, obviously coming from the Shanahan/Kubiak tree. Shaheed hasn't graduated into 2-WR sets yet because he's so skinny, but there's a chance he does this year with a new regime and without Michael Thomas around. As pointed out on ADP Chasing, there's potential for Shaheed to be the at-snap motion man in this offense. The 49ers used it the most in the NFL last year. The Saints, dead last. A modern approach to offense could be what sends Shaheed to the spike-week moon. On tape, he's a legit player capable of stopping on a dime while running breaking routes. He finished with +30% fantasy points over expected last year for a reason.

Brandin Cooks (ADP: 137.1)

Touting 31-year-olds is never a great look, but Cooks is still fine! He's finished with +21%, +13%, +1%, and +21% fantasy points over expected and nothing has changed from last year, except Michael Gallup is gone and the OL might be a little worse. Cooks was the 85th overall player in best ball points in his first year with Dak Prescott and pass-heavy Mike McCarthy. In fact, the Cowboys were 5th in neutral pass rate. His primary competition for WR targets behind CeeDee Lamb is Jalen Tolbert (career 0.8 yards per route).

Darnell Mooney (ADP: 153.3)

Just watch the video:

Ja'Lynn Polk (ADP: 154.2)

The 2nd-rounder should pace the Patriots in snaps and targets as a rookie because he has a do-everything profile with inside-outside versatility. Polk ran a lot of downfield routes in the Huskies' aerial offense (13.8 aDOT) but has flashed the dirty work profile of a classic snap-eating receiver. In fact, Josh Norris comped him to Robert Woods in the video below. It's exactly what the Patriots needed in year one of their offensive rebuild: a high-floor prospect to give Drake Maye a reliable option behind a bad OL. Polk is the latest an NFL team's top WR or TE is drafted in best. It's not close either (31st: Broncos at 107th overall).

Roman Wilson (ADP: 158.3)

He profiles as a slot player in 3-WR sets, but Wilson did play in 2-WR sets at Michigan because he has the 4.39 speed to win on deep crossing routes off of play-action. That's exactly what he'll be asked to do in the Steelers' under-center play-action offense. Wilson's primary competition for snaps all signed contracts with $0 to $167k in guaranteed money (Van Jefferson, Quez Watkins, Denzel Mims, Marquez Callaway). It's really just him versus manufactured touch slot Calvin Austin. Wilson is just way better than him.

Jermaine Burton (ADP: 162.9)

Tee Higgins has very low odds of being traded, but Burton has the skills to be a presence as the third target in the offense. With better maturity, Burton likely goes top-40 overall and the Bengals' support staff and locker room are a nice match to keep him on track. He's a solid deep threat receiver in terms of speed, ball-tracking, and hands. There were also times where his breaking routes and physicality in yards after catch situations had me dreaming of an underrated full-route tree upside. I'm willing to eff around and find out on this profile attached to Joe Burrow. Just watch some of these reps in our video below:

Demarcus Robinson (ADP: 200.6)

He is still not being drafted every time, but D-Rob looks to have a pretty locked-in role as the second outside receiver after re-signing this offseason (1-year, $4M). Robinson put up 1.8, 13.5, 12.1, 13.7, 17.2, 12.2, and 5.9 half PPR points in his starts, often playing 85% or more snaps. There's enough production (52 yards per game) to warrant an 18th round selection even in this role, but there is dual contingent upside if Puka Nacua or Cooper Kupp miss time. The blocks and big hits over the middle these two take give them more injury risk than most receivers.

Darius Slayton (ADP: 214.0)

The upside is relatively low, but Slayton has an $8.1M cap hit and has the ability to play X receiver, where Z/slot Jalin Hyatt and slot-only Wan'Dale Robinson can't play. The offense will revolve around moving Malik Nabers around the field, but Slayton will see some downfield opportunities. It's a bonus that Slayton is largely undrafted with two-straight years of nice efficiency. He had +20% and +40% fantasy points over expected despite playing in unwatchable offenses.