Identifying early breakouts at the wide receiver position is among the most important pieces of information available for devy owners. Prospects that produce at a high level at a young age are better bets to succeed in the NFL, period. But at the risk of telling you what you probably already know — that you should be targeting the likes of Rondale Moore, Jalen Reagor, and Tylan Wallace in your devy leagues — I decided to dig a bit deeper.
So today I’m going to highlight a trio of WRs, outside the top-100 in average draft position according to Devy Watch, that excelled during the 2018 season at a relatively young age. To qualify, WRs must cross the 0.30 Dominator Rating threshold1, recently confirmed by Blair Andrews as one of the strongest indicators future PPR scoring, prior to turning 20 years old. All ages were calculated as of December 31, 2018.
Note: I was unable to find ages for Lynn Bowden Jr. and Damonte Coxie but wanted to mention them as they are potential inclusions on this list after hitting the desired 0.30 Dominator Rating threshold last season as sophomores.
Jayden Reed, Michigan State
As one of just two freshman WRs2 with at least 50 receptions, 700 yards receiving, and 8 receiving touchdowns in 2018, Reed had a remarkable true freshman season at Western Michigan. He also tacked on a punt return TD and ranked 7th in passer rating when targeted among 26 true freshman WRs with a minimum of 33 targets per Pro Football Focus. His recent decision to transfer to Michigan State however, does present a few problems.
We know that draft age matters for WRs, so if Reed is forced to sit out this season, increasing his eventual draft age, it could affect his long-term potential. When he does become eligible, he’ll be in an offense not known as a pass-friendly scheme run in recent years3 facing a massive jump in level of competition in the Big Ten. It’s clear that Reed is far from a sure thing. But his depressed ADP coupled with an elite breakout age still make him one of my favorite devy targets.
Justin Jefferson, LSU
The fantasy community generally takes note of an SEC WR commanding 30% or more of his team’s receiving production prior to turning 20 years old. But that hasn’t really been the case with Jefferson. His lack of recruiting pedigree compared to the other WRs on the Tigers’ roster might play a part, but he was clearly QB Joe Burrow’s favorite target last season.
The addition off new assistant coach Joe Brady, a disciple of current Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead, signals a potential shift to a more modern offensive philosophy. How this will affect Jefferson’s opportunity share is yet to be seen. And while his shockingly-poor athletic testing results from high school are a bit troubling, it’s important to remember that historically speaking, production, not athleticism, has been the stronger indicator of future success for WR prospects. If Jefferson continues to dominate, his value is sure to rise. Now’s the time to get in on the ground floor.
Andre Williams, Akron
Williams saw limited action as a freshman in 2017 but finished his sophomore campaign with a 46-649-6 receiving line. His raw stats might not immediately catch your eye. But with Akron QBs completing just 50% of their pass attempts last season, Williams’ production becomes magnified. I do still have concerns about Williams ever becoming a reliable fantasy asset. This is largely due to his potential lack of draft capital. Playing in the MAC against a lower level of competition puts him at a disadvantage. But the good news is it won’t cost much to find out. Williams makes for an interesting stash in deeper leagues for owners looking for low-risk options that could pay off big.
Image Credit: Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Justin Jefferson
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