In the latest in our series looking at players lodged behind a more established starter on their depth chart heading into 2019, we come to the wide receiver spot. With the proliferation of more and more multiple wide receiver sets, it is hard to really class any at that spot as a backup. It is perhaps because of this that not as many of our writers were willing to champion the cause of too many, as opposed to the number who fiercely defended running backs further down their rosters.
However, that does not mean these players deserve less of the attention. With that in mind, here they are.
Chester Rogers – Shawn Siegele
I floated Chester Rogers as a potential fourth-year breakout candidate in my breakdown of the 4th-Year Breakout WR profile. Here were two of the key takeaways:
- Of the 21 breakouts, nine of them were drafted outside the first 190 picks. Those players were no slouches going forward either. Six of them notched at least one more 200-point season.
- The late-round breakouts easily outnumbered early selections. We have only five first-rounders in this group, and they also underperformed going forward. Only Reggie Wayne and Michael Crabtree managed another 200-point season.
We know from Blair’s excellent work in the Wrong Read that late-round and undrafted WRs who stick on NFL rosters are better mid-career breakout candidates than their early-drafted brethren who’ve already been given ample opportunity.
This is especially relevant as we examine the looming snap battle between Devin Funchess, Chester Rogers, and Parris Campbell. Funchess is trying to reinvent himself after busting in Carolina. Campbell is a rookie. Meanwhile, Rogers has steadily built on his fantasy numbers, culminating in 113 points a year ago. Those aren’t gaudy numbers, of course. But they were seventh-best among third-year WRs a season ago. Among receivers yet to officially break out, only Sterling Shepard and Rashard Higgins scored more.
It’s not a great sign for Rogers that the Colts went out and acquired Funchess and Campbell. But Rogers earned rave reviews for his offseason progress, and he could be the Guy Behind the Guy if the free agent or the rookie falters.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside – Hasan Rahim
Here’s a fun little slice of NFL Draft history – Amari Cooper was almost an Eagle. The Eagles offered one of their two second-round picks for Cooper. But they were unable to beat the Cowboys’ offer. Seeing as how the Eagles were willing to part ways with a second-rounder in order to upgrade their receiving corps, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that they drafted a WR.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside lands on a crowded depth chart. As a result, his redraft ADP has been depressed. Reports from earlier in the offseason indicate that Arcega-Whiteside could potentially see extended run this season. Provided he’s able to have a strong camp, of course.
Given Arcega-Whiteside’s strong prospect profile, it’s quite likely that he winds up pushing Nelson Agholor in training camp. Arcega-Whiteside broke out at 20-years old. His production profile jumps out when we look at Travis May’s Adjusted Production Index.
Looking at the RotoViz Box Score Scout, we can see that his list of comparable players is quite impressive.
It’s quite possible that the Eagles opt to expand Dallas Goedert’s role in the offense. This further squeezes out the possibility of Arcega-Whiteside’s playing time. However, Arcega-Whiteside’s current redraft ADP accurately reflects his projected rookie year opportunity. If Agholor gets traded in season or any of the other Eagles’ starting receivers miss time with injury, we could see Arcega-Whiteside emerge as a strong weekly fantasy option.
Robert Foster – Kate Magdziuk
While everyone is hopping aboard the John Brown hype train, I’m holding out hope for Robert Foster, 2018 UDFA out of Alabama. So far in training camp, Foster has been working with the second-team offense. But Foster was far too efficient and showed too many flashes last season to keep off the field for long.
The Buffalo Bills made two low-key wide receiver acquisitions this off-season that should significantly help along with the development of their sophomore quarterback: John Brown and Cole Beasley. Word so far is that they’ve meshed in camp. Zay Jones has looked the part to solidify his role as the WR3, leaving Foster with some work if he plans to crack the starting lineup.
Robert Foster exploded onto the scene in Week 10 after totaling just two receptions in all weeks prior. His offensive snap percentage trended up mid-season. With that, we saw production. From Week 10 onward, Foster ranked third in yards per route run among WRs with at least 20 targets. His 16-game pace jumped to 80 targets, 57 receptions for 1,168 yards and seven touchdowns. He ranked fourth in fantasy points per touch of those who played at least 20% of offensive snaps.
It was zero to hero for Foster, and his massive impact was not isolated to just your fantasy teams – he truly made a difference for Josh Allen.
His quarterback averaged less than 6.0 adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) to all receivers other than Foster. When targeting Foster, his AYA jumped to double digits. Foster raised Allen’s floor while helping him find his ceiling.
Foster has quickly gone from a 14th-round pick to undrafted and completely forgotten. There’s plenty of room for regression when it comes to Foster’s metrics in 2018. But he’s shown us his upside. He’s shown rapport with his quarterback, and we’ve drafted players much higher for much less.