By: Andrew Metcalfe (@drewmet_ff)
It’s fun to react to all of the Fantasy studs that got off to a hot start in 2021, but I’m ALWAYS wearing my Dynasty glasses and looking for under-the-radar guys that could have unrealized upside. Breakouts often occur when a player gets injured and the “next man up” is thrust into a bigger role. Here are three young receivers that are currently facing that exact situation. Each has found themselves higher on the depth chart this week than last. With the boost in opportunity, they will attempt to establish themselves as starters for 2021 and beyond.
Detroit came into the season with the league’s most ambiguous wide receiver corps. The average fantasy manager probably couldn’t name more than two guys on their wideout depth chart. Quintez Cephus is a 2020 sixth-round pick out of Wisconsin who beat out Breshad Perriman for the fourth wideout spot on the Lions’ roster. He had a bizarre rookie season that began with him seeing ten targets in Week 1, but no more than three in any other game throughout 2020. We have a VERY small sample size of only 20 receptions during his rookie season, but he flashed big-play ability with an impressive 17.45 yards per reception.
In Week 1 of this season, leading receiver Tyrell Williams was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the third quarter and Cephus stepped right into his role. He earned six targets while playing just under 60-percent of snaps, which was two more than Kalif Raymond who is the assumed number two receiver. The Lions have been pessimistic all week about the chances of Williams suiting up in Week 2, which is a sign that the concussion is more than mild. The Cephus breakout might be put on hold, as Detroit faces the Green Bay Packers and he could draw the attention of shut-down corner Jaire Alexander. He is going to see plenty of opportunities while Williams is out, we will see if he can earn a permanent role in the offense.
The Denver Broncos have invested heavily in their offensive weapons over the last two drafts and each player has shown high potential. 2020 first-round pick Jerry Jeudy got his sophomore campaign off to a fine start in Week 1, compiling six receptions for 72 yards in the first half before exiting the game due to a high ankle sprain. Tim Patrick played nearly double the snaps of K.J. Hamler, yet they came out with the same number of targets (4). In the third quarter, Hamler dropped a 50-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater in the endzone that would have been an easy touchdown. We would be hearing a lot more excitement around him if he made that catch.
It remains to be seen how the Broncos will arrange their wideouts without Jeudy, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Hamler profiles best to replace Jeudy’s slot receiver role, which is where Bridgewater looked the most in his Denver debut. With 4.32 40-yard dash speed, he’s a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick are both in contract years, so Hamler has a clear path to eventually rise up this depth chart if he can prove himself during Jeudy’s absence.
Donovan Peoples-Jones was the talk of Brown’s off-season camp, but when Odell Beckham Jr. missed the Week 1 opener, it was rookie Anthony Schwartz that tied with Jarvis Landry and David Njoku for the team lead in targets (5). Schwartz was a college track star who ran a 4.25 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Without Odell on the field, he was Baker Mayfield’s favorite downfield target.
Beckham has been ruled out for Week 2, paving the way for Schwartz to get another opportunity to play a prominent role on the offense. If he continues to show a strong rapport with Mayfield, it will force the Browns to re-consider their $30 million commitment to Beckham over the next two years. Facing a subpar (to put it kindly) Houston Texans defense on Sunday, the speedy receiver has a good chance to break free for a big play or two to send his dynasty value soaring upward.