Elite wide receivers like Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas get plenty of attention from Fantasy owners and defensive coordinators alike. These top-level talents change the way the game is played by their mere presence on the field. But when opposing defenses are busy double-covering these threats, coverage loosens on the WRs across the field, allowing these second-fiddle receivers to put up some impressive numbers. Number two WRs who play alongside stars often end up being some of the best value picks in Fantasy drafts. Here are some players poised to fill that type of role in the 2014 season.
Cardinals WR Michael Floyd
Floyd, FFToolbox’s 2014 Breakout Player, is trying to repeat on an excellent 2013. Last year Floyd very quietly caught 65 balls for 1,041 yards. The 6-foot-2 third year WR lines up opposite Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald, and should draw No. 2 cornerbacks throughout the season. To find out more about Floyd, check out this piece where we highlight his huge upside. He is already on the brink of something special.
Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins
It looks like the Texans have finally landed a solid complement to stud Texans WR Andre Johnson. In a very solid rookie year, Hopkins posted 52 receptions for 802 yards. He’ll get to face the porous defenses of the AFC South again in six games this year, with Johnson taking the top-level coverage. Hopkins is a value at his current ADP (84.30), and he is the 36th WR taken in drafts.
Lions WR Golden Tate
Tate has improved in catches and yardage in each of his four NFL seasons, peaking last year with 64 catches for 898 yards. After a move to the Detroit this offseason, Tate joins Lions WR Calvin Johnson. The former Notre Dame pass-catcher will seek to capitalize on weak coverage as opposing defenses stack Johnson’s side of the field. He’ll try to become the first Lions WR to top 800 yards alongside Johnson since former Lions WR Roy Williams did it in 2007.
Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders
This one’s a bit of a cheat, since Sanders is technically the WR3 in the Broncos offense, behind Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Broncos WR Wes Welker. If you throw in Broncos TE Julius Thomas, Sanders might be the fourth option in this passing attack. But we saw last year that Broncos QB Peyton Manning gives everyone in this offense Fantasy value. Sanders is talented, and with Welker’s injury history, he may end up as the Broncos WR2 at some point during the season. Snap him up at his current ADP of 35th receiver.
Steelers WR Markus Wheaton
Wheaton, 5-foot-8 with 4.4 speed, is built in the same mold as Steelers WR Antonio Brown. He was buried on the depth chart last season behind the aforementioned Sanders and former Steelers WR Jerricho Cotchery. But this year, it looks like Wheaton will be the Steelers WR2. Brown is an elite talent who draws primary coverage, and that will create opportunities for Wheaton to capitalize on his natural speed and quickness. He’s not a slam-dunk pick, but Wheaton has plenty of potential in his new role.
Bengals WR Marvin Jones
Jones was the 22nd WR in Fantasy points in 2013. This season, he’s being drafted as the 51st. As Jones heads into his third season, he holds tremendous value in drafts. Although pass-happy offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has left Cincinnati to coach the Redskins, Jones is still the second wideout in a passing attack that includes Bengals WR A.J. Green, who sees the bulk of attention from opposing defenses. Jones should continue to benefit from favorable coverage, and could end the year as a solid WR2 for Fantasy owners.
Cowboys WR Terrance Williams
For a short stretch last season, Williams looked ready to emerge as an elite deep-threat alongside Cowboys WR Dez Bryant. Williams faded down the stretch. But this year, he’s ready to follow up on his promising rookie season in an offense lead by Scott Linehan, who has transformed passing attacks for the Vikings and Lions in previous seasons. The second year WR is currently being taken as the 33rd receiver in drafts, but he has upside to be far better than that.
Buccaneers WR Mike Evans
Traditionally, rookie WRs struggle in their first NFL season, as they adapt to stingier coverage and more complicated offensive schemes. Evans will look to break that rule in his first year at Tampa Bay. Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson has developed into one of the top WRs in the NFL, and figures to attract most of the attention of opposing defensive coordinators. That could create an opportunity for 6-foot-5 rookie Evans to explode onto the scene. (Editor's note: We consider Bills WR Sammy Watkins to be the No. 1 receiver on the depth chart so he technically does not fit the premise of this article.)
Dolphins WR Brian Hartline
It’s a stretch to call Dolphins WR Mike Wallace an elite threat, but his speed forces defensive backs to play deeper than usual. That will open up space underneath for Hartline. Coming off a 1,000-yard season, Hartline is still not being embraced by Fantasy owners as evidenced by his ADP of 67th WR. At that spot, Hartline is a great value pick as a WR3 with upside.
Giants WR Rueben Randle
Randle had a chance last year to take over the WR2 spot for the Giants, but he couldn’t quite get it done. This year, with Colts WR Hakeem Nicks gone from the team, Randle will get another shot. With Giants WR Victor Cruz able to stretch defensive coverage, Randle will see plenty of balls thrown his way in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new West Coast offense.