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Late-Round Fantasy Football Draft Picks Who Will Outperform ADP

K.J. Osborn fantasy football rankings waiver wire pickups

Want a leg up on your competition this season? What better way than to crush those late rounds in your fantasy football draft?

It's important to get those early-round picks right. Those guys will be the cornerstones of your lineup. But these late-round gems can offer incredible upside at a fraction of the cost and could help you make that playoff push.

Here are four late-round players who will outperform their average draft position (ADP) in 2022.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

K.J. Osborn, Minnesota Vikings

ADP: WR66, Overall 146

You might have heard by now that the Minnesota Vikings picked up a new head coach for the 2022 season. That would be former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell. So what does that have to do with K.J. Osborn, the perceived WR3 for this Vikings offense?

Well, O'Connell loved 3WR sets in Los Angeles. In fact, he ran 3WR sets the most of any team in the NFL, and by a large margin.

He ran so many 3WR sets that Van Jefferson had an 81.1% snap share (30th), ran 30.4 routes per game (16th), and had route participation of 85.3% (36th) (per PlayerProfiler). Most teams' WR3s don't see the field nearly as often. For comparison, Osborn only had a snap share of 67.6% (70th), ran 27.8 routes per game (31st), and had route participation of 78.1% (61st).

Additionally, heading into his third season, it's possible the 25-year-old takes another drastic step forward in his development. Adam Thielen, while very productive a season ago, is heading into his age-32 season. His 10 touchdowns in 13 games were incredible, but his target share of just 21% is a far cry from the 26 and 27% rates he saw in 2017 and 2018.

And did you know, when Thielen missed (or played minimally) from Week 13 on last season, Osborn was the WR28 with 13 fantasy points per game? So not only should the third-year Vikings receiver not named Justin Jefferson get more opportunities this season as the WR3, but he also has major upside should he step into the WR2 role in 2022.

 

Zay Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars

ADP: WR104, Overall 208

Christian Kirk was the flashy free agent signing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, getting a four-year, $72 million deal with $37 million guaranteed. The big contract was met with question marks, but Kirk is certainly no slouch at the wide receiver position.

But there was another wide receiver acquisition this offseason. A much lesser known guy, former Buffalo Bills and Las Vegas Raiders wideout Zay Jones. Jones was gifted a three-year, $24 million contract with $14 million guaranteed after his impressive performance down the stretch during the 2021 season. $14 million guaranteed isn't $37 million guaranteed, but it's an amount that certainly shouldn't be ignored.

And so far in training camp, Zay Jones has flashed as the designated X receiver:

Recall, Jones saw 102 targets in his second season in Buffalo. He put up 652 yards and seven touchdowns that season, good for a middling WR4 finish in fantasy football. And last season after Darren Waller went down in Week 12, Jones was called upon once again as a top receiving option for Derek Carr in Las Vegas.

During that late-season stretch, Jones averaged 7.7 targets on 31.9 routes run. He also averaged 97.7 air yards per game. Trevor Lawrence was eighth in total air yards his rookie season, averaging 275.4 air yards per game (metrics per PlayerProfiler).

All that to say, Jones' skill set aligns well with what Lawrence does very well, which is throw the deep ball. As long as he's on the field a majority of the snaps, there are $14 million reasons to believe he'll be thrown the football in Jacksonville.

This is a new coaching staff with a relatively ambiguous receiver corps made up of new faces (Kirk, Evan Engram, and Zay Jones), so we want exposure at the cheapest possible cost - and that's via Zay Jones. And Jags beat writers have confirmed he's being peppered with balls from Lawrence in training camp:

 

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

ADP: TE19, Overall 160

There are so many reasons to like Njoku in 2022, but let's start with the two most obvious. First, the Browns let Austin Hooper walk in free agency. Second, they subsequently gave DJ a massive four-year, $54.8 million extension with $28 million guaranteed. As of this article, he's the fifth-highest paid tight end in the league after George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Dallas Goedert, and Mark Andrews. Impressive company.

Now, let's talk about this season in Cleveland. Deshaun Watson has been suspended for six games, so we'll see a combination of Jacoby Brissett and Watson in 2022. To do that, let's look at Njoku's opportunity last season in the one game Hooper didn't play. In that game, Njoku played on 100% of the snaps and ran 29 routes (per PlayerProfiler). That may not seem like a ton, but when compared to his average of 17.3 routes run on the season, it's a big difference.

The last time Njoku ran anywhere near 29 routes per game was back in 2018 when he ran 25.4 per game. That season, he was top-10 at the tight end position in both snap share (84.3%) and route participation (70.8%) (per PlayerProfiler). He averaged nearly six targets per game and finished the season as a low-end TE1. He did that with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. Njoku was second on the team in targets after Jarvis Landry, who saw 149 that season.

Fast forward to this season, where Amari Cooper is the perceived top target in the offense. In 2018, Landry commanded a 26.4% target share and a 28.2% targets per route run (TPRR) rate. Last season, Cooper commanded just an 18.8% target share and had a 22.6% TPRR. After Cooper, Njoku will be competing with Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Bell, and Anthony Schwartz for targets.

Even with Harrison Bryant looming in the TE2 role for the Browns, it's easy to see a path for Njoku to be the second-highest target earner on this team. Add in the guaranteed money, and you better believe he'll be involved early and often on a team that loves to involve their tight ends. In fact, the Browns targeted tight ends 142 times in 2021, good for sixth-most in the NFL.

Don't forget about Njoku's 97th percentile burst score. This guy has the ability to take a screen pass to the house on any given play:

 

Wan'Dale Robinson, New York Giants

ADP: WR82, Overall 176

Robinson dominated at Kentucky in 2021, catching 104 balls for 1,334 yards and seven touchdowns. He was so good, that Brian Daboll and the new Giants coaching regime decided to spend an early second-rounder on the guy in the 2022 NFL Draft. And so far in training camp, it sounds like Wan'Dale has star potential:

But teams and coaches talk about a lot of guys in training camp, so what makes Robinson any different than the next guy? Well, he's almost certainly going to be the starting slot receiver for the Giants, and he could also double as a gadget guy that lines up in the backfield alongside Saquon Barkley. Either way, it's likely he's on the field a good amount in his rookie season.

With Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay operating on the outside, Robinson figures to line up in the slot to start the season with Sterling Shepard recovering from a torn Achilles in December of last year. You'll recall Shepard was peppered with targets early in the season prior to dealing with nagging injuries. In Weeks 1 and 2, he averaged 9.5 targets on 35.5 routes run (per PlayerProfiler). That was good for a 26.7% TPRR and a 28.5% target share.

Not too shabby for the Giants' slot man, which is more than likely going to be Wan'Dale Robinson this season. And another thing that's going in the rookie's favor is that veteran wideout Kenny Golladay seems to be struggling a bit in training camp.

With Daboll as the head coach, this Giants team could put up a bunch of points this season playing at a much faster tempo than the last couple of seasons under Joe Judge and Jason Garrett. Last season, the Bills averaged 66.3 plays per game while the Giants averaged just 61.8 plays per game. The Bills passed 37.7 times per game, while the Giants passed 34.9 times per game. The tempo mixed with the increase in pass attempts should benefit the rookie slot receiver in 2022.

With Shepard having no clear timeline for his return to play, Wan'Dale Robinson looks to be the biggest beneficiary and is making the most of his opportunity thus far in training camp. You'll want him on your fantasy football rosters this season.



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