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Mid-To-Late Round Receivers Fantasy Football Managers Should Know - Part I

Jacob Cowing - CFB DFS Lineup Picks, Daily Fantasy College Football, NFL Draft Rookie - icon rotoballer

We know about Marvin Harrison Jr., Rome Odunze, and Malik Nabers. There isn’t any question about who those top three receivers are. Even guys like BrIan Thomas Jr., Troy Franklin, Keon Coleman, and Adonai Mitchell fantasy football managers know all about. Their accomplishments and statistics are all well-documented.

The ever-increasing popularity of the NFL Draft and dynasty football leagues even has fantasy managers well-acquainted with Xavier Worthy, Ladd McConkey, Roman Wilson, and Malachi Corley. Most, if not all, of these players will hear their names called during the first or second round of this year’s NFL Draft. Those players need no introduction. They don’t need anyone else hyping them up. However, there will be plenty of other receivers selected in Round 3 and later that deserve our attention, too. Last year, Tank Dell and Puka Nacua took the league by storm. Before that, we had Amon-Ra St. Brown, Diontae Johnson, and Terry McLaurin.

So, which receivers are likely to be drafted after Round 2 that deserve our utmost attention? This will be a three-part series, looking at 10 of the best receivers, in no particular order, who are expected to be drafted in Rounds 3 or later. Let’s identify the best candidates of that group and why they are the best so that fantasy managers can get acquainted with these less popular names. It often comes down to the landing spot when discussing mid-to-late round prospects and making a Year 1 impact. You can find all 32 NFL teams graded on which landing spot is the best for a rookie receiver here. If you want to take advantage of our great premium tools, please use promo code "BOOM" to receive a 10% discount.  

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!

 

Jermaine Burton, Alabama

Burton began his career at Georgia, where he logged 52 targets, 27 receptions, 404 yards, and three touchdowns as a true freshman. Those numbers for an 18-year-old are nothing to scoff at, especially in the SEC. Unfortunately, his role decreased in his sophomore season. While that’s never ideal, looking at the Bulldogs roster, you can begin to understand why that happened. The team welcomed Brock Bowers, Ladd McConkey, and Adonai Mitchell. Most of those names are bound to sound familiar.

He transferred to Alabama and immediately became their No. 1 receiver for the 2022 season, finishing with 58 targets, 40 receptions, 677 yards, and seven touchdowns. He had a strong 73.6 PFF receiving grade, following up a sophomore season with a 72.1 score. Burton led Alabama in receiving again this past season, finishing with 57 targets, 39 receptions, 798 yards, and eight touchdowns. His PFF receiving grade bumped up to 82.0.

From 2021-2023, Burton posted three straight seasons of a 70 or higher PFF receiving score and a yards per route run average of over 2.00. He finished with his best yards per route average this past season at 2.75. Out of 286 receivers with at least 50 targets, this ranked 25th. While Burton was not a target hog in college, he proved to be a quality downfield option, finishing with a 16.8 average depth of target. His 20.5 yards per reception average this past season was the sixth-highest in the county out of the previously used sample. Over the last three years, he was also excellent in contested catch situations, coming down with 16 of 28 for a 57.1% catch rate.

He’s best viewed as a downfield threat in the same vein as Gabriel Davis or George Pickens were coming out of college, which gives fantasy managers two potential outcomes for Burton. Due to his skill set, his landing spot will be important as he’ll need a quarterback with the ability and willingness to throw downfield. His athletic testing at the combine was exceptional, and it'll certainly help increase his draft stock. He's got good size and blazing straight-line speed. Any team looking for a speed element will be very intrigued by Burton's collegiate production and the speed that he possesses.

 

Jalen McMillan, Washington

McMillan is another name to remember. He did next to nothing as a true freshman in 2020 but started to make a mark as a sophomore, finishing with 59 targets, 39 receptions, 470 yards, and three touchdowns. During his first two seasons at Washington, McMillan was used as an outside receiver 88% of the time. That completely changed in his junior and senior seasons.

In 2022-2023, McMillan ran 91% of his routes from the slot. His yards per route run went from 1.55 as a sophomore to 2.32 as a junior and 2.30 as a senior. As a junior, he finished with 118 targets, 79 receptions, 1,098 yards, and nine touchdowns. He received a 77.5 PFF receiving grade. McMillan finished with more targets, receptions, and touchdowns than teammate Rome Odunze that season. As a senior in 2023, McMillan only appeared in seven games. He missed Weeks 4-7. In the seven games he was active, he had 63 targets, 45 receptions, 553 yards, and five touchdowns. In the first three weeks of the season, prior to his injury, McMillan had 20 receptions, 311 yards, and three touchdowns. He had over 95 receiving yards in each of his first three games this season.

McMillan will be viewed as a slot receiver at the next level. He had three consecutive seasons at Washington, averaging over five yards after the catch per reception. With these guys, landing spot is everything. Still, if Cincinnati drafted him to replace Tyler Boyd, we could have a fantasy-relevant receiver here who is one injury away from being a weekly flex player.

He improved his draft stock this past weekend with his performance at the NFL Combine. He scored over a 9.20 on the RAS and posted a sub-4.50 40-yard dash. When we think of slot receivers, we often think of smaller, shifter receivers. However, McMillan has good size at 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds and brings a strong downfield element to his game.

 

Jacob Cowing, Arizona

This guy is a statistical darling. According to PlayerProfiler, Cowing has a 61.4% college dominator (99th percentile) and an 18.6 breakout age (96th percentile). He also has three collegiate seasons with a target share north of 25% and two seasons north of 31%. Just from that, fantasy managers should have their interest piqued. The downside of Cowing’s prospect profile is a fifth-year collegiate player.

However, when we’re talking about prospects likely drafted in Round 3 or later, there will be holes in the profile. If there weren’t, they wouldn’t be drafted where they likely will be. As a true freshman at UTEP, Cowing had 66 targets, 31 receptions, 550 yards, and three touchdowns. He also received an impressive 71.2 PFF receiving grade and averaged 2.21 yards per route. An efficient and productive season at just 18 years old.

In his junior season, Cowing amassed 111 targets, 69 receptions, 1,361 yards, and seven touchdowns. He had a 90.0 PFF receiving grade, a 3.82 yards per route run average, and a 31.5% target share. Cowing finished ninth in the country in receiving yards. His PFF receiving grade was the seventh-highest out of 76 receivers with at least 75 targets, and his yard per route run average was second only to Jaxon Smith-Njigba's. He also averaged seven yards after the catch per reception. During his three years at UTEP, Cowing had an average depth of target of greater than 15 yards and ran more than 70% of his routes from the slot position.

He transferred to Arizona and had 121 targets, 85 receptions, 1,034 yards, and seven touchdowns, posting a 26.5% target share. He also had a 2.16 yards per route run average, his fourth season in a row, beginning with his freshman year at UTEP. In his final season, his yardage dipped to 868, but he still finished with 121 targets and 89 receptions. His average target depth went from 15+ at UTEP to around seven at Arizona, proving he can win in multiple ways. He continued to be a full-time slot receiver, and at 5-foot-8 and 168 pounds, that will be where he plays in the NFL.

He’s been an extremely productive player all five years of his collegiate career. He showcased elite target-earner potential in his final three years in college. He finished with an excellent 2.55 yards per route run career average. It’s rare to find collegiate players this productive late in the draft, but Cowing qualifies. His size and fifth-year status are not ideal. However, his production among later-round receivers is unmatched. His RAS is not great, but that was to be expected due to his size and weight. However, Cowing put up an excellent 40-yard dash time. He's quick, fast, and twitchy. All of that shows up on tape and further cement the notion that he can be an effective player in the slot at the next level.

 

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