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Road to #1 Receiver - NFC South


Each year, elite wide receivers are some of the mainstays of fantasy football rosters. With high target shares and production values, these consensus top-tier wide receivers are some of the first names off of draft boards and consistently perform well throughout the season.

However, there is also a good amount of unpredictability at the position, with breakout players appearing from out of nowhere year-in and year-out. Whether they dominate for stretches over the year or end up as top-level talents themselves, unproven or underrated wide receivers represent a very good opportunity for fantasy owners entering drafts due to their lower draft capital and high production premiums.

In this series, we will go through each NFL division and point out one wide receiver on each team in that division that is currently ranked outside of the top-12 at the position who could finish among the league's best when all is said and done. Today, let's look at the NFC South and see who could be that next elite fantasy receiver. Catch up on the rest of the conference by looking at the West and East breakdowns.

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Wide Receivers - NFC South

Cameron Meredith, NO

Not many would have expected Cameron Meredith to end up as the player he is today coming out of college. After being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, Meredith spent his first season in a largely reserve role, only recording 11 catches for 122 yards and zero touchdowns. However, with the team in dire straights heading into 2016, Meredith emerged as a surprise contributor and busted out on the scene for 66 receptions, 888 yards, and four touchdowns in just 14 games. Those who selected Meredith with a waiver pickup that year were very well rewarded. Heading into 2017, Meredith was expected to take on the leading receiver role with the Bears organization following the departure of wideout Alshon Jeffery. However, an injury in preseason ended Meredith's season before it even began.

Now, the big-bodied receiver has signed an offer sheet with the Saints and joins a receiver room ripe with competition. Behind Michael Thomas lies Ted Ginn Jr., a veteran receiver in the twilight of his career. Meredith should be able to claim the number two receiver role in the team's offense, a role that has largely been valuable for fantasy football owners throughout the years. Even though the Saints have transitioned to an offense more focused on the run, Meredith still has a lot to offer as a red zone weapon for aging quarterback Drew Brees. With an 11th round ADP, fantasy owners will likely find great value with selecting Meredith; if he is able to improve on his 2016 yardage totals and enter the red zone a few more times, Meredith will be firmly in the WR2 conversation with a chance to break into the top twelve at the position.

Devin Funchess, CAR

Despite scoring nine touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Panthers, Devin Funchess was largely playing second fiddle as a wide receiver due to the presence of Kelvin Benjamin in 2016. However, with Benjamin's decline and eventual trade to the Buffalo Bills as well as tight end Greg Olsen's injuries, Funchess had the chance to take on a leading role in the team's offense. The 6'4'' receiver duly delivered, with 840 yards to go along with eight touchdowns in 2017, leading the team in both departments. Entering his fourth season, the former second-round pick is once again slated to be the team's leading receiver, with his competition for targets falling mainly on the shoulders of Olsen, running back Christian McCaffrey, and veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Funchess should be considered one of the team's best options on the field, both in between the 20's and in the red zone. Therefore, his upside in 2018 is finally breaking through the 1,000-yard barrier and approaching double-digit touchdowns. If the Panthers are able to have a good year, you can bet Funchess will be a big contributor, making him a fantastic value in fantasy drafts given his current 8th round ADP. Get Funchess while you can, because few at his position that late in the draft possess the same upside that the former Michigan receiver does.

Calvin Ridley, ATL

For most of his college career, Calvin Ridley has been touted as one of the best and most polished wide receiver prospects in the game. Despite only cracking the 1,000 yard barrier in college once (his freshman year), Ridley was still considered a future NFL talent and was drafted 26th overall by the Atlanta Falcons in this year's draft. Playing behind Julio Jones, Ridley should see plenty of soft coverage and can capitalize on that with his fantastic route running ability. However, Ridley will have to compete with Mohamed Sanu Sr., who has been a staple of the Falcons offense for the past few seasons. Although the chances that Ridley becomes a WR1 are slim to none given the talent around him, the Falcons are a high-scoring offense that can generate serious fantasy value. Ridley's first-round draft capital should be enough to get him involved early and often, making him a good value pick in the later rounds of drafts.

Chris Godwin, TB

Following a fantastic combine performance in 2017 as well as a very solid career for Penn State, wide receiver Chris Godwin was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Although the Buccaneers had a very disappointing season, Godwin was one of the few bright spots, recording 34 receptions for 525 yards and a touchdown with the team. Now that he has a more solidified role with the team's offense, Godwin should be able to thrive alongside fellow wide receiver Mike Evans in a year that the Bucs hope can be a rebound season for the team. Godwin is a good bet to record at least 750 yards on the year, making him an excellent value pick as one of the last picks in fantasy drafts. If he can truly break out, then we could see two 1,000 yard receivers in Tampa Bay once again as well as two wide receivers capable of recording WR1 numbers.

 

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