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2021 was another “lonely at the top, crowded in the middle year” at wide receiver. Some new names asserted their dominance, which some familiar names stayed in the top 10. 2022 doesn’t look much different, so the most important task won’t be picking the right receiver in the first round, or deciding when to take your first receiver, but nailing those mid-round picks and hopefully finding more receivers climbing the ladder than the ones going down the chute. How can we make sense of the wide landscape of receivers in 2022 drafts?
- Cooper Kupp, LAR
Kupp was unstoppable last year. Defenses will try to make him stoppable this year, even dare the Rams to beat them with another receiver, but he was so far ahead of WR2 last year that he can fall a considerable amount and still be the most valuable receiver in fantasy. He’s worth the #1 pick.
THE WR1 IN RANGE OF OUTCOMES
If Kupp isn’t the WR1 this year, the player that displaces him will likely come from this list. They are all worth top 15-18 picks.
Jefferson should get a boost from the move to a more balanced, if not pass-heavy offense. Last year, he improved all of his numbers from an elite rookie season, what will he do for an encore?
Diggs is the clear No. 1 receiver with a great quarterback in a great offense. His numbers were down a bit from 2020, but that also gives him plenty of room to grow from 2021 levels, especially if Gabriel Davis or the committee of slot receivers don’t live up to the team’s hopes.
Chase could, like Justin Jefferson, take a big step forward from an elite, historic rookie season, but a lot of his value came on huge downfield plays, and it’s also possible he takes a step back for fantasy as defenses overplay the deep pass to force Joe Burrow to take what they give him.
With Chris Godwin questionable to start the season, Rob Gronkowski retired, and Antonio Brown doing whatever it is he is doing right now, Evans could get a massive target spike as Tom Brady isn’t afraid to continuously go to a receiver who is winning when the ball is in the air. He’s a value at current ADP.
Amari Cooper is gone and Michael Gallup may not be ready to start the season, so Lamb is set up for a big boost in targets, but this is also a conservative offense and not necessarily the pass game multiplier we saw when the Cowboys defense was bad in 2020. Lamb is priced correctly, but can still make your draft.
FORMERLY ELITE WR1?
All three of these receivers were in the 2021 Top 6, and Adams and Hill finished 1-2 in 2020. All are also facing big changes to their situation in 2022. The fantasy market has priced in some of the uncertainty as all are going lower than their 2021 production would dictate, but has their ADP dropped enough to make them worth taking?
Adams is reunited with his college quarterback in Las Vegas, but it’s difficult to consider any quarterback an upgrade from Aaron Rodgers, and there are better supporting cast pass-catchers to share with on the Raiders than there were in Green Bay. The Raiders offense will pass more than Green Bay’s, maybe a lot more, so Adams could make anyone who passed on him in the first look silly.
Hill can try to convince us that there’s something better about playing with Tua Tagovailoa than Patrick Mahomes II, but we shouldn’t buy it, especially in fantasy circles. The Mike McDaniel offense is going to be run-heavy if it’s anything like the one he oversaw in San Francisco, and Jaylen Waddle might be as attractive or more attractive as a target if he gets less attention from the defense.
Assuming Samuel won't be traded, there are still questions about his 2022 outlook. Will he be used as often at running back after the team drafted Tyrion Davis-Price in the third round? Will he get as many targets and as good quality targets from Trey Lance as he got from Jimmy Garoppolo? His ADP assumes a repeat of his outstanding 2021 campaign when there are some big ifs to work through for that to happen.
ASCENDENT WR, PLUS SITUATION
Target: Brown, Davis
This group of third-year receivers should hit new heights, with situations that continue to improve around them. Davis is the cheapest by far, but could easily be just as productive.
Higgins’ step forward was overshadowed by teammate Jamarr Chase, but have no doubt that the arrow is pointing up. If defenses focus on Chase, Higgins could make it unclear who the most valuable Bengals receiver is.
Pittman elevated to WR2/WR3 levels last year in his second season. With a moderate to big improvement at quarterback in Matt Ryan (depending on who you ask), a jump to WR1 levels is in his range of outcomes. He’s a solid third-round pick.
Brown is going to an offense that will pass a lot more than Baltimore did historically, with a quarterback who he played with in college, on a team that will be missing their #1 receiver for the first six games. He has more upside than ADP indicates.
Davis’ path to opportunity was cleared this offseason, so the same team that played Emmanuel Sanders over him last year is ready to give him a full-time job. His chemistry with Josh Allen is unquestioned and he broke records in the most important game of the season for the team the last time we saw him. Don’t overthink this.
VETERAN WR, PLUS SITUATION
- Keenan Allen, LAC
- Allen Robinson, LAR
- Courtland Sutton, DEN
- Mike Williams, LAC
- Brandin Cooks, HOU
- Adam Thielen, MIN
Target: Robinson, Sutton
These vets are known quantities with WR2/WR3 (even WR1) production in their track records, and in situations that have the potential to push them to the positive end of their range of outcomes, with the exception of Cooks, who was shoehorned into this tier so he wouldn’t have to be in one of his own. Robinson and Sutton are coming off of down years, so they have the biggest discount.
Allen was consistent with a high floor and a mid-season run of WR1 level weeks. He could crush his ADP if Mike Williams can’t stay healthy and is highly unlikely to disappoint.
Robinson is playing in the best offense and with the best quarterback of his career. Unless 2021 was a sign of impending decline for Robinson, who will turn 29 before the season, he should be at least as productive (on a per-game basis) as Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr were last year in the Rams WR2 role.
Sutton gets to play with the best quarterback of his career, and he’s another year removed from ACL surgery, priming him for peak numbers. His game maps well to DK Metcalf, who Russell Wilson brought out the best in back in Seattle.
Williams looked like one of the biggest hits of the fantasy season through Week 5, then hit the skids for four weeks and was forgotten in fantasy circles. For the rest of the season, he was usable in fantasy leagues as a solid WR3, and the team signed him to an extension that shows they see him as a key piece of the offense, which justifies his ADP.
Cooks just keeps producing, and it doesn’t matter how good or bad his quarterback or offense is. The Texans don’t have anyone that will challenge his target domination, and he and Davis Mills should only be better prepared this year as the rookie has the whole offense to get comfortable leading this offense.
Thielen is clearly not a downfield threat any longer, but Kirk Cousins relies on him to finish drives, and the whole passing game could get a bump that offsets any further physical decline, at least when it comes to the fantasy bottom line.
ASCENDENT WR, MINUS SITUATION
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