NFC Team-by-Team WR Breakdowns
To see our baseline, ceiling and floor projections for every WR discussed below, check out the Preseason Rankings.
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Top Fantasy Target: Marquise Brown
Other Draftables: DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, A.J. Green
The Cardinals have 156 targets available from last year’s squad with the offseason departures of WR Christian Kirk and RB Chase Edmonds. There’s even more opportunity available early in the season with Hopkins out for the first 6 games on a performance-enhancing drug suspension.
It’s excellent news for Brown, who was acquired from the Ravens in exchange for a 1st-round pick. The 25-year-old speedster is coming off a career-best WR26 finish in PPR points per game in Baltimore last season. That was due largely to a whopping 146 targets – a number he’ll struggle to reach in Arizona. But QB Kyler Murray looks like an upgrade over QB Lamar Jackson, especially in the deep passing game. Murray ranked 1st in Pro Football Focus grade and 2nd in adjusted completion rate on passes 20+ yards downfield last season. Brown, of course, played with Murray for 2 years at Oklahoma, racking up 2,413 yards and 17 scores. We like him as a low-end WR2 with spike-week potential.
Hopkins will make his 2022 debut in Week 7 vs. the Saints. He’s coming off a disappointing 2021 campaign, missing 7 games and most of an 8th with hamstring and knee injuries and finishing with his fewest catches and yards per game since his 2013 rookie campaign. Hopkins also registered the 3rd worst Pro Football Focus receiving grade of his career – although it still ranked 16th among 89 qualifying WRs. The 30-year-old’s best days are behind him, but he still looks like a rock-solid WR2 over the final 11 games of the season.
Moore was never a real fantasy factor as a rookie last year, finishing 85th among WRs in PPR points per game and tallying just 3 top-40 scoring weeks. Blame a historically low 1.2-yard average depth of target. Moore was at least good with the ball in his hands, averaging 1.5 more yards after reception than expected, per NFL Next Gen Stats. And HC Kliff Kingsbury has talked up an expanded and diversified role for Moore this season.
Hopkins’ early-season absence essentially guarantees Green a starting job to open the season. The 34-year-old finished middle of the pack in PFF receiving grade and yards per route run last season, turning a 40th-place finish in targets into a 41st-place finish in PPR points.
We’ll see how Arizona deploys these WRs once Hopkins returns from that suspension. Our guess is that it’ll be Hopkins and Brown as the primary outside WRs, with Moore in the slot.
Top Fantasy Target: Drake London
Other Draftables: Bryan Edwards
Atlanta’s top 2 WRs at the start of last season are out of the picture – Calvin Ridley on indefinite suspension and Russell Gage now in Tampa Bay.
That gives London a runway to immediately take over as the target hog in this WR corps. The 8th overall pick of this spring’s draft became just the 5th WR over the past 5 years to get top-10 capital, joining Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Garrett Wilson. London is coming off an uber productive 3-year career at USC. He posted a 39-567-5 line as a true freshman, averaged 5.5 catches, 84 yards and .5 TDs across 6 games in a COVID-shortened 2020 season and then ranked 1st in the nation in catches per game (11) and 2nd in yards per game (136) this past year. His season ended with a broken right ankle on October 30, but he’s a full-go for the start of training camp. QB play is a concern here, but London is a bet on talent and volume. Consider him a lower-end WR3 with upside into WR2 territory.
The rest of the WR corps looks rough. Bryan Edwards, Olamide Zaccheaus, Auden Tate, Frank Darby, KhaDarel Hodge, Damiere Byrd and Geronimo Allison have combined for 3 NFL seasons of 500+ receiving yards.
Edwards is the most intriguing of the bunch – largely because of his prospect profile coming into the league. He broke out as a 17-year-old true freshman at South Carolina and left as the school’s all-time leader in career catches and receiving yards. He’s coming off 2 disappointing seasons in Las Vegas. But Edwards doesn’t turn 24 until November and finds plenty of opportunity in Atlanta. We’re leaving the light on for him, although he’s only draftable in deep fantasy leagues.
Top Fantasy Target: D.J. Moore
Other Draftables: Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall
Baker Mayfield might not be Carolina’s long-term answer at QB. But he’s a clear upgrade over QB Sam Darnold. Mayfield struggled through shoulder, knee and foot injuries last year. But he earned higher Pro Football Focus passing grades in each of his first 3 NFL seasons than Darnold has managed in any of his 4 NFL seasons.
It’s good news for Moore, who joins Stefon Diggs as the only WRs in the NFL with 1,100+ receiving yards in each of the past 3 seasons. Moore ranks 4th among WRs in total receiving yards and 10th in catches over that span. Yet he’s tied for just 54th in TDs. Moore’s 4.9% TD rate over the last 3 years is well short of the 7.8% league average. Consider that bad luck more than anything else. Moore should start scoring more and looks like a fringe WR1 in 2022.
Anderson is coming off an ugly 2021 campaign. He ranked bottom 7 among 89 qualifying WRs in yards per target, yards per route run and Pro Football Focus receiving grade. He’s still just 29, though, and racked up 95 catches for 1,096 yards in his Panthers debut back in 2020. Now dirt cheap in fantasy drafts, Anderson is a fine bounce-back bet.
Marshall’s 2021 was just as disappointing as Anderson’s. He mustered only 17 catches on 30 targets across 13 appearances. Among 118 WRs with 30+ targets last year, Marshall ranked 114th in PFF receiving grade and 118th in yards per route run. It’s rare to see a guy have such a bad rookie season and then emerge as a fantasy factor. But Marshall was a good-looking prospect coming out of LSU. And the biggest addition Carolina made at WR this offseason was Rashard Higgins on a 1-year, $1.2 million deal. So don’t bury Marshall just yet.
Top Fantasy Target: Darnell Mooney
Other Draftables: Byron Pringle, Velus Jones
This looks like 1 of the weakest WR corps in the NFL after the departure of Allen Robinson this offseason.
That’s good news for Mooney, who ranked 11th among WRs with 140 targets last year – even with Robinson playing 12 games. He should be in for similar volume this season and should get improved QB play from sophomore Justin Fields. We just wonder if Mooney has the ability to operate as a true #1 WR. He’s just 174 pounds. And among 90 WRs with 50+ targets last year, he ranked a just-ok 34th in Pro Football Focus receiving grade and 40th in yards per route run.
Pringle arrived in free agency on a 1-year, $4.1 million deal with $3.9 million of that guaranteed. His 60 targets, 42 catches, 568 yards and 5 TDs last season were all career highs. But Pringle finished just 75th in PFF receiving grade and 71st in yards per route run among those 90 qualifying WRs. He never broke out in Kansas City, and we doubt he does it in Chicago.
Jones was a surprise Round 3 pick this spring. He’s already 25, spent 6 years in college (4 at USC, 2 at Tennessee) and didn’t reach even 300 receiving yards in a season until this past year. Jones does boast 4.3 speed at 6’0 and 204 pounds, though, and finds plenty of opportunity for playing time in Chicago. We’re not betting on him heavily, but the rookie is worth tracking throughout August.
The rest of the WR depth chart is rounded out by N’Keal Harry, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dazz Newsome, Dante Pettis and Tajae Sharpe.
Top Fantasy Target: CeeDee Lamb
Other Draftables: Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, James Washington
Talk about a golden opportunity for Lamb.
The Cowboys have ranked top 6 in plays and top 10 in pass attempts in all 3 seasons under OC Kellen Moore. So there are fantasy points aplenty to be had here.
Dallas lost 165 targets from a year ago with the offseason departures of WRs Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson. And Gallup is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season after tearing an ACL in January.
That sets up Lamb for big volume in 2022. That’s really all that’s been missing from his fantasy profile. He’s ranked just 26th and 21st in targets over his first 2 NFL seasons; 50th and 37th in target share. Our current projections land him 6th among WRs in targets. That’s an exciting proposition for an ascending 23-year-old who ranked 10th in Pro Football Focus receiving grades and 20th in yards per route run among 90 qualifying WRs last season. Just be ready to pay up for Lamb, who goes in the 1st half of Round 2 in most fantasy drafts.
Gallup is still rehabbing that aforementioned January 2 ACL tear. He underwent surgery in early February, leaving him with a projected return date in early November. Dallas has a Week 9 bye in early November, so Week 10 is a reasonable guess for his 2022 debut. That makes Gallup tough to draft outside of best-ball leagues and leagues with an IR spot.
Gallup’s situation leaves a starting job up for grabs to open the season. 3rd-round rookie Jalen Tolbert and free-agent acquisition James Washington are the top contenders. Our money is on Tolbert, the 6’1, 194-pounder with 4.4 speed. He’s at his best working deep, with good ball-tracking skills and strong hands. QB Dak Prescott reportedly played a part in Dallas’ decision to draft the South Alabama product.
Washington settled for a 1-year, $1.2 million deal in free agency. He ranked dead last in PFF receiving grades and 96th in yards per route run among 101 WRs with 40+ targets last season. Washington dealt with a left foot injury this spring, so keep an eye on his health in August.
Top Fantasy Target: Amon-Ra St. Brown
Other Draftables: D.J. Chark, Jameson Williams
St. Brown was 1 of the biggest stories of the 2021 fantasy season. After averaging 4.9 targets, 3.4 catches, 35 yards and 0 TDs over the first 9 games of the year, the rookie exploded for 9.4 targets, 7.4 catches, 75 yards and .6 TDs over the final 8. Only 3 WRs – Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson – scored more PPR points over that stretch.
Yes, St. Brown benefitted from a bad WR group and injuries to RB D’Andre Swift and TE T.J. Hockenson. Also yes, St. Brown was awesome over those 8 games. He ranked 4th in Pro Football Focus receiving grade and 15th in yards per route run among 68 qualifying WRs. St. Brown will face stiffer target competition in 2022 (more on that below), but he’s the deserving favorite to lead the WRs in targets. Consider him a lower-end WR3.
Detroit added Chark on a fully guaranteed 1-year, $10 million deal in free agency. His 2021 season ended with a broken left ankle in Week 4. But he posted 73-1,008-8 and 53-706-5 lines the previous 2 seasons and turns just 26 in September. The problem is that Chark looks like a bad fit with QB Jared Goff. 42% of Chark’s yards in 2019 came on targets 20+ yards downfield;
41% in 2020. Goff ranked 30th out of 35 qualifiers in percentage of passes to travel 20+ yards downfield last year and 34th in PFF passing grade on those passes.
The Lions made a big move to secure Williams, trading up 20 spots to take him 12th overall this spring. Williams has truly elite speed, averaging 19.9 yards per catch and 9.3 yards after the catch at Alabama last year. He suffered a torn ACL and meniscus damage in his left knee in the National Championship on January 10, though, and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season. It might not be until the 2nd half of the season until we can consider trusting Williams in fantasy lineups.
Josh Reynolds figures to operate as Detroit’s #3 WR until Williams is ready.
Green Bay Packers
Top Fantasy Target: Allen Lazard
Other Draftables: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers
If you haven’t heard, the Packers traded Davante Adams to Las Vegas in March. He leaves behind 28% of Green Bay’s targets, 31% of the catches, 34% of the receiving yards and 28% of the receiving scores from a year ago.
No one here is stepping into anything close to Adams’ role. But Lazard is the best bet to lead this WR group. He has 4 years of experience with QB Aaron Rodgers and posted career highs last season with 60 targets, 40 catches, 513 yards and 8 TDs. Lazard has played 4 games without Adams and posted the following lines:
4-65-1 (5 targets)
3-42 (4 targets)
5-42 (5 targets)
6-146-1 (8 targets)
Rodgers has talked up Lazard multiple times this offseason, including at the start of training camp: “I really think Allen is ready to make a jump and be a #1 receiver.”
Watson is the next Packers WR in ADP. At 6’4, 208 pounds with 100th percentile athleticism, he doesn’t lack for ceiling. But we don’t believe he’s ready for a significant role. Watson played in a run-heavy North Dakota State offense against FCS-level defenses. He’s a raw route runner with shaky hands (13% drop rate over the past 3 seasons). We can already imagine Rodgers pointing and screaming at Watson on Sundays. The rookie opened training camp on the PUP list after undergoing “minor” knee surgery in June.
Green Bay’s other options at outside WR are free-agent addition Watkins and 4th-round rookie Doubs.
Watkins posted a career-low 30 yards per game in Baltimore last year, turned 29 in June and got just $350K guaranteed on his Packers contract. He has about the same odds of getting cut as winning a starting job.
Doubs doesn’t boast nearly as much upside as Watson. But he might be more ready to make a 2022 impact. The 4-year starter at Nevada improved his production every season, culminating with an 80-1,109-11 line last year. “He’s probably one of the more polished players coming out of college just because of his experience,” GM Brian Gutenkunst said in June.
Cobb and Rodgers figure to duke it out for slot duties. Cobb has experience on his side, including 9 seasons with Rodgers and the Packers. But he turns 32 in August and has missed 11 games over the past 2 years. Rodgers was a non-factor as a rookie last year, catching just 4 balls on 103 offensive snaps. We’ll see if he’s ready for a significant role in 2022, but we’re not holding our breath.
Despite the presence of Aaron Rodgers, this isn’t a WR corps to invest heavily in.
Los Angeles Rams
Top Fantasy Target: Cooper Kupp
Other Draftables: Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson
Kupp scored the 5th most PPR points per game by a WR in NFL history last year. He probably won’t be quite as productive in 2022, but we’re not expecting a big decline. Kupp’s 11.0% TD rate last year was high but not outlandishly so. He scored on 8.3% of his catches over his first 4 seasons. And his 10.2 yards per target last season wasn’t even a career high. He averaged 10.3 yards per target back in 2018 (albeit in 8 games). Kupp is in for another voluminous season and deserves to be a top-3 pick in all fantasy drafts.
Robinson is coming off an ugly 2021 season. The situation was bad in Chicago, but Robinson deserves plenty of blame. He ranked 65th among 90 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus’ receiving grades. His 1.13 yards per route run ranked 80th – and trailed teammate Darnell Mooney by .59.
We’re betting on a bounce back, though. Robinson turns just 29 in August and finished as a top 12 WR in PFF grades in 2019 and 2020. The upgrade from Chicago to Los Angeles is huge. The Bears ranked bottom 9 in points, total yards and passing yards last year; the Rams ranked top 9 in all 3 categories. Robinson should step right into the #2 WR role that was occupied by Robert Woods for the first 9 games of last season and Odell Beckham for the final 8. Those guys combined for 117 targets and 222.7 PPR points, which would have ranked 23rd among WRs.
Jefferson, meanwhile, should remain in a similar role to the one he played last year. He was on the field for 80% of the Rams’ offensive snaps and saw 89 targets. Jefferson tallied a 50-802-6 line and WR36 PPR finish. He’s undervalued in fantasy drafts.
Top Fantasy Target: Justin Jefferson
Other Draftables: Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn
Will the move from HC Mike Zimmer to HC Kevin O’Connell mean more passing in Minnesota? Maybe a little. But the Vikings weren’t some run-heavy offense last year. They ranked 15th in pass rate and 11th in pass attempts. So don’t expect a big boost in volume
Jefferson doesn’t need it, of course. He finished 3rd among WRs in target share (27.6%) and 4th in targets (167) last season. That fueled a WR4 finish in half-PPR points after a WR7 finish as a rookie. His 3,016 receiving yards are the most in NFL history through a player’s first 2 seasons – 261 more than anyone else.
It’s worth noting that Jefferson averaged 11.5 targets per game with Thielen out or limited over the final 6 weeks of the season vs. 8.9 targets with a healthy Thielen over the first 11 games. But even that latter number would have left Jefferson 9th among WRs for the season. He’s 1 of the safest picks in the 1st round of fantasy drafts.
Thielen essentially missed the final 6 games of last season with a high-ankle sprain that required surgery in late December. He’s back to 100% now. Through the 12 weeks before that injury, Thielen averaged 8.2 targets per game and was sitting 8th among WRs in half-PPR points per game. He registered a 15.9% TD rate over that stretch that’ll be tough to repeat in 2022. But Thielen has always been a high-TD-rate guy, scoring on 13.4% of his grabs over his first 3 seasons with QB Kirk Cousins.
Thielen turns 32 in August and posted 6-year lows in Pro Football Focus receiving grade and yards per route run last season. There’s decline risk here, but that’s baked into his WR29 ADP.
One change we figure to see in O’Connell’s offense is more 3-WR sets. Minnesota ranked 28th in ‘11’ personnel rate last year at 47%. O’Connell’s Rams offense led the league at 86%.
That’s good news for Osborn, who’s coming off a 50-655-7 line and WR39 half-PPR finish. A big chunk of Osborn’s production came with Thielen out over those final 6 weeks, though. He ranked 25th in half-PPR points per game during that stretch vs. just 78th with a healthy Thielen. The additional playing time will help Osborn, but he’ll still likely need a Thielen or Jefferson injury to be a reliable weekly fantasy play.
New Orleans Saints
Top Fantasy Target: Michael Thomas
Other Draftables: Chris Olave, Jarvis Landry
Thomas is finally back on the field. After missing the entire 2021 campaign and this winter and spring with an ankle injury originally suffered in the 2020 season opener, he was activated from the PUP list and practiced on July 27. His health and conditioning will be worth monitoring closely over the next few weeks.
Thomas will be playing for a new HC and with a new QB this year. It was Sean Payton and Drew Brees when we last saw Thomas in 2020; now it’s Dennis Allen and Jameis Winston. It’s certainly worth noting that Thomas averaged 10.2 targets, 8.2 catches and 98 yards in 10 games without Brees across 2019 and 2020 – but none of those came with Winston.
Still only 29, Thomas retains at least WR2 potential. But he faces more target competition now than when we last saw him.
The Saints moved up 5 spots in this spring’s draft to take Olave at #11 overall. The Ohio State product broke out as a sophomore, leading the team with 840 yards and 12 TDs. He was even better as a junior, averaging 7.1 catches, 104.1 yards and 1 TD across 7 games – all team highs. His per-game production took a step back last year, though, and Olave posted 3-year lows in Pro Football Focus receiving grade and yards per route run.
He’s just 187 pounds and doesn’t offer much after the catch. But Olave brings 4.39 speed and advanced route-running ability. We question his long-term upside, but he does look ready to make an immediate impact.
This WR corps got even more crowded when the Saints signed Landry in May. The 29-year-old is coming off an injury-wrecked 2021 season. But he’d missed just 1 game over his first 7 NFL seasons. Landry has been a target magnet throughout his career, averaging 8.5 per game and never falling short of 6.7 per game across 8 seasons.
There’s upside to all 3 of these guys, but it’s tough to imagine all 3 delivering reliable fantasy value in what figures to be no better than a league-average passing game.
New York Giants
Top Fantasy Target: Kadarius Toney
Other Draftables: Kenny Golladay, Wan’Dale Robinson
Before we get into the individual players here, we gotta talk about the coaching change. Out is stale Jason Garrett, replaced by Brian Daboll, who just orchestrated Buffalo’s fast-paced, pass-heavy, high-scoring offense. There’s no Josh Allen (or Stefon Diggs) in New York, so don’t expect the Giants to throw or score as much as the Bills. But it’s a significant coaching upgrade for this offense.
Toney is the top fantasy target after a limited but promising rookie season. He played 50+% of the offensive snaps in only 7 games. But those games included a 10-catch, 189-yard explosion vs. the Cowboys, a 6-78 line vs. the Saints and a 7-catch outing against the Bucs. In total, Toney averaged 7.4 targets on a 20.8% target share across those 7 games.
The rookie ranked 33rd among 90 qualifying WRs in Pro Football Focus receiving grades and, more impressively, 11th in yards per route run. In fact, Toney became just the 8th rookie WR to average 2+ yards per route run over the last 5 seasons. The other 7: Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, A.J. Brown, Hunter Renfrow, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin and Chris Godwin.
Toney certainly isn’t the safest pick on the board, but his ceiling is exciting. And he’s usually available at a WR4 price tag.
Golladay’s Giants debut last year was a disaster. He finished 95th among WRs in half-PPR points per game and 60th among 90 qualifiers in PFF receiving grade. Now, Golladay dealt with an August hamstring injury and then hip, knee and rib injuries during the season. He also flukily scored 0 TDs despite leading the Giants with 21 red-zone targets and 9 end-zone targets. There’s at least some bounce-back potential for the 28-year-old. And Golladay is now dirt cheap in fantasy drafts.
Daboll's Bills ranked 2nd league-wide in percentage of offensive snaps with 3+ WRs on the field last year (84.5%). So there’s room for a 3rd fantasy-relevant WR here.
Robinson is the favorite for that spot after the Giants selected him with the 43rd overall pick of this spring’s draft. Size is the knock against him. Robinson is 5’8, 178 pounds with the shortest arm length and wingspan of all WRs in the MockDraftable.com database. But he’s coming off a massive 2021 season at Kentucky, finishing 3rd in the country in receptions (104) and 11th in receiving yards (1,334). Robinson ranked top 5 among 251 qualifying WRs in both yards per route run and PFF receiving grade last year. That followed 2 seasons at Nebraska that saw Robinson spend time at both RB and WR. The Giants are expected to deploy him in the slot.
Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton remain on this roster. But Shepard is working his way back from a December Achilles tear and probably won’t be ready for the start of the season. Slayton has reportedly been on the trade block and been mentioned as a cut candidate.
Top Fantasy Target: A.J. Brown
Other Draftables: DeVonta Smith
The Eagles made 1 of the big moves of the offseason, sending 1st and 3rd-round picks to Tennessee for A.J. Brown – and then giving him a 4-year, $100 million extension. Brown missed 4 games last year with hamstring and chest injuries and finished a career-worst 26th among WRs in half-PPR points per game. But he ranked 5th among 90 qualifying WRs in Pro Football Focus receiving grades and 8th in yards per route run – his 3rd straight season finishing top 10 in both metrics.
The move for Brown is a clear sign that the Eagles want to throw it more than they did over the final two-thirds of last season. From Week 7 on, they ranked dead last in pass rate and 29th in situation-neutral pass rate. That followed an opening 6 weeks that had them sitting top 10 in both stats.
Exactly how much pass-heavier the Eagles go will go a long way in determining Brown’s fantasy value. He faces stiffer target competition in Philadelphia than he did in Tennessee, highlighted by Smith and TE Dallas Goedert.
Smith is coming off a nice rookie season. He posted a 64-916-5 line and WR41 finish in half-PPR points per game – despite playing in that run-leaning offense. Smith led Philly with 104 targets on a 21.1% share. He ranked 25th among 90 total qualifiers and 4th among 9 rookies in PFF receiving grade.
Smith will have trouble matching last year’s target share with Brown in town. But that can be offset by an increase in pass attempts. Smith is also a candidate for improved efficiency in his 2nd NFL season and with Brown drawing defensive attention.
Quez Watkins is the favorite for #3 WR duties but is unlikely to be a fantasy factor with Brown, Smith and Goedert hogging targets.
San Francisco 49ers
Top Fantasy Target: Deebo Samuel
Other Draftables: Brandon Aiyuk
Samuel is coming off 1 of the most insane fantasy seasons in recent memory. He was a traditional WR for his first 8 games, averaging 10.1 targets and less than 1 carry per. Over his final 8 games, Samuel was a hybrid offensive weapon, averaging 5.0 targets and 6.6 carries per game. The end result was a WR3 finish in PPR points; WR2 in non-PPR.
Samuel’s efficiency was off the charts. His 18.2 yards per catch and 11.6 yards per target were both career highs and led all 90 WRs with 50+ targets. He also scored 8 times on 59 carries – an absurd 13.6% rushing TD rate. All those marks figure to regress in 2022.
And then there’s the QB change from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance. We’re pumped about Lance’s fantasy upside, but it’s likely that he’s a worse passer at this point of his career than Garoppolo, who completed 68% of his passes and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt over the past 5 seasons in San Francisco. The ‘Niners also figure to pass less often with Lance under center. It’s a concern for Samuel’s 2022 fantasy outlook.
As for his role, we’d rather see him as a traditional WR. He ranked 8th among WRs in expected fantasy points per game in that role over the first 8 games. As a hybrid player over the final 8, Samuel ranked 24th in expected points per game.
Aiyuk is coming off a rocky 2021. He was in HC Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse early in the season and tallied just 9 catches over the first 6 games. He was back in a full-time role over the final 11, though, and compiled 47 catches for 730 yards and 4 TDs. Only 15 WRs scored more PPR points over that span.
Aiyuk averaged 6.2 targets per game on a 21.1% target share across those final 11 games. But he might struggle to hit those marks in 2022 if San Francisco goes more run-heavy with Lance and if Samuel is back in a traditional WR role.
Jauan Jennings flashed a few times late last season as the 49ers’ #3 WR. But he’d need a Samuel or Aiyuk injury to sniff reliable fantasy value.
Top Fantasy Target: D.K. Metcalf
Other Draftables: Tyler Lockett
QB downgrades don’t get much bigger than Russell Wilson to Drew Lock/Geno Smith. Among 40 QBs with 500+ pass attempts over the last 3 seasons, Lock ranks 39th in completion rate, 31st in yards per attempt and 36th in adjusted yards per attempt. We’ve seen enough of Smith to know what he is.
That’s the bad news for Metcalf and Lockett. The good news is that they remain high-end talents.
Metcalf finished 11th among WRs in half-PPR points last year – down from WR6 in 2020. Blame Russell Wilson’s finger injury. Metcalf posted a 65.8% catch rate and 15.3 yards per catch through Week 5, when Wilson got hurt. Over his final 11 games, Metcalf caught 54.9% of his targets and averaged 11.7 yards per catch. His 82.5 Pro Football Focus receiving grade was identical to his 2020 mark and ranked 12th among 90 qualifying WRs last year.
Metcalf had foot surgery in February to remove a screw from a previous procedure and skipped mandatory OTAs as he looks for a new contract. But he had resumed running by April and reported for the start of training camp, so neither issue looks like a concern.
Lockett turns 30 in September but averaged a career-high 2.35 yards per route run last year. That beat Metcalf and ranked 9th among 90 qualifying WRs league-wide. In his 16 games, Lockett saw just 10 fewer targets than Metcalf (107 vs. 117). He finished 13th among WRs in half-PPR points – his 4th straight top-16 season.
Seattle’s QB situation is certainly a concern. But that’s been baked into these guys’ price tags. Metcalf is WR18 in recent ADP; Lockett WR38.
D’Wayne Eskridge and Freddie Swain will compete for the #3 WR job. But the winner would need a Metcalf or Lockett injury to have any chance at fantasy relevance.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Top Fantasy Target: Mike Evans
Other Draftables: Chris Godwin, Julio Jones, Russell Gage
This situation looks a lot different now than it did a week ago. On July 26, Tampa Bay signed Jones to a reported 1-year, $6 million deal and opted not to put Godwin on the PUP list after his December ACL and MCL injury.
Let’s start with Jones. He’s 33 now and played more than 50% of Tennessee’s offensive snaps in only 5 games last season due to a lingering hamstring injury. But he was still effective when he was on the field. Among 101 WRs with 40+ targets last year, Jones ranked 30th in Pro Football Focus receiving grade and 31st in yards per route run. We’re talking about a future Hall-of-Famer here, so we’re certainly not burying Jones yet.
Gage is the other new guy here. He notably signed well before Jones and got a much bigger contract: 3 years, $30 million with $20 million guaranteed. Gage has posted 72-786-4 and 66-770-4 lines the past 2 seasons and has improved his PFF receiving grade each year in the NFL. Last year’s grade ranked 30th among 90 qualifiers.
Godwin’s exclusion from the PUP list was a surprise considering he had surgery on his ACL and MCL on January 3. It’s still unclear if he’ll be ready for Week 1, but he’s now ineligible for reserve PUP, which means the Bucs expect him back before Week 5. Before that knee injury last year, Godwin was sitting 9th among WRs in half-PPR points per game. That followed WR16 and WR2 finishes the previous 2 years.
And then there’s Evans, who’s still easily the top fantasy target here thanks to his combination of previous production, rapport with QB Tom Brady and health. Evans has finished 14th and 10th among WRs in half-PPR points per game with Brady the past 2 seasons. That’s been largely due to his 27 TDs – 2nd to only Davante Adams over the last 2 years. His 18.8% TD rate with Brady will be tough to maintain, but Evans ranked 2nd in targets inside the 10 in 2020 and 5th last year. He remains 1 of the best TD bets at the position.
This is an extremely crowded WR corps that we’ll hopefully be able to sort over the next few weeks. Godwin and Gage both have extensive experience in the slot. Evans and Jones have played there on occasion, too. And how often will the Bucs get 4 WRs on the field this year?
The good news for all these guys is that the Bucs threw 56 more times than any other team last season. And we should see a bigger percentage of targets go to the WRs this year with TE Rob Gronkowski gone.
Top Fantasy Target: Terry McLaurin
Other Draftables: Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel
McLaurin returns as the top dog here after getting a 3-year, $70 million contract extension in late June that makes him the league’s 7th-highest-paid WR in terms of average annual salary. He’s opened his NFL career with WR28, WR20 and WR38 finishes in half-PPR points per game. QB play certainly hasn’t been great in Washington, but it’s worth noting that McLaurin’s best Pro Football Focus receiving grade and yards per route run average came back in his 2019 rookie season. He ranked 21st in PFF grade and 26th in yards per route run among 90 qualifiers last year.
We’ll see just how big a QB upgrade Carson Wentz proves to be. He hasn’t been good the past 2 years, ranking 29th and then 20th in PFF passing grade.
McLaurin also faces his stiffest target competition yet with the arrival of Dotson and return of Samuel. He might have trouble matching last year’s 23.6% target share. Consider McLaurin a mid-range WR2.
The Commanders made Dotson the 16th overall pick of this spring’s draft, notably ahead of WR Treylon Burks. That draft capital alone gives Dotson a good chance to make a 2022 impact. Among 13 WRs drafted between pick 11 and 21 over the previous 10 years, 10 averaged 5+ targets per game as rookies and 6 averaged 6.9+ targets. Dotson is undersized at 5’11, 178 pounds but looks NFL ready thanks to his route-running chops and sticky hands.
Samuel’s 2021 was wiped out by a lingering groin injury. He had surgery this offseason but was back on the field for OTAs in May. Washington gave Samuel a 3-year, $34.5 million deal last offseason, so they’re invested. It’s also worth remembering that Samuel played under OC Scott Turner with the Panthers in 2019, tallying a 54-627-6 receiving line and carrying 19 times for 130 yards and a score.
We’ll see who plays in the slot between Dotson and Samuel. They’ve reportedly been splitting reps there early in camp. But those 2 and McLaurin appear locked in as the top 3 WRs here. Cam Sims and Dyami Brown are the favorites for the 4th and 5th WR spots.