2022 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Projections, Thresholds, Breakouts, Ranks & More

Last week when I wrote this Running back preview, I wrote about the internal struggle I had for No. 1 running back. Jonathan Taylor seemed safer, but Christian McCaffrey (and others) clearly had more advantages. I’ve since put McCaffrey ahead of Taylor because I decided I didn’t want to use safety as a reason for a 300-plus touch running back as the overall winner. Since then, the wide receiver no. 1 has come into question.

You are forgiven for wondering how a debate could even have come about. Cooper Kupp is coming off a season in which he caught 145 passes for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. He topped every non-QB by at least three PPR Fantasy points last year. Who could challenge him? The first answer is regression and the second is Justin Jefferson. We work in reverse order.

Jefferson is now a 23-year-old with 196 catches, 3,016 yards and 17 career touchdowns. In case you were wondering, catches and yards are both single-season records at the age of 22, and touchdowns rank fourth behind Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski and Larry Fitzgerald. To say he had a Hall of Famer start to his career would be an understatement. And we have good reason to believe it’s only going to get better.

The most important reason, apart from natural development, is his new head coach. Kevin O’Connell was actually Kupp’s offensive coordinator last year, and there was constant talk in Minnesota that this will be a more pass-targeted offense than Jefferson’s first two seasons in Minnesota. Jefferson’s main competitor for goals is 32-year-old Adam Thielen, so we should expect Jefferson to dominate this spike in goals.

Nevertheless, there was a huge gap between Kupp and Jefferson (6.3 FPPG). Can a new coach and natural progression close that gap? no But we have no real reason to think Kupp will be repeating or even coming close to what he did last year.

The second-best year of Kupp’s career would be Jefferson’s third-best. And Sean McVay has been changing gears year after year. The Rams used to have a fairly flat target spread. And remember Tyler Higbee month? Or the Todd Gurley years? More than any other coach, McVay keeps opposing defensive coordinators on their toes with philosophical changes. Now he has added Allen Robinson and returned Cam Akers after injury. Who knows what the schedule will look like this year?

The one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the one thing that’s been driving this conversation lately; Elbow Pain by Matthew Stafford. The reason I’ve waited so long is because I don’t want to make this another debate about the pros (Kupp) versus the cons (Jefferson). I’m just not sure if their benefits are that different this year. But I would agree that Stafford has reservations about lowering Kupp’s floor below Jefferson’s.

The final choice falls on a 29-year-old who has had a historic career year and a 23-year-old generational talent who is still rising. I’m not sure if you can go wrong. Right now I have a slight bias towards Kupp in the projections and a slight bias towards Jefferson in the rankings; They are both top 5 picks for me in full PPR.

Wide receiver draft strategy

Let’s start with the easy part first: wide receiver just isn’t such a big priority in non-PPR leagues. Jefferson, Kupp, and Ja’Marr Chase should still be first-round picks, but there are only eight other receivers I would pick in the first three rounds. In PPR, that number is 17. In non-PPR leagues, build a stable of running backs and then look for big play wide receivers on good offense.

With full PPR, the question is more about how many wide receivers you can start. Most of our leagues require you to start three wide receivers and you can start up to four. In this format, I’d happily call receiver with my first four picks, assuming my league gives me that option. If the draft goes that way, I probably won’t pick another until double-digit rounds are in, and I won’t do more than six drafts in most formats.

When the draft provides you with running backs early on, you’re hoarding a mix of quality young receivers and enduring veterans. When I say enduring veterans, I mean target volume guys like Allen Lazard, Christian Kirk, and Amari Cooper. Just make sure you’re leaning up hard. First- and second-year wide receivers in particular have big advantages for their current ADP, and some of my favorites are in the sleeper picks below.

Here are a few more strategy tidbits:

  • At half PPR, lean slightly more toward non-PPT than full. Everyone else will do the opposite early, but there will be many recipients left over late.
  • When targeting late receivers, you focus almost exclusively on youth and upside potential. It’s rare for a veteran receiver to fall into the double-digit rounds and show up as a starting option.
  • As always, design Brandin Cooks.

Now let’s move on to sleepers, breakouts and busts. A quick note: ADP is the current consensus here from Fantasy Pros ADP.

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Numbers to get to know

265 – The Chiefs have 265 goals to replace at wide receivers in 2022, the most in the NFL.
71.2% — Nearly three-quarters of Josh Allen’s passing attempts went to wide receivers last year; Only the Rams’ receivers saw a higher rate.
8th — Deebo Samuel had eight rushing touchdowns last year. Regression and Trey Lance should at least cut that in half.
17.9 — Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s average target depth last year with the Packers. That could play well for Patrick Mahomes but makes it difficult to project him for many goals unless a lot comes down. No player over 15 had even 100 goals last year.
11 — Ja’Marr Chase led the NFL with 11 drops last year, just in case you’re wondering how few drops matter.
12 — CeeDee Lamb’s 12 broken tackles in 2021 were surpassed only by Deebo Samuel.
3,525 – DJ Moore has received 3,525 yards since the beginning of 2019. Only Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs and Travis Kelce have more.
29% — Goals per route for Kadarius Toney in 2021, which ranks fifth. If he can stay on the pitch then he’s a definite breakthrough contender.

Form is important

Most of these articles, including Tiers and ADP, are based on PPR leagues. We realize that many of you are still playing non-PPR. Here’s a list of players we expect to be significantly better and worse in non-PPR:

Better in non-PPR: Deebo Samuel, Mike Williams, AJ Brown, Tee Higgins, Courtland Sutton, Treylon Burks, Gabriel Davis, Brandon Aiyuk

Worse with non-PPR: Keenan Allen, Michael Pittman, Diontae Johnson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Christian Kirk, Amari Cooper, Jakobi Meyers

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