Early Must-Have Wide Receivers (2022 Fantasy Football)
Now that the 2022 draft class has their NFL addresses, it helps paint a more accurate depiction of the fantasy football landscape. Knowing the rookie landing spots helps contextualize player roles and form realistic projections for them. Training camps and the preseason will provide more answers, but there are fewer question marks. While it is common knowledge which wide receivers are the most prominent in the fantasy picture, these few early must-haves are most likely to move toward the forefront this season based on talent or opportunity.
Amari Cooper (CLE)
Following his trade from the Dallas Cowboys to the Cleveland Browns, the fantasy community initially thumbed their noses at Cooper. But with Deshaun Watson now at the helm instead of Baker Mayfield, Cooper is back in good graces. He has been rock solid for fantasy, posting five 1,000-yard receiving seasons in seven years. Cooper will be Watson’s favorite target out of the gate with Jarvis Landry‘s release. The 27-year-old will headline a lackluster receiver corps consisting of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, Jakeem Grant, and promising rookie David Bell. Even if Watson is unavailable for a few games due to legal issues, Cooper will be force-fed in this offense regardless of who is under center.
Courtland Sutton (DEN)
In 2019, Sutton displayed flashes of an alpha dog, posting WR1 level production six times. That was substantial enough for a WR19 finish in fantasy despite having Drew Lock tossing him the ball. Sutton received touts heading into the next year before suffering a season-ending ACL injury in Week 2. Making a full recovery curtailed his production last season, along with the noodle arm of then starting QB Teddy Bridgewater, who struggles with the deep ball. Now, nine-time Pro Bowl QB Russell Wilson enters the chat. Wilson’s penchant for throwing downfield will benefit the tall, speedy field stretcher, who had the fourth-highest contested catch rate among receivers in 2019, per Pro Football Focus. His value is not yet baking in the QB upgrade and Sutton’s upside. Take advantage before it spikes over the summer as he becomes on the field besties with Wilson.
Marquise Brown (ARI)
Another underappreciated wide receiver is Brown. The drawback with him has been inconsistency. Over his last three years with the Baltimore Ravens, he’s had some eye-popping performances, catapulting fantasy teams those weeks. However, other times he would disappear due to being on a run-first team with a rushing QB in Lamar Jackson, whose favorite toy is TE Mark Andrews. In his new home in Arizona, Brown will start the season off as the No. 1 WR while DeAndre Hopkins is on suspension. Hollywood should take no time adjusting to the new offense as the trade reunites him with his college QB at Oklahoma and good friend Kyler Murray. Brown could also retain the job if things don’t go well for Hopkins when he returns. Hopkins will be 30-years-old next month and missed seven games last season due to injury.
Gabriel Davis (BUF)
After moving on from Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders, the Buffalo Bills chose to pass on a wide receiver until the fifth round of the NFL draft. That vaults Davis to play the perimeter across from Stefon Diggs. The team signed journeyman slot receiver Jamison Crowder to a one-year deal, but he’s mostly a placeholder for rookie Khalil Shakir. Davis ended 2021 on a high note that included four top 30 WR finishes in his last six regular-season games. The piece de resistance was his transcendent performance in the divisional round of the playoffs, hauling in 8 of 10 targets for 201 yards and four touchdowns. He should soar in this prolific offense heading into his third season with Josh Allen as his QB. If the adage about year three being the prime breakout season for wide receivers still rings true, and with no massive threats to his role, Davis should post WR2 numbers.
Rashod Bateman (BAL)
Underwhelming is an apropos word to describe Bateman’s rookie year. Bateman was unable to develop chemistry with QB Lamar Jackson after playing just seven games together due to injuries to both players. Bateman has publicly stated that he is now healthy and feels more comfortable with the offense, especially after participating in throwing sessions with Jackson in South Florida. The Ravens didn’t add any wide receivers during the draft following their trade of Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals. They could still address the position, but the receiver room is barren behind Bateman, with Devin Duvernay, James Proche and Tylan Wallace. Collectively, the trio produced a paltry 497 receiving yards on 90 targets last season. Not great, Bob. If the team doesn’t add a wideout, Bateman should get peppered with targets behind TE Mark Andrews.