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Wide Receivers To Avoid (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
May 18, 2022
JuJu Smith-Schuster

JuJu Smith-Schuster is no more than a reclamation project for the Chiefs.

Every player reaches a point where they’re acceptable to select. However, the following wide receivers should be avoided anywhere near their expert consensus ranking (ECR) in point-per-reception (PPR) formats.

Wide Receivers To Avoid

CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL): 15 ECR, WR6

The hype train left the station for Lamb last year. Nevertheless, after a ho-hum sophomore campaign, it’s gaining steam in 2022. The glaring positives for Lamb are apparent.

First, according to Sharp Football Stats, the Cowboys tied for the sixth-highest pass rate (60%) in neutral game scripts in 2021. Second, they played fast. According to Football Outsiders, Dallas played at the fastest situation neutral pace. Finally, he has less established competition for targets this year than last season.

Regardless, Lamb is coming off a good but not elite season. According to our fantasy football leaders tool, Lamb was only tied for WR16 in PPR points per game among receivers who played at least seven games. Further, he didn’t explode in a few optimal situations last year.

There were four games Lamb played in which Amari Cooper played under 60% of the snaps, per the snap count leaders tool. Specifically, those games were Week 4, 9, 11, and 13. Unfortunately, Lamb played only 54% of the snaps in Week 11. Nonetheless, it’s a sample worth looking at, captured in the following table.

*Yard Per Route Run (Y/RR) is from Pro Football Focus (PFF).

The sample is admittedly small. Yet, it's also underwhelming and tosses a wet blanket on expectations of Lamb turning into a target hog without Cooper. Obviously, he's young and entering his third season. So, there's room for growth.

Still, Lamb's present ranking saps any wiggle room for exceeding expectations. He must explode at an unseen level to pay off his ranking. Finally, while ranking players is an exercise in projecting ahead, it's nuts Lamb's ECR overall is one spot higher than his ranking among only receivers in PPR per-game scoring in 2021.

Amari Cooper (WR - CLE): 41 ECR, WR18

Interestingly, Cooper's ECR mirrors his median rank at wide receiver in per-game PPR scoring the previous three years. According to the fantasy leaders tool, he was WR28 in per-game PPR scoring in 2021, WR18 in 2020, and WR14 in 2019.

Reemphasizing the point above, ranking players is an exercise in projecting ahead. Cooper was traded to the Browns, where he's clearly the top receiver. However, he leaves an uptempo, pass-first offense for a mystery offense that's unlikely to match pace and passing rate.

In 2021, the Browns tied for the seventh-lowest pass rate (53%) and were 24th in pace in neutral situations. Obviously, the Browns were led by a banged-up Baker Mayfield for most of last year and traded for Deshaun Watson. So, the team could shift to a faster pace and pass more when Watson plays.

However, the question is, when will Watson play? It remains to be seen if he'll face a suspension and how long it will be. Reading the tea leaves, the Browns structured his contract so he'd have a small base salary if he loses game checks for a suspension. Therefore, Watson and the Browns are seemingly preparing for a suspension.

If Watson was a shoo-in to play 17 games, Cooper's ECR is acceptable. However, it doesn't seem to bake in the possibility of Jacoby Brissett starting games. In addition, there are a few blemishes on Cooper's profile that provides some pause.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Cooper had his second-lowest Yards Per Route Run (1.63 Y/RR) in his career last year after sporting his third-lowest mark (1.81 Y/RR) in 2020. However, they did follow Cooper's career-high 2.29 Y/RR in 2019, and his marks in 2021 and 2020 weren't terrible. Additionally, according to Sports Info Solutions, he's recorded his three lowest Yards After the Catch Per Reception (YAC Per Rec) marks in the previous three years.

Overall, the red flags in Cooper's recent seasons aren't overly concerning. However, coupled with the likelihood of Watson being suspended for a while, drafting Cooper as a mid-range WR2 is a reach. On the other hand, if the NFL announces Watson won't face a suspension, Cooper's current ECR is palatable.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR - KC): 59 ECR, WR25

Clearly, experts are excited about Smith-Schuster's landing spot. Frankly, that makes sense. Patrick Mahomes is a one-of-a-kind talent, Andy Reid has been a successful offensive guru in his career, and the Chiefs have been a pass-happy and uptempo team. Last year, the Chiefs passed at the third-highest rate and played at the third-fastest pace in neutral situations. However, that's primarily where the positives end for Smith-Schuster.

Clearly, NFL teams aren't infallible. Teams have made countless mistakes in free agency. Regardless, the league has told onlookers what they think of Smith-Schuster. According to Spotrac, Smith-Schuster's contract's average annual value (AAV) of $3.5 million was only the 11th-highest among wideouts in free agency this year, trailing the contracts of Zay Jones, Cedrick Wilson, former Chief Byron Pringle, A.J. Green, Jakeem Grant, and new teammate Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($10 million AAV), among others. The Chiefs also spent a second-round pick on Skyy Moore, and superstar Travis Kelce is the favorite to lead the team in targets.

All of this is burying the lede. Smith-Schuster has been awful for three consecutive years. Initially, gamers might want to blame Ben Roethlisberger for Smith-Schuster's struggles entirely. However, the following table illustrates his production relative to other receivers on the Steelers.

Undoubtedly, Big Ben's pop-gun arm hurt Pittsburgh's receivers. However, put into context, Smith-Schuster's inefficiency has been glaring. The Chiefs deserve credit for signing Smith-Schuster as a cheap reclamation project. However, he's nothing more than that. Finally, Smith-Schuster isn't a field-stretcher, and competing for intermediate targets with Kelce is a losing battle. Thus, he's closer to a fringe top-100 player than a top-60 option.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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