Second-Year Wide Receiver Analysis (2022 Fantasy Football)
Breaking down second-year players is always a fun exercise. On one hand, you have the players that broke out in Year 1 and we have to decipher what could be the beginning of an incredible career or a fluke rookie season. On the other hand, we have players that vastly underwhelmed in their first season in the NFL, and we need to look to see if those players potentially have more hope coming into their second seasons.
For that reason, in this article, I wanted to take a look at players that are not household names heading into their second year. We’re going to skip the likes of the names like Jaylen Waddle, Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Amon-Ra St. Brown, as those four names are well known to even the most casual of players. We expect these four to continue varying levels of excellent fantasy production. I hope to offer insight into which players are poised to see an increase in production compared to their rookie seasons and represent value picks as a result.
Here are my favorite second-year wideouts that I expect to see a vast bump in production and represent value in your fantasy drafts:
1. Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL) – My favorite second-year wide receiver that I think breaks out this season is Baltimore Ravens wideout, Rashod Bateman. The former first-round pick has the prototypical WR1 body and athleticism to be great in the NFL, along with great route running and footwork to create separation. The numbers last season may not jump out at you (46 receptions, 515 yards, and one touchdown), but remember Bateman didn’t play an NFL snap until Week 6 in 2021 and didn’t receive over 70% of the snaps in the offense until Week 15, which was after Lamar Jackson had already been ruled out for the season. In the last three games, it didn’t get below 84%. Overall in Bateman’s 12 games, he saw 68 targets, including six or more targets in seven different games.
The other piece of this equation is the departure of the old No. 1 wide receiver in this offense, Marquise Brown, along with Sammy Watkins and Devonta Freeman. These three leaving creates 237 vacated targets for the Ravens going into 2022, with Bateman seemingly a good bet to potentially receive 100 or more targets in this offense. A rookie experiencing highs and lows in his first NFL season is expected, but Bateman was able to still put up respectable numbers despite missing significant time with injury and playing a lot of his games with a backup QB in Tyler Huntley.
The question this year will be what to expect from this Ravens offense in terms of whether it goes back to the run-heavy approach with J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards healthy, or if they’ll look to put the ball in the air more than in years past. Lamar Jackson had an average depth of target of 10 last season, which was third-best among quarterbacks and the highest of his career. Those explosive throws downfield are going to benefit someone like Bateman, who is very much a vertical threat that can go up and get balls as well as anyone in this league. Assuming the Ravens don’t bring in any more receivers, I think Bateman is ready to take off in 2022.
2. Elijah Moore (WR – NYJ) -Before Elijah Moore went down with an injury, we saw glimpses of what he could truly be for the New York Jets. From Week 9 to Week 13, Moore was the overall WR2 in PPR scoring for fantasy football and received at least eight targets in four of his last five games. Moore scored double-digit fantasy points in six of his last seven and had five touchdowns over his last five games. In a lot of those games, he played over 70% of his snaps out wide, despite playing mostly slot in college at Ole Miss.
The question becomes if Moore can overcome shaky QB play, which was the case last season with fellow rookie Zach Wilson. Most of Moore’s great games coincided with Wilson missing games from Weeks 8-11, and early showings in camp this season doesn’t have many feeling confident Wilson has progressed as a passer.
The other factor is the player who was arguably the top wide receiver in the 2022 draft class in rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson of Ohio State. Many are penciling the electric wideout who was drafted by the Jets 10th overall as the leading receiver on this team before he’s played a snap. Combine that with a healthy Corey Davis and the upgrades in tight ends with C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, suddenly there are a lot more mouths to feed in this new-look offense. Moore is going to need to average more than the 7.8 PPR fantasy points he had in games Wilson played last year to be relevant, but I’m confident he’s going to continue to improve his game this season.
3. Kadarius Toney (WR – NYG) – I think many of us saw the run Kadarius Toney went on from Week 4 to Week 6 and instantly thought he might become a league-winner. Toney scored 50.1 fantasy points in two games (and a quarter in the third one) and really put himself on the map. Toney’s 43.5 fantasy points over Weeks 4 and 5 had him as the seventh-best wide receiver in fantasy over that time. All this to say, Toney may have only played in 10 games, but he flashed enough for us to have intrigue.
Toney has arguably some of the best quick-twitch muscles in the game and seems to be able to change direction on a dime — a trait many don’t have. That led to many targets when he was on the field, as he was targeted on a whopping 27% of his routes, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL. Wan’Dale Robinson is now in the fold, which will create some more competition at wide receiver, but I feel very confident that if Toney can stay healthy, he can be a competent flex play and be the best Giants wideout in 2022.
4. Nico Collins (WR – HOU) – Nico Collins might not be talked about as much as other names on this list, but he was very productive in his first season in the NFL. Collins finished with 33 receptions on 60 targets for 446 yards and a touchdown. Those 60 targets were actually second on the team, trailing only Brandin Cooks. Davis Mills is back in the fold at QB this season and Mills seemed to like throwing to Collins, which can only help his production this season. You combine that Collins is 6’4″ and runs a 4.4 40, and he’s someone that could catch a lot more deep targets this season.
I think the Texans’ offense plays much better this season, and that should help someone like Collins, who only received 7.3 yards per target last season. His 62% snap share should only go up this season. Collins should be heavily targeted within Houston’s offense, making him an intriguing player to target at the end of your fantasy drafts.
5. Rondale Moore (WR – ARI) – Here might be the biggest wildcard on this list. Moore steps into an offense that had Christian Kirk and his 112 targets depart, star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins receive a six-game suspension, and former first-round pick Marquise Brown acquired in a draft-day trade. With Hollywood Brown taking one of the outside spots, Moore should be able to slide in the slot and be a great quick-throw option for Kyler Murray with his amazing speed and quickness in the open field.
In Moore’s rookie season, we saw glimpses of what he could be in this offense, where he recorded 35.2 PPR points in his first two games. The problem was, after that, he combined to score 36.6 PPR points over his next six games. Moore scored double-digit PPR points in just four of the 12 games he played last season in total. That type of inconsistency was the downfall for him as a useful fantasy option.
One of the things that will need to change for Moore to be successful is how much he’s on the field. Moore had snap shares of 82.4% and 63.6% as his two highest totals for games while topping 50% only four other times on the season. In other words, Moore played above a 50% snap share in just half of his games in his rookie season. Moore should remain on the field more this season with the Hopkins suspension, and even though I don’t expect his aDOT to be high as a slot receiver, he should be able to be a productive fantasy asset and someone that could be a dark horse to finish second on the team this year in catches.
Josh Palmer (WR – LAC) – Josh Palmer finished the 2021 season with 33 receptions on 49 targets for 353 yards and four touchdowns. Palmer would be someone EVERYONE would be talking about if Mike Williams hadn’t re-signed with the Chargers, but alas, Palmer remains one of the more intriguing third options in the entire NFL. He can line up anywhere on the field and has one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Justin Herbert throwing him the ball. I expect the former third-round pick to have weeks where he flashes and to be a weekly starter for fantasy football if anything happens to Mike Williams or Keenan Allen.
Amari Rodgers (WR – GB) – Davante Adams and his 169 targets are gone. The Packers’ offense is set to be as wide open as we’ve ever seen in the Aaron Rodgers era. The Packers did draft Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, along with bringing back Robert Tonyan and Randall Cobb, but there are balls to be caught in this high-powered offense. Rodgers has the advantage over the rookies in that he’s been with the team for a year, is more familiar with the playbook, and knows where to be for Rodgers to get him the ball in space. I would not be surprised to see Rodgers be the starting slot wide receiver for the Packers in Week 1 and someone that can continue to make an impact in the return game. He’s not a bad player to keep an eye on, as the former third-round pick could have some nice games this season.
D’Wayne Eskridge (WR – SEA) – We didn’t see much from Eskridge in his rookie season, totaling 123 total yards and a single touchdown. We saw the former Western Michigan product look electric on the field in college, but he was buried on the depth chart in his rookie season. Eskridge is someone I expect to be a gadget player for this new-look Seahawks offense, which is going to need to be creative in scoring points with the departure of Russell Wilson. This Geno Smith– or Drew Lock-led offense will definitely be ugly to watch at times, but Eskridge has the chance to step in as the No. 4 pass catcher in this offense behind Metcalf, Lockett, and Fant. I expect Eskridge to have a better Year 2, but not be useful for fantasy football.
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