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WR3s with WR1 Potential in 2022 (Fantasy Football)

WR3s with WR1 Potential in 2022 (Fantasy Football)

Wide receiver remains as deep as ever entering the 2022 fantasy football season. But it’s also a bit more uncertain at the very top, with usual mainstays Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill switching teams this offseason.

And while the elites at the position typically stay that way from year-to-year, occasionally a player or two emerges out of nowhere and crashes the WR1 party. Last year, it was Deebo Samuel (WR2) and Hunter Renfrow (WR11) who went from unheralded late-round picks to instant fantasy stars.

So who has a chance to go from WR3 on draft day to fantasy stardom this season? Here are some players to consider who are ranked outside the top 24 by our Expert Consensus Rankings.

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

Darnell Mooney (WR – CHI)

Expert Consensus Ranking: WR26

Volume is a key component when it comes to ascending from a WR3 to a WR1. And there might not be a wideout who could own a greater percentage of his team’s target share than Mooney. In fact, Mooney ranked tied for 12th in the league last year with 140 targets. And with Allen Robinson gone and not much else around him, Mooney could wind up earning even more looks in the passing game.

And let’s not mistake that Mooney isn’t some run-of-the-mill pass catcher who’s lucking into a heavy target share. He’s a legitimately good player with exciting downfield speed as one of his top traits. With a 1,000-yard season already under his belt, Mooney will just need some more touchdowns to break through.

The risk in drafting Mooney — and the primary reason he’s ranked as a WR3 — is because the Bears’ offense is expected to be quite bad. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields offers plenty of hope as a prospect. But Fields is unproven and was a mess at times as a rookie. The offensive line isn’t too good. And Chicago’s lack of other proven playmakers also goes against Mooney, as he’ll be the first, second and third priority for opposing secondaries.

It’s not a perfect scenario by any means. But the volume, skillset and overall upside are there.

Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL)

Expert Consensus Ranking: WR27

One notch below Mooney is Bateman, the second-year pro who enters the season as Baltimore’s top wide receiver, but likely not the top target. Even with Marquise Brown now in Arizona, Bateman will play second fiddle to dynamic tight end Mark Andrews. But he could be a real threat on the outside.

Bateman possesses NFL-caliber size to go with a unique repertoire of separation skills and exciting speed. He began his rookie season injured and ultimately played 12 games, catching 46 passes for 515 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t a prolific rookie season, but it provided enough glimmers of hope.

With a fully healthy Lamar Jackson, expect Bateman to take a year-two leap.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – KC)

Expert Consensus Ranking: WR31

I feel like Juju Smith-Schuster makes a cameo in every article I write lately. That’s because I’m pretty high on him and staking my reputation as a fantasy analyst on him having a big year.

OK, that was a bit drastic. But I do think Smith-Schuster could be bound for a really strong season as Kansas City’s slot weapon. His primary obstacle for targets is Travis Kelce, and the star tight end will likely put a small dent in Juju’s red zone upside. However, Smith-Schuster has posted at least seven touchdowns in the three seasons he’s played at least 14 games.

Smith-Schuster will enjoy a significant upgrade at quarterback, going from Ben Roethlisberger to Patrick Mahomes. He’s a dynamic player after the catch. And aside from Kelce, nobody else on this depth chart really scares me. Skyy Moore is a rookie from a Group of Five program. Mecole Hardman has gotten chance after chance and hasn’t delivered. I stopped considering Marquez Valdes-Scantling as a viable fantasy player years ago.

Smith-Schuster could contend for a 90-catch, 1,000-yard and perhaps double-digit touchdown campaign. The talent has always been there. The upside is there. With good health, Smith-Schuster could deliver that elite season we’ve been waiting for.

Drake London (WR – ATL)

Expert Consensus Ranking: WR40

London isn’t close to the same player as Darnell Mooney. He’s a big, athletic possession wideout who separates with size and strength, while Mooney is more of a speedster. But London could be the 2022 version of Mooney in that he’s the only option in town on what could be a miserable offense.

London’s biggest task entering the pros will be creating separation against man coverage at the next level. He won’t be able to bully college DBs anymore. He’ll have to improve his footwork and quickness off the line of scrimmage to realize his potential.

But if he does — more so, if he does quickly — then the sky could truly be the limit. Kyle Pitts will command plenty of attention. But London should enter training camp as the team’s best receiver, unless Olamide Zaccheaus, Bryan Edwards or Auden Tate do something for you.

Christian Watson (WR – GB)

Expert Consensus Ranking: WR70

We’ll wrap this list with one more rookie. I almost feel obligated to include a Packers wide receiver on this list. And by now you know why. But I’ve seen the Allen Lazard act before, and it isn’t all that exciting. Maybe I’m just enticed by the unknown. But Watson should have a real chance at earning Aaron Rodgers’ trust, thus earning serious playing time as a rookie.

Watson has the size, speed and length components to hold his own in the NFL. But the North Dakota State product could face a pretty steep learning curve jumping up to the NFL. But he’s a hard worker and a playmaker, and Green Bay’s offense could certainly use some of that with Davante Adams out the door.

Maybe the Packers bring in a veteran before training camp and blow this premise up. But sometimes taking a risk on an unknown can pay off in an enormous way. If Watson can hang, he could be that risk worth taking.


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