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Third-Year Wide Receiver Rankings & Analysis (2022 Fantasy Football)

Aug 30, 2022
KJ Hamler

The 2020 NFL Draft had six wide receivers drafted in the first round, including three in the first 17 picks. Yet, only four of them are fantasy relevant three years later. However, the draft class was full of talented wide receivers, including several potential breakout candidates in 2022.

Here are the top-10 third-year wide receivers from my PPR rankings.

ADP via FantasyPros

Justin Jefferson (MIN): ADP 5.4 | WR2

Only two years into his career, Jefferson is already one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He totaled at least 88 receptions, 1,400 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns in both years. Furthermore, Jefferson has been one of the better deep ball players in the league, averaging 15.5 yards per reception in his career. More importantly, he has finished as a top-six wide receiver in both years. Last year, Jefferson had the second-most top-24 weekly finishes at wide receiver. While Kirk Cousins isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL, he has done an excellent job for Jefferson’s fantasy value. Jefferson arguably should be the first wide receiver drafted this year.

CeeDee Lamb (DAL): ADP 19.2 | WR7

Many expect Lamb to take a massive step forward this season. Not only is he entering his third year in the NFL, but Lamb will take over as the No. 1 wide receiver in Dallas. The Cowboys traded Amari Cooper in the offseason, while Michael Gallup is recovering from a torn ACL. More importantly, he had a career-high 20.4% target share in 2021, and that number should take a massive jump this year as Dak Prescott‘s new No. 1 target. Furthermore, Lamb averaged 1.94 fantasy points per target last season, an average higher than A.J. Brown. With Cooper gone and Gallup possibly out the first few weeks of the year, Lamb could see enough targets to finish the season as a top-five wide receiver.

Michael Pittman (IND): ADP 37.8 | WR13

After a mostly quiet rookie season, Pittman ended last year as the WR17, averaging 14 fantasy points per game. He had three top-12 weekly finishes, only one fewer than Stefon Diggs in the same number of games played. More importantly, Pittman is in a great position to break out in his third NFL season. Last year, he had a route participation rate of 98.1%, one of the highest in the NFL. He also had a 25% target share in the red zone despite Jonathan Taylor leading the NFL with 92 red zone touches. While they spent a second-round pick on Alec Pierce, the Colts did little to improve their receiving core. As a result, Pittman will be a top-12 wide receiver and could end the year as a high-end WR1.

Tee Higgins (CIN): ADP 33.4 | WR12

While Ja’Marr Chase deserves every ounce of credit he gets, Higgins is very underrated. The former Clemson star was a top-13 wide receiver on a fantasy points per game basis last season, averaging 15.6 fantasy points per contest. Furthermore, Higgins had a team-high 7.9 targets per game last season, while Chase averaged 7.5 targets per game. More importantly, Joe Burrow looked Higgins’ way in the red zone. Higgins had a 26% red zone target share and 13 red zone targets in 14 games, while Chase had a 20.7% red zone target share and 12 red zone targets in 17 games. Chase is a superstar, but Higgins is the much better value at his ADP.

Darnell Mooney (CHI): ADP 68.8 | WR28

Coming off a solid rookie season, Mooney had a productive sophomore season. He ended the season as the WR23, averaging 12.9 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, he was a WR2, despite scoring only four receiving touchdowns. However, Mooney’s production improved once Allen Robinson got hurt. He averaged 9.4 targets and 14.2 fantasy points per game in the five games without Robinson. Over a 17-game pace, Mooney would have ended the year as the WR17. When the Bears let Robinson leave in free agency, they did very little to replace him. As a result, Mooney will be among the league leaders in targets this season, making the former fifth-round pick a steal as the 28th wide receiver off the board.

Gabriel Davis (BUF): ADP 75.4 | WR30

Davis was a popular breakout candidate last year. However, he was the WR58 and averaged only 7.9 fantasy points per game. While his 2021 season was disappointing, Davis will break out this year. First and foremost, Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders are no longer with the team, opening 184 targets from last year’s roster. More importantly, despite playing only 49.3% of the snaps and a 46.8% route participation rate, Davis had a 10.9% target share and averaged two fantasy points per target. Furthermore, he had a 17.1% touchdown rate and accounted for 10.7% of the team’s total touchdowns. While he hasn’t been a consistent fantasy player in the past, Davis is a prime post-hype sleeper candidate.

Jerry Jeudy (DEN): ADP 65.2 | WR24

Many had high hopes for Jeudy when the Broncos used a first-round pick on him a few years ago. Unfortunately, he’s been held back by injuries and poor quarterback play. Jeudy appeared on track to breakout last season after pulling in six of his seven targets for 72 yards and 13.2 fantasy points in Week 1. However, he missed the next six games with a high ankle sprain and averaged only eight fantasy points per game the rest of the way. Thankfully, Jeudy has an elite quarterback after the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson in the offseason. If he can stay healthy, Jeudy has top-20 upside this year.

Brandon Aiyuk (SF): ADP 94.1 | WR39

Last year was a season of two halves for Aiyuk. He started the year in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse, averaging only 2.7 targets and 4.3 fantasy points per game over the first six games. Furthermore, Aiyuk played fewer than 73% of the snaps in all but one game. However, he turned things around over the final 11 games of the year. He averaged 6.2 targets and 13.2 fantasy points per game in those games. More importantly, Aiyuk was the WR16 during those final 11 games, ahead of Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks and other elite wide receivers. After an impressive rookie season, Aiyuk is out of the doghouse and prime for a big year in 2022.

Chase Claypool (PIT): ADP 109.6 | WR43

Claypool had an impressive rookie year in 2020. He was the WR19, averaging 11.5 fantasy points per game. After his strong rookie season, many had high hopes for Claypool in 2021. Unfortunately, he struggled last season and ended the year as the WR37, averaging only 11.1 fantasy points per game. Part of the drop in his production was the quality of his targets. Claypool’s average depth of target (aDOT) dropped from 13.3 as a rookie to 11.5 last season. However, the switch at quarterback should change that this year. Whether it’s Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett, the Steelers should be able to push the ball downfield more this season. Assuming he can stay healthy, Claypool is another excellent post-hype sleeper candidate.

KJ Hamler (DEN): ADP 245.1 | WR87

Unlike the first nine names on the list, Hamler hasn’t been fantasy relevant in his career. While he is coming off a torn ACL, Hamler has a chance to be a late-round steal this year. Denver’s No. 3 wide receiver, Tim Patrick, will miss the 2022 season after suffering a torn ACL earlier this month. More importantly, Hamler flashed as a rookie despite an awful quarterback situation. He averaged 1.61 fantasy points per target and 2.13 yards of separation per target in 2020. Furthermore, Hamler is very similar to Tyler Lockett, who Wilson loved to throw deep balls to in Seattle. While he is a lottery ticket-like pick, Hamler is the ideal last-round target.

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Mike Fanelli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @Mike_NFL2.

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