Wide receiver is the deepest position in fantasy football, just like it is every year. The reason? Basic math. While NFL teams typically only deploy one QB, one RB, and one TE for most plays, there are almost always two or three WRs on the field. In fact, in today’s NFL, most teams run three-wide “11” personnel as their base set.
What this means for fantasy is that you can find real-life “starters” at wide receiver in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. And when they happen to play in a prolific offense, the third receiver on an NFL team can have WR3 or even WR2 value in fantasy.
That’s not to say you should completely punt WR in the early rounds of your draft. Target-magnet alpha receivers certainly don’t grow on trees. But you will often find appealing value available at wide receiver in the middle rounds of your draft, when the RB position has entered the “dead zone”.
While an emphasis on positional scarcity might steer you away from loading up on WRs in the early rounds, the best way to maximize value throughout your draft is to use a tiered ranking approach. That remains the best way to ensure you get the most players you are bullish on, regardless of position.
Here are my tiered rankings for 2022 — and some notes on which players to target or avoid based on their Average Draft Position:
Tier 1: Cooper Kupp (LAR)
Yes, that’s it, we’re starting with a tier of one. While the expert consensus has players like Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Stefon Diggs in the same tier as Kupp — or in Jefferson’s case, above Kupp — that doesn’t reflect the extent to which Kupp lapped the field last year.
Kupp’s 21.6 points per game (PPG) in half-PPR formats in 2021 was 28% more than Jefferson’s 16.3 PPG, and even further ahead of Chase and Diggs. Kupp was the only receiver who rivaled the top RBs in fantasy scoring, and his closest competitors were two other receivers who’ve seen their situations worsen over the offseason: Deebo Samuel and Davante Adams.
This tier represents a collection of high-end talents who are each the clear top target in an explosive offense led by a proven quarterback. Jefferson and Diggs are deservedly at the top of the tier, but don’t sleep on Evans and Lamb.
Evans has ranked among the top 12 fantasy receivers each of the last four seasons, including a WR8 finish last year. With Chris Godwin still working his way back from a torn ACL, Evans presents more upside than ever and is my favorite early-round value at the position.
Lamb only finished as the WR18 last season, but he has massive breakout potential for this year. The uber-talented 23-year-old is entering his third season in the league and should be funneled targets in a Cowboys offense that no longer has Amari Cooper and will also likely begin the year without Michael Gallup.
This tier encompasses a lot of superstar receivers in new situations and covers the remaining WR1s in 12-team leagues.
Some readers will no doubt find it utter sacrilege that Chase isn’t ranked higher, but hear me out. The odds are against him repeating last year’s five 50-plus-yard touchdowns or maintaining a sizable target lead over Higgins, who saw only 18 fewer targets than Chase last year despite playing in three fewer games. From Week 12 on, Higgins averaged more targets, catches, yards, and fantasy points than Chase, even accounting for Chase’s redonkulous 11-catch, 266-yard, 3-TD game against the Chiefs in Week 17. Chase and Higgins can both be WR1s for fantasy, but I’m not convinced they should be going two rounds apart in drafts.
Adams, Brown, and Hill all rank among the most skilled receivers in the game, but the jury is out on how exactly they’ll fit in with their new teams. While none of them are in a disastrous spot, it’s fair to say they’ll all be dealing with QB downgrades (or at best a lateral move in Brown’s case). Samuel didn’t switch teams, but he could also be facing a decline in target quality, while seeing less rushing work. While Brown (ADP 28.5) isn’t a terrible value in the middle of the third round, Adams (ADP 11.5), Samuel (ADP 18.5), and Hill (ADP 21.5) are going a bit too early for my taste.
The tier is rounded out with the ever-boring — and ever-productive — Keenan Allen. He’s the classic high-floor, low-ceiling pick.
This group can broadly be classified as “high-end WR2s”, but it’s more accurate to say they all have WR1 upside as well as the risk of falling outside of the top 24 receivers.
To earn this ranking, Pittman Jr. and Sutton need to produce at a level equal to or above what they’ve ever done before, but it’s entirely possible as emerging No. 1 options in intriguing offenses. Sutton, in particular, could end up being a great value in the fifth round if he continues to be Russell Wilson‘s go-to target once the games begin to count.
You can’t really question the talent when it comes to Metcalf, Johnson, and Thomas. It’s simply a matter of whether they can overcome questionable QB play, or in Thomas’ case, a lengthy injury absence. Metcalf and Thomas are both shaping up as intriguing values in fantasy drafts.
Robinson II is coming off a down year in Chicago, but he’ll be getting a huge upgrade in QB and coaching staff and looks to be an excellent value in the sixth round of fantasy drafts. Williams will need to hit on a lot of big plays to repeat last year’s WR10 finish, but he can afford to drop off a little when he’s barely being drafted among the top 20 receivers.
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Tier 5: Terry McLaurin (WAS), Brandin Cooks (HOU), D.J. Moore (CAR), Amari Cooper (CLE), Jerry Jeudy (DEN), Marquise Brown (ARI), Gabriel Davis (BUF), Chris Godwin (TB), Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET), Rashod Bateman (BAL), Jaylen Waddle (MIA), JuJu Smith-Schuster (KC), Adam Thielen (MIN), Christian Kirk (JAC), Robert Woods (TEN), Darnell Mooney (CHI), Elijah Moore (NYJ), Hunter Renfrow (LV)
This huge tier exemplifies my point at the top about mid-round values at WR. We are now 35 receivers deep, and I still wouldn’t feel too bad about any of these guys as my WR2, assuming I was really strong at other positions.
Many of the names in this tier are clear No. 1 receivers in what projects to be average-to-below-average passing offenses, including McLaurin, Cooks, Cooper, St. Brown, Bateman, Kirk, Woods, Mooney, and both Moores (D.J. and Elijah). McLaurin, Cooks, D.J. Moore, and Cooper are the surest things of the group, but they should all get a healthy number of targets.
Marquise Brown should flash for some huge games early in the season, but the question is how his role changes once DeAndre Hopkins returns to the fold. Smith-Schuster could blow this ranking out of the water if he’s truly Patrick Mahomes‘ No. 1 receiver, but it’s hard to have much certainty about that until we see it happen. Godwin could easily move up a tier or two if his health outlook continues to trend in a positive direction, and Jeudy’s fortunes could also quickly rise if he overtakes Sutton.
Davis, Waddle, Thielen, and Renfrow are all second on the depth chart on their respective teams, but each has his own appeal. My clear favorite is Davis, who plays in an elite offense and demonstrated his tremendous upside when given the chance last year. Renfrow was a top-12 guy just last season, but Davante Adams obviously takes a big chunk out of his expected target total, including in the red zone. He could still be a sneaky value, though.
Thielen has become very touchdown-dependent and could fall off as he continues to age. Waddle was excellent last season, but I can’t justify a fourth-round draft price on him given my skepticism that Tua Tagovailoa can support two viable fantasy receivers week in and week out.
You can make a case for any of these guys to sneak into the top 24 receivers if everything breaks right for them.
Hopkins and Gallup would both be ranked higher if they were available to play a full season. Smith and Lockett are in a similar spot to Waddle — the talent is there, but can the QB really support two viable fantasy receivers?
Any receiver getting lots of looks from Aaron Rodgers has to pique our interest, but Lazard’s standing atop the Packers’ receiver depth chart is far from set in stone. Toney brings an exciting skill set to the table, but his role in the Giants’ offense is equally hard to decipher.
Tier 7: Skyy Moore (KC), Jalen Tolbert (DAL), Drake London (ATL), Brandon Aiyuk (SF), Jarvis Landry (NO), DeVante Parker (NE), Russell Gage (TB), Garrett Wilson (NYJ), Chris Olave (NO), Tyler Boyd (CIN), Romeo Doubs (GB), Isaiah McKenzie (BUF), Jakobi Meyers (NE), Chase Claypool (PIT), Treylon Burks (TEN), Jahan Dotson (WAS), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (KC), Alec Pierce (IND), Nico Collins (HOU), George Pickens (PIT)
Even as we zoom past WR60, there are still plenty of enticing pass catchers on the board.
Moore, Tolbert, London, Wilson, Olave, Doubs, Burks, Dotson, Pierce, and Pickens all have a legitimate shot to make some noise as rookies. Based on ADP, Moore, Tolbert, and Doubs look like particularly appealing bargains given the opportunity each has to emerge as a weekly contributor in a top-tier offense. Aiyuk and Collins are also young receivers with breakout potential, but Collins is the far superior value of the two. McKenzie is another player shooting up my draft board, now that he appears to be overtaking Jamison Crowder for the Cole Beasley role in Buffalo.
Landry, Gage, and Boyd lack upside, but they should be able to carve out solid weekly roles in above-average offenses. Claypool and Valdes-Scantling will likely each go off for some huge weeks, but it will be difficult to see them coming. Parker and Meyers are thoroughly unsexy, but one of them should emerge as the top target in New England.
Tier 8: Parris Campbell (IND), D.J. Chark Jr. (DET), Jameson Williams (DET), Corey Davis (NYJ), Christian Watson (GB), Kenny Golladay (NYG), Robbie Anderson (CAR), Joshua Palmer (LAC), Marvin Jones Jr. (JAC), Rondale Moore (ARI), K.J. Osborn (MIN), Van Jefferson (LAR), Jamison Crowder (BUF), Julio Jones (TB), Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (TEN), Randall Cobb (GB)
The odds are against the players in this tier emerging as weekly fantasy starters in standard 10- and 12-team leagues, but a few of them probably will at some point in the season.
Campbell, Chark Jr., Williams, Davis, Watson, Cobb, Crowder, Moore, and Westbrook-Ikhine could all see a value gain if they manage to work their way up ambiguous depth charts. Golladay, Anderson, and both Joneses (Marvin and Julio) aren’t nearly as exciting as they once were, but they’re all proven vets who could be called upon at any time.
However, my favorite players to target in this tier are the third receivers on good offenses who are only one injury away from becoming a must-add waiver wire pickup: Palmer, Osborn, and Jefferson.
Alright, while I’m sure you’d love to hear me wax poetic about K.J. Hamler, we’ll stop there. If you like what you see here, you can get more of my thoughts on draft-day values, waiver wire pickups, buy-low/sell-high candidates, rest-of-season player values, and more by subscribing to the Rest of Season Rankings podcast and going to ROSrankings.com. I’m also always happy to talk about anything fantasy-related on Twitter @andrew_seifter.
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