by Dave Hartman “The Pigskin Papers”
Welcome to the second season of Fantasy Football coverage from the Pigskin Papers! Over the next 3 months, we’ll post lots of great (and free) content to help you prepare for fantasy drafts. Bookmark the site and check back often.
We’re kicking things off with a look at the 2022 rookie class of WRs. Rookie receivers have been a big factor in fantasy the past 2 seasons, and we think that trend will continue. It wasn’t always this way. Let me take you back 19 years, to September 7, 2003. It’s Week 1 of the 2003 NFL season and you can feel the anticipation and excitement, as fantasy players plug in lineups for the first time in 9 months. As always, a few things will go down in Week 1 that take fantasy managers by surprise. Perhaps the biggest one this time around is the astonishing performance of Arizona rookie WR Anquan Boldin. Facing the Lions, Boldin erupts for 10 catches, 217 yards and 2 TDs. This out-of-nowhere, record setting NFL debut leads to an all-out waiver wire stampede, as you might imagine. You see, Boldin isn’t on many rosters in redraft leagues. First off, he’s a rookie, and back then, the expectations for rookie WRs in Year 1 were modest at best. Also, he suffered an ACL tear during college, and ran slow at the combine (4.71). He fell to the 2nd Round and wasn’t even the first WR the Cardinals drafted that year. But his debut wasn’t a fluke. Boldin finished the year with a stat line of 101-1,377-8, on an astounding 165 targets. If it wasn’t for what Randy Moss did 5 years prior (69-1,313-17), it would’ve gone down as the greatest season by a rookie WR in the Super Bowl era. As it was, he set modern-day rookie records for catches and yards.
For many years, the conventional wisdom was that while RBs could be expected to step in and produce right away, receivers needed time to adjust and Year 3 was the most likely time for a WR breakout. The WR piece of that wisdom has been put to rest. The pro and college games both have evolved significantly in the decades since Moss and Boldin came into the league, and the college ranks are producing more and more pro-ready WRs who can quickly acclimate at the next level. Not only that, these receivers are coming in a wide range of size, speed, athleticism, and skill set combinations, and franchises are finding players that can fill the various receiver roles that the modern NFL game demands. Moss, Boldin, and Odell Beckham, Jr. in 2014 all put up WR1 fantasy campaigns as rookies and that made them outliers for the time. For many years the conventional wisdom mostly held, and fantasy players drafted accordingly.
Again, that was then and this is now, and fantasy managers need to keep adjusting. Justin Jefferson broke Boldin’s rookie yardage record in 2020 (and finished the year as the WR6 in Half PPR), only to see his college teammate Ja’Marr Chase break his mark in 2021, while posting a whopping 18 YPC and 13 TDs and finishing the season as the WR4 in Half PPR. Boldin’s rookie catch record fell last year too, to Miami’s Jaylen Waddle, who caught 104 balls. And it wasn’t just Chase and Waddle who lit it up last season. Over the final 7 weeks, only Cooper Kupp scored more fantasy points among WRs than Detroit rookie (and 4th Round pick) Amon-Ra St. Brown. And over a 6 week stretch in the middle of the season (before he got hurt), 2nd Round pick Elijah Moore of the Jets was a top 5 fantasy WR. Waddle was solid all year and finished as the WR14 in Full PPR. And going back to 2020, rookies CeeDee Lamb and Chase Claypool didn’t have monster seasons like Jefferson did, but both finished just inside the Top 20 in Half PPR.
For fantasy managers, rostering a breakout rookie receiver can be the difference between making the playoffs and going home. You know what a lot of 2020 league winners had in common? They either took a late flier on Jefferson, or more likely, grabbed him off the waiver wire after he went off in Week 3. And those who ignored the reports that Chase was dropping balls left and right in training camp and drafted him anyway (his ADP was around Round 6) ended up with a top 5 WR at a massive discount.
It’s not just fantasy players who are noticing that receivers can contribute early. So are NFL teams, who are similarly motivated to try to get tremendous value – in their case, the value that a stud receiver on a rookie deal can bring to a franchise. Continuing a trend that shows no sign of slowing down, NFL franchises selected 6 WRs in the first 18 picks of the 2022 NFL Draft. Seven more WRs went in Round 2, plus 4 more in Round 3. For fantasy managers, this gives us a lot of names to think about as we try to unearth the next Chase, Jefferson, Waddle or St. Brown in 2022 redraft leagues.
Before we start dissecting the 2022 rookies, it’s worth noting that the top guys don’t compare to the top prospects from a year ago. Chase was the highest rated WR prospect to come along in a while, and he, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith all would’ve been the first WR taken if they were in this class. Still, the 2022 group is talented and deep, with plenty of players who could be relevant – or more – in fantasy this year. As is always the case with rookies, some players will emerge as legit fantasy starters as the season progresses, and when that happens they’ll be waiver wire priority adds who get gobbled up quickly. This is what happened with Moore and St. Brown in 2021. So that’s the first piece of advice: you’ll want to keep a close eye on the rookie receivers early in the season, paying particular attention to these 3 stats that you won’t find in a traditional box score: snap shares, routes run, and target shares. You’ll want to pounce before it’s too late. Our weekly Waiver Wire column will be helpful with this.
So who should fantasy managers target in drafts this summer, and keep on their waiver wire watch list? Let’s approach this strategically. Rookie WRs are hard to project. At the extremes, we can expect a couple of them to be breakout players who you can eventually start with confidence, while others won’t even be rosterable. Most will fall somewhere in the middle and will have their moments, but they’ll be hard to trust on a weekly basis. So let’s identify the factors that’ll help us try to figure out which rookie receivers have the most breakout potential. I think the 3 biggest ones to focus on are (1) talent, (2) target opportunities, and (3) landing spot/situation. This third factor combines QB play, coaching, style and productivity of the offense, and fit. But looking at those sub-factors can be deceiving. Neither St. Brown nor Moore would’ve gotten high marks for landing spot/situation in 2021. But they had this in common – they played on teams that sported a bottom-2 defense, meaning the offense constantly had to chase points. So when looking at landing spot, let’s factor that in as well.
With these criteria in mind, here are my favorite rookie WR targets for 2022 in redraft leagues (note – ADPs listed are current and will change over the summer, and things like injuries, signings and cuts, camp reports and more will have an impact – so take the ADPs with a grain of salt and I’ll update this column in August):
- Treylon Burks. The Titans took the Arkansas product with the 18th pick in the Draft, meaning 5 WRs went before him. But for this season, I like him best. Why? Because for me, he does the best job of checking all 3 boxes. A.J. Brown is gone, and Burks is a big, strong, and somewhat explosive target who has some of the same attributes as Brown. He has lots of experience operating from the slot, but the Titans figure to use him in a multitude of ways. What I really like is the opportunity, as he’s likely to have less competition for targets than other rookies. The Titans don’t have a single returning player who caught 40 balls last year. The top 2 receivers figure to be Burks and former Ram Robert Woods, who is also new to the team and is coming off a season-ending ACL tear in November. And finally, I like the landing spot. Yes, the Titans run the ball a lot, but they’re a highly productive offense that scores plenty. Ryan Tannehill is a master at play action, and talented receivers can thrive in this system. I think Burks offers a decently high ceiling with a solid floor for a rookie. Apparently, so do others, as he’s got the top ADP of the rookie WRs (WR33, #78 overall in Half PPR). At that ADP he’s a late 7th Rounder and I think that’s a fair price to pay for his upside, which could be difference-making. Sign me up.
- Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. I’m not lumping these 2 together because they were college teammates at OSU. I’m doing it because after Burks, I think they offer the best combo of talent, opportunity, and landing spot. Both should see plenty of playing time right away, and both are on offenses that should throw a decent amount. In the case of Olave, I love the smoothness of his game (his size, speed, and route-running reminds me a little of Chris Godwin, who had a tremendous season with Jameis Winston in 2019) and he might be the most NFL-ready of the rookies. I also like his opportunity. Michael Thomas’s health is hard to trust, Jarvis Landry is more like a tight end at this stage of his career, and the rest of the receiver/TE room is ho-hum. I don’t expect Olave to be an automatic start, but he should have good flex appeal and the same is true for Wilson, who also has plenty of game and steps in alongside Elijah Moore and Corey Davis in what should be an improved offense. I don’t know what to expect from Zach Wilson, but the Jets figure once again be playing a lot of catch-up. Olave’s ADP is 105, while Wilson’s is 85. I’m more comfortable with Olave in Round 10 than Wilson in Round 8, but I think both will see plenty of targets and are good upside picks as your 3rd or ideally 4th receiver.
- Skyy Moore. Patrick Mahomes. That’s who’ll be throwing balls to Skyy Moore, and Tyreek Hill is gone. I could probably stop there. The Chiefs did bring in JuJu and MVS, and Travis Kelce figures to lead the team in targets. But Moore is a polished route runner with lots of experience working out of the slot and I can see him carving out a nice role on this great and creative offense, sooner rather than later. Moore’s current ADP of 164 makes him a guy you can take in the late rounds as your 4th or 5th WR, and I love the dart throw on him at that price.
- Christian Watson. Aaron Rodgers. Davante Adams. See above. Similar to KC, the Packers traded away their top wideout, drafted a WR in Round 2, and there’s a huge target share up for grabs in an elite passing offense. The WR room in Green Bay is crowded right now but none of the names are awe-inspiring. Aaron Jones might lead this team in targets. Watson has a rare size-speed combo, but he’s a little raw and didn’t face top competition in college. So this could take time and I like him more as a second half of the season guy. Still, the Packers moved up to get him at the top of Round 2 and he’s got a high ceiling. And Rodgers has a history fo turning second round picks into fantasy studs. At a current ADP of 147, Watson will only cost you a 12th or 13th Round pick – I’m in on that upside value play all day.
- Jameson Williams. If Williams hadn’t torn his ACL in January, he likely would’ve been the first receiver taken in April. I don’t know if he’ll be ready when the season starts, but once he’s 100%, he should have a great opportunity in the passing game alongside St. Brown, Hockenson and Swift. The Detroit defense should be improved, but I still expect them to need to throw a lot, and Williams is a home run hitter. Say what you want about Jared Goff, but he’s made some WRs very worthwhile in fantasy, including St. Brown last season. I think Williams is a nice stash in the later rounds, and like Watson, could really help fantasy managers in the latter part of the season.
- Drake London. A quick word on London, the first WR taken in the draft. Yes, the WR group in Atlanta is very weak. But I’m worried about this offense struggling in its first year post-Matt Ryan. I expect inconsistent QB play and a lot of low scoring efforts. I like the talent and especially his size, but I’m not looking to have many shares of London.
- Waiver Wire Watch. Any prominent rookie receiver who doesn’t get taken in your fantasy draft should be on your waivers watchlist, together with those who get dropped early by impatient owners. I’d especially keep my eye on David Bell (Cle), Alec Pierce (Ind), George Pickens (Pit), and John Metchie, III (Hou). I think the talent-opportunity-landing spot combo for all of them is good, and that they all fit nicely in their new offense. I’m fine with taking a flier on these players towards the end of the draft. Any of them could be this year’s St. Brown.
At some point early in this Flores lawsuit mess, I predicted that the league would pledge to improve, thank Flores for his insight, start an Initiative to find and train minorities to take leadership positions, and cause every club to have a Compliance Officer. Etc. Etc.
Then Flores would have no position to grieve, since he has a job, had a job, and can get another job.
They all shake hands and move on to New Business.
“I didn’t say anything when they took away other people’s rights,
so when they took away mine, it was … too late.”
They still have a right to murder their babies. They may just have to travel further to do it. So sad. Such a tragedy for them.
I am not in favor of abortion.
This country was founded on religious freedom.
Why are we letting one religious group dictate to the rest of us
that we must live by their religious beliefs?
I’m ok with them believing their weird beliefs,
as long as it does not hurt others,
or impinge upon the freedom of others to believe as they wish.
Are they going to take roll in church now?
to see who goes every Sunday?
And punish those who don’t?
That is exactly what they want to do.
And next is … not just any church … but only THEIR church.
SCOTUS is supposed to follow the constitution, their decision just reversed the unconstitutional decision handed down in Roe v Wade
These claims about taking rights away and privacy is a lie
All they did was give rights back to the states
But you do you and interpret as you will
No, they expressly took away the right to privacy. Spin it any way you want but that is the express decision of the court. Now that there is no right to privacy the states have increased authority to regulate our lives
Ken, abortion is not in the constitution, meaning it’s up to the states to decide
They aren’t taking away anyone’s privacy
Roe vs Wade was wrongfully decided, coming from RBG herself
The federal govt has no right to regulate one way or another on abortion
Those bringing the case to SCOTUS should’ve left well enough alone
The bottom line is that the court has now created government control over peoples lives. That government control is in the state governments but it is government control none the less. There are now over 20 states regulating abortion when previously there were none. That is more government control, not less. Now people have no recourse to challenge that because the court there is no right to privacy
“The federal govt has no right to regulate one way or another on abortion” — most of the talking heads I see say that Congress could enact legislation either permitting or banning abortion nationwide. Given that the Court has decided abortion is not a right that leaves federal regulation of it possible.
On another note
New Zealand’s so pretty … why do I not go live there?
I feel sure I could still get the Dolphins games, right?
Was there like 3 years ago. Wonderful country and wonderful country. Not sure if you can get Phins games every week, but at least some should be available. Would be on at like 5 AM though.
Like no one on the board today. Hope it is not cause people were victims of the violent rioting Soccer Moms. Any confirmation that the Supreme Court Justices are still alive?
More like organized DNC activities, soccer moms went home to cook dinner
I read the news and saw few if any reports of violence or rioting. Little tear gas used here and there but that was it.
The insurrection in Phoenix was hardly peaceful and in LA
Phoenix was the tear gas. What happened in LA? Know they blocked traffic but didn’t catch much more than that.
Some social conservatives, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, promised to push for abortion bans in every state, or anti-abortion legislation at the federal level.
So what Naples is talking about is what some of these nut jobs want.
Who cares what they want? Some want to ban fossil fuels, some want GND, some want total gun control, some want a fair election…
I care because religious views have no place in government policy. It’s in the 1st Amendment. I also call out the left wing nut jobs too.
What is GND by the way?
Steve.. I get Dolphins games streamed in using Kayo. I used to have Foxtel and before that I used NFL Game Pass. I live in South Australia. NZ would have the same arrangements I’m sure.
Naples was the one wondering, but think he was just saying NZ is really, really nice. Do you guys have sports bars where they show multiple NFL games?
The ole USA ain’t such a bad place, even if you can’t get an abortion in every state. Funny that NY has these huge protests about women’s rights while NYC is practically advertising for women to come to NY for an abortion. Seems like there are better places to protest, no?
I think we’ll be seeing a lot of this everywhere.
Oh I know, I just find it ironic that a huge one goes down in NYC while on TV there are commercials promoting abortion and come to NYC for an abortion like they’re selling fucking hot dogs!
No mustard or ketchup please. Just a plain abortion and a large Pepsi.
No Pepsi, Coke! Do you want to upsize?
Do you have literacola?
Kong – Are you sure you don’t want a Brazilian wax while we’re up in your business? Just $39.95 extra
LOL, now you’re talking
“The Dolphins’ offensive line should be massively improved in 2022, but that’s after the unit was one of the NFL’s worst in 2021. Terron Armstead is a top-five left tackle when healthy and immediately brings stability to the group. With so many draft picks invested in the rest of the offensive line in recent years, there are going to be a lot of training camp competitions to shake out this eventual lineup.”
— PFF’s Michael Renner on why he ranks the Phins’ OL 23rd in the league.
The ranking number means nothing to me, we just need to be improved enough to be considered in the avg discussion
Tua performed remarkable, given we had a horrible OL and not much other than Waddlle getting open consistently
On avg-ish OL is enough for starters
Yeah preseason rankings don’t really mean much. Nobody has seen this OL with some new players, new coaching and techniques.
They can at least look at our big bodies on the line in terms of past play. Maybe don’t mean much, but would prefer say the #1 ranking. But might be just me.
I hear ya and we did move up because we were ranked at the bottom last year. 🙂
Houston finishes off a combined no hitter against the Yanks.
When was the last solo no no? Gotta think those are becoming rarer and rarer.
I’m pretty sure we’ve had at least one this year, but the complete game no hitter does seem to be getting rarer.
Angels had one this season. Noah Syndergaard threw some shade against the Mets telling the NY Mets “That’s what a real no hitter looks like” after P Reid Detmers no hitter on May 10, 2022.
The Mets also had a combined no hitter this season, so that was in respinse to the Mets no hitter.
Wow that’s impressive with the way that team has been playing.
If Conner Williams is going to be the Center and he said that’s where he expects to play, Jackson and Eichenberg are the two wildcards. Where do they play or does someone else step up?
Agreed…giving him the protection Brady has always had…
Saw that. People are so quick to write guys off. This is Tua’s 3rd season and it’s not like he was part of a well structured offense his first two seasons and he had his own injury issues.
We’re going to learn a lot about Tua this year.
If the OL is just average, middle of the pack v 30th….geez, loueez
As long as we can run our plays and allow playmakers to make plays, I don’t care what our ranking is from PFF. All we ask is don’t be horrible. LOL
It starts up front….completely agree with OD
OD turned you onto that? That’s football 101.
Lol…no…fundamental on both sides of the ball….and not happy with either to date
We don’t know what we are yet but the potential is good. 🙂
Stanger… we have hotels where different AFL games are played on TV screens via Foxtel in seperate bars inside the pub. Most of us stay at home to watch the games now due to the drunk driving laws. Random breath testing is rampant most nights. Remember our total population Australia wide is only about 28 million people. Adelaide, where I live is squeezed between the sea and the hills, however, it runs along the coast for about 50 miles length ways and I dunno the width, maybe12-15 miles.
Your cities have much more people than our whole country does. Interior is mainly red dust.
That’s wild because Australia is a big continent.
I laughed out loud!
The folks who live on our East, and West coasts think our interior is filled with RED dust too! 😉
But by “hotels where different AFL games are played on TV” I take it does not mean every Phins game. Sounds like Naples is staying put. 🙂
We have sports bars here where guaranteed to have every game shown in the season on one of the many screens. Cause a lot of out of town fans can’t get on their regular TVs. But that is in the “A” of “AFL.” Not much Ausie rules here either.
EX Fins always end up in Boston!
Just another indication that we have a better roster than the Patriots as they are now taking our cast-offs who were not good enough to make our team.
I liked Raekwon #1, but he never seemed smart enough to learn his position.
I admit MLB is a tough assignment mentally, though,
so maybe it has finally clicked for him.
I hope not.
I am against abortion,
but I am for limited freedom to get one if medically necessary.
I am totally against using abortion as casual birth control
as in “no problem, I can just get an abortion.”
Using abortion as casual birth control is part of the rights propaganda. Most abortions are not casual or easy for women. It’s emotional and psychologically challenging. I don’t understand how anyone thinks government can tell anyone what to do with their bodies. We own ourselves not the state.
Oklahoma is a Choctaw word meaning “red people.”
It’s possible they were just training somebody at Center in case Dieter goes down like he did last year. Much safer to train someone, on that position especially, with no pads on.
Williams might go back to his LG spot, but he won’t be raw and confused if he needs to go in for Dieter. The QBs now know how he snaps, too, especially the left handed one.
People blame Brissett for losing all those games, but if I remember correctly during our losing streak we had 3 other centers from off their sofas snapping the ball.
well I just wanted to touch base with you guys and say I’m so excited by this new team that I’ve even bought tickets for my wife and me to go to the first game … the preseason one in Tampa.
Figure that might be one where the first string plays some, and I can’t wait to see what that looks like.
Now I hear that we are going to practice with them the week before the game.
As soon as I get some definitive details on that, I think maybe I’ll plan to run up to the Bay and watch one or more days of Dolphins/Bucs practice sessions.
It’s been years since I attended preseason practice in Miami or Atlanta.
And yes I’ll take my wife to the practices too I think.
I mostly take her with me everywhere.
I have the best wife in the universe.
(Your wife can be in a tie for that honor if you want.)
Naples — your wife is really cool, but am convinced Toba’s is the best in the universe. You seen the pics of their basement football play room? 🙂
Last night I took her out to Molino’s Italian in the Promenade of Bonita Springs
where I had Pollo Sorrentino, and she had Filetti Sogliola Meuniere,
and we both had 2 glasses of a strong dry Banfi Montalcino.
Then we shared a Tartuffo Bomba, a huge round chocolate and vanilla ice cream bomb thing encased in a dark chocolate shell with chocolate raspberry drizzle.
It was such a fun evening of conversation and laughter. I did not even mind the opera music.
It was to celebrate our wedding anniversary.
We’ve been married now for 45 years.
We’ve known each other for a half century.
But she was just a freshman in college when I first saw her,
so I had to be patient and let her grow up for a while before I asked her out.
So today, we are going on our wedding trip.
We have taken so many “Second Honeymoons” that we don’t even call them that any more.
We are flying to Denver to see 2 concerts in Red Rocks Amphitheatre in a canyon in the mountains.
And we’ll also cruise some speakeasies, catch some live jazz or blues at some nightclubs,
close down this bourbon bar I think I found that has some intriguing flights
(in walking distance to our BnB),
and meet up with her family and 2 of our sons for her niece’s wedding.
We’ll be gone a week.
And no, Phelon, we do not smoke dope, so we won’t be bringing any back across state lines.
btw is that stuff legal in the Conch Republic?
Lol….Rock on Daddy’O. Yours is a wonderful story. Hope you guys have a great time.
BTW – I agree 100% with your beliefs on abortion.
Naples – Good to see you guys happy. That’s what we all strive for, hope for. It’s a beautiful thing.
Just trying to keep it real on the blog.
It’s amazing to me that she has stuck it out,
given my obvious multiple flaws.
PS: My wife thought your wife was an instant friend.
Pretty high compliment.
That’s sweet, very nice. You guys are great people.
A lifetime with the woman you love….that’s awesome, naples. Can’t wait to meet you two.
I thought this was interesting about the most underrated players on the team…
What happened to the countdown of the top 25 Dolphins? Lol…..has it been 25 days since it started.
My definition of a second honeymoon is any night the kids are out of the house
Enjoy Naples sounds like a great time
That’s very nice, Naples. Enjoy!
Finally got back to the beach after Costa Rica….long busy season and time to rest.
In Port Aransas, TX for a week and the last two weeks in July, back to Costa Rica….yay!
NEW BLOG UP!!!
I like it! But, I would have London higher. I agree, Atlanta’s offense is going to be very weak. But, with that weak WR room like you mentioned, London has the potential to see 10 targets on any given week. I have him second behind Treylon Burks.