As we continue our series recapping the 2022 NFL Draft and how incoming rookies will translate, today’s episode of PFN’s Premier Fantasy Football Podcast will be the first in our two-part breakdown of the rookie WRs and how they project for 2022.
How do the first-round receivers fit in with their new offenses, and how should fantasy football managers view these WR prospects for the 2022 season?
Fantasy football outlook for rookie WRs
In this episode, PFN Fantasy Analyst Jason Katz and I went over the receivers selected inside the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. This was a deep class but also very top-heavy. It was commonplace in fantasy to expect a second or even third-year breakout from receivers, given the transition and adjustment needed for the NFL game.
That is not quite the case anymore, as WRs like Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase have recently broken out as rookies in fantasy. Now it’s about trying to find the next player who will continue this trend into 2022. Could it be one of these receivers, or someone who slid in the draft?
Drake London, Atlanta Falcons
The first wide receiver of the board in the NFL draft just so happened to be my WR1 of the class. Drake London can do it all. He has multiple years of playing inside in the slot but also dominated as a perimeter receiver last year for USC. While not someone with incendiary speed, London creates separation at all three levels of the route and can take one to the house if given open space.
London will undoubtedly have all the opportunities he could dream of to succeed in Atlanta, which had the single worst wide receiver room in the NFL. London slots in as the top receiver. The top pass catcher is between him and Kyle Pitts, but that’s a debate for another day. Nevertheless, they are both going to eat when it comes to production.
The recent trade for Bryan Edwards is likely a better NFL move than a fantasy opportunity as I don’t foresee Edwards impacting either London or Pitts. London is currently a mid WR3 in my rankings and the top-ranked fantasy WR rookie in 2022. However, there is room for him to hit WR2 status this season, although top 12 could be a stretch based on predicted passing volume in Atlanta.
Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
As we have seen, draft capital means a ton in the NFL as it represents how long of a lease you have until a team is willing to move in a different direction. I’d say being selected No. 10 overall certainly checks the draft capital box for Garrett Wilson.
A do-it-all receiver, Wilson can win in any situation, both intermediate and deep, along with contested situations. His hands are as soft as they come, and Wilson’s selection kickstarted what was a phenomenal draft for the Jets. There is certainly debate on who will be the WR1 between Wilson and 2021 second-round pick Elijah Moore.
My initial lean, based on volume, is for Moore, but this is likely a more 1A/1B scenario as I project both Wilson and Moore to sit as the top two in targets. It all comes down to the progression of QB Zach Wilson.
Volume shouldn’t be a problem as the Jets were No. 2 in overall pass rate (63%) and threw the ball 55% of the time in neutral game scripts (19th). While improving, the Jets are still likely to be down in games. Breece Hall’s addition improves their running game in tandem with Michael Carter, but this is a passing league. Wilson comes as a low-end fantasy WR3 but looks like the No. 3 WR rookie for 2022 when compared to the opportunities and situations of others.
Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
If we had discussed this a week or so ago, Chris Olave was in a position to dominate, especially in PPR formats. A highly productive receiver from Ohio State, he was the perfect fit for New Orleans, who even traded up in the first round to select him. He was the locked-in No. 2 behind Michael Thomas.
Things are a bit cloudy following the signing of Jarvis Landry, a proven veteran who now plays for his hometown team. Barring injury, Olave slides in as the No. 3 in the pecking order behind Thomas and Landry. However, there should be enough volume to keep him involved. But enough to keep him inside starting territory barring an injury on the depth chart? That is a question that can only be answered once the season begins. Olave is closer to a boom-or-bust WR4 at the moment than a reliable top-36 option.
Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions
If not for his late-season ACL tear, Jameson Williams could have been the No. 1 receiver drafted in 2022, both in the draft and fantasy. Recording 79 receptions, Williams totaled 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns as arguably the nation’s top wideout.
The issue is Williams is a candidate to start the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. This carries a mandatory six-game absence, meaning if you draft Williams, the earliest he can be played is Week 7. He then steps into a rather crowded room with DJ Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and T.J. Hockenson at tight end. I love the long-term trajectory for Williams, just not so much in 2022, where Jared Goff hampers his verticality and explosiveness. Williams is a candidate who will be over-drafted in ADP but could prove to be a midseason acquisition off waivers if he starts to break out.
Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders
As a talent, I love Jahan Dotson. But from a landing spot and fantasy outlook for 2022, I am less enthusiastic. Washington needed a WR2 to pair with Terry McLaurin, and they got a great one in Dotson. However, Curtis Samuel is still in town, and his $19.6 million dead cap hit suggests he will be a factor in this offense. Add in Logan Thomas and both Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic out of the backfield, and we are probably asking too much from Carson Wentz to keep everyone fantasy relevant. For 2022, Dotson is in the WR5/6 range but could surprise us if Samuel struggles with injuries again.
Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans
Treylon Burks did not light up Lucas Oil Stadium when he ran at the NFL Combine. Do you know who didn’t care about that? The Tennessee Titans. Not only did they move up to select Burks, but they traded away A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles in the process.
Let’s just examine the role Burks is filling. In Brown’s three years with the Titans (43 games), he recorded a 23% target share and 26.5% over the last two seasons. He also saw 44% of the WR targets since 2020 with 45% of the yards. That equated to nearly 3,000 yards and a 15.1 PPR/game average along the way.
The widely used comparison for Burks was Brown, and it just so happens he slides directly into his role. Now, Burks is not a 1-to-1 fit. Brown was a better prospect coming out of Ole Miss than Burks is coming out of Arkansas. But the opportunity to dominate is there for fantasy. His competition for targets is a 30-year-old Robert Woods coming off an ACL tear, fellow rookie WR Kyle Philips from UCLA, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. That’s it.
The fantasy floor for Burks, barring injury to himself or Ryan Tannehill, is a mid WR3. Much like London, the upside is inside the top 24 and even the upper limits of WR2 status. I’m all in on Burks for the 2022 fantasy football season.