As NFL fans brace themselves for the slow months of the offseason, best ball fantasy football drafts featuring some of the top rookies are taking place by eager fantasy managers. With the NFL draft not far removed and rookie minicamps taking place, which 2022 NFL rookie wide receivers could be valuable during your best ball draft, and who are some of the better values in WR rankings?
Which rookie wide receivers could you draft for Best Ball in 2022?
When looking for rookies who can make an impact from Day 1, look no further than this year’s class of wide receivers. Not only is it top-heavy with talent, but the class as a whole is deep.
While there isn’t a prospect who graded out in the same range as CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, or Ja’Marr Chase, we could see multiple rookie wide receivers finish as WR2s for best ball in 2022. Traditionally coming as a discount, use early rankings to your favor and snag some of these 2022 rookie WRs for your best ball roster.
Drake London, Atlanta Falcons
The first wide receiver off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft is also the first player on our list as Drake London is a prime candidate to break out as a rookie. Following the suspension of Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage’s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Falcons had the worst WR room in the NFL. They desperately needed additional receiver help.
London steps in as the instant No. 1 for Marcus Mariota. Aligning both on the perimeter and in the slot, London did it all at USC and is far more complete than simply a contested-catch receiver as some like to label him. Even with Bryan Edwards joining the team, this is likely a two-pass-catcher offense between London and TE Kyle Pitts, both swapping roles inside and out wide based on formation. If I’m placing my bet down as the best rookie WR of the class, London is who I will ride with in 2022 as a potential 1,000+ yard receiver.
Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans
It seemed to be that the popular thing to do at the time was to call Treylon Burks slow or a likely bust. I have no idea where that came from, but people need to find ways to keep themselves entertained, I guess. Not only did Burks receive Round 1 draft capital, but the Titans traded A.J. Brown to the Eagles in a wild five minutes during the draft, then selected Burks as the heir apparent.
It just so happens the common comparison for Burks was Brown, and now he inherits his role in the offense. 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.
Do I feel Burks does this one to one? No. He’s not the prospect Brown was coming out, but I’m not sure anyone in this WR class has the game-breaking upside of Burks, especially in their respective roles. Where the floor might be slightly higher for London, the ceiling could be higher for Burks. In best ball, a player’s ceiling is essential, especially at wide receiver.
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. Currently sitting in rankings as a mid-WR4, Burks could explode and finish as a WR2 in 2022. Based on current WR best ball rankings, Burks could end up one of the better values.
Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers
Is anyone 100% convinced they know what Christian Watson will be in the NFL? I know I’m not, but what I do know is the combination of talent, upside, and landing spot are all there for him to find success early on in 2022.
For one, Watson is an elite prospect from an athletic standpoint measuring in at 6’4 1/8″ and 208 pounds with 10 1/8″ hands. Watson ran a 4.36 40-yard dash, had a top-five vertical jump at 38.5″, and posted a best-in-class broad jump at 136″. He’s now targeted by the back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers, who is searching for his next top target.
With Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling out of town, could it be Watson? Perhaps. At best, he lights it up. At worst, Watson is the next MVS — a speedy vertical threat. In best ball, the risk is heavily reduced, as would be the guesswork of deciding when to start Watson in fantasy when compared to a “traditional” league.
Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
For many, Garrett Wilson came in the rankings as the No. 1 WR for both NFL and fantasy purposes. The Jets must have agreed, selecting Wilson with the No. 10 overall pick. A do-it-all receiver, Wilson can win in any situation, both intermediate and deep, along with contested situations. Wilson backed up his explosiveness with a 4.38 40-yard dash, 36″ vertical, and 123″ broad jump in Indy.
He now heads to the Jets but finds himself in a somewhat crowded offense, unlike other WRs in this class. There is a debate on who will be the WR1 between Wilson or Elijah Moore, but it more than likely ends in a 1a/1b situation. Corey Davis is still going to be a factor as well as Braxton Berrios, C.J. Uzomah, and both Michael Carter and Breece Hall out of the backfield.
While the Jets were No. 2 in overall passing rate (63%) and threw the ball 55% of the time in neutral game scripts (19th) in 2021, is that something we expect to see carry over into 2022? If it did, then the volume would not be a concern. But the addition of Hall and more OL upgrades suggest a more balanced offensive approach. After all, their best odds of beating the Bills, Patriots, and Dolphins are to keep their offenses on the sidelines with clock-controlling drives.
If I’m rankings the Jets WR based on weekly upside for best ball, Wilson will slide in just over Moore, but I lean more when it comes to volume. However, Wilson is more likely –based on his projected role — to have more explosive plays. I’ll trade some of the boom or bust for the big plays in best ball fantasy formats in 2022.
Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions
Best ball is the perfect format to draft Jameson Williams for fantasy in 2022. In most redraft leagues, he’s likely to be over-drafted. I love the skill set he brings as much as anyone but expecting Williams to be consistent is asking way too much. He’ll be the Lions’ vertical threat and rounds off a terrific offense full of playmakers like Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, T.J. Hockenson, and D’Andre Swift.
The problem for Williams is two-fold. For one, he’s likely 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. Will he even feel like his old self then? Who knows. The second issue is Jared Goff. In a bit of twisted humor, the Lions paired the ultimate field stretcher with the QB who had the lowest intended air yards in 2021.
The only way I’m drafting Williams for fantasy in 2022 is in best ball formats, where once he’s ready, he could have a chance to contribute to my roster. Otherwise, Williams is likely to clog a bench spot unless you’re allowed to place him on the IR.
Tyquan Thornton, New England Patriots
Does anyone know what the Patriots were doing on draft day? It was the weirdest draft I can remember. One of those odd picks being the fastest man of the 2022 NFL Draft class, Tyquan Thornton, who was selected with the 40th overall pick out of Baylor.
It’s a double-whammy. A team who has one of the worst track records at drafting the position with a college that produces far too many guys who test well but never perform at the NFL level. Perhaps the selections made in the draft suggest a change in philosophy to a more zone-oriented offense with Cole Strange, a great moving guard, and Pierre Strong Jr., a rapid but powerful back from South Dakota State.
If so, you tend to need a vertical threat who can beat single-high coverage in play action. If so, the selection of Thornton makes far more sense. Do I know what the hell the Pats were doing? No. Did I semi-convince myself that this might work? Yes. I guess I’ll snag Thornton at the right value in best ball now. He’s low enough in best ball rankings and will not cost much to acquire.
Alec Pierce, Indianapolis Colts
Alec Pierce is one of my favorite under-the-radar rookie breakouts for 2022. Selected in the second round and falling to a perfect spot in Indianapolis, Pierce has a wide-open path to opportunities as the No. 2 target behind Michael Pittman Jr., who carries 150-target upside in 2022.
Aside from Pittman and Pierce, the Colts’ room is rather vacant. Parris Campbell has yet to stay healthy but plays in the slot. Ashton Dulin was re-signed in the offseason, but without T.Y. Hilton or Zach Pascal, this offense really only has two targets, Pittman and Pierce.
Pierce is a tall receiver who excels at tracking the ball and coming down with 50/50 passes. He led all FBS players in receptions (13) and yards (521) on go routes since 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Info. That should translate to the NFL and especially best ball formats. Pierce is one of my favorite WR values in best ball when looking at current rankings.
Jalen Tolbert, Dallas Cowboys
Jalen Tolbert is a big play waiting to happen. A three-year starter, Tolbert really took over in his last two seasons at South Alabama. The 6’1 1/8″, 194-pound WR recorded 146 receptions for 2,560 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was responsible for 29.7% of the receptions and averaged 3.36 yards per team passing attempt.
Tolbert solidified his draft capital at the NFL Combine with 10″ hands, a 76 3/8″ wingspan, a 4.49 40-yard dash, and a 36″ vertical jump. Since 2019, no FBS player had more receptions of 15 yards or more than Tolbert (77). Now he plays with one of the best deep-ball throwers in the NFL, Dak Prescott.
Dallas needed receiver help after trading away Cooper and losing Cedrick Wilson Jr. in free agency to the Miami Dolphins. With Michael Gallup recovering from a torn ACL, Tolbert is the field stretcher for Dak. Currently sitting beyond WR70 in fantasy best ball rankings, Tolbert is a sure bet at his current ADP.
Justyn Ross, Kansas City Chiefs
Sure the Chiefs selected Skyy Moore in the second round, but I want to talk about the UDFA they brought in after the draft. There is no way those sixth and seventh-round picks teams were taking had more upside than Justyn Ross. Are their medical red flags? A thousand percent. Still, does the upside outweigh the risk? Unquestionably.
Ross, when healthy, was a dominant receiver at Clemson, posting 1,865 yards and 17 TDs in his first two seasons before his injuries. A 6’4″, 205-pound receiver, Ross can both go up and get the ball or secure it in traffic and get yards after the catch. This is the perfect landing spot if he can break through the roster. I’ll stay away in redraft, at least on draft day, but in best ball, I’ll shoot my shot with Ross.