One of the most difficult tasks in drafting a fantasy football team
is trying to decide between two players you essentially see as having
nearly identical value. Knowing how to break such a ďtieĒ can be
important as often a pick comes down to a dilemma between Player
A and Player B. The purpose of this article is to not only identify
pairs of players that are considered of nearly equal value in 2022,
but also take a look at the process of solving those dilemmas.
Our second installment in this three-part series focuses on wide
receivers. The specific focus is on two receivers who are being
looked upon to lead their teams in receptions and receiving yards,
but who also face competition from up-and-coming teammates.
Once the top ten receivers are off the board, these two wide-outs
will be on a very short list. Which is the better choice? Time to
answer that via some analysis.
No offense to Matt Ryan, who will benefit this season from a much-improved
offensive line, but Justin Herbert is a superstar, fantasy and otherwise.
The fact that Keenan Allen gets to play alongside him enhances his
stability and upside in ways that most wide receivers canít
relate to. In Herbertís second season, Allen saw an uptick
in targets, receptions (career high with 106), yards, and yards
per reception as compared to Herbertís rookie year. All of
that suggests that despite 2022 being Allenís tenth year in
the league, heís still operating in his prime years in terms
of on-field production. Only seven other receivers were targeted
more in 2021 than Allen (157 targets) and with the Los Angeles receiving
corps remaining essentially what it was last season, that number
isnít likely to go down.
In short, there may not be a ďsaferĒ pick in the late
third/early fourth round at any position than Keenan Allen. His
age has yet to lead to a downturn in numbers and the offense he
plays in is top five in terms of overall potency. Only twice all
season (2021) was he targeted less than 8 times. Same asÖ
On the flip side of this drafting dilemma is a much younger wide
receiver entering into that magical third season - a benchmark that
often signals arrival. Michael Pittman Jr. didnít just improve
last year upon his rookie season. He more than doubled his first-year
receptions. He more than doubled his first-year yards. He had more
than 2x the number of targets in his second season. He had 6x more
touchdowns. Granted, Pittman played in four more game in 2021 than
he did in 2020, but the jump in production was still impressive
given that the QB throwing him the ball was traded in the offseason.
Now, Pittman is looking at improved quarterback play with a history
of turning talented wide-outs into super productive stars. One of
those wide-outs (Julio Jones) was thought to be a target for Indianapolis
in the offseason given his history with Ryan, but the Colts obviously
felt comfortable with Pittman as their front man at the position.
With a 5% improvement in completion percentage from Wentz to Ryan,
it would not be a surprise if Pittmanís numbers in 2022 improved
even further. Heís a good candidate for top-ten production
at the position.
Pittmanís competition comes from some raw peers, but in
Allenís case, it comes from arguably the 1B to his 1A in
the form of Mike Williams. Williams got off to a torrid start
in 2021 and while he cooled off during the second half of the
season, the Chargers thought enough of what he accomplished to
sign him to a new deal. Williams isnít likely to exceed
Allen in catches or targets this season, but heís a better
option in the red zone and he stretches the field much more than
Allen (5 more yards per reception).
There is little to suggest that Allenís value floor will
be much different, but his upside is firmly capped by what Williams
brings to the table. Moreover, reports out of Chargers camp suggest
that the 6í8 Donald Parham is coming into his own by way
of his rapport with Herbert and his prowess in the red zone. Both
Williams and Parham make it a near certainty that Allenís
TD numbers wonít change all that much and could actually
decline to levels experienced earlier in his career (8 touchdowns
combined in his second and third NFL seasons).
Pittman doesnít have a Mike Williams to contend with, which
is good. But, it could also be a bad thing faces increased double
coverage, particularly if rookie Alec Pierce is slow coming out
of the gate. Frank Reichís offense is notoriously challenging
for young receivers which led to the re-signing T.Y. Hilton in
2021. But Hilton is not back with the Colts this year as drafting
Pierce seemed to seal his fate.
Indianapolis is also hoping that the talented, but oft-injured
Parris Campbell can stay on the field this season as heís
missed 34 games due to injury in his three years in the league.
Campbell has big play ability and his ability to stretch the field
bodes well for Pittman. That said, if he were to miss time again,
a double team week in and week out on Pittman is more than a possible
outcome - itís a likely scenario. Having a legit WR1B or
WR2 opposite you is actually a good thing more times than not
and thereís no guarantee that Indy will find that fit, particularly
during the first month or two of the season.
What statistic do we look at in order to help solve this neck-and-neck
horse race between two outstanding pass catchers? In PPR leagues,
much attention is paid to targets and rightfully so. Allen was
targeted 28 more times than Pittman in 2021 (157 to 129) despite
also playing in one less game. While Ryanís improved accuracy
as compared to Wentz will lead to 6-8 more receptions for Pittman
most likely, the presence of a world-class offensive line and
running back will keep the Colts in ball control mode more than
the Chargers who have to try to keep up with divisional foes with
So, Allen is the clear choice, correct? Maybe. But, what if Allen
turns out to be 1B to Mike Williams this season or worse yet,
a complementary WR2. Thereís little danger of Pittman being
relegated to such a status and thereís no denying his upside
is through the roof given how much progress he made from Year
1 to Year 2.
In the end, it likely comes down to whether or not you believe
Pittman can make the jump to double-digit TDs in an offense in
which he will counted on more frequently in the red zone than
Allen will be in L.A. The projection here is 9 TDs to just 5 for
Allen, making Pittman the better choice in standard leagues and
Allen more formidable when PPR is factored in.
Projected 2022 Statistics: