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Which WRs will Fall from the Fantasy Top Ten in 2022?

By Joseph Hutchins | 7/27/22

Every year, it takes me longer and longer to write the introductory paragraph for this series. That’s partially because I’m slowing down some (hit the big 5-0 a while back), partially because I’m distracted (summertime!), but mostly because there are only so many ways to say the exact same thing over and over and over again. In its most basic form, that thing is this: The players who won you fantasy championships last year aren’t very likely to do so this year. That’s it. That’s the only point I’m ever trying to make and the rest—who, specifically, is most likely to derail your championship dreams this season—is just details. I’ll be back next summer to say the exact same thing a slightly different way, but in the meantime, here are those details, the most likely Top 10 dropouts for 2022.

Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s Non-PPR league scoring.

  Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2020
Rank Player
1 Davante Adams
2 Tyreek Hill
3 Stefon Diggs
4 Calvin Ridley
5 DK Metcalf
6 Justin Jefferson
7 Mike Evans
8 Adam Thielen
9 DeAndre Hopkins
10 A.J. Brown
  Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2021
Rank Player
1 Cooper Kupp
2 Deebo Samuel
3 Ja’Marr Chase
4 Justin Jefferson
5 Davante Adams
6 Mike Evans
7 Tyreek Hill
8 Stefon Diggs
9 Diontae Johnson
10 DK Metcalf

Who Missed the Cut in 2020 (4/10): C. Ridley, A. Thielen, D. Hopkins, & A. Brown

Ready for some fun with numbers, pre-algebra edition? The mean, or average, number of Top 10 WR dropouts since 2010 is now precisely 6.0. However, the median (middle) is 6.5 and the mode (most common) is 7.0. Put another way, three years of relatively low dropout rates the past decade-plus (2013, 2018, and last year) are the only thing keeping the wide receiver ranks from running back-like attrition (6.4, 6.5, and 8.0, respectively).

Calvin Ridley was widely expected to make a stratospheric rise when the Falcons cut ties with their most productive WR ever, Julio Jones, following the 2020 campaign. Alas, the blossoming star struggled with mental health issues early last year, missed 12 games as a result, and will now miss all of 2022 as he sits out a lengthy suspension for gambling.

Ridley’s fellow 2021 dropouts were a lot more productive, but only relatively so. Adam Thielen (WR27) lost four games to a high ankle sprain and is now a clear second fiddle to Justin Jefferson in Minneapolis, though he managed to notch as many TD receptions as his young teammate. DeAndre Hopkins (WR39) missed by far the most games he’d ever missed in nine NFL seasons (6), suffering through a balky hamstring and then a torn MCL in Week 14. Unfortunately, like Ridley, D-Hop is suspended to start this season, though he’s eligible to return in Week 7. Guess this gives him more time to recuperate from knee surgery?

The final WR dropout of 2021’s small class, A.J. Brown (WR32), ended up on injured reserve with a chest issue late in the season, which ultimately cost him four games of action. More troubling, however, was the fact he failed to tally even five fantasy points half the time he was active. Brown hopes to put that injury-plagued, boom-or-bust season behind him as he moves to the City of Brotherly Love in 2022.

Most Likely Candidates to Fall from the Top 10 This Year:

Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel, SF: Dynasty GMs lucky enough to have landed Deebo a couple years back must’ve been pinching themselves after last year’s spectacular breakout, envisioning many more years of run-receive greatness. Then came the off-season and, with it, a diabolical twist. Seems Mr. Samuel wasn’t so fond of the Swiss army knife role Kyle Shanahan had dreamed up for him and for which his fantasy employers adored, going so far as to request a trade in April. Wait, what? The breakout star isn’t going to be on the move this year (the 49ers are flat unwilling to deal him) but doesn’t seem like to sign a long-term extension either, not without some assurances he won’t get brutalized as a WR playing too much RB.

To be fair, even if Samuel’s rushing stats were completely scrubbed from his 2021 numbers, he’d have STILL been a Top 10 WR. That’s how amazing the former Gamecock was last season, almost vaulting his squad to an eighth Super Bowl appearance. Thus, even if the San Fran brass did cave to his demands and emasculate him some, there’s no guarantee he’d freefall out of the Top 10. Then again….

The Niners just this week gave permission to Jimmy G’s agents to pursue a trade, meaning the Trey Lance era begins in earnest this season, ready or not. There are few concerns about Lance’s physical gifts, but many more about his experience at the position (19 total starts since HS) and general polish as a passer (not there yet). If I had to guess—and it’s an educated guess, at best—Lance could end up running the ball a lot more than Samuel while still trying to forge a connection with his new No.1 target. Expect growing pains, plenty of misconnected flights, and a different Deebo in 2022.

Tyreek Hill, MIA: Samuel publicly grumbled about his role but wasn’t able to force a trade. Tyreek Hill privately grumbled about his role and, in the leagues’ most shocking off-season deal, ended up getting shipped to Miami. The Fish gave up a boatload of draft picks (1st, 2nd, and two 4ths in 2022 plus a 2023 6th-rounder) to acquire the fastest man in pads and then proceeded to ink him to a four-year, $120M contract extension ($72.2M guaranteed), making him the highest-paid wideout in the game and the centerpiece of Mike McDaniel’s new Dolphins offense.

Hill’s new QB, Tua Tagovailoa, is a more proven commodity than San Fran’s new man, for sure, but the dropoff from Patrick Mahomes to Tua is much more precipitous than the dropoff from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey IMHO. Granted, Hill started off catching passes from Alex Smith, whose career average yards gained per attempt (6.9) more closely resembles Tagovailoa’s (6.6) than Mahomes’ (8.1). However, pairing a popgun QB with the league’s most lethal downfield weapon makes for an odd marriage, especially considering the price Miami paid to arrange it.

Hill is saying all the right things about his new playmate but talk is cheap in the summertime. What we’ll need to see come September is a young QB making the types of improvements we expect to see from a third-year pro drafted fifth overall and then gifted next-level weapons on the perimeter (Hill and Jaylen Waddle). It doesn’t help that Tagovailoa will always be compared to the guy drafted immediately after him in the 2020 draft, Justin Herbert. Can you imagine Herbie launching rockets to Cheetah down at Hard Rock? Hoo boy! Stuff of dreams right there. Back in the real world, expect a modest statistical dip from Tyreek this year.

DK Metcalf, SEA: I’m all about the themes, folks, so it should come as no surprise our final projected Top 10 dropout will also be working with a new quarterback in 2022. And if you thought the dropoff from Jimmy G to Trey Lance or Pat Mahomes to Tua Tagovailoa was steep…I encourage you to review the combined career stats for Drew Lock and Geno Smith, one of whom (barring a training camp trade) will start the season under center for Seattle.

When the Seahawks cut ties with Russell Wilson in March, the presumption was that they’d go after a QB prospect in the draft or a starter-quality replacement in the free agent market. Yeah, not so much. Instead, Seattle stood pat with Smith, last year’s QB2, and one of the many assets received from the Broncos in return for Wilson, the highly erratic Lock. Yuck. Here’s what Pete Carroll had to say about the two men competing for Wilson’s old job after voluntary OTAs back in early June: “Man, they’ve been impressive. They’ve been really impressive…they have just been solid throughout.” Riiiiight, Coach.

Even IF Smith or Lock shocks the football world and manages to keep the Seahawks’ ship afloat, it’s difficult to imagine a dynamic passing game being the primary reason why. This has as much to do with Carroll’s stubborn conservatism as it does with his QBs’ obvious limitations. Despite being a nine-time Pro Bowler in ten seasons with Seattle, Wilson never once cracked the Top 5 in passing attempts and was routinely in the bottom half of the league in that category. Metcalf is the most freakishly talented player in the league (gigantic, strong, and fast) and will deserve that rumored contract extension when he gets it. Unfortunately, things are falling apart around him. No bid.

Next: Quarterbacks

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