Here is the situation. You’re on the clock in a 12-team, one quarterback,
re-draft, full PPR league and unfortunately, you’re drafting last.
All the running backs you wanted are gone and you need/want a wide
receiver, because it’s still too early to draft a tight end or a
quarterback. The consensus top-three picks; Cooper
Kupp (ADP 4.9), Justin
Jefferson (7.0) and Ja’Marr
Chase (11.0) are off the board. Who do you choose? How do you
determine … who is the No.4 wide receiver?
Let’s begin with how to determine the best possible selection.
He needs to stay healthy. You can’t score fantasy points
from the press box. In 2021, every receiver in the top-10 played
at least 16 games. In fact, of the top-25 receivers in total fantasy
points last season, only Chris Godwin (14) played less than 16
Unless you are a “freak of nature,” (read Deebo Samuel)
your receiver is going to need a very good quarterback willing
to throw the ball early and often. Samuel became a de facto “hybrid”
wide receiver/running back for the 49ers last season which skewed
his production. For mere mortals, you need a quarterback who throws
the ball about 572 times. That’s the average of the quarterbacks
who threw the ball to a top-five receiver the past two seasons.
The floor over that period was Joe Burrow at 520 attempts.
Best Rookie WRs in the Last 20
The receiver is going to need a monster number of targets. The average
of the top-five receivers over the past two seasons was 156.8 targets.
So now that we know what we are looking for, let’s find
the “next-best” receiver, who we can reliably draft
at the end of the first round. I’ve started with the veterans.
Samuel (SF) – The receiver isn’t
happy with his current contract and asked to be traded before
the April NFL draft, but that didn’t happen and he’s expected
to show up at this week’s mandatory minicamp. That’s the good
news. Being a hybrid WR/RB takes a lot out of the player and the
chances of injury in this role are higher when getting hit by
defensive lineman and linebackers as opposing to smaller cornerbacks
and safeties. In 2020, he missed a game-and-a-half with a groin
injury in Weeks 12-13. The 49ers also will continue to have quarterback
questions until they trade Jimmy
Garoppolo and install Trey
Lance as the starter. Samuel could certainly repeat last season’s
production, but I’m a bit concerned about the health issue if
they run him 7.8 times a game as they did from Week 11 through
Diggs (BUF) – Since being traded
to Buffalo, he and quarterback Josh
Allen have been a great duo. He’s seen a consistent workload
with 166 targets in 2020 and 164 in 2021. He’s averaged 1,380
receiving yards and nine touchdown over that span. Will the emergence
of Gabriel Davis
and the addition of Jamison
Crowder change those numbers? Probably not, as the team jettisoned
(112 targets) and Emmanuel
Sanders (72 targets). He would be a solid choice with a very
Adams (LV) – Adams finished second
in 2021 with 344.3 fantasy points, surpassed only by Kupp’s record-setting
season. Adams also led all wideouts in 2020 with 360.4 points.
But, of course, that was with Aaron
Rodgers as his quarterback. This season he’ll be catching
balls from his old Fresno State quarterback Derek
Carr. And Carr is no Rodgers. Carr has never thrown more than
32 touchdown passes in a season and has averaged just 3,962 passing
yards per season. (As opposed to Rodgers who has averaged 4,214
and 34 touchdowns the past four seasons.) Can Adams average 11.5
touchdowns receptions in Las Vegas? Will he see the same target
level while sharing the workload with a volume receiver like Hunter
Renfrow and a top-five tight end in Darren
Waller? The last time Adams had a very good receiver across
from him was 2017 (a 32-year old Jordy Nelson) and he finished
the season with 117 targets and ranked No.13 at the position (though
he missed a couple of games due to injury). I still believe Adams
is a top-10 receiver, but I don’t think he’ll be No.4.
Hill (MIA) – The drop in quarterback
play for Hill is going to be shocking. Tua
Tagovailoa is no Patrick
Mahomes. He’s not even a Ryan
Tannehill yet. First, in volume, Mahomes threw 668 passes
last season and Tagovailoa just 388. Per game that is 38.7 vs.
29.8. And in arm strength. How many times did we see Hill running
past defenders and Mahomes hitting him over the top over the past
five seasons? I’m expecting a lot more short throws with Hill
using his speed to make plays, but that was actually the case
last season in Kansas City. Hill should still be a top-10, but
he’s not your play here.
Lamb (DAL) – Lamb (ADP 19.5) should
be ready for a huge season. With Amari
Cooper in Cleveland (68-865-8) and No.3 receiver Cedrick
Wilson in Miami (45-602-6), Lamb is the unquestioned No.1
receiver in Dallas. His No.2, Michael
Gallup, isn’t likely to start the season healthy after suffering
an ACL tear in Week 17. That leaves newly-acquired, but inconsistent,
and rookie third-round pick Jalen
Tolbert out of South Alabama as quarterback Dak
Prescott’s other wide receiver options. Lamb’s targets should
be an all-time high which should get him close to, or over, the
156.8 level after averaging 115 in his first two seasons. At 160
targets (just three targets per game more) and keeping his career
fantasy points-per-target average (1.924) he should produce 307
fantasy points which would have made him the No.5 receiver in
2021. He could easily be the fourth-best receiver.
(TB) – Talk about a high floor. In Mike Evans you get
a receiver who has produced a 1,000-yard season in every year
he’s been in the league and with Tom
Brady under center he’s averaged 13.5 touchdown receptions.
is unlikely to start the season after a torn ACL in Week 15. The
Bucs added Russell
Gage (66-770-4) as insurance until Godwin returns and as a
third receiver. Meanwhile, we have yet to see the return of Rob
Gronkowski, but it’s sure to happen before opening day. Evans
should certainly produce another 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown
season, but top-five is a bit of a stretch as he’s only done that
once (No. 3 in 2016), but if Godwin’s return is delayed, it’s
(SEA) – Metcalf has the talent to be an elite receiver,
but in 2021 he won’t get the quarterback play. Neither Geno
Smith, nor Drew
Lock and Jacob
Eason are good enough to help a wide receiver be top-five.
The Seahawks will be a run-first team in 2022. Smith, who started
three games in 2021 for an injured Russell
Wilson averaged under 200 yards passing and 1.3 touchdown
passes per game. Lock, in Denver where ironically Wilson will
be playing in 2022, averaged 187 yards per game in three starts.
I’ve downgraded Metcalf significantly in 2022.
(PHI) – Brown and quarterback Jalen
Hurts were friends even before being teammates, but that won’t
make Brown a top-five receiver. Hurts won’t throw enough to support
all the options the Eagles have with Brown (63-869-5 in Tennessee),
(64-915-5) and tight end Dallas
Allen (LAC) – Allen is one of the
most consistent receivers in the league. In the last five years
he’s averaged between 16-17.8 fantasy points per game with four
1,000-yard seasons (he missed in 2020 by eight yards). But he’s
not a touchdown-maker averaging only 6.4 per season over that
five-year span. That won’t suddenly change with Mike
Williams still around (26 TDs last four seasons). He’s a solid
fantasy option, but not elite.
(CIN) – Higgins is the one of the best No.2 receiver
on any team, but, barring injury, he’ll always be limited by Chase.
Higgins (ADP 35) is actually going ahead of a lot of other team’s
No.1 receivers, but that’s likely due to media overhype. He’ll
be a solid fantasy pick later on, but certainly not a top-five
We should also look at a couple of incoming rookies to see if
there is a “next” superstar in the line that brought
us Justin Jefferson in 2020 and Ja’Marr Chase last season.
London (ATL) – London should see
plenty opportunities, as he and tight end Kyle
Pitts gobble up the majority of the targets. But high-quality
quarterback play is an issue. New quarterback Marcus
Mariota has never thrown more than 453 passes in a season
or more than 3500 yards or more than 26 touchdown passes. In Mariota’s
two “big” seasons, with the Titans, no receiver ever saw more
than 112 targets, though the quality of his receivers wasn’t very
Sharpe, Eric Decker and rookie Corey
Davis were the best of the lot). The Falcons will be behind
a lot and need to throw often (their wins over/under is 5), but
expecting an elite season for a Mariota-to-London duo is a pipe
Burks (TEN) - Burks was brought
in specifically to fill the shoes of traded wide receiver A.J.
Brown. At 6-3, 225 lbs., he’s built physically like Brown. He’ll
play opposite veteran Robert
Woods, who is coming off a season-ending ACL injury. His quarterback,
isn’t a prolific passer in this Derrick
Henry-led rush offense, but he threw enough that Brown produced
consecutive 1000-yard seasons from 2019-20, but that was only
good enough for 14th among wide receivers. It’s possible that
Burks can fill Brown’s role, but he’s not a top-10 receiver, let
alone a top-five or No.4.
So the bottom line for me at the end of the first round, I’m
choosing the man with the highest ceiling -CeeDee Lamb. But I’m
a gambler. If you are the more conservative type, the correct
answer is Stefon Diggs.