Before it was Ja’Marr
Chase, it was “searching for a Justin
Jefferson” and before that it was the next Randy Moss. But in
truth, it began many, many years ago when a young prodigy by the
name of Bobby Fisher stunned the world of chess. And in the 50 years
since he became the World Champion (1972), whenever any young chess
player shows talent, he’s the “next Bobby Fisher.” But it doesn’t
happen every year.
It’s the same with receivers.
The rookie seasons of Jefferson (88-1400-7 in 2020) and Chase
(81-1455-13 in 2021) were the outliers. They are not the norm.
They don’t happen every year even if they did just happen
in consecutive seasons. But it doesn’t stop fantasy owners
from dreaming of drafting the “next” big-play receiver.
The year 2000 was the ultimate “pot of gold at the end
of the rainbow” … Moss’ rookie season. He caught
77 balls for 1437 yards and 15 touchdowns. His 311.2 fantasy points
is still the record (though Chase was close).
Check the table below and see the best rookie receivers in each
of the last 20 draft classes:
Best Rookie WRs in the Last 20
Odell Beckham Jr.
As you can see, just five times in 20 seasons has a rookie wideout
finished in the top-10 and only twice in the top-five.
will it take to be the No.1 fantasy receiver? Or crack the top-10?
2012-2021 10-year WR Averages
Now that we know what it will take to be a top-10 receiver, can
we find one among this year’s rookie class? In other words,
what rookie can put up 85-1141-9 this season?
Let’s take a look.
London, Atlanta – London certainly
has long-term potential, but his 2022 fantasy value is what we
are looking at here. With all the big-name receivers of the Falcons’
past gone (Julio
Ridley and Russell
Gage), London should certainly not lack for targets. He and
second-year tight end Kyle
Pitts will likely lead the team in targets, but new quarterback
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. That’s at least 20 less than the average needed to
be a WR1. And while there doesn’t seem to be any question about
London’s 50-50 ball skills, getting off the line and getting separation
in the NFL is a lot tougher than in the PAC 12. I do not see London
being the “next” Ja’Marr
Wilson, New York Jets – Wilson joins
a young offense with a second-year quarterback in Zach
Wilson and two other quality receivers (Corey
Davis and Elijah
Moore). The quarterback struggled in his first season throwing
for just 2334 yards and nine touchdowns on 55.6% completions.
In the off-season the Jets added the first running back selected
in the 2022 draft (Breece
Hall at No.36) to go along with last season’s fourth-round
Carter (147-639-4). It feels like the Jets want to reproduce
a run-first offense like Head Coach Robert Saleh watched as a
DC in San Francisco. If that’s the case, Wilson, Davis and Moore
will evenly split the pass-receiving work and Garrett Wilson also
won’t be the “next” Chase.
Olave, New Orleans – When quarterback
first came to the NFL in 2015 for Tampa Bay he was a prolific
passer, throwing for more than 4000 yards in each of his first
two season. He threw for 5109 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2019
(but also tossed 30 INTs). His 2021 season began well as the Saints
went 5-2 under his leadership and he threw 14 touchdown passes
to just three interceptions, but he also threw less, averaging
just 167 passing yards per game. Can Olave produce as the second
option assuming Michael
Thomas returns to full health? Probably not. Is he the second
option with the recent signing of Jarvis
Landry? Yes, he still is. If Thomas isn’t ready to go, then
Olave might have a shot … but it would be a very long shot.
Williams, Detroit – No. He’s a great
add for dynasty leagues, but he isn’t expected to be ready to
start the season after tearing his ACL in January. I’d expect,
at best, he’ll miss the first four games in which case the numbers
needed won’t be possible.
Dotson, Washington – No. Not because
he doesn’t have talent, but because he’s going to be the No. 2
receiver behind Terry
McLaurin. Also, his new quarterback, Carson
Wentz formerly of Philadelphia and Indianapolis, has never
had a 1000-yard wide receiver in his entire six-year career. He’s
had a 1000-yard tight end … once (Zach
Burks, Tennessee – 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 with 19 touchdowns from 2019-20.
It’s possible that Burks can fill Brown’s role, but beware if
you are drafting early this off-season, there are rumors floating
around that the Titans are looking to sign another receiver and
with Will Fuller,
Beasley and Emmanuel
Sanders all free agents, this situation could dramatically
Watson, Green Bay –Aaron
Rodgers is a great quarterback to have throwing you the ball
… when he trusts you. And he doesn’t usually trust rookies. Davante
Adams only produced 38-446-3 in his first season with Rodgers.
It wasn’t until his third season that he exploded. Jordy Nelson’s
first season was 33-366-2. But those teams also had great veterans
ahead of the rookies. The 2022 Green Bay Packers are short on
wide receiver talent. Currently, the wide receiver room looks
like oft-injured Sammy
Lazard and rookie Watson. Can Watson quickly show Rodgers
he is trustworthy? Does his small school success translate to
being able to beat elite NFL defenders? My guess is it takes half
a season before he’s ready to become the team’s elite deep threat
and his ceiling his likely a WR2 in 2022.
Kansas City – Anytime your quarterback is Patrick
Mahomes, there is a chance that as a receiver you could explode
onto the scene. With 4.41 speed, it’s tempting to think he’s supposed
to be Tyreek Hill’s
replacement. But that’s unlikely. The Chiefs have plenty of pass-catchers
starting with an elite tight end Travis
Kelce. They also brought in JuJu Smith Schuster and Marquez
Valdes-Scantling. Holdovers Josh
Gordon, and Mecole
Hardman could also see significant time. So can Moore produce
an 85-1141-9 season? Unlikely … barring multiple injuries. Probably
one-in-a-million. So you’re saying there’s a chance? Yes.