21. Keenan Allen – Keenan is on the wrong side of 30 and has become nearly interchangeable with Mike Williams by production terms in the Chargers offense. While he earned a career-high 150 targets, he also saw a career-high 63% of his snaps come from the slot. Keenan has dipped recently on his route success and is on a slow trajectory downward as his 16.1 fantasy points per game were his lowest since 2014 though comparable to his numbers in 2018 and ’19. Though there is no precipice off which Keenan is dropping, it isn’t a wild thought to assume Mike Williams is now operating as the de facto WR1 for Justin Herbert. Keenan should still see 125 targets and have a safe floor as he only failed to score 10 fantasy points in a single game last year. The flip side of the coin is that the week-winning upside games are a thing of the past. Allen is now supercharged Jarvis Landry.
22. D.K. Metcalf – Metcalf is under contract for the next three years after recently signing a 3-year extension that will allow him to grab another big payday at age 27. For the Seahawks, D.K. is the driving force in the offense and despite having less than 1000 yards, he still managed 12 touchdowns, 9 against teams not named the Lions, and earned 124 targets. He actually fared better in Geno’s four weeks than with Wilson upon his return. He averaged 19.6 ppg in the four games Geno started and they now have a full offseason to work together. Metcalf is a massive buy right now in dynasty before the market eventually fixes his ADP. Here’s to hoping Geno wins that job.
23. Michael Pittman Jr – Pittman is a good young player that shies at high leverage spots and often plays down to his target competition. If Pittman can finally find that fire inside him, there’s a real chance he can become a top 15 wideout. His route running is spectacular for his size and he bullies defensive backs in press coverage, but there are games that will be polar opposites and he just disappears. People are far too excited this year because he was forced a lot of targets last season by Carson Wentz which resulted in a WR17 finish. Naturally, Wentz took the blame for the Colts’ collapse, and now Matt Ryan is being regarded as one of the game’s best quarterbacks that will help Pittman reach 2,000 yards while also forging Jonathan Taylor into LaDanian Tomlinson. This may be a bit of an overreaction. Ryan is 37 years old and makes a lateral move from one of the worst pass-blocking lines in the league to another bottom-five squad. If the line bounces back and Pittman grows into his role as their alpha, it could be a big year for the Colts. Time will tell.
24. Marquise Brown – Now ex-Raven Hollywood Brown is being immediately thrust into a lead role with the Cardinals. He is the unquestioned WR1 for the first third of the season as he joins a WR room that includes Rondale “30% Screen Route” Moore, the ghost of AJ Green, and someone named Greg Dortch. As most teams have begun to realize, you need to have at least two high-level wideouts for most teams to win. It’s why you see teams like the Rams bring in players like Odell Beckham Jr. and then replace him with Allen Robinson despite having Cooper Kupp. So no, when DeAndre Hopkins comes back, there does not mean there will be a power struggle for targets, it means that Hollywood will play the Z and DHop will post up the left side of the formation. Brown could also run the slot in place of WR Christian Kirk with Green bouncing outside as Brown has struggled against physical corners but thrived against zone coverage. Regardless, there are many ways that this offense could explode in the second half of the season and not in the typical Kliff Kingsbury way.
25. Allen Robinson – ARob may be a steal at his current ADP. He could also end up as a glorious disaster. I would bet on the likelihood of the former. No one produced in the wasteland that was Matt Nagy’s offense. Robinson just happened to look worse by comparison because of how good he once was and how under-utilized he was in that slogfest. In 2015, Robinson played 16 games and averaged 19(!) fantasy points per game. In 2020, he logged his second-highest per game average at 16.4, the year before that 15.9. So the real question is that now he is coming into his age 29 season, is he actually hitting his drop-off, or can he avoid the cliff while on a contract that lines up with what could be Matthew Stafford’s last few years of high-level play?
26. Amon-Ra St. Brown – ARSB had a wild ride as a rookie. Through week 12, he averaged 4.7 targets. He was playing alongside TE TJ Hockenson, RB D’Andre Swift, and a bunch of spare parts at WR. Then Swift and Hockenson would struggle to see the field at the same time and produce. From weeks 13-18 ARSB averaged over 11 targets a game, never seeing under 10. While the narrative is that there was no one left to throw to, the truth is there never was. Tom Kennedy, KhaDarel Hodge, and Kalif Raymond were surprisingly not the target hogs some people may have suspected so earning targets was going to happen regardless as the season rolled on, as is the case for most rookies. While 11 targets a game may be a bit hopeful, you should not work too hard to convince yourself that DJ Chark and an injured Jameson Williams are going to steal anything from the 2nd year slot receiver that has been praised for his work ethic since he stepped foot in Detroit. The beat there has been reporting the same thing all offseason, his floor will be around 5-6 targets a game, but the hope is that he can earn much more than that as the main option at WR in ’22.
27. Brandin Cooks – Fade Brandin Cooks is the theme of every fantasy offseason. It appears we may finally be at the point where people are accepting he will be a perennial WR2 regardless of his situation and honestly, it’s great, it was getting exhausting. Since coming into the league, a couple of things are automatic. If he plays at least 12 games, he earns over 100 targets and scores between 13.8-15.8 fantasy points per game. This past season he earned a career-high 134 targets, but also saw a career-low 7.7 yards per target. This still resulted in 14.5 fppg, four-tenths of a point above his career average. He is currently being drafted at the front of the fifth round, so taking him as your WR2 is a value that allows you to tinker with the first four rounds of your draft.
28. Brandon Aiyuk – Brandon Aiyuk had a rocky start to the 2021 season. He was learning a new role with a new quarterback and then potentially ANOTHER new quarterback. There were reports that leaked regarding his conditioning being poor and he started the year in “Shanny’s dog house” as a result. Then the year turned around in week 9 against the Cardinals. Aiyuk set season highs to that point in targets, receptions, and yards, and he scored his 2nd touchdown of the season. He would go on to average over 12 fppg the rest of the regular season. Any hype around him this offseason is being dulled by Trey Lance and the market’s general unwillingness to accept him as a distributor. It should be just the opposite. Aiyuk has been held back by Jimmy Garoppolo’s inferior arm talent and inability to find him downfield as he ran the 5th best post routes in the league and averaged 2 fantasy points per target, yet finished at WR35. A top 24 finish is now well within his range of outcomes.
29. Courtland Sutton – It’s puzzling how someone can be out on Jeudy because of a lack of production and explosiveness in 2021 but elevate Courtland Sutton. Sutton is not as complete a receiver but he’s a bully at the catch point and so lack of separation is assumed, but he also just couldn’t win a route like his 2019 self. It was clear even in camp that it was going to take him time to get back to form and he never fully trusted himself after his ACL injury. Now it’s a fresh start for the entire organization. There is still a lot Sutton offers as a uniquely styled wideout for the new system and he’s under contract for the foreseeable future. So this isn’t to say the wheels are falling off, this is more to say that both WRs can feed as is expected in a high-volume offense. Queue up Russell Wilson and maybe a new QB isn’t going to magically solve every problem, but more points and more volume certainly isn’t hurting either wideout.
30. DeAndre Hopkins – Nuk was still one of the best wideouts in football in 2020, but in 2021, he was bit by the injury bug and the offense fell apart. Classic Kliff. But hey, there’s always next year, right? The answer: Kind of. While he will be healthy heading into camp, he will also be suspended for the first six games for PED use. Insert Hollywood Brown into the starting lineup. When Hopkins does return, Brown will be the 2nd target they’ve looked for so desperately, making them less dependent on DHop’s downfield ability alone. He should see around the same targets per game, but it’s fair to expect a drop in aDOT and an increase in target quality.
31. Hunter Renfrow – WR10, Hunter. Renfrow. It still seems crazy. Hunter Renfrow was in the right place at the right time with the right skill set. 2021 was a chaotic year for the Raiders, and with no true WR1 and no Darren Waller, Renfrow stepped up and made a name for himself. The question will be how sustainable is this? Renfrow had very little competition from other wideouts so that may be part of the equation, but he became a prototypical slot receiver. He beat up on zone coverage, was weak versus man, but can play some outside routes as well. With the chemistry he’s shown with Carr and the lack of talent behind him, there’s very little reason for Josh McDaniels to take him off the field.
32. Elijah Moore – If you’re trying to figure out which WR will lead the Jets receiving group, the future may say Garrett Wilson, but the present is Elijah Moore. Moore earned six or more targets in 9 of 11 games he played in last season. That is a promising effort from a rookie and as he is still their best playmaker, he should see well over 100 targets diversified over the field. He can play slot and outside, possibly switching in a similar role to Juju Smith-Schuster and Skyy Moore in Kansas City. While he doesn’t have Pat Mahomes slinging him passes, Zach Wilson has shown “cero miedo,” no fear. Moore was already top 30 in terms of target rate, top 20 is easily attainable.
33. Christian Kirk – Kirk broke the WR market with the help of Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke. He will soon be receiving many thank you Porsches from Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, and Terry McLaurin, all of whom signed after Kirk’s $72 million deal which made him one of the ten highest paid receivers of all time. Kirk is a slot receiver that was forced outside for the first three years of his career. He produced mixed results. Last season, he played in the slot for 78% of his snaps and had the best year of his career. Kirk had the 13th most fantasy points per target ahead of Tee Higgins, Justin Jefferson, and CeeDee Lamb. The Jags seem content to keep him in the slot with Zay Jones and Marvin Jones Jr. on the outside. It could be a big year for Kirk if things go right.
34. Adam Thielen – Thielen’s biggest concern this season should be his ability to stay on the field and not cede snaps to his younger counterpart and rising talent, KJ Osborn. When he’s active, he still produces WR2 numbers year consistently. The problem there is he has not finished a full season since 2018 and last season only managed 13 games. One concern is that although he is still producing over 15 points per game, and is under contract through the 2024 season, a slightly lower snap share for the soon-to-be 32-year-old may help to take some of the pressure off him. Ultimately, he is still a key member of what looks to be an ascending offense under Kevin O’Connell and still has the potential to return the same production with less wear and tear.
35. DeVonta Smith – Poor DeVonta. He deserves so much better. It hurts to watch. As a rookie he earned over 100 targets, but the quality of those targets quickly declined. This one is simple, DeVonta Smith is an excellent receiver, but he isn’t going to get much better than a mid to low-end fantasy WR3 with poor quarterback play and AJ Brown in the building to take what targets will be there in the league’s lowest volume passing game. The positive note is that if the Eagles want to see what they have with Hurts, they’ll need to let him play out the year as a true QB and let him learn from his mistakes or get replaced. This whole scenario could be a disaster or one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
36. Juju Smith-Schuster – There is no WR1 in Kansas City. There is Travis Kelce and then a bunch of guys fighting for targets. Juju, at only 25, is an established veteran that knows how to handle both the slot and boundary roles. In 2020, he earned 143 targets, playing 87% of his snaps from the slot. From 2017-2019, he only played two-thirds of his snaps from the slot so there is the possibility he’s seen as an interchangeable player with Skyy Moore in an inside/outside combo role. Regardless of his precise positioning, he is currently the best WR they have on the roster so he should have a clear path to 100+ targets from Patrick Mahomes and that’s a pretty great situation to be in.
37. Robert Woods – The Titans have been a run-first offense since Derrick Henry became King of Tennessee but the transition away from that starts this year. With A.J. Brown now in Philadelphia, the Titans brought in Bobby Trees, drafted Treylon Burks in the first round, brought in pure slot receiver Kyle Philips out of UCLA, signed Austin Hooper, and brought in rookies Hassan Haskins and Julius Chestnut. They also drafted the biggest arm talent in the draft in QB Malik Willis. This is when you listen to the actions and not the words of the organization. Woods earned at least 130 targets in the three seasons and before his injury last season, he was on pace to make it four straight. Now he becomes the veteran presence in a very young room and looks to lead them as Burks gets accustomed to the league.
38. Drake London – London is arguably the best prospect in the class. He is also Atlanta’s undisputed WR1 and just having that role is his biggest advantage over his fellow rookies. Most rookie wideouts’ fantasy scoring rides an upward trajectory as their playing time and experience increase. London will have a full-time snap share from week 1, something no other rookie wideout is guaranteed. He’s playing in a system that thrives on play-action passing which will manufacture open targets for London and feature him outside the numbers where can beat up on press coverage as he did in college. He can also play in the slot, a role in which his numbers spiked in college, though it seems that may have had more to do with his college QB, Kedon Slovis. The cherry on top, Drake London was drafted 8th overall.
39. Amari Cooper – Amari is a true alpha and helped power Dak Prescott’s game with the Cowboys. The minute he got to Dallas, the team started firing on all cylinders and it appeared the Cowboys would be a perennial Super Bowl favorite in the NFC. Now he departs for Cleveland, as the Cowboys traded him for cap space, to work with a new offense that is in need of a new alpha. Amari becomes the best wideout this team has seen in years. If he can stay on the field in not-so-sunny Cleveland, he should be able to instantly awaken a sleepy Stefanski offense. Playing with Jacoby Brissett to start the year and then someone that hasn’t played in a couple of years will hurt his value for the first 10 weeks or so, but he should have a strong finish.
40. Gabriel Davis – Gabe Davis is the talk of the town this off-season. Starting with a monster game against the Chiefs in the playoffs, the momentum has pushed him all the way into the top of the 5th round as WR22 since July 1st. This pricing is assuming success at a role for which he may not even be suited. It is not often that we see a 3rd year WR breakout, typically a wideout’s 2nd year is where we see the movement. Much like when evaluating rookies, you want early declares with young breakout ages. Gabe, to his credit, met most criteria coming into the league but did nothing different in his sophomore season than he did in his rookie year. He actually had the exact same number of receptions with only one additional target. People looking for his breakout will tell you that the last four weeks of the season and into the playoffs were the indicator for his ascension this year. However, Davis only once recorded over 50 yards in that frame, and in the regular season finale against the Jets, he managed only three receptions with his 14 targets, good for 2.8 yards per target. Given how much he would have to change his game to succeed, the more obvious answer may be that he fills the same role he has, with different slot options and James Cook around him.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)