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Michael F. Florio's 2022 fantasy football: Top 12 wide receivers

Wide receiver is the most fun position in fantasy football.

Not only is it the deepest, but there is enough high-end talent to rival any other position, as well.

In the past, my strategy has been to wait on the position due to the depth that it presented. My argument was always that after the first and second round, you would much prefer drafting the receivers on the board than you would the available running backs. Due to that, I would attack RBs in the first two rounds. I would not draft my first receiver until the third, sometimes later, and I always felt OK with the receivers I would end up with. But here is the thing about depth -- it can lead to inconsistencies. Most teams in the NFL now have multiple strong options in their passing game and it can lead to volume being spread out unevenly week by week. That leads to a lot of receivers being up and down for your fantasy teams. The spike weeks where the receiver goes off are great, but those other weeks tend to sting a bit. Plus, if you wait on receivers early on, you likely drafted multiple players in the same range and deciding who to start each week could feel like a nightmare at times.

While receiver consistency may be a myth to some, there are the high-end receivers who see enough volume each week to where they can go off and win you a week, but their floor is so safe it will not hurt you if they have a down game. Those are the receivers worth targeting in the early rounds. Add in the fact that in early 2022 drafts, the first round is seemingly split in half with receivers and running backs and it suddenly becomes even easier to grab a receiver in the first, knowing you will still get a running back who in past years would have been a borderline first rounder, in the second round. If the board continues to be split in the first round, I will pivot and start grabbing one of what I dubbed "the big seven" receivers and then pair him with a running back in round two. If you are in the end of the first, grabbing two of those seven seems very tempting, too. And if you miss out on the top seven receivers, there are fall-back options you can grab in the second or third rounds.

Top 12 WRs for 2022 Fantasy Football

Cooper Kupp
Los Angeles Rams · WR

Kupp is coming off the greatest WR season ever. That is not hyperbole either; counting the playoffs, no receiver has ever come close to the amount of catches, yards and fantasy points Kupp scored this past season. He also had the second-most touchdowns ever. His 25.9 fantasy points per game in the regular season were the second-most ever and he led receivers in catches (8.5) and yards (114.5) per game, while scoring the most TDs (16). He topped 100 receiving yards 11 times, and 20 fantasy points in 14 games. He has now topped 120 targets and 1,000 yards in three straight seasons while leading the Rams in red zone targets in each of those seasons. Kupp brings such a high ceiling and a super safe floor and even if regression hits, which should be the expectation, he should once again compete to be the top scoring fantasy WR. He will have the same QB and play-caller, which only makes him safer. Kupp is the first WR due to the upside and safety he brings.

Davante Adams
Green Bay Packers · WR

Adams is the only competition Kupp has to be the WR1 heading into 2020. He did finish nearly 100 points behind Kupp last year, but he was still the WR2 and has finished first or second among receivers in fantasy PPG in three of the last four seasons. He topped 30 fantasy points six times this past year and has done so 12 times in the past two seasons, which is double the next closest receiver. His 30% target share was the second-highest in the NFL and that is basically just a routine season for Adams at this point. We all know how good he has been as of late and if he is once again with Aaron Rodgers next year he should be one of the first two receivers off the board and can go anywhere in the first round.

Ja'Marr Chase
Cincinnati Bengals · WR

Chase is coming off arguably the best rookie receiver season ever. Not only did he break the rookie record going for 1,455 yards, but he then set the record for most 100-yard games in the playoffs by a rookie. All the offseason concerns seem laughable now as Chase went out and scored the second most fantasy points by a rookie receiver ever (304.6). He had eight touchdowns of 30-plus yards, which was not only double any other receiver this year, but it was also the most since Randy Moss in 2003. He was also the only player with multiple 200-yard games in 2021. Finishing as the WR5 in total points and fantasy PPG as a rookie all but cemented Chase as one of the top receivers off the board in 2022. While he can overtake Kupp and Adams, I would target him after those two are off the board and there is a discussion between Chase and Justin Jefferson, but for me the tie-breaker is one plays with Joe Burrow, and one does not.

Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings · WR

Jefferson finished as the WR4 in total points and fantasy PPG last season after finishing as the overall WR6 as a rookie. His 95 receiving yards per game ranked third in the NFL this season and his 29% target share was third. He racked up 3,016 yards in his first two seasons – the most in NFL history and his 196 catches ties Michael Thomas for most in a receiver's first two years. He also scored 10 touchdowns. Jefferson was one of the most consistent receivers in the game and he has never missed one due to injury. There is a lot to like about Jefferson and that is before we mention that he has a new coach in Kevin O’Connell, who just helped Kupp have the amazing season he had. Jefferson should see a ton of volume and has as good a shot as any at being the first receiver to crack 2,000 yards. He should be a lock to be one of the top four receivers selected in fantasy drafts and him versus Chase is a legit debate.

Tyreek Hill
Kansas City Chiefs · WR

Hill is a known commodity at this point, but he is going anywhere from five to seven in a lot of early drafts and that feels like paying more for the floor. Last year, he was the WR6 in total points and fantasy PPG, but he’s finished sixth or higher in each of his last three full seasons and has been top eight in four of the last five years. This past season, he set career highs in targets and receptions and scored over 20 fantasy points seven times -- the third-most among receivers. He has also scored at least six touchdowns in each season he has been in the NFL. Hill will also still be playing with Patrick Mahomes, still in an Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy offense and still have Travis Kelce alongside him -- perhaps with an upgraded WR2 in Kansas City. Hill is still worthy of going in the first round and is still in the running to be the top-scoring WR, even if you get a discount on him.

Stefon Diggs
Buffalo Bills · WR

Diggs was the WR7 in total points and the WR10 in fantasy PPG, a fall off from the year prior when he was third in both. But that likely means you are just getting Diggs at a discount. Some people may not even consider him a part of the elite tier, but that would be a mistake. Diggs still averaged nearly double-digit targets per game (9.6), and he averaged slightly more air yards per game (108 per game to 106 in 2020). He also saw more high-value targets this past season. He posted 34 red-zone targets, which was third-most among all receivers, and more than double what he saw in 2020 (16). But what is really encouraging is he saw 23 end zone targets -- which was six more than the next closest player. It was the most anyone saw in a season since DeAndre Hopkins in 2017. It led to him scoring a career high 10 TDs. The one big negative was his catch rate dropped to 62.8% in 2021 -- the worst since his rookie season. In 2020, he posted a career-high 76.5% catch rate. Perhaps we should have expected natural regression, but since his rookie year, Diggs had never posted below a 67% catch rate. So, in 2022, we should expect regression once again, but in the positive direction. If Diggs can get that catch rate back over 67%, and perhaps even over 70%, but continues to see heavy usage in the end zone, he can easily return to being a top-five WR, or higher. Diggs still scored over 15 fantasy points in 10 games in 2021 and routinely finishes in double-digits. Add in that there could be less threats to steal targets away in Buffalo and it only makes him more appealing. Buy back in on the top option tied to a great QB.

Deebo Samuel
San Francisco 49ers · WR

Samuel is coming off one of the most amazing seasons in NFL history. I mean, the man created a new position called “wide back.” He did so as he became the only player in NFL history with over both 1,400 receiving yards and 350 rushing yards. He also rushed for eight touchdowns, the most by a WR in NFL history. It led to him finishing as the WR3 in total points and fantasy PPG. He showed to have such a safe floor, scoring over 10 fantasy points in every game, with a high ceiling, topping 20 fantasy points eight times -- the second-most among all receivers. Samuel went out and had a season like none we have ever seen before -- which is both awesome and a little worrisome moving forward. It's one of those years that will be very tough to duplicate and there is some fear, at least on this end, that he will not score as many touchdowns, mainly on the ground. Still, he remains an elite option and the only reason he is last in the elite tier is because he has more changes around him than the others. While he still has Kyle Shanahan, he did lose his offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, and there likely is a QB change occurring in San Francisco. Due to that, he is seventh, but if you want to take him higher, I get it.

Jaylen Waddle
Miami Dolphins · WR

Waddle comes in at eight, which may seem high to some, but he did just finish as the WR13 in total points and WR16 in fantasy PPG as a rookie. He did so while setting the rookie record for reception in a season at 104. He broke 1,000 yards as a rookie and had eight or more catches in seven games, which was second among all receivers. He showed he can play at a very high level as a rookie and clearly has a strong rapport with Tua Tagovailoa. There are areas he can improve, particularly in how he is used. Last season, he had just three end zone targets, which ranked 89th among receivers. He also averaged just 7.2 air yards per target, which ranked 72nd among all receivers. He showed last year he is a dangerous weapon after the catch, but coming into the NFL, he was viewed as a deep threat. It will be up to new head coach Mike McDaniel to take advantage of Waddle’s strengths and get the most out of him, but there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic. First, McDaniel was one of the coaches that helped Samuel put up his historic season. McDaniel said at the combine that “Deebo wasn’t found looking for the next Deebo.” What that means is, you cannot just take a player and force them into a role. You need to put them in a position to highlight and take full advantage of their entire skillset. Plus, McDaniel has previously said he will get Waddle plenty of volume and that fantasy managers are going to want to start him. He has so much upside in a huge breakout spot.

CeeDee Lamb
Dallas Cowboys · WR

Lamb finished as the WR19 overall and WR21 in fantasy PPG last season despite being hyped up as a WR1 all summer long. I was guilty of hyping him up, as well. I have been a Lamb believer since before he entered the NFL. He is a superb talent, but he was inconsistent last season given all the competition for targets the Cowboys had. He saw just 7.5 targets per game, which ranked 27th among receivers. Lamb is too talented to see that few of targets again. He also scored just six touchdowns last year, but he scored all of those in the first nine games, being shut out in the final seven games. He is also too good in the end zone to be shut out for that long. Why am I starting with all the bad? Because all the bad was opportunity driven. And they should all improve next season. The Cowboys have a potential out on Amari Cooper’s contract and it's easier to trade now than in prior years. The Cowboys also have Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson and Dalton Schultz, who are free agents, while not having a ton of cap. There should be more targets up for grabs next season for the Cowboys WR1. Additionally, Lamb did have 24 big plays in 2021, which was the fourth-most in the NFL. He’s a good deep threat, he’s great with the ball after the catch and he is a strong red zone weapon. This is the Lamb WR1 season we have been waiting on.

A.J. Brown
Tennessee Titans · WR

Brown played just 13 games in 2021, which is partially why he was the overall WR32, but he was also just the WR28 in fantasy PPG. He was banged up a lot early on, but he continues to have one of the highest ceilings in the game. Watching him play, he is as physical as they get, and is like the Derrick Henry of receivers. Last year, he averaged just 8.1 targets per game. That is fine and ranked 16th among receivers, but the Titans' refusal to give him double-digit targets on a weekly basis remains a frustration. Still, he ranked eighth at the position in yards per route ran (2.6) and just a year prior was the WR6 in fantasy PPG. This is more about buying back into the talent that is A.J. Brown, rather than anything in particular he did last season. He still has the upside to finish as a top-five receiver if things break right.

Diontae Johnson
Pittsburgh Steelers · WR

Johnson finished as the WR8 in total points and the WR9 in fantasy PPG. He did so seeing 10.6 targets per game -- which was second among all receivers. He had 12 or more targets in eight games and double-digit targets 12 times. He has now led the Steelers in targets in three straight seasons. He also was super consistent for fantasy, scoring over 15 fantasy points 11 times. Despite being doubted by many heading into 2021, he only got better once again as he increased his targets, catches, yards and touchdowns -- something he has done each season in the NFL. The only knock on Johnson is he is rarely used downfield, as his 8.5 air yards per target ranked 61st among receivers. Johnson can climb higher on this list, depending on who ends up being the Steelers' starting QB, but the unknown for now is enough for me to put other names ahead of him.

Keenan Allen
Los Angeles Chargers · WR

Allen was the overall WR11 and 12th in fantasy PPG last season. He did so averaging 9.8 targets per game, which ranked fifth among receivers, but was actually less than he saw the year before. His success this season is nothing new for Allen, who has been a fantasy stud for some time now. He is the only receiver in the NFL to average over 16 fantasy PPG in each of the last five seasons. He has finished top five in catches per game in each of the last three seasons and has topped 100 catches in four of the past five seasons -- with 97 in the one he failed to do so. He is also the only player in the NFL with 135-plus targets in five straight seasons. He has been a WR1 in three straight seasons and I would not expect that to change in 2022 as the Chargers now have one of the best passing attacks in football led by Justin Herbert. Last season, they averaged 282.4 passing yards per game, which ranked second in the NFL. Allen remains one of the best route runners in the game and should continue to provide fantasy managers with consistent success.

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