Kyle Yates’ Early Top-12 WR Rankings (2022 Fantasy Football)

It’s the time of year where we start to turn the page towards the next NFL season and begin parsing through all of the data to determine who we should be selecting early on in our fantasy football drafts.

We’ve spent the past several months in hibernation, poking our heads up here or there as news happens in the NFL world, but now it’s time to emerge and start the preparation for winning our fantasy football leagues in 2022. With that in mind, here are my early Top-12 WR Rankings for this season. These will certainly change and fluctuate as the off-season progresses, but here’s who I’m feeling the most confident in here in the month of July.

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Let’s get to it!

Early WR Rankings

12. AJ Brown (WR – Philadelphia Eagles)

Brown is moving from Tennessee over to Philadelphia this off-season, but honestly not much has changed from a fantasy standpoint. Last season, the Titans threw the ball just 49.26% of the time and were one of just three teams with a positive run/pass differential. The only other team that had a lower passing percentage in 2021? The Philadelphia Eagles with 47.32%. While it’s still a bit of a mystery as to whether or not Nick Sirianni wants to continue to be as run heavy in 2022, their current personnel might dictate it. We could have seen some better landing spots for Brown via trade, but we at least know what to expect with him in a run-first offense…and that’s still a phenomenal fantasy wideout. Brown only played in 13 games last year, but he showcased his playmaking ability time and time again when he came back from injury. He finished 7th in the league last year at the WR position in Yards Per Route Run (2.50) for players with over 60 targets, which is a true measure of his talent and ability. Jalen Hurts obviously has questions surrounding him as a passer, but Brown has proven to be a dynamic enough playmaker that he can succeed with whoever is throwing him the ball. We should have zero reservations about ranking Brown as a top-12 WR yet again in 2022 and he could be a potential league winner if we do see Philadelphia start to air it out a bit more this season.

11. Michael Pittman Jr (WR – Indianapolis Colts)

Is it Pittman SZN finally?! After touting Pittman each of the past two seasons – and it finally paying off in a decent way last year – I’m fully ready for Pittman to explode this season and become a top-tier fantasy wideout. He’s proven that he can be a well-rounded WR as he posted over 1,000 yards last year with Carson Wentz as his QB. He can be an underneath weapon and create after the catch – as evidenced by his 343 Yards After the Catch in 2021 – but he has also proven that he can win in contested situations too. Last year, Pittman saw 28 Contested Targets and he reeled in an impressive 64.3% of them, which was good enough for 11th in the league for WRs with over 65 targets. If Ryan can be semi-competent in 2022, Pittman’s the unquestioned WR1 for this offense and he should see ridiculous volume week in and week out. With players like Parris Campbell, Mo Alie-Cox, and Alec Pierce around him vying for those targets, we could see Ryan lock onto Pittman and feature him the way he did with Julio Jones back in the day. Pittman should be in the top-12 conversation for 2022.

10. Tee Higgins (WR – Cincinnati Bengals)

A lot of fantasy managers are going to have reservations about drafting a WR2 for an offense as early as Higgins is currently going in drafts. They shouldn’t. Higgins is one of the most talented wideouts in the entire league and he’s in an offense that’s a perfect fit for him and his skillset. With Ja’Marr Chase on the opposite side of him, Higgins is going to consistently be put in favorable situations and he has the contested catch ability to match up on any DB in the league and succeed. Last season, Higgins was a top-10 WR in PFF’s Receiving Grades for players with over 65 targets. He was also top-10 in Yards Per Route Run with 2.26 with the same qualifications. He’s an incredibly talented WR and he’s going to see plenty of volume in this high-powered offense to return low-end WR1/high-end WR2 production. Don’t be scared off of drafting the WR2 for a NFL offense this early in your drafts, you’re getting a damn good one.

9. Tyreek Hill (WR – Miami Dolphins)

Hill is making the move away from the Kansas City Chiefs offense and Patrick Mahomes to go play with Tua Tagovailoa here in Miami. On the surface that would seem like a major downgrade, but it’s important to note that Hill is now going to play with the offensive coordinator that just helped Deebo Samuel produce major numbers in 2021. Hill was actually a very volatile fantasy asset last season and he hurt fantasy managers some weeks if he wasn’t able to reel in that long reception or break away for a big play. This situation in Miami could actually help him become a more consistent fantasy asset with the guaranteed volume he’s going to see and the opportunities to create after the catch, but we shouldn’t expect any of the 50+ point performances that he regularly had when he was catching passes from Mahomes. He’s still worth drafting as a top-12 WR off the board, but it’s important to just adjust our expectations going into 2022.

8. Deebo Samuel (WR – San Francisco 49ers)

Samuel absolutely won people fantasy drafts last year with his performance based on where you drafted him. Everyone was talking about his injury history and low ADOT in 2020, but Samuel defied both of those concerns and delivered in a huge way in 2021. What do we do with him now for 2022 though? That’s the question every fantasy manager needs to be asking as we move into draft season. He was insanely efficient last season and scored eight rushing touchdowns on just 59 rush attempts! He also averaged an insane 18.2 Yards Per Reception on 77 receptions, which was a full 7 yards higher than his 2020 mark. Everything that Samuel did in 2021 signals regression heading in to 2022, but he’s certainly got the talent to repeat the ridiculous feats he achieved last season and that keeps him up here in the top-10 conversation. If you draft Samuel this year, simply know that you’re going to have to worry about his lengthy injury history popping back up, his efficiency almost certainly coming down, the potential that he sees his rush attempts decrease, the unknowns with who Trey Lance will lean on as a receiving option, and the fact that we didn’t really see Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Samuel all on the field a ton together last season. It might be best to favor some of the other WRs in this range of drafts that have a bit more security versus rolling the dice on Samuel beating all of those factors.

7. Mike Evans (WR – Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Is Chris Godwin going to start the year on the PUP? If so, Evans is going to be the unquestioned WR1 from a target share perspective and he could absolutely feast. Historically, Evans has been great for fantasy football based on his ability to score touchdowns – not necessarily put up ridiculous yardage. Over the last two seasons with Tom Brady at QB, Evans has 27 touchdowns and he’s been able to remain in the top-15 conversation for fantasy because of it. Even in games where Evans only sees two or three targets, he’s able to pull through for fantasy because he reeled in a two-yard touchdown but that’s a dangerous game to play for someone you have to draft as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2. If Evans can remain as heavily involved in the red zone as he has been in years past, plus see an uptick in targets with Godwin sidelined to start the season, he’s absolutely worth drafting as a top-8 WR off the board. If Godwin makes it back earlier than expected, we should still have some reservations about drafting Evans as a top-15 player off the board and he should be viewed as a touchdown-dependent WR2.

6. CeeDee Lamb (WR – Dallas Cowboys)

Lamb has been well discussed and hyped up over the past couple of seasons. Unfortunately, he has yet to deliver on those top-tier expectations and fantasy managers might be a little skeptical on drafting the talented third-year wideout here in 2022. He hasn’t finished as a top-5 WR like some people were anticipating last season, but he’s still been a fine fantasy asset with finishes of the WR20 and WR18 each of his first two years in the league. This is the year though that we should truly see Lamb breakout in a big way after the departure of Amari Cooper to Cleveland. On top of that, Michael Gallup is going to be rehabbing from an injury to start the season and will leave Lamb as the bonafide WR1 in this offense. Dalton Schultz will remain heavily involved, but Lamb doesn’t have much standing in his way from seeing one of the largest target shares in the entire league at the WR position in 2022. He should be going off the board as a top-5 WR this year.

5. Stefon Diggs (WR – Buffalo Bills)

Does Diggs have the skillset to score 12+ touchdowns in this Bills offense? Probably not. However, what he’s going to provide you is one of the largest target totals in the entire league and a very high floor week in and week out. Diggs has now seen 330 targets over the past two seasons combined and he has fantasy finishes of the WR3 and the WR7 over that time frame. There might be some other WRs in fantasy football that have more upside from a touchdown perspective, but if you’re looking to start your draft with a safe and steady WR it’s hard to go wrong with Diggs.

4. Davante Adams (WR – Las Vegas Raiders)

It’s a bit odd to talk about Adams catching passes from anyone than Aaron Rodgers, but that doesn’t mean that we should be completely off of him from a fantasy standpoint. Yes, Rodgers and Adams had incredible chemistry and that led to some ridiculous production over the past several seasons, but it’s not as though Adams and Derek Carr don’t have their own history together. Adams – during their time overlapping at Fresno State – put up 233 receptions for 3,031 yards and 38 touchdowns in just two seasons! Carr was able to put up solid numbers last year in an offense that shifted play-callers halfway through the season, so we should expect even bigger things from him here in 2022 with Josh McDaniels as his Head Coach. Adams will have Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller to compete with for targets, but there shouldn’t be any question that he’ll be the WR1 for this offense. It’s going to be a weird feeling when you’re on the clock, but we should feel confident drafting Adams a top-5 WR off the board still this season.

3. Ja’Marr Chase (WR – Cincinnati Bengals)

Can we rewind to last off-season when fantasy managers everywhere were freaking out about Chase’s drops? Do you remember the articles being published that were already calling him a bust and saying that he couldn’t catch a NFL football? What did Chase do instead in his rookie season? Oh yeah, he put up nearly 1,500 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns! Joe Burrow and Chase’s chemistry was evident countless times throughout the season and fantasy managers that didn’t buy into the noise were certainly rewarded with a top-5 finish. Looking ahead to 2022, it’s scary to think that this offense could just be getting started. They’ve made key investments in the offensive line, all key playmakers are returning, and Burrow has a full off-season finally to train with the rest of the offense. Could we actually see better production than 1,500 and 13 from Chase in 2022? There’s actually a very strong possibility…

2. Justin Jefferson (WR – Minnesota Vikings)

Over the first two years of his career, Jefferson has seen 292 targets. Here’s the scary part though: he’s done that in a run-first offense. We don’t need to dive too in-depth into Jefferson for this season, right? We know how good he is and that he should be one of the top wideouts drafted in fantasy drafts this year, but it’s at least important to note that we could actually see even more impressive numbers for Jefferson if this offense becomes a bit more pass-happy under Kevin O’Connell. His connection with Kirk Cousins is certainly there, he’s the unquestioned WR1 in this offense, and we know that he’s ridiculously talented. Draft him with confidence in 2022.

1. Cooper Kupp (WR – Los Angeles Rams)

What a freaking ridiculous season Kupp just had. The talented wideout ended the season with 189 targets, per Pro Football Focus, which was the highest mark for any WR since Julio Jones and Antonio Brown both eclipsed that mark in 2015. His 1,947 receiving yards were enough to be the second highest mark for a WR in a single season all-time, behind only Calvin Johnson. He single-handedly won people fantasy championships last year and there’s no reason to believe that things should change any time soon. Matthew Stafford and Kupp will be building upon the chemistry that they displayed last season and this offense should continue to put up a ridiculous number of points week in and week out. We shouldn’t have any qualms about using a top-5 pick in our drafts on Kupp this season and he absolutely should be the first WR off the board.

 

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