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How Every NFL Rookie Wide Receiver Impacts Their Offense for Fantasy Football (Round 3)

Velus Jones Jr. fantasy football rankings NFL rookies draft sleepers wide receivers

Each year, we see a handful of incoming rookie WRs finish as a WR2 or better in fantasy football. While the best rookies are typically those who are drafted in the first round (Odell Beckham Jr., Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase), there are also numerous recent examples of Day 2 and 3 picks who also had great rookie seasons (A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Amon-Ra St. Brown).

In this article, I’ll be covering the WRs that were drafted in Round 3 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

To read my previous article about the WRs drafted in Round 1 (Drake London, Treylon Burks, and more), you can check it out here. To read my previous article about some of the WRs drafted in Round 2 (Skyy Moore, Christian Watson, and Wan'Dale Robinson), you can check it out here. To read my previous article about the rest of the WRs drafted in Round 2 (George Pickens, Alec Pierce, and more), you can check it out here.

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Chicago Bears: Velus Jones Jr. (Pick #71)

The Chicago Bears made Velus Jones Jr the 14th wide receiver off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft. VJJ was mostly used on special teams throughout his college career, never reaching even 300 receiving yards prior to 2021, while averaging just below 600 return yards per season. 

Then, in his “breakout” season, VJJ totaled just over 60 receptions, 800 receiving YDs, and 7 TDs before declaring for the draft. Based on his overall lack of production in college, I suspect that this third-round pick was made mostly due to his second-fastest 40-yard dash time, at 4.31.

Velus Jones is already entering the NFL at 25 years old, as he spent 4 seasons at USC and 2 seasons at Tennessee. Now, he joins Bears’ WR Darnell Mooney, who is actually a few months younger than VJJ, despite already entering his third NFL season. 

For further comparison, Velus Jones is the same age as JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was on the same roster as VJJ at USC in 2016. Clearly, his age is a massive red flag on top of his lack of college production.

However, Velus Jones is entering a wide-open Chicago Bears depth chart, who have names like Byron Pringle, N’Keal Harry, Tajae Sharpe, David Moore, Dante Pettis, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Dazz Newsome to compete with. VJJ will likely be directly competing with Pringle as the third target in this offense, behind WR Darnell Mooney and TE Cole Kmet.

Even with this clear lack of competition at the receiver position, I’m still struggling to get behind drafting a 25-year-old rookie WR who will only be the third or fourth option in a very low pass-volume offense. Ultimately, VJJ will see more success on special teams than he will on their typical offensive plays, making him nearly irrelevant for fantasy football. 

 

Dallas Cowboys: Jalen Tolbert (Pick #88)

Jalen Tolbert is entering one of the best possible situations for a rookie receiver in 2022. The Dallas Cowboys, who have one of the highest-scoring offenses in the entire league, are facing multiple losses at the wide receiver position. 

This includes trading away Amari Cooper, losing Cedrick Wilson Jr. in free agency, and having both Michael Gallup and James Washington facing injuries. Gallup stated that due to tearing his ACL late last season, a return for him in Week 1 is “not a reasonable possibility,” while Washington has already been ruled out for 6-10 weeks after he suffered a fractured foot during practice.

All of this movement leaves the Cowboys with just a few names during Gallup’s likely early absence. Of course, star WR CeeDee Lamb will serve as the primary target throughout the season, while standout TE Dalton Schultz will likely take over the secondary role. This leaves the third option and WR2 position in one of the highest-scoring offenses wide open for a talented player like Jalen Tolbert.

Tolbert eclipsed 1000 receiving yards on just over 60 receptions as a junior at South Alabama. Then, as a senior, he totaled over 80 receptions, nearly 1500 receiving yards and 8 TDs. I expect Jalen Tolbert to step into a fantasy-relevant role immediately while Gallup misses time to start the season. 

When he does eventually return, it will definitely hurt Tolbert’s value, but its possible we see both receivers seeing simultaneous success. Gallup may be playing at 80% in his first year coming off a late Week 17 ACL tear, or QB Dak Prescott might simply develop a great rapport with Tolbert. Either way, I’ll be drafting as much Jalen Tolbert as possible late in drafts.

 

Cleveland Browns: David Bell (Pick #99)

David Bell was an outstanding prospect coming out of Purdue, and he now lands with a very advantageous depth chart in Cleveland. As a freshman, Bell put up over 80 receptions, 1000 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns. By the time he was a junior, Bell had increased his production by over 30 yards per game.

Looking at the Browns’ potential depth chart, they’ve recently lost both Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, while also bringing in Amari Cooper via trade. They also have Donovan Peoples-Jones, who showed flashes towards the back-end of last year, and is entering his third season. However, I still don’t expect any significant production from the former sixth-round pick. Other WRs on the roster include names like Anthony Schwartz, Demetric Felton Jr., and Jakeem Grant Sr.

While I don't expect him to supplant himself as an alpha target as a rookie, there is a clear path for David Bell to slot in as the second option behind Amari Cooper on this possible high-scoring offense. The Browns will likely start off very slow with Jacoby Brissett running the show, but the pace of play and overall efficiency will pick up heavily as soon as Deshaun Watson returns from his 6-game suspension. 

If we hear any confirmation about a potential indefinite suspension, avoid all Browns targets in your fantasy football drafts.  However, since Watson is only facing six games, due to David Bell's clear talent and favorable environment, I expect to see him become a hot waiver-wire pickup right around the time that Watson returns, making him a great upside selection for your final draft pick. 

 

San Francisco 49ers: Danny Gray (Pick #105)

Danny Gray’s draft value skyrocketed after running a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which was fourth-fastest among all WRs in the class. During his final season at SMU, he averaged fewer than 5 receptions but still put up over 80 yards per game, mostly due to his blazing speed.

Looking at the other names on this depth chart, the next fastest receiver is Deebo Samuel with a 4.48 40-yard dash. Due to their clear need for speed (no pun intended), the 49ers likely drafted Danny Gray for his ability to stretch the safeties down the field, and get players like Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle open on routes underneath.

In fact, the presumed WR3 in this offense behind Deebo and Aiyuk is Jauan Jennings, who ran an abysmal 4.73 40-yard dash. While Jennings may have a role, his lackluster speed limits him to something entirely separate from what Gray will do as a field-stretcher.

However, just like we saw with Brandon Aiyuk last season, there have already been some rumblings that Danny Gray may already be in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s undesired ‘dog-house’

This may be a situation to monitor in San Francisco, but I’m still not very interested in the 4th or 5th target for a run-heavy offense. Ultimately, Danny Gray will play an important field-stretching role for the 49ers, but most likely will not be relevant for fantasy football as long as Deebo, Aiyuk, and Kittle are on the field.



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