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Breaking Down the 2022 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Class for Fantasy Football

Drake London fantasy football rankings rookies draft sleepers NFL draft

It is officially NFL Draft week! The months of speculation, rumors, and all the fantasy implications that we try our best to figure out will finally all come to an end. The landing spots will soon be known and the NFL will tell us how they value these players. But before that, there is enough time to still figure out how to feel about the prospects. 

I have already written about the quarterbacks and running backs from this class - but the receivers are by far the most intriguing of the skill positions for this draft class. Not only is there a lot of depth at this position, but there is a lot of high-end talent as well. There may not be a Ja'Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson that are going to come in and rewrite the rookie record books, but there are certainly players that will be future WR1s in fantasy and have an immediate impact in year one. 

This breakdown looks to take the old film vs analytics argument and combine them as I will give you a scouting report and what the numbers say about each of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.

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Top Wide Receiver Prospects - NFL Draft

Drake London, USC

Scouting Report: London has size at 6’4, 215 pounds and he knows how to use it. London can excel at the catch point and use his size to get an edge on the defensive back. He has terrific hands and is great at catching the ball in traffic. When you watch London play, at least for me, you cannot help but think of Mike Evans. He is not the best after the catch, but he can be utilized both as a deep threat and in the red zone. He is the best shot at being an immediate WR1 as a rookie in this class. The biggest knock on him has been his ability to separate, but that has been put to bed by many as bad QB play. He needs work as a blocker, but as a receiver, there is a lot to like in his profile. 

What the Numbers Say: Drake put together his best collegiate season in 2021 when he went for 88 catches, 1,084 yards, and seven touchdowns, averaging 12.3 yards per catch. All of those were career highs, except the yard per catch, which was actually a career-low for the USC basketball player. His 17 contested catches were third among draft-eligible players, despite him ranking 11th in contested targets (29). His 24 missed tackles forced ranked fifth among receivers while his 3.33 yards per route ran ranked seventh. He saw a deep target 20 percent of the time, showing his field-stretching abilities. 

Jameson Williams, Alabama

Scouting Report: Williams has speed for days. Not only does he have game-changing speed, but he has great acceleration that helps him quickly reach that top gear and burn defenders down the field. He can showcase that speed both as a field stretcher or after the catch. He also has great hands that can be utilized all over the field and despite his lack of elite size, he has a large catch radius.

The biggest knock on Williams is that he can get jammed in press coverage at the line of scrimmage, but that is an area he can improve upon as a pro. The other knock is that he tore his ACL and likely will not be ready for the start of the season, but shouldn’t keep us waiting too long after as he is already ahead of schedule. Williams is catching a lot of hype as the draft nears and it is easy to see why when you watch him play. Williams will struggle to put up WR2 fantasy numbers as a rookie due to him likely missing time early, but that should be attainable for him from year two on. He certainly brings WR1 upside and has a chance to be the best receiver from this class. 

What the Numbers Say: After posting single-digit catches at Ohio State, Williams transferred to Alabama and exploded for 79 grabs for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2021. His 35 catches of 15-plus yards ranked fourth in all of college football. He averaged nearly 15 air yards per target and a whopping 19.8 yards per catch. His 3.03 yards per route ran ranked 15th and he caught 91 percent of his targets that were deemed catchable. He caught a third of his contested targets. Williams played 28 percent of his routes from the slot and saw a deep target 28 percent of the time. He finished with a 142.5 wide receiver rating, which was Top-10 out of all receivers, leading this class. 

Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

Scouting Report: Wilson ran faster at the combine than expected, putting a notable concern to rest. He has great burst as well to go along with very strong hands and the ability to pick up yards in bunches after the catch. Wilson seems to think he can make any catch on the football field and he may not be wrong. The biggest concern for Wilson at the next level is that he needs to work on his route running, particularly on deep downfield routes. He also needs to improve at creating separation on those routes. Still, we are seeing more and more receivers excel at being YAC monsters and Wilson has that in his profile. 

What the Numbers Say: Wilson is coming off his best season in college going for 70 catches, 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns - those numbers nearly matched his first two seasons combined. Wilson forced 19 missed tackles and had 27 catches of 15-plus yards. He averaged 14.7 yards per catch and 2.86 yards per route ran. He caught 89 percent of his catchable targets and 57 percent of his contested ones. He lined up in the slot on 17 percent of his routes and saw a target of 20-plus air yards 18 percent of the time. 

Chris Olave, Ohio State

Scouting Report: Olave may be the most NFL-ready of the big four receivers in this class. He is a great athlete who can run any route with ease and has strong hands and even better ball skills. He also has a strong feel for the position that you cannot teach. He shows the knack to know when to be patient and when to show more urgency as a route runner. He also does not have a big weakness. The only knock on him is that he can bulk up a little, which is knit-picking if you ask me. 

What the Numbers Say: Olave posted career highs across the board as a senior going for 65 catches, 936 yards and 13 touchdowns. The fact that he never put up 1,000 yards is a tad worrisome, but he does have two seasons with at least a dozen touchdowns and scored 25 in his college career. Olave recorded 21 catches of 15-plus yards, while forcing just one missed tackle in 2021. He averaged 15.8 air yards per target and 15.3 yards per catch. He also averaged 2.44 yards per route ran. Olave caught 91 percent of his targets that were catchable and 65 percent that were contested. He operated out of the slot on 19 percent of his routes and saw a deep target 26 percent of the time. 

Treylon Burks, Arkansas

Scouting Report: After running a "slow" 4.55 40 at the combine, no receiver has been placed under more of a microscope than Burks. There is a lot to like here, such as his hands which can reel in any ball in his vicinity, paired with his ability to catch the ball in traffic and to win contested targets. He is a physical player who thrives with the ball in his hands. That does not just mean he is a great YAC receiver but he can also be utilized out the backfield.

The issues are that he mostly played out of the slot in college. That does not mean he cannot play outside, but just that his floor is being a big slot receiver. He also was on an offense that basically looked to put the ball in his hands as often as possible, typically on shorter, quick passes. His route-running can use work at the NFL level. He has drawn comparisons to Deebo Samuel and A.J. Brown and while his game is similar, he is not nearly as fast or athletic as those two. 

What the Numbers Say: Burks put up 66 catches for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns, all of which were career highs. He averaged 3.37 yards per route ran, which ranked sixth among all players. Burks forced 14 missed tackles and had 25 plays of 15-plus yards. He averaged 10 air yards per target and 16.6 yards per catch. Burks caught 92 percent of his targets that were catchable and 33 percent that were contested. He operated out of the slot on 67 percent of his routes and saw a target of 20-plus air yards 21 percent of the time. 

George Pickens, Georgia

Scouting Report: Pickens is sort of being overlooked due to him tearing his ACL in March 2020 and being limited to just four games in 2021. But Pickens, when healthy, is an alpha type receiver. Pickens has great hands and can win both in space or on contested targets. He is a good athlete who has the ability to high point the football, while also not being afraid to catch it over the middle and pick up yardage with his legs. He can win at the line of scrimmage and has the athleticism to make defenders pay. But because it comes so naturally to him at times his route running and technique can use work. The biggest concern for him, outside of off-the-field issues, is whether he can regain his old form after the ACL tear. If so, a team will be getting a steal as he likely is the fifth or sixth receiver selected. 

What the Numbers Say: Pickens was limited to just four games in 2021, having five catches for 107 yards. In eight games in 2020, he had 36 catches for 513 yards and six scores. His best season came as a freshman, when he had 49 catches, 727 yards and eight touchdowns. Pickens had 20 catches of 15-plus yards as a freshman and 15 as a sophomore. His yards per catch (15.9 to 14.2) and yards per route ran (2.67 to 1.86) were both better as a first-year player than second. He caught 86 percent of his catchable targets in 2020 (98 percent in 2019). The fact that his best college season came as a freshman is definitely concerning. There are some red flags for Pickens, being injuries and off-the-field concerns, but the fact that he got worse, statistically at least, in college is also worrisome. He remains one of the more boom-or-bust options in this class. 

Jahan Dotson, Penn State

Scouting Report: Dotson has the right combination of high-end speed, burst, and quickness making him a matchup nightmare at times. He also shows explosiveness in both the short and long passing game with the ability to take the ball the distance anytime he touches it. He is good after the catch and could pick up yards that way as well. He has strong hands and can catch the ball both in space or contested. He projects to be a strong secondary receiver (Z) rather than a top option (X). The biggest knock is he is on the smaller size and can get pressed at the line of scrimmage. 

What the Numbers Say: Dotson put up 91 catches, 1,182 yards, and 12 scores as a senior at Penn State. His catches, yards, and touchdowns increased every year he was in college. He averaged 11.3 air yards per target, 12.9 yards per catch and 2.45 yards per route run in 2021. He reeled in 94 percent of his targets that were catchable and 40 percent that were contested. Dotson ran out of the slot on 24 percent of his routes and saw a long target 20 percent of the time. 

Skyy Moore, Western Michigan

Scouting Report: The first thing you notice when you watch Moore play is his footwork and quickness that help him consistently win near the line of scrimmage. He will likely play out of the slot a lot, as he lacks size. He should be a nightmare to cover in zone schemes and could blossom into a very strong YAC receiver. He does need to get better at creating separation in press or man coverage. While he is quick, he lacks high-end speed. His landing spot will matter, but Moore could be a useful fantasy piece if he falls into the right situation.

What the Numbers Say: Moore put up 95 catches, 1,292 yards, and 10 touchdowns in 2021 at Western Michigan. Those were all better than his first two seasons combined. Moore averaged 3.33 yards per route ran, which tied him for seventh amongst all players with Drake London. He also averaged 11.1 air yards per target and 14.1 yards per catch. He caught 93 percent of his catchable targets and a third of the ones that were contested. Moore ran 34 percent of his routes from the slot and saw a deep target just 16 percent of the time. 

Christian Watson, North Dakota State

Scouting Report: Watson is a good athlete who is fast and has the proper size to play at the NFL level. He has strong hands and is able to get up high to haul in the ball. He has quick acceleration as well which helps him get open down the field. One concern is that Watson has gained weight (muscle, not fat don’t worry), but will he maintain his same quickness at an elevated weight. My biggest concern is that Watson never put up big numbers in college despite playing lesser competition, that included when he had Trey Lance in 2019. 

What the Numbers Say: Watson posted career-best across the board in 2021 with 43 catches, 801 yards, and seven touchdowns. It is at least somewhat concerning to me that those were his best numbers despite playing four years of college, including 2019 with Lance. But there is also a lot of good here - such as him leading the nation (min. 35 targets) with 4.53 yards per route run. Watson averaged 15.6 air yards per target and 19.2 yards per catch. He caught 90 percent of his catchable targets and 50 percent of his contested ones. Watson operated out of the slot on 13 percent of his routes and saw a target of 20-plus air yards 32 percent of the time. 

 

Deeper Wide Receiver Prospects - NFL Draft

David Bell, Purdue: Bell is a strong route runner who has a knack for finding the soft spot in defenses and once he finds the space he is able to pick up yards after the catch. He also can track the longball well, meaning that could be an underrated part of his game at the next level. The knocks though are that he can get bodied by corners at time, either pressing him at the line or throwing him off his route. He also is not the best athlete in this class. His 25 missed tackles forced ranked third among draft-eligible receivers. 

John Metchie III, Alabama: Metchie has both quickness and agility and knows how to use both to win at the line of scrimmage. He also has the ability to win downfield at the next level and can lineup all over the field. Sometimes his hands can get a little sloppy which leads to drops but that is a correctable issue. He also suffered a season-ending knee injury in the SEC Title game, so he will have to prove he is healthy. His immediate fantasy value likely comes down to landing spot and how the team that drafts him will use him. His 20 missed tackles forced tied for seventh-best among receivers. 

Justyn Ross, Clemson: Ross is a great athlete who can contort his body to make a catch. He showed a strong ability to get his feet in on the sideline or in the end zone. He also has great hands and can high point the ball extremely well. While he is a great athlete, the biggest concern in his game is his downfield speed, which could limit his usage at times. Still, the only real concern is that he has an injury history, specifically having neck surgery in 2020. 

Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky: Robinson is a former running back who can now use his burst, explosiveness, and agility to win out of the slot. Due to that RB experience, he is not afraid to take a hit meaning he can be utilized in the middle of the field. He is a player that coaches try to manufacture touches for whether that is as a receiver, runner or in the return game. He is still learning the receiver position, meaning that his route running can use some polishing. Also, his lack of size means he can struggle in press coverage and is likely limited to just a slot role, with some flanker shots at times. His 22 missed tackles forced ranked sixth among receivers. He also averaged 3.46 yards per route ran, which ranked fifth among receivers with at least 25 targets. 

Khalil Shakir, Boise St.: Shakir is definitely a sleeper in this draft class. He can be utilized in a number of different ways, including in the run game. He is quick and shifty but does lack high-end speed, particularly on deep balls. But he is able to track the deep ball nicely which could make up for the speed. He is also able to make tough, acrobatic catches look easy. The biggest knock, outside of his lack of explosiveness, is he had nagging injuries throughout his college career. 

Calvin Austin, Memphis: Austin is a deeper prospect I particularly like in this class. He possesses a ton of explosiveness and high-end speed. He has the ability to take the ball the distance any time he touches it. He also has quickness that can help him get open on shorter routes. He is small, but can play physical and run through contact. He showed strong hands and can make the grab even in coverage. His route running isn’t the prettiest, but it's good enough to consistently win given his speed and quickness. The biggest knock is he can be bumped at the line or off his route, but that is to be expected when playing at his size (5’7, 175 pounds). He will be a slot option that could pop as a rookie due to his big-play abilities. Do not be afraid to take shots in best ball especially. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio



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