Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Sleepers for 2022
We all know that first-round picks are important in your fantasy football drafts, but what if I told you that leagues were more often than not won based on your picks in the middle to late rounds? Deebo Samuel was a league winner for many fantasy teams in 2021, and he was drafted in between the eighth and ninth rounds. Ja’Marr Chase, who had some preseason drops, was drafted at an eighth-round ADP before going on to finish as WR5 in PPR leagues. You may have also heard of Amon-Ra St. Brown, who was going undrafted in most formats but finished as WR2 overall in Weeks 13-18, the fantasy football playoffs. The value is there if you know how to look for it. However, in 2022, it doesn’t seem that the wide receiver position is as deep with outright studs as it once was, so you’re going to want to hit on these late-round players in your redraft leagues to gain an edge over your opponents. Lucky for you, I’ve put together a list of these wide receivers who could help you win a fantasy football championship.
Late-Round Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Veteran Targets
ADP 102.46: I don’t know about you, but when I hear of a player being personally recruited by the GOAT, Tom Brady, my ears perk up. Russell Gage signed with the Buccaneers in free agency, and they were willing to pay him, giving him a three-year, $30 million contract with $20 million of that fully guaranteed. The Bucs are obviously trying to find some depth to fill in for Chris Godwin while he recovers from an ACL injury, but they’re being coy about just how long he is expected to miss. In his absence, Gage will be an immediate impact player for your fantasy team. The Bucs have shown they can support two top 24 wide receivers in this system, with Mike Evans finishing at WR9 and Chris Godwin finishing at WR15 in PPR leagues in 2021, and with tight end Rob Gronkowski announcing his retirement, Gage will be in line for a heavy workload. Even when Godwin returns, Gage could retain some flex value, as the Bucs threw at the highest rate in the league in 2021, averaging 43.3 pass attempts per game, and now, without Gronkowski, the target distribution should turn heavily in favor of each receiver. With this combination of volume and opportunity, Gage is a smash at his ADP of 110.75.
ADP 135.79: Jarvis Landry is coming off a career-worst season, so it’s easy to see why his ADP has taken a dive. In 2021, he missed five games and finished with just 52 receptions, 570 yards, and only scored two touchdowns. How much of that production was caused by his knee injury and/or quarterback Baker Mayfield’s injury is debatable, as his target quality rating was 96th in the league, but it looks like Landry is healthy and back to his old self based on reports out of Saints OTAs. While the Saints were a low pass volume offense in 2021, it was most likely due to a makeshift receiving corps, and that should change in 2022 with the addition of Landry and rookie wide receiver Chris Olave, as well as the return of Michael Thomas. Landry is just two years removed from a WR1 season, and while he’s no spring chicken, he’s still an elite route runner with plenty left in the tank. He should easily finish in at least high-end WR3 territory, and at his current ADP, that’s a huge value.
ADP 163.7: Opportunity is king in fantasy football, and Buffalo is one of the highest passing volume teams in the NFL. Last season, the Bills ranked seventh in the league in pass attempts, averaging 37.7 per game, and they turned those attempts into 29.8 points per game, good for third-highest in the league. The Jets, Jamison Crowder’s former team, ranked 13th in pass attempts per game at 35.5 but only put up 18.2 points per game, ranking an anemic 28th. The Bills are a huge upgrade for Crowder in every way over the Jets, and we should see him put up touchdowns in this improved situation because of his efficiency as a pass-catcher. In 2021, he had a route win rate of 54.3%, good for first in the league, and had a catch percentage of 70.8%, good for 15th. Crowder is replacing former Bills slot receiver Cole Beasley, who had a target share of 19.3% with a 12.6% red zone share in 2021. While I don’t like to put too much emphasis on vacated targets, especially with Isaiah McKenzie and Khalil Shakir in the mix, it seems like Crowder is set to slot right into Beasley’s role (pun intended).
Late-Round Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rookie Targets
Treylon Burks, WR TEN
ADP 99.53: The Tennessee Titans made waves by trading A.J. Brown to the Eagles during the NFL Draft, but they knew they had a replacement for him in Treylon Burks. Burks dominated against the toughest schedule in college football on a rebuilding Arkansas team, putting up over 1,100 yards on 66 catches in 2021. He was also utilized as a running back, tacking on an additional 112 scrimmage yards on 14 rushing attempts. The Titans were a low-volume passing offense in 2021, only averaging 31.1 pass attempts per game, but A.J. Brown commanded 27% of those targets, good for ninth in the league. Comparing that with Burks’ college production of a 72% catch rate and 16.7 yards per catch average, then adjusting those numbers to account for pro-level competition, Burks should still be in line for around five receptions and 75 yards per game. The target share could also be higher early on in the season with Robert Woods’ availability up in the air after suffering an ACL tear last season. Throw in the potential of the Titans using Burks as a wide back, and you get a wide receiver with an incredibly high upside, especially at his ADP.
Jalen Tolbert, WR DAL
ADP 157.4: Much like Burks, Jalen Tolbert has the opportunity to make an immediate impact as a rookie. The Dallas Cowboys traded Amari Cooper and let Cedrick Wilson and Malik Turner walk in free agency, leaving CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz as the only two healthy receiving options for the start of the season. Tolbert will likely be filling in for Michael Gallup while he rehabs from an ACL tear, likely seeing somewhere in the range of a 16% target share or six targets per game. While this doesn’t seem like much on its face, Tolbert’s production at South Alabama piques my interest; in his final year with the Jaguars, Tolbert averaged 6.83 receptions and 122.83 yards per game. The Cowboys passed at the fifth-highest rate in the league last season, averaging 38.4 pass attempts per game, so the volume will be there for Tolbert to produce, at least early on. With Gallup likely out until mid-November, Tolbert should provide some immediate value for you throughout the first half of the season.
David Bell, WR CLE
ADP 161.2: I last mentioned David Bell in my late-round rookie's article here, but since then, his ADP has taken a tumble with the news surrounding Deshaun Watson. Still, I think you can take a flyer on him and his talent at his current draft position. In his final year at Purdue, Bell put up just under 1,300 receiving yards on 93 catches, leading all FBS players with 101.2 receiving yards per game, and he was named a First Team All-American receiver. Browns’ general manager Andrew Berry has all but solidified Bell’s usage as a slot receiver, and Kevin Stefanski helped develop one of the league’s most prolific slot receivers, Adam Thielen, during his time in Minnesota. Bell may just be a stash player for the first part of the season, but he has the ability to be a big playmaker down the fantasy playoff stretch like Amon-Ra St. Brown was last season. Just keep an eye on the quarterback situation in Cleveland between now and your drafts.
Good luck in all of your leagues this season! Follow me on Twitter @Britt_Flinn for more fantasy takes and advice.
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