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rookie wide receiver fantasy fits
Fantasy Football

Best Rookie Wide Receiver Fantasy Fits

  • Zach Cohen
  • May 3, 2022
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When I tweeted out this meme, I meant it. Fantasy football never sleeps, and with the 2022 NFL Draft in the rearview, I examined my favorite rookie running back fits for fantasy football. So it only makes sense to review the rookie wide receiver fantasy fits, and man, are we lucky. I found most of these fits to be a bit more fantasy-friendly than I did with the running backs. With each wideout, I examined three factors:

Offense – What does/could his new offense look like?

Skillset – What traits best set him up for fantasy success?

Role – What is his likely role and how can it impact his fantasy value?

Immediately, five wide receiver fantasy fits stood out to me, including one honorable mention. While the players are in no particular order, I did start with my favorite rookie wide receiver…

Best Rookie Wide Receiver Fantasy Fits

Treylon Burks: Tennessee Titans

Let me preface this by saying Burks is not an exact copy of Brown and we shouldn’t assume he’ll instantly replicate Brown’s production… but it’s possible. Hence why Burks is my top rookie wide receiver. He can step right into A.J. Brown’s role as quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s go-to target. That certainly seems like the plan after the Titans essentially traded Brown for Burks and some change. Brown averaged about 8.1 targets per game—tied for 13th-most in the league and nearly double of any other Titans’ wideout. Brown is also listed as one pound heavier and two inches shorter than Burks. However, the comparisons fall short with Burks’ route running. He’s not as refined as Brown. 

“Most routes are rounded off at the top, lacking the detailed nuisances that the best route-runners possess in the NFL,” Keith Sanchez wrote in Burks’ scouting report. 

Sanchez noted Burks is best-suited for a system that can get the ball quickly in his hands. Well, Tannehill had the seventh-fastest time to throw among quarterbacks who started at least 10 games, per NFL’s Next Gen Stats. Even better, his average intended air yards were right around league average. Burks has also shown he can be used in multiple ways, which only enhances his fantasy potential. With 105 targets up for grabs from Brown—and 48 from Robert Woods—Burks has plenty of room to make a massive impact in fantasy football.

Drake London: Atlanta Falcons

London seems to be the ‘WR1’ for many people and while I certainly don’t hate the fit, the Falcons’ offense hampers my enthusiasm a bit. Despite calling pass plays at the eighth-highest rate in 2021, Head Coach Arthur Smith no longer has the cannon of Matt Ryan’s arm to work with. Instead, he reunites with quarterback Marcus Mariota in what should be a more run-focused offense. With that said, London is still one of the best pass-catchers on the roster. In fact, he’s one of the only promising ones. Aside from Kyle Pitts and do-it-all offensive utility player Cordarrelle Patterson, there aren’t many reliable, proven options for Mariota to throw to. While this could mean a large target share for London, we just can’t expect him to see the same target share as Calvin Ridley (26.4% across five games) prior to his absence. Again, Mariota’s addition almost certainly signals a more balanced approach, though we shouldn’t expect a run-happy offense like Smith ran in Tennessee, either. Whatever the offense looks like, London is too talented to be overlooked and could easily be a top rookie receiver. When in doubt, bet on talent and health. The latter doesn’t seem to be a big concern for London, who seems to have fully recovered from his ACL tear in October. When compared with Burks’ situation, though, I like Burks’ potential volume and usage more, and Tannehill is a safer quarterback to bank on than Mariota.

Chris Olave: New Orleans Saints

The Saints did a whole lot to ensure they drafted Olave. After acquiring a second first-round pick essentially in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick, New Orleans made another trade to move up and snatch Olave. That tells me they plan on using him heavily. It makes sense since the Saints’ top receivers last season were Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris. With Michael Thomas coming back, there’s a chance Olave starts out as the team’s secondary receiver. That’s totally fine because outside of Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara, there isn’t really proven competition for Olave in the Saints’ passing offense. The caveat is New Orleans was one of the most run-heavy teams in football last season; they had the third-highest run-play rate. With Thomas, Olave and even quarterback Jameis Winston in 2022, I expect more passes and therefore, more targets for Olave. His deep-ball prowess pairs perfectly with Winston, who averaged 8.6 intended air yards in his six full games. That would’ve tied quarterback Lamar Jackson for the second-deepest attempted passes on average. Olave is a great fit for the Saints’ offense and his top-of-the-class route running abilities should only widen his role.

Christian Watson: Packers

Prior to the draft process, I said countless times that whichever receiver lands on the Packers and Chiefs would see a massive boost in their fantasy stock. Well, Green Bay traded up to draft Watson and just like that, he’s one of my top rookie wideouts. We commonly see the best fantasy receivers with a combo of two factors: volume and a receiver-friendly offense. Davante Adams’ departure leaves a whopping 169 targets up for grabs. (Adams led all receivers except Cooper Kupp in targets.) Barring staff or personnel changes, teams rarely shift their offensive strategies too much between seasons. Therefore, we can expect the Packers to still flutter above the league average in pass-play rate. What we can’t expect is Watson to fill in Adams’ role. But like with Burks replacing Brown in Tennessee, it’s a possibility. Watson is three inches taller than Adams, yet he’s only eight pounds leaner than Adams. TDN’s Drae Harris specifically praised Watson for his ball skills and his run-after-catch ability. Harris even lauded Watson’s route running and separation abilities relative to his larger size. 

“Bigger receivers should be judged on a different platform than smaller ones,” he wrote. “He can separate at the top of the route and has good speed to win vertically as well.” 

I think Watson is the most talented receiver on Green Bay and has a clear shot at becoming Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target, though Watson’s doesn’t profile too well inside, thus limiting his ceiling a bit.

Skyy Moore: Chiefs

Talk about a match made in heaven. Moore was one of my favorite receiver prospects ahead of the draft and now he lands in a glorious fantasy situation. With no Tyreek Hill, there’s a glaring hole at wide receiver. I think Moore’s skillset gives him the edge over Juju Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling at becoming quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ new go-to true receiver (I say “true” because Mahomes’ top weapon will still likely be Travis Kelce). 

Moore is by no means the biggest receiver, yet he plays bigger than his frame. Despite his surprising ball skills, Moore will likely play mainly inside. That should be music to the ears of all fantasy football managers. Slot receivers don’t typically face press coverage and instead have a solid cushion of space to work in. Moore’s quickness and route running make him a perfect candidate to win inside. Another bonus slot receivers face: their closer proximity to the quarterback gives them an edge as a safer, closer option for passers. Not only does Moore get that role,but he joins a creative, high-octane offense where targets should come fast and furious. Moore is my No. 1 receiver on the Chiefs and a top rookie target in all formats.

Honorable Mention: Jameson Williams: Lions

Disclaimer: I love Williams. He was my ‘WR1’ due to his explosiveness, speed and route running. Being placed in Detroit is… interesting. Like I said with London, I tend to bet on talent over situations when I’m unsure about a wide receiver’s fantasy potential. 

Williams could quite literally change Detroit’s offense a la Justin Jefferson or Tyreek Hill. He also faces little competition as the Lions’ outside receiver; can we really trust D.J. Chark to steal many targets from Williams? And even if Williams sees a lower target share than Chark, T.J. Hockenson, Amon-Ra St. Brown and even D’Andre Swift, the Lions called pass plays at an above-average rate last season. It’s not the offense’s situation I’m worried about—it’s quarterback Jared Goff, though not to the extent you may think. Goff didn’t exactly pass the eye test, but he was serviceable at times. Much to my surprise, Goff actually had the fourth-highest percentage of on-target passes, per Pro Football Reference. That puts him behind only Joe Burrow, Jimmy Garoppolo and Justin Herbert. Admittedly, that stat is inflated due to Goff’s league-low intended air yards per pass (6.4 IAY). However, that’s not a bad thing for fantasy football. It tells us Detroit is scheming low-risk passes to their receivers, which only increases the possibilities of receptions. It also means they don’t fully trust Goff, but both statements can exist. 

As for Williams, the Lions’ offense provides him a strong opportunity to see low-risk, low-competition targets. Although, there’s also the concern about when exactly Williams will play. While no official word has been rolled out yet, Williams said he hopes to be ready for the start of training camp. I wouldn’t be too concerned. I’m still extremely interested in Williams even if he isn’t fully ready by Week 1.

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Zach Cohen