2022 Fantasy Football: Ranking the Top-10 Rookie Wide Receivers, Including Drake London, Garrett Wilson, More
Getty Images. Pictured: Drake London (left) and Garrett Wilson.
This year’s rookie receiver class was one the deepest and most exciting groups for fantasy in recent memory.
Below are my rankings of the top 10 first-year wideouts for fantasy football in 2022.
1) Round 1, Pick 8: Drake London (USC), Falcons
London gets the top spot on my list, and he was actually the first receiver taken in the draft. He gets my top spot based on a combination of his talent and landing spot.
London is ultra-talented and has the build to be a superstar in this league. The dual sport athlete, who played both football and basketball for the Trojans, stands at a towering 6-foot-4, 209 pounds, which will inevitably create some interesting defensive mismatches. He is a strong route-runner with above-average – but not superhuman – speed. London sat out of drills at the combine while recovering from a fractured ankle he suffered during his final season with USC and is estimated to have 4.5-second 40-yard-dash speed.
With his build and skill set, London profiles pretty similarly to Mike Evans, who measured 6-foot-5, 231 pounds and ran a 4.53 at his own combine. Both are big-bodied receivers who will win with their size over speed and should be dangerous red zone targets.
On first glance, the Falcons don’t exactly spark joy with a shaky quarterback situation and one of the weakest offensive lines in the league. What London has going for him in Atlanta is the team’s lack of depth at receivers.
Star wideout Calvin Ridley is suspended for the entire season, and Atlanta lost Russell Gage to the Buccaneers in free agency. This squad was in dire need of a wide receiver and will function much better with a true WR1 as it once did with Julio Jones.
I’m not expecting London to produce at Jones’ level right out of the gate, but few rookies fell into more favorable situations purely from a depth chart perspective.
London has high-end WR2 upside in the long term. Don’t be surprised if he starts out slowly, especially returning from a major injury, but there just isn’t the same competition from Atlanta’s depth chart as some other rookie wideouts will face. This should allow him to make an immediate impact for the Falcons and fantasy football.
2) Round 1, Pick 18: Treylon Burks (Arkansas), Titans
Burks may have been the last of six first-round receivers off the board, but he comes in comfortably as the No. 2 on this list.
Burks boasts a solid college resume, impressive physical build and enviable versatility. He produced strong numbers in his third and final season for Arkansas, during which he tallied 66 catches for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Burks’ stature is one of his most attractive qualities to scouts: He stands at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds (think Julio Jones or a taller A.J. Brown) and has large hands that measured 9 7/8 inches at the NFL Combine. Both of those qualities will help Burks immensely in coverage and contested catch situations. He can also line up all over the field and even returns punts and kicks.
Burks loses some marks for his relatively pedestrian athleticism. His strong physical build is an asset in many regards, but seems to hamper the receiver’s burst and speed. At the combine, Burks recorded a pedestrian 33-inch vertical jump given his height and a sluggish 4.55-second 40-yard dash (for reference, Jones ran a 4.42 and Brown ran a 4.49 before their years’ drafts).
But as the kids say, it’s the landing spot for me. Burks was drafted by the Titans by way of an in-draft, blockbuster trade with the Eagles that sent star wideout Brown to Philly in exchange for two picks, including the 18th overall pick of the draft.
I still expect Derrick Henry to be the focal point of this run-heavy offense. With Brown gone, though, Burks’ main competition for targets will come from receivers Robert Woods and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and new tight end Austin Hooper – none of whom inspire much fear. The paucity of pass-catching depth creates a clear path for Burks to eventually lay claim to the WR1, making this one of the best receiver landing spots for 2022 and beyond.
Burks’ pre-draft over/under was 23.5 overall(with the over set at -120 odds), meaning he was a bit of a surprise at No. 18. The Titans’ willingness to part with Brown to grab Burks there speaks to how highly the franchise views him. Their perceived endorsement, combined with the paucity of pass-catching depth, creates a clear path for Burks to eventually lay claim to the WR1 slot vacated by Brown.
Burks has a high ceiling as a blue-chip prospect in a solid system, as well as a high floor given his lack of competition. I expect him to make an immediate impact for redraft and dynasty.
3) Round 1, Pick 10: Garrett Wilson (Ohio State), Jets
Wilson was part of a lethal 1-2 punch for Ohio State and was the betting favorite to be the first receiver off the board. He was the second receiver drafted and my No. 3 among this rookie WR class.
Wilson has freakish athleticism and drool-worthy college tape. He recorded a blazing fast 4.38-second 40-yard-dash time at the NFL Combine. That’s speed that’ll help him stretch the field and manufacture significant yards after the catch.
Wilson takes a bit of flak for his non-imposing stature and unrefined route-running. Standing at just shy of 6-feet tall and 183 pounds, some scouts have voiced concerns about his ability to match up against NFL cornerbacks, especially in press coverage. I’m not particularly concerned about his size and think he profiles pretty similarly to a Brandin Cooks-type receiver.
In spite of those small knocks, many would have made a case for Wilson as the best available WR prospect back in April. Pre-draft, ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky said Wilson could be this year’s Davante Adams, while Mel Kiper said he could be this year’s Ja’Marr Chase.
It almost goes without saying that his stock takes a bit of a hit by ending up on the Jets, who have had a top-four pick in four of the last five drafts and have not had a winning season since 2015. His success in Year 1 largely hinges on the success of 2021 No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, who will need to make a significant Year 2 leap to unlock fantasy stardom for any of his pass catchers. Last year, Zach Wilson ranked 33rd in passing yards per game and 35th in yards per attempt.
Garrett Wilson will also have a decent amount of competition from Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios. On first glance, that wide receiver room doesn’t inspire fear, but we need to take into account their signal caller’s limitations.
The rookie’s ceiling is in the WR3 range because I struggle to envision a Zach Wilson-wielded receiver ending up top 24 this year.
4) Round 1, Pick 11: Chris Olave (Ohio State), Saints
Wilson’s college teammate Olave is one of the most polished route-runners in this class, but questions around the Saints make his fantasy outlook a bit murkier than that of other rookies.
New Orleans leapfrogged multiple teams by way of an in-draft trade for the No. 11 overall pick to secure Olave. The 21-year-old former Buckeye boasted a strong college career and clocked a speedy 4.39 second 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine, a quality that is apparent looking at any of his tape.
That elite athleticism will allow him to create separation and stretch the field, but Olave’s standout quality is versatility. He already has a polished route tree with a high football IQ and the ability to line up outside and in the slot, making him attractive for 2022 and beyond. One of the only areas Olave loses marks as a prospect is his build. He barely checks the box standing at 6-feet, 187 pounds and profiles similarly to Calvin Ridley or Terry McLaurin.
The Saints are a bit of a black box right now, though. They’ll be without longtime head coach Sean Payton and are still searching for answers at quarterback. Former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston will be the incumbent starter, though he is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 8. Winston had been known for his high-volume, high-turnover tendencies prior to joining the Saints, but he showcased a much more conservative approach last year. Fantasy managers should be concerned if Winston and the Saints continue to employ a low-volume approach in the passing game.
Olave’s biggest question comes down to the health of another former Ohio State star receiver in Michael Thomas and, to an extent, the availability of Alvin Kamara.
Thomas, 29, missed the majority of the 2020 season and the entire 2021 season due to injuries which puts him at risk to miss time in the future. Prior to that, Thomas was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year back in 2019 after tallying a whopping 149-catch, 1,725-receiving yard season. Kamara may also be in danger of missing time due to legal issues. He was arrested for battery following this past Pro Bowl and could face a multiple-game suspension, which would certainly free up more targets.
Realistically, Olave’s fantasy value is somewhere in the WR3-4 range, but he has WR2 upside if Kamara and/or Thomas were to miss time.
5) Round 1, Pick 12: Jameson Williams (Alabama), Lions
If we threw out landing spots all together, one could make a legitimate argument for Williams as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect from this year’s class.
Williams transferred to Alabama in his final college season and was one of three former Ohio State receivers drafted in the first round. He could have gone even higher if he had not suffered a torn left ACL during the Crimson Tide’s College Football Playoff championship game against Georgia in January. The injury occurred in January, which puts a timetable for his return somewhere in October or, more conservatively, November, given the average recovery time from an ACL tear.
Prior to the injury, Williams exploded onto the scene and made a strong case to be the first receiver taken in this stacked class. Standing at nearly 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, he possesses the physical build to line up opposite NFL defenses and profiles as a taller Will Fuller.
In his one and only season with the Crimson Tide, Williams was quick to build rapport with quarterback Bryce Young. He caught 79 passes for a whopping 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in 15 games last season, earning All-American honors. Though he did not participate in the combine, he is estimated to have 4.3-speed, which would definitely enable him to create separation against opposing secondaries.
Ending up on the Lions was suboptimal for fantasy, and may not have been Williams’ first choice based on his meme-worthy face on draft day. Detroit, however, made an in-draft, intra-divisional trade with the Vikings to nab Williams at No. 12 overall which clearly speaks to how highly the franchise views him.
The Lions were needy at the receiver position after adding only D.J. Chark during free agency, and Williams will have the opportunity to take over the WR1 spot once healthy. The question remains whether or not Goff’s passing prowess can lend itself to a 1,000-receiving yard season – something that has only happened once so far in his career (Brandin Cooks, 2018).
Once healthy, Williams has WR2 upside. He certainly has the sky-high potential to eventually take over as the No. 1 option on Detroit’s weak depth chart. However, we have to assume Williams will miss at least a few games and will be somewhat hampered by Goff.
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6) Round 2, Pick 54: Skyy Moore (Western Michigan), Chiefs
Moore slipped considerably in this year’s draft as the 54th selection and 13th wide receiver off the board. He had a pre-draft over/under of 35.5, suggesting many thought he was right on the first-round bubble, but he may have fallen into the perfect situation.
Moore’s positives include above-average athleticism, solid production at the collegiate level and good route-running. He clocked a 4.41-second 40-yard-dash and a 34.5-inch vertical jump at the NFL Combine and is coming off of his best season at Western Michigan. He lines up outside and inside the slot and has been regarded as having a high football IQ.
Moore loses marks due to his height and limited route tree. At the combine, he measured less than 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, which raises concerns about his ability to stack up against NFL secondaries and overall longevity. Although Moore has been touted as a good runner of the routes he has been asked to run, he played in a RPO-heavy system at Western Michigan, which may not translate ideally to the NFL.
One could argue that the Tyreek Hill-less Chiefs are the single best landing spot for any of the rookie receivers. Moore’s upside is primarily due to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who offers astronomical upside to his pass-catchers for fantasy.
The availability of targets boosts Moore’s value even more. Hill’s attrition frees up a significant chunk of targets, which will likely be spread out between Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman and Moore. Kelce will be the alpha in this pass-catching room, but suffice it to say that the No. 2/3/4 slots are very much up for grabs.
Moore has WR2/3 upside as a fringe first-round pick who the Chiefs nabbed for a huge discount in the late second. He brings massive upside catching passes from Mahomes and with Hill off the depth chart.
Moore will likely need some time to develop, but he has the ability to make an impact almost immediately and long-term in this highly favorable situation.
7) Round 2, Pick 34: Christian Watson (North Dakota State), Packers
Watson hit the jackpot on draft day, even though he had to wait until Day 2 to hear his name called. He was the seventh receiver off the board when the Packers traded up to No. 34 to get him.
Watson has all the traits of a superstar in the making. His father, Tim Watson, was actually drafted by the Packers back in 1993 and his brother, Tre Watson, was an All-American linebacker at Maryland.
Pedigree aside, Watson’s build and athleticism are what separate him from other prospects. The former Bison stands at a towering 6-foot-4 and weighs 208 pounds, which alone will create defensive mismatches, and profiles similarly to Tee Higgins — only faster. His wingspan measured just shy of 6-feet-6 and his hands measured 10 1/8 inches.
Watson also turned heads during drills at the combine and clocked a lightning fast 4.36-second 40-yard-dash and recorded an impressive 38.5-inch vertical jump. He has a solid route tree and can line up inside or outside, return kicks and can be deployed in designed runs.
Watson draws some criticism from scouts for being a raw, undeveloped talent (perhaps reminiscent of concerns about Jordan Love, who came from a non-Power 5 program).
In spite of his freakish athletic abilities, his experience at the FCS level may create a sharper learning curve to refine his route-running and adjust to the speed of play at the NFL level.
Watson falls into one of the best situations as far as fantasy is concerned. He will be catching passes from four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and will face minimal competition from a depth chart that consists of Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins. He has a clear path to becoming the Packers’ No. 1 wideout among this crew, but he will likely have to prove himself to Rodgers first.
Watson has WR2/3 upside based on the lack of competition and quarterback strength. I hesitate slightly based on his collegiate experience, as it may take a while for the FCS star to refine his raw talent to the NFL level and create a rapport with the sometimes mercurial Rodgers.
8) Round 2, Pick 53: Alec Pierce (Cincinnati), Colts
Pierce’s name and college production are not as flashy as some of the wideouts taken before him, but the big-bodied receiver offers fantasy intrigue with an intimidating build and favorable landing spot on the Colts.
Pierce’s physical and athletic traits are what turned heads during his collegiate career and the scouting process. The 22-year-old stands at 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds, profiling as a large outside receiver and red zone threat akin to A.J. Green. At the combine, Pierce ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash and recorded a 40.5-inch vertical jump.
He has drawn criticism for his lack of college production, which was in part a reflection on his scheme fit. He recorded 106 catches for 1,851 yards and 13 touchdowns in three seasons with Cincinnati. Additionally, in spite of the versatility he displayed in college, Pierce could use refinement in route-running.
The Colts are a good – not great – landing spot for Pierce. It was the Jonathan Taylor Show last season, as the team deployed one of the run-heaviest offenses in the NFL. That decision was likely driven in part by the team’s lack of weapons and Carson Wentz.
Indy made a significant upgrade at the position this offseason and traded for former Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Even at the ripe age of 37, Ryan offers much more upside for the pass catchers on this team.
Pierce’s main competition for targets will be Colts’ 2020 second-round pick, Michael Pittman Jr. The 24-year-old was far and away the team’s best receiver last season. Next on that depth chart was Zach Pascal and T.Y. Hilton, so barring another offseason addition, Pierce appears to be the incumbent No. 2 option in this offense, an enviable position with Ryan at the helm.
Pierce has WR3/4 upside down the line and may be worth adding as a late-round flier in redraft leagues. He could make a nice bench stash or waiver add, but is unlikely to be a fantasy starter right out of the gate.
9) Round 2, Pick 52: George Pickens (Georgia), Steelers
The 21-year-old Pickens was projected to be an early second-round pick with a pre-draft over/under listed at 36.5 and fell all the way to No. 52 – potentially due in part to health concerns.
Pickens’ positive attributes include his physical build, speed and route-running abilities. He stands at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, which means he profiles as an outside receiver similar to Julio Jones who will stack up well against NFL cornerbacks. Pickens’ size doesn’t seem to be a hindrance to him and clocked a solid 4.47-second 40-yard-dash at the combine.
Pickens draws criticism for his lack of playing time at Georgia and as such, has been referred to as a raw talent in need of refinement. He generated early hype in his freshman season for the Bulldogs, but his 2020 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and barely appeared in 2021 due to a torn ACL. He also has relatively small hands for his frame and the position, which measured 8.75 inches at the combine.
The Steelers are a below average landing spot, at least for fantasy football 2022. Their glaring issue is the quarterback position, which may be a camp battle between Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and first-round pick Kenny Pickett, who could be the Steelers’ long-term solution. I anticipate Trubisky will start Week 1 and frankly none of those options are exciting from a fantasy perspective in 2022.
Pickens is a nice addition to the Steelers’ receiving depth chart after the attrition of JuJu Smith-Schuster to the Chiefs, though he will face decent competition for targets from Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and even Pat Freiermuth. He would have to leapfrog Claypool on the depth chart for managers to feel comfortable starting him. As such, he offers minimal redraft upside at the moment with a quarterback room that is shaky at best.
10) Round 1, Pick 16: Jahan Dotson (Penn State), Commanders
Dotson was once heralded by ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper as the WR1 in this class. He ended up being a surprise pick (and perceived reach by the Commanders) in the middle of the first round as the fifth receiver off the board.
Dotson’s positives include his athleticism, route-running, willingness to block and experience returning punts. At the combine, he recorded a solid 4.43-second 40-yard-dash and a 36-inch vertical jump – an extremely impressive feat for an athlete his height. Dotson is versatile and can line up outside, in the slot and return punts.
He primarily loses marks for his physical build. Standing at 5-feet-10.5 and 178 pounds, the former Nittany Lion is undersized in the realm of NFL receivers and profiles similarly to a Tyler Lockett type. Dotson does have solid hands and quickness to evade coverage, but he’ll likely struggle against physical secondaries and press coverage.
Washington’s offense doesn’t exactly spark joy as far as fantasy is concerned, as the team has undergone significant turnover at the quarterback position. Dotson will be catching passes from 29-year-old Carson Wentz, whom the Commanders traded for this offseason. In terms of competition,
Dotson joins receivers Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown, tight end Logan Thomas and pass-catching running backs J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson on the Commanders’ depth chart. McLaurin, 26, is coming off of his second consecutive 1,000-receiving yard season and will be Dotson’s main competition.
I expect Dotson will siphon some targets away from McKissic with his ability to line up inside, and injuries have plagued both Samuel and Thomas could open up even more targets.
Dotson offers WR3/4 upside, but will realistically be an afterthought in fantasy redraft leagues. He has a relatively easy path to targets taking into account Washington’s depth chart, but his physical stature gives me pause, as does the prospect of catching passes from Wentz.
Perhaps he will inject some life into this offense, but I think Dotson is more likely to underperform in light of his landing spot. Keep an eye on him in deeper leagues and on the waiver wire.