Embarrassment of riches

In yesterday’s column, I advised against using a zero RB strategy in this year’s fantasy football draft and gave you my insights on which running backs to favor and fade. The reason why I focus on running backs in the first two rounds is that the running back position is not as deep as wide receiver.  You can wait until the third or fourth round to select your first wide receiver and still be fine at the position.

Wide receivers carry the highest ceiling in fantasy football, and breakout players can be drafted as late as the eighth or ninth round. In this week’s column, I’m going to identify some wideouts that could become the next Cooper Kupp, or Deebo Samuel. Kupp had an ADP of 72 last year, and Samuel’s ADP was 79. Imagine how good it felt to have taken Kupp in the 6th and/or Samuel in the 7th in 2021.

I’m going to break down wide receivers that I like, round-by-round, beginning in the third round. But before I do that, let me remind you that there might be some bargains in the first two rounds. If you’re drafting at the turn, or making your second pick, Kupp, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase should not be passed up. Just be sure that you have one stud running back before you take one of them.  

If I have drafted a stud running back early in the first round and find CeeDee Lamb on the board late in the second, I’m probably going to take him, too. In case you didn’t know, Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson have left Dallas, and a larger target share is a guarantee. Only once did Lamb fail to score double-digit fantasy points in a game where he commanded more than six targets in 2021.

THIRD ROUND

Mike Evans, A.J. Brown and Keenan Allen are going to be taken early in the third round. All have solid floors. Tee Higgins is also worthy of a third-round pick. However, I would prefer to take another running back in this round – especially if it’s James Conner. If you’re picking later in the third round, try and get Michael Pittman. With Matt Ryan under center for the Colts, Pittman is certain to be a target hog.

FOURTH ROUND

My fourth-round favorites have a lot in common. Both ran routes on more than 90% of their team’s drop backs and finished in the top three in air yards share and top seven in target rate per route run. Both were hurt by poor quarterback play, and both are getting an upgrade in 2022. The two wideouts I’m referring to are Terry McLaurin and D.J. Moore. Draft either here with confidence.

FIFTH ROUND

Mike Williams, Brandin Cooks and Chris Godwin are being taken early in the fifth round of many drafts. All three could return value at their ADP, but Godwin is risky since he’s trying to come back from a torn ACL suffered in last season’s Week 15 loss to the Saints. Cooks is my favorite of the three. I love target hogs, and this hog finished fourth in air yards share (36%) and ninth in target share (24%).

SIXTH ROUND

It’s possible that you could get Courtland Sutton in the sixth round of your draft, and you should take him without hesitation. Last year, with an anemic offense, Sutton still finished seventh in air yards (1,756). Now, he gets a huge upgrade at quarterback with Russell Wilson.  Wilson is a good downfield passer which plays heavily into Sutton’s strengths as a vertical threat. Get him if you can.

SEVENTH ROUND

If you think the supply of good wideouts will be dwindling by the seventh round, think again. Darnell Mooney, Allen Robinson II, Michael Thomas, Hunter Renfrow and Gabriel Davis are all worthy of a seventh-round pick. Any of these guys could start for your team as a WR2, WR3, or flex. If you can get one of them in the eighth round, do it because you can’t have too much depth at wide receiver.

EIGHTH ROUND

You’re not going to believe it, but there are still quality wide receivers that could fall to you in this round. As previously mentioned, you could find Renfrow or Davis still on the board. If not, Elijah Moore or Juju Smith-Schuster are likely to be there. The other wide receiver that I like is Rashod Bateman. With Marquise Brown gone, Bateman can step up and be the true No. 1 wideout in Baltimore.

NINTH ROUND

How deep is this position? At this point, approximately 38 wide receivers will be gone. But there is still the possibility of finding a starter for your team. Brandon Aiyuk, who was a monster in the second half of 2021, has an ADP of 95. Robert Woods, now in Tennessee, has an ADP of 99. Christian Kirk has a chance to be WR1 in Jacksonville and has an ADP of 101. All are worthy at their ADP.

LATER ROUNDS

After the ninth round, with perhaps 45 wide receivers off the board, consider adding a rookie who has a lot of upside. Atlanta took the athletic Drake London with the eighth pick in the draft. The New York Jets took Garrett Wilson tenth overall. Treylon Burks was also drafted in the first round by Tennessee. And how about Chiefs rookie Skyy Moore? He’ll be catching balls from Patrick Mahomes.

My conclusion is that it’s hard to go wrong with any combination of the above-mentioned players. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be busts. And I have my list of fades based on their current ADP. My “don’t draft” list includes Jaylen Waddle, Diontae Johnson, D.K. Metcalf and his teammate, Tyler Lockett and Adam Thielen. All have ADPs between 40 and 90, and there are simply better options.    

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

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