2022 NFL Draft Rookie WR Landing Spots: Rounds 2 & 3 (Fantasy Football)
After an eventful first day of the NFL draft, we saw multiple wide receivers selected in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. And while first-round capital is certainly what we want for our fantasy wide receivers, we have seen several day 2 prospects have an immediate impact in the league. In my recent article titled “Experience-Adjusted College Production & Its Impact on Prospect Hit Rates,” I highlighted the top-24 hit rates for day 2 wide receivers – which can peak at around 55% if coupled with the right production thresholds. In this article, we will explore another aspect of a prospect’s overall profile: landing spot. And while situations can certainly change, we can still determine each prospect’s likelihood of producing this season based on their team’s depth chart and available opportunities. Let’s dive in!
Christian Watson – Green Bay Packers
Round 2, Pick 34th overall
Christian Watson finds himself in an intriguing landing spot as he joins one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers. We saw last season that Rodgers still has plenty left in the tank as he finished top-2 in both Expected Points Added per Play and Completion Percentage Over Expected. From an opportunity standpoint, there is a lot of uncertainty in Green Bay’s depth chart. While Allen Lazard has the edge as the veteran, Watson will be battling with Amari Rodgers, Randall Cobb, and newly-signed receiver Sammy Watkins for opportunities. In addition, the Packers also drafted Romeo Doubs with their 4th round pick in this year’s draft. However, while there is some competition for Watson, 57% of their targets and 62% of their air yards from 2021 are currently available with Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling no longer on the team.
Fantasy Outlook: While this landing spot is extremely intriguing, there are still some question marks regarding Watson’s readiness to contribute. Playing in a lesser conference in the FCS, he did not dominate for his team until his redshirt-Junior year. And while he does possess elite athleticism, we have seen that the correlation between raw athletic ability and NFL success at the WR position is fairly low. For example, some of the most productive WRs in the league, such as Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs, and Keenan Allen, entered the league with average to below-average athleticism. Regardless, Watson does profile closely to MVS’ skillset, so he could fill that deep threat role immediately for the Packers. However, temper your expectations as it is very likely that multiple receivers fill the sizable void left behind by Adams, especially in 2022.
Wan’Dale Robinson – New York Giants
Round 2, Pick 43 overall
While Wan’Dale Robinson was projected to be a Day 2 pick, I did not expect him to go this early in the draft. He lands in a more ambiguous situation with the Giants as they currently have Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay, and Sterling Shepard leading their depth chart. And while they do have 36.5% of their targets available from last season, a majority of those come from the Tight End position with Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph leaving in the off-season. Keep in mind that Brian Daboll ran the 3rd most 10 personnel (4-WR) plays as the Bills’ OC last season, so it is very possible that the Giants employ more 4-WR sets in 2022 due to the plethora of receiving talent on the team.
Fantasy Outlook: Robinson is one of my favorite rookie wide receivers in this class as he checks the experience-adjusted production thresholds that I look for in a prospect. Coupled with his early declare status, his likelihood of producing for fantasy should be higher than the average day-2 receiver. However, size remains a concern for Robinson, which slightly caps his upside at the next level. And with a crowded depth chart, he might struggle to find targets in his rookie year. Keep in mind that this selection may signal the departure of Toney as he was rumored to be available in trades in recent weeks. Without Toney, I would be much more optimistic about Robinson’s short-term outlook for fantasy.
John Metchie III – Houston Texans
Round 2, Pick 44th overall
The third receiver off the board on day 2 was John Metchie III, Jameson Williams’ teammate from this past season at Alabama. And while Williams certainly stole the show, Metchie was not that far behind with 1,142 receiving yards and a 25.3% receiving yards market share. As for the landing spot, the Texans only have 27% of their targets available. However, they do not have a definitive wide receiver depth chart behind Brandin Cooks, who profiles as their lead receiver. And while Nico Collins will likely assume the WR2 spot to start the season, it would not surprise me if Metchie took over that role by the end of the year.
Fantasy Outlook: While this situation could yield multiple opportunities for Metchie, questions remain about the quarterback position for the Texans. As you can see in the chart below, Davis Mills ranked as the QB25 last season in Expected Points Added per Play (+0.007), leaving much to be desired from his performance. And while that might limit Metchie’s immediate value, his dynasty outlook is much more positive. The Texans have multiple future first-round picks to potentially find their next franchise quarterback if Mills does not take the next step. Therefore, draft Metchie in the mid-2nd round of your rookie drafts knowing that he might be a more impactful fantasy contributor in his 2nd season.
Tyquan Thornton – New England Patriots
Round 2, Pick 50 overall
While the New England Patriots needed more ammunition behind Jakobi Meyers and newly-acquired wide receiver DeVante Parker, Thornton was by far one of the most surprising picks of the night. As a four-year receiver, Thornton did not hit the elite production threshold (30% receiving yards market share) until his final year at Baylor. However, what he does bring to the table is elite athleticism, testing in the +90th percentile in multiple categories at the combine. And while he is not the most accomplished prospect, landing with one of the most accurate, young quarterbacks in Mac Jones does boost his dynasty outlook.
Fantasy Outlook: Keep in mind that the Patriots only have 10.8% of their 2021 targets available. And with Thornton and Parker joining the team, it could mean fewer opportunities for players like Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne. Therefore, with a crowded wide receiver room, I do not expect Thornton to be an immediate factor for dynasty managers in 2022. In addition, while he was selected in the 2nd round, Thornton finished his collegiate career with a below-average experience-adjusted production profile. As a result, I would hesitate to draft him before the late second round of rookie drafts, even with the early-round capital.
George Pickens – Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 2, Pick 52 overall
With a strong track record of developing wide receivers, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected one of the most intriguing players in this class: George Pickens. In fact, many projected him to be a first-round pick before suffering an ACL injury last Spring. Despite that, he still received day-2 draft capital, which puts him in a great situation to succeed in the NFL. And while Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool will command the majority of the targets to start his career, Pickens should play an immediate role and assume some of the targets left behind by Juju Smith-Schuster. Keep in mind that Johnson’s contract does expire after 2022, which could mean expanded opportunities for Pickens as soon as next season. The bigger question remains at the quarterback position. With Kenny Pickett being labeled the most pro-ready quarterback in this class, he may elevate this offense beyond Ben Roethlisberger’s below-average performance from last year.
Fantasy Outlook: Personally, Pickens remains one of my favorite picks in the late-first and early-second rounds of rookie drafts. Despite his quiet Junior year (barely playing as he recovered from the ACL tear), Pickens has one of the most productive early-career profiles in this class. In fact, in my recent article about experience-adjusted production, he ranked 4th in this class in adjusted Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt. Assuming he stays healthy, it would not surprise me if ends up being one of the most successful second-round wide receivers in this draft class.
Alec Pierce – Indianapolis Colts
Round 2, Pick 53 overall
Similar to Tyquan Thornton, Alec Pierce is a very athletic receiver who possesses a modest production profile coming out of Cincinnati. In fact, he never exceeded the 30% receiving yards market share threshold in any of his four seasons for the Bearcats. Regardless, the Indianapolis Colts selected Pierce in the second round, which could lead to some opportunities considering their current depth chart. We know that Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. will be heavily involved in this offense. However, behind those two weapons, Pierce could slot in as the third option, especially if Parris Campbell struggles to stay healthy for another season.
Fantasy Outlook: With Zach Pascal, Jack Doyle, and TY Hilton no longer on the team, there are over 100 targets available in this offense. But whether Pierce produces this season will depend on whether Campbell stays healthy for a full year. The likelihood of that happening seems very low, which means Pierce could have an immediate impact on the Colts’ offense. However, with a very average experience-adjusted production profile at Cincinnati, Pierce does not profile as a prototypical top-24 fantasy wide receiver despite the 2nd round capital.
Skyy Moore – Kansas City Chiefs
Round 2, Pick 54 overall
Despite being the 7th wide receiver taken in the second round, I would not be surprised if Skyy Moore finishes his career as the most accomplished wide receiver of this group. From a production standpoint, he checks pretty much every box. Not only did he produce as a true freshman, but he also continued to progress every year, even eclipsing the 40% receiving yards market share threshold in his Junior Year. And now, he lands on a team in desperate need of playmakers with Tyreek Hill no longer on the roster. Of course, Juju Smith-Schuster and Travis Kelce will receive a significant amount of the opportunities, though it would not surprise me if Moore slotted in immediately as their 3rd option. Long-term, Moore gets to spend most (if not all) of his career with one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of Skyy Moore’s outlook in the NFL.
Fantasy Outlook: Unlike some of the wide receivers taken before him, Moore has the draft capital, athleticism, AND the elite production profile on his resume. That essentially locks him in as a top-12 pick in all rookie drafts, as he should be selected before players like Alec Pierce, Tyquan Thornton, and even Christian Watson. Simply put, Moore has a much safer profile with an even higher ceiling due to his production and landing spot. And while he might not necessarily be a top-24 fantasy WR in 2022, I would not be shocked if he hit that threshold multiple times throughout his NFL career.
Velus Jones, Jr. – Chicago Bears
Round 3, Pick 71 overall
While Alec Pierce and Tyquan Thornton were slightly questionable picks, they at least had some production to back up their draft capital. Velus Jones Jr, on the other hand, is a 6-year prospect who did not break out until his age-24 redshirt-Senior year. In fact, even in his breakout season, his production was far from impressive at only a 24.1% receiving yards market share and 807 receiving yards. On a positive note, he lands on a team with a young quarterback and with plenty of opportunities available behind Darnell Mooney. With 160 of their 2021 targets available, Jones Jr could assume an immediate role for the Bears with only Equanimeous St. Brown, Dazz Newsome, and Byron Pringle as his primary competition.
Fantasy Outlook: Based on his production profile alone, Jones Jr’s likelihood of producing for fantasy early on in his career is not very high. The top-24 hit rate for round 3 wide receivers who did not produce or declare early is only at 24.1%. Regardless, there are plenty of opportunities available on this team so volume might not be an issue for Jones Jr. Even then, I would hesitate to take him before the 3rd round of any of my rookie drafts due to his risky overall profile.
Jalen Tolbert – Dallas Cowboys
Round 3, Pick 88 overall
With the departure of Amari Cooper, it was widely assumed that the Cowboys would draft a receiver to add depth to their team. And late in the 3rd round, they selected Jalen Tolbert – a four-year wide receiver prospect out of South Alabama. Tolbert was actually one of the most productive receivers over the last three collegiate seasons as he averaged an impressive 38.4% receiving yards market share. With a very productive profile, he likely slots in as the 3rd wide receiver on this team behind both CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Coupling his opportunities with one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league, Tolbert is in a great situation to provide dynasty managers with a few flex-worthy games even in his rookie year.
Fantasy Outlook: Naturally, Gallup – who signed a new contract with the Cowboys – will take on a majority of Cooper’s targets. However, Cedrick Wilson is also no longer on the team, which frees up an additional 61 targets for Tolbert. In short, his upside will remain capped as both Lamb and Gallup (when healthy) will lead this passing attack. But regardless, I am still a fan of Tolbert’s production profile, draft capital, and landing spot, which makes him an intriguing pick in the middle-to-late 2nd round of your dynasty rookie drafts.
David Bell – Cleveland Browns
Round 3, Pick 99 overall
Despite being the last wide receiver taken in the 3rd round, David Bell might just be in one of the best situations to succeed. The Cleveland Browns have 233 targets and over 2000 air yards available from their 2021 season. And while Amari Cooper is set to assume a majority of those opportunities, there is very little competition behind him for the WR2 role. That gives Bell a pathway to immediate production in a dynamic offense, which will now be led by Deshaun Watson. He will have to compete with both Donovan Peoples-Jones and former 3rd-round pick Anthony Schwartz, though neither did much last season to cement their roles in this offense. Expect Bell to be involved in 2022, with the upside for much more depending on how they handle Cooper’s contract beyond this season ($20 million in potential cap savings per year).
Fantasy Outlook: Bell has one of the most productive early-career experience-adjusted profiles in this class, behind only Skyy Moore. Historically, as a day 2 pick, that would give him a 54.5% chance of producing at least one top-24 season in his first three years in the league. As a result, he profiles as one of the most intriguing picks in the 2nd round of dynasty rookie drafts. And while he does not necessarily possess elite athleticism, that did not stop him from averaging 31.4% of his team’s receiving yards in his 3 years at Purdue. Couple his complete production profile with a very intriguing landing spot and Bell should absolutely be taken within the top-16 picks in 1-QB rookie drafts.