Best Ball Rankings: WRs To Take a Stance On in 2022 (Fantasy Football)
While building Best Ball rosters through optimal roster construction can give us a leg up on the competition, we also don’t want to lose sight of player takes. Choosing the correct player when on the clock can have a huge impact on advance rates and win rates in best ball. To help bring these two concepts together, I’m writing my series, “Players To Take a Stance On in Best Ball.” These are players we have ranked ahead of ADP in our continuously updating Consensus Best Ball Rankings, which are part of the Ultimate Draft Kit+.
Below are the wide receivers to take a stance on in best ball formats.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Consensus Best Ball Ranking: WR6
Underdog ADP: WR7
After logging eight straight 1,000-yard seasons to start his career, Evans was already a great 2nd-round pick, but now the stars are aligning for Mike Evans to have a chance to finish inside the top-5 at the position, making him an elite selection in Round 2. Rob Gronkowski retired from the NFL (for now), Antonio Brown is off the roster, and Chris Godwin is likely to start the season on the PUP list. Evans is set to dominate the target share from Tom Brady, giving him a chance to not only dominate in terms of yardage and receptions but also in the TD department. This TB12-led offense is literally perfect for fantasy upside for Evans.
Over the last two seasons, no offense has a higher pass rate, and last season, Tom Brady led the NFL in both deep ball attempts AND attempts from inside the 10-yard line. After banking 13 and 14 receiving TDs over the last two years with Gronk, Godwin, and Antonio Brown, why can’t Mike Evans lead the NFL in TD receptions in 2022? He’s a priority target in Round 2 of best ball drafts.
Mike Evans is turning into an auto-pick for me in Round 2 of best ball drafts. His weekly WR finish in 6 games without Chris Godwin over the last two years:
Now, no Gronk AND no Antonio Brown + Godwin to miss time off the ACL… pic.twitter.com/jO93k6yZWU
— Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT) July 5, 2022
Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
Consensus Best Ball Ranking: WR11
Underdog ADP: WR13
Mike Williams is the poster boy for “better in best ball.” He’s inconsistent, making for a potentially frustrating pick in redraft leagues, but in best-ball formats, Williams is the exact archetype we want to target. As I wrote about with Matt DiSorbo earlier this off-season, we want to target wide receivers with a wide range of outcomes as embracing variance significantly increases top-end outcomes. In best ball, we can live with the down weeks knowing that Williams is sure to give us plenty of spike weeks that we’re looking for in best-ball formats. Last season, Williams finished as a top-18 weekly WR eight times, including five finishes inside the top-10.
A year ago, the Chargers ranked 2nd in neutral situation pace of play and 3rd in neutral situation pass rate. With Justin Herbert at the helm and an offense that’s going to play fast and throw the ball a ton, all Chargers’ weapons are priority targets in best ball. While Keenan Allen is a fine target, we like betting on Williams to potentially overtake Allen as the top producer in this offense, at least when we’re talking about spike weeks. Entering his age 30 season, Allen’s efficiency metrics have been on the decline – Here are his yards per route run numbers over the last five seasons:
- 2017: 2.55
- 2018: 2.50
- 2019: 2.01
- 2020: 1.91
- 2021: 1.78
Meanwhile, Williams’ 12.0 average depth of target (aDOT) was much higher than Allen’s 9.1 a year ago. You won’t find bigger Keenan Allen fans than myself and Kyle, but in half PPR formats like Underdog, we like targeting the player who’s more likely to see targets down the field and in the red zone. After setting a career-high with a 21% target share a season ago and the WR10 finish, we’re all the way back in on Big Mike after he secured a 3 year, $66 million contract this off-season.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions
Consensus Best Ball Ranking: WR29
Underdog ADP: WR30
This is probably the riskiest player in this article, especially when you consider the WR30 price tag on the 2nd year WR for the Lions. The fantasy community seems to be divided on Amon-Ra after he scorched the Earth down the stretch last season. From Weeks 13-18, St. Brown was the WR2 in fantasy behind only Cooper Kupp. In that sample, he averaged 11.2 targets per game (32% market share), was targeted on an elite 33% of his routes run, and logged 2.75 yards per route run. Of course, all of that production came with both D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson out of the lineup due to injury, which makes Amon-Ra an extremely difficult player to project.
In best ball, I love taking shots on players where the market is divided because it allows us to get paid off in a huge way if we’re right. Of course, St. Brown’s late-season production isn’t sustainable across an entire season, but you simply don’t earn targets the way Brown did unless you’re a talented player in this league. And, the nice thing about looking at last year’s production relative to price, is that we aren’t drafting St. Brown to be the overall WR2 in fantasy. As a WR3 for your best ball team, he fits most roster constructions nicely. Playing for a Lions offense that shifted to a more pass-heavy approach when Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties and a team that projects to play from behind quite often, the Lions should find themselves in obvious passing situations frequently. After the team drafted perimeter field stretcher D.J. Chark and speedy deep threat Jameson Williams, St. Brown should run most of his routes from the slot, giving him plenty of opportunity to pile up high-value receptions.
I know most of you reading this won’t agree with the take, but that’s quite alright. Heck, even Kyle isn’t on board with Amon-Ra as a priority target, and I get it…but let me leave you with this. Here’s the list of rookie WRs drafted in the 3rd round or later to log a PFF grade of 80+:
Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers
Consensus Best Ball Ranking: WR39
Underdog ADP: WR41
I wrote all about why I’m higher than market on Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon in this article, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also want to be high on Allen Lazard, too. This Packers offense should run through these three primary pieces, so I don’t hate building Packers stacks around these three pieces with Aaron Rodgers. If we can correctly identify the WR1 in an Aaron Rodgers offense, it could pay off handsomely in best ball formats, making Lazard a possible league winner at his ADP.
Davante Adams vacates over 30% of Green Bay’s targets, receiving yards, and receiving TDs from a season ago, so there’s a massive opportunity up for grabs in the WR room. The historical hit rate for Green Bay rookie WRs is quite poor, making it tough to see Christian Watson emerging as the dude in year one, Sammy Watkins hasn’t been productive in years, Randall Cobb is about to be 32 years old with a lengthy injury history and Robert Tonyan is recovering from a 2021 ACL injury. It’s a bit narrative-based, but there does seem to be some credence to earning Rodgers’ trust if you want targets in this offense, and recent quotes from A-Rod suggest Lazard should be the team’s WR1. The Lazard King has played eight games without Davante Adams in his career, and in those games, he’s averaged 60 receiving yards. A year ago, he turned in 8 receiving scores and that was with Adams on the roster. What’s stopping Lazard from an outlier 10+ TD season now that Adams is in Las Vegas?
Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
Consensus Best Ball Ranking: WR42
Underdog ADP: WR48
If you’re a listener to the Fantasy Footballers DFS Podcast, you’re probably tired of hearing Kyle talk about Saints rookie WR, Chris Olave, but it’s for good reason! We love taking Olave at his WR48 price tag given that you’re not necessarily relying on Olave to contribute to your best ball squad right away (all the better if he hits the ground running). We know rookies tend to produce later in the year, so when you’re selecting him as your WR4 or WR5, you can likely live with a bit of a slower start to the year while relying on early-round WRs to produce in the first month of the season. In this situation, Olave (and other rookie WRs) will be peaking later in the season when it matters most for best ball tournaments.
The reason we’re ahead of market on the former Ohio State rookie is largely due to the situation around him and elite NFL Draft capital. Michael Thomas is a giant question mark after missing all of 2021 following ankle surgery, and Alvin Kamara may miss six games due to a suspension. If Thomas falls off and Kamara misses a third of the season, there are paths to Olave leading the Saints in targets, even as a rookie. Since 2014, rookie WRs taken in Round 1 of the NFL Draft averaged a 17.1% target share. If we consider that to be part of Olave’s floor, he’s an excellent bet to beat his ADP for the reasons described above. If you’re looking for another reason to take a shot on the rookie, consider that at least one rookie WR has finished inside the top-30 in fantasy points per game every year since 2006. Chris Olave and Drake London seem like the safest bets to continue that trend.