4 Wide Receivers Sleepers
If you end up going running back-heavy at the beginning of your draft and also grab an early quarterback or tight end, you need to start loading up at the wide receiver position. Not only do you need solid starters for your squad, but you also need players who offer a lot of upside - that can be hard to find in the middle-to-late rounds.
While my colleague Joe wrote earlier about four wide receiver busts this year , this article will go over four receivers who are sleepers entering the 2022 season based on our half-PPR average draft position (ADP). These four receivers showed a lot of promise last year, but because of the lack of consistency, have their respective ADPs sitting between the late 7th and early 10th rounds.
Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 8.12, WR 40)
Brandon Aiyuk is another receiver who started extremely slow last season but ended up finishing on a high note. Last year Aiyuk was drafted as a top-25 receiver, but now, he’s fallen to an ADP around wide receiver 40. He is being drafted around the 8th and 9th rounds and it does not make sense.
After not starting the first game of the season as he was in Shannahan’s “bad books”, he spent the next 6 games averaging 3.2 targets per game and an abysmal 19.2 receiving yards. In many leagues, he was dropped as he destroyed fantasy manager’s teams. He found the endzone only once during this time.
Just like Elijah Moore, Aiyuk’s second half was much better. From week 8 on, Aiyuk averaged 6.2 targets and 66.4 yards per game and managed to find the endzone 4 times. While it’s not groundbreaking, the number of targets he received almost doubled, and his overall production in receiving yards proportionally grew as well. Jimmy Garoppolo’s playing style of being a game manager who doesn’t throw much down the field did not do him any favors.
With the huge drop in production, Aiyuk’s fantasy season ended in half-PPR leagues as the WR 37. It wasn’t a great year and people are skittish at drafting him this year, but I don’t fully understand. Yes, Deebo and Kittle are the first two options in the offense, however, look at where he is currently being drafted - the WR 40 off the board! He had a terrible year last season and he still finished above this mark. Aiyuk is being drafted at his floor and Trey Lance’s arm and willingness to throw it down the field will have Aiyuk beating his ADP and having a worthwhile spot as a WR 3 or flex play.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions (ADP: 7.10, WR 33)
Last year, rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown was a tale of two halves. From weeks 1 through 11, St. Brown was the WR 71 in half PPR leagues, and through the rest of the fantasy season, he was the WR 3, averaging 18 fantasy points per game. Those who were fortunate enough to pick him up when he started heating up gained quite the advantage thanks to his production in the fantasy playoffs. This included him averaging 24.1 fantasy points from weeks 15-17 which made him the highest-scoring fantasy receiver during the playoff run.
The second half of the season saw a hobbled Detroit Lions team missing time from its best two offensive weapons in D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson. This is when St. Brown had most of his production, and because of the lack of offensive weapons, he demanded a very large target share. While there’s no denying he had an enormous target share because of the injuries to the offense, there’s also no denying how good of a player he turned into through his first season in the league.
St. Brown now enters into his second year in the offense and I see it as more of a bonus that there are other skill players aside from himself to take away some of the attention. Jared Goff isn’t going to just start ignoring him now that Swift and Hock are back, and I think he continues to develop his rapport with St. Brown this year. If we take away some target share but add in higher efficiency and overall games with production, St. Brown is going to be a great WR2 or flex player for your fantasy squad.
Elijah Moore, New York Jets (ADP: 8.06, WR 37)
Another second-year receiver that had an up-and-down rookie season was Elijah Moore. It wasn’t until Zach Wilson was injured the first time, that Moore was starting to see a higher dose of the target share within the offense. As of week 7, Moore saw at least 6 targets in every game he played in (week 7-13) and during this time saw two games with 11 and 12 targets.
His breakout game came in week 11 against the Dolphins where he caught 8 of 11 targets for 141 yards and a touchdown. Managers who had waited to get a meaningful game from him either missed out on it due to dropping him earlier in the year or having him on the bench.
Moore showed a lot of talent last year and if he had not gotten injured which kept him out of the final 5 games of the season, I believe his ADP would be at least two rounds earlier. It’s not always easy for these rookies to make a name for themselves, especially when they are on a bad team. That being said, Zach Wilson did warm up to him and backup Joe Flacco isn’t afraid to air the ball out. Rookie Garrett Wilson was drafted this offseason, as was Breece Hall, but Elijah Moore is the best pass-catching talent on the team and should have a fantastic season if he remains healthy.
Christian Kirk, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 10.03, WR 43)
The number one pass-catcher on the Jaguars is currently being drafted in the 10th round. A 10th-round selection for a player who is receiving the most targets of anyone on his team during camp and preseason games is an absolute steal - even if he does play for the Jaguars. We have seen fantasy success come from the team from players like Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Keelan Cole in the past. Someone has to catch the ball!
Christian Kirk is moving over from the Arizona Cardinals, a team in which he was never given (or earned) a consistent starting role. He had a ton of great wide receiver talent around him which limited his playing time, but he also did not fully beat his teammates, either. With all this being said, he still was productive. Last year Kirk had 77 receptions for 982 yards and 5 touchdowns. The year prior, he had 48 receptions for 621 yards and 6 touchdowns. He’s a good player. Now he gets to play as a slot receiver for the Jaguars who we know are always going to be throwing the ball as they are not projected to win a ton of games. Trevor Lawrence has seemingly locked in on him during the offseason and he is due to be the number 1 in the offense at this time.
There is some competition between Marvin Jones, who I believe still has some juice left, and Zay Jones, a player that hasn’t proved himself in the NFL yet. Also, tight end Evan Engram has not shown he’s his old self yet, so I don’t expect him to take away much target share at all. Last year under head coach Urban Meyer, Marvin Jones earned 110 targets which were good enough for a 24% target share, compared to Laviska Shenault, who was second on the team with a 20% target share. Shenault has fallen to the wayside down the depth chart and Kirk should pick up at least a 20% target share in what should be a more up-tempo offense with a new coaching regime in place.
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