Wide Receivers to Avoid (2022 Fantasy Football)

Each player reaches a point where they can be selected. However, the following wide receivers should be avoided near their expert consensus ranking (ECR) in point-per-reception (PPR) formats.

Avoid wide recipients

CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL): 15 ECR, WR6

The hype train left the station for Lamb last year. Still, it’s picking up steam after a bumpy second campaign in 2022. The glaring positive results for Lamb are evident.

First, the Cowboys had the sixth-highest passing rate (60%) in neutral game scripts in 2021, according to Sharp Football Stats. Second, they played fast. According to Football Outsiders, Dallas played at the fastest situation-neutral pace. After all, he has less established competition for goals this year than last season.

Regardless, Lamb has had a good, but not elite, season. According to our fantasy football leader tool, Lamb was only tied for WR16 in PPR points per game among receivers who played at least seven games. Also, it didn’t explode in some optimal situations last year.

There were four games Lamb played in which Amari Cooper played less than 60% of the snaps, according to the Snap Count Leader tool. More specifically, those games were week 4, 9, 11, and 13. Unfortunately, in week 11, Lamb only played 54% of the snaps. Nevertheless, it is a sample worth seeing, which is recorded in the following table.

*Yard Per Route Run (Y/RR) is from Pro Football Focus (PFF).

The sample is admittedly small. However, it’s also underwhelming, throwing a wet blanket on expectations of Lamb turning into a target pig without Cooper. Obviously he’s young and entering his third season. So there is room for growth.

Still, Lamb’s current ranking leaves any room to exceed expectations. He must explode on an invisible plane to pay off his rank. While ranking players is an exercise in anticipation, it’s insane that Lamb’s ECR overall is one spot higher than its ranking among the only recipients in 2021 PPR per game rating.

Amari Cooper (WR-CLE): 41 ECR, WR18

Interestingly, Cooper’s ECR reflects his median rank as a wide receiver in PPR per game over the past three years. According to Fantasy Leaders Tool, he was WR28 in PPR per game in 2021, WR18 in 2020 and WR14 in 2019.

To reiterate the point above, ranking players is an exercise in foresight. Cooper was traded to the Browns where he is clearly the top receiver. However, he leaves a quick pass-first offense for a mysterious offense unlikely to match the pace and pass rate.

In 2021, the Browns had the seventh-lowest pass completion rate (53%) and ranked 24th in neutral situations. Apparently, the Browns were led by a battered Baker Mayfield and traded to Deshaun Watson for most of last year. So the team could switch to a faster pace and pass more if Watson plays.

The question, however, is when will Watson play? It remains to be seen whether he is threatened with a ban and how long it will be. The Browns read the tea leaves and structured his contract so that he had a small base salary if he lost game trials to suspension. As such, Watson and the Browns appear to be preparing for a suspension.

If Watson was a shoo-in to play 17 games, Cooper’s ECR is acceptable. However, it doesn’t seem possible for Jacoby Brissett to start games. Also, there are a few blemishes on Cooper’s profile that are causing some despair.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Cooper had his second-lowest yards per route run (1.63 Y/RR) of his career last year after having his third-lowest grade (1.81 Y/RR) in 2020, following Cooper’s career high of 2.29 Y/RR in 2019, and his grades in 2021 and 2020 were not bad. Additionally, according to Sports Info Solutions, he has had his three lowest yards After the Catch Per Reception (YAC Per Rec) grades over the past three years.

Overall, the red flags in Cooper’s final seasons aren’t too worrisome. However, coupled with the likelihood of Watson being suspended for a while, drawing Cooper as a mid-range WR2 is a reach. On the other hand, if the NFL announces that Watson will not be suspended, Cooper’s current ECR is palatable.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – KC): 59 ECR, WR25

Apparently, experts are excited about Smith-Schuster’s landing site. Honestly, that makes sense. Patrick Mahomes is a unique talent, Andy Reid was a career offensive guru and the Chiefs were a passing and fast-paced team. Over the past year, the Chiefs have passed at the third-highest rate and played at the third-fastest pace in neutral situations. This is where the positives for Smith-Schuster primarily end.

Of course, NFL teams are not infallible. Teams have made countless mistakes in free decision-making. Separately, the league has told viewers what they think of Smith-Schuster. According to Spotrac, the $3.5 million average annual value (AAV) of Smith-Schuster’s contract that year was only the 11th-highest among free agency wideouts, behind the contracts of Zay Jones, former chief Cedrick Wilson Byron Pringle, AJ Green and Jakeem Grant, plus new teammate Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($10M AAV). The Chiefs also picked Skyy Moore in the second round, and superstar Travis Kelce is the favorite to lead the team in goals.

All this buries the Lede. Smith-Schuster has been terrible three years in a row. First, players might want to blame Ben Roethlisberger for Smith-Schuster’s struggles. However, the chart below shows his production compared to other Steelers receivers.

Undoubtedly, Big Ben’s pop gun arm injured Pittsburgh’s receiver. In context, however, Smith-Schuster’s inefficiency was glaring. The Chiefs deserve credit for signing Smith-Schuster as a cheap reclamation project. But he is nothing more. After all, Smith-Schuster isn’t a field stretcher, and the battle for intermediate goals with Kelce is a losing battle. Thus, he’s closer to a Rand top 100 player than a top 60 option.


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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more information from Josh, see his archive and follow him @BCad50.

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