2022 WR Sig Scores
150 veteran WRs predicted! Nearly 4,000 words about WRs! Using advanced metrics that helped predict previous top WRs, we identify 2022's next top WRs. This is what Sig Scores is all about. Fantasy cheat codes.
As you may have seen when I compared top 24 WRs to rookie WRs, I analyzed what metrics the 2021 top 24 WRs were most successful at last season. That was to know what we're looking for in college players.
Predicting WRs is a little more complicated than that. For this exercise, I analyzed what the 2021 top 12 WRs were most successful at in 2020. This is so I can know what mattered before, to predict what happens next season. Thanks to PlayerProfiler.com for their advanced metrics.
Here are the how top 12 2021 WRs ranked on average in 2020:
Target rate (targets per route run) - 23.67
Points per route run - 24.16
Hog rate (targets per snap) - 25.33
Yards per route run - 25.91
QB rating when targeted - 39.41
Catch rate - 41.25
Contested catch rate - 41.25
Yards per target - 41.75
Points per target - 42.83
True catch rate (receptions per catchable targets) - 43.16
Average cushion - 52.25
Target separation - 55.83
Target premium (points per target above team average) - 81.08
Production premium (production above league average in neutral game situations) - 89.5
Hope this and the previous article gives you a better picture on what to look for in the next top WRs. These are the metrics that matter the most, and the least. Now we take a look at the top 150 veteran WRs.
What metrics will we be using, you ask? The metrics that the top 12 2021 WRs were at least WR3s on average in 2020. Target rate, points per route run, hog rate, and yards per route run. AND two wild cards.
One new metric I added is expected points added. It wasn't tracked in 2020, so I can't reflect on how successful it was, but I'm certain that it matters. I divided the total number by games played, EPA per game.
I then divided these metric rankings to get a production score. And then I averaged the production score with cumulative PPR projections, because, let's face it, the closest metric you can get to predicting the next top WR, is the projections itself.
Without further adieu, the 2022 WR Sig Scores.
What have we learned from this year's WR sig scores?
Cooper Kupp's the man, and should be the first WR drafted. Set it and forget it.
Davante Adams has been a top 9 WR in the past five seasons, and a top 2 WR in three of the past four seasons. Yet he's only 5th in PPR projections. Why, because of target share? As solid as Hunter Renfrow is, Adams is light years ahead. Darren Waller is awesome. But Tyreek Hill was the WR2 in 2020 with Travis Kelce as his TE. The only WR I'd consider ahead of Adams is Justin Jefferson.
Tyreek Hill landed 4th on this list, because, again, elite WRs command elite target shares.
Deebo Samuel is unlikely to repeat as a top 5 WR. As great as he was as a WR, he received quite a bit of fantasy help as a RB. That's unlikely to continue. Elijah Mitchell is healthy. Tyrion-Davis Price was added as a 3rd round RB. Trey Sermon's still around. And as a WR? George Kittle is off IR and healthy. Brandon Aiyuk is out of the doghouse. Samuel is explosive and a great talent, but 4th in projections is far too rich for my taste.
Ja'Marr Chase is only 6th on this list because he was 38th in target rate and 40th in hog rate. Tee Higgins commanded a higher target and hog rate. Both had the benefit of a non-elite TE and positive game script. Chase is one of the best when targeted, but he scored long TDs at a rate that hasn't been sustainable since Randy Moss. I'm down with Chase as a top 5 WR, but Adams and Jefferson are more of a sure thing this year.
Stefon Diggs wasn't as effective this year compared to last, but his target share is sure to rise without Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley. He's firmly in the discussion as the WR5.
If you're worried about A.J. Brown going to the Eagles, don't be. He was top 6 in target rate, points per route, hog rate and yards per route. He's an elite WR, and a value pick in the 3rd round.
CeeDee Lamb is the WR10 here, and is a dark horse top 6 WR this year. He was 12th in yards per route, 18th in points per route, and is no longer sharing targets with Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson Jr.
The steadily underrated Brandin Cooks is a steal in the 5th round, finishing top 20 in every metric. If second year QB Davis Mills improves, the WR with 1,000 yards in six of eight seasons can return to top 12 status. Currently drafted as WR23, his WR target competition is virtually the same. As long as he doesn't have another concussion, it's a safe pick with some upside, something we should strive for in fantasy.
And yet another underrated WR is Keenan Allen. He's received at least 135 targets every year in the past five seasons. He might not be flashy, and probably won't be a top 6 WR again, but he's a glue guy with a floor that will never lose you a week. If you start your draft with back-to-back RBs, get Allen in the 3rd and pair him with high upside WRs.
Michael Pittman Jr. was 8th in EPA per game, top 23 in yards and points per route. His target rate wasn't particularly high, but with no more T.Y. Hilton and just a rookie WR alongside him, he's as high upside of a 5th round pick as you're going to find. And hey, Pittman says Matt Ryan can put it pretty much anywhere he wants. Don't kink shame. If Pittman says Ryan's balls are prettier than Wentz's, who are you to deny fantasy love?
A cheaper safe Keenan Allen-type pick is D.J. Moore, who finished 10th in target rate last year. Unfortunately, he's just 28th in yards per route, 46th in points per route, and 50th in EPA per game. You can hope that Sam Darnold improves, you can hope the Panthers trade for Baker Mayfield, or you can hope Matt Corral starts early in the season. But even if none of that happens, you get a WR with three straight 1,100 yard seasons in the 4th round. That's a floor play with upside for more, if the QB play ever improves.
Michael Thomas started his career with four straight 1,100+ yard seasons. He led the league in catches in 2018 and 2019, before an ankle injury caused him to miss most of 2020 and all of 2021. When comparing his 7 games in 2020 to everyone else's 2021, Thomas was 13th in target rate and yards per route. And he did that with dead armed Drew Brees. The last time Jameis Winston started 16 games in 2019, Godwin was the WR2 and Mike Evans was the WR5. Check the Reception Perception profile on Michael Thomas, dude gets open on all three levels of the field. If Thomas and Winston are healthy, MT could finish as the WR1 in 2022. And you can draft him in the 5th round. I'm sure if the reports come back good in training camp, he'll move up to the 3rd or 4th round. It's still worth it. He's that good.
17th in target rate and 26th in yards per route, third year receiver Darnell Mooney is just getting started. Justin Fields was either the worst or second worst QB in football. He will now have training camp to improve as the starting QB in Chicago. No more sitting behind Andy Dalton. The Bears lost Allen Robinson and replaced him with Byron Pringle, who was 103rd in target rate last year. Oh and they have "old rookie" Velus Jones. Mooney is one of the mid-round WRs who has an outside chance of cracking the top 12, and can be had anywhere from the 6th to 8th round.
It's true, Jerry Jeudy has not lived up to expectations. He's also been playing with Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. Now he has one of the best QBs in football on his team. Russell Wilson has supported DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett as top 24 WRs in back-to-back seasons, despite being a run-first offense. Former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is now the Broncos head coach. I expect Wilson to pass the ball even more than in Seattle. Jeudy was 29th in yards per route. That number could and, quite frankly, probably should rise to top ten as Tyler Lockett typically was. Jeudy is going in the 5th and 6th round, and has top 12 upside.
Russell Gage is the cheapest WR3 on the market. Perplexedly going in the 10th round, Gage was 14th in yards per route, 17th in hog rate, 21st in target rate and 27th in points per route. Chris Godwin suffered a torn ACL and sprained MCL last December, and is likely to go on the PUP list and miss the first six weeks. No Antonio Brown, currently no Gronk, just Mike Evans and a bunch of young, unproven WRs. Oh, and Tom Brady is throwing to him. Gage is one of the steals of the draft.
Kadarius Toney was 5th in hog rate, 6th in target rate, and 18th in yards per route. He's facing more target competition with a healthy Sterling Shepard, a healthier Kenny Golladay, and rookie Wan'Dale Robinson. But he's another 10th round high upside WR and worth a double digit pick.
Returning from an ACL tear, Robert Woods is a sneaky bet to put up points this season. He finished as the WR14 in 2020 and 2019, and the WR11 in 2018. Instead of competing with Cooper Kupp and others in LA, he's competing with rookie Treylon Burks. Don't get me wrong, I love Burks, but you never know for sure what you're getting with rookies. You know what you're getting with Robert Woods. He was 11th in EPA per game and 23rd in points per route run last year. At worst, he's a low-end WR2. At best, he's a high-end WR2. And his ADP ranges anywhere from the 7th to the 9th round.
One of the most divisive WRs in fantasy football is Gabriel Davis. Either you love him as a pick or you hate him as a pick. I might be the only analyst in the community to say, "eh." He was 50th in target rate and 64th in hog rate. Surely to rise sans Sanders and Beasley. His per route metrics weren't great either, 35th and 37th. As a 7th round pick, he's no sure thing. But once you're getting into the bench picks, you'll want a WR2 tied with an elite QB. There's other WRs in that range I prefer, but I understand the appeal.
Don't hate the player, hate the game. Mac Dre said that. He also said doll-la-la-la-la-lotsa paypa. Christian Kirk got paid top WR money, but you don't have to. You can get the Jags WR1 in the 9th round. He's paired with Trevor Lawrence who is sure to improve. And Kirk is good! 16th in EPA per game, 31st in points per route, and commanded a 21st hog rate and 30th target rate. He's another high upside WR you should draft atop your bench.
Elijah Moore is adored in the fantasy community, but buyer beware: Moore was 100th in EPA per game, 54th in yards per route, and did that despite being 21st in hog rate and 30th in target rate. Now he has Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah and a healthy Corey Davis to contend with. And let's be real. Zach Wilson was either the worst or second worst QB in football last year. Wilson will improve some. He has to, because he can't be much worse, but his future outlook is not promising. I like Moore, but I'm out on him this year. Especially when your team just drafted a top ten WR, a year after drafting Moore.
We know that DeAndre Hopkins is suspended for the first six games. What we also know is that he played with a cracked rib since Week 3, a hamstring that kept re-aggravating, before an MCL tear cost him his season. And he still was WR20 in points per game, 13th in EPA per game, and 14th in points per route, despite playing injured. Consider his suspension a PUP list, where you miss the first six weeks to heal up from an injury. Nuk will come back with a vengeance, and nuke the competition in the 6th and 7th round. D-Hop was a top 5 fantasy WR in the previous four seasons, with Christian Kirk and Will Fuller taking the top off. Now he has burner Marquise Brown as his sidekick. Rarely can you find a WR in the 7th round with top 5 potential for the last 11 weeks of the season. I feel for Hopkins, I'm sure he wants to play. But consider his suspension a fantasy gift. You get to bench stash someone who will be a must-start WR for the final two thirds of the season.
I'm all about getting a team's WR1 at a discount. For the better half of a decade, DeVante Parker is someone I've stuck up for. He's dealt with many, many soft-tissue injuries. Seven hamstring pulls since 2016! Known for eating boxes of cereal, his diet is perhaps not NFL-caliber. Switch to eggs and protein, my man. However, the one season he was healthy in, he was 5th in the NFL in receiving yards. Granted, he had gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing to him. Now he has risk-adverse Mac Jones throwing to him. But the talent is there in the 13th round. As much as I don't like the QB fit, I like the player, I like the opportunity and I like the value.
Fresh out the doghouse and ready to roam, Brandon Aiyuk is in a much better position to succeed this year. He was the WR18 as a rookie in 2020, just 0.1 less points per game than Mike Evans. He was rarely targeted early on, essentially schemed out of the gameplan with a 101st hog rate. But he made up for it with his play, 36th in EPA per game and 42nd in yards per route. Kyle Shanahan has compared his work ethic this off-season to Deebo Samuel last year. He finished the year with 85+ receiving yards in 5 of his last 10 games, along with 4 TDs. In Trey Lance's second start, he caught 4 of Lance's 16 completions for 96 yards. Lance offers big-play potential, so does Aiyuk, and the third year receiver can be had for just a 7th round pick.
If you're looking for a more risk-adverse New England pick at WR to pair up with the risk-adverse New England QB, it's not Jakobi Meyers I want in the 11th round. I want Kendrick Bourne in the 16th round. Bourne finished 19th in EPA per game, 18th in points per route and 20th in yards per route. He's a big play machine. He's the cheapest starting WR in New England. And on a per route basis, Bourne is the best of the bunch.
Allen Robinson is 32nd in PPR projections, but he was god awful last year. 69th in EPA per game, 85th in points per route, 89th in yards per route. But fear not! He's left the ineffective Justin Fields and Andy Dalton for Super Bowl champion Matthew Stafford. Firmly entrenched as the WR2 in LA, he's impressing in off-season workouts. In 2020 and 2019, he had back-to-back top 9 finishes. While he's not going to get the same target share as he did then, he's been great historically. And you can get him at a discount, with just a 7th round ADP.
We love our Chiefs WRs in the fantasy community. But I don't love JuJu Smith-Schuster. Not to discredit JuJu's 1400 season in 2018, because it *was* impressive. But Big Ben had 675 pass attempts, 5th all-time. AB was the focus of those defenses. His yards per game dropped to 46 without AB, followed by 51 and 25 yards per game. He had 97 catches in 2020, for a whole 831 yards. He played 5 games in 2021, had 28 targets. That equated to 129th in EPA per game (second worst in this list), 105th in points per route, and 116th in yards per route. DraftSharks has him with a 91% chance of being injured this year. He's suffered 12 injuries since college, including three diagnosed concussions in the NFL. The risk is caked into his 8th round ADP. He has a chance for 100 catches. But he also has a high chance for injury, and it seems unlikely that he reaches 1000 yards again. I'd rather have A-Rob, Kirk or Gage.
We typically love our Packers WRs too. Not so much this year. Almost everyone hates Christian Watson, who is on my love list. Hey, somebody has to catch passes in Green Bay. Why not Allen Lazard? Sammy Watkins hasn't been good since 2015. Watkins was 104th in EPA per game and 79th in points per route last year. We have to stop thinking of him from his Clemson days. Lazard, on the other hand, was 34th in EPA per game and 54th in points per route. He did that with a top 2 WR hogging all the targets. Adams is in Las Vegas, and now Lazard, who was 2nd on the team in WR points per game has a chance to be the lead dog. I still think Watson has the potential to be the man, but yes, Green Bay is notoriously slow with playing rookie WRs. Cobb was solid on a per snap basis, but he only played over 60% of the teams snaps in four of his twelve games. Cobb's a part time player, and Lazard played over 60% of snaps in almost every game last year. Lazard should be penciled as the WR1, and you can draft him anywhere between the 9th and 11th round. A double digit pick for a lead WR on an Aaron Rodgers led offense? Sign me up!
I'm generally not a fan of handcuffing WRs. I believe in my ability to find late round WRs who can command high target share without waiting on an injury. If that's your bag, baby, one handcuff I like is former perennial top 5 WR A.J. Green. With fellow perennial top 5 WR DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the first six weeks, you can take it back to 2018 at a discount. Currently drafted as the WR75, Green was 24th in EPA per game and 50th in yards per route. He brought back some of that big play potential. His 15.7 yards per reception bested his career average of 14.6 yards per reception. 848 receiving yards isn't great, but it's not bad either. If you draft D-Hop in the 6th or 7th, you should probably pair him with Green in the 16th, on the off-chance he rekindles some of that magic he had a few years ago. The targets will likely be there, and he's going at the end of drafts.
Another great handcuff is Van Jefferson. Jefferson quietly started all 17 games for the Rams last season. His target and hog rate isn't great, because he usually played 90% of snaps, and was always third in line for targets behind Cooper Kupp and either Robert Woods or Odell Beckham Jr. But he's a big play waiting to happen, especially with Matthew Stafford's deep ball accuracy. Jefferson finished 27th in EPA per game. Allen Robinson's had an ACL tear, a couple hamstring and groin pulls, and according to DraftSharks, A-Rob has a 95% chance of injury in 2022. Kupp's also had an ACL tear and MCL sprain before. Currently drafted as the WR62, Jefferson will immediately become a top 30 WR if anything happens to Kupp or A-Rob. When drafting Kupp in the first round, it makes sense to cuff him with Jefferson. If you believe A-Rob's best years are behind him, it makes sense to cuff him with Jefferson. Grab him in the 15th for a high upside late pick.
And lastly, K.J. Osborn is another great handcuff. Osborn was 28th in EPA per game and 66th in points per route. He clearly has a knack for the end zone, with 7 TDs on 50 catches, a 14% TD rate. In the last six games where Adam Thielen didn't play or barely played due to injury, Osborn scored 5 TDs. He's someone who clearly can step up when given the opportunity. And when you're spending a first round pick on any player, it's important that you have insurance, in case the worst happens. Osborn is an insurance policy for both Justin Jefferson and Thielen. And you can draft him in the 16th round or later.
Hungry? Grab a Pringle. Byron Pringle may not have commanded many targets in KC (103rd in target rate, 80th in hog rate), but he makes plays. 38th in EPA per game. He caught 5 TDs on just 42 receptions, 12% TD rate. In the only game when Pringle played 80% of the team's snaps, he had 6 receptions for 75 yards and 2 TDs. All while sharing targets with Tyreek Hill. And as much as I love Darnell Mooney, he's no Cheetah. Unlike Zach Wilson, Justin Fields actually improved statistically as a passer in the second half of the season. Pringle is likely to be the WR2 in Chicago, and you can get him in the 21st round as the WR99. Easy money.
Let my peoples jones! And I'm jonesing for Donovan Peoples-Jones. He was 110th in hog rate and 114th in target rate, but 55th in EPA per game and 68th in yards per route. He has a great chance to be the WR2 in Cleveland. You can get the third year WR in the 16th round. Worth the risk.
How about the deepest of sleepers. Cyril Grayson has a chance to be a Bucs starting WR early on with Godwin coming off injury. He was 8th in points per route, 8th in yards per route, and 18th in EPA per game. He was one of the most effective WRs on a per route basis, paired with Tom Brady, and going in the 32nd round. It doesn't get more high reward than this.
And lastly, my guy Ashton Dulin. As you may have read in my "Next Deebo and C-Patt" article, he has the tools to be a wide back. He's competing with rookie Alec Pierce and perpetually injured Parris Campbell for WR2 duties with the Colts. 50th in points per route, he scored 2 TDs last year on just 13 catches, and ran for another. 9 of his 13 catches went for a 1st down. He had a 62 yard catch and a 37 yard rush. With a 4.43 40 yard dash and a 38 inch vertical leap, and now paired with Matt Ryan, he has the physical tools to break out in his third year. And he can be had in the 32nd round. Another high upside freebie.
And there you have it! WRs who can be great this year, and some that come with risk. As I always say, get your guys. Just be aware of the risks you take. Scan through this spreadsheet when setting your draft board. Because these are the metrics that matter most when predicting future WRs success.