Ranking The 2022 WR Class Heading Into Year Two

May 23rd 2023

Hayden Winks

Now that we're done with the 2023 rookie WR class, it's time to see how the 2022 WR class performed as rookies last year. Right now, I think it's a Big 3 featuring Garrett Wilson, Drake London, and Chris Olave, with a few promising starters that could jump another tier. For the record, these aren't exactly lined up with my 2023 fantasy football rankings.

1. Garrett Wilson (Underdog ADP: WR9)

The rookie leader in targets and receptions per game, Wilson dominated underneath as a yards after the catch threat and security blanket. He forced 22 missed tackles. The next closest rookie, 8. Wilson's on-field athleticism is very good, and he could really take a leap downfield with improved QB play. Wilson only had 15 catches of 15+ air yards (WR22) for reasons not in his control. More importantly, he averaged 32 more yards per game without Zach Wilson (82.0) versus with him (49.7). Aaron Rodgers will pepper Wilson with RPOs and audibled screens to unlock his play-making. They're a great fit stylistically.

2. Drake London (Underdog ADP: WR25)

The Falcons' balanced offense led by a likely bottom-10 starting QB will hold London's raw numbers back, but he is a dude. A legit No. 1 WR with inside and outside versatility. He runs digs, slants, and curls with the ability to sink his hips. Plus, he has the size to win on contested catches. London's raw speed is mediocre, limiting his ultimate ceiling, but he reminds me of Michael Thomas. He led this class in targets per route run and PFF grade as a potential target dominating possession receiver. He had the best feel for zone last year, too. All of this was on his USC tape. Stay optimistic because maybe he won't be missed on his downfield shots like he was last year.

3. Chris Olave (Underdog ADP: WR12)

He's the best downfield receiver in the class but has enough well-rounded skills to be a No. 1 receiver. Despite his middling size, Olave is effective versus man coverage because of his feel for coverage and no wasted movement route running. He plays with creative tempo and has the speed to create separation on deep balls. Olave led the class in yards per game (70) and was top three in PFF Grade (83), yards per route run (2.4), targets per route run (0.26), and the key Reception Perception stats. He did so running a diverse and real route tree as the only difference-making target in New Orleans. If healthy, Michael Thomas has the inverse skillset of Olave, who's primary weakness is physicality particularly after the catch. There's some Tyler Lockett in Olave's game. I just wish he wasn't a 2nd round pick on Underdog Fantasy, at least while this slow-paced coaching staff is calling shots.

This is a tier break through one season.

4. Jahan Dotson (Underdog ADP: WR41)

Underrated. Dotson projected as a vertical slot, but he showcased outside talent as a rookie. He is long for his size, and his impressive ball tracking downfield allows him to play even bigger. In fact, he caught 61% of his contested targets (that's very good). Because of his slot background, Dotson also has great feel to work underneath, over the middle, and in zone coverage. He's fluid in all phases, including against press man coverage in the red zone. The only thing missing before he takes another step is more schemed up looks. Ex-OC Scott Turner used Curtis Samuel in this schemed-slot role, but Dotson would also shine here if given more opportunities (26% slot and a higher-than-expected 15.4 average depth of target). Without schemed looks, some of his advanced numbers, like targets per route run (0.15) and yards per route run (1.4), will suffer. Having the ghost of Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke also ruined his numeric consistency. The only buyer beware is an unrealistic TD rate. Dotson scored +3.7 more times than expected, the 4th highest of all WRs.

This is another tier break.

5. George Pickens (Underdog ADP: WR36)

His game needs development, but Pickens has real tools to work with, even if they lead to him being more of a vertical No. 2 than a possession No. 1 receiver. Pickens plays bigger than his size, showcasing studly ball tracking and mentality near the sideline. He can beat press man coverage and make contested grabs. He almost entirely did so downfield, however. Matt Harmon's Reception Perception had an elite nugget. 42% of his routes were either go balls (32%) or corners (10%). Those are very valuable, both in fantasy and real life, but it also shows just how incomplete his game is right now. He has the athleticism to sink on underneath routes, so there's upside to become a complete player. He just doesn't have great feel and pacing right now. And this was his exact profile in college, too. His 1.4 yards per route run and 0.14 targets per route run (uh oh!!!) are both concerning, but those numbers will increase if he develops on slants and digs (or if Kenny Pickett and OC Matt Canada become more aggressive).

6. Christian Watson (Underdog ADP: WR19)

There's some very good. There's some bad. Watson is a freak athlete that threatens downfield and after the catch. He had TDs of 39, 46, 58, and 63 yards, leading to +2.6 receiving TDs over expectation. On one hand that shows how rare of a playmaker he is. On the other is regression. Most likely, Watson won't score 0.50 TDs per game again especially with Jordan Love this year, so he'll need to develop in other areas. His hands need to dramatically improve (they can be all over the place on underneath targets). His release package and mid-route pacing could also improve. But there's already a boom-bust NFL No. 2 receiver profile even if this is who he is long term. His size will keep him on the field in all formations, and his explosiveness gets him schemed up touches. Without much target competition, Watson can stay in the WR3/FLEX mix even with regression and QB play hitting him harder than others on this list.

7. Treylon Burks (Underdog ADP: WR37)

He wasn't conditioned early on, leading to a disappointing rookie season. But 2022 was always going to be a development year for Burks, who was pivoting from schemed-up slot to primary playing outside (21% slot as a rookie). He predictably had issues against press coverage at times. He was lost lining up pre-snap, late off the line of scrimmage, and struggled with timing at times. These were my concerns on his college tape, too. But he also made some big boy plays. Burks has throwback No. 1 WR size and speed, leading to a solid 58% contested catch rate. He can break off big plays. He can be schemed up more in year two. He just has to get more reps to develop better feel in zone and tempo in man coverage. It's not surprising to me at all that he struggled as a rookie. It won't be surprising to me if buying the dip will be smart over the next two seasons while his inexperience in this exact role leads to quick leaps in performance. Of course, the Titans will have very weak passing numbers in 2023 and beyond. Only 71% of his targets were "catchable", and he only ran 23 routes per game. He seems destined for boom-bust WR3/FLEX numbers this year.

This is another tier break.

8. Jameson Williams (Underdog ADP: WR48)

He didn't look right last year. Williams tore his ACL in mid-January and returned to action on December 4th (8 months). That was too early, even if the Lions purposefully eased him in. He didn't look as fast as he did at Alabama and was definitely less agile/confident in his breaks. That's normal. He should be much better in 2023, after he serves his 6-game gambling policy suspension. Williams has to be significantly better, however. He only averaged 1.1 yards per route run and had a few bad drops in a small sample. Only 56% of his targets were "catchable", but that's because he primarily saw deep targets (19.3 aDOT). Pun intended, he has to parlay 1) getting healthy, 2) staying out of trouble, and 3) developing underneath routes to be a consistent fantasy and real life asset. It's more likely that Williams is a dangerous home run threat on low-to-mid volume. At least his offense is sweet.

9. Rashid Shaheed (Underdog ADP: WR70)

He came out of nowhere to be a small sample size legend. Shaheed had an insane 2.6 yards per route run in a pretty bad Saints' offense in 2022, but how sustainable is it? Well, he caught 8-of-10 targets that traveled 15+ air yards. The NFL average rate is 46%. He also had an outlier 91% catchable target rate. Those will massively regress, which will cut his YPRR in half most likely. Still, Shaheed looks like a solid No. 3 receiver who moves well. He can rip off big plays downfield and had enough craftiness as a route runner to break off intermediate routes, too. I'm a fan and wouldn't be surprised if he was Olave's sidekick for the next half decade.

10. Alec Pierce (Underdog ADP: WR64)

A "better in best ball" talent, Pierce won't have consistent production in this likely run-heavy Colts offense, but he can win downfield as a No. 2 receiver behind the underrated Michael Pittman. Pierce lined up out wide on 93% of his snaps with a 14.5 yards per reception average. He runs big boy routes (digs, outs, curls, gos, posts) and catches press man coverage at higher clips than others because he plays out wide so often. Pierce has adequate, not groundbreaking, speed for a downfield threat. He has decent leaping ability paired with a lanky frame, so sideline contested catches are going to be his thing. Pierce doesn't have the bendiness of a well-rounded X receiver, nor the experience of running underneath routes. We're probably hoping for a DeVante Parker career. He'll fit Anthony Richardson's big-play skillset as a low-volume deep threat for the next half decade.

This is another tier break.

11. Skyy Moore (Underdog ADP: WR56)

He doesn't have the typical NFL WR build. In fact, Moore can look like a RB at times. The Chiefs schemed him up on occasion, but they rarely went anywhere because his athleticism is average at best. He is physical for someone who plays in the slot 49% of the time, and he does have some versatility for creative play-calling GOAT Andy Reid. It's just a projection on the outside right now after a 7.7 average depth of target rookie season. Separation tends to close fast in his routes, so I believe he'll be in a rotational role despite a wide-open Chiefs depth chart. His best skillset right now are his short-yardage broken tackles. Because of his stocky build, Moore had 7 broken tackles on just 27 receptions.

12. Tyquan Thornton (Underdog ADP: WR80)

A broken collarbone held him out of the first 4 games and likely held back some of his development throughout a forgettable rookie season. Thornton's 0.8 yards per route run and 0.13 targets per route run rates are highly concerning, but he has a very unique skillset that could be unlocked with new OC Bill O'Brien. Thronton is an elite speedster who glides at full speed. That gives him downfield ability (14.9 aDOT), an area likely better in New England with better OL play and coaching. The underrated part of Thornton's game is his willingness to block. He will be moved around the formation and could threaten DeVante Parker for 2-WR set snaps in year two. That will be key with the Patriots' obsession with 2-TE sets. Thornton is still raw in all phases and has a capped ceiling based on his petiteness, but he should at least double (or even triple) his rookie production in 2023.

13. Romeo Doubs (Underdog ADP: WR61)

A 4th rounder, Doubs cracked the Packers' starting lineup from the jump, playing outside on 78% of his snaps. He has outside receiver size but Day 3 athleticism. Doubs is not a fluid NFL athlete. He is a choppy route runner and invites contact throughout his route. The good news is he's physical, allowing him to be a relative chess piece formationally. He'd be put in motion, asked to run fades, work over the middle as an intermediate target, and stay in 2-WR sets to help block. He's a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver who can do the dirty work, but Doubs middling athleticism and route running fluidity create problems versus man coverage. His decent 1.4 yards per route run and 0.23 targets per route run numbers were aided by very weak target competition and 10 screen receptions (24% of his total receptions).

14. Khalil Shakir (Underdog ADP: WR82)

Buried on the depth chart, Shakir played slot on 61% of his snaps as a rotational No. 4 receiver. He'll be a version of that same role in year two, with Buffalo now expected to use more 2-TE sets with slot TE Dalton Kincaid in town. In addition to returning kicks, Shakir made multiple big plays including a couple jump balls in traffic. He's not an overwhelming athlete, but he shows the physicality required to win in the slot and showed enough play-making to fit with scramble drill Josh Allen. He had a fine 1.5 yards per route run and averaged 16.8 yards per catch on an unexpectedly high 14.8 average depth of target.

15. Wan'Dale Robinson (Underdog ADP: WR75)

He's a true slot only receiver, who played in the slot on 81% of his rookie snaps and never played in 1- or 2-WR sets. His 6.1 average depth of target and 9.5 yards per catch were the lowest in the class because of this unique role. The Giants would manufacture some underneath passes to him, but he otherwise was silent. He just doesn't have game-breaking athleticism that other success stories in a gadget role have. That could be a bigger issue coming off a November torn ACL. With a plethora of slot options in New York, Robinson could be a near nothing in 2023. Don't extrapolate his small sample targets per route run numbers (0.23) because those are buoyed by those gadget touches.

NA. John Metchie (Underdog ADP: WR81)

His rookie season was sadly derailed by a leukemia diagnosis. Fast forward to now, Metchie is on track to play for the Texans in 2023, when he'll compete for a starting spot at the flanker and slot positions. He's more physical than 2023 rookie gadget slot Tank Dell, and he hopefully has more juice than dirty-work veteran Robert Woods. Metchie should be a rotational asset behind X-receiver Nico Collins. I'm pulling for him to produce. I thought he'd be a dirty-work, versatile No. 3 starter long-term after watching his Alabama tape.