We give a lot of generalized advice on how you should approach your Fantasy Football drafts this time of year, but not everything is relevant to everyone. If you have the 11th pick in your draft, debates about Jonathan Taylor vs. Christian McCaffrey are mere academic exercises – you aren't getting either on your team from that point in the draft order anyway.
Draft order matters a great deal, in other words. It doesn't define how your season is going to go, but where you pick may just end up defining how you build your team.
That's why one of the most useful series we put out every year is our pick-by-pick series, where the FFT team writes about how to approach every draft position based on drafts we actually did. Before we get to the rest of today's newsletter – focusing on sleeper and breakout picks at WR plus a recent industry draft Jamey Eisenberg and I took part in – check out our road map from each draft spot:
- How to draft from No. 1 overall by Jamey Eisenberg
- How to draft from No. 2 overall by Adam Aizer
- How to draft from No. 3 overall by Dan Schneier
- How to draft from No. 4 overall by Chris Towers
- How to draft from No. 5 overall by Heath Cummings
- How to draft from No. 6 overall by Dave Richard
- How to draft from No. 7 overall by Jamey Eisenberg
- How to draft from No. 8 overall by Adam Aizer
- How to draft from No. 9 overall by Dan Schneier
- How to draft from No. 10 overall by Chris Towers
- How to draft from No. 11 overall by Heath Cummings
- How to draft from No. 12 overall by Dave Richard
Hopefully as you start to set your draft order in preparation for your leagues this year, those pieces can serve as a roadmap no matter where you're picking from. At the very least, they should serve as a guide for how to approach your first few rounds at each spot, with some recommendations for the type of teams you can build, even if you don't end up with those exact players.
Of course, once you get past those first few rounds, things are going to look a lot different. That's inevitable.
(To get a different and even more fun draft experience, you can also follow along with our live salary cap draft with our FFT crew and other industry experts at 8 ET tonight on our YouTube Channel. Here are some of Dave Richard's to get you ready.)
For now, in today's newsletter, we're looking for some of the wide receivers we like to target outside of those first few rounds, as well as a look at how I put together my team in an industry league this week.
WR Sleeper and Breakout targets
What should you be looking for when it comes to breakouts and sleepers at wide receiver? Well, unlike with running backs, opportunity doesn't matter nearly as much. It's important, obviously, as is the quality of the offense your target plays in, but talent matters a lot more at wide receiver than it arguably does at RB.
That's because, for the most part, teams just have one running back on the field, compared to three wide receivers for your typical play at this point. You have to be on the field to matter at both positions, but at wide receiver, you also need to consistently win your matchups and get open in order to earn targets.
Which is to say, I'm chasing skills at wide receiver a lot more than just opportunity. Ideally, you get a match of the two, as with my first sleeper pick.
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Skyy Moore – With Tyreek Hill out of the picture, there's a big opportunity for someone to step up in Kansas City's offense. I'm open to the possibility that it could be either JuJu Smith-Schuster or Marquez Valdes-Scantling – more the former than the latter – but to a certain extent we know what those guys are. Smith-Schuster has been an elite Fantasy option, but he's fallen on hard times the past few seasons and seems to have lost some burst; Valdes-Scantling has never had trouble getting open down the field, but converting those opportunities has consistently been an issue. Moore is on the smaller side but he's lightning quick and coming off a dominant final season at Western Michigan where he put up a 99th percentile target share en route to a 95-catch, 1,292-yard, 10-touchdown season as a redshirt sophomore last season. He might be the No. 4 target in the offense, but if Moore emerges as the third or even second option for Patrick Mahomes, the upside is considerable.:
Donovan Peoples-Jones – Peoples-Jones led the NFL in yards per catch last season, and he's put up 901 yards on 48 catches and 78 targets over two seasons in the NFL. He hasn't shown an ability to earn a ton of targets, but he's also been quite young – he's 23 entering his third NFL seasons – and could have a QB upgrade if Deshaun Watson's six-game suspension is upheld rather than extended by the NFL's appeal. If Amari Cooper figures to be the DeAndre Hopkins analogue for this offense, Peoples-Jones has the skill set to be a Will Fuller-esque contributor – hopefully with better health luck.:
Elijah Moore – The fact that the Jets turned around and added Garrett Wilson with the 10th overall pick in this year's draft suggests that, at the very least, they didn't view their receiving corps as set despite the addition of Corey Davis and Moore the previous season. However, it's not clear Wilson is a better prospect than Moore was coming out of school despite being an earlier pick, and we've already seen Moore play at a high level at the NFL level, as he put up a 96-catch, 1,300-yard, 14-touchdown pace over his final six games in 2021. Injuries were an issue for Moore as a rookie, but if he's healthy, I think he's going to be the team's top target in the passing game, with top-12 potential if Zach Wilson takes a leap.:
Gabriel Davis – In my Bills preview, I wrote about Davis as both the team's breakout and bust pick, and I stand by that. Few players have as wide a range of potential outcomes than Davis, who has yet to top even 600 receiving yards in his two NFL seasons but has also shown considerable upside – most notably and famously in his eight-catch, 201-yard, four-touchdown game against the Chiefs in last year's playoff loss to the Chiefs. Is that a sign of things to come? The Bills let Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley walk this offseason, with only Jamison Crowder really brought in to replace them, so there's certainly room for Davis to step into a significantly larger role. Whether he's capable of turning that into consistent production remains to be seen, but given the upside he's shown, it's a bet worth making.:
Jalen Tolbert – "The path to playing time and targets is clear for Tolbert early in the season with Michael Gallup (knee) and James Washington (foot) likely limited due to injuries. Dallas already had to replace 165 vacated targets from Amari Cooper and Ced Wilson being gone, and Tolbert should now get the chance to be the third option in the passing game behind CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. If Tolbert can prove himself early, he might stay ahead of Gallup and Washington all season.":
K.J. Osborn – "Osborn will be the No. 3 receiver for the Vikings behind Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, but Osborn could still be productive in that role. And as we saw in 2021, when Thielen battled injuries, Osborn had huge upside. He had eight games last year with at least five targets, and he scored at least 14 PPR points in seven of them. I plan to have plenty of shares of Osborn this year, especially at his current price (FantasyPros ADP of 232 overall as WR82). His ADP will rise dramatically if he does anything in the preseason, and you want pieces of this Vikings offense with Kevin O'Connell as the new head coach. You know what Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Jefferson and Thielen are capable of, but Alexander Mattison, Irv Smith and Osborn are three of my favorite sleepers that I plan to draft this season.":
Michael Pittman – "That should put him in elite company even if he plays like he did in 2021, but I'm expecting Ryan to help Pittman reach another level this season. Pittman has already praised Ryan's accuracy during OTAs. 'The ball is just right there, and you just turn and catch the ball. I mean, it just makes it easy,' Pittman said. 'Matt can pretty much put it wherever he wants.' I have Pittman ranked as a top-10 receiver in PPR, and I would draft him ahead of guys like Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill and Deebo Samuel, among others. Call me crazy, but I'm excited about Pittman in 2022.":
Courtland Sutton – "I've written about Sutton in previous versions of my breakouts, but it's always been in tandem with Jerry Jeudy. While Jeudy can still have a breakout campaign, I wanted to highlight Sutton here as a solo act. He's my favorite Broncos receiver in 2022, and Russell Wilson should help Sutton have a career season. I'm drafting Sutton as early as Round 4 in all leagues. He told me in March during an interview at XPE Sports, a training facility in South Florida, that he wants to be Wilson's version of DK Metcalf in Denver. "Being a bigger receiver, knowing that Russ has had DK and other big receivers, I'm excited," Sutton said. "I've seen him throw the back shoulders, I've seen him throw the red-zone fades. I've seen him make those throws that I'm so anxious to have those opportunities. I've seen what I need to see."":
Treylon Burks. And once again, Woods looks like he'll be overlooked on Draft Day. Woods ranked as WR23, averaging 15 FP/G before his injury in 2021. In 2020 he finished as WR19 per game, averaging 15.4 FP/G. He's currently being drafted as WR42. Even if Burks gets going at training camp, I'd expect Woods to be much better than a No. 4 wide receiver.": Robert Woods – "I have been very encouraged by offseason reports and videos of Robert Woods. He appears to be way ahead of schedule in his ACL recovery, doing far more with the team this offseason than first-round pick
D.J. Moore – "I've written like six articles (and this recent podcast!) on why Moore is going to shatter his ceiling in 2022. He's shown an elite ability to draw targets and an elite ability to convert targets into yards. You probably think "yeah, but he can't score touchdowns" and that has been the case. But Moore has scored more than 25% of his team's touchdowns over the past three seasons, so I don't think the problem is him. Baker Mayfield's career touchdown rate is 4.8%, if he hits that in 2022 the Panthers will double their 2021 passing touchdown total and Moore will double his career high. I rank Moore at the end of Round 2, but ADP suggests you can comfortably wait for your Round 3 pick to take him.":
Justin Fields and I expect a more creative offense that puts Mooney in better places for success. I would also expect some pretty serious regression from last year's 2.9% touchdown rate. Mooney is a Round 5 pick who has the upside to produce like a high-end WR2 if things go right but should have a floor close to WR25.": Darnell Mooney – "While I'm not sure Mooney will get an increase in volume from the 140 targets last year, I do expect an increase in efficiency from second-year quarterback
For CBSSports.com/Fantasy, I wrote about the FLEX League draft Jamey and I took part in over the weekend, and I wrote about how the draft took a couple of fortuitous turns for him in the early going, giving him the opportunity snag both Cooper Kupp and Najee Harris from the No. 8 spot in the draft. Both players had to fall well past their ADP in order for that to happen, but Jamey still had to put together the rest of a winning squad -- something he did last year as the champion in this league.
, and here's how I approached the draft from the No. 2 overall spot:
I went the opposite direction from Jamey, locking in more guaranteed high-end production with my tight end and quarterback. I took Mark Andrews with the second pick of the third round, only because Josh Allen was taken a pick before me – I'm a firm believer in taking an early QB this season, though if it's not Allen around the second/third-round turn, my preference is to wait a little longer for the next tier. And, as things often go in these industry leagues, I probably could've waited longer than I did – I went with Patrick Mahomes with the 11th pick of the fourth round, but Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson weren't drafted until the next round.
There's no guarantee any of those players would've come back to me if I passed in the fourth and fifth – Jalen Hurts and Kyler Murray were also drafted before my next pick in the sixth – but one thing I've been trying to remind myself of during my mock drafts this year is that, while I think the evidence suggests early-round QBs are worth the investment, most of the people who talk about Fantasy Football for a living still view waiting at QB to be the optimal approach.
Here's how the rest of my draft went:
- 1.2: Jonathan Taylor
- 2.11: Mike Evans
- 3.2: Mark Andrews
- 4.11: Patrick Mahomes
- 5.2: Allen Robinson
- 6.11: Darnell Mooney
- 7.2: Kareem Hunt
- 8.11: Devonta Smith
- 9.2: Robert Woods
- 10.11: Russell Gage
- 11.2: Julio Jones
- 12.11: Zamir White
- 13.2: Trey Sermon
- 14.11: Alec Pierce
- 15.2: Ravens DST
- 16.11: Mike Davis
That's a pretty standard Hero-RB-ish build, which is my preferred strategy at this point. Of course, taking a TE and QB early means I've got Allen Robinson as a somewhat weak WR2, with the hope that he breaks out in his new offense. Many Fantasy players prefer to not double-up on the QB/TE combo in the early rounds, and you can see the sacrifices you have to make in doing so by just looking at mine and Jamey's teams next to each other. I'm unquestionably stronger at TE, and while Lance has incredible upside, Mahomes has already done it. However, he has a stronger WR2 in Michael Pittman and RB2 in David Montgomery to make up for the gap there.
No matter what team build approach you choose, you're going to be making some kind of sacrifices. Jamey's start to the draft worked out just about perfectly, making it just a little easier to make the tradeoffs he did at QB and TE. There's a reason he won this league last year.