2022 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Sleeper wide receivers poised to overdeliver

The first and most important thing to mention in any feature on fantasy sleeper wide receivers is that you actually shouldn't have to rely on any of these guys. In fact, if you want to draft all your receivers in the early rounds and leave the fliers and breakout candidates for the rest of the league, we fully endorse that approach. Elite wideouts are among the most bankable players in our game. The bust rate in that group is quite low.

[2022 sleepers by position: Quarterback | Running Back | Receiver | Tight End]

But of course we realize that many of you are unrepentant hoarders of running backs, so you're gonna need to hit on a few mid-to-late-round receivers. For those of you still drafting like it's 2002, here are a few sleeper-ish WRs for your upcoming drafts...

George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers: Yahoo ADP of 122.6

At this point, it's pretty clear that Pickens has an excellent shot to finish as the top-scoring rookie receiver in fantasy. We really just need either Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett to be a semi-competent QB in 2022 and this can absolutely happen. Pickens has size (6-foot-3), outstanding ball skills and he wins when he sees single coverage...

Pickens has been among the buzziest players in any team's camp and he was drafted by a franchise that has a pretty fair track record of finding receiving talent outside the first round. He's generated plenty of praise for his run-blocking, too, which is no small thing for a rookie — it gives him a path to become an every-snap player. Chase Claypool seems ticketed for a big slot role.

You might recall that Pickens tore an ACL in spring practice in 2021, which led to him missing much of Georgia's title-winning season. He recovered on a remarkable timeline last year, returning to action in November and producing a brilliant 52-yard highlight catch in the national championship game. Pickens has obvious star potential; reach aggressively for him in any sort of dynasty or keeper format.

Isaiah McKenzie, Buffalo Bills: 131.3 ADP

McKenzie, not Jamison Crowder, appears to have locked down starting slot responsibilities in Buffalo and we've already seen the sort of damage he can do with those snaps. He had a monster game against the Patriots last December (11-125-1) while filling in for Cole Beasley. In the season ahead, we're gonna see a decent number of plays just like this one...

It's OK to be a fan of both McKenzie and Gabe Davis for fantasy purposes, by the way. Buffalo's offense is going to be unfair. McKenzie has a shot at 80-plus receptions in a healthy season. He should be a PPR priority.

Alec Pierce, Indianapolis Colts: Going undrafted in 10-team leagues

Pierce seemed like a developmental prospect entering the draft, but he landed with a team without a clear second option in the passing game and he already appears to have played his way into the starting mix. He averaged 17.5 yards per reception over his collegiate career at Cincinnati, finishing with a 52-catch, 884-yard senior season. He has size (6-3), strength, speed (4.4) and leaping ability (40.5-inch vertical), so it's easy to talk yourself into his potential. Pierce may not be an every-route technician in Year 1, but his competition for snaps and targets isn't too intimidating. He certainly has appeal as a final round lottery ticket.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce is carving out a role that fantasy managers should be noticing come draft time. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce is carving out a role that fantasy managers should be noticing come draft time. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

David Bell, Cleveland Browns: Going undrafted in 10-team leagues

Bell was never not open as a collegiate receiver, averaging 101.6 YPG at Purdue while scoring 22 touchdowns and closing his career with a 93-catch season. He should see plenty of playing time immediately, primarily as a big slot for the Browns. He rarely fails to find open windows against zone coverage and his hands are excellent. Bell was sidelined at the start of camp with a stress fracture in his foot, but he made his preseason debut over the weekend and hauled in three balls for 46 yards. He'll be working with Jacoby Brissett for most of his first pro season, which isn't optimal, but he should nonetheless have a shot at 70-plus catches.

Nico Collins, Houston Texans: 150.7 ADP

Collins was a big-play specialist at Michigan, averaging 19.7 yards per catch in his final season and 17.8 for his three-year career. He had a mostly quiet first season with the Texans, but he's had a strong camp and preseason, featuring multiple highlight plays...

Collins is the clear and unchallenged No. 2 receiving option in Houston; he has the size (6-4), speed and ball skills necessary to emerge as a serious playmaker in his second NFL season. His big games are going to be week-winners for fantasy purposes.

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Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals: 131.6 ADP

Moore was targeted almost exclusively at or behind the line of scrimmage last year, averaging a league-low 1.1 air-yards per target per Next Gen Stats, an absurd number. Matt Harmon has referred to the 2021 version of Moore as a "fake wide receiver," which is a perfectly fair assessment. Here's hoping the Cardinals allow Moore to get downfield a bit this year, because he has terrific athletic traits (including 4.28 speed) and obvious big-play potential. Christian Kirk relocated to Jacksonville in the offseason and the Cards will be without DeAndre Hopkins for the first six weeks due to a suspension, so Moore definitely has a path to volume. If you're any sort of believer in Kyler Murray and the Arizona offense, then consider spending a late pick on the second-year burner.

Danny Gray, San Francisco 49ers: Going undrafted in 10-team leagues

Gray is an absolute burner with 4.3 wheels and he's already announced his presence in preseason action...

As you can see, he's getting run with the varsity offense. Given the number of talented receiving weapons on this team's roster, we can't reasonably expect Gray to be a weekly force. But he's going to have a few eruptions throughout the year. If you're looking for a high-variance potential flex for a deep league, he's a great option.

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