Fantasy football 2022: Top 10 rookie wide receivers

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Fantasy football 2022: Top 10 rookie wide receivers originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

As far as immediate impact goes for a rookie, it seems like wide receivers are creating a trend of producing right out of the gate.

In 2020, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Brandon Aiyuk and Justin Jefferson were just the first-round picks who became top options for their teams. 

The following season Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith were all top-10 picks who also became instant contributors, with Chase blooming as the No. 1 target for Joe Burrow and the Super Bowl runner-up Cincinnati Bengals

Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams highlight this year’s first-round class, but they’re not the only young wideouts to monitor. Here are the 10 rookie receivers you should look for to boost your fantasy football team:

Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

How a young receiver performs can definitely be contingent on the quarterback throwing them the ball. Wilson has someone with a familiar last name passing him the ball: Zach Wilson. The Jets drafted Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick last year with hopes that he could develop into the team’s franchise quarterback and lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. His first year wasn’t smooth as he threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (9). 

But with a weapon like Garrett Wilson joining the fold, the quarterback gains a potential No. 1 target for a group that includes Elijah Moore, Braxton Berrios, Corey Davis and Denzel Mims. It’s not the prettiest, but that’s why the Wilson-to-Wilson pairing could help both youngsters grow.

Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

The Saints finished last season with a 9-8 record, but things could’ve been better. Jameis Winston led the team to a 5-2 record out of the gate, but an injury set the team back the rest of the way. Now that Winston is back on a two-year extension, he’ll have more weapons to throw to following a year where Alvin Kamara led New Orleans in receptions. 

Michael Thomas should be back as the No. 1 target following a missed season due to an ankle injury, which gives Chris Olave, the No. 11 overall pick, a good chance of putting up good fantasy football numbers since the depth chart there is thin. Winston has thrown to some talented wideouts over his career, and after throwing 14 touchdowns to three picks last year, Olave could benefit from catching passes from an experienced field general.

Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions

This is all dependent on how Jameson Williams looks after tearing his ACL in January. He’s arguably a top-five player in the 2022 draft class, and he would be No. 1 here if it wasn’t for the injury. Still, it wouldn’t be shocking if he looks good out on the field; we just need to see it first. 

Detroit had a terrible 2021 season, and a huge part of that was the lack of legit offensive weapons around Jared Goff. Amon-Ra St. Brown broke out as a rookie in a huge way (90 receptions, 912 yards) as a result of that lack of depth, so adding a versatile threat like Williams could help establish a dangerous young 1-2 pairing as the Lions look to bounce back.

Skyy Moore, Kansas City Chiefs

With Tyreek Hill out of the picture, the No. 1 wide receiver spot is up for grabs on a team that boasts Patrick Mahomes. Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling were signed via free agency while Mecole Hardman could take another leap. But it wouldn’t be surprising if Skyy Moore, the No. 54 overall pick, separates himself from this pack. 

The 5-foot-10 wideout posted 95 receptions, 1,292 yards and 10 touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore at Western Michigan. He could be an underrated target with Mahomes passing to him. 

Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans are in a similar position to Kansas City. They traded A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles which opened up the race to be the top target for a franchise that finished first in the AFC last season. 

Ryan Tannehill’s postseason play is shaky, but he can get the job done throughout the regular season. That gives Treylon Burks a good opportunity to stand out from a depth chart that now doesn’t have many marquee names besides Robert Woods, who tore his ACL in November when he was with the Los Angeles Rams. The 6-foot-2 Burks is another big body archetype similar to Brown, which could give Tannehill some familiarity when throwing to him. 

Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders

The Commanders are hoping Carson Wentz can take them to the next level after struggling to establish strong quarterback play at the franchise for some time. Terry McLaurin is the No. 1 option there while Curtis Samuel looks to rebound after an injury-riddled first year in Washington. 

Jahan Dotson, the 16th overall pick, was picked specifically with Wentz in mind. The 5-foot-11 Dotson hauled in 91 catches for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior with Penn State. If anyone could become a legit No. 2 to McLaurin, Dotson could become that guy in his first year with the team.

Drake London, Atlanta Falcons

Only time will tell if Drake London was a reach at the No. 8 spot. The Falcons don’t yet have a true franchise quarterback. Marcus Mariota is likely the bridge quarterback for Desmond Ridder, who went in the third round. 

If Matt Ryan was still there, it would be a different situation. And situations are everything in the NFL. Mariota has experience and there aren’t any clear-cut stars after Julio Jones’ departure. London out of USC was the first receiver off the board this year, but it might take some time for him to produce big-time numbers for a high draft pick. 

George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers

George Pickens out of Georgia is in a similar situation to London in terms of quarterback situation. Pickens fell in the draft and has first-round talent, but there’s no solidified passer tossing him the ball even though the Steelers have an excellent track record when it comes to drafting and developing their wide receivers.

Mitch Trubisky appears to be the bridge quarterback for Kenny Pickett, who was the only quarterback drafted in the first round in 2022. Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are in the same wide receiver room as Pickens, but let’s see how the Steelers’ signal callers pan out first.

Danny Gray, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers used a third-round pick to draft Danny Gray out of SMU. The apparent trait in Gray’s game that makes him a dangerous fit? Yards after catch. Head coach Kyle Shanahan loves players who can extend plays with their feet, which is a staple in the system under Jimmy Garoppolo. 

With Trey Lance looking to take the keys and Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Aiyuk as the top targets, Gray could thrive as the third wide receiver for this team who can take plays to another level with his speed and footwork. 

Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers

The Packers finally drafted a young weapon for Aaron Rodgers early in the draft. Christian Watson’s stock rose after an impressive showing at the draft combine where his intangibles shined. A 6-foot-4, 208-pound receiver gives Rodgers a big body to throw to, as long as Watson can improve on his drops. 

Rodgers has developed a reputation for helping young wideouts develop and establish themselves in the league, and with Davante Adams traded away, Watson has a chance to step in and break out. Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb are the other receivers on the team, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the North Dakota State product has a strong first campaign. 

Honorable mentions

Khalil Shakir, Buffalo Bills

Velus Jones Jr., Chicago Bears

Justyn Ross, Kansas City Chiefs

Kyle Phillips, Tennessee Titans

Jalen Tolbert, Dallas Cowboys