Fantasy Football: Wide receivers being undervalued in rankings and in drafts

ECR stands for “Expert Consensus Ranking,” which means the average ranks of the fantasy football industry and is typically similar to ADP (which differs from site-to-site). This will be an ongoing positional series highlighting some big differences between ECR and my own ranks. We continue the series with a look at the wide receivers.

One analyst goes against consensus rankings: QBs | RBs who should go higher | RBs who should go lower | WRs who should go higher | WRs who should go lower | TEs

Wide Receivers I like more than consensus

Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts (ECR = WR13 vs DDD = WR8)

Pittman developed into one of the league’s best route runners during his second year in the league, ranking top-three in creating separation against man coverage. Already primed for a further leap in Year 3, Pittman also gets a major upgrade at quarterback, going from one of the league’s most inaccurate passers to one of its most accurate; Carson Wentz ranked bottom-three in on-target throw% from a clean pocket last season, while Matt Ryan was top-10 (and top-three under pressure). Pittman was third in route participation as a sophomore among all wideouts, and he’s about to see far more quality targets in 2022.

Playing indoors with Ryan, Pittman is about to explode.

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Allen Robinson, Los Angeles Rams (ECR = WR23 vs DDD = WR14)

Robinson has seen historically bad targets from quarterbacks throughout his career while recently dealing with a Chicago climate that’s never produced a 4,000-yard passer. Now he gets to play indoors with Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford in an offense that produced 80% of its touchdowns through the air last season (while not throwing to running backs), so it’s not a stretch to call this one of the biggest situational upgrades in NFL history. Pay attention to Stafford’s arm health, but assuming the QB is fine considering he dealt with the same issue last summer, Robinson looks like a top-15 fantasy receiver (with legit top fantasy WR upside should Cooper Kupp get injured).

Allen Robinson is being overlooked in fantasy drafts despite joining QB Matthew Stafford and coach Sean McVay on the Rams. (Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)
Allen Robinson is being overlooked in fantasy drafts despite joining QB Matthew Stafford and coach Sean McVay on the Rams. (Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

A-Rob has seen 150+ targets three more seasons than the older Kupp. Projected WR3 Van Jefferson recently underwent knee surgery, and Tutu Atwell continues to struggle getting off the line of scrimmage at 5-foot-9, 165-pounds, so Robinson is staring at a gigantic opportunity.

Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills (ECR = WR29 vs DDD = WR15)

Davis has been arguably the most polarizing fantasy player this offseason, as he’s an imperfect prospect whose one huge game drastically affected his overall numbers and was otherwise inconsistent. He’s also still developing as one of the league’s youngest receivers who was targeted on 24% of his routes after Buffalo’s Week 6 bye (and it jumped to 27% on all-important first downs, which was the same percent as Stefon Diggs).

Josh Allen attempted 65 passes in the end zone last year; no other QB had more than 50. As a result, Davis ranked top-10 in EZ targets despite not even being a full-time player (he will be this season after Emmanuel Sanders left).

The touchdown potential is incredibly high on such an aggressive passing offense, so I rank Davis as a top-15 fantasy receiver. It could also be worth noting Diggs had never played a full season during his first five years in the league before joining Buffalo, so Davis would smash if Diggs had to miss time.

Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers (ECR = WR36 vs DDD = WR21)

After Aiyuk opened last season in the doghouse for a number of reasons, he commanded a healthy 21.9% target share and was a top-20 fantasy WR over the final 10 weeks. After seeing the second-most targets inside the five-yard line in the league as a rookie, Aiyuk ranked top-20 in end-zone targets last season with 10; Deebo Samuel saw two (George Kittle saw six).

Most importantly, Aiyuk worked exclusively with San Francisco’s new starting quarterback Trey Lance throughout the offseason (while Samuel mostly held out), and the two have routinely produced highlight after highlight after highlight. Playing in an offense that led the NFC in yards per play last season and might very well have upgraded its QB spot, Aiyuk is primed for a Year 3 breakout (Kyle Shanahan calling plays in nice home weather and a conference that screams high-scoring games helps too).

Given the change in quarterbacks and expected usage, there’s a real chance (45%?) Aiyuk has the better fantasy season than teammate Samuel, who’s being drafted many rounds earlier.

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Jalen Tolbert, Dallas Cowboys (ECR = WR86 vs DDD = WR51)

Wan’Dale Robinson, New York Giants (ECR = WR81 vs DDD = WR53)

Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers (ECR = WR107 vs DDD = WR62)

Three rookie wideouts I’m much higher on compared to ADP/ECR.

Tolbert was an absolute air yards hog in college and is suddenly the clear WR2 for a Dallas offense that led the NFL in scoring last season (and is now missing Amari Cooper, Cedric Wilson, Blake Jarwin, Michael Gallup and James Washington due to a combination of departures and injuries).

Robinson was in the 99th percentile in college target share, the 95th percentile in breakout age and has been the talk of Giants’ camp while making a bunch of plays. Robinson and Kadarius Toney could quickly form a dangerous duo in a new Brian Daboll offense.

Finally, Doubs is the rare rookie to earn Aaron Rodgers’ praise, as the wide receiver has reportedly made at least one “wow” play every day in camp. Doubs has unsurprisingly separated himself from fellow rookie Christian Watson and appears likely to be one of Rodgers’ favorite targets all season long with Davante Adams gone.

Honorable mention: DJ Moore (+4 ECR), Rashod Bateman (+10 ECR), Russell Gage (+14 ECR), Allen Lazard (+8 ECR), Christian Kirk (+6 ECR), Kadarius Toney (+8 ECR), Parris Campbell (+28 ECR), Isaiah McKenzie (+40 ECR), Nico Collins (+12 ECR)

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