Fantasy football analyst Matt Harmon is revealing the highlights of his positional projections for the 2022 season. Next up, here are the pass catcher projections that stood out to him.
CeeDee Lamb can lead the NFL in targets
You’ll hear some folks assert that CeeDee Lamb is “being drafted at his ceiling.” I disagree, because he has WR1 overall in his range of outcomes this year. You certainly have to be aggressive if you want to draft Lamb. It’s hard to find an ADP source where he's outside the top-20 overall players and top–six wide receivers.
That hefty ADP is deserved though because his outlook is absolutely killer this season.
The talent and target ceiling for Lamb is right there among the top combinations in the league. When viewed in isolation, Lamb was performing like a top receiver last season, scoring at the 91st percentile in Reception Perception’s success rate vs. man coverage metric. With Amari Cooper gone, Michael Gallup injured and Jalen Tolbert (third-round rookie) the only other wideout of note in town, Lamb is going to handle a massive workload.
You also don’t need to project Lamb for a 30 percent share — though he has that upside in his range of outcomes — to get him to a massive raw target total.
Dallas ranked second and seventh the last two years in plays per game and second and sixth in pass attempts. The structure of the Cowboys' offense is a huge win for Lamb. I have him at a 26% target share, which gets him to 170 targets … good for the second-highest in my 2022 projections. Everything lines up.
There are zero good reasons to be out on CeeDee Lamb this year.
Making the math work with the Eagles is tough
My projections rely heavily on the last three years of play-calling duties for coaches. So taking the average of the plays run and run-play percentage of Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen’s offenses the last three years, the Eagles come out at 21st in pass attempts.
That would be a huge passing boost from the team we saw last year. There’s a good chance that they come in south of that number. Even in that hypothetical universe, it is really difficult to make the math work for their three front-line pass catchers.
After the massive deal to acquire A.J. Brown and the onslaught of positive reports from training camp about his connection with Jalen Hurts, it’s tough to imagine him anywhere south of a 23% target share. He’ll lead the team in targets with room to spare. He’s that good; he’ll command it. It’s still tough to get Brown comfortably inside the top-12 receivers with that type of target share despite being an efficiency maven.
Tight end Dallas Goedert had a 20% target share last year. You likely need to ding him down a bit but he should still get over the target threshold he’ll need to rank him inside the top-eight tight ends.
The one I have the most trouble with is second-year wideout, DeVonta Smith. And I hate it because I think he’s a fantastic player. Even at an aggressive 20% target share, it’s difficult to see him pushing north of 120 looks. That’s going to put him closer to WR40 than WR30 in projections. Smith should be a volatile spike week player that comes with injury upside if Brown misses games.
Deebo needs the rushing work
I’m buying the consistent hype out of the 49ers camp about Brandon Aiyuk taking a big leap in his third season. I’ve always believed in the talent of this player.
Right now I have the trio owning two-thirds of the targets all to themselves. There isn’t a pass-catching back or third receiver who is going to command a significant target share here. That helps.
I also have Samuel down for an eight percent share of the team rush attempts, good for 39 carries for 266 yards and three scores. That’s a significant drop in his rushing work from last year. I expect him to still factor into the ground game in some way but not as much as he did at times late last year.
If you take that rushing work away, Samuel’s projections fall to around WR19 with the target split I have. Remember that his target totals cratered once Aiyuk was re-integrated and that carries a lot of weight with me.
Remember: We want Deebo in a more traditional WR role.
13.8 expected half-PPR points per game over his first 8 games last season, as a traditional WR.
11.3 expected half-PPR points per game over his final 8 games, in a hybrid RB/WR role. https://t.co/N80TobE7nx
— Jared Smola (@SmolaDS) August 1, 2022
Yes, Samuel’s expected fantasy points were lower when he was operating with more rushing work but the problem is I don’t see the set of circumstances that existed in Weeks 1-8 ever happening again. That’s one thing Aiyuk’s ascension solidifies. Deebo won’t be as rush-leaning as he was to end last season but if you’re drafting him at a top-10 wide receiver ADP, you want him to maintain some level of work on the ground. You should feel good, however, that his contract gives him bonuses for it as well.
You can’t let the Seahawks WRs fall too far (ugh)
These two guys have dominated almost half of the target share themselves in each of the last two seasons. I’ve got them at a combined 47% this year with only Noah Fant commanding looks behind them.
With that type of volume, even when you sink their efficiency in a post-Russell Wilson world, they come in projected above their current ADPs. Of course, I’m ranking them below their projections because this is the worst quarterback situation in the league on paper. However, projections just help remind you that you can’t let them drop too far given their own individual talent and the target totals they can reach in this offense.
There’s more than enough volume for Rashod Bateman
We know the Ravens want to run the ball and they will always be a rush-heavy team with Lamar Jackson under center. There is little chance the Ravens repeat what they did last year when they ran more plays than any other team and ranked 22nd in passing play percentage.
That doesn’t make me concerned about Rashod Bateman’s volume at his ADP.
I’ve got Mark Andrews and Bateman at a 51% share of Baltimore's passing targets; 143 for Andrews and 125 for Bateman. That lands Andrews at TE2, Bateman at WR29 in my projections. I’m very bullish on these two players being the type of duo that can own at least half of the passing game to themselves. There is no one else to command volume on this depth chart.
Jackson was on pace for 583 pass attempts in even just the first nine games of last year, so I’m still giving him a significant decrease of last year's play-calling. I’m expecting them to meet somewhere in the middle of his full-on boomer ball early years and the aggressive style of 2021. The key is for Jackson to recover the brand of efficiency as a thrower we saw earlier in his career, which is possible if the offensive line stays healthy — and if Bateman is the type of player I believe he can be this year.
Where Bateman is going in drafts, you just need him to hit 120-plus targets. That’s not a big ask and it’s well within his range.
Robert Woods, Treylon Burks can’t afford a legit No. 3
Treylon Burks is going to get plenty of run with the first-team offense through the season. I’m not worried about his playing time over the course of a 17-game schedule, though I do have some hesitations about his development as a technician.
The one thing I have taken note of from Titans camp is fellow rookie and slot receiver, Kyle Philips, running as the first team slot. Philips has been getting strong reviews from observers and I liked him as a sleeper slot prospect.
Neither Burks nor veteran Robert Woods can really afford to have a third receiver commanding targets in this offense, however.
I have Burks and Woods combining for 44% of the Titans' incredibly low target volume and that's not enough for either to crack the top-40 receivers in my projections. I don’t have another Titans wide receiver clearing 10% of the targets. If Philips emerges from camp with a legitimate role and shaves some looks off that 44%, that’ll be a bigger negative for Burks than any of the current offseason blurbs about him.