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As we inch closer to the 2022 NFL Draft, let’s take a spin around the wide receiver position to see which teams have the greatest need. With so much movement this offseason at the position, a variety of new holes have cropped up on depth charts around the league.
With those holes come the opportunities for some rookies to make an immediate impact.
The Cardinals have DeAndre Hopkins coming back from an injury-ruined 2021 season and last year’s second-round pick, Rondale Moore, at the top of their depth chart. The problem here is there’s not much depth behind them; they lost Christian Kirk to Jacksonville and while A.J. Green was brought back this week...he's right at the end of his career. Moore had a historically low average depth of target and barely played real wide receiver as a rookie.
The Cardinals play more four-receiver sets than anyone. They need one more true starter candidate.
The Falcons have the NFL’s weakest wide receiver depth chart by a country mile. Their current top receivers might be Auden Tate and Damiere Byrd. That’s not what you want. Atlanta has holes all over their roster but with Calvin Ridley suspended for a full season they can’t hope to field a real offense without adding at least one talented rookie to the mix.
The Bears are one Darnell Mooney away from having a Falcons-esque depth chart. At least Mooney is a bright spot and made some noise with Justin Fields as a rookie. Still, it’s hard to say if Mooney has the ceiling to be a true No. 1 receiver and while Byron Pringle is at least passable as a No. 2 he’s far from ideal — or even average.
The Bears don’t have a first-round pick but need to hit on a receiver in this draft or Fields is in for a long year.
He’s probably in for a long year either way.
The Packers traded away Davante Adams and have only added Sammy Watkins in free agency. Most of the top holdovers on the roster — Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard and Amari Rodgers — all project best as slot receivers. Green Bay badly needs to fill the gaping X-receiver hole on this roster. Watkins is just an average-level placeholder outside.
With two Round 1 picks, expect some help from the draft.
We should have some hope Nico Collins develops into a starting outside receiver to go along with a recently extended Brandin Cooks. However, they still need significant help here. The rest of their receiver depth chart, like most of their roster, is filled with castoffs and reclamation projects. Some rookies will be added to this mix.
It seems Michael Pittman is still quite underrated even after putting up 1,000 yards and six scores in a dysfunctional passing attack. He looks the part of a future No. 1 wide receiver. The guys around him, however, are a huge issue.
The Parris Campbell experience is well past the end of the road. The Colts need to come away with at least one competent receiver in this draft as they build around Matt Ryan for the next couple of seasons. One of Washington’s Day 2 picks brought in via the Carson Wentz could go toward that endeavor.
Unlike the Packers, the Chiefs added a few competent guys in free agency in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling after trading their star receiver. JuJu should fit in nicely as an underneath specialist but is not a No. 1 receiver and is only on a one-year deal. MVS will bring some speed and toughness.
That’s all fine and good but the Chiefs need more out of their receiver position. They might not feel forced to add one in Round 1 but they’ve gone from a strong unit to a below-average unit and should look to fix that soon.
The Saints are another team with a strong front-line receiver and little else behind him. It’s enough already with thinking Marquez Callaway or Tre’Quan Smith are anything more than bit pieces.
The problem is their front-line guy has a laundry list of questions.
It’s been about two full years since we’ve seen Michael Thomas healthy and operating at peak form. It looks like he will be with the team this year after there’s been some doubt over that long layoff. The Saints now have two Round 1 picks and could spend one on a receiver.
The Eagles finally hit on a young receiver when they took DeVonta Smith last season. He’s always open and was a ready-made pro. It’s dicey behind him, though. They can’t reasonably trot out Jalen Reagor for meaningful snaps again this year and Quez Watkins is merely a passable No. 3. The Eagles will be hunting big-game at the wideout position for the fourth draft in a row.
The Bills hedged their bets on Gabriel Davis by signing Emmanuel Sanders last offseason and then stuck him behind the vet until Sanders ran out of gas. Are they ready to unleash him as a sure-fire No. 2 outside guy after his eruption playoff game against the Chiefs? That will likely decide whether the team takes a receiver in the early rounds or just adds a few bodies on Day 3. We’ll get a good read on their view of Davis after draft weekend ends.
Buffalo already has like guys Jamison Crowder and Isaiah McKenzie to replace on, and possibly add more juice to, the slot — at least, more than Cole Beasley did.
We should be buying the breakout of Amon-Ra St. Brown. Even if he’s not a mega fantasy producer as he was to end last year they at least hit on a strong, starting big slot who can play out wide in two-receiver sets. D.J. Chark gives them a reasonable gamble on a guy who can start outside and bring some verticality and Josh Reynolds gave them decent moments in 2021. The Lions are by no means done but they aren’t starting from Square 1 like they were heading into last season.
Trading for Amari Cooper was a strong start to rebuilding their new-look receiver room but it can’t be the final move. Guys like Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz might not exactly be ready to make the leap. The Browns could unearth one more player in free agency and spend a pick in the draft.
The Jaguars might think they’ve solved their wide receiver position by signing Christian Kirk and Zay Jones to strangely large contracts but they’d be wrong. Despite being an overpay, Kirk at least fills a huge need as a vertical slot option who can give Trevor Lawrence some layups. Both Zay and Marvin Jones feel a bit redundant as outside receivers. Don’t be shocked if they add another guy here.
New England Patriots
Trading for DaVante Parker gives the Patriots a legitimate option at X-receiver but by no means solves their need at the position. This team is still sorely lacking speed and players who can consistently separate on the outside. Parker’s presence might just keep them from forcing a Round 1 pick at the position.
The Steelers seem to hit on wide receivers every other year. They may need to do it once more in April. Diontae Johnson is a great young player — one who is likely looking for a new contract — but Chase Claypool is coming off a down year. You cannot just chalk all his 2021 woes up to Ben Roethlisberger’s dead arm, either.
The depth behind them is pretty much nonexistent unless you’re still holding onto your Anthony Miller fan-club card (no comment from me there). The Steelers have other more pressing needs but may have to take a Day 2 swing here after losing JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McLeod in free agency.
Terry McLaurin is a top-10 receiver talent but they were outright lost behind him last season. Hopefully, Curtis Samuel is healthy in 2022. That would make a huge difference for this team, as Samuel gets separation as an inside/outside player. Last year’s rookie Dyami Brown didn’t give them much so Washington could add someone to compete with him. They’re a candidate to take a big swing in Round 1 but no lock.
Fine but could add a body or two
Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman are former first-round picks and should form a great tandem for several years. Their strengths complement each other and give the Ravens a legit pair of wideouts for the first time in recent memory. It’s hard to see the Ravens making another big swing at receiver.
DJ Moore was just inked to a well-earned contract extension; he just keeps getting better. On the other hand, Robby Anderson underperformed one year after signing his new deal and Terrace Marshall is coming off a bad rookie season. They might make a minor add but more than likely run it back with that trio and hope improved quarterback play from … someone … makes everything better.
Dallas loves its flashy things so we can’t rule out them using an early round pick on a receiver to replace Amari Cooper’s vacated spot. However, CeeDee Lamb is ready to make the leap to stardom and when he’s healthy, Michael Gallup is a good X-receiver. His late-season ACL tear does complicate things, however. He’s never truly popped in fantasy but James Washington was a shrewd free agent add.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers don’t have a pressing need for a receiver but don’t be shocked if they add a specific type early on regardless. Keenan Allen is still a premier separator who thrives in the intermediate game. Mike Williams is back as the X-receiver and Josh Palmer flashed as a big slot in Year 1. Los Angeles needs some speed in this receiver room though.
So, if one of the wideouts who can rip it downfield falls to them, they could go make a strength even stronger.
New York Giants
Probably the weirdest wide receiver room in the league. Theoretically, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton make this a position of strength. In the real world though, Golladay is coming off a terrible year, Shepard is hurt, Toney is still largely an unknown and Slayton is just a guy. We’ll see if this new brass is invested in Toney — who was and is a project — or if they want to add their own guys in the draft. Could see this going either way.
New York Jets
The Jets have sniffed around on a ton of wide receivers who were available or potentially available on the trade market. We’ll find out in a few weeks if their trade offer for Tyreek Hill signaled that they think receiver is a major need or if that was just a unique situation to acquire a ready-made star.
Personally, I think they have the makings of a good room with a future star in Elijah Moore, a solid No. 2 in Corey Davis and a passable slot in Braxton Berrios. But it wouldn’t be a bad move to pluck another receiver to form a dynamic long-term tandem with Moore.
You have to love the Titans trade for Robert Woods, even if the vet is coming off an ACL tear. Woods’ reliability and tenacity as a blocker will fit in well with what the Titans want to do on offense. A.J. Brown is a still-ascending superstar. He’s going to have a monster season at some point. They could add some bodies just so they aren’t completely screwed in the event of a Brown injury like last year.
Little to no need
The Bengals have one of, if not the very best, duo of 1A and 1B receivers in the NFL and a rock-solid big slot receiver. Both Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are south of 24 years old. Wide receiver will be a strength of this team for years.
The Broncos are counting on a giant leap at the quarterback position to fully unlock the ability of Jerry Jeudy and get Courtland Sutton back into the No. 1 wide receiver tier. I think they’re going to be right on both bets. The team also has the trusty Tim Patrick on a multi-year deal and the speedy K.J. Hamler coming back from injury.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders traded for the best receiver in football this offseason. So they’re doing pretty well here.
Hunter Renfrow had a breakout season as the team’s slot receiver last year and should continue eating up targets alongside Davante Adams. The team signed Demarcus Robinson in free agency and Bryan Edwards isn’t totally worthless as long as they don’t exclusively throw him 16 air-yard-per-target throws.
Los Angeles Rams
Pairing Allen Robinson with a guy in Cooper Kupp who is coming off a historic season just feels unfair. Van Jefferson is a solid player and there’s a great chance Odell Beckham Jr. is back on this roster sooner than later.
Miami’s move to trade for Tyreek Hill gives the team insane speed and separation ability with Jaylen Waddle already in the fold. That duo alone will make this team fun to watch. Cedrick Wilson was added to bring inside/outside flexibility.
The team restructured Adam Thielen to keep one of the best complementary receivers in football entrenched across Justin Jefferson. The latter is set to enter superstar territory … if he’s not already there. K.J. Osborn brings some juice to the No. 3 spot.
San Francisco 49ers
As long as Deebo Samuel remains on this roster, the “WR” part of the roster remains a huge strength despite his hybrid role. Brandon Aiyuk was a steady player once he got out of the doghouse and was WR14 in fantasy from Week 8 on. There’s untapped potential there. Jauan Jennings flashed as the WR3 in this offense.
The Seahawks might trade DK Metcalf but if they don’t, he and Tyler Lockett remain one of the best duos in football. Seattle took Dwayne Eskridge in Round 2 last year and while that pick was a reach, perhaps they get more out of him in Year 2.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even with Chris Godwin coming back from a late-season ACL tear, the Bucs can conceivably still pass up on adding more wideouts in the draft. Mike Evans remains one of the premier players at the position and Tom Brady helped recruit the extremely underrated Russell Gage this offseason. He’ll give them a strong slot presence if Godwin comes back slow and can slide into Antonio Brown’s spot on the depth chart after Godwin's back up to speed.