Sophomore WRs to Target in Dynasty Fantasy Football


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Sophomore WRs to Target in Dynasty Fantasy Football

Last season, we saw five different 2022 rookie wideouts reach double-digit fantasy points. That’s tied for the 4th-most of any season since 2000 — only 2014, 2019, and 2020 had more fantasy-relevant rookies.

Of those five WRs, three now have top-24 ADPs in 2023 dynasty startups, which feels more than justifiable. As for the other two, I won’t be able to stop drafting them in every format all summer – they offer some of the strongest value in all of fantasy football right now.

Consider this article a review of the 2022 rookie WR class. I’ll cover those five productive WRs from last year and rank them for dynasty leagues entering this year. I’ll also include three sneakier values from the class I’d love to add to any dynasty team at current cost.

All stats courtesy of Fantasy Points Data.

Fantasy Points dynasty rankings, available to subscribers, are regularly updated with the latest news.

Top Second-Year Dynasty WRs

1. Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints


I’m not going to argue that Derek Carr’s per-attempt passing abilities will be a significant boon to Chris Olave this year. Because Andy Dalton somehow led all QBs in high accuracy throw rate in 2022. Carr is unlikely to beat that. However, he could create an advantage in pass volume.

New Orleans could certainly still commit to the run (in spite of a looming suspension for Alvin Kamara), but a bump in pass attempts is more likely than you might think. Carr has averaged 34.9 pass attempts/gm in his career. Even something closer to his 33.5 PA/gm from last year would be a massive improvement over Dalton’s 27.

A QB’s pass attempts are very sticky year-over-year — coming in at a .53 RSQ since 2012, they are more stable than target rates to any position. Even though Carr is switching teams, the Saints would be pretty foolish to hand out a $37.5 million/year contract to a player they don’t want to drop back any more often than Dalton.

If Dalton threw as often as Carr did last year, Olave would have amassed an extra 1.7 targets and 15 yards per game given his 26.6% rookie target share and 8.8 YPT.

Even without that extra pass volume, Olave’s 69.5 YPG was 7th-best among all rookies since 2013. His 2.46 YPRR was 5th-best among qualifying rookies since at least 2008, and top-12 among all WRs last year. He’s in pretty good company:

Olave also had the NFL’s 2nd-highest air yards share last year (41.9%). In other words, one of the most efficient rookies we’ve seen in years also dominated his team’s high-value targets downfield. There have been very few safer bets at the position entering Year 2.

2. Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets

DLF ADP: Round 1, WR7

From the moment he entered the NFL, the only thing that could stop Garrett Wilson from lighting the league on fire was Zach Wilson. In games with the cougar-hunter under center, Wilson averaged just 8.6 PPG. In games with Joe Flacco and Mike White, Wilson averaged a monstrous 17.3 PPG (with either QB). That would have ranked top-5 among all rookie WRs since 2000, and better than Justin Jefferson’s rookie campaign in 2020.

It’s tough to overstate how much of an alpha Wilson was last year. His 24.9% target share was 1.69x higher than the next player on his team (tight end Tyler Conklin). First-read target share is a stat that further rewards players who reliably win against coverage as the primary read — alphas like Davante Adams and Ja’Marr Chase led the league in it last year. Wilson’s 33% mark was top-10 among all WRs and the best of any rookie.

There’s yet another level to Wilson’s game beyond scoring a ton of fantasy points and shouldering his team’s entire passing game — his 19 missed tackles forced gave him the 3rd-most MTF/reception among all WRs, behind only Deebo Samuel and A.J. Brown. He impressively did so on a 10.5 aDOT to Samuel’s 4.3; Wilson did not have the luxury of schemed touches behind the line of scrimmage. He was a menace both before and after the catch.

Aaron Rodgers won back-to-back MVPs prior to last season (when he injured his thumb). On the opposite end of the QB play spectrum, Zach Wilson ranked 32nd of 33 qualifying QBs last year in high accuracy throw rate, and dead last in catchable throw rate. This context also makes it easy to excuse why Wilson wasn’t as efficient as Olave last year. If we could count on Rodgers to play for three years like we can on Carr, I would rank Wilson above Olave.

3. Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons

DLF ADP: Round 2, WR11

If Olave’s calling card is efficiency, and Wilson’s is tackle-breaking, then Drake London’s is simply earning targets. While perhaps not as powerfully predictive as YPRR, London’s targets per route run (TPRR) of 0.27 led all rookies last year and ranked top-3 since 2007:

We also got a glimpse of London’s full powers starting in Week 13, when he had the Falcons’ historically low-volume passing offense to himself. As I wrote a few weeks ago, London’s YPRR of 3.24 in that span was the most of any WR with at least 25 targets. It’s painfully clear that London would be a fantasy football monster in a world with pass-volume parity.

While we don’t live in such a utopia, history shows it is overwhelmingly likely Atlanta will throw more in 2023. Their 24.4 pass attempts/game was the 2nd-lowest of any team since 2006. Of the 42 teams with next-season data who averaged 30 or fewer PA/gm since 2010, 39 averaged more the following year (92.8%). The average increase was 3.7 PA/gm, which would have translated to an additional 18.4 targets and 1.7 FPPG for London last year (ignoring throwaways).

There’s a much smaller sample of teams who averaged 27 or fewer PA/gm, but the average next-year increase for them was an even more dramatic 5.6 PA/gm. That would have added 27.9 additional targets and 2.5 FPPG to London’s column last year. That’s a 24% increase in fantasy points just from the Falcons doing what similar teams have historically done.

While London’s per-route efficiency was excellent last year, his per-target efficiency (78th in fantasy points per target) was not. Luckily, the former is much more predictive than the latter. In fact, it would be a major surprise for London to not be more efficient with his targets next year — his catchable target rate was 72nd out of 105 qualifying WRs. Any inefficiency issues London had rest largely at the feet of incompetent QB play — Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder both ranked worse than Zach Wilson and Mitchell Trubisky in accurate throw rate. Perhaps the Falcons viciously own all of us and themselves by going into Week 1 with Ridder (with whom London still managed to lead the league in YPRR), but a QB upgrade remains possible.

Finally, it’s not just the spreadsheets that love London. He owns the best PFF offense grade among rookie WRs last year and a top-10 grade among all rookies since 2007. His skills will pay dividends for fantasy managers sooner or later.

4. Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers

DLF ADP: Round 4, WR24

Christian Watson goes multiple rounds after the Big 3 of London, Wilson, and Olave, but he performed as well or better than them in several important metrics. Despite a slow start, Watson was one of the NFL’s most efficient pass-catchers by the end of his rookie campaign, ranking top-12 among all WRs and 2nd among rookies last year (behind only Olave) with 2.26 yards per route run (min. 200 routes). That’s also top-10 among rookies since 2007, just above names like A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

If we use touchdown-adjusted YPRR, Watson jumps to top-5:

Watson was electric with the ball in his hands. He was top-5 among all WRs last year in YAC/reception (6.8), posting the 7th-best mark of any rookie since 2018. Watson’s season was the perfect fusion of Olave’s per-route efficiency and Wilson’s after-catch insanity.

Watson first achieved an 80% snap share in Week 10 and immediately became one of the most productive WRs in the league. After that point, Watson was top-3 in TD market share (53.8%, 1st among rookies), top-4 in air yards share (40%, 2nd among rookies), and top-16 in receiving YMS (30.3%, sandwiched between D.J. Moore and Tyreek Hill, and 3rd among rookies).

Touchdowns are prone to variance year-over-year, but the 6-foot-4 rookie scoring lots of touchdowns shouldn’t be spun as a bad thing, given he was so successful everywhere else. It’s not as if those TDs were fluky, either — Watson’s 40.07 XFP on deep targets ranked 3rd in this timeframe, just behind A.J. Brown and Davante Adams.

Did Watson’s numbers only compare favorably to the other rookies because of superior QB play? Not really. Aaron Rodgers played with a broken thumb from Week 5 on and ranked just 18th of 33 qualifying QBs in catchable throw rate on the season — better than Marcus Mariota and Zach Wilson but worse than Andy Dalton. Let us also remember that Rodgers notoriously didn’t throw to a young Davante Adams, so maybe we should be impressed by how quickly Watson forced the issue and earned his QB’s “respect.”

Speaking of quarterback situations, I won’t pretend to have any belief in Jordan Love’s ability to progress through reads or move an offense down the field, but Watson should be the first read frequently. He was top-24 in first-read target share through the Packers’ final eight games, leading or tying for the team lead in targets in five of those.

Watson’s former biggest target competition, Allen Lazard, is now under contract with the New York Jets. Why wouldn’t Love simply lock on to Watson, his biggest and most dynamic weapon, by a longshot? If Love provides anything approaching league-average QB play, Watson could legitimately finish as a top-5 WR this year. He’s my absolute favorite dynasty value right now.

5. Jahan Dotson, WR, Washington Commanders

DLF ADP: Round 6, WR35

Jahan Dotson had a strangely underrated rookie season, mostly due to being hampered for part of it by a hamstring injury. He averaged 14.0 FPPG in games where he played on over 2/3rds of Washington’s offensive snaps, which would have been better than Olave.

From Weeks 13 to 18, Dotson was top-12 among qualifying WRs with 2.36 YPRR, which was better than teammate Terry McLaurin. He also bested McLaurin in targets (35 to 34), TPRR (.24 to .22), and XFP (70.4 to 65.5) in that span. This could be a legitimate 1A/1B situation this year, yet McLaurin is going a round earlier and 10 WR slots ahead of Dotson in dynasty startups despite being four years older.

Even without removing Dotson’s partial games, he is one of only 24 rookie WRs drafted in Round 1 since 2010 to play in 8+ games and average 10+ FPPG. Of the players in that group who played as sophomores, only four (Brandon Aiyuk, Marquise Brown, Cordarelle Patterson, and Tavon Austin) failed to finish top 30.

It took Aiyuk falling from 36 to 28.6 routes/gm and Brown’s team having the 4th-lowest PA/gm since 2010 for them to fail. 37.7% of Patterson’s receiving yards came on screens his rookie year, the 3rd-highest screen yards percentage by any WR since 2010. Austin had just a 7.5 aDOT. None of these red flags apply to Dotson.

Though he doesn’t have quite the eye-popping numbers of the top-4 in this sophomore WR class, Dotson is criminally under-drafted in both dynasty and seasonal leagues, given the relative safety of his profile and the upside he flashed when healthy.

Deeper Second-Year WR Values

Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions

DLF ADP: Round 5, WR27

Look, I’m not about to spin any takes out of Jameson Williams 37 total routes that he ran after having ACL surgery earlier that calendar year. Whatever you thought of Williams as a prospect is probably what you should still think of him. For what it’s worth, that prospect profile included a junior year that ranked top-25 in both receiving yards and touchdowns among all Power 5 WR seasons since 2000.

Unlike most other sophomore WRs, we have no significant information about Williams’ NFL performance. But compare Williams to this year’s crop of rookies, and realize that, in his case, we know infinitely more about the single most-predictive data point for WRs entering the league: draft capital.

Again, we know that Williams went 12th overall. It’s nowhere near a guarantee that rookies like Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, or Quentin Johnston will get that type of draft capital. None of them are projected that high on NFL Mock Draft Database, and only Smith-Njigba is expected to go top-12 on Grinding The Mocks. Yet in startups, those rookies are drafted earlier than Williams (or in Johnston’s case, one pick after).

We also know Williams’ landing spot — that is, on a Detroit Lions offense that just finished top-10 in pass attempts and top-5 in total points, and lost T.J. Hockenson mid-season and D.J. Chark to free agency. D’Andre Swift’s 15% target share per game was 2nd on the team. Needless to say, this team has plenty of targets to go around.

Compared to other sophomores — even ones like Treylon Burks, who scarcely produced at all (Chig Okonwko really had 5 more yards than Burks on 71 fewer routes) — we get an ADP discount on Williams. If Williams were a rookie in this year’s class who was drafted at pick 12 by the Lions, I strongly suspect his ADP would be right up there with Smith-Njigba’s. Shiny New Toy Syndrome is causing dynasty players to undervalue him. I suggest you take advantage.

Rashid Shaheed, WR, New Orleans Saints

DLF ADP: Round 14, WR72

I wrote about Rashid Shaheed from a seasonal best-ball perspective a few weeks back. If you want to read about how he outproduced Olave and matched the efficiencies of Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, check it out.

Shaheed posted 40.7 YPG his rookie year. That was 7th among rookies last year, 7th among all undrafted rookies since 2013, and more than players like Treylon Burks (40.4), Michael Pittman (38.7), Tyreek Hill (37.1), and Chris Godwin (32.8) did as rookies.

Shaheed, of course, leads all undrafted rookies since 2018 in YAC/reception (min. 20 catches). But comparing him only to his undrafted peers isn’t doing him justice. Remember that stat about Olave being top-5 in rookie YPRR? Reduce the route threshold to 150, and Shaheed was even better:

There are obvious sample size concerns with Shaheed in comparison to Olave, but Shaheed is a great arbitrage play for those skeptical of paying Olave’s going rate. Just for a little context on the tiny opportunity cost of drafting Shaheed and his 8.38 FPPG from last year, Terrace Marshall (5.93) and a 27-year-old Hunter Renfrow (7.90) are two WRs going ahead of him in dynasty drafts. Why on earth can we draft Shaheed after multiple veterans who were less productive than him last year?

A mild breakout (say, a 1000-yard season) from Renfrow or Marshall would do little for their dynasty value. It would skyrocket Shaheed’s. Get on board.

Justyn Ross, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

DLF ADP: Round 23, WR111

This is the longest of long shots. But Justyn Ross is running up hills!

Look, I get it. When Ross was averaging 4.98 YPRR, Nick Foles had just defeated Tom Brady’s Patriots in the Super Bowl, yours truly had just graduated high school, and COVID-19 didn’t exist yet. But that was by far the most efficient season by a college WR since 2014, and Ross did it as an 18-year-old true freshman while competing for targets alongside Tee Higgins and Hunter Renfrow.

I’m not asking much here — all you’re doing is stashing Ross on your taxi squad. And yes, this is rapidly approaching Josh Gordon territory. But it’s not often you can freely roster a player with Ross’s pedigree competing with only Kadarius Toney (3.4 aDOT gadget player), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (76th out of 104 qualifying WRs in YPRR last year), and Skyy Moore (managed only a 25.1% route share against the same incredibly uninspiring competition). There is zero risk to getting in on Ross at his cost right now, but his theoretical upside is inarguable.

Ryan is a young marketing professional who takes a data-based approach to every one of his interests. He uses the skills gained from his economics degree and liberal arts education to weave and contextualize the stories the numbers indicate. At Fantasy Points, Ryan hopes to play a part in pushing analysis in the fantasy football industry forward.