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Fantasy football managers must identify impending breakout performances in order to compile a winning roster. Second-year wide receivers are among the most consistent groups to make year-to-year improvements. This article identifies three second-year wide receivers that are set up for a WR2 finish in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues this year.
WR2 seasons come from more varied origins than WR1 seasons, such as would-be WR1s that suffer injury, great players in bad offenses that earn gaudy target volumes or great players in crowded offenses that maintain healthy yardage efficiency despite stout target competition. Similar to the wide receivers discussed in “3 Second-Year WRs Who Can Finish as WR1s,” these outliers tend to possess at least one unique, dominant trait that shows up as a chart-topping metric.
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Ankle injuries derailed Los Angeles Rams No. 1 wide receiver Cooper Kupp (86.3 PFF offense grade) causing him to finish as a total-target (95) negative outlier in 2022, but he still posted a WR2 finish thanks to No. 1 rankings in targets per route run rate (TPRR, 28.1%), catch rate (79.0%), yards per route run (YPRR, 2.40) and yards after the catch per reception (YAC/Rec., 5.6).
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett’s (77.9 PFF offense grade) 98 targets in 2021 fell below the group’s 105-target threshold, but his outstanding field-stretching slot receiver role yielded top-two results in yards per reception (15.8), YPRR (2.28) and deep-target rate (37.8%). His latter rate led the WRs by 15.4%.
The table below shows the target-earning and receiving efficiency data for 2021 and 2022 WR2s produced within the typical Weeks 1-17 fantasy football season timeline. Asterisks denote negative outlier performances. Practical minimums are shown in parentheses next to the negative outliers and explanations for the outliers are provided below.
|Top-24 WR2 Scoring Minimums||2022 Season||2021 Season|
|PFF Receiving Grade||69.0* (74.6)||69.9* (74.0)|
|Total PPR Points||192||201.2|
|Total Targets||95* (105)||98* (105)|
|YPRR||1.49* (1.71)||1.63* (1.78)|
Note: The PPR and receiving data shown above were limited to the typical 17-week fantasy football season to reflect the ideal performance goals at hand. All data shown for the second-year players listed below includes PPR and receiving data from the full 2022-2023 NFL season unless otherwise stated. The full-season data is used to most accurately depict these young players’ development.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London (83.2 PFF offense grade) and his elite target-earning traits edged out Watson (77.1 PFF offense grade) in my previous piece, but Watson’s ceiling is just as high thanks to his big-play potential. The gangly galloper (6-foot-5, 208 pounds) was slowed by a hamstring strain and a concussion early in 2022 but routinely ripped off chunk gains down the stretch.
Watson’s 2022 receiving data among 62 NFL wide receivers with at least 65 targets.
|NFL WR Receiving||Christian Watson|
|PFF Receiving Grade||77.8 (No. 24)|
|Total PPR Points||164.1 (No. 41)|
|PPR Points/Game||11.7 (No. 35)|
|Total Targets||65 (No. 62)|
|TPRR||24.1% (T-No. 12)|
|YPRR||2.26 (No. 11)|
|Contested Catch %||75.0% (No. 1)|
|aDot – Yds/Rec.||14.3 (No. 6) – 14.9 (No. 9)|
|YAC/Rec||6.4 (No. 3)|
|15+-Yd Pass Plays %||36.6% (No. 15)|
|20+ Yd aDot %||27.7% (No. 5)|
Watson is less proven than the New Orleans Saints‘ Chris Olave, who also made the potential WR1 list with London, but profiles similarly as a downfield target earner. Nonetheless, Watson also flashes elite run-after-catch ability. Green Bay’s year-two wide receiver checks three-of-four statistical-WR2 boxes but his unique field-stretching profile, enabled by his 4.36-second 40-yard-dash speed, creates the failsafe lever that fantasy managers are hoping to find. Should newly-installed quarterback Jordan Love (82.4 PFF preseason passing grade) underwhelm, Watson can still find WR2 success by creating on his own.
Burks (74.1 PFF offense grade) hit three-of-four on-field WR2 performance thresholds despite showing up to Tennessee’s 2022 training camp out of shape and dealing with asthma. He later suffered an early October turf toe injury and an early December concussion.
Treylon Burks narrative has been a journey!
*first turns on tape* – Oh wow, he's amazing
*combine* – so he's NOT a super athlete?
*nitpicks tape* – weird role, big projection
*Asthma* – weight/shape concerns!!!
*Actual football* – Oh wow, he's amazing!!pic.twitter.com/INr4TqUPrs
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) August 17, 2022
Burks (5.4-yard average depth of target (aDot), 5.4-yard YAC/Rec.) looked at home in former Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown’s role (81.8 PFF offense grade, 13.2-yard aDot, 8.7-yard YAC/Rec), nearly matching Brown’s per-play production despite the health hiccups. Like Watson above, Burks’ run-after-catch talents offer fantasy managers a reliable, game-changing dynamic.
Burks’ 2022 receiving data among 84 NFL wide receivers with at least 50 targets.
|NFL WR Receiving||Treylon Burks|
|PFF Receiving Grade||73.9 (T-No. 34)|
|Total PPR Points||88.1 (T-No. 81)|
|PPR Points/Game||8.0 (No. 68)|
|Total Targets||53 (T-No. 78)|
|TPRR||20.9% (No. 30)|
|YPRR||1.75 (T-No. 29)|
|Contested Catch %||58.3% (T-No. 15)|
|aDot||12.4 (No. 30)|
|YAC/Rec||5.4 (No. 12)|
|20+ Yd aDot %||24.5% (No. 14)|
Burks recommitted to his craft ahead of the 2023 season but suffered an uncommon isolated LCL sprain on August 16th. Doctor of Physical (DPT) Therapy Adam Hutchison projects Burks to return in Week 3 and considers him “a low re-injury risk” while DPT Edwin Porras suggests Burks could return to play in two to four weeks.
Tennessee added 31-year-old DeAndre Hopkins (72.9 PFF offense grade) to the receiving corps this offseason and he remains a talented intermediate-depth target earner. Hopkins will pull defensive attention away from the 23-year-old budding Burks.
Burks’ low re-injury concern and upward talent trajectory create a screaming buy-low opportunity as skittish fantasy managers avoid drafting him at his still-declining 10.06, WR42 ESPN average draft position (ADP).
It took Shaheed (80.8 PFF offense grade) six weeks to earn a role on special teams and just five more to take over as the team’s No. 2 receiver, doing so with aplomb by clearing 50-plus receiving yards in four-of-six games down the stretch. The 6-foot, 180-pounder looked every bit the open-field terror he was in college where he earned four All-American kick return awards.
Shaheed’s 34-target sample is small his 2022 performance comfortably clears both the PFF receiving grade and YPRR WR2 onfield performance thresholds. His TPRR rate is roughly 1.5% below the ideal.
Eighth-year wide receiver Michael Thomas (77.3 PFF offense grade) is Shaheed’s primary competition for the No. 2 wide receiver role, but Thomas’ 682-yard receiving total since 2020 is feeble and nonthreatening.
Shaheed’s 2022 receiving data among 108 NFL wide receivers with at least 34 targets.
|NFL WR Receiving||Shahid Shaheed|
|PFF Receiving Grade||78.6 (No. 23)|
|Total PPR Points||100.5 (No. 73)|
|PPR Points/Game||8.4 (No. 65)|
|TPRR||18.1% (No. 55)|
|YPRR||2.59 (No. 2)|
|Catch %||82.3% (No. 2)|
|aDot – Yds/Rec.||11.6 (No. 52) – 17.4 (No. 6)|
|YAC/Rec||6.2 (No. 7)|
|15+-Yd Pass Plays %||39.3% (No. 18)|
Shaheed excels at the intermediate field depth and offers new quarterback Derek Carr (66.6 PFF passing grade) a dominant run-after-catch skillset to pair with Olave, prowling the deep. Expect Shaheed to take a significant leap operating as a full-time, Week 1 starter. A PPR WR2 finish is within his range of outcomes.