Ranking players by position is an integral part of fantasy football preparation, but grouping them into tiers is crucial to identifying the value you might be leaving on the draft board.
For example, if you're on the clock and looking at several wide receivers in the same tier, it could make sense to wait until the next round — someone equally as worthy will probably be available with your next pick.
Tiers can also help group players with similar expectations based on upside and floor. Most importantly, we don't want to pay more than the next drafter for a similar player.
There are seven primary criteria used to create wide receiver tiers:
- Target pedigree: Recent adjusted target shares and targets per route run
- Performance peripherals: Yards per route run, deep targets (20-plus yards), yards after the catch and explosive target rate (15-plus-yard receptions)
- Offense quality: Projected team wins (winning teams typically score more and passing YPA correlates strongly to wins)
- Passing volume: Projected team pass attempts per game (excludes overtime)
- Quarterback quality: Team QB1 ADP (combined with passing volume to offset quarterbacks with a higher ADP due to rushing ability)
- Target competition: Number of teammates with a significant ADP (wide receivers with a top-36 ADP plus tight ends with a top-12 ADP)
- Player average draft position (ADP): Positional rank based on FFPC best ball slim data from Fantasy Mojo
The first two criteria focus on the player’s ability to generate and create production from targets while the next four data points analyze the team environment. ADP is a final check against the current market sentiment that helps us extract maximum value from our selections.
The ultimate options are receivers who demand targets at all levels of the field and make plays after the catch on winning pass-heavy teams. After that, every tier is some variation of strengths vs. weaknesses in the profile.
For example, a talented receiver on a run-balanced offense with a high projected win total and low target competition is better than the same situation with multiple teammates challenging for opportunities. On the other hand, two talented receivers can co-exist in a quality pass-happy attack.
Overall, the receiver pool has far more questions in 2022 versus ADP.
The first table is a quick view of the complete tiers and rankings, and a more detailed heat map is included below as we break down each tier.
Last Updated: May 16th, 9:00 a.m.
|Tier||Rank||FFPC Pos ADP||Player||Team|
|2A||11||17||Michael Pittman Jr.||Colts|
|3A||27||32||Amon-Ra St. Brown||Lions|
|3B||31||26||Allen Robinson II||Rams|
|5B||61||72||Will Fuller V||Free Agent|
|6B||72||86||Marvin Jones Jr.||Jaguars|
|6C||75||–||Antonio Brown||Free Agent|
|6C||76||77||Odell Beckham Jr.||Free Agent|
|6C||77||82||Julio Jones||Free Agent|
|7A||79||75||John Metchie III||Texans|
|7A||82||83||Laviska Shenault Jr.||Jaguars|
|7B||85||62||D.J. Chark Jr.||Lions|
|7B||91||–||Cole Beasley||Free Agent|
|8A||93||101||Terrace Marshall Jr.||Panthers|
|8A||95||113||Velus Jones Jr.||Bears|
|8A||100||–||Calvin Austin III||Steelers|
TIER 1 RECEIVERS
TIER 1A – THE TALENT, THE SITUATION, THE WR GODS
Justin Jefferson will be only 23 years old and already has WR7 and WR4 finishes to his credit, averaging 16.9 and 19.5 points per game, respectively. Only Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael Thomas posted better point-per-game totals in their first two seasons since 2011. He is one of only four receivers who ran at least 250 routes to eclipse the 2.50YPRR (Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams and A.J. Brown) mark against man and zone coverages. Jefferson’s profile checks every box, and he is currently going in the middle of the first round.
Kupp set career highs in target share (31%) and YPRR (3.11) by dominating man and zone coverage. His connection with Matthew Stafford is undeniable, and while his 2.6% touchdowns per route will likely regress (the three-year average for a WR1 is 1.6%), he remains entrenched in the top tier. Kupp was the WR4 in points per game in 2019 and has eclipsed the 2.00 YPRR barrier every season except for one. There were underpinnings to a great season before 2021.
Ja’Marr Chase posted the second-most points per game (18.0) for a rookie behind another LSU Tiger – Beckham (24.8 over 12 games). His target share isn’t as high as Kupp and Jefferson, but he doesn’t have to thanks to his explosive play rate. No other receiver brings a more potent combination of downfield prowess and ability to generate yards after the catch (YAC) to the table than the second-year receiver. Tee Higgins will challenge for targets, but the Cincinnati Bengals have an ascending offense that is projected for a good season behind a top-six ADP quarterback in Joe Burrow.
TIER 1B – NEXT MOST LIKELY TO CATAPULT INTO TIER 1A
CeeDee Lamb, the No. 17 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, already has two top-24 fantasy finishes and led Dallas in target share (18%), air yards (25%) and YPRR (2.06) in 2021. Since 2011, only 10 other wide receivers put together two top-24 finishes in their first two seasons. His deep target rate, YAC and explosive target rate rank favorably against many options ranked behind him.
Despite those accolades, this ranking requires a step forward from Lamb in the target share department. However, even if Lamb's targets per route don't climb dramatically, we can expect to see his route participation surge with Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson out of the picture. The average top-24 fantasy receiver runs a route on 86% of his team's dropbacks, and 55% of those players eclipse the 90% mark. Lamb's route participation has fallen well below those thresholds over his first two seasons (72% and 76%).
If the third-year receiver also takes a step forward in targets per route run (TPRR), we could see an even more significant bump in expected targets for the 2022 season.
Range of outcomes for Lamb's targets on 700 dropbacks
|Route Participation||22% TPRR||23% TPRR||24% TPRR||25% TPRR||26% TPRR|
Average regulation dropbacks under Mike McCarthy: 728
Stefon Diggs took a step back in 2021 after two consecutive 2.40-plus YPRR seasons with a dip to 1.90 and a career-low in YAC (3.1). He still managed a top-eight finish thanks to a 25% target share in a high-volume passing attack led by Josh Allen. In this great environment, the 29-year-old receiver has multiple paths to the WR1 overall. He could pull down a 30% target share season in an offense built mostly with complementary options, or we could see a bounce back in the efficiency or catch rate (dropped from 78% to 65%) departments.
Davante Adams dominated TPRR (30%, 31% and 29%) and YPRR (2.82, 2.96, 2.33) over the last three years with Green Bay but finds himself wearing new colors in Las Vegas. He is heading into his age-30 season, gets a downgrade in quarterback play going from Aaron Rodgers to Derek Carr and will have more target competition from Darren Waller (23-27% TPRR) and Hunter Renfrow (20-23% TPRR).
Carr is good enough to support multiple weapons. Given the Raiders' division and weaponry, Josh McDaniels could deploy a pass-heavy approach similar to his days with Tom Brady in New England. Expect Adams' target share to take a small step back despite a slight upgrade in team passing volume.
TIER 1C – PROVEN PLAYMAKERS IN CROWDED ATTACKS WITH QUARTERBACK QUESTIONS
Deebo Samuel profiles as a top-three option as a talent because he has elite YPRR and TPRR marks, but the 49ers' run-centric offense, quarterback questions and crowded passing attack push him to the bottom of Tier 1. San Francisco projects as a quality offense. Samuel could keep his insane YAC going (10.8), but the margin for error is thin unless he benefits from a teammate’s injury or regression.