We may be less than two months away from football season, but it’s never a bad time to start preparing to dominate your fantasy football league. That’s why TDN’s very own Jaime Eisner unveiled his fantasy football rankings for 12-team, half-PPR leagues. And there were some *interesting* decisions.
Unfortunately for Jaime—and fortunately for you—I’m here to discuss some eye-opening decisions Jaime made in his latest batch. I already broke down Jaime’s quarterback rankings and his running back rankings, so today, we talk about wide receivers.
Before I attempt to tear down Jaime’s ego, let me reiterate that his rankings and projections are some of the best in the business. He spends hours researching and developing in-depth projections, which you can check out below. So I won’t get too picky about minor differences in the rankings, though I certainly could make a case against something small like Gabriel Davis over Allen Robinson.
With that said, let’s see what else stood out from Jaime’s fantasy football running backs rankings for half-PPR leagues.
Jaime’s full Fantasy Football WR Rankings
Jaime’s full WR Stat Projections
Most Overrated: Deebo Samuel (WR4)
Let’s start with last season’s fantasy darling. Samuel exploded in year three and finished as the overall WR2 in half-PPR. Jaime only has Samuel two spots higher than his ADP (Average Draft Position), and even then, that’s a bit too rich for me. Samuel‘s offseason has been headlined by his extremely public trade request from San Francisco. He reportedly doesn’t want to be treated like a hybrid player anymore. His request to focus more on his receiving duties is a slap to the face of his fantasy value.
Jaime does project Samuel to produce nearly 82% fewer yards in the ground game with similar receiving yards. That should bump Samuel down from being ranked among one of the best at the position. To put it in context, if Samuel didn’t see a single snap at running back last season, he’d have still been WR9. That’s a reasonable floor to expect in 2022… if he stays in San Francisco. (For what it’s worth, Samuel‘s fantasy production actually dipped by roughly two points per game in the three games without George Kittle.)
Only three teams threw the ball at a lower rate than the 49ers last season. Of course, projecting a trade gets even tougher with general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan swearing they’ll keep Samuel. The stalemate throws an even bigger wrench into Samuel’s fantasy value, one that has not been super talked about: A holdout. Every day Samuel’s trade request sits on the table, the chances he sits out games raise ever so slightly.
All these factors make me weary that Samuel will finish the season as a top-five receiver, which lines up with Jaime’s projections by a noticeable amount. With a lowered ceiling and an uncertain situation, Samuel is better suited as, say, WR8 than WR4. That’s a massive difference if you’re eyeing a wide receiver in Round 2. Wide receivers like Stefon Diggs, CeeDee Lamb, and Mike Evans are safer bets and still have that coveted WR1 upside.
Most Underrated: K.J. Osborn (WR62)
There were plenty of great candidates I could’ve chosen for the superlative, yet I went with someone who Jaime is actually higher on than most. Jaime ranks Osborn 16 spots above his ADP. Even then, Osborn’s ceiling far exceeds his ranking. I’m more focused on his floor at Jaime’s spot.
Some people assume Irv Smith Jr.’s return from a preseason meniscus injury hinders Osborn’s potential breakout season. Smith is coming to take Tyler Conklin‘s job, not Osborn’s. Conklin—signed by the New York Jets in March—was third on the team in red-zone targets with 13 last season, four more than Osborn had. It’s safe to say Osborn’s role in the red zone won’t be impacted too much by Smith’s return.
Of course, Minnesota could have an entirely new offense. The Vikings hired Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as their new head coach. While the Rams’ pass rate was only 1% higher than the Vikings’ pass rate last season, Los Angeles ran 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers) at a league-high 86% of the time, per Sharp Football Stats. Conversely, Minnesota ran 11 personnel at the fifth-lowest rate in the league. So if Osborn doesn’t seem more playing time than Adam Thielen, he can still carve out a sizable role as the team’s WR3.
That’s not to mention Osborn‘s upside if Thielen or Justin Jefferson misses time. Thielen hasn’t played a full season since 2018. In 2021, Osborn saw nearly three points more per game in the four games without Thielen. Osborn’s snap rate also increased by nearly 25%, though he only averaged one more target. Bottle that all up with Osborn’s promising career trajectory and he seems like a much better pick than many players typically being drafted ahead of him. I prefer Osborn ahead of wide receivers like Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Robbie Anderson, and Van Jefferson.
Deserves Applause: A.J. Brown (WR19)
It pains me to no longer view Brown as a WR1. It seems Jaime feels the same way because he has Brown nine spots below his ADP. Yet, last year‘s WR24 in fantasy points per game is still being drafted like a WR1 in most leagues.
While there’s still a possibility he finishes as a WR1 in fantasy, the same can be said for every other wide receiver in Brown’s range. For Brown to become a consistent weekly WR1, Jalen Hurts needs to take the leap as a passer. I talked about how crucial Hurts’ development is when I explained why I’m low on DeVonta Smith this year:
“In the second half of last season, the Eagles did a good job rewriting their offense to maximize Hurts’ strengths and hide his weaknesses. Unfortunately for Smith, Hurts’ strength was not consistent passing. That can change, though. Hurts can take the leap as a passer in the offseason, thus convincing Head Coach Nick Sirianni to call more pass plays — no team had a lower rate of pass plays than Philadelphia last season. That would obviously mean more passes to go around, which could bolster Smith into becoming a viable WR2 in fantasy. However, those are a lot of ‘ifs.’”
The same can be applied to Brown, thus capping his upside and the chances he’s a weekly WR1 again. If Hurts can’t prove to the coaching staff he can take on more responsibilities as a passer, we should expect the Eagles to remain near the bottom in pass-play rates—a metric they were dead-last in last season. Props to Jaime for incorporating Brown’s new situation into his latest rankings.
Best Late-Round Value: Kadarius Toney (WR81)
Toney did not have a great rookie season, especially for a former first-round pick. He never reached the end zone and missed seven games. In the 10 games he did play, six of them were basically duds.
However, Toney flashed enough promise in the other four games to suggest he can be a real threat in the future. He saw nine or more targets in each of those performances, including a massive 10-reception, 189-yard showing in Week 5. The foundation is there for Toney to become a viable fantasy asset, which made me shocked to see Jaime so low on him. Jaime actually had Toney 37 spots below his ADP.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like the Giants’ offense is the second coming of the Bills’ offense, though that’s certainly what head coach Brian Daboll is tasked with doing. It doesn’t help that Daniel Jones hasn’t taken a big enough step in his underwhelming three-year career. Perhaps this is the year Jones lives up to his billing? If so, the biggest benefactor could easily be Toney.
While I am personally not betting on Jones, New York’s receiving room is still anything but settled. Kenny Golladay had arguably his worst season, though he wasn’t 100% healthy. And even if Golladay cements himself as the Giants’ WR1, who’s to say the supremely talented Toney can’t make an impact? He’s arguably a better playmaker than Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, the latter who may not even be with the team this season.
As for rookie Wan’Dale Robinson—commonly viewed as a versatile, Toney-like athlete—his potential breakout seems caked into Toney’s ADP. If New York didn’t draft Robinson, perhaps Toney’s ADP would be a bit higher. Despite all those factors, Toney still has a clear path to fantasy relevancy. Snagging him as late as Jaime ranks him could be a league-altering move based on Toney’s talent, limited sample size, and positional competition.