Last week, we looked at three veteran wide receivers that could have some sneaky value in PPR redraft leagues. However, the reality is that plenty of highly ranked pass catchers will be, for lack of a better word, busts. Injuries aside, there’s plenty that can go wrong for wideouts, and separating name value from potential production at the game’s flashiest position is a difficult task for casual fans. After an offseason filled with new faces in new places, uncertainty abounds. Which wide receivers, at their current ADP (via FantasyPros), should managers avoid?
Fantasy Football WRs to Avoid
DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
Before I explain why not to draft Hopkins at his current WR22 ranking, let’s be clear: based on talent alone, DHop is still a top-ten player at the position. The rub is that he’ll miss the first six games of the year following a suspension for performance enhancing drugs, which has seen him slip all the way to WR43 in our DrRoto.com projections. The Cardinals should be able to soften the blow thanks to a draft day deal for Marquise Brown. Adding the former Raven to a pass-catching group of Rondale Moore, Zach Ertz, and newly drafted tight end Trey McBride should give Kyler Murray plenty of weapons in the passing game.
Is there a limit to how far Hopkins should slip? Certainly, but I’d feel more comfortable banking on full-season options in his draft range such as Brown himself, Brandin Cooks and Amon-Ra St. Brown. It’s worth noting that Hopkins was merely 22nd amongst wide receivers last season in average fantasy points per game (PPR). While he did deal with injuries, Hopkins being able to play doesn’t guarantee top ten production at the position. For a player fantasy managers have to wait nearly half the regular season for, elite results should be almost mandatory. Despite the big name, Hopkins may be very good, rather than great, in 2022.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kansas City Chiefs
Unlike Hopkins, I really can’t call Smith-Schuster a good receiver. It’s been three years since his breakout 2018 campaign, and while a lengthy injury is to blame for a lackluster 2021, he didn’t show much when he was fairly healthy in the two seasons prior. Smith-Schuster signing with the Chiefs this offseason was a smart move for both parties, as it gives him the chance to prove his value while playing with Patrick Mahomes. The fantasy logic behind buying into Smith-Schuster makes sense: With the league’s best quarterback needing a new number one receiver after Tyreek Hill was traded to Miami, perhaps JuJu can fill that void. The problem is that his skillset isn’t really conducive to success in Kansas City’s offensive scheme.
Hill is a blazing speedster who consistently created separation on Mahomes’ deep passes, but Smith-Schuster is a bigger receiver that almost exclusively lines up out of the slot. Playing with the veteran Ben Roethlisberger in 2018 made JuJu a prime target; Ben’s average yards per attempt ranked at just 14th in the league that year. Contrast that with Mahomes, who is currently fifth all-time in yards per attempt, and it’s clear that a slower pass catcher might not get a ton of work in KC. Even if Mahomes does do more dinking and dunking without Hill, most of those targets will go to Travis Kelce, still the game’s top tight end. At WR38, Smith-Schuster won’t tank your draft (although he is much lower at WR52 on our rankings), but there’s more potential in the likes of Rashod Bateman, Allen Robinson or Michael Gallup. For those who are desperate for a share of this uncertain Kansas City offense, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman and Skyy Moore currently sit at ADPs of WR60 or lower. If you’re going to gamble on a potentially potent passing attack, better to do it past Round 8 or 9 with players that can actually take advantage of Mahomes’ massive arm.
Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns
Amari Cooper is always reliable, but his WR19 ranking is a bit of a stretch. Cooper’s trade to the Browns, along with the arrival of star quarterback Deshaun Watson, should make for a much more dynamic passing attack in Cleveland. That doesn’t mean Cooper should be flirting with high-end WR2 status. During his three years in Dallas, consistently one of the league’s top passing teams, Cooper went from WR10 in 2019 to WR28 last season. Despite tying his career-best mark of eight touchdowns, Cooper’s average yards per game of 57.7, the second-lowest mark of his eight-year career, led to a drop-off in production in 2021. While the Cowboys did have plenty of options in the passing game, Cooper failed to fully capitalize on his nearly seven targets per game.
Pass-catching opportunities will likely be harder to come by in Cleveland. While Watson is an upgrade over Dak Prescott (albeit not by much), the Browns have built their identity on being a run-first team. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt still on the roster, I don’t expect that to change all that much, even with a new quarterback. Speaking of said quarterback, Watson is facing the very real possibility of suspension following an NFL investigation into allegations of sexual assault. If Watson is cleared to play for the whole year, Cooper’s current draft position would look far more reasonable. However, until we get confirmation of the league’s decision, there’s plenty of uncertainty compared to the stable passing situation in Dallas. Cooper isn’t likely to flame out or destroy your season, but there’s also a good chance that someone better will get drafted later in the middle rounds of your draft.