A lot of time can be spent arguing about the relevance of certain stats and what they mean for fantasy football. However, it’s very tricky to come up with anything negative to say about a receiver seeing a large number of targets. As drafting season quickly approaches, let’s look at some wide receivers who might be in line for positive target regression in 2022.
Allen Robinson (LAR)
In 2021 Allen Robinson saw his targets drop below 150 for the first time in three seasons, and the 66 he received were the fewest of his eight-year career in the NFL. Robinson seemed less than enthused to be in Chicago last year, playing out his final year in the Windy City under the franchise tag. The offense struggled whilst changing between quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, along with sub-par coaching that saw Matt Nagy move on at the end of the season. Now Robinson finds himself in Los Angeles with the Super Bowl-winning Rams. The coaching upgrade from Nagy to Sean McVay is significant and while Justin Fields and Andy Dalton averaged -0.142 expected points added per drop back (EPA/Drop back), Matthew Stafford averaged 0.181. Although Robinson isn’t a direct replacement for Robert Woods or Odell Beckham in terms of playing style, his savvy veteran abilities should easily see him average enough catches per game to get back into the triple digits.
Nico Collins (HOU)
The Houston Texans enter another year of rebuilding with an air of intrigue around their offense. Davis Mills outplayed the minimal expectations that surrounded him in year one and excluding the savvy veteran Brandin Cooks, the team has several interesting young options in Nico Collins, Brevin Jordan and John Metchie. Unfortunately for Metchie, he tore his ACL in December 2021 and will likely experience a slow start to his career. Meanwhile, Collins can enter the season as the clear WR2 in this attack and build upon a rookie season that saw him targeted 53 times. Collins’ biggest barrier to fantasy usage will be the overall performance of the Texans. In 2021, Davis Mills saw 29 other quarterbacks average more snaps per game than his 57.2, but with a new offensive coordinator in Pep Hamilton, there is optimism the team can take a step forward. Hamilton was also the passing game coordinator when Collins played at Michigan in college.
— Deepi Sidhu (@DeepSlant) June 14, 2022
KJ Osborn (MIN)
The Vikings elected to clean house in the offseason, moving on from both head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman. Former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell is now in charge of head coaching responsibilities and it should be expected we see the Vikings move away from the Mike Zimmer run-heavy approach and resemble something closer to how the Rams use their receivers. No other team plays more eleven personnel than the Rams, which means they most frequently had three receivers on the field, along with one running back and one tight end. The Vikings on the other hand, were in the bottom five of teams to make use of this scheme under Zimmer, which held Osborn back from seeing the field as often as he could have. With Adam Thielen getting older and talk of using Justin Jefferson in the slot more often, Osborn has a great opportunity to see an increase in his 78 targets from last year.
In the plot below, there is a positive relationship between having 3+ receivers on the field and averaging more yards per game. Of the teams below the trend line, just the #steelers made the playoffs in 2021. Every team above the trend line also won at least 8 games last season pic.twitter.com/7jb9gcjSBs
— Ethan Useloff (@ethanuseloff) March 29, 2022
Isaiah McKenzie (BUF)
Much of this offseason has been spent pondering if Gabriel Davis‘ ADP is too high, and as such, McKenzie has somewhat slipped under the radar. McKenzie didn’t break out in quite the dominant fashion Davis did, but in week 16 he had 11 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown against a tough New England defense. The 12 targets McKenzie saw in that game represented almost half of the total 25 he saw in the 2021 season, but reasons for optimism remain. McKenzie saw his snaps increase when slot receiver Cole Beasley was ruled out due to Covid-19. The Bills have since moved on from Beasley and replaced him with Jamison Crowder, but elected to re-sign McKenzie with a more expensive contract. McKenzie is by no means a player we can expect to become fantasy gold in 2022, but if Buffalo continues to expand the designed methods they use to get him involved, it’s easy to see how McKenzie could make the leap to 50+ catches per season and be a solid player for best ball and deep roster leagues.
Rashod Bateman (BAL)
The 2021 Ravens passed at a rate most unusual for a team with a desire to dominate on the ground. While it’s fair to expect that rate to regress slightly with the return of younger and more able running backs, not all of the Ravens’ pass-catchers can expect to see fewer targets. Marquise Brown was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on the first night of the draft and leaves behind a large gap in the passing game after seeing 146 targets last year. Also gone from Baltimore is Sammy Watkins who quietly saw 49 targets in 2021. Bateman, who saw 68 targets, isn’t a like-for-like comparison to either player (lacking the true speed of Brown and the experience of Watkins) but he is a reliable chain-mover with big play potential. After a training camp injury that led to abdominal surgery, Bateman saw a slow start to his career, not starting a game until week 6 and then only playing six games with Lamar Jackson before the quarterback was ruled out for the season. In games with Jackson, Bateman averaged 6.29 targets per game, versus 5.6 in games without him. Despite the much-voiced idea that the Ravens might lean back towards the run game in 2022, we can be very hopeful for Bateman to see over 100 targets this year, in part because of the lack of depth behind him on the Ravens receiver depth chart.
There are those who fade Rashod Bateman & then there are those of us who are gonna be right
— David J. Gautieri (@GuruFantasyWrld) July 12, 2022
Russell Gage (TB)
In 2021, Russell Gage had his best season in the NFL to date, and his uptick in performance saw him set career highs in yards per game (49.5), yards per route (0.23) and total target share (20.1%). Gage’s form paid off in free agency with the receiver being personally recruited by Tom Brady to join the Buccanneers. With Rob Gronkowski seemingly set on staying retired and varying reports on the status of Chris Godwin‘s health, Gage could be the WR2 on a team that sees plenty of high-value opportunities. In 2021 Gage saw 81 targets (6.2 per game), a figure that was bettered by both Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown on a per-game basis.
Who are you expecting to take a leap in 2022? Jump into the FantasyPros Discord and let us know, or reach out on Twitter to me @NFL_Tstrack
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