Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft was a wild one! We saw four wide receivers selected inside the top 12, and six wideouts went in the first round in all. That wasn't the only Fantasy-relevant change to occur at the WR position, as two blockbuster trades involving number one receivers went down on Thursday night. 24-year-old star wideout A.J. Brown was shipped to the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Arizona Cardinals traded away their first-round selection to acquire burner Marquise Brown -- also 24 years old -- and a third-round pick from the Baltimore Ravens.
Days 2 and 3 of the NFL Draft brought us clarity on the Fantasy outlook for the rest of our favorite rookie prospects. It isn't as fun to discuss the losers as the winners, but there were several players whose Fantasy outlook took a turn for the worse and needs to be re-evaluated following the draft.
Breece Hall and Michael Carter, RBs, New York Jets
At Iowa State, Breece Hall was one of the most involved route running RBs in recent CFB memory -- he was also one of the least efficient.
Hall's underwhelming per route rates don't necessarily mean that he won't be a productive pass-catcher at the NFL level. The fact that he was trusted to fill such a high-volume receiving role in the first place is encouraging.
But, we can't ignore the fact that Hall landed in a backfield with an already-established receiving threat. Michael Carter's 18.6 percent target per route run rate at North Carolina suggested that he could carve out a role for himself as a pass-catcher at the NFL level. And in his rookie season, Carter's 25 percent target per route run rate ranked second at the RB position -- ahead of the likes of Alvin Kamara (24.7 percent), D'Andre Swift (24.4 percent), and J.D. McKissic (24.2 percent).
Maybe Hall will come in and immediately assume a three-down role. The Jets traded up to secure his talent, and his status as the 36th overall selection certainly outweighs Carter's (107th pick in 2021).
I just had hoped that Hall would land somewhere where we could feel confident in his status as an every-down player. His underwhelming per-route efficiency at the CFB level makes me wonder if Hall might have been playing on passing downs out of necessity rather than merit; enough so for it to feel like a realistic possibility that Carter will cut into his route running opportunities. If that comes to fruition, I'm not sure if Hall will bring the RB1 Fantasy production that so many expect while relying on elite rushing efficiency in an offense that is likely to rank in the bottom third of the league in play and scoring volume.
Carter is the clearest Fantasy loser of the 2022 NFL Draft. He was poised to be a potential top-20 Fantasy RB in PPR formats in Year 2 -- with Hall added to the equation, Carter will struggle to retain any semblance of Fantasy value.
Jameson Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown, WRs, Detroit Lions
In Week 12, the Detroit Lions lost short-yardage target hog, D'Andre Swift, to injury. In Week 13, T.J. Hockenson joined him on the sideline. Swift returned in a limited fashion for two games, while Hockenson remained inactive.
Amon-Ra St. Brown's rookie season splits:
Target per route run rate:
16.3% -- Weeks 1-12
32.8% -- Week 13 on
Yard per route run rate:
1.10 -- Weeks 1-12
2.75 -- Week 13 on
St. Brown scored a touchdown in all but one of those six games, and only Cooper Kupp scored more PPR points from Week 13 on. His per route rates are really ridiculous, though. Davante Adams led the NFL with a 30.7 percent target per route run rate in 2021. Only Kupp (3.12), Deebo Samuel (2.98), and Adams (2.82) averaged above 2.75 yards per route run for the season. St. Brown more than doubling his per route rates during that six-game stretch is definitely noteworthy -- players don't put up those types of rates by coincidence, and St. Brown did it with consistency. He was targeted at a 32 percent per-route rate or higher in every game from Week 14 on. He saw double-digit targets in every single game following the Hockenson injury.
Still, we can't ignore the fact that the Lions will have both Swift and Hockenson back in 2022. Joining them will be new additions, D.J. Chark and Jameson Williams. Is Jared Goff really the guy to keep all of these mouths fed?
If not, who is going to lose out on opportunities? The track record for Hockenson and Swift is certainly more sizable than St. Brown's when it comes to drawing targets. St. Brown had a good-but-not-great 22.8 percent target per route run rate in his three seasons as a starter at USC. It seems entirely likely that his rates from the second half of 2021 could shrink significantly while facing increased competition.
St. Brown fell from the WR28 spot to WR33 in Dynasty start-up rankings following the NFL Draft. And given how small the sample size that we have on him as a highly productive player, there's plenty of potential for his perceived value to enter a free fall if he struggles to maintain Fantasy relevancy in a crowded Detroit offense in Year 2.
Jameson Williams' advanced data from the 2021 season is extremely exciting. He has just one season's worth of data to draw from, though, and he is recovering from an ACL tear. On top of that, he was drafted into an offense without a passer capable of delivering the ball downfield.
It's also worth noting that Williams was far more efficient on his slot routes than perimeter routes at Alabama. With St. Brown standing in his way of playing time from the slot, this feels like one of the worst possible landing spots for Williams. He dropped from the WR27 to WR32 following the draft, as Darnell Mooney, Rashod Bateman, Treylon Burks, and Christian Watson all moved ahead of him.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Penny was ranked as my Dynasty RB40 prior to the draft and fell all the way to RB53 following Seattle's second-round selection of Kenneth Walker.
Walker isn't a very complete prospect -- he really only profiles as an early-down player at the NFL level. But he was dominant within that role, and Seattle invested a second-round selection to secure his rushing contributions. That investment makes it feel like an inevitability that Walker takes over the bulk of the early-down work for the Seahawks. Where does that leave Penny?
Well, third-down reps should be available. But even while starting in an injury-decimated backfield in 2021, Penny wasn't regularly used on passing downs. He took over for Alex Collins in Week 13 -- from that point on, Penny handled 55 percent of the offensive snaps but only 44 percent of the passing snaps. He was on the field for 66 percent of first and second downs during that time, compared to just an 18 percent snap rate on third downs.
It appears as if the most likely role for Penny is as a contributor on early downs who handles the lesser share of a split with Walker. That is in no way enticing for Fantasy purposes, even on a Seattle offense that is likely to be one of the most run-heavy units in the NFL.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Marquise Brown had the NFL's 13th-highest target share in 2021. He clearly projects for a larger piece of the pie than Christian Kirk did.
DeAndre Hopkins will be 30 years old and coming off of the fourth-straight season in which his target per route run rate has dropped as he contends with Brown, Zach Ertz, A.J. Green, and Rondale Moore for Kyler Murray's attention. His days as a top-20 Fantasy WR are almost assuredly behind him.
It's hard to tell how much Hopkins' 2021 data was influenced by injury. Even with that caveat, it's hard to believe how poor his data profile from last season is. Hopkins had nearly identical per route rates to Julio Jones, who everyone has written off as toast at this point in his career. Hopkins was targeted on 19.7 of his routes and averaged 1.76 yards per route run. Jones' yard per route run rate was identical, and he drew a target on 19.5 percent of his routes.
I would expect Hopkins' rates to bounce back in 2022, but likely not to the extent that most would have expected. There's still plenty of touchdown upside available to him in Arizona's offense, but the floor is low enough for Hopkins to fall outside of the top-36 Fantasy receivers -- even on a per-game basis -- if he reaches the bottom range of his outcomes. With news that he'll miss the first six games of 2022, Hopkins has dropped to the WR45 spot in my season-long rankings and is WR48 for Dynasty.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders
Gibson entered the 2022 offseason ranked as my RB6, behind Javonte Williams and ahead of Austin Ekeler and Joe Mixon in a four-player Tier 3 at the RB position. He then enjoyed a very quick appearance in Tier 2 as the RB5 when J.D. McKIssic signed with the Buffalo Bills.
Things have only gone downhill from there. McKissic backed out of his deal with Buffalo to return to being a thorn in Gibson's side, and then Washington invested a third-round selection into early-down bruiser Brian Robinson.
We have no indication that Gibson has made progress in overtaking McKissic as Washington's preference on passing downs, and he now could see competition for early-down work. This situation feels like it is quickly approaching a Miles Sanders type of free fall down Dynasty draft boards.
Gibson brings so much to like from an analytical standpoint but between consistent issues with his health and Washington's insistency to get in his way of a featured role, it is beginning to appear as if Gibson's potential may never be realized.
Gibson ranks as RB10 for me in Dynasty after the NFL Draft, but that has more to do with the number of question marks surrounding the backs behind him than any belief I hold in his outlook in Washington.
Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants
Toney's per-route data as a rookie was extremely impressive, but it came on a small sample size as he struggled to remain healthy. I was cautiously optimistic that he might be a nice buy-low candidate entering Year 2, but Toney's offseason has not been an encouraging one.
The Giants are under new management in 2022 -- Toney was not drafted by the current regime. New York has been rumored to be shopping Toney this offseason, and while the Giants denied those claims, their actions in the NFL Draft imply a possible lack of confidence in their catch-and-run playmaker.
With the 11th pick in the second round, New York made Wan'Dale Robinson the eighth receiver selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. There were plenty of receivers still on the board who projected as more complete NFL-level wide receiver prospects -- George Pickens, Skyy Moore, George Bell, and Jalen Tolbert, to name a few. But the Giants went with Robinson, who really only projects as a playmaker from the slot at 5-foot-8 and 178 pounds.
Maybe New York believes Toney can succeed from the perimeter; he found success there in his limited 2021 opportunities. Still, though, he was more efficient from the slot at Florida, and that's where 62 percent of his rookie routes came from.
It's not a guarantee that Robinson overtakes Toney as New York's slot playmaker in 2022. Even if he doesn't there's no way around it -- the new regime using one of their first selections to add a player at the same position with a similar skillset as Toney is not a good sign for his future. Toney dropped from WR40 in my pre-draft Dynasty rankings to WR49 with the Robinson selection.