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Free Agent Wide Receivers Impact on 2022 Fantasy Football

There’s a reason this free agent wide receiver article follows the tight ends and running backs articles. That’s because the NFL franchise tag deadline is now behind us, having concluded Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. sharp. Among the eight players tagged, wide receivers, Davante Adams and Chris Godwin, will remain with the Packers and Buccaneers, respectively, for the 2022 NFL season.

The decisions to tag Adams and Godwin do not come as a shock. It’s also worth noting that the Los Angeles Chargers also signed would-be free agent wide receiver, Mike Williams, to an extension, as well, rather than tagging him. We now have a clearer picture as to which wide receivers could be hitting the free agent market as soon as next week.

Every NFL team can soon begin negotiating with free agent players come noon on March 14, 2022. Once the clock strikes 4:00 p.m. on March 16th, free agency officially begins and players will start inking their new deals. For fantasy football purposes, the free agency period is an undoubtedly exciting time. It’s the next bit of real football news to get us all buzzing ahead of the 2022 fantasy football season, albeit, by that time, over six months away. While that seems like a long time now, trust me, there will be plenty to talk about, especially as the free agents start making moves.

Below, I rank the top available free agent wide receivers, give a brief overview of each, and make a call at where we can expect the most value from them for the 2022 fantasy football season, with consideration to team needs at the position and cap space ahead of 2022 free agency.

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Top Free Agent Wide Receivers’ Top Landing Spots for 2022 Fantasy Football

1. Allen Robinson

Allen Robinson continuously falls victim to playing with less-than-ideal quarterbacks. Since joining the league, Robinson has caught passes from the likes of Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton, and, on a limited basis, Justin Fields. Amazingly enough, aside from a lost 2017 season to a torn ACL, Robinson has seen 151 or more targets in four of seven applicable seasons on both the Jaguars and Bears.

Unfortunately, as a consensus 2021 preseason third-round fantasy football pick, Robinson finished as WR83 with just a 7.4 PPR points per game average. The Bears offense ranked 27th across the league in scoring following the 2021 season and they’ve since fired head coach, Matt Nagy, and general manager, Ryan Pace. Robinson saw a career-low in targets, (66), receptions (38), yards (410), and scored just one touchdown. Needless to say, Robinson is walking out of Chicago and is going to be one of the most-coveted free agent wide receivers. Better days are ahead, especially in fantasy football.

Robinson’s Best Fantasy Football Landing Spot: New England Patriots

Since Tom Brady went down to Tampa Bay, the Patriots have yet to have any player record more than 866 receiving yards in two seasons. In fact, wide receiver, Jakobi Meyers was the team’s leading receiver logging 59 receptions for 729 yards in 2020 and 83 for 866 this past season. Meyers is one of the best receivers out of the slot playing 48.7% of his 2021 snaps from that position.

Adding Allen Robinson to this group of receivers provides Mac Jones and New England with a true lead pass catcher. Robinson is also known to work in the slot. However, he mostly provides the team’s second-year quarterback a reliable, physical threat on the outside to throw it up to. Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor were fine fill-ins at the position last season. If Robinson does land in New England as a free agent, I expect him, tight end Hunter Henry, and Meyers to command most of the target share.

I bet most fantasy football managers will shy away from Robinson given the recency bias. Don’t be afraid to look at Robinson, or any free agent wide receiver, with a new lens especially if they end up on a new team, with new coaching, and an all-around new situation. I expect a lot of receptions and major, positive touchdown regression in 2022 for Allen Robinson.

2. Michael Gallup

Gallup is often overshadowed among Cowboys wide receiver discussions, especially in the last two seasons. Gallup, in 2019, as the team’s clear-cut WR2, caught 66 of 113 targets for 1,107 yards and six touchdowns. Since then, Dallas has added Ceedee Lamb to the bunch, and, in 2020, lost quarterback, Dak Prescott, to a season-ending ankle injury. With those and other factors in mind, Gallup’s role downgraded to a solidified WR3 behind both Amari Cooper and the aforementioned Lamb.

To make matters worse, Gallup, of course, tears his ACL late in the 2021 regular season. He is, as of now, reportedly looking to return to “100%” in August. He, like the recently tagged Chris Godwin, is a tricky wide receiver to evaluate for NFL teams, as well as from a fantasy football perspective because of the injury. What sticks out to me, especially, is that he has averaged 10.2 PPR points per game, or better, in each of the last three seasons. It’s enough for flex consideration at the very least in fantasy football.

Gallup’s Best Fantasy Football Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys

With all that about Gallup said, a return to the Cowboys not only makes sense, but seems inevitable at this point. Where better to return from a major soft tissue injury than with doctors, training staff, and, eventually, the team you’re most familiar and comfortable with?

Do I expect Gallup to return to 100% in August? No. Have other players returned sooner from similar injuries and been effective? Yes. So, of course, it’s something to monitor. In the meantime, Amari Cooper is nearing a trade or release from the Cowboys as it would save approximately $16 million toward their 2022 cap.

That said, when Gallup does return to the field, I like him as a late-season plug-and-play. He isn’t Amari Cooper, so don’t expect Cooper numbers. Gallup is a solid vertical threat that can come down winning the contested catches. In the meantime, it’s hard not to get excited about Ceedee Lamb’s ceiling as the focal point in the passing game. A Cooper exit and Gallup’s recovery also mean big things for tight end, Daulton Schultz, and, to some extent, wide receiver, Cedrick Wilson, Jr. I’m anticipating a Gallup and Cowboys deal as one of the first to get done in free agency.

3. D.J. Chark

I think Chark is probably the most under-the-radar free agent wide receiver this off-season. Similar to the aforementioned Allen Robinson, Chark also falls victim to playing with low-level quarterbacks. The Lousiana State University product still gets it done on the field with his 6’4″ 210-pound frame and 4.34 40-yard dash speed. While Chark doesn’t always appear to blow defenders away on the field, he averages 13.9 yards per catch over the course of his career. In just four games in 2021, Chark caught seven balls for 154 yards with a whopping 22.0 yards per catch.

He turns 26 years old in September and enters the 2022 season having missed all but four games last year with a fractured ankle. Not counting that game, Chark boasts 15 touchdown receptions in his last 31 games over three seasons. With plenty of time to recover, Chark will be ready to go and will make an immediate impact wherever he ends up. Given his choice as a free agent, a quarterback upgrade will only do wonders for him.

Chark’s Best Fantasy Football Landing Spot: Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Hurts may not be the quarterback upgrade many are envisioning for Chark, but it’s still an upgrade from what he’s dealt with most of his career. The Eagles general manager, Howie Roseman, is borderline obsessed with speed. He is notorious, as of late, for selecting wide receiver Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson two years ago with speed in mind. Roseman has also given contracts to notable speedy receivers such as Torrey Smith, DeSean Jackson, and just drafted DeVonta Smith last year.

Given the history, I expect Roseman to target a free agent like Chark to pair with Smith in the Eagles wide receiver room. It’s a good fit, especially if you compare Chark’s size to Smith’s 6’0″ 170-pound build. Chark provides this offense with another trustworthy option in the red zone, as well as on crucial third-down opportunities. I wish Hurts had a bit better of an arm to really connect with Chark in this scenario, so let’s hope it’s one of his biggest improvements of the offseason. Chark would still post WR1 numbers here and there in this offense and could lead the team in receiving touchdowns.

4. Juju Smith-Schuster

It seems like forever since Juju Smith-Schuster’s days of averaging 18.6 PPR points per game with weekly WR1 potential. That specifically last occurred in 2018 in his second season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Juju posted a 111/1,426/7 stat line that season with a WR8 PPR finish. Meanwhile, teammate, Antonio Brown, averaged 21.6 points of his own finishing the 2018 fantasy football season as WR5.

Since then, Juju has totaled just 1,512 total receiving yards in the last three seasons combined. For those keeping score at home, that’s just 86 more yards than his 2018 breakout season’s receiving yards alone.

Part of the blame can be directed toward Ben Roethlisberger’s deteriorating arm strength while the emergence of Dionte Johnson and Chase Claypool has not helped. Either way, Juju is clearly capable of more and a return to Pittsburgh is extremely unlikely.

Juju’s Best Fantasy Football Landing Spot: Kansas City Chiefs

Last offseason, Juju was a free agent and did in fact test the market. Up until the point of announcing a one-year return to Pittsburgh, it seemed very possible he would sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. He even said so himself. This time around, I think the Chiefs present themselves again as a prime landing spot for the free agent wide receiver, which is good news for his fantasy football value.

First thing’s first, upgrading from Big Ben to Patrick Mahomes at quarterback is as good as it gets. The Chiefs threw the ball 60.0% or more of the time in each of the last four seasons since Mahomes has taken over as the starter. Furthermore, they’ve finished no worse than sixth in scoring across the league in that time.

Juju fits in nicely alongside of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in this offense. He has the ability to play inside and out which lends to the offensive mindset of head coach, Andy Reid, and offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, who find creative ways to get everyone involved.

It’s hard to imagine Smith-Schuster, Hill, and Kelce all finishing in the top-5 to 10 at their respective positions on the same offense. Adding Juju to this offense boosts Mahomes’ value and certainly brings Smith-Schuster’s fantasy relevancy back to life, especially in PPR leagues.

5. Christian Kirk

Christian Kirk is a 2018 second-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals that is trending toward hitting the free agent market. Since drafting Kirk, Arizona has drafted four other wide receivers in the last two drafts. Furthermore, the Cardinals acquired wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins, in a 2020 trade with the Texans, as well as A.J. Green as a free agent last offseason. Now, the Cardinals find themselves just under the salary cap and have a lot of offensive free agents, including Kirk, Green, and others, ready to hit the market.

In three seasons with Kyler Murray at quarterback, Kirk averages no less than 10.2 PPR points per game per season, averaging 12.6 points in two of the three seasons. Kirk has caught 14 touchdown passes in that time, scoring multiple touchdowns in four of a possible 44 games.

Kirk’s fantasy production is a bit sporadic, but he has the most targets (289) of any Cardinals wide receiver combined in the last three seasons providing fantasy-friendly target share when he does play. In a contract year last season, Kirk played in a career high games (17) and logged the most receptions (77) and yards (982) of his career thus far.

Kirk’s Best Fantasy Football Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills

It’s still possible the Cardinals maneuver enough of this roster to make room to offer Kirk a decent contract before he becomes a free agent. If not, I really like the idea of Kirk heading to Buffalo to catch passes from quarterback, Josh Allen. The Bills likely won’t bring back wide receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, and are also expected to let slot receiver, Cole Beasley, explore other options, as well.

In order to keep up with a top-heavy AFC, the Bills need to boost their offensive firepower. Adding a 25-year old pass catcher, like Kirk, is the perfect way to do so. A receiving corps of Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and Christian Kirk is a fantasy football dream for Josh Allen fans. He is already the consensus QB1, but this free agent signing would just boost the case. It will be a challenge for the Bills to financially make this work, but Kirk’s ability to get down field and Josh Allen’s arm strength together present WR1 upside for Kirk with big-play potential. Kirk is a WR3 on this offense, at worst, based on quarterback play alone.

6. Odell Beckham, Jr.

Another free agent wide receiver coming back from a major soft tissue injury is Odell Beckham, Jr. I don’t need to recount the drama and disappointing lack of production OBJ had with the Cleveland Browns. What’s more important is what Beckham did when he took the field for the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams.

In just twelve games with the Rams, OBJ hauled in seven receiving touchdowns. That’s exactly equal to the amount of receiving touchdowns he had with Cleveland in 29 games over three seasons. With just 27 receptions as a Ram, that means 25.9% of Odell’s receptions in Los Angeles have resulted in a touchdown. A lot of things work in OBJ’s favor in L.A. as opposed to Cleveland, but there is no doubt he is a stud.

OBJ’s Best Fantasy Football Landing Spot: Los Angeles Rams

Unfortunately for Odell, not only is he recovering from a torn ACL, but it’s the same knee he tore in October of 2020. This time, OBJ simply collapsed after a non-contact plant of the knee in the Super Bowl. Given the timeline for recovery of a torn ACL, I don’t expect him to play in 2022. I also don’t expect him to spend much longer as a free agent and do expect him back with the Rams. Similar to Gallup, Godwin, and others, Beckham has no reason to leave the team he’s settled in with for recovery purposes especially.

So, what does that mean for the 2022 fantasy football season? Quite frankly, he is not worth selecting in any size redraft league. I include him on this free agent list because of how impactful he is on the field and in fantasy football, even though he won’t be this year.

For dynasty league purposes, he will probably sit in a designated Injured Reserve spot for the entirety of the season. I would look to trade him if he is taking up roster space, otherwise. Hopefully we see OBJ back in 2023, in Los Angeles, and Matthew Stafford is still there to feed him targets.

Other Free Agent Tight Ends That Could Be on the Move

A.J. Green is the oldest of this bunch of free agent wide receivers, but still may have some gas left in the tank. He not only played in every game for the Cardinals in 2021 but logged the most receptions (54) and yards (848) since his 2017 season in Cincinnati. A one-year deal to a playoff contender is probable. Healthy, and with the right quarterback, and Green is worth stashing on the bench early on. Gut call: Ravens.

Cedrick Wilson should also return to Dallas if Amari Cooper does not. He has a chance at fantasy football relevance, as well, as Michael Gallup works back from a torn ACL. Wilson notably logged two 100-yard games and scored three of his six touchdowns in the final two weeks. He will be one of the biggest sleepers this offseason.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling is already rumored to be a free agent wide receiver target of the Chicago Bears. I like the landing spot. Give Justin Fields a big-body receiver who can get downfield. MVS led the league in yards per reception (20.9) in 2020. A weekly homerun hitter play in fantasy football with potential for an increase in volume on the right team.

Will Fuller will be 28-years old returning for the 2022 season after just four receptions in two games with Miami last season. He only has 213 receptions in 58 total games through six seasons. We know Fuller is a deep threat who can get into the end zone. Filling that void in Las Vegas left behind by Henry Ruggs III and DeSean Jackson last season is a good landing spot. A late-round pick with upside for fantasy football, nonetheless.

Antonio Brown is a free agent. Your guess is as good as mine if he plays football again.

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