Fantasy Football 2022: Six pass catchers to consider fading in drafts

Kansas City Chiefs: Travis Kelce

Maybe Kelce qualifies more as an over-valued fantasy player than the harshly termed “bust,” but he’ll soon be 33 years old and is clearly in the decline phase of his career — yet being drafted as a top-20 pick. Kelce’s yards per route run have decreased nearly 20 percent over the last three seasons with Tyreek Hill off the field, and Kansas City added JuJu Smith-Schuster to play the slot during the offseason.

Kelce is being drafted higher than Mark Andrews, who’s six years younger, lost Marquise Brown as competition and saw 15 end-zone targets last season compared to only four for Kelce. Make it make sense!

Denver Broncos: Courtland Sutton

Sutton’s ADP looked like one of the most egregious in recent memory before Tim Patrick went down for the season, but now he’s just regularly overvalued. While it’s certainly a boost to have Russell Wilson as his quarterback, Sutton’s ADP treats him as a top-20 WR, which is awfully aggressive. Sutton’s target per route rate dropped 38% and his yards per route run fell from 2.10 to 0.48 (!) with Jeudy on the field last season.

In other words, even though Jeudy was playing through a serious high-ankle sprain, 83% of Sutton’s fantasy points came with his teammate off the field last season. While there’s admittedly been some Wilson/Sutton buzz this summer, there’s a real argument the wrong Denver receiver is being drafted first in fantasy leagues.

Los Angeles Chargers: Keenan Allen

Allen has a safe floor and a star quarterback throwing to him, but this is a 30-year-old whose yards per route run have dropped in every season since 2017, ranking just 30th among 90 qualified WRs last year. Most importantly, Allen’s targets and fantasy production declined sharply once Joshua Palmer took over as LA’s WR3 over the final five weeks last season.

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Put differently, Allen saw his target per route run rate drop from 27 percent to 20 percent with Palmer on the field, and the sophomore wideout figures to see far more action in 2022.

San Francisco 49ers: Deebo Samuel

Samuel is being drafted as a borderline top-eight fantasy receiver despite not ranking top-50 in routes run or top-25 in targets last season. And his role in the passing game this year remains a question mark with San Francisco turning to Trey Lance, who worked exclusively with Brandon Aiyuk throughout summer while Samuel mostly held out for a new contract. San Francisco's new starting QB is going to attack an entirely different level of the field than Jimmy Garoppolo.

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers was a fantasy star in 2021
Trey Lance might not help Deebo Samuel's fantasy prospects as much as some may think. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) (Christian Petersen via Getty Images)

Samuel is a yards-after-the-catch dynamo who’ll be used all over the field, but last season was the first he didn’t miss a game. It also marked the first time he ever saw more than 81 targets. Samuel somehow rushed for eight scores on just 59 attempts, and the 49ers’ RB room enters 2022 much healthier and far deeper.

Samuel simply isn’t projected to see nearly the same volume as other receivers being drafted around him, making him an extremely risky second-round fantasy pick.

Seattle Seahawks: DK Metcalf

Metcalf is still being drafted as a borderline top-20 fantasy receiver despite Seattle losing Russell Wilson during the offseason. Geno Smith has been named QB1, (and the alternative is hardly better), and Metcalf has seen his air yards per game cut in half and his target share fall below teammate Tyler Lockett with Smith playing quarterback.

Metcalf is talented enough to overcome his suddenly shaky situation (Seattle also ran by far the fewest number of plays in the NFL last season), but realize he benefitted greatly from a Hall of Fame quarterback who perennially targeted him in the end zone more often than any other WR in the league.

And we haven’t even started on Metcalf’s “nutrition” yet.

[2022 Fantasy Draft Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DEFs | Ks]

Washington Commanders: Terry McLaurin

Scary Terry is one of the best wide receivers in football, but he’s being drafted in fantasy too high, as if he’s no longer saddled by a poor quarterback situation. Carson Wentz was one of the league’s most inaccurate QBs last season and now will be playing outdoors and with a downgrade at offensive line. Moreover, rookie WR Jahan Dotson has reportedly shown more chemistry with Wentz, so I have a hard time ranking McLaurin, who posted a 23-318-0 line over the final seven games last season, as a top-15 WR like his ADP.

Imagine drafting McLaurin ahead of Allen Robinson this year.