As we are getting closer and closer to the 2022 fantasy season, things have been ramping up. Despite us still being over a month away from training camps, best ball leagues have been drafting at full speed ahead.
One of the main perks of best ball formats is that your lineup is filled with the highest scores on your roster, allowing you to bypass most, if not all, of a player’s down weeks.
The most common approach we see in this space is simply looking at spike week players, but I wanted to dig a little deeper on players that not only produce the spike weeks we care about in fantasy, but those whose spike weeks are largely tied to the most tide-turning element of fantasy, which is touchdown production and dependency on scores. This allows us to look at players that have an even lower perception of their talent, letting us avoid more of their down weeks when formats allow us to do so, while maxing out their spike-week capabilities.
Last week, we looked at the most expensive running back best suited for best ball formats while today we are following suit with the wide receivers.
Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins
Why you want him: Since entering the league in 2016, Hill has scored the second-most touchdowns among wide receivers (67) and caught the seventh-most passes (479) for the sixth-most receiving yards (6,630) among wide receivers. Over the past five seasons, Hill has scored an offensive touchdown in 48.0% of his games played, ranking sixth among the top 45 wideouts in current ADP (excluding rookies). In those games with a touchdown, Hill has averaged 27.2 PPR points (second among the same group) and 23.8 0.5 PPR points (first).
Why he is better in best ball: While Hill has scored a lot of touchdowns, when he has not found the end zone, he has held a much lower weekly floor than his ADP peers. In 39 games over that sample without an offensive score, Hill has posted just two WR1 scoring weeks with just another four as a top-24 scorer at his position. That 15.4% rate of WR2 or better scoring weeks in games without a touchdown ranks 25th among those top 45 wideouts in ADP.
2022: While Hill has consistently elevated the performance of every quarterback he has played with, he also is losing attachment to Patrick Mahomes coming off a season in which he posted his lowest depth of target and yards per target (10.4 aDOT) since his rookie season while his yards per route run (2.11) and yards generated after the catch per reception (4.0 yards) were the lowest of his six-year career. Hill has been a fantasy stalwart, but now carries the most fragility of his early career-changing teams this offseason.
A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
Why you want him: Brown has scored at least one touchdown in 51.2% of his career games to this point, which trails only Davante Adams (59.2%), Ja’Marr Chase (52.9%), and Adam Thielen (51.4%) over the past five seasons. In 2021, Brown once again gave us moments that reminded us of his upside when healthy with games 10-155-1, 8-133-1, 11-145-1, and a 5-142-1 in the playoffs. He was fourth among all wide receivers in the league in target rate per route run (29.1%).
Why he is better in best ball: Being saddled in a low-volume passing offense — and presumably being sent to another one for 2022 — Brown has been forced to live on his touchdown production. Brown has averaged just a paltry 7.3 PPR points (41st among the top 45 wideouts in ADP) and 5.8 0.5 PPR points (40th) in games without a touchdown so far in his career. In his 21 career games without a touchdown, Brown has never posted a WR1 scoring week, with just one WR2 or better scoring week. He also has just another three weeks in that sample of being a WR3 or better.
2022: Brown will once again be tasked with relying on efficiency to carry water for him, joining an Eagles team that found their offensive stride in 2021 when they dialed back their offense through the air. Even if the Eagles find some more balance in 2022 between the way they started 2021 versus how they closed in pushing the football through the air, we still need Jalen Hurts to show more growth as a passer. Hurts closed 2020 41st in completion rate (61.3%) while second to last in the league in expected completion percentage (61.5%).
DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
Why you want him: A proven touchdown threat, only four players have caught more receiving touchdowns than Metcalf’s 29 since he entered the league and only three caught more than his 12 scores in 2021. Metcalf has secured a touchdown grab in 44.9% of his career games played (10th among wideouts with top 45 ADP).
Why he is better in best ball: Metcalf saw a significant dip in other areas last season, dropping from 5.2 receptions per game down to 4.4 while his 81.4 yards per game in 2020 sagged down to 56.9 yards per game last season. After opening the 2020 season with 90 or more yards in seven of his first eight games, Metcalf has hit that arbitrary mark in just four of 25 games since. In 27 career games without a touchdown, Metcalf has just one week finishing higher than WR26. His 3.7% WR2 or better scoring rate in games without a touchdown ranks 42nd among the top-45 receivers in ADP.
2022: Metcalf is losing Russell Wilson, leaving us to hope that either one or a combination of Drew Lock and Geno Smith can keep Metcalf at least afloat in 2022 to the degree Wilson did. Metcalf was a WR1 scorer in three of his four games played with Smith garnering significant snaps a year ago. While that keeps the lights on, those games also showcased exactly what we do know about Metcalf, in that he is an elite touchdown scorer. Metcalf had more than six targets in just one of those four games but found the end zone five times. Those scores accounted for 39.2% of the points Metcalf scored over that stretch.
Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
Why you want him: We finally had the breakout season we have been chasing from Williams as he set career-highs in targets (129), receptions (76), and yardage (1,146) to go along with nine touchdowns. Re-signing with the Chargers, Williams has an attachment to Justin Herbert, the league’s most aggressive coaching staff, and contingency elevation should anything happen to Keenan Allen.
Why he is better in best ball: In 52 career games without a touchdown, Williams has managed just 6.5 PPR points and 5.2 0.5 PPR points per game (ranking 42nd in both among top 45 wideouts in ADP). His 7.7% WR2 or better rate in those games ranks 37th at the position. Even during his breakout 2021 campaign, Williams had nine games without a score. In those nine games, Williams finished higher than the WR39 just once.
2022: Not much has changed this season compared to last for Williams in terms of his outlook and offensive attachment. We still have massive scoring upside on a weekly level, but projected target volume is likely to remain highly variant as long as Keenan Allen is on the field paired with Austin Ekeler accruing a large role in the passing offense.
Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns
Why you want him: Cooper averages 23.2 PPR points and 20.1 0.5 PPR points (10th among wideouts in each department) in games with a touchdown over the past five years. He has found the end zone in 38.2% of those games (17th among wideouts with top 45 ADP), above his current station in ADP (WR27 the past week).
Why he is better in best ball: Cooper has averaged just 8.3 PPR points (30th out of those 45 wideouts) and 6.4 0.5 PPR points per game (31st) in his games without a score. In 48 games without a touchdown over that stretch, Cooper has not posted any WR1 scoring weeks with nine weeks as a WR2 or better. That 18.8% rate ranks below the rate of players such as Brandin Cooks (20.4%), JuJu Smith-Schuster (21.1%), and Darnell Mooney (20%), all players who carry a lower ADP than Cooper.
2022: Cooper heads to Cleveland still right in the prime of the apex of his career, turning 28 years old this June. Cooper will have a complete runway to be the featured passing asset for the Browns in 2022. Jakeem Grant has the most career receptions among his wide receiver teammates (100) while the rest of the group has combined for 95 career catches. Deshaun Watson’s leading wide receiver has ranked second, fourth, fourth, and eighth in points per game at the position, but we have no idea right now if Watson will be available to play in 2022. Cooper has also been one of the most sensitive wideouts over his career to playing outdoors and in cold weather.
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Why you want him: Theilen has scored a touchdown in 51.4% of his games played over the past five seasons, a mark only bested by Davante Adams and Ja’Marr Chase over the span. Theilen is one of just four players to catch double-digit touchdown passes in each of the previous two seasons. With Thielen restructuring his contract, the Vikings not brining in tangible target competition, and the addition of Kevin O’Connell, he is set to be the WR2 for another season, without any value factored in should Justin Jefferson miss any time.
Why he is better in best ball: Theilen has been one of the best touchdown producers at his position, but when he does not find the end zone he leaves behind a ton of lean weeks. Theilen has been a WR2 or better in just six of his 35 games over that span (17.1%). Over the past two seasons with Jefferson on the team, things have gotten even more feast or famine based on finding the end zone. In 10 games without a touchdown the past two years, Theilen’s highest-scoring week has been WR34, while he has finished higher than WR62 in just two of those weeks.
2022: Thielen will turn 32 this August, leaving those gamers still holding him to hopefully make one more touchdown driven drive into the sunset with him as a full-time player. Restructuring his deal allows him to be that full-time player still, but Thielen’s yards per route run and target rate per route run have all also dropped from the previous season in three straight years. Thielen averaged a career-low 10.8 yards per catch, but O’Connell comes from a system that has ranked fourth in early-down pass rate (56.4%) in neutral game script over the past two seasons with O’Connell as offensive coordinator while Minnesota has ranked 26th (49.0%) over that same span to provide some potential volume increase.
Deeper Down in ADP…
Brandon Aiyuk: Aiyuk has found the end zone in 41.4% of his early-career games, ranking 14th among the top 45 wideouts in current ADP. In games without a touchdown, Aiyuk has averaged just 7.9 PPR points (37th among the same group) and 6.4 0.5 PPR points (32nd) with just two of those 17 weeks posting a WR2 or better scoring week.
Hunter Renfrow: Thought of as playing a role with a high floor, Renfrow has been a WR2 or better in just 2-of-33 games career without a touchdown. During his breakout in 2021, Renfrow was a WR2 or better in 2-of-9 games without a score with just two other weeks as a top-36 scorer.
Allen Lazard: Coming off a career-high eight touchdowns, no wide receiver in the top-48 scorers had a higher rate of his points scored last season from touchdowns (33.7%) than Lazard. Lazard has yet to have a career game finishing higher than WR44 in a game without a touchdown, but the road is open to lead the Packers in targets with Davante Adams gone.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Changing teams gives MVS a new outlook, but he was already playing attached to a future Hall of Famer, scoring a touchdown in just 20.3% of his career games. Over his 47 career games without a touchdown, Valdes-Scantling has averaged a robust 3.9 PPR points and 3.1 0.5 PPR points per game with one top-30 scoring week.
Michael Gallup: Gallup has been a WR2 or better in 5-of-43 career games without a touchdown with four other weeks in the top-36. Coming off an ACL injury in early January, Gallup has also scored in just 21.8% of his games played.
Tim Patrick: Has led the Broncos in receiving touchdowns in each of the past two seasons but has also averaged just 7.7 PPR points and 6.2 0.5 PPR points over his 21 games without a score those seasons.