Deadspin predicts every “1K” player for the 2022 NFL season, Part II: WRs

Deadspin predicts every “1K” player for the 2022 NFL season, Part II: WRs

We dive deep in the weeds to pinpoint best bets and longshots to reach 1,000 yards of offense — your fantasy team will thank us

Who knows who will be his QB1, but Allen Robinson should grind out 1,000 yards this season, easy.
Who knows who will be his QB1, but Allen Robinson should grind out 1,000 yards this season, easy.
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Welcome to day two of Deadspin’s look at probable “1,000-yarders in the 2022 season. Yesterday, we highlighted the running backs. Today we look at receivers.

If you already caught yesterday’s, skip down ahead to the first slide. Otherwise, here’s a recap of the hows and whys of our doing this exercise (other than it’s almost football season and we are pretty geeked about it!):

One thousand yards on the ground or through the air has long been a benchmark of success in the NFL. Having a 1,000-yard season under your belt makes any defense have to account for you when game-planning. Sure, there are some lesser-known players who had a career year or two surpassing 1,000 yards — Brian Hartline, Harry Douglas, Kenny Britt, CJ Spiller, Peyton Hillis, Chris Ivory...you get the point — but it takes more than just luck to reach that milestone. It takes skill, consistency, and a system that plays to its players’ strengths.

Halfbacks have had a much harder time reaching this milestone in recent years. In the 2000 NFL season, 23 players eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground. That number fell to just nine in 2020. Since 2015, only once have more than 12 players hit the millennium mark on the ground: 2019 (16). In 2015, it was as low as seven.

Receivers have thrived in this new era. Last year, 18 receivers surpassed 1,000 yards and five more were within 33 yards of hitting the mark. Since 2010, there have been at least 15 receivers hitting 1K through the air every season. In 2019, there were 29 such receivers, the highest mark of all-time. This will be the year we see 30 players reach that threshold. Why? Well adding a 17th game to the schedule surely helps a lot. Now, receivers and runningbacks only need to average roughly 59 yards per game in order to hit 1,000 on the season. In 16 games, that number was 62.5. That may not seem like a big difference...but it is. That 3.5 yards per game adds up to 56 or 60 yards depending on whether we’re referring to a 16 or 17-game schedule.

Before I get into the list, I will be breaking down the players listed into categories:

1) The No-brainers: players who will certainly reach 1,000 yards and need zero explanation

2) The Probables: players who will likely reach 1,000 yards

3) The Bubbles: players who will just barely reach 1,000 yards

4) The Just Missed It’s: players who will barely miss 1,000 yards (about 800-999 yards). Think of this as an honorable mentions list.

Oh, and before I forget, the likelihood that a player misses time due to injury will play a factor in this list. The best ability is availability. I don’t care how talented someone like Saquon Barkley is. If he can’t play, he won’t reach a grand on the ground.

So moving on to that other rather important position...

Receivers reaching 1,000 yards is much harder to predict. Tyreek Hill averages many more yards per reception than say Keenan Allen, but Allen gets way more passes thrown his way. In order to judge who will reaching 1,000 receiving yards, there’s much more to take into account: how often the team runs the ball, competition for targets, how often the team will find themselves down late in games, etc. With that, here we go.

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No-brainers:

No-brainers:

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Davante Adams (GB)

DeAndre Hopkins (ARI)

Justin Jefferson (MIN)

Tyreek Hill (KC)

Stefon Diggs (BUF)

Calvin Ridley (ATL)

AJ Brown (TEN)

DK Metcalf (SEA)

Mike Evans (TB)

Chris Godwin (TB)

Terry McLaurin (WAS)

Allen Robinson (CHI)

Travis Kelce (KC)

DJ Moore (CAR)

Darren Waller (LV)

Keenan Allen (LAC)

Robert Woods (LAR)

They are who they are and we expect no different. Moving on to where it gets a bit more interesting...

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Probables: 1. Michael Thomas (NO)

Probables: 1. Michael Thomas (NO)

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Have people forgotten how good Michael Thomas was in 2019? “Oh, but he only ran slants.” Then, he should’ve been really easy to stop. Michael Thomas will undoubtedly be the go-to guy for Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill — whoever Sean Payton decides to use. With Emmanuel Sanders shipped off to Buffalo, the receiving work will fall solely on the shoulder of Thomas and Kamara. Thomas appears to have recovered nicely from his nagging ankle injury, but his surgery still happened fairly recently. I have no doubt that Thomas will surpass 1,000 yards easily if healthy.... if.

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Probables: 2. CeeDee Lamb (DAL)

Probables: 2. CeeDee Lamb (DAL)

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Slot receivers get a lot of receptions. Good slot receivers average over 10 yards per reception. CeeDee Lamb is very likely to average over 10 yards a reception and more than six receptions per game. Already Gallup has seemingly taken over the second-option role in the passing game. Michael Gallup is merely a security blanket in that Dallas offense nowadays (a really good one at that).

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Probables: 3. Brandin Cooks (HOU)

Probables: 3. Brandin Cooks (HOU)

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Really, just who else is Deshaun Watson (or whoever ends up playing quarterback for Houston) going to throw to? Will Fuller is a Dolphin now. Keke Coutee is hurt all the time. Randall Cobb is definitely not what he used to be, and the team’s tight end is Jordan Akins. Brandin Cooks has reached 1,000 yards in five of his last six seasons. When he is the number one option, he thrives. He’s clearly the top option in Houston right now.

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Probables: 4. Julio Jones (TEN)

Probables: 4. Julio Jones (TEN)

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Julio is not what he once was, but he doesn’t have to be in Tennessee. Derrick Henry and AJ Brown will take a lot of the weight off his shoulders that he’s carried around as Atlanta’s only reliable receiving option for most of the last few years (I know Calvin Ridley has been great, but he only came to town recently). Don’t expect Julio Jones to be the unstoppable force he was for so many years in Atlanta. Do expect Julio Jones to be a serious threat that forces teams to look away from AJ Brown. If Corey Davis can put up 984 yards in 14 games with Tennessee, then Julio Jones will definitely be able to put up at least 1,000 in 17 games.

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Probables: 5. Kenny Golladay (NYG)

Probables: 5. Kenny Golladay (NYG)

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You think the Giants are going to give Kenny G all that money just to throw the ball to someone else? No. Darius Slayton was never going to be a viable number one and with Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard’s inability to stay on the field. Golladay will see looks very often. Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley will be Golladay’s main competition for catches. That’s a halfback and a tight end. Yeah, I’m sure Golladay will be fine.

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Bubbles: 1. Robby Anderson (CAR)

Bubbles: 1. Robby Anderson (CAR)

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All Robby Anderson needed to reach 1,000 yards through the air was to get out of New York. That place wasn’t doing him any good. In his first season with Carolina, Anderson reached the threshold. Funnily enough, the only reason I have Anderson in the bubble is because a little piece of New York has come back to him in the form of Sam Darnold. Darnold and Anderson showed signs of having an incredible connection in New York, but the duo could never become something great together. Anderson may have done well with Bridgewater, and Darnold may be an upgrade, but if the two of them don’t click. That throws all the numbers out the window. Matt Rhule is an offensive guru though, so I’m sure they’ll both be fine.

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Bubbles: 2. Tee Higgins (CIN)

Bubbles: 2. Tee Higgins (CIN)

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Higgins had nearly 1,000 yards last season with RYAN FINLEY and BRANDON ALLEN for most of the season! Even if Joe Burrow finds himself sidelined for most of the season once again. Higgins has reportedly made huge strides this offseason during his offseason workout program with Rams’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Higgins may not be the top option in the Cincinnati offense next year, but Cincy will probably find themselves in a lot of close games this year. Not to mention the fact that they’re in one of the toughest divisions in football. Expect the Bengals to throw often, and look Higgins’ way many times.

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Bubbles: 3. Ja’Marr Chase (CIN)

Bubbles: 3. Ja’Marr Chase (CIN)

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Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have a better connection than most phones using T-Mobile and that connection should be evident the moment the two of them take the field for Cincinnati’s season opener. The only problem is that Cincy’s wide receiver room is incredibly crowded. Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and even Auden Tate will all be vying for targets and seeing as how each of them have been involved with the Bengals’ system for at least one season, I’d imagine several of Zac Taylor’s plays are already drawn up with one of them involved. If Chase takes over AJ Green’s role in the offense, he’ll see a lot of snaps and targets, and that’s really all it will take to put Chase above 1K yards.

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Bubbles: 4. Cooper Kupp (LAR)

Bubbles: 4. Cooper Kupp (LAR)

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Kupp doesn’t go very far down the field, but man, he gets a ton of targets. He’s had over 120 balls thrown his way each of the last two seasons. Kupp is another slot guy like Lamb who will see the ball thrown to him often as a security blanket. Kupp is one of the best in the league and with Stafford now at the helm. Kupp should have no issues moving forward.

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Bubbles: 5. Tyler Lockett (SEA)

Bubbles: 5. Tyler Lockett (SEA)

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Seattle seems more and more intent on using DK Metcalf. That makes sense. Metcalf is an absolute beast with incredible size and speed. It’s almost like he could compete with Olympians...almost. However, Lockett has still found a way to stay relevant all these years. He comes out of the shadows once or twice a year to put up 250 yards and three touchdowns. That’s not a good strategy for fantasy football, but getting 500 yards in two games is certainly a great strategy for reaching 1,000 yards.

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Bubbles: 6. Courtland Sutton (DEN)

Bubbles: 6. Courtland Sutton (DEN)

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Injuries man. They suck. Courtland Sutton was set for a fantastic year in 2020, but it was ruined by an ACL and MCL tear in his team’s first game. Sutton has had ample time to rest and Sutton seems to have his eyes set on returning for training camp. If he can manage to get some reps in before the season. He should be plenty warmed up and ready for his revenge tour. Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant will surely take some of his targets away, but Sutton is the most proven wide receiver in the Mile High City, and he’ll undoubtedly be Drew Lock’s top option when he returns.

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Bubbles: 7. George Kittle (SF)

Bubbles: 7. George Kittle (SF)

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If you had $10,000, would you be willing to bet it all on George Kittle having a fully healthy season? It’s obvious to anyone who’s seen him play that Kittle is one of the premier tight ends in the league, but he’s had problems staying on the field. Kittle’s right leg is about as sturdy as 100-year old wooden beams. He’s suffered seven different injuries on that leg throughout his career, and while none have been super serious to the point where he’s had to miss an entire season, they’ve been a constant thorn in his side, forcing him to miss games.

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Bubbles: 8. Cole Beasley (BUF)

Bubbles: 8. Cole Beasley (BUF)

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If he doesn’t get COVID, he’ll hit the mark. However, Cole Beasley seems intent on not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. This isn’t about that decision though. It’s about how that decision affects his chances at reaching 1,000 receiving yards. Beasley has never reached 1,000 yards through the air in his career. If 2021 is going to be the season, he can’t miss any time. The Buffalo Bills pass the ball at a 61.7 percent clip, which should give Beasley plenty of opportunity to rack up the yards as long as he can avoid the virus.

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Bubbles: 9. Diontae Johnson (PIT)

Bubbles: 9. Diontae Johnson (PIT)

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Someone on Pittsburgh will reach 1,000 yards. My money is on Diontae Johnson. JuJu Smith-Schuster hasn’t shown that he can take over games through the air anymore, and Chase Claypool is used as more of a gadget than most receivers. Johnson will have the best chance of anyone with his route-running ability and mid-to-deep route tendencies. Ben Roethlisberger seems to be taking his offseason training much more seriously and an improved Big Ben can only mean good things for Johnson and company.

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Just Missed:

Just Missed:

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Tyler Boyd (CIN) — Not enough targets to go around on that team. Boyd is likely the odd man out.

Odell Beckham Jr. (CLE) — Health and inconsistency.

DeVante Parker (MIA) — Tua hasn’t shown the ability to get the ball to his star receivers consistently enough yet.

Will Fuller V (MIA) — See above.

TY Hilton (IND) — Lack of chemistry with Carson Wentz and he’s been regressing for years.

Corey Davis (NYJ) — He’ll have the opportunity. It’s just a matter of whether or not the new system will do well enough to support a 1,000-yard receiver.

Marvin Jones Jr. (DET) — He’s the guy in the Motor City now, but he’s got Jared Goff throwing to him.

Brandon Aiyuk (SF) — It’s a matter of health and whenever Trey Lance takes over.

DeVonta Smith (PHI) — He’s going to be targeted by opposing defenses.

Kyle Pitts (ATL) — Give him a year or two.

DJ Chark (JAX) — Expect Laviska Shenault to take a lot of targets away from Chark. It’s gonna be a breakout season for Shenault with Trevor Lawrence under center.

Laviska Shenault Jr. (JAX) — Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT) — Hasn’t shown he can succeed as the number one option. Maybe now that defenses will start keying in on Diontae Johnson, JuJu will step up.

Chase Claypool (PIT) — He’ll get a lot of deep looks, but not enough look short to reach a grand.

Michael Gallup (DAL) — Too many targets will go to Cooper, Lamb, and Jarwin.

Jerry Jeudy (DEN) — Drew Lock... maybe if Aaron Rodgers... no, I don’t want to predict something like that.

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