Offseason Wrap-up: Most Impactful WR Offseason Trades and Acquisitions
Editor’s Note: Now, all our premium tools for Fantasy, DFS and Betting are included in one subscription at one low price. Customers can subscribe to NBC Sports EDGE+ monthly ($9.99) or save 20% on an annual subscription ($95.88). And don’t forget to use promo code SAVE10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!
The 2022 offseason has been nothing short of historic with all of the trades and moves we’ve seen so far, and it’s only May. It’s been exciting to see all the new additions and what the future holds, but if you stepped away from football for any length of time, you probably don’t recognize the NFL.
Quite a few of these moves haven’t been to bench warmers or practice squad players, but to leaders at nearly every position. This has a huge impact on fantasy football and how we plan to draft this fall.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest moves, starting at the wide receiver position.
Please note: this article does not include rookies from the 2022 draft.
Davante Adams (Packers to the Raiders)
It’s still so strange to think of Davante Adams in a Raiders jersey, and I likely will not fully believe it until I see it. It’s startling to think that Adams could have been snatched from his quarterback and thrust into the arms of another, but here we are.
Aaron Rodgers’ and Derek Carr’s numbers are surprisingly close over the last eight years, up to a point. Rodgers averaged 338.3 completions on 520.4 attempts compared to Carr’s 362 completions on 557 attempts. They both have the same completion percentage at 65%, and Carr even had an average of 67.1 more yards and 3.7 fewer sacks during that time.
That’s where the similarities end. Rodgers takes a heavy lead in QBrec (team record in games started by that QB), passing rate, touchdowns, and fewer total interceptions. He also finished in the top-10 seven of the last eight seasons with three of those years QB3 or better. Carr has yet to crack the QB1 tier with QB13 as his best finish three times.
Let’s not forget that we don’t hear Carr’s name come up during MVP conversations as we have over the last two years with Rodgers.
It is important to note that all of Rodgers’ stats mentioned above include Adams, who joined the Packers in 2014 during the same year Carr became the quarterback for the Raiders. So, a question arises. How much of Rodgers’ success can we contribute to Adams and could this translate over to the Las Vegas Raiders? Perhaps all Carr has been missing is that piece that Adams can quickly fill.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that Carr will become the next Rodgers during the offseason simply because of the Raiders’ shiny new toy. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a downgrade for the wide receiver who has spent his entire career with a first-ballot Hall of Famer. What I am saying is that all hope is not completely lost with this move. There are massive implications for Carr’s future viability as a sneaky QB1 and repercussions for Rodgers who has no one like Adams to target anymore.
It also means copious headaches for analysts who are trying to figure out where to rank Adams now that the league’s dynamic duo has been split up.
Tyreek Hill (Chiefs to the Dolphins)
Adams is not the only elite wide receiver to find a new home this season. Tyreek Hill (another dynamic duo with Patrick Mahomes) was traded to and then quickly signed a $75 million contract with the Miami Dolphins in March.
If the gap between Rodgers and Carr is substantial, the disparity between Tua Tagovailoa and Mahomes puts the Grand Canyon to shame. That is not to say that Tagovailoa is terrible or that he doesn’t have potential, but let’s be honest…he’s currently nowhere near Mahomes’ level.
There isn’t a need to go into detail about the statistics of each quarterback. If you have been around football for any length of time, you already know what you need to know.
The only player who benefits from this move in terms of fantasy is Tagovailoa, who adds a powerful weapon to his growing arsenal. In addition to Hill, he has Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson, Mike Gesicki, Chase Edmonds, and even Raheem Mostert as an option.
There are a lot of mouths to feed in that offense for a quarterback who has yet to play a full season since entering the league in 2020.
To make matters more difficult for fantasy managers, the Dolphins have a regime change at the head coaching position. The former offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, Mike McDaniel, is now leading the charge in Miami. Without ever having seen McDaniel as a head coach, the closest we can come to gleaning any kind of insight is by studying Kyle Shanahan. McDaniel has worked under Shanahan with Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta, and San Francisco since 2011.
There is no doubt that McDaniel will employ a creative new offense for the Dolphins but how all of these receivers will fit in is murky. It was much easier when all we had to do was know implicitly that Hill was Mahomes go-to WR1 and all was well in the world.
A.J. Brown (Titans to the Eagles)
The Titans made a surprising move during the 2022 draft when they traded away A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles. I will confess that at first, I was horrified. Brown was surely ruined for fantasy football and he would be this season’s biggest bust candidate.
If you can’t tell, I have a lot of friends who are Eagles fans. It seems to be in their DNA to both celebrate and lament their team regularly. It was my Eagles friends who put those destructive thoughts in my head regarding Brown’s fantasy potential this season.
However, as I thought about it, I came to realize that this was an excellent move for the young wide receiver. Jalen Hurts is an upgrade from Ryan Tannehill in terms of fantasy production having finished as the QB9 last season with ten appearances in the top-10 and was the QB5 or better four times. Tannehill saw top-10 finishes only five times and his best finish was as the QB3 in Week 18 (which doesn’t count).
Of course, a lot of those fantasy finishes for Hurts were due to his rushing ability instead of through the passing game. He rushed 140 times for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns compared to Tannehill’s 55 attempts for 270 yards and seven touchdowns.
I don’t think that is a huge knock against Hurts as a passer as he enters into only his second season as the starting quarterback. Not only is he young, but his surrounding weapons at the receiver position were reduced to a rookie wideout in DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert at tight end. Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside were mediocre and failed to produce any consistency or trust for the young quarterback.
Brown comes into Philadelphia as the veteran in the receiving room with three years under his belt and a team that is desperate for more talent at the position. He will also be playing in an offense that doesn’t center around a tank at running back like Derrick Henry. There is no other player in the NFL like Henry and no one even close to that on the Eagles. Currently, they have Miles Sanders, who cannot stay healthy, Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell, and Jason Huntley. His new home will provide Brown a higher chance at a greater number of targets.
There is some cause for concern if the Eagles continue their trend from the back half of last season. After starting off with an anemic run game, the Eagles finished the year just one attempt shy of being tied with the Titans (550 to 551 respectively.) However, Hurts was the leading rusher in Philadelphia with virtually no receivers at his disposal.
Defenses will need to be wary of the Eagles in 2022 trying to defend Hurts’ rushing ability, Smith’s growth, Brown’s talent, and Goedert’s reliability in the passing game. Not only does this lay the foundation for an excellent fantasy outlook for the Brown, but Hurts’ stock has skyrocketed with their new teammate.
Amari Cooper (Cowboys to the Browns)
Amari Cooper‘s fantasy outlook may be the most in flux until we have further clarity on who is going to be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. He will likely assume the alpha wide receiver role alongside Donovan Peoples-Jones, but his production will largely depend on who is at the helm.
During his time with the Cowboys since 2019, Cooper amassed 239 receptions, 3168 yards, 21 touchdowns, and averaged 13.3 yards per reception under various starting quarterbacks. He is a deep threat to any offense and has the potential to be a steal in fantasy drafts if his average draft position drops far enough.
As I mentioned, that all depends on what happens with the drama unfolding in Cleveland. Baker Mayfield requested a trade in March, but so far has no suitors knocking down his door. The Browns acquired the controversial Deshaun Watson from the Texans and also have Jacoby Brissett. It’s safe to assume that Mayfield will likely be out of the picture for the Browns in the 2022 season.
That leaves Watson and Brissett as the options we need to evaluate. Watson has been battling lawsuit after lawsuit dealing with alleged sexual misconduct and did not play a single snap last season. Even though he is still embroiled in the legal system, the Browns took the chance to pick him up. The biggest question in terms of fantasy is whether or not Watson will play a single snap this year after missing the entirety of last season. The NFL has yet to pass judgment or punishment and it may be possible that Watson does not see the field until 2023.
If Brissett does indeed take the starting role, even for a portion of the season, Cooper’s value as a deep threat takes a hit. Brissett started 15 games for Colts in 2017 and 2019 as well as starting five last season for the Miami Dolphins. He has been a perennial backup but still has enough talent to get by. It is a far cry from his former quarterback Dak Prescott.
If Watson does play, it still doesn’t cement Cooper’s value. Watson could play the first half of the season or the second half of the season, but there will undoubtedly be rust to shake off. He is on a completely different team and offensive system. How long it takes for Watson to get back to his true form is up in the air.
The next issue that puts a dent in Cooper’s production is the Browns’ run-first offense. They were the sixth-highest in rushing attempts last season with 485. The 49ers were first at 499. That is not an anomalous statistic. Since 2017, they have rushed a minimum of 384 times and that trend is not going to change, especially with a mobile quarterback like Watson.
While Cooper will undoubtedly be the number one wide receiver for the Browns, it’s difficult to have faith that the crumbling Browns can get their act together in time for the 2022 season or if there will be enough targets to make Cooper worth drafting.
Marquise Brown (Ravens to the Cardinals)
Marquise Brown has either harnessed the ability to teleport or he had insider knowledge that the Ravens were planning to trade him to the Arizona Cardinals. Just minutes after the trade was announced, he was seen at the team’s draft party in Arizona. Hm. Then, four days later, DeAndre Hopkins was suspended six games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Hmmmm.
Either way, we have a very clear understanding of exactly what Brown is stepping into with his new team. With Hopkins sidelined for a significant portion of the season, Brown will play alongside A.J. Green and Rondale Moore and likely emerge as the WR1 in that offense rather quickly.
Kyler Murray and the Cardinals have apparently kissed and made up after some offseason drama that led Murray to scrub his social media profile, so we can assume he will be the starter this season. Brown will be an integral part of the Cardinals’ offense right out of the gate and his performance rests solely on his shoulders. Unlike Lamar Jackson who ran first and threw deep later, Brown will see a heavier dose of targets than he did with the Ravens.
Brown not only will see more passes by nature of his new team, but Hopkins vacates roughly six targets per game for at least the first six weeks. In 2021, he saw 64 targets over a ten-game stretch with eight touchdowns and averaged 8.9 yards per target.
Here’s the rub. Brown’s time in the limelight (assuming he stays healthy) is finite. We know that Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, will be returning after his suspension. He will be healthy, rested, and ready to prove himself for the rest of the season.
The impact this has on fantasy drafts is monumental. Do you draft both Brown and Hopkins and waste some crucial early picks? Do you go for one and not the other? Do you wash your hands of the situation altogether and look elsewhere?
These are not easy questions to answer. As we continue through the offseason and come across more changes and rotations in depth charts, keeping an eye on ADP will be crucial.
Allen Robinson (Bears to the Rams)
To wrap up the list, we shouldn’t forget about Allen Robinson’s move to the Los Angeles Rams. Normally, this would have been blockbuster news because of his caliber, but it almost feels like a footnote with all the wild trades this offseason.
Robinson went from being a solid WR1 in 2019 and 2020 to being non-existent in 2021. He was known for his ability to thrive, even with sub-par quarterback play. Managers didn’t hesitate to draft him, even with questions at quarterback. He then quickly became the season’s biggest bust. In 12 games he played only 55% of the Bears’ offensive snaps, had 38 receptions on a paltry 66 targets, and had only 410 yards and one touchdown. It was bad.
However, in case you missed it, his new team begins the year as the reigning Super Bowl champions with an impressive squad once again. Odell Beckham remains a free agent and Robert Woods was traded to the Titans.
Woods was injured after nine games last year, but if we look at his 17-game pace, he could have seen 130 targets. If we assume that Beckham will no longer be with the team this year, he vacates an additional 82 targets. That’s an impressive 212 targets up for grabs. Of course, Cooper Kupp is still there and still a freak of nature at the wide receiver position, but Robinson is no slouch. Matthew Stafford had the eighth-most passing attempts in the NFL with 601 and there are plenty of opportunities for Robinson to see his share.
There is every reason to believe that the Rams will continue their high-flying offense with plenty of targets for Robinson, Kupp, Van Jefferson, and TE Tyler Higbee. Robinson could very well be a league winner in 2022.