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Ranking the wide receivers the Chargers will face in 2022

As part of our Chargers season preview, we’re breaking down each position unit from LA’s 2022 opponents, ranked from least to most threatening.


Running backs

Today’s focus is wide receivers, where many of the teams on the schedule will welcome new faces in 2022. We’ll use the top 3 receivers on each team’s Ourlads depth chart to determine the rankings.

14. Falcons: Bryan Edwards, Drake London, Olamide Zaccheaus

This unit will rely heavily on London to produce as a rookie after losing Calvin Ridley to a  gambling suspension and Russell Gage to free agency. The 8th overall pick is a big-bodied target who adds to Atlanta’s ability to move their weapons around, as both he and second-year tight end Kyle Pitts can win on the perimeter or from the slot.

Elsewhere on the roster, the Falcons traded a fifth-rounder for former Raider Edwards, another large frame for Marcus Mariota and possibly Desmond Ridder to throw at. Zaccheaus returns as the third-leading receiver from a year ago behind Pitts and running back/receiver hybrid Cordarrelle Patterson. The team also signed Auden Tate, a 6’5” receiver formerly with the Bengals.

Atlanta has developed a type at the receiver position – big and tall. Zaccheaus is their only top 4 option under 6’3”, and both London and Tate stand at 6’5”. That’s likely to mitigate accuracy issues from Mariota and Ridder, should the latter get game action, as neither has been known for their ability to thread balls through tight windows.

13. Jaguars: Christian Kirk, Marvin Jones Jr., Zay Jones

Perhaps the most expensive unit on this list, Jacksonville’s receiving corps still has unanswered questions heading into 2022. Chief among those is which of the many WR2 types they signed will step forward into a WR1 role. The obvious answer is Kirk, who was given a four-year, $72 million contract by the Jags in a move that destroyed the wide receiver market, likely for good. The argument in favor of Kirk points to a Cardinals roster that has consistently been stocked with receiver talent, possibly limiting his ability to produce at a high level. However, it’s also possible that Kirk got open as frequently as he did because defenses weren’t keying in on him as a primary threat.

Zay Jones looks like another overpay on paper but will add a speed element the Jaguars didn’t have last season and has impressed in the offseason program. Marvin Jones is a proven veteran now on the decline at 32 years old, but he’s shown he can still be productive (832 yards in 2021). Laviska Shenault and Laquon Treadwell will also get looks, with the former looking for a bounceback season after a drop-filled 2021 and the latter trying to build on a surprisingly strong season.

12. Chiefs: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Tyreek Hill trade is one of the few things that’s united Chargers and Raiders fans in jubilation in recent memory, as the division is finally free of freakazoid Mahomes-to-Hill highlights after what feels like a decade. With the aforementioned WR market explosion, Kansas City elected to replace Hill’s production by committee with Valdes-Scantling (3 years, $30 million) and Smith-Schuster (1 year, $3.25 million). However, perhaps the most likely to replicate Hill’s role is fourth-year pro Hardman, who logged 487 yards after the catch last season and has shown ample ability to separate from defenders.

Valdes-Scantling will take over the deep threat side of Hill’s duties, as the former Packer led the league in average depth of target in both 2020 and 2021. Smith-Schuster will operate primarily as the slot receiver in a prove-it year after being slowly phased out of the Steelers offense. Rookies Skyy Moore and Justyn Ross (if healthy) will also get work, and Moore could become Hill’s heir if Hardman doesn’t perform to expectations.

11. Titans: Robert Woods, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine

After trading AJ Brown to the Eagles and letting Julio Jones walk in free agency, this is practically a brand-new receiving corps. Burks came to Tennessee via first-round pick, while Woods came at the low price of a 2023 sixth-round pick. There are caveats to be had for each receiver on the roster, however, which could lead to an even larger workload for Derrick Henry if things don’t go as planned.

Woods is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off of an ACL tear, which helps explain his bargain bin price tag. In 9 games before the injury, Woods did secure 556 receiving yards and 4 TDs, solid numbers that put him on pace for over 1,000 yards. Burks has reportedly struggled with conditioning issues in OTAs, partially due to asthma, so his health and availability will be something worth tracking through training camp. Westbrook-Ikhine performed well in spurts and is a solid WR3 option, but asking him to replicate last season’s production as a default WR1 option due to injury isn’t feasible. Beyond those three, rookie Kyle Philips and second-year pro Dez Fitzpatrick are the most likely to make contributions.

10. Colts: Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Alec Pierce

This ranking is less about Pittman, who’s been very good in his first two seasons, and more about the questionable talent around him. In theory, Campbell is a nice piece, but injuries have prevented him from playing more than seven games in a single season over his first three years. With just 34 career receptions to his name, I have a hard time relying on Campbell to truly make an impact. Pierce, Indianapolis’ second-rounder, is a 6’3” receiver who ran a 4.41 40, so he has the athleticism to be a big-time contributor. But rookie receivers often ebb and flow in terms of their effectiveness, and I had questions about how pro-ready Pierce was, to begin with. Beyond them are depth names like Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, and Mike Strachan, all of whom are more special teams contributors than receivers right now.

Back to Pittman for a second. The third-year pro was recently named the Colts’ most underrated player by Football Outsiders, who noted that Pittman’s individual DVOA was identical to Davante Adams’ in 2021. He also finished 18th in Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR), up from 64th in 2020. This is all with Carson Wentz at the helm, who is an inferior quarterback when compared to new Colt Matt Ryan.

9. Texans: Brandin Cooks, John Metchie III, Nico Collins

For my money, Cooks is one of the most underrated receivers in the league and should continue to be the Texans’ No. 1 option in 2022. The 28-year-old went over 1,000 yards for the sixth time in his eight-year career last season, scoring 6 TDs despite missing the Chargers game due to COVID-19 protocols. He is a bit of a boom or bust producer, with four games over 100 yards but another four under 30. Which version of him shows up in Week 4 against the Chargers will be a key element of the game.

Metchie comes to Houston after a somewhat under-the-radar career at Alabama, where he never quite grasped the WR1 role. That’s mostly because of the other talent running through the building while he was there – DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Jameson Williams, etc. Coming off a torn ACL, he may not be up to full speed by Week 4, although Alabama’s team doctor has said Metchie is ahead of schedule in his rehab. Collins played in 14 games after opting out of the 2020 season at Michigan and has shown flashes, but consistency across from Cooks on the outside will be paramount for him in 2022. Chris Conley and Phillip Dorsett round out the group as veteran depth.

8. 49ers: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings

Samuel was the subject of many a trade rumor this offseason due to his reported unhappiness with the wideback role he took on late in the season. While it was an effective scheme, it appears he’ll be focusing mostly on receiver this season, both to appease him and because the Niners have healthy running backs, they feel comfortable using again. Samuel is no slouch as a pure receiver, either. He burst onto the scene in 2021 with 77 receptions for 1,405 yards, a per catch average of 18.2 – the best in the league. He’s elite after the catch and could present problems for Brandon Staley’s zone-heavy defense. In 2020, while Staley was defensive coordinator for the Rams, Samuel had 19 catches for 199 yards in 2 games against the other LA team.

Aiyuk had an agonizingly slow start to the season, but his production after San Francisco’s bye week in 2021 suggests he’ll be a preferred target. Jennings is one of the league’s best-blocking receivers, earning him a role in Kyle Shanahan’s exotic run scheme. Beyond those main three, keep an eye out for rookie Danny Gray. The SMU product was a favorite of ours at Chargers Wire for his ability to stretch the field and find even the smallest crease in college defenses. If he can translate those abilities early on, expect him to earn plenty of time in a Shanahan offense that specializes in forming lanes for playmakers to find.

7. Browns: Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Bell

The headliner here is Cooper, who was acquired from the Cowboys in a mind-numbing swap for a fifth-rounder that also included a swap of sixth-rounders. The former Raider has never had less than 675 yards in a season and has eclipsed 1,000 in five out of his seven pro seasons. After sharing the workload with Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb in Dallas, Cooper returns to his roots as the unquestioned #1 option in Cleveland.

Peoples-Jones led the Browns last season with 597 yards (yes, really), going over 70 yards five times. Remember that Cleveland’s passing game was beyond broken last season, first due to the regression of Jarvis Landry, then the Odell Beckham Jr. drama, and finally the Baker Mayfield implosion. That left DPJ as pretty much the only reliable option, but he still has a long way to go as a player. Whether or not he’s made strides this offseason will be a big factor for Cleveland in 2022.

Speaking of Landry, Bell was drafted as his one-to-one replacement. The former Boilermaker disappointed during his pre-draft testing, but the film shows a receiver capable of finding gaps in coverage with some of the sturdiest hands of anyone. Also in the mix will be speedster Anthony Schwartz, who’s essentially still learning how to play receiver beyond “run really fast,” and veteran Jakeem Grant, who seems to always find a big play or two over the course of the season.

6. Seahawks: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain

Metcalf and Lockett have eclipsed 200 receptions, 3,100 receiving yards, and 26 TDs over the 2019-21 seasons, the only teammates to accomplish such a feat. Metcalf, named the 10th best receiver in the league in Jeremy Fowler’s annual survey of NFL personnel, still managed 967 yards in 2021 despite a season-long foot injury that required surgery in February. Lockett, named the 10th best slot receiver by Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar, has logged at least 965 yards and 8 TDs for four consecutive seasons.

Since Metcalf entered the league in 2019, Seattle’s issue has been finding a third receiver to complement their two standouts. A third wide receiver hasn’t had more than 50 targets in Seattle while Metcalf and Lockett have been in town, probably because both of them have garnered over 100 a season in that span. Swain is the favorite to earn the WR3 badge this season after a 40 target, 25 reception year in 2021. Also competing will be 2021 second-rounder Dee Eskridge, who missed seven games as a rookie due to a concussion, and 31-year-old Marquise Goodwin.

5. Broncos: Cortland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick

I fully expect Sutton to have a monster season in 2022, as he’s put another year between him and his 2020 ACL tear and has upgraded tremendously in the quarterback department. While he’s been primarily an X receiver for Denver, new head coach Nathaniel Hackett will move him around the formation to get him some better looks. That likely includes more slot reps, where the 6’4” Sutton profiles as a valuable run blocker from 11 personnel.

Jeudy is Denver’s best receiver against press coverage and immediately was pegged as the Broncos’ equivalent to Tyler Lockett when they acquired Russell Wilson. He’s a premier separator and has curbed his drop habit that plagued him at Alabama and as a rookie. Patrick is another big-bodied receiver more in the mold of Sutton, but he’s a much more limited player and will be primarily used as a possession receiver to move the chains.

Beyond the big 3 in Denver, players like 2020 second-rounder KJ Hamler, COVID QB Kendall Hinton, and rookie Montrell Washington will battle for snaps. Hamler will get manufactured touches as a gadget-like player, Hinton is an underrated route runner, and Washington adds another speed option while also likely serving as the team’s returner.

4. Cardinals: DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore

It’s incredible that we live in a world where AJ Green is the likely WR4 on an NFL team, but I guess the time comes for all of us eventually. Also, it’s a testament to the depth at receiver Arizona possesses, especially after trading Brown for their first-round pick. As a Cardinal, Hollywood will have the freedom to return to his big-play receiver roots, rather than becoming the workhorse target eater he had to be in Baltimore. Moore seems poised for a breakout with so much space opening elsewhere on the field, and his film from Purdue shows that he’s plenty capable of turning that space into devastatingly big plays.

Hopkins will serve a six-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance, but that’s nearly irrelevant to Chargers fans considering the LA-Arizona tilt isn’t until Week 12. If Hopkins was taking performance enhancers, I’m curious if it was to recover from his injuries last season or if it was something bigger than that. A hamstring injury and torn MCL combined forced Hopkins to miss seven games in 2021. Now on the wrong side of 30, Nuk is still a top-tier receiver that will deserve attention, but his absence at the beginning of the year may lead to some younger talent breaking out.

3. Raiders: Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, Keelan Cole

Let’s get some things out of the way before Raiders fans come calling for my head: I think Adams is the best receiver in football, and I hate the fact that he’s now on a division rival. Named the best receiver in the league in Fowler’s survey, Derek Carr’s college teammate reeled in a pass on 23.3% of his routes run, second only to Cooper Kupp. That absurd volume came in a season after he put up 18 TDs, which means you know there were plenty of defensive meetings centered entirely on stopping him alone. Simply put: he’s unstoppable.

Renfrow is also among the hardest receivers to cover in the entire league because of his craftiness as a route runner. The Clemson product was already one of the league’s best slot receivers. However, entering a Josh McDaniels offense that has previously boasted Wes Welker and Julian Edelman will only cause more headaches for opposing defenses.

Ranking the unit third here is not disrespectful. It’s just that the next two units have better depth. Beyond Adams and Renfrow, Cole seems the most likely to get snaps, but he’s a player that makes easy catches look difficult and difficult ones look easy. Former Charger Tyron Johnson is hanging around, as is former Chief Demarcus Robinson. They will look to keep their careers afloat while angling for two revenge games a year.

2. Rams: Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson II, Van Jefferson

I get that the media may be overrating Kupp following his 2021 season, including the Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP awards. Still, it’s hard to argue against the clear rapport he’s built with Matthew Stafford. Kupp is just the fourth player since 1970 to win the receiving triple crown by leading the league in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, joining Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, and Steve Smith. While it’s probably not reasonable to expect the same level of production from him in 2022, the fact remains that Kupp’s film is “teach tape,” as one NFL head coach put it to Fowler.

I’m high on Robinson, who struggled in Chicago after making it clear he wanted out of the Windy City. Robinson’s team has only won more than ten games twice in his career – 2017 in Jacksonville and 2018 in Chicago. That Jaguars team also did it largely without Robinson, who tore his ACL in the season opener. Putting the perennially underrated 28-year-old on a true contender for arguably the first time could be the spark he needs to return to form.

Jefferson will get plenty of playing time since the Rams run three-receiver sets as their base offense, and his speed and route running make him a capable deep threat. But beyond him, the depth is questionable at best. 2021 second-rounder Tutu Atwell barely played as a rookie, Ben Skowronek struggled with drops, and Jacob Harris is still learning the finer points of the position after a season on the practice squad where he worked at receiver and tight end.

1. Dolphins: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson Jr.

JC Jackson runs a 4.46 40. Asante Samuel Jr. clocks in at 4.41; Michael Davis at 4.4 flat. These are not slow numbers for corners. In fact, both Samuel and Davis are above the 90th percentile according to RAS. But Tyreek Hill runs a 4.29. Jaylen Waddle didn’t officially test because of a broken ankle, but he posted the fastest GPS time of any college player in 2019, his final season at Alabama. Fine, Tua Tagovailoa can’t throw a deep ball. Maybe that’s true. But with coach Mike McDaniel now at the reins, the Miami offense will only get more RPO-heavy, a throw Tagovailoa thrives on. Getting Hill and Waddle the ball in space on short crossing routes only gives them more opportunity to produce explosive runs after the catch.

Wilson is also one of the better WR3s in the league and has spent most of his career overshadowed by a trio of uber-talented pass catchers in Dallas. He got three years, $22.05 million with $12.75 million guaranteed, so he’s a big part of their plans. Elsewhere, rookie Erik Ezukanma and former UDFA Preston Williams will battle for DeVante Parker’s jump ball reps, while Swiss Army knife Lynn Bowden Jr. could find a role as a wideback-lite.

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