In most fantasy football leagues, teams are made and broken by the critical decisions early on as to what cornerstone roster pieces they have in place. A poor choice at running back or quarterback can have devastating weekly implications. Wide receiver is by far the deepest fantasy position to find talent, but having a lead dog who produces big numbers consistently is critical to long-term success.
Few wide receivers are dominant every week, but we’ve chosen three to focus on who have come pretty close – Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills, Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers, and Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins.
Here’s the case for all three:
The case for and against Stefon Diggs
- In two seasons with the Bills, Diggs has clearly become the favorite of quarterback Josh Allen. In 33 games, Diggs has been targeted 330 times, catching 230 passes for 2,760 yards and 18 touchdowns.
- In 2020, Diggs had six or more receptions in 15 of 16 games. He followed that up with six or more catches in 10 of 17 games last year.
- He has 80 or more receiving yards in 17 of 33 games as a member of the Bills.
- He has been targeted 10 or more times in 17 of 33 games with Buffalo.
- He has shown good durability, missing just four games due to injury over the last five seasons.
- Defenses seemed to catch up to him in his second AFC season. He still posted very good numbers, but, despite being targeted just two passes fewer than in 2020, Diggs had 24 fewer receptions (103) for 310 fewer yards.
- He didn’t win nearly as many contested battles for passes last season. In 2020, he caught 76.5 percent of the passes thrown his way. In 2021 his catch percentage dropped to 62.8 percent.
The case for and against Deebo Samuel
- He blew up in 2021 and quickly became a dominating force, catching 77 passes for 1,405 yards, rushing 59 times for 365 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns.
- Deebo is in a class by himself in terms of being a receiving rushing threat at the wide receiver position. Nobody came even close to his number of rushes and touchdowns as a runner.
- Led the NFL by averaging 18.2 yards per reception in 2021 and tallied five 100-yard receiving games.
- Accomplished almost all of his rushing production in the second half of the season. In his first eight games, he had just six carries for 22 yards and one touchdown. In his final eight games, he logged 53 carries for 343 yards and seven touchdowns.
- Samuel was a big-play performer who had receiving touchdowns of 79, 76, 45 and 40 yards and rushing touchdowns of 27, 25 and 16 yards.
- There is a lot of uncertainty at quarterback in San Francisco. The team has made a huge investment in Trey Lance, but Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been moved in the offseason (yet), which could cause internal problems if the team switches back and forth at some point and alters its offense to fit the skills set of the QB who is starting.
- What Samuel is doing in the run game is relatively unprecedented in recent years and could lend itself to opening him up to injuries when taking the ball in the backfield with 11 defenders closing in on him instead of one or two on the outside as a receiver.
- He is disgruntled about how the Niners utilized him in 2021, and it should come as no surprise if he rushes fewer times this year.
The case for and against Tyreek Hill
He is a generational talent whose ability to make a big play at any time demands additional defensive attention, because his speed makes it impossible to single-cover Hill all game long.
- In five seasons as a full-time starter, he has posted four seasons with 75 or more receptions and 1,183 or more receiving yards. The only year he didn’t hit those numbers was because he played just 12 games.
- He has shown good durability, missing just six games in six years and four of those games coming in one season (2019).
- He is no stranger to making house calls. Over the last four seasons (60 games), he has scored 46 touchdowns.
- The move from Kansas City to Miami must be factored in. When you go from one of the elite passers in the league (Patrick Mahomes) to one who is viewed as being at a career crossroads (Tua Tagovailoa), the drop-off between those two quarterbacks is significant.
- Hill has been an all-or-nothing receiver. Some defenses make it their mission to shut him down and they are capable of doing so. In 17 games last season, Hill was limited to 40 receiving yards or less in six of them (35 percent).
Fantasy football outlook
When talking about players of the talent level of these three, it’s difficult to say you could go wrong with any of them, but we’ve decided there can only be one of these similarly ranked weapons for this exercise, so here’s the rationale involved.
Stefon Diggs takes the top spot, because he has Allen throwing him the ball and the sheer production the two of them have posted in two seasons together is off the charts. Buffalo is on a collision course with the Super Bowl, and getting homefield advantage will be critical. As such, don’t expect the Bills to ever take their foot off the gas pedal, which should mean another productive year for Diggs.
Deebo Samuel finishes second in the group because of the added component of running him near the goal line. The decision to make Samuel a dual threat came at midseason in 2021, somewhat by necessity, and he had seven rushing touchdowns in addition to his receiving numbers in his final eight games. While not a long-term strategy, it works in the short-term for 2022, that is until it doesn’t … hence his placement here.
Tyreek Hill finishes third primarily because of Tagovailoa. He is not a great decision-maker and is slow to read and react to defenses. That is why Miami was a legitimate suitor for Deshaun Watson but wasn’t willing to pay the draft ransom Cleveland was willing to pony up. Hill remains the most dynamic receiver in the league, but passes that were 40-yard completions with Mahomes will be incompletions or interceptions too often with Tua.