By Mikey Ostrowski

One thing that people seem to forget in dynasty: you play to win. I know you may think that is stating the obvious… but is it really? There are so many people that seem to play for acquiring the most rookie picks or having the youngest team or seeing how many “sleepers” they can fit on to one roster. It’s honestly painful to watch sometimes, as people continuously overvalue young players and unproven assets.

To those who care more about winning now rather than building “the super team of tomorrow”, I’ve got a handful of wide receivers that you should try to add ahead of the 2022 season. Whether they’re old, coming off of a down year, or just aren’t valued at what they should be, these four guys are definitely worth looking into.

(All trade values are based on 1QB format and are pulled directly from keeptradecut.com)

DeAndre Hopkins, ARI (Current KTC value: Rookie Pick 1.09)

I have a hard time believing that you can acquire Hopkins for pick 1.09 right now… however, if that value is accurate, you absolutely HAVE to try to acquire him if you’re a contender. It is incredibly irresponsible of the fantasy hive mind to be writing off Hopkins after an injury-riddled 2021 season (where he still managed to be WR22 in a points per game basis). I know Hopkins is getting old (turns 30 in June), but he’s still incredibly useful when healthy… and I’d fully expect him to be fine in 2022. Let’s take a look at the past:

In 2020, Hopkins was the overall WR4. In 2019, Hopkins was the overall WR5. In 2018, Hopkins was THE WR1… do I need to continue?

He’s not “washed”. He doesn’t suddenly suck at football… he was just hurt. That is literally all it was. Hopkins was one of the top dynasty assets to own this time last year (despite his age) and the fact that he can be grabbed for a late 2022 1st-round pick is astonishing. His only competition for targets is Zach Ertz (another older asset that people wrote off because of just one bad season) and Rondale Moore, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. Hopkins is Kyler Murray’s crutch on that offense and that’s not going to change anytime soon. 

Nuk Hopkins has been an elite fantasy asset in every year since 2014 and I’m not going to let one injury-filled season scare me away from acquiring him for my championship run in 2022. He’s expected to be fully healthy for the start of next season and will continue on being Arizona’s go-to guy on offense. Buy the dip… it’s a massive, undeserved dip.

Keenan Allen, LAC (Current KTC value: Rookie Pick 1.08)

Allen is another receiver that is turning 30 (insert the maniacal *dun dun dun* music here) and is finding himself suddenly useless in the dynasty community… and I just don’t understand it. He has had 5 seasons in a row of (at least) 245 PPR points, which has made him the WR14 or better in each of those seasons. Getting that kind of consistent production from anyone is far from common and seems to be overlooked by many.

Allen is tied to Justin Herbert and his only real target competition is Mike Williams (who is considered to be wildly inconsistent) and Austin Ekeler. He has seen no less than 136 targets over the last five seasons, and was actually only 3 targets short of having a career-high in targets in 2021. Unlike Hopkins, Allen has not struggled with injury recently and is being faded by many solely because of his age.

If you’re entering a rebuild, then by all means, sell Allen while his value is what it is (honestly, if you’re rebuilding you should sell him in-season while he’s tearing it up). However, if you’re a legitimate contender, there is absolutely no reason not to send a back-half 1st-round pick to acquire Allen. I promise you that Keenan Allen will give you a better chance to win this year than George Pickens will. Don’t be afraid to get the old dude if he can help you in your win-now window.

Amari Cooper, CLE (Current KTC value: Rookie Pick 1.08)

Admittedly, Cooper is the guy on this list that I am the least passionate about. However, at pick 1.08, he’s still an excellent buy for contenders. While leaving Dallas is somewhat scary for his fantasy value, he did land in Cleveland, where he’ll eventually have Dashaun Watson throwing the ball his way. I know a lot of peoples’ first reaction would be “Watson is gonna get suspended and Cooper won’t be good until he’s back” but that’s not necessarily true.

While I do think Watson will receive some sort of suspension, I think Cooper will be fine no matter who is under center. The current favorite to fill in for Watson is Jacoby Brissett. While that name doesn’t exactly inspire the fantasy community, he’s still a capable enough quarterback to support a fantasy-relevant receiver, and I’d bet all the money in the world that Cooper will be that guy in Cleveland.

His only target competition is Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Njoku and Kareem Hunt… that’s significantly weaker than competing with CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Dalton Schultz. Cooper’s highest target total in a single season was 131 back in 2016 and I would not be the least bit surprised to see him set a new career-high in that category. He’s going to be leaned on heavily in that offense (no matter who the quarterback is), and could definitely find himself in the top-15 (fantasy WRs) by the end of the season. 

The absolute worst-case scenario would be that Watson gets an entire season worth of suspensions, but I don’t find it likely. Even if Watson gets a half-season ban, he’d be back in time to boost Cooper’s stock for the fantasy playoffs. Oh, and I haven’t even said that best part about Amari Cooper (for those who obsess over age)… he’s only 27. Yup, Cooper is 27 years old and is tied to Deshaun Watson for the next 3 to 5 years. 

Even if Watson is given a 17-game suspension, Cooper can still find relevance in 2022 as a WR2. Whenever Watson comes back, whether it’s this season or next season, Cooper will have every-week WR1 upside. He is most definitely worth pick 1.08 and will continue to be one of fantasy’s most underappreciated receivers.

Brandon Aiyuk, SF (Current KTC Value: Rookie Pick 1.10)

Aiyuk is an interesting one because I’d recommend buying him whether you’re a contender or in a rebuild. At only 24 years old, Aiyuk still has a lot of room to grow in the NFL. He operated as the WR1 in 2020 while Deebo Samuel was hurt and then “fell” into the WR2 role in 2021.

Many soured on Aiyuk in the first half of 2021, as he was pretty awful in that timeframe. From weeks 1-9, Aiyuk was merely the WR68 on the season and only averaged 6.9 PPR points per game. However, he completely flipped the switch in the 2nd half of the season. From weeks 10-18, Aiyuk was the overall WR17 and averaged over 12.5 points per game. 

While the WR1 upside wasn’t quite there, you’ve gotta be happy that he was able to turn an abysmal start into a WR2 season. I’d expect him to easily carry that momentum into 2022 and would not be shocked to see him post his first 1,000-yard season. There are some concerns with Aiyuk, such as being behind Deebo on the depth chart and moving to Trey Lance as the primary quarterback, but I don’t think those are as negative as many people say.

When it comes to Deebo, we don’t even know if he’ll be with the 49ers in 2022. If he’s not, Aiyuk becomes the surefire WR1 for them. If Deebo does stay there, that just means that Aiyuk will never have to face top-corner coverage… it’s a win-win no matter how you swing it. When it comes to the quarterback change, that’s not really anything to be concerned about either. Trey Lance started in weeks 4, 5 and 17 in 2021. Obviously, two of those weeks were when Aiyuk was stuck in his slump, but in week 17, the two had shown a solid connection. Aiyuk had a 26% target share with Lance to end the season and managed 94 yards in that game. I know one game is an incredibly small sample size, but I’d say going from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance is a lateral move at worst for Aiyuk’s fantasy outlook. 

At pick 1.10, the best rookie that you’re hoping to get at receiver is likely Pickens or Jahan Dotson or David Bell… and I’d call you crazy to prefer any of those guys over Aiyuk. He’s got the nice combination of youth, skill and proven fantasy production under his belt. I wouldn’t say that he carries the same short-term upside as Hopkins, Allen or Cooper, but there’s a very good possibility that he’ll find himself within the top-20 fantasy receivers if he can be consistent throughout the entire season.

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