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2022 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Updated wide receivers rankings and tiers for the start of NFL Preseason

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USATSI

If you want to sum up the state of the wide receiver position heading into 2022 drafts — something I did in-depth right here — I think this following stat does it about as well as anything else: Wide receivers make up just nine of my top 24 and 19 of the top 48 overall players, but then 48 of the next 102 players are WR. The position is lighter on obvious impact players than we’ve gotten used to in recent years, but it remains as deep as ever with contributors. 

In recent weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that I think there’s probably a more definitive gap between Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase than I initially thought, but I also moved Jefferson ahead of DaVante Adams in recent days. I’m not quite ready to put Jefferson in the same tier as Cooper Kupp, but I think he might have fewer question marks than any other elite WR right now. Chase could, of course, take a step forward in his second season the same way Jefferson did, though I think it’s worth noting that while Jefferson did maintain elite efficiency, he still averaged 1.5 yards per target less in his second season than his first; he made up for that with 42 more targets, and it’s harder to project that kind of increase for Chase with Tee Higgins also demanding targets. 

Of course, I’m happy to have any of those guys as my No. 1 wide receiver, and it might be more important to get one of those elite guys because I’m just not sure how many of them there are this season. I feel very confident in the top five in my rankings being elite and pretty good about the next two tiers, but there are enough questions about them all to be at least a little skeptical. Deebo Samuel in particular fell a few spots (and two tiers) for me since the start of the offseason, as I’m just not at all convinced that he’s going to get the volume or quality of touches he needs to come close to repeating last season.  

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Here are my latest WR rankings: 

  1. Cooper Kupp *
  2. Justin Jefferson 
  3. Davante Adams *
  4. Ja’Marr Chase
  5. Stefon Diggs *
  6. Mike Evans
  7. CeeDee Lamb *
  8. Tyreek Hill
  9. A.J. Brown *
  10. Deebo Samuel
  11. D.J. Moore
  12. Tee Higgins
  13. Diontae Johnson
  14. Keenan Allen
  15. Brandin Cooks *
  16. Michael Pittman Jr.
  17. Mike Williams
  18. Marquise Brown
  19. Jaylen Waddle
  20. Chris Godwin
  21. Terry McLaurin
  22. Allen Robinson
  23. Amari Cooper
  24. DK Metcalf *
  25. JuJu Smith-Schuster
  26. Robert Woods
  27. Darnell Mooney *
  28. Jerry Jeudy
  29. Michael Thomas
  30. Rashod Bateman
  31. Adam Thielen
  32. Amon-Ra St. Brown
  33. DeAndre Hopkins
  34. Gabriel Davis
  35. Courtland Sutton *
  36. Elijah Moore
  37. Kadarius Toney
  38. Drake London
  39. Tyler Lockett
  40. DeVonta Smith
  41. Hunter Renfrow
  42. Russell Gage
  43. Jarvis Landry
  44. Chase Claypool
  45. Chris Olave
  46. Garrett Wilson *
  47. Brandon Aiyuk
  48. Julio Jones
  49. DeVante Parker
  50. Tyler Boyd
  51. Skyy Moore
  52. Allen Lazard
  53. Corey Davis
  54. Christian Kirk
  55. Rondale Moore
  56. Treylon Burks
  57. Jahan Dotson
  58. Kenny Golladay
  59. Romeo Doubs
  60. Isaiah McKenzie
  61. K.J. Osborn
  62. DJ Chark
  63. Donovan Peoples-Jones *

*End of a tier



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Inside Texas' Steve Sarkisian magic touch developing QBs

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With Quinn Ewers potentially returning for Texas in Week 5, coach Steve Sarkisian’s ability to mold QBs will again be on display.



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Deebo Samuel, 49ers' defense shine in win over Rams: 'He's just such a stud'

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“He delivers for us in our biggest moments at all times, especially against that damn team,” Mike McGlinchey said of Samuel. “He’s just such a stud.”



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Winless in five pre-season games, Canucks have a lot of work to do

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The Vancouver Canucks have scored seven goals in five winless pre-season games. The Edmonton Oilers scored seven goals against them on Monday.

A mismatch in lineup strength led predictably to a mismatch on the scoreboard, although the Canucks competed and stayed close for two periods before dissolving late in the third and losing 7-2.

The second-tier Canucks displayed more intensity and effort than many of the top players had in previous games, but still fell to 0-3-2. The team has a lot of work to do this week in its final two pre-season games to get ready for its National Hockey League regular season, which begins against the Oilers in Edmonton next Wednesday.

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“You just want to see the right things being done,” coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters Monday morning. “That’s probably why I was upset the other night. No matter who you’ve got in the lineup, you never want to get out worked.”

Unlike in Saturday’s lifeless 4-0 loss against the Seattle Kraken, the Canucks were not outworked by the Oilers. But they were outgunned, dressing a lineup that may have as few as five or six players back in Edmonton for the game that counts. And they were out-goaltended.

But by the end, it wasn’t the Oilers’ stars that sunk them — Conor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins combined for one assist — but a hat trick by NHL-hopeful Dylan Holloway and a pair of late goals by Warren Foegele.

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Nils Hoglander and Conor Garland scored for the Canucks, who were tied 1-1 halfway through the game and trailed 3-2 until Tyson Barrie was left unchecked on an outnumbered rush late in the second period.

The Canucks close out their pre-season with home games Wednesday, in Abbotsford against the Oilers, and Friday at Rogers Arena against the Arizona Coyotes.

“I think we’ll get down to our team pretty soon and I think we’ll be fine after that,” Boudreau said before the game-day flight to Edmonton. “I’ve got a lot of faith in this group. I told them that today: I think they’re a really good team and, you know, we’re just going to ramp it up pretty soon.”

Better be very soon.

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AN A ON D

After losing meekly in Seattle with five NHL defencemen in their lineup, the Canucks on Monday didn’t have anyone on the blue line guaranteed to be playing opening night, although it’s hard to imagine that Kyle Burroughs won’t be on the roster given his solid, combative pre-season.

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But it looked for much of the game like Christian Wolanin, the 27-year-old journeyman signed as a free agent to boost organizational depth, was the best defenceman on either team.

Logging top-pairing minutes and quarterbacking the first-unit power play, Wolanin was all over the ice and set up both Canucks goals, including a beautiful no-look dish to Hoglander for a power-play marker that tied the game early in the second.

Wolanin also hit a crossbar and a post while finishing with five shot attempts, three blocks, 22:12 of ice time and an expected goals-for of 57.6 per cent at five on five.

Barring further Canuck injuries, he still isn’t making the NHL lineup. But it was an impressive performance that will have been noted by the Canucks and others.

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NO PUSH FROM BELOW

Although there was re-assuring effort shown by the modest lineup, it has been disappointing in the pre-season that none of the Canucks prospects, besides Swedish League free agents Linus Karlsson and Nils Aman and veteran minor-league centre Sheldon Dries, has made a serious push for NHL employment.

Speedy, hit-seekiing winger Will Lockwood had his best game on Monday, but hasn’t done nearly enough. Winger Danila Klimovich, so good at the rookie tournament in Penticton two weeks ago, looks lost among NHL players and was minus-three with a 9.7 xGF%. Defenceman Jet Woo is already assigned to the American League, and Brady Keeper has a long way to go to work back from last season’s broken leg. And we’re not sure goalie Mike DiPietro is still in the organization.

None of these players, with the possible exception of Lockwood, was expected to make the Canucks this fall. But all teams want to see their prospects pushing upwards, trying to force their way to the NHL or at least make roster decisions difficult. That hasn’t happened.

Minor-league goalie Arturs Silovs has been good, but the competition for depth jobs seems to be almost entirely between the NHL depth players who were already on the projected roster.

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GOALTENDING HIERARCHY

One year ago, on the eve of last season, DiPietro firmly held the No. 3 spot in the organization. He was the presumed minor-league starter, a Canucks injury away from playing in the NHL. He was a key prospect, Now he is the distant No. 5 in the organization, an after-thought who has played just a single pre-season period – mopping up for the Canucks’ travelling split-squad on the opening night of exhibition games.

Collin Delia, a 28-year-old minor-leaguer signed in July as a free agent to push for playing time with the Abbotsford Canucks, played the full game against the Oilers. He made some strong saves, but allowing seven goals on 36 shots is never going to be good enough, even if the team collapsed in front of him at the end and allowed the Oilers to score three times in the last three minutes.

But that he got the start at all was significant.

The Canucks’ final two warmup games will be handled largely — possibly entirely — by NHL goalies Thatcher Demko and Spencer Martin. So the auditioning in goal may be done for now. And DiPietro is last.

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No wonder he is looking for a fresh start elsewhere.

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THE MARK OF LAZAR

After Boudreau’s pre-game call to action, one of the best Canucks was experienced centre Curtis Lazar, who was signed in July to be Vancouver’s fourth-line centre but played higher up the lineup against the Oilers.

He led by example, which is what the Canucks expected when they grabbed the 27-year-old free agent who has logged 404 NHL games but figured out how to be an everyday, depth contributor only during the last couple of seasons with the Boston Bruins.

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Lazar was so engaged physically he drew a roughing penalty from Draisaitl and apparently frustrated McDavid enough on another shift that the best player in hockey cross-checked Burroughs. Lazar finished with four shots on net.

He had been playing right wing during the pre-season, but Boudreau swapped him and Jason Dickinson, moving Dickinson to the wing, and got Lazar’s A-game at centre.

“Curtis Lazar, I thought you could tell he played on a winning, championship-type team,” Boudreau said after the game. “And I thought Pods (Vasily Podkolzin) was an awful lot better than he was the other night. Good, quality playing from a couple of those guys that really gave themselves a chance.”

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