Top 20 Potential Free Agents (2022 Fantasy Football)
This year’s free agent class is reasonably deep, but it is absolutely loaded at wide receiver. Davante Adams headlines the class, but there are eight receivers hitting the market who have posted a 1,000 yard season. In an NFL landscape that now features offenses that are pass-heavy, players like Chris Godwin and Mike Williams stand to cash in this offseason.
There are 11 teams that currently project to have more than $30 million in cap space this offseason. Obviously, things can change there with re-signs and salary restructures, but after a year where teams were more up against the cap due to the pandemic, there will be some big contracts signed in the coming months.
In this article, I break down the top-20 offensive free agents for fantasy purposes. There are a few players who just missed the cut (T.Y. Hilton, Sammy Watkins, Raheem Mostert) that will be contributors somewhere next season, but, for the most part, the class is top-heavy and dotted with impact players in the top-10.
20. Antonio Brown (WR)
Talent is talent, and Brown has plenty of it. Despite his off-field antics with Tampa Bay, there is a good chance he finds a team by August of 2022. The question is whether or not he sabotages himself before he gets the opportunity.
19. Marcus Mariota (QB)
The former 1st Round pick out of Oregon hits free agency for the second time. The market for Mariota won’t be robust, and I have him ranked third among the available free-agent quarterbacks. Mariota is just 28, so he will be valuable as a back-up for whoever signs him, and he’s been solid in spot duty for Las Vegas.
18. David Njoku (TE)
After two down seasons, Njoku had a nice bounce back this year, finishing with a 36/475/4 line that was his best season since 2018. Njoku is one of the most athletic tight ends in the league, and he’s made improvements as a blocker, a major area of weakness coming out of college. The Browns are unlikely to bring him back since Austin Hooper has a big cap number, so whoever signs him will be getting an enticing player.
17. Will Fuller (WR)
Fuller has been so injury-prone in his career it’s hard to say what he might have turned into. He’s never played a full season and, outside of his 2020 season where he averaged 17.2 fantasy points per game, he’s been more of a splash play waiting to happen than anything else. He will be entering his age-28 season in a loaded free-agent class, so he is unlikely to get much more than a one-year or incentive-loaded contract.
16. Teddy Bridgewater (QB)
Bridgewater could serve in the role of bridge QB for a team or as a quality backup, although he may want to have the opportunity to start. The issue here is that Bridgewater is more of a floor play than anything and while he would be serviceable, the likelihood of a team making a playoff run with him at the helm is low. Still, serviceable NFL quarterbacks aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, so Bridgewater will have his suitors.
15. Melvin Gordon (RB)
Gordon was left for dead by most fantasy analysts but responded with 1100 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Despite splitting carries with Javonte Williams, Gordon still finished as the RB21, and he’s been underrated both of his seasons in Denver. He turns 29 this offseason, so the cliff is coming, but if a team can manage his touches, he can be effective.
14. James Conner (RB)
Conner finished as the RB6 this year in one of the more surprising fantasy performances of 2021. The Cardinals made him the primary red-zone back, but an injury to Chase Edmonds made Conner a bonafide workhorse. He’s got some durability concerns, but Conner would be a nice complement as an early-down back in an established backfield.
13. Rob Gronkowski (TE)
Gronkowski is set to be a free agent, and there is no clear indication that he will play for Tampa Bay again regardless of what Tom Brady does. If Brady retires, Gronk could end up anywhere – including back in New England. Even at age 31, he showed this year that he can be among the best at the position. His free agency will likely hinge on Brady’s decision.
12. Zach Ertz (TE)
Ertz had a revitalization with Arizona this year. He was a steady presence in the passing game after the loss of DeAndre Hopkins and finished as the TE10 despite a slow start. Ertz will turn 32 prior to the start of next season, but he will be a solid veteran presence for whoever signs him. A return to Arizona isn’t out of the question either.
11. Michael Gallup (WR)
Gallup’s torn ACL is going to scare some teams off and dampen his market, which is unfortunate because there were times this year when he balled out. Gallup also has the misfortune of being part of a deep group of free-agent receivers. Some team is going to get a steal by signing Gallup, who can operate on both the outside and in the slot. I’d love to see him with the Chargers to complement Keenan Allen.
11. JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR)
Is the bloom off the JuJu rose? After Antonio Brown left Pittsburgh, the hope was that JuJu would step in as a WR1. That didn’t happen, and it’s obvious he isn’t that type of player. Instead, he’s a tough slot receiver who can block reasonably well and isn’t afraid to go across the middle. He’s openly said he was interested in coming back to Pittsburgh, but post-game comments after a playoff loss should be taken with a grain of salt. Smith-Schuster was rumored to be heading to Kansas City last offseason, although they may not have the cap space to sign him.
10. Leonard Fournette (RB)
Fournette has been solid the last two seasons in Tampa Bay, but he is set to depart as a free agent this year. An underrated pass catcher, he would fill a need for a lot of teams who rely on a split backfield. He just turned 27, but his physical running style might make his cliff come sooner than later. Still, he can be effective if his touches during the regular season are managed, which could make him more effective in the playoffs.
9. Jameis Winston (QB)
With Sean Payton leaving New Orleans, the chances of Winston returning there are pretty low. Despite that, Winston could be a nice bridge quarterback for a QB-needy team (Pittsburgh?), and he did a nice job this year of cutting down on turnovers and his erratic play. This year’s quarterback class is pretty weak, so Winston reflects the best option at the position.
8. Cordarelle Patterson (RB/WR)
Patterson’s market should be decent given the lack of options at the running back position. He was finally unleashed by the Falcons this season, finishing with over 1100 total yards and 11 touchdowns, coming out of nowhere to produce as the RB16 in the process. He’s able to be a three-down back, although I doubt a team signs him with that role in mind. Instead, he would work better as a matchup nightmare for defenses lined up all over the formation. I dream about what Kliff Kingsbury could do with him as part of the offense in Arizona as that would be a fun landing spot.
7. Mike Gesicki (TE)
Gesicki isn’t much of a blocker, so he will need to go to a team that understands that and utilizes him correctly. It is possible Miami uses the franchise tag here, but they will have a battle on their hands if they do. Gesicki lined up in the slot or out wide over 90% of the time this year. He may try to argue he should be viewed as a wide receiver as opposed to a tight end, which would bump his franchise tag number significantly. If he hits the market, he would be the second-best option behind Dalton Shultz.
6. Dalton Schultz (TE)
Schultz was a nice surprise this season, finishing as the TE4. Dallas may elect to bring him back but with Blake Jarwin already on the roster, that seems unlikely. Schultz would fit best on a team as a complementary piece of the passing game and not someone who be counted on to carry things. Unlike Gesicki, he is a passable run blocker as well, so whoever signs him is getting a better all-around player at the position.
5. Odell Beckham Jr. (WR)
Beckham didn’t do much to hurt his stock with the Rams but his days as a WR1 – in real life or fantasy – are behind him. If Tom Brady returns to the Bucs, Beckham might be interested in going there to try and get one more payday on a one-year “prove it” deal. Either way, his market will be fascinating to track because he still has the talent and name value to get a big contract from a team.
4. Allen Robinson (WR)
Robinson has a lot working against him in free agency. He is, at best, the fourth-best receiver on the market. On top of that, his 2021 season was a disaster and he will turn 29 next summer. That said, he’s produced with mediocre quarterback play, so a lot of destinations will represent a step up there. I think he makes for an intriguing dynasty target as a buy-low.
3. Mike Williams (WR)
Williams shares some similarities with Chris Godwin. He would be the top free agent some years – especially among receivers. Williams is a big target (6’4, 218) who can be a difference-maker in the red zone, but I have similar concerns about him carrying a passing game. Williams had career highs in targets, receptions, and yards in 2021 but he benefited from a Chargers offense that was third in the NFL in passing attempts. His landing spot will be important for his fantasy production.
2. Chris Godwin (WR)
If not for Davante Adams, Godwin would be the top offensive free agent. His 86 catches in 2020 were a career-high, and he was on pace to smash that in 2021 before an injury ended his season. I’m less optimistic that he can carry a passing game than some people are but his improvement over the past few seasons is undeniable. My question is whether this improvement was a product of playing with Tom Brady or Godwin evolving as a player. The answer probably lies somewhere in between.
1. Davante Adams (WR)
Adams is the best available free agent and is arguably the best receiver in football. The Packers could theoretically place the franchise tag on him but given their overall salary cap projection, that seems unlikely. Adams will be an immediate upgrade to whatever team he ends up signing with. Even if he doesn’t have a reunion with Aaron Rodgers, he will have no problem being productive. Adams’ market should have no lack of suitors with 11 teams having at least $30 million in available cap space.
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