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Free Agent and Draft Needs For All 32 NFL Teams (2022 Fantasy Football)

Feb 28, 2022


 
One way or another, NFL teams are going to – or try to – plug the holes on their roster this offseason. But whether it be through free agency or the 2022 NFL Draft depends on each organizations’ discretion as many teams approach team-building from different perspectives.

Either way, rosters will start to look much different from last year, and it’s important to stay ahead of these transactions by identifying the needs of each team prior to free agency kicking off in March. That way you can acquire an edge in early best ball drafts or in dynasty trades with your moves considering real-life team needs that have yet to transpire. It also helps to call out the draft capital and salary cap space teams possess as that will factor into their offseason strategy.

Below you’ll find a breakdown of the needs for all 32 teams for both free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft that can serve as your compass to the start of the 2022 offseason. I’ve also added small action items for all 32 teams that can be used in conjunction in several different fantasy formats!

*Salary cap numbers provided by Spotrac*

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ARIZONA CARDINALS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $2.74 million, 23rd
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 23rd, 55th and 87th
  • Team Needs: CB, RB, WR, TE, DT, OL

The Cardinals have zero cornerbacks on the roster that earned a top-35 PFF grade in 2021. Their highest-graded CB – Robert Alford – is an impending free agent. They need to add to their secondary with a cornerback in the draft like Trent McDuffie or in free agency like Casey Hayward

Defensive line is also a great area of need with NT Corey Peters and OLB pass-rusher Chandler Jones impending free agents. The Cardinals were a bottom-10 run defense in terms of yards per carry in 2021, and Jones led the squad in total pressures. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the Cardinals look to have a revamped supporting cast for Kyler Murray. Chase Edmonds, James Conner, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk and Zach Ertz are all free agents.

Murray is somewhat disgruntled with the organization, so I’d expect management to invest what they have in salary cap space and draft capital on offense. The running back market is never as lucrative as many running backs believe so I’d presume at least one of Conner/Edmonds returns to Zona. That makes them both best-ball values with ADPs outside the top-28 running backs on Underdog ADP. 

It also opens the door for Eno Benjamin to carve out a role as the No. 2 runner in the Cardinals backfield as the team’s only running back currently under contract. 

Offensive line isn’t a massive need, but it would make sense for the Cardinals to add some depth especially on the interior. They earned PFF’s third-worst run-blocking grade in 2021. Starting center Rodney Hudson had his worst year to date and is entering his age-33 season. 

Keep an eye out for the Cardinals selecting center from Boston College, Alec Lindstrom, on Day 2 of the draft. 

Action Item: Buy Rondale Moore/Christian Kirk

Seems more likely than not that Moore’s selection in the second round of last year’s draft was made with the idea in mind that he would inherit starting slot duties from Kirk. During his rookie season, Moore ran 76% of his routes from the slot and finished fourth in YAC/reception (7.8). 

Kirk will likely want to cash in on a career year after setting highs in targets (112), receptions (83) and receiving yards (1,035) while filling the gap left by an injured DeAndre Hopkins. Without Hopkins in the lineup, Kirk commanded a 21% target share and averaged 13.8 fantasy PPR points per game — good for WR29 on the season.

Wherever he ends up in 2022, the team needs to put him in the slot if he’s going to maximize his fantasy ceiling. Teams that come to mind that may need a slot include the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

ATLANTA FALCONS 

  • Estimated Cap Space: $-1.9 million, 25th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 8th, 43rd, 58th and 74th
  • Team Needs: EDGE, OL, WR, RB, CB

The Falcons finished dead last in pressure rate last season. Generating a pass rush has been a consistent issue for their defense for several seasons, so they need to equip the defensive line with talent

Purdue’s George Karlaftis fits the mold in new defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ 3-4 scheme. As a freshman in 2019, Karlaftis generated the tenth-most pressures in the FBS. Harold Landry III makes sense as an addition through the veteran FA market, as he has experience playing under Pees in Tennessee. 

A.J. Terrell has emerged as a top-tier cornerback in the NFL after finishing 2021 as PFF’s second-highest graded cornerback. But it’s bare-bones behind him on the depth chart. 

Don’t be surprised if Atlanta goes sniffing around for the service of ex-Titans corner Malcolm Butler or another veteran on the cheap to work as a No. 2 starting CB while adding depth with one of their two second-round picks. 

Running back could also be addressed in the draft with Cordarelle Patterson a free agent and Mike Davis — well is Mike Davis, PFF’s third-worst graded running back in 2021. The Falcons were a hot spot for a rookie running back last season, but they did not pull the trigger. With the majority of the 2022 rookie running backs being labeled as Day 2 talents, I’d be shocked if they didn’t invest one pick on an explosive zone runner. 

They reportedly were showing a lot of interest in Florida’s Dameon Pierce at the Senior Bowl. Pierce took the title as PFF’s highest-graded running back in the FBS (92.0) despite seeing just 100 carries. The senior’s 39% missed tackle rate ranked second among the 2022 draft class.

Atlanta’s porous offensive line play — second-worst PFF pass-blocking grade — also suggests that they re-tool the offensive line to give Matt Ryan a chance to succeed in his second year under Arthur Smith. 

The Falcons quarterback was pressured at the highest rate of any quarterback to play 17 games last season. Got to imagine they are honing in on depth at guard and center with their three Day 2 picks. Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard fits that mold with a guard projection at the next level despite his college experience all at right tackle. 

Atlanta should also be considered a dark horse candidate to draft a wide receiver with decent draft capital with Calvin Ridley rumored to be on the trade block. Tajae Sharpe, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus and Russell Gage. Gage led the Falcons with a 29% target share from Week 11 onward. 

Action Item: Buy low on Matt Ryan. 

The Falcons quarterback was above average across the board in many of PFF’s sticky efficiency metrics in 2021: 12th in PFF passing grade from a clean pocket, second throwing at the intermediate level and ninth throwing on early downs.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $9.8 million, 18th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 14th, 45th, 76th and 99th
  • Team Needs: C, EDGE, CB, DT, S, OT

Baltimore needs to inject more youth into their pass-rush. Calais Campbell and Justin Houston are both free agents leaving last season’s first-round selection Odafe Oweh as the top pressure generator. It makes too much sense for Baltimore to select an edge defender like David Ojabo with their new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald also from Michigan. 

A big-bodied run-stuffer will also need to be addressed with over 660 pounds of MAN between Justin Ellis and Brandon Williams potentially no longer plugging up the interior. Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt is ideal early in the draft. 

The Ravens also need to drastically add depth in their cornerback room. They were decimated by injuries a season ago losing both Marlon Humphrey/Marcus Peters to season-ending injuries. Jimmy Smith is turning 34, and Anthony Averett is a free agent. 

Their starting center Bradley Bozeman is also an impending free agent. The former sixth-round pick from Alabama is sure to command a pretty penny on the open market. 

Action Item: Acquire Rashod Bateman

With so many of the Ravens’ issues stemming from their defense and injuries last season, there isn’t a lot of fantasy action to take on the offensive side of the ball. Nothing about Baltimore’s current roster suggests any massive overhaul with fantasy-relevant positions. 

So I’ll use this space instead to wax poetic about Rashod Bateman, who should take a massive step forward in Year 2. He earned a full-time role in the Ravens offense during the final five weeks, running a route on 88% of dropbacks. In Week 18, Bateman tied Marquise Brown with 40 routes run.

The rookie has more receiving yards than Brown since Week 14 despite the latter seeing 18 more targets. Come 2022, I expect Bateman to supplant Brown as the Baltimore Ravens’ No. 1 wide receiver. Brown is the WR29 on Underdog. Bateman is much cheaper at WR42. 

BUFFALO BILLS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $-1.3 million, 24th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 25th, 57th, 89th
  • Team Needs: DT, DE, CB, WR, G

2021 starting outside cornerback Levi Wallace, is scheduled to hit free agency this offseason giving the Buffalo Bills a prime opportunity to upgrade at the position. Stud corner Tre’Davious White is also returning from a torn ACL, so it makes sense for them to add depth through the draft.

Other needs to call out include the defensive line, which has serious question marks. Defensive ends Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison are both free agents and finished first/third respectively in team pressures last season. 

However, it’s not a primary need based on the fact Buffalo has previously invested high draft capital the last two seasons into pass-rushers like A.J. Epenesa, Gregory Rousseau and Boogie Basham.  

They are more likely to sign or draft an interior defensive lineman with their lackluster depth behind Ed Oliver. Their highest-graded run defender from last year, Harrison Phillips, is a free agent. 

A wide receiver seems like an unusual need for a high-powered offense like the Bills, but they cannot rest surrounding Josh Allen with weapons in the arms race that is the AFC.

Besides, Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie are free agents, and Cole Beasley will be 33 entering the final year of his deal. Brandon Beane has a strong track record of drafting wide receivers, so don’t be at all surprised to see him add another in a loaded draft class.

Some late Day 2 guys they may consider include Jalen Tolbert, Wan’Dale Robinson and Khalil Shakir. Buffalo also figures to be in the mix for upgrading their interior offensive line after finishing as PFF’s 27th-graded run-blocking unit. 

Action Item: Test the trade market waters with Gabriel Davis’ value. 

The last time we saw Davis play a football game he caught four touchdowns for over 200 receiving yards. His fantasy value has risen substantially to 68 overall on Underdog ADP as a result. And I can’t blame the market — the idea of Davis playing a full-time role in the Bills offense is tantalizing.

The second-year wideout averaged 19.8 fantasy points per game and 16.0 expected fantasy points per game in his last five games while running a route on 88% of dropbacks. Despite being a part-time player only the last two seasons, the former UCF Knight ranks top-5 in the NFL in total end-zone targets.

Still, the market is not considering Buffalo to add any WR of consequence, so the time is now to cash out if you can get a solid haul. 

The same sentiment can be made for Devin Singletary, who the Bills unleashed down the stretch. He averaged 20.5 fantasy points per game (second), an 81% snap share and 84% backfield touch share in the last six weeks prior to the team’s playoff loss to the Chiefs. 

However, it would not surprise me in the slightest to see them acquire a running back in free agency of the NFL Draft. They were reportedly extremely close to selecting Travis Etienne in the first round of last year’s draft.

Ergo, don’t be caught holding the bag with Singletary in any format. It likely won’t end well.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $17.9 million, 17th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 6th, 105th and 142nd
  • Team Needs: LT, QB, OL, LB

The Panthers offensive line was an absolute mess in 2021, allowing the league’s sixth-highest pressure rate. Taylor Moton is their best pass protector at right tackle but left tackle needs to be improved from the hodgepodge unit of Cam Erving, Brady Christensen and Dennis Daley from a season ago. 

With the sixth overall pick, Carolina is primed to take a franchise left tackle. Outside that, they don’t have any remaining picks remaining in the top-100, so they will have to fill roster holes in free agency.

They are sure to be in the running for any of the veteran quarterbacks available on the market or through trade, as well adding to their interior offensive line and linebacker position. 

Action Item: Don’t Let D.J. Moore Fall Too Far.

With salary cap space and draft capital to spend on offensive line pieces, it seems almost impossible for the Panthers to duplicate their atrocious quarterback play from a year ago. No team had a worse cumulative PFF passing grade than Carolina in 2021, so there’s nowhere to go but up.

And that’s why D.J. Moore is a buy-low target in the fourth round of best ball drafts and in dynasty leagues. The 25-year old is primed to bounce back with any overall offensive efficiency in 2022 after finishing 10th in expected fantasy points per game (16.6) last season.

CHICAGO BEARS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $17.4 million, 11th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 39th and 71st
  • Team Needs: WR, OL, DL, CB

The Chicago Bears don’t have a first-round pick in 2022 after the package trade for Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft. Because of their limited draft capital, the Bears will surely be active in free agency under new general manager Ryan Poles. 

They will have to plug up roster holes with free agent veterans because so much of their roster will overturn from last season — especially under new management. Left tackle Jason Peters, right guard James Daniels and right tackle Germain Ifedi represent the three-highest graded starting pass-blocking linemen from last season, and they are all hitting free agency. 

The wide receiver room is also glaring with nobody worth much outside of Darnell Mooney.

On the defensive side of the ball, adding cornerback and defensive line help are the next priorities under new defensive-minded head coach Matt Eberflus. Cornerback Artie Burns is a free agent along with their two top defensive tackles: Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichlos

There should be high-end defensive line talent at the top of the second round, so I’d presume that’s the route that Chicago goes after hopefully addressing the OL in free agency. 

Jordan Davis, DeMarvin Leal, Logan Hall, Devonte Wyatt all fit the bill as draft targets for the Bears. 

Action Item: The lack of potential pass-catching options makes Cole Kmet a screaming buy. 

No tight end should make a bigger third-year leap in 2022, because his upside has been capped by a lack of touchdown equity from Jimmy Graham. The veteran is a free agent in 2022.

Kmet’s eighth-ranked route participation hardly aligns with his fantasy production — no tight end finished with more fantasy points under expectation (-36.6) than the Notre Dame product in 2021.

That designation is a sign Kmet is due for a fantasy breakout. It signaled as much for guys like Zach Ertz and Dawson Knox, who scored fewer points than expected in 2020 before contributing in fantasy this year. Both tight ends finished 2021 as top-10 options at the position in fantasy points per game.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $49 million, 4th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 31st, 63rd and 95th
  • Team Needs: OL, CB

You don’t need to look too hard to identify the Bengals’ glaring weakness across their offensive line. Quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked 70 times in 2021 – the next closest quarterback was Ryan Tannehill with 48 sacks. Woof.

It’s critical that Cincy goes from bottom to at least mediocre-to-average across the line if they wish to get back into Super Bowl contention. And it shouldn’t be too much of a task based on the absurd amount of cap space they have available. 

Boston College guard Zion Johnson is who I had Cincy taking in my 2022 NFL Mock Draft 1.0.

After OL, Cincinnati desperately has to find another starting perimeter cornerback. Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton are solid, but another strong piece could help the defense tremendously.

Action Item: Don’t forget about C.J. Uzomah.

The Bengals every-down tight end had a strong finish to the 2021 season commanding at least five targets in his last seven games before his injury. He out-targeted Tyler Boyd during this stretch. 

Assuming Uzomah re-signs with the Bengals in free agency, he will have upside playing on all passing downs in a Joe Burrow-led offense.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $25 million, 12th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 13th, 44th, 78th and 98th
  • Team Needs: WR, EDGE, DT, LB, S

Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry has a strong track record of adding pass-rushers through the draft. I’d presume they select as pass-rusher with one of their top two picks. Defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney, Malik McDowell, Malik Jackson, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Takkarist McKinley are all slated for free agency. 

The other high-end selection has to be a wide receiver. 

Jarvis Landry may have played his final snap in Cleveland, and Donovan Peoples-Jones is not a No. 1 WR.

Action Item: David Njkou fantasy TE1 szn. 

The former first-round pick has not lived up to expectations five years into his NFL career, but he showed real glimpses of turning the corner in 2021. 

Njoku set career highs in PFF grade (70.9, 11th), yards per route run (1.54, 11th) and yards after the catch per reception (7.0, fourth). He was objectively efficient in 2021 and was only held back due to the Browns’ commitment to using a three-headed monster at tight end with Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant thrown in the mix. It was crystal clear Njoku offered the most upside as a receiver out of the group, as evidenced by his 149 receiving yards against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5. 

At just 25.5 years old, Njoku is a prime buy-low in dynasty formats with the hope that he earns a starting gig outside of Cleveland and fully takes advantage of his talent.

DALLAS COWBOYS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $-21 million, 30th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 24th, 56th and 88th
  • Team Needs: OL, WR, S, LB, DE

Dallas has the third-fewest salary cap space available making it unlikely they can retain starting left guard Connor Williams. Lucky for them, the draft has plenty of interior offensive linemen available for them to address the need. 

Filling roster holes vacated by free agents is going to be a big part of the Cowboys’ offseason with Cedrick Wilson, Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz hitting the open market on the offensive side of the ball. Amari Cooper is slated for a $22 million cap hit every year for the next three years, making it possible Dallas seeks a trade partner or cuts ties with the talented wideout to get under the cap number.

Wilson seems the most likely candidate to return as he can be kept for the cheapest price. He was also an absolute monster filling in for an oft-injured Gallup, commanding at least five targets in each of his last seven starts. He capped off his stellar 2021 season with five catches for 62 receiving yards on 10 targets during wild-card weekend. 

The Boise State product finished 20th in yards per route run (1.95) dating back to Week 8. Wilson could end up being Dallas’ No. 2 wide receiver behind CeeDee Lamb by the start of the 2022 season.

On the defensive side, the Cowboys also need to figure out a plan at safety and off-ball linebacker. Leighton Vander Esch, Jayron Kearse, Keanu Neal and several other depth players at those two positions are 2022 free agents. 

Without much salary cap space, I’d imagine they look to draft guys that can contribute at those spots. Kearse and Vander Esch ranked first and second respectively in tackles, so that will be the trait Dallas gravitates toward with incoming prospects.

Georgia’s Lewis Cine and Utah’s Chad Muma should offer top-end tackling ability at the next level. 

Action Item: Buy CeeDee Lamb across all formats.

His stock will only rise when Dallas loses their other top-pass catchers from a season ago. The same goes for acquiring Wilson for dirt cheap in best ball. Blake Jarwin is also an intriguing flier with the starting TE1 job well within reach.

DENVER BRONCOS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $39 million, 6th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 9th, 40th, 64th, 75th and 96th
  • Team Needs: QB, OT, EDGE, LB, CB

The Broncos are a franchise quarterback away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Their roster is littered with young talent on both sides of the ball, and they have a surplus of draft capital/salary cap space to use as an ultimate bargain chip should they look to address quarterback through free agency/trade.

However, if Denver is unsuccessful in trading for Aaron Rodgers or another established signal-caller, they will most certainly draft one at one point or another in the upcoming draft. 

Outside quarterback, anticipate the Broncos to add depth on the offensive line specifically at right tackle. Last year’s starters at RT – Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming – are both free agents. 

On defense, cornerback needs to be addressed if the team opts to not re-sign Kyle Fuller and/or Bryce Callahan. Fuller should be replaced, after finishing the 2021 season with PFF’s second-worst coverage grade (40.8). He played out-of-position in the slot after Callahan got hurt last year, which contributed to his poor performance. 

Denver also needs to fortify their pass-rush after failing to replace Von Miller last season. Miller (32) had more generated pressures than all of the Broncos defensive ends combined over the last nine weeks. 

A.J. Johnson was by far the best Denver linebacker last season, earning a 90-plus PFF grade in run defense and tackling. But he only played in six games after tearing his pec. They can’t afford to bypass this position this offseason with zero depth at linebacker currently on the roster. 

Action Item: Buy low on all Broncos wide receivers in dynasty. 

The minute that a quarterback upgrade happens in Denver, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy will experience a fantasy value spike. Always, always, always buy talent at the wide receiver position in dynasty, because situations can change sooner than you think.

DETROIT LIONS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $21 million, 13th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 2nd, 32nd, 34th, 66th and 97th. 
  • Team Needs: WR, EDGE, S, LB, QB, CB

Only the Atlanta Falcons boasted a worse pressure rate on defense than the Lions did a season ago. Seems only fit that Michigan edge defender, Aidan Hutchinson, is the pick to provide a spark to the knee-cap hungry Detroit defense with the No. 2 overall pick. His 2021 PFF defense grade (94.5) is the highest among any edge defender entering the NFL since Washington Commander Chase Young.

Cornerback, safety and linebacker are the other two areas of improvement for Dan Campbell’s defense. Last year’s starting free safety Tracy Walker looks primed to test free agency. And no linebacker or cornerback graded per PFF top-45 at their position for the Lions last season.

For fantasy purposes, quarterback and wide receiver are the two obvious needs. I doubt we see Detroit start a rookie quarterback from the get-go because of Jared Goff’s contract, but they should draft one at some point. The same goes for wide receivers with Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond and KhaDarel Hodge impending free agents.

Action Item: Sell Amon Ra St.Brown

Seems like a foregone conclusion that the Lions add one if not more pass-catching options this offseason. With ASB entrenched as the team’s projected target leader based on his WR3 finish from Week 13 onward – 33% target share – he’s at his peak value.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $-37.4 million, 31st
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 28th, 59th, and 92nd.
  • Team Needs: WR, OL, CB

The Green Bay Packers are going all-in on their salary cap to convince Aaron Rodgers to make his return. And that will have their work cut out for them as they are currently $37 million under the cap. They also have a boatload of impending skill position free agents such as Davante Adams, Robert Tonyan and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

The right approach will undoubtedly influence the Green Packers’ draft strategy to select impact players with their high-end draft capital on cheaper salary cap hits that can contribute from Day 1.

A wide receiver makes sense with their first overall selection, but stabilizing the offensive line is also super important.

The Packers have some question marks at their right tackle spot opposite David Bakhtiari with Dennis Kelly hitting free agency, and Billy Turner commanding a $9 million cap hit as PFF’s 53rd graded tackle in 2021. Elgton Jenkins is also coming off a late-season torn ACL suffered in Week 11.

They will also need to find a slot cornerback to replace Chandon Sullivan, who will likely command too much to be retained on the open market. Houston’s Marcus Jones looks like a potential plug-in-play option from the draft.

He’s excelled playing in the slot allowed a 0.0 passer rating from the inside in 2021 and offers kick return ability. Jones finished the 2021 season as PFF’s highest-graded returner in the country. 

Action Item: Where there’s smoke there is fire. 

The ongoing Rodgers Instagram propaganda about his future makes me less optimistic that he ends up running it back with Green Bay. Their current cap situation after going all-in for the last three years to win a championship has finally caught up to the Packers.

I am getting eerily similar vibes to the Patriots’ 2020 disaster season after Tom Brady left when I look at this team. I would be looking to wipe my hands clean of Packers players as a result in dynasty formats, and let others embrace the risk in best ball drafts

HOUSTON TEXANS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $18.8 million, 16th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 3rd, 37th, 68th and 80th
  • Team Needs: S, LB, DT, EDGE, CB, QB, RB, WR

After “loading up” on offensive personnel in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans looked primed to flip the script and add to their defense that ranked 31st in yards per play allowed.

Edge player Kayvon Thibodeaux and safety Kyle Hamilton are both standout defensive players with the No.3 selection, so I could envision Houston going in either direction. However, with the general manager, Nick Caserio, stemming from the New England Patriots system – notorious for valuing pass coverage in favor of pass rush – Houston opts for a do-it-all defensive playmaker.

There are massive holes all over this defense, so Houston will have the luxury of selecting the best player available on draft day. Their three starting linebackers from last season – albeit poor starters – are all free agents along with their best defensive tackle Maliek Collins

On offense, it’s basically the same story. They need help everywhere especially if/when they trade Deshaun Watson, Brandin Cooks and/or Laremy Tunsil

HOUSTON TEXANS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $18.8 million, 16th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 3rd, 37th, 68th and 80th
  • Team Needs: S, LB, DT, EDGE, CB, QB, RB, WR

After “loading up” on offensive personnel in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans looked primed to flip the script and add to their defense that ranked 31st in yards per play allowed.

Edge player Kayvon Thibodeaux and safety Kyle Hamilton are both standout defensive players with the No.3 selection, so I could envision Houston going in either direction. However, with the general manager, Nick Caserio, stemming from the New England Patriots system – notorious for valuing pass coverage in favor of pass rush – Houston opts for a do-it-all defensive playmaker.

There are massive holes all over this defense, so Houston will have the luxury of selecting the best player available on draft day. Their three starting linebackers from last season – albeit poor starters – are all free agents along with their best defensive tackle Maliek Collins

On offense, it’s basically the same story. They need help everywhere especially if/when they trade Deshaun Watson, Brandin Cooks and/or Laremy Tunsil

Action Item: Prepare for second-year leaps for wide receiver Nico Collins and tight end Brevin Jordan

The Houston Texans tight end enjoyed a decent rookie season, finishing with a 19% target rate per route run and four top-12 weekly finishes over his last nine games. 

Jordan also dominated the receiving usage over the team’s last two games, running 40 routes to Pharaoh Brown’s 18 and Anthony Auclair’s five. It’s a great sign that Jordan should lock down the primary receiving role at tight end in Houston, especially with others departing from the position. 

Collins commanded end-zone targets and high air-yard throws in 2021 but ultimately never put together a true breakout game. He finished behind Cooks in air yards and all other receiving categories. Still, he should open the 2022 season at worst as the de facto No. 2 option unless Cooks is moved for up-and-coming second-year quarterback Davis Mills.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $37 million, 7th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 47th and 82nd
  • Team Needs: QB, WR, OL, DE, DL, CB

The Indianapolis Colts look like the “team” that could emerge post-free agency as a big winner. They have plenty of cap space to address the potential losses of key offensive contributors like T.Y. Hilton, Eric Fisher and Mark Glowinski

Adding a slot wide receiver to pair alongside Michael Pittman Jr. is a priority, along with shoring the offensive line. 

The elephant in the room is moving on from Carson Wentz and finding his eventual replacement. With a win-now roster and little draft capital because of the Wentz trade, I fully expect Indy to add a veteran signal-caller through trade or free agency. Adding weapons to the roster behind an elite OL will be enticing for a quarterback looking for a new home. 

Their defense will look similar personnel-wise but might be slightly different under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley formerly of the Las Vegas Raiders. Don’t be surprised to see free agent cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. follow his former DC to Indianapolis as an upgrade from Xavier Rhodes

Action Item: Buy Michael Pittman. 

He was treated like a true alpha in 2021, running a route on 96% of offensive dropbacks — third to only Cooper Kupp (WR1) and Ja’Marr Chase (WR4) through 17 weeks. He also finished the season with the league’s 11th-highest target share (24%), which was 11 percentage points higher than the next closest Colt, Zach Pascal at 13%.

The only reason he didn’t finish higher than WR22 was that the Colts ranked 29th in pass-play rate and 27th in pass attempts. If Indy’s sixth-graded defense regresses to average or below average in 2022 — strong possibility with a new DC — Pittman has the volume to be a top-12 fantasy option. 

His 31% target share from Weeks 13-18 is a sign his dynasty stock will continue to rise. And if the Colts obtain a solid quarterback, top-5 isn’t all that crazy for Big Mike. 

If Mo Alie-Cox departs in free agency, then SMU standout Kylen Granson becomes the sneaky buy across dynasty formats. Granson entered the NFL with an impressive college production profile and looks slated to be a primary pass-catcher for the Colts in 2022 and beyond. As a rookie, he ran 51% of his routes from the slot — the 15th-highest mark at the position.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $57 million, 3rd
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 1st, 33rd, 65th and 70th 
  • Team Needs: OL, TE, WR, DT, CB, S

The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Doug Pederson to be their head coach with hopes that he can help develop quarterback Trevor Lawrence in his second season. The first order of business for Pederson looks to be solidifying the offensive line after Lawrence faced the fifth-most dropbacks under pressure in 2021.

The new Jags head coach recently spoke to games being won and lost in the trenches, and that you’re not going to have a passing attack if you cannot protect the quarterback. That phrasing suggests that Jacksonville will select an offensive lineman – most likely at left tackle – to replace impending free agent Cam Robinson.

Robinson posted a career-high PFF pass-blocking grade (76.6) in 2021. If the Jags do not opt to bring back Robinson or add a tackle via free agency – Terron Armstead, Duane Brown, Eric Fisher are among the cream of the crop – Alabama tackle Evan Neal is the sure-fire selection at No. 1 overall.

After fortifying the OL the next step is to surround Lawrence with playmakers. The wide receiver and tight end corps need to be totally revamped. D.J. Chark, Tavon Austin and Laquon Treadwell are all free agents. 

On the other side of the ball, the crucial fix is the interior defensive line. Taven Bryan and Adam Gotsis are both free agents. Luckily for the Jags, they should easily acquire a top rookie defensive tackle at the top of the second round with the 33rd overall pick.

Action Item: Buy low on Lawrence and Travis Etienne

Lawrence posted a season-high 85.1 PFF passing grade in the season-finale, offering some hope that he can turn things around in 2022 with new coaching staff in place. After Urban Meyer was fired, the Jags quarterback finished with the second-best completion rate (74%) throwing at the intermediate level of the field.

Etienne was lost to a preseason injury, but do not forget what this guy did at Clemson with Lawrence as his quarterback. During his final season as a Tiger, he led the country in receiving yards and ranked second in receptions among running backs. 

With James Robinson attempting to come back from a torn Achilles injury suffered on December 26th, Etienne will be the featured back as the team installs the new offense this spring/summer. 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $11.5 million, 18th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 30th, 62nd, 94th and 102nd
  • Team Needs: WR, CB, DL, S, OT

Two Kansas City Chiefs starting cornerbacks from last season – Charvarius Ward, Mike Hughes – are free agents in 2022. As are two of their safeties: Daniel Sorensen and Tyrann Mathieu. Kansas City needs to fortify their secondary this offseason.

They also lack a viable No. 3 receiving option behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson are free agents. 

In the trenches, the Chiefs have to find a way to re-sign or franchise tackle Orlando Brown Jr. after trading for him before the start of the 2021 season. On defense Alex Okafor, Jarran Reed and Melvin Ingram are all free agents. Ingram was the team’s second-most efficient pass-rusher behind Chris Jones and the highest-graded run defender. 

Reed played the most snaps along the interior of the defensive line. 

Action Item: Prepare for more competition for Clyde Edwards-Helaire

CEH dealt with injuries throughout the season but was mediocre at best when healthy. His rushing efficiency metrics were worse than his rookie season, and he took a back seat to Darrel Williams as the team’s preferred pass-catcher out of the backfield.

The second-year back finished 59th out of 64 qualifying running backs in yards after contact per attempt (2.4) and third-to-last in target rate per route run at the running back position (13%).

And during the postseason, Jerick McKinnon led the backfield over Edwards-Helaire with twice as many touches. Considering both McKinnon and Williams are free agents, I’d presume the Chiefs bring back one of them to pair with Edwards-Helaire in 2022. 

Derrick Gore should also be stashed in case neither McKinnon or Williams return to KC. 

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $19.8 million, 15th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 22nd, 53rd and 86th
  • Team Needs: WR, DT, OT, DE, LB, CB

The Mike Mayock Raiders would surely overdraft a defensive tackle in the upcoming NFL Draft, but I am optimistic that under a new regime they can get better value in the first round with the HC/GM pairing of Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler.

Wide receiver seems like a sweet spot early on for the Raiders because they need to find a full-time replacement for Henry Ruggs. Zay Jones and DeSean Jackson are both free agents. 

The Raiders could also do right by upgrading from Brandon Parker at right tackle. He’s on an expired contract and allowed the most QB pressures per game among qualifying tackles in 2021. 

Defensive line and cornerback round out the needs on defense. All of their interior players are free agents. They also may be forced to identify a replacement for Casey Hayward Jr. at the perimeter cornerback position after he finished last season as a top-five most valuable cornerback. 

Action Item: Stash Zay Jones

Jones played better than second-year receiver Bryan Edwards, which is a good sign heading into 2022. He’s a free agent at just 27 years old and likely will get a solid payday for his impressive play down the stretch.

Jones averaged a 25% target share and 15.4 expected fantasy points per game in the team’s final five games. He also led the team in total air yards (1,136).

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $57.5 million, 2nd
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 17th, 48th and 79th 
  • Team Needs: WR, CB, DT, OT

The AFC crown has become an arms race between teams with elite quarterbacks. What the Chargers can – and should do – is to surround Justin Herbert with weapons as far as the eye can see. Whether they re-sign Mike Williams or not, there is way too much talent at the wide receiver position in both free agency and the NFL Draft for L.A. to not add more playmakers to their offense.

And it shouldn’t be a difficult task to achieve with the second-most available salary cap space. Not only should the Chargers be able to bring in out-of-town talent, but they will be able to retain their own key FAs like linebacker Kyzir White and starting right guard Michael Schofield

Upgrading from right tackle Storm Norton – PFF’s worst-graded pass-blocking tackle – would also be wise. 

Addressing defensive tackle and slot cornerback should also be atop the to-do list for general manager Tom Telesco. Chris Harris Jr. is a free agent, and the Chargers allowed the third-most rushing yards per game last season. 

Action Item: Float Mike Williams in trade offers/buy Joshua Palmer

There are bound to be several suitors, including the Chargers, interested in Williams, who’s coming off career-highs in targets (122, 18% target share), receptions (76) and yards per route run (1.97, 15th). Big Mike finished the season as the WR23 in fantasy points per game attached to Herbert, but there is no guarantee he dons the powder blue for 2022 and beyond.

It’s been reported per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe that Williams will get paid like a No. 1, which L.A. may not choose to do based on the big-bodied wide receiver’s full body of work. There are not many QB situations that would present a better fantasy landing spot for Williams, making him a player I’d like to move for fear he ends up as the No. 1, albeit on a middling-to-below average offense. 

Palmer has done more than enough as a starter this season to allow the Chargers to let Big Mike walk. The rookie has averaged over seven targets per game and scored a touchdown in his three games with a 60% snap share. 

Palmer will be in line for immediate fantasy success if he inherits Williams’ role — Williams led the Chargers in air yards (1,651, 15th) and end-zone targets (16, sixth).

The second-year wideout could have even more upside than Williams, who converted only five of his end-zone targets into touchdowns. Palmer caught three of his five end-zone targets for TDs. 

In Week 18, Williams went 0-for-7 on deep targets, while Palmer caught one of his two. The Tennessee product has a second-year breakout written all over him if Williams moves on.

LOS ANGELES RAMS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $-13.7 million, 28th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 103rd and 135th
  • Team Needs: CB, OL, DT, EDGE

The Rams are under the cap and possess zero-to-little draft capital to work with to combat potential major losses in free agency this offseason.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (retirement), center Brian Allen, right guard Austin Corbett, defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, edge Von Miller, cornerback Darious Williams and cornerback Donte Deayon could all find new homes in 2021.

Action Item: Buy low on Cam Akers

Akers averaged 2.4 yards per carry during the 2021 season after returning from his Achilles injury — the worst mark of any running back with at least 70 carries. But his inefficient production is partially related to the juggernaut of run defenses he faced down the stretch — San Francisco 49ers (twice) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — when in fact no Rams RB ran efficiently. 95% of his rushing yards in 2021 came after contact — the highest mark in the NFL. 

There’s simply too much emphasis placed on Akers’ production when the volume is the key driver to fantasy success at running back. In the Rams’ divisional playoff win versus the Buccaneers, Akers played 81% of the Los Angeles offensive snaps and out-touched Sony Michel (2022 free agent) 27 to 3. 

I’d expect Akers to be dialed back in as the top RB next season in Sean McVay’s consistent one-RB offense, where the team’s lead back averages 20-plus touches per game.

MIAMI DOLPHINS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $61.2 million, 1st
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 29th, 50th and 101st
  • Team Needs: OL, RB, WR, TE, LB

If Miami ever wants to see Tua Tagovailoa succeed, they need to protect him upfront. They had the worst PFF pass-blocking grade as a team in 2021. New head coach Mike McDaniel knows how essential it is for an offense to possess a functioning OL unit from his days spent in San Francisco, so the Dolphins have to break the bank for big men up front.

After that, it’s all about adding playmakers for their quarterback. The majority of their relevant tight ends, running backs and wide receivers like Mike Gesicki, Will Fuller, Durham Smythe, Duke Johnson Jr. and Albert Wilson are free agents.

Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker are a solid WR duo, but they can still add more. Especially with Parker’s injury history. 

South Beach also looks like a prime spot for one of the highly-coveted rookie running backs to call home. 

Defensively, Miami is in pretty solid shape. Linebacker is where they can improve the most. 

Action Item: The Dolphins have never been shy about making splashy moves in free agency, so I’d be looking to buy/ hold quarterback Tua Tagovailoa

Whether you think he can take the next step in Year 3 or not, his fantasy value will surely rise after Miami goes on a March spending spree.

I’m not particularly high on Tagovailoa — my QB22 in redraft — but I can at least acknowledge that he is bound to see an artificial spike in value post-free agency. Buy now and flip for more later. 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $-14.8 million, 29th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 12th, 46th, and 77th
  • Team Needs: CB, LB, DL, S, WR, QB

The Vikings ranked fifth in most passing yards allowed this past season and have a glaring hole at cornerback. Cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander played the most snaps for Minnesota last season but are prime candidates to leave in free agency. That leaves just Cameron Dantzler as a starter surrounded by less-than-ideal options.

The entire Minnesota defense could use a fresh coat of paint, most notably at linebacker and defensive line. Anthony Barr and Nick Vigil are both impending free agents, as are Everson Griffen and Sheldon Richardson.

This team’s strengths are definitely on offense, as they don’t have many holes to fill. New head coach Kevin O’Connell has been mostly supportive of Kirk Cousins as his quarterback for 2022 unless a better option presents itself. Cousins’ contract does expire after this upcoming season, so they could draft his eventual replacement. 

They are also a candidate to draft a wide receiver, with Adam Thielen a potential cut candidate entering his age 32-year old season. 

Action Item: Don’t overlook Tyler Conklin and K.J. Osborn in best-ball drafts. 

The Vikings tight end sure looks like this year’s version of Dalton Schultz. He posted highs across all receiving categories while also serving as the TE15 in fantasy. Conklin is being undervalued because of the return of Irv Smith Jr., but he is the more proven commodity. Similar to how Blake Jarwin was favored in ADP over Schultz, dispute the latter being productive in 2020.  

If Minnesota does not bring back Conklin, ISJ becomes the go-to target for fantasy as the TE1 in the Vikings offense. The 23-year-old tight end took a massive leap forward in 2020, finishing 12th in PFF receiving grade (75.4) and seventh in yards per reception (12.2). If he inherits Conklin’s vacated role — ninth in route participation — he will turn heads in 2022 coming off a lost 2021 season due to injury.

Osborn flashed at times during the 2021 season, but never more so than when he filled in for Thielen. From Weeks 13-17, the second-year pro averaged 12 half-PPR fantasy points per game to go along with six targets. 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $7.4 million, 21st
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 21st, 54th and 85th
  • Team Needs:  WR, LB, OL, S

Many will harp on the Patriots to take a wide receiver at No. 21, but it’s just not in Bill Belichick’s DNA to pay up at that position. And when he has it’s never panned out: ie. N’Keal Harry, Chad Jackson, Aaron Dobson. Regardless, the need to surround Mac Jones with weapons needs to be at the forefront of their offseason strategy. The offensive line also needs to stay intact with right tackle Trent Brown and center Ted Karras hitting free agency. They graded out as PFF’s best pass-blockers on the Patriots last season. 

Their defense desperately needs speed, especially at the linebacker position. Last year’s unit looked like they were playing underwater at times. Patriots linebacker coach Jerod Mayo said recently on a local Patriots radio station that, “the team is looking to get faster, more explosive and put more playmakers on the field.”

The secondary is also in play if New England does not bring back free safety Devin McCourty or cornerback J.C. Jackson. Jackson won’t come cheap after allowing the league’s fourth-lowest passer rating when targeted in 2021.

Action Item: Buy the Damien Harris dip. 

Harris led all running backs during the 2021 regular season in fantasy points per snap. As PFF’s highest-graded running back (91.8) over the past two seasons, Harris needs to be held in extremely high regard. With one more year on his rookie deal, New England has all the incentive to ride Harris for the entire 2022 season.

The best part is that Harris can still be acquired in some leagues at a slight discount because Rhamondre Stevenson‘s hype is so strong. The Stevenson hype will almost undoubtedly keep Harris’ start-up ADP and trade value at below-market costs.

Harris and Stevenson have a chance to capture a larger receiving role in New England’s passing game because New England’s incumbent pass-catching backs — James White and Brandon Bolden — are impending free agents.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

  • Estimated Cap Space: -$76 million, 32nd
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 18th, 49th, and 100th
  • Team Needs: QB, WR, CB, DT, OL, LB, FS

The relationship between Michael Thomas and the New Orleans Saints seems to be improving, with reports suggesting the team is not looking to trade him before the 2022 season. However, even with Thomas back in the fold, there’s still a major gaping hole at the wide receiver position in the Big Easy.  Long-time general manager Mickey Loomis has had zero issues spending high-end draft capital on WRs in the past, making a WR selection in the draft highly likely. 

Drafting a quarterback is also strongly in play with Jameis Winston a free agent, and Taysom Hill likely not the long-term answer. 

On defense, the Saints are going to lose tackle Terron Armstead along with linebacker Kwon Alexander and free safeties Marcus Williams/P.J.Williams in free agency. 

Action Item: Acquire my dynasty-stan, Deonte (Harty) Harris

All in all, the Saints are shaping up to be a dumpster fire in 2022. With Sean Payton retiring, salary cap hell imminent, key player overhaul and quarterback concerns, it’s hard to expect any kind of fantasy goodness from this team. 

Free agent Tre‘Quan Smith has never lived up to his Round 3 draft pedigree, with his career featuring many more lowlights than highlights. The former UCF standout has never had a PFF receiving grade above 68.0 in four NFL seasons. 

Nevertheless, his departure in free agency could move restricted free agent Harris into a full-time role alongside Marquez Callaway and Thomas. 

Harris saw an extremely high target rate per route run this season (27%) and finished sixth in both PFF receiving grade (86.8) and yards per route run (2.69).

NEW YORK GIANTS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $24 million, 13th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 5th, 7th, 36th, 67th and 81st
  • Team Needs: OL, EDGE, LB, CB, TE

Out with the old, in with the new. Big Blue cleaned house this offseason hiring Brian Daboll as head coach and Joe Schoen as general manager. Both guys spent their last several seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Management/ownership understands they need to put Daniel Jones in a position to succeed this season, to identify him as their long-term answer at quarterback.

The easiest way to achieve that goal is to add protection upfront in the form of offensive linemen with one of their top-7 picks. That selection should help fortify PFF’s third-worst offensive line that may be without Nate Solder, Will Hernandez and Billy Price due to hit free agency.

I expect the other selection to be on defense. With trade/cut rumors swirling surrounding 2023 free agent cornerback James Bradberry – $21 million cap hit in 2022 – Big Blue needs to add another man coverage cornerback. New defensive coordinator Don Martindale is more than happy to put corners on an island.

Linebacker and pass-rush are the other two glaring holes on the Giants’ defense.

Tight end also looks to be different in New York. Pending free agent Evan Engram needs a refresh to his NFL career. His PFF receiving grade has continued to decline over the last four seasons, bottoming out in 2021 at 54.9 — 40th among 44 qualifying tight ends.

Action Item: Buy low on the Giants offense. 

Because there is nowhere else to go but up. Their offense has finished 31st in scoring the past two seasons. But there’s value to be under new management with the idea that the team can go to bottom-dwelling to average in 2022. 

Kenny Golladay is vastly overdue for touchdown regression after commanding the most end-zone targets (13) without scoring in 2021. Kadarius Toney looks like a future target magnet after commanding a 25% target rate per route run in 2021 tied for 7th best in the NFL. 

NEW YORK JETS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $44.5 million, 5th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 4th, 10th, 35th, 38th, and 69th
  • Team Needs: WR, TE, OL, EDGE, DT, CB, S

The New York Jets have a multitude of holes on their roster, especially on defense, so they look to bolster that side of the ball with an elite pass-rusher at the top of the draft and through free agency.  

Secondary could also use a major upgrade. None of the Jets cornerbacks were graded inside the top-55 cornerbacks for PFF in 2021. Starting safety Marcus Maye is a free agent. 

But the No.1 focus needs to be on offense. The more weapons for Zach Wilson the better. The same sentiment can be made for Wilson’s OL protection. Especially with right tackle Morgan Moses a free agent. 

Action Item: Sell Michael Carter

The Jets have a lot of Day 2 draft capital and salary cap space that they could potentially use to add another body to the backfield. Veteran dust ball Tevin Coleman did enough when he was healthy to prevent Carter from fully taking over the backfield, so any other back entering with more pedigree does present risks.

Not to mention that Carter’s games with the most receptions a season ago were heavily inflated with Mike “The Checkdown King” White. Carter has yet to receive more than three targets in seven games with Zach Wilson under center. The UNC product also earned three top-13 finishes with White; RB17 was his best finish with Wilson under center. 

There’s also the concern that the Jets offense remains a dumpster fire, which would make it difficult for Carter to exceed his RB23 best-ball ADP

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

  • Estimated Cap Space: $21 million, 14th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 15th, 16th, 19th, 51st and 83rd
  • Team Needs: IOL, S, CB, LB, EDGE, WR

Center Jason Kelce has been ho-hum about whether he will return to the Eagles for the 2022 season. It’s possible that Landon Dickerson slides over from guard to take over starting center duties, opening the need for a starting guard on the OL. 

The wide receiver is the next position to address on offense. Jalen Reagor looks like a total bust after two seasons, so the Eagles still need to pair DeVonta Smith with another top-tier wideout.

Defensively speaking, the crux of the Eagles’ problems on defense last season can be traced back to their porous linebacker play. T.J. Edwards is a solid starter, but he is still slow and it’s bare-bones behind him on the depth chart.

Cornerback, safety and pass-rush also require upgrades. Defensive end Derek Barnett, edge Ryan Kerrigan, cornerback Steven Nelson, free safety Anthony Harris and strong safety Rodney McLeod are free agents. 

Action Item: Buy Miles Sanders in best ball. 

Sanders’ ADP outside the top-100 players is comical. Jordan Howard is a free agent, and Sanders was the clear leader in the backfield during the end of the season. Over the last five games that he was healthy, he led the Eagles with 15 touches per game. 

Kenneth Gainwell averaged just six touches per game over that stretch, 16 of which came in Week 18 where the Eagles rested their starters. 

As a super-efficient and explosive back — 5.0 career yards per attempt — the 25-year-old Sanders is well worth his suppressed cost in a run-first offense. 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $29.5 million, 10th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 20th, 52nd and 84th
  • Team Needs: QB, OL, CB, S, WR

Pittsburgh has an obvious need to address their offensive line, but that has not been a position they have attacked with high-end draft capital under the Kevin Colbert regime. Luckily, they own the tenth-most cap space so they can improve up front with veterans in the free agent market.

They also need to address the back-end of their defense. Cameron Sutton is their only starting cornerback under contract for next season with both Ahkello Witherspoon and Joe Haden hitting free agency. Interior defense also makes sense, after the Steelers boasted the league 32nd-ranked run defense in 2021. 

On offense other than OL, quarterback and wide receiver are the other positions I anticipate Pittsburgh making transactions for. Mason Rudolph is by no means the long-term answer at quarterback or is restricted free agent Dwayne Haskins

The Steelers are solid atop their receiver depth chart with Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson, but JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud are all free agents.

Don’t think Pittsburgh won’t take a wide receiver they like in Round 3 or 4.

Action Item: Buy Claypool.

His second-year breakout was inevitably halted by Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of downfield throwing ability: On throws with 20-plus air yards, Big Ben graded 31st out of 38 qualifying QBs per PFF.

Claypool commanded a 27% air yards share on the season and led the team in the metric over the final four weeks. Better days are ahead for the Notre Dame product if Pittsburgh can put a capable QB under center in 2022. 

I’d be all over buying him in dynasty one year removed from scoring double-digit touchdowns as a rookie.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $2.9 million, 23rd
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 61st and 93rd
  • Team Needs: CB, RB, OL, DT

The 49ers don’t have a ton of capital to make any massive offseason moves because of the Trey Lance trade a season ago. The roster from top-to-bottom was just one game away from the Super Bowl, so it’s easy to see why they don’t have many holes to fill. 

The offensive line could take a small step backward if the 49ers are unable to keep some of their pending free agents in Laken Tomlinson, Tom Compton and Daniel Brunskill. 

San Fran’s biggest need is undoubtedly their secondary. Turning back to Josh Norman – PFF’s seventh-worst graded cornerback in 2021 – is a recipe for disaster. Their two other slot cornerbacks – K’Waun Williams and Dontae Johnson – are slated for free agency. 

The defensive tackle could also use more depth; Kentavius Street, D.J. Jones, Kevin Givens and Maurice Hurst are all free agents. Jones finished with the fifth-most tackles from the interior in 2021. 

Action Item: Sell “high” on Elijah Mitchell.

The 49ers’ backfield will be very different next season due to Raheem Mostert, Jeffery Wilson and JaMycal Hasty hitting the open market this offseason.

That leaves Mitchell as the perceived entrenched bell-cow with 2021 third-rounder Trey Sermon as his primary backup. Unless Mitchell suffers an injury — not unusual for a 49er running back — Sermon probably will stay irrelevant.

The coaches have trusted Mitchell so much during the 49ers’ 2021 postseason run, feeding him 27, 21, 21, 22, 27, 27, 17 and 11 carries in his last eight starts. The rookie has lived up to the lofty workload, averaging 83 rushing yards per game.

But the fact of the matter is that the 49ers look primed to add another veteran back in free agency, and I’ve got major durability concerns with Mitchell. Undersized backs in the 49ers offense constantly get banged up. 80% of Mitchell’s rushing yards came after contact in 2021, so it was not surprising to see him miss six games with the impact his body took.

And since the 2018 season, the first 49ers running back drafted in fantasy football based on ADP, has never been the one you wanted to draft first by season’s end. Case in point, Mostert was the first guy drafted these past two seasons, when Mitchell/Wilson were better fantasy assets.

Same story the two years prior with Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon. Mostert and Matt Breida were the SF RBs to own based on how the season played out.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $35 million, 8th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 41st and 72nd
  • Team Needs: TE, CB, RB, DT, OL, EDGE

It will be interesting to see how Seattle addresses its tight end room this offseason. Both Gerald Everett and Will Dissly are free agents, potentially vacating a solid role in the offense. 

Everett was solid during stretches of the season, particularly after Russell Wilson returned from injury. The ex-Rams tight end ranked as the TE8 in fantasy points per game from Weeks 10-16 while running a route on 74% of dropbacks.

Whatever tight end goes into 2022 at the top of Seattle’s depth chart will experience spike fantasy weeks because of how the position is deployed within the Shane Waldron offense.

Outside cornerback is also a major need for Seattle with starters D.J. Reed and Sidney Jones hitting free agency. Reed allowed the 10th-lowest passer rating when targeted in 2021 (66.0). The secondary as a whole cannot be ignored with starting free safety Quandre Diggs also in need of a new contract. 

Pass-rush is also a glaring issue after Seattle finished with PFF’s third-worst pass-rush grade last season. 

I expect Seattle to use the majority of their salary cap space to maintain the offensive line with over half of last year’s starters on expired deals. Left tackle Duane Brown, right tackle Brandon Shell and center Ethan Pocic either need to be replaced or re-signed. 

Action Item: Buy “Penny” stock in the Seattle backfield. 

No running back boosted their real-life free-agent value or fantasy football stock more than Rashaad Penny to close out the 2021 season. The former first-rounder ran hotter than the sun over the Seahawks’ final five games after taking over the starting gig. He ranked first in PFF rushing grade (91.1), yards after contact per attempt (5.27) and fantasy points scored above expectation (+48.8).

Penny was a full-blown workhorse who averaged 19.4 touches per game and seems primed to garner heavy interest on the open market at just 26 years old. Seattle may try to bring him back, but that may depend on Chris Carson’s status coming off his neck injury. Carson has never played a full season but is under contract in 2022.

DeeJay Dallas is also interesting running back to stash at the back-end of dynasty rosters in anticipation of how the Seahawks backfield shakes out. He led all Seattle RBs in targets and receptions.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $6.8 million, 22nd
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 27th, 60th and 91st
  • Team Needs: QB, IOL, DL, WR, RB, TE, CB

With Tampa potentially losing Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston, Jason Pierre-Paul and Steven McClendon in free agency, they need to inject more youth across their defensive line alongside 2020 first-rounder Joe Tryon-Shoyinka

The same goes for the cornerback position if they can’t bring back impending free agent Carlton Davis

At the time of this writing, Tampa Bay also has a major hole at quarterback. Former Florida Gator and 2021 second-rounder, Kyle Trask, is the only quarterback on the active roster. He played zero snaps in 2021. 

The Buccaneers have boasted one of the best offensive line units the best two seasons, but might be out of luck in 2022. Starting right guard Alex Cappa and center Ryan Jensen are available on the market. Other starting guard Ali Marpet recently announced his retirement at age 28. The decision does free up $10M in cash for Tampa to play with this season. 

Wide receiver becomes a major area to address as well, if Tampa cannot create the funds to re-sign Chris Godwin. The Bucs stud wide receiver is expected to be in recovery mode by the time free agent hits in March, but his last three years of production from the slot — fourth in receptions — will still draw plenty of suitors looking for a wideout that can play inside and out.

Action Item: Draft Ke’Shawn Vaughn until Tampa adds competition.

Vaughn is the only Buccaneers running back under contract for next season — Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard are all free agents — so he has interesting fantasy appeal if he is the last man standing in the backfield.

PFF’s Ian Hartitz summed up Rob Gronkowski’s future with the Tampa in lieu of Tom Brady’s retirement to perfection with one single tweet:

It fully encapsulates Gronk almost surely not returning to football in 2022. The reason he un-retired in the first place was to hook up with Brady for one last run. With his contract expiring, it seems only a matter of time before the future Hall-of-Fame tight end hangs up his cleats for good.

It does, however, impact the Buccaneers tight end room massively because it thrusts Cameron Brate in the starting tight end role — the Harvard man is under contract till 2024. 

Tampa may try to retain O.J. Howard, but he could opt to go elsewhere after being a complete afterthought in a high-powered offense. At 27 years old, the verdict isn’t really in on Howard, with tight ends not traditionally not firing until their second contract. 

Howard has at times performed at an elite level in the NFL — he was PFF’s second-highest-graded tight end in 2018. If he can carve out a bigger role on a new offense, I am optimistic he can recapture some of the shine from earlier in his career. 

TENNESSEE TITANS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $-6.9 million, 27th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 26th, 90th
  • Team Needs: WR, OL, TE, LB, CB

It’s odd that a team that earned the No.1 seed in the AFC last season would have so many needs on offense. But alas, that is the case with the Tennessee Titans

Depending on how free agency shakes out, the Titans could easily select an offensive lineman with their top selection. Center Ben Jones and right tackle David Quessenberry are both free agents. Left tackle Taylor Lewan is rumored to be a cut candidate.

But they are in such dire circumstances at the wide receiver position with virtually no depth behind A.J. Brown and an aging unreliable Julio Jones. They neglected to address WR last season with any high draft capital and won’t make the same mistake twice.

Look for the Titans to make a splash in free agency this offseason at the tight end position. With injuries hitting Brown, Jones and Derrick Henry in 2021, Tennessee was forced to expand roles for backup tight ends like Anthony Firsker/Geoff Swaim, but to no avail. Firsker led the way with 34 receptions for 291 receiving yards — worse than his numbers in 2020.

With all three of the team’s tight ends on expiring contracts, expect Tennessee to sign a veteran or address the position in the draft. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing has ties to free agent ends like Tyler Conklin and Jared Cook. 

On defense, the Titans’ goals are to reinforce linebacker, pass-rush and secondary positions. Rashaan Evans, Harold Landry and Jayon Brown are all hitting the market. 33-year-old Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins was the Titans best cornerback in 2021, and his contract expires in 2023. 

Action Item: Sell Henry. 

From offensive line turnover to lack of draft/financial capital, the Titans look like a roster poised to take a major step backwards in 2022. The Big Dog’s guaranteed volume makes him a no-doubt first rounder, but a top-4 pick in redraft/best ball is indeed pricy for a running back that doesn’ have a major role as a receiver on a declining offense. 

WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

  • Estimated Cap Space: $30 million, 9th
  • 2022 High Draft Capital: 11th, 42nd and 73rd
  • Team Needs: QB, OL, CB, S, LB, WR

Poor quarterback play held Washington from being able to take a step forward in 2021. Their offense trotted out the league’s seventh-worst offense per PFF. As the newly-named Commanders, they need to draft a rookie quarterback in the first round like Malik Willis or acquire a veteran.

Wide receivers could also use more attention with Cam Sims, Adam Humphries and DeAndre Carter approaching free agency. Dyami Brown did not flash as a rookie, and Curtis Samuel’s first season in the nation’s capital was plagued by injuries. 

The offensive line also figures to lose some talent with guard Brandon Scherff, center Tyler Larsen and tackle Cornelius Lucas hitting free agency. Their OL earned a top-5 pass-blocking grade in 2021, so the Commanders would be wise to not let offensive protection fall to the wayside. 

The Washington defense was horrible in 2021, particularly at linebacker and cornerback. They invested a lot into those positions before the last offseason with veteran corner William Jackson and rookie linebacker Jamin Davis, but the depth is thin. Same deal at the safety spot, with Bobby McCain looking to cash in on free agency after a solid 2021 campaign. 

Action Item: Buy low on the Washington offense. 

Terry McLaurin finished with the second-highest air yards share (37%) last season. Samuel is just one year removed from a top-25 fantasy finish and 23rd-ranked 1.94 yards per route run. 

The Washington slot receiver is WR64 in early best ball ADP, despite not finishing worse than WR42 in any season he has played at least 13 games.

Any quarterback upgrade this team receives will substantially improve their fantasy values. 

Antonio Gibson‘s target rate per route run increased by 13% over the final four weeks — the biggest increase at the position. J.D. McKissic’s late-season injury fueled Gibson’s receiving surge, as the second-year back commanded a 17% target share in games without his pass-catching counterpart.  

In the other 12 games, the Memphis product owned just an 8% target share and ran a route on 36% of dropbacks. It’s clear that Gibson’s path to top-tier usage can be unlocked if Washington does not retain McKissic in free agency or add on another pass-catching specialist RB.

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Andrew Erickson is a fantasy analyst at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @AndrewErickson_.

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