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7 Best Ball Risers & Fallers (2022 Fantasy Football)

Mar 24, 2022

 

Our featured experts look at risers and fallers in best ball formats following 2022 NFL Free Agency.

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1. Roughly a week into free agency, which player has risen up your best ball rankings the most and by how much?

Leonard Fournette impressed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ front office – and a certain No. 12 quarterback – enough to earn a fat three-year deal with his old team worth $21 million up to $24 million this offseason. There’s zero doubt with his performance and contract that he will be the entrenched clear-cut starter for the Bucs, and that’s exactly the desired outcome for fantasy football. Fournette ranked fifth in fantasy points and fourth in expected fantasy points per game before his Week 15 injury, leading all running in receptions (62). Upon his return to the lineup for the Buccaneers’ playoff matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, Fournette reclaimed bell-cow duties, playing 86% of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps to go with 22 touches for 107 yards from scrimmage. With an all-encompassing skill set at just 27 years old, Fournette possesses easy top-10 running back fantasy appeal. He jumps up inside my early 2022 running back rankings as RB9 from RB20 because a fantasy RB1 is exactly what he has been in the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers offense. ”
– Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Leonard Fournette was a massive mover after resigning with Tampa Bay. Prior to this, he was languishing in the RB3 range. He’s currently the RB8 in my best ball rankings which might sound aggressive, but he’s deserving of this lofty rank. Before missing time with an injury, he was a locked-in top ten option at the position. In Weeks 10-14, playing 59% of the snaps or higher, he averaged 20.4 touches (7.6 targets per game) and 104.2 total yards. He was the RB3 during that stretch with individual weekly finishes as the RB15, RB16, RB1, RB5, and RB6. I want to be above consensus with a three-down workhorse back that resides in a top-five scoring offense. ”
– Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

James Conner. I had him in RB3 range going into free agency. Now that Conner has re-signed with the Cardinals and Chase Edmonds has left for Miami, I have Conner ranked as a high-end RB2. When Edmonds and Conner were splitting the backfield early last year, Conner was catching few passes and deriving the vast majority of his fantasy value from touchdowns. When Edmonds got hurt midway through the season, Conner became a three-down monster, catching 24 passes over a five-game stretch and ranking RB5 in fantasy scoring over that stretch. Even if the Cardinals draft another running back, Conner should still get a majority share of Arizona’s RB touches.”
– Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

“Given the moves so far, it should be no surprise I am heading to the AFC West for a receiver, but not the one you might be thinking of initially. It’s Tim Patrick, WR for the Russell Wilson-led Denver Broncos. Coming off back-to-back 700-yard seasons, Patrick accounted for 27% of the WR targets in 2020 and 31% in 2021. When all three receivers were on the field, Patrick consistently outplayed them both while receiving an 18.1% target share. No doubt Sutton will get the deep, game-breaking targets in a similar role to D.K. Metcalf once held for Wilson. Currently ranked WR66 in ECR, Patrick should actually be in the WR4 territory.”
– Tommy Garrett (Pro Football Network)

“Entering free agency, JuJu Smith-Schuster was a middling WR4 in my best ball rankings. Now, he’s a high-end WR3. Tight end Travis Kelce is approaching the age cliff as he turns 33 years old this season, and wide receivers Tyreek Hill (Dolphins), Byron Pringle (Bears), and Demarcus Robinson (Raiders) have collectively vacated 260 targets. Even if the Chiefs take a receiver early in the 2022 draft, Smith-Schuster is in line to inherit many of the available targets in Kansas City, where he’s likely to serve as quarterback Patrick Mahomes‘ primary receiver in the slot. Smith-Schuster is just one year removed from seeing 147 targets in 17 games from a dead-armed Ben Roethlisberger (2020, including postseason), he is still just 25 years old, and he has a 166-target, 1,426-yard receiving season on his record: I smell upside.”
– Matthew Freedman (FantasyPros)

2. Roughly a week into free agency, which player has fallen in your best ball rankings the most and by how much?

Robert Woods was traded to the Titans after the Rams signed Allen Robinson in free agency. The move was less about Woods’ ability but rather his salary cap hit that the Rams were looking to free themselves from. Still, entering his age 30-season fantasy managers should question whether Woods has the juice left to continue producing for fantasy. Often viewed as a safe fantasy WR2 during his time in L.A. – he was WR17 before his injury in 2021 – Woods might be subject to some poor game conditions in the Titans’ run-heavy approach that could nuke his weekly fantasy appeal. He’s at best the WR2 behind A.J. Brown – a role that was not fruitful for a fellow older wide receiver, Julio Jones. Over the past two seasons, production has not been kind to WRs over 30 years old. Only three receivers over 30 – Cole Beasley, Adam Thielen, and Marvin Jones Jr. – finished as top-40 fantasy options. Woods fell from WR36 to WR45 in my best ball rankings after the trade. ”
– Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

“After the trade to Tennessee, Robert Woods has tumbled down my rankings from low-end WR3 or a high-end WR4 into WR5 territory. Woods was already a player I was down on entering 2022 as his yards per route run had declined for four straight seasons before a mild rebound last year (1.74, per PFF). But peering closer at even last seasons’ numbers, this looks more like fool’s gold as he posted 1.50 yards per route run in 55.5% of his games. His blow-up game against Seattle in Week 5 (150 receiving yards) helped puff up his end-of-season numbers. Now he’s a declining player on a team that will finish in the top-five in neutral rushing. Without an injury to A.J. Brown or a change in offensive philosophy, it’s difficult to paint an upside picture for Woods. ”
– Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Robert Woods had his fantasy value torpedoed by the trade that sent him from the Rams to the Titans. From 2018 to 2020, Woods finished WR10, WR17, and WR13 in 0.5 PPR fantasy scoring. He was WR11 through the first nine weeks of 2021 before tearing his ACL. With Derrick Henry as the focal point of their offense, the Titans are far more run-heavy than the Rams, and Titans QB Ryan Tannehill might not be capable of floating the fantasy value of two wide receivers. We know A.J. Brown is going to be the alpha receiver in Tennessee, leaving Woods as the second fiddle in a run-heavy offense. Woods goes from a high-end WR3 to a low-end WR4 in my best-ball rankings.”
– Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

“It was always going to be difficult for me to get behind Chase Claypool for 2022. The Steelers would have needed to complete a significant move, which isn’t how they operate. While I believe Mitch Trubusky might surprise us, I don’t see Claypool returning to his rookie season value. The Steelers manufactured touches for him, especially inside the red zone. Yet as a receiver, he is lacking and has yet to develop a complete route tree. If Trubisky leans on him for deep passes as he did with Allen Robinson, Claypool could surprise us. Yet I am not ready to fully buy into the reclamation project that is Trubisky or the inconsistency of Claypool.”
– Tommy Garrett (Pro Football Network)

“Before the Seahawks traded quarterback Russell Wilson, veteran Tyler Lockett was an upside WR2 in my best ball rankings. Now he’s a low-end WR3. Over the past four years, Lockett has been incredibly and consistently productive (4,324 yards and 36 touchdowns from scrimmage in total, 1000-plus yards, and 8-10 touchdowns each year), but his output has been fueled by exceptional efficiency (10.1 yards per target). Without Wilson throwing to him, a decline in Lockett’s efficiency is almost a lock (Drew Lock, that is). Nailed it.”
– Matthew Freedman (FantasyPros)

Thanks to the experts for sharing their advice! For more of their insight, be sure to follow each pundit on Twitter (click their names above) and visit their respective sites.

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