Fantasy Football 2022 NFL Free Agency Winners & Losers: Redraft and Best Ball
The 2022 version of NFL free agency has not disappointed. The AFC West has become a full-blown arms race between four teams contending for alpha status with the acquisitions of Davante Adams (WR – LV), Chandler Jones (DE,LB – LV), Khalil Mack (DE,LB – LAC), J.C. Jackson (CB – LAC), Russell Wilson (QB – DEN), Randy Gregory (DE – DEN), and JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – KC).
We’ve seen major bag alert deals ranging from savvy under-the-radar signings to huge splashes by teams trying to get back into playoff contention – looking at you Jacksonville Jaguars.
The time has come to hit on the big fantasy football winners and losers from the last week or so of NFL free agency. The following players have seen their values increase or decrease since the start of last week. I’ll also touch on some players who may have seen their stock wrongly fall due to perceived narratives. Negative buzz can create an opportunity to acquire these players at a discount, making them winners in my book.
The biggest winner of course in the aftermath of the Davante Adams trade is Derek Carr. He now has the luxury of throwing to a surplus of offensive weapons including arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL in his old college teammate.
Let’s not forget that when Carr had everybody available last season, the Raiders quarterback ranked second in the NFL in passing yards and 15th in fantasy points per game.
Adams also serves to provide Carr with a red-zone weapon like no other. He’s the exact positive touchdown regression that should launch Carr’s fantasy numbers. Carr’s 3.7 TD rate in 2021 was below his career average (4.3). And his 23 total passing touchdowns were seven below expectation.
Fully anticipate Carr throwing for 30-plus laser scores bare minimum with Adams at his disposal. Every quarterback last season that threw for at least 30 touchdowns finished inside the top-10 in 2021.
After spending his entire 14-year NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons, Matt Ryan will be the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts in his 15th season. Atlanta traded Matt Ryan to the Colts for a 2022 third-round pick.
It’s a major upgrade for Ryan’s fantasy appeal that he was able to get out of Atlanta – a franchise that looks to be in a massive rebuild. Last season, Ryan lacked a strong supporting cast which contributed to his lackluster numbers.
Ryan was also vastly underrated as a passer despite the ongoing turmoil ranking above average 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.
Entering a Frank Reich system that prides itself on churning out play-action (5th) and screen passes (10th) will make Ryan’s life a helluva lot easier than it was in Atlanta.
Ryan ranked 33rd in screen throw rate and 12th in play-action rate in 2021. The new Colts quarterback is back on the fantasy QB2 radar for 2022.
It’s been a long journey for Leonard Fournette from his last days as “Fat Lenny” with the Jacksonville Jaguars earning the moniker “Lombardi Lenny” due to his brilliant play for Tampa Bay the last year and a half.
He impressed the 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. 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.
From Fat Lenny 🍔
To Lombardi Lenny 🏆
To Filthy Rich Fournette 💰
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) March 22, 2022
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 slides inside my early 2022 running back rankings as RB9 because a fantasy RB1 is exactly what he has been in the Tom Brady (QB – TB)-led Buccaneers offense.
James Conner hit the jackpot in free agency. The Arizona Cardinals re-signed their RB1 from a season ago to a three-year, $21 million dollar extension, locking him in as their guy for the foreseeable future.
It’s an awesome signing for fantasy football because it puts Conner firmly in the top-12 running back conversation, especially with Chase Edmonds (RB – MIA) landing with the Miami Dolphins. The ex-Steelers running back finished the 2021 season tied for second in goal-line carries and third in touchdowns (18).
Conner received extensive work in the passing game with Edmonds out of the lineup from Weeks 9-14 and Week 18. In those six games, Conner averaged 26.2 fantasy points and 5.5 targets per game while running a route on 61% of the Cardinals’ dropbacks. Conner’s route participation would have ranked second among all running backs in 2021 (behind Najee Harris (RB – PIT), 66%).
His receiving game prowess – PFF’s fourth-highest graded receiving running back – along with capable depth in Jonathan Ward (RB – ARI) and Eno Benjamin (RB – ARI) was enough to convince the Cardinals they needed to prioritize Conner over Edmonds in free agency.
With a current best ball ADP as RB29, 93 overall – insert eye emoji – Conner is drastically mispriced.
The Miami Dolphins were in dire need of upgrading the running back position, and they got their guy in Chase Edmonds.
The ex-Arizona Cardinals RB inked a two-year deal worth $12.6 million that includes $6.1 million guaranteed. Edmonds should see plenty of work in a backfield shared by Myles Gaskin (RB – MIA) and Salvon Ahmed (RB – MIA), two running backs that ranked outside the top-60 in PFF rushing grades a season ago. Part of that is because the Miami Dolphins pass-blocking unit has been dreadful – 30th in PFF run-blocking – but poor run-blocking did not stop Edmonds from being uber-efficient in 2021.
The Cardinals’ run-blocking graded just as poorly as Miami’s (31st), but Edmonds still finished with five yards per carry.
It’s no guarantee that efficiency carries over to Miami – their offensive line still has a few holes – but Edmonds’ pass-catching chops should mitigate inefficient rushing numbers. Before his injury in Week 7, Edmonds ranked fourth in the NFL in receptions among running backs (four catches and five targets per game). He was the fantasy RB21 through six weeks.
Edmonds won’t be a true three-down back due to durability concerns, as he missed seven games this past season. But used properly and kept healthy, there’s no denying Edmonds can be a viable fantasy option because of his receiving and explosiveness.
His spot-start usage/production in Weeks 16-17 without James Conner in the lineup – 23.9 expected fantasy points per game – showcases a running back who can deliver massive fantasy upside any given week.
Considering Gaskins’ fantasy spike weeks in 2021 all came from his receiving usage, Edmonds should find similar success in that role with the Dolphins.
Chase Edmonds weekly finishes when he's gotten at least 11 touches (PPR)
RB1, RB5, RB15, RB19, RB21, RB25, RB30, RB18, RB19, RB25, RB13, RB27, RB6, RB26#WELCOMETOMIAMI
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) March 14, 2022
The later signing of running back Raheem Mostert (RB – MIA) might have some fantasy gamers soured on Edmonds, with Mostert bringing over extreme familiarity in the 49ers run scheme headed by Miami Dolphins new head coach Mike McDaniel.
However, Edmonds was never going to see a full bell-cow workload. Losing out on some early-down carries to Mostert or any other back was to be expected. I’d still prefer Edmonds in fantasy due to the pass-catching and hope the Mostert signing keeps his ADP at a value.
Both guys will likely experience fantasy-relevant spiked weeks when the other guy is hurt.
Mostert will also be 30 years old by the season’s start. He has played 16 games once and never started more than 8 games in a season.
The Raiders offense looks to reach new heights in 2022 with No. 1 wide receiver Davante Adams added to the fold. And that greatly benefits the team’s lead ball-carrier Josh Jacobs. A more efficient offense lends itself to more scoring opportunities, and Jacobs will reap the most rewards as the team’s primary red-zone back.
Last year’s RB13 also smashed career highs in all receiving categories in 2021 despite playing alongside Kenyan Drake (RB – LV) and Jalen Richard (RB – LV). Injuries to the back-ups boosted Jacobs’ role as a receiver slightly, but it was not the only cause.
There was a deliberate effort to feature Jacobs more as a receiver with him catching at least two passes in 12 of his 15 games played. And more importantly, the receiving capability that Jacobs displayed puts to rest the narrative that he is “game-script” dependent. Whether the Raiders are winning or losing in a loaded 2022 AFC West, JJ has proven he can be used in all facets.
Now the Raiders did elect to sign both Brandon Bolden (RB – LV) and Ameer Abdullah (RB – LV) this offseason to bolster their running back stable behind Jacobs. Bolden has been a special teams guy nearly his entire career, so I doubt he carves out any legitimate role on offense.
Abdullah has been used as a third-down back on the several teams he has been on at the NFL level, but I am not ready to declare him as a huge threat to Jacobs’ workload. Sure he might work in some, but not enough to hurt Jacobs’ bottom-line value. Besides, the red-zone role is more significant for fantasy points, and that looks to be clearly in Jacobs’ grasp.
Two-down back Damien Harris (RB – NE) was in the red-zone role for the Patriots last season and flourished because of it. He ranked fourth in carries (46) and third in rushing TDs (13) from inside the 20-yard line.
No more Amari Cooper (WR – CLE) and Cedrick Wilson (WR – MIA) can only spell great things for CeeDee Lamb in 2022. The biggest issue with Lamb was that he never was seeing the requisite target volume in an offense that had a surplus of playmakers.
Lamb boasted just an 18% target share last season – which ranked outside the top-30 among all pass-catchers.
But with a boatload of vacated targets left to be distributed between Lamb, Dalton Schultz (TE – DAL), Michael Gallup (WR – DAL), and James Washington (WR – DAL), I’d bet Lamb crests at least a 20% target share in 2022. His 21% target rate per route run bested anybody in Dallas last season.
And that means more fantasy production will be on its way. Only once did Lamb fail to score double-digit fantasy points in a game where he commanded fewer than six targets in 2021.
Another big winner in free agency is third-year wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
He was treated like a true alpha in 2021, running a route on 96% of offensive dropbacks – third to only Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR) (WR1) and Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN) (WR4) through 17 weeks. He also finished the season tied with the league’s 8th-highest target share (24%), which was 11 percentage points higher than the next closest Colt, Zach Pascal (WR – PHI) at 13%.
Already 🥰 this third-year WR based on his
-24% target share (t-8th)
-96% route participation (3rd)
-31% target share last 6 weeks
And now he's got a fantasy-friendly QB 😎 pic.twitter.com/9l2avEzDlr
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) March 21, 2022
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 throws more with a trustworthy quarterback – strong possibility with Ryan under center – Pittman has the volume potential to be a top-12 fantasy option.
His 31% target share from Weeks 13-18 is a signal that his fantasy stock will continue to rise.
Don’t forget that last season Ridley as the Falcons’ No. 1 receiver owned the sixth-highest target rate per route run and ranked second among all wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game (16.5).
Ryan’s ability to throw downfield – 11th in PFF passing grade on throws 20-plus air yards – should also gel well with Pittman as a vertical threat. The Colts wide receiver finished 19th in air yards share (29%) in 2021.
Allen Robinson II inked a three-year, $46.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Rams that includes $30.7M fully guaranteed, per Tom Pelissero.
The ex-Chicago Bears wide receiver will now catch passes from Matthew Stafford (QB – LAR) – easily the best quarterback he has ever played with in his entire football career. It’s a boon to his fantasy football value that cratered a season ago, with Arob posting a top-36 performance only once all season.
I would like to blame Robinson’s 2021 campaign solely on outside factors – he had the third-lowest catchable target percentage (59%) – but the veteran wide receiver does have to shoulder some responsibility. After all, Darnell Mooney (WR – CHI) was able to break out amid the same situation.
Part of the reason comes down to Robinson being more of a contested-catch receiver rather than an elite separator. He finished in the 12th percentile in separation rate in 2021, while Mooney finished in the 73rd percentile.
The big-bodied X wide receiver is a dying breed in the NFL, which is why Robinson landing with the Rams was critical to his future success. He gets to reap the benefits of playing with a quarterback who isn’t afraid to target him downfield in tight coverage.
That, along with playing in a more efficient offense in general, is his path for recapturing his prior fantasy form. Let’s not forget that Robinson was the only player to command 150-plus targets in both 2019 and 2020.
Robinson heading to L.A. also created a slight ripple effect on the incumbent receivers. It makes it less likely that Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – FA) re-signs with the team. Van Jefferson (WR – LAR) is a less sure-fire bet to produce in 2022. And Robert Woods (WR – TEN) has already been traded to the Titans in wake of the LA-Rob signing.
Before Woods hit the IR, he was the WR17 in half-PPR scoring per game. Jefferson saw elite usage playing on every down as the No. 3 receiver but didn’t follow up his playing time with any worthwhile production. Jefferson was WR35 overall on the season and outside the top 40 in points per game despite a top-tier 86% route participation.
The likely scenario for Robinson is that he steps up into the No. 2 role behind Cooper Kupp and operates the way Wood started the year and/or by how Beckham ended the season.
Down the playoff stretch, Beckham Jr. averaged a 19% target share and 12.4 fantasy points per game from Week 12 through the divisional round (fantasy WR2).
This offense is good enough to support more than one weapon, and Robinson should be viewed as the clear fantasy WR2 to benefit behind Kupp. Some might knock Kupp down a notch because of the Robinson signing, but I would be hesitant to do so.
Robinson’s highest-targeted seasons have always come when he has been surrounded by little to no competition. And again, he was out-targeted by a second-year wide receiver just last season.
The Jaguars emptied the bank to sign former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk to a four-year contract worth up to $84 million this offseason. The slot wide receiver is coming off a career year that saw him set highs across the board in targets (112), receptions (83), and receiving yards (1,035) while filling the gap left by an injured DeAndre Hopkins (WR – ARI).
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.
Kirk ran 78% of his routes and finished with the second-most receiving yards from the slot.
I’d presume that Kirk maintains his role inside with the Jaguars after their team got little production from that position in 2021.
Marvin Jones Jr. (WR – JAC) and Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR – JAC) both ranked in the bottom-10 with 1.30 yards per route run from the slot. Kirk ranked 13th with 1.80 yards per route run from the slot. He is shaping up to be the new Amari Rodgers (WR – GB) for Trevor Lawrence (QB – JAC) operating from the inside.
Rogers was Lawrence’s go-to receiver during his final year at Clemson, so it makes sense why the Jags would spend so aggressively on a slot WR.
And without too much-established competition on the wide receiver depth chart, it’s not crazy to think Kirk can lead Jacksonville in targets, especially if he earns Lawrence’s trust early on in the summer.
He’s a solid investment as a back-end fantasy WR3 that could easily turn out a top-24 season if Lawrence takes a step forward in Year 2.
As for Shenault, he looks like the odd-man-out entering Year 3 with Kirk plus both Marvin and Zay Jones (WR – JAC) ahead of him in the target pecking order. Viska-stans need a trade to revive his fantasy value.
It always seemed more probable than not that JuJu Smith-Schuster would find his way to Kansas City in free agency. The Chiefs were interested in him last season, and the landing spot is perfect to revive Smith-Schuster’s fantasy stock. He’s just one year removed from a WR17 finish in PPR between two injury-plagued seasons.
Let’s not forget JuJu had an elite sophomore campaign – 1,400-plus receiving yards – and he is still just 25 years old. With Byron Pringle (WR – CHI) gone to Chicago, and Patrick Mahomes (QB – KC) his new quarterback, 2022 will be a return to form for Smith-Schuster.
He can operate from his natural position in the slot and benefit from playing with elite playmakers around him. After all, Smith-Schuster was at his best as a Pittsburgh Steeler during his first two seasons playing opposite of Antonio Brown (WR – FA).
In a surprising twist, former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage dId not re-sign with his old team and instead signed with the NFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gage will be vying for the No. 3 wide receiver role behind Mike Evans (WR – TB) and Chris Godwin (WR – TB), but he could easily operate as the clear-cut No. 2 if Godwin returns slowly from injury.
Gage is coming off a stellar year after posting career-highs in yards per route run (1.96) and PFF receiving grade (76.0) while playing more on the outside. Often thought of as a “slot-only” wideout, Gage split snaps 50/50 from the slot versus outside in 2021.
Any receiver in a Tom Brady-led offense should be a sought-after commodity – so consider me in on Gage in 2022. There are plenty of scenarios where Gage continues his success from the tail-end of last season.
Gerald Everett inked a two-year deal worth up to $13.5M with the Los Angeles Chargers.
He was solid during stretches of the 2021 season, particularly after Russell Wilson returned from injury. The ex-Rams tight end ranked as the TE9 in fantasy points per game (PPR) from Weeks 10-16 while running a route on 74% of dropbacks.
Everett proved he can be a featured No. 1 tight end for the Chargers coming off a career year. He achieved career-highs in receptions (48) and receiving yards (478) and wreaked havoc with the ball in his hands, forcing 11 missed tackles after the catch – sixth-most among tight ends.
His peripheral metrics in Seattle’s offense – 12% target share, 63% route participation, and 17% target rate per route run – were nearly identical to Jared Cook (TE – FA) in the Chargers offense last season.
Cook finished as TE16 overall which seems like Everett’s fantasy floor heading into 2022. The tackle-breaking tight end finished the 2021 season just .4 points per game short of Cook’s average (8.3 versus 7.9) despite playing in an offense that ranked dead last in pass attempts per game (29.1).
L.A. ranked third in that category last season (39.6).
Breakout tight ends are generally athletic players who earn above-average route participation in high-powered offenses. Everett fits the profile of next season’s star at the position.
Recently franchise-tagged tight end David Njoku has a chance to break out in 2022 with Watson as his quarterback after an encouraging 2021. He 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) in 2021.
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).
After C.J. Uzomah (TE – NYJ) departed in free agency, I was extremely intrigued by how the Bengals would address the tight end position. The team signed former Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst to a one-year $3.5M contract.
As a receiving tight end, Hurst should slide into Uzomah’s vacated role from last season that offers some fantasy appeal. His 78% route participation ranked fourth-highest among tight ends in 2021
Every-down tight ends on the field that often in high-scoring environments will stumble into fantasy scoring. It’s a highly coveted role primed to ooze fantasy points.
However, being on the field doesn’t always translate to the requisite fantasy production especially in offenses loaded with other weapons. Uzomah’s 13% target rate per route run ranked last among tight ends with at least 40 targets in 2021. Hurst’s 15% target rate wasn’t much better.
It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that Hurst is the clear-cut late-round tight end to target in 2022, but he remains someone to take stabs on late if he stays cheap. Hurst is just one year removed from a TE9 overall finish in 2020.
Robert Tonyan becomes an interesting sleeper tight end to target late in best-ball and dynasty formats with Aaron Rodgers (QB – GB) entrenched back as the starter and vacated targets left behind from wide receiver Davante Adams.
Tonyan wasn’t particularly effective last season before his injury – only two games with over 10 fantasy points and TE29 in fantasy points per game – but the path to upside exists in an offense led by Rodgers.
Don’t be too quick to forget that Tonyan caught 11 touchdowns in 2020, and there are a plethora of red-zone opportunities left with Adams removed from the equation. The new Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver has earned 28 red-zone targets over the last two seasons – most by any player.
Seals-Jones posted two top-10 performances last season as a starter and offers a legitimate presence in the red zone. He ranked 15th in red-zone targets last season (13). That mark was more than Kenny Golladay‘s (WR – NYG) (10) and equal to the combined efforts of ex-Giants tight ends Evan Engram (TE – JAC) and Kyle Rudolph (TE – FA).
With their backs up against the salary cap, the Dallas Cowboys didn’t have an offseason to remember for anybody heavily invested in Dak Prescott‘s fantasy value. They gave up Amari Cooper and lost two key starting offensive pieces on the offensive line with La’el Collins (OL – DAL) and Connor Williams (OL – MIA) for little return
They did re-sign Dalton Schultz and Michael Gallup, but early reports on Gallup indicate it will be close whether he’s ready for Week 1 coming off the torn ACL. Dallas’ biggest move in free agency to combat their losses at wide receiver was signing former Steelers wide receiver James Washington.
With many other quarterbacks moving up my rankings due to the better team transactions made in free agency, Prescott falls as result.
Putting Aaron Rodgers in the “losers” category feels like grabbing at low-hanging fruit, but it’s just so obvious his fantasy ceiling is going to be hindered this year and beyond without his No. 1 wide receiver, Davante Adams.
The one game the Packers signal-caller played without his No. 1 receiver in 2021 was his third-worst fantasy finish of the season. And Rodgers’ only healthy season-long fantasy finish outside the top-8 came in a season where Adams missed four games.
The dynamic duo’s chemistry was never more apparent in or near the red zone, with Rodgers-Adams combining for 64 touchdowns – double-digits on average – since 2016, 23 more than the next closest duo (Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill (QB – KC)). Thirty-three percent of Rodgers touchdowns have gone to Adams over that period.
Green Bay is still primed to add to their wide receiver room through free agency and the draft, but it’s highly unlikely they can make up for Adams’ production – especially in the red zone. Returning receivers like Allen Lazard (WR – GB), Randall Cobb (WR – GB), and Amari Rodgers all get small bumps in the WR rankings because they will be tasked with replacing the vacated hole left by Adams.
Without Adams, it’s hard to view Rodgers as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in 2022.
Piggy-backing off Rodgers’ fantasy breakdown comes Adams also falling in the 2022 rankings. Landing with the Las Vegas Raiders and old college quarterback Derek Carr isn’t a bad spot, but it’s not better than what he already had in Green Bay.
Adams has been one of fantasy football’s greatest wide receivers over the last four seasons. A healthy Adams has finished no worse than WR5 attached to Aaron Rodgers since 2018, and he ended 2021 second in fantasy points per game at age 29.
And a big part of that production has been tied to red-zone efficiency as alluded to earlier.
Adams’ high level of play won’t stop in Sin City, but his fantasy stock does get slightly dented going from Rodgers to Carr. It’s unlikely that Carr hyper-targets Adams to the length of a 28% target share as Rodgers has done for so many seasons. Incumbent Raiders pass-catchers Darren Waller (TE – LV) and Hunter Renfrow (WR – LV) represent more target competition than Adams has ever played with since becoming the alpha in Green Bay.
Nobody saw the Cordarelle Patterson ninth-year breakout coming. Unless, of course, you foresaw ex-Chicago Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone coming in as the Atlanta Falcons’ new offensive coordinator just to install Patterson in a hybrid RB/WR role.
From Weeks 1-14, fantasy football’s RB7 – 15.8 fantasy points per game – was a revelation and a player who changed the tide of leagues as a waiver-wire acquisition.
Patterson’s only issue is that he stumbled across the fantasy football finish line, failing to eclipse more than nine fantasy points or 30 rushing yards in his last four games. The team also used him more in a committee alongside Mike Davis (RB – ATL).
Nonetheless, the more bizarre part is that Patterson took a backseat in the receiving game despite his wide receiver background, totaling just seven targets in his final four games after averaging nearly five targets per game. Patterson’s 25% target rate per route ranked No. 1 among all running backs.
Still, even with the poor end to the season, Patterson’s best case in free agency was always returning to the Falcons. He is such a specialized talent who needs to be used in a particular manner, which was executed to near perfection under Arthur Smith’s tutelage.
With an overall lack of general playmakers after losing Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, C-Patt should see a competent role in the Falcons offense. Whether it be as a receiver or rusher (or both), he’s a solid bet to lead the backfield with only Mike Davis and newly-signed Damien Williams (RB – ATL) vying for touches and targets.
With Patterson’s range of outcomes so wide for fantasy football, he should remain a draft target if his ADP stays in the later rounds. His RB37 ADP on early best-ball is a great value at the moment.
But I’d be hard-pressed to admit that the Marcus Mariota (QB – ATL) signing is not ideal for Patterson’s fantasy value. Rushing quarterbacks tend to check the ball down less frequently making it less likely Patterson sees less of a consistent target share.
In Mariota’s last stint with the Titans, RBs totaled 4.6 targets per game (17.7% target share). Last year that number was at 8.2 targets per game (26.7% target share).
Mitchell Trubisky (QB – PIT) to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m not enthralled by the move, but Pittsburgh didn’t have many alternatives with Mason Rudolph (QB – PIT) and Dwayne Haskins (QB – PIT) available on the roster.
The wide receivers are drastically impacted by Trubisky’s addition. It’s a small upgrade from Rudolph for all pass-catchers involved because Trubisky has shown the ability to support fantasy-viable weapons.
Allen Robinson was WR12 (27% target share) with Trubisky in 2019 after finishing as WR35 in points per game in 2018. Acknowledge that the No. 2 receiver in that offense was Cohen (18% target share) followed by Anthony Miller (WR – PIT) (15% target share) and Taylor Gabriel (8% target share).
Their inline reveals the best-case scenario for the Steelers’ No. 1 wide receiver, Diontae Johnson. Seeing a boatload of targets – albeit inefficient like last season – to deliver for fantasy. But with a WR15 best ball ADP in an offense with more competition for targets, I would need Johnson to fall significantly in drafts before I select him.
Allen Robinson finished as WR12 with Trubisky in 2019
But it took
27% target share
150 total targets
which was undoubtedly related to the other "top" receivers: Tarik Cohen, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel.
Diontae Johnson is fighting an uphill battle at WR15 ADP
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) March 14, 2022
Too often last season I was drafting WRs in the third and fourth round that projected to be target hogs with bad quarterbacks – Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS), D.J. Moore (WR – CAR) – and those ended up being poor fantasy selections. Johnson looks like he is in that similar ilk which is why I am hesitant to get excited about drafting him at the current price.
There’s also the case that Chase Claypool (WR – PIT) could be Trubisky’s new favorite target. After all, he profiles more similarly to A-Rob than Johnson does. I’d much rather draft Claypool at WR41 where there’s less risk if the entire Steelers offense craters. More than plausible with NVP Mitch at the helm.
I don’t love the D.J. Chark fit with the Detroit Lions. Sure the wide receiver depth chart is barren behind Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET) and Josh Reynolds (WR – DET), but the style fit with Jared Goff (QB – DET) does not project well. Goff’s average depth of throw has decreased over the last four seasons, with his most recent 2021 mark (6.8) ranking dead last among 38 qualifying quarterbacks.
During Chark’s fantasy WR17 season in 2019, he ranked sixth in the NFL in catches of 20-plus air yards (13) before his injury. Goff has averaged 13 completions of 20-plus air yards the last two seasons.
Chark screams like he will be used more like a vertical field stretcher decoy that will open up targets for St. Brown, running backs, and tight ends underneath.
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.
Over the past two seasons, production has not been kind to WRs over 30 years old. Only three receivers over 30 – Cole Beasley (WR – FA), Adam Thielen (WR – MIN), and Marvin Jones Jr. – finished as top-40 fantasy options. If he stays healthy, Woods could easily beat his ADP.
But I’m just not sure how high his fantasy ceiling is based on the situation.
But the dream of a full-time role for McKenzie will have to wait after the team signed former Jets slot wide receiver Jamison Crowder (WR – BUF) to a one-year $4M deal. He is making almost as much money in 2021 alone as McKenzie is over two years ($4.4M).
Needless to say, Crowder will likely be the Day 1 starter in the slot and fantasy gamers will have to wait for another injury for McKenzie to see a fantasy-worthy role. Remember this coaching staff is the same unit that played 33-year-old Emmanuel Sanders (WR – BUF) over Gabriel Davis (WR – BUF) for 80% of the 2021 season.
I don’t doubt they will do the same with Crowder and McKenzie in 2022.
C.J. Uzomah‘s sprained MCL wasn’t severe enough to keep him out of Super Bowl 56, let alone influence his free agency status entering the 2022 offseason. The former Cincinnati Bengals tight end signed a three-year deal worth $24 million with the New York Jets.
Uzomah’s 78% route participation ranked fourth-highest among tight ends in 2021, but there’s no guarantee he sees the same usage with Gang Green. Only on occasion did last year’s tight ends like Tyler Kroft (TE – FA) (free agent) and Ryan Griffin (TE – NYJ) (under contract) ever see high-end usage, let alone turn out any worthwhile fantasy production.
Uzomah is an upgrade over two replaceable tight ends after his showcased decent fantasy production in 2021 – at least five targets in his last seven games before his injury – but it remains to be seen who, if anybody, can be reliable in a Zach Wilson (QB – NYJ)-led passing attack.
His 13% target rate per route run – last among tight ends with at least 40 targets in 2021 – doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that Uzomah is the late-round tight end to targets in 2022.
Not to mention that the Jets didn’t stop adding tight ends with Uzomah. The team also signed Tyler Conklin to a three-year, $21 million contract – a nearly identical contract to Uzomah.
It’s a shame that both these tight ends had to end up on the same team in a committee because I had high hopes for Conklin after his TE15 finish in 2021. My best advice is to draft whichever is going later in best ball drafts if any and hope it pans out.
Conklin is still my preferred target in a vacuum and in dynasty – he’s younger and generated a higher target rate per route run than Uzomah did in 2021 (17%). Uzomah is also the superior pass-blocker, making it more likely Conklin serves as the primary receiving tight end.
Evan Engram needed to find a new team to resurrect his NFL career. His PFF receiving grade has declined over the last four seasons, bottoming out in 2021 at 54.9 – 40th among 44 qualifying tight ends.
Engram hasn’t underwhelmed due to a lack of opportunities, either. He finished top-15 in route participation (68%) and had almost zero competition for targets with injuries to the likes of Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney (WR – NYG), and Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG).
Alas, Engram failed to command any worthwhile target share with his abysmal 14% target rate per route run.
So consider me slightly hesitant to buy into Engram breaking out in 2022 because his new head coach has a history of featuring tight ends. Sure, it works in Engram’s favor, but last I checked Dan Arnold (TE – JAC) is still on the team. And Doug Pederson has also been known to heavily feature two tight ends in his offense, which doesn’t always translate to fantasy success.
I was hoping Engram would land in an above-average offense as the clear-cut No. 1, but the murkiness of how efficient Jacksonville will be on offense in addition to factoring in the variance of how targets will shake out amid an all-new receiving corps have me not super excited to invest him if his ADP inflates.
The Buffalo Bills signed O.J. Howard to a one-year $3.5 million deal, which hardly signifies the team will feel a need to feature him in the offense. Howard has at times performed at an elite level in the NFL – he was PFF’s second-highest-graded tight end in 2018 – but carving out playing time amid other tight ends has been an issue.
His perceived presence in an offense that has traditionally operated with only one tight end at the helm also makes me more interested in Dawson Knox.
Count me in on Dawson Knox if he enters the late-round TE conversation.
Didn't like his early cost in the mid-range where TEs usually don't return value.
OJ Howard probably more a backup then featured tight end with Buffalo
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) March 16, 2022
Knox already has major red flags on his profile from his impending touchdown regression to super-low target rate per route run (14%), so Howard coming in to take away even 25% of the routes is a problem.
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