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Players Trending Up and Down (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Bonnie Robinson | @FantasyQueenB | Featured Writer
Mar 4, 2022
Javonte Williams

After an encouraging rookie season, Javonte Williams could take a huge jump in 2022.

With NFL free agency approaching, it is an excellent time to reevaluate player values for fantasy purposes. Situations remain fluid in the offseason as factors such as coaching changes, injuries, and team acquisitions can affect a player’s stock. Attentive fantasy managers can take advantage of this by drafting or flipping unduly valued players. Here are some players trending up or down and whether the reasons are valid. This list is not comprehensive and won’t include prominent names like Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN).

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Trending Up

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)

As the heir apparent to the Denver backfield and with a stellar rookie season, Javonte Williams’ stock is skyrocketing. He racked up 1,219 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns on a struggling offense while splitting the workload with his counterpart, Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN). On Tuesday, at the combine, Broncos GM George Patton told NFL Network’s James Palmer that he’d like Melvin Gordon to return but added that Williams is ready “to do whatever,” including being a workhorse back. The assumption has been that the seven-year pro will leave in free agency or take a subsidiary role behind Williams this season. Even Gordon, who turns 29 in April, sees the writing on the wall and says he will test the free agency market.

“I know eventually they want him to be the guy and to take over,” Gordon said of his status during a recent interview with Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports. “And, the thing is, I’m still fairly young and I still want to compete at a high level. I don’t want to take a back seat.”

Williams currently has a late first-round ADP and could land in the Top 6 if the Broncos also upgrade at quarterback.

Jaylen Waddle (WR – MIA)

After setting a new NFL rookie record with 104 catches last season, Jaylen Waddle will garner significant early-round draft consideration, especially in PPR formats. The 23-year-old cemented himself as Miami’s No. 1 receiver with 1,015 yards and six touchdowns on 140 targets in 16 games. The only reservation people may have concerning Waddle is the inconsistent play of QB Tua Tagovailoa (QB – MIA), even though the two displayed significant chemistry. Helping matters is the Dolphins now have an offensive-minded head coach in Mike McDaniel and Wes Welker as the wide receiver coach. Welker led the NFL in receptions three times as a WR with the New England Patriots and worked with McDaniel the last three seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. While there, Welker coached Deebo Samuel (WR – SF). It’s scary to think Waddle could get even better under Welker’s tutelage.

Elijah Mitchell (RB – SF)

As a rookie, Elijah Mitchell wasn’t even an afterthought in most leagues after being selected by the San Francisco 49ers several rounds behind teammate Trey Sermon (RB – SF) in the NFL draft. After all, it’s common practice for the player with the higher draft capital to get the first crack at opportunities. However, there were reports that head coach Kyle Shanahan felt the former was “a little bit ahead” of Sermon, who ended up a healthy week one scratch. Then, starter Raheem Mostert (RB – SF) suffered an injury in that game. On a hunch, I grabbed Mitchell off the waiver wire for free, ahead of the bidding wars that ensued once Mostert landed on IR. Mitchell inevitably earned the lead role and never looked back. In his 10 games during the fantasy season, he gained 1,100 scrimmage yards, six touchdowns, and Shanahan’s favor.

According to PFF, the former Louisiana Cajun had the sixth most yards after contact among running backs with 100 or more attempts and tied for the 10th most yards per carry. On the downside, it would be nice to see him more involved as a receiver as he averaged less than two targets a game. Nevertheless, it’s widely known that Shanahan’s offense features a dynamic rushing scheme that produces prolific running backs. Therefore, it’s not surprising Mitchell has gone from a relative nobody to being drafted in the third round.

Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET)

Amon-Ra St. Brown erupted over the last six games of the season. During that span, he was a league winner, averaging over 25 fantasy points per game. Skeptics attribute his late-season heroics to injuries to tight-end T.J. Hockenson (TE – DET) and pass-catching back D’Andre Swift (RB – DET). However, as Detroit’s remaining lone real pass-catcher, opponents were still unable to cover the former USC Trojan, despite four defenses ranking in the top half of the league.

The Lions certainly have holes to fill on offense and could bring in competition for St. Brown’s targets. With the team in year two of a multi-year rebuild and several first and second-round picks, they’ll likely continue adding young guys through the draft rather than making a splashy move in free agency. They could bring in a veteran wide receiver to cover a need on the outside, but that would only open up the middle of the field for St. Brown, which is where he thrived in college. While he may be unable to sustain the pace he was on late last season, St. Brown has the talent and the situation to remain a force in the NFL.

Trending Down

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB – KC)

A 2020 first-round pick in dynasty and some redraft leagues, Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is trending in the wrong direction. He finished with just 517 yards and four TDs rushing in 12 games, and it’s safe to say he hasn’t lived up to expectations his first two years in the league. Health has been a significant issue for him, and he was relegated to a lesser role behind Jerick McKinnon (RB – KC) and even Darrel Williams (RB – KC) at times last season. Furthermore, he isn’t being featured in the passing game and was only targeted 23 times for 129 yards and two TDs despite being in a high-flying offense. That’s highly alarming for the 22-year-old, considering pass-catching is his specialty.

Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)

There are too many solid options in the second and third rounds of drafts other than Saquon Barkley, particularly if he remains with the New York Giants. Their offense is a wasteland with very few opportunities for running backs to score touchdowns. Even if the team improves or Barkley gets traded, his injuries have taken a toll, and the four-year pro hasn’t played an entire season in over three years. This past season was one to forget, with just 592 yards and two touchdowns on 162 carries in 13 games. Unfortunately, he is now a plodder, lacking his former elite burst. Dynasty managers should look to move him while some people still believe he can return to form.

Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR – JAC)

Heading into last preseason, Laviska Shenault was a trendy breakout candidate. Jacksonville found creative ways to get him the ball plenty, including lining him up in the backfield. He was one of the best rookie receivers in the NFL at forcing missed tackles and was spectacular at making contested catches. Since then, the Jaguars had drafted college QB sensation Trevor Lawrence (QB – JAC). They also acquired a new head coach in Urban Meyer, who ran a system in college that could further exploit Shenault’s strengths.

Unfortunately, the team struggled with on and off-the-field issues, and Shenault finished his second season with just 63-619-0 in 16 games. Had he been overvalued, or should the down year be largely chalked up to a dysfunctional coach and staff? His current player ranking makes him a 13th-round pick, an astounding six-round drop from last year. Now with an established head coach in Doug Pederson and a quarterback with a year under his belt, the team could make strides. That makes Shenault a flier at his current draft price.

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Bonnie Robinson is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Bonnie, check out her profile and follow her @FantasyQueenB.

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