Players Trending Up and Down (2022 Fantasy Football)
In another life, I had some experience in public relations and marketing. One important element in this field is called “trendjacking.” Trendjacking is diving headfirst into what’s “hot” and creating content and deliverables based on what trends are gaining public steam in the current moment.
View this piece as a bit of fantasy football trendjacking. Here are some players who are trending both up and down less than five months before training camp starts.
J.K. Dobbins had a solid rookie year in 2020. He totaled 925 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns. He missed last season after tearing his ACL on August 28, 2021. Already, ECR has him at RB19 for this upcoming season. I was never high on Dobbins. He’s a talented running back, but, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before, the nature of the Ravens’ offense distributes ground touches across multiple talented players. He’ll be competing with Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL) for touches at every level of the field, including the red zone. However, it’s not even really a competition. Lamar Jackson is an electric player and the Ravens’ offense is great when all runners are firing on all cylinders. Assuming Gus Edwards (RB – BAL) and Justice Hill (RB – BAL) are healthy, they’ll also see a fair share of touches. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ravens bring in a veteran option the way they did with Latavius Murray (RB. – BAL), Devonta Freeman (RB – BAL), and Mark Ingram II (RB – NO) over the last two seasons. If the Ravens don’t spend any draft or free agency capital on a running back, Dobbins will slide up my rankings, but for now, he’s going too high for me to justify a pick.
Javonte Williams finished as the .5PPR RB17 last season despite splitting carries on a middling offense. That’s pretty impressive. According to Pro Football Reference, Williams led the NFL in broken tackles with 31. Now, Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN) is a free agent and there’s talk of the Broncos looking to make an upgrade at quarterback. I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams is in round one territory by September.
I’m not sure there’s a hype train with more steam right now than Jaylen Waddle‘s. His rookie season provided plenty to substantiate excitement. Now, Dolphins’ new head coach Mike McDaniel isn’t shy about letting people know he wants Waddle to become a centerpiece of the offense. Plus, Will Fuller V (WR – MIA), Albert Wilson (WR – MIA), Mack Hollins (WR – MIA), Preston Williams (WR – MIA), and Mike Gesicki (TE – MIA) are all free agents, giving fantasy managers hope last year’s plethora of Dolphins receiving options is concentrated. This has to be Waddle’s draft ceiling, right? The Dolphins’ offense tallied the fourth-worst yards per play in the league last season. There are reasons to hope the offense improves this year, but I would be wary if considering drafting Waddle over Tee Higgins (WR – CIN), D.K. Metcalf (WR – SEA), Diontae Johnson (WR – PIT), DeAndre Hopkins (WR – ARI), Mike Evans (WR – TB), and a few more solid options.
Tee Higgins (WR – CIN): ECR WR14
Higgins is coming in at WR14 in ECR and finished 2021 as the WR22 in .5PPR formats. I get this ranking, though. Anyone who watched the NFL Playoffs saw just how good Higgins looked. He was making contested catches, he was open, he was running after the catch. And after all, he just turned 23. Given how explosive the Cincinnati offense has shown then can be, I’m down with Higgins at this spot right now.
Pitts is one of the few players in the NFL with seemingly no ceiling on what he can do. He’s the most talented player on an offense with a good quarterback, and he’s not just talented, he’s a unicorn. He’s six-foot-six, fast, strong, runs crisp routes, and makes insane catches look routine. He finished as the TE7 in his rookie season despite catching only one touchdown. Had he scored five, he’d have been the TE4, six and he would’ve been the TE3. Touchdowns fluctuate and the sky’s the limit for Kyle Pitts in 2022 and beyond.
This might be the lowest Matt Ryan has been ranked since his rookie season. I get it, and I don’t. On one hand, he’s an aging, not super-mobile quarterback on a far-from-elite offense. Last season, he was throwing behind, statistically, some of the worst pass blocking in the NFL. However, this is where I see an opportunity to pounce. Much like the stock market, if an asset is down, one can make a case to buy-in. The pass blocking pretty much can’t get worse. The Falcons were dealing with inexperience at the left guard and center positions which means they can bring in veterans and/or hope for an improvement from their young players. On the weapons side of things, the Falcons will surely look to revamp that group. With Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL) out for most of the season, Matt Ryan was throwing to Kyle Pitts, Cordarrelle Patterson (RB,WR – ATL), and an ensemble. Pitts looks to make a jump in his second season which frankly would be scary for the entire league because he looked incredible last year. Cordarrelle Patterson will (hopefully) return, Ridley could return, and there are a plethora of receiving options in free agency and the draft. I’m not making the case for Matt Ryan to go top-12 in fantasy drafts, but if you wanted to wait and pair him with Trey Lance (QB – SF) or Justin Fields (QB – CHI) late, I think you’re in good shape.
Carson Wentz went from “most improved player” contention to “will he ever start in the NFL again?” real quick. With rumors swirling that Indianapolis is looking to go in a different direction at quarterback, Wentz has plummeted in mock drafts. I think there’s some value here still, though maybe not in smaller 1QB leagues. If he lands somewhere as a starting quarterback, he could be a solid option in deeper formats. Last season he threw for more than 3,500 yards, 27 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions on his way to finishing as the QB14.
Ahead of last season, some were heralding Edwards-Helaire as the potential fantasy RB1 if all things fell into place. I was high on him, too. He was the RB1 on one of the best offenses in the NFL. Well, he sort of bottomed out. Between injuries and being spelled by Darrel Williams (RB – KC), Derrick Gore (RB – KC), and Jerick McKinnon (RB – KC), CEH finished as the fantasy RB41. Now, those three players are all unrestricted free agents. I’m sure Kansas City will try to bring back at least one of them, but I do expect CEH to have another chance to own this backfield. RB23 feels about right, but I am taking him over Leonard Fournette (RB – TB), Damien Harris (RB – NE) and J.K. Dobbins.
It seems as though the fantasy football world is pretty low on McLaurin to start FY22 (Fantasy year 2022). I’m bucking this trend, however. McLaurin finished the 2021 season as the WR25 in .5PPR formats and it felt like his floor. He only caught five touchdowns, Taylor Heinicke (QB – WAS) was throwing him the football for most of the year, and Washington only tallied seven wins. McLaurin is entering his fourth season and is still as talented as ever, so I’m buying more McLaurin stock during the dip.
It says a lot about a player when being considered the fifth-best option at their position is “trending down,” but anyone who’s watched even a second of healthy Waller understands why. He’s an incredible player and the focal point of his team’s offense in a way not many tight ends can say they are or have been. However, he’ll be 30 for most of next season and is coming off a season marked by ankle and knee injuries. In my way-too-early mocks, I’m actually ending up with a good amount of Waller. We don’t have reason to believe he’s in jeopardy of missing week one and, even with slight regression, Waller’s single-game ceiling is so, so high. Even in his “down year” last year, Waller was targeted fewer than eight times just twice in eleven games, and not once fewer than five times.
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