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Players to Avoid (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Michael Moore | @DLF_Moore | Featured Writer
May 26, 2022
Lamar Jackson

Recognizing a player’s value is the key to winning fantasy football. When to draft a player, when not to draft a player, and who to trade are all questions that eventual champions get mostly right.

Asking those questions is no more critical than at draft time. It’s also important to realize that players who have previously put up good fantasy numbers may not do it again.

Below are a few examples of those players that may not live up to their previous performances.

Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL) 

It seems insane to put Lamar Jackson on any list that would have a negative connotation, but hear me out. We’re looking at players on the decline compared to their previous performance. Is Jackson still better than most other NFL quarterbacks? Absolutely. But was he as good last year as in previous seasons? No.

While Jackson’s yardage totals have improved on a per-game basis – he averaged 240 passing yards per game in 2022 compared to his 170 career average – his touchdown totals were way down. He threw just 16 in 2022, with some decline due to missing five games. However, his touchdown-percentage rate went way down, clocking in at 4.2% in 2022 compared to 6.9% the previous season and more than 50% less than his MVP-season total of 9.0%.

He also turned the ball over at a much higher per-play rate, throwing an interception on 3.4% of his passes compared to 2.4% the previous season. The decline in his touchdown and interception rates is ironic since he had two 1,000-yard pass catchers in Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown for the first time in his career.

Brown has since moved on, with many expecting 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman to take his place. Jackson will also get back JK Dobbins, who missed all of 2022 with a torn ACL. All of this to say, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Jackson’s per-game numbers held steady or even declined further. His peak was higher than most other peak seasons in NFL History. But that doesn’t mean he can stay there.

Josh Jacobs (RB – LV) 

The allure of a first-round running back is strong. It’s as if a real-life NFL team was playing out a fantasy draft by taking one that early and, inherently, becomes a popular choice in redraft and rookie drafts alike. And while the odds may go up that a running back taken that early will succeed, it’s not a guarantee, and there are certainly examples of backs taken later that still perform.

Of the top-10 fantasy running backs in 2022, just three (Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Najee Harris) were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. The rest were an assortment of Day 2 or Day 3 players and even undrafted free agents.

This brings us to Josh Jacobs. A first-round pick in 2019, Jacobs looked the part with 1,150 rushing yards – including five 100-yard games – and a 4.8 yards-per-carry (YPC) average. And while he didn’t see many targets, he averaged 8.3 yards-per-reception. 2020 was a better statistical year thanks to more volume – he saw 44 more touches – but his per-play efficiency went way down. He’s averaged 3.9 and 4.0 YPC the last two seasons, respectively, and hasn’t reached his rookie per-reception average.

His rushing yardage total has gone down every year, and he has yet to record a receiving touchdown despite 107 receptions for his career. Now factor in the Raiders bringing the Patriot Way to Vegas via coach Josh McDaniel and general manager Dave Ziegler, and it’s hard to see Jacobs being as fantasy relevant as he was his rookie season.

His fifth-year option wasn’t picked up, and the Raiders drafted Zamir White in the fourth round of this year’s draft. The writing is on the wall that Jacobs is on his way out and can’t be counted on for your fantasy team.

Tyreek Hill (WR – MIA) 

Plenty of fantasy analysts and managers have dogged Tyreek Hill this offseason. Moving from Patrick Mahomes II – who has one of the greatest arms to ever grace the NFL – to Tua Tagovailoa is widely viewed as a downgrade.

And it is! But Hill was slipping even before the trade. Like Jackson above, a good (not great) Hill is still better than most other receivers. But make no mistake that 2022 was the start of a decline for the 28-year-old.

While Hill totaled over 1,200 receiving yards, he did it thanks to a career-high 159 targets and 111 receptions. The 72.9 yards per game are the same as his career average but over 10 yards less than he averaged the previous season. Perhaps the most jarring number is the 11.2 yards-per-reception (Y/R) he recorded. That’s more than three less YPR than he averaged in 2020. And that decline wasn’t with Tagovailoa just yet.

To say Hill will have a hard time replicating his statistics in Kansas City is an understatement. The Dolphins’ leading receiver last year, Jaylen Waddle, did total over 1,000 receiving yards but needed 104 receptions to do it on 141 targets. The chances of there being enough targets to feed Waddle and Hill to make them fantasy standouts are slim. Hill was already declining, and it appears it’ll be expedited in Miami.

TJ Hockenson (TE – DET) 

TJ Hockenson always seems to tease his fantasy managers. In every season opener of his career, Hockenson has not only scored but totaled at least five receptions and 50 yards. Yet, he never seems to keep it up as the season wears on. Those three touchdowns he’s scored in season openers represent 25% of his career touchdown total.

When it comes to a decline, it’s more apparent on a per-play basis. Like Hill, his volume props up his fantasy status, but you’ll see his efficiency has steadily gotten worse if you dig deeper. For example, his 11.5 Y/R rookie year was his peak, and he has declined every year, from 10.5 Y/R  his sophomore season to 9.6 Y/R in 2022.

And when it comes to the one thing saving Hockenson’s fantasy value – volume – that will be taking a hit soon too. In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Lions traded up to take receiver Jameson Williams to pair with surprise standout Amon-Ra St. Brown. Hockenson will still be valuable relative to other tight ends. He just may not have the same level of value as he once did.

CTAs


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Michael Moore is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @DLF_Moore.

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