Best Ball Bust & League Winner Candidate: AFC North (2022 Fantasy Football)
Several factors go into building a winning best ball team. One of those factors is identifying which players will let your team down and bust. Another is knowing which players have league-winning upside, especially in the later rounds. To help you build an elite best ball roster, I will identify the most likely bust candidate and potential league winner for every NFL team.
Today I breakdown the AFC North teams: the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The average draft position (ADP) used for this article comes from Underdog Fantasy.
Potential Bust Candidate
J.K. Dobbins (RB – BAL): ADP 56.3
Dobbins missed last year after tearing his ACL in the preseason. While he should be ready to start the year, there have been reports that Dobbins could begin the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). Even if he starts Week 1, who knows how healthy he is coming off the injury. Furthermore, Dobbins was only the RB21 as a rookie despite averaging six yards per rushing attempt. He also had a limited role in the passing game, seeing 24 targets in 15 games. More importantly, Dobbins will split the backfield work with Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson. Josh Jacobs, AJ Dillon and Tony Pollard have a later ADP than Dobbins, and I would draft all three over him.
Joe Burrow (QB – CIN): ADP 70.1
While he was the QB8 last season, Burrow’s fantasy value has gotten overblown because of the Super Bowl run. Burrow averaged 19.6 fantasy points per game, making him the QB10 on a points per game basis. However, he scored over 20 fantasy points in only five of the first 14 games last season. Yes, Burrow had those two excellent fantasy playoff performances in Week 16 and 17 to help many win championships. However, he averaged 17.2 fantasy points per game the rest of the year, making him the QB14 on a per-game basis. Burrow won’t be a total bust, but drafting him in the fifth round is a mistake.
Amari Cooper (WR – CLE): ADP 65.2
With a potential Deshaun Watson suspension still up in the air, it’s hard to evaluate the Cleveland offense. At this point, Watson will get suspended. But for how many games is unknown. Even if Watson started all 17 games, Cooper isn’t the best wide receiver to draft. The veteran has never averaged more than 12.9 fantasy points per game in any year of his career. He also has never scored over eight touchdowns in a season. Furthermore, Cooper averaged only 1.6 fantasy points per target last year despite an 18.8% target share. Therefore, I’m not drafting Cooper at his current ADP if Watson gets suspended for more than six games.
Najee Harris (RB – PIT): ADP 9.4
Despite ending last year as the RB4, averaging 15.2 fantasy points, Harris averaged only 0.7 fantasy points per touch and 3.9 yards per rushing attempt as a rookie. With the change at quarterback, Harris won’t see the same number of dump-off passes he did last year with Ben Roethlisberger. Furthermore, he averaged 3.8 receptions and 15.2 fantasy points per game last season if you remove the Week 3 game where Harris had 14 receptions. By comparison, his next highest reception total last year was six. The Steelers have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and now have a quarterback who can run. Expect regression from Harris this season.
Potential League Winner
Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL): ADP 53.7
After trading away Marquise Brown during the NFL Draft, Bateman will step into the No. 1 wide receiver role. While Mark Andrews remains Lamar Jackson‘s go-to target, Bateman will see a massive uptick in targets this season. Despite reports that the Ravens will add a veteran wide receiver at some point in the coming weeks, fantasy players should jump at the chance to draft Bateman. Brown saw a 26.7% target share last season, 10.9% more than any other wide receiver on the team. Meanwhile, Bateman averaged 10.5 fantasy points per game in the four games with over six targets last year. As a result, Bateman could see enough volume to finish the year as a top-15 wide receiver.
Hayden Hurst (TE – CIN): ADP 182.7
The Bengals lost long-time starter C.J. Uzomah in free agency this offseason. They replaced him with Hurst, who has been a fantasy disappointment since the Ravens used a 2018 first-round pick on him. However, Hurst has been the No. 2 tight end on his team every year of his career except in 2020. As the starter in 2020, Hurst averaged a career-high 7.6 fantasy points per game and scored six touchdowns on 88 targets. By comparison, Uzomah averaged 6.8 fantasy points per game and scored six touchdowns on 74 targets in 18 career games with Burrow. If you are targeting late-round tight ends in your draft, Hurst needs to be on your watch list.
David Njoku (TE – CLE): ADP 170.4
Njoku has been a popular breakout candidate all offseason long. After a limited role the past few years, he will be the starter in 2022 after the Browns released Austin Hooper in the offseason. Furthermore, the Browns recently signed Njoku to a four-year extension worth $54.8 million. More importantly, the Browns lack proven pass-catchers other than Cooper. Njoku led the team with four receiving touchdowns last season despite finishing third on the team in receptions. Whether Watson or Brissett is under center, Njoku should have a consistent target share this season. Drafting Njoku at his current ADP is borderline stealing.
Chase Claypool (WR – PIT): ADP 105.1
Pittsburgh has a history of developing wide receivers into fantasy impactful players. After losing JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington in the offseason, the Steelers used a pair of draft picks on their replacements. However, neither is an ideal target in best ball or redraft leagues. Instead, you should draft Claypool. After scoring nine touchdowns as a rookie, he scored only two last year, finishing fourth on the team. However, he is due for a bounce-back third year. Roethlisberger lacked the arm strength to push the ball downfield to Claypool as he averaged 11.5 air yards per target. Whether it’s Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett under center, Claypool should have the best year of his career this season.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.