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Fantasy Football Draft Guide: Targeting Players on “Bad” Offenses (2022)

Chase Edmonds

Chase Edmonds comes with a low price tag for an RB in a run-heavy offensive scheme.

Back in June, I wrote an article that laid out a strategic approach to drafting guys on good offenses in fantasy football.

I highlighted the cheapest ways to get exposure to the league’s best NFL offenses inside the top 16.

And I’ve done my best to follow the approach through several offseason best ball and mock drafts this summer.

But I couldn’t help but think that my work was left undone with the league’s lesser offenses deserving some attention. After all, you’ll be hard pressed to never draft a player on a team that doesn’t project to be an above-average unit in 2022.

The goal here is to again find the best values on each of the remaining NFL offenses, where betting on the player’s talent to overcome adverse circumstances doesn’t require a premium draft cost.

Because despite how many talented real-life players get drafted atop 2022 fantasy football draft boards, plenty fall through the cracks based on situations that are definitely worth buying the dip on.

I’ve broken down the guide by each of the top 16 offenses by compiling aggregate best ball ADP from Underdog as of August 3rd – right in the heat of most NFL training camps.

This is how teams are viewed by the drafting market and provide a nice starting point. I’ll then quickly summarize a quick round-by-round recap of the player targets that should be used in conjunction with my other fantasy football draft strategy guides.

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

Methodology

Similar to the previous article, to best capture the mean ADP of each NFL offense, I collected the ADPs of the first seven players drafted from each team. That way, I would be able to consider each team’s QB plus a combination of six skill players between running back, wide receiver, and tight end.

It also prevents “good” offenses from being penalized because all the late-round guys drafted from those teams will suppress the team’s overall score.

Every offense had at least ten players with an actual ADP. It was actually one more than when I pulled the data as of July 25th. I was forced to make adjustments based on several player transactions that have transpired over the past ten days.

The Kansas City Chiefs previously had the most players drafted on average but were overtaken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (17) after the Julio Jones signing. Still, KC ranks second (16) followed by the Cleveland Browns (15).

The New York Giants, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, and New Orleans Saints all have 14 guys being selected.

The teams with the fewest drafted players (10) include the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, and Cincinnati Bengals. One of these is not like the others.

I won’t dive back in as deep into the top offenses again, but it’s worth mentioning slight team movement since the original article’s release over a month ago.

Among the top-16 offenses, the Chargers (+4) and Vikings (+2) saw the largest boosts at the expense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4), Cincinnati Bengals (-1), and Arizona Cardinals (-1).

Even so, no team that was left on the outside looking in at the top-16 teams was able to crack the list a month later.

At least it was before my latest August update. Detroit and Miami flip-flopped spots 16 and 17, but the ADP difference is marginal at best. So while player ADPs continue to fluctuate… the team ADPs don’t really change.

And as alluded to earlier, the Buccaneers are back near the top over the past week (+3) while the Panthers have fallen the most (-3) since the start of training camp.

Atlanta and the Giants have also gone up two spots, as have the Browns in the wake of Deshaun Watson‘s six-game suspension news. We shall see if that holds as NFL looks to appeal the court ruling.

My best guess is that it won’t, so the ADP of Browns players will continue to dip.

“Bottom” Offenses

  1. Miami Dolphins

Sitting right on the line of top/bottom offenses are the Miami Dolphins, whose most expensive player is wide receiver Tyreek Hill at WR9 ADP.

And I am not going to pay the price of a Round 2 pick for Hill when I can get a different Miami Dolphins WR in Jaylen Waddle at WR18 – nearly a round and a half later.

Waddle has already proven he can produce top-end fantasy numbers with Tua Tagovailoa, whereas Hill’s numbers likely won’t improve with an obvious downgrade at quarterback regardless of how often he highlights his new quarterback’s completion percentage and throwing accuracy.

Waddle posted nine top-24 PPR finishes in 2021 – eighth-best at the position and more than Hill did in KC with Patrick Mahomes.

And through the second half of the season, their cumulative numbers were nearly identical across the board. Except for efficiency marks and fantasy points per game – where Waddle was superior, averaging 14.8 half-points per game versus Hill (12.7).

Why are drafters paying more for the older veteran wide receiver coming off career-lows in yards after the catch per reception (4.3, 42nd) and yards per route run (2.14, 11th) when there’s a young ascending talent in Waddle that already has a built-in rapport with Tagovailoa?

With the most likely outcome being a 1A/1B split between a young talent versus an older veteran in a new home, I’ll take the youth with the draft day discount.

But full disclosure, I’m not particularly high on the Dolphins’ passing offense heading into the 2022 season, which is why I think exposing the obvious value in their backfield is the best approach. After all, Mike McDaniel found his success in the 49ers system as a run game coordinator.

Case in point, over the last three seasons, only the Titans have been more run-heavy under neutral game script conditions than the 49ers.

Yet…Chase Edmonds remains super cheap with an RB3 price tag (RB32).

He stood as the RB21 through the first six weeks prior to suffering an ankle injury in 2021. Edmonds ranked fourth in the NFL in receptions among running backs (four catches and five targets per game).

Edmonds won’t ever 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.

In 14 career games when Edmonds has commanded at least 11 touches, his average fantasy finish is RB18 (PPR).

Edmonds should see plenty of work in a Dolphins backfield splitting snaps with Sony Michel and Raheem Mostert. If anything, Edmonds’ $12 million-dollar contract should ensure he gets the first crack at opportunities in the Miami backfield.

Considering Myles Gaskins’ fantasy spike weeks in 2021 all came from his receiving usage, the ex-Cardinals back should find similar success in that role with Miami should Tagovailoa continue to attack the short quadrants of the field.

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ranked 29th in aDOT in 2021 (7.6) after ranking 39th and 35th in the category the two years prior. Tagovailoa’s aDOT was 34th in the league (7.6) in 2021.

The former Cardinals back is a value across all fantasy formats, but he still requires a top-100 pick. Therefore, the easiest and cheapest method to getting access to the Dolphins’ offenses – especially at the red zone, a role that Edmonds has never earned at the NFL level – is by drafting Sony Michel with your last pick (RB64).

The former first-round pick has a more proven RB1 history versus other Miami backs. Edmonds finished as an RB2 (top-24 running back) in 50% of his games last season but finished as an RB1 in just 8%. Michel finished at a higher RB1 rate (19%).

Michel also has twice as many starts (35) as anybody else in the Miami backfield. Mostert (9), Edmonds (15), and Myles Gaskin (17) just don’t have the same pedigree that Michel boasts.

Can’t forget that over the final six weeks of the 2021 season, the former Rams running back ranked second in snaps, first in carries, third in rushing yards, third in broken tackles forced, and first in RZ carries.

  1. New Orleans Saints

There are a lot of question marks surrounding this New Orleans Saints offense heading into 2022, highlighted by their two top players in ADP – Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas.

Kamara ranked third in touches per game (22.1) and was the RB6 in points per game after seeing a career-high in total seasonal touches (287) in 2021. He was the offense in 2021 with no other weapons and averaged nearly six carries more per game than his career average.

However, this came at the expense of his receptions per game, falling by 1.5 per game. 2021 was the first season in Kamara’s career he failed to catch at least 81 passes.

It’s interesting because prior to the 2021 season, draft pundits would point to Kamara’s receiving splits without Michael Thomas – seven receptions, 8.6 targets, and 70 receiving yards per game – from 8 games in 2020 as a reason to believe his work in the passing game would ascend.

But that wasn’t factored into the Saints’ offensive approach, which just became more run-centric, thus limiting Kamara more as a receiver despite the high target share.

Makes you wonder about a certain Packers running back that is flying up draft boards based on a small sample size of his receiving splits when the No. 1 wide receiver missed time…

The touches will inevitably come down for Kamara in 2022 as the Saints look to extend the shelf life of their 27-year-old running back. As will Kamara’s No. 3-ranked RB target share (13%) as the offense looks to spread the ball more with capable wide receivers available on the roster.

But the main reason Kamara is being drafted at the end of Round 3 – as opposed to Round 1 or 2 – is because of a looming suspension. I won’t dive deep into the weeds here from a legal side, but I recognize that his availability this season looks much better than it did a month ago.

Essentially, the NFL seems likely to let the criminal justice system play out in regards to Kamara’s case before laying down any punishment under the new collective bargaining agreement.

His August 1 hearing was pushed back two months, and a suspension could realistically be pushed back as far into 2023. Unless, of course, a video released of the crime in question would force the NFL’s hand into action. But as of now, they seem more than happy to take their time making Kamara a fantasy value at the end of Round 3.

Obviously, there’s risk involved with Kamara, which can also be said for the Saints’ No. 1 wide receiver, Michael Thomas.

The majority of reports on Thomas have been positive coming out of Saints camp this offseason, and that has not gone unnoticed by the drafting public.

 

Thomas’ best ball ADP has skyrocketed inside the top-70 (WR34).

And I’d argue there’s still some room for him to provide value even at his inflated ADP. When Thomas was healthy in 2020 – he was averaging 12 fantasy points per game as the WR41; his previous July ADP.

The injury discount is still baked-in enough to Thomas’ WR3 draft price – while also considering that he might not ever be as good as he was in 2019.

And that’s probably the most likely scenario – he’s an older player that has dealt with a number of lower-body injuries that faces more target competition than he ever has before.

If his ADP remains in the WR3 range, he’s a strong option with upside that he can recapture his former elite production.

When he was healthy in 2020 from Weeks 11-14, Thomas commanded a 33% target share, earned a 90.5 PFF receiving grade, and averaged an elite 2.86 yards per route run – a mark that bested his career average (2.45).

Right now, he’s being priced pretty close to his production floor.

He’s currently my WR22 in half-point scoring, which is still well ahead of his rising ADP.

However, if Thomas’ ADP continues to climb into high-end fantasy WR2 territory amid positive buzz from training camp, I’d opt for some other cheaper values on the Saints behind the idea that a 29-year-old Thomas can’t turn back the clock.

First-round rookie wide receiver Chris Olave used to be drafted just a few picks after Thomas.

But there’s now a stark difference in their ADPs – WR44, 91st overall.

The former Buckeye doesn’t offer the same skill set as Thomas, but he can separate from defenders at an elite level downfield. Olave wrapped up his 2021 season in the 96th percentile in separation versus single coverage and caught seven touchdowns on throws of 20-plus air yards.

Although his physical play after the catch leaves a lot to be desired. His forced broken and missed tackle rate ranked 43rd among 43 qualifying wide receivers in the class. His yards after the catch per reception (4.2) ranked 37th.

However, his stylistic fit as a vertical threat could gel extremely well with Jameis Winston‘s fourth-ranked aDOT from last season.

And his impressive route-running ability will allow him to have a Day 1 impact, which is not always the case for many rookie WRs.

Just note that Olave profiles much more of a boom-or-bust wide receiver rather than an absolute target hog.

If you miss out on Thomas earlier on… hedge against him staying healthy and scoop up the value of the talented first-rounder later in drafts.

The early schedule for the Saints, Falcons, Buccaneers, and Panthers – figures to challenge Thomas with brutal WR/CB matchups against A.J. Terrell, Carlton Davis, and Jaycee Horn to start the season.

The upside cases for both Thomas and Olave are apparent, which is why they are each going in the top 100 overall players and top-45 wide receivers.

But the best WR value by far is Jarvis Landry in the double-digit rounds.

He signed with the New Orleans Saints this offseason, providing much-added depth to the team’s wide receiver room.

The 29-year-old’s best season with the Browns came back in 2019 when he averaged 12.2 fantasy points per game in half-point scoring as the WR13 overall. The former LSU star’s production fell off in the last two seasons amid quarterback Baker Mayfield‘s struggles.

However, Landry displayed a higher fantasy ceiling in games that Odell Beckham Jr. missed from 2020-2021, averaging 11.2 points per game in 2020 (nine games) and 9.5 points per game in 2021 (ten games).

So although his WR56 and 8.9 fantasy points per game in 2021 suggest Landry may be on the decline, he was more a victim of bad circumstances. His 25% target rate per route run ranked top-12 last season – tying him with the likes of D.J. Moore, D.K. Metcalf, Brandin Cooks, and Stefon Diggs.

There’s a clear path for steady fantasy WR2 production with Landry if Thomas doesn’t fully overcome the remaining hurdles stemming from his ankle rehab. His ADP also continues to tank (WR64) amid the glowing reports for Thomas.

With Olave providing more of the splash downfield ability and spiked-week potential, Landry is a sneaky candidate to be the target share leader in this offense.

The Saints offense as a whole is being vastly underrated, in my opinion, after a season where they had a constant change at the quarterback position. They were extremely run-heavy last season out of necessity and have nowhere to go but up in 2022.

And that’s why Jameis Winston is one of my favorite quarterback sleeper candidates.

He played with almost zero weapons a season ago and still managed to average 17.5 fantasy points per game — good for QB14 on the year. The Saints quarterback also finished the season with the league’s sixth-highest passer rating (102.8) and first in all QBs last year in fantasy points per dropback (0.64).

There’s just not enough hype about the QB22 in ADP who has a 5,000 passing yards season under his belt playing with offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael who also had a QB post over 5,000 passing yards on multiple occasions.

Additionally, in the one season that Carmichael operated as OC without Sean Payton (2012), the Saints led the NFL in passing yards.

And the icing on the cake is that you can feel confident about starting Winston in Week 1.

As previously mentioned, the Saints take on Atlanta in Week 1. In nine games versus the Dirty Birds, Winston has averaged 24.4 fantasy points per game.

The last and cheapest in the Saints offense is running back Mark Ingram. His fantasy appeal is completely tied to Kamara’s potential suspension, as Ingram showed last year he could carry the load for New Orleans.

The Saints’ all-time leading rusher finished as RB36, RB10, and RB13 – the two later performances coming with Kamara entirely out of the lineup – after being traded from the Texans last season in the Big Easy.

  1. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts’ 19th-ranked standing per ADP is heavily weighed by their top two players in Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr.

Because outside those two players, no other Colts player is being drafted inside the first 11 rounds.

Mo Alie-Cox and Parris Campbell are interesting sleepers but are hardly must-draft guys in my book.

Campbell’s turning heads at training camp because he’s talented. There’s no doubt about it. It’s just his lack of durability that has been the major issue. If he’s healthy for Week 1, I’d feel great having him on my roster – at least till the wheels fall off.

And Nyheim Hines figures to be in for a large bounce back after Matt Ryan led the NFL in RB targets per game (8.6) in 2021.

But ultimately, I just find myself just paying the 3rd-round draft capital for Pittman Jr. – placing a sizable bet on him taking another step forward in Year 3.

Zero threats exist on the Colts’ roster to threaten Pittman’s top-eight target share. Finishing top 20 seems like his absolute floor.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s outside the top-20 where I feel there’s a legitimate tier drop in separating the good offenses from the bad. Teams 17-19, I think, will be average at worst, whereas teams in this range come with some extremely shaky floors.

And I think that the Steelers are one of those offenses that have the chance to totally bottom out in 2022, with major question marks at quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky is in the driver’s seat to be the Day 1 starter, with first-round rookie Kenny Pickett waiting in the wings for an opportunity.

And I know that arguments and takes will be made as to why Trubisky is a better option at quarterback than Ben Roethlisberger was last season; it’s possible that happens.

Just be aware that in Trubisky’s best season (2018) as an NFL quarterback, the Bears’ offense ranked 24th in yards per game (344) and 10th in points per game.

The room for an improved offense is realistic, but I’m not as bullish on paying the premium price for a wide receiver like Diontae Johnson in Round 4 with so much uncertainty under center.

Johnson already threaded the needle with bad quarterback play last season – finishing as the lone top-10 WR in half-point scoring on an offense that generated a negative EPA per dropback.

Four more finished in the WR18-WR24 range.

Receivers like Johnson are fantasy WR2s and won’t be fantasy WR1s on their existing bad offenses unless they see absolutely absurd target volume.

Johnson didn’t benefit from Big Ben being horrible, but rather the team’s first and fourth-ranked pass attempts per game the last two seasons. With the duo of Trubisky and/or Pickett under center in 2022, I’d bet they finish outside the top 16 in that category in 2022.

During the 2019 season, when Big Ben missed all but two games, the Steelers ranked 23rd in pass-play rate. Nobody on that offense saw more than 100 targets.

It also needs to be considered that the new quarterbacks have zero ties to Johnson being their primary target. Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, George Pickens, and Calvin Austin III will all be vying for targets in the Steelers’ passing attack.

Simply put: If I am going to take a shot on the Steelers’ offense, I need it to be at a discount.

That player comes in the form of Claypool at WR50 – going outside the top-100 picks.

Claypool’s second-year breakout was inevitably halted by Roethlisberger’s lack of downfield throwing ability. On throws with 20-plus air yards, Big Ben graded 31st out of 38 qualifying QBs.

Claypool commanded a 27% air yards share on the season and led the team in the metric over the final four weeks.

He also posted nearly identical overall counting stats to his rookie season – except for the dramatic fall from 11 to 2 TDs – and more expected fantasy points per game (12.3 versus 12.5, 30th overall).

Better days should be ahead of the Notre Dame product if Pittsburgh can get better downfield quarterback play from Pickett/Trubisky.

In 2018, Trubisky ranked second in the NFL in deep-ball pass rate and fourth in attempts.

Claypool is also due for positive touchdown regression after catching just one of his 12 end-zone targets last season. The 6-foot-5 monster is no stranger to hitting paydirt after being one of eight wide receivers to score double-digit touchdowns as rookies since 1998.

However, Claypool’s range of outcomes is quite wide heading into his third season, with 2022 second-round pick George Pickens chomping at the bit to be the No. 2 on the offense behind Johnson.

Claypool’s strong 23% target rate per route run suggests that he won’t be totally phased out of the offense, but he might never take the leap to an alpha status like many of us hoped he would after his Year 1 campaign.

Either way, he’s the poster boy for 2022 post-hype sleeper status with his ADP completely different than it was a season ago. And it’s unwarranted because it’s tied to his on-field antics and lack of scores in 2022.

I like drafting him as a bench WR to see if he’s on the upward trajectory early on. I am optimistic about his role as a “big slot” in the Steelers’ offense. And if not, it’s easy to cut ties if the Steelers’ passing offense heads south quickly.

Pickens, on the other hand, is extremely polarizing in deeper formats. He initially looks buried on the depth chart, but stranger things have happened than a Round 2 WR ascending in a relatively open depth chart. The Steelers also know a thing or a two about drafting WRs on Day 2.

Injuries and off-field issues plagued Pickens’ draft stock, but he looks fully healthy based on his testing at the NFL Combine. And Pittsburgh seems like the right spot for him to get his head on straight.

I already can’t wait for the heated training camp fights between him and Claypool as the gloves come off — well, not really — for target supremacy.

Pickens’ college profile screams that of a true alpha, so I’d be looking to stash him across the board before he is fully unleashed. Might not take long, considering he is already running with the starters in 3-WR sets at training camp.

The Georgia Bulldog WR broke out as a true 18-year-old freshman, finishing 2019 as PFF’s 17th-highest-graded receiver in the nation (88.0) – ahead of future NFL wideouts like Jerry Jeudy, Justin Jefferson, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle.

His 2.64 yards per route run were identical to Jefferson’s. George Pickens’ unbelievable first year generated a 27% dominator rating – the No. 1 age-adjusted mark among the WRs in this draft class.

And it’s so clear that Pickens plays with a dog mentality. Part of his highlight tape is him putting opposing cornerbacks on the ground in the run game.

Mike Tomlin is going to love this guy. And therefore, so should you.

  1. Cleveland Browns

We all know the analysis behind the Cleveland Browns at this point. Likely a below-average unit with Jacoby Brissett under center for the first six weeks of the season and a potential top-10 offense with Deshaun Watson at quarterback.

For Watson himself as a fantasy quarterback, he’s a top-five option when he gets back on the field. He was exactly that from 2019-2020, and there is no reason to think the 26-year-old won’t pick up where he left off. During his last season of play, Watson led the NFL in passing yards and yards per attempt (8.9).

Considering both redraft and best ball tournaments are won in November/December, not September, he’s worth stashing if you opt to wait on the quarterback position.

In 2QB/SuperFlex formats, I like Brissett late. He finished as a back-end top-24 fantasy quarterback both seasons he started with the Colts from 2017-2019.

And in his four full starts last season – Weeks 3-5, 9 – he averaged 20.3 expected fantasy points per game. It’s a pretty impressive number given the perception of Brissett.

Nick Chubb is the most expensive player on the Browns (RB13), which is more than fair given the ambiguity of the offensive situation. His ceiling rises substantially if Watson is the quarterback with more TDs insight, but Chubb’s super-high floor won’t bottom out with Brissett under center.

The 2020 Browns offense was the best one he was part of – 13th in points per game – which by no coincidence was Chubb’s best season from a point-per-game measure. The former Georgia back averaged 17.3 PPR points per game, which would have ranked sixth in 2021.

The 12 rushing touchdowns definitely boosted Chubb’s numbers, and scoring double-digit TDs is well within his reach, with Watson taking charge under center for the final ten games of the 2021 season.

Mr. 5.0 yards per carry’s absurd efficiency essentially locks him into fantasy RB1 production, but a consistent lack of work on every down makes him tough to crack the top-5 unless he scores a boatload of touchdowns.

I find myself passing on Chubb early more often than not, opting for his back-ups in Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson.

Because there’s a strong chance one of these guys gets cut/traded. Potentially boosting both their fantasy values in the process.

Last year Hunt was limited to just eight games due to a calf injury – but he maintained his effectiveness when healthy through the first six weeks of the season. He was a top-10 running back in PPR, averaging 17 fantasy points per game and just south of 15 touches per game. His sixth-ranked yards after contact per attempt (3.54), sixth-ranked yards per route run (1.81), and 26% target rate suggest he’s not slowing down entering the age 27 season.

Johnson is certainly capable of being more than a third-stringer after an extremely impressive 2021 campaign that saw him finish as PFF’s highest-graded rusher (90.6).

The underrated back also delivered in his three starts, averaging a whopping 22.6 fantasy points per game. He’s a great player to target late with the hope that he finds more opportunities in 2022.

Hunt’s contract ends at the end of the 2022 season, so the Browns could move on from him a year early with a mid-year trade and elevate Johnson to the No. 2 on the depth chart.

But the player I think that could really thrive in Cleveland – regardless of quarterback – is David Njoku. Obviously, having Watson is ideal, but Brissett has leaned on tight ends in past seasons before.

Former Colts tight end Jack Doyle led the team in targets/receptions in the seasons started by Brissett, which suggests that Njoku could be a prime buy-low target. The Browns’ offense ranks top-three in target share to TEs over the past two seasons under head coach Stefanski.

Njoku got a fat new $56.75M extension coming off career highs in PFF grade (70.9, 10th), yards per route run (1.56, eighth), and yards after the catch per reception (7.0, first) among tight ends who commanded at least 50 targets in 2021.

Buy the talent at TE19 ADP. It’s the tight end position, after all. They all suck anyway.

Amari Cooper‘s a bit more of a difficult fantasy prospect to break down. The former Cowboys wide receiver Cooper finished last season 27th in half-PPR per game (11.2), which was in line with his career average.

His nine touchdowns were a career high, but he was volatile as ever on a weekly basis. Cooper finished as a top-10 fantasy WR thrice but outside WR3 territory in nine other contests. Part of his boom-or-bust nature was due to the high target competition in Dallas – Cooper commanded just a 15% target share.

There is hope that he can provide a higher floor as the clear No. 1 wide receiver in Cleveland. And that floor will be accompanied by an extremely high ceiling when Watson gets back under center.

The ex-Texans quarterback fueled top fantasy WR finishes for the likes of Brandin Cooks (WR16, 2020) and Will Fuller (WR8/game, 2020) the last time he played. And prior to that, he supplemented DeAndre Hopkins as the fantasy WR4 and WR10 from 2018-2019.

With a WR9 overall finish in 2019 sandwiched between a WR18 and WR16 finish on his resume the last three years, Cooper looks the part of a top-20 floor wide receiver supplemented with a top-10 fantasy ceiling in 2022 during the latter part of the season.

However, the boom-or-bust nature of his game will likely remain a staple. Having Brissett over the first six weeks – alongside a projectable run-heavy offense – will make Cooper inconsistent.

Although Brissett can prove to be serviceable, he is a significant downgrade compared to Dak Prescott in a super high-paced offense. If Cooper only managed to finish as WR27 in 15 games with Prescott, it’s hard to be optimistic about him as the Browns WR1 or your fantasy WR2.

There’s also a glaring issue with the indoor/outdoor splits that Cooper has posted during his career.

Over the final ten games of the season, the Browns play one game indoors (December 4th at Houston).

I’m probably fine not drafting Cooper in redraft leagues with him likely shaky to start open the year. I’d rather buy low a few weeks in.

Obviously, his fantasy ceiling will grow when Watson makes his return, but I am not sure I’m willing to draft a player in Round 5 knowing it will take six weeks for the ROI to kick in.

Not to mention, the up-and-down play from Cooper won’t be subsiding anytime soon based on the reasons I’ve laid out.

  1. New York Jets

A common theme that I found with running backs that were able to overcome bad offenses was volume usage – specifically in the passing game.

The main ones that I was able to identify from last year – Najee Harris, Alvin Kamara, Cordarelle Patterson, D’Andre Swift, and David Montgomery – carved out roles as receivers to mitigate poor rushing efficiency and lack of touchdown equity.

Rookie running back Breece Hall can be that guy in the Jets offense. He caught over 80 balls during his college career at Iowa State.

All Hall needs is to take on the workload from the Jets cumulative RB1 from last season – 240 touches, 14-15 per game – and he’s a lock to be a top-15 fantasy running back. Every running back that hit that touch threshold last season finished inside that ranking.

Therefore, I am in on the rookie in the RB2 range even as a member of the New York Jets. Because the situation may not be as dire as most expect.

Tevin Coleman and Michael Carter finished top-6 in PFF rushing grade over the last 8 weeks of the fantasy football season.

If two inferior RBs were able to be efficient in a worse offense, then Hall should easily meet/exceed expectations behind PFF’s 13th-ranked offensive line heading into 2022.

I’m not sure there’s a more talented wide receiver than Elijah Moore outside the top-30 based on ADP. At least there aren’t too many obvious names outside guys that are falling because of injury or pending suspension.

Therefore, I give you permission to draft Moore despite the target competition and questions surrounding Zach Wilson in Year 2…at cost.

Because he’s the classic breakout candidate that all fantasy managers should be targeting based on what he did last year.

The Jets’ slot receiver was the WR2 overall during his last stretch of six games played, despite catching passes from a hodgepodge quarterback carousel of Mike White, Zach Wilson, and Josh Johnson. His 16.1 fantasy points per game would have ranked fifth had he continued the production for the remainder of the season.

As a rookie, Moore finished as a WR1 in 27% of his games – superior to DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, Michael Pittman, A.J. Brown, and Stefon Diggs.

If Moore can emerge as the Jets’ No. 1 WR based on his 24% target rate per route run, the Ole Miss product is slated for the moon. The Jets WR1 last season between Corey Davis, Braxton Berrios, and Moore – averaged a 24% target share.

If you miss out on Moore in Rounds 6-7, take a shot on an under-appreciated rookie WR that was selected tenth overall in this year’s draft, Garrett Wilson.

His ADP WR52 is vastly different from the two other WRs taken at picks 8 (Drake London, WR37) and pick 11 (Chris Olave, WR44).

He can be the fantasy WR5 that you can stash on your bench while awaiting a potential breakout, should the 22-year-old’s college success translate to the NFL level.

The fact that he was a top-10 pick alone more than justifies taking a flier on him.

  1. Seattle Seahawks

I don’t think that fantasy football needs to be super complicated. Seattle will trot out a combination of Geno Smith/Drew Lock this season. Both guys have sub-80.0 career passer ratings. Russell Wilson‘s career passer rating (101.8) ranks second all-time among QBs with 100 starts.

Nobody is making you draft parts of this offense. Especially someone like DK Metcalf, who has bust written all over him as a Round 4 pick. Metcalf thrives off touchdown production — 32 touchdowns over his first three seasons — but I anticipate scoring to be in short supply for this 2022 Seahawks offense.

News flash, people…if you want to draft part of Seattle’s passing attack, just take Tyler Lockett outside the top-45 WR picks.

He and Tyler Lockett have posted nearly identical target shares and points per game over the last two seasons.

Metcalf’s ADP is WR17. Lockett’s is WR38. Easy game.

For running backs, I am fine fully fading this backfield. Rashaad Penny is locked in as the starter – while healthy – essentially making Kenneth Walker a piece you hope hits down the stretch. But you’ll have to be patient.

Neither guy projects to see a massive role as a receiver, which presents a major issue for the aforementioned early down grinders.

Penny is fine if you are waiting long in the draft for your second running back, as you can squeeze some decent RB2 production out of him to start the year at the price of an RB3.

Can’t write off his en fuego finish to last season as the RB1 over the final five weeks of the season.

But we all know he’s not going to be there for the long haul with his long track record of injuries.

I also think what’s being lost somewhat in Metcalf’s ranking is the presence of an actual No. 3 pass-catching threat in Noah Fant. Recall that when last year’s starting tight end, Gerald Everett was most productive, it took a toll on Metcalf’s numbers.

Fant is a much more proven commodity than Everett and probably profiles as a real-life top-10 tight end. He’s been left for dead in fantasy as the TE21 – basically free as a Round 13/14 pick – despite how good he was in a horrible situation last year.

Fant finished as TE1 at a 47% rate last season. He is just one of two TEs (C.J. Uzomah) that are the only two TEs being drafted outside the top-18 TEs and 150 overall players to post two top-3 finishes last season

Fant’s 68 receptions ranked seventh-most at the position.

  1. Chicago Bears

The Bears are viewed as an uninspiring unit across most rankings sources, including FantasyPros’ in-house offensive rankings that have them pegged at 30th overall.

I am a little bit higher than my fellow rankers on the Bears’ offense because I believe in the talents of their top-three drafted assets that form the nucleus of their passing game in Darnell Mooney, Justin Fields, and Cole Kmet.

Mooney operated as the team’s No. 1 for most of the 2021 season, ranking as the WR27 in half-point fantasy scoring through 17 weeks. Mooney also finished the last four weeks of the season ninth in target share (27%) and fifth in route participation (95%).

With nobody worth much outside of Kmet as legitimate competition, I expect Mooney should build off his 8th-ranked 24% target share from last season with his skills as a separator.

Kmet’s eighth-ranked route participation and seventh-ranked target share (17%) from 2021 hardly align with his fantasy production — no tight end finished with more fantasy points under expectation (-36.6) than the Notre Dame product in 2021.

That designation is a sign the former second-round pick is due for a fantasy breakout. It signaled as much for guys like Zach Ertz and Dawson Knox, who scored fewer points than expected in 2020 before contributing in fantasy this past year.

And Fields is the latest round QB you can draft that offers top-tier fantasy appeal. As a rookie, he finished as the QB3, QB9, QB8, and QB10 in his last four starts averaging 21.7 fantasy points per game. He is suitable for a 44% QB1 top-12 weekly hit rate considering his 9 full games played. Same as Derek Carr.

He also averaged 56 rushing yards per game over his last six. All in all, Fields averaged 35 rushing yards per game during his rookie season. The previous three rookie QBs to do so? Cam Newton, Josh Allen, and Robert Griffin. They all finished as top-12 fantasy quarterbacks in their second seasons, with the two former QBs finishing top six.

All of these guys have a feasible path to fantasy success in 2021, but they are being weighed down by the Bears’ offense in general. There aren’t many weapons outside of the aforementioned two third-year players. And the offensive line is a mess, ranked as the No. 31st unit per PFF.

However, they are at least trying to make improvements having just recently signed former Vikings and Bengals tackle Riley Reiff.

Still, it’s aggressive to project this offense to be anything close to a juggernaut in 2022. But because that “Bears offense sucks” is baked into all the ADPs, you can take free shots on guys like Kmet and Fields. See how things play out in Week 1, and bail if you need to.

Mooney’s a bit pricier with a higher ADP – even as the projected target leader on his team. Still, he’s worth the gamble if he falls as a talented WR that could easily take another step forward entering Year 3.

I think Mooney actually has a pretty safe floor based on the volume he should see in the offense, with obvious room to grow.

And if you’d prefer to fade the Bears offense entirely – I give you permission – at least take a shot on Khalil Hebert as a bench running back. He’s one of my favorite cheap running backs to target.

Herbert might be a better fit for the zone-running scheme that new OC Luke Getsy will be bringing in. PFF graded Herbert in the 96th percentile on zone rushes.

Incumbent David Montgomery ranked in the 43rd percentile.

  1. New England Patriots

Oh, the Patriots. They’ve come a long way from where they were ranked back in June, having moved up the most (five spots) among all NFL Teams.

Clearly, my original analysis of them in the original piece opened the market’s eyes to the fantasy values this team had to offer. Although there’s still value to be had with their aggregate ADP four lowest when you consider all 14 of the Patriots that have drafted ADPs.

My priority targets are Rhamondre Stevenson, DeVante Parker, and Kendrick Bourne.

I broke down the Patriots WR corps in FantasyPros’ “Closer Look” series to provide you some background on the receiver targets.

I also recently attended a Patriots training camp to grab a more “boot-on-the-ground” analysis of this roster and had major findings that can be found in a recent Twitter thread dump.

 

Long story short…draft Stevenson. And Parker will be the most productive fantasy wide receiver on the team…in the games he plays in 2022.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

As alluded to ad nauseam in this piece, the running back archetype that can overcome a poor offensive situation is one that owns a serious role in the passing game. Essentially, these players exchange production from touchdowns in the form of receptions, which is super key in half-point and full-point per reception scoring formats.

Travis Etienne Jr. boasts the requisite pass-catching profile dating back to his days at Clemson. During his final season as a Tiger, he led the country in receiving yards and ranked second in receptions among running backs. Etienne also racked up the most rushing attempts of 20-plus yards (40) from 2018 to 2019 while only carrying the ball 20-plus times once.

With an explosive pass-catching skill set in a pass-heavy offense – to go along with an underrated role in the red zone – most carries inside the five-yard line among FBS running backs from 2018-2020 – Etienne checks off the boxes of a fantasy RB poised to make noise in 2022.

Even on a “bad” offense, that honestly will likely be much closer to average than horrible in the post-Urban Meyer era.

There’s a strong chance that Jacksonville dials up the passing attempts with Doug Pederson calling the shots on offense. During his five-year tenure in Philadelphia, only once did the offense not finish top-10 in pass attempts.

An RB2 with massive “upside,” haha seems like ETN’s floor considering Robinson finished 23rd at the position last season amid much poorer circumstances.

And even if it is a “committee approach,” Etienne can still thrive in Doug Pederson’s offense.

Darren Sproles/Miles Sanders saw awesome receiving roles in the Pederson offense in RRBC.

Miles Sanders was RB15 as a rookie on just 53% snap share. So don’t be overly concerned that James Robinson is listed as the “starter” on the Jaguars depth chart. He will work in some, but I am not expecting him to light the world on fire coming off an Achilles injury so soon.

The heavy pass volume also greatly benefits the Jaguars projected No. 1 wide receiver, Christian Kirk. This dude is going to see a boatload of volume and is still being selected outside the top-40 WRs.

He’s drafted after some team’s No. 3 pass-catchers.

And he proved last year that he was #goodatfootball.

  • Commanded a 21% target share without DeAndre Hopkins in the lineup.
  • Averaged 13.8 fantasy PPR points per game — a top-10 per-game average.
  • Finished with the second-most receiving yards from the slot.
  1. New York Giants

The Giants are one of “those” offenses that I was just a year too early on last season. I cited Daniel Jones‘ underrated efficiency and the fact that the passing game was supremely overdue for positive touchdown regression after the 2020 offense passed for just 12 touchdowns.

Among 25 offenses that have passed for 15 or fewer touchdowns from 2011-2019, 22 (88%) saw their passing touchdowns increase by an average of 83% (10 passing touchdowns) the following season.

The 2021 Patriots delivered on their positive touchdown regression, throwing for 23 scores – 11 more than the year prior. Yay, Mac Jones!

The 2021 Giants laid another egg – throwing for just 15 TDs in 17 games played. Only the Jaguars (12) and Panthers (14) threw fewer passing touchdowns.

Needless to say, 2022 should be the year that the Giants fare better in the touchdown column from an analytical standpoint. But there should also be optimism based on New York’s offseason transactions.

The offensive line has received dramatic upgrades, and offensive-minded head coach Brian Daboll was brought in after enjoying success the past few years in Buffalo.

Therefore, fantasy drafters should try to be above ADP consensus on the majority of Big Blue’s fantasy assets. Because this offense has reasons to be much improved from the past two seasons when they were downright abysmal.

And the best part is that all Giants players can have screaming values because the market is still weighing the last two years so heavily.

Take full advantage of that. Draft Saquon Barkley. 2022 is the year to buy back in.

He’s fully healthy and showed flashes of a top-10 fantasy RB just last year. In five games last season when Barkley played a full snap share with Jones under center, the Giants RB averaged 16.2 PPR points per game (RB10).

And before his freak injury versus the Cowboys, he averaged 23 points per game in his two healthy starts.

I see no serious threat for touches behind Barkley on the depth chart, and the Giants have all the reason to feature Barkley as much as possible for two reasons.

1) He’s the best player on the offense.

2) He’s an impending free agent.

Barkley is still an RB at just 25 years old who looks slated to recapture his rookie form when he caught 91 balls.

And good lord, Barkley is due for some more red-zone looks.

After that, Kadarius Toney is the obvious pick to make. He has a breakout candidate written all over him based on what we see in a small sample size last season.

He flashed future target-magnet potential after posting 2.14 yards per route run (11th) and commanding a 25% target rate per route run in 2021 — tied for 7th best in the NFL in 2021.

His 92nd percentile PFF receiving grade versus single coverage suggests that Toney can win wherever he lines up.

It’s hard to find a player with his level of talent at WR40 ADP. Could easily finish as a top-15 fantasy WR in 2022.

Jones is one of my favorite late-round quarterbacks in deeper formats. Because before a Week 5 concussion, the polarizing passer was the QB8 overall in points per game (23.3). In addition, the Giants’ quarterback ranked third in rushing yards per game (47/game) and second in PFF passing grade.

This offseason, New York overhauled the offensive line. An improved front provides Jones the protection he desperately needs as he looks to prove to the New York organization that he is worthy of being the long-term answer at quarterback.

Recall that he played behind PFF’s third-worst graded offensive line last season.

Jones will also benefit greatly from the No.1-easiest strength of schedule for QB and Daboll, who claims he wants to unleash Jones in 2022. Danny Dimes is worth the flier outside the top-20 quarterbacks.

As is rookie wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. The Giants’ second-round selection in this year’s draft has been a star at training camp, with the offensive coaching staff taking full advantage of everything the former college standout has to offer.

Recall that Robinson spent a ton of snaps in the Nebraska backfield before transferring to Kentucky. In his first season playing wide receiver, Robinson finished second in the FBS in yards per route run (3.56). The Kentucky product also owns PFF’s No. 1 career receiving grade (93.4) in the 2022 draft class.

I’d be bullish on the undersized wideout because Daboll has had past success in the past with similar-sized players like Cole Beasley and Isaiah McKenzie in Buffalo. New York also doesn’t seem overly concerned about listing him at 5-foot-11 after he measured at 5-foot-8 at the NFL Scouting Combine. Go figure.

  1. Tennessee Titans

The public’s view of the Titans’ offense has fallen off significantly since last season. The AFC’s No.1-ranked seed from 2021 aggregate ADP ranks in the bottom five because there are just not many enticing fantasy assets in the league’s most run-heavy offense.

At the top is Derrick Henry, who is still a top-5 pick by ADP consensus in the majority of redraft formats and RB4 in best ball ADP.

 

The Tennessee Titans RB led the position in fantasy PPR points per game (23.4) through eight weeks and bested his 2020 2,000-yard campaign by more than 2.5 PPR points per game.

The unicorn running back averaged nearly 30 touches per game – seven more than the next closest running back before his injury.

The unsustainable workload was too much, and he finally broke down.

Coming off an injury-shortened season does raise concerns about whether Henry’s body is going to further break down because of his insane workload. The touches he got last season were like no other running back we have ever seen.

Which it’s much more likely to decrease than stay stagnant year over year as the Titans look to extend Henry’s shelf life through a 17-week season.

Henry also showed some signs of slowing down as a runner.

He finished outside the top-5 in rushing yards over expectation per attempt for the first time since 2018.

Derrick Henry rushing yards over expectation per attempt:

2018: 1.2 (3rd)

2019: 1.06 (1st)

2020: 1.1 (5th)

2021: 0.05 (23rd)

Ergo, his volume has nowhere to go but down, and he’s showing signs of dependency on his offensive situation more than ever based on the rushing yards he’s creating on his own. The Titans boast PFF’s 27th-ranked OL heading into 2022.

And that’s not ideal for the 28-year-old coming off a foot injury that doesn’t catch passes in an offense primed for regression with so much turnover.

Henry’s never caught 20 passes in a season.

We want to draft players on good offenses – especially in Round 1 of drafts – and I – along with the mean ADP – are unconvinced the Titans are that offense that can correctly support a top-5 fantasy asset in 2022.

For those reasons, I am out.

I’d so much rather take a shot on the Titans’ offense through cheap pieces of their passing game i.e. rookie first-round pick Treylon Burks.

Burks’ ADP fell during the springtime because of some struggles with asthma/conditioning, but those problems seem all but behind him based on the glowing reports of the rookie at Titans’ training camp.

The Arkansas product should be able to step on the field on day one and offer immediate fantasy football appeal as a top-30 fantasy option. There’s hardly any competition for targets outside of Robert Woods, who is coming off a torn ACL. And with a similar YAC-ability to A.J. Brown, he should slide seamlessly into the Titans’ passing attack as a menace with the ball in his hands.

The playmaker’s 8.5 yards after the catch rank 14th among 169 qualifying wide receivers (92nd percentile) over the past two college seasons. The run-heavy nature of the offense and limitations of Ryan Tannehill at quarterback will likely hinder Burks’ fantasy ceiling, but he has a path to opportunities that not many other rookie wide receivers will see from the get-go as a favorite to be the team’s WR1.

However, in redraft, practice patience with Burks. Remember, A.J. Brown flashed immediately as a rookie under Mike Vrabel and didn’t become a full-time offensive piece till Week 9 of the 2019 season. After their bye week, it was then wheels up for AJB.

The Titans’ bye week is Week 6. So be patient with Burks from Weeks 1-5 and go trade for him from a frustrated manager while he sits on his bye week.

Burks – or potentially tight end Austin Hooper – could be the prime benefactor of Ryan Tannehill’s pending positive TD regression as no quarterback threw fewer TDs under the expectation that the Titans QB a season ago (-9.8).

And because I am bearish on Henry, I am all for taking stabs on his potential back-up with my last-round pick in Hassan Haskins.

The Michigan product was one of my favorite running back sleepers before the NFL Draft. I claimed I’d be in on him if he got Round 4 draft capital, and Haskins did exactly that and was selected 131st overall.

He broke out in a big way as “the guy” for the Wolverines in 2021, earning a 23% dominator rating, raising his career dominator rating to 20%.

With an identical PFF rushing grade to Breece Hall (91.6) over the last three seasons, Haskins looked primed to exceed expectations in the NFL. He offers a lot of size at 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, so he can handle a heavy workload. The bulldozer back also led his entire class in rushing attempts inside the five-yard line (29), which gives him a real shot at carving out a goal-line role in the pros.

Haskins will never see the field as long as Henry stays healthy. But there’s zero doubt in my mind that he’s the clear, direct backup for Henry, who showed us that he is mortal last season.

It doesn’t hurt Haskins’ chances either that his head coach is a die-hard Ohio State alumni, and that didn’t change his mind on drafting a Michigan running back.

  1. Atlanta Falcons

My solo exception for targeting expensive players on good offenses is Falcons’ tight end, Kyle Pitts. He’s a unicorn, after all, so who better to break my rule of thumb?

At just 21 years old, Pitts finished third among tight ends in receiving yards (1,018, 60 per game) through 17 weeks of the season and third in route participation (80%) through 18 weeks.

He’s got so much talent that nobody will be surprised to see him take a massive step forward in Year 2. In fact, the last two 21-year-old rookie years (Justin Jefferson, JuJu Smith-Schuster) to average at least 60 receiving yards per game as rookies – which Pitts also did – reached 1,400 yards in their second seasons.

And there’s a case to be made that tight end target projections are more essential than for wide receivers. In fact, entering last season, there was a very strong correlation between TEs leading their team in targets and also finishing top-three at their position.

Last season, the top four tight ends in points scored ranked inside the top eight in total targets (121 target average). Andrews (TE1) and Pitts (TE7) were the only tight ends last season to lead their team in total targets. Ertz was TE4 when he led Arizona in targets after being traded from the Eagles.

Simply put: Targets remain the life and bloodline for fantasy tight ends, even on questionable offenses.

Recall that Andrews was the TE1 last season despite playing with backup QBs for a large portion of the season. Hell, George Kittle posted an 88-1377-5 stat line in 2018 while playing with C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens.

So clearly, there is a case to be made for a tight end of all-worldly talent rising to the occasion amid bad circumstances – especially when they are so clearly the alpha in their offense.

If he falls to the end of Round 3 or into Round 4, you have to pull the trigger.

Although there’s little doubt that top-10 pick Drake London is a better value going in Round 7 or 8, as another bet on talent in what looks like an anemic Falcons passing attack.

London boasts all the skills to be an alpha possession receiver for Atlanta. The 6-foot-4 and 219-pound towering USC wide receiver only played in eight games due to an ankle injury but made every game count. He commanded a 38% target share and led all WRs in contested catches (19) and receptions per game (11.0).

London concluded the year third in yards per route run (3.52) in his draft class.

The former basketball star’s also been a force ever since he first stepped onto USC’s campus, as he hauled in five touchdowns and 567 receiving yards as a true freshman while sharing the field with future NFL wide receivers Michael Pittman Jr. and Amon-Ra St. Brown

It’s utterly impressive considering London was just 18 years old at the time.

The 21-year-old’s profile signals he will vacuum up targets at a high rate on the Falcons with a barren pass-catching depth chart outside Pitts.

Simply put: London is going to see a boatload of opportunities in Atlanta and has the requisite skill set to turn his opportunities into immediate fantasy production. Sounds like an intriguing offer.

Just be wary that London could also start the season slow with a tough opening schedule. He’s going to match up with some tough perimeter cornerbacks like Marshon Lattimore and Jalen Ramsey in his first two NFL starts. As bigger-bodied defensive backs, they have a perfect skill set to slow down London.

Atlanta also faces a brutal stretch of strong run defenses to open the year against the Saints, Rams, and Seattle – PFF’s top-three ranked run defenses from 2021. Makes me much more likely to draft any of the Falcons’ RBs.

I love rookie Tyler Allgeier‘s talent, but I am afraid the hurdle to overcoming a bad situation early on will be too much to overcome. Rather just scoop him off waivers after he gets dropped.

The tough slate of run defenses figures to play more into Cordarelle Patterson and/or Damien Williams‘ strengths as receivers. From Weeks 1-14 last year, Patterson ranked as RB7 averaging 15.8 fantasy points and nearly five targets per game. The former first-round pick’s 25% target rate per route ranked No. 1 among all running backs.

Williams is also a name to keep tabs on simply because of the coaching connection with the new Falcons’ RBs coach, Michael Pitre. Both spent the 2021 season with the Chicago Bears. In his two games with a lead role last season, Williams averaged 14.5 fantasy points per game.

  1. Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have two expensive players – Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore – while the remainder of their roster remains dirt cheap.

Moore got an upgrade at quarterback this offseason with Baker Mayfield, so he’s appropriately valued as a high-end fantasy WR2 based on ADP.

The talented wide receiver should experience positive touchdown regression based on his projected receiving numbers and Mayfield’s career passing touchdown rate.

Robbie Anderson‘s ADP saw a dramatic boost in the wake of Mayfield’s arrival in Carolina, as the new quarterback’s arrival provides hope that Anderson can bounce back after a horrible 2021 campaign. Anderson finished ninth in route participation (91%), 28th in targets (105), and 46th in expected fantasy points per game (10.6).

With his No. 2 role likely unchanged from a season ago – Terrace Marshall-truthers, please stand up – Anderson should be an optimal late-round last pick in formats that require a plethora of starting WRs. He’s one year removed from a top-20 finish and is still just 29 years old.

Mayfield also makes some ancillary Panthers pieces like second-year wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. or tight end Tommy Tremble intriguing, to say the least.

The former Browns quarterback had an obvious connection with tight ends in both college and the NFL, so there should be some optimism that Tremble can do more in Year 2.

The Panthers can’t feature tight ends less than they have the past two seasons, ranking bottom three in tight end target share. It also works in Tremble’s 2022 projection favor that he out-targeted teammate Ian Thomas despite running fewer routes. His 44% slot rate also ranked 15th at the position last season.

Marshall’s a bit trickier to buy into despite his impressive college profile from LSU. Doing literally nothing as a rookie doesn’t favor WRs heading into Year 2, especially with his play falling off down the stretch. There’s also no guarantee that Marshall rises above Anderson to become the No. 2 receiver – which is really more of a No. 3 when you consider CMC – or can develop rapport with Mayfield in a timely manner.

His competition for snaps is Rashard Higgins, who Mayfield enjoyed plenty of success with in Cleveland.

All in all, I’m not crazy about some of the lower-tiered Panthers players, as Mayfield’s presence might just stabilize production from the top two guys and not necessarily spread the wealth to lesser talents.

I’m more likely to just draft projected No. 2 running back D’Onta Foreman as a hedge against McCaffrey staying healthy.

Foreman signed with the Panthers this offseason on a 1-year, $2 million contract. He will compete with second-year back Chuba Hubbard for No. 2 duties. Hubbard finished as the RB36 last season with five top-24 weekly finishes in a featured role.

Although, I give the slight edge to Foreman over Hubbard as the favorite to emerge as the clear-cut CMC handcuff after how strong he finished the 2021 season.

From Weeks 12 through the Divisional Round, he averaged over 78 rushing yards and 12.1 fantasy points per game (RB17).

  1. Washington Commanders

With the 31st-ranked offense, you’d likely assume I’d be completely out on Terry McLaurin. However, with his cost decreasing as he holds out for a new contract, he’s becoming a better value target. And that’s because Carson Wentz – believe it or not – is a massive upgrade for the wideout.

The former No. 2-overall pick has a proven track record of sustaining fantasy viable weapons – most notably Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. from a season ago. His 27 passing touchdowns, seven interceptions, and 67.9 PFF passing grade are miles better than Washington’s 20 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and 58.3 PFF passing grade in 2021.

Wentz’s six top-10 weekly fantasy finishes last season were equal to or better than that of Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill.

In true Sam Darnold 2021 fashion, Wentz should ball out to start the season and have the NFL media convinced he was vastly undervalued in the offseason trade market. The Commanders face 10 defenses that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in fantasy points allowed to WRs in 2021 through their first 12 games.

The first two weeks are against Jacksonville and Detroit. All in all, they own the NFL’s sixth-easiest schedule.

Simply put: Wentz landing in the nation’s capital hardly raises headlines like Russell Wilson landing in Denver, but him being their quarterback is going to boost the fantasy value of McLaurin. He can deliver a deep ball that McLaurin has yet to see throughout his NFL career.

But because the entire world believes Wentz is hot garbage, their ADPs will likely remain too low. Take the value to the bank with McLaurin as a solid fantasy WR2.

And there’s reason to believe that the same value can be had with Antonio Gibson. Washington’s “RB1” has felt the brute of a horrible offseason with added competition to his backfield between J.D. McKissic and Brian Robinson Jr.

There’s not only a squeeze placed on his total touches but on his premium touches through the passing game and at the goal line.

His FantasyPros aggregate ADP is still rather high (35th overall, RB19), but his best ball ADP – specifically on Underdog at 76th overall – is probably too much of an overreaction.

It’s all about draft price where you draft with Gibson that you have to consider. Rounds 3-5, I’ll likely be fading him. Don’t pay up or aggressively draft Gibson.

But if he falls into Rounds 6-plus outside the top-60 picks, it’s hard to just fade that value.

Because Gibson is still a do-it-all RB that ranked third in red-zone carries, fourth in touches, and owns two RB1 finishes (RB12, RB10) in his first two years in the NFL. All in all, AG is the business casual Nick Chubb, who also operates in a committee but still gets drafted in the second round of fantasy drafts.

Remember, most RBs are in some kind of committee. So all else being equal, Gibson is not just one of the cheapest ones now, but one of the more talented backs that you can get in the dreaded RB dead zone. Reminds me a lot of D’Andre Swift or Josh Jacobs‘ draft stock falls from last season. Both teams’ offseason additions didn’t matter when the dust settled.

All the “hype” for guys that really are just average backs in Kenyan Drake and Jamaal Williams.

And maybe third-round pick Brian Robinson Jr. is that guy that can really carve out a massive role. If you’re totally off the Gibson – in most drafts, you likely will be – scoop up Robinson in the double-digit rounds.

Same thing for wide receivers Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel, whose ADPs don’t make any sense.

The 2022 first-rounder’s biggest strengths are his reliability and the floor that he can offer the Commanders, which is going to translate into target volume.

That’s what he did during his final season at Penn State, posting an absurd 43% dominator rating while racking up the 8th-most receptions in his draft class.

Samuel is just one year removed from a top-25 fantasy finish and 23rd-ranked 1.94 yards per route run.

The Washington slot receiver is basically free in best ball ADP, despite not finishing worse than WR42 in any season in which he has played at least 13 games. He’s been totally written off due to injuries, but Samuel is still just 26 years old.

Although, the fact that he is already missing training camp practices early in August might suggest Samuel has yet to fully kick the injury bug.

All things considered, drafting Dotson late is the move.

  1. Houston Texans

It’s Brandin Cooks and then everybody else on the Houston Texans offense. He finished the 2021 season as the WR20 (WR22 points per game).

Cooks has finished worse than the fantasy WR20 only once since 2015, and that was due to injury. He has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards six times with four different teams during that span.

At just 28 years old, Cooks shows little signs of slowing down. Last season, he was a target and air yards hog, finishing fourth in air yards share (36%) and ninth in target share (24%).

And during the final four games of the season with Davis Mills at quarterback, Cooks was top-10 in fantasy points per game (15.0) to go along with a top-5 target rate per route run (33%).

When in doubt in the middle rounds, just draft Cooks. Discount Keenan Allen. I’d just be wary of overinvesting in the Texans’ WR. Because he doesn’t have true league-winning potential versus other breakout WRs in the middle rounds.

The highest-paid running back on the Houston Texans roster is Rex Burkhead. $2.1 million of Burkhead’s $2.35 million contract is fully guaranteed. Meanwhile, Marlon Mack signed a one-year, $2 million deal, and rookie Dameon Pierce was drafted in the fourth round.

I envision Mack/Pierce duking out work on early downs while Burkhead slides in as the primary pass-catching back after he ranked sixth in route participation over the last four weeks of the 2021 season. The receiving role is the one to target in this backfield for a team that projects to be playing from behind frequently.

Burkhead came over from the New England Patriots last year alongside general manager Nick Caserio, so there’s a built-in connection from management to the field. So it’s no coincidence that Burkhead nearly doubled his career highs in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and games started in his first year with Houston in 2021.

And over the past two seasons, Burkhead has flashed a high weekly fantasy ceiling. He’s reached 22-plus weekly fantasy points thrice since 2020. Mack has totaled 21.5 fantasy points over that span.

My one reservation with Pierce is that traditionally New England has been very stingy about featuring rookie running backs historically – especially ones drafted late. During Caserio’s tenure with the Patriots, Stevan Ridley’s 87 carries were the most for any non-first-round rookie running back.

It was until Caserio left New England for Houston that Rhamondre Stevenson broke that mark with 133 carries in 2021.

There’s clearly also been an affinity with veteran running backs that Texans can’t seem to quit. They force-fed David Johnson and Mark Ingram II, among other veterans, last season, despite having some younger players they could give reps to.

The fact Pierce never fully took over Florida’s backfield does raise red flags. His 12% career dominator rating is eerily similar to Trey Sermon’s (12%) from last season, and Sermon struggled to separate himself from the pack in his rookie campaign.

But I do think Pierce beats out Mack as the starter on early downs sooner rather than later after finishing as PFF’s highest-graded FBS running back in 2021.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite late-round tight ends in, Brevin Jordan, as a late-round dart throw. Get this: Jordan finished as a fantasy TE1 at the same rate as Kyle Pitts last season. Ergo, he remains one of my favorite late-round sleeper tight ends.

The Miami product enjoyed a decent rookie season, finishing with a 19% target rate per route run and four top-12 weekly finishes over his last nine games.

He also dominated the receiving usage over the team’s last two games, running 40 routes to Pharaoh Brown‘s 18 and Anthony Auclair’s five. It’s a great sign that Jordan should lock down the primary receiving role at tight end in Houston, especially with Jordan Akins signing with the New York Giants this offseason.

It’s easy to envision Jordan carving out a solid receiving role in a lackluster/unproven receiving corps behind Cooks. He’s an athletic tight end with YAC-ability that I will gladly draft as my second or third tight end across any squad.

The second-highest red-zone target share during the back half of last season was generated by a rookie wide receiver, Nico Collins, at 63%. The Michigan product commanded plenty of end-zone targets and high air-yard throws in 2021 but ultimately never put together a true breakout game.

He finished behind Cooks in air yards and all other receiving categories. Still, he should open the 2022 season as the de facto No. 2 option for up-and-coming second-year quarterback Davis Mills as second-round rookie draft selection John Metchie III will miss the entire season as a result of his leukemia diagnosis.

Final Thoughts

Try as you may, you’re probably going to draft some players that aren’t on good offenses.

But as I have laid out, there are ways to do it wisely. For example, investing in running backs that can operate in the passing game and succeed in negative game scripts.

Targeting offenses that you believe can make a jump into becoming above-average offenses in 2022.

My favorite teams outside the top 16 or near it that fall in that category include the Lions, Colts, Patriots, Giants, Jaguars, Commanders, and Saints. And to a lesser extent, the Panthers and Bears.

Balance your roster. The last thing you want is a roster of players ALL on bad offenses. You need some stability.

Make sure that you are getting the discount on the player because of the offensive situation they are in. Try not to reach or pay a premium because the bad offenses present scenarios where the bottom can fall out entirely. Those players turn into busts and derail your season.

Be keen to make sure you are getting the discount. If someone else wants to overpay…let them. There’s plenty of talent available on bad offensive units.

And that brings me to my closing point. Making bets on talent versus situation is the way to go as the draft progresses.

Because I believe a player’s top-tier fantasy ceiling is more tied to the actual player. Whereas a player situation boosts a player’s bottom line. Seems obvious, but we’ve often gotten carried away with the surrounding circumstances.

Simply put: Bad players hardly become league-winners. Talented ones do. So draft the ones that have fallen too far.

Round-by-Round “Bad Offense” Targets

  1. RB Jonathan Taylor
  2. RB Saquon Barkley, RB D’Andre Swift
  3. RB Alvin Kamara, TE Kyle Pitts, RB Travis Etienne, WR Michael Pittman
  4. RB Breece Hall, WR Terry McLaurin
  5. WR Darnell Mooney, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
  6. WR Elijah Moore, WR Michael Thomas
  7. WR Drake London
  8. WR Kadarius Toney, WR Christian Kirk
  9. RB Rhamondre Stevenson, RB Chase Edmonds, WR Treylon Burks, RB Kareem Hunt
  10. WR Chase Claypool
  11. WR Garrett Wilson
  12. QB Justin Fields, TE Cole Kmet
  13. WR DeVante Parker, QB Trevor Lawrence
  14. WR Jahan Dotson, QB Jameis Winston, TE David Njoku
  15. WR Parris Campbell, WR George Pickens, RB Khalil Herbert, RB Sony Michel

Round-by-Round “Bad Offense” Fades

  1. RB Derrick Henry
  2. WR Tyreek Hill
  3. RB David Montgomery, RB Antonio Gibson
  4. WR DK Metcalf, WR Diontae Johnson
  5. WR Amari Cooper
  6. RB Rashaad Penny, RB Damien Harris
  7. RB Cordarelle Patterson
  8. RB Kenneth Walker
  9. WR Robert Woods
  10. TE Pat Freiermuth
  11. QB Tua Tagovailoa, TE Mike Gesicki
  12. RB Marlon Mack, WR Robbie Anderson
  13. WR Kenny Golladay, RB Tyler Allgeier, WR D.J. Chark
  14. WR Marvin Jones, TE Evan Engram, RB Raheem Mostert

CTAs


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