Post-Hype Sleepers (2022 Fantasy Football)
Development isn’t always linear for players. Sometimes, youngsters have hiccups adjusting from college ball to the pros, and other times, injuries derail early performance. But, no matter the reason, the fantasy football community is a fickle group. They usually want instant gratification and move on to the next shiny toy when a promising player isn’t instantly a meaningful fantasy option.
As a result, post-hype sleepers can be intriguing investments in fantasy football leagues. The following players had varying degrees of buzz and might be undervalued. The average draft position (ADP), ADP by position, expert consensus ranking (ECR) and ECR by position in the upcoming headlines are for point-per-reception (PPR) formats. Two of the highlighted players have an ADP after 105, and the earliest picked player has an ADP after 80 as a mid-tier RB3.
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Listen, Seattle’s offense is an undesirable mess. According to Pro-Football-Reference, they ran the fewest plays in 2021. This year, they’re downgrading at quarterback from Russell Wilson to Geno Smith and Drew Lock. It’s not great.
Nevertheless, Penny was superb down the stretch in 2021. His big finish helped him shine in a handful of categories. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), out of 58 backs with at least 75 rush attempts, Penny had their seventh-highest rush grade and highest Yards After Contact Per Attempt (4.52 YCO/A) and Breakaway Percentage (52.3 BAY%).
Additionally, when he’s played, he’s been efficient, evidenced by his 3.74 YCO/A and blistering 5.6 yards per attempt in his career. No, yards per attempt isn’t a predictive measure, but Penny has ripped off chunk yards at an eye-catching rate his entire injury-riddle career.
The Seahawks spent a second-round pick on Kenneth Walker, potentially creating a committee for rushing work. Penny also hasn’t been a consistent contributor as a pass-catcher, but he has had two years earning good pass-blocking grades from PFF.
The knocks on Penny are baked into his ADP. Yet, gamers aren’t excited enough about an electric runner who led the NFL in rushing yards (706) from Week 13 through Week 18 and was second in rushing touchdowns (six).
Christian Kirk (WR – JAC): 106.5 ADP/WR42, 96 ECR/WR40
Kirk was a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He was reasonably mediocre his first three seasons, but he secured the bag with the Jaguars after a career year for the Cardinals last year.
Kirk’s contract has been the butt of many jokes in the offseason, but gamers shouldn’t care about the Jaguars overpaying him. In fact, their sizable commitment should be viewed as a plus for their intentions of using him as an integral part of the offense.
Kirk blossomed in his walk year for the Cardinals. According to PFF, out of 66 receivers with at least 65 targets, Kirk was 24th in Yards Per Route Run (1.80 Y/RR), slightly behind Stefon Diggs (1.84 Y/RR), Diontae Johnson (1.83 Y/RR) and Terry McLaurin (1.81 Y/RR) as well as ahead of Keenan Allen (1.78 Y/RR), Mike Evans (1.77 Y/RR), Elijah Moore (1.75 Y/RR) and Jaylen Waddle (1.75 Y/RR). Kirk also earned a target on a rock-solid 19.4% of his routes, per PFF.
He was also good by traditional measures. According to Pro-Football-Reference, Kirk was tied for 39th in receptions per game (4.5) and 32nd for receiving yards per game (57.8). As a result, among receivers who played at least seven games in 2021, he was WR30 in PPR scoring per game.
Kirk has less impressive target competition with the Jaguars than he had with the Cardinals last year. Yet, his ADP is a dozen spots lower than his PPR per game rank among wideouts in 2021. It’s baffling. Finally, Matt Harmon of Yahoo! Sports and Reception Perception and Hayden Winks of Underdog Fantasy recently spoke glowingly about Kirk on The Underdog Fantasy Football Podcast. Both mentioned him as a good fit with Trevor Lawrence as a vertical-threat slot. Thus, Kirk is worth reaching for just inside the top-100 picks to stay ahead of his ADP.
Terrace Marshall (WR – CAR): 254.7 ADP/WR91, 230 ECR/WR86
Marshall is precisely the type of player to cast a last-round dart towards. Unfortunately, there isn’t a positive way to spin his rookie season. He had a concussion in Week 6 and suffered a foot injury late in his rookie campaign.
Still, it was only Marshall’s rookie year after a productive college career that included scoring 13 touchdowns in 12 games in 2019 and averaging over 100 receiving yards per game with 10 touchdowns in seven games in 2020. Marshall wasn’t only productive, but he was also well regarded by some draft pundits. PFF ranked him the 28th prospect overall and sixth-best receiver on their big board. Lance Zierlein’s scouting report for NFL.com was also encouraging.
Thankfully, there is a precedent for wideouts with similar draft capital and lousy rookie years stepping forward in their sophomore campaigns. According to StatHead, from 2012 to 2021, 19 receivers were selected between pick 55 and 65 — Marshall was chosen with the 59th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Out of that collection of receivers, D.J. Chark and Van Jefferson were wideouts who struggled and provided reasons for optimism about advancement from Marshall in 2022.
In Jefferson’s second season, he averaged 2.9 receptions for 47.2 receiving yards per game with six touchdowns. Meanwhile, Chark surged to 4.9 receptions for 67.2 receiving yards per game with eight touchdowns.
Obviously, if Marshall follows the lead of fellow former LSU Tiger Chark, that would be a resounding success. No, it’s not Marshall’s likeliest outcome. Still, it’s prudent to take a swing on an unproven player with potential like Marshall instead of selecting a low-ceiling veteran who gamers never want to use anyway. There are always boring stop-gap and bye-week fill-ins available on the wire in leagues with 14 teams or fewer. However, if Marshall runs many routes and flashes his potential in Week 1, he’ll be a popular waiver addition who can make a meaningful impact. Thus, gamers shouldn’t be shy about taking a chance on Marshall and cutting bait quickly if he doesn’t show improvement early.