by Manny Shklar
The 2021 NFL season provided us with historic seasons at many positions, and that led fantasy football players to watch their phones even more than their TVs. A random late-round pick getting touchdown after touchdown and third-string running backs having great games were just some of the oddities that managers went through last season, and they should expect even more wild stats this year. From the effects of big trades to players who are ready for even bigger leaps, these will be some of the key factors to pay attention to in the 2022 fantasy season.
One thing that is clear to me is that the dominance of last year’s record-breaking players will be muffled, but only a little bit. Indianapolis Colts’ Jonathan Taylor finished as the highest scoring running back in the NFL, which will make him the highest pick this year in almost any league. However, the Colts traded for veteran quarterback Matt Ryan this offseason, and defenses will force him to throw to his decent receiving core to keep the ball out of Taylor’s hands, thus lowering Taylor’s production. Cooper Kupp, the Los Angeles Rams’ superstar wide receiver, who had one of the best receiving seasons ever last year, may never be figured out by the defense, but his quarterback Matthew Stafford could slow him down. Last year, Stafford came in with a healthy throwing arm, but this season he has complained about his elbow constantly hurting when he throws. This may be harmful to Kupp’s season, as it is no secret that Stafford made Kupp a way better player than previous quarterback Jared Goff did. Another new part of Kupp’s Rams that could hurt his stats is the loss of their offensive coordinator, Wes Phillips, as they had worked together since 2019 developing a key chemistry. With Stafford’s injury and Phillips’s absence, I expect Kupp’s fantasy value to fall below a couple receivers and running backs he was originally thought to be ahead of.
Two players who will see declines in production this season will be the Miami Dolphins’ wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Waddle had a phenomenal rookie season in 2021 and was expected to crack into the top 10 receivers on everyone’s lists at the end of this season, before the Dolphins traded with the Kansas City Chiefs for Hill, an already established superstar. While there have been teams with two elite receivers both producing in the recent past, all those teams had a top 10 quarterback. The Dolphins have Tua Tagovailoa, who is regarded by pretty much everyone as one of the worst quarterbacks in the league in every facet of the position. This will definitely hurt Hill more, as he is used to perfect, deep throws from Patrick Mahomes, a top three quarterback in the game. Waddle has previous chemistry with Tua and has spent a lot of time learning how to be effective on short passes. Even if this move helps the Dolphins in real life, it will not benefit your fantasy team to take either of these guys with a valuable pick.
One player I believe will surprise many and dominate is Cleveland Browns’ running back Nick Chubb. He is coming off of a season where many people expected him to do poorly, yet he still produced solid numbers in many categories. Many of these expectations were set because he shares a backfield with another star running back in Kareem Hunt, who was injured and did not get a ton of playing time. Now Hunt has requested a trade and it would not be surprising to see him go soon, so Chubb will get way more snaps and backfield targets to raise his production. He will be especially valuable in the first 11 weeks of the season when his quarterback Deshaun Watson is suspended for those games. Another important piece is that numerous coaches around the Browns’ organization are trying to give the 26-year-old more targets in the passing game, giving Chubb an opportunity to really explode this year if he can capitalize on these new opportunities.
My final outlook for the season has Justin Jefferson solidifying himself as the number one wide receiver in the league. The Minnesota Vikings’ receiver broke numerous rookie records, then put up even better numbers his second year, all while playing with another star wideout in Adam Thielen. Thielen just turned 32 and has been regressing for the last few years due to injury and age. Now he is due for another slow season that leaves Jefferson as the only prominent option in the passing game. Another factor helping Jefferson is that his quarterback, Kirk Cousins, just had his best season, throwing for 33 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions, for over 4,200 yards. These numbers landed him in the top 9 of all those categories, and it's safe to say that he will replicate a season like that again, or do even better. Another element to this year’s takeover will be his new offensive coordinator, the aforementioned Wes Phillips, who was maybe the most important factor to Cooper Kupp’s 2021 season. Phillips is known for an aggressive passing scheme that targets a specific top receiver, who could only be Justin Jefferson in the Vikings’ offense.
As we all prepare for awful trade offers from that one person in everyone’s leagues and for our five best players to get hurt in the same week, we remember that it’s all part of the fun of winning, or sometimes just not losing. Winning the fantasy football championship is the holy grail of bragging rights, and hopefully, these takes can help lead you to the top of your league.
Jonathan Taylor will be the first pick in pretty much every league (ESPN)
Waddle (left) and Hill will both see a decrease in production as teammates (CBS Sports)