Fireworks, mayhem and headlines. We’ve seen plenty of each following the 2021 NFL Season. As fans of the sport we aren’t used to seeing such NBA-like news break week over week. With more movement at key positions than ever before and the salary cap being treated like a piñata at a 9 year old’s birthday party the sport is reaching a new high for off-season entertainment.
Here are a few of my reactions to the changes of the NFL landscape for 2022…
“Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon see a major boost in 2022”
I expect that Aaron Jones will see a spike in targets as Green Bay’s most capable offensive weapon outside of Aaron Rodgers. Over the past 3 season, Jones has averaged 65 TGTs/yr. A number I expect to reach ~75 in 2022. This comes with an expectation that GB lines him up all over the formation and leans heavily on him in 3rd down situations.
AJ Dillon is the other player that I am projecting a production increase for in 2022. This time, it comes in the form of early down volume. The team has given Jones 30 fewer carries in each of the last two seasons. Dillon actually surpassed Jones in rushing attempts in 2021 on his way to >1,000 total yards. I expect that Dillon reaches 200 carries and >1,000 yards rushing in 2022.
“The AFC West is the best division in football”
The AFC West is best described as an arms race. The Chiefs have watched as the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders all brought in superstar level talent aimed at competing for a Superbowl opportunity. The Chiefs fired back by giving Juju Smith-Schuster a 1 year “prove-it” deal which is important from the viewpoint of fantasy production.
Now from a Fantasy perspective, I think that all players in this division maintain or grow in value as the teams set their sights higher for 2022. My key player who I believe benefits most, within the division, is Jerry Jeudy. His disparity in success relative to his NFL draft stock has been very wide. Jeudy gets a massive bump in value and opportunity heading into 2022 with Russell Wilson at QB. I view Jeudy to be the possession receiver in the Denver offense with a strong TGT count/share.
“Tom Brady returns in 2022”
If you’re anything like me, you probably looked at the state of the TB Buccaneers with vs without Tom Brady and adjusted all fantasy related assets downward. That doesn’t even take into account the guys who would have gone on in free agency to the next contender. Well folks, Tom Brady is back, and we can’t expect him to drop off much from his league leading 5,300 passing yards in 2021.
While we have more pieces of the Tampa Bay team to surely fall in place, we can establish that the Tampa Bay pass catchers remain strong fantasy options in 2022. The group is obviously led by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin but let me turn your eye to someone that may have slid under the radar as a signing – Russell Gage. Gage finished outside of WR3 range in 2021 after missing 4GP and getting blanked in 3GP. Tom Brady personally called to recruit Gage and Tampa Bay put up 3yrs – 30 Mil. Draft Russell Gage late in your 2022 Redraft Leagues and accept the value.
“Deshaun Watson to Cleveland”
After, what seems like, decades of poor QB play, the Browns have leveraged their future in a historic trade to acquire Deshaun Watson. The cost, of which, may be just as high in draft pick value as it is in social context. The Browns sent 3x 1st round picks to HOU plus took on the role of being the team who handed Watson 230 million “fully guaranteed” dollars amidst allegations of concerning sexual misconduct.
Unpacking this move from a Fantasy perspective is difficult because we assume that Cleveland isn’t done building up an offense. Amari Cooper, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the other front-running names on this offense. With expected production from those 3 being within range of their 2021 seasons I will pivot towards another Browns pass catcher who I believe will fly under the radar leading into 2022 – David Njoku. Njoku got the franchise tag for 2022 with a 10.9 million dollar contract and the pretense of a 13M/yr long term deal looming. With opportunity cost on Njoku being low going into 2022 why not use a late round pick on a player who the Browns organization believes to be worth top 5 money at the position?
“What to make of Matt Ryan joining Indianapolis?”
Jim Irsay spoke publicly about the 1 year “era” of Carson Wentz being a mistake for Indianapolis’ brain trust. This conclusion came pretty easily after Indianapolis missed the playoffs down the stretch and really doesn’t say more that the sum of Colts fan’s feelings after a painful loss to the Jaguars to close out 2021.
Enter 36 y/o Matt Ryan who should be ecstatic to get out of Atlanta and avoid the pain of a career trailing off amidst of a full rebuild by the Falcons. His 2021 statistics, mediocre as can be expected trail very closely to Carson Wentz with the exception of leg up in accuracy. Matt Ryan comes in carrying a legacy of success and leadership in his arsenal while being key in the success we witness from receivers like Ridley, Julio and White. All of this adds up to a situation that is still likely to fall short in success of competing for an AFC championship on paper. The afore mentioned AFC West stands squarely in the way of Indianapolis going deep into the playoffs in 2022 despite their most noble of efforts to get out from underneath the Carson Wentz situation.
“Tyreek Hill traded to Miami”
We know that Tyreek Hill is fast, like really fast. The only thing faster than the Dolphins speedy new receiver might be the speed at which this trade came together. It seemed that from the time we knew that a trade may happen to the time the deal was closed a cup of coffee hadn’t even cooled down. Miami gave up 5 draft picks including the 29th and 50th overall picks in 2022 then promptly signed Tyreek Hill to a 4-year $120M extension.
The biggest winner in this trade has to be Tua Tagovailoa who has already seen an explosion of coaching talent be brought in now followed by one of the most electric playmakers in the NFL. Look for Tua to take some big steps forward in 2022. Should is redraft ADP not swell to a top 10 QB position, be sure to zone in on the pivot who I expect to make the biggest jump at the position in 2022.
I truly hope that the NFL has a repeat performance in store for the 2022-2023 off season. It’s been refreshing to see some progressive and animated storylines develop which carry significant shifts in the NFL and Fantasy landscapes alike.
David Carey – @87_Carey