Welcome to Week 18 of the 2021 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discuss events from 2021 they want to remember for 2022, offseason players of note and outlooks for their favorite team, and bold predictions for 2022.
2021 Events Serving As 2022 Reminders
Matt Waldman: If this article could serve as a reminder for you next year, what would you paint with pixels here and have stick to your memory as you begin your fantasy football work for 2022?
Troy King: Go get your guys. I’ve fallen victim to believing I can get my guy in the next round and then “boom” they get taken. I’ve also experienced too many times people taking guys earlier than ADP suggests and it works out for them. Basically, regardless of ADP, I’m going to take my guys where I want to take them. It will feel weird after first, but I believe it will help with future roster construction.
Waldman: I couldn't agree more, Troy. ADP is a guideline for minimizing risk as a beginner. At some point in your development as a fantasy GM, you begin to identify values that supersede the basic ADP guidelines. Following ADP too rigidly makes you predictable to those drafting around you and limits how you want to shape your team.
Chad Parsons: Stringently approach quarterback and wide receiver veteran profiles to have a minimal number rostered on fantasy teams, allowing for the rest of the roster to be running back-focused.
Waldman: If you are confident in your valuation of these two positions, why not? I agree wholeheartedly with you on the quarterback position. Few leagues hoard the position. I tend to draft backs and receivers the most and minimize by QB and tight end allotments. It allows me to hit on some late-round positions and still play the waiver wire if need be. If you can generate value top to bottom with your receiver choices so you can make dart throws on as many running backs as possible, it sounds appealing in theory.
Sean Settle: Tracking offensive line movement is something I want to focus on in 2022. Across 10 different leagues this season I drafted almost every combination of running back imaginable. However, I was simply drafting names and not paying attention to who was blocking in front of them. I am almost embarrassed by the number of Saquon Barkley shares I had but equally as impressed with the number of Derek Henry. If I had paid more attention to the line in front of the back there were many situations I could have avoided and potentially finished better in the final standings.
Waldman: This is something that Sigmund Bloom and I emphasize every year. Occasionally, you'll get strong production from excellent backs behind mediocre or bad lines but it's safer to opt for the strongest lines. I'd argue that Barkley struggled as much due to the injuries that usually occur upon returning from a major rehab of an ACL and poor quarterbacking as he did due to a lackluster offensive line. I can't remember when the Giants' offensive line was a good unit while Barkley was on the team.
Dave Kluge: Something worth remembering heading into next season is that you can succeed with any draft strategy. I drafted 100’s of teams last offseason, all with different theories. The most successful teams came when I drafted guys that far exceeded their draft position: Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel, Leonard Fournette, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jalen Hurts, etc. While losing a first or second rounder to injury is challenging, it isn’t going to eliminate you.
However, locating the big values in the mid to late rounds is where you can make a difference. Don’t get too hung up on selecting a position in a set round and instead target players with a high ceiling that you believe can surpass their ADP. Drafting a guy with a decent floor in the mid-rounds might feel safe, but drafting based on a player's ceiling is how you win. With injuries and Covid running rampant this year, it was easy to find replacement-level floors on the waiver wire. Selecting the guys that smashed their ADP was how you won it all.
Waldman: Winning fantasy management is simply about picking the most productive players. Find ways that help you do that. The best way is to know about football enough to identify what makes each position good and then you can leverage that knowledge to use any type of strategy that makes the most sense in the league format where you're competing.
Victory Geary: Go with your gut: always! Whether that is within your analysis, start/sit decisions, or waiver wire pickups. As analysts and advice-givers, we can sometimes be subjected to a bit of "group-think," but it's okay to go against the grain as long as you have something to back it up. Rashaad Penny over Ronald Jones II and D'Andre Swift in Week 17 won a lot of people their trophies, even though consensus had Jones and Swift ranked significantly higher. That's what makes this game so addicting and beautiful.
I also love what Dave mentioned when discussing draft strategies. Being able to sniff out the massive value in the mid to late rounds is always where you will hit big. The running back wasteland in Rounds 4-7 had guys like Cooper Kupp, Diontae Johnson, and Ja'marr Chase there for the taking this past year, and they brought you much more value than hoping to hit on players like Trey Sermon or Mike Davis.
Waldman: While it isn't about drafting, I recently wrote a piece about gut feeling and evaluation of talent. I don't think you should disregard your intuition but I think it would be wise to use your intuition as a means to sharpen your analytical skills so you can develop a continuous process for getting better at the skills that make a good fantasy GM. Otherwise, following one's gut feeling can deteriorate into chasing the direction of the wind without keeping track of where you were or where you're going.
Andy Hicks: Prepare better. Often it takes great humility to prove yourself wrong. We all have preconceived notions of players and coaches heading into drafts. We must be prepared to argue against these to get to the true value of a player. Now while you can tie yourself in knots going back and forward on players, analyzing a true upside as well as a true downside gives you a way of balancing your rosters.
Every player on every team has potential fantasy value. Take Elijah Mitchell, Amon-Ra St.Brown, and Rhamondre Stevenson as examples this year of rookies who were not taken in the large majority of redraft leagues. Don’t stop learning once the draft is finished either. This information not only helps when it comes to drafting but during in-season management on the waiver wire.
Waldman: Another way of viewing this great point from Andy is to be flexible. Sometimes players earn opportunities that maximize their limited skills. Mitchell is a great example of a player who runs Toss very well because he's a straight-line runner with speed. Behind the 49ers trio of Trent Williams, Kyle Jusczyck, and George Kittle, you don't need to have the versatile range of skills that most starting runners have. These three do a lot of the heavy lifting to open huge creases on Toss.
You may know that Mitchell isn't a "good starter" based on the wider range of criteria most teams use but he fits in San Francisco. As a result, be flexible to take the good fit for your team even if he's not the most skilled option.
Dan Hindery: The big thing I want to remind myself to do in 2022 is to continually challenge my own assumptions and be aware of which players I may be unknowingly taking a strong stand on. As someone who drafts a lot of best ball teams over the summer, my main focus has typically been on the players who I am drafting the most. These are players I am taking a purposeful positive stand on where I am trying to gain leverage on the field by having them on more rosters than the average drafter.
Something I did not focus on until late in the process in 2021 was the idea of negative leverage, the players who I was drafting less than the field. One of those players I realized late in the process I had not been drafting was Cooper Kupp. I was able to make him more of a focus in later drafts. It was not that I was down on Kupp, instead, I had just been focused heavily on some other players near the 3/4 turn (Mike Evans, David Montgomery, D’Andre Swift, and Ja’Marr Chase). Without really combing through the numbers, I would not have realized how few times I had drafted Kupp.
There were also some players who I had not been drafting to who I was perfectly fine with not having exposure. But I spent a little time on each trying to figure out why others liked them more than me and questioning whether I was missing something. Were my assumptions about why the player was not worth drafting at his ADP valid? This constant reassessing and playing devil’s advocate against my own prior assumptions throughout the offseason is a good process.
Offseason Expectations for Our Favorite Teams
Waldman: Tell me the following about your favorite team.
- What will they need to help their squad?
- Whom are they going to lose that you think will be tough to replace?
- Who could emerge from the bowels of the depth chart to at least contribute regularly and offer potential bye-week value in fantasy?
Hindery: The Bengals roster is in better shape than it has been in a long time. In free agency, the focus should be on bringing back some of the players who they signed to one-year deals last offseason. At the top of the list should be defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, cornerback Eli Apple, and offensive lineman Riley Reiff. With plenty of cap space and nearly every key player locked in long-term, they easily have the ability to do so. C.J. Uzomah and Jesse Bates have also earned lucrative long-term extensions. Assuming free agency goes as expected, the best player available approach in the draft is possible, though I would expect the focus to be building depth on both lines.
Assuming Uzomah returns, the skill-position depth chart is set for the next few years and nobody is likely to emerge absent an injury.
Hicks: I don't have a favorite team, so I'll roll with Jacksonville. A professional head coach, an offensive coordinator that can work with Trevor Lawrence, and a quarterback coach that can fix the mess of 2021 are important. A receiver that Lawrence can rely on would be more than helpful.
It's hardly ideal for a young quarterback, the three most expensive free agents for Jacksonville are offensive linemen, with both his left tackle and left guard among them. His main wide receiver, well projected to be before the season, in D.J. Chark Jr is also expected to leave.
The depth chart in Jacksonville has been sorely tested on the offensive side of the ball. The top three running backs all ended up on IR, there was no consistency at tight end and the wide receiver chart at the end of the year was led by Laquon Treadwell, who will struggle to make a roster next year.
Geary: "They had us for dead, baby - we ain't dying yet." Head Coach Sean McDermott fired up the locker room with this speech in Week 16 after the Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots. After that game, it was unquestionably apparent that the Bills can beat anyone when they are firing on all cylinders, but that has been an issue all season. When the offense is hot, the defense can't seem to finish the game with clutch stops. When the defense is clicking, the offense can't seem to find its footing: sometimes in the most head-scratching, "what is going on?!" ways. It will be interesting to see which team shows up in the postseason.
The glaring needs for the Bills begin with the offensive line and a competent backfield. When Josh Allen has time to throw, he is lethal. The offensive line has been in shambles more times than fans can count this season, and it seems the Bills should have gone with another offensive lineman with their second pick in the 2021 draft considering their 2nd pick Carlos "Boogie" Basham Jr. has been a healthy scratch for the majority of the season.
There have been a few bright spots in recent weeks, though. Rookie Spencer Brown has played like a vet this season, and Ryan Bates has been a welcome surprise after being thrust into the lineup due to injuries and COVID outbreaks. In the last two weeks with Bates in the lineup, the rushing game excelled (347 total yards), the line did not give up one sack, and the Bills have scored eight touchdowns. If the Bills can shore up the offensive line with one of the quality offensive linemen hitting free agency this offseason or hit in the draft, the offense should be rolling in 2022.
I don't want to dive too deep into the Bills' backfield, seeing as Devin Singletary has played exceptionally well over the last month after finally given the starting nod and averaging 80% of snaps. I still believe the Bills should take a running back in free agency or the draft again as this was a massive area of weakness all year, and many teams had zero respect for the run game (rightfully so).
The team could potentially lose defensive end Jerry Hughes, cornerback Levi Wallace, and tackle Harrison Phillips, though I think it is likely they sign Wallace and Phillips to long-term contracts. Beasley can also be cut after this season. After seeing how well Isaiah McKenzie has performed in Beasley's absence over the last two years, in addition to some of the locker room distraction Beasley has caused this year, it seems like a no-brainer at this point for the front office to cut him. Hughes has been a fantastic piece to the Bills' defense and his leadership will be missed immensely, but the team should be able to overcome the loss with defensive coordinator Leslie Frasier calling the shots and the amount of star power they currently have on the roster.
Depending on what happens with Beasley in the offseason, both McKenzie and Gabriel Davis will likely provide fantasy value next season, and likely more than just a bye-week fill-in.
Kluge: I'm a lifelong Bears fan, and this season brought a lot of pain but a bit of hope for the future. They’ve got some solid offensive pieces to build around in Justin Fields, David Montgomery, Darnell Mooney, and Cole Kmet, but they need a coach that can play to their strengths. The offseason quarterback fiasco left little room for Fields to succeed as his lack of chemistry with the first team was apparent.
Bringing in a new head coach and offensive coordinator should be the main priority in Chicago. Joe Brady, Byron Leftwich, and Greg Roman are all guys that I’d love to see don the navy and orange next season. Many of the guys that’ll be walking in the offseason aren’t going to be significant losses: Allen Robinson, Jimmy Graham, Akiem Hicks, Andy Dalton, Jason Peters, Damien Williams. Recognizable names, no doubt.
But all of these players are past their prime and should be relatively easy to replace. I don’t know how deep of a pull Kmet is, but I’m expecting a massive uptick in production from him next year. He finished 14th overall in receiving yards among tight ends in 2021. Unfortunately though, being kept out of the end zone all season dinged his fantasy output. With an entire offseason of reps with Fields expected and Graham hitting the road, Kmet will be in the TE1 conversation next season.
Settle: I grew up in the Washington D.C. area during the beginning of the Dan Snyder era and quickly fell out of favor with the product on the field. There was no pressure in my house on who to watch or follow and I fell in love with a Minnesota Vikings team anchored by Randy Moss. I have been through so many ups and downs with this team, mostly soul-crushing downs, and still wear the purple and yellow. This team needs so many things right now. It could be argued they need a new head coach, a new quarterback, and a new front office.
However, the most pressing need is the defense, specifically the secondary. Last year they went out and signed some big-name corners and it has not worked at all. This secondary ranked in the bottom 5 in almost every passing statistic. The secondary has been abysmal since before Xavier Rhodes got his big contract and fell apart. The biggest loss that could happen this offseason would be Anthony Barr. He is the unequivocal leader in the middle of the defense and has a 1-year deal expiring. The Vikings have major Cap issues, and he could become a casualty as the defense looks to move younger and faster.
A name we could see emerge from the bowels of the depth chart could be Chad Beebee. We saw K.J. Osborn assume his role down the stretch and become a viable Bye week/ Flex fill in and that was once the role held by Beebee. He missed the season due to a foot injury and also has an expiring contract, but he is a cheap option that could emerge as a weapon next season if the Vikings choose to bring him back.
Parsons: I too am one of the weird NFL fans who does not have a favorite team. My roots in the Washington DC area for more than a decade have me still listening to plenty of Washington Football Team content on a weekly basis, however, and will use them as a proxy here. All the talk is about the poor sustained ownership of the franchise and how they are essentially doomed outside of a transcendent quarterback lifting them out of the abyss on his own shoulders.
Taylor Heinicke is a nice story, but ultimately a low-end starter or high-end backup in the NFL ecosystem, not the quarterback to lead them to the light at the end of the tunnel. Getting Curtis Samuel healthy from the start of the season and Logan Thomas back would be welcome additions in 2022 and Jaret Patterson has played well enough to be considered an injury-away candidate behind Antonio Gibson next season.
King: My favorite NFL team is the Miami Dolphins. The biggest needs are linebacker, running back, wide receiver, offensive line. Can I say the offensive line like 20 more times?
In terms of who the Dolphins may lose, Mike Gesicki is in the final year of his contract so he could be gone next year. Hopefully, the Dolphins are smart enough to extend him or give him a new contract. With regard to the depth chart, the Dolphins could decide to retain either Phillip Lindsay or Duke Johnson Jr who were each serviceable when on the field. Mack Hollins and Isaiah Ford also provided sporadic production but could end up being regulars in the wide receiver rotation.
Offseason Points of Interest for Individual Players
Waldman: Answer one of the following about the offseason.
- Discuss a rookie you're most excited about and where he'll get drafted.
- Discuss a free agent you're most excited about seeing signed.
- Discuss a player you hope doesn't get re-signed by his current team
What's the word?
Parsons: Will Fuller V is a player I will constantly go to bat for in NFL and fantasy terms. Fuller is the classic 'injury-prone until he is not' profile. A string of health surges Fuller into an auto-start fantasy status and he enters NFL free agency...again. While a prove-it one-year contract is assumed at this point, he is the ideal dart throw by an NFL team to get WR1 impact for the price of a WR2/3 on the open market.
Settle: I am most interested to see where Chris Olave lands in the NFL draft this off-season. As an Ohio State alumnus, I have watched the entire career of Olave and believe his route running and ball skills will translate to the NFL. His ideal landing spot would be New England, but he could easily be taken by Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans, or Las Vegas before the Patriots have a chance to pick as each team is in need of help at the position. Olave should be a first-round pick and has several potential landing spots.
Waldman: I agree. I like Olave a great deal and can't wait to see where he lands.
King: Kyle Pitts is the answer. Even though the Falcons offense was underwhelming most of the season, Pitts was targeted and utilized the way fantasy managers expected. He is currently the TE5 in PPR with 66 receptions on 105 targets for 1018 yards. It’s mind-boggling that he only has one touchdown this season. Apparently, he has really taken over the “Julio Jones role” in that department. He is also another candidate for positive touchdown regression in 2022. I would be surprised if he finishes outside the top-3 tight ends next year.
Kluge: I don’t think there’s a rookie I’m more excited about than Wan'Dale Robinson out of Kentucky. His showing at the Citrus Bowl has a lot of people taking notice. Robinson is undersized, but his speed and wiggle are evident from the second you see him play. He can blow the top off any defense as a reliable downfield threat but also has the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands on shorter routes and carries. He reminds me a lot of Rondale Moore but is about four inches taller. As much as I’d love to see Robinson get drafted in the first round, I’m expecting him to be a late-second or early-third round pick due to his lack of experience. If he can land on a team with a potent offense, he will be one of the more surprising rookies in 2022.
As for free agents, I want to see Allen Robinson get a shot somewhere next season. His frustrations with the Bears bled into his production in 2021, and injuries made it even worse. Robinson is still just 28 years old, and I believe he can still be productive in the right setting. He’ll likely get a one-year prove-it deal this offseason. I’d love to see him land in New England, a team with a budding star in Mac Jones that could use a big-bodied possession receiver like Robinson.
Geary: So much of our offseason is going to be centered around Aaron Rodgers and where his next destination will be. I am so curious to see if Davante Adams stays in Green Bay, leaves for another team, or goes where ever Rodgers takes him. Their chemistry is unmatched, they are absolutely electric to watch together, and it would be a massive bummer if we weren't given a chance to continue seeing these two light it up every Sunday.
Bold Predictions for 2022
Waldman: Give me one bold call for next year. I want some specific production data and/or a fantasy tier linked to it.
Explain your answers.
Hindery: Joe Burrow has a Top 10 All-Time passing season with 5,000-plus yards and 50-plus touchdowns. The Week 16 and 17 explosions from the Bengals passing offense did not feel like a fluke. There had been a slow buildup while players were getting healthy (both Burrow and Tee Higgins were less than 100% the first half of the season) and the young core was figuring out what they were capable of. The genie is out of the bottle now and this offense is going to be a problem for opponents in 2022.
Geary: We've had the pleasure of drafting guys Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts as our "Konami Code" quarterbacks over the last few years, at an unbeatable draft cost. Trey Lance is poised to do the same for us in 2022 barring Jimmy Garoppolo's exit from the Bay Area. In his three appearances at quarterback this season, Lance ran 31 times for 161 rushing yards, adding another 598 passing yards and four touchdowns. He has an arsenal of weapons at hand, including pass-catchers George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk as well as waiver wire darling Elijah Mitchell in the backfield. It will be exciting to see how far he can take the 49ers next season, but for fantasy, he could be a locked-and-loaded top-5 quarterback finisher as soon as it's announced the Garoppolo era and experiment is over.
Hicks: A fun exercise I like to play is to examine why a player underachieved on a high ADP the previous season. These players usually have depressed ADPs in the following year. Most of the time these players were injured. Next year we could see guys like Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Calvin Ridley, Allen Robinson, Lamar Jackson, and even Christian McCaffrey fall from their lofty predictions this year into lower ADPs in 2022. One of my favorite running backs to watch is Nick Chubb. Next year he will be a top 6 fantasy back. He is great in the red zone, gets more yards per carry than any other back over the last two years, and has a great run-blocking unit in front of him. I have reasonable certainty that Cleveland addresses their quarterback and play-calling issues in the offseason and Chubb should finally put in that elite season he has promised.
Kluge: Next season, I expect AJ Dillon to finish as an RB1. The Packers seem content with the duo of Dillon and Aaron Jones, but Dillon has been great since Jones suffered his knee injury in Week 10. Dillon has been the RB9 in PPR since then. Jones will maintain his role as a passing-down back and has a sky-high ceiling week-to-week due to his big-play ability. But with Dillon seeing the goal line work on a powerhouse offense, he can easily see 15-20 touchdowns next year. Looking at Dillon’s stature, you’d expect him to primarily hold the goal-line and early-down work. But he was a threat in the receiving game lately, seeing 2.9 targets per game and averaging 9.2 yards per reception since Week 10. Just 23 years old (compared to a 27-year-old Jones), I can see the Packers swinging usage to Dillon even more next season.
Parsons: There is an underwhelming amount of veteran quarterback movement in the NFL with Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, and Matt Ryan notably staying with their current teams. I will assert Matt Ryan is a top-10 fantasy quarterback for Atlanta in 2022 with Calvin Ridley back, Kyle Pitts a dominant force, and the team adding one more notable weapon on offense.
Settle: After watching the product on the field it may be hard to comprehend, but Jacksonville is going to compete for a playoff spot next season. Trevor Lawrence was handed the keys to a busted offense with a toxic coach and little chance to succeed. Travis Etienne was lost before the season started, D.J. Chark Jr was lost, James Robinson was wasted and then lost for the season, and many other things went wrong. Jacksonville is currently in the drivers’ seat for the No. 1 overall pick again this year and could add a top-tier piece or trade down for more draft capital and fill several holes. There will be a new head coach, the return of several key offensive pieces, and they play in a division that has historically beat up on one another and left the door open for anyone to take the crown. Jacksonville is not too far removed from almost beating Tom Brady in the playoffs and could get back to that point with a few smart decisions this offseason and for the healthy return of several key players.
King: Jaylen Waddle finishes as a top 5 WR. Entering Week 16, Waddle was 6th in receptions, 8th in yards after the catch, and 10th in targets. Not to mention, he is currently second in NFL history for most receptions by a rookie. His versatility also will allow the Dolphins to continue to use him in a variety of ways, which will lead to top-tier production. In 2022, he will still see a large target share and hopefully positive regression in touchdowns.