Identifying bounce-back or breakout players for the following season is a long-standing strategy to maximize roster value in the offseason. Here are my favorite bets for an uptick in 2022:
Why: The top-45 in aPPG is a key marker for future performance by Day 2 wide receivers in their rookie season. Elijah Moore ranks in the 30s with the season winding down and should easily stay inside the threshold line. Day 2 receivers, like Moore, who are inside the top-45 as rookies produce nearly twice as many top-24 seasons (2.9) in the average outcome than even those in the WR45-80 range in Year 1 (1.6).
Even more impactful is the shift in the probability of a top-12 season in their career between Year 1 successes like Moore (69%) and even the top-80 (37%). Moore also has the upside of being the clear WR1 for his team's depth chart in 2022, a critical element especially if paired with a non-dominant quarterback (likely Zach Wilson).
After the Jets' Week 6 bye and before Moore started missing time in Week 14, the Jets' rookie wide receiver scored the third-most PPR points among all wide receivers, behind only Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson. On a per-game basis, Moore was still WR10 over the span.
Moore was also a strong prospect in the projection model, grading at 95% overall, including being ideally young (21.5 years old NFL debut), a strong athlete for his size, and posting a dominant plus another strong age-adjusted market share season of production. Moore was a strong prospect, went No.34 overall, and now posted a quality success track in Year 1.
The formula for Moore to hit in the top-24 or even the top-12 in 2022 is as simple as the Jets not splashing the depth chart to a strong degree and Zach Wilson seeing some semblance of improvement in Year 2.
Why: Gallup already has a breakout season under his belt, hitting WR17 in aPPG in 2019. Living in the name cache shadow of Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb in recent seasons is poised to aid in acquiring Gallup for a reasonable price in dynasty circles this coming offseason. Gallup is finally healthy in 2021, missing essentially half of the fantasy regular season before a recent string of a month with at least five receptions in each game.
Gallup's career arc comps project a 35-40% probability of a future WR1 season, more bullish than most would project. Also, Gallup has produced as the WR3 for Dallas over the past two seasons, a loaded offense with Dalton Schultz, Ezekiel Elliott, and Tony Pollard also in the passing game mix.
Spotrac.com projects a free-agent contract in the $11-12 million per years range for Gallup, a number indicating a WR1/2 role with his potential new offense, like Corey Davis and Courtland Sutton previously.
Why: Kirk is completing his fourth NFL season and without much buzz as a productive young wide receiver. Kirk has simmered in the WR30-50(ish) zone all four seasons - a badge of relevancy but one lacking impact for much of any singular season. However, his career arc comps point to higher breakout odds for his first top-24 season in Year 5 (2022) than most would acknowledge.
If assuming Kirk is not an end-of-his-rookie-contract failure next season where he drifts into the fantasy wilderness, his odds are sturdy to rise instead of fall. Kirk's career arc comps when projecting a top-60 finish, something Kirk has achieved all four of his seasons, include a 50% chance of hitting for a top-24 season and an even higher shot at a personal career-high finish (top-30).
Rewinding the clock to Christian Kirk the prospect, Kirk was a phenom at Texas A&M with an elite age-adjusted freshman season in market share, plus added two more strong years before exiting as an early declaration. Kirk was drafted in the top-50 and has overachieved the Round 2 wide receiver seasonal average expectations throughout his early NFL career.
Situationally is where Kirk has been limited to date and where 2022 offers promise. This season had A.J. Green added to DeAndre Hopkins atop the wide receiver depth chart, two future Hall of Fame players. Last season had Larry Fitzgerald, yet another Hall of Famer, in the mix. Kirk is a slated free agent at an ideal 25 years old. If returning to Arizona, A.J. Green is a scheduled free agent and Murray would be paired with a strong fantasy quarterback, a critical element to a wide receiver's expected fantasy finish.
Spotrac.com projects a quality contract in the free-agent market for Kirk, in the Corey Davis zone, of previous deals. Also, there are eight NFL teams with strong wide receiver needs projecting to the offseason by my evaluation:
Why: Engram was/is on a high-end career arc trajectory with his TE4 career-high finish as a rookie, plus two more top-10 aPPG finishes to start his career. 2020 and 2021, however, have tarnished his profile with TE16, and now in the TE20-25 zone, this season.
The key profile points with Engram include his Round 1 pedigree. Unless a complete and utter flame-out, bet on Round 1 tight ends during their career when discounts are available. Eric Ebron drifting away as a bust in Detroit is a recent example. Engram is also on the more firm historical ground than fellow 2017 NFL Draft class Round 1 options like David Njoku and O.J. Howard (they are dynasty buys too) with his per-game production through five seasons.
Another key marker is top-12 aPPG tight ends continue to see quality odds of logging another such season. Engram has three and of the previous 15 (dating back to the 1990s) with a similar career start track, 12 of them hit for another top-12 season. Also, 7-of-15 hit for another top-6 season. These are strong odds especially considering many are out of the Evan Engram business heading into the offseason.
Finally, the Giants have squandered Evan Engram, the athlete, within their passing game. Engram's yards-per-catch is a Brandon Pettigrew-like 9.4 this season, a mark that has dropped each season since 2018. One of my common gripes watching every play of every game is Engram being used as an in-line blocker, chipping on pass-rushers, and running five-yard out routes far too often. Engram is one of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL and yet used like a traditional tight end and offensive line assistant. The recent NFL tight ends with at least a 115 Speed Score (weight-based 40-time) and at least 90% overall Athleticism score include: