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Week 8 is complete, and dynasty movement continues. Injuries have created new opportunities or raised long-term questions about players. Elsewhere young players are solidifying their opportunity for playing time and fantasy production. Weekly the Footballguys staff will share their thoughts on the dynasty ranking movement and answer a critical question you may face.
Question: What young player can still climb their team's depth chart and make an impact in the second half of 2022?
A player that managers need to be watching is Tennessee Titans wide receiver Treylon Burks. While Burks came into the season with high expectations, a turf toe injury landed him on the IR. Burks is eligible to return this week, and if he’s fully healthy, he could conceivably make an impact in the second half of 2022. The Tennessee passing offense has been downright abysmal this season. They rank 30th in passes per game (22), 31st in passing yards per game (147.6), and 30th in passing plays percentage (44.58%). Burks could help Tennessee’s passing offense get back on track, especially since no wide receiver on that depth chart has taken hold of the room; Burks could step right into a WR1 role when and if he’s healthy.
Jameson Williams may be the most obvious answer, as his spot on the depth chart is still to be determined, but his impact over the second half of 2022 may be the most fantasy-relevant among young players. Williams, recovering from offseason ACL surgery, has game-changing speed and offers a different dynamic to the Detroit offense. He wins at all three levels of the field and can turn a screen into a chunk play in the blink of an eye. With T.J. Hockenson's departure via trade earlier this week, Williams should walk into ample target opportunity the moment he's on the field. In an already successful offense, that could turn into impactful fantasy performances.
Rachaad White in the Tampa Bay backfield. The offense is the worst rushing offense in the league. Tom Brady is still performing well, but the offense is not optimized in its current state. The team spent a third-round pick on Rachaad White in the NFL Draft, and I'd expect he gets more of an opportunity as the season progresses.
Camp drumbeats had Kyren Williams earning the backup running back role heading into Week 1 before an injury cost him the first two months. From all appearances, the relationship between the Rams and Cam Akers is ended, and the team tried undrafted rookie Ronnie Rivers over Darrell Henderson in Week 8. Williams is comfortable in the passing game and is an efficient runner who can find space, which is vital given the Rams' struggles on the offensive line. The team failed to add more talent at the trade deadline and will likely give Williams a significant opportunity when he gets up to speed.
Justin Fields, Chicago - Since Week 4, Justin Fields has ranked as the QB5 overall and QB6 in points per game. Over the last two weeks, the Bears have implemented a designed quarterback run offense tailored to Fields's strengths and elite athlete ability. That offense allowed him to grow as a passer, opening up intermediate areas of the field and actively moving pockets to get him clean looks. Despite this, his consensus dynasty ranking sits outside of the Top 12. Fields is a dual-threat quarterback with a high fantasy upside, and the Bears insinuated long-term commitment to him with their acquisition of Chase Claypool at the trade deadline. Consensus may consider Fields a top-six option next year, but for now, he should land inside the Top 12.
Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville - Lawrence has taken a step forward in yards per attempt, up from 6.0 as a rookie to 6.7 this season. Lawrence has also improved his touchdown to interception ratio (12 TD to 17 INT in his rookie season to 10 TD to 6 INT) this season. Outside of that, Lawrence's advanced numbers are actually down. Lawrence's growth in stats is more the product of an improved offense scheme than improved performance from Lawrence. Historically, top 10 picks get about 50 starts if they fail to hit for a fantasy starter season, and Lawrence is halfway there with 25 starts. Through two seasons, Lawrence has failed to live up to the performance of his first-round startup pick cost from his rookie season as he heads towards his 50-start cliff, with now an optimal time to pivot off Lawrence.
Geno Smith, Seattle - Smith sat at QB30 in my rankings, primarily due to long-term hesitations on claiming a starting job. But that is starting to look wrong. Smith entered the league as a highly regarded prospect, selected 39th overall in 2013, and immediately stepped into a problematic Jets situation with Rex Ryan in his final years as head coach and Jeremy Kerley as his primary receiver. He looked headed for journeyman status before landing as Russell Wilson's backup in 2020. After finally getting his chance, Smith seems primed to deliver on the promise of that high pick. He sits third in the NFL in passer rating and fourth in QBR while positioning the Seahawks at the top of their division. At 32, he has time left to enjoy multiple starting years. He needs to move up and sits as a great buy in Superflex leagues.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia - In a recent dynasty mock draft, Jalen Hurts was selected as QB4 in the startup at 1.05. Throughout the season, we have seen Hurts solidify not only his dynasty value but also increase it, and he should be looked at as a top-four dynasty asset. Hurts currently sits at QB3 in total points (174.26) this season and QB2 in fantasy points per game (24.9). He has proven to be one of the best values in dynasty for the last two seasons, and managers who held onto shares are being rewarded this year. Moving forward, we can feel comfortable putting him in our top-five dynasty quarterback ranks among his peers.
Running Back Movement
Travis Etienne, Jacksonville - Etienne has taken a major step forward. Jacksonville's decision to start Etienne and trade James Robinson was a big signal the Doug Pederson regime believes in Etienne, and Etienne has cashed in, with consecutive 100-yard games and top 8 fantasy weeks. Etienne has an argument to belong in the top tier of the running back position.
Deon Jackson, Indianapolis - Jackson had a top good spot start in Week 6 against Jacksonville when he converted 22 touches into 121 total yards and a touchdown. The team traded Nyheim Hines this week, leaving Jackson as the injury away player behind Jonathan Taylor. The team ranks in the top five in expected running back points leaving Jackson in one of the better injury-away running back roles in the league.
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