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Welcome to Week 1 of the 2022 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid panel of fantasy pundits discusses and debates players who changed our minds this summer, potential waiver-wire darlings before the season opener, bold calls, and the Cardinals-Chiefs tilt.
Players Who Changed our Minds This Summer
Matt Waldman: Jason Wood writes a series of features every August that covers players whose performances have led Wood to have second thoughts about his stance on their fantasy potential. Here's where you can find his articles on running backs, quarterbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers.
I want each of you to do the following:
- Check out Wood's four articles and pick two players where Wood's arguments might change your mind and explain why.
- Give me one player independent from Wood's features who is leading you to have second thoughts about his value this fall.
Go . . .
Jeff Bell: At the start of this offseason, it was easy to write Amon-Ra St. Brown's season off as simply the product of stat accumulation during a lost season. The additions of Jameson Williams and D.J. Chark pushed further into that stance. But Williams's current recovery period looks like any contributions to 2022 would be a victory for a franchise that may not see many, and Chark will see targets. Still, his true impact will be pushing coverage deeper. St. Brown's game compliments Jared Goff's comfort areas, and the presence of Chark and T.J. Hockenson clearing the field vertically will create space for St. Brown to operate.
The Lions are building a strong culture with Dan Campbell, but the defense still lacks talent. Expect the competition level to rise, but the game scripts that saw St. Brown thrive will likely remain. St. Brown's 16.7 PPR points per game already returned a top 10 season from weeks 4 through 18. Usually, in fantasy, when a player has produced an elite level, and the consensus looks for any reason to fade them, the consensus ends up wrong. St. Brown carries top-10 upside at a WR3 price tag, making him a must-target, at cost, in full PPR formats.
Initially, the Chiefs' offseason movement suggested they would approach replacing the departed Tyreek Hill with a Moneyball approach, adding players who excelled within roles. JuJu Smith-Schuster was easy to dismiss given his disappointing seasons and a one-year, $4 million contract compared to the three-year, $30 mil deal given to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Moneyball approach would be a disaster for fantasy football, squandering high-value targets from Patrick Mahomes II.
Hearing the camp drum beats and Wood's confirmation of Smith-Schuster's involvement is a highly encouraging development. Over the last four seasons, Tyreek Hill has seen 500 targets as the 1a to Travis Kelce's 1b; the third-highest target has only seen 290. If Smith-Schuster sees anywhere near that level of opportunity running as the clear top receiver, he is misvalued by rounds at a WR28 ADP.
A healthy level of skepticism is warranted that this will finally be the year Parris Campbell stays healthy. The former second-round pick has only been active for 14 out of 49 possible career games. But all systems go through camp, and Campbell has elicited rave reviews. He has a unique skill set in the Colts' receiver room. His ability to work after the catch creates a role and separates him from Michael Pittman Jr and Alec Pierce in field areas that have proven valuable to NFL offenses. At WR76, it is a no-risk bet with the upside; he emerges as the clear second option in the passing attack. Matt Ryan’s arrival has high spirits in Colts’ camp, and Campbell is a primary beneficiary.
Chrisitan Williams: After the first week of training camp, it was easy to write off George Pickens' week as a rookie flash. Pickens was dominant, but players like Romeo Doubs and other rookies found success. As training camp continued, Pickens' dominance did, too. The assumption that Diontae Johnson would repeat a high target share with Chase Claypool receiving the No. 2 receiver share was still at the forefront of fantasy managers' minds. But Pickens' role as a starting outside receiver now feels inevitable. His play at Georgia indicated a high upside, but the off-field concerns that led to his fall to Day Two of the NFL Draft were cause for caution. If Pickens assumed an immediate starting role in two-receiver sets, his fantasy outlook for the season would be much more appealing.
Matthew Stafford's elbow injury has been public for some time now, and fantasy managers didn't consider the ramifications fully. Stafford has always shown toughness in playing through injuries, but throwing-elbow injuries present new challenges that can be detrimental to fantasy football success. The Rams' plan to minimize the damage offers encouragement, but there are too many options at the quarterback position going after Matthew Stafford to assume the risk he presents.
While reports suggest Khalil Herbert could eventually take over as the primary running back for the Bears, an apparent hole in his game surfaced in a prevalent way throughout the preseason. The Luke Getsy scheme would indicate a split backfield already, but the idea that Herbert could lead made him a reliable late-round target. But inconsistencies in the passing game, both as a blocker and a receiver, give fantasy managers a reason to believe he may play second-fiddle to David Montgomery throughout the season. Montgomery is effective in the passing game and received nearly every snap with the first-team offense in the final preseason game, meaning Getsy may choose to go with a more reliable pass-catching option in Trestan Ebner if he continues deploying a two-back system.
Drew Davenport: I didn't find myself drafting that much of Chase Edmonds earlier in the year largely because of the crowded backfield. But Edmonds continued to make his case for a large workload and now the Dolphins have let Sony Michel go. What's interesting is that Miami is now counting on a 30-year-old Raheem Mostert and two guys who were unexciting last year (Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed). As the draft season wore on, I expected the price for Miami's lead back to continue to climb, but it didn't in any appreciable way. I agree with Wood, the drumbeat has been consistent and Edmonds seems like a huge value heading into the season.
Initially, I was completely out on Renfrow for the coming season. Not only was he the beneficiary of Darren Waller's missing time last year, but now he has to fight target hog Davante Adams. But like Wood, the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that the target tree might be fairly tight in Las Vegas. I think he makes a great point about the volume for all three of the big targets there. Josh McDaniels won't be shy about throwing the football, and there just isn't a lot behind Waller, Adams, and Renfrow to give me pause about how he will perform.
When Cam Akers made it back for the Rams' playoff run, I assumed he'd be back to form by fall. That made me hop on the early value I perceived with Akers coming back as the 1a to Darrell Henderson's 1b. But the track record of players coming back from his injury, and the specter of his poor playoff showing, are seared into my head. I don't think I've drafted Akers in two months, and I'm fine with that development. He could certainly turn into a value, but I'm ok betting on the other side. Usually, the red flags for players are there for a reason, and I'm not going to blow through them to expect a big 2022 for Akers.
Andy Hicks: Chase Edmonds is a player I have been reluctant to climb on board with. His use in Arizona was relatively limited, and he joined a crowded backfield in Miami. That said, who was seeing the most money in this unit? Edmonds by a big margin. With Sony Michel cut and Raheem Mostert better suited to backup duties given his age and injury history, Edmonds is in the driver's seat. Jason illustrates perfectly that Edmonds has a big upside for a minimal price.
Josh Palmer is another player I have been looking at carefully since being drafted. I know others on staff have advised the metrics on his rookie season offer a downside prediction on his future success, but my eyes saw potential. His draft slot was where many star NFL wide receivers have come from. Keenan Allen was almost drafted at the same spot eight years earlier. Palmer is in a great offense, with a rising star at quarterback and a patchy duo starting ahead of him. Allen due to his age and Mike Williams due to his inconsistency. Jason mentions the opportunity as well, and he offers practically no downside where he is being drafted and will be on many waiver wires.
I do feel Jared Goff is going to end up being fantasy relevant this year. Given the receivers at his disposal last year, it was a small miracle he finished the season looking competent. His season-ending fantasy standings were affected by three missed games. This year he could have four to five solid targets and should improve his fantasy numbers significantly, especially if Jameson Williams can return before the halfway point of the season.
Kevin Coleman: Tua Tagovailoa is a player who, it seems, should be able to outperform his ADP. As Jason points out, Tagovailoa has had a strong camp and appears to be finally healthy going into his third season as the Dolphins' starting quarterback. Mike McDaniel's hiring as the Dolphins’ head coach also bodes well.
Playing quarterback in a West Coast Offense requires accuracy and intelligence, two traits Tagovailoa possesses in abundance. The coach's system also utilizes shorter routes which means more 3-step and 5-step drops, allowing the ball to get out quicker to the Dolphin’s playmakers. That should, in turn, provide higher completion opportunities in the short and intermediate parts of the field.
McDaniel’s offense should also incorporate plenty of play-action within the zone-read rushing attack to help keep defenses honest in crowded box situations. Despite the perception he struggles with deep balls, Tagovailoa had a deep completion percentage of 55.2 percent on passes of 20 yards or more downfield, ranking him No. 1 among 2021 quarterbacks. His decision-making is his biggest asset, and his ability to make the right decisions on throws fits this system perfectly.
Mac Jones seems like a player to avoid in redraft leagues. The most significant point that Jason makes that I agree with is the offensive coaching staff. Losing Josh McDaniels to the Raiders was a massive blow to this offense. Bill Belichick also did himself no favors by installing former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as new England’s play-caller.
The Patriots also lost other key offensive coaches, Mick Lombardi (wide receivers), Bo Hardegree (assistant quarterbacks), and Carmen Bricillo (offensive line). On top of the coaching changes, New England is also trying to simplify their run concepts to include an outside zone scheme to what many around the league are referring to as the “Shanahan Offense.” We’ve seen new England and Mac Jones struggle with these changes throughout the preseason. The offense doesn’t seem to be clicking, and based on the weapons on the roster; Mac Jones looks like a quarterback to avoid in redraft.
The player that stands out to me that has taken a hit to his redraft value is Buffalo Bills running back James Cook. Based on the final depth chart releases, Cook is listed as RB3 behind both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss which doesn't bode well for his fantasy value. Especially when you take into account that Josh Allen’s rushing ability always needs to be considered when looking at the fantasy reliability of the Bills' backfield.
Last season, Josh Allen had 122 carries for 763 yards and six touchdowns, and Allen also had seven rushing attempts inside the five-yard line tying Devin Singletary for the team lead. He saw seventeen carries within the ten-yard line showing that his rushing upside will also be a detriment to the fantasy ceiling of Bills running backs.
Another roadblock for Cook is Moss' strong camp and the Bills' insistence that Moss will get opportunities to earn volume in this offense, especially in the red zone. This backfield is as crowded as they come, and Cook’s value has taken a hit heading into week one.
Scott Bischoff: After being dealt from Atlanta to Indianapolis in the offseason, Ryan seems to be an afterthought for fantasy managers. It is easy to write off Ryan as a washed-up veteran without much left, but Jason’s comparison to Stafford and the Rams is valid. Ryan is a much better quarterback than most think, and he goes to a fantastic situation with a very potent offense. With an ADP of QB 20, he should easily outperform his draft position, and he could be an absolute steal for fantasy purposes in 2022.
Saquon Barkley is an incredible physical talent, but he had a muted performance last season, returning from a significant knee injury. He cuts with outrageous velocity and torque, and I wonder if it is reasonable to expect him to look much more like his former self than we saw last year. Wood opened my eyes with his thoughts on the Giants' offense and whether Barkley needs to be in a great offense to put up gaudy numbers. Barkley is a rare work-horse running back, and he should not come off the field.
Rhamondre Stevenson is an exciting player as he is a gigantic running back with incredible feet, dazzling in space for a big back. The Patriots are changing their offensive scheme, and to this point, the transition has not looked good. However, Stevenson might benefit from the Patriots' offensive struggles as a receiver catching passes out of the backfield, simply out of necessity. He is more than capable as a runner, and he’ll split time with running back Damien Harris, but Stevenson is the guy I prefer of the two.
Gary Davenport: I don't know that Ryan will fully go the Matthew Stafford route and take the Colts all the way to the Super Bowl, but the 40 touchdowns that Jason mentioned may not be that far off. The Colts have done nothing but rave about Ryan since his arrival, and all the ingredients are there for a big season, whether it's an elite back in Jonathan Taylor, a high-end offensive line, or passing-game weapons—especially if rookie Alec Pierce emerges as a reliable No. 2 receiver.
I don’t know that I can remember a time when a back won the starting job and I like him less as a result. Pierce may well wind up a quality NFL starter. But the hype with the youngster got out of hand and then some. Pierce didn't carry the ball more than 107 times in a season in college. He has one game since high school with more than 15 carries. He plays for a team that was dead last in both total offense and rushing last year. And he's probably going to cede passing-down work to Rex Burkhead. In a month there will be hand-wringing galore about Pierce. Articles asking what's "wrong" with him. But there's nothing busted about the youngster. It's the expectations for him that have gotten completely out of whack.
God help me, I'm becoming a believer in a wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars. This isn't to say that Kirk was worth $18 million a season—I may be changing my mind, but I'm not losing it. But when Kirk and Trevor Lawrence were on the field together in the preseason, Lawrence looked his way early and often. The Jaguars may well be a better team in 2022 (sometimes there's nowhere to go but up), but that doesn't mean they will be good. A Jaguars team playing from behind will be forced to throw. And if Lawrence keeps peppering Kirk with targets, he will smash his ADP.
Scouting the Waiver Wire
Waldman: Sigmund Bloom's Upgrades, Downgrades, and Waiver Wire feature is published every Monday evening during the season, and it's a must-read feature at Footballguys. As one of the former writers of this weekly feature, I still impress upon my readers throughout the summer that having a shortlist of players to monitor at each position for your in-season waiver wires is wise preparation.
Give me your top choice of free agents that fantasy players should monitor this weekend so they can make an appropriate bid for that player next week if needed:
- 1 candidate who is likely a free agent in leagues with rosters of 15 players.
- 1 candidate who is likely a free agent in leagues with rosters of 20 players.
- 1 candidate who is likely a free agent in leagues with rosters of 40 players.
We could generalize these as church league, work league, and mother's basement league in terms of knowledge although I've seen some great church leagues, super-serious workplace leagues, and awful basement leagues.
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