Welcome to Week 10 of the 2022 Footballguys Roundtable. Our intrepid panel of fantasy pundits discusses and debates four topics every week. Topics are now split into separate features.
This week's roundtable features these four topics:
- Deshaun Watson's Return (see below)
- Thanksgiving Table
- Tryptophan Specials
- Play of the Year Candidates
Deshaun Watson's Return
Matt Waldman: Let's leave the thoughts about Watson's off-field behavior at the door. Not because we don't care about it but because we're here to discuss his potential value in fantasy football. That stated, please answer each question below:
- Will Watson need a significant acclimation period to knock off the rust?
- Will he return to his pre-hiatus/suspension value?
- Who has the most to gain from Watson's upside in Cleveland and do you expect it to happen this year and/or next?
- Who has the most to lose with Watson in Cleveland (no cheap Brissett replies)?
Christian Williams: While Cleveland fans and media have attempted to put the heat on Kevin Stefanski in recent weeks, his offense is incredibly quarterback-friendly. With his first game coming against the NFL-worst Houston Texans, managers should expect a top-12 week when Watson steps onto the field in 2022.
Before his hiatus and suspension, managers discussed Watson as a top-five lock at the quarterback position. Since then, a lot has happened. Josh Allen and Justin Herbert have solidified their spots inside that top five, and a variety of young quarterbacks have emerged as worthy of such a ranking. That said, Stefanski and company made Jacoby Brissett the QB14 through eleven weeks of the 2022 season; Watson is significantly more talented than his predecessor within the Browns' offense. It may take some time, but Watson's value should return to its previous mantle.
Amari Cooper has the most to gain. While he has succeeded immensely even with Jacoby Brissett at the helm, Watson supported a top-five receiver in each of his first four seasons; in half of those, DeAndre Hopkins finished as the WR1 overall. With Cooper's involvement in the Browns' offense and the introduction of a quarterback that prefers to target his best player appropriately, Cooper could finish the 2022 season on a massive tear and carry that into 2023.
Kareem Hunt, while already disappointing, has the most to lose with Watson's return. Running back targets are often a quarterback stat, and Watson produced mixed results through his four years in Houston. In his first two seasons, he rarely targeted the running back position. In his final two seasons, there were over 80 running back targets between the backs. In combining the ambiguity of quarterback preference and the lack of schemed receiving work for running backs within the Browns' offensive attack, it's difficult to project a massive target share for Kareem Hunt. Add in that Nick Chubb has more than double the rush attempts that Hunt does, and the outlook is bleak.
Craig Lakins: I think any time someone misses nearly two full seasons of action, he's going to need some time to knock the rust off. He was only recently allowed to begin practicing with the team again. I'd expect plenty of miscommunication with his receivers and some errant throws over the first couple of weeks.
I think he can certainly get back there, but I don't expect to see it in 2022. Once he's had a full offseason to focus on football as his team's clear starter, we can expect to see those flashes that made him so dangerous make their return.
One guy that always seems to produce when paired with Watson was Will Fuller V. Who fills that deep-threat role for the Browns? Donovan Peoples-Jones. He's the player I could see showing the earlier benefit from Watson's arrival if the quarterback still shows a penchant for throwing the deep ball.
My answer is a little surprising, but I honestly think it could be Amari Cooper. He's frequently talked about as someone to acquire with Watson's impending return. He seems to have a good rapport with Jacoby Brissett and has shown us in the past that he's capable of disappearing from time to time. I don't that would be a long-term issue, but in the first few weeks, I could see Cooper being an afterthought as they try to establish their on-field chemistry.
Waldman: I like that you played Devil's Advocate with Cooper. My counterargument in favor of Cooper is that Brissett praised Cooper for initiating a lot of communication with him during off-hours, sharing notes, and play clips to conceptually get on the same page. I believe we'll see Cooper take a similar approach to his working relationship with Watson and Watson is known as a player who studies.
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