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I am going to cheat. I have the answers. The perfect guide to how to win your 2022 fantasy league. With this information, you will be unstoppable as you go running up that hill toward your fantasy draft after finishing your fourth Stranger Things binge. Wanna see?
This exercise will use Footballguys’ preseason ADP to build the perfect team for the 2022 NFL fantasy season. Rosters will be 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, and 1 Flex. With the depth of this team, increasing roster sizes will only swing the favor harder. Heavily emphasis will be placed on playoff performances, Mike Evans' 48.7 PPR Week 17 performance is a must-have, and T.J. Hockenson’s 35.9 PPR points in Week 16 and his later ADP relative to other tight ends was a tiebreaker. We can not rewind the clock to August 2022, but we can take lessons from players who contributed to swing leagues and the values of their draft positions. Without further ado, The Hindsight Draft.
|4||Patrick Mahomes II||QB||39|
- Patrick Mahomes II, Kansas City, ADP 39, QB 2, 25.84 PPG
Elite quarterbacks have separated themselves in fantasy football and created an advantage that managers must hit. There’s nearly a two-point difference between QB6 Lamar Jackson’s 20.26 points per game and Kyler Murray’s 18.87 at QB7. The players who topped quarterback ranks were all the options expected to be elite in drafts: Jalen Hurts (26.76), Mahomes (25.84), Josh Allen (24.34), and Joe Burrow (22.34). The one wildcard was Justin Fields, a young quarterback who threatened the NFL single-season quarterback rushing record.
Mahomes emerged as the only selection of the group. Hurts’ injury that cost him weeks 16 and 17 and Damar Hamlin’s scary injury that led to the cancellation of the Bills - Bengals Week 17 game knocked out Allen and Burrow. But Mahomes put together one of the best seasons in NFL history, with 5,250 passing yards, the fourth-highest single-season total. He was the top quarterback during the fantasy playoffs, averaging 27.34 points per game.
Elite quarterback ADPs will be a major storyline for the 2023 season. Fantasy football has preached the value of waiting on the position. Justin Fields provided one “get out of jail free” card for those who waited on quarterbacks. It was a long season for the players who relied on veterans like Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, selected in the back half of quarterback starters. Still, the ceilings brought by these players and the weekly separation created, with the top-end players giving you six to eight points weekly over half the field, make this a must-have.
Lesson: Stars Matter - Target Elite Quarterbacks
- Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers, ADP 3, RB 1, 22.7 PPR PPG
- Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams, ADP 51, RB 44, 9.0 PPR PPG
- Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas, ADP 64, RB 3, 20.1 PPR PPG
- Ken Walker, Seattle, ADP 110, RB 16, 13.5 PPR PPG
- Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta, ADP 155 RB 39, 9.7 PPR PPG
- Jerick McKinnon, Kansas City, ADP 185, RB 26, 11.7 PPR PPG
Ekeler leads this group off and serves as the MVP of the team. His 21.9 PPR points per game led all position players, and his 32.1 points in championship Week 17 led all running backs. He has emerged as a model for consistency, missing only one game in the last two seasons. While running back injuries turned 2021 into a year of Zero RB strategies, 2022 turned back the clock and reestablished the position's value, with Jonathan Taylor and DAndre Swift the only Top 12 backs in ADP to miss meaningful time.
The following two backs emerged from the dreaded running back deadzone. The deadzone earned its label due to running backs who may have lacked top-end talent getting pushed up in ADP due to perceived opportunity. There were still landmines in this area; Elijah Mitchell (ADP 53) lost time to injury and eventually was replaced by Christian McCaffrey, while J.K. Dobbins (ADP 58) had injury uncertainty through the year and only gave two Top 10 performances. Still, Jacobs and Akers illustrate the type of bet you want to make in this area, young talented backs who dropped due to perceptions of unfavorable situations. Uncertainty is an area to target in fantasy football drafts. Still, you want the upside that if the consensus is wrong, you reap massive rewards compared to an incorrect assessment granting a dead asset.
The next group teaches valuable lessons about navigating later-round picks—targeting rookies and players on elite offenses. Walker needed an injury to Rashaad Penny to earn his opportunity, though betting on Penny missing time has been one of the safest bets in fantasy. Meanwhile, Allgeier entered the season in a crowded backfield situation in an assumed poor offensive situation. But volume is king, and the Falcons leaned heavily on the run game, specifically Allgeier, down the stretch as he finished out with 1,035 rushing yards. Lastly, McKinnon was the proverbial League Winner we all crave to close a season. In Weeks 14 through 17, he was overall RB1, averaging 25.5 points. From the quarterback lesson, elite NFL offenses can allow long-forgotten players to break out to unbelievable heights. These should always be a primary target.
The biggest lesson to take away from this running back group is patience. Allgeier was not active in Week 1, Akers was a healthy scratch at the mid-way point, and McKinnon looked to be in a crowded three-headed backfield until Clyde Edwards-Helaire suffered a season-ending injury. An impatient manager would have moved on from all three at varying points. Their performances down the stretch speak to the importance of continually adding running backs capable of ascending into meaningful volume. While wide receiver target shares can remain fixed and targets can be spread out to account for missing players, running back often comes down to "next man up." Loading benches with these players is the path to closing the fantasy season strong and winning championships.
Lessons: Elite Backs Are Back, Target High Upside Uncertainty, Exhibit Patience, and Give Yourself a Chance
- CeeDee Lamb, Dallas, ADP 17, WR 8, 17.8 PPR PPG
- Mike Evans, Tampa Bay, ADP 25, WR 16, 15.0 PPR PPG
- DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia, ADP 84, WR 14, 15.1 PPR PPG
- Chris Olave, New Orleans, ADP 99, WR 27, 13.1 PPR PPG
- Garrett Wilson, New York Jets, ADP 124, WR 31, 12.4 PPR PPG
Lamb is the profile to target, a young ascending player playing with a strong quarterback in a potent offense. Given the predictability at the position and the week-to-week upside, it’s tough to walk out of a draft without taking a receiver in the top two rounds. Lamb trailed slightly from the full options, but he did not cost a first-round pick, and he was great when it mattered the most as WR1 over Weeks 15 through 17 at 24.9 PPG. The top three receivers in this group ran those three weeks as the top three players, with Smith’s 23.1 PPG second and Evans’ 22.6 boosted by that dominant Week 17 performance.
Evans is the king of the hindsight draft. This Week 17 performance in this lineup would make it impossible to beat this team in the pivotal championship week. But he also points to the ideal start of a PPR draft. With an elite anchor at running back and two top-end receivers slotted into the weekly lineup, the team builds around a solid core that gives you the spike weeks to swing matchups. Plenty went wrong in Tampa Bay on their way to a first-round exit and a losing record, but Evans is another receiver with a proven track record of fantasy success tethered to a quarterback we can trust.
Smith may be the most interesting piece of this whole roster. A perfect storm of events, from concerns about Hurts’ passing ability to A.J. Brown’s addition and the Eagles’ reputation as a run-based offense. But a rising ship raises all boats, and Philadelphia finished as the third-best offense in points per game with 28.1 provided that environment. Frankly put, we were just wrong. Everyone knew Smith was a talented player, going tenth in the 2021 draft and posting 916 yards as a rookie. But the uncertainty in his range of outcomes pushed him far down the board. Like Jacobs, he is a lesson to target talented players priced near their floors due to factors was as the fantasy football hive mind can have wrong.
Olave and Wilson round out this receiving core, teaching lessons as well. First, rookies present league-altering value even in perceived dire situations due to the uncertainty surrounding them. Justin Jefferson was a breakout player in 2020 despite an ADP that hovered in the 10th round. Amon-Ra St. Brown followed that up with a top-ten finish in 2021 despite going undrafted in most 15-round drafts. Olave and Wilson became the first college teammates to top 1,000 yards in their rookie seasons. They carried roster values of fourth of fifth wide receivers while returning end wide receiver two production. It also helps that Olave and Wilson turned in WR1 weeks during the byes of the top three receivers.
Lessons: Build Receiver Over Running Back Early, Target Undervalued Second Targets On Elite Offenses, Throw Darts On Rookies Late, and Tight Wide Receiver Roster
- T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota, ADP 87, TE 3, 12.7 PPR PPG
Full stop, Travis Kelce, is one of the most significant advantages in fantasy football. If full PPR and especially in tight-end premium scoring settings, there is good reason to consider Kelce number one overall. However, just two games represented a large share of production, accounting for 7 of his 12 touchdowns and 22% of his fantasy point total. Removing those games is disingenuous, as that is part of the package, but a more telling stat is the lack of a touchdown since Week 12.
The two tight ends after Kelce in ADP - Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts - illustrate the downside of an early tight end. Andrews finished the year in a rut, placing inside the top 18 weekly tight ends just once after Week 13. Pitts was worse. Given his high ADP, Pitts crashed many fantasy dreams at just 7.6 points per game. Sacrificing the production from other positions while not receiving elite production from the tight end position is a double hit. Many drafters who take tight ends early avoid drafting second tight ends, a strategy they should employ. But if those early tight ends miss, drafters do not give them a chance at tight end white whale.
The late tight end hits.
Hockenson, Rob Gronkowski, Dalton Schultz, and Robert Tonyan Jr are players who later carried ADPs and returned top five seasons. The reality is, waiting on the position and grabbing the one guy who hits is always the play in hindsight. It is the most difficult to put into practice consistently. Drafters who employ this strategy would be wise to grab a second upside player, as David Njoku and Evan Engram delivered the top 12 seasons from later ADPs.
Lessons: Tight End Is Frustrating
The players who finished the highest in seasonal per-game scoring were assumed to be in the playoff lineup. The lineup is Mahomes, Ekeler, Jacobs, Lamb, Evans, Smith, and Hockenson. McKinnon for Jacobs would be the obvious swap, but all things considered, it feels a bit forced.
Even this hindsight team would require a level of luck. Because, well, fantasy football involves luck. The combined performance in Week 15 was subpar, with only 119.3 points (no defense and kickers here), though the high-end scoring through the season almost surely would have locked a bye. In week 16, the scoring raised to 160.8 points before bringing the hammer with 180.2 in Week 17.
The obvious elephant in the room is health. Any fantasy team will be great if players can navigate the injury minefield flawlessly. Unfortunately, we have no control over injuries, only our ability to react. The ideal roster features potential upside throughout. This upside comes into play to raise the overall ceiling of the team, especially during the playoffs. But it also works to balance weekly scoring with boom weeks capable of patching disappointments and swinging weekly matchups. A key takeaway is we will all be wrong. But being wrong in the right direction, missing when players with high upside fade for any number of reasons, and giving leeway to fail up is going to be the surest path to a winning fantasy roster.
Thank you for reading! Please follow and ask any questions on Twitter @4WhomJBellTolls.
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