After one of the best seasons of football we've seen in NFL history, we are entering what appears to be one of the most uncertain seasons in recent memory. Between pending suspensions, injury trends, a high potential rookie class, and a wild offseason, this season is as unpredictable as ever. So what does that mean for fantasy football? A few things:
Outside of the RB1 position, fantasy leagues will be won based on how well teams draft from rounds 5-8
Rookies will have a bigger impact this season than last year (really only Ja'Marr Chase and Najee Harris had a season-changing impact from the 2021 rookie class)
Guys who have a consistent injury track record are in prime position to pop off this season (CMC, Saquon, Jerry Jeudy, etc.), whereas guys who only get banged up here and there could see their durability go down
Today, I'll be covering each major position and focus on players who are going boom, others who are going to bust, the biggest sleeper in this draft pool, and the most desirable rookies at every position. Picking up and avoiding some of these players could make or break your roster for this upcoming season.
Photo: Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports
QB: Mac Jones - New England Patriots
After having the best season all rookie gun-slingers, Mac is bound to make a major leap in 2022. With almost the entire offense returning next year, with the addition of DeVante Parker and Cole Strange, Mac should have a lot of familiarity with this roster, and I think he'll be assisted with an unfamiliar offense ran by Matt Patricia.
RB: Josh Jacobs - Las Vegas Raiders
Jacobs is the most questionable back heading into this year, but I think he's going to thrive. He took a step back last year, but in a prove it year after having his 5th year option declined, expect Jacobs to make plays. With new offensive weapons and an improved defense, he will get plenty of opportunities to show why he should be making top-end running back money, and why he's a potential RB1 option for most fantasy rosters.
WR: Amon-Ra St. Brown - Detroit Lions
With a healthy offensive line, an electrifying head coach in Dan Campbell, and a QB looking to prove doubters wrong, Amon-Ra looks to capitalize on a fantastic rookie campaign. He leads a crowded receiving room that should give him more open opportunities than last year, and he'll make the most of them.
TE: Dallas Goedert - Philadelphia Eagles
In his first full year as a starter, Goedert has never had a better chance to make a statement as he will in 2022. As Jalen Hurts enters a make or break season, and with the addition of AJ Brown, the offense should open up to give Goedert plenty of chances to make his name known league-wide.
D/ST: Philadelphia Eagles
With multiple key offseason acquisitions in Haason Reddick, James Bradberry, Jordan Davis, and Nakobe Dean, paired with a relatively weak offensive schedule, the Eagles are in prime position to be a top 5 defense this season. With a menacing front four and some savvy vets in the secondary, expect the Eagles to dominate anyone they go up against.
K: Rodrigo Blankenship - Indianapolis Colts
After spending a good chunk of last year on the sidelines due to injury, Rodrigo should come back strong after a great rookie season in 2020. The Colts offense should give him plenty of opportunities to put points on the board, and he should more than capable of knocking down over 90% of his kicks this season.
QB: Dak Prescott - Dallas Cowboys
This was a tough choice, but with losing Amari Cooper to the Browns and missing Michael Gallup to start the season, I don't see Dak doing well the first few weeks; and that will make it harder for him to get into a rhythm once his weapons come back. I think he'll still do well overall, but not top 8 potential like he is being ranked at currently.
RB: James Conner - Arizona Cardinals
Typically when a player scores a lot of touchdowns one season, they regress a significant amount the following season (Eric Ebron, David Johnson, Aaron Jones, etc.). With a lack of total yards compared to other backs he's ranked near, I don't think he's worth the investment of a 3rd or 4th rounder pick.
Photo: Tony Avelar/AP Photo
WR: Diontae Johnson - Pittsburgh Steelers
Diontae is a good receiver, but I don't think he'll be as consistent as he was last year. Before last season, he led the NFL in drops with 16 in 2020 and didn't have more than 1,000 yards or 90 receptions in his first two seasons. With George Pickens added to the receiving room and no clear answer at the QB position, I don't see Diontae putting up numbers near what he did last season, or even finishing as the Steelers best receiver.
TE: Dawson Knox - Buffalo Bills
Knox thrived due to defenses putting uber-focus on Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. The speedy tight end hasn't been spectacular to start his career, and he's currently ranked as a top 12 tight end going into this season. Similar to Conner, a good chunk of his fantasy points came from touchdowns in 2021, and that isn't sustainable year after year.
D/ST: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Ndamukong Sug, JPP, and Jordan Whitehead gone in free agency, along with not having as much depth as in years past, the Bucs defense won't be as effective as they have been in years past. Yes, they added Akiem Hicks and Keanu Neal, but Hicks has played in 29 out of 49 possible games over the past three years, and Keanu Neal hasn't played a full season since 2017. There are more questions than answers on their defense this year, and they won't be as successful because of it.
K: Brandon McManus - Denver Broncos
The Broncos look great on paper, especially after adding Russell Wilson, but I don't see them being as great as they are made out to be. I think there are kickers who will end up ranking ahead of him just based on how much better their offenses will operate, leading McManus to have less opportunities than his position peers.
QB: Trevor Lawrence - Jacksonville Jaguars
After a forgetful rookie campaign, no one is in a better position to thrive than Trevor Lawrence. With a new (and actually competent) head coach in Doug Pederson, new weapons in Christian Kirk and Evan Engram, and a greatly improved offensive line, he should have a monster sophomore campaign and exceed every expectation set for him this season.
RB: Rashaad Penny - Seattle Seahawks
After an incredible stretch to cap off last season, Penny looks to be the main back after Chris Carson's unfortunate retirement. Even with a non-threat factor at the QB position, and the potential loss of valuable reps to Kenneth Walker III, he should still put up some big numbers this year and is a solid RB2 option for all fantasy teams.
WR: Darnell Mooney - Chicago Bears
With Allen Robinson moving to the Rams, Mooney emerges as the WR1 on the Bears and should improve from last season. The volume he'll see alone is intriguing enough, and that's not considering a new offensive regime and a 2nd year QB looking to make a jump. He should do some damage, whether lined up out wide or in the slot.
Photo: Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports
TE: Albert Okwuegbunam - Denver Broncos
With Noah Fant gone and Russell Wilson in the building, even though I don't think the offense overall will be as dominant as they're made out to be, the blazing tight end has the chance to have one of the biggest breakout seasons from a tight end that we've seen since George Kittle. He'll be assisted by Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy taking attention away, and that should open up the door for him to pop off.
D/ST: Minnesota Vikings
As of right now, the Vikings defense ranks in the bottom half of the league. During his time with the Broncos the past three years, their defense improved each year in terms of fantasy. Now, he gets to lead an offense with Za'Darius Smith, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, and Harrison Smith. Even though there are some injury concerns similar to the Bucs, I think they have more upside since they have some solid depth, especially in the secondary.
K: Austin Seibert - Detroit Lions
All blog, I've ranked kickers based on opportunity, and I think Seibert will have more than others think. The Lions should be much improved from last season, as they bring back their full start offensive line that didn't play any games together a year ago, a third-year back in De'Andre Swift, and a much improved receiving room to stretch the ball downfield. Look for him to finish in the top 12 for kickers.
QB: Desmond Ridder - Atlanta Falcons
This rookie QB class isn't as impressive as years past, but Ridder should see more time than any other rookie. He has a similar build and athleticism as Marcus Mariota, but he definitely has a bigger arm. With guys who can fly downfield like Kyle Pitts and Damiere Byrd, as well as massive possession receivers in Auden Tate and Drake London, Ridder should benefit from a plethora of weapons on an overlooked offense.
RB: James Cook - Buffalo Bills
Although Breece Hall is the popular option, I don't see Devin Singletary taking enough snaps away from Cook for him to not make an impact. James plays just like his brother Dalvin, and he should do some major damage in the passing attack and he'll break open a few big runs to take over the starting job towards the second half of the year.
WR: George Pickens - Pittsburgh Steelers
Pickens might be the biggest steal of the draft. In 2020, he looked like he has top 5 potential coming out of Georgia. After tearing his ACL and finding himself the victim of some "behavioral concerns", he fell to the Steelers in the 2nd round. I see him being a classic Steelers steal at receiver who dominates for his first first years in the NFL, and fantasy owners should be licking at the chops to snag him up much earlier than expected.
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TE: Trey McBride - Arizona Cardinals
I was debating putting Jeremy Ruckert here, but Trey has a much straighter and faster path to getting snaps with the starters. With Maxx Williams returning from injury and Zach Ertz nearing the end of his career, Trey has the size and speed to compete with them and take some valuable playing time in his first season. Expect him to not necessarily start a game, but to play more snaps than any other rookie tight end.
Some other names who I think will have above-expectation seasons are Derek Carr, Chase Edmonds, Kadarius Toney, and Jelani Woods. On the flip side, I think Russell Wilson, David Montgomery, Amari Cooper, and Dalton Schultz won't have as good of seasons as they are projected to.
If you're reading this and you're in a fantasy league with me, I am definitely not smokescreening you into taking players and avoiding others. This is truly how I feel and I would never try to trick you...