(As we head toward training camp and the start of preseason, our own Daniel Kelley is asking — and attempting to answer — the most pressing questions around fantasy football for 2022. This is 100 Questions.)
For a generation of football, you could largely overlook the AFC East for fantasy, with three teams that rarely climbed above average in scoring and then the Patriots. Now, the Bills have become a powerhouse, the Jets and Dolphins added a load of pieces this offseason, and the Patriots rebounded from a down 2020. Suddenly, this is an interesting division from a fantasy perspective.
It’s easy to forget that the Bills have spent most of this century as one of the league’s worst teams. That has turned around, as the Bills are back-to-back division champions and their 984 points the last two years are second only to the Buccaneers. This is a bona fide powerhouse now.
5. What About All That Gabriel Davis Hype?
A year ago, a quad picture had Mike Davis as the lead of the hype train — he finished outside the top 50 running backs in PPR points per game. Other big-time hype-getters a year ago: Laviska Shenault (outside the top 50 WRs in PPG), Brandon Aiyuk (ditto), Robert Tonyan (TE30 in PPG). Obviously, the guy who gets the big hype in the offseason isn’t guaranteed to fail, but we’re generally pretty bad at it. That said, Gabriel Davis has a lot working for him. We all saw his 52.1-point outing in the playoffs last year, and while yes, one game only tells you so much, the list of players who have had a 50-point game at all this century does not include much in the way of flukes:
A player who can put up 50 points in a game basically has star potential. That’s hard to ignore.
Best Answer: The Bills offense for 2022 is something of a Chinese menu where you have to pick from your columns. You can’t have everything — you can’t have Stefon Diggs as an upper-tier receiver andDevin Singletary as a bell cow back andJames Cook as a breakout rookie andJamison Crowder as a big slot weapon andDawson Knox as a touchdown maker at tight end and then also Davis as the rising star at receiver. There just isn’t enough offense to go around, especially on a team that has one of the league’s best defenses, preventing shootouts.
So what can we be sure of? Diggs is an if-healthy lock. The backfield will get at least some share. The team also drafted Khalil Shakir and signed Crowder. All that seems from here, like it means that while Davis definitely has star upside and interesting best ball value, there just isn’t going to be enough for him to be a reliable every-week fantasy starter.
6. Devin Singletary or James Cook?
By our FTN Fantasy rankings right now, the Bills have two running backs in the top 40 but zero in the top 30 — Devin Singletary sits at 33rd right now, with rookie James Cook 38th. In Weeks 15-18 last year, Singletary broke out, finishing as the PPR RB1 in that span. And then the Bills showed they wanted more receiving out of the backfield this offseason, agreeing to terms with J.D. McKissic, and then when that fell through, signing Duke Johnson and drafting Cook out of Georgia.
Best Answer: Here is where the Bills’ backfield ranks in teamwide PPR scoring over the last four years:
So 2021 saw a true RB breakout that has people buzzing for 2022, it was the best this backfield has done in the Josh Allen era, and it was still a bottom-10 unit. Between Allen’s rushing work (especially in the red zone) and this passing offense, the backfield upside is extremely low. Cook has intriguing upside, but he also never topped 27 receptions in a year in college and only topped 45 carries once. He’s too risky to draft as someone you’re counting on. Singletary? As a flex option, he’s fine, but be ready for more down weeks than his final month of 2021 foretold.
7. Is Dawson Knox a Fantasy Starter Now?
Dawson Knox had a breakout 2021, finishing as the TE11 with 164.1 PPR points, more than he put up in 2019 and 2020 combined. He scored 9 touchdowns, more than the 3 he had in 2020, the 2 he had in 2019, or the zero he managed in four years of college at Ole Miss. He’s being drafted as the TE10 per ADP, he’s TE11 in our rankings. Good times abound, right?
Best Answer: Pump the brakes a bit. Maybe more than a bit. Yes, Knox scored 9 touchdowns. He did it on 71 targets. In the last decade, 26 tight ends have at least 9 touchdowns in a year. The only ones who did it on fewer targets were Julius Thomas (12 TDs on 62 targets in 2014), Robert Tonyan (11 on 59 in 2020) and Jared Cook (9 on 65 in 2019). There’s just a limit on scoring frequency, and Knox is likely over his. Gabriel Davis, Jamison Crowder and James Cook will horn in as well. Take Knox as a back-end starter if you want, but I’m looking elsewhere.
The Dolphins went from 1-7 last year to 9-8 and barely missed the playoffs. It was a very weird season that ended with a coaching change and led to the team supplementing its offense in about a dozen different ways this offseason.
Best Answer: Tagovailoa has yet to have even 40 rushing yards in a game and has twice as many games with fewer than 5 rushing yards (12) as games with more than 20 (6). He’s one of 12 quarterbacks with at least 6 rushing scores over the last two years, but he did it on incredible red-zone efficiency, with all 6 coming on 13 inside-the-10 carries. So his lack of rushing upside will likely keep him from ever entering the top-top at the position.
That said, he has more weapons than just about any other quarterback, and his offense is likely to be geared to yards after the catch — Hill had 455 such yards last year (14th among WRs), Jaylen Waddle 473 (10th). Wilson had 277 yards on just 45 receptions. Edmonds had 349 on 43. And of course, Mike McDaniel is the new head coach, coming over from San Francisco, the team that utilizes yards after the catch more than any other. Give Tua some Jimmy Garoppolo-like after-the-catch numbers, and he could easily flirt with back-end QB1 numbers. He’s available at QB16 in drafts, a potential bargain.
9. What Does Tyreek Hill Mean for Jaylen Waddle?
There are five teams with multiple 1,000-yard receivers from 2021 on the roster. Two — Cincinnati and the Chargers — are known quantities. A third — Tampa Bay — would if not for Chris Godwin’s ACL. The remaining two are the ones that made the biggest splashes this offseason — Las Vegas (Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow) and Miami (Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle).
Best Answer: The arrival of Adams in Las Vegas took Renfrow from his WR10 finish last year to WR32 in ADP this year. Waddle? He finished last year as WR13 and is now going as WR14. In our FTN Fantasy rankings, he’s WR17. At least one of Hill/Adams will see a target decrease — in the last decade, only four teams have had multiple players top 140 targets, which Hill and Waddle did last year. But on the flip side, this should be a much better (and more interesting) offense overall. So maybe Waddle gets his fantasy points differently than he did last year, but the raw total could be pretty comparable.
10. How Will This Backfield Shake Out?
Mike McDaniel brought Raheem Mostert with him from San Francisco on top of retaining Myles Gaskin and signing Chase Edmonds, and then capped it all off a bit later by signing Sony Michel. Any one or two of those backs could be (and have been) interesting for fantasy, but all four?
Best Answer: I suppose I shouldn’t answer with “yawn,” but I kind of want to. If you force me to pick someone to draft here, it’s probably Mostert, because you can get him in the 50s at RB (as opposed to Edmonds 50 picks/20 RBs earlier) and we know he’s shown big upside with McDaniel. But really, any individual back here will need at least one and probably two injuries to be a weekly starter in fantasy, and that’s just too much to care about. I’m passing completely.
New England Patriots
The Patriots failed in their quest to get to 20 straight winning seasons in 2020 when they finished 7-9, but a first-round pick on Mac Jones later, they bounced back with a 10-7 record and an AFC Wild Card berth in 2021. We started a new page for the Patriots a year ago.
11. What Is Mac Jones’ Fantasy Ceiling?
Mac Jones landed with the Patriots with the 15th pick a year ago after being rumored to go as early as third overall. He was the lowest-drafted of the first-round rookie quarterbacks in fantasy (going as QB22) but led the group in fantasy scoring, finishing with 237.94 points as QB18.
Best Answer: You would guess a quarterback who performed as I described above would be a hot fantasy commodity in Year Two, but you would be wrong — Jones is only the QB19 per current ADP. There are two (correlated) reason for that: First, a lack of rushing upside — Jones topped out at 33 rushing yards last year and had zero rushing touchdowns. And second, a lack of overall upside — he didn’t have so much as 23 fantasy points in a game as a rookie. Our rankers have taken that to heart, ranking him a good distance below his ADP, at QB26. Jones is a streamer in two-QB leagues, but he’s not much more than that.
12. Do We Want Any Receivers Here?
The 2021 Patriots were “led” at wide receiver by Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor. Meyers and Bourne were both pretty adequate — Bourne topped 900 scrimmage yards and scored 5 touchdowns, Meyers had 83 receptions and 875 yards. But adequate is about it. The Patriots supplemented those three this offseason by trading for DeVante Parker from Miami and drafting Baylor speedster Tyquan Thornton in the second round.
Best Answer: No one here is going in the top 50 receivers by ADP, so you can basically choose your flyer. ADP (and our rankers) have Meyers as the best pick by just a little over Parker. But personally, I’m going almost off the board here. I detailed this in our Patriots Sleepers, Busts and Bets piece, don’t be surprised if it’s actually Thornton who rises to the top. His ridiculous speed is the one skillset that isn’t repeated anywhere in this corps (especially if Agholor is a preseason cut), so if there’s one guy who can set himself apart, it’s the speed demon.
13. What About This Backfield?
Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson kind of Spider-Man-memed themselves last year. They had roughly equivalent yards per carry (4.60 for Harris, 4.56 for Stevenson), roughly equivalent yards per target (6.29 to 6.83). They each had two top-10 weeks, they each fumbled twice, they were … very similar.
Best Answer: And if they were the only two people we cared about back there, this would be interesting. But the team re-signed James White this offseason (though he’s rumored to be a candidate for the PUP list, which would cost him the first four weeks), still has JJ Taylor, and drafted Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris this year. Harris, Stevenson and if-healthy White are the main names to care about here, but there’s going to be some confusion. ADP right now has Harris at RB26 and Stevenson at RB37, but our rankers have Harris at RB29, and that feels closer — no great picks here, with those two fairly close, and you aren’t going to be excited about any of them.
Th Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, haven’t been above .500 since 2015, have 6 total wins the last two years. But the team dived in hard on the build the last two offseasons under Robert Saleh, so are things starting to turn the corner?
14. Are We Expecting Breece Hall to be a Workhorse?
It wasn’t a big surprise Breece Hall was the first running back off the board in this year’s draft. It wasn’t a big surprise he didn’t go until the second round. It was a decent surprise, though, that it was the Jets who grabbed him, considering they used 2021 rookie Michael Carter to decent effect last year and had so many other holes on the roster. That said, Carter was a fourth-round pass-catching specialist, dealt with multiple injuries as a rookie and never topped 16 carries in a game.
Best Answer: If Hall’s a workhorse, we’re underrating him. The Jets’ line is now average or a slightly above — not great, but even average is better than this unit has been. Despite that, Hall’s going off the board 21st among running backs, down around guys who are definitely going to have to share work. Our rankers think there’s a better shot Hall dominates the work, ranking him 18th. Carter’s not going to disappear, but taking the first back off the board in the draft portends heavy work. Hall could be a value.
15. Can Zach Wilson Take a Step Forward?
You can divide Zach Wilson’s 2021 into two parts — before the injury that cost him Weeks 8-11 and after. Before, Wilson could scarcely have been worse. He averaged 9.99 fantasy points per game, 33rd among quarterbacks with at least two games played (there are, uh, 32 teams). After, he wasn’t great, but he was improved, averaging 14.71 points (QB22). He had four games of fewer than 10 fantasy points and none over 20 before the injury; he had one under 10 (9.88) and two over 20 after. Now, the Jets have added offensive line help, backfield help, a first-round wide receiver and two free agent tight ends.
Best Answer: Obviously you don’t want Wilson as your fantasy starter. But in drafts, he’s the QB24, just ahead of names like Carson Wentz, Kenny Pickett and Jared Goff. That’s also where our rankers have him. And between limited sneaky rushing upside (he had four rushing touchdowns last year, 10 his last year in college) and improved weapons, if there’s a quarterback in that range who could make the leap, it’s him. Don’t rely on Wilson, but as a flyer he’s not bad.
16. How Will This Receiving Corps Shake Out?
The Jets signed a relatively big-name receiver a year ago in Corey Davis and drafted another big name in second-rounder Elijah Moore in last year’s draft. Then they bounced on receiver in this year’s draft again, picking up Garrett Wilson with the 10th overall pick. Oh, and they re-signed slot man Braxton Berrios this offseason.
Best Answer: This is a multi-part question: First, who is likely to lead this group in fantasy scoring? That’s almost certainly Moore, who was coming on strong last year before an injury ended his season. The downside is that he’s being drafted like he has to return those results (WR28 by ADP), and he’s not a sure enough thing for that. So the second part: Who returns the most value? And that’s either Berrios (he should have some PPR value, and he’s essentially free) or Garrett Wilson (WR47 by ADP, could offer Moore’s value at a much lower cost). Moore’s probably the WR1 here, but he’s arguably not worth the cost.
Daniel Kelley was a finalist for the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Series of 2019. He has worked at Pro Football Focus and SB Nation, and he has written a novel trilogy called AFTER LIFE, available now from all booksellers.