100 Questions: The Pressing Fantasy Football Issues Entering 2022 -- NFC South
FTN's Daniel Kelley offers up answers to some of the biggest fantasy questions around the NFC South heading into the 2022 season.
Aug 03, 2022, 9:40 AM EDT
(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.)
Here’s a fun bit of trivia: Of the teams in the NFC South, the one that has gone the longest without a Super Bowl appearance is, believe it or not, the New Orleans Saints. And it’s not by a little — the Bucs of course won the 2020 Super Bowl, while the Panthers and Falcons made it there in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The Saints? Well, despite seven seasons of double-digit wins since, they haven’t played for the Lombardi since all the way back in the 2009 season. Still, overall this has been an accomplished division in recent history, though it’s fair to wonder how much of that holds true for 2022.
It feels like the Falcons have been a disaster franchise for a bit now, so you’d be forgiven for not realizing they’ve actually won 7 games in three of the last four years (with a 4-12 2020 mixed in). That’s not a good result, but it’s better than their current reputation. 2022, though, might be the nadir — DraftKings Sportsbook has their wins over/under at 5 wins, with the juice to the under.
77. What Is Kyle Pitts’ Ceiling?
Kyle Pitts was the TE6 as a rookie, which is impressive enough in its own right — tight ends typically take time to adjust to the NFL — but the fact that he did that on only 1 touchdown makes it downright incredible. Pitts had 176.6 PPR points a year ago, breaking Chris Cooley’s 2008 record (169.9) for most PPR points by a tight end with 1 or 0 touchdowns — Pitts beat third place (Steve Jordan, 1985) by more than 30 points. If he can score even a little more often in 2022, can he crack the Travis Kelce/Mark Andrews tier?
Best Answer: Well, the question asks for “ceiling,” and if that’s all we’re concerned about, Pitts’ ceiling is “best tight end in fantasy and one of the top handful of pass-catchers overall.” Fantasy drafts aren’t only concerned with ceiling, though, and while I think there’s plenty of room for growth in Pitts’ performance in 2022, we also have to admit the Falcons’ offense could be pretty miserable, and that could cap his performance. He’s TE3 in drafts, a pretty clear tier to himself between Kelce/Andrews and the rest, and … that feels just about perfect, actually. Well drafted, community.
78. Can Drake London Be a Fantasy Factor in Year 1?
The aforementioned Pitts is 6-foot-6. Cordarrelle Patterson — nominally a running back but as much a receiver as anyone in a backfield — is 6-2. The Falcons decided to go Gigantor at pass-catcher this offseason, adding 6-3 Bryan Edwards and 6-5 Auden Tate. But it started with 6-4 Drake London out of USC, the first receiver off the board in this year’s NFL Draft.
Best Answer: The same thing dragging Pitts down is going to work against London—this Falcons team is bad, and it might not score enough touchdowns. And if there’s one player who will get them, it’ll be the experienced Pitts before the rookie London. The fantasy projections by our Jeff Ratcliffe have London flirting with 1,000 yards (913.3) but only scoring 4 touchdowns. That’s why you can get him in the early 40s among receivers. But anyone who can flirt with 1,000 yards is worth a shot by then. I have no problem with an eighth-/ninth-round flyer on the rookie.
79. What’s Going on with This Backfield?
Cordarrelle Patterson had one of the most surprising breakouts in the league last year, putting up 1,166 scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns at age 30 after totaling 1,025 and 5 in the previous three years combined. Banking on a 31-year-old to continue a career year is a tough ask, but the Falcons didn’t commit that many resources to the backfield this offseason, releasing 2021 disappointment Mike Davis and bringing in veteran backup Damien Williams and fifth-round rookie Tyler Allgeier.
Best Answer: One thing to remember about Patterson’s 2021 — his career high in carries before last year was 64 (one of only two years he even topped 20). And it appeared to take its toll, because his yards per carry positively plummeted as the season wore on:
And speaking of low career carry totals, Williams has only topped 50 carries in a season once, back in 2019, and only has 40 carries in the last two years (and is 30 now himself). Betting on a fifth-round rookie is often a path to disappointment, but Allgeier (276 carries at BYU in 2021) is the only guy here with anything like a recent history of a successful workload. He’s available among the backups and handcuffs in drafts (RB55, 161 overall, around Gus Edwards, Darrel Williams, D’Onta Foreman and Kenyan Drake), and he’s a steal 20 picks higher than that.
Right about 10 months ago, the Panthers were 3-1. They had outscored their opponents 97-66, with heir only loss coming at the hands of the elite Dallas offense. Sam Darnold was the QB5 and had rushed for 5 touchdowns in four games, including two each in back-to-back games. The team traded for former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. They were going for it. … They went 2-11 the rest of the way, Gilmore had 2 interceptions in eight games. Darnold lost his job, got it again, and threw 4 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. It was a fast and hard fall.
80. Can Baker Be Fantasy Relevant in Carolina?
You’d be forgiven if you didn’t remember this, but coming off his first year in the league, Baker Mayfield was drafted as the QB4 in 2019. Yes, that was absurd (and I said so at the time), but the fact that he was considered that three years ago and was persona non grata so soon after and now has to fight for a new contract next year is pretty incredible. Can a move to Carolina with some new weapons salvage him?
Best Answer: Baker is who he is, no matter what we think. He was drafted as the QB4 in 2019 and scored 15.64 fantasy PPG that year, then was drafted at QB18 in 2020 and put up … 15.98. Last year he dropped to 13.85, but then he played a chunk of the season with a torn labrum. (And of course, the team hasn’t committed to him as the starter, but … goodness, they should.) A quarterback who can reliably put up 15 or so fantasy points per game isn’t a QB1, but if you want a relatively high-floor, low-ceiling QB2 in a superflex league? Well, Mayfield’s going at QB29, and he should at least beat that.
81. Can Baker Salvage DJ Moore’s Value?
Let’s be real: 99.9% of fantasy players don’t actually care what fantasy value, if any, Baker Mayfield has. His role for 2022 is just to prop up the Panthers’ weapons, primarily DJ Moore, who has topped 1,100 receiving yards each of the last three years but has never scored more than 4 touchdowns or finished as a top-15 fantasy receiver.
Best Answer: Mayfield might not be a superstar, but he’s competent, which is more than we can say for Teddy Bridgewater-Kyle Allen-Sam Darnold-Cam Newton-Phillip Walker-Will Grier, who have been the ones throwing Moore the ball the last three years. Mayfield supported Jarvis Landry as the WR12 in 2019, and Moore is better than Landry. Maybe Moore’s ceiling isn’t a top-eight receiver, but I fully expect the best year of his career in 2022 and a top-12 or top-15 finish.
82. OK, So When Do We Draft Christian McCaffrey?
We don’t need a real bio here. Christian McCaffrey had the second-best PPR season ever in 2019 but has played only 10 games since. On the other hand, he’s just under 22 fantasy points per game in those two injury-plagued years, so when he’s good he’s still great. That makes him a confounding value in 2022 — do you take him early and risk the injury, or pass and risk him being healthy and carrying your opponent?
Best Answer: 1.01. You take him 1.01. They say you can’t win your league in the first round but can lose it, but McCaffrey is the greatest test to that. If he’s healthy and on your roster, you at the very least make the playoffs and maybe win the whole thing. And he’s the only player (other than maybe Derrick Henry) who can say that. Drafting Jonathan Taylor first overall is playing not to lose your fantasy league. Drafting Christian McCaffrey is playing to win. Play to win. Draft McCaffrey.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints went 9-8 last year, missing out on the last playoff spot by a tiebreaker. They did that despite four different starting quarterbacks (including a miserable Ian Book game and five games started by isn’t-even-a-quarterback-anymore Taysom Hill), Alvin Kamara missing a career-high five games and Michael Thomas never seeing the field. Sean Payton put up a tremendous coaching performance in 2021, is what I’m saying, and him being gone for 2022 has the potential to be a big deal.
83. Could Jameis Winston Be a Fantasy Starter?
Jameis Winston put up 14 touchdown passes in seven games last year before tearing his ACL. He’s expected to be ready for Week 1, and Hill isn’t breathing down his neck at QB other than the occasional trick play. Assuming Michael Thomas is healthy, he, Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry could be a strong WR trio. And yet Winston is going at QB22 in drafts. Is that a bargain?
Best Answer: Yes, Winston is expected to be ready, but it’s not a guarantee — he’s participating in practice right now but reportedly not fully — and even if he is he probably won’t be at 100%. Payton’s gone, and while we don’t know what impact that will have, if there is one it’ll be negative. And our own Tyler Loechner pegged Winston as one of the most likely TD regression candidates at quarterback in 2022. Maybe Winston tops QB22, because 22 is low, but if he rises above 18 or so I’ll be surprised. There might be value there, but it’s tiny.
84. Which Saints Receiver Do We Want?
The last time we saw Michael Thomas for a full season, he led the league in receptions and yards and finished as the WR1. The last time we saw Chris Olave, he was finishing up setting the Ohio State touchdown record. The last time we saw Jarvis Landry, he … well, he just had his worst career season, so the parallel doesn’t totally work. Still, he had 100-plus targets in seven straight years before 2021, so there’s upside here.
Best Answer: Admittedly, I felt more strongly about this when Thomas was more of a health question mark than I do now that he’s in camp and reportedly doesn’t have a brace. That said, Thomas is going off the board at WR29 in drafts, while Olave is at WR48. Where you’re getting Thomas, you don’t have to be right, but it hurts you if you’re wrong. Where Olave is going … eh. I would much rather the upside of the young record-setter in the ninth or 10th round than the 29-year-old with seven games in two years who would be drafted as a starter.
85. How Should We Handle the Alvin Kamara Situation?
So this is more of an off-field thing than an on-field, but drafts are hot and heavy right now, and at least as I write this, we don’t know if Alvin Kamara will face a short suspension, a long suspension or no suspension (yet?) for what went down at the Pro Bowl in February. That has led him to fall to RB11 by ADP despite never finishing worse than 10th (last year, when he missed four games) and having three top-four finishes in five seasons.
Best Answer: By the time of your draft — heck, by the time this gets published — we might know how many games Kamara will miss to suspension (my guess, and it is just a guess, is zero in 2022 but then we’ll see for 2023). So this isn’t really about that. Rather, it’s about Kamara’s on-field value. Because while Kamara is still rightfully an RB1 when healthy, so much of his early-career value came from the quick passes from Drew Brees, and while that’s still there, it’s dropped off — in his career, Kamara has averaged 7.0 targets per game when Brees has been his quarterback, 5.4 when he hasn’t. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s enough to take him from in the overall RB1 conversation to just a middle or late RB1. And add in any concerns of missed time (concerns that, again, I don’t expect to come to fruition yet) and his falling ADP makes sense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One team has topped 1,000 points over the last two years: The Buccaneers. Five teams have allowed fewer than 700 in that span, and while no, the Bucs aren’t there, they are sixth at 708. Since Tom Brady headed to Florida, the Bucs have a +295 point differential, better than anyone but the Bills’ +320. (The Jets are -408 and the Jags are -390, the only two teams worst than -300, but that’s a very sad conversation for another day.) Basically, things have gone well in Tampa.
86. Should We Start to Worry About This Offensive Line?
The Buccaneers have one of the league’s best tackle duos in Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs, and that’s arguably the most important thing. There was some reason for concern this offseason when Ali Marpet retired and Alex Cappa signed in Cincinnati, though they offset that a bit with the Shaquille Mason trade. Still, this line ranked eighth in our offensive line rankings … or it did, until Ryan Jensen went down with a knee injury in camp. The Bucs re-signed Jensen this offseason when Tom Brady announced his return, and he was a key cog in this line. We’ll see what they do without him, but now everything between the tackles is at least something of a question.
Best Answer: Yes! Very much yes! Leonard Fournette set a career high in yards before contact per attempt last year, at 2.2 (previous career high: 1.7) but was middle of the pack in both yards after contact per attempt and forced missed tackles. Per the FTN Fantasy pressured passing stats, Tom Brady had a 43.8% completion percentage and a 70.2 passer rating when pressured. Pressure him more often, those bad numbers happen more often. This situation is in flux — How quickly do you think they got on the phone with J.C. Tretter’s agent? — but no matter what, this offensive line has me lowering everyone here, if only a little.
87. How Interested Should We Be in Rachaad White?
Tom Brady could play quarterback for another 40 years (and he might!), and we’ll still be talking about his success with James White in New England and getting fascinated by the latest pass-catching option in his backfield. Last year, Giovani Bernard got the buzz. This year, it’s Rachaad White’s turn, after the Bucs took him in the third round out of Arizona State — White had 43 receptions for 456 yards in college last year.
Best Answer: Bernard got 29 targets in 12 games last year and didn’t do much with them. Fournette got 84. It’s worth noting that Fournette has averaged more than 3 games missed per season in his career, is 27 and has a body type that worries us about his aging, but as long as he’s healthy, I expect him to be more or less the bell cow again. White’s not expensive in drafts — RB47 — but I’d rather several higher-upside options below him.
88. What Are We Doing with These Receivers?
Mike Evans is the known quantity here. Chris Godwin is recovering from a knee injury but isn’t on PUP to start camp. Russell Gage got the contract early in the offseason, then Julio Jones got one late. Tyler Johnson and Cyril Grayson and Scott Miller and Breshad Perriman and Jaelon Darden and more are still around. Is this just a Yahtzee shaker?
Best Answer: Before the Godwin/Jones news, I predicted Evans to have the second-best (or better) season of his career. Maybe Jones being around and the possibility of Godwin playing from Week 1 makes that particular bold call less likely, but even if that ceiling isn’t there, he’s (to me) a clear WR1, and you can get him at WR11. I’m pouncing on that. After that? Godwin’s health news is good, but not “WR22 by ADP” good, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that climbs even higher. Maybe you take a stab on Gage or Jones at relatively depressed ADPs later, but really, Evans is the only receiver in Tampa Bay I want at anything close to his current ADP.