The NFL is a snowball league and every week and every season is weird, and weird in its own way. Be careful with overarching fantasy themes and takeaways as we’re never far from a series of unexpected results.
That’s what he said, top the wide receivers certainly worked cleanly in Week 1and it has to make you wonder: Will Fantasy Football in 2022 be defined by big-name, glamorous pass catchers?
Is this the receiver’s year?
Consider the seven best goals of the first week:
• Justin Jeffersondrafted as WR2 in Yahoo drafts
• Cooper KuppWR1 in Yahoo drafts
• Davante AdamsWR5 in Yahoo drafts
• Ja’Marr ChaseWR3 in Yahoo drafts
• Michael Pittman Jr., WR10 in Yahoo drafts
• Stefon DiggsWR4 in Yahoo drafts
• AJ BrownWR13 in Yahoo drafts
The position couldn’t be more pure than that.
What set wide receivers apart from all the other positions in Week 1?
The receiving players were motivated by opportunities and goals, of course. The five most targeted receivers are all from that list – Adams, Chase, Kupp, Brown and Pittman. The results of the matches were not of great importance — wins, losses and even draws were represented in this list.
And some of the big names who didn’t finish in the top seven still had favorable debuts:
• Mike Evans scored another touchdown, which has been his drumbeat ever since Tom Brady arrived in Tampa Bay. Since taking over for Brady, Evans has 28 rebounds in 33 games.
• Deebo Samuel sustained a heavy rushing load — something we weren’t sure we had going into 2022 — and scored another touchdown. And now the Niners are without Eli Mitchelltheir tailback on opening day.
• Tyreek Hill he was heavily used in his Miami debut, with 12 targets leading to a strong 8-94-0 comeback.
The limited disappointments from the big-name receivers were mostly injury-related. Tee Higgins suffered a concussion. CeeDee Lamb lost Dak Prescott on Sunday evening. Keenan Allen suffered a hamstring injury.
Perhaps this discussion makes you shrug – the best players, of course, you should to be the best players. But other positions did not come back as cleanly. The top of the running board had all sorts of surprises – Cordarrelle Patterson, Kareem Hunt, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Dontrell Hilliard and James Robinson all crashed in the top eight in the first week. Three of those guys weren’t even projected starters, for God’s sake, and CEH was passively drafted after a mediocre summer.
The quarterback board had many stars, but Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota they all broke the QB1 cutoff.
Tight end? Forget it. Travis Kelce was an easy call for #1, but then we look at OJ Howard, Taysom Hill, Gerald Everett, Will Dissley and Colby Parkinson. Several of the top 12 projected tight ends did very little.
One of the reasons I favored wide receivers in my early rounds (the goal was to get one anchor back along with a few name-brand receivers) is that big-name wideouts they start every week. I don’t want to guess, trying to figure out what WR53 ranked option could turn into a WR19 type return. And while the Week 1 scoreboard can’t be considered a repeat answer key, it does make me think Big Receiver is the way to go this year.
Running back and wide receiver are generally accepted as the two most important fantasy positions, but true talent level appears to be less important at running back. If you can transition into an expanded role at RB, fantasy points generally follow.
Why star receivers appear to be the real key to fantasy success in 2022
Consider: Jeff Wilson Jr. expected to be the San Francisco RB starter in Week 2. He has had a respectable but unspectacular career so far. While San Francisco’s overall backfield is hazy, Wilson is still projected to be the RB21 in half-point PPR leagues this week, according to Yahoo’s external statistical projections. (In many other cases, promoting a RB will catapult a new starter into lofty, must-start fantasy territory. Imagine how we would watch Alexander Mattison or Hunt if their background teammates were not available.)
Contrast this with a wide receiver, where Joshua Palmer and Tyler Boyd are considering possible role extensions after Allen and Higgins were injured last week. I liked both players as upside stocks a year ago, and their value has increased because of the circumstances. But the new projections aren’t huge — the statistical projections only list Palmer as a WR35, while Boyd is a WR49. Nor is he an automatic starter, while a player like Wilson probably will.
Maybe you got help from a wide receiver on the waiver wire. Curtis Samuel had a quick debut for Washington, and Robbie Anderson played full snaps in Carolina, catching a long touchdown. Both are welcome on my lists, but initial expectations are modest. Samuel projects at WR40 this week, Anderson at WR54. (I’ll probably rank both higher, the Man vs. Machine debate to be had at another time. To play fantasy football well, I think you need a mix of statistical analysis, game observation, and common sense. But even the biggest optimist in the room would probably given up on calling Samuel or Anderson locked fantasy WR2s at this point. They’re still only consideration plays, not slam dunks.)
Every NFL season has the nature of a hovering butterfly — the moment we cast our net and think we’ve caught it, things are likely to drop, hop and weave somewhere else. In a week’s time, the takeaway could have a different hue. And any fantasy championship season is likely to require a tidy and productive running room, regardless of how you’ve allocated your resources to that position.
That said, I’m convinced (a dangerous word for any fantasy analyst) that WR-heavy builds are a good idea going into this season. If you have a draft that is late, I would consider the same motive. And maybe you can still shape your roster with a WR-heavy approach, through trades and roster manipulation.
Because alpha receivers could take over in 2022.