2022 Fantasy Football Primer - Part 1 Injured Vets
So, hopefully, you read (and followed) my fantasy football guide from last season. If you did you likely snagged one of the following players who probably carried you to the Playoffs and, likely, a Championship - Cooper Kupp - WR - LAR - Kupp was widely being drafted as the 19th-20th WR in most drafts and often behind former teammate (and now Titan) Robert Woods. Getting Matthew Stafford as his QB was such a huge upgrade that it couldn't be ignored. He finished as the WR1 with almost a point per game more than WR2 (Deebo Samuel).
Ja'Marr Chase - WR - CIN - Remember the consternation people had prior to the season regarding Chase's problems catching the ball in camp? Chase did and I do too. He was simply too talented to pass up. I can't say I thought he would perform to the level he did though. You could have snagged him in the sixth round in most drafts.
Najee Harris - RB - PIT - Another rookie who clearly outperformed his draft position (14 ADP) finishing as the RB4 at the end of the season. He was drafted to a good spot on a veteran team. I'm undecided as to how effective he'll be in 2022 given that his QB is now either A) a rookie or B) a career flop, but if pressed I would say he's a solid choice in the back half of the first round.
It wasn't all victories and roses though. If you read the article you'll see that I took Ezekiel Elliott as my first pick, that was. . . disappointing, sort of. He still finished as the RB6 (12.1 PPG avg) but was underwhelming more weeks than not, finishing with seven weeks of above-average production but nine weeks of below-average production (including a brutal 3pts in Championship week 17). He finished high because of his high usage rate on the goal line (35 attempts, 10 TDs) but had too many weeks where he was almost an afterthought in the Dallas offense fading as the season went along, scoring only 5 RTDs from Week 8-18 after having 5 in the first six weeks and averaging over 4 YPC only three times after the bye week (wk 6). As good as Zeke has been over the years, he's high mileage and probably a liability more weeks than not at this point in his career. Let him be someone else's problem this season.
I also drafted Chris Carson (RB-SEA) with my third pick and after week 4 he never played another down, suffering a neck injury and retiring this past off-season. That's not really bad drafting, just an unfortunate injury, but it underscores my point about having plenty of backups to replace those who do get injured. Did I draft Rashaad Penny as a handcuff? Nope, but I didn't need to, I was prepared (though Penny did score 20 and 31 pts in weeks 16 and 17 respectively) having drafted Javonte Williams (RB-DEN) with my sixth pick who finished as RB18. I should note that Williams' backfield mate, Melvin Gordon, finished just ahead as RB17, and you should expect that to reverse this season.
So, go re-read, or read, as the case may be, that article and keep those lessons in mind. Let's move on to addressing key players for this season, mostly rookies (Part 3), veterans on new teams (Part 2), and players returning from injury (what you're about to read).
Christian McCaffrey - RB - CAR - after only playing a combined ten games in the last two seasons (and being the #1 pick on average in 2021), you still have fantasy "gurus" saying he's a good pick anywhere in the top 5.
To be fair, Run CMC has been better than good, he's been pretty fantastic. . . when he's on the field. Over the last two seasons, he's averaged 16.4 PPG in those ten games and only two have been single-digit scoring. I look at it this way, NFL running backs do not get more durable as their career goes on, that's just not the way it works. With that in mind, Fred Taylor, the oft-injured and supremely talented back out of Florida, was known as "Fragile Fred" for a large portion of his career. His injuries were much more severe than McCaffrey's and he managed to rebound and play all 16 games in 2002-03.
Verdict: Draft him, but plan for missed games, potentially a lot of them.
Derrick Henry - RB - TEN - For a player to play less than half a season and to still be ranked as a Top 15 back is just this side of amazing. "King" Henry suffered a broken bone in his right foot during the week 8 matchup against Indy and missed the remainder of the season (he was able to return for the playoffs rushing for 62 yds and a TD on 20 carries). Foot injuries are concerning and bother me for the same reason back injuries do, they may heal, but they rarely get "better". Jones fractures also have a higher rate of recurrence than other broken bones.
Verdict - Don't draft him. The amount of use the Titans have subjected Henry to (900 attempts over the last three seasons) along with his age (29 when the playoffs begin) means his days of being THE dominant fantasy back are if not over, you can see the end from here.
Michael Thomas - WR - NO - For a player who hasn't played an NFL game in just about a year and a half, Thomas is receiving a lot of love in the draftosphere (64 ADP on ESPN.com). For a player who has produced in the manner that he has though, it may not be that surprising. For me, it comes down to things other than his ankle injuries, namely, his QB. However you want to slice it, Jameson Winston is a big step down from Drew Brees (even end-of-his-career Drew Brees). He's also going to have targets shaved away from him with Alvin Kamara, Jarvis Landry, and 2022 First-Rounder Chris Olave on the field.
Verdict - Draft him as if he'll be your primary FLEX/WR3 but with WR1 potential.
Chris Godwin - WR - TB - If there's a worse time to tear an ACL than just before you hit free agency, I can't imagine what it would be. Yet that's just what happened to Godwin in 2021, didn't matter though, the Bucs still extended him to the tune of 3 years and $60 million. That's not chump change and it tells you how much they believe in his ability to bounce back. Oh, and Tom Brady is still throwing to him, so there's that.
Verdict - Draft him, but pay attention, he may, or may not, be ready for Week1.
And we'll just buzz through a few more -
Lamar Jackson - QB - BAL - Suffered a bone bruise in mid-December.
Verdict - Draft him. He's a singular talent and is a threat to drop 30 every week.
DeAndre Hopkins - WR - ARI - A pair of lower body injuries took away the 2nd half of Hopkins' 2021 season, he'll return healthy, but will miss 6 games due to a PED suspension.
Verdict - Draft him. He's around an 8th-round pick at this point but should average out as a WR1 or 2 for his games played.
OdellBeckham Jr. - WR - Free Agent - After tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl it couldn't have been that big of a shock that Beckham was unsigned during the offseason (and remains so).
Verdict - Don't draft him. Until he has a team there is no point in devoting a roster spot to him.
James Robinson and Travis Ettiene - RBs - JAX - With Ettiene's 2021 season lost to a Lis Franc injury and Robinson tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 17, these are a pair of serious injuries. Serious injuries though are part of playing in the NFL.
Verdict - Draft them. Not as your RB1 or 2, but as a backup. I feel like Ettiene has a Kareem Hunt-type upside.
Alvin Kamara - RB - NO - This isn't an injury concern, but rather a suspension concern. Arrested for a fight in Las Vegas last February, it appears that Kamara won't be serving any suspension until the 2023 season.
Verdict - Draft him, but be aware that his efficiency took a hit with Jameson Winston under center.
Darren Waller - TE - LV - Waller missed six games late in the year with an IT band injury, a common knee ailment, unfortunately, he missed all of the fantasy playoffs costing his fantasy GMs a prime player.
Verdict - Draft him. Waller is currently being held out of the Raiders' final preseason game against New England with an undisclosed injury so keep an eye on his status.
J.K. Dobbins - RB - BAL - Everyone seemed to be pretty hyped for Dobbins' 2021 debut as the Ravens lead back after a 2020 season that hinted at the possibilities, then he tore his ACL in camp. It's generally acknowledged that players require about two years before they're fully recovered
Verdict - Draft him, but temper your expectations. He won't catch many passes (Ravens ranked 32nd in RB targets 2018-2021) so it'll probably be TDs = Dobbins' Value.
I'm sure there are other veterans I'm forgetting about, but these are surely the biggies.
Tune in tomorrow and I'll have a review of veterans on new teams.