Back to the Well: Two Post-Hype Candidates Worth Drafting in 2022
Fantasy football is a game of ups and downs, but mostly downs. There is only one champion every year, in every league. If you play in great leagues, then each championship should be coveted because they don’t happen frequently. Even a skilled fantasy player runs into the luck train for one reason or another, so it’s impossible to win every year. For example, you could be a writer for the Fantasy Footballers, make a four-team playoff every year in a league with your college friends, and still not win a championship after six seasons in the league. Yes, that is a personal story. It has become a running joke, and it’s my great white buffalo. I’ve done plenty of things right, but those last three playoff weeks never seem to turn out the way I need them to in that one stinking league. I hope this heart-wrenching confession and vulnerability reaches some other people who think they should win every single league they ever participate in, because that type of mindset can take the fun out of this nerdy, spreadsheet game that we play. It shouldn’t feel like heartbreak, because the odds are always 1/12 in most leagues.
The key to avoiding the train tracks of lady luck as often as possible is positioning yourself as well as possible with a combination of high floor and high ceiling assets. Draft the breakouts before they break out, and ditch the veterans before they fall off. That’s the discussion we are all having, at all times. The one type of asset that isn’t discussed enough is post-hype breakouts. Players that had a lot of steam going into drafts the season before, but who didn’t meet expectations for one reason or another. People become soured on the idea of getting burned again, so they avoid the player completely. This drops their ADP into a range that is usually more realistic and where it should have been the season before. That means you have a guy with serious upside, being drafted in a decent place. This is the kind of player you want to target. The obvious breakout candidates will naturally ascend into potentially dangerous territory (Michael Pittman, Darnell Mooney, and Kyle Pitts for example), while the ‘boring’ hotness from the year before fades into the abyss. That abyss is where you can win leagues. Stefon Diggs was in this situation when he went to Buffalo, and he ended up being the fantasy pick of the year.
A few names I liked but didn’t dive into were CEH, Chase Claypool, and Rondale Moore. They have great upside, but their situations aren’t fluid or predictable enough to really target in the way I would these two:
DJ Moore – WR, Carolina Panthers
ADP: WR18 (50th Overall)
Dj Moore was a trendy pick in the middle rounds last season, and he delivered for his fantasy managers statistically, albeit in a bit of a boring way. He finished as the WR20 but he never eclipsed 11 fantasy points in any of the last 13 weeks. His peak was Week 3, and that’s hardly the type of production you want from someone you hope will help you win a championship. He found the end zone four times, but only one of those touchdowns happened after Week four. The regression could hit for him, but it’s also not the type of thing we should bank on given the uncertainty in his offense.
The primary reason I’m re-investing in Moore this season is because he’s being drafted at his floor, which is right around what we saw last season. He has been able to produce 1100+ yards in three straight seasons, despite brutal quarterback play and a more productive Robby Anderson. CMC should be back with full force in Week one, and his health correlated perfectly with Moore’s production. He was on the field during the first three weeks of the year, and Moore had three of his best games during that stretch. It’s a small sample size, but it matters because both of them are nightmares in the middle of the field and it’s tough to blanket them both. They compliment each other well and they help open up the playbook on slot routes and in the red zone.
The quarterback play in Carolina really can’t get much worse than it did in 2021, but Baker Mayfield is absolutely an upgrade to what they had. Mayfield is only two seasons removed from being a top ten quarterback selection in fantasy leagues, and the entire experience in Cleveland over the last two years was a disaster. Baker needs a fresh start, and Dj Moore is going to be the friend that will help him get off to a good one. Moore may not light the world on fire this year, but his ADP should prove to be a value when it’s all said and done and if he meshes well with a rejuvenated Baker Mayfield, watch out WR1 territory.
Cam Akers – RB, LA Rams
ADP: RB17 (33rd Overall)
Elephant in the room here, I’m well aware that Achilles injuries are a dangerous game for running backs. Akers seems to have recovered fully but it’s always risky betting on that type of injury to stay away for a full season, let alone a full career. Cam Akers could get injured, but that also rings true for just about every running back in the entire league on any given week. Injuries happen so frequently at the position that it’s tougher to point to a player that doesn’t have a risk of serious injury at some point. Players like Jonathan Taylor are not necessarily more likely to avoid injury, they just haven’t had one that was serious enough to make you think twice about them. Simply put: running backs get injured.
Cam Akers was the bell of the ball in so many fantasy circles going into 2021 and for good reason. He’s a very talented runner with excellent hands and he plays on an offense that has produced monster running back seasons. Sean McVay seems to have learned from the Todd Gurley experience, but it’s still clear he likes to have a lead dog in his offense and he wanted it to be Akers prior to his injury. He will throw the ball to his backs, and he will feed them the rock when it counts. JT, Dalvin Cook, and Austin Ekeler lead the league in rush attempts inside the red zone, but right behind them was *check notes* Sony Michel – the running back who served as the 1A option for the Rams throughout a lot of 2021. It was more of a committee after Akers went down, but Akers would be the clear top option in any week he suits up. Michel only had 8 games with more than 10 carries, but still saw a ridiculous amount of red zone looks which are valuable for fantasy backs.
Cam Akers could potentially lead the league in this category if he stays healthy, and the Rams are a top-tier offense that scores plenty of points. Akers could catch passes, see goal-line work, and lead the team in total touches. His RB17 price tag is very reasonable considering his top-5 upside, so this is the time to reinvest in the potential. Injuries always produce overreactions, and this is one of those cases. If you want to avoid injuries completely at the running back position, you should probably play in leagues without them.