25 Things I Learned from The Fantasy Footballers 2022 Projections (Fantasy Football)
Statistical projections aren’t the end all be all when it comes to predicting how a season is going to go – They are, after all, projections. But, they do provide a great framework for rankings and for understanding what’s most likely to happen in the 2022 season. Of course, there’s chaos every season, which is why we get projections wrong all the time – players get injured, there’s coaching/scheme changes, and players may not perform as we expect. Projections do help us wrap our head around NFL teams, players’ roles and their potential range of outcomes. I dove into The Fantasy Footballers’ award winning statistical projections and came away with these 25 fantasy football takeaways:
1. Kirk Cousins could set a career high in passing yards.
Cousins has played seven seasons as a starter in the NFL, and in those season’s he’s averaged 4,223 passing yards and 29.3 TD per year. His best season came back in 2016 when he was the QB5 in fantasy football on the back of 606 pass attempts (career high), 4,917 yards and 25 passing TD. A year ago, Matthew Stafford attempted 601 passes. If O’Connell brings over a similar philosophy and Cousins drops back at a similar rate, he could post a career mark in passing yardage. Worth noting, Cousins and O’Connell have familiarity with one another from their days together in Washington when O’Connell was the QB coach and passing game coordinator.
2. Ezekiel Elliott is set to see more volume than he did last year.
All three of the Ballers have Zeke projected for more total touches (carries + receptions) than he had in 2021, with his average touch total in our projections sitting at 301. When you consider that he played with a partially torn PCL in his knee starting in early October, this makes all the sense in the world. In Elliott’s pro career, he’s finished as a top-11 fantasy RB every single season. At his current ADP of RB15, he’s probably undervalued.
3. Lamar Jackson should return to his elite rushing numbers.
Jackson missed the final few weeks of the year due to an ankle injury, but before his injury, he led all QBs with 63.9 rushing yards per game. On a 17-game pace, that would have netted Jackson 1,086 rushing yards, which as we know is a cheat code in fantasy scoring. Based on our projections, Lamar is set to sail over the 1,000-yard mark for the third time in the last four years. Andy, Mike, and Jason all have Lamar leading the position in rushing by a wide margin. I wrote an article earlier in the offseason: Why the Ravens Are Primed for a Bounce Back in 2022.
4. Christian McCaffrey could catch more passes than most wide receivers.
I think most of us forget just how insane McCaffrey is when he’s healthy and on the field. Sure, he’s missed a ton of games over the last two years, but if he can stay healthy, his receiving ability could handsomely reward fantasy managers who are willing to take him with a top-3 pick in drafts. The average consensus projection for CMC’s reception total is 91.7, with Mike the highest at 103 receptions. For reference, Najee Harris led all NFL backs with 74 catches a season ago. Our average projection of 92 receptions would have ranked 11th among all WRs last season.
5. Aaron Jones could set a career-high in receptions in 2022.
We know through Kyle’s research that vacated targets often give the RB position an uptick in target market share. Davante Adams vacates an absurd 169 targets (31.7% market share), and our team projects Jones to be the primary beneficiary. Andy, Mike, and Jason all project Jones to catch at least 58 passes, which would be the most of his career. Jones’ previous career best is 52 receptions a season ago.
6. Dalton Schultz is the Dallas pass catcher you want not named CeeDee Lamb.
The Doctor, Dr. Schultz, was a league winner last season after absolutely smashing his ADP. This year, he’s currently going as the TE7, yet all three of the Ballers have Schultz projected for a much better statistical season. We know Schultz has the ability to be a red zone threat for Dak Prescott, but what stuck out to me is that Schultz should have bankable volume in 2022. All three Ballers project Schultz to surpass his 78 receptions and 808 receiving yards from a year ago. With Michael Gallup recovering from a torn ACL, Schultz could be the main beneficiary.
7. A step forward in year two for Pat Freiermuth? Not so much.
Last season, the Muth got so Luth, especially down the stretch when he scored six TD over his final 10 games. After contributing as a rookie, I was expecting to see the Muth projected for a big step forward in year two. However, our consensus projection line of 65 receptions, 601 yards, and 6 TDs is essentially right on par with what he did in 2021 when he logged a 60/497/7 stat line. Fantasy drafters expecting a leap into the top-8 at the position might be disappointed.
8. Regression is in store for Deebo Samuel.
Last year, Deebo was one of the biggest league winners in fantasy football based on his pre-season ADP and his finish as the WR2. It was such a unique season that it might be difficult to actually capture Deebo’s role in terms of numbers and projections, but Andy, Mike, and Jason all project Samuel’s TD totals to take a hit in 2022. After he totaled 14 combined receiving and rushing scores a year ago, our consensus projection has Deebo around 9 scores.
9. Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders can’t co-exist for fantasy rushing production.
This statement seems a bit over-simplified but what I’m referencing here is that our projections seem to indicate that the fantasy ceiling for Sanders is capped as long as Jalen Hurts is the starting QB. Of course, Miles Sanders is one of the most obvious positive regression candidates of the off-season after failing to score a single TD a year ago, but when you look at our projections, we’re bullish on the rushing upside of Jalen Hurts yet again. Andy, Mike, and Jason all have Hurts projected to lead the QB position in rushing scores and all three Ballers have Hurts #2 in terms of rushing yardage at the position behind Lamar Jackson. If those projections are correct, Sanders may never live up to the hope as a top-12 fantasy RB.
10. Mike Gesicki will probably take a back seat.
All three Ballers project at least 15-20 receptions fewer than Gesicki saw in 2021, and this makes complete sense when you look at the personnel changes in Miami. Not only is Gesicki now competing with Jaylen Waddle for targets, but he’s also competing with Tyreek Hill, who’s proven he can earn a high target share on a per route run basis. Not only that, but if new HC Mike McDaniel, brings over a similar offensive philosophy from San Fransisco where the Niners ranked 29th in pass rate, things could get thin really quickly for the ancillary pass catchers behind Waddle and Hill, especially considering this report from the Athletic where the author discusses the possibility of Gesicki losing early down (running situation) snaps to Durham Smythe given Gesicki’s lack of ability to play in-line as a blocking TE. This could be the first time in three years that Gesicki finishes outside the top 12 at the position. We took the under on his season-long receiving yards prop.
11. D.J. Moore is probably going to set a career-high in receiving TDs with Baker Mayfield.
Words can’t overstate how truly awful Sam Darnold has been over the last two seasons. In 2020 and 2021 combined, Darnold averaged a 2.3% TD rate, well below the league average of 4.5%. Enter Baker Mayfield, who’s career average in the TD rate department is 5.0%. If Baker can give us replacement-level QB play, which he’s done multiple years in Cleveland, D.J. Moore should score the most TD of his career. Each Baller has Moore projected for at least 6 receiving TD, two more than his previous career high of four.
12. Expect fewer scores for Damien Harris in 2022.
Damien Harris was a major value in 2021 drafts based on his ADP. He scored an absurd 18 rushing TD last year, helping him finish the year as the RB13 in half PPR. However, our team sees serious regression coming for the former Alabama RB, as the Ballers project Harris to score somewhere between 10 and 11 times on the ground in 2022. One reason is that all three of the guys project a better sophomore season for Mac Jones. After throwing for just over 3,800 yards as a rookie, Andy, Mike, and Jason all have Jones throwing for at least 4,200 yards. We could see a slightly different offensive philosophy for New England if they let Mac rip it a bit more in year two.
13. Chase Edmonds is the Dolphins RB you want in 2022.
Last season, Edmonds was effective when he got opportunities with the Cardinals, and now he finds himself down in South Beach playing for the Dolphins. Edmonds is getting paid the most of any RB on the roster and was specifically signed by the new regime. Our projections have Edmonds well ahead in both carries and targets relative to Raheem Mostert. All three of the guys project Edmonds for over 200 touches, which would be a career-high. He seems like a screaming value at his current RB34 ADP.
14. Without Ben Roethlisberger, Najee Harris probably won’t be as valuable in PPR formats.
Najee led all backs with 74 receptions last season on the back of 94 targets, good for a healthy 14.4% market share. This year, each one of the guys projects Harris for a relatively decent drop in both receptions and yardage. When looking at the QB play this year with Mitchell Trubisky and/or Kenny Pickett, it makes all the sense in the world as Ben’s aDOT was among the lowest in football, and he was as immobile as they come as a statue in the pocket. Look for Trubisky and Pickett to push the ball further down the field and utilize their legs, hurting Najee’s weekly receiving floor.
15. Rashaad Penny is the RB1 in Seattle.
Rookie Ken Walker is being drafted two full rounds ahead of Rashaad Penny, yet the Ballers project this backfield to be led by the incumbent veteran in Rashaad Penny. Down the stretch, Penny was a league winner posting four Top-9 RB weeks over his last five games. The guys all agree: Penny will see more touches than Walker in 2022, assuming both stay healthy. On average, we have Penny projected for 75 more carries in 2022.
16. There’s no RB1 controversy in San Francisco with Kyle Shanahan.
According to our projections, Elijah Mitchell should once again be an absolute bell cow for Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers despite the addition of Tyrion Davis-Price. Last season, Mitchell averaged over 22.3 total opportunities per game when healthy after he took over as the lead back in Week 7. Based on our projections, Mitchell should see somewhere in the range of 220 to 260 carries in 2022. He routinely comes off the board in drafts somewhere between RB22 and RB26, depending on ADP source.
17. Tom Brady will be just fine until Chris Godwin returns.
No doubt, Chris Godwin is a key cog in the Bucs’ passing attack, especially with Rob Gronkowski announcing his retirement earlier this off-season. However, our projections still have Brady setup for success in 2022. All three Ballers project Brady to throw for at least 4,800 yards and 35 TD. No offense in football has been more pass centric than the Bucs over the last two seasons, so even if Brady’s efficiency falls off a bit with Godwin recovering from his injury, we project plenty of passing volume for TB12 and Tampa. He’s currently one of our favorite values at the QB position in the Ultimate Draft Kit.
18. Mike Williams is undervalued based on current projections and ADP.
Williams is notoriously a bit more inconsistent than other wide receivers, but the gap in our projections relative to the market is massive, making him a priority WR3 target. Currently, he’s ranked as our consensus WR9, yet is going off the board as the WR21. All three of Andy, Mike, and Jason project Williams to hit 1,000+ yards and 9+ TD.
19. Courtland Sutton has the highest ceiling of the Broncos pass catchers.
The fantasy space seems convinced it’s not a matter of if Russell Wilson will unlock some elite fantasy options in Denver this year, but a matter of who exactly that player, or players will be. Our projections, on average, favor Courtland Sutton over Jerry Jeudy from both a yardage and TD total. We’ve seen Russ support elite options throughout his career, including Doug Baldwin, D.K. Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett. And while our projections do favor Sutton, fantasy drafters should take a shot on one of these two primary pass catchers as Russ has supported at least one Top-15 fantasy WR in every season from 2015-2021. I’ve pegged Sutton as a possible candidate to be this year’s Cooper Kupp.
20. Michael Carter isn’t that big of a threat to Breece Hall‘s workload.
This, of course, takes a lot of projection as we haven’t seen the two backs on an NFL field together, but our team is bullish on the rookie RB seeing a healthy workload in 2022. Andy, Mike, and Jason all project Hall to be inside the top-18 RBs in terms of carries, and each 0f the Ballers project at least 1,000 yards from the Iowa State product. If you’re drafting an RB in the “RB Deadzone,” Breece seems like a safe bet to emerge given his draft capital and the fact that younger players tend to emerge from this part of the draft as opposed to veterans (i.e. 2021 Mike Davis).
21. Derek Carr will throw more TDs than he did in 2021.
If you just look at the WR depth chart entering 2022 compared to 2021, this makes all the sense in the world. After all, the team did add All-Pro WR Davante Adams to replace names like Henry Ruggs and Zay Jones. From a statistical perspective, the projections show Carr returning closer to his career average TD rate of 4.4%, which is right around league average. Last season, Carr posted a 3.7% TD rate but was 5th in yards and 2nd in 20+ yard completions. In other words, he’s due for positive regression in 2022.
22. Michael Pittman Jr. has a real shot to catch 100 passes in 2022.
On average, we project 95.3 receptions for the third-year WR who looks poised for a true breakout with Matt Ryan under center. Pittman seems like the archetype of player we generally picture as a big play threat or one that is reliant on TD to make his hay in fantasy, but he’s got a great chance to earn somewhere in the range of a 26-30% target share this season, giving him an awesome floor in PPR leagues. If the Colts lean a little bit more into the pass than they did in 2021 with Carson Wentz, Pittman has a chance to be a league winner for 2022 fantasy gamers.
23. Darnell Mooney may not score enough TDs to be a true fantasy difference maker.
There’s no question about it – Mooney is set to dominate the target share in Chicago, and our projections suggest that he’ll be just fine in the receptions and yardage department, but his highest projected TD total is 6 among Andy, Mike, and Jason. Not surprisingly, Justin Fields is projected to be among the bottom of the league in TD passes this year as not a single Baller projects more than 19 passing scores. In 10 starts as a rookie, he threw just seven TD passes, so we’re certainly projecting a step forward from Fields but a lot seems like it has to go right for the Fields-Mooney stack to be a league-winning combination.
24. Christian Kirk can set a career-high in both receptions & yardage with Trevor Lawrence.
The underlying metrics on Kirk were surprisingly good last season. Last season, he averaged career highs in yards per route run (2.0) and yards per target (9.5). Per Sports Info Solutions, Kirk’s yards-per-target average ranked 7th in the NFL among WRs who saw at least 100 targets. All three of the Ballers project Kirk to hit at least 79 receptions and 1,000 yards, which would be the first time in his career he’s hit this threshold. He’s the WR48 in ADP but is our consensus WR28 in rankings.
25. The late-round QB strategy is probably dead.
Of course, we can always stream the position against certain matchups, but if you’re looking for a true difference maker in 2022, you’re probably going to have to snag one of the top few options. To illustrate this point, Lamar Jackson was the QB14 in ADP back in 2019, and he finished as the QB1 overall while winning MVP. Now, to get a QB who can separate from the field, you have to pay the premium. Our projections show, on average, there are only about five QBs who are projected to score more than 400 fantasy points (6-point per passing TD). Meanwhile, there are about eight QBs on average projected to score between 300 and 350 points. Based on current rankings and projections, Jalen Hurts is our favorite ‘value’ relative to his upside at his ADP.