I answered the phone on the first ring.
“Hey. So my meeting with ESPN is in 15 minutes. They need an answer. What do you want to do?”
And I pause, silence filling the phone.
It's this past June 30th and I am on the phone with Josh Levy, my agent. The meeting is, in part, about me, as the company wanted to know if I was going to stay with ESPN for another three years or just two more weeks.
I had spoken with Josh, Jim Ornstein and Ira Stahlberger, my guys at the WME agency, the night before, going through ESPN's latest offer. I had asked to sleep on it.
But now it was morning and the time had come. ESPN needed an answer. And so did my agents, because they couldn't do their job without knowing what I wanted to do.
I flashback to the previous April.
I am sitting with my wife on our deck, glass of wine in each of our hands, quietly enjoying a nice night when I turned to her, breaking the silence.
“You know, I just realized something.”
She looks at me.
“For the first time in 15 years,” I continued “I have no idea where I am working this fall.”
“It's super weird. And nerve wracking.”
My current contract with ESPN was ending. The contract had been for seven years, and the one before that had been for multiple years. All in all I hadn't had to contemplate my life or career since 2007.
But now I did.
In a massive, life changing way.
And I was scared out of my mind.
Back in 2007, I was living in Los Angeles. I was single and other than friends and my immediate family, all I had was my dog. I was making my full-time living as a screenwriter and building my TalentedMrRoto fantasy sports website on the side, promoting the site by contributing to, among other places, Rotoworld.com and, of course, ESPN.
So when, in the spring of '07, ESPN called and said they wanted to buy my website, move me out to Connecticut and make me their lead fantasy sports guy, it was an easy decision. I grabbed the dog, packed up and headed East.
But in 2009, I met Beth and about a year later we got married. A second marriage for both of us, she had three young children from her first marriage (I just had the dog), and then in 2011, we had twin daughters together.
So now I'm 52 years old with a wife and five kids.
Very different stakes than being 37 and single, you know, the last time I had to make a life changing decision.
Later in the summer, when it became known I might be leaving ESPN, I took meetings. I met with everyone. Myself or my agents talked to every NFL broadcast partner. We talked with some of the major betting companies. We talked with some very successful start-ups. We talked with some big venture capitalists who encouraged me to go out on my own and continue building the Fantasy Life brand.
Everyone was kind and great and many of them said the same thing. “If you decide to leave ESPN, let us know. We'd be very interested.” Very flattering.
Meanwhile, ESPN had made me a very generous offer. A new three-year extension and a raise to just keep doing the same stuff I was already doing.
There was just one small catch. In the new contract, ESPN wanted me to focus entirely on, well, ESPN. I would have to leave the small businesses I had started.
Small businesses that need every plug they can get, so allow me to be blatantly promotional here and tell you the businesses in question are the free Fantasy Life App with its fastest in the industry alerts. The free daily Fantasy Life newsletter that is a quick read and chock full of everything you need to know for fantasy football that day. And, of course, the brand new 100% free fantasy/betting tools site FantasyLife.com.
These are businesses I had previously had a carve out for, but under a new deal, I would no longer be able to work on them.
And I love working on those companies. I'm an entrepreneur at heart and thrilled with what we are building with each of them. They are perfect examples of what I have always tried to do – improve the fantasy sports experience for fans.
But while they are successful start-ups that are growing, they are still start-ups. I personally make no money from any of them at the moment, and they have really smart people running them. I could leave and they would still be just fine. And on the other hand, I have a wife, kids and we're talking ESPN. New three-year deal. A raise. No additional duties.
I had spent the last 15 years of my life pouring blood, sweat and tears into helping build ESPN Fantasy from a distant third in 2007 to the behemoth it is today.
So now with my wife and contemplating my future, I thought… would I really be able to leave that? Everything I've helped build and fought for? Shows I love doing? Friends I love working with? And do I really want to start over somewhere new? At this age?
But if I stayed, would I really be able to give up the small businesses that I had started and nurtured and absolutely loved?
I thought about my family. Two of my kids are still really young. What if I have to move? I have a 17-year-old who is going to be a senior in high school this year. If I go to a new company it might mean I either have to pull him out to a new school just before his senior year or I'm commuting. Am I going to be living my life on a plane during football season? Or in another city while my family stays behind?
Of course, on the other hand, staying would mean just doing the same things I always do for the next three years. Which on some level is comforting and on another felt stagnant. I like challenges. I liked the idea of going somewhere new, of building something. I told you. An entrepreneurial spirit.
But the more I think, the more my mind drifts. If I am being super honest, there was also some doubt that started to creep in. Critics of mine say the only reason anyone reads/watches/listens to any of my stuff is because of the power of those four letters. If I didn't have ESPN behind me would anyone care?
Change is scary, man. Especially after you've been doing the same thing for 15 years at the same place and you know everyone in the building.
I thought about nothing else for months. I talked my wife's ear off. I talked my brother's ear off. My parents. Close friends. I had a lot of conversations, but ultimately, I kept going back to 2004.
In 2004, I was living in Los Angeles, working as a screenwriter and was absolutely miserable. The only thing that made me happy was fantasy sports. I started writing a column for Rotoworld.com in 1999, and that was the thing that made me happiest. In 2004 I left Rotoworld to start my TalentedMrRoto site but still had a relationship with Rotoworld, as they were publishing my column and linking back to my new site.
I was making a nice living writing screenplays and the new website had maybe 2,000 subscribers, but when I woke up in the morning and went to bed at night, the new site was all I thought about. I remember feeling that everyone would think I was crazy. I had worked so hard, written so many scripts, and networked my brains out just to be able to make a living as a professional writer. And now I was gonna throw it away? To make a career at this nerdy, niche game of fake football?
I just knew everyone would laugh at me. But after a lot of therapy, I got up the guts to not care. So what if they'd think I'm an idiot? So what if no one understands? So what if I make no money and fall on my face?
I wanted to try. I wanted to be happy.
I decided nothing else mattered.
I was going to chase happiness.
I told my writing partner that after one last paying job I was quitting show business and going to try and make a full-time career at fantasy sports. That I'd probably go broke, but being happy was the only thing that mattered to me.
As it turned out, it was the best decision I ever made. I am so much happier now than I ever was in Hollywood, and by chasing happiness I became way more successful than I ever was in show business or that I ever imagined I could be.
And now, 18 years later, I am faced with a similar decision.
ESPN is great. It's a dream job for so many people, including me for 15 years. If I announce I am leaving people are once again going to think I'm making a huge mistake. That I'm an idiot.
My wife said follow your heart – I'll support you whatever you decide.
But, she said, you have to decide. Just you. You're the one that has to live with it. It needs to be your call. And we, as a family, will make whatever adjustments to our life we need to.
I hugged her and went off to think.
The more I thought through everything, I realized, beyond just providing for my family and being able to do fantasy and betting analysis, there were two things that were most important to me and would make the happiest.
1. I wanted to be part of NFL coverage.
2. I wanted to continue being an entrepreneur building my companies.
And after a bunch of meetings, I felt pretty confident that I would be able to get these things elsewhere but not at ESPN. We already talked about number two, and as for number one, at ESPN, the NFL coverage is totally separate from the fantasy coverage. That's not me throwing stones – I want to be super clear here. I leave ESPN with hugs and handshakes. Nothing but gratitude to the company. I have many friends on the NFL side at ESPN. And make no mistake, it works for ESPN. Their NFL coverage is very successful as is their fantasy coverage. It absolutely works for ESPN.
But not for me. I'm biased, of course, but I believe fantasy is a major way that fans engage in enjoying the NFL. That a fantasy football conversation is an NFL conversation. Full stop. And if I could find a way to be an integrated part of NFL coverage, that would not only be a really cool new challenge for me but would push the ball forward for the fantasy industry in a major way. Something that is always very important to me. As I've said many times, my job is to leave fantasy football in better shape than I found it.
So I came to the conclusion that those were the things that would make me happy. And that if I wanted to pursue them, I needed to leave my home of 15 years.
And start over.
Once again, I decided nothing else mattered. Not what people would think, not whether it would work, but just what would make me feel the best at this stage of my career.
Once again, I wanted to chase happiness.
I had many sleepless nights, tossing and turning, not being able to stop my mind from racing.
It was the scariest, most nerve wracking decision of my life.
But being scared and nervous isn't a reason to not do something.
So back to the phone call with Josh. He is meeting with ESPN in 15 minutes. There's my pause and Josh asks again.
What are we doing?
I take a deep breath and I say it out loud for the first time.
“I'm leaving. Tell them thank you so much for the offer, I love them, but I'm going to pass.”
That night I couldn't sleep. Did I really just do that? Did I just make a massive mistake?
A few nights later, the night before we were going to actually announce I was leaving, I woke up in a cold sweat. It hadn't really hit me yet until a group call the night before, talking about my last show, that this was really it.
So there I was, sitting upright in bed at 3 a.m., trying to focus on the reasons I chose this. I am chasing happiness I told myself. We don't care what anyone thinks. But it's one thing to say that yourself, it's another to feel it. And I didn't feel it. I cared. I did. And I didn't know how people would react, either internally or externally.
The day comes, we announce it, I brace myself and you know what?
All my fears went completely away. It was actually great. Bittersweet for sure, but truly one of the best days of my life. ESPN was terrific. The last show they allowed me to have was perfect, they made a lovely statement about me, I had a great goodbye party with my co-workers. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I'm forever indebted to ESPN.
And then when I announced it on Twitter, I was completely blown away and overwhelmed by the response. I still can't get over the outpouring of love and support sent my way. My phone still hasn't stopped buzzing. I still have like over 100 texts and DM's to return – I try to get through like ten a night. Slowly hacking away at it. Apologies if I haven't gotten to yours yet. But thank you so much to everyone that reached out in some way, form or fashion. You have no idea how much it meant to me. No idea.
Because not only was I blown away by the response, but so was NBC.
They were one of the meetings I took initially, and I was really intrigued by NBC. They are headquartered in Stamford, CT – I wouldn't have to move and could easily get there by car. They had the NFL.
Not just the NFL but Sunday Night Football.
The biggest game of the week.
And I don't want to speak for NBC but in my heart, I believe seeing the response I got online made them feel more confident when, at the next meeting, they made me a ridiculous offer I just couldn't refuse.
We want you to do a daily podcast for Peacock, the NFL on NBC YouTube channel and everywhere you get podcasts, they said. During the NFL season, we want you to do an 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday show on Peacock and the NFL on NBC YouTube channel. And we want you to write Love/Hate.
And we will make it free.
You heard me. As long as I am at NBC, all of my work will be free.
I said that's great.
They said we know how important your businesses are to you so we will help promote the Fantasy Life App, the Fantasy Life newsletter, FantasyLife.com and your premium site, RotoPass.com.
That's amazing, I said.
And, they said, we will put you on Football Night in America. The pre-game to Sunday Night Football, the second highest-rated show on television (after the actual game). You'll be on every week and you'll travel to about a fourth of the games as well and broadcast from the field.
Holy $%&#, I said.
And as I am reeling from this once in a lifetime offer, a true pinch me moment, I decide to go for broke.
This is an incredible offer, I said, but I have one more request. I want to bring Rotoworld back. Rotoworld had recently changed to NBCSportsEdge, but I wanted to bring the Rotoworld brand back.
It's where I got my start, it's a brand people love… I want to come back home to Rotoworld.
They looked at me and said “done.”
And I smiled a mile wide and said, simply… when do I start?
Amazing. I haven't stopped grinning since.
A few weeks later I made my NBC debut – broadcasting from the field at the Hall of Fame pre-season game, and once again, people internally here at NBC and online could not have been nicer and more supportive.
It's been nothing short of incredible here.
It was the scariest decision of my life… and it turned out to be the best one.
So as you enter into the unknown of the 2022 fantasy season, here's hoping the stuff that keeps you up at night ends up making you smile the most.
And with that we meander slowly into the 2022 pre-season edition of Love/Hate. This is old hat for many, but for the new kids in class, this is NOT a sleeper and bust column. This is a column about market inefficiency. I don't love or hate any player. I love and hate their ADP.
For this column I am using the ADP on Yahoo as of August 24th, 2022. Players I “Love” are players that I think are going too low on Yahoo. Players I “Hate” are those going too high. Just because I hate Keenan Allen and love Darnell Mooney does not mean I think you draft Mooney over Allen. Rather it means I think Allen is being drafted too high and Mooney too low. Got it? As always, please check my rankings to see exactly where I feel a player should go. These will be updated regularly through the pre-season.
Finally, please check out The Fantasy Football Happy Hour on Peacock live every weekday at Noon ET and then on demand on Peacock, the NFL on NBC YouTube channel and of course wherever you get your podcasts. I do the show with Jay Croucher, head trader for Points Bet and he's terrific. Fantasy info with some betting mixed in and a lot of laughs. Please subscribe to the podcast and give it five stars.
And with that… let's get to it.
Love you all.
Quarterbacks I Love in 2022
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
A lot has changed for me since last season. I have changed jobs. I have – unironically – made an effort to post daily on TikTok. I have even changed on which side I part my hair. Or I would have if parting my hair was an option. My point is: much has changed, okay? But one thing has very much stayed the same, and that's my love for Jalen Hurts. I was all in on him last year and was told that was dumb after just a four-game sample size where it didn't seem like he could complete a pass. Turned out it didn't matter. Despite missing two games last year, Hurts still led all quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns, and his 52.2 rushing yards per game were second-most at the position. That rushing ability keeps Hurts' fantasy floor very high, but he's not a complete slouch putting the ball in the air either. Hurts was top six last year in both air yards per attempt and air yards per completion. Yes, throwing deep hurts his completion percentage, but now the Eagles have added A.J. Brown. I'm not saying Jalen Hurts has Josh Allen's arm or is even as good as Allen, but the fact is after Allen's second year in the NFL, people granted the rushing but questioned the accuracy. Then they added Stefon Diggs, his completion percentage went up significantly and he became the number one QB in fantasy. That is WITHIN the range of outcomes for Hurts this year. I declared Hurts my Fantasy Ride or Die this year on the first episode of the Fantasy Football Happy Hour (available wherever you get podcasts he promoted slyly). With a great offensive line and great schedule, I don't understand why Hurts is currently going as QB7 or QB8 in most Yahoo drafts. I have Hurts as my QB4 this year. Let's ride.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mystery has surrounded the exact reason behind Tom Brady's recent absence from training camp. Was he on vacation with his family? Was he filming “The Masked Singer”? Was he still trying to play for the Miami Dolphins, this time as unknown camp signee Bom Trady? All valid theories. But now it can be known: Tom Brady spent two weeks with me, Matthew Berry, trying to convince me that he deserves to be on the 2022 QB Love list. Here was the crux of Tom's argument:
- In 2021, at 44 years of age, Tom Brady led the NFL in passing touchdowns, passing yards and pass attempts.
- Last season Brady led all quarterbacks with nine games of 25 or more fantasy points. Yes, that includes the quarterbacks who pick up a ton of points with their legs.
- Since joining the Buccaneers back in 2020, Brady is QB5 in total points among all quarterbacks.
I get the offensive line concerns, which are legit. Brady definitely struggles when under pressure. But fine, he'll just take more snaps from the shotgun and Leonard Fournette may lead the NFL in targets from all the dump-offs. Whatever. Adding Julio Jones, Russell Gage and Kyle Rudolph helps mitigate off-season losses, and while there's no actual stat for this, the fact is I've only been saying it for like 20-something years now. When you bet against Tom Brady, you lose. He didn't come back out of retirement to start handing the ball off. Currently going as QB8, I have him as a top five QB this year. (Tom, I enjoyed our time together this summer listening to you argue your case. And you have my Venmo, so please send me your half on our bar tabs at your earliest convenience. Those kale smoothies really added up, especially when I had to throw them out when you weren't looking and order milkshakes.)
Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
After five seasons of Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens, I understand any resistance to excitement over a 49ers quarterback. I do. And even if you are convinced that from an NFL point of view moving off of Jimmy G was a mistake, for fantasy I PROMISE you that going to Trey Lance is the right move. Just look at his two starts from last season. In those two games, Lance had 120 rushing yards on 24 carries and averaged 10.7 air yards per attempt — well above the 7.3 air yards Garoppolo averaged. Lance offers more with his legs AND his arm, and he averaged 16.8 FPPG in his two 2021 starts. Now with a full off-season and camp under his belt as the clear QB1 in San Francisco and surrounded by the best offensive weapons of any rookie QB from last year (and it's not close), Lance has as much upside as any QB going outside the top 10. I simply love him. He is way better than Jimmy G ever was or could ever hope to be and I stake my career on it.
Note to readers from Matthew Berry: I want to thank Kyle Shanahan for submitting the previous write-up. I concur with everything he said, except for the part about staking my career on it. That part is all him.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
There are only six quarterbacks in the NFL who threw at least 30+ touchdown passes each of the last two years. Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert are five of them. You'll never guess who the sixth was. Okay, maybe you will because his name is listed in bold font directly above this paragraph. I really need to work on my trivia question presentation. Yes, it was Kirk Cousins. Last season, Cousins was top four in the NFL in terms of games with two or more passing touchdowns and for games with 275 or more passing yards. He did all that while playing for a defensive minded head coach and an offense that was bottom 14 in passing rate. This year, he gets former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell and still has Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Dalvin Cook out of the backfield and now a healthy Irv Smith to throw to. Look, I get it, no one is excited to draft Kirk Cousins in fantasy. But as a top 12 QB with at least 4,000-plus passing yards in six of his past seven seasons, there is both a floor to Cousins and this year, in what will be a much more pass-happy offense, significant upside, especially considering his ADP of QB15. On the Rotoworld Draft Guide show (available on Peacock and the NFL on NBC YouTube channel, he promotingly jammed in), I said one of my bold predictions was 40 touchdown passes for Kirk Cousins this year. In deeper leagues or any league where you need a second QB, Kirk Cousins is someone that will make everyone in your draft room yawn and you very happy a few weeks into the season.
Others receiving votes: Speaking of guys who get to throw to awesome receivers, Derek Carr now has Davante Adams on his team. Last season, without arguably the best receiver in football, Carr was top seven in completion percentage, pass attempts per game, passing yards per game and deep ball rate. The addition of Adams and Josh McDaniels as a play caller makes Carr a very viable QB2 this year … Trevor Lawrence's rookie season was a huge disappointment. And I mean for me personally. Do you have any idea how many jokes I had ready to go about people getting touches from Urban Meyer's offense? I had so many touch-based Urban Meyer jokes locked and loaded. But I couldn't use any of them because Jacksonville's offense was somehow even worse than Urban Meyer's reputation. A true tragedy. But this is a year for comebacks. Both for Trevor Lawrence and my Urban Meyer jokes. Playing for former NFL quarterback, Andy Reid disciple and Super Bowl winning coach Doug Pederson means this will be a pass-first offense, and Lawrence actually is more mobile than he gets credit for. Last season, Lawrence was third among quarterbacks in games with at least 20 rushing yards. Factor in the addition of nice receiving weapons, Travis Etienne's health, a great schedule and a completely Meyer-less off-season, and Lawrence should start to produce. Not jokes, unfortunately, but fantasy points. He's not even being drafted inside the top 20 on Yahoo, which is insane to me … While Jacksonville added weapons for their second-year quarterback, the Chicago Bears declared that's not really how they do things. Nevertheless, I like Justin Fields' upside late in drafts. Fields' rushing ability keeps that floor high, but he also isn't afraid to put the ball up, leading all quarterbacks last season in air yards per attempt. Fields also came on a bit late last season, averaging 19.7 FPPG over his final four starts. Entering this season, that makes him a viable late-round flyer at QB in deep or two-quarterback leagues. He is also my No. 4 favorite Justin (after Jefferson, Herbert and Rosenblatt. He's an old friend). … Jameis Winston was QB18 in points per game last season at the time of his injury. We know all about Good Jameis and Bad Jameis, but last season he mainly kept Bad Jameis at bay, throwing just three interceptions to 14 touchdowns. The addition of Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry to a (hopefully!) healthy Michael Thomas means there's potential here. … You know this is a real Matthew Berry preseason Love/Hate column because I'm trying to sell you on Daniel Jones as a fantasy quarterback. I know, I know. Lord help me. New job, same sad attempt at trying to make Daniel Jones in fantasy happen. But whatever. I've already taken it on the chin for bad Daniel Jones calls the (ahem) last two years so it's not like he can hurt me anymore, right? RIGHT?? Anyways, I have a weakness for dual threat QB's and I swear there's a good fantasy QB in there somewhere. Don't forget, he was QB6 over the first four weeks of last season, and his six games with 200-plus passing yards and 25-plus rushing yards was tied for fourth-most at the position. I'm a Brian Daboll fan and if Saquon Barkley and friends are healthy, Jones can have the season we all have been waiting for. Okay, the season I — and I alone at this point, admittedly — have been waiting for. Whatever. He's not even being drafted in 89% of Yahoo leagues. He's a late-round flyer for deep leagues with some upside.
Quarterbacks I Hate in 2022
Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
Okay, I think we're good on this section. Moving on. Wait, I'm being told I need to provide actual fantasy analysis. Alright, fine. So. Let's focus solely on football. In re-draft leagues, I don't see the upside on drafting and stashing Watson this season. Yes, he was a top five fantasy quarterback in the three full seasons he's played in his career. But that was a long time ago. When he takes the field on Week 13 in Houston, he will not have played a full game in over 23 months. He won't have had much practice under his belt. And he'll be entering a Browns offense that should be fairly run heavy with subpar pass catching weapons: Amari Cooper, David Njoku and a disgruntled Kareem Hunt (if he's still even on the team then). So what's the play here? I mean I get it, it's Houston, but you really gonna play Watson in Week 13 in basically his first game in almost two years without having even seen him play this year in the hopes he shakes off the rust enough to have a good game to lead you to the fantasy playoffs? Look at his schedule after Week 13: At Bengals, Ravens, Saints, at Commanders, at Steelers. All of them are expected to be really good defenses. If you're alive for the playoffs, are you really starting Watson on your team that was already good enough to make the playoffs with a different quarterback? No thanks. Watson is a Hate for a variety of reasons, but for this column, it's specifically because of his fantasy value, where he is being drafted ahead of guys like Justin Fields, Jameis Winston and Trevor Lawrence, all players I like a lot more as you just read.
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
To be clear for any new readers of Love/Hate now that it's at a new place, my Loves and Hates are relative to where players are being drafted. I don't hate Joe Burrow personally and I definitely don't hate him as a quarterback. He's a superstar and he'll be one of the faces of the league for the next 15 years. And if I had even 1/1,000th of his swag, I'd easily be the coolest dad in my entire corner of suburban Connecticut. All that said, I think he's being drafted too early heading into the 2022 season. His current ADP on Yahoo is QB5. Ahead of guys like Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, among others. Now look, taking him there won't lose you your fantasy league, but there are so many high-performing quarterbacks available later in drafts that Burrow is an avoid for me at QB5 in the early fifth round. Remember, as great a story and season Burrow and the Bengals had last year, he is not without flaws. He had four games last year with fewer than 13 fantasy points, and his 7.4 rushing yards per game last season was down 52 percent from his rookie season. As my friend Mike Clay has pointed out, 47% of Burrow's fantasy points last year came from just three games. If you're picking someone at QB5, you need a lot more consistency. I still have Burrow as a borderline top 10 play, but not top five. I love the player, just hate the ADP.
Baker Mayfield, Carolina Panthers
Speaking of ADP, Baker Mayfield currently is going as QB16 on Yahoo! What?! I checked and double-checked to make sure I didn't have on a “fantasy managers who only live in the state of Oklahoma” filter, and I did not. So what are we doing, people? Mayfield put up ZERO games last season with more than two touchdowns, and he had nine games with fewer than 14 fantasy points. Yes, he has more weapons in Carolina, and hopefully the change of scenery does him good. He still doesn't run however and his upside is limited. Last year he only had one game with more than 18 fantasy points. And he's being drafted as QB16! What?! Can he go a full week as QB1 of the CAROLINA PANTHERS before we make him QB16 OVERALL?! Gah! I've spent 25 years in this business and I still have so much work to do.
Mac Jones, New England Patriots
Mac Jones is going as QB19 on Yahoo! And to be clear, I'm using the exclamation point not to match Yahoo's branding, but to show my outrage! See! I'm continuing to do it! Exclamation points! Look, New England ranked 27th in pass rate last season and Jones had 30 or fewer pass attempts in nine of his 17 games. He also put up fewer than 12 fantasy points in nine of his games. He doesn't run, and as much as the Patriots tried to upgrade their receiving corps, they're not exactly rivaling the Cincinnati Bengals at the position. Mac Jones has definite potential as an NFL quarterback, but his fantasy upside is limited — especially this season – and he is being drafted ahead of guys like Ryan Tannehill, Justin Fields, Jameis Winston and Trevor Lawrence. Stop drafting Mac Jones as a top 19 quarterback. Sorry, I mean: stop drafting Mac Jones as a top 19 quarterback!!!!!!!!
Running Backs I Love in 2022:
Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
When healthy, Christian McCaffrey is a league winner. And I get it, “when healthy” is holding a lot of weight in that sentence. So much weight that Christian McCaffrey's hamstrings may rupture trying to support it. But here's the reason why he's on this list. He is going somewhere in the middle of the first round on Yahoo. It's very simple. You're either all in – in which case he's a top-two pick, full stop. Or you are fully out, in which case he should be nowhere near the first round. You want good stats? I got good stats. He played just five “full” games last season and despite a brutal offense around him still averaged 23.6 FPPG and 112.1 scrimmage yards on 23.4 touches. Over the last three seasons, he's averaged 26.5 FPPG in his “full” games — 5.4 PPG better than the RB2 over that stretch. He's also missed 23 games the last two seasons. Again: Christian McCaffrey is a league winner … when healthy. When not healthy, like the last two seasons, he's a league loser. But I subscribe to the Ricky Bobby Talledega Nights theory. If you ain't first, you're last. Are you trying to win this league or just finish middle of the pack? Why not wake up in the morning, piss excellence and take a shot at winning it by drafting Christian McCaffrey? I'm all IN.
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
The idea that Alvin Kamara is going outside the top 10 of running backs and towards the end of round 2 on Yahoo is, frankly, insane. The only anti-Kamara argument is you're worried about a potential suspension. I spoke about this very subject with Mike Florio on the Rotoworld Draft Guide show, and as we discussed, it does not appear as if the NFL will consider whether they should discipline Kamara until the legal process of his case plays out. And as the case keeps getting kicked further and further down the proverbial road, I don't see any way the case is tried before the season ends. Which means if he does get suspended it is likely in 2023, which means his current ADP is absolutely bananas, which means you should be back in on Alvin as a top six play this year. Even if I didn't convince you earlier on Jameis Winston as a quarterback option in deeper leagues, can I at least convince you that Winston's return will help Alvin Kamara return to being fantasy royalty? Kamara's touches, target share and fantasy points per game (19.7 versus 16.2) were all higher last year with Winston under center compared to without him. And even in a relatively down season for Kamara in 2021, he still was tied for fourth among all backs with nine games of 15 or more fantasy points, and his eight games with 100-plus scrimmage yards tied him for third-most at the position. Worry about the suspension potential in a dynasty league but for this year? Draft, enjoy and thank me later.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
A good rule of thumb as you enter your 2022 fantasy drafts: move Aaron Jones up one spot on your draft board every time you hear that Aaron Rodgers has yelled at his wide receivers. Because Rodgers' disgust with his receivers means very good things for Jones' usage in the passing game. As much as AJ Dillon's presence cuts into Jones's rushing attempts (#FreeAaronJones!), Rodgers has always loved him some Aaron Jones when he's been without Davante Adams. Get this: In the Matt LaFleur era there have been seven games with Aaron Rodgers under center and no Davante Adams. In those games, Jones averaged 25.7 FPPG, 19.6 touches and a 19.8-percent target share. As much as it pains me, Aaron Jones may never be completely freed. But sitting out there in the second round in most leagues? That's free fantasy production.
James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
For all the Christian McCaffrey skeptics out there, James Conner in 2021 served as proof that oft-injured running backs can indeed rediscover the magical Fountain of Health. The anti-Conner argument is that he finished the 2021 season as RB5 behind the strength of 18 total touchdowns and regression is coming in a big way. To which I say... I don't think so. Oh sure, 18 touchdowns are insane and I'm not saying he's repeating that. But two things are very true. One, Conner is really good when he gets a chance at the goal line. Since Conner came into the league, no qualified running back (at least 25 such carries) has a higher TD conversion rate than James Conner. Two, this is part of Kliff Kingsbury's offense. Over the last two years, the Arizona Cardinals have the second most goal-to-go rushing attempts. And in case you didn't notice, this is an offense that will be in scoring position often this year. A true three down back (did you know Conner had the ninth-most receiving yards among RB's last year?), it's worth noting that Conner was the fourth-best RB in fantasy last year from Weeks 9-14, a stretch in which Chase Edmonds got just one carry. Arizona proved they are confident in Conner's production (and durability) by letting Chase Edmonds leave. I'm confident Conner will give managers a lot of fantasy production at his current ADP of RB16, going late in the fourth on Yahoo.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
The days of Ezekiel Elliott being in discussion for RB1 overall are over, but his current ADP of RB15, going at the end of the third suggests managers are kicking dirt over Elliott's fantasy football body long before it's time. He's still a productive back. I mean, he's still Zeke Elliott, not Elliott Mess amiright? Okay, the jokes are still preseason quality, but come on people! Look, I get it. He's boring. He just lost Tyron Smith. He looked slow last year. But he was also a lot more hurt than folks realized. He partially tore his PCL in Week 4 of last year. Through the first four weeks Zeke was RB6. He's healthy now and it doesn't matter how much YOU want to make Tony Pollard a thing. Jerry Jones is paying a ton of money to Zeke, and he wants Zeke to continue to get his 16 to 20 touches a game. Think about last season. Even though the Cowboys were a bit all over the place offensively and Zeke was limping along on one good PCL, he STILL posted nine games with more than 15 fantasy points, tied for fourth among all running backs. He also was top 10 at the position in touches, scrimmage touchdowns, scrimmage yards, targets and receptions, just like he will be once again, even behind a weaker offensive line (tons of volume makes up for a lot). Do those look like late third round numbers to you? They don't to me and I'm a FANTASY FOOTBALL EXPERT. (I made NBC print that on my business cards.)
AJ Dillon, Green Bay Packers
With his wide receivers a question mark, I expect a more balanced offense and you already know I love Aaron Jones. But when Matt LaFleur calls his running backs “1A and 1A” well, AJ Dillon's sixth-round ADP on Yahoo starts making you feel the way you feel when you see AJ Dillon's quads. Can this be real? RB25? For a guy that last year, from Week 4 on, was the 15th best RB in total fantasy points (PPR). With Aaron Jones expected to get even more usage in Green Bay's passing game this season, Dillon should again lead the Packers in both red zone and goal-to-go carries. That's a very valuable role in an efficient, high-scoring Aaron Rodgers-led offense. Speaking of efficiency, Dillon makes the most of every touch he gets. He was seventh among all running backs (minimum 100 rushes) last season in percentage of carries gaining five-plus yards. A better pass catcher than he gets credit for, he caught a whopping 92 percent of his passes (34-of-37). I'd expect those targets to increase even more – Green Bay likes him as a pass catcher as well. So, yes, while I love Aaron Jones this year, I also really love AJ Dillon this year, too. What? I can't love two running backs from the same backfield? I can love whoever I want! I even cleared AJ Dillon with my wife as my one hall pass.
Chase Edmonds, Miami Dolphins
Since entering the NFL in 2018, Chase Edmonds ranks eighth among running backs in fantasy points per touch (minimum 400 touches). Last season, Edmonds had 15.7 FPPG in his eight games with at least 10 touches, and his 5.1 YPC was sixth among qualified backs. The point being: Edmonds produces when he gets opportunity. When you follow the money and see what Miami paid Edmonds to come over at the very start of free agency (clearly a priority for them in the off-season), he will now get that opportunity. Going in the ninth (!) round, Edmonds provides a ton of value at his current ADP.
Others receiving votes: Not only do I love Rhamondre Stevenson, but I have him ranked ahead of Damien Harris. (Yahoo drafters have that reversed). Expected to get a lot of the passing down work vacated by the retiring James White, Stevenson should also split the early down/goal line work with Damien Harris. Stevenson was top six last season in percentage of carries going five-plus yards and 10-plus yards, mainly because he was fifth among qualified backs in yards per rush after first contact. He also averaged 15.8 FPPG in his five games with at least 12 touches. In an offense without a lot of high-end weapons, Stevenson has the potential to shine … With Gus Edwards being placed on PUP and not being available for the first four games, J.K. Dobbins becomes more interesting to me, especially on what should be a much more run-heavy offense in 2022. Better in half point PPR than full, Dobbins currently is going after Breece Hall, Josh Jacobs and Antonio Gibson. I'd take him over all those guys … It took nine seasons, and just as many years off of my life, but Cordarrelle Patterson finally became a thing in fantasy in 2021. Patterson was Atlanta's top back last season, averaging 14.7 FPPG and reeling in the second-most receiving yards among all backs. Damien Williams' arrival in Atlanta isn't enough to push Patterson back to fantasy irrelevance, so while I'm not expecting last year's numbers, he has a clear path to significant playing time and he's currently going as RB35 in the 10th round! … Dameon Pierce's competition in Houston's backfield is Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead and Dare Ogunbowale. I Dare you to find a worse backfield. (See what I did there? I made a joke worse than Houston's backfield.) Anyway, Pierce is a trendy pre-season darling but in this particular case, I buy the hype. For the record, I wrote this before he blew up against San Fran in Week 3 of the preseason … You already know I like Chase Edmonds and you should also already know that, if San Francisco last year was any indication, Mike McDaniel likes to use multiple running backs. Enter Raheem Mostert, who lost much of 2021 to injury. But Mostert proved in 2020 that he can produce with opportunity under, yes, Mike McDaniel … Chris Carson is retired and now Ken Walker is banged up. I get the Rashaad Penny health questions (and the “will they ever score a touchdown” questions) but that's baked into Penny's ADP of RB30. The best running back in fantasy over the last four weeks last year, averaging over 21 points and over 120 rushing yards a game, Penny has the ability and a clear path to significant playing time … Travis Etienne is back and James Robinson is coming back from a torn Achilles, but we know Doug Pederson likes to use multiple running backs. J Rob will be eased back slowly but the fact he is not going on PUP to start the season (as of this writing at least) is encouraging. His 4.68 YPC last season was seventh among qualified running backs, and he was RB17 in FPPG prior to his injury. And that was in a truly putrid offense that simply can't be worse this season. With Urban Meyer gone, Robinson will get more high-quality touches. I told you. I got a million saved up … Finally, the Brian Robinson thing is real and it is spectacular. More on Antonio Gibson below but suffice to say, if drafting a Commanders running back, gimme Brian Robinson, whose pre-season usage with the starters is not a fluke.
Running Backs I Hate in 2022:
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Again, Love/Hate is not about the player, it's about ADP. Because I love Nick Chubb as a running back. Chubb averaged 89.9 rushing yards and 5.5 YPC last season. But I do not love Chubb as a pass catching running back, and that limits his ceiling - at least relative to most other elite fantasy backs going inside the top nine like Chubb is. A full 80 percent of Chubb's fantasy points came from rushing last season, fourth-most among running backs, and he was 42nd in receptions among backs with at least 100 touches. Lack of usage in the passing game is why Chubb had six games with fewer than 10 fantasy points. That's a bit too boom or bust for my taste for a running back going at the top of the second round. With Jacoby Brissett under center for much of the year, I expect this offense to struggle to score and use both Kareem Hunt and D'Ernest Johnson in addition to Chubb. Again, Chubb is one of the best actual running backs in the NFL, but he is volume and touchdown dependent, and I much prefer the guys going around him like Aaron Jones, D'Andre Swift, Joe Mixon, Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley.
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs is coming off a season in which he had career lows in carries (14.5) and rushing yards per game (58.1). He also has yet to pull in a single touchdown catch over three NFL seasons. On top of that, the Raiders used a fourth-round pick on Georgia running back Zamir White while also giving the “James White” role in Josh McDaniels' offense to Ameer Abdullah. I think it will be very tough for Jacobs to get the passing down work he got last year with Abdullah around, and that's an issue for Jacobs, who is volume dependent. Jacobs has never had fewer than 260 touches in a season since he came to the NFL. Josh McDaniels has never had a single RB get over 260 touches in any of the last five seasons. This off-season, Las Vegas declined to pick up Jacobs' option for the 2023 season. If the Raiders aren't sold on Josh Jacobs in real football, there's no reason you should be investing in him in fake football.
Damien Harris, New England Patriots
If you think touchdown regression is going to come for James Conner, when it comes to Damien Harris, touchdown regression is going to come for him, tie him up, drag him to its car, stick him in its trunk, drive him way out into the desert and then set the car ablaze as a nearby scorpion crawls away from the heat of the fire. My point: I've been watching too much Breaking Bad this off-season. My other point: Harris — not Conner — was the most touchdown-dependent back in fantasy last season. An insane 50 percent of his fantasy points came on touchdowns, tops among all backs. In the receiving game he was 46th in receptions among running backs with 100-plus touches, with 87 percent of his fantasy points coming from rushing (second-most among backs). As you know, I'm team #Rhamondre. Stevenson is the better and more complete back, and while Harris will have good games, he is way too touchdown dependent. As such you will never know when to start him.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
Look, we all wanted CEH to be awesome in that Chiefs offense. But two NFL seasons in, he's just … fine. And to be clear: I don't mean “fine” like when people walk by me and say: “Damn, you're fine as hell.” No, not like that. I mean … wait, hold up. I'm now being told by my editor that people are actually saying: “Damn! Urine! You smell!” Jeez. You visibly pee your pants ONE TIME at your new job and it's impossible to live it down. Where was I? Ah, yes. Clyde Edwards-Helaire just being okay at the sport of tackle football. This feels like it's going to be a three headed running back by committee on a pass-first team with Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco also getting work. Last season CEH was 34th among qualified running backs in scrimmage yards per game (64.6), 41st among backs in target share (7.4-percent) and posted just two games with multiple red zone carries. If you don't get a lot of yards ... or catch a lot of passes ... or score a lot of touchdowns ... what you DO get is a spot on the Hate list.
Antonio Gibson, Washington Commanders:
Proof that I can write something negative about the Commanders! Which is refreshing because as far as I can tell, no one has ever written anything negative about the team, ever! Especially not this off-season! Why, I only read Commanders.com, why do you ask? Anyways, Gibson playing special teams and working in behind Brian Robinson this pre-season opened a bunch of eyes, but maybe they shouldn't have. No running back had more actual fumbles or lost more fumbles last year than Antonio Gibson. That concern along with durability issues means at best we are looking at him as part of a three headed committee. At worst it means he's Brian Robinson's back-up. Either way, we are looking at a fairly significant downgrade in terms of total touches and that is hashtag bad. Last year he was 38th among running backs in fantasy points per touch (minimum 100 touches) so he has needed volume to get there. With no volume and a top 22 RB ADP, Gibson lands on the “hate” list, thus marking the first time anything even slightly negative has been written about the Washington Commanders.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
I call him 0.51 Miles Sanders because that's all the yardage he put up last season. (It's a math joke, people. Miles Sanders' 912 scrimmage yards last season is only 51 percent of the yardage in a … just nevermind, okay?) Honestly, my concern with Sanders isn't his lack of scrimmage yards, it's his lack of usage — especially near the end zone. Sanders averaged just 11.4 carries a game last season, 30th among qualified backs, and he was ranked an even worse 37th among running backs in goal-to-go carries. While I don't think he'll score zero touchdowns again, I also don't think he should be drafted at his current ADP. Don't believe me? Fine, will you believe Miles Sanders? He did an interview with NBC Philadelphia's John Clark and literally said, “Don't pick me in fantasy.” If he keeps dropping I don't hate it. He's got a great offensive line and should have some positive touchdown regression. But he is currently going ahead of Devin Singletary, Rashaad Penny, Chase Edmonds, Rhamondre Stevenson, Cordarrelle Patterson and Dameon Pierce, and I'd rather have any of those guys than Sanders.
Breece Hall, New York Jets
I like Michael C. Hall. I like Arsenio Hall. I got no issues with Radio City Music Hall. I just don't like Breece Hall. Oh, this isn't a talent question. I like the skill set and I like the draft capital. Here's the part I don't like at all. He's going as RB19. Ahead of guys like Travis Etienne, J.K. Dobbins, AJ Dillon, even Devin Singletary or Rashaad Penny, all of whom I'd rather have. He's playing for a coaching staff that came from San Francisco, aka running back by committee heaven. Last year, the Jets gave 183 touches to Michael Carter and 190 to the combo of Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson (Coleman played in only 11 games). Carter and Johnson each had 55 targets last year as well. Michael Carter is not going away. This is going to be a committee. So Breece Hall is going to be splitting time for a team that was 32nd in the NFL in rushing attempts (hard to run when you're getting crushed). When they do run it will be behind a bad offensive line that just lost Mekhi Becton. If you must invest in the Jets run game I much prefer Michael Carter nine (9!) rounds later.
Wide Receivers I Love in 2022:
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys:
A super obvious name of course but wanted to highlight him for two very simple reasons. One, I know a lot of people are freaking out about the Tyron Smith injury. While significant, I don't think it will affect Lamb's numbers. And two, with all the Cooper Kupp vs Justin Jefferson for WR1 talk, the fact is that in addition to them, number one WR in fantasy is within the realistic range of outcomes this year for CeeDee Lamb. With Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson on new teams, James Washington out for an extended period and Michael Gallup still working his way back from an ACL injury, Lamb is the only Cowboys wide receiver currently in uniform who has caught a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott. What else is there to say? CeeDee Lamb is the clear No. 1 wide receiver in a high-scoring, pass-heavy offense … he's immensely talented … and he has a track record of production. Again, #1 WR in fantasy is within the range of outcomes here.
D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
D.J. Moore is the only wide receiver in the NFL with 1,200-plus scrimmage yards in each of the past three seasons. And remember: he's done that with Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, Kyle Allen, Will Grier and a very much declining Cam Newton (twice) throwing him passes. I mean, I'm a Washington fan and that list of quarterbacks even makes ME depressed. The point I'm trying to make is two-fold: 1) I hate my favorite football team; and 2) Moore can — and will — produce with anyone under center. And I will make the argument that Baker Mayfield is the best QB Moore will have ever played with. Talent and volume have never been the issue with Moore, it's scoring. But with what I expect to be a much more efficient Carolina offense this season thanks to Mayfield and a (hopefully) healthy Christian McCaffrey, Moore is a legit low-end WR1 and has a shot at a career season.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders
While I hate my football team for making me sad every autumn (see the preceding paragraph and also the preceding 30 years of my life), I very much love me some Terry McLaurin. Even on (another) bad Washington team in 2021, McLaurin ended the season as a top 25 fantasy receiver. And while Carson Wentz jerseys may not exactly be flying off the racks in D.C., the fact is Carson Wentz will be the best QB that Terry McScorin (I gonna make that nickname happen, dammit) has ever played with and it's not particularly close. Did you know that McLaurin was targeted on the second-most deep passes in the NFL last season and ranked 12th in WR air yards per target? Scott Turner likes to take shots deep. And now he has a QB that can do that as Wentz was top 10 in on-target rate on deep passes in 2021. A deep target + accurate deep passes = a glimmer of hope for Matthew Berry? Maybe? It could work, right? Yes? Please? Anyway, McLaurin is a top 14 receiver in fantasy for me this season (and No. 1 in my heart).
Allen Robinson, Los Angeles Rams
Ladies and gentlemen, we got Allen Robinson a quarterback. After eight long seasons in the quarterback hells of Jacksonville and Chicago, Allen Robinson is now blessed with one Matthew Stafford. It's almost like the 2022 version of when Stafford went from the Lions to the Rams. AT&T is probably already shooting the new commercial. Anyways…. Good WR with an upgrade at QB… Moore, McLaurin and now A Rob? Noticing a trend here in what I like? The only anti-A Rob argument is last year. A year in which everything that could have gone wrong with the Bears offense did. A fired head coach and an overwhelmed rookie QB? I'm not holding that against Robinson. Especially when he's joining a team that ranked No. 1 in WR target share last season. Don't let Cooper Kupp's presence scare you away. This offense can feed more than Cooper Kupp; Robert Woods was WR16 in PPG last season. Last year, the Rams were top five in the NFL in both red zone pass attempts and goal-to-go passing attempts. Allen Robinson is a big red zone target that can go up and win 50/50 balls, and he's going to do that a lot this year. I have him as a borderline top 15 play this year, and he's currently going outside the top 20 on Yahoo and outside the top 30 on other sites.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kansas City Chiefs
Speaking of quarterback upgrades, going from 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger to career prime Patrick Mahomes will do wonders for JuJu Smith-Schuster. As will Mahomes no longer having Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, Darrel Williams and others at his disposal. There are 331 targets from last year now available. And over Smith-Schuster's career, when he gets seven-plus targets, he averages 18.1 FPPG. People forget how good JuJu was early in his career before his growth was stunted by the declining play of Big Ben. Avoid JuJu on TikTok if you want to, but don't avoid him if he's available in the middle rounds of your draft.
Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills
No, I don't think Gabriel Davis is going to regularly put up 8-201-4 games like he did the last time we saw him in the playoffs against the Chiefs. But I also don't think managers should view that performance as a complete aberration. This is an insane stat to me – Davis was 98th last year in targets among wide receivers but was top five in the NFL in end zone targets among wide receivers. He wasn't on the field that much but when he was, Josh Allen was looking for him in the end zone. And this year, he'll be on the field a lot more with 186 targets up for grabs now that Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley have left the team. On a recent episode of the Fantasy Football Happy Hour podcast, Jay Croucher brought up the fact that Davis is +2500 to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns. All in on Gabriel Davis this year. ALL IN.
Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chris Godwin was top 10 last season among wide receivers in targets per game, red zone targets, receptions per game, catch rate and receiving yards per game. “Yes, Matthew, but he tore his ACL eight months ago. Those days are over.” Really, imagined reader who just dropped into the column unannounced with a salient question? Because Chris Godwin looks to be on track to play Week 1. And the Buccaneers also signed him to a three-year, $60 million deal this off-season — $40 million of that guaranteed. If his real football team isn't worried about his knee, his fake football team managers shouldn't be either. Even if he has to miss a game or two at the start of the season, Godwin is an insane value at his ADP of WR33 in the 10th round.
Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens
Marquise Brown's departure opens up 145 targets in Baltimore's passing game. Where do you think they're going to go? Devin Duvernay? James Proche II? Binjimen Victor? The big-name free agent wide receiver the Ravens didn't sign? Brandon Stokley? No. They're going to Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews. That's the Ravens passing game. You'll see some Isaiah Likely as well, but the reason the Ravens traded Brown and didn't sign a big-name receiver is because they believe in Bateman, their first-round pick from 2021. Bateman opened last season injured, but over the final four games, he played more than 80 percent of snaps. They love Bateman in Baltimore and I love him even more at his current ADP of WR31 in the ninth round.
Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears
Now that I'm part of the NBC family, I have submitted my first sketch to Saturday Night Live. I hope you like it.
(interior: Ditka's Bar in Chicago. Four Chicago Bears “Super Fans” sit around a table drinking beer and eating grilled meats.)
Hello, my friends, and welcome to another edition of Bill Swerski's Super Fantasy Fans. Today we are talking about the most underrated receiver in all of football …
(entire table at once)
That is exactly right, my friend. None other than Wide Receiver 1 of …
(entire table at once)
Exactly. And while the nation disrespects the skill position players on Da Bears offense, they conveniently fail to talk about Mooney, who finished last season as WR23 in fantasy. And not only that, he was top 10 among all wide receivers in both target share AND total targets. He was fourth in the NFL in deep targets and his 12 games with five-plus receptions tied him for sixth among all wide receivers. Justin Fields will only be better this season, too. So it's insane that Mooney's current ADP is WR32.
Wow, Bill. That was a surprisingly detailed breakdown of Mooney's fantasy prospects.
I had a lot of time to do research when I was recovering from my recent heart attack. Okay, let's begin our fantasy draft. Bob, you've got the first pick.
Okay, with the first pick, I'm taking … DA-rnell Mooney!
(The other Super Fans choke on meat while having massive heart attacks.)
Alright, it seems the rest of the Super Fans are upset about Darnell Mooney being taken before they could get him. I better get the fellas to the hospital. I guess the rest of the draft will be on auto-pick. That's all the time we have today for Bill Swerski's Super Fantasy Fans! Thanks for watching.
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
As great as Justin Jefferson is, Adam Thielen actually has more touchdown catches over the past two seasons: 24 to Jefferson's 17. In fact, Thielen is tied for third among all wide receivers in touchdown receptions over that time. I'm not telling you this to disparage Jefferson. He's my WR2 for a reason. I simply want to remind people that Thielen is still a fantasy force. I mean, last season he was WR14 in FPPG (15.4). You already know from my Kirk Cousins write-up I think the Vikings will be a great offense this year. Thielen may be the WR2 in Minnesota, but he's still productive enough to be a WR2 in fantasy. He's inside my top 30 at the position.
Others receiving votes: I get it. Michael Thomas hasn't played in a real football game since December 23, 2020. But let's not forget the player he was. In 2019, Thomas averaged 23.4 FPPG. In 2020, even in a down season plagued by injury, he had 16-plus fantasy points in three of his final four games. Assuming this recent hamstring injury is nothing major, with his health (and Jameis Winston) back, Thomas provides a ton of value and upside at his current ADP of WR27 … Elijah Moore was WR30 in PPG last season as a rookie. If Zach Wilson and that Jets offense improves even a little, Moore has definite WR2 potential … “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” is what pun based fantasy managers might be saying as they sift through the later rounds for wide receiver help. Romeo Doubs and teammate Allen Lazard are both terrific values as the top two wide receivers for, you know, the guy that threw 37 touchdowns last year and now has 167 targets that Davante Adams left … He's not sexy and his new NFL team isn't trendy, but all either of them do is produce. Robert Woods looks to be on track to return from his ACL injury in Tennessee's opener, has very little target competition and is going way too late (WR45). Don't forget: Woods is one of just five wide receivers to average 15-plus FPPG in each of the past four seasons … Follow the money is a often used phrase in both fantasy and real football analysis, and it certainly applies to Christian Kirk, who will lead the Jaguars in targets. Jacksonville has an easy schedule, a pass-happy offense and a QB that will take a no longer under Urban Meyer massive leap forward … No one finds receivers in the draft better than the Pittsburgh Steelers, and George Pickens appears to be the latest. Pickens was a five-star recruit to Georgia, and he's played like someone with that sort of pedigree since arriving to Steelers camp. Pickens should benefit heavily from the departures of JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington … While Gabriel Davis is the top candidate to emerge as Buffalo's WR2, Isaiah McKenzie will get a lot of additional work this season, too. Buffalo ranked top five in slot targets last season, and that is where McKenzie does his best work … Jalen Tolbert, the Cowboys' third-round pick out of South Alabama, has a great opportunity to break out in a high-scoring offense while Michael Gallup and James Washington get healthy. Love the talent … Washington rookie Jahan Dotson has 4.4 speed and was one of the top deep threats in college football last season. He'll benefit greatly in matchups thanks to playing alongside an already established receiver in Terry McLaurin … Generally speaking, pre-season hype is just that. But make no mistake. Josh Palmer can ball out. As the third option on the high-flying Chargers, Palmer is a nice add for deeper leagues, especially if Allen or Williams were to miss any games. Last season when Allen or Williams was out, Palmer averaged 16.4 fantasy points.
Wide Receivers I Hate in 2022:
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
To be very clear on this one, this is much more about roster construction and ADP than the actual player. Keenan Allen is a good football player and will have a good year, in both fantasy and real life. Like a lot of people, I'm in on the Chargers offense this year. But Allen, now in his age-30 season, with just six touchdowns in four of the last five seasons, has more downside than upside at this point of his career. Considering Yahoo's default is half point PPR, I'd rather have Mike Williams straight up than Allen in that format, and Williams is going 16 picks and a round and a half after Allen. Before you say that's crazy consider Williams was actually BETTER than Allen last year in .5 PPR (Keenan Allen was WR14 – 204.8 points, 12.8 PPG, Williams was WR10 – 208.6 points, 13.0 PPG). I'd always rather jump off the bandwagon a year too early than a year too late. You know I love Ekeler and like Josh Palmer as a late sleeper (and honestly I kinda dig Gerald Everett as a late TE flyer) so there are only so many Chargers you want. If you wanted to buy into the Bolts offense this year, given cost and the .5 PPR format, I much prefer Mike Williams in the fifth than Allen in the third.
Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
While Tyreek Hill may believe that Tua Tagovailoa is the greatest quarterback to ever step on a field, I remain unconvinced Tua can make his WR2 wildly productive from a fantasy standpoint. Make no mistake, Jaylen Waddle is a special talent. But last year, when the Dolphins had nothing, he had a 24% target share. I just don't see him getting that with Tyreek Hill in town (Hill himself had a 25% target share last season) and Miami didn't give Hill that contract to NOT get him the ball. Add in Chase Edmonds, Cedrick Wilson, and Mike Gesicki and there are suddenly a lot of mouths to feed. If Waddle doesn't get that massive target share is he worth a top 17 pick at wide receiver? Remember, when Waddle saw fewer than eight targets last year he averaged just 9.7 FPPG. Even worse, Waddle had just three end zone targets last season, second-fewest among all receivers with 75-plus targets. I'm not sure how much of Miami I want this year, but if I am going to invest in the Dolphins offense, I'd much rather take Chase Edmonds in the ninth round. I love Waddle's talent. But I don't love any WR2 in a Tua-led offense.
Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
Do I hate Jerry Jeudy simply because his name reminds me of jury duty? Maybe. But there's also this: He's going as WR22 on Yahoo. I repeat. Wide receiver TWENTY TWO. Last year, he was WR89 in half point PPR, averaging 6.6 points per game. He only played 10 games, so fine, on a points-per-game basis he was WR50. We obviously all expect Russell Wilson to give a significant increase to this offense and Jeudy will be a lot better… but 30 spots better? Jerry Jeudy has scored three touchdowns in 26 games. Three. Look he's still really young and obviously talented, but I'd rather have Courtland Sutton if I'm investing in Denver's pass catchers. Sutton has at least been a good fantasy option before (WR19 in 2019 with Joe Flacco and Drew Lock at QB). Again. Three touchdowns in 26 games and 169 targets. Jeudy is being drafted ahead of guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Brandin Cooks, Gabriel Davis, even Amon-Ra St. Brown, all of whom I'd rather have than Jeudy. He's going to have his best year ever with Russell Wilson under center, but when I see Jeudy's name on draft boards this year, I'm saying “Let's Ride!” ... as I move right on by to another player.
Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns
Amari Cooper is the clear WR1 in Cleveland and that's not nothing. But there are a ton of red flags. Cooper is coming off a season in which he averaged just 57.6 receiving yards per game, his lowest total since 2017. He also had a career-low 19% target share, and he put up five games with fewer than seven fantasy points. Even more concerning, that all came in a Dak Prescott-led offense. Now he'll be playing the bulk of the season with Jacoby Brissett under center with his home games in a cold, windy and outdoor stadium. His cold weather splits are concerning. Again: Cooper has some value but not ahead of guys like Darnell Mooney, Adam Thielen, Rashod Bateman or Chris Godwin, all of whom he is going ahead of.
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
An explosive connection between Drew Lock and Tyler Lockett would be great for headline writers and Seattle-area t-shirt shops, but I unfortunately just don't see it. That's probably because I HAVE seen Geno Smith, Drew Lock and Russell Wilson all play quarterback, and there is a significant difference between Wilson and the other guys. Hashtag analysis. Okay, fine, super small sample size but in the three games last year that Geno Smith started, Tyler Lockett was WR38 in points per game. But look closer. Here were his game logs in that three game stretch last year:
2 for 35
2 for 12
12 for 142 vs Jacksonville.
And I think that's weirdly right. No, he won't play defenses like the Jags all the time, but that boom or bust nature is consistent with Lockett's game with Wilson at QB. But with Smith or Lock, he'll be even more bust than boom. Seattle is always run heavy but it hasn't mattered because Wilson was so insanely efficient and he and Lockett had amazing chemistry. He won't have that with a big downgrade at QB, and Seattle should be even more run heavy this year. The biggest issue with Lockett is that yes, he will have some blow up games this year, but you'll likely have no idea when they are coming. And when he doesn't blow up, he destroys your team. I mean, in that three game stretch, if you take out the Jaguars game he was WR89. You can't take multiple weeks where one of your starters is a sub-85 player at a position. Give me Christian Kirk, Robert Woods, Drake London and George Pickens over Lockett, all of whom are going after him on Yahoo.
Tight Ends I Love in 2022
Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
As required by fantasy analyst law, I too am on the Kyle Pitts is about to have a monster year bandwagon. It is kinda crazy. Dude is so good that he finished his rookie year as TE6 (while flukily only scoring one touchdown!) and people still felt it was underwhelming. The second-most receiving yards by a rookie tight end in NFL history, Pitts also led all tight ends in air yards per target, was tied for fourth among tight ends in total targets (110) and had five-plus targets in 15 of 17 games. Anyways, Pitts is going top three among tight ends in every possible league, but I am putting him here because I don't think there's very much difference between Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce and him. I still have Pitts as TE3, but they are in the same tier and the #1 TE in fantasy is very much within the range of outcomes for Pitts this year.
Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys
Believe it or not, over the past two seasons, Dalton Schultz is TE4 in total points, and only Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce posted more games last season with 10-plus fantasy points. Schultz doesn't have the upside or game-breaking ability of someone like Pitts. Picking him isn't exciting. It's not sexy. It's simply … smart. There is a distinct lack of pass catchers in Dallas and there is a reason the Cowboys franchise tagged him. Guaranteed production at a position at which it's often hard to find production of any kind.
Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals
Zach Ertz had his best season in 2018, and then his production dropped precipitously in both 2019 and 2020. So the general consensus was Zach Ertz was all but done, that his move to Arizona in 2021 was the first step toward fading away for good. Basically Ertz was going to be the football equivalent of your grandparents, spending his final years in the dry heat of the desert. (Miss you, NaNa and PopPop!) Instead, Ertz came back in a big way last season, finishing as TE5 overall. In his 11 games with the Cardinals, among tight ends, Ertz was top four in the NFL in targets per game, red zone targets, receptions per game and most importantly fantasy points per game. Christian Kirk and Chase Edmonds being gone means there are an extra ten targets per game up for grabs, a number that becomes 16 for the six games DeAndre Hopkins is suspended. Ertz is going as TE10 on Yahoo. I have him as TE8 and he'll probably be picked even higher in local retirement community leagues.
Others receiving votes: It took a few weeks for Pat Freiermuth to supplant Eric Ebron last season as Pittsburgh's TE1, but eventually the Steelers came to believe that catching passes is better than dropping them. Now the sky's the limit for Freiermuth, building off a rookie campaign in which he had the third-highest catch rate at the tight end position and was tied for the most red zone targets … While Kyle Pitts scored just one touchdown on 68 receptions last season, Cole Kmet managed to stay out of the end zone even better with ZERO touchdowns on 60 receptions and 91 targets. (And the other three Bears tight ends caught 6 touchdowns on just 34 targets). Lots of positive TD progression and a big year is coming for Kmet … In his six games with five-plus targets last season, Gerald Everett averaged 10.6 FPPG. Meanwhile, the Chargers were top 10 in tight end targets both in the end zone and red zone … After a breakout season in 2020, Logan Thomas lost most of 2021 to an ACL injury. Because the fantasy gods hate my favorite team. But because I don't hate you, I want to tell you that Logan Thomas is a tight end to keep an eye on late in drafts. Carson Wentz has been known to target the tight end often.
Tight Ends I Hate in 2022:
Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
Last season, Dallas Goedert was 19th among tight ends in routes per game, tied for 16th in targets per game, 37th in red zone targets and tied for 39th in end zone targets with just two all season. And now A.J. Brown has arrived in Philadelphia, knocking Goedert another branch down the passing tree. I love Goedert as a talent, but this should still be a run first offense, so I'm not sure I see enough volume for Goedert in 2022 to justify him going as TE7, ahead of T.J. Hockenson and the aforementioned Zach Ertz, both of whom I'd rather have at current ADP.
Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
Despite finishing last season as TE8 overall, Mike Gesicki was just TE14 in FPPG (9.7). He had five games with fewer than 30 receiving yards and only three times did he eclipse 60 in a game. Gesicki was also 20th among tight ends in fantasy points per target. So, as you can imagine, I don't love Gesicki at his current ADP of TE14. In fact, if you draft Mike Gesicki too high, I dare say your fantasy team MIGHT GET SICK-Y. (Look, I'm on fumes at this point. We're like a million words into the column. You get the jokes you get. Sorry.)
Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rob Gronkowski is probably totally completely retired for good this time, right? Possibly? Even if we really have seen our last Gronk spike, I don't see it resulting in a big spike to Cameron Brate's fantasy production. Julio Jones or Kyle Rudolph is much more likely to take the Gronkowski red zone usage in Tampa's offense than Brate, who is somehow being drafted ahead of guys like Hunter Henry, Cole Kmet and David Njoku, all of whom I'd much rather have.
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, apologizes to his new editor that had to sift through this behemoth.