Three anticipated candidates for 2022 (Fantasy Football)

Tossing the word bust is not something to be taken lightly.

Dogmatic opinions about players at a time in the offseason when so much could change are not recommended. However, fantasy footballers recently endeavored to give away three “big names” that are uncovered for fantasy purposes. In our Ultimate Draft Kit, we define “busts” as guys who aren’t guaranteed to fail, but have things working against them and are a high risk situation for fantasy managers. Things may look good on the outside, but beware and at least consider some of the bust candidates below when putting together your fantasy football roster.

On Thursday’s Early Busts podcast, Andy, Mike and Jason each gave a highly drafted player that fantasy managers might need to take a closer look at. I’ve queued it for you on YouTube if you need a visual of the guys’ faces.

  • 2021 stat line: 17 games — 307/1200/7 on the ground + 74/467/3 on 94 targets- Finished as RB4
  • ADP dormant: RB6/1.07 || Underdog ADP: RB5/1.09

The Ballers have Najee as RB1. We all love Najee the player. It’s about the cost of the project and what it needs to do to return value. Repeating as a top 5 RB is hard to do. Over the past five years, only 7 of the top 25 RBs (28%) repeated the following year. While these RBs and their performances in the past have no bearing on what Najee will personally do in 2022, it should be noted.

But Najee’s main argument is that the volume will be there. He became one of four Rookie RBs to ever lead the league along with Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson, Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson. He was in the field for 980 (!) Snaps, that’s the 2nd most for an RB in the past five years! Uptime was paramount and the Steelers were willing to commit to using it relentlessly.

Although volume is king in fantasy, it is by no means perfect. Let me remind you of a recent hype 2nd grade RB who broke despite massive volume: Todd Gurley. Drafted 10th overall by the Rams, he had an impressive RB1 season en route to being the Rookie Offensive Player of the Year. However, in 2016, he totaled 321 touches and finished as RB17 on a bad Rams team led by Jeff Fisher aka the year before the Sean McVay era. It’s not say Najee will finish this low but volume is no guarantee of success. The coach staff said they wanted to manage the workload for health/production reasons.

We must also take into account the relative inefficiency of Najee behind a poor offensive line. Despite the massive volume, it had the 2nd lowest yards per carry (3.91) among RB rookies with 1,200+ rushing yards. He was also on an interesting list of RB rookies over the past decade who averaged less than four yards per carry with over 250 touches.

Of the five listed above, two were elite the next year (Le’Veon Bell & Montgomery), while the others broke outright the following year despite volume arguments.

We must also add the unknown QB position, whether Mitchell Trubisky or rookie Kenny Pickett. While Ben Roethlisberger was in his last game of 2021, it’s no guarantee the attack will take a step forward in terms of efficiency. The checks and volume of passes Harris saw last year might just be a Big Ben thing. Harris had the 2nd most fantasy points of any RB last year, a metric that fluctuates from year to year.

In the UDK, we have Najee at level 4 among the RBs, but he is currently ahead of a number of RBs that we really like: Joe Mixon, D’Andre Swift, Alvin Kamara and Aaron Jones.

  • 2021 stat line: 17 games – 436/658 for 4839/37/13 + 66/381/2 on the floor- Finished as QB4
  • ADP dormant: QB2/3.05 || Underdog ADP: QB2/4.03

This is a conversation about his ADP and the change in Kansas City. His ADP suggests he is immune to turnover. While hHe’s going about 10 picks later than last year, he’s still taken as QB2. Since his 50-TD MVP season in 2018, Mahomes hasn’t finished in the top 3 in that position. In other words, the cost of the project is always supported by this magical year.

The biggest change is obviously the loss of Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs miss 25% of team targets, 36% of Air Yards and 100% of that Cheetah magic that defenses ultimately feared. We’ve researched every QB over the past decade who’s lost a fancy WR1 (top 12 option) and what happened the following year.

These QBs on average scored 2.5 fewer points per game the next year. If Mahomes scored 2.5 fewer fantasy points from 2021, he would be more in QB8-12 range. While Mahomes appears to be the most talented of this group, it should be noted that Peyton Manning was still an elite option in this position.

But it’s not just about replacing Tyreek… it’s the integration of THREE new WRs. Tyreek, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson are gone. Mecole Hardman is a perennial tease that looks like a lost 2nd round draft pick at this point. Juju, MVS and Skyy Moore have caught as many passes from Mahomes as Meryl Streep. (I’ll have to check the stats but I believe it’s zero.) Replacing ALL three WRs is usually something a bottom-feeding team does in the offseason.

Crew Top 3WR Next year’s WR
OAK 2019 Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts Tyrell Williams, Zay Jones, Hunter Renfrow
2020 NE Julian Edelman, Philip Dorsett, Mohamed Sanu Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, N’Keal Harry
GPA 2020 Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor, DeSean Jackson Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham, Jalen Reagor
TED 2021 Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond, Josh Reynolds

While it’s unfair to compare an offense led by Patrick Mahomes to any of the above, the principle of trust-instilling turnover still holds true. Since his crazy 50 TD season in 2018, Mahomes’ yards per attempt have dropped 3 years in a row: 8.8 → 8.3 → 8.1 → 7.4. Also worth noting are the issues he had in the red zone last year. He led the NFL in red zone “disposables” and INTs (including 3 in one game against WAS), which is not something you expect from a QB. Will these same issues persist without Tyreek available in the 20?

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Mahomes is easily one of the most talented QBs to ever play this game. Jason said he would take it as 1.01 if he started an NFL franchise. But for fantasy, we’re playing a game of predictability and probability. Turnover at the WR position, declining yards per attempt and ultimately his ADP make him someone to avoid at QB2 in redraft formats.

  • 2021 stat line: 13 games — 105 targets for 63/869/5- Finished as WR32
  • ADP dormant: WR9/2.12 || Underdog ADP: WR11/2.12

The excitement for AJ Brown’s Eagles draft day trade is warranted. This team is going to be fun to watch bIs ut Brown able to return the value WR1? His current ADP is at the end of the 2nd round which is a lot to unpack.

We know Philadelphia’s offense turned into a run-first approach in the 2nd half of 2021 with great success. OC Shane Steichen took over as play caller and In Week 8, the Eagles averaged 23.8 pass attempts, dead last in the NFL. The Eagles WR scored the 3rd fewest fantasy points in the league, including a total of 11 touchdowns. A lot of those metrics can change with AJ Brown on board, but we have to admit that was a smaller passing pie than most teams.

Brown was in a similar situation at Tennessee where volume with Ryan Tannehill was low but he did his due through insane efficiency. Brown had the 2nd highest yards per target (11.19) for the first two years of a career (135 target minutes) in NFL history.

Year Player Games Targets Receptions yards DT Y/Target
2009-2010 Mike Wallace 32 170 99 2013 16 11.84
2019-2020 A.J. Brown 30 190 122 2126 19 11.19
1998-1999 Randy Moss 32 261 149 2726 28 10:44 am
2020-2021 Justin Jefferson 29 292 196 3016 17 10:33 am
2006-2007 Santonio Holmes 29 171 101 1766 ten 10:33 am

Taking a tilt home felt like it was still in the cards if you had Brown on your fantasy roster. But maintaining this level of historic greatness is hard to do. In 13 games last year, Brown averaged 8.3 yards per target, the same as former teammate Corey Davis, Mecole Hardman and Marquez Callaway… not exactly an impressive list. Brown’s career average (10.2) is still ridiculous (now 6th best for a WR’s first three years if you were curious), but can Philadelphia be a place where he continues that level of success?

He needs Jalen Hurts to be effective and he needs more volume than they had last year to be comfortable taking him to the 2nd round of fantasy drafts. Last year, Hurts averaged 210 passing yards per game and a 61% completion rate. Both of these numbers were well below average as the fantastic gold for Hurts was his rushing ability and his ten rushing touchdowns. Either way, Mike claimed Hurts was improving in those two major areas in his throwing — 226 passing yards and a 62.7 completion rate.

But can it sustain WR1 production?

We’ve looked at every fantasy WR1 since 2018 (48 WRs) and the QB pass volume and completion rate that has backed this player (and his teammates) with amazing results:

  • Average passing yards per game: 264
  • Average clearing rate: 66.1%
  • 90% of those WR1s came from offenses that totaled more than 235 passing yards per game.
  • 83% of those WR1s came from offenses with a completion rate of over 64%.

Finally, the number of WR1 offenses with Jalen Hurts’ projections (226 + 62.7%)… ZERO. While it’s not impossible, playing the numbers game would indicate that Hurts needs to take a huge step forward ‘Josh Allen’ in efficiency and volume to start being bullish on Brown’s WR1 prospects. We haven’t even discussed the passing TDs part of the argument because his 16 TDs in the air need to be closer to 28-30 for a real discussion to take place.

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