By Parker Stone, Panhandle News Network Sports
With football gearing up to start in just a couple of weeks in the Eastern Panhandle, I was already in football mode.
I got a notification on my phone a few days ago that the draft for my longstanding fantasy football league, dating back to high school, was set for the first of September. With the NFL regular season now just a month away: it’s time you plan to get the right guys and stay away from the wrong guys this fantasy football season so you can take home that cash or bragging rights.
Love It: Kyler Murray- QB Cardinals
I am loving Kyler Murray for the 2022 fantasy season. For a guy who is getting drafted in the fifth to the sixth round in drafts, he is a dual-threat QB who can get you big numbers without having to sacrifice to reach on Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, or Lamar Jackson. Murray and the Cardinals have one of the hardest schedules in the NFL this season, so the birds will have to depend on Murray for big games this season against tough teams. If you can snag Murray in round five or six, that’s a money QB1
Love It: Kirk Cousins- QB Vikings
If your draft strategy is to wait on a quarterback, may I present to you, Captain Kirk. New Head Coach Kevin O’Connell has iterated he wants to throw the ball more in the Vikings offense and Cousins is going to benefit from having a competent offensive mind since Sean McVay back in his Washington days. Cousins was the 11th best quarterback last season in fantasy and when you look at his weapons in arguably the best receiver in the NFL in Justin Jefferson, a criminally underrated Adam Thielen, and a top running back in Dalvin Cook, the sky could be the limit for Cousins in fantasy with O’Connell at the helm. He will be a QB1 at QB2 value for you.
List It: Dak Prescott- QB Cowboys
Dak is entering his age 29 season this year and finished as the seventh best fantasy quarterback in 2021, so why is he a list? Amari Cooper’s departure from the offense will hurt no matter how much hype Ceedee Lamb is getting, and I truly think the Cowboys are going to want to run the football more in 2022. Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard are one of the best running back duos in the league and using these two will take pressure off of Prescott to throw high volume. For where Prescott is seen, I think taking either Aaron Rodgers or Kirk Cousins in later rounds is good value if you choose to take a quarterback later in your draft.
List It: Trey Lance (as a QB1)- QB 49ers
This has more to do with the risk-to-reward factor of Trey Lance rather than his situation in San Francisco this year. I am still a little worried about Lance’s transition to NFL, might you be reminded that Lance played only 19 games at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. He has a lot of raw potential, but I would not take Lance as any more than a flier QB2 in drafts. He ranks as the 13th quarterback in ESPN’s positional rankings, and I would take Derek Carr and, again Kirk Cousins as a better option later in drafts than Lance.
Love It: Joe Mixon- RB Bengals
If you are picking eighth or beyond in your fantasy draft in the first round, this is your guy. If you can snag Mixon at the top of the second round, you’re winning your league. I think the Bengals made it a priority after the Super Bowl to get that offensive line in top shape for Joe Burrow to stay upright. What is not being said enough is what Joe Mixon can do with a great offensive line for arguably the first time in his career. Mixon for where he is being drafted is arguably the best value at the top end of your draft.
Love It: Leonard Fournette- RB Buccaneers
Ignore the fact he came into camp a little larger than expected, Leonard Fournette is going to be the guy in the Bucs backfield. With Ronald Jones now gone to Kansas City, Fournette has no one to push him from being a bell cow running back in the Buccaneers offense. He is being drafted 25th overall on average and is going to be a fantastic get at the bottom of the second round to early third round.
Love It: Saquon Barkley- RB Giants
Without question, it could be said that Saquon Barkley is one of the most talented, if not the most talented overall running back in the NFL. He was drafted second overall in 2018 for a reason and had a sensational first two seasons. After battling back from a torn ACL in 2020 and a rough 2021 campaign, Barkley finds his career at a crossroads in the final year of his rookie contract with the Giants. With a revamped and improved offensive line from years past plus Brian Daboll coming over from one of the most successful offenses in the NFL, as long as he can stay healthy, I see Saquon Barkley reintroducing himself to a lot of people in 2022.
List It: D’Andre Swift- RB Lions
Swift showed some flashes last year but I am nowhere near a fan of his average draft position (ADP) at about 12th overall in drafts. He finished as the 23rd best running back in fantasy last
year and now Detroit has even more weapons on offense such as free agent signing DJ Chark and the drafting of Alabama speedster Jameson Williams. Add that with Amon Ra St-Brown who is coming off a strong rookie season, T.J. Hockenson at tight end, as well as occasionally losing some carries to Jamaal Williams. I just do not see the Swift hype and there are too many weapons in this Lions offense to warrant drafting Swift as your top running back.
List It: Antonio Gibson-RB Commanders
Antonio Gibson had a great stretch to close last season after battling injuries in the first half of the year but does not lead to him being a good pickup this year in fantasy. J.D. McKissic will return after backing out of a deal with the Buffalo Bills, and that will take away snaps from Gibson on passing downs. As well as losing both guards on the offensive line in former Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff getting a deal to go to the Jaguars in free agency and Ereck Flowers no longer on the roster, it could be a rough go for Gibson this fantasy season. I say avoid.
List It: Nick Chubb- RB Browns
This is a list more upon a situation more than the player as Chubb finished as the seventh-best running back in fantasy last year. What is notable though is in the games where Baker Mayfield missed for the Browns last year, Chubb was held to single-digit fantasy points. With Deshaun Watson’s status still in the air and a likelihood that Jacoby Brissett could be the starter this year in Cleveland, the lack of a starting quarterback will hurt Chubb this season. Cleveland’s other running back Kareem Hunt also has been frustrated with the Browns so you should expect Hunt to get more carries in 2022 with a dependence on running the football for Watson-less offense for at least six of the Browns games. There are better pickups later on such as Saquon Barkley, James Conner, and Aaron Jones in later rounds.
Love It: Juju Smith-Schuster-WR Chiefs
When I saw Juju ranked as the 30th receiver on ESPN rankings, my jaw dropped. Was it the TikTok dancing or the shoulder injury that got everyone so cold on him? Juju is by far the best receiver on the Chiefs roster, he is still only 25 years old, and will have arguably the best quarterback in football throwing him the ball this season. Those targets that are now lost from the trade of Tyreek Hill will have to be made up, and Juju will see a lot of those. He will flourish in Kansas City; I couldn’t care less about him and Jackson Mahomes doing dances after the game.
Love It: Courtland Sutton- WR Broncos
From one AFC West receiver to another, Courtland Sutton is going to benefit from the equivalent of breaking up with a 2/10 and dating a 9/10 in getting Russell Wilson throwing him
the football. He is being drafted behind the likes of Darnell Mooney, DK Metcalf, and Michael Pittman Jr, who I all see is inferior to Sutton in fantasy this season. Sutton had a rough go of it in 2021, barely cracking the top 50 in fantasy wide receivers. Wilson likes to throw the deep ball and Sutton will benefit from that style of play with his 6’4 frame. With a less of relying on the running game with a capable quarterback, Sutton will be a good play for you this year and will bounce back following an ACL tear in 2020 and a disappointing 2021
Love It: D.J. Moore- WR Panthers
In the same camp as Juju Smith-Schuster hate, I think Baker Mayfield is being over-hated by many and this is going to be potentially a huge season for one D.J. Moore. Throughout his NFL career, Moore has not had the same quarterback start every game and has seen (checks notes) the corpse of Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, Will Grier, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, and mono’s favorite quarterback Sam Darnold. Baker Mayfield is miles away the best quarterback Moore has had three straight 1,000 yard seasons is a testament to how good he is. If Baker can stay healthy expect Moore to flourish in year five. He just got paid handsomely and if he can get his touchdown numbers up, he will be a very high-end WR2.
List It: A.J. Brown- WR Eagles
The acquisition of A.J. Brown is a great get for the Philadelphia Eagles, but I do not like how things are stacking up for him in this 2022 fantasy season. In Tennessee, the offense for the majority was A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry. Now with the move to Philly, Brown will have to share targets with a top 10 draft pick a year ago in DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert. Add this with the Eagles liking to run the football a lot and I think this doesn’t spell the best for Brown who is pushing being drafted as a top 10 fantasy wide receiver this year.
List It: D.K. Metcalf- WR Seahawks
Where Courtland Sutton will thrive, sadly D.K. Metcalf will be on the opposite side in 2022. Metcalf scored 12 times last season and he will be depended on to help carry a woefully bad Seahawks team in 2022, but the quarterback play of either Drew Lock or Geno Smtih does not excite me on Metcalf’s prospects in 2022. There are better options to go with this year.
List it: Michael Thomas- WR Saints
After missing all of last season due to injury and three years off of an AP Offensive Player of the Year selection, Michael Thomas returns to the Saints. This listing of Thomas has to mostly deal with the amount of change in the Saints since that magical 2019 year for Thomas, as he now will have Jameis Winston at quarterback, and the addition of rookie Chris Olave will surely play better to Winston’s deep ball skillset than Thomas. You can take a flier on Thomas for his ability to get targets as a short and medium yardage guy, but after 3 years since that dominant season, I would wait to scoop him very late if at all.
Love it: Dalton Schultz- TE Cowboys
Tight end in fantasy football might be the one with the most top heavy, with about four to maybe five studs and then guys you want to take a flier on. Dalton Schultz broke out in a big way in 2021 and I think this year could be even bigger for the former Stanford Cardinal. With Amari Cooper gone and CeeDee Lamb getting the most attention in the Cowboys passing attack, Schultz is going to see plenty of targets and RedZone opportunities. He was the third highest scoring tight end last year in fantasy and does not get talked about with the Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews of the NFL. Dalton Schultz will get high-end production for a bargain compared to these three.
Love it: Mark Andrews- TE Ravens
This may be a cop-out putting the highest-scoring tight end from a year ago in the love it category, but in reality, no tight end is the focal point of the passing attack more than Mark Andrews is for the Baltimore Ravens. He is the only consistent target Lamar Jackson has and you should strongly consider Andrews at the top of the second round while drafting. He is that good of a weapon.
List it: Mike Gesicki- TE Dolphins
Mike Gesicki has proven to be one of the better tight ends in the NFL over the past couple of seasons, finishing in the top 12 since 2019. The hiring of Mike McDaniel from San Francisco brings a new scheme where I think the Dolphins are going to focus more on running the football with Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, and Alec Ingold being brought in at the fullback spot. With their speed, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle will stretch the field and will probably be used in end arounds and rushing plays at times to confuse. This has me thinking Gesicki will be the odd man out, as it has come out that the Dolphins want to use him as a blocker more than they had before. I would look to other options such as Cole Kmet and Albert Okwuegbunam.
List it: Hunter Henry- TE Patriots
Hunter Henry had a great first season in New England, finishing with his highest touchdown total since his rookie season. There are many factors that are turning me away from drafting Hunter Henry in 2022. First, is teams having a season of tape on Mac Jones. He impressed in 2021 but can he keep it up next year? Next is the presence of Jonnu Smith. Smith was not used nearly as much as I thought in 2021 and I have a feeling Smith will get more targets in 2022. Lastly, the injury history. Last season was the first where Henry was featured in every game, and if you are depending on Henry being your TE1 this season you’re banking on his health which is a risk.