Who are the biggest fantasy risks in 2022?
By: Christian Esparza
If you are serious about winning your fantasy football league, you need to know which players to take and which ones to avoid. Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done. It’s impossible to know for certain who will and won’t perform on Sundays, but it can be said that some players do carry more risk than others. Here is a list of five players whose risk outweighs their reward in 2022.
5. Tom Brady or his receivers
We start things off with sort of a gimme, grouping Tom Brady, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage and Julio Jones into one. But there’s reason(s) to be weary of what is going on in Tampa Bay right now.
First off, Brady is taking a 10-day absence from training camp to “deal with personal things.” The absence was reportedly pre-approved by the Head Coach Todd Bowles, so what’s the issue? Well first off, Brady is notorious for being more prepared than any other player on the field. He has never been one to miss time for personal matters; this is a new territory. Him being away takes away reps with his receivers, including new additions Gage and Jones. With Brady now 45 years old, it is fair to wonder if this is the worst possible time of the year for him to take time off.
As if that was not enough, none of Evans, Godwin and Gage are fully healthy. Evans and Gage are dealing with hamstring issues – which have a tendency to be naggy throughout the season – while Godwin is coming off a torn ACL. The only healthy one here is the 33-year old Jones who has dealt with his fair share of injuries in the past. Not to say they will be “bad” picks, but Evans and Godwin especially won’t be the fantasy players they have been in years’ past. Take a Bucs receiver at your own risk.
4. Aaron Rodgers
The back-to-back MVP finished third in points scored among quarterbacks in 2020, and fifth in 2021. Rodgers is currently the seventh ranked quarterback in ESPN leagues with an average draft position of 75, but Rodgers may not even crack the top-10 this year. One of the biggest storylines of the entire offseason was Green Bay trading away Davante Adams, who of course was Rodgers’s favorite target. While it’s very unlikely losing Adams will make the Packers a bad team, or Rodgers a bad quarterback, I would feel very uncomfortable with him as my QB1 in fantasy football. There are several other quarterbacks you should consider taking instead of Rodgers.
3. Derrick Henry
Henry was one of the most dominant players in 2019 and 2020, totaling over 3,500 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns over those two seasons. He was on pace to continue his carnage in 2021, until he suffered a Jones fracture in his foot that caused him to miss nine games. There is a lot of speculation regarding this injury, and if it could have been caused over time by all the carries Henry has accrued since high school. If it was indeed a stress fracture, Henry could see his production rapidly decline. To make his situation even worse, the Titans traded away star receiver A.J. Brown, leaving aging veterans and unproven young players as Tennessee’s only receiving threats. Henry could see a lot of stacked boxes in 2022. Take someone else in the first round.
2. Najee Harris
Harris finished as RB4 overall in 2021 thanks to his insane volume. He led the NFL with 381 total touches, but he really didn’t perform as well as he should have. Harris only averaged 3.9 yards per carry and 6.3 yards per reception for a grand total of 4.4 yards per touch on his way to 1,667 scrimmage yards. For reference, Ezekiel Elliot also led the league with 381 total touches in 2018. Elliot was able to put up 2001 total yards on 5.3 yards per touch, over 300 more yards on the same amount of touches.
Of course, Harris was a rookie. Much of his first season was spent adjusting to the speed of the NFL and learning the scheme at full speed. While he is unquestionably the bell-cow back in Pittsburgh, it is unlikely he reaches close to that same volume in 2022. Harris led the league with 34 checkdown targets last season, a product of playing with an aging Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers also drafted George Pickens, giving them another target besides Dionte Johnson and Chase Claypool in the passing game. It’s highly unlikely that Najee Harris repeats as a top-five fantasy back in 2022.
- Javonte Williams
Another running back entering their second year in the NFL, this is a classic case of having the talent but not having the situation. If you are a dynasty player, go ahead and stop reading now because this does not apply to you. Williams has the potential to be one of the top fantasy backs in the league, just not in 2022.
Currently being drafted as RB12 in ESPN leagues at an ADP of 26, Williams is being taken far too early for his situation. When the 2021 season ended, it looked like Williams would be the primary back for the Denver Broncos from here on out. But then they brought back Melvin Gordon III in free agency, who finished with more points than Williams last year.
Of course, Gordon III is another year older while Williams appears primed to break out, but that is not the case just yet. They brought Gordon III back for a reason, and the two have been splitting reps all camp. While the two won’t split carries exactly 50/50 like they did last year, it seems like 65/35 is the highest percentage Javonte Williams will get. That would have been only 263 of 406 carries last season; not a great number for a player who does not offer much receiving upside.
Another point to look to is how Denver Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett utilized his running backs while in Green Bay. In 2021, AJ Dillon actually finished with more carries than Aaron Jones, due to the latter missing games with injuries. Those missed games aside, and the two split relatively evenly. Again, even if Gordon III does not split evenly with Williams, he will eat away enough to make you regret drafting Williams in the third round.