What has let us down so far this year?
By: Justin Frye
Every year fantasy analysts project players and teams and fantasy managers draft teams and we get a consensus of ADP data that refines as draft season rolls along. Some players break out and shatter expectations while leading our teams to glory. Others struggle for various reasons. Those are the things we’re going to talk about here, with some potential takeaways for the rest of the 2022 and 2023 draft seasons.
TD Scoring Leaguewide
What is going on with the NFL, in general, this year? 2020 was the NFL’s current high water mark with 24.8 points per game scored. 2021 saw that decrease to 6th-best all-time with 23.0 points per game. 2022? That’d be down again, this time to 25th-best at 21.8 points per game. That ties 2022 with 1983 and 1967 for points in a game… bleh! Somehow 2022 has FEWER passing TDs than either of those seasons too. Teams scored 2.88 TDs per game in 2020 and now are at 2.43, so nearly a full TD less is scored in every NFL game.
Why is the league scoring down? That’d be the comeback of the two high-safety looks. Defenses are forcing underneath passes and less deep shots. This leads to longer drives and fewer overall drives. In a copycat league, everyone saw how Kansas City was slowed down and is implementing similar approaches. This in turn affects players blowing up for massive games, thereby capping the crazy weeks we love for fantasy football. Now it’s back to the drawing board for the offensive counterpunch (see Dolphins, Miami).
The Denver Broncos
Russell Wilson was supposed to be the answer in Denver like the Rams and Buccaneers got the last couple of seasons. Big-time acquisition who takes the team over the top in 2022. What’s happened so far has been horrible, as the Broncos have scored a whopping 11 TDs through their first 8 games. Fresh off the bye week, the hope is that some of the recent successful drives lead to a better understanding of what works.
While losing star RB Javonte Williams hasn’t helped, the Broncos have struggled to consistently move the football at all. Wilson started the year force-feeding Courtland Sutton but recently has found more success targeting teammate Jerry Jeudy and rookie TE Greg Dulcich. With new pass-catching RB Chase Edmonds in town, I expect more check downs from Wilson to his underneath targets with occasional jump balls to Sutton. I still believe it has to be better and hopes to see Wilson, Jeudy, and Dulcich on my teams when it does. The run game is a messy committee, and Sutton is likely just a boom/bust guy to me.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I remember when Tom Brady was retired, Chris Godwin was hurt and unlikely to play early in the year, and the entire offense was a big question mark. Then Brady unretired, Godwin started the year on the field, Julio Jones showed up in camp, and the whole offense looked to be elite. So what happened to a vaunted Buccaneers team and their fantasy weapons?
I look to two main statistics on the Bucs this year. First, Brady has a lowly 2.5% TD rate. That’s right, on his nearly 400 attempts he’s throw just 10 TDs. His first two years in Tampa were 6.6% and 6%, and he sits at 5.4% for his career. That means an additional 12-16 TDs for Brady and his weapons, which would make Mike Evans and Godwin managers much happier. Finally, Leonard Fournette may have lost that offseason weight but the burst didn’t come back with lower weight. It’d be nice to see more Rachaad White going forward.
Jonathan Taylor has to be a massive disappointment for managers, as the favorite for redraft 1.01 for the majority of analysts, has not lived up to his 2021 season. In retrospect, some of this should have been predictable, but also not to the extent of how poor he’s been. The OL has long been viewed as elite, and they got him a QB upgrade, where did it all go wrong?
Well, it starts with Matt Ryan being the most turnover-prone QB before being benched and a struggling OL unit. The team’s fired their OC and head coach now in response to the struggles, but some of this is on Taylor himself. In his RB1 2021, Taylor scored 18 TDs on his 332 carries (1 in every 18.5 carries), while averaging 5.5 yards per carry. In 2022? Just 1 rush TD on 107 carries, and 4.3 yards per carry. The TDs felt like an outlier in 2021, but now do the other way for 2022. Taylor is still dynasty RB1 for me until April 27, 2023 (hello Bijan Robinson), and probably a top 5 pick for redraft in 2023.
The other individual player I chose to highlight here, Kyle Pitts is still a unicorn. He’s just a unicorn that’s costing whoever drafted him what likely would have been a solid RB2 or WR2. Dynasty managers have been panic selling. I can’t sit here and tell anyone he’s going to turn it around in 2022 or even hit for 2023. So what can we do with Kyle Pitts?
Cross everything we got hoping the Falcons get Pitts a competent QB for 2023, because with this underlying data, Pitts is still due to have a massive breakout soon. I won’t be joining those panic selling, but rather buying everywhere I possibly can. In 2022, it’s likely a lost cause but his weekly ceiling is as high as anyone at TE. I know he’s a hard guy to bench and will have doubters in 2023 but he’s likely to be right at TE3 in redraft ranks yet again, cause when he hits he’s going to hit big.
Year 2 WRs
Long undervalued, it appears as though 2022 was the year to fade a lot of second-year pass-catchers. I’m not talking the elite guys, as Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle were fantastic picks when healthy. Devonta Smith has been roughly what we thought he’d be, though a little invisible in too many games. No for this I’m talking about Rashod Bateman, Elijah Moore, and Kadarius Toney.
Bateman is the toughest to count since he is mainly due to injury too. Of the three, he’s the only one you were ever happy to play this year. Moore has been one of my biggest whiffs (I thought he’d be the slot guy and target hog). He was one of my favorite values based on the elite play to end 2021. Still love his game and I hope he gets his trade, maybe to the Chargers? Finally Toney, who just can’t stay on the field and wasn’t loved by the new Giants regime. He could be exciting in Kansas City down the stretch, assuming the hamstrings hold up.
I normally don’t lead with a Twitter link, but this visual is easier than typing it out. Other than Justin Herbert, the top seven QBs are all in the top seven. The bottom 8 are all outside the top 20. As someone who likes waiting on QB, this year was not my friend, and will be a changing of the guard for many rankers. Even “safe” options like Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr have been largely disappointing, while Trey Lance was lost due to injury.
I don’t agree with Luke’s sentiment fully (yet), but this is definitely something to consider. As guys like Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Fields rocket up ranks, I think it’s just a swap from the “this guy is always top 12 so he needs to be in there” to the young studs. It takes truly elite QB play to overcome not being a mobile QB. My biggest takeaway, regardless of where I pick a QB for 2023, the safety of a mobile QB is worth it every single time. Guys like Fields, Lance, and Bryce Young will be big targets for me.