The 2022 NFL season kicked off, and weekly fantasy points are already showing up beside your player names. Maybe not so much for Cam Akers or Allen Robinson, but all the other Rams and Bills. And we’ve already seen just how far off we were on a few things, namely the backfield usage for either Thursday night teams.
We’ll use this weekly space to discuss six players or situations that are of fantasy interest going into the weekend. The NFL constantly changes, constantly evolves, and trying to catch up or even get ahead of the transition week-to-week will pay dividends for your fantasy team.
So many things to watch in Week 1. Here’s the Top-6.
1.) Trey Lance – The 49ers’ hopes ride on the arm (and legs) of Lance who had a red shirt rookie year and now takes over. The 49ers still have Jimmy Garoppolo, so at worse, they are back to 2021. But Lance holds the promise of a wildly effective offense that is hard to defend. Lance holds the key to what Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle will do. If Lance can maintain the same level of passing and succeed as a runner, then the 49ers will challenge for the division and return to the playoffs.
2.) Saquon Barkley – He’s already burned fantasy owners twice, so hesitancy is reasonable. But he’s looked back to form this summer in practices. Last year, he was still recovering from his 2020 torn ACL. The Giants have all new coaches, a “not as bad” offensive line, and a healthy Barkley. The Bears are about average on defense, so the test for Barkley on the road should be telling. If he looks good again, the rest of the offense gets a major boost. The passing game improves both from Barkley as a receiver, and from his presence drawing focus away from the rest of the offense.
3.) Travis Etienne – We never saw him last year due to his torn Lis Franc, but he’s healthy again by all reports. If the same quality of player we saw at Clemson shows up this week at the Commanders, then the Jags’ offense takes a major step up. Washington sports a mostly average rushing defense and a bad secondary, so Etienne’s success should yield a solid idea for the rest of the season. With James Robinson slated to also play a role, he could be used in many ways. If Etienne meets expectations as a runner and a receiver, then the Jaguars’ offense improves significantly. If he’s just moderately effective, then last year could repeat. If he reaches what seems to be his potential, every Jaguar fantasy player improves and the offense under HC Doug Pederson blossoms.
4.) Dameon Pierce – Everyone will be watching him since he’s the rookie running back that made the biggest splash in the offseason. No matter that he was the seventh back drafted this year or that he runs behind a horrible offensive line against a terrible schedule. He looked legitimately impressive in the offseason. James Robinson wasn’t even drafted and yet he sent Leonard Fournette packing. It does happen. Pierce has an uphill battle, but if he is successful, he makes the Texans offense much more balanced and effective. They host the Colts on Sunday, and that is no treat for any rusher. We’ll see just how good Pierce really is in Week 1.
5.) Baker Mayfield – He won the starting job in Carolina just like everyone expected. But his presence impacts the entire offense, and we’ll see what he can do when he is not playing for a run-first offense. We get to see if a new environment makes a difference. D.J. Moore turned in 1,000 yards each season despite playing with a number of sub-average quarterbacks. And Robbie Anderson topped 1,000 yards in Carolina in 2020 before disappearing last year. Mayfield could be much better than he was in Cleveland, and if he returns Anderson to more effective ways, this offense will surprise. He traded a running back that caught about one pass per game for a back that’s twice topped 100 catches in a season.
6.) Green Bay wideouts – Davante Adams took his 123 receptions to Vegas. That leaves a major void to fill. Some speculate that Aaron Jones benefits and while he may see more targets, it’s hard to imagine Aaron Rodgers suddenly becoming a check-down king and reticent to throw downfield. Allen Lazard is the default No. 1 receiver, though he’s nursing a bad ankle and may not play. But his best year was only 40-513-8. Randall Cobb is a starter, but only caught 28 passes when he returned last season. Sammy Watkins also starts but spent the last six years flopping on four different teams. Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson will figure in, though Rodgers hasn’t relied on rookies in the past.
Whichever receiver produces reliable fantasy production is entirely unclear. And yet – there will be value in this group. And it’s going to be a surprise.
So much to watch in Week 1. Once we better define the 2022 teams, we can start mining for emerging players the rest of the way. Welcome to the 2022 NFL season.
Fasten your seatbelt.