Free agency is alive and cooking. The PFF Fantasy crew will be analyzing each and every fantasy-relevant move all week long, noting:
- The transaction
- Notes on impacted players
- The biggest overall takeaway for the team(s) impacted
Please note that the blurbs are organized by position and then from newest to oldest. All transactions go back to the day after the Super Bowl (Feb. 14)
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Cleveland Browns trade for Deshaun Watson (3/18)
Click here for a full article on Watson’s fantasy football outlook in Cleveland.
New York Giants sign Tyrod Taylor to a two-year, $17 million deal (3/15)
- Tyrod Taylor: $8.5 million of the deal is guaranteed. This past season was objectively tough for Taylor, as he ranked among the league’s bottom-10 quarterbacks in PFF passing grade (54.5), QB rating (76.7), adjusted completion rate (69.6%) and yards per attempt (6.4). He will be 33 years old in August, so it’s safe to say the best years of Taylor’s career are behind him. At least he still possesses more than enough mobility to allow Brian Daboll and the Giants to keep quarterback runs in the game plan if Daniel Jones is forced to miss any time.
- Daniel Jones: Taylor’s deal isn’t cheap, but he doesn’t figure to present the same sort of threat for the starting job that someone like Mitch Trubisky or Jameis Winston might have. Ultimately, Taylor is actually a good scheme-fit backup considering how much Jones relies on his legs. Jones has missed eight total games over the past two seasons due to injury. At least the ball won’t be in Mike Glennon’s hands if the 2019 NFL Draft’s No. 6 overall pick is forced to miss any additional time in 2022.
Biggest takeaway for the Giants offense: Jones has one more chance to prove he’s the Giants’ present and future answer under center
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport specifically referred to Taylor as a high-level backup behind Jones. Remember, Jones actually flashed a nice ceiling early in 2021 prior to getting concussed against the Cowboys, ripping off fantasy QB12, QB4, QB24 and QB7 finishes during the first four weeks of the season. His 39 designed rushes were the eighth-highest mark in the league despite it coming in just 11 starts. Jones would be a good bet to finish sixth in rushing at the position behind only Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray and Trey Lance with a full season’s worth of good health. Don’t discount him as a streamer in traditional one-QB redraft leagues or as a late-round option in two-QB/superflex formats.
Pittsburgh Steelers sign Mitchell Trubisky to a two-year deal (3/14)
Click here for a full article on Trubisky’s fantasy football outlook in Pittsburgh.
Tom Brady unretires from football (3/13)
- Tom Brady: The G.O.A.T. is BACK. Brady’s decision to un-retire immediately swings the balance of the NFC South firmly back to the Bucs, and he’s once again firmly on the high-end QB1 map. Fantasy’s reigning QB2 both overall and on a per-game basis, nothing about Brady’s performance in 2021 indicated a decline in performance. The Buccaneers’ willingness to throw the hell out of the ball and loaded receiver room makes him (again) a more than solid top-six fantasy option at the position despite his obvious limitations as a rusher.
- The entire Buccaneers organization: Every single running back, wide receiver and tight end is better off with TB12 back in action. Leonard Fournette will have legit first-round fantasy consideration if he re-signs with Tampa Bay, both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are back to being locked in as top-15 receivers, and Rob Gronkowski is also more than worthy of top-10 treatment in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.
Biggest takeaway for the Buccaneers offense: The squad is back to elite status.
Tampa Bay still has some offensive line issues to address, but being able to go to war with Brady, Evans, Godwin and Gronk should give them a chance against just about anybody over the course of a 60-minute game. The NFL’s reigning No. 2 ranked scoring offense averaged a robust 30.1 points per game last season and should vie for the top spot in 2022 if Brady can hold off Father Time for at least another year. Note that Antonio Brown only played seven games all of last season, but adding one more highish-end receiver to the equation could have this group bordering on unstoppable. Keep an eye on how the running back and tight end situations shake out; there’s little doubt that the ever-efficient TB12 attack will keep on enabling multiple high-end fantasy options.
Indianapolis Colts trade Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders (3/9)
- Colts receive: No. 73 pick in the 2022 draft that can become a second in 2023 if Wentz plays 70%-plus snaps, 2022 second-round pick.
- Commanders receive: Carson Wentz, 2022 second-round pick, 2022 seventh-round pick
- Carson Wentz: It appears the ex-Eagles quarterback will get yet another chance to find a new long-term home. Wentz's struggles have been much publicized; just realize he was significantly better than Taylor Heinicke last season in PFF passing grade (71.9 vs. 62.5), turnover-worthy play rate (2.6% vs. 4.3%) and QB rating (94.6 vs. 85.9).
- Terry McLaurin: Heinicke and McLaurin unofficially led the NFL in hospital balls last season. While Wentz was PFF's 10th-highest-graded quarterback on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield (93.3), Heinicke ranked 40th (53.4) among 42 qualified signal-callers. Wentz shouldn’t be confused with Russell Wilson, but this is an upgrade.
- Sam Ehlinger: The starter in Indianapolis if the season started tomorrow, but let’s not kid ourselves. Either way: there is (again) a massive hole under center in Indianapolis.
- Michael Pittman: A darkhorse year-three breakout pick, Pittman will now have to adjust to his third different quarterback in as many years. Perhaps the absence of T.Y. Hilton and potentially Zach Pascal leads to ridiculous volume, but it’ll be tough to expect a massive efficiency bump unless the Colts manage to seriously improve under center in a hurry.
- Jonathan Taylor: On the one hand, the Colts now have more reason than ever to feed Taylor all the touches he can handle. On the other, it seems unlikely the Colts post a season-long +86 point differential again (No. 7 in the NFL). Nyheim Hines is on the field more times than not when the Colts are trailing. JT remains a worthy contender for the 1.01 fantasy selection, but 2022 sure looks like the first time in his career that the Colts won’t field a top-10 scoring offense.
Biggest takeaway for the Colts offense: There will be yet another different Week 1 starter in 2022
Andrew Luck was the Colts' Week 1 starter in 2018. Then Jacoby Brissett in 2019. Philip Rivers in 2020. Finally Carson Wentz in 2021. The offense hasn’t exactly boasted the world’s best group of wide receivers and tight ends, but the offensive line and rushing attack have certainly helped matters. Ultimately, the Colts’ decision to attack the mid-level QB market in the post-Luck era has been a failure; it remains to be seen if they’ll finally make a serious splash in order to obtain a truly “elite” starter.
Biggest takeaway for the Commanders offense: McLaurin (sadly) has the best quarterback of his career
During his short career McLaurin has caught passes from: Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Colt McCoy, Case Keenum, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke and Garrett Gilbert. Pain. The closest thing his generation has seen to Allen Robinson and Andre Johnson in terms of a great wide receiver forced to play with one mediocre signal-caller after another, McLaurin at least finally has a quarterback with the sort of arm strength to help him cash in more often downfield. Credit to McLaurin for leading the league with 25 contested catches last season, but this was far more an indictment on Heinicke than a signal that McLaurin struggles to create separation. Here’s to hoping Wentz can do a better job getting the ball to one of the game’s more-talented young receivers.
Seattle Seahawks trade Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos (3/8)
- Broncos receive: QB Russell Wilson, 2022 fourth-round pick
- Seahawks receive: QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, DT Shelby Harris, two first-round picks, two second-round picks, one fifth-round pick
- Russell Wilson: Check out The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for an extended look at the trade. Long story short: Wilson once again has a great set of weapons to throw the ball to and remains anyone’s idea of a mid-to-bottom tier QB1 in fantasy land.
- Javonte Williams: Suddenly has double-digit touchdown upside in what figures to be a much-improved version of the Broncos offense. The Broncos haven't ranked higher than 19th in scoring offense since 2014.
- Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler: Both Sutton and Patrick are the sort of big-body outside receivers seemingly made in a lab to reel in Wilson’s patented moon balls. Jeudy’s route-running ability is already in the same stratosphere as Doug Baldwin which is truly saying something. Hamler might be the odd man out; either way the acquisition of Wilson should be seen as nothing but a massive positive for the entire group.
- Albert Okwuegbunam: Sending Fant in the trade could be a sign that the artist known as Albert O is the Broncos’ tight end of the present and future. Explosive with the ball in his hands, Okwuegbunam profiles as a fantasy-friendly receiving-first tight end; the question is whether or not the Broncos decide to roll with the rising third-year talent as their every-down starter, or if they’ll add to the position throughout the offseason and utilize more of a committee.
- Drew Lock: Lock ranks 10th in big-time throw rate (6%) over the last two seasons; he has a howitzer for a right arm and seems to truly believe that he's capable of completing just about any pass. The problem: he ranks 48th in turnover-worthy play rate (4.3%) among 61 qualified quarterbacks. Perhaps Lock could mature into a great quarterback if he can vastly improve his decision making, but the current edition isn’t anything close to a fantasy-relevant signal-caller.
- D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett: This duo belongs in any argument among the NFL’s best one-two punches at the position. The problem is that they’ve historically had to live on high-end efficiency to make up for this run-first offense’s lack of overall passing volume. Both could unfortunately be relegated to low-end WR2 status, and potentially worse, if the Seahawks fail to find a new signal-caller *and* refrain from increasing targets to their offense’s best two players.
- Noah Fant: Keep an eye on if the Seahawks re-sign Gerald Everett and Will Dissly. If not, Fant should finally have a true every-down role and be featured as his offense’s no-doubt TE1 for the first time in his career. It’s too bad his quarterback problem persists; at least the 24-year-old talent could finally break into the triple-digit target club in 2022.
Biggest takeaway for the Seahawks offense: There is suddenly a massive question mark under center for the first time in a decade
Drew Lock vs. Geno Smith is one of the worst questions asked since Muhammad or McLovin. There’s always a chance the Seahawks swiftly fill their vacancy under center via trade, otherwise literally everyone involved is going to struggle to provide the sort of fantasy production that managers have grown used to seeing out of this offense. The ideal situation for Metcalf and Lockett is probably for one of them to be traded in order to condense the already-slim available targets; either way the future is suddenly far less bright for both talented pass-catchers.
Biggest takeaway for the Broncos offense: It’s *finally* time for this passing game to reach its full potential
Broncos wide receivers ranked 23rd in combined receiving yards and 31st in touchdowns last season. Sutton put up a few big performances, but more times than not wasn’t getting much of a chance to cash in on his copious air yards. Jeudy should be closer to 100% in 2022 and already has flashed the sort of tantalizing route-running ability to think a third-year breakout could be on the way. Patrick deserves the nod ahead of Hamler after cashing in on a long-term contract, but the latter field-stretcher’s elite speed will assuredly still be a part of this offense. Wilson has played with a lot of great receivers, but there’s a chance that the Broncos collectively give him the best weapons of his career. Perhaps volume will be a bit too split up to yield any truly remarkable seasons; either way expect all parties involved to see a nice efficiency bump.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-sign Leonard Fournette to three-year, $21 million deal (3/22)
- Leonard Fournette: Last season the veteran back signed a one-year deal with the Buccaneers and proceeded to pick up where he left off in 2020 by forcing his way into a near every-down role, which propelled him to a top-six fantasy finish. For his career, Fournette has averaged 17.7, 15.1, 17.4, 10.2 and 18.3 points per game in PPR formats and is set up as the clear-cut No. 1 option in one of the league’s most prolific offenses with Tom Brady.
- Ke’Shawn Vaughn: Vaughn still has a chance to serve as a change-of-pace option to Fournette, but this signing obviously obliterates any opportunity he had to take charge of the backfield. The most likely role for the third-year back is giving Fournette a breather on early downs a few times per game. Vaughn’s 13% TPRR and 30.6 receiving grade doesn't inspire much confidence in a passing game where Brady demands excellence.
Biggest takeaway for the Buccaneers offense: Leonard Fournette is a top-10 fantasy back with RB1 overall upside
Only three other backs averaged 18.0 or more fantasy points in 2021: Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara, which already places Fournette in elite company. However, his game-level utilization hints at further upside from that lofty perch. In four games where Fournette played 80% or more of the snaps, he finished as the RB15, RB1, RB5 and RB6 and averaged 26.6 points per game. He adds sneaky upside in the passing game, which we probably should have seen coming, considering he has never fallen below a 20% TPRR in his career. The Buccaneers could add competition, but the 27-year-old back overcame that obstacle in 2021 against Giovani Bernard and Ronald Jones. Unless Tampa adds a back on Day 1 or Day 2 of the NFL draft, Fournette is a lock for a top-10 finish with RB1 overall upside as an every-down bell cow in an elite offense.
Atlanta Falcons re-sign Cordarrelle Patterson to a two-year, $10.5 million deal (3/19)
- Cordarrelle Patterson: The Falcon’s do-it-all talent is back. Patterson never even surpassed 85 touches in a season until 2021; all he did during his first year with the Falcons was post rather electric 153-618-6 rushing and 52-548-5 receiving lines. A midseason ankle sprain slowed down C-Patt down the stretch, but he’s once again set up with a fantasy-friendly receiving role that could ultimately leave him as the squad’s No. 2 pass-game option behind only Kyle Pitts.
- Mike Davis, Damien Williams and Qadree Ollison: Any sort of Davis bounce-back dream, or Williams takeover, largely goes out the window with Patterson back in Atlanta. It wouldn’t be shocking if the team adds another back to the equation in the draft; the only way one of these three veterans will be overly viable in fantasy is if they manage to completely win the position battle and take over 50% of the backfield alongside Patterson.
Biggest takeaway for the Falcons offense: Patterson will once again be featured
History tells us that chasing elderly running backs in fantasy land isn’t a good idea, but Patterson’s lack of career-long usage does make him a possible exception to the rule. Going back to Atlanta was always the best-case scenario since they’re, you know, the only team to ever actually unleash C-Patt on offense. This man just went for 1,154 total yards after finishing with just 1,025 combined receiving and rushing yards in the previous three seasons combined. Patterson scored 11 touchdowns this season, which is how many he scored in 2014-2020. Expecting another season flirting with true RB1 (or WR1) production is probably wishful thinking; just realize Patterson is again set up for triple-digit carries and something not too far off in the target department. He’s a bargain if his present ADP as a low-end RB3 remains.
Las Vegas Raiders sign Ameer Abdullah to a one-year deal (3/17)
- Ameer Abdullah: Abdullah turns 29 years old in June and hasn't reached even 90 touches in a season since 2017. Still, Abdullah has hurt both Alexander Mattison and Chuba Hubbard‘s handcuff value over the years thanks to his pass-game prowess. He has the potential to do the same thing in Las Vegas to Drake should the Raiders decide the ex-Lions/Vikings/Panthers back is the superior option in pass-first situations.
- Brandon Bolden: He wasn’t expected to have much of a fantasy-relevant role himself, and now it seems more likely than ever that Bolden was signed more for special teams purposes than anything. It’d make sense if Bolden enters Week 1 as the team’s clear-cut No. 4 running back and only sees a handful of snaps – if that – on offense per game.
- Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake: A potential three-back committee hurts both Drake and Josh (see what I did there), and Abdullah’s presence adds fuel to the fire that Josh McDaniels will indeed keep three backs consistently involved in the offense.
- D’Onta Foreman: Arguably the biggest winner of the whole ordeal, Foreman suddenly looks a lot like the handcuff to own in Carolina. It would have been tough to assume anything other than the Panthers utilizing a two-to-three back committee featuring Foreman, Chuba Hubbard and Abdullah had the latter back returned, but now the ex-Titans talent should be considered the favorite to work as the offense’s bell-cow option if Christian McCaffrey is forced to miss any time.
Biggest takeaway for the Raiders offense: Josh McDaniels has brought his committee backfield to Vegas
McDaniels was the Patriots' offensive coordinator from 2012-2021. On just four occasions did a running back receive even 200-plus carries: 2016 LeGarrette Blount (299), 2012 Stevan Ridley (290), 2018 and 2019 Sony Michel (209, 247) and 2021 Damien Harris (202). Jacobs has racked up 242, 273 and 217 rush attempts during the first three seasons of his career while missing a combined six games. It’s tough to rationally expect an increase in volume in either the run or pass game ahead of 2022. Jacobs remains just 24 years old and is the favorite to lead the backfield in touches and production, but just realize his touch count is more likely to be closer to 200 than 300 with McDaniels tentatively expected to keep three backs involved on a weekly basis. My best guess rotation at the moment: Jacobs as starter and overall lead back, Drake as a change-of-pace option and first backup, and Abdullah or Bolden as the obvious pass-down specialist. Neither of the latter three backs figures to have enough volume themselves to warrant anything resembling a role worth chasing in fantasy land.
Atlanta Falcons sign Damien Williams to a one-year deal (3/17)
- Damien Williams: Took 2020 off due to covid following his 2019 heroics with the Chiefs. Last season didn’t go so hot, as Williams struggled to earn any sort of standalone role behind starter David Montgomery and was eventually beat out by Khalil Herbert for backup duties. Williams does offer three-down ability and truly flashed as a receiver during his time with the Chiefs; just realize the soon-to-be 30-year-old veteran isn’t a guarantee to make the Week 1 roster and will assuredly be facing more incoming competition than just our next running back.
- Mike Davis: The Falcons certainly aren’t done adding to their backfield; either way, another veteran on a short-term deal is good news for any remaining Davis truthers out there.
Biggest takeaway for the Falcons offense: This backfield remains wide open
The only other running backs under contract for the Falcons: Williams, Davis, Qadree Ollison and Caleb Huntley. It seems awfully unlikely that Williams and Davis will be the only two guys competing for the starting job. Perhaps Cordarrelle Patterson is eventually brought back; if not the Falcons will continue to be one of the league’s top available backfields in terms of available carries and targets alike. A committee approach would seem likely if Williams and Davis are the last two men standing, potentially making each a fine later-round pick due to projected volume alone.
New England Patriots sign Ty Montgomery to a two-year, $4 million deal (3/17)
- Ty Montgomery: Best-case scenario: Montgomery beats out White and works as Mac Jones’ check-down target for all of 2022. More-likely scenario: White continues to see most of the pass-down work when healthy, while Montgomery plays more of a gadget role seeing a handful of snaps per game from both the backfield as well as in the slot. He’s an injury away from being an injury away from having anything resembling a role worth chasing in fantasy land.
- James White: White caught six passes in each of his only healthy games last season. However, White’s contract only includes $500,000 in guaranteed money; perhaps a strong training camp from Montgomery will be enough for the Patriots to move on from their longtime scat back.
- Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris: The hope for these backs was always for White and Brandon Bolden to take their talents elsewhere. The former pass-catcher is back, while Montgomery represents an upgrade over the latter. Stevenson and Harris are both candidates to see double-digit carries more weeks than not in 2022, but the continued presence of a pass-down specialist lowers the floor and ceiling for both. In the year 2022, fantasy managers need to learn to deal with two-back committees; it’s not 2000 anymore. Unfortunately, volume becomes awfully tough to pinpoint when there are three or more backs involved in the equation; both Stevenson and Harris run the risk of being game-scripted off the field should the Patriots fall behind in any given game next season.
Biggest takeaway for the Patriots offense: The committee backfield is here to stay
The rumor is that Bill Belichick could be calling plays in New England with long-time OC Josh McDaniels now the head coach of the Raiders. Unfortunately, it seems like the Patriots’ love for keeping three-plus backs involved in the offense hasn’t gone anywhere. With the age-old rule of thumb being to draft the cheapest running back available in New England, White and (to a lesser extent) Montgomery have cases as the best value in fantasy land. I lean toward White: He peeled off PPR RB25 and RB9 finishes in his only two healthy games last season. Hell, Brandon Bolden and White (3) nearly combined for as many top-12 finishes as Stevenson and Harris (4) last season. Receiving backs are borderline cheat codes in full PPR fantasy football, and White is exactly that on a team that ranked 13th in targets to the position in 2021. Expecting Harris or Stevenson to breakout with both healthy seems like wishful thinking, particularly if the Patriots take a small step back in the domination department. Overall, their plus-159 point differential was the third-highest mark in the league last season. Throw in the potential for Mac Jones to naturally throw the ball more in Year 2, and neither of the Patriots’ early-down mavens look to have the sort of upside one would hope to obtain with an early- to mid-round pick in fantasy land. Note that Bolden played just two total offensive snaps during the first two weeks with everyone healthy; there’s a chance Montgomery starts the season out of the committee while playing all sorts of snaps on special teams.
Miami Dolphins sign Raheem Mostart to a one-year, $3.125 (3/16)
- Raheem Mostert: Miami was always the natural destination for Mostert if he decided to not return to San Francisco. Former 49ers OC, now Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel worked as the 49ers' run-game coordinator from 2017-2020, overseeing Mostert’s finest work. The question for Mostert is always whether or not he’ll stay healthy; just realize the soon-to-be 30-year-old veteran figures to heavily factor into the team’s early-down equation for however long the wheels stay on.
- Chase Edmonds: Mostert’s signing is a good signal that the Dolphins don’t plan on featuring Edmonds as a true three-down back. It’s OK: Edmonds is still the projected touch leader and should get most of the group’s fantasy-friendly receiving work, but hopes of an every-week 80% snap rate are as good as gone.
- Myles Gaskin: It’s unclear if the Dolphins still feel like Gaskin has something to offer the backfield based on their willingness to rewire the group throughout free agency.
- Elijah Mitchell: More locked in than ever as the 49ers’ early-down workhorse with the team’s 2021 Week 1 starter now out of the picture. Trey Lance and Deebo Samuel should see plenty of carries, but Mitchell is worthy of upside RB2 fantasy consideration with 15-plus weekly touches likely inside of Kyle Shanahan’s always well-schemed offensive attack.
Biggest takeaway for the Dolphins offense: A committee backfield seems likely in Miami
Obviously the Dolphins could still add to their backfield via the draft or free agency, but right now at least Edmonds and Mostert should be assumed as true factors in the weekly game plan. It remains to be seen how the new coaching staff feels about Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed; either way, the hopes of one single back taking over seem grimmer than ever. It’s 2022; fantasy managers can live with two-RB backfields, but a third party would make it awfully difficult to expect anything resembling consistent high-end fantasy production for everyone involved.
Houston Texans sign Dare Ogunbowale to a two-year, $3.3 million deal (3/16)
- Dare Ogunbowale: Ogunbowale projects to play plenty on special teams and potentially work as the offense's lead back on third downs and in obvious pass-first situations. He's never handled even 60 touches in a single season since entering the league in 2017, but has managed to find a small committee role in both Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.
- Rex Burkhead: Remains the projected starter with David Johnson and Royce Freeman both unrestricted free agents. Of course, it’d make sense if the Texans continue to add to the group via free agency and/or the draft, but perplexing or not: Burkhead handled at least 15 touches in seven of his final eight games in 2021.
Biggest takeaway for the Texans offense: More random veterans are filling open skill-position spots
The Texans have signed the following running backs in the last two free agency cycles: Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, Rex Burkhead and Dare Ogunbowale. They also claimed Royce Freeman off waivers during the season, because why not. On the one hand, the continued insistence on not devoting any sort of real resources to the position keeps it wide open for a high-round rookie or incoming free agent to take the hell over. On the other, 2021 already proved that the team is content to enter Week 1 with up to four backs involved in the game plan; don’t be surprised if the answer for which Texans running back to draft in 2022 is simply: no.
Las Vegas Raiders sign Brandon Bolden (3/16)
- Brandon Bolden: Worked as the Patriots’ pass-down back last season with James White sidelined for all but three games. Bolden is a career special teamer who wouldn’t be expected to have a role in most backfields… except for the one that is being coached by his longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
- Kenyan Drake: His contract has already been restructured, indicating he’ll probably be back on the Raiders in 2022. Strictly used as a pass-down option last season, Drake once again projects as a little-used rotational back more weeks than not and looks to be more than one injury away from securing anything close to a fantasy-viable role.
- Josh Jacobs: McDaniels noted Jacobs can play on all three downs. And yet, the Raiders signed Bolden and were rumored to be interested in James White as well. Similar to Antonio Gibson, Jacobs would go from more of a low-end RB2 to a legit RB1 with the benefit of a featured pass-game role; unfortunately that seems a bit unlikely with both Bolden and Drake likely factoring into the equation.
Biggest takeaway for the Raiders offense: Josh McDaniels has brought his committee backfield to Vegas
McDaniels was the Patriots' offensive coordinator from 2012-2021. On just four occasions did a running back receive even 200-plus carries: 2016 LeGarrette Blount (299), 2012 Stevan Ridley (290), 2018 and 2019 Sony Michel (209, 247) and 2021 Damien Harris (202). Jacobs has racked up 242, 273 and 217 rush attempts during the first three seasons of his career while missing a combined six games; it’s tough to rationally expect an increase in volume in either the run or pass game ahead of 2022. Jacobs remains just 24 years old and is the favorite to lead the backfield in touches and production; just realize his touch count is more likely to be closer to 200 than 300 with McDaniels tentatively expected to keep three backs involved on a weekly basis.
Washington Commanders re-sign J.D. McKissic to a two-year, $7 million deal (3/16)
- J.D. McKissic: Was supposed to sign with the Bills — but not so fast, my friend. McKissic is back in Washington on the same deal he would’ve signed to join Buffalo. No. 2 among all running backs in total targets over the past two seasons, McKissic produced five separate top-15 PPR finishes in just 11 games last season. Moving from Taylor Heinicke to Carson Wentz could feasibly lead to less reliance on the running back in the passing game. Expect Washington to continue to lean on McKissic on third downs and in obvious pass-first situations.
- Antonio Gibson: finished as the PPR RB7, RB6, RB36, RB4, RB18 and RB6 in six games without McKissic injured early or completely sidelined last season. Before then? Gibson had just one finish inside the position's top 12 backs. Nobody is doubting Gibson’s ability to excel in the passing game, but there’s no reason to believe that McKissic’s heavy involvement is going anywhere.
- Jaret Patterson: Back to RB3 status in Washington. Patterson is at least one injury away from having anything resembling a fantasy-viable role.
- Curtis Samuel: Chances of getting legit work as a running back with both McKissic and Gibson healthy seem awfully slim.
Biggest takeaway for the Commanders offense: RIP Gibson’s passing-down role
It’s not that Gibson can’t put up big numbers with McKissic also on the team, but things sure will be a lot tougher. Historically one target to a running back has been equivalent to roughly 2.7 carries in terms of expected fantasy points — only Alvin Kamara has more targets than McKissic among all running backs over the past two seasons.
Gibson should continue to flirt with 15 combined carries and targets per game, but he’ll struggle to flirt with weekly RB1 production as the No. 2 passing-down back in his own offense. Jonathan Taylor managed to overcome the presence of Nyheim Hines in a somewhat similar situation with Wentz under center in 2021, although that was thanks in large part to the Colts posting the AFC’s fourth-best point differential (+86) and rarely falling too far behind on the scoreboard. Gibson was the overall PPR RB17 in Weeks 1-12 with McKissic last season, and the RB11 the rest of the way (despite missing one game himself). With McKissic, Gibson is a volume-based RB2 who offers a low floor in situations when the Commanders struggle to put up points and/or play with a lead. Without McKissic, Gibson has a real argument as a top-five fantasy running back. It’s too bad the latter scenario doesn’t appear to be in the Commanders’ plans ahead of 2022.
Carolina Panthers sign D’Onta Foreman to a one-year, $2 million deal (3/15)
- D’Onta Foreman: Probably the favorite to work as CMC’s preferred handcuff, but it’s a murky enough situation to probably just avoid unless McCaffrey again gets injured during the season. Credit to Foreman for filling in as a lower-middle-class man’s Derrick Henry last season, posting 133-566-3 rushing and 9-123-0 receiving lines in nine regular-season games, but just realize he’s never played more than 10 games in a single season and doesn’t profile as more than a backup/someone who can spell CMC on early downs occasionally.
- Chuba Hubbard: The biggest loser from the deal, Hubbard didn’t do much with his opportunity to work as the Panthers’ featured back for much of 2021. Initially blessed with something close to a true three-down role, injuries and general ineffectiveness led to Hubbard losing bunches of reps – particularly in obvious passing situations – to first Rodney Smith and later Ameer Abdullah. It’s possible they would deploy a dreaded three-back committee in McCaffrey's absence should the latter back return to the Panthers.
- Christian McCaffrey: Perhaps the Panthers try to somewhat limit CMC’s early-down usage in an effort to keep their franchise running back healthier in 2022. Even then, McCaffreys’ extraterrestrial receiving role would still make him awfully difficult to rank outside of fantasy’s top-two running backs in full-PPR scoring. It’s unlikely Foreman has much, if any, bearing on McCaffrey’s workload in 2022 and beyond.
Biggest takeaway for the Panthers offense: There probably isn’t a McCaffrey handcuff worth investing in this year
Mike Davis helped give CMC managers some solid season-long relief in 2020, while Hubbard at least had five finishes inside the position’s top-24 backs on the season. Unfortunately, the most likely outcome in 2022 would seemingly be a three-back committee featuring Foreman, Hubbard and Abdullah (if he re-signs). Perhaps Foreman and Hubbard compete for the early-down job and the loser simply falls out of favor but even then, Abdullah could be enough of a nuisance in negative game script and obvious passing situations to render either player as nothing more than a lower-end RB2 at best. Adding someone such as Deshaun Watson under center could change the scoring upside available, but at the moment, the league’s reigning 29th-ranked scoring offense isn’t exactly the unit to expect copious fantasy goodness from. The best fantasy handcuffs to burn a late-round pick on are those expected to see a true three-down role in the absence of their team’s starter — none of Foreman, Hubbard or Abdullah profile to be that guy, pal.
New England Patriots re-sign James White to a two-year, $5 million deal
- James White: White caught six passes in each of his healthy games last season. Returning to New England has always made the most sense — the more familiarity, the better when it comes to 30-year-old veterans coming off an injury. Note that White’s contract does only include $500,000 in guaranteed money.
- Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris: The hope for these backs was always for White and Brandon Bolden to take their talents elsewhere. Stevenson and Harris are both candidates to see double-digit carries more weeks than not in 2022, but the continued presence of a passing-down specialist lowers the floor and ceiling for both. In the year 2022 fantasy managers need to learn to deal with two-back committees; it’s not 2000 anymore. Unfortunately, volume becomes awfully tough to pinpoint when there are three or more backs involved in the equation; both Stevenson and Harris run the risk of being game-scripted off the field should the Patriots fall behind in any given game next season.
Biggest takeaway for the Patriots offense: The committee backfield is here to stay
The rumor is that Bill Belichick could be calling plays in New England with long-time OC Josh McDaniels now the head coach of the Raiders. Unfortunately, it seems like the Patriots’ love for keeping three-plus backs involved in the offense hasn’t gone anywhere. With the age-old rule of thumb being to draft the cheapest running back available in New England, White truly does have a case as the best value in fantasy land, considering he peeled off PPR RB25 and RB9 finishes in his only two healthy games last season. Brandon Bolden and White (3) nearly combined for as many top-12 finishes as Stevenson and Harris (4) last season. Receiving backs are borderline cheat codes in full PPR fantasy football, and White is exactly that on a team that ranked 13th in targets to the position in 2021. Expecting Harris or Stevenson to breakout with both healthy seems like wishful thinking, particularly if the Patriots take a small step back in the domination department. Overall, their +159 point differential was the third-highest mark in the league last season. Throw in the potential for Mac Jones to naturally throw the ball more in Year 2, and neither of the Patriots’ early-down mavens looks to have the sort of upside one would hope to obtain with an early to mid-round pick in fantasy land. Note that Bolden played just two total offensive snaps during the first two weeks with everyone healthy.
New York Jets re-sign Tevin Coleman (3/14)
- Tevin Coleman: Coleman is at least an injury away, more likely two, from seeing anything close to a fantasy role worth being interested in. Depending on the contract specifics, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Jets use a late-round pick on some competition for his roster spot.
- Michael Carter: Carter started the final five games he was active in 2021 even with Coleman active for four of the occasions. Still, the rising second-year talented was only trusted to stay on the field for at least 60% of the offense's snaps on three occasions all season. Carter is the favorite to be the Week 1 starter and lead the way in touches but just don’t be surprised if his final carry and target total is closer to 200 than 300.
- Ty Johnson: Also a candidate to be cut depending on how the coaching staff favors this group. Johnson's brief fantasy value was more thanks to captain checkdown Mike White‘s audition under center than anything. He played just a single snap in our best single-game sample with the full group healthy in Week 16.
Biggest takeaway for the Jets offense: Ugh.
Coleman has a chance to be to Carter what Carlos Hyde was to James Robinson in 2021: an objectively worse football player who manages to steal a large chunk of early-down work regardless because the coach likes them. Coleman, like Hyde, has had some good years professionally, but it’s been more than a half-decade at this point. While one could argue Coleman is easier competition for Carter to beat out than a high-round rookie or more-expensive free agent, the Jets did feed the soon-to-be 29-year-old veteran at least eight carries on five separate occasions last season. Carter did rack up a robust 18 touches and a dominant 74% snap rate with Coleman active in Week 16 last season, but an early-game concussion in Week 17 ultimately limited his availability for the final two games. Carter is shaping up as a low-end RB2 in fantasy land who has the potential to leap into the position’s upper-echelon if the coaching staff treats Coleman more like the 2021 Colts did Marlon Mack as opposed to how the 2021 Jaguars treated Hyde.
Miami Dolphins sign Chase Edmonds to a 2-year, $12.6 million deal (3/14)
- Chase Edmonds: Edmonds is the first new addition by Mike McDaniel to the Dolphins’ backfield, but he may not be the last. Edmonds has never handled more than 25% of the Cardinals’ rushing attempts in four seasons. He has shown explosive-play-making ability, with 16% of his attempts going for 10-plus yards in 2021, which was fourth-best for backs with at least 100 totes.
- Myles Gaskin: The seventh-round pick from 2019 flashed receiving chops over the last two seasons with 22% and 23% targets per route mark, but his value took a hit with this signing. Gaskin could be in jeopardy of getting cut if the Dolphins draft a running back.
- Salvon Ahmed: Miami tendered Ahmed – a former 49er – last week and he figures to be in the mix on early downs if the team doesn’t draft another back.
Biggest takeaway for the Dolphins offense
While under Kyle Shanahan, McDaniel saw a steady rotation of backs share the load and the Dolphins don’t have a clear-cut leader at the moment. If the season started today, Edmonds would be the favorite to lead the way, but he likely settles into a rotational situation while handling the majority of the passing-down duties. If the Dolphins don’t draft another running back, Edmonds is an RB3 with upside in PPR formats. If Miami does spend capital on a back in the draft, he is likely an RB4.
Arizona Cardinals re-sign James Conner to a 3 year, $21 million deal (3/14)
- James Conner: The Cardinals running back shined in his first season with the team, finishing the season as RB5 thanks to his 15 touchdowns. He split playing time last season, but will be a clear starter for the team going forward.
- Eno Benjamin: The 2020 seventh round pick is now penciled in to the primary backup in Arizona. He would just be a handcuff in case Conner gets hurt. It wouldn’t be surprising for Arizona to spend a mid-to-late round draft pick on a running back, which would destroy Benjamin’s fantasy value, and also potentially cut into Conner’s upside.
Biggest takeaway for the Cardinals offense: Conner will be in the conversation of a top-12 fantasy RB as long as Arizona doesn’t invest in a backup
Conner will have an opportunity for even more playing time this season as Chase Edmonds left for Miami. He played five games last season without Edmonds, and averaged 23.3 PPR points in these games. Touchdown regression will be a real concern, as his 18 carries inside the five yard line ranked second for all running backs, but he can help offset that with an increase in volume.
Chicago Bears claim Darrynton Evans off waivers (3/11)
- Darrynton Evans: The ex-Titans back will look to stay healthy for the first time in his career. It seems more likely than not that Evans works as the distant RB3, but perhaps his pass-game abilities were sought out after the Bears waived Tarik Cohen.
- David Montgomery: Arguably locked in with one of the league’s biggest projected workloads if this is the only way that the Bears plan on replacing Cohen.
- Khalil Herbert: Like Montgomery, Herbert benefits from this move if it’s the Bears’ primary way of replacing Cohen. Herbert is a sneaky-awesome later round pick because of his ability to 1.) be an A-plus handcuff for Montgomery, and 2.) potentially obtain more of a consistent committee role under new offensive coordinator, former Packers quarterbacks coach, Luke Getsy.
Biggest takeaway for the Bears offense: Montgomery could be looking at a monster workload in 2022
Nobody will confuse Montgomery with Austin Ekeler or Christian McCaffrey when it comes to pure receiving goodness, but the absence of Cohen has resulted in the Bears' starting back racking up 96 receptions over the past two seasons – tied for the 10th-highest mark among all running backs. Full point-per-reception (PPR) scoring heavily rewards receiving running backs; Montgomery might have the workload of a high-end RB1 in 2022 while being priced as an RB2.
San Francisco 49ers re-sign JaMycal Hasty to a one-year, $895,000 deal (3/10)
- JaMycal Hasty: Hasty only touched the ball 39 times in 2021, but Kyle Shanahan trusted him enough to regularly feature him ahead of Elijah Mitchell in clear pass-first situations.
- Elijah Mitchell: Mitchell only had 20 targets in 2021; Hasty had 29.
Biggest takeaway for the 49ers offense: It’s far from a given that Mitchell gets a true three-down role in 2022
Mitchell made a living off efficient performances behind monstrous rushing workloads as a rookie. It’s unlikely Hasty eats much into that, but he won’t help increase the pass-down work, while the switch to Trey Lance is a net negative considering the history of dual-threat quarterbacks enabling fantasy-friendly running backs. Throw in more Deebo Samuel on the ground, and it’s possible Mitchell won’t be seeing quite as many opportunity per game as one might expect from a second-round fantasy selection.
Miami Dolphins re-sign Salvon Ahmed to a one-year, $895,000 deal (3/8)
- Salvon Ahmed: Ahmed has handled 152 touches over the past two seasons and now has his hat in the ring for the Dolphins’ open running back job.
- Myles Gaskin: Has already beat out Ahmed on multiple occasions; there’s a chance that Gaskin is once again the front-runner for lead back duties in 2022 even though his fantasy value has cratered.
Biggest takeaway for the Dolphins offense: There remains all sorts of opportunity for a new running back to take the hell over
It’d be shocking if the Dolphins don’t make serious additions to their running back room throughout the rest of free agency and the draft, but don’t discount the possibility of Gaskin finding a way to the top of the depth chart if the additions wind up being on the cheaper side of things. Either way: this backfield has more available opportunity than most based on loss of projected touches from unrestricted free agents.
Available % of RB carries and targets based on 2022 unrestricted free agents (PFF, Over The Cap). This doesn't included RFAs like D'Ernest Johnson/Boston Scott/etc, and obviously Giants situation could change in a hurry depending on what they do with Saquon. Cool? Cool. pic.twitter.com/f2rgoj8R1p
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 28, 2022
2022 NFL Draft position rankings:
Top 10 players at every position
QB | RB | WR | TE | iOL | OT | DI | EDGE | LB | CB | S
Los Angeles Rams trade Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans (3/19)
- Robert Woods: Woods ripped off 86-1,219-6, 90-1,134-2 and 90-936-6 receiving lines in 2018-2020 before going for 45-556-4 in just nine games last season. Woods' involvement in the Rams offense was down, to an extent, in 2021, but he was still the overall PPR WR12 before injury. On the year, his average of 15.0 PPR points per game was tied with Tyler Lockett for the 18th-highest mark among all wide receivers. Nothing about the soon-to-be 30-year-old’s play in 2021 indicated a drop-off in performance is near; Here’s to hoping he’s 100% recovered from his torn ACL by the time Week 1 rolls around.
- A.J. Brown: Less likely to average double-digit targets per game, but the presence of Woods — who was always lauded for his ability as a run-blocker in Sean McVay’s offense — is arguably the best-case sort of No. 2 wide receiver the Titans could have brought in. It remains awfully difficult to rank more than eight to 10 wide receivers ahead of Brown in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes ahead of 2022.
- Nick Westbrook-Ikhine: Suddenly the clear-cut No. 3 (at best) pass-game option inside of the NFL’s most run-heavy offense. Westbrook-Ikhine is unlikely to provide any sort of fantasy value worth chasing in 2022 due purely to volume concerns.
- Cooper Kupp: It was fair to wonder exactly how Kupp’s encore would go with each of himself, A-Rob, Woods and (maybe) Odell Beckham all vying for targets in the same offense. Now it sure looks like the NFL’s reigning receiving triple-crown winner will again get all the targets his heart desires inside of arguably the game’s most efficient passing attack.
- Allen Robinson: Arguably the biggest winner of the whole trade, A-Rob now profiles as Matthew Stafford’s No. 2 pass-game option from Day 1. Even if you believe Robinson is better than guys like Darnell Mooney and Brandin Cooks, their respective statuses as undisputed No. 1 options in their passing attacks gives them the edge over Robinson in fantasy land. Still, this move makes Robinson worth valuing ahead of players like Brandon Aiyuk, Christian Kirk and Kadarius Toney due to his superior quarterback and likelihood for superior volume.
- Van Jefferson: Back as the Rams’ No. 3 wide receiver at the moment depending on whether the team is able to bring back OBJ. This role produced four top-20 PPR finishes in 2021; just realize Reynolds is clearly the third funny-looking dragon meme in Rams three-WR sets. It wouldn’t be surprising if TuTu Atwell or a player to be added later split snaps to some extent with Jefferson if OBJ doesn’t return/is forced to miss a chunk of time.
Biggest takeaway for the Titans offense: Ryan Tannehill is starting to get some weapons in the passing game
Don’t expect the Titans offense to stop flowing through Derrick Henry anytime soon, but at least the artist known as TanneThrill has newfound fantasy light with AJB, Woods and Austin Hooper at his disposal. The trio won’t be confused with the Rams’ most likely trio anytime soon; just realize Tannehill is again set up to potentially provide some sneaky upside QB2 value.
- 2019: 20.2 fantasy points per game (QB10)
- 2020: 21.6 (QB12)
- 2021: 17.0 (QB15)
Still, Woods profiles as a better real-life option than fantasy asset worth overly chasing. He'll likely wind up in the WR4 conversation with guys like Gabriel Davis, Russell Gage and Corey Davis. Each receiver (including Woods) certainly has a pathway to success, but don’t exactly profile as *the* guy in their respective passing game and should generally work as their overall offense’s No. 3 option.
Biggest takeaway for the Rams offense: It’s now fine to buy the A-Rob hype
Like OBJ did, Robinson is fully expected to improve the Rams’ real-life offense; the problem is that there might not be enough volume for him to return to his WR1 ways. The Rams offense runs through Kupp first and foremost, but at least now Woods is out of the picture. Beckham averaged just 6.8 targets in 10 full games last season and posted PPR WR10, WR33, WR11, WR102, WR28, WR21 and WR83 finishes in his seven full regular season games with the Rams. Robinson averaged a robust 9.4 targets per game in 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2020 alike; it seems awfully unlikely he reaches that mark in 2022 if the Rams have even two of their incumbent top three receivers healthy. The “good” news for Robinson’s fantasy stock is that scenario could either be off the table (if OBJ signs elsewhere) or at least delayed while he recovers from injury. Robinson is worthy of top-30 consideration alongside guys like DeVonta Smith, Mike Williams, Tyler Lockett and Courtland Sutton.
Kansas City Chiefs sign JuJu Smith-Schuster to a one-year, $10.75 million deal (3/18)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster: He looked like the next-big thing at the position after ripping off 58-917-7 and 111-1,426-7 receiving lines to start his career, but injuries and a declining situation under center largely robbed him of the chance to reach his ceiling over the past three seasons. The 166 targets he saw in 2018 will be tough to come by as the No. 3 pass-game option in Kansas City, but Smith-Schuster provides the offense with the exact sort of reliable underneath-intermediate threat they’ve been looking for.
- Mecole Hardman: The biggest loser from the deal. Hardman has always struggled to work ahead of Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson so don’t expect his role in the offense to increase with the addition of Smith-Schuster. Perhaps Hardman joins Hill and Smith-Schuster in three-WR sets but either way, he now profiles as the offense’s No. 4 pass-game option at best.
- Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce: They are largely not impacted by the move, as this offense throws the ball with enough efficiency and volume to enable more than two consistently solid fantasy assets. If anything, a third legit threat for defenses to worry about every play could provide both long-time studs some much needed freedom from extra help coverage.
Biggest takeaway for the Chiefs offense: Mahomes again has a solid No. 2 wide receiver
The Chiefs team that won a Super Bowl obviously flowed through Hill and Kelce before anyone else, but Sammy Watkins truly gave the team a lift with his fantastic playoff run. Obviously, Watkins didn’t quite fulfill the expectations of his far more lofty contract but either way, Smith-Schuster won’t be asked to do much else than eat up underneath looks while the defense is far more concerned with containing the Chiefs’ All-Pros elsewhere. A return to fantasy WR1 glory is unlikely considering the lack of projected high-end volume, but Smith-Schuster is firmly in the same low-end WR3 tier as guys such as Hunter Renfrow, Kadarius Toney, Brandon Aiyuk, Allen Robinson and Robert Woods.
Las Vegas Raiders trade for Davante Adams (3/17)
Click here for a full article on Adams’ fantasy football outlook in Las Vegas.
Los Angeles Rams sign Allen Robinson to a three-year, $45 million deal (3/17)
Click here for a full article on Robinson’s fantasy football outlook in Los Angeles.
San Francisco 49ers sign Ray-Ray McCloud to a two-year deal (3/17)
- Ray-Ray McCloud: Son of former 1990s universe conqueror Fox, McCloud figures to vie for return duties and work as the offense's No. 4 wide receiver behind Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings.
Biggest takeaway for the 49ers offense: There likely won’t be enough pass-game volume for a third fantasy-relevant wide receiver
Even if McCloud manages to beat out Jennings by some miracle, the 49ers’ reliance on FB Kyle Juszcyk, combined with an expected run-first offense with Trey Lance under center, makes it extremely unlikely that someone beyond Samuel or Aiyuk consistently produces at wide receiver. Hell, there might not be enough pass-game volume to keep Samuel, Aiyuk and George Kittle fantasy managers satisfied. McCloud provides some solid versatility on both offense and special teams; just don’t expect anything resembling a viable fantasy role in 2022.
Chicago Bears sign Equanimeous St. Brown to a one-year deal (3/17)
- Equanimeous St. Brown: A fun size (6-foot-5 and 214-pounds), speed (4.48-second 40-yard dash) specimen, ESB failed to ever earn any sort of consistent role in Green Bay. Overall, he has caught 37 passes for 543 yards and just one score in 37 career games; there’s no reason to believe he’ll be more than a depth piece if able to make the Bears’ final roster.
Biggest takeaway for the Bears offense: This wide receiver room still needs plenty of help
Darnell Mooney led the squad in targets last season, but each of the Bears' next top-four receivers in Allen Robinson, Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd and Jakeem Grant are unrestricted free agents. He’ll have a case as one of the cheaper undisputed No. 1 pass-game options should the Bears largely continue to refrain from putting serious resources toward the position.
Chicago Bears sign Byron Pringle to a one-year, $6 million deal (3/17)
- Byron Pringle: Projects as a starter in three-WR sets alongside Darnell Mooney and either Jakeem Grant or Equanimeous St. Brown. Read that sentence again for a good analysis on where the Bears’ passing game is at the moment.
Biggest takeaway for the Bears offense: This wide receiver room still needs plenty of help
See St. Brown's takeaway above. There's plenty of room in the Chicago passing attack at the moment.
Buffalo Bills release Cole Beasley (3/17)
- Isaiah McKenzie: Credit to the 26-year-old talent for ripping off electrifying 6-65-2 and 11-125-1 receiving performances in the only two games that he’s been leaned on since 2020. The latter performance took place during a crucial Week 16 victory over the Patriots last season, but it wasn't enough for McKenzie to fully leap Beasley on the depth chart.
- Cole Beasley: The Bills had already given Beasley permission to seek a trade, but now McKenzie now projects as this offense’s Week 1 starter in the slot. The 33-year-old Beasley has been awfully banged up over the past two seasons and particularly seemed to lose a step in 2021, but perhaps a slot-needy team will give the route-running maestro another chance on a one-year deal.
Biggest takeaway for the Bills offense: McKenzie might just be the new starting slot receiver in Buffalo
Beasley was rather awesome in 2020 but started to look his age in 2021. Overall, he set three-year lows in PFF receiving grade (67.2), yards per route run (1.33) and yards after the catch per reception (8.4) while also posting his lowest counting numbers since joining the Bills in 2019. The Bills were rumored to be interested in Christian Kirk and even Evan Engram, so it seems likely they add to the wide receiver room early in the draft. Note that $4 million annually isn’t enough money to guarantee that McKenzie will be a Week 1 starter. Still, he’s at least earned a larger non-gadget role ahead of next season. Best case, McKenzie winds up starting and makes good use out of the same sort of triple-digit target workload Beasley has seen in each of the last three seasons. Worst case, he split things down the middle with a new teammate or is used as the offense’s WR4 behind Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and someone else not yet on the team. McKenzie remains an interesting dart throw in fantasy land as long as his ADP doesn’t creep into WR3 range.
Las Vegas Raiders sign Mack Hollins to a one-year deal (3/16)
- Mack Hollins: Better off as an offense’s No. 4 or No. 5 wide receiver used to sporadically stretch the field, but perhaps a starting job could come to fruition in a Raiders offense in dire need of speed on the outside.
- Bryan Edwards: Remains projected to start in three-WR sets; maybe one of these years Derek Carr will feed him more than 6 targets in a single game.
- Hunter Renfrow: Not impacted; if anything, this sort of low-investment addition is exactly what Renfrow fantasy enthusiasts should be hoping for.
Biggest takeaway for the Raiders offense: There’s still plenty of available opportunity at wide receiver
Renfrow and Darren Waller are locked in as Carr’s top-two pass-game options; after that things get murky. None of Henry Ruggs, Zay Jones or (probably) DeSean Jackson will be back in 2022, meaning there remains an open wide receiver on the outside opposite of Edwards. The Raiders did go ahead and sign FB Alec Ingold — an indication they might lean on three-WR sets less than most offenses — but the addition of Hollins shouldn’t be seen as much of a hurdle for an incoming high-round rookie or additional free agent to clear.
Carolina Panthers re-sign Brandon Zylstra to a one-year deal (3/16)
- Brandon Zylstra: Posted a season-long 18-250-1 receiving lines in 13 games last season, which was somehow worlds better than what the Panthers' second-round rookie managed to pull off.
- Terrace Marshall: Better be hoping new play-caller Ben McAdoo has a change of heart about the team’s starting receivers. Marshall doesn’t turn 22 until June; just realize the track record of rookies performing as bad as he did isn’t good.
- Rashard Higgins: Now profiles as the likely No. 5 wide receiver in the offense and may not be a certainty to make the Week 1 active roster.
Biggest takeaway for the Panthers offense: There might be some competition at the No. 3 wide receiver spot
Marshall flashed throughout the 2021 preseason and played at least 50% of the offense's snaps during the first five games of the season. Unfortunately, Marshall was more lost than Waldo the rest of the way, totaling just four receptions from Weeks 6-18. There was nothing from the season to suggest that a bounce-back campaign is imminent — particularly considering the Panthers have yet to make an upgrade under center — and now Marshall must beat out the man that started ahead of him during the second half of 2021. Barring a Deshaun Watson trade, it might be wishful thinking for the league’s reigning 29th-ranked scoring offense to enable anyone other than Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore as high-end fantasy assets.
Tennessee Titans release Julio Jones (3/16)
- Julio Jones: Has played in 19 of a potential 33 regular season games over the past two seasons. Jones started 2021 off well enough with nine receptions for 157 scoreless yards in his first eight quarters of action, but a nagging hamstring injury robbed the ex-Falcons talent from ever really finding his groove in Tennessee. The best days of the 33-year-old veteran's career are assuredly in the past; that doesn't mean he couldn't provide some juice as an overqualified WR2 or WR3 in the right offense.
- A.J. Brown: Has always had to at least somewhat share the passing game with either Corey Davis or Jones throughout his short career; now AJB stands out as one of the NFL’s more-established No. 1 pass-game options. It’ll be tough to rank him outside of the top-six or so wide receivers in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.
- Nick Westbrook-Ikhine: Suddenly a projected starter in Tennessee, the rising third-year talent found the end zone four times last season and showed some level of upside with 7-107-0 and 4-78-1 receiving lines on two separate occasions. Ultimately, it’s tough to expect the league’s most run-heavy offense to enable more than one consistent high-end fantasy option in the passing game, but Westbrook-Ikhine remains the biggest “winner” from this transaction.
Biggest takeaway for the Titans offense: Suddenly the Titans are in desperate need for more wide receiver help
Nobody is doubting AJB’s standing among the position’s elite, but he has also missed six games over the past two seasons. Guys like Cameron Batson, Dez Fitzpatrick and Marcus Johnson stand out as the next-best options in the passing game, while the team’s insistence on keeping multiple tight ends involved doesn’t figure to be going anywhere. It’d be concerning for the Titans and (especially) Ryan Tannehill if no more pieces are added to the group. Westbrook-Ikhine profiles as a decent enough late-round dart throw in best-ball formats thanks to his status as a projected Week 1 starter; otherwise Brown is the only member of this passing game worth paying real attention to in fantasy land.
Carolina Panthers sign Rashard Higgins to a one-year deal (3/16)
- Rashard Higgins: Showed more chemistry than most professional wide receivers can attest to having had with Baker Mayfield. Still, Higgins doesn't offer anything special in the size (6-foot-1, 198 pounds) or speed (4.64-second 40-yard dash) departments. He's never reached 40 receptions, 600 yards or five touchdowns in a single season and never quite cemented himself as a starter in Cleveland despite having very little competition. Barring a massive leap, Higgins figures to replace unrestricted free agent Brandon Zylstra as the Panthers’ No. 4 wide receiver.
- Terrace Marshall: Nothing short of a bust as a rookie, Marshall does seem to be cemented as the Panthers’ No. 3 wide receiver at the moment behind only D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. It’s not a guarantee that the Panthers are done addressing their wide receiver room; either way the presence of Higgins in place of Zystra — who managed to work ahead of Marshall for most of last season — is a positive for the rising second-year receiver.
Biggest takeaway for the Panthers offense: Marshall should be back to starting in three-WR sets come Week 1
Marshall flashed throughout the 2021 preseason and played at least 50% of the offense's snaps during the first five games of the season. Unfortunately, Marshall was more lost than Waldo the rest of the way, totaling just four receptions from Weeks 6-18. There was nothing from the season to suggest that a bounce-back campaign is imminent — particularly considering the Panthers have yet to make an upgrade under center — but at least Marshall does project to get another crack as a starter assuming Carolina refrains from making more serious additions to the position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-sign Breshad Perriman to a one-year deal (3/16)
- Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson and Jaelon Darden: Obviously Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage will be starting in three-receiver sets when each is healthy, so Perriman doesn’t project to work as more than the offense’s fourth wide receiver during these instances. His presence could also make it possible that the team moves on from Miller.
Biggest takeaway for the Buccaneers offense: Perhaps Perriman fills out three-WR sets during Godwin’s potential absence
It remains to be seen if Godwin will miss early-season action while recovering from knee surgery. If so, the newfound presence of Gage might allow the Buccaneers to roll with the ex-Falcons receiver in the slot while featuring Evans and Perriman on the outside. Even this role likely wouldn’t result in more than a few targets per game for Perriman, as Brady has demonstrated a willingness to force-feed his key targets when other players are sidelined during his time with the Buccaneers. Still, it’s a blow to any sort of dynasty or sleeper value that Miller, Johnson or Darden might have held.
Cleveland Browns sign Jakeem Grant to a three-year, $13.8 million deal (3/16)
- Jakeem Grant: Ever an ace in the return game, Grant has only played even half of the offense's snaps in 14 of his 81 career games. He did briefly flash for the Bears with more than stellar performances against the Cardinals (5-62-1) and Packers (1-46-1, punt return TD) in back-to-back weeks, but a full-time role seems unlikely for the pint-sized 29-year-old veteran.
Biggest takeaway for the Browns offense: Another non-full-time receiver enters the rotation
Grant figures to take over as the team's primary returner in place of guys like Demetric Felton, Anthony Schwartz and Donovan Peoples-Jones. The latter two receivers figure to be the ones most impacted by the signing; Amari Cooper is the only Browns pass-catcher worthy of serious fantasy investment at this point. DPJ has flashed enough to earn the benefit of the doubt as the potential No. 2 starter, but there’s no reason to believe the Browns are done addressing the position. In a run-first offense with all sorts of questions under center, it’d be surprising if any pure pass-catcher other than Cooper provides any sort of consistency in 2022.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign Russell Gage (3/15)
- Russell Gage: Gage sports the fifth-highest PFF grade (76.0) among the free-agent wide receivers and the fifth-highest YPRR (1.96), making him one of the group’s more underrated options. He was rather dominant against man coverage last season, getting targeted on 35% of his routes while averaging an elite 2.91 yards per route against man coverage. Don’t pigeonhole Gage as a pure slot receiver — he spent more total snaps out wide (339) than in the slot (266) last season, even demonstrating some rather awesome contested-catch ability along the way.
- Mike Evans: More playing time in the slot now seems like a longshot, but all things considered Gage isn’t the worst option that could’ve been added to the offense in terms of Evans’ potential target volume. Tom Brady has been more content to evenly distribute the offense than Jameis Winston was. Either way, Evans again seems like a lock for a target total in the lower triple-digits accompanying over 1,000 yards and double-digit trips to the end zone.
- Chris Godwin: Perhaps will be used more on the outside with Gage in town, but it’s not like Godwin isn’t used to working all over the formation. Last season he did spend more time in the slot (509 snaps), but also saw plenty of work out wide (303) and even played a handful of reps in-line (18). The projected target leader in the offense during any given week, Godwin will remain anyone’s idea of an upside WR2 at worst once healthy enough to suit up.
- Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden and Scotty Miller: The biggest losers from the transaction, the Buccaneers don’t appear to have any plans of elevating their incumbent backups into featured roles ahead of 2022.
Biggest takeaway for the Buccaneers offense: Getting TB12 more weapons remains a priority
Last season, Evans, Godwin and Antonio Brown largely worked as Brady’s 1A, 1B and 1C receivers on the few occasions all were healthy and on the team. Perhaps Gage steps into AB’s role — the ex-Falcons’ aforementioned dominance against man coverage makes him a great replacement piece, considering Brown was Brady’s most targeted receiver against man last season.
Of course, it’s unlikely Brady views Gage in quite as high regard as Brown. After all — and off-the-field issues aside — AB is arguably the best wide receiver of the post-Moss era. Still, Gage enters one of his best-case free agency scenarios playing with the GOAT under center as a starting option inside the league’s reigning No. 2-ranked scoring offense. The disparity in draft position between Godwin and Evans vs. Gage could very well be far too wide, particularly if Godwin winds up missing a portion of the season. There are enough available targets inside the NFL’s most pass-happy offense for Brady to enable *three* weekly relevant fantasy wide receivers.
Miami Dolphins re-sign Preston Williams to a one-year deal (3/15)
- Preston Williams: Williams hasn't managed to play more than eight games in a season since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2019. While he's flashed during this span, this short-term deal is a good indicator that the soon-to-be 25-year-old talent will enter 2022 as the team’s No. 4 wide receiver at best.
Biggest takeaway for the Dolphins offense: Miami might be done adding to their wide receiver room
Money and draft capital suggest that Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, Cedrick Wilson and Mike Gesicki will be Tua Tagovailoa’s four receivers on more dropbacks than not in 2022. Williams profiles as a perfectly fine No. 4 wide receiver when healthy, just don’t expect a fantasy-viable role in an offense that didn’t have many available targets entering free agency in the first place. Perhaps Williams rotates with Parker and/or Wilson more than expected. Either way, Waddle remains locked in as this passing attack’s undisputed No. 1 weapon.
Detroit Lions sign D.J. Chark to a one-year, $12 million deal (3/15)
- D.J. Chark: Chark has the sort of size (6-foot-3 and 199 pounds) and speed (4.34-second 40-yard dash) to warrant this sort of one-year “prove it” deal. Things haven't been quite so fresh since his blistering 2019 season (73-1,008-8), but the 25-year-old talent enters one of the league’s few offenses where he should immediately slot in as the No. 2 wide receiver.
- Josh Reynolds: Re-signed with the Lions reportedly in part because of his chemistry with Jared Goff, Reynolds looks like this offense’s No. 5 passing-game option behind St. Brown, Chark, D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson. Reynolds would be the first bet to lose out on a spot in three-WR sets should the Lions devote a high-round pick to the position.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown: Chark is a natural fit on the outside of the formation and should only help clear out the underneath and intermediate areas of the field for St. Brown. Still safe from the full wrath of defenses from the friendly confines of the slot, St. Brown’s biggest competition for targets from the ever-conservative Goff remains Hockenson and Swift as opposed to another wide receiver on this (still meh) roster.
Biggest takeaway for the Lions offense: Detroit found themselves a field-stretcher
Moving from Kalif Raymond to Chark is objectively an upgrade — the Lions finally have someone defenses should have to think twice about leaving without help over the top. Unfortunately, Goff might not be the sort of quarterback to consistently take advantage of that matchup: His 6.8-yard average target depth was the league's third-lowest mark among 44 qualified quarterbacks last season. Nobody had a lower percentage of their passes thrown short of the first down sticks (34.2%). Chark could very well be the offense’s No. 4 pass-game option behind St. Brown, Hockenson and Swift; he’s a better real-life addition than prospective fantasy bargain due to the low projected volume at hand.
Jacksonville Jaguars sign Zay Jones to a three-year, $24 million deal (3/14)
- Zay Jones: Jones popped in his second season to the tune of a 56-652-7 receiving line with a rookie Josh Allen under center then proceeded to fall under 250 total yards in both 2019 and 2020 before peeling off another solid season-long 47-546-1 performance in 2021. Of course, it took the Raiders releasing Henry Ruggs for Jones to crack the starting lineup in the first place but either way, credit to the soon-to-be 27-year-old veteran for catching at least five passes in seven of his final eight games (including playoffs).
- Christian Kirk: Obviously, $24 million isn’t the same as $84 million, but adding more target competition to the equation certainly doesn’t help matters. Still, Jones is at least an established outside wide receiver, meaning Kirk should simply start in the slot ahead of Laviska Shenault. The ex-Cardinals talent is easily at his best from the friendly confines of the slot. One could argue that Jones’ presence is a net positive due to the reality that Kirk will likely get to play from his more natural position, the Jaguars seem less likely to spend an early-round pick on another wide receiver, and Shenault is now the projected No. 4 wide receiver.
- Laviska Shenault: This move almost certainly bumps Shenault from the starting lineup assuming the Jaguars enter Week 1 with each of Kirk, Jones and Marvin Jones healthy and ready to go. Evan Engram could feasibly work in the slot ahead of Shenault. March 14 was a bad day for Viska truthers.
- Marvin Jones: The forgotten man in all Monday’s hoopla, Jones didn’t exactly carry high expectations going into 2022, but now, it’s fair to wonder how secure his starting job really is. The Jaguars would save $3.5 million against the cap by releasing or trading Jones but would inherit $5.2 million in dead money.
Biggest takeaway for the Jaguars offense: The league’s reigning 32nd-ranked scoring offense is suddenly crowded
The three priorities of fantasy football player selection in as few words as possible: 1.) pick good players, 2.) pick good players from good offenses, and 3.) pick good players from good offenses with good workloads. Nobody is suggesting Kirk, Jones, Jones or even Shenault are necessarily bad at football, but suddenly a four-WR rotation seems plausible in an offense with multiple pass-first running backs in James Robinson and Travis Etienne in addition to borderline wide receivers that identify as tight ends Evan Engram and Dan Arnold. Hopefully, this sort of uncertainty lowers the ADP floor of everyone involved. At this point, taking the cheapest option of the group might be the best bet given the mystery surrounding Trevor Lawrence’s preferred 2022 pecking order. Ultimately, a volume hog seems unlikely to emerge inside of what again figures to be (at a minimum) one of the league’s below-average passing offenses. It’s probably a good thing if your 2022 fantasy squad doesn’t have any Jaguars wide receivers on it.
Miami Dolphins sign Cedrick Wilson to a three-year, $22.8 million deal (3/14)
- Cedrick Wilson: Wilson was a backup wide receiver for Dallas on paper in 2021, but injuries to various starters allowed him several opportunities throughout the season. He finished as a top-20 fantasy wide receiver in four weeks over the Cowboys' last 11 games. He will be a clear top-three wide receiver in Miami.
- Jaylen Waddle: Waddle finished his rookie season with 138 targets, ranking 10th-most among wide receivers. This move, as well as the addition of Chase Edmonds, can help the Dolphins offense without taking away from Waddle's targets.
- Will Fuller V: Fuller spent one season with the Dolphins, and it will likely be his only year. He caught four passes on eight targets over two games, and injuries cost him the rest of the season. Wilson will take Fuller’s spot. Fuller is one of the top-remaining wide receiver free agents.
- Noah Brown: The Cowboys have lost two of their top four wide receivers, leaving Brown as the new No. 3 wide receiver on the team. He caught a career-high 16 passes last season. Dallas could sign a wide receiver later in free agency, or draft a player who makes an immediate impact.
Biggest takeaway for the Dolphins offense: Miami has made improvements to their offense, but nothing to prevent Jaylen Waddle from finishing top-10 in targets
This will be a downgrade for Wilson's fantasy value. He will remain one of the last options on his offense but with a worse quarterback. This Dolphins team under Mike McDaniel could be running more than the Cowboys did last season, giving Wilson fewer opportunities. He can be a late-round pick in deep leagues but would need Tua Tagovailoa to step up to have much fantasy value.
Jacksonville Jaguars sign Christian Kirk to a four-year, $84 million deal (3/14)
Click here for a full article on Kirk’s fantasy football outlook in Jacksonville.
New York Jets re-sign Braxton Berrios to a two-year, $12 million deal (3/14)
- Braxton Berrios: Berrios earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2021 for his work as a returner, but he has developed into a more than savvy slot receiver in his own right. Yes, Berrios has never reached 50 receptions or 500 yards in a season. Also yes, he's typically had to work behind Jamison Crowder. Berrios has caught at least six passes in all five of his career games with at least eight targets and possesses underrated juice after the catch..
- Jamison Crowder: An unrestricted free agent, Crowder’s time with the Jets has seemingly come to an end. Crowder peeled off 78-833-6, 59-699-6 and 51-447-2 receiving lines during his three seasons in New York, with the latter two campaigns coming in just 12 games. The soon-to-be 29-year-old veteran might not be washed just yet, but it's also fair to wonder if the best years of his career are in the rearview mirror.
Biggest takeaway for the Jets offense: The Jets might already have their three starting wide receivers
Elijah Moore and Corey Davis are fully expected to start on the outside, while Berrios could wind up locking down the slot job. Berrios finished his season on a high note with an overall PPR WR5 finish in Week 17 with 8-65-1 receiving and 2-12-1 rushing lines. This sort of volume is unlikely to occur with everyone healthy, but similar to 2021 Hunter Renfrow, it’s not fair to completely count out Berrios from the fantasy conversation just because the community is higher on his teammates. His $6 million annually doesn’t guarantee that Berrios is a Week 1 starter, but that could very well be the case if the Jets refrain from majorly addressing the position for the rest of the offseason. This could make Berrios a solid late-round pick in full PPR formats and especially in leagues that reward points for return yardage.
Dallas Cowboys re-sign Michael Gallup to a five-year, $62.5 million deal (3/15)
- Michael Gallup: The biggest winner of the Amari Cooper trade, this ensuing extension signals that 1.) the Cowboys are comfortable with Gallup as their No. 2 pass-game option, and 2) Gallup’s recovery from a torn ACL must be going well. The $62.5 million valuation makes Gallup the league's 12th-highest paid wide receiver at the moment, although his per-year number drops him to 22nd.
- CeeDee Lamb: Doesn’t figure to get all of Cooper’s vacated targets, but there also isn’t a better candidate to do so. Ultimately, Lamb is 22 years of age and has already flashed high-end ability; he’s a natural third-year breakout pick and my overall WR5 in dynasty land. Good news: the league’s reigning No. 1 scoring offense is explosive enough to enable *both* Gallup and Lamb to plenty of success.
- Dak Prescott: Losing a receiver of Cooper’s caliber is obviously bad for Prescott, who was mightily struggling to throw the ball for the majority of 2017 and the first half of 2018 before the Cowboys traded for him in the first place. The 2022 version of the Cowboys offense figures to still have plenty of firepower at Prescott’s disposal, but they’re an injury or two away from being in a scary place should they refrain from adding more reinforcements at receiver. Here’s to hoping Gallup is ready to go by Week 1; he’s rumored to be 100% by August.
Biggest takeaway for the Cowboys offense: Gallup is the Cowboys’ WR2 of the present and future
- Gallup posted a season-long 66-1,107-6 receiving line the last time he worked as the Cowboys' No. 2 wide receiver in 2019 and flashed enough during the previous two seasons to believe that even bigger things could be on the way with a proper workload.
Buffalo Bills re-sign Isaiah McKenzie to a two-year, $8 million deal (3/13)
- Isaiah McKenzie: Credit to the 26-year-old talent for ripping off electrifying 6-65-2 and 11-125-1 receiving performances in the only two games that he’s been leaned on since 2020. The latter performance took place during a crucial Week 16 victory over the Patriots last season, but it wasn't enough for McKenzie to fully leap Beasley on the depth chart.
- Cole Beasley: The Bills have given Beasley permission to seek a trade, meaning McKenzie could be this offense’s Week 1 starter in the slot. 33 in April, Beasley has been awfully banged up over the past two seasons and particularly seemed to lose a step in 2021.
Biggest takeaway for the Bills offense: McKenzie might just be the new starting slot receiver in Buffalo
Beasley was rather awesome in 2020 but started to look his age in 2021. Overall, he set three-year lows in PFF receiving grade (67.2), yards per route run (1.33) and yards after the catch per reception (8.4) while also posting his lowest counting numbers since joining the Bills in 2019. The Bills have been rumored to be interested in Christian Kirk and even Evan Engram; $4 million annually isn’t enough money to guarantee that McKenzie will be a Week 1 starter. Still, he’s at least earned a larger non-gadget role ahead of next season. Best case, McKenzie winds up starting and makes good use out of the same sort of triple-digit target workload Beasley has seen in each of the last three seasons. Worst case, he split things down the middle more than ever with Beasley or is used as the offense’s WR4 behind Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and someone else not yet on the team.
Dallas Cowboys trade Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns (3/12)
- Cowboys receive: Fifth-round pick, sixth-round pick
- Browns receive: Amari Cooper, sixth-round pick
- Dak Prescott: Losing a receiver of Cooper’s caliber is obviously bad for Prescott, who was mightily struggling to throw the ball for the majority of 2017 and the first half of 2018 before the Cowboys traded for him in the first place. The 2022 version of the Cowboys offense figures to still have plenty of firepower at Prescott’s disposal, but they’re an injury or two away from being in a scary place should they refrain from adding more reinforcements at receiver.
- CeeDee Lamb: Doesn’t figure to get all of Cooper’s vacated targets, but there also isn’t a better candidate to do so. Ultimately, Lamb is 22 years of age and has already flashed high-end ability; he’s a natural third-year breakout pick and my overall WR5 in dynasty land.
- Michael Gallup: The biggest winner of the deal, this trade signals that 1.) the Cowboys are comfortable with Gallup as their No. 2 pass-game option, and 2) Gallup’s recovery from a torn ACL must be going well. Still officially an unrestricted free agent, it’d be shocking at this point if the Cowboys weren’t able to retain their 2018 third-round pick.
- Baker Mayfield: Things didn’t work with Odell Beckham, but that doesn’t mean Mayfield shouldn’t be allowed to play with good receivers ever again. The Browns are reportedly planning on parting ways with Jarvis Landry; adding Cooper (and hopefully a high draft pick or two) to the wide receiver room will help the organization decide once and for all if Mayfield is their quarterback of the future.
- Amari Cooper: Mayfield only threw three touchdowns to wide receivers after the Browns cut OBJ, who scored on seven separate occasions during the Rams' Super Bowl run. Overall, the Browns were a bottom-five offense in targets (261), receptions (159), receiving yards (2,054) and touchdowns (9) by wide receivers. It’d make sense if improving the personnel leads to enhanced production, but Cooper is entering an objectively worse passing game and not guaranteed to see much more volume. Not great!
- Donovan Peoples-Jones: DPJ had the look of a sneaky-solid late fantasy round pick as the potential No. 1 receiver in this offense, but now it seems unlikely he’s used as more than a one-trick field-stretching option. It’s not a guarantee Peoples-Jones starts in three-WR sets, but he could still be a boom-or-bust WR4 type of talent if the Browns refrain from making much more noise at the position.
Biggest takeaway for the Cowboys offense: Jerry Jones picked Gallup over Cooper
The Zeke contract seemed to force the Cowboys to pick between their long-time starting receivers. It’s tough to call Cooper’s time with the Cowboys a failure; he put up the sort of numbers since getting traded to Dallas that should land him in any conversation surrounding the league’s top-15 or so players at the position:
- Receptions: 292 (No. 7 among all WRs)
- Receiving yards: 3,893 (No. 9)
- Receiving TDs: 27 (No. 9)
- PFF receiving grade: 88.1 (No. 15 among 111 WRs with 100+ targets)
- Yards per route run: 1.95 (No. 20)
- QB rating when targeted: 113.5 (No. 18)
Biggest takeaway for the Browns offense: Good job by Cleveland to get Mayfield some additional weaponry
Cooper is well regarded as one of the position’s best overall route-runners and has multiple 1,000-plus yard seasons to his name with both Derek Carr and Prescott. Any remaining Mayfield truthers are going to find a hard time coming up with more excuses if he can’t find a way to engineer at least an average passing game with the help of Cooper and (likely) another high-end talent to be added later. Mayfield remains an intriguing dynasty addition only because the man is truly free at the moment.
Houston Texans re-sign Chris Conley to a one-year deal (3/12)
- Chris Conley: Conley low-key worked as the Texans’ No. 2 wide receiver from a snaps standpoint last season. He almost assuredly won’t offer much high-end fantasy value himself, but could be a progress-stopper for other receivers hoping to crack the starting lineup.
- Nico Collins: Should be able to beat out Conley if he’s a true high-end talent, but it’s not a given and shouldn’t be considered as such throughout the offseason. Perhaps Brandin Cooks is traded; just realize Cooks (134 targets) was far more established as the No. 1 wide receiver than Collins (60) was as the No. 2 ahead of Conley (37).
Biggest takeaway for the Texans: This passing game remains completely wide open
It’s pretty easy to talk yourself into just about any rookie or free agent entering the Texans offense and finding a way to start. This signing doesn’t change that.
Los Angeles Chargers re-sign WR Jalen Guyton to one-year deal (3/11)
- Jalen Guyton: Guyton was best remembered for hauling in potentially the single-best pass of 2021. He’s averaged a gaudy 16.3 yards per reception over the past two seasons, but he’s pigeon-holed in as a field-stretching specialist that isn’t expected to overtake Keenan Allen, Mike Williams or Austin Ekeler in Justin Herbert’s pecking order anytime soon.
- Josh Palmer: Guyton figures to again force Palmer to split reps as the offense’s No. 3 receiver. It'd make sense if the Chargers enhance Palmer's role in his second season; they drafted him with the 77th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft for a reason. Still, he regularly struggled to play even half of the offense's snaps in 2021; more of this split will likely render each as nothing more than boom-or-bust WR5 types.
Biggest takeaway for the Chargers: It might be tough for Palmer to produce anything resembling a breakout in 2022
Palmer’s path to a big role in 2022 was mostly squashed when the Chargers re-signed Williams, and the decision to bring back Guyton as well essentially puts the nail in the coffin. The Chargers have enough cap room and draft capital to make further additions at the position; don’t expect Palmer to have enough volume to make much noise in 2022 without an injury to Allen or Williams.
Arizona Cardinals re-sign Antoine Wesley to a one-year deal (3/9)
- Antoine Wesley: It seems unlikely the Cardinals replace A.J. Green with Wesley; expect Wesley to work as the offense’s No. 4 or No. 5 receiver who slides into the starting lineup when one of its outside receivers goes down.
- Rondale Moore: The Cardinals regularly played Wesley ahead of Moore when DeAndre Hopkins was injured last season. The expected departure of Christian Kirk means Moore *should* be safe as the starting slot receiver; just realize the return of Wesley again makes it unlikely that the Cardinals’ 2021 second-round pick gets a big-time role on the outside.
Biggest takeaway for the Cardinals offense: Moore remains the starting slot receiver
It’ll be concerning if the Cardinals re-sign Kirk or obtain a one-dimensional slot receiver, but for now there’s more reason than ever to believe Moore is set up to be this passing game’s No. 2 option. The Cardinals offer more available targets than anybody; here’s to hoping Kliff Kingsbury is content to feature his electric second-year talent on a more consistent basis in 2022.
Tennessee Titans re-sign WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine to one-year deal (3/9)
- Nick Westbrook-Ikhine: Westbrook-Ikhine is expected to again start in three-WR sets and receive a bigger role when one of Julio Jones or A.J. Brown is sidelined. Not exactly someone that needs to be drafted in re-draft fantasy land, but he’s the “handcuff” to keep an eye on in Tennessee.
Biggest takeaway for the Titans offense: Don’t expect their copious use of two-TE sets to go anywhere
Westbrook-Ikhine put forward 7-107-0, 4-78-1 and 4-53-1 performances in 2021. However, he played just 36% of the offense’s snaps during their Divisional Round loss to the Bengals. The Titans’ third-year receiver sure looks like their No. 3 wide receiver entering free agency; just realize this run-first offense keeps enough tight ends involved to make it tough for anyone other than AJB to supply consistent fantasy production.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise-tag Chris Godwin (3/8)
- Chris Godwin: Back with the only franchise he’s ever known, Godwin fits Bruce Arians’ offense like a glove and figures to once again see all the targets he can handle from the friendly confines of the slot once healthy enough to suit up.
- Mike Evans: Hasn’t had much of an issue putting up big-time numbers alongside Godwin over the years; don’t expect to change at least for 2022 with Tom Brady back for another round of action.
- Tyler Johnson: Godwin’s backup, Johnson once again projects to work outside of three-WR sets barring an injury.
Biggest takeaway for the Buccaneers offense: This team isn’t ready to roll over
The 2022 version of the Buccaneers will once again compete for Super Bowl glory with TB12 back under center. Red Zone viewers should be happy that Godwin and Evans will keep on keeping on against NFC South secondaries in 2022 without fear of a drop in efficiency; both Godwin and Evans deserve to be ranked as top-15 fantasy options ahead of next season.
Los Angeles Chargers re-sign Mike Williams to three-year, $60 million deal (3/8)
- Mike Williams: Williams finished 2021 as fantasy's overall PPR WR14. He fell to WR17 on a per-game basis and certainly had his fair share of duds; just realize it’s not fair to simply look at Williams’ season and conclude that “he sucked if you take away the good games.” The 27-year-old talent turned the first triple-digit target workload of his career into a rather awesome 76-1,146-9 receiving line despite dealing with nagging ankle and shoulder injuries throughout the year. At worst Williams is a boom-or-bust WR3 in fantasy land, at best he’s an every-week top-15 option at the position.
- Justin Herbert: Investing in Herbert’s pass-game options during his rookie contract is of the utmost importance; good for the Chargers on not letting one of the game’s very best contested-catch artists take his talents elsewhere.
- Keenan Allen: Allen still racked up 157 targets in 2021 (two away from his career-high set in 2017) despite Williams' ascension; there’s more than enough volume to go around for both wide receivers to keep on putting up big numbers as long as Herbert continues to play like one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
- Jalen Guyton and Josh Palmer: Neither figures to be more than the No. 4 pass-game option more weeks than not behind Allen, Williams and Austin Ekeler. Both are nothing more than boom-or-bust WR5 options if they continue to split reps like last season.
Biggest takeaway for the Chargers offense: Herbert’s treasure chest of weapons isn’t going anywhere
The Chargers have enough cap room to keep adding to wide receiver, but perhaps they’ll turn their attention to tight end after retaining Williams. $20 million per season is a lot, but it lines up with the extra cap space the Chargers will possess throughout Herbert’s rookie deal. The Chargers joined the Bills, Rams, Steelers, Buccaneers and Cowboys as the top-six teams in targets to wide receivers last season; fantasy teams of all shapes and sizes figure to be better with Allen and Williams than without for the foreseeable future.
Green Bay Packers franchise-tag Davante Adams (3/8)
- Aaron Rodgers: The two-time reigning MVP will continue to play with arguably the game’s single-best wide receiver. Seems like a good thing.
- Davante Adams: Arguably the game’s best wide receiver will continue to play with the NFL’s two-time reigning MVP. Seems like a good thing.
Biggest takeaway for the Packers offense: The NFL’s best QB-WR connection will continue to reside in Green Bay for at least another year
Adams was fantasy’s overall WR1 in 2020, and WR2 in 2021 behind only Cooper Kupp. The Packers’ lack of overall resources/desire to make additional moves at wide receivers could lead to a season-long target total starting with a two if Adams can remain healthy. While Adams will be 30 come December, he sure looks like one of the exceptions to the rule that wide receivers tend to fall off around this time of their career. Kupp remains the only wide receiver that should be ranked ahead of Adams in fantasy formats of all shapes and sizes.
Detroit Lions re-sign Josh Reynolds to two-year, $6 million deal (3/8)
- Jared Goff: The Lions reportedly, “liked his (Reynolds) leadership and his relationship with Jared Goff,” It’s far from a given that Goff will be the Lions’ Week 1 starter, but the front office making an effort to re-sign his buddies sure doesn’t hurt.
- Josh Reynolds: There aren’t many teams in the league where Reynolds would be considered a starter, but here we are. Reynolds does deserve some credit for posting PPR WR19, WR32 and WR12 finishes throughout his final six games of 2021, but the likelihood that the Lions aren’t done addressing the position makes him nothing more than a rather-meh late-round dart.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown: Perfectly safe from the friendly confines of the slot. St. Brown doesn’t figure to lose much value even if/when the Lions put some serious resources towards the position, but more signings like Reynolds could wind up leading to another rather gaudy volume projection for the Sun God.
Biggest takeaway for the Lions offense: Apparently making Goff comfortable is a priority
Nobody is exactly expecting the Lions to contend in 2022; perhaps Goff will once again be the every-week starter. While this wouldn’t be great for the Lions’ chances of, you know, winning football games, the presence of a low-aDOT statue of a quarterback would be great news for the target shares of St. Brown, T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift alike. Much like Jimmy Garoppolo: Goff himself is a bad fantasy quarterback but good for some of his teammates, thanks to his tendency to check the ball down as opposed to scrambling.
Tennessee Titans sign Austin Hooper to a one-year, $6 million deal (3/18)
- Austin Hooper: He never fulfilled his lofty contract-induced expectations with the Browns, but that was more so due to Kevin Stefanski consistently keeping David Njoku and Harrison Bryant heavily involved. Overall, Hooper played at least 75% of the offense's snaps in just three games last season. The 27-year-old veteran isn't necessarily a world-beater pass-catcher, but just realize he posted plenty solid 5-34-1, 5-57-0, 5-52-0, 5-41-1, 7-71-0, 4-26-0 , 4-53-0 and 5-30-1 receiving lines in his only eight games with more than five targets while playing with the Browns.
Biggest takeaway for the Titans offense: Could their tight end by committee system come to an end?
The Titans re-signed Geoff Swaim, but Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt remain unrestricted free agents. Hooper’s deal isn’t big enough to assume a featured role is on the way, although the addition of more block-first options could clear the way for the ex-Falcons/Browns tight end to work inside of this offense’s top-three pass-game options. Obviously, the offense’s run-first nature and good, not great, situation under center don’t make this as fantasy-friendly of a role as it might be elsewhere, but Hooper will be in the low-end TE2 discussion and possibly an underrated (very) late-round addition in best ball land for teams that chose to largely fade the position.
Miami Dolphins re-sign Durham Smythe to a two-year deal (3/18)
- Durham Smythe: Smythe set career-high marks in targets (41), receptions (34) and receiving yards (357) last season while working as the offense's primary inline tight end while Gesicki mostly stuck to the slot. Don’t expect an increased offensive role, but a shift to a more run-heavy offense under new head coach Mike McDaniel could feasibly keep Smythe on the field more snaps than not.
- Mike Gesicki: The man that broke the news in the first place. The Dolphins bringing back a tight end who already worked well behind Gesicki in the passing game is good news for their recently franchise-tagged talent, although the decision to give Cedrick Wilson a hefty deal adds some clouds to the offense.
Biggest takeaway for the Dolphins offense: Who will be the odd man out at receiver?
Gesicki is a wide receiver in every way except his positional designation. Perhaps he plays far more of an inline role ahead of Smythe in 2022, but that’s not a given. This adds some murkiness to the pecking order at wide receiver, as Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker and Cedrick Wilson could easily start in three-WR sets. The Dolphins could choose to move on from Parker as a post-June 1 cut and save $6 million while only eating $2.7 million in dead money. If not, be careful about locking Gesicki into an extreme target projection; there are suddenly a lot of mouths to feed in this new-look Miami offense.
Cincinnati Bengals sign Hayden Hurst to a one-year deal (3/17)
- Hayden Hurst: Has had some bad luck in his career by being forced to compete with Mark Andrews and more recently Kyle Pitts for snaps. Ultimately, the former No. 25 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft has flashed a true three-down skill-set, most notably posting a season-long 56-571-6 receiving line as Matt Ryan‘s undisputed No. 1 tight end in 2020.
- Drew Sample: Suddenly the projected backup tight end. The Bengals were willing to feature Sample during C.J. Uzomah’s absence in 2020, but their tendency to hand the team’s starting tight end a near every-down role means he’ll likely be (again) little utilized in 2022.
Biggest takeaway for the Bengals offense: Joe Burrow has a new starting tight end
Hurst is suddenly firmly on the late-round tight end map, but just realize his best-case scenario is a similar role as what Uzomah had in 2021. All this amounted to was 63 targets in 16 games – a workload he converted into a rather mediocre overall PPR TE19 finish. Hurst’s presence doesn’t change the reality that Burrow’s undisputed top-three pass-game options are Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. There’s always a chance that Hurst makes the most out of this fantasy-friendly offense and posts an outlier season in terms of touchdown rate (cc. 2021 Dawson Knox), but from a volume standpoint it’s tough to be overly excited about his 2022 projection. I’d still take the likes of Irv Smith and Evan Engram ahead of Hurst in the later rounds of drafts.
New York Jets sign Tyler Conklin (3/16)
- Tyler Conklin: The Vikings’ starting tight end in 2021 due to Irv Smith being sidelined, Conklin is fully expected to work as the Jets’ No. 2 tight end behind high-priced addition C.J. Uzomah. Perhaps the Jets ramp up their usage of two-TE sets; just realize it’d be surprising if Conklin finishes among the offense’s top-five targets this season.
- C.J. Uzomah: Having multiple good tight ends is obviously great for real life football, but in fantasy land any sort of evenly split rotation usually renders both parties as non-viable factors more weeks than not. This was already the case more weeks than not in 2021 between Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin; Uzomah looks well on his way to being the next free agent tight end to get paid but not provide much fantasy-friendly production with their new employer.
- Irv Smith: Easily the biggest winner from the news, Smith is still just 23 years old and should have the first opportunity of his career to work as his offense’s every-down tight end. New head coach Kevin O’Connell rarely asked Tyler Higbee to leave the field with the Rams; Smith has a legit chance to work as the Vikings’ No. 3 pass-game option behind only Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Smith is shaping up as my favorite late-round option at the position and it’s not particularly close.
Biggest takeaway for the Jets offense: Stay away from this tight end room
Credit to Uzomah for recovering nicely from his 2020 Achilles tear; just realize he has zero proven ability to consistently provide TE1 production and enters an offense which is fresh off feeding the position just 75 targets all season — the second-lowest mark in the league. In New York he might see a slight volume increase, but it’s not a given after the Conklin signing in addition to the reality that that Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios will almost certainly work ahead of him in Zach Wilson’s pecking order. Both Uzomah and Conklin: 1.) have to learn a new offense, 2.) remain outside of their offense’s top-three pass-game options, and 3.) face a massive decline in quarterback ability. Other than that: great. One more thing: The history of high-priced tight ends changing teams in free agency is absolutely horrific. Uzomah shouldn’t be drafted in traditional one-TE re-draft formats and should be on the borderline of the position’s top-20 players; Conklin doesn’t figure to be a fantasy-relevant factor more weeks than not in 2022.
New York Giants sign Ricky Seals-Jones (3/16)
- Ricky Seals-Jones: RSJ is a former wide receiver who never really had the benefit of the doubt as an every-down tight end in stops with the Cardinals, Browns and Chiefs, but Washington was willing to give him a legit full-time role with Logan Thomas banged up for most of 2021. Seals-Jones responded well enough, posting 2-19-0, 5-41-0, 4-58-1, 6-51-0 and 2-12-0 receiving lines in his five full games as the Commanders' featured tight end.
Biggest takeaway for the Giants offense: RSJ is the leader in the clubhouse to be the No. 1 tight end
The question is what else the Giants will do to replace the likes of Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith. RSJ is 27 years old and has the pass-catching background to lead the way, but there are plenty of receiver converts that could theoretically ball in fantasy land with a full-time role… that never comes because they aren’t a complete enough talent (cc. Donald Parham). Like Parham, Seals-Jones would become an enticing later-round fantasy pick should his employer decline to add any real sort of additional pass-catching resources to the room; it just seems unlikely and probably more wishful thinking than anything.
Buffalo Bills sign O.J. Howard to a one-year, $3.5 million deal (3/16)
- O.J. Howard: The contract is worth up to $5 million. He managed to return to action after tearing his Achilles in 2019 and played in all 17 games. However, Howard averaged a career-low 9.6 yards per reception and posted a brutal season-long 14-135-1 line; he didn't look like the same explosive athlete after the catch and accordingly wasn't asked to hold much of a role in the passing game.
- Dawson Knox: The relatively modest deal shouldn’t overly concern Knox fantasy faithful. The only other tight ends on the Bills roster are Tommy Sweeney and Quintin Morris; it’d make sense if the front office was simply looking to add depth to the position after the offense scored just 32 total points in eight quarters without Knox's services in 2021.
Biggest takeaway for the Bills offense: Buffalo finally has some pass-catching depth at tight end
It’s not a given that Howard will ever reach the sort of expectations that go alongside any former first-round pick, but at 100% health he’s still a plenty capable every-down tight end with serious seam-stretching potential. The Bills are gambling that Howard looks more like the 2017-2020 version of himself as opposed to the most recent edition; this will ultimately be the difference in Howard 1.) obtaining a true role in the offense and threatening Knox’s overall target share, or 2.) fizzling out as a true backup with only a sporadic target here and there. Knox remains firmly in the mid- to low-end TE1 discussion, while Howard won’t be a top-20 option at the position unless the Bills publicly pronounce extreme intentions to run a full-time two-TE offense (exceptionally unlikely).
Arizona Cardinals re-sign Maxx Williams to a one-year deal (3/16)
- Maxx Williams: Started each of the Cardinals' first five games before suffering a torn ACL. The Cardinals then traded for Zach Ertz and subsequently extended him on a three-year, $31.65 million deal. The money discrepancy — and general lack of options inside the Cardinals’ passing game at the moment — makes Ertz more likely than not to keep his full-time role, while Williams could slide into a smaller part-time role as a backup and block-first option if Arizona declines to bring back unrestricted free agent Darrell Daniels.
- Zach Ertz: Fully expected to remain the Cardinals’ undisputed No. 1 tight end in the passing game. Ertz spent more snaps in the slot and out wide than as a true inline tight end in 10 of his 11 games with the Cardinals. Williams’ presence is more likely to take a wide receiver off the field than Ertz.
Biggest takeaway for the Cardinals offense: The tight end position is close to being filled
Ertz, Williams, Daniels and Demetrius Harris entered free agency as unrestricted free agents. At least the first two are back in town, meaning it’s fairly safe to project what happened in the second half of the season ahead to 2022. Overall, Ertz played over 90% of the offense's snaps in each of his final four games of the season and never dipped below 73% following his debut in Arizona. Williams could replace Daniels as the offense's primary blocker; he totaled just three receptions in 16 games last season despite playing at least 20% of the offense's snaps on 10 different occasions.
Browns to release Austin Hooper (3/16)
- Austin Hooper: Designated as a post-June 1 cut for salary cap purposes, Hooper didn’t quite manage to live up to his lofty free agency deal. Of course, plenty of this can be chalked up to the reality that the Browns paid him big bucks, only to utilize a three-player rotation at the position for the better part of the last two seasons. Hooper remains just 27 years old and hasn't shown any signs of being washed from a physical perspective.
- David Njoku: The biggest winner from the news, the Browns suddenly have eight figures worth of reasons to feature Njoku a bit more inside the offense. Don’t expect a rotation of sorts to go away – head coach Kevin Stefanski has made a habit of featuring multiple tight ends in his offense over the years – but at least the team’s every-week starter is out of the picture. Similar to the Antonio Gibson hype over J.D. McKissic being released: Njoku objectively now has a better 2022 outlook than he did at the start of free agency, although the offseason is far from over and the front office could always choose to keep adding to the position.
- Harrison Bryant: Still not the offense’s No. 1 tight end, but like Njoku, it’s hard to see this move as anything other than a positive for the former Mackey Away winner. It remains to be seen how the Browns will fill out the rest of their tight end room; at least it won’t be with someone that earned one of the largest free agency contracts at the position over the last half-decade. Ultimately, Bryant never had even 1.) five targets in a game, or 2.) a snap rate above 52%, last season; he’s clearly the offense’s No. 2 tight end and is more likely to hold back Njoku’s fantasy upside than create a consistently viable role for himself.
Biggest takeaway for the Browns offense: This tight end committee has shrunk by one
All three Browns tight ends played 16 games last season. Hooper played at least 75% of the offense's snaps in three games, Njoku once, and Bryant zero. Two-tight end committees are tough to figure out in fantasy land; three is nothing short of a nightmare. The presence of a potential newfound target hog in Amari Cooper inside of this run-first offense somewhat caps the ceiling for Njoku and Bryant, but at a minimum, the decision to part ways with Hooper should be seen as a positive for both of the team’s incumbent tight ends. Njoku literally didn't miss a single snap in Week 15 with Hooper sidelined, although he wound up with a fairly pedestrian 3-29-0 line on five targets for his trouble. The Browns have only fed Njoku more than five targets in a game *once* over the past two seasons; don’t be surprised if both of the Browns’ talented tight ends remain better real-life talents than fantasy assets barring a massive upgrade under center.
Denver Broncos sign Eric Tomlinson (3/15)
- Eric Tomlinson: Tomlinson has caught 18 passes in 68 career games with the Jets, Patriots, Giants, Raiders and Ravens. He's the exact sort of blocking tight end signing that should give Albert O fantasy truthers hope that a true full-time role, at least in the passing game, could be on the horizon.
- Albert Okwuegbunam: Still very much locked in as Russell Wilson’s undisputed No. 1 tight end in the passing game. His ceiling is truly in upside TE1 territory.
Biggest takeaway for the Broncos offense: The Albert O TE1 dream is still alive
Tomlinson is replacing Eric Saubert as the team’s pure block-first inline tight end. This role produced 20-plus snaps in six games in 2021; either way, he's not a realistic threat to Albert O's command on the offense’s TE1 job.
Houston Texans re-sign Pharaoh Brown to a one-year deal (3/15)
- Pharaoh Brown: Brown has posted a modest 37-334-2 receiving line in 28 games with the Texans over the past two seasons. Still, he’s played more than 70% of Houston's offensive snaps on just four occasions – and never consecutively. Don’t expect Brown to work as more than a rotational tight end who might luck into a few red-zone scores.
- Brevin Jordan: He was out-snapped by Brown over the final three weeks of 2021 with both players healthy while narrowly holding the target edge five to four. Jordan has received some early offseason late-round fantasy hype, but it’s an awfully big leap to expect him to simply take over the job all to himself in 2022. Still just 21 years old, Jordan is probably a year away from being a year away from a possible fantasy breakout.
Biggest takeaway for the Texans offense: A tight end by committee system might just be here to stay
The best-case scenario for a fantasy tight end: talented, top-three pass-game option on a good team. Jordan might not get to experience the latter criteria anytime soon, but he does stand out as one of fantasy’s few late-round tight ends that has both the ability to win downfield in the passing game and an every-down role supplying ample volume. Of course, the latter scenario is also in question depending on Brown’s involvement as well as whether or not the Texans bring back Antony Auclair or Jordan Akins. Of course, they could also continue to address the position in free agency or the draft. Jordan is a solid prospect and worthy of a late-round dynasty pick. However, the answer to which Texans tight end to go after in fantasy for the year 2022 is likely just: no.
New York Jets sign CJ Uzomah to a three-year, $24 million deal (3/14)
- CJ Uzomah: Uzomah will go from playing with the NFL's most-efficient quarterback to arguably the least-such passer. The rising eighth-year player set career-high marks in receptions (49), receiving yards (493) and touchdowns in 2021 (five). This amounted to a mediocre overall PPR TE19 finish, with even worse TE21 production on a per-game basis.
- Ryan Griffin: Enjoy the bench.
Biggest takeaway for the Jets offense: Fade Uzomah in fantasy land
Credit to Uzomah for recovering nicely from his 2020 Achilles tear, but just realize he has zero proven ability to consistently provide TE1 production and enters an offense that is fresh off feeding the position just 75 targets all season – the second-lowest mark in the league. In New York, he might see a slight volume increase, but it’s not a given considering the likelihood that Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios work ahead of him in Zach Wilson’s pecking order. So Uzomah has to learn a new offense, is still outside of his offense’s top-three pass-game options and is facing a massive decline in quarterback ability. Other than that: great. One more thing, the history of high-priced tight ends changing teams in free agency is absolutely horrific. Uzomah shouldn’t be drafted in traditional one-TE re-draft formats and should be on the borderline of the position’s top-20 players.
Jacksonville Jaguars sign Evan Engram to a one-year, $10 million deal (3/14)
- Evan Engram: Engram joins Rob Gronkowski and Kyle Pitts as the only rookies to finish as top-12 PPR tight ends in fantasy football since 2010. The problem is that Engram never quite achieved a higher ceiling, battling injuries and later inefficiency during his remaining four years with the Giants. Engram is arguably better suited as a slot receiver given his size (6-foot-3 and 234-pounds) and speed (4.42-second 40-yard dash) but either way, expect him to have a full-time role in this wide-open Jaguars passing game.
- Dan Arnold: Achieved some favor under the previous coaching staff, but Engram’s signing pushes the receiving-first tight end to a pure backup role. Arnold doesn’t figure to offer any sort of fantasy production worth chasing as long as Engram is healthy.
- Laviska Shenault: His ideal role is as a slot WR/RB hybrid who is capable of making big things happen with the ball in his hands, so adding yet another free agent that figures to spend a lot of time in the slot doesn’t help matters.
- Christian Kirk: Kirk was far better in the slot than out wide in 2021. Obviously, the Jaguars have 84 million reasons why they should utilize Kirk to the best of his abilities, but Shenault and Engram's presence could feasibly push him to the outside. There aren’t exactly a ton of available targets in Jacksonville in the first place. Suddenly, there’s some uncertainty regarding Trevor Lawrence’s pecking order inside of the league’s reigning 32nd-ranked scoring offense.
Biggest takeaway for the Jaguars offense: At least the front office is trying
This passing game was largely a dumpster fire in 2021, but various injuries to the wide receiver and tight end rooms certainly didn’t help matters. Credit to the front office for at least trying to make the most out of Lawrence’s rookie year deal, but the problem is that the history of wide receivers and tight ends changing teams in free agency is rather brutal. The idea is that if Kirk and Engram were truly exceptional talents, their original team wouldn’t have let them walk in the first place. Perhaps a new system and a second-year leap help Lawrence work as something resembling even an average quarterback a year after he was one of the league’s worst. However, both Engram and Kirk aren’t guaranteed for truly high-end volume, which could be a rather massive problem in fantasy land if the passing attack doesn’t take a massive leap forward from an efficiency standpoint.
Indianapolis Colts re-sign Mo Alie-Cox to a three-year, $18 million deal (3/14)
- Mo Alie-Cox: He has been the most reliable receiving tight end for Indianapolis in recent seasons. His 1.65 yards per route run over the last two seasons ranks ninth-best among tight ends. He didn’t get as much playing time as some would hope because his run blocking wasn’t as good as Jack Doyle’s.
- Kylen Granson: The former fourth-round rookie was expected to see an increased role this year after Doyle’s retirement. The Colts have finished with two tight ends in the top 30 each of the last three years, giving Granson value in leagues where two tight ends start. His dynasty value takes a hit as he’s unlikely to be the top tight end in Indianapolis anytime soon.
Biggest takeaway for the Colts offense: Alie-Cox has a chance to be a late-round flier at tight end depending on the quarterback
Alie-Cox’s upside will be much higher in 2022 compared to 2021 after Doyle's retirement. Both tight ends had multiple top-10 fantasy finishes last season, but neither could be counted on because they fought for targets. Alie-Cox’s playing time won’t be a concern anymore, but it’s still unclear who his quarterback will be.
Seattle Seahawks re-sign Will Dissly to a three-year, $21 million deal
- Will Dissly: Served as the No. 2 tight end for the Seahawks last season behind Gerald Everett and was never really a factor in their passing game. After Week 10, he topped 40% routes per dropback only one time.
- Noah Fant: Dissly could steal a few snaps from Fant, but we shouldn’t expect it to be as limiting as the Albert Okwuegbunam role in Denver. In 2021, Everett was in a route on 74% of his team's dropbacks down the stretch with both tight ends available.
Biggest takeaway for the Seahawks offense: Noah Fant still has a shot at career-high utilization in the passing game
Ideally, Dissly would have moved on, but we see teams pay a second tight end often, and it isn’t always a challenge to the primary receiving option. Fant was a lock to hit the 80% routes per dropback threshold we covet before the Dissly re-signing, but that number could now hover closer to the 75% range. The former first-round pick is a mid-range to low-end TE1 who still has immense upside if he can push for more routes.
Tennessee Titans re-sign Geoff Swaim to a one-year deal (3/14)
- Geoff Swaim: Led all Titans tight ends in snaps (688) last season; the problem was that routes were far more evenly distributed between himself (189), MyCole Pruitt (134) and Anthony Firkser (268). Note that both of the latter tight ends are unrestricted free agents at the moment; Swaim will need one, or more likely both, to take their talents elsewhere to have any hope of a viable fantasy role.
Biggest takeaway for the Titans offense: Another tight end committee is likely on the way
The specifics of Swaim’s one-year deal aren’t known at this time, but the brevity of the contract certainly doesn’t look like an endorsement of him as the group’s every-down tight end. The Titans ranked first in run-play rate last season and have struggled to get anyone other than A.J. Brown consistently going in the passing game; don’t expect a fantasy-relevant tight end out of Tennessee in 2022.
Arizona Cardinals re-sign Zach Ertz to a three-year, $31.65 million deal (3/13)
- Zach Ertz: All Ertz did upon joining the Cardinals was work as the overall PPR TE4 the rest of the season. Yes, Ertz turns 32 in November. Also yes, he's never exactly been known for his yards after the catch ability, and tight ends historically age better than any fantasy-relevant position other than quarterback. Only Mark Andrews (11), Travis Kelce (11) and Dalton Schultz (9) had more weeks as a top-eight PPR tight end than Ertz (7) last season; the man is far from washed.
- Kyler Murray: Ertz converted four of his nine targets inside the 10-yard line into touchdowns last season; every quarterback could use this sort of sure-handed, possession tight end who simply always seems to find a way to get open. Murray was injured shortly after the Cardinals traded for Ertz last season, but managed to feed the veteran tight end at least five receptions in five of the season’s final seven games.
Biggest takeaway for the Cardinals offense: Tight end is suddenly secured
Ertz joined teammates Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels and Demetrius Harris as unrestricted free agents. No offense had more available targets entering free agency; retaining Ertz gives Murray at least one more proven option alongside DeAndre Hopkins. There’s still work to be done in the wide receiver room, but Ertz is a more than viable big-slot/inline receiving threat even during the later stages of his career. Note that Ertz played more snaps in the slot or out wide as opposed to an inline tight end in 11 of his 12 games with the Cardinals; keeping Ertz in town allows Kliff Kingsbury to essentially run his four-WR base offense without as much fuss from that damn mainstream media. It’ll be awfully tough to keep him out of the position’s top-eight fantasy options if the front office refrains from adding any additional serious options at tight end wide receiver.
Los Angeles Chargers re-sign Donald Parham to one-year deal (3/11)
- Donald Parham: Parham has a chance to take over as the Chargers’ every-down tight end with Jared Cook and Stephen Anderson set to hit free agency. Still, this might be an over-reaction considering Parhams’ rather one-dimensional ability.
Biggest takeaway for the Chargers offense: Another tight end committee might be on the way in 2022
Parham was a lot of fun in the XFL and has flashed during his short NFL career. The problem: Los Angeles never played him for more than 53% of the offense's snaps in 2022, and The Athletic’s Daniel Popper told The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast last offseason that the organization doesn’t necessarily view him as an every-down tight end. It’s extremely difficult for NFL offenses that rotate multiple tight ends to produce any high-end fantasy options at the position; keep a close eye on the Chargers’ additional moves here.
Miami Dolphins franchise-tag Mike Gesicki (3/8)
- Mike Gesicki: It sure seems like Gesicki is more of a wide receiver based on the NFL’s own definition, but alas. Don’t count on Gesicki seamlessly turning into a George Kittle-esque talent just because Mike McDaniel is the Dolphins’ new head coach; just realize it’d make sense if they do heavily involve the man that just received an eight-figure contract.
- Hunter Long: The Dolphins' third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft had just three targets in seven games last season. Don’t expect that to increase with Gesicki in town.
Biggest takeaway for the Dolphins offense: There isn’t a whole lot of room for an incoming pass-catcher to work
Gesicki is worthy of TE1 treatment ahead of 2021; he peeled off three top-three finishes in a five-week span last season and figures to (again) finish towards the top of the position’s leaderboard in targets and routes thanks to his status as a big slot receiver. However, the Dolphins now figure to retain each of their top-three target getters from a season ago in Jaylen Waddle, Gesicki and DeVante Parker. The offense still needs to fill the No. 3 wide receiver gap left by Will Fuller and company; just realize that player might have a tough time ranking higher than fourth in Tua Tagovailoa’s pecking order.
Dallas Cowboys franchise-tag Dalton Schultz (3/8)
- Dalton Schultz: Schultz returns to the best situation for him possible considering the history of tight ends switching teams in free agency has been absolutely horrific. Schultz posted a whopping nine finishes as a top-eight tight end in 2021 – only Mark Andrews (11) and Travis Kelce (11) had more.
- Blake Jarwin: The Cowboys released Jarwin, further cementing Schultz as their tight end of the present and future.
- Dak Prescott: Losing Amari Cooper sucks, but Prescott gets back his trusty tight end. Schultz did post an awfully similar QB rating when targeted (122.1) as Cooper (122.7), but the Cowboys’ suddenly-expensive starting tight end will need to prove that he can still put up big-time numbers with more attention from the defense.
Biggest takeaway for the Cowboys: There’s once again a consistently productive TE1 in Dallas
Schultz finished 2021 as the overall PPR TE3 and TE5 on a per-game basis. He also finished as the TE10 in 2020; the Cowboys’ 2018 fourth-round pick has largely been balling for the majority of the last 18 months. One of just six tight ends with triple-digit targets last season, Schultz will be tough to keep out of the position’s top-eight options thanks to his proven production and status as a top-three pass-catcher inside of the NFL’s reigning No. 1 scoring offense.
David Njoku franchise tagged by the Cleveland Browns (3/7)
- David Njoku: The dream was for Njoku to take his talents to the Chargers, but at least the former first-round pick is getting paid. Unfortunately, Njoku has flashed some tantalizing receiving ability over the years, but has totalled just 82 targets in 29 games since the Browns hired Kevin Stefanski.
- Harrison Bryant: Bryant joins Njoku and Hooper as a legit possible TE1 if he was the only tight end featured in this offense. Too bad the Browns seemingly have every intention of continuing to rotate multiple bodies at the position, making each better real-life players than fantasy assets.
Biggest takeaway for the Browns offense: This offense is going to keep heavily leaning on their (talented) tight end room
All three Browns tight ends played 16 games last season. Hooper played at least 75% of the offense's snaps in three games, Njoku once, and Bryant zero. Two-tight end committees are tough to figure out in fantasy land; three is nothing short of a nightmare. Throw in the presence of a potential newfound target hog in Amari Cooper, and it’s better to stay away from these Browns tight ends in fantasy land as long as they continue to split reps and targets alike.
Ian Thomas re-signed to three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Carolina Panthers (2/19)
- Ian Thomas: Credit to Thomas for getting paid far more than most expected despite never topping his rookie-year 36-333-2 receiving line. He didn't score or reach 50 yards in a game in 2021; Thomas is a block-first player for the Panthers and doesn't figure to be a fantasy-relevant player in 2022.
- Tommy Tremble: The hope for Tremble was that Thomas would take his talents elsewhere, but now it’s likely that the rising second-year talent once again splits reps and targets evenly.
Biggest takeaway for the Panthers offense: This tight end committee is going nowhere
Panthers tight ends ranked dead last in virtually every receiving metric last season; don’t expect that to change in 2022 due to both the offensive system as well as another evenly split committee at the position.