Now that we’ve posted our individual player rankings, the next logical step is to give our readers some potential league winners and league losers. Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp last year? League winners. Saquon Barkley and Deandre Hopkins last year? League losers. Simple concept. We are excited to bring you our Sleepers, Targets, and Fades for the 2022 fantasy season.
Some commentary for our readers before we dive in, a sleeper in this article is a player we feel could be worth targeting above ADP or potentially big-value right at their ADP. Yes this is a bit different than your typical sleepers column where other fantasy bloggers might be giving you some ideas to draft with your last pick in a 26 team league. Targets are players to target towards the top of the draft, closer to their ADP but not necessarily reaching. Fades would be a player to avoid or potentially delete from your draft board. Let’s get into it.
Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens
No surprise here, given his allocation to my sleepers section, but I absolutely LOVE Rashod Bateman this year. The guy has everything that Marquis Brown could not provide to this team. Unlike Brown, Bateman is a much more balanced player. He doesn’t have the same blazing speed but he’s quick enough, tall enough, and possesses better route running skills than Brown. I’ve seen player comps that compare Bateman to Stefon Diggs and let me tell ya, I’m on board with that. Lastly, his name looks similar to Batman which is inherently cool especially for a team that has an all black uniform in the tool kit.
Allen Lazard, WR, Packers
Do I think the Packers are absolute dummies for shipping out Davante Adams? Yes. Do I think the Packers are dummies for not drafting, signing or trading for any other top WR to replace Adams when they have a generational talent QB behind the helm? Also yes. Enter Allen Lazard, who may not be a true WR 1 but has plenty of skill and experience to shine with more target share. Rodgers seems to love Lazard which is also important, he talks him up all the time. Even if GB trades for another WR mid season I still like Lazard to be a good WR2r. Yahoo has him at an ADP of 108th right now which would be the 11th round. I think he’s worth a shot.
Dameon Pierce, RB, Texans
Did you know that only two Houston players are ranked in the top 150 players on most websites? I would venture to guess most people assume Brandin Cooks is in there, but only real fantasy heads and Texans fans (what a miserable life that would be) know about Dameon Pierce. He was relatively under the radar in college and was a 4th round pick out of Florida in April. His cumulative stats as a Gator aren’t eye popping as Mullen deployed a platoon of RBs, but a 5.7 YPC catches my eye and he comes into Houston with an immediate chance to take over as the lead back. Finding a deep sleeper fantasy RB is all about opportunity and work load. I think Pierce is well worth that chance at an ADP of 121 on Yahoo as I write this sentence.
Allen Lazard, WR, Packers
I couldn’t agree more with DPJ about Lazard heading into this year’s draft. Rodgers has made it very clear how he feels about his current young WR situation (in dramatic public fashion per usual) and Lazard is one of the only “veteran” WR options on the roster outside of Randall Cobb (old) and new arrival Sammy Watkins (not the same WR in the NFL as he was in college). The Packers are going to continue to sling the ball this year regardless of their WR corps… It’s the only way Rodgers knows how to operate and he’s so talented that he’s capable of throwing questionable WRs into legitimate WR1 territory. There’s also the reality that the Packers won’t have an easy schedule this year which means they likely won’t have a choice but to throw the ball in closer games. Given how loudly Rodgers has been singing Lazard’s praises as Green Bay’s WR1 this year and how well they clicked down the stretch last season (Lazard was WR8 overall during the last 5 games of last year’s regular season), I see a ton of value for Lazard towards the middle rounds of your draft considering how late he’s going on average currently. There’s also the pettiness factor to take into account when it comes to Rodgers… Rodgers seemed to take it personal when Davante Adams appeared to compare Rodgers and Derek Carr in the same category of “hall of fame QBs” in an interview shortly after he was traded to Vegas. Rodgers, in response, compared the transition from Adams to Allen Lazard in a similar light calling both “hall of fame WRs”… Sounds to me like Rodgers wants to prove that he’s to credit for Davante Adams greatness in Green Bay and his weapon of choice to prove that this season will be Allen Lazard. Targets, targets, targets.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Buccaneers
*Disclosure* The status of Tom Brady at the time of writing this article is still up in the air as he still hasn’t joined the team this offseason due to “personal reasons”. Fournette’s status as a sleeper would be dramatically impacted by Brady’s ability to play this season. Playoff Lenny finished last season as the RB5 in PPR formats and I don’t see why his production would take a dip in 2022. The Bucs will most definitely be a super bowl or bust contender once again this year, Brady loves/trusts Fournette (likely more so than any younger RBs picked up this offseason) and Fournette was one of the most targeted RBs in the league last year in regards to receptions. After signing a massive 3 year deal, you know the Bucs will want to get the most out of their money and likely use him as the bell cow once again this season. Recent news that Fournette showed up to training camp very overweight is great news for fantasy football considering he’s apparently slimmed down considerably throughout training camp and those initial reports have landed his current draft position outside the top 12 RBs in the NFL. That’s absurd considering the value he possessed last season as the lead back in a Tom Brady led offense. I expect RB1 production out of Fournette again this season and he’s firmly inside my top 10 RBs off the board as of today. Fournette is the ideal RB2 for your team with RB1 value if you’re positioned with a later pick in the first round of your draft and have the ability to take advantage of the quick 1st/2nd round turnaround.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Definitely a risky sleeper pick here due to his ongoing legal situation but potentially a risk worth taking considering Kamara’s talent. Let’s be clear, Kamara would no question be a top 5 RB in this year’s draft without all of the offseason drama. He was the top RB in the NFL in 2020 and he has posted top 10 finishes or better virtually every single year since he was drafted by the Saints in 2017 (mostly top 5 finishes). Kamara would be the most reliable weapon for Jameis Winston heading into 2022 considering the WR situation (Olave is a rookie and Michael Thomas might just be trash at this point) and the lack of a stud TE (no offense to Adam Trautman). So why am I listing him as a sleeper this year given his likely impending suspension? Well that’s because it’s looking more and more like said suspension won’t actually occur until 2023 and may not affect this season whatsoever. If that is indeed the case (suspension is delayed until next season) then Kamara is no doubt a league winner candidate. His current ADP for RBs sits outside of the top 10 so he’s another ideal RB2 for your team with massive RB1 potential if you can take advantage of the late 1st/2nd round turnaround and if he’s still hanging around in the 3rd round you’d be foolish not to take a chance on his circumstances. We’re talking about a top 5 RB here so as long as you draft his handcuff in Mark Ingram as well (something you should be doing for a top 5 RB anyways) then you should be good to go.
Deebo Samuel, WR, Niners
I don’t need to bore you with sentences about how dominant Deebo was last year. The guy was incredible and single handedly won many people their fantasy league. While you won’t get him deep in the draft like 2021, I still feel like he’s a bit undervalued in 2022. I think Shanahan will continue to deploy him as an RB which has huge value. The passing game can only get better under Lance with ‘21 Jimmy being one of the most limited QBs I’ve ever seen. And somehow Deebo is still getting drafted at WR7 after a dominant 2021 performance. I love Deebo again in ‘22.
Allen Robinson, WR, Rams
It’s been many months so I must clear the air again that I am indeed a Rams fan. Does that make me a homer for picking AllenRobinson as a target? Probably. But I still love Robinson to fill the Woods/Odell void that has been opened for the Rams in 2022. There’s a chance the Rams still add Odell but as I write this there is no talk of that happening soon. Woods is gone, Van Jefferson is hurt, and naturally Cooper Kupp’s production should decrease a bit. Enter Allen Robinson, the poor guy who has only ever played with dog shit QBs. Now he gets a chance to shine in McVay’s system with Stafford throwing him dimes. I’m buying all the Robinson stock in ‘22 and still can’t wrap my mind around him being drafted behind guys like DK Metcalf and Terry Mclaurin.
Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
Josh was quietly RB 14 last year. Not spectacular given his draft position, but still a solid season, and I think things should only get better for him in ‘22. The Raiders offense is beefed up with Adams out wide and a true offensive coach behind the clipboard (although I don’t love McDaniels). This should make them more efficient, opening up the run game and gives Josh more red-zone and goal line opportunities. At an ADP of 49 on Yahoo I think he has a very high floor and would be a rock solid RB2 to compliment a higher upside RB1.
Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings
Ja’Marr Chase seems to be the former LSU WR getting all the love after a massive rookie year last season, and rightfully so, but it’s Justin Jefferson who I think makes the leap to WR1 this year and takes your fantasy team to another level. When analyzing fantasy WRs it’s always difficult to break down how their surrounding cast will affect their specific production. First thing’s first, you want your WR1 to have a QB that’s serviceable at the very least but hope for an elite talent. That’s obvious. So how does a WR1 with a great group of other WRs on the roster match up with a WR1 seemingly stranded on the depth chart by themselves without any other viable target options for his QB? From my research, any WR finding themselves in either one of those situations doesn’t tend to pan out well unless they have a truly generational talent throwing them the ball (Burrow, Rodgers, etc). WRs on teams with stacked WR corps face significant target attrition and lack the consistency/stability you want out of your WR1 (think big games but sprinkled sporadically throughout the season depending on what opposing offenses give them each week… best case scenario). WRs who lack sidekicks on the depth chart tend to face double teams all season which obviously eats into their overall production throughout the season. Keeping those two scenarios in mind, we’ve found that the sweet spot for your WR1 is a player who has a good-to-great QB and is surrounded by middle tier talent in regards to the other weapons on the depth chart. This allows the WR1 to avoid double teams all season while still maintaining the healthy target share you want out of the best WR on your roster. Jefferson and the Vikings check all of those boxes. People sleep on Kirk Cousins but he’s posted top 12 finishes for the last two seasons. Serviceable QB? Check. Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith Jr are all viable passing options for Cousins this season. That said, Thielen is getting up there in age, Cook is always an injury concern and Smith didn’t even play in 2021 due to a meniscus injury. Middle tier surrounding talent? Check. Justin Jefferson has the most receiving yards in the first two seasons of his career in NFL history, he’s arguably the most consistent WR in fantasy football and his target share/production should only continue to grow in 2022. Jefferson could very likely be this year’s Cooper Kupp league winner.
Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers
Justin Herbert should be the best dual threat QB that you actually have a shot at drafting this year unless you want to waste significant draft capital to go get Josh Allen (current ADP of the late 2nd round/early 3rd round which is absurd for any QB). The Chargers love to throw the ball (probably looking at 40+ pass attempts/game this season) which makes total sense considering the offensive weapons Herbert has at his disposal between Keenan Allen (perennial over achieving veteran), Mike Williams (massive red zone target/college superstar) and Austin Ekeler (arguably the best pass catching RB in the NFL). People seem to forget that 2021 was Joe Lombardi’s first year as the Chargers OC yet Herbert still finished as QB2 in their very first year running Lombardi’s system. Herbert is the first QB in NFL history to complete over 30 passing TDs per season in the first two seasons of his career and ranked in the top 3 for passing yards last season. In a Lombardi offense that he should only be more comfortable in this season… hard to think his explosive trajectory into the upper echelons of QBs in the league won’t continue in 2022. There’s also his rushing capability to keep in mind. Herbert finished as QB14 and QB10 in rushing attempts in 2020 and 2021 with his rushing attempts increasing by over 14% during that span. It’s reasonable to believe that Lombardi could continue this trend of increased rush attempts to keep defenses guessing given how much that offense passes already and Herbert’s deceiving speed. If that does indeed end up being the case, you’re looking at most likely a top 2-3 passer in the league who could sneak into the top 5 in rushing yards this season… Sounds like a QB1 to me.
Ceedee Lamb, WR, Cowboys
Ceedee’s appeal and concerns are relatively obvious. With Amari Cooper’s departure to Cleveland this offseason and Zeke’s age/durability becoming a concern, Lamb has become the unquestioned go-to weapon for Dak this season. Even when dealing with Cooper in the roster last year, Lamb was able to finish the year WR14 in receiving yards despite being only WR22 in targets. Using our WR logic when it comes to surrounding weapons, you might think that Ceedee could face double teams all season due to the lack of talented WRs surrounding him this year (Gallup is made of glass). I disagree. Dalton Schultz established himself as a true TE1 last season, Dak Prescott is always a threat with his feet and it sounds like they plan on using the up and coming Tony Pollard more in the passing game this season. The Cowboys also like to run a fast paced offense in one of the worst divisions in professional football which leads me to believe that Ceedee should be able to shake most of his coverages this season. Massive target share combined with massive talent = quality WR1.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
Now we get to the fun part. I will start by saying Saquon seems like a good dude and it’s a shame his career has been riddled with injuries. With that being said, I am absolutely avoiding Saquon at all costs because of those injuries. Yes there is a world where he stays healthy and proves he’s worth a top 10 pick in ‘23, but I find that to be highly unlikely and would hate to pick him in the second round with his track record. I’m fading Saquon…not touching him with a 10 foot pole this season.
Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Colts
I had Pittman on my team last year in one of my primary leagues, picked him up on waivers early in the season and that paid dividends as he had a very solid season. However,,, that is a much different story when he’s being drafted as WR #12. Do I think he’ll have another good year? Probably. Would I take several other WRs before him? Absolutely. Allen Robinson (as stated above), Diontae Johsnon and DJ Moore are all being drafted below Pittman which just seems silly to me. I’ll be fading Pittman this year but would happily take him in the 5th or 6th round.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons
This one is a little tough for me to write as I love Pitts’ skillset but I think this is just an awful situation for him in Atlanta this year. Marriota and Ritter in the QB room? Disgusting. The volume should be there as you could make the argument that he’s the only offensive player outside of Cordarrelle Patterson with an ounce of talent on the Falcons but this roster is just a travesty. Pitts going in the 4th round as TE3 just seems a bit rich for my blood. I prefer Kittle and Waller over him this year, so I’m fading Pitts at that price.
Amari Cooper, WR, Browns
This fade is purely by circumstance. If Amari Cooper was the WR1 in a Deshaun Watson lead offense then he’d easily be in the WR1 conversation for your fantasy squad. That said, this won’t be the case for Cooper in 2022. Watson has accepted an 11 game suspension which virtually makes him, and all of the offensive weapons depending on him, worthless throughout the fantasy regular season. The Browns run the ball more than almost any other team in the NFL and they’ll be led by Jacoby Brissett until Deshaun returns to action. Hard to think that Brissett will be able to provide Cooper the amount of volume needed for reliable WR1-2 production all season. Expect Cooper to face a lot of attention from opposing defenses all season and to spend more time run blocking than receiving passes.
DK Metcalf, WR, Seahawks
Another solid WR who finds himself in a terrible QB situation. Metcalf has always been a tough WR to rank (even with Russell Wilson in Seattle) due to the presence of Tyler Lockett. He tends to find himself in that sporadic production category I described earlier. 2022 should bring even more headaches for Metcalf owners. Seattle is very much in the throes of a rebuilding year after sending their franchise QB off to Denver this offseason and I have zero faith in Geno Smith or Drew Lock to keep Metcalf relevant. DK will likely face the majority of attention from defenses (understandably so) due to his freakish athleticism and the Seahawks will likely focus on the run game behind Rashaad Penny (late season stud last year) and rookie Kenneth Walker. I just don’t see Metcalf as a quality WR2 this season which is where you’ll have to draft him this year based on his current ADP.
Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers
Yep, all three of my fades this season are WRs on run heavy offenses with very shaky QBs. The stats are just too clear to ignore… Rookie QBs don’t tend to fare well for WR1s. Even if Trubisky wins the starting job over Kenny Pickett I still don’t see DJ having a big year given how terrible the Steelers offensive line is, the amount they’ll likely run the ball with Najee Harris this season and the number of mouths to feed on this offense (Chase Claypool, Freiermuth, hyped up rookie George Pickens and Calvin Austin III). I love Johnson and he produced well for me in some leagues last year but I just don’t think he’s set up to succeed in what should be a very messy Steelers offense in 2022.
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