Annual Fantasy Football Award Predictions
As we quickly approach the start of the 2022 NFL season, it’s time to announce my choices for the annual Fantasy Award Predictions. Players’ listed average draft position (ADP) is from our half-PPR ADP data for a 12-team league. Who will lead your teams to fantasy glory and who is one player to stay away from who is being drafted inside of the 1st round? Let’s jump into it!
Fantasy MVP - Jalen Hurts (ADP: 5.10, QB 7)
If Jalen Hurts’ passing efficiency increases in 2022, he has a legitimate chance to break fantasy football. Last year, Hurts threw for only 3,144 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions and finished as the QB6 in fantasy points per game.
That’s insane when compared to quarterbacks like Tom Brady who threw for 5,300 yards and 43 TDs. The value of a running quarterback in fantasy football is a cheat code. On the season, Hurts finished with 784 rushing yards, and 10 touchdowns on the ground. In 4-point per TD pass leagues, these rushing quarterbacks are scoring more than the “statue-QBs” that cannot run.
In the offseason, we know the Eagles brought in Hurts’ buddy - A.J. Brown - and they have been looking great in camp and in the preseason. Add in a second-year surge from Davonta Smith, who actually had a very good rookie season, and the other weapons the Eagles have, and Hurts has a real shot to challenge Josh Allen for the top-scoring QB of the year.
Biggest Steal - JuJu Smith-Schuster (ADP: 7.08, WR 32)
One of the biggest draft day steals out there per our ADP is JuJu Smith-Schuster who is being drafted as the WR 32. Patrick Mahomes lost Tyreek Hill who was a top-5 fantasy WR and there are a ton of vacated targets. There is rookie Skyy Moore and Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the roster, but it’s Smith-Schuster who has the highest upside as the likely slot receiver.
Many will point to JuJu’s subpar 2021 season with Pittsburgh, but we never think to look at the quarterback first who was the issue. Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t do much in his final season and JuJu is still an elite receiver. At wide receiver 32 off the board, you’re not investing much in him, yet he could post top-10 to 15 numbers if he receives attention near the goal line.
It’s not hard to imagine Smith-Schuster finishing as a WR1 after posting well over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns - Patrick Mahomes needs another pass-catching option other than Travis Kelce, and if he stays healthy, Smith-Schuster is that guy. Until week 1 rolls around and we see JuJu do his thing with Patrick Mahomes, he’s still being undervalued.
Biggest Bust - Derrick Henry (ADP: 1.04, RB 4)
To be the biggest bust in fantasy football you need to have invested a top pick in the player. The case for Derrick Henry to bust is simple - he is on a worse projected team who will not be leading as much. When the Titans are faced with a negative game script, they are going to need to (eventually) abandon the run and push the ball down the field. The Titans’ projected win total sits at 9.5 which would be quite the drop off from their 12 wins last year. The difference between meeting the expected win total would be making the playoffs or not in a loaded AFC conference.
When the Titans are in a neutral game script or are leading, Derrick Henry is a dominant player for fantasy football. However, with the departure of A.J. Brown, there are no pass-catching options whatsoever that scare the opposing defense. They are going to load the box at an alarming rate and I fear Henry is going to get stuffed at the line a ton. Every team around them in the division got better in the offseason and the Titans didn’t do a ton.
In addition to the above issues, Henry also doesn’t catch a ton of passes. He’s an okay mid-1st round selection in half-PPR or standard leagues, but in full PPR leagues, the lack of catching hurts his case. With the lack of pass-catching options, the coaching staff might start giving Henry a chance to catch more screen or dump-off types of passes, but we haven’t seen a season where he has caught 20 passes. That’s not asking a lot for a running back, however, the Titans don’t have him in the offensive scheme in that regard.
Best Rookie - Breece Hall (ADP: 4.07, RB 22)
It’s a chalky pick, but I think Breece Hall will be the best rookie for fantasy football. There’s an honorable mention to George Pickens, however, I am worried about Kenny Pickett coming in for Mitch Trubisky at some point - rookie QBs usually aren’t great for their rookie wideouts. And I also think that Drake London could have a great season as well as the only other real pass-catching option next to Kyle Pitts. Atlanta is going to need to pass a ton and he might rack up a ton of garbage-time production. But now, onto Breece Hall.
Breece Hall was the first running back off the board as the 36th overall selection in this year's draft. There were reports that the Jets were trying to trade into the 1st round to get him, but ultimately couldn’t land on a deal - they got their guy anyway. The draft capital they gave up to get him clearly outlines their intentions. They want Breece Hall to be their RB 1. He may start the season off a bit slow with a tough schedule and share work with Michael Carter, but after a few weeks, it will be clear that they need to fully involve him in the offense.
Running backs who are drafted first every season are usually a decent bet to have a ton of production and Breece Hall is someone you can start from Week 1 onwards. The same can’t be said with a lot of the other rookie running backs and wide receivers.
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