Yet another NFL season has come and gone, and now it’s time to both recap the previous season and start getting ready for 2023. As always there were players who disappointed, and others who outshined all projections…something we try to catch in our “busts and sleepers” picks in the offseason.
In this article, we will take a look at who I think the biggest winners and losers are at each position, which hopefully will get you thinking about how you want to approach these players next season. Will they be overdrafted? Will they be forgotten and avoided? Can you get a bounce-back player?
Let’s take a look at some fantasy winners and losers from the 2022 season. ADPs and final stats come from half-point PPR data.
Winners – Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields
It really was just too tough to pick a winner between these two, so I decided to include both.
Jalen Hurts was drafted as the sixth Quarterback off the board, going somewhere in the seventh or eighth round of drafts. There was some hype going into the season, but a lot of fantasy players decided to go with the more “proven” Quarterbacks.
Hurts ended up having a phenomenal season, throwing for 3701 yards, 22 touchdowns, and six interceptions. What really helped his fantasy season was his rushing ability. He finished the season with 760 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He finished fourth in QB rushing and first in rushing touchdowns. Hurts ended the season as the QB3, and he even missed two games with injury. Hurts is a winner because he not only led many fantasy players to the playoffs, but he was criminally underdrafted.
Speaking of underdrafted, Justin Fields came into the season with a lot of unknowns. Some were even ready to move on from him, but a change in the offensive scheme gave Fields a second chance. Fields was drafted as the 17 th Quarterback off the board, routinely going in the double digit rounds. And yet he finished as the QB6 even though he too missed two games.
Fields didn’t have a passing game thanks to a wildly beat up receiving corps, which showed in his 2200 yards and 17 touchdowns. Where he did the most damage was on the ground, rushing for a league-best (Quarterback) 1143 yards. He also scored eight times. If the Bears can add some offensive weapons this offseason, Fields could be in line for a top 5 finish again, figuring opposing teams don’t shut him down on the ground now that they know the gameplan.
Loser – Justin Herbert
I’m not sure what was up with the Chargers this season, since they did manage to make the playoffs but it wasn’t on Justin Herbert’s amazing play.
Herbert was drafted as the third overall Quarterback and was going in the third round of drafts, yet he finished as the QB11. He did throw for 4739 yards, but his touchdowns regressed to 25 after two seasons over 30. His rushing stats, although never “great”, were also down. He failed to record a rushing touchdown in a season for the first time of his career.
Both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams missed significant time with injuries, which for sure harmed Herbert’s play. Depending on who the Chargers pick up this offseason, Herbert could be in for a bounce-back season.
Winner – Josh Jacobs
Josh Jacobs is probably one of the biggest winners of fantasy football after absolutely crushing it this season. Jacobs was being drafted in the Running Back deadzone this season…a place where you really didn’t like any of the RBs you were picking from. Jacobs was the 22 nd RB off the board and was going in the fifth round.
Now most likely his play came from being in a contract year, but if you took a shot on him you were very pleasantly surprised. Jacobs finished the season with a league-leading 1653 rushing yards. He scored 12 times and caught 64 passes for an additional 400 yards. He finished as the RB3, a whopping 19 spots better than his ADP in the position.
Winner – Jamaal Williams
Everybody, including me, wrote off Jamaal Williams as a backup to D’Andre Swift, who we will speak about in a minute. But boy were we wrong. Williams finished the season as the RB8, rushing for over 1000 yards. He led the league in touchdowns on the ground, scoring 17.
Williams was drafted as the RB57 in round 14 or later, so if you managed to grab him you got tremendous value. With Swift hurt constantly and then not really utilized, Williams thrived in an up-and-coming offense. Whatever the Lions did on offense worked, as they went from awful to almost playoffs in one year. Williams isn’t necessarily a big play or deep threat guy like Swift, but a top 10 finish is nothing to glance over.
Loser – Jonathan Taylor
As a Badger fan, this one hurts to write, but you can’t avoid the obvious here. Jonathan Taylor had a rough season, even though many believed he’d be even better thanks to the addition of Matt Ryan. Woof.
Taylor finished the season as the RB34 after being the overall first pick in most fantasy drafts. The whole Colt offense was horrible this season, and a poor offensive line play hurt both Taylor and Ryan’s ability to do anything. Taylor played in 12 games, and was effectively shut down after an ankle injury late in the season since the Colts were already eliminated.
Nothing hurts more than the first overall pick disappointing you even after playing a majority of the season, so that’s why Taylor is a big loser this year.
Loser – D’Andre Swift
I don’t know why D’Andre Swift was used the way he was, but it definitely burned a lot of fantasy players. Swift was drafted right around the one-two turn as the RB8. He finished as the RB22.
He played in 14 games, although it’s safe to say he wasn’t at full strength in some of them. In others he barely played even though he was “healthy”, and the coaches were often playing coy on his status. Whatever the case, it made for a real headache for fantasy managers. Swift is always a potential big play guy, but this season just didn’t work out for him. He finished with 542 yards on the ground and 389 yards through the air. He recorded a total of eight touchdowns. We aren’t sure how the Lions will use these two backs next season, but it feels like Swift has fallen behind Williams for now.
Winner – DeVonta Smith
DeVonta Smith had a strong rookie season, catching 64 passes for 916 yards and five touchdowns. But his offseason hype was most shut down after the Eagles added star Wide Receiver A.J. Brown. Smith slid all the way to WR37 and being drafted in the eighth round.
Yet he blew up expectations, catching 95 passes for 1196 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022. That was good enough for WR10. His fellow teammate, A.J. Brown, finished as the WR5, meaning Jalen Hurts was able to produce two top 10 fantasy Wide Receivers.
With opposing teams having to watch Hurts’ scrambling and Brown’s big play ability, Smith was able to find plenty of openings on his way to a great sophomore campaign.
Winner – Christian Kirk
Christian Kirk was a fellow eighth-round Wide Receiver, going off the board as the WR40. Most fantasy players weren’t too high on the Jaguar offense, since Trevor Lawrence really hadn’t shown much so far in his career.
Yet the Jaguar offense was much improved, and that included Lawrence, who seemed to have turned a corner this season. Kirk finished the season with 84 catches for 1108 yards and eight touchdowns. After a massive start to the season, Kirk had a pretty quiet stretch in the middle, making some believe that it was a bit of a farce.
But Kirk came back with some big games as the Jaguars shocked everyone by making it to the second-round of the playoffs. Kirk finished as the WR11, making him a big winner this season.
Loser – Deebo Samuel
Deebo Samuel was coming off a career year in 2021, making him a highly sought-after Wide Receiver in 2022 drafts. Samuel was drafted right around the two/three turn as the WR9.
Now the Quarterback situation for Samuel was not great since he had multiple starting QBs throughout the season. Still, he only managed 632 yards receiving, almost 800 yards less than last season. He rushed for 232 yards and three touchdowns, whereas last season he scored eight times on the ground.
He finished as the WR38, making him one of the bigger “busts” of the season at the Wide Receiver position.
Loser – Allen Robinson II
So many of us fell for this trap. Allen Robinson was supposed to have new life after moving on from the Bears. “He has a good Quarterback now! He is on a great offense now! He will be a great WR2 behind Cooper Kupp!”
Well maybe he just is done in the NFL, cause he did nothing with this opportunity. Robinson finished as the WR86. He was drafted as the 20 th Wide Receiver off the board in the fifth round. Ouch.
Robinson only played in 10 games, but even with Kupp out he didn’t produce. Robinson will be known as one of the biggest busts in fantasy after being massively hyped all offseason.
Winner – Evan Engram
Another winner from the Jaguars, Evan Engram seemed to have revitalized his career after signing a 1-year prove-it deal this offseason.
After a pretty quiet start, Engram exploded in the second half of the season. He finished with 73 catches for 766 yards and four touchdowns. That was good for TE6 in half-PPR. And what is even better is that probably 99% of fantasy players who rostered him got him off waivers. Engram was relatively undrafted in leagues, making him one of the best pickups of the season.
If the Jaguars re-sign him, he should have a good chance to repeat his solid play in 2023.
Loser – Kyle Pitts
This one really isn’t Kyle Pitts’ fault, but he still burned you if you drafted him to be your Tight End. Pitts is an athletic freak who is more Wide Receiver than Tight End, making him a supposed matchup nightmare. But his fantasy season was the nightmare this year.
Pitts finished with 28 catches for 356 yards and two touchdowns. That gave him the TE33 finish. Now he did only play in 10 games, but even in the ones he played, you legitimately had to start him knowing he could easily score under five points for your team. He routinely had games with 2-3 catches for under 25 yards. He even was being considered a possible drop candidate, which seems absurd after the draft capital you had to spend. Pitts was the TE3 and cost a third-round draft pick, making him the biggest Tight End bust of the season.
Hopefully the offense can turn things around with a better Quarterback and a few Wide Receivers, otherwise Pitts may continue to get shut down.
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