Fantasy Football 2022: Bold predictions see Jalen Hurts finish QB1, Brandin Cooks career year
There are few things as a fantasy football analyst that are more fun than bold predictions. You get to live on the outer limits of the possible, unchained to things like projections and responsibility. No one expects you to be right, but you can get some serious victory laps when you are. Take last year for example.
Almost exactly a year ago today I wrote theof this column. In it, I said that Dak Prescott would break Peyton Manning’s distance record in one season, D’Andre Swift would finish in the top five in PPR and Mark Andrews would finish the year as TE1 overall. It was good for a lap and a half victory (Swift was in the top five before his injury) and absolutely no one remembered Prescott’s prediction. Beautiful.
All jokes aside, a 33% success rate on bold predictions is probably as good as you’d expect. These are outliers that could very well happen, but you shouldn’t write as if the predictions below match your expectations. Just enjoy the profit if they hit. Plus, I added two more this year for a total of five. Bolder predictions equal more victory lap opportunities.
Let’s have some fun…
Jalen Hurts will end the year as QB1
If you’ve been following me this whole offseason, you knew this one was coming. In fact, I wrote about it the night of. Hurts is as successful as anyone not named Lamar Jackson and the addition of Brown should improve his passing numbers enough to make him one of the top five quarterbacks in Fantasy with the advantage of being the #1 overall.
The most obvious cases to cite when trying to determine how much Brown could help Hurts as a passer are Josh Allen and Kyler Murray. When I do that, people often laugh because Hurts isn’t as good a passer as those two. Good…
For reference, the year after Allen acquired Diggs, he threw for 1,500 more yards and 17 more touchdowns than the year before. His passer rating improved to 107.2. Murray’s jump wasn’t as big, but he threw for 250 more yards and six more touchdowns. Even Murray’s smallest jump was equivalent to an additional 3.75 Fantasy points per game. That type of boost would have made Hurts QB3 last year, behind only Allen and Brady.
Although Hurts as QB1 might seem like the boldest of my predictions this season, it’s actually the one I feel the best about. At the very least, he’ll crush his current ADP of QB9.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Ronald Jones will both finish in the top 24 RBs by
Two of Fantasy Football’s most maligned running backs on the same team and both beating ADP? How is it possible? Well, let’s start with the production of running backs for the Chiefs last year. They rushed for 1,393 yards and 12 touchdowns. They caught 87 passes for 793 yards and five touchdowns. If Jones and Edwards-Helaire split that evenly and both played 17 games, that would have put them both around RB30 (11.8 PPR FP/G) last year.
How will this improve? On the one hand, I expect better efficiency as Edwards-Helaire fulfills his more natural role as a wide receiver and Jones thrives in short yards and between tackles. I currently have Edwards-Helairefor a career-high 64 catches with Jones leading the team in rushing and scoring nine touchdowns.
The loss of Tyreek Hill is also taken into account here. Hill has rushed for 219 yards and two touchdowns over the past two seasons and has been used in a variety of creative ways inside the 5-yard line. While some of those touches will likely go to Mecole Hardman, I would expect running backs to see an increase in red zone touches as well.
The way this one goes wrong is if either back has a smaller role than expected or gets injured. But that would only strengthen the health of the back. This possibility presents a big profit opportunity for either fullback, especially since Edwards-Helaire has an ADP Round 6 and Jones is available in the double-digit rounds.
Brandin Cooks will have a career year and finish in the top 12 WR
First and foremost, believe it or not, cooks should be on your draft day radar as it’s a garish value available in round 6 or later in most drafts. This is despite the fact that he just finished his sixth season with at least 1,000 receiving yards and set career highs in targets (134) and catches (90). Now why is it going to be even better.
Cooks played most of last year with a rookie quarterback, which is why his effectiveness suffered. His 11.5 yards per catch were his lowest since his rookie year and his 7.7 yards per target was a career low. Although the Texans haven’t added anyone who, I would expect him to decrease Cooks’ target share, I would expect Davis Mills to make at least some improvements in his second season, that’s is what most second-year quarterbacks do.
It’s not fair to expect Cooks to match his career rate of 9.1 YPT, but what if he’s halfway there? That’s 100 extra receiving yards. Now let’s do the same with his hit rate. The pre-2021 cooks had scored on 5.4% of his goals, last year he was a point below. So let’s give him one more touchdown to close that gap. We just added one fantasy point per game for Cooks, to take him from WR23 to WR14. How does it bridge the gap to WR12? Volume.
Although Cooks set a career high in goals last year, there’s reason to think that number is going up because the Texans were one of three NFL teams to play under 60. matches last year. Outliers like this usually regress towards the mean. It’s also true that Cooks has averaged nine targets per game in the healthy nine games he’s played and Davis Mills has started. His 17-game pace in those games was 153 targets. That kind of volume is exactly the kind that would make Cooks a top-12 wide receiver, even if he doesn’t quite regress to career efficiency.
More importantly, the point is not lost: even if you don’t believe any of the last three paragraphs, you should draft Brandin Cooks to his ADP.
Jahan Dotson will be Washington Commanders’ best WR
Admittedly, this one was inspired by OTA reports that Dotson has been very impressive and quickly forms a bond with Carson Wentz. Terry McLaurin, who is trying to work out a new contract, was not present.
To be clear, I threw McLaurin long before Dotson right now and you shouldn’t take the OTA reports too seriously. But the report is important, and it should be noted that Dotson is a much better prospect than McLaurin when he left three years ago.
Dotson has Round 1 draft capital as a 22-year-old who just caught 91 passes for 1,1182 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior year at Penn State. Its 44.3% college dominator score ranks in the 90th percentile.
McLaurin turned 24 in September of his rookie year, had a tiny 8.6 percent target share in college and had just 1,251 receiving yards in four combined seasons at Ohio State. He also fell to Washington in the third round of the draft.
McLaurin has done enough in three years in the NFL to earn the highest ADP at this point in the offseason. But Dotson is the much better value in the redraft and he’s a screaming value in the rookie-only drafts, falling behind both Skyy Moore and Christian Watson in most cases. And if McLaurin’s hold lasts until training camp, or if we get any reports that Wentz and Dotson are having breakfast together, you might start to see those receivers’ ADPs converging.
Kyle Pitts will finish outside the top 8 TEs per game again
This one scares me more than it should. Not because of the visceral response I expect, but because I’m afraid it’s right.
Pitts finished last year as TE11 per game, saw his team replace Matt Ryan with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder, and drafted Drake London 8th overall.
It just doesn’t make sense to me that those circumstances lead to Pitts being drafted in the third round as the No. 3 tight end behind only Andrews and Travis Kelce. What’s worse is that he’s a lot closer to Kelce at No. 1 than he is to TJ Hockenson at No. 6. And Hockenson trailed Pitts by a point and a half a game the year. last!
As a guy who writes the regression column every year, I should recognize at least some of the reasons. Pitts scored just one touchdown on 110 targets last year. It’s absurd and it won’t happen again. His new quarterback Marcus Mariota has a career touchdown rate of 4.3%.
If we give Pitts that 4.3% as a baseline, and round up, let’s say we should expect five Pitts touchdowns IN 2022. That would have bumped him up to 11.8 PPR FP/G last year , still a tick behind Hockenson at TE8. And that’s assuming he can continue to average 9.3 yards per target despite a sharp demotion to quarterback.
Again, I didn’t rank Pitts as low as this bold prediction suggests. That’s because he’s an elite talent coming off of one of the best close rookie seasons ever. But I absolutely believe his situation and ADP suggest he is more likely to crash again in 2022 than provide value in Round 3.