2022 First Fantasy Football Thoughts: AFC/NFC East

by Michael Nazarek - 7/11/2022

The Pandemic may still be here with us, but for the first time since 2019, my First Thoughts series returns for 2022! The 4th of July has come and gone and training camps open in just a few short weeks. The first cut of our Pre-Season Draft Guide has been released, so the plan for this series is to whip through all 32 teams before the end of the month. As in years past, this series of articles will begin in the East and I'll work my way West. Let's get right to it, there's a lot to discuss...




Buffalo Bills: The Bills once again couldn't get past the Chiefs to make the Super Bowl, but things are still looking up. Stud QB Josh Allen is the elite fantasy producer at QB in the league, so there is no issue here. In the running game, RB Devin Singletary really picked it up late last year, and enters the 2022 season as the lead back with the coaches backing. RB Zack Moss disappointed in 2021, so he could be traded or released, since the team drafted RB James Cook to fill the third down back duties this season. That said, Allen could still be the biggest threat in many games near the goal to run for the score. In the passing game, veteran WR Stefon Diggs returns as the #1 elite fantasy producing WR, but veterans WR Emmanuel Sanders and WR Cole Beasley are gone. WR Gabriel Davis looks to build upon his big playoff production from 2021 into a starring role as the #2 WR for the team in 2022. He is a very obvious fantasy sleeper. WR Isaiah McKenzie returns to battle newly signed WR Jamison Crowder for the slot job. At tight end, TE Dawson Knox had a breakout season as the pass-catching tight end in 2021. He returns as a solid top 10 fantasy TE for 2022. TE Tommy Sweeney returns for depth. At kicker, PK Tyler Bass returns, and remains an elite fantasy producer in this high-powered offense.


Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins once again failed to make the playoffs in 2021. QB Tua Tagovailoa is set to get one final chance to show the league he can start and be productive in the NFL. At this time, he's a decent fantasy sleeper, but should only be targeted in drafts for his upside as a fantasy backup. In the running game, RB Miles Gaskin returns, but the team also signed RB Chase Edmonds to lead a RBBC that includes RB Raheem Mostert, RB Sony Michel, and RB Salvon Ahmed. It appears that Edmonds will get the first crack to start, but it's anyone's guess how the corps will be structured. In the passing game, WR DeVante Parker is gone, as the team acquired WR Tyreek Hill to start alongside WR Jaylen Waddle. WR Cedrick Wilson was also signed to be the #3 WR. There really is no more excuses for Tua in 2022. Hill and Waddle won't come cheap in fantasy drafts this summer, and rightly so. At tight end, TE Mike Gesicki was retained via the franchise tag, but with Hill on the team, Gesicki is not a lock to produce top 10 fantasy TE numbers. PK Jason Sanders returns as the kicker, but you can do better elsewhere for your fantasy needs.


New England Patriots: The Patriots made the playoffs in 2021, but failed to make the big game. Rookie QB Mac Jones played within himself last year, and the team won, but that scheme did not lead them into the Super Bowl, so the coaches want to unleash him in 2022. That could make him an interesting fantasy sleeper, one you can easily take as a fantasy backup. In the running game, RB Damien Harris got pretty much all the calls at the goal, and returns for 2022. He is a solid RB3 in most systems, but won't catch many passes. RB Rhamondre Stevenson made an impact as a rookie, so he will steal significant touches from Harris. Pass-catching RB James White (hip) returns, but it's uncertain if he will be cleared to play come week #1. Rookie RB Pierre Strong could make an impact if White struggles to play. In the passing game, the team acquired WR DeVante Parker from the Dolphins, and he could become the team's new #1 WR. He should at least help with the explosive play ratio. WR Jakobi Meyers, WR Kendrick Bourne, and WR Nelson Agholor return, but only Meyers is likely to continue starting each week, as both Bourne and Agholor likely will fight for the #3 WR job. WR N'Keal Harry seems destined to be cut or traded. At tight end, TE Hunter Henry became a safety net for Jones, especially in the red zone, leading to plenty of scores, making him a top 12 fantasy TE. For the most part, that value should hold in 2022, as TE Jonnu Smith is coming off a very disappointing season after signing a big money deal. Will the team keep him around? We shall see. Veteran PK Nick Folk led the league in fantasy points in 2021, and returns for 2022, keeping him a solid fantasy starter this season.


New York Jets: The Jets failed to field a winner again in 2021, but there is hope that QB Zach Wilson can turn things around with added help on the offensive line and at RB/WR. As for Wilson himself, he has some upside for fantasy, but you can wait to grab him in the latter portion of your draft as a backup. In the running game, rookie RB Breece Hall is likely to start, but share touches with second-year RB Michael Carter, limiting the upside for both players. You can forget the rest of the RBs on this roster for fantasy. In the passing game, second-year WR Elijah Moore blossomed late in his rookie season, while the team drafted WR Garrett Wilson to boost the corps. Both of these players have nice potential, while WR Corey Davis returns as the veteran presence to settle the group. Veteran WR Jamison Crowder is gone, meaning slot WR Braxton Berrios could fill that void, but if the other three stay healthy, he won't get enough looks for fantasy. At tight end, veterans TE C.J. Uzomah and TE Tyler Conklin were signed. They have some upside, but if both are healthy, could cancel each other out for fantasy. Veteran PK Greg Zuerlein was signed, but he struggled last year as a Cowboy, so he will likely need to win the job in camp if he's to stick. Let's just say the Jets kicker remains a risky proposition for fantasy in 2022.




Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys made the playoffs last year, but didn't come close to winning their way into the big game. That said, QB Dak Prescott is far from the issue. He is a solid fantasy starter in any scoring system. In the running game, RB Ezekiel Elliott returns after a so-so season, marred by the fact he played through a knee injury. That led to more touches for backup RB Tony Pollard. It appears the team is going to go with more of a 1-2 punch at RB in 2022, but Elliott still rates as a solid RB2 for fantasy. As for Pollard, he is a decent RB3 in larger leagues with some upside. At wideout, WR Amari Cooper is gone, leaving WR CeeDee Lamb as the team's new #1 WR, while WR Michael Gallup (torn ACL) is rehabbing a torn ACL. WR Cedrick Wilson is gone, so the team signed WR James Washington to be the new #3 WR and/or fill in for Gallup until he can play. That gives Washington some interesting extra fantasy value if he develops quick chemistry with Prescott. WR Noah Brown was re-signed for depth. At tight end, franchise-tagged TE Dalton Schultz signed his tender, so he is locked into playing for the team in 2022. Schultz is a solid fantasy starter in TE-required leagues, especially with Gallup's situation. Rookie TE Jake Ferguson will back up Schultz. The team currently has two no-names set to battle for the kicking job, so keep your eyes on that battle later this summer.


New York Giants: My favorite team struggled again last year. To that end, they hired a new general manager and new head coach. Hopefully, HC Brian Daboll can turn things around. To that end, QB Daniel Jones returns as the starter for what could be his final season as the team's QB. The Giants beefed up the offensive line via the draft, so hopefully, he can actually produce a decent season, but I wouldn't expect much for fantasy. In the running game, RB Saquon Barkley returns as the starter, but has missed more games than he's played in recent years due to injuries. There is optimism that he can stay healthy and productive in 2022, but I have my doubts. Frankly, I think I will pass on him when his ADP comes up in drafts this summer. RB Matt Breida was signed to back up Barkley. In the passing game, WR Kenny Golladay, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Kadarius Toney, and WR Darius Slayton all return as the primary wideout corps, but none rate in my top 50 fantasy WRs due to the unknowns of this new offense and Jones. One thing to note is the fact that Jones prefers to target Shepard over all the others. Rookie WR Wan�Dale Robinson was drafted in April, so keep an eye on his progress. At tight end, TE Evan Engram is gone, as the team signed TE Ricky Seals-Jones and drafted TE Daniel Bellinger to overhaul the position. I'm not thrilled about the prospects here either at this point. PK Graham Gano returns as a quality kicker, but inconsistent scoring chances make him only a middle-of-the-road fantasy option at best in 2022.


Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles were "meh" again in 2021. That said, QB Jalen Hurts had a fairly solid season, at least fantasy-wise, but he needs to step up his game to lock in that NFL starter status moving forward. The team acquired WR A.J. Brown to help him, so that makes him a borderline fantasy starter for larger leagues in my book. In the running game, RB Miles Sanders continued to disappoint as the starter last season, so although he is expected to start in 2022, he's unlikely to be a workhorse back. Look for RB Kenneth Gainwell and RB Boston Scott to steal enough touches away, making Sanders a shaky RB3 at best. In the passing game, Brown and second-year WR DeVonta Smith will start, while WR Quez Watkins fills the #3 WR job. Brown is a top 15 fantasy WR, but I wouldn't overdraft him. Smith might be the better value in terms of ADP. WR Greg Ward returns for depth. At tight end, TE Zach Ertz was traded last year, leaving TE Dallas Goedert as the starter, making him a top 10 fantasy TE. PK Jake Elliott returns, as a solid kicker, but one who usually doesn't see enough scoring chances to make very much of a fantasy impact. I do not see that changing much in 2022.


Washington Commanders: Washington finally chose a new nickname� Commanders. Will that get them into the playoffs? Not likely, especially since they just acquired QB Carson Wentz to start for them. Wentz is a "meh" fantasy producer. In other words, you can do better looking elsewhere. In the running game, RB Antonio Gibson returns as the starter, but the team also drafted RB Bryan Robinson in April and re-signed RB J.D. McKissic, as the pass-catching back. That means Gibson's touches will go down, not up, in 2022. Gibson should be viewed as an inconsistent RB2 at best this summer for fantasy. In the passing game, WR Terry McLaurin just signed a long-term contract extension. While his talents warrant the deal, it's tough to see McLaurin producing better numbers than he has recently with Wentz at the helm. WR Curtis Samuel looks to be finally healthy, and ready to contribute as a starter, while rookie WR Jahan Dotson is likely to push WR Cam Sims into a backup role. At tight end, TE Logan Thomas (torn ACL) is rehabbing from the torn ACL, and is uncertain to be ready by week #1. As a result, he could come at a fantasy value draft pick later this summer if his rehab advances well. When healthy, Thomas could produce top 12 fantasy TE numbers. PK Joey Slye is the kicker, but is unlikely to see enough scoring chances for serious fantasy consideration.


That's a wrap for the two Eastern divisions. Be sure to join me over the coming weeks as I offer my First Thoughts on the other six divisions. All comments, complimentary or otherwise, are always welcome via our contact page. Let's talk fantasy football!



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