2022 First Fantasy Football Thoughts: AFC/NFC West

by Michael Nazarek - 7/24/2022

As we march towards the release of Version II of our Pre-Season Draft Guide later this week, I look to the teams out west to finish my sweep…


Denver Broncos:
The Broncos missed the playoffs last year again, mostly due to more poor QB play. As a result, the team traded QB Drew Lock and TE Noah Fant to the Seahawks in a move to acquire QB Russell Wilson. Wilson struggled coming off a hand injury late last year and wanted to move on from Seattle. He inherits a better offensive line in Denver, one that should protect him much better, leading to improved play, making him a borderline fantasy starter for owners in 12-team leagues this season. QB Brett Rypien will back up Wilson. In the running game, second-year RB Javonte Williams has earned a starting job in 2022, but the team chose to re-sign veteran RB Melvin Gordon late this offseason. That move hampers the upside of Williams, but he's still a high RB2 for fantasy. Gordon will be more of a RB3 for fantasy this season. Veteran RB Mike Boone returns as the #3 RB. In the passing game, WR Jerry Jeudy, WR Courtland Sutton, and WR Tim Patrick all return to form one of the better WR trios in the league. There is talk that Wilson will favor the bigger Sutton over Jeudy this season. We shall see. WR K.J. Hamler also returns, and could push for expanded playing time. At tight end, TE Albert Okwuegbunam takes over with Fant gone. Okwuegbunam is an interesting latter-round fantasy sleeper this summer, but rookie TE Greg Dulcich could push him for significant playing time down the road. Only time will tell. PK Brandon McManus returns as the kicker, and should climb into the top 10 kickers for fantasy with Wilson at the helm.


Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs once again made the playoffs, but lost to the Bengals one game shy of the Super Bowl last season. QB Patrick Mahomes loses WR Tyreek Hill in a trade to the Dolphins, but he's too good to lose very much fantasy value, and still ranks in my top 5 fantasy QBs. QB Chad Henne remains the backup in 2022. In the running game, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire returns as the starter, but will have to fend off newly signed RB Ronald Jones and returning RB Derrick Gore for that job. CEH is a lower-end RB2 if he keeps it. RB Jerick McKinnon was re-signed to play a pass-catching back role. In the passing game, the loss of Hill hurts, but WR Mecole Hardman returns and the team signed WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster to start, while also drafting WR Skyy Moore to man the slot. It should be interesting to see where the cream rises to the top. Veteran WR Josh Gordon returns for depth, but could push for a bigger role due to the uncertainty in the corps. At tight end, TE Travis Kelce returns as an elite fantasy tight end, no change here. TE Blake Bell is his backup in 2022. PK Harrison Butker returns as the kicker, and should see enough scoring chances to be a top 10 fantasy kicker.


Oakland Raiders: The Raiders made the playoffs last year, but lost in the wildcard game. QB Derek Carr returns as the starter, and one of the most underrated QBs for fantasy. With WR Davante Adams on the roster, Carr is a solid top 10 fantasy QB in 2022. QB Nick Mullens will back up Carr. In the running game, RB Josh Jacobs returns, but the new coaches don’t want to use him as a workhorse back. As such, that makes him a lower-end RB2 at best. RB Kenyan Drake returns, and the team drafted RB Zamir White to boost the corps. White is the guy to watch this summer, as he could slowly push Jacobs aside later this season, since the team refused to pick up Jacobs' 5th-year team option for 2023. In the passing game, WR Davante Adams is an elite talent, but will see a bit of regression. No matter. He remains an elite fantasy producer for 2022. WR Hunter Renfrow broke out in 2022, and returns to man the slot. He's a solid WR3 in larger leagues. WR Keelan Cole, WR Mack Hollins, and WR Demarcus Robinson will battle to start opposite Adams, but are unlikely to make much of an impact for fantasy. Why? At tight end, TE Darren Waller returns, healthy coming off a significant knee injury. Even with the addition of Adams, Waller remains a top 5 tight end for fantasy. TE Foster Moreau returns to back up Waller. PK Daniel Carlson returns as the kicker. He should see enough scoring chances to be a top 10 fantasy kicker in 2022.

Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers failed to make the playoffs in 2021. That said, QB Justin Herbert did not fail the team in leading them into a high-powered offense. Herbert is an elite fantasy producer entering the 2022 season. QB Chase Daniel is the backup to Herbert. In the running game, RB Austin Ekeler returns as do-everything elite fantasy producer. You will draft him in the first round this summer, and he's well worth drafting. The team drafted RB Isaiah Spiller to back up Ekeler, since RB Joshua Kelley and RB Larry Roundtree failed to impress last season. Kelley could be released or traded this summer. In the passing game, WR Keenan Allen and WR Mike Williams return as one of the top tandems at wideout in the NFL. Both are top 15 fantasy WRs in 2022. WR Josh Palmer should fill the #3 WR job, while WR Jalen Guyton and WR DeAndre Carter will provide depth. At tight end, TE Jared Cook is gone, as the team signed WR Gerald Everett to be the new primary pass-catching tight end. Everett is an interesting fantasy sleeper. TE Donald Parham returns as the backup. PK Dustin Hopkins is the kicker, and should see enough scoring chances to be a top 12 fantasy kicker.



Arizona Cardinals:
The Cardinals made the playoffs, but fell short of the Super Bowl in 2021. QB Kyler Murray is a top 5 fantasy QB, and was just extended, so he will be leading the Cardinals for years to come. QB Colt McCoy is the backup to Murray. In the running game, RB James Conner was a big surprise in 2021, and returns to lead the team this season. RB Chase Edmonds is gone, leaving newly signed RB Darrel Williams to see some action behind Conner. RB Eno Benjamin returns for depth. Word is that Benjamin has improved, so he could see more action than first expected. In the passing game, WR DeAndre Hopkins returns as the star receiver, but he's suspended for the first six games of the season. That leaves newly acquired WR Marquise Brown to start and play alongside WR A.J. Green and WR Rondale Moore. Brown could be a WR2 with Hopkins out, but settle into a WR3 producer when he returns. WR Antoine Wesley and WR Andy Isabella will provide depth. Isabella could be traded if there is enough interest in him later this summer. At tight end, TE Zach Ertz looms large, especially with Hopkins out until October, making him a top 10 fantasy TE for 2022. Rookie TE Trey McBride could play an interesting role if he develops quickly with Hopkins out. Watch and learn! Veteran PK Matt Prater is the kicker, and is a top 10 fantasy option due to the solid scoring chances he will see.


Los Angeles Rams: The Rams won it all in the Super Bowl last season. QB Matthew Stafford came over via trade and led the team to a big victory and became a World Champion! In fantasy terms, he was a solid fantasy starter, and remains one for the 2022 season. QB John Wolford is the backup. In the running game, RB Cam Akers missed all of the 2021 regular season, but returned for the playoffs after rehabbing an Achilles injury. He is now 100% healthy, and returns to start for the Rams. He will share some action with RB Darrell Henderson, but should produce as a solid RB2 in 2022. Henderson is the handcuff, but will produce too inconsistently otherwise for fantasy, barring another injury to Akers. In the passing game, WR Cooper Kupp was All-World for fantasy in 2021, and even with some regression, should still rule the roost at wideout for fantasy this season. WR Robert Woods (torn ACL) was traded, as the team signed WR Allen Robinson to start opposite Kupp. Something tells me A-Rob will be very fantasy-relevant in 2022! WR Van Jefferson will fill the #3 WR role for the team again in 2022. WR Ben Skowronek and WR Tutu Atwell will provide depth. At tight end, TE Tyler Higbee returns, but failed to produce enough in 2021 to be considered anything more than a solid fantasy backup. I don't see much changing here this season. TE Kendall Blanton is the backup. PK Matt Gay is the kicker, and is coming off a big season for the Rams. He's my top choice for a fantasy kicker in 2022!

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers made the playoffs in 2021, but failed to make the big game. QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) is still with the team, but has run out of chances to start, and should be traded by mid-August. Second-year QB Trey Lance will take over, but has been inconsistent in production when he got his chances in 2021. To that end, he is a fantasy sleeper with upside, but also with downside. Remember, this is a run-first offense. QB Nate Sudfeld will backup Lance. In the running game, RB Elijah Mitchell led the team in rushing last year, but the 49ers want to use a RBBC with Mitchell, RB Jeff Wilson, and rookie RB Tyrion Davis-Price as the likely top three backs. Bottom Line: The coaches don't believe Mitchell can carry a workhorse load, so this unit may be one you might want to avoid in your fantasy draft. In the passing game, WR Deebo Samuel did it all last season, but expressed an interest in being traded, although he could still stick on the roster this summer if the team can manage to extend him. This is definitely one situation to watch over the coming weeks. WR Brandon Aiyuk returns to start opposite Samuel, but he was inconsistent at best in his play last year. That makes him a risky proposition for fantasy in 2022. WR Jauan Jennings should fill the #3 WR role, while WR Marcus Johnson and WR Ray-Ray McCloud provide depth. At tight end, TE George Kittle is an elite talent, but too often disappeared from the passing game in 2021. With Lance at QB, Kittle could struggle to produce top 5 fantasy TE numbers. TE Tyler Kroft was signed to back up Kittle, with TE Ross Dwelley still in the mix. Veteran PK Robbie Gould is the kicker, and remains one of the most talented kickers in the league, but with Lance at QB, could be only a middle-of-the-road producer for fantasy.


Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks disappointed in 2021, failing to make the playoffs. QB Russell Wilson was traded to the Broncos after he struggled to produce much coming off a hand injury. As a result, newly acquired QB Drew Lock will compete with QB Geno Smith for the starting job. Uh… yuck! Yup, this is one position to avoid for fantasy on this team in 2022. In the running game, RB Chris Carson (neck) looks very iffy to continue his playing career in the NFL. As such, RB Rashaad Penny stepped in and actually blew up for many games to end the 2021 season. It appears he's on track to likely start, but he has always been injury prone. Another possibility is rookie RB Kenneth Walker, who could be the long-term option in the running game. RB DeeJay Dallas and RB Travis Homer return to fill the pass-catching role. In the passing game, WR D.K. Metcalf and WR Tyler Lockett return for 2022, but lose significant value due to the trade of Wilson. Lockett is actually listed in my creeper section for WRs considering the fact that his ADP is round #9. WR Freddie Swain is likely to fill the #3 WR role, while WR D’Wayne Eskridge and WR Marquise Goodwin will provide depth. At tight end, TE Noah Fant will start and see more passes downfield as a Seahawk. He's an interesting obvious fantasy sleeper in 2022. TE Will Dissly will back up Fant. PK Jason Myers is the kicker, but he won't see enough scoring chances to be relevant for fantasy this season.

That's a wrap on my "First Thoughts" for 2022! Be sure to keep an eye on FFMastermind.com in the coming weeks as we'll continue to bring you the very latest NFL news and informative "Eye in the Sky" training camp reports from our NFL team correspondents, as well as continue to release new updates to our Pre-Season Draft Guide. All comments, complimentary or otherwise, are always welcome via the contact page. Let's talk fantasy football!


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