It’s become a well-established fact that no position matters more in football than the quarterback position. As such, we’ve become accustomed to them dominating the offseason news cycle as well. While there was plenty of quarterback news this offseason — we’ll get to some of it below — the wide receivers had their say as well with Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown and Marquise Brown all getting traded.
At least in terms of past performance, Hill and Adams are pretty clearly in a class of their own, but that’s not all they share. They’re also both leaving behind future Hall of Famers at quarterback for something less than that. Those quarterback downgrades rightly have Fantasy managers nervous about drafting the star wide receivers as high as they used to.
Adams is no longer a surefire first-round pick on the Raiders, though his past history with Derek Carr is enough to keep him in the top 20 in most rankings and drafts. Hill has far more uncertainty in Miami, and not just because he’s never played with Tua Tagovailoa before. We just haven’t seen enough downfield throws from the young quarterback to project Hill’s role, and he’s already built strong rapport with Jaylen Waddle. For that reason, Hill could fall into Round 3 in some Fantasy drafts, though it will be more common for him to be drafted at the end of Round 2.
Adams and Hill both have a pretty significant impact on the players already on the roster. Derek Carr gets a boost into borderline QB1 territory while Tagovailoa becomes a legitimate sleeper and/or breakout candidate. Hunter Renfrow and Jaylen Waddle move the opposite direction, although we have more hope for Waddle and don’t mind drafting him in Round 4.
The moves for Marquise and A.J. Brown aren’t quite as earth-shattering, but they still caused major ripples. A.J. Brown goes from the second-most run-heavy team in the league to an Eagles team that ran more often than any team in the league in 2021. The working theory is that if the Eagles went out and traded for a star wide receiver, they’ll open up the playbook a little more. For that reason, we’re still fine with A.J. Brown in the same range as Hill. And while this addition isn’t great news for DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, it does give Jalen Hurts as much upside as any quarterback in Fantasy.
Finally, Marquise Brown joined his former college quarterback, Kyler Murray, in Arizona. He should have a huge target opportunity with DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the first six weeks of the season, and he’ll benefit all season from a more accurate quarterback and a more pass-heavy offensive system. The addition of Brown doesn’t change much for Murray and probably won’t impact Hopkins too much either. But Rondale Moore will find it tough to make a big Fantasy impact now that he’s competing with Brown, Hopkins, and Zach Ertz for targets.
More fallout from the wide receiver trades
This wasn’t just about those big name receivers getting traded of course. The vacuum they left behind must be filled by someone and the four teams have taken a variety of paths towards filling the void.
Baltimore has done the least, adding virtually nothing to a receiving corps that is now headlined by Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, and Tylan Wallace. This has led to speculation that either the Ravens truly believe Bateman is ready for a WR1 role or they plan on going back towards their run-heavy scheme from 2019. Either way, Mark Andrews should be safe as one of the top-two tight ends in Fantasy.
The Packers acquired former Raven Sammy Watkins, but a majority of their offseason work was done in the NFL Draft. They selected Christian Watson in Round 2 and Romeo Doubs in Round 4. Both Doubs and Watkins have drawn praise from the coaching staff this summer, but neither has the upside Watson does if everything goes right. Due to Aaron Rodgers‘ history with rookie receivers, most are speculating that Allen Lazard will be the No. 1 option, at least to begin the year.
The Chiefs added a trio of wideouts in what looks like a piecemeal approach to replacing Hill. JuJu Smith-Schuster has shown the ability to dominate short-area targets while both Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore have the speed to get behind the defense. Moore certainly has the most long-term upside, but he’s only been playing wide receiver for three years so you shouldn’t expect too much too soon.
Finally, the Titans went big in trying to replace A.J. Brown. They both traded for former Pro Bowl receiver Robert Woods and drafted Treylon Burks in Round 1. They even signed a more prominent pass-catching tight end in Austin Hooper. This could mean they’re transitioning to a more modern offense or that they want to spread the ball around more. That will probably depend on how healthy Woods is in camp and how quickly Burks acclimates to the NFL.
Fantasy Impact: First off, Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews should both be borderline first-round picks as the top receiving options on their teams. Bateman and Smith-Schuster are now upside WRs who could be drafted starting in Round 6. Burks, Woods, and Lazard are better drafted as WR4s in Round 7 or later, but that could change if they solidify as true No. 1 options in camp. Moore, Valdes-Scantling, Watkins and Watson are all excellent sleeper candidates in the double-digit rounds. Everyone else likely needs a very strong camp to have much appeal on Draft Day.
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AFC West goes crazy
The offseason wasn’t entirely about the AFC West, but it’s not as if Adams, Smith-Schuster, Valdes-Scantling, and Moore were the only additions. Far from it. Most notably, Russell Wilson was dealt from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos, the Chargers added both Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson to their already talented defense, and the Raiders added superstar pass rusher Chandler Jones.
Simply put, this was the largest shift of talent to one division we can remember. And virtually everyone now agrees the AFC West is the toughest division in football.
Fantasy Impact: First and foremost, the addition of Russell Wilson gives Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy the opportunity to finally show how talented they are. We’re split on who the No. 1 receiver will be in Denver, but both Broncos receivers are popular breakout candidates who should be off the board in the first six rounds. And Tim Patrick is one of the best sleeper candidates at wide receiver as well, he’s been nearly as efficient as Jeudy and Sutton the past two seasons. The move is an uneven one for Javonte Williams. Expect running back targets to decrease but the touchdown potential should make up for that.
We already discussed the impact of the Raiders and Chiefs new pass catchers but don’t sleep on the defensive additions. The Chiefs in particular now have a terribly difficult schedule that at least contributes to the fact that Patrick Mahomes is now no longer ranked as a surefire top-two quarterback. There is a significant downside in Kansas City if their additions don’t pan out.
Colts somehow swap Carson Wentz for Matt Ryan plus more
It wasn’t all in one move, so it may have slipped under the radar, but the Colts traded Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders for essentially a Round 2 pick swap, a third-round pick, and a 2023 conditional third-round pick. They also got the Commanders to absorb Wentz’s cap hit in the process.
Somehow, less than a month later, they traded a 2022 third-round pick for Matt Ryan. And they’re going to pay Ryan less this year than they owed Wentz. The Colts look brilliant for pulling this off, while the Commanders very much look like what we’ve come to expect from Washington.
Fantasy Impact: It’s unlikely Ryan or Wentz is going to have a major impact in one-quarterback leagues. Wentz just hasn’t been a Fantasy starter for most of his career and Ryan should see a significant decrease in his pass attempts. But this move still has plenty of Fantasy impact.
For one thing, Michael Pittman and Terry McLaurin may both be playing with the best quarterback they ever have. They’re both No. 2 Fantasy receivers with top-12 upside this year. And Jahan Dotson, Parris Campbell, and Alec Pierce are all excellent sleeper candidates as well. Don’t be surprised if Nyheim Hines gets a lot more work in the passing game too. The team continues to tell us that will be the case and Ryan is not going to hold onto the ball long at this stage of his career.
The other side of this is what Atlanta is doing to replace Ryan, with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder battling things out. They both have rushing upside that Wentz and Ryan don’t, so either could be a high-end No. 2 quarterback if everything goes right. The downside is for Kyle Pitts and Drake London. These quarterbacks severely cap their upside, which is one reason we aren’t too sure about Pitts in Round 3 as the No. 3 tight end in Fantasy.
New coaches who matter
As always, this season was full of coaching changes. The Dolphins, Texans, Jaguars, Raiders, Broncos, Giants, Buccaneers, Saints, Vikings, and Bears all have new head coaches. And that’s not all that matters for Fantasy purposes. The Bills, Patriots, Lions, Rams, 49ers, Packers and Panthers kept their head coaches, but they’ll have new play callers or offensive coordinators. And one could argue that the Steelers will have a new play caller as well, with Ben Roethlisberger retiring.
Not all of these are as important as the next, but if you value stability you may want to target one of the nine teams who are returning their head coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback.
Fantasy Impact: Let’s handle the blurbs before we hit a couple of teams that could really see big swings. We don’t really expect things to change all that much in Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Green Bay. And we’re not really sure how much it will matter in Carolina either. San Francisco is a different animal altogether, but we’ll get to that in the next section.
In Buffalo there is some thought that head coach Sean McDermott would like to get the running backs more involved now that Brian Daboll has left for New York. That could make Devin Singletary an RB2 if James Cook doesn’t steal too much work. Daboll certainly gives Giants fans more reason for optimism, but we may have to wait for him to get his own quarterback before that comes to fruition. Ben Johnson is supposed to bring more creativity to Detroit, but Dan Campbell showed us last year he’s not comfortable with letting go of too much control offensively.
That leaves us with two groups: teams with a proven quarterback, and teams without. Miami, Chicago, New England, Houston, and Jacksonville all fall into the latter group, hoping that a new offense can help their young quarterback take the next step. There’s obviously more hope for that in Chicago, Jacksonville, and Miami because of the pedigree of their quarterbacks. I would expect Doug Pederson’s offense to focus on the tight ends, which could be a great thing for Evan Engram. And if you’re wanting to see Justin Fields run more, new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy could be just what the doctor ordered. When Getsy last ran an offense (2018 Mississippi State), his quarterback, Nick Fitzgerald, led the team with 1,121 rushing yards and 13 TDs.
There’s not as much volatility in the situations with the veteran quarterbacks, but there is significant hope that Kevin O’Connell could bring the Vikings into the 21st century from an offensive standpoint. If he has the impact we expect, there’s no reason Justin Jefferson can’t be the WR1 in Fantasy and Kirk Cousins can’t once again be the best late-round quarterback value. In Las Vegas, the biggest question is whether Josh McDaniels wants to use Josh Jacobs like Damien Harris, or like Jacobs was used in the second half of 2021. We’re leaning towards a Harris role with a few more targets. In the same vein, Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon may be a baseline as to what we should expect from Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon with Nathaniel Hackett in Denver.
49ers ready to hand the reins to Trey Lance
The 49ers changed offensive coordinators as well, but we ascribe most of their offensive philosophy to Kyle Shanahan anyway. We may not expect a change in their game plan at all if it wasn’t for the major change we’re expecting at quarterback. Despite the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo remains on the roster at the time of publishing, the expectation is that last year’s No. 3 overall pick, Trey Lance, will take over the offense in 2022. That could send shockwaves through San Francisco.
The biggest change we expect is a higher run rate. Both because Shanahan designs run plays for Lance, and because Lance will be more likely to drop his eyes and take off than Garoppolo was. In two starts as a rookie, Lance averaged just 26 pass attempts per game and ran the ball 12 times per game. Garoppolo averaged 30 pass attempts per game and only had one game all season with double digit rushing yards.
Fantasy Impact: First off, if Lance can be even average as a passer, he has top-six upside at quarterback. And a Year 2 like Lamar Jackson’s isn’t completely off the table. His rushing potential combined with Shanahan’s scheming and elite weapons like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk gives Lance an upside as high as almost anyone. But there’s not much floor there, which is why you should roster a second quarterback if you roster Lance.
The negative is that this might be worse for literally everyone else. At bare minimum, the lower pass volume makes it very difficult to see a scenario where Samuel, Kittle, and Aiyuk are all Fantasy starters. And if Lance is bad as a passer like Lawrence and Fields were last year, then all three pass catchers might fail to meet expectations.
The one way that could be mitigated is if Samuel retains the run-game role we saw last year. But if Samuel is carrying the ball five times a game and Lance is averaging 10 rush attempts per game, then Elijah Mitchell’s upside is going to be capped.
DeAndre Hopkins suspended, Deshaun Watson and Alvin Kamara next?
Let’s start with what we know: Hopkins will not play the first six games of the NFL season because of a failed drug test. Murray will still have Brown, Rondale Moore, and A.J. Green at receiver along with Zach Ertz and tight end, so he should be fine.
What we don’t know is what will happen with Deshaun Watson or Alvin Kamara. Both players are still dealing with legal issues, and both could see potential suspensions creep into 2023, or they could have major suspensions come down in the month before the NFL season.
Fantasy Impact: Hopkins can no longer be drafted as a starting Fantasy wide receiver, and we wouldn’t take him before Round 8. His absence makes Brown a borderline No. 2 wide receiver worth a pick in Round 5 and gives Rondale Moore sleeper appeal in the later rounds. It is possible, based on Murray and Brown’s past rapport built at Oklahoma, that Brown could remain the No. 1 wide receiver even after Hopkins returns.
We’re not downgrading Kamara much more now; he’s a late-round first round pick who would be a top-six pick if there was no suspension threat. Watson cannot be drafted as a starter until we get more clarity on his situation.