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2022 fantasy football

The Hard Bargain: Reflections

by Dave Stewart

Well, the 2021 fantasy season is in the rearview. For many, we have entered a lonely part of the fantasy cycle. There are no matchups to evaluate, lineups to set and unless you are playing in a dynasty league, there are no more moves to be made of any kind. 

Before you go into an offseason spiral, let’s evaluate how things went. For you champions sitting there counting your cash, things turned out pretty well. How about the rest of you? What was it that limited your success this year? 

Perhaps you were the one who got drunk during your draft and woke up the next day looking at a roster that you barely even recognize. Perhaps you missed out on Cordarrelle Patterson or another waiver wire darling. It’s possible nearly every player on your roster made at least one appearance on Injured Reserve (IR) or that the late-season COVID-19 wave sidelined too many key players in critical situations.

It was a difficult season filled with disappointing results based on what I have heard from friends and acquaintances. My own results were less impressive than I had hoped for. It was a year to trust your process over results, unless your process is flawed. 

I think we all had hits and misses this season. I projected Austin Ekeler as a top-three running back this year and yet I ended up without him on any roster. I drafted Nick Chubb over him in one redraft league, which is not how I had them ranked. I guess I did not trust myself. In another draft, I was drawn in, yet again, by Christian McCaffrey. We all know how that went. 

Nevertheless, I am satisfied by another season of expanding my process, deepening my research, learning to make projections, and trying to package it all in a way that is useful to others.

Evaluation of “The Hard Bargain” Season No. 1

This leads me to evaluate my first season of writing this column. The purpose of my fantasy advice in this column was to help managers find players to start in sticky situations. By choosing to focus on 16+ team leagues, I selected a quarterback and a tight end ranked outside the consensus top-16 and a running back and wide receiver outside the consensus top-32 as my deep starts of the week at each position. 

My results were mixed but much stronger towards the end of the season, boosting my confidence that I am getting better at identifying appropriate players.

As for the lifestyle side of my column, I tackled many complex and challenging topics this season. From grief and anger to gratitude and mental health, I wrote about many basic human struggles and how they present themselves – largely in a parenting role. But, at its core, “The Hard Bargain” is about self-improvement and thriving in interpersonal ways. 

My most recent column discussed identifying an area you would like to see yourself improve in and setting realistic goals to help you do so. I am focusing on improving my relationships in 2022. Ironically, I argued with my father on the second day of January and have not spoken to him since. So, it is safe to say that I am off to a poor start. 

I have, however, had a discussion with my wife about my goals relating to better relationships and she is both supportive and appreciative of my efforts. I am going to have to talk with my father and it is going to include some sensitive topics including respecting boundaries and positive communication. It is not a conversation that I am eager to have. It is much easier to talk the talk, than to walk the walk, but this situation calls for action. If I am going to be true to myself and my intentions, it is a necessity. 

This quiet period in the fantasy cycle may provide you with an opportunity for reflection. What area do you want to improve in during this new year? Have you set a goal? Hopefully, you are not already off track just days into January, like I am. 

Allow me to encourage you to do a personal inventory and find one aspect of your personal life that is not where you want it to be. Focus on that aspect and set a plan to help strengthen it. Make 2022 the year that you work to have a more positive impact on the world. Share kindness. You will like how it feels.

2022 Deep-League Targets

Since there are no more weekly starts for me to recommend, featured below are players of each position that I like in 2022, specifically in deeper formats.

Trevor Lawrence (QB, Jacksonville Jaguars)

Trevor Lawrence certainly had a rollercoaster of a rookie season. From his coach being fired midseason, to a Week 18 upset of the rival Indianapolis Colts, this year was filled with highs and lows. 

Lawrence finished near the bottom in completion percentage at 59.2 percent. His passing yardage was underwhelming and he tied for the league lead in interceptions (17). But, his last game was his most impressive. He completed 23 of 32 attempts for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He did not turn the ball over and he looked more comfortable than he had for much of the year. 

He successfully avoided injury, starting all 17 games for the Jaguars and finished with the seventh-most pass attempts in the league. Next season, he will have a new coach and potentially an offensive-minded coach who will put him in a better position to be successful and reach the potential of the top overall selection in the NFL Draft.

Chase Edmonds (RB, Arizona Cardinals)

James Conner will be an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) after the season and what happens with him will impact my feelings toward Chase Edmonds. Should Conner return to the Cardinals, I see him keeping a tight grip on the goal line and short-yardage carries. If Conner were to leave and Edmonds ended up with more usage near the end zone, his fantasy value would certainly increase. 

Still, there was a lot to like about Edmonds this year, even without many touchdowns. Edmonds only scored twice in 2021. He had six runs of over 10 yards despite only totaling 116 carries. No running back had more on fewer carries. He also averaged 5.1 Yards Per Carry (YPC) and 7.3 Yards Per Reception (YPR). 

If Conner and his 187 carries depart, there is reason to believe Edmonds will see an increase in touches. He only played in 12 games this season, so staying healthy may be a bit of a concern, but Edmonds has played a full season twice in his first 4 years in the NFL.

Elijah Moore (WR, New York Jets)

Elijah Moore had an impactful season for the Jets and, as such, might not be quite the bargain that his fantasy finish suggests. There may be managers in your redraft leagues that are willing to take him higher than the consensus Average Draft Position (ADP) next season. 

It will be interesting to watch his ADP when draft season rolls around. But, as the Points Per Reception (PPR) WR40, he fits the criteria of a player who could make an impact for fantasy rosters in 2022, especially in deeper leagues. 

His season was a bit slow to start, but following the Jets’ Week 6 bye, Moore went on a tear for seven straight games. He saw at least six targets in each of them and double-digit targets twice. He scored five touchdowns in that seven-game span. A quad injury cut short his rookie campaign, or Moore likely would have finished in the top-32 at wide receiver. This young receiver appears to have special talent and could be a real difference-maker in fantasy leagues next year.

Cole Kmet (TE, Chicago Bears)

There are several reasons why I believe Kmet can make the jump to a TE1 next season. He saw the seventh-most targets among tight ends this season. He is also linked to a promising young quarterback coming off his rookie season. 

Justin Fields’ development as a passer will be crucial for Kmet, but Fields certainly showed growth during the season. Kmet’s route participation rate of 75.7 percent is sound for a tight end. He was also among the top-ten tight ends in routes ran. 

The Bears are another team that will be hiring a new coach for 2022, so that will have an impact on Kmet’s usage. His role may decline in the new offense. Still, I am willing to believe that this season was a step in Kmet’s maturation as a tight end and that he will be involved as one of the Bears’ leading pass catchers in the upcoming offense.

Thank you to all who have read my column this season. I appreciate you very much. I wish all the best to you in the new year and I look forward to providing some fun and, hopefully, informative offseason content.

Life is hard, but it gets a little easier when we learn to lean on each other. Find me on Twitter @DaveFantasy for more life and fantasy sports content.

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