2022 Fantasy Football League Winning Players (Aug. 25):
There are a handful of players each year who provide so much value that they give their owners a great chance to win their fantasy league. For example, drafting Cooper Kupp in the fifth round in 2021 resulted in many of his owners claiming trophies by the end of the season because they received first-round production from their fifth-round player. Another such example is Patrick Mahomes in his first year as a starter. Mahomes was going in the 10th round in 2018, yet he finished as the top-scoring player that year. I discussed this phenomenon in a recent fantasy football mock draft:
You should walk away with at least a couple of these players from your fantasy draft. I wouldn’t load up my entire roster with them because they carry risk, but if they pan out, they will provide your team with enormous upside.
These potential league-winning fantasy players are ordered by ADP:
Michael Thomas, WR, Saints. ADP: 5.06.
Michael Thomas used to be a first-round pick. He’s now going in the fifth frame because he hasn’t played since the midway point of the 2020 season. He’s also dealing with some injuries. However, Thomas can still produce like a first- or second-round fantasy player. Drew Brees is not his quarterback anymore, but Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were fantasy stars when Jameis Winston was Tampa Bay’s quarterback.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns. ADP: 5.12.
You could argue that many backup running backs belong on this list, but there are a few who will be productive even if the player in front of them doesn’t get hurt. Kareem Hunt qualifies in this department. Hunt can be used when Nick Chubb is healthy, but if Chubb goes down, Hunt will be able to produce on a second-round level. That is where he would be drafted today if Chubb were to suffer an injury.
Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys. ADP: 6.06.
What I wrote about Kareem Hunt also applies to Tony Pollard. The speedy Dallas back will be heavily involved in the offense even when Ezekiel Elliott is healthy. If Elliott were to go down, however, Pollard’s usage would explode. He would also be a second-round pick if Elliott were to suffer an injury today.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos. ADP: 6.07.
Here’s a list of quarterbacks Courtland Sutton has played with in the NFL: Case Keenum, a washed-up Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien and Teddy Bridgewater. Russell Wilson is miles ahead of the best player on that list. Courtland Sutton is a legitimate No. 1 receiver, so he could post second-round fantasy numbers with Wilson at the helm.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Bills. ADP: 7.01.
I can’t think of a No. 2 wideout in the NFL, other than Gabriel Davis, who is being drafted in Round 6 or later and yet would produce second-round fantasy numbers if the top receiver on the team went down with an injury. The Bills unleashed Davis in the playoffs last year, as we all witnessed him catching eight passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns versus Kansas City. This is what he’s capable of, especially if Stefon Diggs were to get hurt.
Trey Lance, QB, 49ers. ADP: 8.08.
I mentioned Patrick Mahomes in the opening paragraph. Trey Lance has almost as much fantasy upside. I’m not saying Lance is going to be the next Mahomes, or anything, but with his rusing ability, huge arm, and great coaching staff, Lance could be a big-time fantasy producer in his first year, and yet I’ve gotten him in the 10th round of my mock drafts.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Chiefs. ADP: 8.08.
It wasn’t that long ago that JuJu Smith-Schuster caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. Since then, he’s been stricken with an aging quarterback, injuries, and a declining offensive line. Smith-Schuster has a good chance to be the leader in targets in Kansas City, which could allow him to have a big season with Patrick Mahomes.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Giants. ADP: 9.11.
Kadarius Toney had some big games last year before things fell apart for the Giants in the second half of the season. Toney has big-time play-making abilities, so with the Giants now sporting an improved offensive line, Toney could have a big season.
Christian Kirk, WR, Jaguars. ADP: 10.06.
We’re now getting to the players on my Fantasy Football Sleepers page, but there’s some crossover. Christian Kirk saw eight targets in one half of action in his only preseason game with Trevor Lawrence. If Kirk sees 16 targets per game, he could post monstrous numbers with Lawrence expected to make a huge leap in his sophomore campaign.
Tyrion Davis-Price, RB, 49ers. ADP: 13.03.
You should always consider a Kyle Shanahan running back late in the draft. Elijah Mitchell doesn’t have a long track record of success, and he had issues staying healthy last year. Tyrion Davis-Price has been impressive in the preseason, so he could eventually emerge as the starter in San Francisco’s offense, which would mean that you would get great fantasy production from him.
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