And that’s all. For the vast majority of you, the 2021 Fantasy season is over, and it ended with a bit of a whimper with this Monday night game. The less we say about this match – and specifically about the performances of Ben Roethlisberger and Baker Mayfield, the better. However, this display of fleeting incompetence was not entirely out of place for the 2021 season.
The league-wide Y/A went from 7.24 last season to 7.13 this season, with the TD rate dropping from 4.8% to 4.4% and the INT rate dropping from 2.2% to 2.4%. These may not seem like significant changes, but the production shift in the NFL generally doesn’t go in that direction. And the change happened mainly in the second half of the season – from weeks 1-8 to weeks 9-17, Y / A went from 7.36 to 6.89, TD% from 4.65% to 4 .18%, while INT% rose from 2.26% to 2.46%.
As a result, the top 12 quarterbacks went from averaging 26.6 points per game while scoring four points per pass to 24.4. The drop was less pronounced at wide receiver, but even there the top 12 went from 18.7 ppg in PPR to 18.3.
In some ways, it was the deserved end of the Fantasy 2021 season, then. But hey, at least Najee Harris showed up with a potential league-winning performance to close out the championship game. He will definitely be in the top 10 RB for me in 2022. I have a first look at my RB rankings for 2022 ready for today’s newsletter, and before writing angry messages about them, read at minus my justification. But, as always, your angry messages can be directed to [email protected]
I’ll also have Jamey Eisenberg’s best waiver targets for Week 18 for those of you still playing. We’ll have the rankings for each position in Wednesday’s edition, as well as the position preview by Heath Cummings, but just know that these rankings are more likely to change than even your typical week, as we’re waiting to find out which one the teams will rest and players will not rest. It is, of course, the curse of playing until week 18.
Plus, we’re still taking votes for the 2021 Fantasy Football Today awards, so head here to vote on Fantasy MVP, Rookie of the Year, and more. That link is here, and I’ll reveal the winners on Friday, so get your votes now!
RB Rankings Early 2022
So, there’s a controversial take here. I acknowledge that, although I want to be clear that it’s not just because I want to be controversial. Christian McCaffrey is my #1 RB for 2022 because I think he’s still the best running back for Fantasy, especially in the PPR leagues.
So here’s McCaffrey’s case at #1:
Injuries are, of course, what makes this controversial. And I know I’ll be in the overwhelming minority to have McCaffrey ahead of Jonathan Taylor. And, to be clear, I freely admit that McCaffrey has more injury risk than Taylor. Or at least, I think he has more risk of injury than Taylor. I don’t really know, which is why I tend to weigh injury risk less than most.
The truth is, every running back comes with a pretty significant risk of injury. How much more is McCaffrey than Taylor, Ekeler or Henry? Well, let’s review the injuries that have limited him to just 10 games over the past two seasons.
- September 2020 – Sprained upper right ankle (six games)
- December 2020 – Shoulder and thigh (four matches)
- September 2021 – Hamstrings (five games)
- November 2021 – Left ankle sprain (six games)
So no injuries requiring surgery and no recurring injuries. Just four separate injuries that all took about a month to a month and a half to recover. Does that create more risk than Henry’s broken foot which required surgery and cost him at least nine games? That seems almost impossible to assess. It’s a draw in my eyes, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Henry was ranked ahead of McCaffrey by most in 2022.
But both players are surely more at risk than Taylor, who hasn’t missed a game in the pros or in three years of college with an injury. Past injuries are a decent (though decidedly imperfect) predictor of future injuries, and Taylor’s record in this regard is excellent. But that doesn’t mean he has zero injury risk, just that his baseline risk level is lower than McCaffrey or Henry.
That helps Taylor rank ahead of Henry, as they were neck and neck in Fantasy points per game this season, a career-best of either – Henry at 23.4 PPR points per game, Taylor at 22.8. McCaffrey was at 18.2, but that jumps to 23.6 per game if you take out the two he left early with injuries. When healthy, he is still the best running back in Fantasy.
Of course, fantasy points per game don’t tell the whole story. McCaffrey is averaging 23.6 per game despite just 0.4 touchdowns per game; Both Henry and Taylor are at 1.25. McCaffrey is on a worse offense than the two, yes, but that was also true when he averaged 1.3 touchdowns per game between 2019 and 2020, so I think we can attribute that to a bit of bad luck for 2021. If he had scored four touchdowns in those five games, he would have averaged 26 PPR points per game; if he had scored six, he is at 28.4.
Which is to say, I think you have to hugely rule out McCaffrey through injury to get to the point where Taylor is ahead of him. Based on some back of the napkin math, I would expect McCaffrey to be 10-20% better than Taylor per game in 2022. I’m not confident enough in my ability to accurately assess injury risk to fill this kind of gap.
The good news is that I will only face a decision between Taylor and McCaffrey if I end up with the first overall pick, in all likelihood, so I’ll be happy to take McCaffrey with any other pick starting with the No. ° 2.
- Christian McCaffrey – He’s still Fantasy’s best player when healthy, and he likely will be by next summer.
- Jonathan Taylor – I’d be shocked if Taylor went No. 2 in more than 5% of leagues in 2022. His health record and skill set make him an obvious elite fantasy RB.
- Austin Ekeler – We’ve seen Ekeler’s top flight play for three consecutive seasons, and he’s proven he can handle a huge workload while staying healthy in 2021. He has an extremely valuable role in a big offense and the Chargers have shown they trust him near the goal line this season as well. It’s a perfect modern RB.
- Derrick Henry – He’s improved three seasons in a row, and the foot injury is the only thing that’s slowed him down. You have to wonder if the Titans will release him for a bit after the injury — he was on pace for 438 runs in 16 games, 22 more than the single-season record.
- Alvin Kamara – In an incredibly frustrating season playing in a boring conservative offense, Kamara sits seventh in the PPR per game rankings. The Saints’ attack almost needs to be better in 2022.
- Dalvin Cook – A lot has gone wrong for Cook this season and he’s still one of the top 10 RBs in points per game. Had he scored touchdowns at the same rate as his previous two seasons, Cook would have been RB4. But he’s had multiple shoulder injuries since returning to college and could have surgery this offseason, so he has a decent injury risk reduction.
- D’Andre Swift – It’s fair to wonder if Swift can handle being a No. 1 RB in the NFL, but he’s in the right place to maximize his value given how the Lions have him used this season. He’s not as good a receiver as Austin Ekeler, but he can have that kind of impact for Fantasy.
- Najee Harris – It might be too low for Harris, but the Steelers have so many question marks right now. We don’t know who their quarterback will be, which is obviously the bigger one, but that offensive line remains a significant issue as well. However, high volume, low efficiency RBs have always been a good bet for a two-year breakout.
- Joe Mixon – Basically, everything went well for Mixon this season, and we had a career-best season. The passing game role was frustratingly inconsistent and I’m not sure he has much of a cap beyond his 2021 unless that changes, but he’s a good choice here.
- Nick Chubb – Chubb probably has the most unlocked potential among running backs, but I’m not sure he’ll ever get the passing role he needs to realize it. It is a high floor RB with a relatively low ceiling compared to some of its peers. It’s a good place for him.
➕Top Week 18 Targets for Waiver Yarn
Here are Jamey’s top five waiver goals for Week 18, and you can see the rest of his recommendations here. INCLUDE LINK TO PIECE HERE THANK YOU:
Jamey Eisenberg’s main targets
- Le’Veon Bell, RB, VG 7% — With Ronald Jones (ankle) and Ke’Shawn Vaughn (ribs) leaving Sunday’s game, Bell could find himself in line for an important role in Week 18. At the very least , it should be a solid PPR starter if it handles most transmissions. If he’s just a full-back, he could be one of the best players in that position.
- Zay Jones, WR, LV 7% — With Hunter Renfrow stepping in to take on Darren Waller’s role as the Raiders’ primary receiver, Jones stepped into Renfrow’s role as a high-volume, shorter-area guy. He’s averaged 6.3 catches per game over the last four with 65.5 yards, and with the Raiders still got something to play for this week, he should be in good shape for another solid game.
- Braxton Berrios, WR, NYJ 2% — Berrios has benefited from the Jets’ myriad injuries and absences at wide receiver, and he could well find his way into an important role on the 2022 team. We’ll find out during the offseason, but after winning his best game of the season — and with two rushing touchdowns in his last three games — Berrios looks like a solid starter for Week 18.
- Cyril Grayson, WR, TB 0% — In light of the absences of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown over the past two weeks, Grayson has found himself playing a pretty big role, and he’s turned it into 81 yards in consecutive games. . Look, he’s catching passes from Tom Brady, so let’s not complicate it too much.
- Jaret Patterson, RB, WAS 20% — I thought Patterson might be on the less valuable side of a timeshare with Jonathan Williams in Week 17, but he ended up with 12 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown , and five catches for 41 yards. It was against a much tougher game than the one he will face on Sunday, the Giants. If Antonio Gibson can’t go anymore, Patterson looks like a top 20 RB.