What a Duper Bowl (dupes for my non-DFS friends). The Rams are Super Bowl Champions. Odell tore his ACL, Burrow sprained his knee, and people love to talk about ref calls/miscalls. Lucky for us, we don’t have to worry about that. We can flip the page and turn our attention to 2022. The Big Board currently sits at ~53% full and drafting has slowed a bit (compared to pre-Super Bowl). But there are still edges to be found.
So, over the next few weeks, I will outline each team in the NFL and provide what could change with the off-season right around the corner (Free Agency & the Draft).
Onto the NFC North.
The Bears were met with general excitement. They traded up in the first round to draft one of the industry’s favorite quarterbacks, Justin Fields. Despite that, the coaching staff was still committed to starting their newly signed QB, Andy Dalton. The industry figured Dalton starting would be coach-speak and it led to 6 Bears being regularly drafted in BBM II – Allen Robinson (28.9, WR12), David Montgomery (38.4, RB17), Darnell Mooney (88.1, WR44), Justin Fields (124.4, QB15), Damien Williams (161.9, RB48), Cole Kmet (164.5, TE19). Occasionally, Tarik Cohen (~41%), Dazz Newsome (~0.9%), Damiere Byrd (~0.5%), and Marquise Goodwin (~3%) were drafted.
The Bears’ season was much like their coaching staff, a mess. They started the year with Andy Dalton amid cries from the fanbase to start Fields. But it didn’t matter who started, the coaching staff was an absolute train wreck. Matt Nagy was rumored to be fired all year (yet for whatever reasons the Bears have never fired a coach in season) and after 4 years was shown the door. His offenses have been nonexistent over the last few years and this year was no different. He used Fields as a pocket passer, didn’t scheme for anything down the field, and was in the bottom-third in terms of PROE. Due to all of these factors, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bears players underperformed. Justin Fields was the QB30, Allen Robinson was the WR101, Darnell Mooney was the WR30 (bright spot!), David Montgomery was the RB49, Damien Williams was the RB46, Tarik Cohen was the RB55 (despite not playing), and Cole Kmet was the TE23.
It is truly baffling how an NFL coach can use his players in the absolute worst ways and bring them to provide such negative returns. Allen Robinson has been perennially undervalued in the industry primarily due to who is throwing him the ball. This year was supposed to break that trend and although he missed some games, he posted career lows for receptions, yards, and TDs (outside his torn-ACL shortened season). So far to date, he is the worst WR I have charted in terms of advance rate. A projected WR1 to start the year ended as a WR9. The last regularly drafted WR was WR85, meaning he was so bad he should have been undrafted.
On the plus side, ARob’s disappointment led us to see Mooney breakout as an up-and-coming star. He quickly became Fields’ #1 target and amassed 140 targets (tied for 11th in the league) and a crazy 13.0 yards per reception. Their connection will be pivotal in Fields’ becoming an even an average starter. Another player who will help him develop is Cole Kmet over the middle. Another strong target for Fields over the middle. He was an average fantasy producer who can take the next step.
David Montgomery was looking like the league winner we saw at the tail-end of last year (due to volume, not efficiency), yet got hurt and severely hurt his advancement data. When healthy, the Bears rode him, and he played as we would have expected. Damien Williams was a popular zero-RB target and he looked primed to pay off. He then tested positive for covid and lost his backup duties to Khalil Herbert.
Writing about Justin Fields comes with a heavy heart. He was atrocious for fantasy purposes. He was atrocious in real life. He was inaccurate. He was used incorrectly. We are just going to chalk this up as a lost year and move on to the next.
Looking forward to this year, Allen Robinson (plz set him free!!), Andy Dalton, Jimmy Graham, Germain Ifedi (RT), Jakeem Grant, Jason Peters (LT), James Daniels (G), Damien Williams, Marquise Goodwin, and Damiere Byrd are free agents. This may seem bad, but most weren’t big contributors. The Bears are stocked with $28.6M in cap space and with a new coach (Matt Eberflus) are set for an overhaul. They’re pretty set on defense with 4 of their top 6 cap hits being on their defense. It is time to invest in their line (to give Fields a chance) and get some weapons in the passing game. They currently only have 2 receivers on the roster (Mooney and Newsome) and with Darnell Mooney being a great downfield receiver, look for them to find a possession type receiver to keep the chains moving (JuJu anyone??).
In terms of drafting, I have been prioritizing Kmet and Herbert at current ADPs. Kmet, with Graham, finally gone, should be more involved in the red zone offense. Herbert showed he is a serviceable RB and can provide boom weeks if DMont gets hurt. Originally, I loved Mooney with his ADP in the 90s, but he is shooting into a range where I just prefer other people. Grab him at a discount. I am doing the same with Fields and DMont. I prefer others around them but will mix them in and are a priority at a discount.
The Lions are rebuilding. Due to this, they were expected to be a bad offense and weren’t highly sought after in Best Ball. I think that is a clear oversight of the industry’s thought process. As a bad team, you are put into many negative game scripts which results in a heavy weighted passing situation. Those situations are fantasy GOLD. These scripts are best shown by the breakout of Amon-Ra St. Brown who was one of the main proponents for the team that won BBM II. Overall, 6 Lions were drafted regularly in BBM II – D’Andre Swift (34.9, RB16), T.J. Hockenson (61.7, TE6), Jamaal Williams (134, RB42), Amon-Ra St. Brown (157.2, WR72), Tyrell Williams (162, WR75), and Breshad Perriman (187.1, WR84). Occasionally, Jared Goff (~53.8%), Quintez Cephus (~18.2%), Kalif Raymond (~05%), and Jermar Jefferson (~0.5%) were drafted.
The Lions started the year 0-10-1 and were as bad as advertised. But when you look closer, 7 of their first 11 games were lost by 1 score or less. New head coach Dan Campbell had his players buy in and play hard and they were not an easy team to beat even if they were on paper. This translated to the Best Ball streets as owning Lions ended up being great (outside Perriman (cut) and the Gazelle (injured), thanks Leone). Jared Goff was the QB13. D’Andre Swift was the RB20, Jamaal Williams was the RB26, Amon-Ra was the WR34, and T.J. Hockenson was the TE11.
Goff, Amon-Ra, and Jamaal far exceeded ADP. Swift was right around ADP and Hockenson although he missed was still a TE1. Advance rate is a funky metric as I am in no way implying Jared Goff was good. He was a QB2 in total but was able to provide some spike weeks along the way. He was mostly carried in 2 and 3 QB builds, and his overlying numbers look better than they should.
I wouldn’t say the same for the others. Both Jamaal and Swift were involved heavily in the passing game and were able to provide a high floor (with Swift having a high ceiling). Amon-Ra was a bit surprising due to how late he came on, but as the WR8/WR9 in builds, his breakout on the super teams was more helpful in the playoffs itself. His draft capital only helped and didn’t hurt you at all.
There were high hopes for Hockenson going into the year. He is a former 1st round pick and TEs typically develop a bit slower. He had an above-average year the prior year and a jump was expected. He started hot too with 19 targets in two games but was inconsistently involved after that. He got hurt in week 13 and missed the rest of the year.
Looking forward to this year, the only free agent of note is Josh Reynolds, who was signed off the street to play WR this year. The Lions are primed to continue their rebuild with $22.7M in cap space and the #2 overall pick. Based on their front office and coach, I would expect the draft pick to be used on the line (either DL or OL) and the cap space used to improve their wide receiver position. They could benefit from a field stretcher. I would love to see Mike Williams in this offense but due to where they are in the rebuild, I doubt it happens.
In terms of drafting, I have not been drafting Lions often. Amon-Ra should have targets seeped away. Swift’s price is taking into account Jamaal won’t be back (or involved, which he will be). Hockensons’ price didn’t change from last year. My stabs have been on Jamaal as a late-round RB flier (although I prefer others) and Goff as a 3rd QB.
Green Bay Packers
There was so much uncertainty with the Packers in the off-season. Was Rodgers going to retire? Was he going to force his way out of town (by trade)? Would he come back? We had no idea what was happening until the end of July when the Packers and Rodgers agreed to a contract extension. Once that happened, the industry had a sigh of relief, and the Packers were no longer offered at a discount (due to uncertainty and Jordan Love being the starter). Overall, 7 Packers were drafted regularly in BBM II – Davante Adams (6.1, WR1), Aaron Jones (9.2, RB6), Aaron Rodgers (84.2, QB8), A.J. Dillon (94.5, RB33), Robert Tonyan (111.5, TE11), Randall Cobb (152.9, WR70), Marquez Valdez-Scantling (167.1, WR76), and Allen Lazard (200.1, WR87). Occasionally, Kylin Hill (~1%) and Amari Rodgers (~56%) were drafted.
Despite the uncertainty for the majority of the off-season/pre-season, the Packers didn’t miss a beat (excluding week 1). They cruised to a 13-4 record and were the overall #1 seed in the NFL. Despite missing some time for covid, Aaron Rodgers won the MVP, and the offense was a force to be reckoned with. Aaron Rodgers was the QB6, Aaron Jones was the RB22, A.J. Dillon was the RB19, Davante Adams was the WR17, Allen Lazard was the WR24, Randall Cobb was the WR26, Marquez Valdez-Scantling was the WR40, and Robert Tonyan was the TE25.
Relative to ADP, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams were “poor” to own. I would highly disagree though. Aaron Jones just wasn’t the TD hog he was the year before rapidly degrading his “worth”. He was still efficient and had some boom weeks (less than we hoped). Adams on the other hand was just consistent. He should have been a staple in your lineup averaging close to 18 points a week. He just managed to save his best weeks for last catapulting his owners up the standings in the semis and finals.
Rodgers won the MVP by having the best TD/INT ratio (9.25) and by the Packers getting the number 1 overall seed. Adams was easily his number one receiver, but Rodgers has always spread the ball around. This made the ancillary pieces tournament gold with Lazard, Cobb, and MVS all providing spike weeks despite all missing time at one point or another.
A.J. Dillon proved us right when he became the Packers bulldozer. He was one of our favorite RB handcuffs and due to his involvement in the red zone, on early downs, and to milk the clock late, he really paid off. Expect the 1-2 punch of Jones and Dillon to be a force moving forward.
Looking forward to this year, the biggest question that needs to be answered is what happens with Aaron Rodgers? The Packers have already made it clear they plan on going all out in trying to keep him. But who’s to say the relationship isn’t already broken without repair? Davante Adams, Robert Tonyan, Equanimeous St. Brown, Allen Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are free agents which leaves their offense with many holes. And with the Packers’ $50.7M over the cap, it does not seem like an easy fix. One of the biggest sticking points for Rodgers to come back will be getting Adams back as well. With their current situation, they will need to get creative. Expect the Packers to push their chips in and invest everything they can on this team to persuade Rodgers to stay because, without him, the future is bleak.
In terms of drafting, I will be grabbing all of the packers. Davante is a steal at WR5 (even with the uncertainty of Rodgers). He is Davante freaking Adams. Bet on skill. Aaron Jones is being heavily discounted as if Rodgers won’t come back but can far exceed his price. Rodgers will play this year and has proven to be a top 5 QB in fantasy. Dillon is where it gets a bit tricky. He is priced as if Rodgers will be back and if he isn’t I do not see it likely he pays off his price. MVS, Lazard, and Tonyan are all free agents. Draft at your own will as they are all cheap.
For a team that had 3 picks in the first 4 rounds, the Vikings are a highly uninteresting team. Partially due to how condensed the offense is. There was not a lot of interest outside of their studs. Due to this, 6 Vikings were regularly drafted in BBM II – Dalvin Cook (2.1, RB2), Justin Jefferson (22.8, WR8), Adam Thielen (49.3, WR24), Irv Smith (126.2, TE12), Alexander Mattison (151.3, RB47) and Kirk Cousins (153.4, QB19).
The industry was right about one thing, and it is how condensed the offense was. We knew that it would be a heavily concentrated offense, yet the results were a mixed bag. Kirk Cousins was the QB4, Dalvin Cook was the RB28, Alexander Mattison was the RB15, Justin Jefferson was the WR8, Adam Thielen was the WR23, and Irv Smith was the TE33.
Irv Smith is a total outlier due to tearing his ACL in the preseason and not playing a single snap. Otherwise, the rest of the results are pretty good. Mattison was the pinnacle for zero-RB drafters, as Dalvin was hurt and missed 4 weeks. He became the workhorse and averaged 19.4 fantasy points a game in those starts.
Justin Jefferson has quickly risen to one of the best WRs in the league. You can’t cover him. Zone, man, crossers, deep routes, it does not matter. He is going to find a way to take over a game. He truly became an alpha WR this year and the #1 target. He out-targeted Adam Thielen 167 to 95. Granted, Thielen missed 4 games and was knocked out of 1 early. Thielen on the other hand continues to defy analytics. He is a good wide receiver, don’t get me wrong. But he shouldn’t find the end zone as frequently as he does and has been due for TD regression the last two years. It doesn’t matter. He just keeps scoring. Which is good for fantasy football.
The best part for the Vikings was the breakout by second-year WR K.J. Osborn. He barely played in his first year but became a very dependable and strong WR3 on the roster when Thielen went down. He, like Thielen, had a knack for the end-zone and makes Thielen expendable should they decide to move on from the aging WR this offseason.
Cousins was his same old self. An above-average QB who is good but not great. He led the Vikings to an 8-9 record and had decent numbers. He just hasn’t pushed his team to the next level as his contract says it should. He has a solid floor and some boom weeks, so he is relevant in best ball helping players get to the playoffs.
Looking forward to this year, the Vikings are going to become an intriguing team. They just hired a new coach, former NFL QB and Rams OC, Kevin O’Connell, who should make the offense more dynamic and interesting. However, they have a pretty big question to answer and that is what should they do with Kirk Cousins? Is he good enough to win a super bowl? Should they deal him in an attempt to rebuild? They currently sit $15M over the salary cap with their significant free agents all being on the defensive side of the ball. They are at a crossroads. They are not good enough to win a super bowl. They are not bad enough to tank. So, they should just blow it all up and start fresh. NFL franchises aren’t really smart though, so the most likely outcome is they will kick the can down the road and load up for another mediocre attempt at winning the Super Bowl. This is almost guaranteed by the fact the Packers are in a state of uncertainty and both the Bears and Lions are in rebuilds.
In terms of drafting, I have been drafting the youngins and staying away from the olds. Thinking about it though, that is a wrong approach. Although I’d rather be a year early than a year late, we know how condensed of an offense this team is. I will be taking all of them and hoping for a slight discount on Cook and Thielen due to age. Cousins is good in both 2 and 3 QB builds. Things could potentially change with the offense since Kevin O’Connell is in town, but this team is built with studs. He will learn to use them.