Here are five players that we could see next year as solid fantasy performers, as I look at the future opportunities and what the roster construction could look like in 2022 and going forward. These are by no means players I’m going out and paying up for but I will ask for these players to be added in as I make dynasty trades. I think there are other obvious dynasty options that would provide production now but they will cost you more, like Gaberial Davis, Elijah Moore, and Rondale Moore. The players below are a step below for sure but can be had at a fraction of the cost.
Chris Evans- RB, Cincinnati Bengals
I’m not saying that the Captain America namesake is going to take over for Joe Mixon but he should be the primary handcuff and have value over the next 3+ years. Chris Evans is a player that had such promise in college at Michigan but it never truly materialized. He came out the gate with a 112 yard, 2 score game in 2016 against Hawaii but then only had over 75 yards in 8 of his next 41 games. He was suspended for Michigan’s 2019 season due to academic issues and had a very disappointing 2020 college outing. He was a 6th round pick by the Bengals in the 2021 draft and made the active 53 man roster his first year. Like college, he has had flashes of brilliance. Week 6 against the Lion he got 4 carries which he turned into 18 yards. He also caught 3 passes for 49 yards and a score. In week 12 he got 5 carries and produced 23 yards. Both outings where he got rushing work he averaged 4.5 yards per carry. For reference, Joe Mixon is averaging 4.23 on the year.
Mixon will continue to be the starter and in 2021 Samaje Perine has been the primary backup. Perine is signed for the 2022 season but there is an opt-out that would save the Bengals 1.5 million in cap space. I’m not saying this will happen but there is also an opt-out for Mixon but I expect him to play out his full contract which runs till the end of the 2024 season. Mixon does have some injury history, however. He missed the last 10 games of the 2020 season with a foot injury. I wouldn’t go as far as saying Mixon is injury prone but he has had 2 other injuries prior to that foot. He hasn’t missed too much time in the NFL outside of 2020 and is still young, as he will be 26 heading into the 2022 season. He is also on pace to have 321 carries this season which will be a career-high beating, his old number of 278 which he set in 2019 the year before his injury. The Bengals also project to make the playoffs so that could add more wear and tear on his body as well as all the pass-catching work he has seen so far.
With Evans showing good yards per carry average on limited work, he would be a solid handcuff if and when he becomes the primary backup to Mixon. He is similar in size to Perine at 5’11” 219 pounds to Perine’s 5’11” 240 pounds. Not as big but faster. Evans ran a 4.50, 40. Perine and Mixon were at 4.60 and 4.43 respectively. Even with Joe Burrow having three good receivers in Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins the Bengals are still running the ball, and their running back will remain valuable.
Tutu Atwell- WR, Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles got a gift when the Rams moved there. They got one of the best passing offenses to come to town. The Rams have had a solid core of receiving options for a few years now and will be looking to continue that into the future. Despite going all in to win in 2021 by trading for Matthew Stafford, Odell Beckham, and Von Miller the Rams still have some young pieces that can bring a bright fantasy future to sunny LA. What we see right now is a wide receiver group of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson, and Van Jefferson to start the year. Odell Beckham came in right as Woods was going on season-ending IR and the Rams let Jackson go midseason. The Rams run more 3 wide receiver sets than any other team in the NFL, and Stafford can probably get them another year or two of higher-level QB play so it’s not really winning in 2021 or bust.
Kupp is under contract till 2026 but has a serious opt-out after the 2022 season. The Rams save either 9.6 or 14.2 million in cap space if they were to move on from Kupp before the ’23 season, depending on when he was to get cut or traded. Woods is signed till 2024 but has an opt-out after this season but only saves the rams a few million. Cutting or trading the 30-year-old receiver could save the Rams upwards of 7 million or closer to 10 depending on the date. Odell Beckham is probably not going to resign with the Rams once this season is done. Break-out star Van Jefferson is locked in till after the 2024 season but he could easily take Woods’s spot if they move on from him.
All of this leads to the potential for rookie Tutu Atwell. Atwell was a second-round pick coming out of Louisville. He is a smaller wide receiver coming in at just under 5’9” 149lbs. Scouting reports said he has good acceleration. He is fast as well, running a 4.23 forty on his pro day. He hasn’t done much since entering the NFL and finishes his rookie season on the IR after needing shoulder surgery. When he returns he will be vying for that coveted third wide receiver spot with fellow rookie Brent Skowronek who has seen increased playing time as of late. Skowronek was a 7th round pick in the 2021 draft. Atwell has a very different skill set than Skowronek and projects to more of the Cooper Kupp type roll so if he were to play well in 2022 it could force the Rams to make a hard choice between the player and cap space down the road. Fun little fact Tutu Atwell’s real name is Chatarius Atwell so that something. No matter what you call him he looks to become part of the high-powered passing game that L.A. is known for.
Josh Palmer- WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles is known for its high-powered passing offenses but it could be the Chargers and Justin Herbert who continue this tradition. Herbert is setting passing records it seems every game. He has benefited from having Keenan Allen and Mike Williams catching the ball. Looking forward we will be seeing a change in that wide receiver core. Keenan Allen isn’t going anywhere. I highly doubt they exercise the opt-out after this season. He is signed till the end of the 2024 season. Mike Williams is currently filling the number 2 spot on the roster but he is a free agent at the end of the 2021 season as well as Andre Roberts. Jalen Guyton has come on as of late and is a restricted free agent after this season so there is a chance the Bolts bring him back but would have to match any offer he gets.
Josh Palmer should be in line to take a large leap forward in 2022. He is currently playing the 4th most snaps on the team behind Allen, Williams, and Guyton. He is averaging 31.9% of the team’s snaps through 15 weeks. He has 2 touchdowns on the year which trails Guyton’s 3. If he were to move into the 3 spot as Guyton returns and take over the 2 spot from Williams, Palmer would be in line to see closer to 55% of the team’s snaps. If Guyton were to leave and Palmer were to move into the 2 spot he would be playing on 80% or more of the team’s snaps. He was a 3rd round pick of the Chargers in the 2021 draft and is still young. He didn’t have the greatest college career for Tennesee but his limited NFL production shows that he has what it takes and that the team likes using him. Palmer has a great verticle route break which suits Herbert’s abilities well and can get separation coming out of breaks but at times loses that separation if the ball isn’t delivered quickly, another one of Herbert’s skills.
A wide receiver on a high-powered passing offense with a great quarterback will always be fantasy-relevant. We have seen it for years in Green Bay with the likes of Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown always being talked up as break-out players. The difference is with Josh Palmer is in his first year he has stats that are going to compare to almost all of those players’ best years after a 4-year career. He has a ton of time and room to grow in that offense.
Josiah Deguara- TE, Green Bay Packers
Speaking of the Packers’ passing game let’s talk about tight end Josiah Deguara. The pass-catching options for the Packers will be vastly different when the 2022 season starts. As reported in the October report, Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown are all free agents. Allen Lazard is a restricted free agent and Randall Cobb most likely won’t be back. Aaron Rodgers coould be on his way out making way for Jordan Love to start. 2021’s starting tight end Robert Tonyan went on IR after only 8 games.
Deguara has been starting since Tonyan got injured and has played admirably. He hasn’t seen a ton of targets but has made the most out of his targets. He has caught all but 3 of his 18 targets so far this season. He will be catching passes from Love and what we saw in Love’s week 9 start was 2 targets for 2 recptions and 16 yards which is the standard stat line for Deguara. He’s a smaller tight end in overall size at 6’2” 242 coming out of college. He has lost snaps this year to Mercedes Lewis who is 6’6” 267. Lewis is a 16-year vet who doesn’t look to be around much longer. Deguara had a decent college career at Cincinnati where he played 4 years and in his senior year, he had 504 yards and 7 touchdowns. What he lacks in size and speed he makes up for with sure hands and running solid underneath routes. Those types of routes would be key for Love as he gets more time as an NFL starter. In a fantasy landscape where tight end seems like a wasteland every year and fantasy owners are always trying to find the next big thing, Deguara could be it on an offense that doesn’t project to have a ton of pass-catching talent but will need an outlet for their inexperienced QB.
Kyle Trask- QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady is the goat. Even at age 44, he is putting up top 5 QB numbers. But the fact remains he is 44. His battle with father time has to come to an end at some point, and he has only been signing 1-year contracts with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This prompted the Bucs to Draft Kyle Trask in the 2nd round of the 2021 draft. Other than Trask the Bucs have 10-year vet Blaine Gabbert who is also finishing up his one-year contract. The 2021 NFL draft was loaded with quarterbacks. We saw the first 3 picks be used on what teams and fans were hoping would be franchise quarterbacks. We had 5 go in the first round in total and much has been written and discussed about them. Lost in that was the 6th quarterback taken, in Trask.
Kyle Trask is no joke a good quarterback. Let’s take a look at the Heisman Finalist. You have winner DeVonta Smith, future first overall pick Trevor Lawrence, Patriots rookie star Mac Jones and then 4th is Florida Gator product, Kyle Trask. He beat out the 5th place guy. A running back you may have heard of named Najee Harris. Kyle Trask broke records during his time with the Gators. He holds the record for most yards in a season with 4283 which beat Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman, and Danny Wuerffel. He has 2 games with 474 yards which only trail Tebows 2009 sugar bowl performance of 482 yards. He holds the single-season passing touchdown record with 43. The kid just balled out his senior year. He now gets to sit behind and learn from the greatest quarterback of all time. Some of the knocks against Trask in the draft process are some of the things Brady is great at. Trask lacks adaptability and liked to go throw his progressions. Brady is great at that. He is a big body at 6’5” 236 lbs. He doesn’t have the athletic ability of some of the other guys so he is a pocket passer. Brady is an amazing pocket passer.
The Buccaneers have a great coaching staff, some of which will probably end up coaching other teams in 2020 but he still benefits from them for a year. He would inherit a great pass catcher in Mike Evans. Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski don’t project to be with a Brady-less Bucs team in 2022. He would probably get a new running back as both Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones are free agents after the 2021 season. Honorable mention to KeShawn Vaughn as a stash. He would have Tyler Johnson who he has probably been practicing with and who has shown signs of being a capable NFL wide receiver and tight end Cameron Brate who isn’t horrible. There would certainly be growing pains for Trask as he has yet to take an NFL snap but he is the air apparent on a good team with a great system of coaches and players around him to get him ready to take over whenever Brady decided to retire.
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