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5 Teams Set to Decline in Fantasy in 2022

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The 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl by being (a) one of the best teams in the league, but also (b) one of the healthiest teams in the league. The team famously re-signed basically everyone, and in 2021, they repeated (a), but by the end (b) had fallen apart like … well, one of the Bucs’ players’ ligaments.

Injuries. Regression. Development. Age. There are any number of reasons why what happened to a team in Year X might not bear as much relation to Year X+1 as we might assume. That’s doubly true when a team made a big jump (in either direction) in the first year.

For example, the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers were a good offense. In 2019, though, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell were gone, Ben Roethlisberger got hurt, and the team saw its PPR production (offensive positions only) drop by 37.2% in 2019.

 

So things in Pittsburgh are bad now, right? Well, that big drop was followed by health for Roethlisberger and the arrival of Diontae Johnson, and in 2020 the Steelers jumped back up by 41.6%.

So things in Pittsburgh are good now, right? Well, that big gain was followed by Roethlisberger realizing he’s ancient and the offensive line disintegrating, and in 2020 the Steelers fell back off by 7.9%.

It’s extremely basic, but it’s still extremely true: Almost any time a player, a team, anything, makes a big leap in one direction, it falls back in the other direction. Maybe not as much or as far, but huge moves rarely continue in a straight line.

So today, we’re look at the five teams who saw their fantasy production climb by the most in 2021 … in other words, the five teams most likely to drop off in 2022.

All fantasy scoring refers to PPR, and is quarterback/running back/wide receiver/tight end only.

5 Teams Set to Decline in Fantasy in 2022

From the 2006 season to the 2020 season, there have been 55 teams that have increased in year-over-year fantasy production by at least 20%, for an average of a 28.2% increase. In the year after, those teams have dropped off by an average of at least 7.1%, with only six franchises increasing by at least 10% in Year 3. 

In other words, this is not a guarantee, but if you’re picking, you’d expect the below teams to drop off this year, or at the very least maintain status quo. Another big leap just isn’t in the cards.

 

1. New England Patriots (+29.9%)

2020 fantasy points: 1,166.9
2021 fantasy points: 1,515.9

What went right

As it turns out, going from the remains of Cam Newton (and Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham) to Mac Jones is all by itself enough to account for some big gains. The team signed Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith a year after getting only 47.4 DFS points from the tight end position. Jakobi Meyers actually scored a touchdown. James White got hurt, but Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson made up the gap.

Why they might fall off

This team was incredibly healthy. White played only three games, but him aside, Stevenson was the only relevant name who played under 15 games, and his missed games were mostly before he was relevant. Otherwise … this is actually a tough argument, given a second year for Jones and the hope (likelihood?) the team adds a big-name receiver. Still, that’s a big jump.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (+29.7%)

2020 fantasy points: 1,285.2
2021 fantasy points: 1,667.0

What went right

Well, “what went right” for a team that was generally picked to finish last in the division and instead made it to the Super Bowl is … just about everything. It almost all clicked for the Bengals in 2021, and the instinct is that that could continue, because you’d expect the team to invest heavily in the offensive line this offseason.

Why they might fall off

Like the Patriots (and generally, like any team that is extremely successful), this team was incredibly healthy in 2021. Other than a meaningless Week 18 game that most of the big names sat out, the primary names in this offense (Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah) missed a combined two games last year (Higgins missed Weeks 3-4). That’s unsustainable. And there’s only so much room for Mixon (R4), Chase (WR5) and Higgins (WR24, but WR13 per game) to improve.

3. New York Jets (+24.4%)

2020 fantasy points: 1,076.4
2021 fantasy points: 1,339.5

What went right

This isn’t really about “what went right” for the Jets as “what didn’t go wrong.” The 2020 iteration of this team was abysmal for fantasy — their 1,076.4 fantasy points was the lowest team total in the last three years. So even marginal competence would have made for a big improvement. And “marginal competence” is what they got from Elijah Moore and Michael Carter around their injuries. And then there’s this, which is the weirdest QB stat ever:

Why they might fall off

Honestly, this one is difficult. The team wasn’t healthy (Carter missed three games, Moore missed six, Corey Davis missed eight, even rookie QB Zach Wilson missed four), it wasn’t old (Carter, Moore and Wilson were all rookies, Davis is 27), and the worst performers are unlikely to be back next year. The numbers are the numbers, but if I had to pick one of the teams in this space to buck the trend, this would be the choice.

4. Dallas Cowboys (+20.2%)

2020 fantasy points: 1,521.0
2021 fantasy points: 1,828.6

What went right

Dak Prescott. After missing the final 11 games of 2020 (after starting like an MVP candidate), Prescott played all but one game in 2021, and while he didn’t play to his “early 2020” numbers, he was worlds better than Andy Dalton. Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb might not have met expectations, but they were all fine, and Tony Pollard, Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz helped make up the difference.

Why they might fall off

Elliott has grown progressively less efficient over his career, but the team seems doggedly determined to keep him as the bell cow. Gallup (and Cedrick Wilson, who had his own moments) are hitting free agency, and there are rumors Cooper might be out the door as well. Also, only the Buccaneers put up more fantasy production than the Cowboys last year, so you’d just expect the ones near the extremes to approach the middle.

 

5. Los Angeles Rams (+18.6%)

2020 fantasy points: 1,447.4
2021 fantasy points: 1,716.3

What went right

The Rams don’t meet our 20% threshold, but then only four teams did last year. Still, this was a big jump, and it resulted in a Super Bowl title. Cooper Kupp was the best receiver in the world. Matthew Stafford was aggressively “not Jared Goff.” Robert Woods was fine until he was hurt, then Odell Beckham was an acceptable replacement. The running game wasn’t anything special, but otherwise this offense clicked.

Why they might fall off

Kupp can maybe be the best receiver in the world, but even the best receiver in the world isn’t likely to do that again. Beckham is gone, and Woods will be 30 at the start of the season and coming off a torn ACL. Tyler Higbee is 29 now and hasn’t come close to the flashes he showed down the stretch of 2019. Cam Akers being healthy for the full year should help, but you can expect some regression in Los Angeles.

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