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Fantasy Veteran Winners and Losers of the 2022 NFL Draft

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Most of the attention of NFL Draft weekend is concentrated, very understandably, on the draft picks. We just saw 262 young men have the single biggest piece of their future decided for them, with another large handful getting signed as undrafted free agents, and they will help to shape the fantasy football landscape for the next generation of the game.

 

But don’t forget the old guys.

262 careers started over the weekend. That doesn’t mean 262 others ended, but plenty of players already in the NFL saw their future stock change over the weekend, both for the good and the bad. Today, we’re taking a look at the winners and losers of draft weekend among the veteran players.

(More draft coverage: Check out Jeff Ratcliffe’s dynasty rookie rankings and his PPR fantasy football rankings.)

2022 NFL Draft Winners

Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Three teams have decided that this offseason is the “Maybe our quarterback isn’t the guy, but we will put him in the best possible situation and see if it works anyway.” The first was the Dolphins, who have piled every weapon they could find around Tua Tagovailoa. The second is the Jets, who added a receiver and a running back inside the first 36 picks after signing Laken Tomlinson for the line. And the third was the Eagles, who still have DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert and added a top-10 receiver in the league in A.J. Brown. Jalen Hurts might not be the long-term answer in Philadelphia, but he’s got every chance.

Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots

The Patriots didn’t surround Mac Jones with extreme playmakers as a rookie; they just gave him a bunch of competent receivers who could offer short targets. The speed option was probably supposed to be Nelson Agholor, who was … definitely in New England all year. This year, basically everyone is back, and they added DeVante Parker, who can be the main contested-catch guy. But the speed option was still Agholor until Friday, when the Pats grabbed Tyquan Thornton and his 4.28 (!) speed in the second round. It’s still not a star-laden receiving corps, but every option exists in some form or another.

Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers

This would have been even more emphatic if Jimmy Garoppolo had found a new home over the weekend, but the fact that Deebo Samuel didn’t find somewhere else to play increases the chances he’s back in San Francisco, and Trey Lance having “Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle” is way better than Lance having “Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings and George Kittle.”

Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints

Having Alvin Kamara and getting Michael Thomas back are both great things for any quarterback, but Jameis Winston didn’t have many weapons after those two, unless you are a particular fan of Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith or Deonte Hardy. Adding Chris Olave as a potentially excellent No. 3 is a significant move that could give Winston enough firepower to be relevant again.

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

Everybody made the same joke after the news of the A.J. Brown came down Thursday: “Get ready for 500 carries for Derrick Henry.” And sure, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but … not that much of one. Dude’s gonna get work.

Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

It’s not going to be as simple as “Marquise Brown left. He had 146 targets. There are now 146 targets up for grabs. Rashod Bateman will get most of them.” Lamar Jackson getting healthy, the backfield getting healthy, the defense getting healthy will all have the Ravens’ playcalling pendulum swing back toward the run at least a bit. So maybe Bateman isn’t ready to be a superstar. On the other hand, Brown’s gone, and so is Sammy Watkins. Bateman is the clear WR1 here, and the WR2 is … Devin Duvernay? Tylan Wallace? The Ravens haven’t brought in a Brown replacement. Bateman will get plenty of work, and he’ll make the most of it.

Robert Woods, WR, Tennessee Titans

Treylon Burks slides into the A.J. Brown role in this offense, but even if he is great right away, he’s still not A.J. Brown. Woods (once he’s healthy) looked like a fading light in this offense a few days ago; now, he’s the veteran presence who could average 7-plus targets a game once he’s back.

Kadarius Toney, WR, New York Giants

Bear with me on this: The Giants drafted Wan’Dale Robinson. Robinson fills in a similar role to Kadarius Toney’s. Why would the Giants draft Robinson if they didn’t super-seriously plan on dealing Toney? And if Toney goes somewhere else, it’ll be to somewhere that wants him apparently more than the Giants do. Maybe it’s wishcasting, but I expect Toney to find a new home before training camp and get more of a featured role.

Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears

The Bears could have used their picks to pounce on as many receivers as possible. Use their two seconds on pass-catchers, trade back into the first for someone, just attack receiver from every angle. Instead, the Bears appeared to realize the team is a long way from real contention and there’s no need to attack every need right away, and instead they diversified, with the only receiver they drafted being Velus Jones, who is actually five months older than entering-his-third-season Darnell Mooney. Cole Kmet could have seen his targets get squeezed. He did not.

 

2022 NFL Draft Losers

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans

Wednesday: Had A.J. Brown. Had no other quarterback on the roster who could start.
Now: Has no A.J. Brown. Has Malik Willis on the roster.

Ryan Tannehill is the starter for 2022. But he went from lots of rope to “oh my god, where’d the rope go?”

Sam Darnold, QB, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers seeming ideologically incapable of dealing for Baker Mayfield, passing on QB at 1.06 and having no more picks until the fourth round had to have Sam Darnold excited at one last shot. But then they traded back up into the third as Matt Corral fell, and sure, a third-round rookie quarterback isn’t a guarantee to produce right away, but … he only has Sam Darnold to contend with.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers made a pretty great-for-football pick in the fourth round by landing Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller. But for fantasy, it’s frustrating. Spiller can fill in some 50%, 60% of the role Melvin Gordon did when he was with the Chargers, which isn’t a value-killer exactly, but it’s more than the Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree types could. Entering Saturday, Ekeler had a “squint and you can see it” argument to go 1.01 in drafts, and at the least he was a top-four fantasy pick. Now, he’s still definitely a first-rounder, but it’s more toward the back of the round.

Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders

It’s not that Antonio Gibson lost his job this weekend. He didn’t. But since adding Gibson (and occasionally dropping “he could be Christian McCaffrey” talks), Washington has:

Gibson will still start for Washington. But man, if they don’t believe in him, why should we?

Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders

It was already a rough offseason for Josh Jacobs, with Kenyan Drake getting healthy and the team signing Brandon Bolden and Ameer Abdullah. Add in them declining Jacobs’ fifth-year option and drafting Zamir White in the fourth round, and someone needs to send Jacobs a fruit basket or something.

Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets

Michael Carter beat the odds last year to be at least an intermittently productive rookie after falling to the fourth round a year ago. And I hope that memory sustains him, because the arrival of Breece Hall in the second round means Carter has lost his hold on the starting job. Maybe he’s the pass-catching option, but that stock has gone down real hard.

Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots

It wasn’t enough that the Patriots had the developing Rhamondre Stevenson, the returning James White and the still-also-there J.J. Taylor, they also had to go out and draft Pierre Strong in the fourth and Kevin Harris in the sixth. The team will not have all six of these guys when Week 1 rolls around, but it sure seems like Bill Belichick doesn’t believe in Damien Harris, RB1.

Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks

After retaining Rashaad Penny in free agency, the Seahawks spent an early second-rounder on Kenneth Walker. Maybe that impacts Penny, but the most likely outcome here feels to me like “Chris Carson’s neck might never let him play like he used to.” And that sucks a lot. 

Mike Davis, RB, Atlanta Falcons

The team bringing Cordarrelle Patterson hurt, of course, and so did the signing of Damien Williams, but if there were any vestiges of minor value left for Mike Davis, they probably disappeared when the team took Tyler Allgeier in the fifth. 

Marlon Mack, RB, Houston Texans

Marlon Mack came into the offseason as probably never going to be relevant again. Landing with Houston gave him a shot, because the best Texans’ back other than Mack was Rex Burkhead. And sure, Dameon Price was only a fourth-rounder, but he’s likely to jump right to the top of the depth chart, and Mack is likely never going to be fantasy-relevant again.

Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Either Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett will be the quarterback in Pittsburgh in 2022, which, sure, Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t great anymore, but neither is this. Add in the Steelers using two of their first four picks on receivers (George Pickens and Calvin Austin), and … Diontae Johnson and Najee Harris aren’t going to lose their roles, and Pickens and Austin have to get their targets from somewhere. Chase Claypool is probably the victim here.

D.J. Chark, WR, Detroit Lions

It was already a question mark for D.J. Chark in Detroit, just on a one-year prove-it deal and with D’Andre Swift, Amon-Ra St. Brown and T.J. Hockenson to battle with. Add in maybe the draft’s best receiver in Jameson Williams, and Chark’s role might be essentially gone. That “prove it” might not get proven.

Rondale Moore, WR, Arizona Cardinals

When the season ended, the Cardinals had DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore, and everyone else was a free agent. Christian Kirk left. That was good for Moore! Then they re-signed Zach Ertz … and then they re-signed A.J. Green … and then they traded for Marquise Brown. Moore SZN is on indefinite hold.

Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Denver Broncos

March 16: “Russell Wilson traded to Denver, Noah Fant sent to Seattle.” Albert Okwuegbunam 2022 Sleeper Season begins!
April 29: “Broncos draft Greg Dulcich, rumors have Russell Wilson insanely excited about the pick.” Albert Okwuegbunam 2022 Sleeper Season ends!

Obviously, it’s not that simple, especially right away, but the hype will be way less than we thought.

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