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D.J. Chark: 2022 Fantasy Football Draft Sleeper and Undervalued Wide Receiver

Urban Meyer may have turned Tim Tebow into one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of college football, but he did nobody any fantasy football favors when he “coached” the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.

DJ Chark looked like he was going to be Jacksonville’s No. 1 receiver for several seasons after he posted a 73-1,008-8 line in 2019. After an injury-riddled, underwhelming 2020 campaign, the hope among fantasy general managers was that Chark would be Trevor Lawrence’s top target in a high-powered, Meyer-run offense. Instead, Chark was a fantasy fiasco as he caught seven passes in four games and suffered a season-ending broken ankle. He went from fantasy hero to fantasy zero in two years flat.

Meyer did nothing to elevate the fantasy values of franchise quarterback Lawrence or top tailback James Robinson, and he certainly did not do anything for Chark for the month he was on the field. Chark signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the hapless and hopeless Detroit Lions this offseason, which seems like a parallel move on paper, but he has a chance to rebound and become one of the biggest sleepers in fantasy football in 2022. Here is why Chark could pull it off:

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D.J. Chark Competition for Targets is Minimal

Chark did not have much competition (Chris Conley? Dede Westbrook?) for targets during his breakout 2019 season, which is one of the reasons he performed so well. Do not be surprised if he has a similar situation in 2022.

Last season, tight end T.J. Hockenson was Jared Goff’s go-to guy early in the year, then slot receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown became the favorite at the tail end of the season. Neither has had a 1,000-yard year as Chark has.

Detroit selected Alabama product Jameson Williams in the first round of this year’s NFL draft, but he will probably miss several games as he rehabs from a torn ACL suffered in his final collegiate contest. Brown and Hockenson will get their fair share of targets, but not the kind that would affect Chark.

Otherwise, the rest of the receiving corps is no threat to him if he stays healthy and plays at the level he did in 2019 when he was a downfield threat busting big plays and outworking cornerbacks on the outside. 100-120 targets should be within a reasonable range for Chark.

 

Millions of Reasons For D.J. Chark to be Motivated

Chark had to settle for a one-year deal coming off two lackluster, injury-filled seasons, so he has all the motivation in the world to have the best year of his young career and cash in when the 2023 offseason rolls around.

He has to prove to the NFL that his body is not as brittle as it appeared the past two years and that he can be a bonafide No. 1 WR when he is leading a team in targets. Chark will do everything in his human power to suit up for all 17 games and become a clone of Calvin Johnson in his prime so he can get a multiyear, multimillion-dollar payday.

Chark has the tools and the talent to be a No. 1 WR. He has above-average speed, hands, and height. He can separate from corners (when healthy). He can make plays in the red zone and beat defensive backs to jump balls when one-on-one.

He just needs another opportunity to show his stuff as he got back in 2019, and Detroit is willing to hand him that opportunity on a silver platter.

 

Detroit Desperate For a WR With D.J. Chark's Skill Set

Detroit had no deep threat last season. Only one WR on the roster (Kalif Raymond) had any catches over 50 yards. Quarterback Jared Goff and the Lions' offense were terrible when it came to calling and connecting on throws over 20 yards.

Detroit had a dink-and-dunk passing “attack” that revolved around tosses of 10 yards or less to Hockenson, Brown, or tailback D’Andre Swift. You had a better chance of Kid Rock voting for a Democrat than you had of the Lions completing a 60-yard pass.

Chark has skills and wheels, two traits Detroit’s receiving corps lacked last year. Couple him with Williams when the rookie returns and the Lions should have two above-average outside receivers that can stretch the field and do damage on chunk plays. But with Williams still rehabbing, Chark will be the best receiver on the roster for at least a few games, if not all season.

If you think Chark cannot thrive with Goff as his starting signal caller, remember that he had his 1,000-yard season with Gardner Minshew and Nick Foles as his QBs.

And if you think Goff cannot help Chark make a major comeback, remember that Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods all broke the 1,000-yard mark when Goff was the QB during his Rams seasons. Take a flyer on Chark and you will not be disappointed.    



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