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NFL Players on New Teams Ready to Break Out for 2022 Fantasy Football

Evan Engram - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Tight Ends

Every year, free agency sends shockwaves through the fantasy football community. During the offseason, these moves tend to be magnified because there are so few things for fantasy managers to be focused on. Every once in a while, a free agency move can send a player's value skyrocketing. Sometimes these moves are due to an indirect move, such as a new teammate or a quarterback upgrade via trade.

The important thing for fantasy managers when evaluating these free agency moves is to stay grounded. It's always easy to get excited about a player who finally appears to be in a better environment, but at the end of the day, players are who they are. Their environment, however promising, is unlikely to alter someone's output significantly.

In this article, we'll be looking at one running back and three tight ends who have seen their fantasy football value increase since their offseason change in location. Just because their values have increased and improved, it doesn't mean they'll all of a sudden become fantasy-relevant players, but their chances have certainly gotten better.

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Ameer Abdullah, Las Vegas Raiders

We all remember Ameer Abdullah when he was drafted by the Detroit Lions. He hasn't gone over 500 scrimmage yards since 2017. When you look at his NFL production, there isn't much reason to be optimistic. However, he was the 18th-most targeted running back last season with the Panthers and finished the year with 53 targets. That should be even more appealing now that he's in Las Vegas and that's because the Raiders recently cut Kenyan Drake, who many expected to be the team's primary pass-catching back.

Josh Jacobs has never been known as a good receiving back and Josh McDaniels is coming over from New England, where they frequently used a running back by committee approach. This makes it likely that Abdullah will be opening the 2022 season as the team's primary pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Abdullah should be someone you're looking to add late in your drafts and only in full-PPR leagues. He's more of a target in deeper leagues, but his change to Las Vegas has opened up some opportunities, especially in the passing game. With the Raiders playing in the AFC West with multiple games that are likely to have an implied point total of 50+, the Raiders may end up being one of the more pass-heavy teams in the NFL. If that happens, it shouldn't be surprising to see Abdullah push for 50–60 receptions. That would be quite a breakout for the seven-year veteran.

 

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Chargers

Gerald Everett is another player who made some massive gains in his fantasy value this offseason. Or rather, should have, but it seems as though fantasy managers are done with the Gerald Everett experiment. He’s being drafted as just the TE19 even though Jared Cook finished as the TE16 last year, which is fairly interesting. Especially since Everett is just 27 and Cook was 34 last year.

Last year, the former Seahawk’s route participation was 73.1% while Cook’s was at 65.9%. Despite a difference of over 7% points, Cook still ended up running 102 more routes than Everett (423-321). This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise seeing as the Chargers attempted 39.6 passes per game compared to the Seahawks at 29.1. By season’s end, those per game differences equated to a whopping 179 more attempts for Herbert and the Chargers. That volume cannot be ignored. For a tight end in fantasy football, that volume is everything.

Last year, Cook averaged a 13.3% target share, while Everett was at 15.0%. Not only was Cook running more routes and ended up with 20 more targets (83-63) despite a lower target share, but he also was used in a more fantasy-friendly manner. Cook had 680 air yards with an average depth of target of 8.2 yards. On the flip side, Everett had just 342 air yards and a pathetically low 5.4 average depth of target. Cook also had 324 unrealized air yards compared to Everett’s 99.

Not only is Everett looking at running more routes and being used more down the field in his new role in Los Angeles, but the offenses are on completely different sides of the spectrum. The Chargers finished fifth in points scored, third in pass attempts, second in passing yards, and fifth in passing touchdowns. That’s just about as good as it gets for a pass-catcher. On the flip, the Seahawks were just 16th in points scored, 31st in pass attempts, 23rd in passing yards, and 10th in touchdowns.

Everett is in a good position to outplay his ADP and there are plenty of opportunities for him to provide fantasy managers with some “boom” weeks in such an explosive offense. However, it should be noted with target hog Keenan Allen, a surging Mike Williams, and arguably the best pass-catching running back in the league, Austin Ekeler, also vying for Justin Herbert’s attention, he still may wind up as just the fourth or even fifth option in the passing game most weeks.

 

Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars

Fantasy football managers are constantly battling their short-term memories. We often recall those players who “let us down” and those memories are not easily forgotten. Engram fits the bill. He has disappointed fantasy managers the past two seasons. Was it all his fault? Certainly, he didn’t help, but the New York Giants were a pathetically bad football team the past two seasons.

Year Points Scored Total Yards Passing Yards Passing TDs
2020 Giants 31st 31st 29th 31st
2021 Giants 31st 31st 31st 30th

It really doesn’t get much worse than that. If you’d like to blame Engram for some of those struggles, I get it, but we need to be honest. An offense that bad is because of the coaching staff and quarterback. Daniel Jones and Jason Garrett were atrocious in every sense of the word.

As you can see from the tweet above, before the 2020 and 2021 disaster which was the New York Giants, Engram finished as the TE4, TE7, and TE7 in half-PPR PPG. That’s quite good, indeed. While we shouldn’t completely erase the 2020 and 2021 seasons from our memories because Engram didn’t play himself, we need to take it with a grain of salt and be willing to add some context to that situation.

While Jacksonville wasn’t very good in 2021 either, they got rid of Urban Meyer and hired a Super Bowl-winning coach. Trevor Lawrence should also be better in Year 2. His draft pedigree was light years better than that of Daniel Jones, so there’s a reason for optimism. Don’t be afraid to scroll back up to Kirk and take a look at how Doug Pederson did during his Philly stint with regard to points scored, pass attempts, yards, and touchdowns. It paints a promising picture, but not nearly as promising as this…

Team Tight End Targets Rank in NFL
2016 Eagles 179 2nd
2017 Eagles 165 4th
2018 Eagles 209 1st
2019 Eagles 232 2nd
2020 Eagles 169 2nd

During his five-year stint as the Eagles’ head coach, no team utilized the tight end position more in its passing game than Philadelphia. The numbers in the table above speak for themselves. While we should be expecting Kirk to be No. 1 in targets for the Jaguars in 2022, it’s within Engram’s range of outcomes to be the No. 2 for Jacksonville. Fantasy managers should be all over Engram at his current, embarrassingly low, price point.

 

Austin Hooper, Tennessee Titans

While going from Cleveland to Tennessee may not look like a win on the surface because Tennessee attempted even fewer passes than Cleveland, it’s still a good one for Hooper’s fantasy value in 2022. The reason for that is he won’t be sharing tight-end duties anymore.

Last year in Cleveland, he played 717 snaps. David Njoku played 670 and Harrison Bryant was at 402. There was just way too much sharing going on in Cleveland for any tight end to have any kind of fantasy relevance. The snap counts created near-even splits between Njoku and Hooper in total routes run and targets.

Player Routes Run Total Targets
Austin Hooper 303 58
David Njoku 305 53
Harrison Bryant 158 28

Even Bryant became a nuisance for Hooper’s fantasy managers last season. That shouldn’t be a concern in Tennessee. The other tight end behind him is Geoff Swaim, who ran just 199 routes last year and was primarily used as a blocker. This is good because it’ll free Hooper up to be the primary pass-catcher at tight end.

The other benefit to being in Tennessee is that there have generally been fewer targets for their running backs. When there is a running back soaking up targets, it becomes more difficult for a tight end to do the same. While each had 104 running back targets in 2021, Derrick Henry missed nine games. In 2020, when Henry was healthy, the Titans were dead last in running back targets with just 58. In 2019, they were 31st with just 62. That’s a good thing for Hooper’s target total. As long as Henry is healthy, it’s unlikely Hooper will have to compete with the Titans’ running backs for targets.

That leaves Hooper competing with Robert Woods, who is a 30-year-old receiver coming off a torn-ACL injury, and first-round rookie Treylon Burks. At the season’s end, fantasy managers should expect Hooper to be third in total targets, but there will undoubtedly be some weeks where he is the second-most targeted player.

He’s currently being drafted as the TE26 largely due to two disappointing seasons in Cleveland. However, he was a quality pass-catcher in the two seasons before coming to Cleveland. In 2018 and 2019, Hooper’s per-game averages amount to a 17-game pace of 111 targets, 87 receptions, 866 yards, and six touchdowns.

While fantasy managers shouldn’t expect anything close to that in 2022 on such a run-heavy offense, he’s displayed some high-end potential before and should be expected to solidly outplay his ADP in his new home. Last year, Hooper wasn’t even on the streaming radar, that should change this year.



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