Things move quickly in fantasy football, and we’re just a few weeks away from seeing many teams’ depth charts flipped based on stellar September performances. Here are some situations where it only takes a small leap of faith to imagine a player providing more 2022 fantasy value than his more heralded teammate.
The Vikings have relied heavily on two receivers for several seasons, but the team plans to open up its passing game in 2022. Osborn should be on the field more often than he was last season when he showed a lot of potential by collecting seven touchdowns on 50 catches. Thielen has had great success, but he will be 32 when this campaign begins and averaged just 10.8 yards per catch last year. By midseason, it may be obvious that Osborn is the player who best compliments a superstar Justin Jefferson.
New Giants coach Brian Daboll is in the process of rebuilding the Giants’ passing attack, which is good news — because it couldn’t be much worse than it was last season. The team has a handful of intriguing WRs, led by Golladay, who has a big contract and a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in Detroit on his resume. But Golladay has done little in the last two years, hasn’t developed a relationship with a QB Daniel Jonesand was not brought into the team by the current coaching staff.
Robinson, on the other hand, was drafted in the second round this year, which is a great sign that the current brain trust believes he can have a lot of NFL success. It’s easy to see a scenario where Golladay has some big weeks as a deep threat but Robinson leads the team in catches and yards while being a dominant slot target.
Chris Olave over Michael Thomas
Even though Thomas is back in action, we really have no idea what to expect from someone who missed all of last season and most of 2020 with ankle injuries. Sure, there’s a chance the 29-year-old can recapture his former glory, but there’s also a good chance he’s no longer the player he once was. Also, Thomas may not have the same relationship with James Winston that he had with Drew Brees. New Orleans traded up to get Olave, who was arguably the most talented WR in the 2022 NFL draft and projects as a future star. It may only take a few weeks for us to see that the page has been turned in the Saints’ passing game, with Olave as the alpha receiver and Thomas as a complementary piece.
George Pickens over Diontae Johnson
Pickens needed just one preseason game to show the explosive playmaking ability that led the Steelers to take him in the second round of the NFL draft despite not having a pressing need at WR. The Georgia product has the size and speed to immediately make big plays and demand a significant target share, despite the veteran presence of Johnson and Hunt Claypool.
Former QB Ben Roethlisberger loved throwing down to Johnson because it suited his lack of late-career arm strength and his need to get rid of the ball quickly behind a bad offensive line. But new Steelers QBs Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett may want to throw downfield more often, which would take some of the focus off Johnson and lead to a more balanced passing attack that Pickens could eventually have.
Rhamondre Stevenson over Damien Harris
There is little doubt that Harris is a good ball carrier. After all, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his three-year career and crossed the goal line 15 times last season. But he contributes little in the passing game and relies on picking up touchdowns to make a noticeable fantasy impact. Stevenson has a more diverse skill set, with the ability to match Harris as a runner while also catching a lot of passes. And with James White recently retired, the Pats are looking for a RB to step into a big receiving role. It’s a likely scenario where Harris ends up with more rushing yards but Stevenson surpasses him in total yards and provides much more value in PPR formats.
Brian Robinson over Antonio Gibson
Robinson is already climbing up draft boards and may pass Gibson by the time we get to within a few days of Week 1. The rookie from Alabama appears to be the preferred option for this management team that selected him in Rd. 3 out of the NFL draft and started him over Gibson in the most recent preseason game. Scenario begins to focus with Robinson leading the team in rushing yards and TDs, JD McKissic outpaces the other RBs in catches, and Gibson eventually finds his way to the fantasy waiver wire.
Zamir White over Josh Jacobs
The Raiders have a new coach in Josh McDaniels, who did not draft Jacobs and has yet to show any indication that he thinks highly of the 24-year-old. For example, we often see coaching reports that Las Vegas’ backfield usage will be situational, with Jacobs and White each having a role. White is the only member of the RB corps who was drafted by the current management team, and while he likely won’t be immediately involved in the passing game, he could steal most of Jacobs’ rushing opportunities.