An unprecedented number of quarterback trades has dominated the NFL in the infantile stages of the 2022 season. There are few more important variables when projecting fantasy football outcomes than the offense’s quarterback, and the game of QB musical chairs that’s been the 2022 offseason has shaken up many an offense.
This is the first part of an analysis of 2022’s NFL notable transactions, the fantasy football fallout for notable quarterback trades (with a hint of Amari Cooper analysis), while Part II will focus on skill-position acquisitions.
Browns trade for Deshaun Watson
Despite his off-field saga being far from over, the Browns couldn’t resist paying up for a bona fide franchise QB in one of the biggest quarterback trades ever. Even the casual football fan could see that Baker Mayfield was not the answer at QB, and the Browns were wasting a solid defense and elite offensive line/running game combo in its prime.
Watson made absolute magic with whomever he was throwing to in Houston, including DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Let’s not forget that even with Hopkins out of the picture, Watson threw for the most passing yards in the league in 2020 despite finishing tied for 10th in pass attempts.
Watson will primarily be throwing to Amari Cooper (another new Brown), who enjoyed a blistering start to 2021 before completely fading down the stretch. Cooper will not struggle with target competition (unlike his time in Dallas) after the departures of Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and Austin Hooper. As Watson’s primary receiver, Will Fuller was 8th in fantasy points per game among WRs before his suspension in 2020, and many would argue Cooper can run a much more diverse route tree than Fuller.
Cooper is still in line for a peak season, as he will play this entire season at age 28. He’s been more durable than given credit for as well, playing 108 out of 112 possible career games. It is coming time to sell him in dynasty leagues, but there is no reason he cannot be a volume-based WR2 this coming year – provided Watson is on the field. He shouldn’t be drafted as a WR1 though.
Nick Chubb may trade in some volume for more efficiency, but his already large touchdown upside will skyrocket for however long Watson is on the field. Watson was never known for throwing to his RBs, but Kareem Hunt’s role of the past two seasons appears still worthy of an RB2/3 selection. If Watson is indeed suspended for any period of time, it is likely that Cleveland’s offense looks similar to last year. Unfortunately, we don’t appear to be at all close to an answer on that:
Roger Goodell said “there’s no timetable” on a decision of any potential discipline for Browns’ QB Deshaun Watson. “We will seek to get to the bottom of the facts,” Goodell said.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 29, 2022
Colts trade for Matt Ryan
After suffering through a year of Carson Wentz, the Colts smartly decided to pull the plug and bring in Matt Ryan to right the ship. After going through a pitiful 2021 in Atlanta, Ryan will now play behind a renowned offensive line with the NFL’s most talented running back carrying the offense.
Ryan is unlikely to sniff QB1 territory and is probably not going to be drafted in many fantasy drafts. The biggest beneficiary here is one of 2021’s sophomore breakouts: Michael Pittman. Pittman somehow squeezed out an 88/1,082/6 season despite catching passes from Wentz while in one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league. If Pittman can finish as the WR18 with Wentz at the helm, he is a good candidate to take a secondary leap in his third year.
Indianapolis will likely add a pass-catcher in the draft after losing Jack Doyle and Zach Pascal, but Pittman’s role as alpha WR1 on the Colts is secure.
Commanders trade for Carson Wentz
Poor Terry McLaurin just cannot catch a break. Carson Wentz did admittedly get a WR2 season out of Michael Pittman, but he clearly isn’t the answer after an ugly exit from his second consecutive team:
Colts owner Jim Irsay blasted Carson Wentz today.
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) March 30, 2022
Wentz did have a 27/7 TD:INT ratio last season, but he also had the benefit of a fantastic offensive line and all-world RB behind him. The Colts tried their best to hide him and let him manage the game (18th in passing yards), and he may not have that luxury in Washington.
The Commanders are likely to be no better on offense in 2022, as it’s unclear if Wentz is even a significant upgrade on Taylor Heinicke at this point.
Dyami Brown and Curtis Samuel have zero fantasy credibility, and McLaurin must be seen as a risky WR2 until further notice. I’d be shocked if Wentz started every game for Washington – this was one of the least inspiring quarterback trades in recent memory.
Broncos trade for Russell Wilson
The smoke finally turned to fire, as Wilson departed Seattle as Denver’s consolation prize in the Aaron Rodgers sweepstakes. Wilson showed the first signs of decline in 2021, missing games for the first time in his career while appearing truly lost behind unimaginative play-calling and a below-average offensive line. On the optimistic side, the finger injury may have had an impact as well.
His passing efficiency was not actually that bad in the context of his career averages, but his rushing production is really where he’s taken a nosedive: he averaged only 3.1 rushing attempts per game in 2021, while he had never fallen before 4.2 per game and his career average is over 5.
Luckily, there are basically zero downgrades in terms of offensive personnel from Seattle to Denver. He replaces Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf with Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, K.J. Hamler, Albert Okwuegbunam, and Javonte Williams.
Jeudy immediately becomes a WR2 bounceback candidate in the Tyler Lockett-esque mold while Sutton figures to be the downfield threat that Metcalf was to Wilson. Sutton deserves immediate high-end WR3 consideration, while Hamler’s late-round flier viability hinges on his recovery from his knee injury.
If Melvin Gordon doesn’t return to the team, Javonte Williams is set up for an incredible opportunity on an offense that should be much more potent.
This should be a very exciting offense to watch in 2022, but the uncertainty of Wilson’s legs, his 2021, and their excellent defense combine to make him more of a borderline QB1/2, despite the obvious upgrade for his supporting cast.