In my previous article, we explored how the historic quarterback movement of the 2022 offseason has impacted the fantasy football landscape so far. Now, let’s dive into the skill position acquisitions that have made the biggest fantasy football splashes so far!
Dolphins trade for Tyreek Hill
If speed kills, the Miami Dolphins just become much more dangerous. Tyreek Hill, the NFL’s preeminent deep threat over the past 5 years, will line up across from fellow speed demon Jaylen Waddle in one of the two biggest skill position acquisitions of the offseason.
There are many questions to be answered, however. Hill just turned 28, right on the edge for a peak season – for dynasty owners, it may be better to sell sooner rather than later. Small, fast wideouts like Hill (5’10”, 185 lbs) don’t necessarily age well as their speed wanes, and there are some eye-opening trends when taking a broad view of his efficiency numbers:
|Year||Yards/Reception (Rank)||Yards/Target (Rank)|
|2017||15.8 (11th)||11.3 (2nd)|
|2018||17 (4th)||10.8 (6th)|
|2019||14.8 (21st)||9.7 (18th)|
|2020||14.7 (19th)||9.5 (24th)|
|2021||11.2 (78th)||7.8 (70th)|
We know he fell off a minor cliff last season, as the Chiefs struggled with their offensive identity when teams began refusing to let Hill beat them deep. However, his numbers were steadily declining even before that and he is going from all-world Patrick Mahomes to the at-best unknown Tua Tagovailoa.
How do Waddle and Tyreek fit in with what we know about Tagovailoa? C.D. Carter of NBC SportsEdge answers this question in-depth, but he points out that Tagovailoa threw the ball 20+ yards at the 3rd lowest rate in the league and he was horrific under pressure. After signing LT Terron Armstead and G Connor Williams, his admittedly bad protection should be improved. As far as his aggressiveness? Hopefully, he returns to his glory days at Alabama with his new myriad of weapons and protection.
Jaylen Waddle, like Hill, was supposed to be a deep threat who ended up being relegated to low aDOT usage (7.0, 4th lowest among qualifiers). For 2022, he is likely best seen as an upside WR3. The Hill trade gives owners a nice discount here on a potential sophomore breakout against consistent single coverage. With Hill’s age, Waddle’s dynasty arrow is still pointing up.
As far as Tyreek Hill goes, his hopes rest on Kyle Shanahan descendent and new head coach Mike McDaniel for putting him and Tagovailoa in positions to make plays (as well as improvement from Tagovailoa). We’ve seen superstar WRs change teams successfully before, but with all the red flags, Hill is likely best treated as a risky WR1/2 instead of the surefire top-three WR1 he once was.
Dolphins sign Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert
After the failed Myles Gaskin experience, the Dolphins signed two known commodities: early-down speedster Raheem Mostert and established receiving back Chase Edmonds.
Raheem Mostert comes from San Francisco with coach Mike McDaniel, but it’s tough to decisively grade a player who has had a total of 283 carries since 2017. He has been quite impressive on those carries, turning them into 1,604 yards (5.7 per carry) and 11 TDs. He’s also added 36/361/3 receiving line on 48 targets. He fits in perfectly with the Dolphins’ clear philosophy of team speed:
Next Gen Stats has tracked the league's Top 20 fastest plays since 2016. Over the last two seasons:
* Mostert 23 mph (1st), Wk 2 2020
* Mostert 22.7 mph (2nd), Wk 1 2020
* Hill 21.9 mph (5th), Wk 17 2020
* Waddle 21.8 mph (7th), Wk 12 2021
* Hill – 21.4 mph (19th), Wk 11 2021 https://t.co/ZFWEsqqY98
— John Daigle (@notJDaigle) March 23, 2022
Mostert is likely to be inconsistent for fantasy purposes, as he is going to be getting most of his production between the 20s and on long runs – the value and role of goal-line duty in this offense are still up in the air. Keep in mind he is going to be playing this season at age 30, but he does have very little comparative tread on his tires.
There are a lot of mouths to feed in the short passing game (Hill, Waddle, Edmonds, Gesicki), so receiving production cannot be taken for granted here. Mostert is best viewed as a risky RB2/3 with upside and will be a popular selection for Zero-RB builds as a cheap, volatile yet game-breaking asset.
Edmonds, meanwhile, will likely see a similar role that he did in Arizona. It’s probably fair to project him for 4-5 targets and 7-8 carries per game as the clear passing down back in Miami. Edmonds won’t have much standalone value, but he has shown he is more than capable of stepping into a full-time role when called upon. Mostert’s injury history and age are likely to thrust Edmonds into RB1 usage at some point, so you could do a lot worse in the double-digit rounds of your fantasy drafts. On an offense that will likely still struggle to be an offensive juggernaut, they are likely going to be better real-life skill position acquisitions than fantasy ones.
Raiders trade for Davante Adams
After tearing apart opposing secondaries for years with Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams is off to reunite with old college teammate Derek Carr. Though Rodgers is in a different stratosphere to Carr as an NFL QB, Carr and Adams have elite production history going back to their college days at Fresno State. Take a look at what Adams did with Carr at the helm for his two seasons there:
There is no doubt that Davante Adams is going to be the engine of this offense, as arguably the largest skill position acquisition of 2022. Henry Ruggs and Zay Jones are no longer with the team, Bryan Edwards was demoted behind Jones down the stretch last year, and Hunter Renfrow is likely best used as a complimentary piece. The Raiders were dealt a harsh reality with Darren Waller’s inability to both stay healthy and be the top piece of a passing offense, though he could prove to be a post-hype value in 2022.
The obvious red flag here is his age, as Adams will turn 30 in December. But we know uber-elite WRs – especially those who do not rely solely on speed – can perform at elite levels at ages 29 and 30. Adams certainly qualifies, and Adams’ 2021 was very promising: his 9.2 yards per target tied for the highest of his career, while his yards per game and yards per reception were his second-best ever.
In a division with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Russell Wilson, there should be plenty of shootouts at the dome in Las Vegas. It is also important to remember that Adams is leaving the NFL’s slowest-paced offense in Green Bay, so the increased volume could help offset Adams no longer catching passes from the reigning NFL MVP.
It’s tough for me to put Adams over Cooper Kupp, Ja’Marr Chase, and Justin Jefferson, but Adams is absolutely a candidate to lead the NFL in targets and should be the favorite to be the 4th wideout off the board in fantasy drafts this season.
Chiefs sign JuJu Smith-Schuster
From being in the dynasty WR1 conversation to settling for a one-year, $3.25 million contract, it has been quite the fall from grace for JuJu Smith-Schuster. After exploding onto the scene as a sophomore, he’s accumulated a mere 960 yards on a whopping 156 targets since the start of 2020. At 6.2 yards per target and 8.2 yards per reception, that number is more in line with TE1/2’s and Cole Beasley/Rondale Moore usage than that of the (current) WR1 on a championship-level team.
To be fair, not all of this can be blamed on JuJu. The Pittsburgh coaching staff adjusted to the corpse of Ben Roethlisberger by sending Smith-Schuster on shallow curls, flats, and outs. He finished 2020 with an aDOT of 5.5, the lowest amongst all WRs with at least 35 targets. That “improved” to 6.5 in limited action in 2021, a far cry from his 8.8 aDOT in his breakout 2018. He’s also struggled with injuries, missing 16 games in 2019 and 2021 combined.
Smith-Schuster only turns 26 in November and is now on an offense with the world’s most talented quarterback with precious little target competition outside of the aging Travis Kelce and lightly-targeted deep threat Marquez Vales-Scantling. The Mecole Hardman experiment (at least as a consistent wideout) appears to be over.
The Chiefs are a candidate to draft a receiver early in the draft (two selections in each of the first three rounds), but Smith-Schuster appears to be the early favorite for WR targets in Kansas City. He’s absolutely worth a WR3 selection in drafts and could be one of the more underrated skill position acquisitions of 2022.
Jaguars sign Christian Kirk
In one of the stranger skill position acquisitions of free agency, the Jaguars made Christian Kirk one of the top-10 highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL despite never having a 1,000-yard season. His four-year, $72 million contract is about in line with Tyler Lockett and Kenny Golladay. It’s clear that the Jaguars intend to heavily utilize Kirk. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news likely ends.
As the season approaches, you may hear the narrative that Kirk finished on a high note while DeAndre Hopkins was injured. However, Kirk’s numbers were not drastically different with or without Hopkins in the lineup:
At this point, there is nothing to suggest the Jacksonville offensive will be very good – certainly not nearly as good as Kirk had it in Arizona. We can assume at least a modest second-year leap from Trevor Lawrence (it would be tough to be worse) under Doug Pederson, but there are a shocking number of mouths to feed here for such little likely production.
Trusty veteran Marvin Jones remains in the mix, while fellow signees Zay Jones and Evan Engram will grab some targets as well. The Laviska Shenault experiment appears to be over, but the Jaguars still re-signed Laquon Treadwell. A Travis Etienne return is coming as well. It is also notable that Pederson has never coached a team with a 1,000-yard wideout, so the odds are stacked against Christian Kirk to come anywhere close to living up to that contract.
With Jones’ age and the lack of “current regime” wideout depth behind Kirk, it also wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jaguars add another receiver in the draft. Kirk would do very well to approach the 78/998/5 line from his 2021 in Arizona. He’ll be drafted as a WR3, but it would likely be wise to let someone else in your league take that risk.
Rams sign Allen Robinson
Only a few years too late here – Robinson spent the prime years of his career toiling away at the hands of Blake Bortles and whichever disappointment Matt Nagy was trotting out at quarterback.
After a productive run in the prior two years, his 2021 went about as badly as possible. His 6.2 yards per target was on the level of Laviska Shenault and Adam Humphries, while he caught only one touchdown. He somehow failed to record a single game with 70+ receiving yards. Much of this blame lay at the feet of Matt Nagy, but Robinson simply cannot separate from defensive backs anymore.
Though the quarterback play and coaching will be light years better, the target competition is worse. Robert Woods is gone, but Cooper Kupp is going to be among the league leaders in targets again. Van Jefferson had a productive sophomore year, while 2021 second-rounder Tutu Atwell still waits in the wings. The Rams still even hope to bring back Odell Beckham despite the Robinson signing:
Rams are giving former Bears’ WR Allen Robinson a three-year, $45 million deal that includes $30 million guaranteed, per source.
Rams still have money left over for Odell Beckham Jr. and hope to re-sign him, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 17, 2022
Turning 29 in August and coming off of an injury-marred, all-time inefficient season, Robinson is bigger in name than game at this point. An overrated skill position acquisition, he’s more likely to end up as a touchdown-dependent WR5 than a reliable WR2/3 in 2022.
Buccaneers sign Russell Gage
One of the few lone bright spots on a miserable 2021 Falcons team, Gage signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Buccaneers. Seemingly productive whenever a star wideout ahead of him goes down, Gage was more than serviceable in a large sample size last year without Calvin Ridley:
With Chris Godwin questionable to start 2022 after a late-season knee injury, Gage may be the latest young wideout to get a shot at being Tom Brady’s slot receiver – a role that has produced some nice numbers over the years, to say the least. Gage is still in his prime (turns 27 in January) and may be facing less target competition than you think, at least to begin the season. Godwin may not win his race back to the field, Mike Evans and his seemingly always-bothered hamstrings will be 29 in August, and Rob Gronkowski is also far from a lock to return for Week 1 (or at all):
Rob Gronkowski: I’m not ready to commit to the game of football right now’ https://t.co/YZke1gK7A1
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) April 5, 2022
All that being said, it’s quite likely that Gage will be severely overdrafted (see Thompkins, Kenbrell) if Godwin doesn’t seem close to a return in August. In addition, we want our players peaking towards the end of the season – something that seems unlikely barring a Godwin setback and/or Gronkowski refusing to return for even the stretch run.
If he’s being drafted as a low-end WR3, there is probably nothing wrong with taking him at that price. Any higher, however, and you are probably missing out on higher upside players who are more likely to help you in the fantasy playoffs.