It’s already week 2 fantasy football fans. You already know that means it’s time for the second installment of Waiver Wire Watch List. This week we decided to switch up the format a little. Instead of providing you with 3 players from random positions I will begin giving you one player from each offensive position each week.
First here is my lineup from week one including the bench and IR spots to give you an idea of how I built my team. In my mind every year you should always maximize every roster spot you have, especially if your league has no limit on transactions. You should have immediately identified the weakest positions on your roster and looked at the waiver wire, and trade candidates to solidify spots on your team. You’ll see how I have two injured players on my roster in the IR spots immediately. Both of these players hold promise when they return.
I decided to bet big at wide receiver this season on Devin Duvernay, and DeVante Parker. Really only drafting one sure fire fantasy football stud in Mike Evans. With our league accounting for return yardage, you can see why I made the leap to draft Duvernay so high, and the same could be said about McKenzie in Buffalo. The key here is both men still have value in the offense, and I am not strictly relying on special teams points which score at a lower rate.
Week 1 Lineup
Players to Watch
Starting with arguably the most crucial position in fantasy football, which is of course wide receiver. Last week we gave you three wide receivers, two of which were of the smaller, more versatile kind. So I could see some of you thinking that you will see another of those style players here…well you would be wrong.
WR Nico Collins
Collins is a 6’4 215 lb X receiver. He is the physical specimen that has replaced DeAndre Hopkins as the jump ball specialist in Houston. Last season while playing in 14 games he tallied 60 targets as a rookie. Catching 33 passes for 446 yards and 1 touchdown. Now any receiver with a 55% catch rate reasonably should scare you.
However much like all things that involve numbers and sports, context us important. So let’s discuss the circumstances he was operating under. Obviously last season there was a dark cloud hanging over the Texans all year long which was no small distraction for any franchise to deal with, let alone when you’re a rookie wide receiver trying to acclimate to the NFL.
On top of the Watson scandal, there was a first time head coach, and ultimately down the line a rookie quarterback was asked to take over as the starter. So much changed in Collins’ rookie season that this off-season when the distraction was unloaded in Cleveland, it suddenly became very quiet I Houston. Collins was able to start settling in and had a full off-season to work with Davis Mills.
What to Expect
After a full off-season working together with both 2021 rookies now the expected starters-, I expect Collins to find his groove fairly quickly this season. Mills displayed accuracy, and incredible ball placement as a rookie. It’s expected that Mills and Collins continue to develop together within this offense even though their head coach is a different, albeit familiar face.
With Lovie Smith being hired as head coach it was clear continuity was paramount in 2022. This was again evidenced by the promotion of Pep Hamilton who had served as the passing game coordinator and QB coach in 2021. Hamilton has been regarded as a QB whisperer since his time at Stanford. It was the belief in the building that if not for Hamilton, Mills might have had a rough season.
Now heading into season 2 for the 2021 rookies, Collins is firmly in line for more targets in 2022. Last season he was the clear number 2 option in the passing game but produced less than half the target share Cooks received. Cooks isn’t getting any younger, and also isn’t the 6’4 red-zone threat that Collins is. I expect that factor alone to result in a dramatic uptick in red-zone targets, and ultimately touchdowns.
Projection and 2022 Stats as they Stand:
2022 Stats: 47 snaps, 67% of offensive plays, started game 3 targets, 2 receptions and 26 yards
90 targets, 60 receptions 700 yards, 5-6 touchdowns. Solid WR2
Next position up is quarterback. This one will be fun. My pick is actually a man who less than two years ago was regarded as a bust.
QB Mitch Trubisky
Selected 2nd overall in 2017, after a genius bluff orchestrated by the 49ers. The Bears, holding the number 3 overall pick, were desperate for a quarterback. From all appearances they had zeroed in on Trubisky. The 49ers were perceived to have a need at quarterback as well, so they leaned into this perception.
This allowed them to trade down one spot…ONE SPOT!! Collecting a 2017 3rd and 4th round pick, as well as a 2018 3rd round pick. Quite honestly if you remove which players were drafted with those picks, this is easily one of the most masterful trades I’ve ever seen. There was one unfortunate side effect to this.
This meant the new Bears QB was going to be under immense pressure to perform. Not only was the first round pick but his team gave up four draft picks for the right to draft him. I can’t help but wonder if he is seen through a different lense in Chicago if this trade never happens and they select Trubisky 3rd overall. Regardless over the next four seasons Trubisky played decent.
One Big Problem
The problem is, Chicago didn’t trade away 3 draft picks to move up one spot for decent. They didn’t draft a quarterback 2nd overall to be decent. These high expectations tainted everything Trubisky accomplished over the next four years.
Typically a quarterback that starts 50 games, and produces three winning seasons out of four years isn’t a bust. Perception is everything, and a 29-21 record after four years simply wasn’t enough for Chicago fans. Statistically speaking Trubisky completed 64% of his passes, topped 10,000 yards, and displayed mobility.
Traits that Pittsburgh was happy to utilize in starting quarterback position for 2022. The Steelers handed him the keys to a Ferrari after he failed in Chicago with a Ford. Not only will Trubisky play well in 2022, he will return to pro-bowl heights once again with the Steelers.
Projection and 2022 Stats so Far
2022 Stats: 1 start 21 of 38 for 197 yards 1 td, 0 ints, 3 carries for 9 yards, sacked 1 time
Projection: 15 games 450-475 passing attempts 3,500 yards 25 tds 8 ints 70 carries, 500 rushing yards 5 tds
Up next is a position that Trubisky himself can tell you the importance of. Running Back, was a weakness early in his career in Chicago but now he pairs with Najee in Pittsburgh..this next man on our list is a talented dual threat running back who may appear like a backup on his own team.
RB Darrell Henderson
At 5’8 208 lbs Henderson isn’t your typical bell cow running back. He also doesn’t need to be given that he shares carries with Cam Akers for the Rams. If week 1 was any indication, Henderson will get his touches no matter who is termed the starter.
Henderson has been with the Rams since 2019. Each season his touches have increased despite the fact that each season he started the season as the backup. Akers has suffered two major injuries to his legs over the start of his NFL career. This paved the way for Henderson to increase his touches year over year.
In 2022 Henderson was fed the ball early and often in week one while Akers didn’t see nearly as many touches. Averaging over 4 yards per carry Henderson continued to earn the carries as the game progressed. This led to Henderson topping 10 touches¹ by the 3rd quarter.
Passing Game Prowess
Henderson has not only increased his carries each year, he increased his catches as well. This culminated in a 2021 season that saw him catching 29 passes for 176 yards and 3 touchdowns. When you consider his 688 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns that is solid output for a guy who only played in 12 of 17 games with 10 starts.
If Akers is the Thunder, then Henderson and his 4.4 speed is certainly the lightning. My guy Gate City Sports Network always says “I don’t care about the full 40 I want the splits.” Henderson had a 1.42 10 yard split, and a 2.48 20 yard split. These splits scored him a 9.9 and 9.5 on his relative athletic score with good reason. It is top end burst from the running back position.
He also managed 22 bench reps showing his impressive strength despite his smaller stature. This is key, while his height mat leave something to be desired, 208 pounds isn’t small for a running back by any stretch. All of this adds up to a scenario where Henderson could end up seeing career highs for a fourth year straight.
Projection and 2022 Stats
2022 Stats: 1 start, played 55 snaps, or 82% of offensive snaps, 13 carries for 47 yards, 5 targets, 5 receptions for 26 yards, 0 fumbles.
Projection: 200-210 touches 1,000 all purpose yards, 6-8 touchdowns
Finally the tight end position. Tight end I feel is one of the harder positions to draft for. Its a given that once you get outside the top 8-10 players there is a steep drop off statistically. Picking up the right tight end could be the difference in your league.
TE/FB Parker Hesse
The Atlanta Falcons under Arthur Smith like to get creative so this season they kept three very non traditional players at tight end. The most traditional of the three in terms of skill set and body type might be Hesse. The thing is Hesse played linebacker in college.
He was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent. The Titans, and you guessed it Arthur Smith moved Hesse to tight end. Seeing his 6’3 255 pound frame, and his 37-inch vertical, the fit made sense on paper.
Hesse would stick in Tennessee for a couple seasons on the practice squad. That was until 2021, when the mad scientist behind this Frankenstein player, was hired as the Head coach I’m Atlanta. Naturally he brought Hesse with him. Except this time…he sits as the number two tight end behind a player that is more like a receiver, and ahead of a player who just converted from quarterback this off-season.
Tight End Usage By Smith
Last season Kyle Pitts led the Falcons in targets. However his two veteran backups, Hayden Hurst, and Lee Smith collected 42 targets in 2021. This was actually a lower target share than the #2, and #3 tight ends garnered under Smith in 2020. During the ’20 season, Anthony Firsker, and Geoff Swaim combined for 65 targets. While number 2 FB, and #4 tight end MyCole Pruitt also had another 13.
Granted Firsker also was the primary fullback while serving as the second tight end. These depth pieces combined for 78 targets total. Now I clearly don’t expect to see Hesse seeing over 75 targets this season. However you really can’t discount his status as the number 2 tight end AND number 2 fullback. If either Pitts or Keith Smith get injured, suddenly his target share skyrockets.
Even without injuries at the position I expect Hesse to finish the season with around 50 targets, possibly even some carries. Given the lack of depth on Atlanta’s roster at tight end, and fullback beyond Hesse he could be key to the offense this year. In the ball park of 50 targets from the tight end position is not to be ignored from a second year tight end who is still learning the position. Projections is based on the fact that I expect as the season goes on the coaches, and quarterback will become more comfortable dialing up his number. The main thing I wanted to see in week 1 was snap/target share. 2 targets, and 64% of offensive snaps for Hesse is encouraging assuming he follows the upward trend I expect.
Projection and 2022 Stats
2022 Stats: played 48 snaps on offense (64%), and 13 on special teams (41%). Saw 2 Targets, 1 reception for 5 yards, and 1 tackle.
Projection: 50 targets, 33 receptions 370 yards and 4 touchdowns, 4 carries 12 yards, (could see some value on special teams for leagues that account for those points)
Admittedly Hesse is a huge projection at this level given his previous experience at the position. I’m confident in Smith’s development of tight ends a position he coached for years.
Collins is a big bodied WR1 in waiting. He might be the second option for his offense but he is an X receiver while Cooks is not. Cooks is quickly aging and had injury issues in the past. Collins could quickly lead the team in targets if that occurred again.
Quarterback is tough but the Steelers weapons make a lot of sense for Trubisky. Get him involved in the read option with Harris, and let the offense roll. Running Back Henderson is like a perennial break out player waiting to happen, but it seems so far McVay seems inclined to lean on him more heavily than in years past. This was only reaffirmed when reporters asked McVay about Akers. “(Cam needs to)maximize his opportunities when he gets into the game,”
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