Confidence Plays: 2022 Introduction | Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football Starts

“I was into Cooper Kupp before it was cool!”

It was a stressful Thursday at the office on September 27th, 2018. It was Week 4 of the NFL season, moments before kickoff of the Thursday night tilt between the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams. This was long before the days of Cooper Kupp being an auto-start in our fantasy football lineups.

I had a decision to make. Cooper Kupp or the “by-the-book” play of some other wide receiver I cannot even remember at this time. Jared Goof Goff was still the field general for the Rams’ offense. And yes, I meant to call him Goof. Either way, I was staring down the barrel of a lineup decision as we often do in this glorious hobby. I knew I shouldn’t play Kupp against a Vikings defense that looked a lot better in those days. But boy, did I want to play him.

So I made the emotional decision and started Kupp. I was playing against my dear friend Brett in our league of record. Brett is the type of guy to complain and admit defeat early, even though he has plenty of players yet to play. Beating him was gonna feel so sweet! So I did it. I rolled the dice with Cooper Kupp.

Go ahead, check the box score for that game. Boy, did I feel smart! Kupp caught nine balls for 162 yards and two scores. I was well on my way to beating Brett. He was already blowing up our league group chat with expletives and “Nice win, Travis!”

The cold, hard truth of the story is that he also had players in that game. Specifically, he had Kirk Cousins, who scored over 30 fantasy points, and Adam Thielen, who posted a stat line of eight receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown. Brett beat me that week. 

So why do I bring up this wild and wacky Thursday night from four years ago? Many reasons. The first is to remind you that fantasy football is a strange game with all sorts of twists and turns. We can crunch all the numbers, peer into all the advanced metrics, and make the sharpest lineup decisions and still lose.

The second is to let you know that the confidence play articles will not include Thursday night action this year. I am not still on tilt from Week 4, 2018. I am not. I’m not! I swear! Thursday games are weird, and while TNF plays a massive role in scratching our weekly fantasy football itch, typically, the guys I am most confident to play in those games are the guys I am forced to start anyways.

Lastly, I wanted to introduce myself, and I felt that a peek into one of my most exciting yet least fruitful lineup decisions from nearly four years ago could help do the trick.

I am Big Travy. I am the co-founder, co-host, and one-third of the cohort known as The Fantasy Whisperers. We host live streams, watch parties, waiver, and lineup shows during the regular season. Hope to see you there. I have been playing fantasy football since 2011 and have been creating content for just about the last five years.

I am also a sucker for storytelling.

Some of the stories that have captivated me the most over the years include Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Marvel comics and movies, professional wrestling, and The Lord of the Rings. So naturally, I am a man stuck on “narrative street” regarding fantasy football. It is not to say that I am averse to statistics, advanced metrics, or Combine numbers. I am just a sucker for the story behind those numbers. Why did this wide receiver get targeted so much in the end zone? What made that running back so explosive against this defense? How can we use the stories that are told in this made-up game about a beautiful child’s sport to help us make “better” lineup decisions? I am not sure I will know the answers to all these questions, but I will do my best, and we will have fun along the way.

So we have covered who I am and my emotionally driven lineup decisions. Why am I here? And why are you reading this? I would first like to pay homage to Josh Hudson, Ryan Weisse, and all of the Club Fantasy FFL family. They are allowing me to spew the insane thoughts and takes I have onto their awesome platform. They are even going to edit my ramblings for me. So thanks, guys! An extra tip of the cap is due for Josh, as this column has been his baby for the last 5+ seasons. I hope I do it justice. 

My goal is simple: I will try and help you make better lineup decisions based on things I see in player matchups weekly. This game, in most formats, is a head-to-head matchup between your lineup and your opponent’s lineup, after all! So if I can help you win more weeks than not, you’ll be in better shape. On a granular level, that starts with each lineup decision. Many of these columns are out there, and many of them will give you the studs to start and the bums to fade. Still, I will be looking through sites like FantasyPros, KeepTradeCut, and others to come up with some of the more challenging decisions pertaining to your Fringe QB1s, RB2/3s, WR2/3s, FLEXs, and the dumpster fire that is tight end. 

With all that said, this initial article will be more of a flag-planting piece. I will give you the locked and loaded top players I am trying to leave all my drafts with for 2022. For reference, when it comes to ADP, I will be using the FantasyPros consensus ADP tool. Because I don’t want to start this season off on a negative note, I will be skipping the fade section of the column for just this week. Instead, I want to give you players you can be excited for, pumped up on, and can laugh in your leaguemate’s face when you scoop them out of the player queue. I hope, at the very least, I can provide you with some entertainment in this hard world we live in. Fantasy Football is supposed to be fun, so remember that and try to smile along the way…. 

2022 Plays

Jalen Hurts

ADP: QB7; 63rd Overall

It hurts(buh-duh-tisk) me that I have almost zero shares of Jalen Hurts in my managed leagues. As I write this, my league-of-record draft hasn’t happened yet, so it is possible I can still land him. If I do not, however, I will take solace in knowing I urged all of you to draft him and live vicariously through your lineups when he goes nuclear this season.

To set up his outlook for this season, we need to look back to last season. In his first 11 starts in 2021, he rattled off 10 QB1 performances; three of those were top-5. He did that with a rookie head coach, rookie WR1, and some somewhat shaky faith from his front office. No QB last season averaged more points per dropback than Hurts. Iif you want to know just what kind of juice is possible with him, go back and watch him put this Saints defender on skates.

I know people will scream that he’s not a great quarterback. That also doesn’t matter in fantasy football. And if his upside wasn’t tantalizing enough, the Eagles added A.J. Brown to the mix via trade on Draft night. This wasn’t just a move for the Eagles as a football club; apparently, Brown and Hurts have a history.

Philly also boasts PFF’s #1 ranked offensive line. The last knock against Hurts would be pointing out that the Eagles were one of the league’s most run-heavy teams in 2021, but if the preseason is to tell us anything, this team wants to throw at a higher rate. The Eagles essentially through on every one of Hurts’ preseason snaps, and the dude walked away with a stat line of 6/6, 80 yards, 1 TD, 158.3 passer rating. Of course, those stats don’t count, but they are damn sexy! Hurts has too many outs not to hit as a top-7, hell, top-5 fantasy QB. 

Saquon Barkley

ADP RB12; 19th overall

I’ll be the first to admit that I liked Saquon’s cost much more, even just a month ago. There were points in this offseason you could get Barkley in the middle of the third round! Things have been corrected for the Penn State alum. When the only argument against the man is that “he’s gonna get injured” from all these Twitter prophets, I think we need to assess what’s truly at stake here: all that upside.

Did you know that Saquon Barkley just became eligible to rent a car back in February? He is only 25 years old, people! I understand the injury concern but look at how many of last year’s first-round running backs got hurt or missed time. Speaking of high-capital running backs, Barkley is one of the few, and I mean few, that offer true bellcow opportunity.

Here are the backs going near or before him that I estimate have fewer total touches in their ceiling outcomes: Javonte Williams, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, and D’Andre Swift. I mean, people, his backup is Matt Freakin’ Breida! Matt. Freakin. Breida. The Giants could be bad, but he will be their entire offense, even if they are terrible. He is the only player on the Giants going inside the top-115 in ADP. Maybe I am drinking the kool-aid too much, but the gap between taking CMC in the top-3 picks and taking Saquon in the second round is egregious, in my opinion. 

Courtland Sutton

ADP WR20; 51st overall

Those of us who missed the boat on the Cooper Kupp/Matthew Stafford #breakfastclubnarrative are paying close attention to what has been cookin’ in Denver. “Broncos Country, Let’s Ride!” That is exactly what I expect Sutton to do: ride his ADP to the bank this season.

All the news out of Broncos camp has been a steady drumbeat of Sutton being Russell Wilson‘s #1 target. ESPN’s Jeff Legwold wrote that when Russell Wilson “really needs a completion or is moved off his spot,” he will look for Courtland Sutton. We have seen Sutton produce, especially as an end zone threat and a fantastic boundary wide receiver. Two aspects that should blend nicely with Russ’s game.

Last year, in the back half of the season, things cooled down for Sutton, and he did not have the strongest year. I am confident we can attribute that to dumpster fire play at QB and the fact that he was only one year removed from his ACL tear. In the one season he saw over 100 targets, he gained over 1,000 yards, and this was with Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, and Brandon Allen at quarterback. Barf. The only way Sutton doesn’t smash this ADP is injury, and if you are playing scared, I can’t help you. 

Kyle Pitts

ADP TE3; 32nd overall

We all know Kyle Pitts is a stud. The Unicorn, as he was aptly nicknamed, was an incredible rookie last year by any metric you want to post. Alright, other than touchdowns. Pitts posted the second-most yards by a rookie tight end with 1,026 last year. He was also 2nd in air yards and 5th in targets among all qualified tight ends as well. Yet, he scored just one lonesome touchdown, and it wasn’t even on U.S. soil! But he is one of the best tight end prospects to come out and posted one of the most successful tight end rookie campaigns ever. What more could we ask for?

More touchdowns! Ok, fine! I get the concern about the lack of touchdowns. With Matt Ryan moving on and Marcus Mariota coming in, it doesn’t exactly strike a ton of confidence in us that more touchdowns or even a competent offense are coming. In digging a little deeper, though, I found reason for some optimism. We know that Mariota comes from Tennessee, and so does head coach Arthur Smith and when we look at Mariota’s time there under Smith’s tutelage, we can see some excellent numbers from the TE position. Mariota started for the Titans in 12 or more games between 2015 and 2017, and in those games, these were some of my takeaways from Delaine Walker’s production:

  • In 2015 Walker was the TE3 in PPG while leading the league in targets to the position.
  • In 2016 he was the TE6 in PPG while ranking 7th in RZ targets
  • And in 2017, he was again the TE6 in PPG while ranking top 5 in target share and air yard share among his peers.

I don’t think it needs to be said that Delanie Walker was awesome. He was also nowhere near the TE specimen or prospect that we get in Pitts. The upside is stupid high if Pitts can lead the league in targets among tight ends. My primary concern coming into this year is if we were going to see Pitts work out wide or inline as a true TE. He ran so many routes out wide last year that he led tight ends in that metric. Hopefully, preseason week one (when Drake London was also playing) was our clue to his 2022 usage. He lined up inline or from the slot on 9/10 snaps in that contest. That is the usage I needed to see to be in early on the Pitts breakout season!

With just a week before the fantasy football season starts, this might be your last chance to check out our draft rankings.

Also, it’s probably time to subscribe to Club Fantasy on Youtube, so you never miss one of our many in-season shows!