With free agency’s most impactful moves winding down (Green Bay please just sign a wide receiver) and teams turning their attention to the 2022 NFL Draft, it’s time we take a look around the NFL and figure out who are the winners and losers at the four major fantasy football-relevant positions for 2022 leagues. Who added or lost value in the first week of NFL free agency?
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Obviously, Brady lost, and then gained, the most value of all quarterbacks this offseason. Not only is Tom Brady returning to Tampa Bay after a 40-day retirement, but only Rob Gronkowski remains to Voltron his weapons back together from last season. Sure, Tampa Bay lost offensive linemen to free agency, but the Patriots gifted Shaq Mason to the Bucs for a day three pick. The Buccaneers also went from Cyril Grayson (not a person) to Russell Gage as their WR3, so Brady not only returned, but he received a weapons upgrade, as well.
Brady continues to tell not only the slow march of time but also the fantasy football trend toward dual-threat quarterbacks “not today.” Brady continues to be a top-five fantasy football quarterback until further notice. I’ve spent plenty of time counting out Touchdown Tom, but I’m done doing that after the soon-to-be 45-year-old notched 5,316 passing yards (league-leading), 43 passing touchdowns (league-leading), and 12 interceptions last season.
Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
Russell Wilson and the Seattle brass have seemingly been on a collision course for separation for years now, and it finally came to pass. I chose that phrase very specifically because the breakdown came from that very issue: passing the dang football. The Seahawks are obsessed with rushing the ball, ranking in the bottom quartile in pass attempts in four of the last five seasons.
While a certain amount of the rushing came from Wilson, it isn’t as much as you would expect. Wilson’s rush attempts dropped to 3.1 rush attempts per game after he averaged about 5 rush attempts per game in the three years prior to 2022. Wilson will have to deal with a slight offensive line downgrade in Denver but his depth of weaponry is clearly upgraded. There’s much to be said about if Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton are really upgrades over D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but the Broncos, as a whole, are definitely an upgrade over the Seahawks, with Javonte Williams, Albert Okwuegbunam, and Tim Patrick all serving as upgrades over Chris Carson/Rashaad Penny, Gerald Everett, and Freddie Swain.
Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
I’ve heavily resisted weighing in on Deshaun Watson from a fantasy football perspective. To be honest, it feels icky. You can declare him innocent because a judge declined to file formal charges, but those aren’t the same thing. You can rush to his defense and say that I am pillorying him in the court of public opinion, and guess what! I am. Whether you agree with me or not, I don’t really care! There are 22 assault allegations on his docket, and either there’s a criminal conspiracy involving 22 masseuses or Deshaun Watson is a sick little boundary-pushing freak (best-case scenario for his situation, here). But, the NFL rewarded all that by letting him have a little wine & dine tour around the league before the Browns went out and gave him a massive, fully guaranteed contract and a true #1 wide receiver with Amari Cooper. It sucks, but he is a big winner here. And I don’t want him to be, to be abundantly clear.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Other than our communal sense of decency, and Watson’s 22 accusers, Baker Mayfield was the biggest loser in the Deshaun Watson Saga. The Browns did Baker dirty by refusing to acknowledge his existence in their dogged pursuit of Deshaun Watson. Baker Mayfield, who is emotional, lashed out and told the Browns he doesn’t want to be there anymore. The Browns said they would work with Baker to make sure he is happy in Cleveland right before trading for Watson.
Now, Baker’s future sits in doubt as he is now a part of the quarterback musical chairs game going on, and he’s in danger of the music stopping before he has a seat. This could have been avoided if the Browns had been open and honest with Baker from the beginning and thought forward more than 30 seconds, setting him up for a move to Seattle, or Carolina, or even Atlanta. Instead, they continue to sit on their hands while they trade away Case Keenum and add Jacoby Brissett to their quarterback room. Mayfield might not have a starting gig in 2022, and people are cheering this because they don’t like how he comports himself. To those people, I urge them: grow up.
Jimmy Garoppolo & Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
If fantasy football prognosticators love one thing, it’s production. If it’s two things, it’s production and a clear path to playing time. Right now in San Francisco, we have neither. Garoppolo has been in the NFC Championship Game in two of his last three seasons, but his production is not commensurate with his pay, and the 49ers have seemingly overplayed their hand with him. With Matt Ryan going to Indy for a third, John Lynch’s boastful “two seconds” bluff fell on its face.
Now, we have a potential pending stud stuck behind a proficient (if inconsistent) game manager and a front office with egg all over its face. Until the 49ers resolve this situation (and they’re running out of seats for Garoppolo, just like the Browns and Mayfield), then both Lance and Garoppolo remain losers.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers returns to Green Bay for a ton of money, and then his favorite target ends up on the Raiders. Now, he has a wide receiver room headed by Allen Lazard, Juwan Winfree, and, I don’t know, probably Jared Abbrederis. The Packers can’t possibly be done with the wide receiver room, though they went a long way in replacing Davante Adams when they re-signed Robert Tonyan (this is sarcasm). The Packers could conceivably end up with 2-3 of Will Fuller, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jarvis Landry and first-or-second-round wide receivers. So, I have to imagine they aren’t done there.
But for now, Rodgers is a big loser since he has nobody to throw to in Green Bay.