While the preseason is the tune-up season for the NFL, and it’s vital that we don’t overreact to any one thing that happens, it’s important to take note of events and trends that might have an adverse effect on our 2022 fantasy football rosters. With that in mind, I’ve taken a look at three weeks of the NFL preseason to figure out who has had their 2022 fantasy football prospects drop the most, so that we can either dive into the potential dip or avoid these guys entirely. Let’s dive in.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay
Whether he went on vacation with his supermodel wife, got work done, went on The Masked Singer, or tended to a sick family member, Tom Brady’s preseason was… weird. While the 45-year-old generally spends his entire heart and soul on preparing for the NFL season, the avocado aficionado just… disappeared during training camp. Nobody really gave any rhyme or reason why, and when Brady came back, he offered just one bit of explanation, “there’s a lot of sh*t going on.” Okay? Brady retired, then unretired, and seems like a man who might have bit off more than he could chew returning for his 800th 23rd season. While the digital football space is littered with wasted words calling it the end of Tom Brady, this one sort of feels like it’s coming from the man himself. He certainly doesn’t have the same focus that he’s had in the past. It’s nothing tangible, it’s just kind of… weird.
Mac Jones, New England
All offseason, there have been reports that the Patriots were installing a new offense, for some reason. There were also reports that nobody really knew what anybody else was doing. Like, at all. It felt like a free for all, and when the dust settled, it was Matt Patricia (disgraced, fired) and Ben McAdoo (disgraced, fired) running the offense. Never mind that Patricia was traditionally a defensive guy. Much like Brady, it feels like Bill Belichick has gone too far in just doing whatever he wants and hoping it will work out. Mac Jones seems to have taken a step back this preseason (13/21 for 132 yards, zero touchdowns, and one of the most heinous picks you’ll ever see in your life that led to a Mac Jones temper tantrum on the sideline), especially when the play breaks down. Maybe that’s what happens when you tear out all the Gallant pages in Highlights, jam the rest into your offensive playbook, and go double Goofus to run your offense.
Obviously, Deshaun Watson, Cleveland
But I don’t want to write about that idiot. He’s gone for 12 weeks. Don’t draft him.
Antonio Gibson, Washington
Things start off poorly for Antonio Gibson this offseason. The Commanders went out of their way to drag J.D. McKissic back from the verge of signing with the Buffalo Bills. Then, the Washington brass went out and drafted third-round rookie Brian Robinson, Jr. Things felt a little… wobbly… for Antonio Gibson headed into training camp. Then came reports that he fell behind Brian Robinson due to a fumble, and that he was taking snaps out wide (because J.D. McKissic was unavailable). While it certainly looked bad for Gibson, he remained the most talented running back in Washington. Brian Robinson failed to wow with his time with the ones, rushing 14 times for 56 yards. The reports were always what Antonio Gibson wasn’t doing, not what Brian Robinson was doing.
Please keep in mind, that this has nothing to do with the shooting of Brian Robinson, Jr. on August 28. While it appears as though that might wipe out some or all of the season, this has to do with the perception surrounding Gibson. And with that, I say, buy the dip. He remained the best running back in Washington, from a talent perspective, through all of this. And everyone who said, “name me a good player who returned kicks and punts” just really never had any idea who was actually returning kicks and punts (hint: good players). I got Antonio Gibson as late as pick 96 during the reverse hype season, which should be over. If it isn’t, dive in. He touched the ball 300 times last year and four of his six fumbles (that led to his “fumbling problems”) came when he was suffering from shin splints.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia
Miles Sanders suffered a hamstring injury early in training camp and did not register a single touch in the preseason. He also missed over three weeks of camp with a hamstring injury. While nobody doubts the fourth-year running back’s talent level, his inability to stay on the field (he missed 9 games over the last two seasons) has limited his overall upside, as he hasn’t sniffed 200 touches since his rookie year (where he finished fourth in offensive Rookie of the Year voting with 1,327 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns). Boston Scott, Kenneth Gainwell, and the rest of the offense seem to have moved on without him. The curious case of his never-ending, updateless hamstring injury has Sanders falling as far as RB28
Honorable Mention: Ronald Jones, Kansas City & Kenyan Drake, Free Agent
Both these players have been fantasy football relevant as recently as last season, and both seem to be unceremoniously circling the NFL drain at this point. Ronald Jones might get cut between the time I write this and you read it, even.
Russell Gage, Tampa Bay
At one point, Russell Gage was the new fantasy football hotness. He moved from a moribund Atlanta Falcons offense to the high-flying Tampa Bay offense. Chris Godwin’s return date was up-in-the-air, and there was no sign of target competition behind Mike Evans. Then, Julio Jones signed with the team and we all sort of tacitly, quietly recognized that liking Russell Gage was just liking the Tampa Bay passing game, and that Gage didn’t offer anything special. Then, Chris Godwin came back to camp. Now, he’s three weeks into a hamstring injury that started as “minor” and has made Russell Gage the missing man (other than Tom Brady) at Tampa Bay training camp. Gage suddenly finds himself as the #4 option for Tom Brady in a passing game that focuses on the running back at times, so he might literally be the #5 option. After his DAP flirted with top-36 at wide receiver, he’s down into the 50s by draft price.
Christian Watson, Green Bay
Lost in all the Romeo Doubs hype is the fact that Doubs wasn’t the first wide receiver the Packers took in the 2022 NFL Draft. They spent a second-round pick on Doubs, who is a near-identical physical copy of the departed Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Like MVS, Watson also struggled with drops in his time with the Packers. After suffering a bunch of drops in camp, Watson had knee surgery (that’s literally all the details we received) that cost him about a month of the preseason. This is a dip I don’t mind buying since I believe in Watson’s becoming an actually-good MVS, and the cost of entry is WR65; he’s going around kickers and defenses and could be Aaron Rodgers’ #1 or #2 target this season.
Albert Okwuegbunam, Denver
Greg Dulcich is taking his job. Or, rather, Dulcich isn’t. But Albert Okweuegbunam played with backups late into week two of the preseason, and Eric Saubert scored a touchdown while Okwuegbunam watched. But, then the Broncos held him out of preseason game three, alongside all their other starters. At this point, you have a year-three wide receiver and we have no idea where he stands with his own team. If you want Albert O so bad, he’s basically free, but he’s also TE16. There are plenty of options before him (Cole Kmet, for example) and after him (Gerald Everett) that have a much clearer role. As of right now, A-OK could get 5 snaps or 50 snaps in week one, and neither would be surprising. I don’t want to draft that at a position with so many other players with similar upside and more projectable usage.
Mike Gesicki, Miami
Speaking of guys who lack projectable usage, Mike Gesicki is suddenly a science experiment in Miami. I didn’t think that the Dolphins would bring him back since he isn’t a strong blocker, and the Mike McDaniel/Kyle Shanahan System needs their tight end to be a strong blocker (hello, George Kittle). What I didn’t predict was Mike McDaniel trying to jam a square peg into a round hole by forcing Mike Gesicki to play late into preseason games, even with backups, in order to work on his blocking. It’s simply not something that Gesicki does well, and it hasn’t gone well. Failing to block on plays and getting the running back or quarterback blown up is the sort of thing that rides with a guy, and it is going to have a negative effect on his pass-catching. Never mind the fact that Gesicki dominated routes run and slot routes run by tight ends, which mostly led to his appeal. More blocking means frustration, and fewer routes run. I was once the herald of Mike Gesicki, but now I want nothing to do with him in 2022. At least, unless he finds a new home.