Role players to target in 2022 fantasy football drafts

·5 min read

Last week, I went through three team situations I’m looking forward to next season. Let’s dive a bit deeper and look at three players worth remembering in fantasy football drafts in 2022.

Role players for 2022

Throughout the offseason, non-rookie draft talk will typically revolve around the big names. Don’t get me wrong. I think they’re healthy discussions to shape our strategies, but we need more than star power to take down fantasy leagues next season. Well, unless another season like Cooper Kupp’s or Jonathan Taylor’s happens again. So, I looked into three potential late-round options that should still see work after making splashes in 2021.

Josh Palmer — Chargers

Any post-mortem analysis on the Chargers feels disappointing after how their season ended. I’m still trying to process their season finale, but at least we can see how this offense can grow over the summer.

At worst, Josh Palmer solidified his spot in the receiver rotation after his productive rookie campaign. His boxscore (49-353-4) may point to mediocrity, but his usage hints at much more. Palmer earned a starting role from Weeks 13-17 with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen in and out of the lineup with injuries. Palmer tied Allen in targets and had the second-most targets inside the 20-yard line. At best, Palmer made his case to have a larger role in 2022.

Chargers' WR targets per route run (TPRR) in 2021.

Keenan Allen

23.4%

Mike Williams

21.0%

Josh Palmer

15.3%

Jalen Guyton

10.6%

I use Targets per Route Run (TPRR) to help measure quarterback intent. Earning a target has its own set of variables (e.g., route technique, creating separation), but TPRR tells us how much that matters to a quarterback. Palmer didn’t catch up to the primary players but clearly separated from Jalen Guyton, who’s in his third year.

Palmer’s shown to be capable in their roles outside of being a deep threat. Mike Williams (unrestricted), Jared Cook (unrestricted), and Jalen Guyton (restricted) will all be free agents this offseason. The uncertainty will keep Palmer’s ADP low, so I’ll be looking for him in drafts throughout the offseason.

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Khalil Herbert — Bears

I have blinders for certain players. Like, my mouse hitches towards the “Draft Player” button whenever I see any Bengals player. I had blinders for Damien Williams. The “should-have-been” 2019 Super Bowl MVP on a team with an injured pass-catching back was too hard to pass up. Whew, I whiffed on that one.

Khalil Herbert never crossed my mind last summer. Sixth-round rookies rarely do. But, coincidentally, the 49ers drafted Elijah Mitchell a handful of picks earlier. So it seems worthwhile to understand their skill sets. It’s why I used Matt Waldman’s video versus a highlight clip. We only had Herbert as the primary ball carrier for three games, but the vision and power were there. His short span as a starter makes a quantitative comparison less actionable but still valuable when considering Herbert for next season.

Bears' RB usage and efficiency in 2021:

Montgomery

Herbert

Success Rate

36.4%

39.8%

Stacked Boxes

20.9%

21.8%

TPRR

17.4%

11.6%

MTF per Attempt

16.9%

19.2%

It may have been out of necessity, but Chicago deployed Herbert like they did David Montgomery. And Herbert performed similarly. He instantly earned a role in the passing game and was the only running back to reach 100 yards against Tampa Bay. There’s no doubt Herbert possesses the talent, but the uncertainty in his surroundings is a fair concern.

We should expect changes to the offense as ownership remakes the front office and coaching staff. Good changes, I hope, but changes nonetheless. A greater role for Herbert should be possible with Tarik Cohen as a potential cap casualty and the offense taking a step forward with Justin Fields. Regardless, I’d consider Herbert a top insurance back as a worst-case scenario with even greater value if we hear about any role change.

Zay Jones — Raiders

I have Zay Jones last because of his contract situation. Although, I’m assuming he stays based on the team’s needs and Jones’ contributions. He didn’t blow them away initially but showed up when needed the most.

Here’s a quick insight into my night last Saturday. I stopped sitting after this play. Jones removed any comfort I had throughout the first half, and I was pacing about the rest of the game. But credit where it’s due, as Jones stepped up in the Raiders' first playoff game since 2016. And, his performance wasn’t just a one-time deal.

Jones' utilization from Week 9-18.
Jones' utilization from Week 9-18.

Jones’ TPRR and share of the team’s air yards were on a steady climb to close out the season. He led the team in targets over their final four games. Granted, Darren Waller’s absence and Henry Ruggs’ dismissal created the void for Jones to fill. But it’s not like Bryan Edwards took the job. DeSean Jackson’s snap share crested 50% only twice over the final nine weeks of the season. After his time in Buffalo, I brushed off Jones as a fantasy option, but Las Vegas’ coaching staff would like us to reconsider.

The Raiders still need a true X receiver, but it shouldn’t diminish Jones’ role in the offense. He still has to improve his route technique, but he’d thrive with an alpha receiver opposite him. Again, uncertainty will be critical to his fantasy value. Hunter Renfrow and Waller will be the focus for most drafters. I won’t dismiss them, but I’ll be looking for Jones later if their ADP is too high.

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