The Superior Six: These are the NFL units that improved their fantasy value
Fantasy football analyst Matt Harmon takes a look around the NFL and identifies which offenses saw a boost to their fantasy value for drafters, through both offseason moves and the 2022 NFL Draft.
Jets skill-position players
Zach Wilson completed 7-of-20 passes in the Jets’ regular-season finale in Buffalo last season.
Keelan Cole was the only player to catch more than one pass, leading the team with 54 yards. Wilson’s other top targeted players included Tyler Kroft and Jeff Smith.
When the Jets open training camp next month Wilson will be able to look around and breathe a sigh of relief at the suddenly stacked crew around him.
Not only will breakout second-year receiver Elijah Moore and solid veteran Corey Davis be back healthy, the 10th overall pick of this year's draft, Garrett Wilson, will be in the lineup. With sneaky slot man Braxton Berrios rounding out the corps as the WR4, receiver has a chance to be a strength for the Jets.
Not sure when you could have said that in recent years.
In addition to the wideouts, New York made a concerted effort to beef up a tight end position that offered nothing last year. C.J Uzomah and Tyler Conklin aren’t superstar players but they’re at least starting-level veterans with experience — much more than you could say for the 2021 Jets tight ends.
Michael Carter looked the part of a good change-of-pace back in his rookie season but New York still decided to upgrade the backfield by trading up for Breece Hall in April. Hall brings juice and stability potential to a team that cycled through backs last season. He’s the heavy favorite to lead all first-year RBs in rushing.
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Obviously, the rookies have to hit and Moore needs to make a second-year leap but there is no question the Jets have done everything in their power to beef up the ecosystem for Zach Wilson. If the young passer can make strides as an individual player, the Jets have a chance to be the source of sneaky fantasy value this season.
Steelers WR room
Ben Roethlisberger was, to be kind, a shell of himself in his final season but we can still be honest about the fact that a once-storied wide receiver room was a mess for the Steelers down the stretch.
Diontae Johnson is somehow still underrated and his ability to quickly earn separation justifiably earned his quarterbacks’ trust the last two years despite a bout of drops in 2020.
Take Johnson out of the equation and who was playing well for Pittsburgh from start to finish last year? Answer: No one.
As usual, the Steelers looked to the draft to beef up the receiver room after letting all three of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McLoud walk in free agency. The team snagged George Pickens in Round 2 and Calvin Austin in Round 4. Both are talented prospects but couldn’t be more different as players.
Pickens profiles as a pure perimeter receiver who specializes in boundary targets and the vertical, contested-catch game. Austin played outside in college but given his small frame might profile best as a speed slot player in the pros. The Steelers need major help in both areas.
The X-factor here is third-year receiver, Chase Claypool. He had a down season last year and it was not all Roethlisberger’s fault. Claypool didn’t progress as a technician, stalled as a separator and continues to struggle in contested situations. No question, he has the talent to be a true difference-maker and such a development would be huge for Pittsburgh but the team now has insurance in case he stays static.
There is a boatload of young talent in Pittsburgh with these receivers alongside Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris. If Kenny Pickett is better than the typical rookie or Mitchell Trubisky experiences a career rebirth (less likely), this offense could be a fun unit.
Saints WR room
Folks tried to talk themselves into Marquez Callaway as the Saints' No. 1 wideout last year. Now, in a best-case scenario, he will be their No. 4 receiver.
New Orleans sent a bushel of draft picks to multiple teams in order to move up for Ohio State wideout, Chris Olave. Miss me with any “profile” concerns; Olave is a pro-ready route technician who should be ready to start from the jump and offer vertical separation skills. That will fit nicely with quarterback Jameis Winston. Olave could be the most productive rookie receiver of 2022.
Jarvis Landry was a post-draft add and while he’s not the player he once was, he brings competency and security to the slot. The Saints had neither of those things at any spot last season.
If Michael Thomas is healthy and back close to his old form — this is a sizable “IF,” given offseason reports and how long it’s been since we’ve seen him play — then this suddenly looks like a position of strength.
Winston can be a productive fantasy passer and pump up his pass-catchers stats with his reckless-abandon style. He needs to be surrounded by at least passable talent, however, to do just that.
He wasn’t last year but 2022 looks like a different story.
Broncos QB room
The Broncos traded for Russell Wilson. So, yes, their quarterback room is better than last year. You probably don’t need much more analysis than that.
Wilson is set to be the rising tide that lifts all boats for a Broncos team that has been quietly locked and loaded with young talent for years. Denver goes three-deep at wide receiver (four if K.J. Hamler recovers from a torn ACL), two-deep at running back and two-deep at tight end with Albert Okwuegbunam and rookie Greg Dulcich.
Parsing out touches, pace of play and touchdown chances for this offense is going to be a chore this summer. It was in 2021, as well. The good news now is that the exercise actually has a reasonably positive endgame in its range of outcomes. That’s all thanks to Wilson.
Bengals offensive line
The Chiefs showed that you can indeed fix an offensive line in one offseason. You don’t necessarily need to get all five positions to star-caliber, you just have to get five competent players along the line.
The Bengals had anything but competency on it last year and it showed from the first to the final whistle of their season.
Cincinnati signed Ted Karras, Alex Cappa and La’El Collins in free agency to solidify their center to right tackle spots. Collins is probably the one with the highest caliber resume but all are starting options. Along with Jonah Williams at left tackle, this unit just needs to gel and by mid-season, Joe Burrow and co. could be looking at a reliable unit upfront. That would go such a long way.
The only unknown here is Jackson Carman, who looks ticketed for the left guard job. Carman played a bit as a rookie and had shaky moments. The Bengals will hope he takes a second-year leap to at least become an average player. If that’s the one weak spot, this is still a much-improved unit.
If he takes a step too, then we’re really cooking with gas.
Dolphins skill-position players
Tyreek Hill is the type of wide receiver who changes the math for opposing defenses and the rare No. 1 wideout who will actually make the coverage assignments of his teammates dramatically easier. We talk about that all the time but rarely does it work out in practice.
Hill is one-of-one when it comes to big-play speed, both horizontally and vertically.
In addition to the productivity he’ll bring to the table in Miami he will be a multiplying presence for Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki. The farther Waddle gets from his collegiate injury, the better he gets. Don’t be surprised if by 2023 we’re regarding this duo as a 1A/1B type of tandem.
While he won’t be ticketed for a major role, having a slot player like Cedrick Wilson makes this pass-catching corps that much deeper. This team was having to reach in the bag for guys like Mack Hollins at times the last few years. Wilson is a passable starting inside man and a good rotational option.
Rounding out the depth chart is rookie Erik Ezukanma and Trent Sherfield, who followed Mike McDaniel from San Francisco.
The running back position got a complete facelift. Good luck trying to figure this rotation out in fantasy football but there is no debate that a depth chart led by Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel is leaps and bounds better than what the 2021 Dolphins ran with. Edmonds got a nice deal early in free agency and could end up being a big winner in fantasy if Mostert isn’t healthy.
If Tua Tagovailoa is even an average starting quarterback the Dolphins are going to be a top-17 offense. That’s better than what we’ve seen in recent years. The front office even fortified the offensive line to make his life easier. No more excuses here.