Fantasy Football 2022: Players You Need to Add Before Week 1
The start of the 2022 fantasy football season is a week out, and even if your league has already drafted, there is work that can be done to improve your roster.
Those who want to have their lineups in tip-top shape going into the openers should remain on high alert for injury updates, depth chart changes and other breaking news that could impact fantasy stock and status. It’s also worth constantly scouring the waiver wire to find under-the-radar talents who weren’t drafted or were released by rival managers.
While there aren’t likely to be many major developments with the preseason in the rear-view, there are inevitably a few potential fantasy stars to be found in the free-agent pile in most leagues.
With that in mind, here’s a look at five players—rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues—who you should consider adding before the 2022 NFL season kicks off. These players could see their value increase exponentially after Week 1, so stash them on your bench now before they become top waiver targets two weeks from now.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Carolina Panthers (17 Percent Rostered)
There are rather limited options for managers who aren’t happy with the quarterback they drafted. There is one signal-caller available in an overwhelming majority of leagues, however, who could wind up being a top-12 option in 2022.
That QB is Baker Mayfield, who recently beat out Sam Darnold to win the Carolina Panthers' starting role during training camp. Mayfield came over in an offseason trade from the Cleveland Browns and quickly established himself as the team’s top option under center.
While Mayfield was an abysmal fantasy option last season—he finished No. 25 in points scored by the position—he admitted to playing through a severely injured shoulder and was nowhere near 100 percent after Week 2. He was declared fully healthy in June and avoided getting banged up during the preseason.
Mayfield was a much more effective fantasy option in 2020, when he amassed a career-high 256 fantasy points on the way to leading the Browns to their first playoff victory since 1994.
While that was still just the 17th-most points for the position, it was a promising showing given Cleveland’s heavy reliance on the ground game. The Browns ran the ball on 47.8 percent of their offensive snaps that season, a mark only three teams eclipsed.
Now in a pass-happier system—Carolina has thrown on 59 percent of its offensive snaps in each of the last two seasons despite its quarterback woes—a healthy Mayfield could thrive. He has legitimate veteran weapons around him in wideouts DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson, an up-and-coming receiver in Terrace Marshall Jr. and arguably the league’s most dynamic pass-catching running back in Christian McCaffrey.
Mayfield is a must-roster in any two-QB or superflex format. Even in standard leagues, he’s worth a flier for managers who avoided drafting one of the upper-echelon options. If you can afford to stash Mayfield on your bench, pick him up now in case he goes off against his former team in Week 1.
Isiah Pacheco, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (31 Percent Rostered)
Isiah Pacheco came out of seemingly nowhere to become a potentially prominent piece of the Kansas City Chiefs’ backfield.
A seventh-round rookie out of Rutgers, Pacheco was basically an afterthought during the 2022 draft. The team already had a locked-in starter with Clyde Edwards-Helaire and had signed Ronald Jones to join Jerick McKinnon as the depth options behind the 2020 first-round pick.
Pacheco forced his way into the mix during a sterling training camp. While he couldn’t maintain an elite level of play throughout the entire preseason, he still racked up a commendable 66 yards on 16 carries and caught three passes for 21 yards across three exhibition contests.
The 23-year-old made several highlight plays throughout the offseason and is now bringing plenty of potential and momentum into his first NFL campaign.
Although Pacheco isn’t likely to see a significant amount of volume early on, he could slowly work his way into the mix and steadily increase his snaps as the season wears on. He’s also an ideal handcuff for Edwards-Helaire, who has been underwhelming in his first two seasons.
Pacheco is a must-stash in any dynasty or keeper format. Managers in deeper leagues or those with a critical lack of RB depth should also scoop up the rookie now in case he ends up seeing a good chunk of playing time in the opener or one of the Chiefs' other backs suffers an injury.
Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Buffalo Bills (47 Percent Rostered)
After a battle with Jamison Crowder for the Buffalo Bills’ starting slot receiver job throughout training camp, Isaiah McKenzie ultimately came out on top.
McKenzie now has a sky-high ceiling due to this prominent role in one of the league’s most high-powered offenses. The sixth-year veteran has spent the last three-and-a-half seasons working as a depth wideout for the Bills and finally earned a chance to contribute more due to the departure of Cole Beasley.
Expect McKenzie’s stat line to see a massive surge after the 27-year-old notched a meager 20 receptions for 178 yards and one score last year. He was on the field for just 257 offensive snaps across the 15 games he was active for in 2021.
Beasley was one of star quarterback Josh Allen’s top targets over the last three years. He was targeted a whopping 325 times—racking up an impressive 2,438 yards and 11 touchdowns—while logging 2,100 offensive snaps across 46 games.
McKenzie will be tasked with many of the same responsibilities that Beasley left vacant. He will also be a prominent piece in Buffalo’s quest to improve its yards-after-the-catch production.
Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic noted that McKenzie has been a tough cover in man-to-man situations and pointed out how the wideout’s quickness makes him an ideal target for a team focusing on getting its YAC numbers up.
While he’ll need to compete with star No. 1 wideout Stefon Diggs and breakout pass-catcher Gabe Davis for touches, McKenzie will get plenty of targets in one of the league’s best passing attacks. He should be rostered in nearly every format but is still surprisingly available in more than half of all leagues.
Romeo Doubs, WR, Green Bay Packers (31 Percent Rostered)
After trading Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, the Green Bay Packers made replacing the superstar wide receiver one of their top priorities during the 2022 draft.
While much of the hype early in the offseason revolved around second-round pick Christian Watson, it was unheralded fourth-round selection Romeo Doubs who became the team’s breakout star at training camp.
The Nevada product tallied eight receptions for 82 yards and a pair of scores in his three preseason contests. He’s a pro-ready talent who should thrive with back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers.
Although Doubs will likely start out as the No. 4 WR on Green Bay’s depth chart, he could quickly usurp either Sammy Watkins or Allen Lazard as one of the starting outside wideouts.
Both veterans have their flaws and have been prone to injury. There’s a strong possibility the rookie eventually gets a chance to start and could easily retain that role by showing out.
PFT’s Peter King wrote that “Doubs, barring injury, could be on the field for 700 snaps this year” and believes he’s no longer a sleeper, but instead a player that fantasy managers should be “wide awake on."
Any fantasy manager relying on low-upside or injury-prone talents at the receiver position should immediately pick up Doubs. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes one of the most popular waiver wire targets of the 2022 season.
Isaiah Likely, TE, Baltimore Ravens (8 Percent Rostered)
The Baltimore Ravens already employ one of the NFL’s best tight ends in Mark Andrews, but they could have another elite fantasy weapon on their hands in rookie Isaiah Likely.
The fourth-rounder out of Coastal Carolina was a pass-catching and scoring machine in college—he had over 900 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior, ensuring he scored five or more touchdowns in all four seasons—and hasn’t skipped a beat during his first NFL offseason.
He punctuated an impressive training camp and preseason showing by posting an eight-catch, 100-yard, one-touchdown stat line while logging a mere 15 snaps in a nationally televised matchup with the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2.
While Likely won’t supplant Andrews as Baltimore’s TE1 anytime soon, the team’s offense should adjust to feature both tight ends regularly. The Ravens already lined up in two-TE formations over 20 percent of the time in 2021 and should see that number increase this season.
Likely ran almost half of his routes for the Chanticleers out of the slot and is a candidate to spend time there as a professional as well. The 22-year-old can fill in the gaps for a thin Ravens receiving corps that has little in the way of proven talent right now.
It remains to be seen if the Ravens can replicate the fantasy successes of the 2011 New England Patriots, a team that had both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez finish in the top three for fantasy points scored at the position during a record-setting campaign.
Given how thin the tight end position is and how difficult it is to find bye-week or injury fill-ins, Likely is a no-brainer to at least stash on your bench and could be started if you don’t possess one of the upper-echelon options.