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2022 Fantasy football enigmas: What will happen with these NFL WRs (and one TE)?

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We learned in fifth-grade science that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the NFL, every answer provided creates more questions.

For example, as we touched on in Part 1 of this series, the whereabouts of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady figure to capture the bulk of offseason headlines. From Nathaniel Hackett’s hiring in Denver to the GOAT’s most recent tweets, the veteran QBs have created quite the social media stir.

But they aren't the only fantasy stars potentially shifting orbit. The NFL is brimming with young receiving talent that needs to be tracked well ahead of Leo Season.

Below are five of the virtual game’s most mercurial pass catchers, each surrounded by a galaxy of pressing questions.

Cordarrelle Patterson, RB/WR, Atlanta Falcons

Cordarrelle Patterson was the best waiver wire add of 2021.

The multi-hyphenate talent averaged 13 fantasy points per game, touching the ball 205 times for 1,166 yards and 11 TDs (RB9/WR10). Calvin Ridley’s absence in combination with Mike Davis’ plodding fast-tracked Patterson’s evolution. The journeyman proved fit for the challenge, however, demonstrating his mettle beyond special teams and was even named the Pro Football Writers' most improved player.

A 30-year-old breakout, though? That’s far from a regular occurrence in the NFL. And Patterson’s usage down the stretch (1.75 targets/gm from Weeks 15 through 18) was certainly concerning. Adding to CP’s 2022 enigma is his contract status. Fantasy heads will want to see Atlanta pay up to retain the versatile talent. Arthur Smith was able to tap into the potential that four other clubs failed to unlock.

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Were Patterson to move to another team the chances of a top-15 (even 20) repeat would be darn near impossible. A return to the ATL might vault “The Anaconda” inside the top-30 RBs. However, as drafters generally pay up for youth, he’s likely to languish in the seventh or eighth rounds, just behind Kareem Hunt and ahead of DeVante Parker.

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Offseason promises of increased usage vaulted CeeDee Lamb up virtual draft boards last summer (34.3, WR12). Despite stringing together a career effort and going over 100 yards in three contests, however, Lamb’s second year was largely underwhelming. From Weeks 9 through 18, Lamb averaged 4.4 receptions and 54.7 yards per game, playing through an ankle sprain (Week 8), an arm contusion (Week 10) and suffering a concussion (Week 11).

CeeDee Lamb #88 of the Dallas Cowboys is one of the NFL's enigmas in 2022
Will CeeDee Lamb become a top-five receiver in the NFL? (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The dip in production could have been caused by his health, or Dak Prescott’s or something else. Regardless, Lamb is too talented to not draw targets. With Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz set to become free agents, the passing tree figures to narrow in Lamb’s favor. At least one of those departures will be key to Lamb’s success in ‘22, especially now that we know Dan Quinn (and his much-improved defense) are staying in the Big D.

Lamb’s hype train figures to be at standing-room-only by the summer’s end. Fantasy managers should be prepared to pay up for the breakout-in-waiting for the second consecutive season. Per ECR, he’s the WR9 … and it’s only February 1st.

Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Football Team

There’s zero question about Terry McLaurin’s talent. It’s scary. He’s led the WFT in receptions and cleared 1,000 yards in back-to-back efforts. The talent of the QBs that he’s played with, on the other hand, is a different kind of scary. McLaurin was the WR3 in unrealized air yards (914) last year.

That’s scary … and sad.

Check out Part I of the 2022 Fantasy Football Enigmas

Ryan Fitzpatrick (who underwent a hip scope at 39-years-old in December) is an UFA. Taylor Heinicke has guts but not enough skill to bring consistent glory. That means Washington will have to make some decisions bigger than what they decide to call themselves. Whether it’s gambling on a talent-poor draft class or making a trade, the Football Team needs to find a long-term solution under center so as not to further cap the rest of the squad’s ceiling.

That brings us back to McLaurin. At the very least, he’s a top-20 play in 2022. With the right QB in place, though, he could skyrocket into the top-10.

Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Given his landing spot, volume was always going to be a concern for Rashod Bateman. What wasn’t expected, however, was a core-muscle injury that forced him to miss the preseason and delayed his NFL debut by five regular-season weeks. Once healthy, though, Bateman hit the ground running. The 27th overall pick drew six looks in his first pro effort, working as Baltimore’s third option behind Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown.

It’s worth noting that Sammy Watkins was sidelined for that game. It’s also worth noting that Bateman out-targeted Watkins by a healthy margin (5.6 targets per game vs. 2.1 looks per contest) even when they both shared the field. It doesn’t matter why Watkins disappeared down the stretch (a knee issue, Covid, fell out of favor, etc.) because he won’t be on the team next season.

That means a potential sophomore surge for the former Gopher. His nuanced route-running, elite hands and ace ball-tracking skills could provide some needed consistency and efficiency to the Ravens' offense. Heading into 2022, he figures to be a high-end WR3 with obvious upside.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins

Metrics mavens have been waiting on a Mike Gesicki breakout ever since the Penn State product recorded a 98th percentile SPARQ score. In 2020, Gesicki posted a 53-703-6 stat line (TE7). This past season he averaged a career number of catches per game (4.3) and his yardage total increased (780 yards, due to the extra game, though his average was 46.9 in 2020 and 45.9 in 2021), but his total TDs regressed to just two (TE11).

Set to become a free agent this spring, it remains to be seen if Miami’s new and yet-to-be-named regime will opt to keep Gesicki or go all-in on another rebuild. If the Phins believe Tua Tagovailoa to be a long-term solution, then it would behoove them to keep Gesicki, who was second in targets (111) just behind Jaylen Waddle (142) and worked as a solid security blanket for the streaky QB.

Given the league-wide upheaval at the QB position — as well as the historical incompetence of Miami’s front office — anything can happen. Regardless, Gesicki is steady, if not exciting. That should provide him with low-end TE1 fantasy appeal in 2022.

Engage with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF

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