By Jennifer Eakins, 4for4
Special to Yahoo Sports
4for4 takes using strength of schedule for fantasy to a different level with their signature metric, schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed, or aFPA. By removing schedule bias, we can level the playing field and compare matchups in an apples-to-apples manner.
Making decisions on who to draft at ADP can come down to several factors, but for this article, I’ll point out some players who have an easier start to the season than others so that you can maximize points right out of the gate.
By ensuring a solid start to the year, beginning 3-1 or 4-0, we can vastly increase our odds of making it to the fantasy promised land in the cold months of winter: The playoffs. In a fantasy league where 6 teams out of twelve make the playoffs, there's a 92 percent chance of making the playoffs if you start 4-0; conversely, if you start 0-4, your odds are 9%.
I omitted elite players whom you’d be drafting anyway and focused on more of the middle-to-late-round guys that we sometimes have difficulty distinguishing from one another.
Matt Ryan, Indianapolis Colts (Yahoo ADP: 131.1)
There are many reasons to like Matt Ryan for fantasy purposes in 2022, so his easy schedule at the start just sweetens the pot. Indy kicks off the season with the Texans, Jaguars, Chiefs and Titans, who all sat 19th or worse in QB aFPA in 2021.
Ryan gets a fresh start with the Colts and has some solid young talent in Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor to share the field with, along with a much better offensive line than he’s had in recent years in Atlanta. Ryan is currently being drafted as QB27 but has the potential to crack the top 15, for a very inexpensive 14th-round draft price tag.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns (Yahoo ADP: 18.1)
I know I said I wasn’t going to include the high draft-pick players in here, but Nick Chubb’s stock has fallen steadily this summer, and he’s now into the mid-second round, so I’m including the Cleveland RB. With the Browns QB situation murky, to say the least, drafters seem unsure of what to do with their entire offense.
It should continue to be a run-first situation in Cleveland, and Chubb is one of the best pure rushers in the game, but he doesn't have that pass-catching upside that fantasy managers crave. He does, however, have a glorious commencement to the 2022 season. After a Week 1 tilt with Carolina, Chubb faces the Jets, Steelers, Falcons and Chargers, who sat 32nd, 23rd, 26th and 28th, respectively in RB aFPA last year. Chubb is currently the ninth back off boards and the 13th-ranked back in Yahoo's half-PPR rankings.
Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints (Yahoo ADP: 124.4)
There is a multitude of reasons to like Chris Olave this season, including his path to volume, his deep-threat ability and how the rookie’s big-play style could jive really well with how Jameis Winston delivers the football.
Let’s add to Olave’s allure with a favorable schedule to start his NFL career. The Saints' first two contests are division rivals, with the Falcons in Week 1 followed by Tampa Bay, both among the bottom seven in WR aFPA last season. They get a stronger Carolina secondary in Week 3 but then face a dead-last Vikings unit that yielded 33.3 aFPA to enemy WRs the following week. Olave is being drafted as a fantasy WR4, but the upside is there to overdeliver this season.
Jalen Tolbert, Dallas Cowboys (Yahoo ADP: 129.2)
The stars seem to be aligning for yet another rookie, as Jalen Tolbert is in a great spot to find success out of the gate. With both Michael Gallup and James Washington sidelined for the start of 2022, Tolbert is in line for WR2 duties and should be third in targets behind CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz.
Also working for Tolbert is whom the Cowboys match up against to begin his first year in the league. The average ranking of their first four opponents was 24th, with an average aFPA to enemy wideouts of 30.0 half-PPR points per contest. The consistency may not be there all season long for the 23-year-old, but with his opportunity and cushy schedule, Tolbert could be a sneaky late-round flex play at the start.
Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals (Yahoo ADP: 95.1)
Not only will Zach Ertz eat in the first six weeks of the season due to the suspension of DeAndre Hopkins, but the 31-year-old faces some suspect defensive units when it comes to defending TEs in that time frame, as well. Four of those six teams sat 20th or worse in 2021 in TE aFPA, yielding an average of 12.5 half-PPR points to enemy TEs per matchup.
Ertz is leaving draft boards as TE10 and has the potential to play up a few spots based on predictive volume and opposition. Be sure to monitor his Week 1 status, however, as he's been dealing with a calf issue.
A proud alumna of the UGA Grady College of Journalism, Jennifer Eakins has been working in the sports industry for well over a decade. She has had stints with CNN Sports, the Atlanta Hawks and the Colorado Rockies. Her first fantasy football draft took place in 1996 where she selected Ricky Watters with the first overall pick, and she has been a fantasy degenerate ever since.
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