Arizona Cardinals lose DeAndre Hopkins to six-game suspension

A fake football reaction to fantasy owners losing Hopkins for six games.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will miss the first six games of the 2022 NFL season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

In yet another setback for the league’s highest-paid receiver, the specific games Hopkins will miss are not yet known, but we’ll have clarity after the schedule release on May 12.

Last year, Hopkins suffered knee and hamstring injuries that cost him seven of the last nine games of the season. He underwent surgery to repair a torn medial collateral ligament and was on track to be fully recovered ahead of offseason activities. He turns 30 in June.

During Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, Hopkins gained a new running mate in former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown after the Cards traded for the 2019 draft’s 25th pick. Brown was acquired to offset the loss of Christian Kirk in free agency, and he’ll now be tasked with assuming the top receiver duties in Nuk’s absence. The collegiate connection between Hollywood and his “old-new” quarterback, Kyler Murray, should make for a smooth transition.

Other receivers asked to do more will be Rondale Moore, a second-year player who has the explosiveness in the open field to take a short pass the distance just about any time he touches the ball. Veteran A.J. Green re-signed to play his age-34 season in the desert after a so-so campaign a year ago with Arizona. He finished 2021 with a 54-848-3 line in 16 appearances as the WR42 in PPR scoring. Speedy wide receiver Andy Isabella also remains on the roster, although he has been the subject of trade chatter of late.

In addition to those moves, Arizona re-signed tight end Zach Ertz to a three-year extension, and tight end Trey McBride — widely viewed as the top rookie of this year’s class — was chosen in Round 2.

Finally, don’t discredit the above-average receiving skills of running back James Conner. Hopkins’ typically domineering target share creates a few more available looks to go around, including a trickle-down effect for safety values, such as the former Pittsburgh Steeler.

Fantasy football takeaway

The move makes Hopkins a low-end No. 2 receiver target in reception-rewarding formats. He’ll definitely miss the six contests but also comes with elevated injury concerns after being tough as nails during his career. In early drafts, his average position was WR10 with an ADP of Pick 3:04. That should tumble into Round 6 or so with the suspension news. Every league will be slightly different, of course, with Hopkins going a little sooner and later. Having a feel for your league’s tendencies can help finely tune knowing when to strike optimal value. As always, he his a much more reliable contributor in PPR.

Brown’s value will be at its peak in 2022 during the six-game window the Cardinals are without Hopkins. Given the aforementioned familiarity and existing chemistry with Murray, Hollywood can play like a low-end WR1 during the suspension, given the right matchups, but he’s a much safer No. 2 lineup consideration. It’s reasonable to expect his big-play nature will continue to make him a more valuable start in non-PPR scoring.

Moore presents the most upside here. He can thrive with limited volume and also has the skill set to see the occasional gadget play come his direction. As a 2021 rookie, his career started off on a promising foot as Moore finished with at least 10 PPR points in three of the first five contests before fading into oblivion the rest of the way. Thanks to a full season under his belt, the electric Purdue product has serious boom potential in the early going. He’s getting drafted as a WR4/No. 5 in recent drafts, which is bound to move closer toward being a third in the near future. That said, his season-long value will take a substantial hit with Brown’s acquisition and the eventual return of Hopkins.

Green isn’t more than a late-round roster-filler at this point in his career, and even this news doesn’t give the veteran much of a boost in fantasy appeal. He’ll have flex utility in both prominent scoring systems while Hopkins is away, and that value craters with D-Hop’s return to the lineup.

While McBride may find a few more targets heading his way early in the season, rookie tight ends rarely contribute statistically in a fantasy-relevant manner. He is best reserved exclusively for daily fantasy cash games and showdown contests. Ertz, on the other hand, will be a weekly lineup fixture and figures to pace this passing game in volume during Hopkins’ stead.

As for Murray, he loses a bit of luster for the first third of the season. There’s still midrange starter’s worth to be found in the fourth-year quarterback, mainly thanks to his legs and top trio of remaining pass-catching outlets. Bump him down a notch or two in the overall rankings, though.

2022 Top 12 fantasy football rookies

Which rookies are the top fantasy picks after the NFL draft?

The draft is over, and the dust has settled. This was an interesting draft in that there were no first-round running backs and only three were taken by the late third round. The devaluing of the position continues and while rookie running backs will over drafted in fantasy leagues, there’s no clear cut “Najee Harris” in this draft.

Rookie quarterbacks rarely matter in fantasy football. Kenny Pickett landed in Pittsburgh, but no others went before the third round. This was not a strong class for the position.

Wide receivers? That’s where it all happened. Selecting 13 in the first two rounds tied a record. Seventeen were taken in the first two days. Unfortunately, the worst passing teams grabbed the best wideouts. Here are the top-drafted receivers from the first two rounds and how their new team ranked in passing fantasy points in 2021.

Only Christian Watson and Skyy Moore went to teams that had above average passing stats last year. And Moore was the No. 13 taken. Watson is interesting if only because he has Aaron Rodgers passing to him.

SEE ALSO NFL DRAFT PLAYER SCOUTING REPORTS

Let’s take a first swipe at the top fantasy rookies for this year. Much will likely change by Week 1 of the season, but these are the players that should be closely tracked in training camp and preseason games.

1.) RB Breece Hall – Iowa State (NYJ 2.04)  5-11, 220, 4.39The first running back drafted is always the first rookie taken in a fantasy draft. And in this case, Hall didn’t show up until Day 2. He has workhorse ability and offers both rushing and receiving skills to the Jets who were relentless in trying to upgrade their offense.

Michael Carter was an under-sized addition last year and played well enough, but Hall brings the complete package to an offense that should be markedly better.  Hall has the inside track to being the top rookie rusher and the easiest path to a higher volume of touches. He gained over 1,700 total yards the last two seasons for the Cyclones. A decade ago, he’d have been a Top-10 pick but the NFL has changed to more passing and committee backfields.

2.) RB James Cook – Georgia (BUF 3.31)  5-11, 199, 4.42Cook wasn’t drafted until the end of the second round, but he offers as much promise as any rookie back given his skill set and joining the powerful Buffalo offense. The ex-Bulldog comes off a National Championship, and he has plenty of tread on his tires with only 230 rushes over four seasons. Cook can play as a third-down role or mix in as a rusher. He’s fast and elusive, with a 6.5-yard rushing average playing in the SEC.

The Bills gave up on Zach Moss, and fourth-year back Devin Singletary is still searching for a 1,000-yard season. He played better down the stretch last year but only against a weak spot in the schedule. Singletary will likely remain the primary back to start the year, but Cook will get playing time in a third-down capacity and easily end up with the larger chunk of work during the season and beyond. This is a great offense and Cook can find a fit for himself.

3.) WR Chris Olave – Ohio State (NO – 1.11) 6-0, 187, 4.39Any rookie wideout is a fantasy risk, and Ja’Marr Chase was an extreme outlier last year. Olave was a touchdown machine for the Buckeyes and set the school career record with 35 scores. The four-year player is complete and NFL-ready. He’s smart, scary-fast, and runs precise routes. Olave is expected to become a No. 1 wideout in the NFL and shouldn’t need much time to acclimate to playing in the pros.

He’ll be behind Michael Thomas (health willing), but that should help him see lesser coverage. More importantly, Jameis Winston will continue the pass-happy ways of the Saints. Olave should become the No. 2 wideout as early as Week 1. He’s not likely to produce a high volume of catches with Thomas there, but should be a weekly contributor that knows how to find the end zone.

4.) WR Drake London – USC (ATL 1.08) 6-4, 219, 4.5 (est.)London was the first wideout selected and had a monster junior season in 2021 before fracturing his ankle after eight games. He was averaging over 11 catches per game and the 6-4, 219-pounder towers over smaller defenders while having the speed to outrace them. He played basketball as well and should become a magnet over the middle with a catch radius that welcomes 50-50 balls. London is the prototypical possession receiver with the jets to take it home on any play.

He’ll be catching passes from either Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder, which isn’t ideal for a rookie, but he’s joined a wideout crew that has only Olamide Zaccheaus as a player of any note. London will step into a primary role as a rookie and the Falcons will need to rely on him. He’ll likely improve as the season progresses and could lead all rookie receivers in pass targets. Kyle Pitts will continue to factor in heavily as well, but the Falcons now have two giant receivers that can succeed all over the field.

5.) WR Garrett Wilson – Ohio State (NYJ 1.10) 6-0, 183, 4.38The Jets landed this ex-Buckeye as the second wideout taken, but he was at the top of many draft boards. The teammate of Chris Olave was another speedster with a dangerous second gear and tremendous hands. He’s a great deep threat and also can return kicks. Wilson is a playmaker that adds a dangerous piece to the improving Jets offense.

Zach Wilson’s rookie season was hampered by a lack of quality targets other than second-round rookie Elijah Moore. Wilson joins Moore and Corey Davis but should become no worse than the No. 3 wideout to start the year and very likely the No. 1 receiver by next year at the latest. Much depends on the continued development of Zach Wilson as a passer, but the pieces are in place for a leap in production this year, and Garrett Wilson can be a big part of that even as a rookie.

6.) RB Kenny Walker III – Mich. State (SEA 2.09) 5-9, 211, 4.38

Walker was another player that played two marginal seasons at one school (Wake Forest) and then transferred to another program (Michigan State). And he blew up. Walker punished opponents with 263 carries for  1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns. He not only is built to pound the ball, but he also sports a 4.38 speed that can take it to the house. Walker only caught 19 passes in college, but his role as a rusher is a throwback to workhorse backs.

Chris Carson’s neck injury is still a concern and this draft pick proves it. Rashaad Penny finally made good on his first-round pick in 2018 and re-signed for one year. But his path to start needs to be earned all over again, particularly for first and second downs. The Seahawks don’t throw to backs much anyway, so Walker can make immediate inroads to playing time. Considering the lengthy injury history of Penny and the potential absence of Carson, Walker could end up as a surprise.

7.) WR Christian Watson – N. Dakota St. (GB 2.02) 6-4, 208, 4.36Watson  may end up higher than this by fantasy drafts in August. He was the seventh wideout drafted and the third pick of the Packers, but he’s the only rookie wideout in the first dozen that pairs with an elite quarterback.  Watson never caught more than 43 passes in his four seasons with the Bisons but offers that rare combination of height (6-4) and speed (4.36). He was effective against a lesser level of competition and gets a chance to show he continues to show elite traits.

He can slip into the “Marquez Valdes-Scantling” role as a field stretcher and tall target since they share the same measurables. The Packers depth chart is primed for players to earn more playing time given that Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are the current penciled-in starters. Watson has to learn the NFL after his success at North Dakota State, but he likely couldn’t have found a more advantageous place to land. Davante Adams left 169 passing targets behind that need to find new homes.

8.) WR Jameson Williams – Alabama (DET 1.12) 6-1, 179, 4.4 (est.)Williams was the fourth wideout drafted and had he not blown an ACL in the National Championship game last January, he’d may have been the first. Williams transferred to Alabama as a junior and was unstoppable. He caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was a blur in the open field and an elite receiver in every measure. And then he blew out his knee.

His dynasty stock is higher, but he is tentatively expected to be ready for training camp. He joins a Lion’s franchise that already has Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark, so there’s no need to rush him if he’s better served with a lesser role as he returns from injury. But at some point, and it could be this season, Williams is expected to become the primary weapon in the passing game.

9.) WR Treylon Burks – Arkansas (TEN 1.18) 6-2, 225, 4.55The Titans moved A.J. Brown when they didn’t want to deal with his salary demands that became a $100 million extension with the Eagles. They got the No. 18 pick in the trade and turned it into Brown’s replacement. The Titans had little more than the recovering Robert Woods after Brown and Julio Jones were off the roster, so adding his clone will help the offense.

Burks led the Razorbacks in receiving for all three years and he’s another big-framed, sticky-handed receiver with a big catch radius. He’ll be a nice fit for the ball control, run-first style of offense in Tennessee. He also is a solid blocker that can stay on the field for all plays.  Brown enjoyed a very promising rookie year (52-1051-8), and Burks looks to replicate that level of play.

10.) WR Skyy Moore – Western Mich. (KC 2.22) 5-10, 195, 4.41

He may have been the No. 13 wideout drafted this year, but Moore will generate plenty of fantasy interest if only because he lands with the high-octane Chiefs offense that no longer  relies on Tyreek Hill – the same size and only a bit faster. But Moore does possess elite burst and great hands. He comes off a junior season at Western Michigan that saw him catch 95 passes for 1,292 yards and ten touchdowns.

There’s a lot to like about the speedy receiver that plays bigger than his size. Moore’s no 1:1 comparison to Hill who had a rookie stat line of just 61-593-6. The Chiefs have added JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, so Moore is not stepping into a starting role. But playing with Patrick Mahomes is always a reason to track players and Moore has a chance to earn more playing time if he can show up earlier in the season.

11.) WR Alec Pierce – Cincinnati (IND 2.21) 6-3, 211, 4.41

Pierce was the twelfth wideout drafted, and while he’s unlikely to become an elite NFL wideout, he projects as a solid No. 2 receiver that can make possession catches with the occasional deep strike. All three seasons that he played ended with over 17-yards per catch. He’s tall enough for work over the middle and in the end zone, and yet fast enough to stretch the defense. Pierce is still a bit raw and needs further development, but he owns the physical traits of an NFL starter.

The Colts brought in Matt Ryan this year in their annual attempt to catch quarterbacks on their downside. Michael Pittman had a breakout in 2021 with 1,082 yards, while Parris Campbell turned in his third disappointing effort. Pierce should compete immediately for the outside across from Pittman and that will give Ryan plenty of tall targets between Pittman (6-4), Pierce (6-3), Mo-Alie Cox (6-5) and new rookie tight end Jelani Woods (6-7).

 12.) Three-way tie
RB Brian Robinson Jr. – Alabama (WAS 3.34) 6-2, 225, 4.53
RB Zamir White – Georgia (LV 4.17) 6-0, 215, 4.47
RB Isaiah Spiller – Texas A&M (LAC 4.18) 6-0, 217, 4.63

Maybe a cop out to name three players, but the reality is that this was a weak running back class and it showed when college all-stars were still there in the fourth round. Each of these backs is an accomplished runner and could see action. But they were all drafted into committee situations that would take time to develop barring an injury (or two) granting sudden opportunity. These are three running backs to track this summer in case anything develops.

Robinson lands in Washington, where Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic already share the backfield. He’ll see some use as a running back but anything he does would be at the expense of Gibson.

White joins the Raiders, where Josh Jacobs enters his final contract year since they declined exercising his fifth-year option. Kenyan Drake returns from his ankle injury but his role is less clear now. White is a rusher with minimal work as a receiver. The situation bears tracking and White should see at least carries which would be taken from Jacobs. There’s a chance that Jacobs and Drake just reprise their roles from last year and White remains on the bench. One injury and White almost certainly becomes a factor.

Spiller fell in the draft but he lands with the Chargers. He could beat out Larry Rountree and Joshua Kelley and there were 140 carries left over after Austin Ekeler last year. Spiller could become the 1B there and Ekeler has a history of getting dinged up.

Just because the running backs were devalued in this draft, doesn’t mean that they won’t provide fantasy value. It just may be later in the year and the product of injuries or team dynamics.

Philadelphia Eagles trade for A.J. Brown

Eagles upgrade their receivers with A.J. Brown

The Philadelphia Eagles traded their No. 18 overall and a third-round pick (No. 101) in exchange for wide receiver A.J. Brown who was entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Eagles are reported to be offering Brown a four-year, $100 million  with $57 million guaranteed. His departure left the Titans with Robert Woods who is recovering from an ACL injury last November and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine as starting wideouts.

The Titans immediately used their No. 18 pick to draft Arkansas wideout Treylon Burks as the “new A.J. Brown.” At 6-3 and 225 pounds, Burks is a near-clone to Brown and will come at a cost far less than the $100 million that Brown is due to get from the Eagles.

A.J. Brown’s Career Stats

More importantly for fantasy purposes, Brown is a major upgrade to the Eagles’ receiving corps. They spent their 1.10 pick last year to acquire DeVonta Smith (64-916-5) who led the team. Quez Watkins was a second-year former sixth-round pick that showed some promise last season. The addition of Brown reshuffles the depth chart and keeps Smith and Brown as the starters.

This is also a major benefit for third-year quarterback Jalen Hurts who already passed for 3,928 yards and 26 touchdowns last year with a far less talented set of receivers. The move sets up the Eagles’ offense to take another step up in the NFC East.

Hollywood Brown traded to the Cardinals

Marquise Brown gets an upgrade in quarterback with Kyler Murray

The Baltimore Ravens sent Marquise Brown to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for the No. 23 pick in the NFL draft. The former first-round pick still has two years left on his contract (fifth-year option) and has improved in each  of his three seasons.

His 91 receptions in 2021 ranked No. 12 among NFL wideouts  and his departure from The Ravens leaves them with only Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay as veteran starters. They combined for only 79 yards so the trade leaves a big hole to fill for Baltimore on a team that doesn’t pass much.

Marquise Brown’s Career Stats

The Cardinals upgrade their wideouts that consist of aging AJ Green, second-year Rondale Moore and DeAndre Hopkins who is returning from knee surgery. The Cardinals lost Christian Kirk to the Jaguars, and Brown can fill his spot.

With Hopkins already an elite possession receiver, the addition of the speedy Brown gives Kyler Murray a field stretcher that runs a 4.32 40-time. This should be a benefit to Brown as well, trading the run-heavy Ravens for the Cardinals passing attack.

Chiefs trade Tyreek Hill to Miami Dolphins

Quick fantasy football reaction to Tyreek Hill being traded.

After failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension, the Kansas City Chiefs granted wide receiver Tyreek Hill permission to seek a trade, and the ever-dangerous playmaker was promptly dealt to the Miami Dolphins. He quickly was signed to a four-year, $120 million extension, per NFL Network.

In return, Ian Rapoport says the Chiefs received the following:

That’s considerable compensation for arguably the most explosive player in the entire league, and the Chiefs have loaded up on draft picks in one of the deeper receiver classes in recent memory. We’ll address their side of this trade in a future article after more is know about how the team intends to replace Hill.

From Miami’s perspective, the new coaching staff has been gifted several game-changing upgrades in its first offseason. Left tackle Terron Armstead and guard Connor Williams were added to secure the offensive line, running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert, and wideout Cedrick Wilson Jr. were acquired to put more pieces around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tight end Mike Gesicki was franchise tagged, too. But none of those pieces are even in the same universe as Hill, and the “Cheetah” immediately upgrades this already-promising offense.

The additions of those pieces will be integrated with 2021 rookie breakout receiver Jaylen Waddle and veteran DeVante Parker to form one of the most dangerous offenses on paper — the operative phrasing. It still has to all come together, and don’t be surprised if Parker winds up being traded now.

In 2022, it’s do or die for Tagovailoa. He enters Year 3 with yet another offensive system, and the former Alabama QB has shown only marginal promise to date. In his defense, the offensive weaponry was pedestrian, continuity has been an issue, and the learning curve for a young quarterback is steep.

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The hiring of Mike McDaniel brings an offensive-minded head coach into the’ equation and one who has experience learning from a top play-caller in Kyle Shanahan. The San Francisco 49ers’ offensive system — a modified West Coast design — follows McDaniel to South Beach, and the creativity of Shanahan-inspired wrinkles can help hide some of Tua’s deficiencies as a pure passer. Think of all of the crosses, mesh concepts, screens, jet sweeps, etc. involved in how San Francisco uses guys like Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel. The ability to manufacture yardage and force defenses to pick which dangerous receiver they must double works in Miami’s favor.

Fantasy football takeaway

The immediate fantasy football outlook for Hill takes a hit. He’s going from a generational quarterback in Patrick Mahomes to a guy who remains unproven, and Tua being a lefty passer also is a factor, believe it or not. The ball spins differently and takes some time to get used to reeling in for a wideout. It isn’t something that should linger into the regular season, though.

Tua is adept at getting rid of the ball quickly and hitting passes in the short area of the field. What will suffer the most is Hill’s vertical game due to Tagovailoa not being a great deep-ball passer.

The consistent double-teams in coverage will free up underneath routes, though, so even sending Hill down the field to clear out space will help the offense, just not his fantasy stats. His addition is an upgrade for Waddle and Gesicki in some ways. The volume probably slightly decreases, but Hill’s mere presence provides these guys so many one-on-ones that eventually they’re going to win in a big way. Waddle already has established chemistry with Tagovailoa, and while Gesicki does, too, the veteran tight end isn’t magically going to become Travis Kelce all of a sudden. Look for an increase in scoring touchdowns but likely less in the way of receptions and yardage.

Tagovailoa gets an upgrade, but he remains a suspect spot play due to his own limitations. Don’t overvalue him based on these weapons alone. He still needs to prove he can get the job done, and it’s fair to be cautiously optimistic that he can blossom into a weekly starter. The savvy approach is to prepare for limited progression and draft accordingly, however.

Hill goes from being a top-three fantasy receiver lock to a low-tier No. 1 with increased risk. His explosive nature and ability to gain yards after the catch. This offense will create situations to get him in space and let “Tyfreak” do the work.

Matt Ryan traded to the Colts

The Atlanta Falcons part ways with Matt Ryan as the HC Arthur Smith’s rebuild begins with a teardown.

The Colts acquired Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons for a 2022 third-round pick. The 36-year old Ryan played 14 years for the Falcons after being the 1.03 pick of the 2008 NFL draft. The former NFL MVP leaves an Atlanta franchise in the start of a rebuilding year under new head coach Arthur Smith and goes to a more mature offense in the fifth season under Indy’s head coach Frank Reich.

Matt Ryan Career Stats

YEAR GMS RUN RYD RTD PASS COMP PYD PTD FUM INT PTS RANK
2021 17 40 82 1 560 375 3968 20 11 12 292.6 17
2020 16 29 92 2 626 407 4581 26 6 11 354.25 12
2019 15 34 148 1 616 408 4466 26 9 14 348.1 6
2018 16 33 125 3 608 422 4924 35 5 7 416.7 3
2017 16 32 143 0 529 342 4095 20 3 12 299.05 14
2016 16 35 117 0 534 373 4944 38 2 7 410.9 3
2015 16 37 63 0 614 407 4591 21 5 16 319.85 16
2014 16 29 145 0 628 415 4694 28 2 14 361.2 7
2013 16 17 55 0 651 439 4515 26 4 17 335.25 9
2012 16 33 138 1 615 422 4719 32 2 14 383.75 5
2011 16 37 84 2 565 347 4177 29 3 12 345.25 8
2010 16 46 122 0 571 357 3705 28 3 9 309.45 9
2009 14 30 49 1 451 263 2916 22 2 14 244.7 19
2008 16 55 104 1 434 265 3440 16 1 11 252.4 16

The Falcons still have second-year tight end Kyle Pitts, but are left with no quarterback, a middling backfield at best, a soft offensive line and Olamide Zaccheaus as their top wideout. That’s a rebuilding season that is starting from scratch.

The Colts benefit with the addition of Ryan who spent most of his career as a Top-10 quarterback and dipped lower in recent years only because of a lack of receivers or a supporting ground game. That’s nothing like what Ryan finds in Indianapolis where they enjoy an elite offensive line and the NFL’s current rusher leader in Jonathan Taylor. That alone immediately upgrades Ryan’s outlook for 2022.

The Colts’ depth chart is topped with Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, and T.Y. Hilton though free-agent moves and rookie additions are expected to happen.  Hilton is no lock to play this year and Pascal is a free-agent pending being resigned. Parris Campbell is a fourth-year speedster that has yet to translate into a starter. There is plenty of room for improvement from the receiving crew, and at least they’ll have a quarterback to help maximize the crew that starts the season.

Fantasy football shocker: Davante Adams traded to Las Vegas

The best receiver in football has a new home.

The football world is abuzz thanks to Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams being traded to the Las Vegas Raiders after the franchise-tagged star was unable to secure a long-term contract in Titletown.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter has the details:

The Raiders immediately locked up their prized pass-catcher to a five-year, $141.5 million contract, per several media reports.

Raiders fantasy football outlook

Adams is reunited with his collegiate teammate in quarterback Derek Carr, and the drop-off in production shouldn’t be drastic coming from Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP of two years running. The 29-year-old Fresno State receiver is coming off a career-high 123 catches, which almost certainly won’t be replicated. It was his third 110-plus catch season in the last four years, and Vegas didn’t acquire him to be an observer. Adams is a top-five receiver lock and likely will be in the top three of just about every format that rewards for catches.

Carr becomes a legitimate top-five quarterback contender with the likes of Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller, which is about as dynamic of trio as the league has to offer. On the surface, Renfrow takes the biggest hit to his fantasy stock with the addition of Adams. A reception-dependent fantasy commodity, Renfrow may struggle to approach 80 grabs, let alone the 103 mark he set in 2021.

It’s a net positive for Waller’s outlook, since he’s no longer going to be the focus of nonstop double-teams. Adams draws so much attention that Waller’s athleticism and size will force defenses to pick their poison. He’s among the top two or three players at his position.

Running backs Josh Jacobs gets a significant boost, too, because even with all of the weapons, Josh McDaniels’ system emphasizes the ground game. Defenses now have to account for a number of dangerous aerial weapons around the goal line, which benefits Jacobs in an area where he’s at his best. He’s a low-end No. 1 back in most situations, but gamers should lock up Kenyan Drake as a handcuff given Jacobs’ injury history.

Packers fantasy football outlook

The obvious question is how does this team replace all that is Adams? The free-agent market is drying up as an injured Odell Beckham Jr. (knee), who’s expected miss roughly the first two months of the season, is the top remaining option. No one available is an immediate replacement, that’s for sure. The Packers are likely to invest a first-round pick on a wideout now that Aaron Rodgers is locked up.

Speaking of the $200 million man, Rodgers’ best weapon is gone, and there’s no easy way around it: This will hurt his fantasy stock. He’s still a midrange to low-end QB1, but gamers will have plenty of options with more going for them at this deep position.

Allen Lazard will stand to get the most notable boost in value, presuming the Pack cannot secure a legitimate WR1. For now, until the position fills out, he’s the de facto No. 1 target for Rodgers. There’s sound No. 2 PPR worth here if the position isn’t addressed beyond depth material, so we’ll revisit this as more is known.

We’ll see second-year receiver Amari Rodgers make his case for more targets. He’s far closer in style and stature to Randall Cobb than Adams, and there’s far too much yet to be resolved to make any kind of definitive proclamation about how these two will coexist from a target perspective. The younger Rodgers has far more upside, but he landed just four passes in his rookie season. Cobb is reliable over the middle and No. 12 loves him, though the veteran enters his age-32 season as a career-long injury liability. Neither is poised to be better than a third wideout at the moment.

WRs Juwann Winfree and Malik Taylor round out the current depth. Re-signing free-agent WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling may become a higher priority now, and the Packers also could work to get tight end Robert Tonyan under contract again to help keep some continuity intact.

To a degree, we’re probably going to see a shift in offensive philosophy that relies more on the talented tandem in the backfield and matriculates its way up the field with less explosiveness. Aaron Jones is fringe No. 1/RB2, whereas AJ Dillon is closer to flex/depth territory.

We’ll get a better scope the nuances of all things Packers offense once the dust of free agency settles as well as after incoming rookies are rostered. This situation will be examined in greater detail after the 2022 NFL Draft.

Allen Robinson joins the reigning Super Bowl champs

Robinson ready to be a Ram

Allen Robinson lands in Los Angeles with the Rams on a reported three-year, $46.5 million deal that includes $30.7 million guaranteed. This ends his four-year stretch in Chicago, where he was a Top-10 fantasy wideout when he was healthy and played with even an average passer at quarterback. At 28 years old, Robinson still has many productive years left and was never happy as a Bear.

The emergence of  second-year receiver Darnell Mooney helps soften the impact of losing Robinson, who moves on from a team that ranked near the bottom of all passing categories with the rookie Justin Fields undergoing growing pains in the final season of head coach Matt Nagy.

Year TM GAMES PASS CMP PYDS PTD PPR Rank
2021 CHI 12 66 38 410 1 85 83
2020 CHI 16 151 102 1250 6 262.9 9
2019 CHI 16 154 98 1147 7 254.9 7
2018 CHI 13 94 55 754 4 155.3 40
2017 JAC 1 1 1 17 0 2.7 189
2016 JAC 16 151 73 883 6 197.3 31
2015 JAC 16 151 80 1400 14 304.0 4
2014 JAC 10 81 48 548 2 114.8 68

Robinson’s signing by the Rams keeps their explosive offense on track to repeat their championship season. With Matthew Stafford in his first season there, they ended as No. 4 in passing yardage (4,891) and No. 2 in passing touchdowns (41) while Cooper Kupp enjoyed a monster season. This ensures that Odell Beckham will not resign, though he is rehabbing a torn ACL anyway. Robert Woods returns from his own ACL injury, so Robinson steps into a No. 2 role immediately.

Robinson had an ACL tear himself back in 2017 in his final season with the Jaguars. But he’s turned in three Top-10 fantasy seasons in his career while playing on teams with far less talented offenses and quarterbacks. This is an ideal signing for the ninth-year receiver who is only 28 years old. He doesn’t have to draw the No. 1 coverage and will see his fantasy stock rebound this summer.

2022 NFL Combine Results: QB, RB, WR and TE

Measurables for QB, RB, WR, and TE from the 2022 NFL Combine

The NFL combine is always interesting since those player measurables are no longer under the control of the college athletic PR department. This is not considered to be as strong as a draft class as last year, particularly for running backs.  The below positions are split between those that are a consensus early draft pick

Quarterbacks

Top QB School Height Weight Hand Arm 40-yard
Malik Willis Liberty 6’0″ 219 9 1/2″ 31 3/4″ na
Kenny Pickett Pittsburgh 6’3″ 217 8 1/2″ 30 7/8″ 4.67
Sam Howell North Carolina 6’1″ 218 9 1/8″ 30 3/4″ na
Matt Corral Mississippi 6’2″ 212 9 5/8″ 30 3/4″ na
Desmond Ridder Cincinnati 6’3″ 211 10″ 32 3/4″ 4.49
Later Round QB School Height Weight Hand Arm 40-yard
Jack Coan Notre Dame 6’3″ 218 9 1/2″ 31 1/8″ 4.90
Dustin Crum Kent State 6’1″ 210 9 3/8″ 31 3/4″ 4.75
Kaleb Eleby Western Michigan 6’1″ 208 9 1/4″ 30 5/8″ na
Cole Kelley SE Louisiana 6’7″ 249 9 7/8″ 33 3/4″ na
D’Eriq King Miami 5’9″ 196 9 1/4″ 28 7/8″ na
EJ Perry Brown 6’2″ 211 9″ 32″ 4.60
Brock Purdy Iowa State 6’1″ 212 9 1/4″ 29″ 4.76
Carson Strong Nevada 6’3″ 226 9 1/8″ 32″ na
Skylar Thompson Kansas State 6’2″ 217 9 3/8″ 31 3/4″ 4.86
Bailey Zappe Western Kentucky 6′ 1″ 215 9 3/4″ 31 3/8″ 4.78

The Top-5 quarterbacks are expected to be first rounders, though not lumped inside the Top-10 like last season.  Matt Corral did not throw the ball but should be a first-round pick. Malik Willis may be the first selected and brings incredible arm talent and the ability to run.

Kenny Pickett was a Heisman Trophy Finalist and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award last year. He’s the top quarterback on many boards and yet much was made of his 8 1/2″ hand size that would be the smallest in the NFL in a position where players have to be able to hold onto the ball and throw it with velocity. He’s still a lock for an early pick, and Joe Burrow was also questioned with 9″ hands at the combine, and he’s worked out pretty well.

The consensus on the Top-5 already seems very strong. And since they are expected to be more spread out in the first round means that teams in the back half of the draft still have a chance for one of the more coveted quarterbacks.

Running Backs

Top RB School Height Weight Hand Arm 40-yard
Brian Robinson Alabama 6′ 2″ 225 9 3/4″ 31 7/8″ 4.53
Isaiah Spiller Texas A&M 6′ 0″ 217 8 5/8″ 31 3/4″ 4.37
Zamir White Georgia 6′ 0″ 214 8 1/2″ 31 1/2″ na
Breece Hall Iowa State 5′ 11″ 217 9 3/4″ 31 1/4″ 4.39
Dameon Pierce Florida 5′ 10″ 218 9 3/8″ 30 3/4″ 4.38
Kenny Walker III Michigan State 5′ 9″ 211 9 1/2″ 30 3/8″ na
Later Round RB School Height Weight Hand Arm 40-yard
Rachaad White Arizona State 6′ 0″ 214 9 3/4″ 31 1/4″ 4.6
Abram Smith Baylor 6′ 0″ 213 8 1/4″ 30 1/4″ na
Trestan Ebner Baylor 5′ 11″ 206 8 1/2″ 29 3/4″ 4.38
Tyler Allgeier BYU 5′ 11″ 224 9 5/8″ 31 1/2″ 4.45
Jerome Ford Cincinnati 5′ 10 1/2″ 210 9 1/8″ 30 5/8″ 4.52
D’vonte Price Florida International 6′ 1″ 210 9 3/8″ 31 1/2″ na
Jashaun Corbin Florida State 5′ 11″ 202 9 1/2″ 31 1/2″ 4.55
Ronnie Rivers Fresno State 5′ 7 1/2″ 195 8 1/2″ 28″ 4.6
James Cook Georgia 5’11 199 9 3/8″ 30 3/4″ na
Tyler Goodson Iowa 5′ 9″ 197 9″ 29 1/2″ 4.4
Ty Davis-Price LSU 6′ 0″ 211 9 1/4″ 30 3/4″ 4.6
Hassan Haskins Michigan 6′ 2″ 228 9 1/4″ 31 3/4″ na
Jerrion Ealy Mississippi 5′ 8″ 189 8 1/2″ 29 1/8″ 4.53
Snoop Conner Mississippi 5′ 10″ 222 9 1/4″ 30 1/4″ 4.43
Tyler Badie Missouri 5′ 8″ 197 9 1/8″ 29 3/8″ 4.42
Bam Knight N.C. State 5′ 11″ 209 9 1/4″ 30 1/2” na
Ty Chandler North Carolina 5′ 11″ 204 9″ 32 1/8″ 4.48
Kyren Williams Notre Dame 5′ 9″ 194 9″ 28 5/8″ 4.64
Kennedy Brooks Oklahoma 5′ 11″ 209 7 5/8″ 30 1/4″ 4.38
Jaylen Warren Oklahoma State 5′ 8″ 204 9 1/4″ 29 7/8″ 4.46
CJ Verdell Oregon 5′ 8″ 194 9 1/2″ 29 1/4″ 4.59
Isiah Pacheco Rutgers 5′ 10″ 216 9 1/4″ 30 1/2″ 4.42
Greg Bell San Diego State 5′ 10 1/2″ 201 9 3/8″ 30 7/8″ na
Kevin Harris South Carolina 5′ 10″ 221 9 1/4″ 31 1/4″ 4.65
Quan White South Carolina 6′ 0″ 206 9″ 30 3/4″ na
Pierre Strong South Dakota State 5′ 11″ 207 9 1/4″ 31 7/8″ 4.48
Keaontay Ingram USC 6′ 0″ 221 9″ 31 1/2″ 4.59
Sincere McCormick UTSA 5′ 8 1/2″ 205 9 1/8″ 29 7/8″ 4.59
Max Borghi Washington State 5′ 9″ 210 9 1/8″ 29 5/8″ 4.37
Leddie Brown West Virginia 6′ 0″ 213 9 3/4″ 31 3/8″ na

2022 is considered one of the weaker classes of running backs in recent years, and there’s a distinct possibility that there are no first-round picks, and there may only be three or four taken over the first three rounds. The majority will be no better than Day 3 selections.  The last two drafts contained fewer than 20 running backs chosen.

There is less consensus about the order and which backs will be the eventual initial choices.  Brian Robinson (Alabama) and Zamir White (Georgia) will be among the first taken if only because they attended football factories. Still, these are the best running backs coming out of college and every NFL team will have a shot at them since they’ll last longer. It may seem disappointing from a fantasy perspective, but less hype means lower values in fantasy drafts.

Wide Receivers

Top WR School HT WT Hand Arm 40-yard
Treylon Burks Arkansas 6’2″ 225 9 7/8 33 1/2 4.55
Garrett Wilson Ohio State 6’0″ 183 9 7/8 32 4.38
Drake London USC 6’4″ 219 9 3/8 33 na
Jameson Williams Alabama 6’1″ 179 9 1/4 32 1/8 na
Wan’Dale Robinson Kentucky 5’8″ 178 9 27 5/8 4.44
Jahan Dotson Penn State 5’11” 178 9 1/2 30 3/4 4.43
Chris Olave Ohio State 6’0″ 187 9 1/2 31 1/8 4.39
George Pickens Georgia 6’3″ 195 8 3/4 32 3/8 4.47
Justyn Ross Clemson 6’3″ 205 9 5/8 32 1/8 na
David Bell Purdue 6’1″ 212 9 1/4 31 7/8 4.65
Alec Pierce Cincinnati 6’3″ 211 9 33 4.33
Calvin Austin Memphis 5’8″ 170 9 1/4 30 4.32
John Metchie Alabama 6’0″ 187 9 1/4 30 5/8 na
Later Round WR School HT WT Hand Arm 40-yard
Slade Bolden Alabama 5’11” 193 9 3/4 29 3/8 4.66
Tyquan Thornton Baylor 6’2″ 181 8 1/4 33 1/8 4.28
Khalil Shakir Boise State 6’0″ 196 9 1/2 29 4.43
Ty Fryfogle Indiana 6’1″ 205 L 9 5/8 30 5/8 4.53
Charleston Rambo Miami 6’1″ 177 9 3/4 32 4.57
Jalen Nailor Michigan State 5’11” 186 9 1/8 30 1/4 4.50
Dontario Drummond Mississippi 6’0″ 215 9 1/4 31 1/2 4.65
Braylon Sanders Mississippi 6’0″ 194 10 31 1/2 4.48
Makai Polk Mississippi State 6’3″ 195 9 1/2 32 1/4 4.59
Romeo Doubs Nevada 6’2″ 201 10 32 1/4 na
Dai’Jean Dixon Nicholls State 6’2″ 205 9 5/8 32 5/8 4.62
Christian Watson North Dakota State 6’4″ 208 10 1/8 32 1/2 4.36
Isaiah Weston Northern Iowa 6’4″ 214 9 1/2 32 1/2 4.42
Kevin Austin Jr. Notre Dame 6’2″ 200 9 32 7/8 4.43
Mike Woods Oklahoma 6’1″ 204 9 5/8 33 4.55
Johnny Johnson III Oregon 6’0″ 197 9 3/4 30 1/2 4.60
Devon Williams Oregon 6’4″ 210 9 7/8 34 1/8 4.65
Bo Melton Rutgers 5’11” 189 9 31 1/4 4.34
Danny Gray SMU 6’0″ 186 9 5/8 31 7/8 4.33
Jr. Reggie Roberson SMU 5’11” 192 9 1/2 32 5/8 na
Jalen Tolbert South Alabama 6’1″ 194 10 32 1/4 4.49
Velus Jones Tennessee 5’11” 204 9 3/4 30 7/8 4.31
Erik Ezukanma Texas Tech 6’2″ 209 9 3/8 33 1/2 na
Josh Johnson Tulsa 5’10” 183 8 5/8 31 7/8 na
Kyle Philips UCLA 5’11” 189 8 5/8 29 5/8 4.58
Tré Turner Virginia Tech 6’1″ 184 8 1/2 30 3/4 4.51
Skyy Moore Western Michigan 5’10” 195 10 1/4 31 4.41

The two measurables that are most valued with wideouts are height (without losing speed) and 40-times. It briefly seemed that the Combine record of 4.22 (John Ross – 2017) was broken by Baylor’s Tyquan Taylor with an unofficial 4.21, but it was later changed to 4.28. Speed is a tremendous advantage to a wide receiver but it isn’t even the most important characteristic.  John Ross set the record but hasn’t translated that into being a difference-maker.

The 13 wideouts at the top of the listing are the consensus best and should all be taken before the end of the third round at the latest. Their order will change constantly over the various NFL mock drafts, but the first four – Treylon Burks, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, and Jameson Williams all have a legitimate shot at being the first selected in April and should all be gone by the second round.

Some mock drafts have as many as eight wideouts selected in the first round but almost all come in the latter half of picks. Matching up a talented wideout on a team that needs a new starter and already has an established quarterback is the ideal and that can happen for any receiver.

Tight Ends

Top TE School Height Weight Hand Arm 40-yard
Jalen Wydermyer Texas A&M 6’4″ 255 9 3/4″ 33 1/8″ na
Trey McBride Colorado State 6’4″ 246 10 1/8″ 32 1/2″ na
Isaiah Likely Coastal Carolina 6’5″ 245 10″ 31 7/8″ na
Charlie Kolar Iowa State 6’6″ 252 10″ 34 1/2″ na
Later Round TE School HT WT Hand Arm 40-yard
Curtis Hodges Arizona State 6’8″ 257 9 5/8″ 34 1/2″ 4.85
Peyton Hendershot Indiana 6’4″ 250 9″ 32 5/8″ 4.80
Chase Allen Iowa State 6’6″ 251 9 5/8″ 34 1/8″ na
Chigoziem Okonkwo Maryland 6’3″ 238 9 3/4″ 32 3/4″ 4.52
Connor Heyward Michigan State 5’11” 233 9 1/2″ 31 7/8″ na
Austin Allen Nebraska 6’8″ 253 9 1/2″ 33 5/8″ 4.83
Cole Turner Nevada 6′ 6″ 246 9 7/8″ 33″ 4.76
Jeremy Ruckert Ohio State 6’5″ 250 10 1/8″ 32 3/4″ na
Jeremiah Hall Oklahoma 6’2″ 239 10 1/2″ 31 5/8″ na
Teagan Quitoriano Oregon State 6’6″ 258 9 3/8″ 33 3/4″ na
Daniel Bellinger San Diego State 6’5″ 253 10 1/8″ 32 1/2″ 4.63
Grant Calcaterra SMU 6’4″ 241 10″ 33 1/4″ 4.62
Greg Dulcich UCLA 6’4″ 243 9 7/8″ 33 3/8″ 4.70
Jelani Woods Virginia 6’7″ 259 9 1/4″ 34 1/8″ 4.61
James Mitchell Virginia Tech 6’4″ 249 9 3/4″ 32 7/8″ na
Cade Otton Washington 6’5″ 247 9 1/2″ 32 3/4″ na
Jake Ferguson Wisconsin 6’5″ 250 9 1/2″ 32 5/8″ 4.81

Fantasy tight ends are invariably poor contributors, but the first four are worth tracking. And even more so for dynasty teams. There may be no tight ends taken until round two, but at least two or three should show up before the third round.

2022 NFL free agency preview: Tight ends

A snapshot preview of the most impactful moves to expect in the upcoming session of NFL free agency.

As of Monday, March 14, at noon ET, NFL clubs can legally negotiate with impending free agents ahead of the official opening to free agency on March 16 at 4 p.m. ET. Over the next six weeks, we’ll get a better idea of where some of these players may be headed, but that won’t stop us from trying to make a few guesses along the way.

We currently have a list of upcoming unrestricted free agents, which is where the focus will lie as opposed to addressing players with restricted movement. RFAs can change teams, but it’s rather rare in today’s NFL. Exclusive-rights free agents will not be addressed as they have no bargaining power or leverage.

We’ll examine the four major skill positions in separate articles as part of this series. Some players will be included who aren’t technically free agents but figure to be on the move via trade or eventual release.

Also see: QB | RB | WR

Tight ends

Top targets

It’s a rather thin class for the top end of the position this year. Despite seeing familiar names on the list, none of these guys are destined to “wow” anyone in 2022.

Rob Gronkowski: With the retirement of Tom Brady, Gronk is a long shot to return to the field. Should he defy his past proclamation of TB12 being the only QB he wants to play with, perhaps everyone’s favorite goofball could chance a ring with a contender, such as the Cincinnati Bengals. Gronkowski recently expressed praise for QB Joe Burrow.

Mike Gesicki: Gesicki is a vital component of the Miami Dolphins’ desire to see QB Tua Tagovailoa ascend to new levels, but a retirement of Gronk likely would position Gesicki  atop the market. Miami could opt to franchise tag him if they don’t work out a long-term deal, but having the most available cap space available puts the Dolphins in a position of luxury. Even if Gesicki doesn’t return, there are a few options in free agency, but one of the best young TEs in the game would fit nicely into the system being installed by new head coach Mike McDaniel.

Zach Ertz: Depending on the asking price, Ertz has a chance to return to the Arizona Cardinals. The team isn’t in great shape cap-wise, although losing most of the starting pass-catching outlets to free agency means this team will need to do something of note to assist wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Presuming Ertz is free to walk, the guy he replaced, Maxx Williams, also is a free agent and may have interest in coming back. He’d be a cheaper option, too. Ertz’s veteran presence, skill set, and flexibility will offer him options in free agency. He’s likely to sign a one-year deal with a contender, and given the current tumult in the desert, it’s not hard to see him reuniting with former Philly coaches in either Indianapolis or Jacksonville.

Dalton Schultz: A breakthrough 2021 season by Schultz followed a promising one and will situate him near the top of available players among his positional mates. Being in the prime of his career, coupled with Dallas facing a challenging cap situation, means there’s a strong chance he walks. Teams with money and need who may be in the mix include Miami (if Gesicki doesn’t return), the Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks.

Evan Engram: At 27, has finished a full slate of games just once (2020) in his five-year career. He burst onto the scene in 2017 as a rookie and has disappointed ever since. This is one of those “could benefit from a change of scenery” situations, and while he is unlikely to ever reach the hype following his inaugural campaign, there’s potential for a nice rebound effort in the right situation. He’s limited as a blocker and is constantly battling injuries, but Engram could be most useful playing for Jacksonville, the Chargers, and the Seahawks where there won’t be so much pressure on him. Some utility could be found with Indy, Tampa and a few other stops, too. Don’t discredit a signing with Carolina to reunite him with Ben McAdoo.

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Role players

Occasionally serviceable but far from a staple of the offense, these players will have utility in the right setting.

Tyler Conklin: Somewhat due to necessity, Conklin emerged as an erratic but capable option who is more than just a blocker. The Vikings could push to re-sign him if Kirk Cousins sticks around, although a new coaching staff and GM lessen the chances of that coming to fruition. Don’t be surprised if Conklin has to settle for a backup or 1b job somewhere.

Gerald Everett: We saw Everett step up in Seattle to set career highs in receptions (48), yards (478) and TDs (4) in 15 games. The Seahawks could be inclined to re-sign him if the money makes sense, and Everett will garner a bit of attention on the open market once the primary tight ends find homes.

Robert Tonyan: A one-year wonder? Perhaps. Tonyan broke out in a touchdown-dependent way in 2020, only to start off sluggishly in ’21 before suffering a torn ACL that prematurely ended his season. The Green Bay Packers hold the leverage here, but they also have negative cap space — as in the second-least money to spend. It’s tough to imagine Tonyan having a huge market outside of Wisconsin.

C.J. Uzomah: All of the skill talent around him led to a modest breakout season in 2021. He has a sneaky combination of blocking ability and deceiving receiving chops that aren’t usually seen from guys of his size, but the Bengals could stand to upgrade at the position. Rumblings link Gronk to Cincy for next year, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bengals shell out some cash on a veteran like Ertz as a short-term answer. Uzomah may return to the Bengals, but he also doesn’t have much leverage.

Eric Ebron: There’s not a lot to like here when compared to the other options on the market. Ebron is often injured, has inconsistent hands, doesn’t block particularly well, and is poised to be on his fourth team in six years. Entering his age-29 season, coming off his worst year as a pro, he’ll be lucky to have multiple teams willing to make an offer.

O.J. Howard: Once billed as a potentially elite tight end, on-field limitations and injuries have held back Howard. He could find a fresh start in a number of cities, but no one should be banking on the Alabama product being guaranteed an opportunity to start.

David Njoku: Inconsistent to even poor hands is never a good attribute as a pass-catcher. Njoku has been accused of having attitude problems at times, too, but he isn’t a trouble-maker. In 2022’s free-agent market, the former first-round may find a few teams interested in lining him up in the slot and playing a hybrid role. His inline limitations suggest Njoku will be hard-pressed to find a full-time gig as a traditional Y.

Hayden Hurst: Despite 2022 being only his fifth year — a time when most players are first eligible for unrestricted free agency — Hurst enters a somewhat flooded market ahead of his age-29 season. In 2020, it appeared as if he had turned a corner (56-571-6), only for the Atlanta Falcons to draft a generational talent to replace him. Hurst will have suitors, but he’s likely to settle for a backup job.

Jared Cook: The journeyman may finally hang ’em up after 13 seasons. He’ll be 35 before the 2022 season begins, and Cook likely will be asked to play a minor role in the offense should he find a suitor.

Jimmy Graham: At nearly 300 years old, Graham’s 2022 plans likely include a rocking chair on a porch. Kidding aside, the once-prolific pass-catcher could sign with a contender for his blocking and red-zone skills in a part-time role.

Warm body with a pulse

Could latch on for a bit role as a depth or to serve a niche purpose but doesn’t figure to have notable utility.

  • Maxx Williams
  • Mo Alie-Cox
  • Anthony Firkser
  • Ricky Seals-Jones
  • Jordan Akins
  • Will Dissly

Under contract, but …

Kyle Rudolph, New York Giants: There’s about a 0.0 percent chance he is retained by the Giants without extending and restructuring, which is impractical given his age and the rest of the issues the Giants have to sort out. That said, he’s a great blocker for a team with serious offensive line problems and a capable receiver. The G-Men would save $5 million of a scheduled $7.4 million cap hit by cutting him before or after June 1.

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts: Indy basically can walk away free of concern if Doyle is cut, regardless of the timing. He is due to count $6.2 million against the 2022 cap in the final year of his deal, and the veteran could be shown the door to save all but $750k of that figure. At 32 years old, unless he takes a serious paycut to stick around, expect Doyle to be playing elsewhere in the upcoming year.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gronk is a free agent and appears to be leaning toward retirement again or at least leaving Tampa now that Brady has retired. As mentioned above, Howard also is a free agent. Brate is due to cost $7.285 million against the 2022 cap, and only nine other TEs carry a larger charge. He’s well-liked in the organization and is a low-tier starter in a pinch, so this one could go either way. Expect the team to restructure him if nothing else.