Scott Engel is in his 11th season as the official Fantasy Football writer and analyst for Seahawks.com. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 10-time nominee, including being a finalist for the 2020 FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year Award, which he won previously. Scott was the No. 1 most accurate fantasy football draft ranker at tight end and No. 6 at running back on fantasypros.com in 2021. You can find more of his fantasy football analysis, including 2022 player rankings, at The Game Day this season.
The NFL preseason is over, and Seahawks fans are now looking forward to the season opener against Denver. Until then, fantasy football players will keep drafting right up until the first game of the season between the Bills and Rams on Sept. 8. Others who have drafted already are considering potential trades and examining the waiver wire for top pickups.
If your league draft is still approaching, you will want to get these 12 players on your team if possible. They could be significant difference-makers on the road to a fantasy football championship in 2022. Those who have completed drafts can feel good about rostering these players, or they can consider targeting them in potential trades. These are the guys you can watch and get fired up about when they deliver strong fantasy production this season.
Seahawks.com Fantasy Insider's 12 Players To Watch in 2022
D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions: Those who are still planning for their drafts should be targeting Swift at the end of the first round or early in the second. Swift is the featured upside RB pick among the RB1 types, as he can come through with a significant breakout season and join the more established elite fantasy RBs. Our analysis leans to PPR formats. Swift had 62 receptions in 13 games last season and he could be an 1,100-yard plus rusher who catches around 75 passes while scoring 12-plus TDs from scrimmage in 2022. Swift should firmly stamp himself as one of the best dual threat RBs in fantasy football this year.
Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans: The rookie appears to have wrapped up a starting job with a very strong preseason. Pierce averaged 7.8 yards per carry in exhibition play, rushing for 86 yards and a TD on 11 attempts. Improving a 32nd-ranked rushing game was a primary focus for Houston during the offseason, and Pierce appears ready to boost the offense in that regard. He has looked decisive and determined while displaying a physical brand of running. Pierce should be viewed as a top 20 fantasy running back in remaining drafts leading up to the season.
Kenneth Walker III, Seahawks: If you can land Walker after the ninth round of an upcoming fantasy draft, he could prove to be a terrific value pick during the season. Once Walker returns from a recent procedure, he should ramp up to the point where he will at least deserve strong consideration for your flex spot. In any weeks where he might see a larger workload, Walker may have a ceiling of producing at a high-end fantasy RB2 level. Fantasy players who have already drafted can consider trading for Walker before the season begins. Those who play in deep leagues should also keep DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer on their radar, as Dallas averaged 54.3 yards per game and Homer averaged 7.5 yards per carry in the preseason.
Alexander Mattison. Minnesota Vikings:Experienced fantasy leaguers are already aware that Mattison is one of the top No. 2 RBs on a depth chart in the NFL. Whenever he has been pressed into heavier action in the past, Mattison has often delivered impressive results while also flashing tremendous promise. In three of his four starts last year, Mattison rushed for 90-plus yards, and over 110 in two of them. In his first two starts of the season, he had 13 receptions for 199 yards. If Mattison starts for the Vikings at any point this season, he will be a fantasy lineup lock, so you should target him when drafting for depth at RB in the later rounds.
A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles completed their quest to upgrade their passing game over the past two years by acquiring Brown in the offseason. He will be a prime offensive playmaker and a consistent weapon for Jalen Hurts, who now has all the weaponry needed to continue improving as a passer. Brown can make tough catches and also take off for big gainers. Look for him to come through with a career season, and he is a very good fantasy draft target at the end of the second round or early in the third.
Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills: When a guy catches four TDs in a playoff game as Davis did last season, he is sending a loud and clear signal that he is ready for stardom. Those who draft Davis in the fourth or fifth round are going to enjoy his big breakout campaign in 2022. Davis will be the clear No. 2 WR in a highly potent passing game in his third NFL season. Davis is dynamic and will become a fantasy football favorite.
Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears: Mooney is clearly lined up to be the No. 1 WR for the Bears this year, and should build on an impressive second pro season. In 2021, Mooney's receiving totals leaped from 631 yards to 1,055, and he finished with 81 receptions. The runway has been cleared for him to continue to emerge as the prime playmaker in the Chicago passing game. He quickly developed a good on-field rapport with Justin Fields last season, and Mooney will take notable steps forward as a quality NFL and fantasy WR in 2022. Expect him to find the end zone more often, and he will be very busy as a key pass-catcher for Fields on important passing downs.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kansas City Chiefs: In 2020, Smith-Schuster caught 97 balls and scored nine times as part of a Steelers passing game that ranked 15th in total yardage. Now he should operate as the No. 1 wide receiver for the high-flying Kansas City passing attack. Smith-Schuster is being drafted as a fantasy WR3 this season and will be a must-start option in that fantasy role in 2022. Patrick Mahomes will often propel his pass-catchers to reach their highest possible output levels, so Smith-Schuster could outperform preseason expectations.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles: If we like Brown, then we have to also foresee a big season for Hurts. We already know the outstanding rushing stats he is capable of, as Hurts led all quarterbacks in rushing yards (784) and TDs (10) last season. Now Hurts gets Brown to work with, and rising star DeVonta Smith will be his No. 2 WR. Dallas Goedert is a proven quality tight end, Hurts is a top rushing QB with an upgraded receiving crew and he is a top 5 fantasy QB heading into the 2022 season.
Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders: Carr is on the verge of a career year, and those who wait to draft their starting quarterback will get a good value if they can get him in double figure draft rounds. Savvy fantasy players usually take their starting QBs from rounds 7 through 10, because you only have to start one in traditional formats and the depth of comfortable starters runs to almost the 15th QB off the board. At the back end of that range you can nab Carr, who passed for a career-high 4.804 yards last season and now has his best pass-catching group ever with Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. Carr definitely has a fantasy QB1 outlook for the 2022 season.
Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys: Schultz is going to get bumped up on the Dallas target ladder this season and should be the top TE off draft boards after Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, Kyle Pitts, George Kittle and Waller. Schultz should establish new career highs in receptions and touchdowns, as his previous standards are 58 and five in those respective departments. Dak Prescott will continue to sling the ball frequently and Schultz will be one of his top pass-catchers in 2022. Prescott already trusts Schultz a lot in important passing situations. The Dallas tight end tied for third at his position in first down receptions last season with 43.
Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings: Under new head coach Kevin O'Connell, the Minnesota passing game might take a significant step forward and emerge as one of the best in the league this season. Justin Jefferson is the clear No. 1 pass-catcher for the Vikings and Adam Thielen will remain a top target for Kirk Cousins. But Smith can become an important third and frequent option for Cousins. Smith had his 2021 season halted by a knee injury but now should be ready to progressively become a more featured part of the Minnesota passing attack. Smith is being drafted as a fantasy TE2, but he has TE1 promise.
Scott Engel's 2022 Fantasy Football rankings are now available at The Game Day. Check out his full Top 330 overall and in-depth positional analysis.
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