The 2022 Opportunity Tracker is where fantasy managers come to discover fantasy value and potential sleepers. We uncover value by analyzing team target distribution and adjusting for offseason additions and subtractions. Many players will have new homes in 2022-23 and leading up to the NFL Draft (April 28-30), this series provides some high-level insight into the fantasy impact of important offseason moves for each team. Using this insight, we can help managers stay ahead of the curve in dynasty leagues and uncover vacant roles where teams may rely on newcomers and/or rookies to make an impact.
One of the main concepts we use in this series is “Weighted Opportunity“, created by Scott Barrett at Pro Football Focus. Weighted Opportunity (wOpp) is a great way to equalize the value between targets and carries, particularly for running backs. The calculations for this series were done manually, using statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.
Indianapolis Colts: Matty Ice, Ice Baby!
Key Additions: Matt Ryan
Notable Losses: Carson Wentz, Zach Pascal, TY Hilton
Vacant RB Weighted Opportunities: 22
Vacant WR/TE Targets: 149
Michael Pittman Jr has been one of the most polarizing fantasy players this offseason, and it is difficult to determine why. He has a clear upgrade with Matt Ryan at QB, 149 available targets, and carries a matchup advantage against basically any DB in the red zone, due to his size. These are his opportunity numbers from 2021:
- 7.6 targets per game (26% share)
- 26% red-zone target share
- 12.7 wOpp per game
For the sake of comparison, as a fantasy manager, would you rather have:
- Michael Pittman Jr or Elijah Moore?
- Terry McLaurin or Michael Pittman Jr?
- Michael Pittman Jr or Brandon Aiyuk?
These are some of the players currently being drafted ahead of Pittman in the early-sixth round. The workloads for these players in 2021 were very similar, except for the red zone usage, and we already know that red-zone targets are nearly twice as valuable as non-red-zone targets. Matt Ryan seems to always have one receiver who he force-feeds targets – see Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Calvin Ridley – and in this offense, that is Michael Pittman. Pittman should improve on his WR17 finish from 2021 in this role, regardless of any further additions to the Colts roster.
Most rushing yards after contact in a season since 2010
💥 ('20) Derrick Henry – 1,490
💥 ('12) Adrian Peterson – 1,369
💥 ('21) Jonathan Taylor – 1,272 pic.twitter.com/qXRs6M6vxM
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) April 12, 2022
Jonathan Taylor is one of the most exciting young players in the NFL. The 2021 All-Pro has only been missing one thing from his fantasy arsenal, thus far – passing-game work. He improved in this area in 2021, averaging three targets per game, but still has a ways to go to reach an elite passing game role. Taylor received 87 red-zone opportunities (25% of his carries), most in the league by a longshot, which is where the bulk of his value comes from. This is unlikely to change, given the run-first nature of the Colts offense, so he can be drafted as a high-end RB1 with confidence. There will likely be some regression related to his efficiency, but if he is available after 1.05 in your draft, he is worth the draft capital.
Other than these two players, nobody on the Colts is currently fantasy roster worthy. Matt Ryan is a mid-range QB2 in Superflex and 2QB leagues, because he does not provide much value with his legs, diminishing his fantasy value. Carson Wentz was fantasy relevant in decent matchups, but only because of his rushing ability.
Mo Allie-Cox is a decent red-zone weapon at tight end, but he is only rosterable in tight end premium leagues.
Houston Texans: Houston, We Have a Problem
Key Additions: Marlon Mack
Notable Losses: David Johnson
Vacant RB Weighted Opportunities: 220
Vacant WR/TE Targets: 84
Brandin Cooks was the only true fantasy-relevant player on the Texans in 2021. Cooks saw 13.5 wOpp per game (8.4 tgt/g), and dominated target share (26%). The next closest player behind Cooks’ 134 targets was Nico Collins, who had 60. Cooks is a tried and true WR2 based on volume alone, and Texans should be playing from behind a lot in 2022, leading to more targets. Cooks is similar to Pittman, in that they are both being under drafted, relative to their workload. Lock in that value if you are looking for a WR in the 5th-round (Cooks).
Brandin Cooks is only 28 and has 6 1,000-yard seasons, at least 1,000-yards in a season for 4 different teams, has been traded 3 times and signed 2 extensions (plus a renegotiated deal).
A really good player with a fascinating career already.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 7, 2022
Nico Collins is an interesting dynasty add. He is big and very skilled, and built some chemistry with QB Davis Mills late in 2021. He is worth a spot on the end of the bench in dynasty leagues.
Marlon Mack may be the sleeper with the highest fantasy upside in 2022.
- Most talented back on the team (Rex Burkhead, Royce Freeman, and Dare Ogunbowale)
- Excellent red-zone rusher (17 TDs from 2018-2019 with the Colts)
- Has had basically two full seasons to recover from Achilles surgery
- Texans deployed a true committee approach to the backfield in 2021 (no RB above 10.1 wOpp/g)
- Texans don’t run in the red zone (last in NFL in red-zone rushing TDs)
- Achilles injuries are bad for running backs
- Not an established pass-catcher
Late-round RB value?
If the Texans can draft an impact player on the offensive line, improve their offensive efficiency in Davis Mills’ first full season as the starter, and Mack becomes the lead-back, he can be a top-25 fantasy RB. That’s a lot of things that need to happen, but the upside is enormous. Mark Ingram got 13 carries per game and averaged two red-zone carries before being traded in 2021, so talent should prevail here. Mack can be drafted basically for free, in the 14th round at a potentially massive discount.
Similar to Indianapolis, there aren’t any other noteworthy fantasy players on this offense. Davis Mills as no more than a streamer in 2QB leagues until we see a big game. He showed flashes last season, and doesn’t turn the ball over much, but offers no rushing-upside.
Check back later for an offseason look at the NFC North, as we uncover hidden value and fantasy goodness.