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2022 Fantasy Football Opportunity Tracker: Vikings and Lions

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.

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Minnesota Vikings: No More Zimmer-ing in the Cook’s Kitchen

Key Additions: None

Notable Losses: Tyler Conklin, Chris Herndon

Vacant RB Weighted Opportunities: 9

Vacant WR/TE Targets: 111

Head Coach Kevin O’Connell comes to Minnesota after spending the past two seasons as the OC for the Los Angeles Rams. He and former Vikings HC Mike Zimmer have opposite offensive philosophies, O’Connell being a pass-first coach, and a former quarterback. This analysis will contain both target share data from Kirk Cousins in 2021 and Rams target distribution data from the last season.

Kirk Cousins should flourish with O’Connell calling plays in Minnesota. He doesn’t turn the ball over, is good throwing on the run, and has sneaky athleticism outside the pocket. Cousins has the highest upside of the quarterbacks currently being drafted outside the top-15. Captain Kirk is an excellent option for those who prefer to wait at QB.

Dalvin Cook averaged 17.7 wOpp per game in 2021, logging 19.2 carries (3.4 red-zone) and nearly four targets per game. If the Vikings deploy a similar strategy to the Rams for their backfield, it will be about a 70-30 snap-split. Cam Akers averaged 19.3 opportunities per game during the Rams Super Bowl run last season, so we can use that as our median projection. Cook struggled with injuries in 2021, missing four games, and health is the only thing holding him back from a top-6 fantasy RB season in 2022.

In recent memory, Alexander Mattison has been one of the most valuable handcuffs in fantasy. Because he and Cook have such similar skillsets, Mattison has absorbed the entire workload whenever Dalvin Cook has been absent from the lineup. Managers who roster Dalvin Cook should always roster Mattison, even if it requires reaching for him one or two rounds early.

Justin Jefferson averaged 9.8 targets per game (tied for 4th in the league) and saw a 28.6% red zone target share (led team). Now he gets to play in an offense that will be built on the same principles that helped produce Cooper Kupp’s historic 2021 campaign. Jefferson has WR1-overall upside in this projected role.

The WR2 and WR3 roles in the Rams offense had similar target shares to Minnesota’s in 2021, with lower percentages, given the higher passing volume. Adam Thielen should see a similar number to his 12.1 wOpp per game from last year and is a low-end WR2 in this projected role. KJ Osborn saw 7.9 wOpp per game last season, and projects to see a slight increase this year. He has speed to burn and has a very high motor. Reminiscent of pre-hype Stefon Diggs.

Irv Smith Jr missed the entire 2021 season due to injury, but projects to step into a role that should yield a high-end TE2 season. Last season’s starter, Tyler Conklin, finished 2nd on the team in red-zone target share. Both of Minnesota’s top TEs are no longer with the team, leaving behind 94 targets, so Irv Smith makes for a very intriguing late-round flier.

Detroit Lions: Swift-ly Rebuilding

Key Additions: DJ Chark

Notable Losses: None

Vacant RB Weighted Opportunities: 0

Vacant WR/TE Targets: 34

D’Andre Swift saw 16.4 wOpp per game in 13 starts last season. His recent injury struggles could keep his ADP low, and his opportunity numbers are elite when he is on the field. Jamaal Williams makes the situation seem a bit muddy, but most of his touches came when Swift was unavailable. One of the strangest stats uncovered by this article series is that Jamaal Williams did not get one red-zone target last season. The Lions prefer Swift in the passing game over Williams, who to this point, has been a career third-down specialist. Swift is the most talented offensive player on this team, and if he stays healthy, could finish as an RB1 in 2022.

Amon-Ra St. Brown finished the 2021 season on a tear, winning many fantasy managers a title in the process. Even his season-long stats look appetizing, but over the final six games of last season, he averaged 11.2 total targets per game, which was Cooper Kupp’s season-long average. His 11.7 wOpp (7 targets per game) across the entire season represents closer to the median projection, now that DJ Chark has joined the team. If 11.2 targets per game is the upside, St. Brown could have a WR2 finish coming in 2022.

DJ Chark signed a one-year contract with Detroit this offseason and is recovering from a broken ankle sustained last season. There isn’t much information available on his recovery timeline, but he has shown fantasy upside in the past.

TJ Hockenson is the only other fantasy-relevant pass-catcher in Detroit. Hockenson averaged seven targets per game in 2021, and projects as a top-8 TE again this year if he can stay healthy. Be careful not to reach for him though, as Dalton Schultz provides similar upside and is currently available far later in drafts.

Check back tomorrow as we round out the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

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