It’s not much of a bold prediction to say the Buccaneers will win the NFC South. This is Tom Brady’s division and everyone else is just playing in it. Since signing with Tampa Bay, Brady and the Bucs are back-to-back divisional champions. They’ve won a Super Bowl and continue to produce elite fantasy performances. There is still plenty of fantasy football goodness to tap into, especially on the other three teams in the NFC South.
Each week, Michael Govier (@mjgovier) and I (@Colin_McT) will continue to highlight one bold prediction from each team, division by division, until the start of the 2022 NFL season. These predictions will hopefully get the gears in your head turning. Most are positive while others may be negative. The likeliness that every single one of these predictions hits is certainly not 100%. However, they should generate some buzz or cause you to think twice about each player. Just be confident in your feelings when you’re on the clock. Be sure to check out www.FantraxHQ.com for bold predictions from the other divisions all summer long!
A Fantasy Football Bold Prediction for Each NFC South Team
McTamany’s Bold Prediction: Tyler Allgeier finishes 2022 as the top rookie running back
Tyler Allgeier is a fifth-round rookie running back out of BYU. Though he was the 12th running back off of the board in the 2022 NFL draft, I believe he’s landed in one of, if not the, best situation ahead of this season. Allgeier should be targeted in every dynasty draft, but my bold prediction is that he breaks out in a big way in 2022. That makes him a target in redraft leagues.
The Atlanta Falcons have a ton of new personnel on offense in comparison to Week 1 of last season. Ahead of Allgeier on the depth chart at running back are 30-year-old Damien Williams and 31-year-old Cordarelle Patterson. Though Patterson’s RB eligibility is advantageous for fantasy football, it’s because of his role as a receiver. While Patterson is considered the “lead back” from last season, he only had 153 carries, which is just 15 more than former teammate, Mike Davis. Additionally, Mike Davis had just one less (5) double-digit carry game than Patterson. Meanwhile, Damien Williams, who is a career fill-in, has just 418 total carries in seven NFL seasons, including playoffs.
Falcons head coach, Arthur Smith, is entering his second year in Atlanta. His prior job, as the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator in 2019 and 2020, is responsible for two back-to-back rushing titles from Derrick Henry. I’m not saying Allgeier is the next King Henry. It’s conceivable, though, that Smith would prefer a workhorse back in this Falcons offense. Allgeier’s 304 touches for 1,805 all-purpose yards and 23 rushing touchdowns at BYU last season should interest Smith greatly.
The Falcons host the New Orleans Saints then travel to L.A. against the Super Bowl champion Rams to start the 2022 season. Those are two top run defenses from last year. So, it may not be an immediate impact from Allgeier or any Atlanta player on the ground to kick things off. However, look for Allgeier to turn heads in Seattle in their Week 3 matchup with the Seahawks. I think he commands the job from that point forward and is one of the bigger surprises from this rookie class.
Govier’s Bold Prediction: Marcus Mariota tops his career-best 260 fantasy points from 2016
It seems so bizarre to me that Marcus Mariota is back in a starting role. He has been so far removed from starting at QB that the reality of his new opportunity in Atlanta baffles me. Then I realized that Arthur Smith (a former staff coach for the Titans during Mariota’s starting days) is the head coach of the Falcons. Suddenly, it’s pretty clear why Atlanta wanted Mariota and why he is know penciled in as the starter for the 2022 Falcons.
Mariota was the second overall pick in 2015 who suffered through a rough rookie campaign before looking much more like the part of an NFL starter throwing for 3426 yards with 26 scoring throws and 9 picks. Even ran for two more on 349 yards rushing. He won a playoff game on 2017 beating KC before bowing out to New England. In 2018 he slipped a lot more and by 2019 he was replaced by Ryan Tannehill after going 2-4 as the starter. Tannehill went 7-3 the rest of the way to help the Titans go on that epic run to the AFC Title game where they lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City.
Since that time Mariota has been a rumor. He went to the Raiders where he backed up Derek Carr playing sparingly while dealing with a few different injuries. Now, here we are. Mariota is the apparent starter either because Arthur Smith thinks he knows the code to unlock Mariota or he’s a seat-warmer until rookie Desmond Ridder is ready. I think Ridder has a bright future, but Mariota is not a seat-warmer. He’s 28 years old. Still in his prime. He has the experience now to go with his still mobile legs. Mariota has studly TE Kyle Pitts, underrated Olamide Zaccheaus, former Raider teammate Bryan Edwards and hyped rookie Drake London as passing options. Those are players that can elevate the game of a QB who should be fresh, hungry, and ready to prove why he was the number two overall pick in 2015. I’m betting on the tremendous resolve of Mariota on this one. Get ready for the surprise performance of 2022. The comeback player of the year award has already been decided!
McTamany’s Bold Prediction: D.J. Moore scores as many touchdowns in 2022 as he has total in his four-year career
D.J. Moore is the only wide receiver to total at least 1,200 scrimmage yards in each of the last three seasons. Yet, in 47 total games during that span, his fantasy PPR points per game average is an underwhelming 14.45. That’s because he’s scored exactly four touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. Counting the two from his rookie year, that brings Moore’s career receiving touchdown total up to just 14. A total of 60 players caught more receiving touchdowns in 2021 than Moore did. That list even includes teammate, wide receiver, Robbie Anderson (5) who had 40 less receptions!
Baker Mayfield is likely to win the starting quarterback job in Carolina. Regardless of how you feel about Baker, he is an upgrade from just about every quarterback that’s thrown D.J. Moore’s way. His presence alone should result in a more efficient offense. A more efficient offense gets into the red zone more. That’s where Moore will shine. My bold prediction is that he matches his career receiving touchdown total (14) over the course of the 2022 season.
While Moore and the Panthers don’t have much to show in the red zone last season, he still ranks eighth in percentage of team targets (26.5%) when the Panthers were inside the 20-yard line. Even better, he ties for fourth in percentage of team targets (34.6%) inside the 10-yard line. With a more confident, accurate, and consistent passer like Baker, to that of Sam Darnold especially, Moore should put up better numbers with that sort of attention near and in the end zone.
A healthy Christian McCaffrey does naturally threaten Moore’s target share. However, Moore is an off-season winner having earned a three-year $61.884 million extension. He will be the most targeted wide receiver in this offense by far. The opportunities, specifically in the red zone, should boost D.J. Moore to a long-awaited fantasy WR1 finish.
Govier’s Bold Prediction: Baker Mayfield throws 30 or more touchdowns for the first time in his career
I have a soft spot for Maryland football and crab cakes. I don’t know why other than I like their uniforms and I always root for underdogs. Maryland is as big an underdog program as you will fine in Power 5 college football. In addition, I also like speed. And man alive, D.J. Moore is chock full of the good stuff let me tell you! Last year Moore and Robbie Anderson should have been a force in Carolina. That didn’t quite pan out. Turns out Sam Darnold leading the NFL in rushing scores after Week 5 was a massive fluke. Shocking.
2022 will be year five in the NFL for Baker. Over the last four years, Carolina has had a carousel of signal-callers come and go. Cam Newton flamed out in 2018. Then the Panthers started Kyle Allen, Teddy Two Gloves, and finally Sam Darnold last season. D.J. Moore is a miracle worker, but even he was limited by that list of uninspired names. New QB Baker Mayfield is not those guys. He won a playoff game for the Cleveland Browns! Do you know how big a deal that is over the last 25 years?! He’s also a member of the same draft class and round as D.J. Moore. Last year Mayfield played hurt most of the season. It was gutsy but stupid. He garnered respect (from some of the players at least), but he cost himself his job in Cleveland due mostly to his pride. Baker Mayfield has never had a coach like Matt Rhule before. Kevin Stefanski is solid, but I am a massive believer in Rhule’s organizational ability.
With Moore, Anderson, CMC, and even Terrace Marshall, the Panthers have given Baker all the tools he needs to flourish in 2022. The Panthers’ fantasy flow chart goes something like this: Rhule’s steady coaching hand makes his players believers, Mayfield benefits from that coaching to feel confident and his target options verify that confidence by running all the routes in their tree with precision for scores. Baker Mayfield was hurt last year. He’s not hurt this season. With D.J. Moore on his side, Baker will remind everyone (with his play not his mouth) why he was able to garner a playoff win for one of the more snakebitten franchises in NFL history.
New Orleans Saints
McTamany’s Bold Prediction: Adam Trautman is this year’s Dawson Knox
Dawson Knox is one of the biggest waiver wire pickups from the 2021 fantasy football season. His career-highs in receptions (49), receiving yards (587), and receiving touchdowns (9) paved the way for a TE9 finish on a points-per-game basis. Knox’s production on the Buffalo Bills is that much more impressive battling for targets against Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and others along the way. That said, I believe Knox is fool’s gold in 2022. Nearly 20% of his receptions resulted in a touchdown. It will be hard to maintain that level of efficiency.
There are a lot of similarities between Saints tight end, Adam Trautman, and Knox. They are both third-round draft picks; Knox in 2019 and Trautman in 2020. Both players are 6’4″, or taller, weighing in around 250 pounds. Neither had more than 28 receptions, 388 yards, or three touchdowns prior to their third NFL season. My bold prediction is that Trautman, like Knox, will break out in his third NFL season this year.
Though Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 8 last season, Trautman saw six targets in two games with Winston under center. In Winston’s last full season as a starter, 2019 in Tampa Bay, two tight ends, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, each saw at least 54 targets on an offense with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
The 2022 Saints group of pass catchers is arguably the best of Winston’s career. If Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave, and Alvin Kamara are all on the field, defenses will have their hands full. That should open plenty of one-on-one matchups for Trautman, especially in the end zone. Again, a similar situation to Knox in a crowded Bills offense last season. My bold prediction may fall a bit short as Winston is not Josh Allen. However, I think Trautman breaks out with career-high receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. He likely goes undrafted in most leagues, but could end up being a hot waiver wire add this season.
Govier’s Bold Prediction: Jameis Winston sets a career-high in fantasy points scored
Doesn’t it feel like Jameis Winston is in the early stages of his career still? The ceiling on his potential was so high coming out of Florida State! I’m stunned that this will be his eighth season in the NFL and his third season with the Saints. With Sean Payton sitting out a year as he waits for the Cowboys’ job, this is now Jameis’ Winston’s team. Even though he blew out his ACL last year, he’s back healthy with the vibe as the main man under center for the Saints in 2022.
Before that bogus knee injury, Winston had a 14-3 TD to INT ratio. Even though the yardage and air yard totals were weak, he looked more efficient than any time prior in Tampa Bay. He was also on pace to crush his previous high of 281 yards rushing in 2018. All this took place without Michael Thomas, who is back on the scene ready to reclaim his title as WR1 on the Saints roster. With the welcome additions of rookie Chris Olave out of Ohio State and veteran possession pro Jarvis Landry, Winston has the tools at his disposal to provide ample fantasy points.
The infamous 2019 season where Winston threw 30 picks also happened to be his most productive one because he threw 33 TD passes on 5109 yards passing. That accounted for 305 fantasy points in standard leagues. This year he can chuck the ball over the field from short drag routes to Landry all the way down the field to speedy Deonte Harty (formerly Harris) for big plays scores. Certain analysts will tell you to watch out for Taysom Hill as a nuisance to Winston’s playing time. Don’t sweat that. Those days are over. Hill is. TE now so if anything, Hill will help Winston set new personal bests. I have every reason to expect Jameis Winston to have his best season to date in New Orleans this year. It already would have happened last year if he hadn’t had been injured.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
McTamany’s Bold Prediction: Mike Evans scores the most receiving touchdowns across the league in 2022
In two seasons with Tom Brady in Tampa, Mike Evans continues to break his career-high touchdown totals. In 2020, he found the end zone 13 times. Last season, 14. My bold prediction for Evans this season is that he not only does it again but scores the most of any player in the league.
Looking at last season specifically, Tom Brady, in 17 games, attempted a career and league-high 719 pass attempts. Tampa Bay with Brady is one of the pass-heaviest teams in the NFL. They ranked seventh in 2020 with 38.2 attempts per game and first last year with 43.3 per game.
Brady’s third-most targeted player from last year, Rob Gronkowski, is now retired. His most-targeted player, Chris Godwin, is working his way back from a 2021 late-season ACL tear. That leaves Mike Evans as the likely top target in this offense, especially if the Bucs are to remain one of the top-scoring offenses in the league.
When it comes to Evans’ 2022 fantasy outlook, his touchdown ceiling is what makes him a projected WR1. Since 2019, he has the most total receiving touchdowns across the NFL. He ranked 16th in targets (18) inside the 20-yard line last season while teammate, Chris Godwin, ranked fourth with 25. However, inside the 10-yard line, Evans is tied for fifth with 12 targets. When the Buccaneers get into scoring position, Brady will continue to look Evans’ way, especially from 10 yards and in, as a trustworthy target. At 6’5″ 230 pounds, he is a mismatch and should see more targets inside the 20 this season with Godwin returning from injury.
With all that said, I foresee Evans scoring north of 15 touchdowns, which should be enough to challenge anyone for most in the league. It’s worth noting Cooper Kupp led the league with 16 last season and Davante Adams, with 18, in 2020.
Govier’s Bold Prediction: Cameron Brate will surpass his career high of 8 TD grabs
Rob Gronkowski is no longer walking through that door my friends. It’s finally over. Also, O.J. Howard went to Buffalo. That means the TE position in Tompa Bay is wide open waiting for somebody to snatch up all 109 unclaimed targets left behind by Gronk and Howard. Cameron Brate is that man! He’s actually played for the Bucs his entire career since coming into the league in 2014. So Bucs fans are very familiar with Brate, who showed tremendous patience and resolve by playing a reserve role to Gronk’s massive ego.
From 2016-18 Brate racked up 20 TD grabs while Jameis Winston was the QB in western Florida. Brate even had 4 TD catches last season from Brady on 57 targets overall. He’s a Red Zone stud with an idea target radius that can help him grab jump balls or tight-window snags in high traffic areas. Brate tied for the second most Red Zone targets on the team in 2021 with 19. He converted 10 catches with three of those turned into TD grabs. He’s already an established Red Zone force that Brady likes to look to in that area of the field.
The arrival of veteran Kyle Rudolph to the fray doesn’t worry me at all. Rudolph is even older than Brate having been a rookie in 2011. Rudolph had a few big statistical output seasons back in the day, but he hasn’t had more than one TD catch in a season since 2019. Brate has developed a rapport with Brady. Old man time knows where Brate will be and will have all the confidence in the world going to him in clutch situations. The Bucs still have elite forces on the outside with a ton of depth. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin (eventually), Tyler Johnson, Julio Jones and Scottie Miller make up arguably the deepest WR corps in the NFL. Those wideouts will vulture each other often, but Brate will always be on the field with whichever WR set they like in each moment. Expect a career year from Brate!