For many fantasy football managers, too much emphasis is placed on trying to identify which NFL players will take a big step in their development and become fantasy stars. Often, the obvious targets are those who are entering their second season, with the advantage of a full offseason to improve.
Our staff will be listing their favorite sleepers, busts, and breakouts over the coming weeks, but for this exercise, we focused only on those sophomores — answering the following question:
Which second year player is most interesting to you in fantasy this season?
“Interesting” can mean you’re excited about a player, but it can also mean that you’re only interested in seeing how he performs — well. either bad. As we prepare for training camps our crew enlists the ones that are top of mind.
Etienne Lisfranc missed his entire rookie season due to an injury. Sometimes, when a player misses an entire season, fantasy managers forget how they feel about the player. before this He got hurt. Not me. Etienne has a special skill set as a runner and receiver that NFL Nation Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco says the team intends to take full advantage of. DiRocco also provided a comp for how he might be used this season: Alvin Kamara as a rookie in 2017, when he went from scrimmage to 1,554 yards and finished as No. 2 behind Mark Ingram II. There were 81 catches in the form. With current starter James Robinson returning from an Achilles injury, Etienne could have been given an even bigger workload at the start of the season. — Keith Lipscomb
Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears
Fields enters the 2022 season with an aggressive roster that lacks proven difference-makers. The fantasy here is reversed, however, given the playmaking element he brings to the situation. In ’21, Fields covered 420 yards in only 12 games played, and he scored at least 16 fantasy points in four of his last five. With an anticipated pass game that should rely on play-action/misdirection to open the second and third level windows, along with Fields’ ability to make as a runner, the Bears’ second-year quarterback will have you in their hands. There is late round potential in the draft. ,– Matt Bowen
Nazi Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Considered eighth overall in ESPN’s ADP (average draft position), there’s more mystery surrounding the others on this list. But we need to find out if he can actually be one of the reliable RB1s that are becoming very rare. Harris could be deserving of a top-two pick if he continues to approach the astronomical workload seen last season while adding more efficiency (and a better offensive line). He led all RBs with 381 touches and 74 catches, but we don’t know if the receiving volume will change without retired QB Ben Roethlisberger. And Harris needs to improve on his 3.9 yards per carry and TD running seven. Despite his use, he finished only 21st among RBs with 29 red zone rushing attempts. — Mike Triplett
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers
The highly touted QB from North Dakota State, drafted third overall by the 49ers in 2021, has started only three games in the past two years. Oh. And yet, he is set to take the reins as Niners signal-caller this fall. Lance played understudy as a rookie, throwing a total of 71 passes, almost all of which came to the relief of injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Nevertheless, he conceded five touchdowns in his limited playing time and his mobility was regularly displayed. He has the physical ability to become a threat in the imagination with both his arms and legs, but the question is, how long will it take to make decisions and capture accuracy? ,– Stephania Bell
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars made major roster (and coaching) upgrades during the off-season, but it could be in vain if their second year QB fails to make a big jump. Lawrence’s rookie-season production was poor (12 pass TD, league-high 17 INT, 33.5 QBR), but it is also common for final stars in the position to gain substantial experience (seventh-pass attempt and fifth-most effort). QB effort among the overcrowded). The first overall pick of 2021 is a bit of an untested breakout candidate and potential league winner, which you can land in the final round of your draft. ,– Mike Clay
Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets
It’s true that he showed some flaws in the film like many cheaters do, but Moore has potential and talent that jumps off the screen and is hard to ignore. He ranks among the top players in the league when it comes to short-area quickness. Before his season-ending injury, we saw glimpses of Moore’s potential. In Weeks 11–13, he averaged 10.3 goals, 6.0 receptions and 88.0 receiving yards per game. In the same period, Moore accumulated 352 air yards. He is a great value in his current ADP and should not be overlooked. ,– Eric Moody
Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
As the offense operated without Calvin Ridley for most of the season, Pitts was quickly thrust into the main pass-catcher role of the Falcons. Not only did Pitts lead the team in goals with 110, he led all tees with 10.8 aerial yards per goal, showcasing his game-breaking, vertical-threat ability. I’m concerned about Pitts’ season of sophistication for a few reasons. What would his TD regression look like after only one trip to the end zone in his rookie season? How will the addition of Drake London affect that almost inevitable positive regression? Likewise, what will new QB Marcus Mariota look like to use him, especially as the Falcons are near the goal line this season? Regardless, having finished as TE7 last season, Pitts is the consensus TE3 that is heading into 2022 and is worth a fifth round of investment in the 10-team draft. ,— Daniel Doppe
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions
A lot — and I mean a lot — last year the fantasy championship banner hung on the backs of Lions rookie receivers was nothing short of surprising down the stretch. While Detroit was losing, the fantasy managers were winning. By week 13, St. Brown was the top-three WR in both total points and points per game, scoring nearly 25 points in PPR, more than eight catches and 103 yards from scrimmage per game and six touchdowns in six games. But was that production the result of great talent or the result of “they had to throw it to someone”? During that six-game stretch, TJ Hockenson lost five games and D’Andre Swift missed four, giving St. Brown an incredible 33.5% goal share. With Hawke and Swift recovering, as well as the inclusion of DJ Chark Jr. and the eventual debut of rookie Jameson Williams, can St. Brown still be a top-20(ish) WR with a fairly low target share? History generally shows that rookie WRs who produce like St. Brown are legitimate, but given the unique circumstances surrounding their emergence last season – 66% of their Fantasy Points last season came from Week 13 – He is my most interesting second-player of the year entering 2022. ,— Matthew Berry
Jevont Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
No running back broke more tackles than Williams last season, and while it’s true that the organization brought back Melvin Gordon III to share the annoyance, Williams is a better player. Much better player. He’s big, strong, and definitely capable of becoming a fantasy star, and upgrading Russell Wilson to quarterback will help, too. It would be a better, more efficient offense, and Williams has tremendous fantasy. Don’t let Gordon’s return scare you. ,– Eric Carabel
Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets
“Intrigued” is an apt description of my regard for Wilson entering 2022, as I doubt I would draft him anywhere other than matchup-partner QB2, given the ESPN consensus ranking of 20th in his position. Huh. Still, after Wilson’s Jets drafted wide receiver Garrett Wilson and backed Bryce Hall and signed Tyler Conklin and CJ Uzomah, some NFL sophistication faces what appears to be a significant upcoming campaign. This team of Jets is almost certainly moving forward, but so hinged on Wilson that the poor accuracy he showed in 2021 has been vastly improved. Is a Jared Goff-like jump the best position in 2017? we will see. — Tristan H. Cockcroft