Fantasy football sleepers roundtable: Allen Lazard, Chris Olave and 8 more favorites

Welcome to the fantasy football roundtable — where we gather the best minds in fantasy football and ask one simple question:

Q: Who is your favorite sleeper for 2022?

D’Onta Foreman, RB, CAR

Foreman came roaring back into fantasy relevance in 2021, with three 100-yard games and three touchdowns in his last six. In the offseason, he signed with the Panthers, to backup/complement Christian McCaffrey, who has played 10 total games in the last two years. Chuba Hubbard complicates things a little, but my guess is Foreman — a 26-year-old Derrick Henry clone — could’ve signed with a lot of teams and instead saw opportunity with the Panthers. — Nando Di Fino

David Njoku, TE, CLE

Njoku has been left for dead though quietly has risen to the top of the depth chart in Cleveland. With a freshly signed four-year, $56 million contract, it’s obvious the Browns have handed the reins to the athletic 25-year-old in a tight end friendly system. 2021 saw Njoku produce 36 receptions for 475 yards and four touchdowns. I believe those totals could double across the board in 2022. Every year the tight end position sees new entrants into the top 10 and I believe Njoku could Fri for top 5 production if the stars align. — Jeff Haverlack

Allen Lazard, WR, GB

Listen carefully. That sucking sound you hear is the galaxy-sized target vacuum created by all-world wideout Davante Adams leaving Green Bay. Adams had a ridiculous 2021 season in terms of usage, with 169 targets (2nd in the NFL), 123 receptions (2nd in NFL), and 1,553 receiving yards (3rd in the NFL). Adams’ team target of 31.63 percent was second only to Cooper Kupp, and last I checked, the Packers still have Aaron Rodgers under center. For the AR12 detractors, I’m sorry, but I’m not compelled by the arguments he’s turned to dust and long in the tooth. Though the Packers didn’t necessarily stretch the field vertically in 2021, Rodgers’ hyper-efficient nature kept the offense on the field. Green Bay finished eighth in passing yards per game last year, led by Rodgers who was first in QB DVOA (27.8 percent), first in QBR (105.9), and third in completion percentage (68.9 percent).

My 2022 sleeper is the last man (or lizard) standing in the Packers wide receiver room, Lazard. Lazard battled injuries early in the 2021 season but reclaimed a prominent role in the passing game after the Week 13 bye as the clear No. 2 WR behind Adams: 28 targets, 21 receptions, 290 receiving yards, 15.8 percent team targets, 24.4 percent team air yards and a 10.0 yard ADoT.

Going off the board as WR45, I don’t see an outcome where Lazard stays healthy and doesn’t return a windfall profit at his early ninth-round price tag. — John Laghezza

Chris Olave, WR, NW

If there was ever a time to push all the chips to the center of the table on a rookie wide receiver, this would be the year to do it. Six wide receivers were selected in Round 1, but it’s Olave who stands head and shoulders above the other 2022 rookie WRs. He did the majority of his pre-draft prep at the House of Athlete in South Florida and gained the respect of many current and former NFL wide receivers. Olave impressed onlookers to the point players began calling their respective front offices to lobby for him. Now a member of the New Orleans Saints, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see Olave make an impact similar to Odell Beckam Jr. in his rookie season. Jarvis Landry and Michael Thomas will get the majority of underneath targets, but it’s Olave who will have every opportunity to stretch the field for the Saints in 2022. Don’t be afraid to take this rookie early come draft day. — Brandon Howard

Rashod Bateman, WR, BAL

The Baltimore Ravens were decimated by injuries in 2021, but it did not stop Marquise Brown from having his best season as a pro. His 91 receptions and 1,008 yards were career highs for him and he finished the season as WR25 in standard formats. The 146 targets he received were second only to Mark Andrews (153), who was named a first-team All-Pro last season. Well, Hollywood has been moved to Arizona, but all of those targets are still in Baltimore waiting to be claimed.

In steps Bateman! The Ravens’ 2021 first-round draft pick was WR80 last season in standard formats thanks in part to injuries that held him out of the first five games. He also had to catch passes from three different quarterbacks because of injuries to Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley. Bateman was still able to finish the season with 46 receptions and 515 yards. This year, there’s a 23 percent target share out there for someone to claim and it is clear based on the Ravens’ draft that he will be given every opportunity to fill it. As a bigger, stronger receiver than Brown, Bateman will be able to haul in some of the passes that Brown was unable to. I am very bullish on Bateman this year as everyone in the Ravens organization — including Jackson (who is looking for a new massive contract) — will be anxious to put a disappointing 2021 in the rear view mirror. — Gene Clemons

Rashod Bateman (Joseph Maiorana/USA Today)

Miles Sanders, RB, PHI

Go ahead, laugh at Sanders. Keep using him as a punchline. Put me in the jokes while you’re at it. While you’re snickering at a zero-touchdown season that isn’t possibly repeatable, Miles and I will rest confidently on the fact he returned from a midseason ankle injury to run for 454 yards on 74 carries (6.14 YPC) over his final five regular-season games. As you haughtily declare 2022 “Kenneth Gainwell SZN!!!,” Miles and I will quietly note that neither he nor Boston Scott covered themselves in glory last year. Jalen Hurts’ game-breaking ability as a runner clearly limits Sanders’ upside. There’s no way around that. Still, there’s an easy path to 170 carries and 50 targets in an ascending offense. Sanders is the archetype of a post-hype sleeper. — Michael Beller

Irv Smith Jr., TE, MIN

Irv Smith Jr. is expected to pick up where he left off both mentally and physically before a knee injury derailed his 2021 season. Nearly every time he’s been given a real opportunity on the field, he’s impressed, living up to the (then-) rookie hype. Unfortunately, those opportunities have been few and are now far between, which leads to his depressed 2022 ADP, which has him around the 19th TE going off boards. The Vikings were an above-average passing offense in 2021, despite the lack of a reliable third pass catcher, and new head coach Kevin O’Connell is expected to improve on those numbers. Smith’s ability to play that third-receiver role — with smart route running, good hands and speed — is not in doubt, so assuming he stays healthy through the summer, I’ll be thrilled to wait on Smith to fill this tricky roster slot. — Rene Miller

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, KC

Can a sleeper have a rookie WR21 finish, plus two other finishes of WR18 and WR9, on his resume? Well, it would seem no, but in fact, it’s a strong yes. People are more fascinated with a rookie and a receiver who has never reached 700 yards or higher than WR50 in his three years. Those receivers are Skyy Moore and Mecole Hardman, and the underrated wideout in Kansas City is former stud Smith-Schuster.

While the concern over Smith-Schuster succeeding as a team’s No. 1 seems warranted after some struggles, Travis Kelce is the true “one” in Kansas City. On top of that, the Chiefs adjusted the offense to a more spread-out and intermediate-field game plan, seeing better results than heaving it downfield to Tyreek Hill multiple times and not being able to rely on anyone after Kelce and Hill. Smith-Schuster fits the new offense better, along with Hardman replacing Hill, but used more as a mixed-in deep-threat (Marquez Valdes-Scantling as well), and Moore profiling as a great complement to JJSS and Kelce. No, I don’t expect Smith-Schuster to reach 25 percent or more of the target share, but he doesn’t need that volume to finish as a top 25 receiver, and he’s a fantasy afterthought now. JJSS can easily reach 80-plus receptions, 900-plus yards and 7-plus touchdowns on his way to that top 25 status. — Jake Sky

Tim Patrick, WR, DEN

Everyone knows that the Broncos got a huge upgrade with the Russell Wilson trade. Anyone who loves fantasy loves Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy and the only thing they love more is to debate who will have the better season. And yet, I would be zero percent surprised if Patrick scores more fantasy points than either of them — considering that is exactly what happened last year … and the year before.

To get them, you need to pick Sutton or Jeudy in the 5th-ish round. Patrick … how does the 13th round sound to you? Honestly, I feel like I’m the “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills” gif right now. Over the offseason, the Broncos rewarded Patrick with a three-year, $34.5 million contract. He’s consistently been a red zone threat (for the few times the Broncos could get to the red zone in the pre-Wilson era). He puts up more yards after the catch than both Sutton and Jeudy. And don’t get me wrong, I am not down on Sutton and Jeudy, I just don’t know how we can all get the player just as likely to succeed—in the 13th round. At minimum, he’s not “eight rounds later in the draft less likely to succeed.” — Brandon Marianne Lee

Tyler Allgeier, RB, ATL

Not only did the Falcons use one of their precious draft selections on Allgeier, a bruising back from BYU, but they also released Mike Davis after a forgettable season in 2021 — his first after coming in from the Panthers.

The Falcons found a gem in Cordarrelle Patterson, but they need receivers. Last year, Patterson caught 52 passes for 548 yards and five touchdowns — to me, this means he can be moved back out to receiver, which is where help is badly needed in Atlanta with Calvin Ridley suspended and Russell Gage in Tampa Bay. This will leave Allgeier as the main back behind Marcus Mariota (I understand there are Damien Williams fans out there, but hear me out). Bad offense or not, the Atlanta Falcons will score. When they do get down low, the big, bruising Allgeier will be a key cog in getting into the end zone. And you can get him with the last pick of your fantasy drafts. Sign me up. — Dominick Petrilleither

(Top photo of Chris Olave: Stephen Lew/USA Today)


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