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2022 Fantasy Football Opportunity Tracker: Buccaneers and Saints

The 2022 Opportunity Tracker is where fantasy football 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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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Brady Factor

Key Additions: Russell Gage

Notable Losses: Ronald Jones II, Rob Gronkowski

Vacant RB Weighted Opportunities: 173

Vacant WR/TE Targets: 91

Leonard Fournette averaged 18.5 wOpp per game in 2021, during a season where some expected Ronald Jones to take over as the lead back. With Jones in Kansas City, Fournette should have this backfield locked up. Fournette also dominated passing game usage (6 targets per game), removing concerns about his pass-catching ability. Injury concern is always a factor with Fournette, but his massive upside in this role makes him almost a lock to outperform his RB20 ADP.

It is unclear if there is a preferred handcuff for Fournette in 2022. Currently, Ke’Shawn Vaughn has the most compatible skillset, but the Bucs deployed a committee approach in 2021 when Fournette was out.

Tom Brady, AKA the GOAT, is operating one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the league, with two elite receivers. Byron Leftwich and the Bucs may try to run the ball more to preserve Brady’s body, but he is still a QB1. Don’t overthink this one if he falls to you in the middle rounds of your draft.

Chris Godwin quietly had a monstrous workload in 2021. He averaged 15.7 wOpp per game and had 25 red-zone targets in 14 games. Tom Brady likes to throw over the middle of the field, where Godwin does the bulk of his work. Presuming a full recovery from knee surgery last season, Godwin is a WR1 entering 2022.

To prequalify the following paragraph, there is a big difference between Antonio Brown and Russell Gage – AB is an all-time elite WR and Gage is a fast, talented receiver.

Russell Gage enters a role that provided Antonio Brown with 14.1 wOpp per game (8.9 tgt/g) during his time in Tampa Bay. Brown lined up in the slot 33.6% of the time in 2021, which is where Gage primarily operates (65.3% of snaps). My expectation is that Godwin (63.7% of snaps in slot) and Gage will both see slot reps, with Gage coming off the field in running situations. The Bucs lined up with three WRs, 69% of the time in 2021, so Gage (13th-round ADP) will have plenty of opportunity in this role and makes for an excellent late-round flier.

Mike Evans has eclipsed 1,000 yards in every season of his NFL career. Let that sink in for a second. He averaged 12 wOpp per game last season, supported by his 7.1 targets per game and his red-zone work (18 targets in 16 games). His workload was actually the 4th among Buccaneers pass-catchers in 2021. Rob Gronkowski has not committed to playing the 2022 season, so 12.2 wOpps will be available in 2022.  Here are my Bucs WR Fantasy Priority rankings (based on current ADP):

  1. Chris Godwin (4th round)
  2. Russell Gage (12th)
  3. Mike Evans (6th)

Cameron Brate saw 20 red-zone targets last season, even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster. That is a notable number, considering Tom Brady’s favorable history with tight ends. We have to consider the real possibility of Gronk returning in 2022. For that reason, Brate is not a fantasy starter, but he does make for a good streaming option during bye weeks. If he enters the season as the starter however, he becomes a high-end TE2 with TE1 upside in the absence of Gronk and O.J. Howard.

New Orleans Saints: Can’t Guard Mike

Key Additions: Andy Dalton

Notable Losses: None

Vacant RB Weighted Opportunities: 7

Vacant WR/TE Targets: 63

The Saints offense will look drastically different in 2022 than it did in 2021, for two reasons:

  1. Michael Thomas missed the 2021 season (and much of 2020)
  2. The Saints offense limitations using Taysom Hill’s skill set at QB (Jameis Winston starting in 2022)

We will use data from parts of the 2020 season in this analysis. That is the most recent time this offense (which OC Pete Charmichael is expected to continue using) had all of Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and a pass-first QB.

Gone are the days of Michael Thomas leading the league in receptions. He is an elite receiver, but the gap between Drew Brees and Jameis Winston is simply too large. That said, Thomas averaged 8.3 targets and nearly two red-zone targets per game from Weeks 8-13, in 2020. That was with a hobbled Drew Brees and an ineffective Taysom Hill at QB, so his 13.3 wOpp that season can be considered his floor in 2022 as the top offensive option, aside from Alvin Kamara.

Offseason Hot Take #4:

Michael Thomas will be a top-18 PPR fantasy WR in 2022, on a per-game basis

Alvin Kamara missed Weeks 9-12 last season, all four of which the Saints lost. Kamara averaged a whopping 23.8 opportunities per game before the injury, and 21.7 after Mark Ingram was signed in Week 9. Managers who decide to roster Kamara in 2022 will see the Saints’ offensive efficiency improve over the course of the season, returning to pre-2021 levels. Kamara will get fewer opportunities, but they will have a higher rate of success, and his health should be more sustainable. Here are his wOpp numbers from the past three seasons:

  • 18.6 per game (2019)
  • 19.9 (2020)
  • 19.9 (2021)

Kamara has a rock-solid workload and presuming health, should be a top-8 fantasy RB in 2022. Mark Ingram is the handcuff unless we hear otherwise.

There are no other draftable players on this offense, currently. One of the wide receivers on the roster will earn a starting job, but the floor for that role is 4.5 targets per game in this run-first offence. Adam Trautman is a bye-week streamer in the right matchup, but the tight end has not gotten significant volume in New Orleans since Jimmy Graham. Jameis Winston is always valuable in fantasy football, but the projected passing volume in New Orleans isn’t enough for a top-15 QB finish. That said, he should be a starter in Superflex and 2QB leagues that can be drafted at a discount.

The Saints are a candidate to draft a QB in next week’s NFL Draft.

Check back tomorrow as we round out the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers.

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