It’s a brave new world

Let’s take a break from baseball with the 2022 NFL Draft beginning tonight. When the draft rolls around every April, the pundits tell us how it’s going to unfold. And they’re usually wrong – just like the ones who proudly display their NCAA basketball brackets. Then there all those busted brackets from amateurs like me who took their recommendations.  

In reality, the NFL draft has always been difficult to predict, but this year is it’s even more unpredictable because it will unfold in an unsettled world where more than a dozen established fantasy football studs will start the season on new teams. There is no consensus No. 1 overall player, and there is no star quarterback whom teams will be vying for in the top 10.

The 2022 class is dominated by pass-rushers, offensive tackles and some wide receivers. The latter will be the ones fantasy players will be interested in. Garrett Wilson of Ohio State is expected to be the first wideout off the board. With blazing speed and highlight reels full of full-extension grabs, he could make a difference wherever he lands. Atlanta is a likely destination.

But wait. What if either Green Bay or Kansas City trades up to grab Wilson, or Jameson Williams from Alabama? Both of them traded away their alpha dog receivers. if the Packers are infatuated with Williams or the Chiefs see Wilson as a high target wideout in their offense, these rookies have a much higher upside than if they wind up in New York, or Atlanta.

I’m not predicting that either team will trade up, but both clubs have the ammunition to significantly rise on draft night to nab one of the consensus top receivers in this class, which could disrupt other clubs’ plans to get a big-time pass catcher at some point in the first round or early second.  A Packers or Chiefs trade up could trigger a feeding frenzy on at that position.

Just in case you’ve been asleep for several weeks, or focused on baseball, let’s review how the NFL and its parallel fantasy universe got unsettled. The unprecedented player movement in the spring of 2022 can be viewed holistically as a game of dominoes, with one move leading to another, to another and another. There were the moves and countermoves.

Looking back, I think the Packers trading Davante Adams to Las Vegas, which came with a new contract, was the lynchpin because it reset the bar for receivers. That move directly led to the Chiefs trading star receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami. Hill’s agent said in an interview that Kansas City was close to a new deal with Hill but the Adams trade ended negotiations.

I wish I had been a fly on the wall when Hill’s agent told his client that Adams got a record-setting contract. Can’t you hear Hill’s response? “I’m worth just as much as Adams.” Based on their first-round fantasy draft positions last year, that’s not far from the truth. I’m sure Hill’s agent reported back to the Chiefs and that was all she wrote for Hill in Kansas City.

Then all hell broke loose. Suffice it to say, March Madness didn’t just apply to basketball as a series of league-altering trades, signings and drama followed. Aaron Rodgers ended up staying put, but Russell Wilson went east to the Mile High City. Cleveland acquired Deshaun Watson from Houston, and Indianapolis Colts traded Carson Wentz to Washington.

Not to be outdone, Tom Brady retired and unretired five minutes later. That was nothing more than a moment of comic relief from the future Hall of Fame quarterback who will play one…or two….or five more seasons in Tampa. Then he’ll retire and sign with the Raiders so that he can break George Blanda’s record. Blanda was 48 when he played for the Raiders in the 1970’s.

And that’s not all, folks. There were others players on the move. Dallas traded Amari Cooper to the Browns for not much, and Cooper will likely become Watson’s favorite target in Cleveland. While the Adams and Hill trades did nothing to boost their fantasy value, the change of scenery for Cooper could be a boon since he was becoming a lost soul in the Cowboys offense.

Speaking of lost souls, Allen Robinson went from a third-round pick to irrelevant in fantasy football last year in Chicago, but he can find new life with the Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. Robinson joins Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and possibly Odell Beckham, Jr. But he won’t be joining Robert Woods, who was traded to the Tennessee Titans. That looks like a downgrade.

Woods will come in as the No. 2 guy on a run-first offense. But he won’t be competing with Julio Jones for targets. The Titans cut Jones after one dismal season, and rumor has Jones back in Atlanta in 2022. That rumor surfaced after Calvin Ridley was suspended through at least 2022 season for betting on NFL games during his sabbatical from the Falcons during the 2021 season.

There were other trades and signings that were football relevant but not really fantasy relevant:

• The Buffalo Bills signed Von Miller to six-year, $120 million contract.

•  The Chicago Bears trade Khalil Mack to Los Angeles Chargers.

•  The Las Vegas Raiders signed Chandler Jones to three-year deal.

•  The Los Angeles Chargers sign J.C. Jackson to 5-year, $82.5 million deal.

Bookmark this column and be sure to revisit it in three or four months from now as you prepare for your fantasy football drafts. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably forget which players are on which team between now and then. Of course, there should be plenty of those pundits coming out of the woodwork in the dog days of summer to remind you.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, runs his own blog at Follow Thomas on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

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