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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Shawn Childs

2022 Fantasy Football Forecast: Christian McCaffrey Returns to Elite

As the fantasy football draft season begins in earnest, we’ve asked all of SI Fantasy’s writers and editors to weigh in with their top picks in five key categories. Next up: SI Fantasy writer Shawn Childs:

Top Sleeper: Amari Rodgers, Packers
I'm going deep here as I want to be ahead of the curve on Rodgers. The Packers' top veteran wideouts don't excite me, and I'm gravitating toward Rodgers for his potential to play out of the slot. Aaron Rodgers makes the receivers around him better, and I expect Amari Rodgers to put his name on fantasy managers’ radars over the next few weeks before the start of the season. One only needs to look back to 1996, when Antonio Freeman upped his rookie stats (8/107/1) to explosive value over the following three years (56/933/9, 81/1,243/12, 84/1,424/14). It's all about opportunity, something Amari Rodgers should have in 2022. We know the quarterback play is already elite for the Packers.

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Top Rookie: Treylon Burks, Titans
I love what he brings to the table and his potential ceiling, but I would be more willing to place a higher fantasy bet on Burks in 2022 if he landed with a top-tier passing attack. With that said, he does have a starting opportunity in his rookie season for an offense that will give him chances to run the ball and make plays in the deep passing game. The Titans traded away A.J. Brown, but I don't see a drop-off in talent to Burks. If he falls to WR4 status in 12-team PPR leagues, his reward outweighs his investment in a big way.

Biggest Bust: James Conner, Cardinals
I'll use a quote from my good friend Jeff Dawson: "If you weren't at the wedding, you don't want to be at the funeral." The meaning of this is that a fantasy drafter doesn't want to be a year late on a player after he has a career season. Conner scored a bazillion times last year and he stayed relatively healthy. I like what I saw and understand his upside, but his history of missing games and his low yards per rush (3.7) are two red flags for me, especially when adding his higher price point in 2022.

Comeback Player: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
I noticed last week that SI Sportsbook listed McCaffrey at 10-1 to win the comeback player award in 2022. With injuries aside, he is the best player in the game and McCaffrey would be selected first overall in every format if fantasy drafters knew he would play 17 games. So the bet is really on whether McCaffrey can shake the injury bug that cost him 23 games over the past two seasons. The race is 17 furlongs and you have the best pony in the field; horse bettors make worse wagers multiple times a day with much lower payoffs. I'd tie him up every which way but loose if the sports betting market offered those opportunities and his current odds.

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