Acquire Assets from Ascending Offenses
We build dominant fantasy rosters by amassing arsenals of elite individual players. Some individual talents succeed no matter their team situation, but year after year, fantasy gamers gain a leg up by simply gathering the assets from the most potent NFL offenses. See the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs 2019-2021, the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers 2020-2021, and the Rams under Sean McVay. Prolific offenses run the most plays, make the most pass attempts and score the most touchdowns. It is no surprise, then, that we want to seek out and acquire pieces of those offenses. Ascending offenses raise the ceiling for all on board.
Now, if we can identify the offenses that are gearing up and getting ready to ascend, we can buy in pre-flight. For example, if you acquired pieces of the Bengals’ offense ahead of the 2021 season, you picked up some league-winners. Joe Mixon was a top-5 RB. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins won folks fantasy championships in weeks sixteen and seventeen.
The ascent happens fast. Before the 2021 season, the Bengals were a fledgling offensive unit with multiple unanswered questions. Mixon was coming off injury. Burrow and Higgins were coming off mediocre rookie seasons. Chase “couldn’t catch passes.” The offensive line was unquestionably questionable. You know the end of the story: the pieces fell into place and the Bengals sailed into the Super Bowl on the wings of their young, ascending offense.
Turning the Ignition
When the pieces fall into place, the engine revs and the whole unit prepares to take flight. A coaching change is typically the precipitating factor that starts the transformation. A smart team then cashes in draft capital on an elite quarterback prospect and some other dynamic skill position players. Shoring up the offensive line is the final key to making the whole offensive machine tick.
If we identify the teams that are putting these components in place, we can project the offenses that are about to ascend. It happens quickly. NFL teams have learned the value of an elite quarterback prospect on a rookie contract. When they put together the right pieces, they enter a championship window that may last only a few years. In fantasy, we want to gather assets from teams which have hit the low point on the ascendancy curve below and are headed skyward. How high they ascend depends on the quality of the pieces in place and how the pieces work together.
Offensive Units Ready for Launch
See below ascending offenses that have put key pieces in place and are poised to take flight in 2022.
Nick Sirriani (HC) and Shane Steichen (OC) did underrated jobs in 2021, their first year in Philly. They made a mid-season adjustment to a run-heavy approach that helped the team win key matchups down the stretch, finishing 9-8 and securing a playoff berth.
Jalen Hurts showed elusive mobility and some solid games as a passer in 2021, his second NFL season. This was with an offensive unit that fielded few offensive threats besides Hurts himself. That will change in 2022.
In a blockbuster trade on draft day, the Eagles acquired A.J. Brown, instantly upgrading their receiving corps to complement DeVonta Smith. Smith had a quality rookie season, even as the Eagles went run-heavy the second half of the year. He was the WR36 in fantasy as a rookie in 2021 with 916 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.
The Eagles have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. They regularly invest capital on the o-line, drafting high-end rookie prospects and signing quality veterans like Jason Kelce to substantial contracts.
Ascending Assets to Acquire
Jalen Hurts, Devonta Smith. Hurts spent most of 2021 as a top fantasy quarterback, scoring 21.4 PPR points per game and finishing as the QB6 in points per game. With any improvement in the passing game, he will be one of the best fantasy QBs available. Smith had a good rookie season, recording the 900-yard season listed above as well as a 14.4-yard ADOT (6th highest). Smith also averaged 2.02 yards of separation in man coverage, 11th best in the NFL. With he and Hurts connecting more often downfield in 2022, Smith will return great value.
The Eagles were dead last in Pass Rate over Expectation last season. By a wide margin.
Addition of AJ Brown, throwing improvement from Jalen Hurts, and maybe that changes? Massive ceiling on Hurts. https://t.co/nt8SfKYFjq
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) June 7, 2022
New York Jets
Robert Saleh (HC) and Mike Lafleur (OC) were hired ahead of the 2021 season, and stabilized the struggling Jets’ franchise in their first season. They doubled the organization’s 2020 win total from two to four, and are part of a young and ascending breed of NFL coaches eager to prove their organizational prowess.
Zach Wilson was drafted number two overall in 2021, but was unimpressive in his rookie season. He also injured his PCL and missed four games. Wilson, however, was working with a middling receiving corps manned by unimpressive alpha Corey Davis and rookie Elijah Moore, who played only eleven games due to his own injury. The Jets did some serious tooling up in the off-season and Wilson possesses impressive arm strength and downfield accuracy to help facilitate some valuable fantasy outcomes.
The Jets tooled up significantly the last two off-seasons, adding early second-round receiver Moore in 2021 and first-round receiver Garrett Wilson in 2022. They also added top-of -the-class second-round running back Breece Hall, augmenting a running back room already staffed by second-year back Michael Carter. Carter recorded a decent rookie season in 2021, landing at number 13 in yards per touch (5.3) and number 12 in yards created per touch (3.27).
The Jets’ offensive line is stable and they added pro-bowler Laken Tomlinson in the 2022 off-season.
Ascending Assets to Acquire
Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, Breece Hall. At the end of this previous article, we identified a very unique wide receiver trend: two receivers on rookie contracts both yet to hit as at least a top-24 receiver in a past season, but being drafted in the top-100 by ADP. Receivers in those situations have an uncanny hit rate. Both Moore and Wilson are poised for solid seasons in 2022, and are being drafted as WR31 and WR49, respectively, in best ball drafts. Hall is also a value as a potential three-down back being drafted in the fifth round.
New York Jets training camp – Zach Wilson to Elijah Moore.pic.twitter.com/xo09AAfLFa
— NFL Touchdowns Daily (@touchdowns_nfl) June 8, 2022
Offensive-minded Mike McDaniels was hired as head coach of the Dolphins ahead of the 2021 season, and the Dolphins immediately began tooling up on offense. The Dolphins signed four running backs from free agency in the 2022 off-season. McDaniels spent multiple years coaching a dynamic run game under Kyle Shanahan.
Tua Tagovailoa is another QB who has undergone scrutiny for his passing chops, but he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL. See his accuracy scores on playerprofiler.com below. Although he does not often throw the ball down field – 28 passes over 20 yards in 2021 – he was the most accurate downfield thrower in the NFL and in the red zone! He was able to sustain Jaylen Waddle as a top-24 wide receiver, and adds another dangerous weapon to his arsenal in 2022.
The Dolphins added Tyreek Hill in the 2022 offseason and now pack a deadly one-two receiver punch. Hill and Waddle now compose one of the most imposing receiver duos in the NFL.
The Dolphins’ o-line improved their play during the 2021 season and signed free agents Terron Armstead and Connor Williams in the off-season to improve the unit.
Ascending Assets to Acquire
Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert. Every single Dolphins running back is being drafted after ADP 100. This is a meager price to pay for pieces of this offense, especially one which will likely be patterned after the potent 49ers’ run-game. Edmonds and Mostert are the most electric options, but Sony Michel will also likely get some work, especially if one of the others gets injured.
Reviews of new Lions head coach Dan Campbell are positive and team morale appears to be high. The Lions played with a competitive edge in games in 2021, even in losing efforts.
Much-maligned quarterback Jared Goff supported at least one top-24 receiver (sometimes two) in the last four seasons, including Amon-Ra St. Brown as a top-24 option in 2021. The veteran Goff is capable of fueling multiple weapons.
In the 2022 off-season, the Lions added D.J. Chark from free agency and Jameson Williams as the twelfth overall pick in the draft. This is an offensive unit with some dynamic young talents that will likely produce high-end fantasy value in 2022.
The Lions’ offensive line is regarded as a top unit in the NFL, with center Frank Ragnow and tackles Penei Sewell and Taylor Decker.
Ascending Assets to Acquire
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams. As mentioned above, the Lions boast a young and talented receiving corps. St. Brown garnered double-digit targets in his final six contests in 2021, earning a top-10 PPR finish in five out of six. Although Williams will likely miss at least the start of the 2021 season, he was selected as the twelfth overall pick in the 2022 draft after a breakout season at Alabama. The Lions are tooling up!
Strike Now and Buy In, Pre-flight
Year over year, there are NFL offenses that surprise by their leaps in production. The landscape of the NFL changes rapidly. Once a team has tooled up and all the pieces are in place for a rise, the ascent can take place in one season’s time. By identifying which ascending offenses have started the shift and invested resources into completing their transformation, we can anticipate which offenses to target. Buying into these ascending offenses early will help us gain an edge – before their rise is undeniable.