Fantasy Football 2022: Big-time players who could get off to slow starts this season

We are just a few days from the kickoff of the 2022 NFL season, and fantasy managers can’t wait to watch the players they drafted come through with memorable September performances. But some players are in situations that do not lend themselves to immediate success, and patience needs to be preached with those who get off to slow starts.

Here are my top candidates to receive a mulligan if they stumble out of the gate.

Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill, Tua Tagovailoa, QB/WR, Miami Dolphins

Tagovailoa and his revamped offense will need to gel quickly, as two of Miami’s first three opponents (Bills, Patriots) were among the top-three squads in passing yards allowed and top-two teams in points allowed last season. Their other two contests are against squads (Ravens, Bengals) who struggled against the pass last year, but both games are on the road against quality opponents overall.

Breece Hall, Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets

The Jets have a tough September schedule overall, and their matchups are especially difficult for their ball carriers. Two of New York’s September games are against the squads (Ravens, Titans) who allowed the fewest rushing yards last year, while one of their other contests is against a Rams defense that was one of seven units to allow 4.0 yards per carry or less in 2021. Hall is definitely a talented rookie with a massive ceiling, but he may not find many holes to run through in his initial games.

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Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk WR/TE, San Francisco 49ers

Someone can believe in the long-term future of Trey Lance without predicting that he will tear up the league in September. After all, the 22-year-old played sparingly last season after missing most of his final college year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Lance may need a few weeks to find his footing, during which time head coach Kyle Shanahan will likely rely heavily on his running game. Those who drafted 49ers pass catchers, especially those with Samuel and Kittle, should exercise plenty of patience.

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Murray is being drafted sixth among quarterbacks, which puts him as high as the first round of Superflex leagues. But to make a big splash in September, the fourth-year pro will need to use his fleet feet often, as his pass catchers are in a state of flux. The Cardinals lost Christian Kirk in free agency, and although Marquise Brown is an upgrade on paper, he may need some time to fully click with his new QB despite their college rapport. Murray must also adapt to losing pass-catching RB Chase Edmonds, and more importantly, he must play without suspended star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for six weeks.

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals is a fantasy star
Kyler Murray could struggle to reach his fantasy ceiling in the early going. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) (Justin Ford via Getty Images)

Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Harris missed most of August with a Lisfranc injury, returning just in time to rush for 10 yards on four carries in the Steelers' final preseason game. The second-year rusher reported feeling rusty in that game, which doesn’t bode well for someone who will have to work behind one of the worst offensive lines in football at the outset of the season. Harris could rush for few yards in a Week 1 road game at Cincinnati before meeting up with a tough Patriots defense the following week.

Amari Cooper, WR, Cleveland Browns

Cooper is going to draw plenty of defensive attention at the outset of the season, as the Browns have few other downfield options for opposing defenses to worry about. Getting the ball to Cleveland’s newest No. 1 receiver may prove to be too much to ask of Jacoby Brissett, who got limited reps with the first-team offense in training camp while sharing time with Deshaun Watson. I’m not sure Cooper will find his stride this year, but his lowest odds are likely at the outset of the campaign.

Treylon Burks, WR, Tennessee Titans

I’ll use Burks as the placeholder for a proven theory involving rookie receivers. First-year pass catchers tend to emerge as the season progresses, as they often need to make some plays before fully earning the trust of their coaches and quarterback. Burks, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave are among the rookies who may be mediocre in September before becoming studs by the fantasy playoffs.

Final Notes: In closing, fantasy managers can take advantage of these situations in multiple ways. First, the obvious plan should be to use these players cautiously in their early season matchups, opting for other players when there are viable alternatives. The second part of the plan is to consider buying low on these players on the trade market at the end of September. Some managers could quickly grow frustrated with their slow starts, but those with better knowledge of the situation will know that these players have the potential to pick things up in October.

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