Fantasy Football: First-round question marks

·4 min read
Najee Harris' fantasy football upside could be limited by the Steelers' spotty offensive line and question marks at quarterback. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Najee Harris' fantasy football upside could be limited by the Steelers' spotty offensive line and question marks at quarterback. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The NFL’s regular season gets rolling in just a few short weeks, which means it’s time for fantasy football managers to get their ducks in a row. While NFL GMs dot their i’s and cross their t’s finalizing their 53-man rosters, fantasy managers have plenty of work of their own to do ahead of draft season.

The first round, in particular, is always important when building a winning squad, but plenty of landmines lurk in the weeds at the top of any fantasy draft board. Here’s three potential first round players with the biggest question marks surrounding them coming into the 2022 NFL season.

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Derrick Henry, RB, Titans

Yahoo Draft Rankings (Half PPR): Season Rank: 7 | Position Rank: 5

Before this season, no running back carried more cache in fantasy drafts than Derek Henry. The heartbeat of the Titans offence spent the 2019 and 2020 seasons annihilating opposing defenders and spent the early part of the 2021 season doing much of the same. However, after injuring his foot during Week 8 and missing the final nine games of the regular season, the cracks in the foundation finally began to show for the two-time Pro Bowler.

There are a few question marks that surround Henry’s early first-round ADP, namely his age and the mileage he’s already racked up. Henry will be 29 in January, which is right in line with when most running backs begin to decline sharply, according to aging curves. Combined with Henry’s total carries creeping into territory where most other running backs begin declining, it’s clear there’s more than what meets the eye.

While Henry is no ordinary back — before the injury he was arguably having the best single-season rushing campaign ever last year, and was pacing to shatter Eric Dickerson’s record — father time remains undefeated, especially for backs that play as physical a game as Henry.

Additionally, questions remain about the Titans' volatile offence as a whole, and how a mostly returning core without a true No. 1 receiving threat will play. Tennessee will be relying on first-round selection Treylon Burks to pick up the slack, but there’s little doubt the Arkansas product will have big shoes to fill following A.J. Brown’s departure to Philadelphia.

Davante Adams, WR, Raiders

Yahoo Draft Rankings (Half PPR): Season Rank: 14 | Position Rank: 6

Davante Adams as a player absolutely rules. The back-to-back All-Pro First Team member is one of the league’s most dominant wideouts, with the ability to create space and be a playmaker with the ball in his hands. The questions around Adams ultimately have very little to do with his own skill set and more to do with the players surrounding him.

Most glaringly, despite Adams’ cheeky comments last month, Derek Carr is very obviously not Aaron Rodgers. Beyond adjusting to a new QB, questions are sure to percolate surrounding Adams and his target rate this upcoming season. Adams finished second in the entire NFL last year with a 31.6% target share while competing for balls mostly with Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. This year, however, the Raiders will run a three-headed monster that pairs Adams with a far superior duo of Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller, both of whom could eclipse 100 targets themselves.

For his numbers to remain anywhere close to his exceptional figures in Green Bay, the Raiders will need to be one of the league’s most pass-heavy teams and extraordinarily aggressive from a pace perspective. That isn’t out of the question by any means, but that uncertainty ultimately makes Adams more of a value grab around the turn of the first and second round, rather than as a top eight selection.

Najee Harris, RB, Steelers

Yahoo Draft Rankings (Half PPR): Season Rank: 10 | Position Rank: 6

As was the case last season, Najee Harris should have one of the league’s heaviest workloads after finishing second in carries in 2021. The Steelers' top 2021 draft selection delivered in a big way on his rookie promise, racking up the fourth most ground yards in the entire NFL en route to a Pro Bowl appearance.

Despite the acclaim, however, questions about Harris’ efficiency will hang over the former Alabama standout as he looks to avoid a sophomore slump. Perhaps the biggest concern, outside of Harris’ toolkit, is the Steelers' offensive line.

The group, which went largely unaddressed this offseason, ranked near the bottom-five by most major metrics in 2021 (PFF graded the unit 26th, while the group ranked 31st and 30th by ESPN’s Team Pass Block and Run Block Win Rate respectively), leading to concerns about how much room Harris will ultimately have to operate.

The Steelers' enormous question marks at the quarterback position could also prove problematic for Harris’ ceiling this upcoming season. While moving on from the sluggish Ben Roethlisberger should help with the team's overall explosiveness, the transition over to Mitch Trubisky and first-round selection Kenny Pickett doesn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence either.

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