And, just like that, we're down to one game left in the 2022 Fantasy Football season. Of course, it's a massive game, with the high-powered Bengals and Bills offenses going head to head, with countless Fantasy championships on the line.
Myself, I'm projected to win all three of my championship games, but there's a lot of uncertainty in those projections, since I've got at least two players going in each one tonight. If everyone takes care of business, I'll have a nice ending to the season, but I'd be lying if I said I was as confident as the projections suggest I should be.
But, there's nothing I can do about that now except wait. Wait, and, of course, look ahead. That's what today's newsletter and the rest of this week will be all about. The Fantasy Football Today team will be unveiling their very-early top-12s at every position this week on CBS Sports HQ at noon, and I'll have my thoughts on my top 12 for each right here in your inbox – along with some rankings for Week 18 for those of you still playing.
Today's newsletter is about taking what we saw Sunday and spinning it forward to 2023. Obviously, no players' value for next season is going to be determined by one game, but I still wanted to take a high-level view of some of the biggest storylines from Week 17 and start to give some thoughts on what we might expect from them next season.
We've got about eight months before we're in the heart of the draft season for 2023, so I reserve the right to change my mind on anything you see here. But it's always fun to establish your baseline expectations, and that's what this is all about.
Winners & Losers (For 2023)
Mike Evans -- Something I've talked about a lot this season when talking about Gabe Davis is how the deep-ball-centric receivers have a tendency to run hot and cold because deeper passes are higher variance plays. When they hit, you're going to rack up a ton of points, but the further you throw the ball down the field, the lower your completion percentage tends to be. Too often this season, Mike Evans has been on the wrong side of variance; he's had several drops on deep passes, plenty of just-overthrown passes, and a bunch of potential big plays wiped out by penalty, and it's made him look like a pretty mediocre Fantasy option. But I never really wavered in viewing Evans as a high-upside WR2, and a game like Sunday's – 200 yards, three touchdowns on 10 catches – was exactly why. His role hasn't changed, and it's always been a very, very valuable one, as Graham Barfield pointed out this week in noting that Evans was WR8 in expected Fantasy points entering Week 17. Betting on regression won't always work, but it's still the right decision in the long run. It paid off in a massive way with Evans, and it should be a reminder that he's still very much a must-start Fantasy WR until something drastic changes.
D.J. Moore -- If I'm going to pat myself on the back for my continued faith in Evans, I'll take an L for my D.J. Moore skepticism. I've never doubted Moore's skills – I think he's one of the 10 or so best WRs in the NFL. I just didn't believe in the situation – he'd been playing well of late, but he was doing so with limited opportunities and unsustainable efficiency (with a bad quarterback, to boot). However, with the Panthers forced to get away from their preferred run-heavy game plan, Moore got featured like a true No. 1 WR, earning a 27% target share on Sam Darnold's 37 attempts, right in line with where he's been all season. Moore was held back by the disaster that was the Baker Mayfield experience, but he's averaging 15.1 PPR points per game when Mayfield doesn't play, right in line with where he's been for the past few years. I don't know who the Panthers quarterback will be in 2023, but as long as it's not Mayfield, I'm probably going to drive Moore a lot. No question about it, I'm ready to get hurt again.
Kenneth Walker -- If there's one consistent theme in my rankings, it's that I tend to be a lot lower than my FFT colleagues and the Fantasy industry as a whole on running backs who don't catch many passes – and we got some good examples of why with guys like Brian Robinson and D'Onta Foreman this week. But Walker is an exception. When he's been healthy, he's been a borderline RB1 for me most weeks, despite just two games with more than three catches. That's because I think he's one of the few running backs who can be an actually difference-maker as a runner – he's not always efficient, but he always has the potential for home runs. He came really close to hitting one Sunday when he ripped off a 60-yard run on his very first carry. He ended up with 15.2 PPR points Sunday despite just one catch and no touchdowns, and it's that big-play ability that separates him from the rest of the blob at the position. I probably won't rank him as a top-12 RB for next year, but he
Cam Akers -- I have no idea what the future holds for Akers, but he's already accomplished more than I ever thought he would this season. I think it's unlikely he ever becomes the superstar his supporters thought he could be when he was drafted, but, after his second 100-yard game in a row Sunday – and his third straight topping a 75% snap share – I have to admit, he's come farther than I thought he would following that ruptured Achilles back in 2020. Akers has one year left on his deal and has to be playing his way back into the Rams 2023 plans, if not their long-term thoughts. I think the Rams will probably still try to bring in another running back to compete for touches with Akers, but right now, he sure looks like a lead back on an offense we have to assume will be better next season. Akers very well could be a starting option for 2023. I did not see that coming.
Davante Adams -- I wasn't certain Adams would be great after Derek Carr was benched, but I was still trying to keep him in my starting lineup for Week 17. However, I'll admit, I got bailed out in one league – I was ready to sit him for DeAndre Hopkins and Jerry Jeudy before Hopkins was downgraded with his knee injury. Hey, sometimes you've gotta get lucky. But the thing, is Adams having a good game with Jarrett Stidham isn't luck. He's just a dominant wide receiver, arguably the best in the NFL, with a knack for getting open down the field while being an elite route runner and maybe the best contested catch guy in the league. He demands targets at a massive share; he did it from Aaron Rodgers, he did it with Carr, he did it with Stidham, and he'll do it with whoever he's catching passes from next season. Let's not make the same mistake of downgrading him for a potential QB change, whenever it comes and whatever it looks like.
Alvin Kamara -- I have no good explanation for Kamara's usage in the second half of the season, so I'll just say this: I'm glad I can stop worrying about it. Kamara is likely facing a suspension next season for his lingering legal troubles related to an offseason fight, and his diminished role suggests there is some unhappiness with his work inside of the Saints building. Kamara was asked recently about his diminished usage on third downs – he played 81% of third downs last season, a number that was down to 62% before he played just six of 16 snaps Sunday – and his terse answer seemed to tell the story: "I don't know. You got to ask someone else." Since his nine-catch showing in Week 8, Kamara is averaging just 2.9 catches per game, well below last season's career-low of 3.6. I've seen no good explanation for why Kamara's role has changed so much for the worst, but he simply doesn't have the kind of upside worth chasing if they aren't going to use him the right way.
Rhamondre Stevenson -- For most of the season, Stevenson looked like he might be putting himself in contention for a first-round pick in 2023. Entering Week 14, Stevenson was on an 80-catch pace, as he had emerged as the go-to option in the passing game. However, he injured his ankle in Week 14 and has just two catches in each game since. Maybe the injury explains the usage, but it was still concerning to see Damien Harris' return Sunday push Stevenson back into a timeshare – Harris actually had one more carry (nine to eight), while Stevenson's snap share fell to 56%, his lowest since Week 4 with the exception of the game he left with an injury. Harris is a free agent this offseason, but Sunday's game makes me think the Patriots might prefer to keep Stevenson in a split backfield, whether they bring Harris back or not. Given that I don't expect this offense to be particularly good next season, it's a lot harder to get excited about a committee backfield here.
Gardner Minshew -- Minshew acquitted himself very well in Week 16 against a very good Cowboys defense, and if Jalen Hurts had returned this week, that might have been the last we saw of Minshew before he hit free agency. That would have been pretty great for him. Unfortunately, Minshew played against the Saints and wasn't very good at all, with his surface numbers – 18 for 32 for 274 yards, with a touchdown and an interception – painting a rosier picture than Minshew's play deserved. He wasn't an outright disaster, but given how good the situation around him in Philadelphia is, a viable starting quarterback would be expected to do better. Minshew looked like one last week. Now, Hurts is probably coming back, and Minshew enters free agency as a question mark. Some team will likely give him a chance to win their starting job, but he could have had a bidding war on his hands with a better showing.
A.J. Dillon -- Dillon bailed out a lot of people this week by getting into the end zone, because he had yet another underwhelming performance if not for that. He rushed for just 41 yards on his 12 carries, giving him just 113 yards on 34 attempts over his past three games. Dillon is now averaging 4.3 yards per carry over the past two seasons, and while that is an imperfect stat, it feels pretty relevant that Aaron Jones is averaging 4.9 yards per carry over the same span on the same team. We thought there was a chance Dillon might be emerging as the team's lead back over the last few weeks – largely due to injuries to Jones, to be fair – but I just don't see any reason to think that'll be the case. This will still likely be a split backfield in 2023, and Jones still looks like the better player.
Kareem Hunt -- Hunt's disappointing season hit a new nadir Sunday, as he had just two carries and one target in the Browns 24-10 win over the Commanders. He has one game with more than 10 touches in his past four now, and only one game since Week 5 with more than 12 touches. Maybe the Browns are doing him a solid, limiting his injury risk heading into his first free agency; it would be a nice move after the team opted not to acquiesce to Hunt's trade requests earlier in the season. But, it's also worth noting that Hunt hasn't really done much to justify a bigger role this season – he's averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry and 5.0 yards per target as a receiver. The sample size is still small enough that you surely don't want to write Hunt off, but this has been a pretty frustrating season for a soon-to-be 28-year-old heading into free agency.
Early Week 18 Waiver Targets
The problem with playing Fantasy into Week 18 is, by the time Sunday rolls around, we're going to have a bunch of players who aren't even on Fantasy radars right now set to play big roles. There aren't really many obvious values as of right now, but here are the top targets as of Sunday night:
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Raiders (2%) -- My expectations for Stidham coming into his first career start were pretty low, and it's fair to say he easily surpassed them. He passed for 365 yards on 34 attempts, with three touchdowns, with two interceptions the lone blemishes on his record. He wasn't incredible, but against a defense like San Francisco's, it was a pretty impressive performance. Facing a matchup against the Chiefs that should force him into throwing a lot, Stidham could actually be set up to be pretty useful in Week 18.
Trey McBride, TE, Cardinals (6%) -- I've been waiting to see something from McBride, a second-round pick from this year's draft, to give me optimism for next season, and we finally saw it Sunday. With the Cardinals down to their fourth quarterback, David Blough, McBride finally had his breakout game, catching seven of 10 passes thrown his way for 78 yards and a score, all of which led the team against the Falcons. We'll see if he can build on this in Week 18, but it was a promising sign from a player we needed to see one from, and it puts him into the streaming conversation for the finale.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Chiefs (47%) -- The issue with Toney isn't that he isn't good – he just can't stay on the field. When he's out there, he tends to be pretty productive, and he was out there Sunday. He made the most of four targets, catching each for a team-high 71 yards his best total of the season. Toney still isn't playing near an every-down role, but maybe that'll start to change now that he's healthy and producing. I could see a big game from him in Week 18 heading into the playoffs.
Rashid Shaheed, WR, Saints (5%) -- Shaheed has been quite a find for the Saints as an undrafted free agent who worked his way from the practice squad to become a key part of the offense down the stretch. His six catches for 79 yards Sunday led the team, giving him 19 catches for 343 yards over his past five games. Shaheed has been pretty big-play dependent, but with his role expanding of late, including a 69% snap share Sunday, he's showing he could potentially be more than that for the Saints.
Chase Edmonds, RB, Broncos (17%) -- Edmonds played 59% of the snaps Sunday, ahead of Latavius Murray, and it's not like the Broncos were trailing by a massive margin for the whole game, or anything. Sure, he benefited from the Broncos being in a pass-heavy script late, but even entering the fourth, he had played just six fewer snaps than Latavius Murray. Murray was the leading rusher, but Edmonds got seven carries and three targets, ending up in double figures in PPR scoring despite a limited rushing workload. The Broncos could find themselves in a similar situation against the Chargers next week, and Edmonds could be in line for another solid role.