I've been playing this game long enough to know that one player never makes or breaks your lineup, but Ja'Marr Chase did about as much as any one player possibly could to help you win a championship in Week 17.
In fact, he did more than all but one player in the past quarter century to help you win a championship with his 55.6 PPR points Sunday; Alvin Kamara's 56.2 last season are the only better performance during a Fantasy championship week over the past 25 years – so, effectively in the online history of Fantasy football, more or less. He set the NFL rookie record for receiving yards in a game with 266 Sunday, and that also pushed him into the No. 1 spot for single-season receiving yards, and he did it without the help of the extra game.
(And, if you'll allow me a second to brag: Chase helped me close out a 17-0 season in my second-longest running league. One of three championships I closed out Sunday.)
Chase is going to be one of the first wide receivers off draft boards next season, possibly top five, and after watching how Justin Jefferson has taken off in his second season, who could argue? Well, I'm sure we'll have plenty of arguments about that in the long offseason, perhaps as soon as this week, as the Fantasy Football Today crew will be releasing our first-draft top-10 rankings for each position, plus the top-24 overall players this week.
Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings will have theirs available on Fantasy Football Today on CBS Sports HQ at noon each day this week, beginning with quarterback, and you'll be able to find mine right here each day this week. I'll still be previewing Week 18 for those of you still playing -- and for those of you still playing, here are my early waiver-wire targets from Sunday's action -- but it will be with one eye firmly looking ahead to 2022.
But, I do want to make sure we look back at the 2021 season before moving on, fully. Last week, I asked for your nominations for Fantasy MVP, Fantasy Rookie of the Year, Biggest Bust, Best Single-Game Performance, and 2022's No. 1 overall pick, and this week, you'll be voting on the finalists. I'll write about all of the winners in Friday's newsletter, along with picks from the rest of the FFT crew, so make sure you head here to vote!
In the rest of today's newsletter, I'm taking a look at some players who helped their 2022 stock the most in Week 17 (and the past few weeks), along with the first look at my QB rankings for next season. We'll have waiver targets, rankings, and more for Week 18 throughout the rest of the week.
Week 17's Biggest Winners (for 2022)
Last week during one of our YouTube streams, Heath Cummings asked an interesting question: Which players would be this year's Leonard Fournette? By that, he meant which players would take advantage of a late-season opportunity and play themselves into a starting job and a valuable Fantasy role down the stretch?
Sony Michel felt like the obvious choice here as an upcoming free agent with a clear role, though Cam Akers' looming return does threaten to push Michel into more of a secondary role in the playoffs if Akers is right. Still, he's proven this season that the flashes he showed in 2020 with the Patriots were a sign that he still had plenty to offer. He heads into free agency with the chance to land in top-24 RB role somewhere.
Here are five other players who put themselves in position to see their Fantasy value increase in 2022 drafts with a strong performance Sunday:
- DK Metcalf – He needed to do something to close out the season to give us something to be optimistic about. His three-touchdown game Sunday is exactly the reason I've been afraid to drop him outside of the 20s even during his recent slide. I don't think Metcalf will be a top-12 WR next season, but assuming the Seahawks QB situation isn't a total disaster Metcalf is going to be an excellent bounce-back candidate.
- Elijah Mitchell – Mitchell didn't have much to prove, however Jeff Wilson has shown enough that he could have conceivably been a thorn in his side, but Mitchell out-snapped Wilson 35-11 in this one, so that doesn't seem to be a real concern. Raheem Mostert's return could be an issue, and maybe Trey Sermon finds his way into Kyle Shanahan's good graces for the first time, but at this point, Mitchell looks like a strong RB2 for 2022.
- Devin Singletary – The Bills backfield has never been a great one for Fantasy, but the fact that it was a split for so long made it effectively useless. That's changed down the stretch of this season with Singletary emerging as a useful every-down option for them. Singletary had 284 total yards with four touchdowns over the past three games, and if he can keep rolling and keep Zack Moss on the bench through the playoffs, he'll be one of the biggest risers in ADP from 2021 to 2022. Right now, he's looking like a fringe RB2, but I could see him moving up.
- Rashaad Penny – I don't know if Penny will have a starting job in 2022, but he's making himself a lot of money with his recent play. Penny has 100-plus rushing yards in three of the past four games, including 170 with two scores Sunday, and he's gotta be playing himself into somebody's plans for 2022 as a free agent. A few months ago, it wasn't even clear he'd still be in the league next season.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown – St. Brown is going to be hotly debated this offseason, and I'll probably be on the pessimistic side – there just aren't that many examples of smaller, slower wide receivers being elite Fantasy options. However, St. Brown has already proven me wrong by being as good as he has been of late, and the Lions have been moving him all around the formation, including as a running back, where he scored a nifty 23-yard touchdown Sunday. I don't know what St. Brown's role in the offense is going to look like when D'Andre Swift, T.J. Hockenson and whoever else they bring in to the receiving group are all active, but he's earned the right to be a hotly debated player for the 2022 Fantasy offseason. That's more than I expected.
Top-10 QBs for 2022
I think there's probably a solid top-11 at the position heading into the offseason, so deciding who to leave off the list is the hardest thing here. Matthew Stafford ended up being the last QB out for me as a bet on Joe Burrow's potential. The Bengals have put up massive numbers over the past two weeks with a more pass-heavy approach, so hopefully, that's something we'll see more of in the playoffs and then into next season.
It's not a knock on Stafford, to be clear. He's having an awesome season, and when he's not buried deep in his own territory, he's been especially excellent – nine of his 15 interceptions have come from inside his own 30-yard line, the highest number in the league. I think that's mostly fluky but with Odell Beckham a free agent and Robert Woods coming back from knee surgery, who knows whether his weapons will be this good again. And, if Cam Akers comes back at full strength, will the Rams run the ball more? Those questions are just enough to make me slide Burrow ahead of Stafford.
These names are all familiar to you, of course. They're pretty much the same names who were at the top of QB rankings prior to this season, give or take a Russell Wilson. I'm sticking with the young, running quarterbacks at the top, with the latter half where your traditional pocket-passing elder statesmen come in. But I'd be thrilled with any of these guys as my No. 1 next year, pending Aaron Rodgers' likely free agency. And, depending on where Russell Wilson is playing, I could definitely see him making it a nice, even dozen by the time we're drafting.
Here are some quick thoughts on each player in my top 10:
- Josh Allen – Allen is the only QB to score 28 points per game in each of the past two seasons, and he managed to avoid that mid-season swoon that affected just about every quarterback this season. And he's doing it with what will likely end up being a career-low in rushing touchdowns.
- Patrick Mahomes – When 25.2 points per game is a cause for panic, you're an elite Fantasy QB. That mid-season swoon is hard to shake, and it's the main reason he isn't No. 1. But he's a fine consolation prize, especially since I could see some people pushing Justin Herbert or Tom Brady ahead of him, potentially.
- Lamar Jackson – Before his ankle injury, Jackson was on pace for over 1,000 rushing yards and a career-high in passing yards by nearly 500. The issue was touchdowns, but we know how unpredictable those are. Jackson's non-touchdown production is comparable to anyone's, if not just a bit better.
- Justin Herbert – Herbert didn't take a massive leap forward, but the progress we saw was good enough after many – including myself – expected regression in year two. You'd like to see him used a bit more as a runner, but that's really splitting hairs at this point.
- Kyler Murray – Murray's production took a dive in the second half for the second season in a row, which is a concern. However, he's still right there with Allen and Jackson when it comes to the best dual threats in the game, and he's actually had his most efficient season as a passer in 2021. It feels like unfair expectations might be held against him at this point.
- Tom Brady – Brady followed up his massive 2020 with a slightly better 2021. Age should catch up to Brady eventually, but the bigger concern might be that Chris Godwin is a free agent this offseason. It wasn't an issue in Week 17.
- Jalen Hurts – The Eagles have found a winning identity, and Hurts is as important to that as any quarterback is to their team. It's unconventional, but he's the best rusher at the position this side of Jackson, and there's still room for him to grow as a passer.
- Dak Prescott – Prescott suffered that mid-season swoon that affected a bunch of other quarterbacks, and the Cowboys offense as a whole was kind of underwhelming. He still had a great season, and it's not hard to see how the offense could be even better than we've seen – or at least more consistent.
- Aaron Rodgers – The perpetually underrated, underdrafted Rodgers may just be so again. The question at this point is where Rodgers ends up playing, but it's hard to see him not being a top-12 QB no matter where he is and who he's playing with.
- Joe Burrow – The Bengals have been too run-heavy for Burrow to really be elite at times this season, but he's got arguably the best collection of weapons in the game and the upside to grow into more of a pass-first offense.