Fantasy Football analyst Dalton Del Don gives his take on the AFC — his predictions for fantasy performances, team records and divisional finishes. Which of his takes will come to pass? Find out the fate of the American Football Conference for 2022 below!
1. Buffalo Bills 12-5
2. New England Patriots 9-8
3. Miami Dolphins 9-8
4. New York Jets 5-12
Bills: Buffalo enters 2022 as one of the Super Bowl favorites but with a new offensive coordinator and a much harder-looking schedule (although that’s countered by enjoying the best advantage in terms of rest) ... Josh Allen led the league in EPA last season despite getting a modest 6.8 YPA, as he’s both a fantasy (the clear QB1) and NFL star. Allen had a 26:1 TD:INT ratio on 65 end-zone targets last season; no other QB attempted more than 50 throws in the EZ … Gabriel Davis finishes as a top-10 fantasy WR, while Isaiah McKenzie is top-30 in PPR … James Cook disappoints fantasy managers, while Devin Singletary is a top-25 RB … Dawson Knox has more fantasy value than T.J. Hockenson.
Patriots: New England quietly had the third-best point differential last season but may take a step back this year with a questionable play-calling situation that includes Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. Still, bet against Bill Belichick at your own risk, as always … Mac Jones lacks fantasy upside but should settle in as a top-12-type NFL quarterback moving forward … Rhamondre Stevenson eventually lives up to the hype and finishes with the better fantasy season than Damien Harris … Jakobi Meyers is New England’s most valuable fantasy receiver, while Hunter Henry is a tight end to avoid.
Dolphins: There’s a lot of excitement in Miami with coach Mike McDaniel joining newcomers Tyreek Hill and LT Terron Armstead. The Dolphins have incredibly intriguing skill position players and an upgraded OL, but Miami still has bottom-10 type units on both sides of the line and questions remain regarding Tua Tagovailoa … Mike Gesicki is an obvious fade at tight end, while there’s a 50/50 chance Jaylen Waddle has a better fantasy season than Hill … Chase Edmonds finishes as a top-15 PPR back; I rank him ahead of Ezekiel Elliott.
Jets: New York is underrated on both sides of the line, even after the loss of Mekhi Becton. They are also loaded at receiver and running back with incoming rookies Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson joining the impressive Michael Carter and Elijah Moore. Still, Zach Wilson looks like a real problem at the game’s most important position, possibly limiting all Jets … Emerging as one of the league’s best receivers while overcoming a shaky QB situation (although the less Wilson, quite possibly the better), Moore finishes as a top-10 fantasy WR in 2022, but the rookie Wilson disappoints and isn’t a top-70 fantasy wideout (Braxton Berrios has more fantasy value in PPR leagues) … Preseason usage doesn’t matter, but Michael Carter being legit does. Given his competition for touches and quarterback (and Moore scoring all the Jets touchdowns), Hall may have a hard time living up to his ADP.
1. Cincinnati Bengals 11-6
2. Baltimore Ravens 11-6 (Wild Card)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-9
4. Cleveland Browns 7-10
Bengals: The Bengals won the AFC last season, and while there are Dan Marino vibes to Joe Burrow’s future Super Bowl appearances, the QB led the NFL in YPA (8.9) by a mile last season while recovering from serious ACL surgery and having a rookie as his WR1. He got 10.3 YPA on third/fourth downs! Cincinnati enters 2022 with a much-improved offensive line and a healthier Burrow set to throw more, which is great news for all Bengals' fantasy values (and bad news for the rest of the AFC) … Ja’Marr Chase isn’t a top-five WR but both he and Tee Higgins end up top-10, as Burrow leads the NFL in passing yards … Lack of passing down work limits Joe Mixon’s fantasy upside, and an injury leads to Samaje Perine producing multiple RB1 fantasy weeks …
Burrow wins the MVP award.
Ravens: Baltimore is an obvious bounce-back candidate facing a last-place schedule and with a healthy Lamar Jackson playing for a big contract. Helped by strong coaching and the return of LT Ronnie Staley, the Ravens could easily go from worst to first this season … J.K. Dobbins disappoints based on his ADP, but LJax, Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews smash theirs. Bateman finishes as a top-20 WR, while Andrews easily outscores Travis Kelce in fantasy leagues.
Steelers: Pittsburgh has arguably the league’s worst offensive line but arguably the league’s best defensive one. While Ben Roethlisberger was a major problem, the QB situation may not be a huge upgrade this season with Mitch Trubisky and 24-year-old rookie Kenny Pickett set to take over. Coach Mike Tomlin always has the Steelers competitive, but the Jaguars have won a playoff game more recently than Pittsburgh … Najee Harris doesn't finish as a top-12 fantasy RB, while George Pickens lives up to the hype and is the first Steelers WR off the board in 2023 fantasy leagues.
Browns: Cleveland has a top-three offensive line, running back and some dominant EDGE rushers but also an impossible quarterback situation (holding Deshaun Watson for 11 weeks is tough in most fantasy formats). Especially in an often-windy environment, it’s far from an ideal fantasy situation with a full-blown backfield committee and a new leading WR in Amari Cooper who’s never exceeded a 22-percent target share during a career that’s also seen huge indoor/outdoor splits … David Njoku proves to be the biggest Browns fantasy winner, finishing as a top-10 tight end.
Kareem Hunt, meanwhile, might have fantasy’s most curious ADP of all. Managers appear to be banking on a trade, as those in high-stakes NFFC leagues are burning an eighth-round pick on a 27-year-old who’s behind one of the league’s very best running backs (and competing with two other very good RBs on Cleveland’s roster) while playing in a tough defensive division and with Jacoby Brissett as his quarterback.
1. Indianapolis Colts 11-6
2. Jacksonville Jaguars 6-11
3. Houston Texans 6-11
4. Tennessee Titans 6-11
Colts: Indianapolis is gifted with one of the easiest divisions in football (seriously, how silly are divisions?!), and Matt Ryan qualifies as a big upgrade over Carson Wentz ... While Christian McCaffrey clearly has more upside, Jonathan Taylor clearly is the safer fantasy pick. Draft accordingly … Michael Pittman finishes as a top-five fantasy WR, while Parris Campbell outscores Alec Pierce … Mo Alie-Cox finishes with more fantasy value than Noah Fant and Mike Gesicki.
Jaguars: Jacksonville is still hampered by shaky GM Trent Baalke, but the Jaguars get the league’s biggest coaching upgrade with Urban Meyer gone. The Year 2 jump for Trevor Lawrence very well could be massive. He’ll be a top-15 fantasy QB with upside for much more ... I rank Christian Kirk 15+ spots ahead of his ECR and as a top-25 fantasy WR entering the year.
Texans: Detective Davis Mills got 7.9 YPA with a 12:1 TD:INT ratio over seven home games as a rookie and will benefit from a sharp franchise and an improved coaching staff including Pep Hamilton taking over as OC. He’s a Superflex sleeper … Nico Collins is drafted ahead of Brandin Cooks in all 2023 fantasy leagues … A sneaky good Houston tackle duo (and team) help Dameon Pierce win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Pierce > Zeke in 2022 fantasy.
Titans: The Titans beat the most teams with a winning record in NFL history last season but look like the prime candidate to regress in 2022. I’m projecting a drop from the AFC’s No. 1 seed to the bottom of their division … Robert Woods should be going well ahead of Treylon Burks, who gets outscored by at least five other rookie receivers this year … Austin Hooper finishes as a top-12 fantasy tight end, while Malik Willis is a future top-12 fantasy quarterback, perhaps as soon as this season … It’s tough betting against the Big Dog, but Derrick Henry appears to be in the decline phase, will especially suffer from the Titans’ likely regression and will be playing with a metal plate and five screws in his foot this season. Draft Dontrell Hilliard in all your fantasy leagues.
1. Kansas City Chiefs 11-6
2. Los Angeles Chargers 10-7 (Wild Card)
3. Denver Broncos 9-8 (Wild Card)
4. Las Vegas Raiders 8-9
Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid remain the best combo in the NFL, and KC has an elite offensive line as well. Tyreek Hill will be missed, but the Chiefs added plenty of help at wide receiver as replacements … There’s a real chance Clyde Edwards-Helaire is KC’s third-most valuable fantasy back, while Skyy Moore goes from mass dropped across most fantasy leagues early in 2022 to the first Kansas City WR drafted in 2023 … I rank both Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts ahead of Travis Kelce, who’s the most obvious first-round fade of the year …
The Chiefs win the Super Bowl.
Chargers: Justin Herbert is a real-life superstar being mistakenly drafted over other QBs with more fantasy upside who run ... Suppose the Chargers can overcome their seemingly snake-bitten ability to suffer injuries and bad luck. In that case, they have a loaded roster capable of making a deep postseason run … Not only does Mike Williams outscore the overvalued Keenan Allen in fantasy leagues this season, Josh Palmer is drafted ahead of Allen in 2023 as well.
Broncos: After flirting with Aaron Rodgers (and bringing in Green Bay’s OC as the team’s new head coach), Denver traded for Russell Wilson during the offseason. The Broncos Super Bowl odds jumped significantly with the major upgrade at QB, but they’re stuck in a loaded division with Las Vegas adding Davante Adams as well … I loved Albert O as a sleeper throughout summer, but his preseason usage has been highly discouraging (although he was rested with the starters during Denver’s final preseason game) … Melvin Gordon took a $6 million pay cut from his employer, so it stands to reason he’ll have a lesser role this season … Jerry Jeudy > Courtland Sutton.
Raiders: Numerous blown draft picks will eventually catch up to the Raiders, who have strong EDGE rushers and added Davante Adams during the offseason but are stuck in the NFL’s toughest division. I have Adams falling just outside the top-five WRs without Aaron Rodgers, but Darren Waller’s “hold-in” could certainly help … Josh Jacobs and Derek Carr are better NFL players than fantasy options … It’s wild the Raiders made the playoffs last season given the Jon Gruden and Henry Ruggs situations, but they’ve been rewarded with one of 2022’s hardest projected schedules.
AFC Championship Game: Chiefs over Bills (in a game without punts)
NFC Preview coming soon!