This offseason has been one of the wildest in recent memory in the NFL – maybe ever. And with the draft looming next week, it doesn't look like things are going to calm down anytime soon.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel has requested a trade, as we learned Wednesday, putting another elite wide receiver on the market during an offseason that has already seen Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill moved. And, while Samuel may not be quite on the level of those two, his trade demand might make an even bigger impact on the Fantasy landscape if the 49ers acquiesce to it. Samuel is coming off a historic season that saw him catch 77 passes for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns while also emerging down the stretch as a legitimate difference maker as a running back, rushing for 365 yards with eight touchdowns on 59 carries, nearly all of which came over the final eight games of the season.
How the 49ers handle Samuel's trade demand is arguably the biggest question looming over the league with the draft set for next Thursday, but it isn't the only one. In fact, it's not even the only trade question looming over the 49ers – they still have Jimmy Garoppolo dangling out there!
This year's draft isn't considered an especially strong one for skill players, especially at quarterback, but there are still going to be plenty of Fantasy-relevant players selected in the early rounds, and there are plenty of teams with needs around the league. In today's edition of the Fantasy Football Today newsletter, we'll look at the biggest questions facing the 49ers and every other team in the NFC in the lead up to the draft. Thursday, we'll shift focus to the AFC, and then next week in the days leading up to the draft, we'll have deep dives on all of the relevant prospects you need to know, with write ups from the entire Fantasy Football Today team to get you set for the start of the draft.
For now, here's the biggest question for each NFC team, starting with that Samuel trade request and what it might mean.
Biggest question for every NFC team
49ers: How do they handle Deebo Samuel's trade demand?
Samuel reportedlyin recent weeks and has been unwilling to engage with the 49ers in talks about a contract extension. It isn't clear exactly what Samuel's discontent stems from, with NFL Network's Ian Rapoport saying "money is not at the root of the issues for [Samuel]," who apparently has issues with how he was used. Of course, those two points could be related – Samuel's value to this offense is so great precisely because he is capable of serving as the team's No. 1 wide receiver and a significant part of the running game, and he likely wants to be paid accordingly. Samuel is under contract for another season, so the 49ers don't have to make a move here. However, given how important he was to their offense, they'll need to resolve this one way or another.
Whether a trade would be good for Samuel's Fantasy value is a tough question to answer. His role in the running game in San Francisco helped buoy his value late in the season when he wasn't getting as many targets, and there's no guarantee another team would use him in the same way. On the other hand, Samuel probably wouldn't have as hard a time getting consistent targets as he did in San Francisco last season, an issue that might only be exacerbated by the expectation of Trey Lance starting for the 49ers in 2022. Lance's rushing ability might make one of the most run-heavy teams in the league even more extreme in that regard, which makes it tough to know how to value Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. A Samuel trade would go a long way toward clearing up concerns about how good Kittle, Aiyuk, and even Elijah Mitchell can be for 2022, so there's a lot riding on this demand. It's arguably the biggest question hanging over the draft right now.
Cardinals: Do they bring in another running back?
Defense looks like where the Cardinals are likely to spend their most significant draft capital this season, and running back probably isn't as big a position of need as tight end, either. So, it seems unlikely James Conner ends up with much competition from the early rounds, which could be a big deal. Chase Edmonds left for Miami in free agency, leaving Eno Benjamin and his 40 career touches as the primary backup. Conner averaged 23.1 PPR points per game in the five he played without Edmonds last season, and while I don't think an 85-catch pace is sustainable – especially given his injury history – Conner looks like a top-12 RB right now barring an unexpected big addition.
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Falcons: Do they bring in any pass-catchers?
Even if you consider Kyle Pitts a wide receiver, the Falcons probably still have the worst WR group in the league, headlined by the likes of Damiere Byrd, Olamide Zaccheaus, and KhaDarel Hodge. That's not doing new starter Marcus Mariota any favors, and at least one WR in the early rounds seems like a given. And there will obviously be a big opportunity here for whoever does get picked, because they'd likely step onto the field as the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Pitts. Expect whichever WR goes to Atlanta to be one of the first rookie WRs taken.
Panthers: Who is the starting QB?
New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo named Sam Darnold the starting quarterback and then walked it back minutes later, which felt like a pretty fitting example of their level of confidence in Darnold. There's a pretty terrific group of skill position players here who have been held back by their quarterback in recent years, so we'd love to see an upgrade. Will that come in the form of a trade – perhaps for Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield? – or drafting someone like Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, or Matt Corral? For the sake of D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey, I'm hoping for a trade, because none of those rookies seems likely to make a big impact right away.
Bears: Do they bring in any pass-catchers?
The Bears have one pick in the first 70 – 39th overall – and a ton of holes, so an Allen Robinson replacement isn't a guarantee here. However, considering they added just Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown in free agency, wide receiver is a need. They could also use a dynamic pass catching running back after releasing Tarik Cohen, but WR seems like the likely spot to go. There's an opportunity for someone to fill a big role alongside Darnell Mooney, and possibly to emerge as the No. 1 WR, a role Mooney may not be totally qualified to handle in the long run. Whoever the Bears draft seems likely to be one of the rookie WRs drafted in most Fantasy leagues, given the opportunity.
Cowboys: Do they draft another WR?
This time last year, wide receiver hardly seemed like a big need for the Cowboys, but after trading Amari Cooper, they could use another playmaker in the passing game. They did re-sign Michael Gallup to a pretty sizable deal, but there's no guarantee he'll be back in time for Week 1 after tearing his ACL in Week 17, potentially leaving James Washington as the primary No. 2 next to CeeDee Lamb. They'll likely add a tight end to help replace Blake Jarwin, but wide receiver seems the likely option. And, while Lamb looks the part of an alpha No. 1, the Cowboys have spread targets around over the years, so there would probably be room for whichever rookie lands here to make an impact. But perhaps Lamb's somewhat underwhelming first two seasons will allow us to keep expectations in check?
- Fantasy Football Today NFL Draft Predictions: Predict the top 10 picks of the 2022 NFL Draft to win a spot in the 2022 FFT Podcast League! Must include correct spelling of players' names to win. REMINDER: you are predicting the NFL Draft order (April 28), not a Fantasy draft. (34 kB)
Lions: How early do they take a WR?
Between Amon-Ra St. Brown, T.J. Hockenson, and D'Andre Swift, the Lions have assembled a decent little group of pass catchers, but they're clearly missing a go-to, No. 1 WR. St. Brown was impressive late last season, but likely doesn't have the size or athleticism to be a true No. 1 in the long run. They've got the No. 1, 32, 34, and 66 picks in the first three rounds, so it's probably not a question of "if" but "how early?" That being said, it might be better if they passed this season, simply because it's already starting to look like a fairly crowded group in an offense that doesn't figure to create a ton of value already. Remember, there really wasn't a time last season when all three of St. Brown, Hockenson, and Swift were healthy and productive at the same time – Brown's breakout came largely with Swift and Hockenson injured.
Packers: How early do they take a WR?
The Packers have seemed less concerned about their wide receiver room than seemingly everyone else over the past few years, but after a free agency period that saw them lose Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling while adding Sammy Watkins as the only notable name, it seems inevitable they'll make an investment in the early rounds. They have 11 picks total in this draft, including Nos. 22, 28, 53, and 59, so there are plenty of opportunities to make some additions. Names like Skyy Moore, Christian Watson, and Jahan Dotson have been linked to them in various recent CBS Sports mock drafts, and I would expect we'll see one of the top WRs end up in Green Bay. That obviously could be an incredible landing spot playing with Aaron Rodgers, so whoever the Packers invest in will be Fantasy relevant from Day 1.
Rams: Do they bring in anyone?
The Rams aren't scheduled to pick until the third round, but as anyone who has followed the NFL over the past few years knows, that doesn't mean they won't be willing and able to make a big splash before that. The Rams have been willing to take big swings over and over, and it culminated in them winning a Super Bowl last offseason. They added Allen Robinson and traded away Robert Woods, so they're probably set at wide receiver, while a healthy Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson combo means RB seems pretty solid for them too, so there isn't an obvious need to point to here. But you can never count out the Rams when it comes to big moves, even if we might not be able to see one coming.
Vikings: Do they draft a WR?
Between Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, the Vikings are pretty heavily invested at wide receiver, and in the past, they might have been fine going into the season with those two atop of the depth chart and K.J. Osborn as the No. 3 – they ran the seventh-most plays with two or fewer WRs on the field last season. However, new coach Kevin O'Connell comes to the Vikings from his stint as the Rams offensive coordinator, and the Rams ran the fewest plays in the league with two or fewer WRs on the field. I don't expect Minnesota's offense to morph into Sean McVay's Rams offense overnight, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect them to run more three-WR sets this season, so WR depth will be more important – especially with Adam Thielen clearly having lost a step entering his age-32 season. Whoever they might draft would likely struggle to make much of a Fantasy impact in Year 1, but an early WR could hurt Thielen's value, certainly.
Saints: Do they draft a WR?
The Saints were one of the most run-heavy teams in the league in 2021, and it wasn't just because of the six games Taysom Hill started at QB. Jameis Winston averaged just 25.2 pass attempts per game even before tearing his ACL, as they were content to try to slow the game down, limit possessions, and win with defense. They ultimately didn't have enough firepower to make it work, and while the return of Michael Thomas should help, it wouldn't be a surprise if they used one of their first-round picks on another WR. And there might be room for a potential rookie to contribute for Fantasy from Day 1 if Winston is healthy and they open up the offense a bit.
Giants: Do they trade Saquon Barkley?
The team has denied it is looking to trade Barkley, but the rumors won't go away. A divorce seems like it would be best for all parties involved – Barkley has had trouble staying healthy in New York, and the Giants haven't put him in situations to succeed since his rookie season. If Barkley can rediscover the form that made him such a dynamic player as a rookie, he would probably be pretty good in any offense, but it'd be a lot easier to get excited about the prospects of that if he wasn't in New York in 2022. Of course, that would then leave open the question of what the Giants do with the RB spot in 2022, a question that could be answered during the draft.
Eagles: What kind of playmaker do they add?
The Eagles have the 15th and 18th picks in the draft, and it seems inevitable they'll use one to add another playmaker, likely a wide receiver to pair with Devonta Smith. Jalen Reagor, the 2020 first-rounder, just hasn't panned out, so making it three straight seasons with a first-round pick spent on a wide receiver seems possible. Of course, with how run-heavy this team was last year and figures to be even if Hurts takes a step forward, there probably isn't room for another Fantasy-relevant pass catcher alongside Smith and Dallas Goedert, so a first-round WR would probably muddy the situation more than anything.
Seahawks: Do they trade for a QB?
Maybe the Seahawks see something in Drew Lock that nobody else does, but otherwise, it's hard to see how he's anything more than a short-term option. And, if he's the starter, I'm not going to be excited about the prospect of having either Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf on my roster. I'm not sure any of the rookie quarterbacks would make me any more excited, honestly, so unless they're going to go get Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield, this offense looks pretty bad as things stand. This is going to be more than a one-year rebuild.
Buccaneers: Do they bring in another RB?
Given the way the Buccaneers used him, it's hard to make a case against Leonard Fournette as a top-12 RB right now. He averaged 90.4 yards and six targets per game with eight touchdowns in 14 games, and they let Ronald Jones walk this offseason. Fournette is the lead back in an elite offense that throws to its lead running back a lot, and as things stand, his primary competition is a third-year back who has done little of note in his first two seasons. It doesn't seem likely the Buccaneers will make a big addition given the way they've approached the position the past few years, so if they make it through the draft without adding another back, Fournette is going to be in a great spot.
Commanders: Do they bring in a pass catcher?
Last offseason, the Commanders brought in Curtis Samuel as a complement to Terry McLaurin, and with his connection to Ron Rivera, you could see how the Panthers envisioned him as a do-everything receiver – a poor man's Deebo Samuel, if we're allowed to make that comparison. Samuel's season was derailed in training camp with a groin injury, however, and they never got him going. Washington could use playmakers in the passing game to help Carson Wentz out, and there's an opportunity for someone to be useful alongside Terry McLaurin. Whether that is Samuel or someone else remains to be seen, but if the Commanders don't draft anyone early, Samuel will be an intriguing late-round sleeper.