Fantasy: 5 risky picks to gamble on in 2022

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Gambling with your fantasy picks can be stressful, but it can also be exhilarating. If you're willing to take some chances, here are five players who could deliver league-winning performances in 2022 - as long as they don't sink your team first.

David Montgomery, RB, Bears

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Fantasy managers' concerns regarding Montgomery are understandable. Under Matt Nagy, the Bears haven't had much success in recent years, and running backs in subpar offenses face a higher degree of difficulty in producing big stats.

However, Montgomery has been an exception to that rule, finishing as the RB8 in PPR fantasy points per game (17.7 fppg) in 2020 and the RB19 (14.0 fppg) last season.

He's also displayed the potential to win weeks when there's a good matchup and the Bears can stay competitive. A quick look at our 2022 strength of schedule matrix shows Montgomery with the easiest fantasy strength of schedule among all running backs.

Armed with a new coaching staff, a promising young quarterback, and limited weapons in the passing attack, Montgomery should once again be the focal point of the offense and ride a heavy workload to high-end RB2 fantasy numbers. That makes him a solid bet at his current ADP of RB20.

Robert Woods, WR, Titans

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It's been an eventful year for Woods. He tore his ACL last November, celebrated a Super Bowl win with the Rams in February, and then L.A. traded him to the Titans in March.

It was initially assumed that Woods would play the No. 2 receiver role behind A.J. Brown. However, that scenario quickly changed when Tennessee sent Brown to Philadelphia in a draft-day trade.

The Titans selected Treylon Burks to help replace Brown, but the first-round rookie has had a less-than-ideal start to his NFL career. He missed most of OTAs due to asthma and apparent poor conditioning.

That leaves the door open for Woods to take on a bigger target share this season. He'll be 10 months removed from his ACL injury by the time Week 1 of the upcoming season rolls around.

The 30-year-old had been a remarkably consistent PPR scorer during his time with the Rams. Woods finished as the WR18 (15.2 fppg), WR19 (15.3 fppg), WR14 (15.5 fppg), WR16 (16.6 fppg), and WR19 (13.6 fppg) in average fantasy points per game over the last five seasons.

Though the recovery timeline could complicate his fantasy outlook for 2022, Woods is a player well worth the risk in the middle rounds.

Russell Gage, WR, Buccaneers

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Gage is currently going off the board in the seventh round as the WR38 overall. However, his ADP is guaranteed to climb with the uncertainty around Chris Godwin's return from a torn ACL and Rob Gronkowski's retirement.

Mike Evans will be locked into a massive target share early in the season until Godwin is ready for action - likely in October. That still leaves a ton of opportunity for the rest of the Buccaneers' pass-catchers, led by the newcomer Gage.

In addition to signing a three-year, $30-million deal to join the team in free agency, we now know Tom Brady specifically recruited Gage. The five-time Super Bowl MVP has continued to prop up the 26-year-old wideout as a significant part of the offense, telling ESPN that Gage "has to have a big year."

Though he's not a household name, the former Falcon put up solid numbers in the second half of last season. Gage posted at least 50 yards and/or a touchdown in six of his last seven outings, resulting in the 17th most fantasy points per game among wideouts during that span.

Evans, Godwin, and Antonio Brown all landed inside the top-12 fantasy receivers in per-game PPR scoring in 2021 while sharing the field in the Bucs' high-volume pass attack. And even when Godwin returns, Gage should see plenty of volume since Gronk and Brown alone are leaving behind 151 targets between them.

All signs point to a big season for Gage, who should be viewed as a fantasy WR3 with WR2 upside during the games Godwin is sidelined.

Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Falcons

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Let's face it, you'll never feel good about investing in a 31-year-old running back who's coming off his first notable fantasy campaign in nine NFL seasons. But with the state of the Falcons' RB depth chart, it's looking like Patterson will have another sizeable role in 2022.

After releasing Mike Davis, Atlanta is left with 30-year-old veteran Damien Williams and rookie fifth-rounder Tyler Allgeier as Patterson's main competition for touches in the backfield.

Allgeier is the more intriguing option over Williams because of the allure of the unknown. But there's a reason he slipped to Day 3 of the draft, and it centers around his lack of elite traits. Allgeier profiles as a durable, volume-dependent producer in the pros, and he's more likely to settle into a backup or complementary spot versus a starting job.

It's also worth noting that the Year 1 hit rate on fifth-round running backs is incredibly low.

That brings us back to Patterson, who amassed 1,166 yards from scrimmage, 52 receptions, and 11 total touchdowns in 2021. That was good enough to end the year as the RB16 in PPR fantasy points per game, even though he faded over the final month due to injuries.

Patterson was the RB10 prior to getting his touches reduced late in the year, averaging 17.7 fppg over his first 12 appearances.

Head coach Arthur Smith said C-Patt's late-season dip led to the team holding him out of minicamp and putting him on his own offseason workout program in hopes of keeping him healthy for all 17 games.

With limited playmakers in the backfield, Patterson will be an important part of Atlanta's offense for a second straight year. That gives him the potential for another RB2 fantasy performance if he can avoid wearing down.

Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings

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For many years, Thielen has felt like a cheat code in fantasy, with managers downplaying his contributions in favor of more explosive teammates like superstar Justin Jefferson or former Vikings standout Stefon Diggs.

And yet, Thielen has continued to produce high-end stats through it all:

  • 2017: WR11 (15.0 fppg)
  • 2018: WR7 (19.2 fppg)
  • 2019: WR23 (15.5 fppg through seven weeks before injuries derailed his season)
  • 2020: WR11 (16.9 fppg)
  • 2021: WR9 (17.4 fppg through 12 weeks before injuries derailed his season)

Durability is the main question mark hanging over Thielen as he enters his age-32 campaign. He's missed significant time in two of the last three seasons.

But when Thielen's on the field, there's no denying his connection with Kirk Cousins or his effectiveness around the red zone. The crafty veteran is tied with Tyreek Hill for the third-most receiving touchdowns (24) over the last two years, behind only Davante Adams (29) and Mike Evans (27).

With a new coaching staff intent on throwing the ball more, Thielen should continue to provide WR2 fantasy production whenever he suits up. There's definite value with his sixth-round ADP as the 35th receiver being selected.

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Fantasy: 5 risky picks to gamble on in 2022
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