2022 Fantasy Football Sleepers for Week 1: Why you should consider Julio Jones vs. Cowboys on Sunday

I’m the Yahooligan handling the Sleeper post for this year. The first thing we need to accept is the nebulous nature of the term. Get 10 fantasy managers in a room and you might hear 10 different definitions for sleeper. My aim in this column is to give you some intel that might be ahead of the curve, for whatever you choose to do with it.

Perhaps it helps you make a start/sit call this week or a DFS decision. Maybe you apply the information to an over/under prop. Perhaps you’ll add a player to your fantasy bench as depth, but not use him this week. There’s no wrong way to digest this piece.

It’s all up to you.

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I’ll try not to give you ridiculous non-Sleeper sleeper calls — Amon-Ra St. Brown isn’t a sleeper in my mind; that story already happened, that detonation was real. But again, we have to nod to the shifting perception of the word.

Season to taste, and away we go.

RB Dameon Pierce vs. Colts ($11 Yahoo DFS)

Pierce qualifies as an obvious sleeper call in seasonal leagues, but we have to point out the free square potential as his DFS salary hasn’t adjusted yet. He’s looked the part all summer, quickly moving to the top of the Houston depth chart and encouraging the team to release veteran Marlon Mack. Houston’s offensive line isn’t a behemoth, but it’s at least adequate.

Sometimes the obvious DFS plays are obvious for a justified reason. Pierce has a heavy amount of projectable volume right away.

RB Mike Davis at Jets ($12 Yahoo, 28 percent rostered)

I understand the reluctance to trust Davis, after watching him plod to 3.6 YPC with Atlanta last year. The desperate Falcons ultimately looked to Cordarrelle Patterson — a receiver by trade — to be their makeshift featured back, while Davis went on a fantasy poster for the dangers of Dead-Zone RB drafting. Alas, the Ravens are plenty desperate as 2022 opens — Gus Edwards isn’t ready, and J.K. Dobbins might not be either. Lamar Jackson is always a threat to take over a game with his legs, but someone has to carry the ball. Davis or Kenyan Drake will outkick their projections this week, perhaps both of them. Davis isn’t a long-term answer, but anyone with projectable volume has to be taken seriously in fantasy.

WR Julio Jones at Dallas ($10 Yahoo DFS)

Jones still lists as a wideout but the Buccaneers will likely use him as a hybrid tight end, asking Jones to win between the numbers, in areas that Rob Gronkowski used to roam. Jones for years has been a volume monster who was generally a little disappointing in the touchdown column; the setup is likely flipped this year, with Jones carrying plenty of touchdown equity but not a bet for 1,000 yards. Jones might be needed more than usual in the opener, with Chris Godwin a game-time decision and Russell Gage less than 100 percent. I’ll look for possible Jones touchdown props Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Julio Jones (85) could have sneaky fantasy value in 2022
Could Julio Jones' expected new role on offense pay off for fantasy managers? (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

WR Nico Collins vs. Colts ($12 Yahoo DFS, 34% rostered)

Texans QB Davis Mills was a five-star recruit who couldn’t get a break at Stanford. Thus, expectations were nothing for him when he entered the league, but Mills was the second-best rookie QB last year. The Texans have an extremely narrow target tree, and Collins appears locked in as the No. 2 option after established veteran Brandin Cooks. Even if you don’t need Collins in the season opener, I’d like to see you consider him as a depth add for the back of your roster.

Josh Palmer vs. Las Vegas ($10 Yahoo DFS, 22% rostered)

Most fantasy managers grasp the concept of stashing high-upside running backs, players who could rocket to the moon with one injury or mishap in front of them on the depth chart. That concept is less common but still possible at wide receiver, and that’s why we mention Palmer. Keenan Allen enters his age-30 season, with Mike Williams just two years younger. If anything happens to those guys, Palmer steps into a starting gig tied to a Justin Herbert offense. In any medium or deeper league, Palmer should be on a roster.

WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine vs. Giants ($10 Yahoo DFS, 1% rostered)

If I don’t give you a “Who?” moment in this column now and again, I’m not doing the job right.

First-round pick Treylon Burks is eventually going to be a Titans starter, but that probably won’t be right away. Robert Woods was imported to be the team’s No. 1 target, but he’s still getting acclimated with the club. By default, QB Ryan Tannehill will be forced to rely on players he knows in the opener, and that opens the door for Westbrook-Ikhine to sneak in 60-70 receiving yards and maybe some end-zone looks.

TE Mo Alie-Cox at Houston ($12, 10% rostered)

I could have made this column all about tight ends if they asked; Cole Kmet ($11) and David Njoku ($12) are seasonal stalwarts misplaced in DFS, and although nothing is guaranteed for Albert Okwuegbunam ($12), I love his physical profile and the upside of a Russell Wilson offense. All of those players are approved for proactive Week 1 use.

Cox gets the write-up because he’s so scarcely rostered in seasonal leagues. The Colts significantly upgraded their offense when they landed Matt RyanCarson Wentz held this team back in multiple ways last year. And while Michael Pittman is the unquestioned target king in this passing game (I hope you landed plenty of Pittman in your drafts), there’s room for a secondary downfield option to emerge.

MAC has a snappy 8.7 yards per target for his four-year career; he’s been screaming for an increased role. That promotion might finally be here for 2022.

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