Fantasy Football 2022: Which narrow usage trees should we target in drafts?

Marc Trestman had a very brief career as an NFL head coach, but he did leave us one lasting fantasy football legacy. He designed one of the most narrow usage trees of modern times. The 2014 Bears went just 5-11, costing Trestman his job. But the Bears were an easy read for fantasy purposes. A whopping 34 of their 38 offensive touchdowns were scored by their Core Four of Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett.

Jay Cutler scooped up two rushing touchdowns, and the other lone scores came from Josh Morgan (one) and Marquess Wilson (one). Forte collected a glorious 1,846 yards from scrimmage; the next highest total in the backfield was Ka’Deem Carey’s 215.

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When we’re considering possible fantasy draft picks and starters, narrow usage can be helpful. We respect that play callers and quarterbacks have to do what’s best for them, but when the ball distribution is predictable and sprinkled to a small group, it makes our lives easier.

With that in mind, let’s consider a few 2022 offenses where a narrow distribution tree might be a fantasy bonus.

Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore’s still operating a knuckleball offense, centered around the skills of quarterback Lamar Jackson. His running chops will take some stats away from the others, sure. But the Ravens don’t throw to their backs much, and the No. 2 wideout at the moment looks to be Devin Duvernay or James Proche; ordinary players. Perhaps Baltimore will investigate a receiver trade or pickup as teams make their difficult final cuts, but Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman should both benefit from sizable target shares.

Indianapolis Colts

The overall projection for the offense benefits — perhaps spikes — now that Matt Ryan has replaced the erratic Carson Wentz. Michael Pittman might blast to the moon in Year 3, with no major target competition behind him. The team says it wants to reduce Jonathan Taylor’s workload slightly, but he can give some of it back (if it even comes to that) and still be a bell cow. Taylor led the NFL In carries last year and was second in touches; consider that his 272 touches were 105 more than David Montgomery at No. 10. I expect the Colts to keep relying on their blue chips.

Look for the Colts to clinch the weak AFC South very early, beating the holiday shopping rush.

Minnesota Vikings

Talk about a team I want to buy stock in. Minnesota switched to an offensive-centric head coach at a perfect time, and there’s exciting skill talent at the top of the depth chart. Minnesota is also projected for one of the easiest schedules in the league.

Kirk Cousins threw 26 of his 33 touchdown passes to Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, or K.J. Osborn last year (Osborn also caught one from backup Sean Mannion). Dalvin Cook will be heavily featured, for as long as he’s healthy. I’m in “believe it when I see it” territory for tight end Irv Smith, given all the injuries he’s been dealing with the last two years.

Cousins, Jefferson and Thielen will be my most common steps into this high-floor, high-ceiling offense.

Adam Thielen #19 of the Minnesota Vikings and Justin Jefferson #18 and Kirk Cousins #8 are easy fantasy targets
This is one of the most potent fantasy trios available in 2022. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) (Lachlan Cunningham via Getty Images)

Carolina Panthers

The hope is that Baker Mayfield can be an upgrade over Sam Darnold or Teddy Bridgwater, the quarterbacks who have held Carolina back in recent years. And Mayfield knows where to go with the ball, as Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore tower over the remainder of the offense. There’s not a second running back of note here, the tight end room is shallow and Robbie Anderson and Terrace Marshall both did little last season (if you think Anderson can rebound now that he’s changed the spelling of his first name, that’s all you).

Houston Texans

You don’t have to squint to see fantasy potential here. Rookie back Dameon Pierce became a fantasy darling with an electric summer, and Brandin Cooks cranks out 1,000-yard seasons no matter who he’s playing with. The offense line looks at least average and might be a plus unit. No. 2 receiver Nico Collins and emerging TE Brevin Jordan are interesting sleeper picks, as the rest of the receiver depth is suspect. Quarterback Davis Mills was shockingly effective as a rookie.

Cincinnati Bengals

It’s one of the few teams that will find a way to proactively include three receivers, but Hayden Hurst is not a prominent mouth to feed at tight end, the running backs aren’t heavily utilized in the passing game and Joe Burrow is not a proactive runner. You can take Ja’Marr Chase or Tee Higgins as early as you want to — I'll gladly sign off. Tyler Boyd makes sense as a deeper-league depth pick, or as an upside stash-and-hope, a play that pays off if someone else gets hurt.

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