A couple of weeks ago, we audited all the NFL backfields for fantasy purposes. Today, let's take the same approach for the 32 passing games.
Sometimes Kyler Murray plays like he's never been coached, but working with Kliff Kingsbury might be the same thing. At least the passing game is offering three playable pass catchers in DeAndre Hopkins (a monster ADP win), Zach Ertz and Rondale Moore. The Cardinals are the only club without a pass play over 40 yards, and they're dead last in YPA. Nothing is easy here.
The Falcons run to set up the run, and can't seem to unlock Drake London and Kyle Pitts. It's especially frustrating in the Pitts case, as he remains a matchup nightmare and seems to be open on several routes a game. But the Falcons know they can potentially win the weak NFC South playing this ground-and-pound style, so there's little incentive to change.
Lamar Jackson's passing metrics are all over the place, but given how riddled the Ravens are with injuries, you can't blame much on him. Baltimore has three wins where Jackson has thrown for 174 yards or fewer; we better get used to it. The Ravens should steer Isaiah Likely into a full-time hybrid role; that's where he's badly needed.
For all the sunshine thrown at these guys, the passing game has only given us two reliable options — Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Gabe Davis is the king of boom-or-bust at fantasy's most volatile position, and Isaiah McKenzie and Dawson Knox don't offer enough projectable volume. And now we have to worry about Allen's health.
Justin Fields is making highlight films and records with his legs (which provides a lovely fantasy floor), but the Bears are also calling creative and proactive passing plays. That development pushes Darnell Mooney back into the Circle of Trust and Cole Kmet close to the TE12 cutline. Chase Claypool might need some onboard time, but he was a smart addition for a receiver room desperate for secondary options.
If Ja'Marr Chase can return soon, this is a team that could still make a Super Bowl run. Joe Burrow's pocket awareness took a step back in the Cleveland loss, but for the most part he's been confident — and the line has been fine — since the two nightmare games to open the year. Tyler Boyd and Hayden Hurst won't go down as league winners, but sometimes it's nice to get a modest profit on your ADP depth guys. They're useful.
Deshaun Watson can begin practicing next week, and he'll be immediately installed as the starter come Week 13 (and it's at Houston; the karma police are laughing). Amari Cooper has been sharp most of the year, and David Njoku insists he won't need the full five weeks of injury rehab. Donovan Peoples-Jones has been a handy bye-week sub.
Tony Pollard was the flashy highlight two weeks ago, but it was also a vintage Dak Prescott game. Dalton Schultz looks a little sharper with every passing week; I'm eager to see what he can do after the Week 9 bye. We're desperate for playable tight ends.
Russell Wilson played better in the London game, so maybe there's light at the end of the tunnel. Greg Dulcich has popped in all three of his starts, but Courtland Sutton is in a 6-50-0 funk over the same period. Perhaps Jerry Jeudy is a better fit for the player Wilson currently is.
The Lions carnival has been on hiatus for a few weeks, but the Amon-Ra St. Brown and D'Andre Swift injuries had a lot to do with that. Maybe Detroit can't be a top-10 offense, but these guys can at least punch back most weeks. It's a losing team, but there's still watchability here.
Allen Lazard is a useful player, but Aaron Rodgers doesn't trust any of his other downfield options. Sometimes there simply isn't a monster under the bed. Rodgers has never finished lower than QB9 in any full season, but he's currently the QB16. You have my permission to drop him, if you've found a different quarterback you can trust.
I thought Davis Mills could be respectable this year, but that hasn't been the case. Brandin Cooks is unhappy and underutilized, and Nico Collins has been torpedoed by injuries. There's nothing to see here.
Matt Ryan deserved his benching — even if the Colts probably did it for financial reasons — but Sam Ehlinger looks worse. Until we see a show-me game, everyone in this passing game belongs on a fantasy bench, if not the waiver wire. Michael Pittman, you're breaking my heart.
Trevor Lawrence showed some positive signs last week (he's also avoided sacks all year), and Christian Kirk will always be the first read. I'm stunned the Jaguars don't use Travis Etienne proactively in the passing game; perhaps the Kansas City matchup this week will encourage a change.
Patrick Mahomes is my first-half MVP, doing magical things weekly despite a slight step backward from Travis Kelce and a good-not-great receiver room. The Kadarius Toney trade garnered a lot of attention, but Mecole Hardman picked a perfect time for the light to go on. Hardman is finally the movable scheme toy the Chiefs envisioned when they drafted him.
Las Vegas Raiders
Let's be fair about Davante Adams — he's a fantasy first-round pick who's played like a second-rounder. He's still a credible WR7 in standard scoring, so merely a minor disappointment. Adams threw Josh McDaniels under the bus after last week's second-half collapse; it will be interesting to see how McDaniels responds to the criticism. Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow have been total fantasy bricks, in part due to injuries.
The Chargers have a delightful passing schedule to come, but do they have enough healthy playmakers to take advantage? This was a slow offense even with everyone healthy; it's a herd of turtles at present. It's not your fault, Justin Herbert. It's not your fault.
Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp is still a delight, but otherwise, this offense looks broken. Matthew Stafford probably isn't healthy, and he doesn't seem to trust his offensive line or his secondary options. Sean McVay will never say this in public, but I suspect he regrets not taking a break after last year's championship.
I don't think Tua Tagovailoa is a superstar, but he's certainly good enough — and Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are always open. That 8.6 YPA is gorgeous. The splash plays get the attention in the highlights, but Hill and Waddle can run everything on the route tree. Miami has a difficult passing schedule to come, but with these Three Amigos, I'm not sure it matters. Mike Gesicki should have been traded; he doesn't fit what the offense needs.
Lost in Minnesota's glorious record is the fact that Kirk Cousins is having his worst season since becoming an NFL starter. But give the Vikings credit for booting up T.J. Hockenson immediately. Adam Thielen's volume and efficiency continues to slowly leak out of the balloon; he badly needs touchdown deodorant to remain fantasy relevant.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick is probably in his glory, piloting a blue-collar anonymous team that wins games in unspectacular ways. Alas, the offense is doing all it can to manage Mac Jones' limitations. Jakobi Meyers is a fringy WR3/4 for fantasy purposes, and that's all she wrote.
New Orleans Saints
Just when it looked like Andy Dalton was settling in, he throws up a stinker against Baltimore. Maybe Jameis Winston could be more fun with this offense, turnovers to the side. Chris Olave is probably owed a few more touchdowns, but he hasn't had a washout game all year. His future upside is the moon.
New York Giants
We don't ask too much of Daniel Jones, we just want some rushing juice. And at least Wan'Dale Robinson and Darius Slayton are playable during the bye-week crunch. Otherwise, it's the Saquon Barkley show.
New York Jets
The Jets are playing to their obvious roster shape — trust the nasty emerging defense, hide the quarterback. But Garrett Wilson is so talented, maybe Zach Wilson can't sink him. Unfortunately, that's as deep as we go with this passing game.
Last year Jalen Hurts was a fourth-quarter miracle man, a true Garbage Time Hero. This year his production generally comes early, as the Eagles take their feet off the gas routinely in the second half. Still, no one feels sorry for Hurts, throwing to three royalty players (A.J. Brown, Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith). Throw in Hurts' goal-line chops and he's 2022's biggest right answer at the quarterback position.
Pat Freiermuth has interesting sleeper value now that Chase Claypool is gone; a lot of Claypool's route tree could shift to Freiermuth. We still have no idea if Kenny Pickett can play, and Diontae Johnson has been an empty-calorie target compiler for a while.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo has been all floor and no upside for a month, but now that the Niners have their full complement of skill players healthy, perhaps Jimmy G can take a step forward. Still, the Niners realize their bread is buttered through the power running game and a menacing defense. This will not be a shootout team. At least the passing schedule for the final two months is favorable.
Geno Smith isn't just a Comeback Player of the Year frontrunner, he's worthy of down-ballot MVP consideration. And Smith consistently makes fantasy managers happy, steering the ball to his two alpha receivers (DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett). Seattle is watchable every week, and that's saying a lot in the 2022 NFL.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Let's be fair to Tom Brady, he's playing at a league-average level. That's less than we all expected, but there are several name-brand quarterbacks doing much worse. Tampa's also had a long-running drop problem. Chris Godwin has 65 targets without a touchdown; only five players in the target era have collected 100 looks without scoring at least once. For this season, only Diontae Johnson (76 targets) has been more end-zone allergic than Godwin.
Maybe Treylon Burks will come back and Ryan Tannehill will find a way to connect with him. That's the hope. In the meantime, this is the worst passing game in the league, and nothing is close.
Every Taylor Heinicke downfield pass looks like a potentially bad decision, but sometimes Terry McLaurin or Curtis Samuel bail him out. Jahan Dotson's return can't hurt. Antonio Gibson is more interesting as a pass-catcher than J.D. McKissic.