Fantasy Football analyst Dalton Del Don gives his take on the NFC — his predictions for fantasy performances, team records and divisional finishes. Which of his takes will come to pass? Find out the fate of the National Football Conference for 2022 below!
1. Philadelphia Eagles 11-6
2. Dallas Cowboys 9-8
3. New York Giants 7-10
4. Washington Commanders 7-10
Eagles: With arguably the league’s best offensive line, a potentially dominant defense and the addition of A.J. Brown, Philadelphia looks like a real problem. In fact, the Eagles may end up easily winning a shaky NFC East that saw the Cowboys suffer numerous offseason losses … Jalen Hurts is my No. 2 ranked fantasy QB entering the year, and he’s a dark horse MVP candidate.
The Eagles win the NFC but lose to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Cowboys: The loss of LT Tyron Smith is a very big deal, and Dallas has one of the thinnest receiving groups in the league behind CeeDee Lamb. The Cowboys are going to have an extremely difficult time repeating as the NFL’s highest-scoring team (and recording by far the most interceptions again) this season … Hot take alert: I rank Tony Pollard ahead of Ezekiel Elliott and have Lamb as my WR3 … Dalton Schultz finishes with more fantasy value than George Kittle and Darren Waller … I’m beginning to think Jerry Jones may not understand the best way to win football games.
Giants: New coach Brian Daboll gives New York hope, as does an improved offensive line and a healthy Saquon Barkley. I’ve moved Barkley up to my RB3 entering the season … Daniel Jones finishes as a top-15 fantasy QB … Kadarius Toney put up truly eye-popping underlying stats during his (brief and injury-plagued) rookie campaign, and his range of outcomes is arguably the widest among all 2022 fantasy receivers.
Commanders: Washington enters with another big question mark at quarterback with the addition of Carson Wentz, whose inaccuracy issues remained throughout camp ... By no fault of his own yet again, Terry McLaurin’s fantasy value fails to meet his ADP, while rookie Jahan Dotson beats his … Rookie Sam Howell is Washington’s best quarterback, which he proves late this season.
1. Minnesota Vikings 10-7
2. Green Bay Packers 10-7 (Wild Card)
3. Detroit Lions 8-9
4. Chicago Bears 5-12
Vikings: Minnesota held at least a six-point lead in every game but one last season (with double-digit leads in 10 of them). Put differently, the Vikings would've finished 15-2 if they hadn't given up points in the final two minutes of halves. And they now go from highly shaky play calling to the Rams coaching tree. With the benefit of nine home games in a wide-open NFC (the Bucs and Rams have plenty of question marks) and a decent-looking schedule, it would hardly shock if Minnesota secured the No. 1 seed and a bye, so I bet on the Vikings to win the Super Bowl at 40/1.
Kirk Cousins has a better fantasy season than Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers, while Justin Jefferson finishes as the No. 1 fantasy WR while winning Offensive Player of the Year … Dalvin Cook is behind only Christian McCaffrey in fantasy points per game, while Kene Nwangwu becomes a must-fantasy-start during the few games Cook is out.
Packers: Green Bay lost Davante Adams (and continues to miss LT David Bakhtiari) during the offseason, but they bring arguably the league’s best defense into 2022. The Packers go from having a highly beneficial schedule last year to having by far the worst rest disadvantage in 2022. But Green Bay is always live with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback … Both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon set career highs in catches … Allen Lazard secures double-digit touchdowns, but it’s Romeo Doubs who’s the most valuable GB WR during the fantasy playoffs.
Lions: Amon-Ra St. Brown, whose Expert Consensus Rank is WR33, finishes as a top-12 fantasy wideout this season … D’Andre Swift should be drafted ahead of Najee Harris, Derrick Henry and Joe Mixon … At least those who drafted Jameson Williams have an easy decision when it comes to first cuts … It certainly makes sense why Dan Campbell has received the most bets to win Coach of the Year, but he needs Detroit improbably to make the playoffs.
Bears: Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney don’t let their fantasy managers down, but David Montgomery does … Justin Fields is universally drafted as a top-eight fantasy QB in 2023 … I rank Cole Kmet ahead of T.J. Hockenson and Zach Ertz entering the year … The Bears’ offensive line looks like one of the worst in the league, but there could be a big coaching upgrade in Chicago.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10-7
2. New Orleans Saints 10-7 (Wild Card)
3. Carolina Panthers 7-10
4. Atlanta Falcons 5-12
Buccaneers: Tom Brady is now 45(!), wavered about retiring during the offseason and is going to have a very different offensive line that’s been ravaged by injuries. Brady also has massive career splits with the now-retired Rob Gronkowski on/off the field. Still, Tampa Bay added WRs Russell Gage (quietly top-15 in YPRR last year) and Julio Jones and a talented receiving rookie RB who just led all college backs in yards per route run. And it’s usually not wise to question the GOAT ...
Given the additions at WR (and encouraging health reports on Chris Godwin), Mike Evans’ ADP might look awfully high come season’s end, since the 29-year-old didn’t rank top-70(!) in target share last season (but no Gronk certainly will help in the RZ).
The Bucs have real question marks, but one of Brady’s most underrated traits is continuously playing in one of the NFL’s weakest divisions. Also, he's thrown more touchdowns after turning 40 than Troy Aikman did during his entire career.
Saints: The final NFC wild-card spot appears open, and the losses of coach Sean Payton and LT Terron Armstead (followed by first-round Trevor Penning suffering a serious injury in the preseason) certainly won’t help New Orleans. Still, Mike Clay has their defense as the second-best in football, and Jameis Winston tied for fourth with Patrick Mahomes in EPA/pass (behind only MVP winner Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen and Matthew Stafford and just ahead of Brady). Michael Thomas, Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry also form a quickly reinforced WR group that looks strong if healthy, helping New Orleans sneak into the playoffs … With a 2022 suspension looking unlikely, Alvin Kamara is my RB5, ahead of Austin Ekeler.
Panthers: DJ Moore quietly had the third-most air yards last season and now gets a big upgrade at QB. He’s my WR8 entering the year, ahead of Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill and Deebo Samuel … While Christian McCaffrey clearly has more upside, Jonathan Taylor clearly is the safer fantasy pick. Draft accordingly ... The Panthers likely have an overhauled coaching staff in 2023.
Falcons: Kyle Pitts is a truly special talent who outscores Travis Kelce in fantasy leagues this year and becomes a unanimous top-five pick in 2023. Go get him … Drake London is fantasy’s highest-scoring rookie receiver, while Marcus Mariota surprises as a top-12 QB before getting replaced by Desmond Ridder late in the year (during the crucial fantasy playoffs).
1. San Francisco 49ers 11-6
2. Los Angeles Rams 10-7 (Wild Card)
3. Arizona Cardinals 8-9
4. Seattle Seahawks 5-12
49ers: San Francisco led the NFC in yards per play, held a double-digit fourth-quarter lead in the Championship Game last season and enters 2022 with a young quarterback with the widest range of outcomes in the entire league this year (the seventh-youngest starting QB ever, the intriguing Trey Lance has made three starts since 2019).
Lance has massive fantasy upside after leading all QBs in scrambles per dropback as a rookie, and he takes over a position in SF loaded with weapons who routinely lead the league in yards after the catch (Nick Mullens has the second-most passing yards over the first 16 starts in NFL history thanks to Kyle Shanahan). Jimmy Garoppolo returns to SF purely as insurance … With Lance likely attacking completely different areas of the field than Jimmy G (yikes!), Brandon Aiyuk’s ADP looks far better than Deebo Samuel’s …
Even with minimal receiving work, Elijah Mitchell will act as SF’s clear lead back and produce top-12 fantasy RB value during the games in which he doesn’t miss. Mitchell totaled 1,100 yards from scrimmage over just 11 games while playing through a ton of injuries as a rookie (make sure to grab Jeff Wilson too). All 49ers RBs should benefit from having Lance now at QB … Danny Gray is a deep fantasy sleeper, while Nick Bosa wins Defensive Player of the Year.
Offensive line is a real concern (aside from the best left tackle on earth), but helped by playing 23% fewer road games than half the league this season (SF gets nine home games and another neutral site matchup) and a weakened division across the board, the 49ers are set up to win the NFC West if health cooperates (although your mileage may vary!).
Rams: The Matthew Stafford trade worked out OK for the Rams, who won the Super Bowl last season (if you click any link in this column, make it that one). His elbow injury feels like less of a concern when you realize he dealt with the same issue last summer … Cooper Kupp is both great and the biggest beneficiary of scheme among all receivers in the league, and new teammate Allen Robinson is also going to finish as a top-15 fantasy WR in 2022, benefitting from easily the best QB of his career … The Rams lost Von Miller, star LT Andrew Whitworth (PFF’s top-graded pass blocker last year) and WRs Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr. during the offseason and have openly admitted to a concern over a Super Bowl hangover effect, so LA is an obvious regression candidate in 2022.
Cardinals: Arizona might have a problem at head coach (no team moves their receivers around less or has collapsed more during second halves the last two seasons), but Kyler Murray is a 25-year-old who just got 8.9 YPA over eight games before suffering an injury, so he alone gives Arizona plenty of upside … A crowded receiving group frustrates fantasy managers over the second half, as not only does DeAndre Hopkins return but rookie TE Trey McBride starts commanding targets as well … James Conner could easily score another dozen touchdowns, but he’s also one of the league’s bigger injury risks, making Eno Benjamin one of the best late round fliers of the year … The Cardinals finished 8-1 on the road last season, with their one loss as 15.5-point favorites in Detroit, knocking me out of a $6 million Survivor pool in which only 22 other people remained.
But I’m not still bitter or anything.
Seahawks: Seattle has arguably bottom-three offensive and defensive lines and lost Russell Wilson during the offseason but look like Super Bowl favorites other than that.
In all seriousness, the Seahawks are in as much trouble as DK Metcalf’s tumbling fantasy value now that Geno Smith is taking over as the team’s quarterback (Drew Lock is hardly a better alternative) … Rashaad Penny, who led all backs in fantasy scoring after Week 13 last season, is absolutely talented enough to overcome his poor situation, but Seattle has a shaky QB/O-line, drafted another RB in Round 2 (although it needs to be noted coach Pete Carroll historically has preferred veterans over draft capital, and Ken Walker is currently sidelined without a timetable) and play at a painfully slow pace on offense.