2022 Fantasy Football Week 2 Sleepers Heat Check

by Malcolm McMillan
Fantasy Football 2022 Week 2 Sleepers Heat Check

Week 2 of the 2022 NFL season is here and it is time for another round of 2022 Fantasy Football Week 2 Sleepers Heat Check!

Week 1 saw some crazy results and some even crazier fantasy football production. The Detroit Lions receivers looked surprisingly good only for the Philadelphia Eagles to eke out a win because all four of their running backs scored a touchdown. Was that a Jalen Hurts joke? Maybe, but that's not what is important right now.

What is important, is knowing which fantasy football sleepers balled out in Week 1 are the real deal, and which ones can't stand up to the heat. So let's dive into it.

2022 Fantasy Football Week 2 Sleepers Heat Check

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Week 1 Heat Check Recap

In the Fantasy Football Sleepers Heat Check: Week 1 2022 I suggested you stay away from Davis Mills, avoid Rex Burkhead and pick up K.J. Osborn and throw him on your bench. I'd give myself a 2 out of 3 on that one. Was definitely right on the money with Davis Mills, but Rex Burkhead shocked the world and saw eight targets en route to a half-PPR RB27 finish. While you may look at that and see success, I look at it and see a running back who got 22 opportunities and did not finish as a fantasy football starter. Burkhead is still an avoid for me.

The only one I missed was K.J. Osborn, though I would argue that, like with Burkhead, the process was right. Osborn saw just as many targets as Adam Thielen and twice as many as Irv Smith Jr. Unfortunately, Justin Jefferson saw over one-third of the Vikings total targets and put on a clinic, so Osborn's four targets did not amount to much. Still, I would hold him for now if you have the bench spot. He could be a viable target in games to come.

I also covered my methodology for the Heat Check in the Week 1 article, so go read that if you want to know how this exercise is done. The only difference this week, is we are only looking at their 2022 Week 1 performance to determine if they are eligible for the heat check, rather than looking at the last three weeks of 2021. We will still use that period for supporting data to make the arguments for or against this week's three players.


Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons

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We talk about "Konami Code" quarterbacks all the time. Guys like Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts — the playmakers with their arms and their legs. Rushing yards are, of course, worth more than passing yards, so we really covet these players.

So why then, is there no love for Marcus Mariota? Mariota finished as QB10 in Week 1, scoring 19.8 fantasy points despite throwing for zero touchdowns against the New Orleans Saints. This is because Mariota ran for 72 yards and a rushing touchdown, which gave him 13.2 of those nearly 20 points.

Despite this clear "Konami Code" potential, Mariota is still buried in people's rankings. FantasyPros Week 2 ECR has him as QB22 and its rest-of-season ECR has Mariota as QB28. At first glance, this feels criminally low for a quarterback that feels a lot like Jalen Hurts last year.

Marcus Mariota Heat Check

First, ECR definitely has Marcus Mariota too low. New York Giants QB Daniel Jones is currently QB20 in the ROS ECR, and I would easily take Mariota over Jones.

However, I do get why people are hesitant to rank Mariota as a fantasy football starter. Week 1 was Mariota's first start since Week 15 of the 2020 season and he has not been a full-time starter since early 2019. I could not even find a Getty Images photo of Mariota in a Falcons uniform — that's how much people are sleeping on him. Plus, zero passing touchdowns are less than ideal, even against a defense like the Saints.

But if we go back to that 2020 start, we see a stat line that looks awfully similar to the stat line Mariota put up in Week 1. Tons of rushing yards and a rushing TD and not a lot of passing touchdowns, but in the end, it leads to a ton of fantasy points.

Ultimately, I want to wait one more week before adding Mariota to my rosters if I need a QB. The Rams need a bounce-back win and this Falcons team could crash back down to Earth. But I officially am watching Mariota, and if he plays well in Week 2 he'll be a top QB target in Week 3 waiver wire columns. If you want to get ahead of the curve, he is worth stashing on your bench — but only if you have the space.

Running Back

Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles

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Kenneth Gainwell was one of three running backs to score a touchdown for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he was clearly ahead of Boston Scott in the pecking order. In fact, despite each having a touchdown on the ground, Gainwell finished RB23 in half-PPR scoring, whereas Boston Scott languished all the way down at RB41.

This is due to a simple reason: Philly throws Gainwell the ball. Nobody in the Eagles backfield was targeted more than Gainwell and the only Eagle that saw more targets was star wide receiver, A.J. Brown. The value these targets provide allows Gainwell to level the playing field against other running backs — like Dameon Pierce — who see significantly more rushing attempts.

Despite all this, Gainwell sits at RB44 for Week 2 ECR and RB48 for ROS ECR in half-PPR scoring. While Gainwell certainly isn't a volume play, doesn't this feel too low? After all, Dameon Pierce finished with just 4.4 points in half-PPR, yet his ROS ECR is RB26.

Kenneth Gainwell Heat Check

Before I get into the negatives on Kenneth Gainwell, I want to highlight one more positive: his red zone usage. In Week 1 he was the only Eagles running back to see a red zone target and he was more efficient on the ground inside the 20 than Eagles starting running back Miles Sanders. These stats tend to bode well for projecting touchdowns, and Gainwell did make the most of his opportunities in Week 1.

Unfortunately, the issue is that we have already seen this from Gainwell. Last season he scored on over 5.5% of his opportunities, which is great for a complementary back. But on average he only saw 4.25 rushing attempts per game and 3.13 targets per game. Add in his 2022 Week 1 performance, and his attempts per game increase by a drastic 0.04 attempts and his targets per game increase by the same amount. In short, he's still being used the way he was in 2021.

This is why you should not roster Kenneth Gainwell. Despite doing his role well and having a few viable weeks, he finished RB42 last year with just 6.7 half-PPR points per game. That just won't win you games, let alone a championship.

Tight End

Tyler Conklin, New York Jets

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The New York Jets spent a surprising amount of effort upgrading their tight end position group this offseason. They drafted Jeremy Ruckert from Ohio State in the third round (a Day 2 pick!) and signed former Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah to a three-year, $17 million contract. Oh, and they added former Minnesota Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin, who outperformed both of them against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1.

Conklin genuinely had a good game. He brought in four of his seven targets and scored a touchdown, good enough for half-PPR TE11 on the week. Did he only get 16 yards? Sure, but three of those yards were a pass inside the five-yard line and that is a valuable target. Plus anytime you give me a tight end with more than six targets and I start getting excited that he might be a viable tight end.

For some reason though, the experts don't share my excitement about last year's half-PPR TE17. Conklin is ranked at half-PPR TE27 in FantasyPros Week 2 ECR and TE28 ROS. Not really sure how he is so low, given that Brevin Jordan is ranked ahead of him ROS despite scoring just one half-PPR point in Week 1. Am I taking crazy pills?

Tyler Conklin Heat Check

It was not even close just how much Tyler Conklin dominated the other Jets tight ends in Week 1. Jeremy Ruckert was a healthy scratch and C.J. Uzomah was only on the field for 27% of the Jets offensive snaps. By comparison, Tyler Conklin was on the field for 92% of the Jets offensive snaps. To put how absurd that number is into perspective, only the offensive linemen and Joe Flacco were on the field for more offensive snaps and they literally never left.

But still, it's the Jets and Conklin is not exactly considered an elite tight end, even by those who are bullish on him. However, the combination of target volume, high snap counts and red zone usage add up to a tight end you should be rostering, or at least taking a flyer on and streaming for now. Things may get worse when Zach Wilson takes over at quarterback but for now, Conklin is locked in as the Jets starter and could be a viable solution for fantasy football managers who have missed on tight end so far in 2022. He reminds me a lot of what Hunter Henry was for the New England Patriots last year, and he finished last season as half-PPR TE9.

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