2022 Stat Leader Predictions: Can Anyone Catch Cooper Kupp?
NFL Preseason Week 3 - Bryan: Over the past four weeks, the staff here at Football Outsiders has gone division-by-division, covering the over/unders for each team and trying to predict the results of the 2022 season. This week, we're getting down to the individual player level, first with today's stat predictions and then with tomorrow's award predictions. And if you thought our accuracy was bad picking from one of two options, boy howdy, do we have some huge tables for you.
For the past few years, I was joined by Andrew Potter for these picks, but this year we're changing things up and breaking in a new guy. Hopefully, he'll know a thing or two about football, but I'll do my best to cover for him in the gaps.
Aaron: Hi! Your editor-in-chief is here and ready to make some picks. I'm excited to be making wild guesses at who's going to lead the league in various stats. I have been talking so much about projections on so many podcasts over the last few weeks, but almost always that has been a discussion of team projections. Today and tomorrow, I get to talk about the players I think have good odds of having great seasons … or the players whose odds have good value, even if their odds are lower.
Bryan: As a reminder, for each prop, we're picking three players. The first is the player we think is most likely to win the category, regardless of the odds given. The second is the player we think is the best bet—the best value for your money. And our third is our favorite longshot, someone with long odds that we think could well end up surprising people, if the chips fall the right way.
Editors' Note: These lines fluctuate quite regularly and can differ from site to site. These specific odds all come from either DraftKings or Bovada, and were all correct as of time of writing.
Most Passing Yards
|Justin Herbert||+650||Mac Jones||+3000||Marcus Mariota||+13000|
|Tom Brady||+800||Tua Tagovailoa||+3000||Andy Dalton||+15000|
|Patrick Mahomes||+800||Carson Wentz||+4000||Teddy Bridgewater||+15000|
|Derek Carr||+1000||Ryan Tannehill||+4000||Jordan Love||+15000|
|Matthew Stafford||+1000||Jalen Hurts||+4000||Sam Darnold||+15000|
|Josh Allen||+1200||Jared Goff||+5000||Sam Howell||+20000|
|Joe Burrow||+1200||Lamar Jackson||+5000||Malik Willis||+20000|
|Dak Prescott||+1400||Trey Lance||+5000||Kenny Pickett||+20000|
|Aaron Rodgers||+1600||Davis Mills||+6000||Gardner Minshew||+20000|
|Kirk Cousins||+1800||Daniel Jones||+6000||Mason Rudolph||+20000|
|Russell Wilson||+2000||Mitchell Trubisky||+6000||Taysom Hill||+20000|
|Matt Ryan||+2500||Zach Wilson||+6000||Tyrod Taylor||+20000|
|Kyler Murray||+2800||Baker Mayfield||+6500||Tyler Huntley||+20000|
|Jameis Winston||+3000||Jimmy Garoppolo||+7000||Taylor Heinicke||+20000|
|Deshaun Watson||+3000||Justin Fields||+10000||Cam Newton||+25000|
|Trevor Lawrence||+3000||Drew Lock||+10000||Matt Corral||+25000|
Bryan: Back before the 2020 season, we made the quip here that we were going to spend the next decade listing Patrick Mahomes as the favorite to win this category, which was going to save us a lot of time. That was when Josh Allen was still terrible, and Justin Herbert was still an overrated college prospect, and Tom Brady was an old guy who … oh. Well, some things stay the same. I think I'm still on team Mahomes as my favorite for basically any passing stat you can throw at us, but I don't think it's as clear-cut as it looked like it would be just a couple years ago.
Aaron: Our KUBIAK projections like Mahomes to lead the league in passing yardage despite the loss of Tyreek Hill, and I like that bet as well. It's not just that Mahomes is very good; it's also that Kansas City passes the ball more than almost any other team in the league. They were second last year in pass/run ratio in the first half of games, and third on first downs. They were even second in how often they passed the ball when they had a lead in the second half!
Bryan: So Mahomes is our favorite, even though he's coming off of a year when he "only" threw for 284.6 yards per game. But +800 isn't great odds for something like this. I find myself strongly drawn to Dak Prescott at +1400 for my best bet, even with the news breaking as we're writing this that Tyron Smith has a knee fracture that will keep him out for most of the season. Smith may be injured, but Prescott looks fully healthy, and the last time we had a fully healthy Prescott throwing the ball, he was up over 4,900 yards in a 16-game season. Prescott leads the league with five 400-plus-yard games since 2020, despite missing most of 2020, so if the opportunities are there, he can be as prolific as anyone. Yes, the receiver situation frightens me a little bit, but I trust Dak to raise the level of play of his wideouts, rather than his wideouts bringing him down.
Aaron: I would have gone with Prescott also, but that Tyron Smith injury really has me worried. Instead, I'll go with Joe Burrow at +1200 as my best bet. Burrow finished sixth in the league in passing yardage a year ago, and that was without playing in the final game of the regular season. He was also No. 1 in passing yards per attempt. There was a lot of help from YAC there, but Burrow was 0.8 yards per attempt ahead of everybody except Jimmy Garoppolo (speaking of YAC help!). If the new offensive line can keep him upright more often, fewer sacks will mean more extended drives, which will mean more passing yardage.
Bryan: For a longshot, why not take a swing at Jared Goff at +5000? Goff has finished in the top 10 in passing yards three times in his career, and in the top five twice. And I really am high on the potential of the Lions' receiver corps—Amon-Ra St. Brown came on strong at the end of last season, DJ Chark should provide some field-stretching ability, T.J. Hockenson has been steadily improving, and Jameson Williams will arrive as a late-season reinforcement, presumably. Plus, we're not exactly expecting to see the Lions out in front of many games this year, meaning a lot of throwing as they're coming from behind. At the very least, it's the kind of young, intriguing corps I want to spend time rooting for, which is always key in these "throw your money away" sort of longshots.
Aaron: I am driving the Jameis Winston bandwagon this season but I can't quite see him leading the league in passing yards. In part, I don't think he'll throw enough passes. But Trevor Lawrence might. Imagine that Lawrence makes a huge second-year jump to become the quarterback we all thought he was coming out of college. Imagine also that the Jacksonville defense does not take a similar jump, so Lawrence is stuck passing the ball a lot late in losses or with close leads. I know Lawrence doesn't have the world's most impressive receiver corps, but is it so hard to imagine him leading the league in passing eventually? Why not this year at a cool +3000?
|Aaron||Patrick Mahomes (+800)||Joe Burrow (+1200)||Trevor Lawrence (+3000)|
|Bryan||Patrick Mahomes (+800)||Dak Prescott (+1400)||Jared Goff (+5000)|
Most Passing Touchdowns
|Justin Herbert||+550||Kyler Murray||+4000||Davis Mills||+10000|
|Josh Allen||+600||Jameis Winston||+4000||Trey Lance||+10000|
|Tom Brady||+650||Daniel Jones||+5000||Mitchell Trubisky||+10000|
|Patrick Mahomes||+900||Ryan Tannehill||+5000||Marcus Mariota||+10000|
|Matthew Stafford||+900||Mac Jones||+5000||Justin Fields||+10000|
|Joe Burrow||+900||Jalen Hurts||+5000||Drew Lock||+10000|
|Aaron Rodgers||+1000||Baker Mayfield||+6000||Geno Smith||+10000|
|Dak Prescott||+1400||Lamar Jackson||+6000||Kenny Pickett||+15000|
|Russell Wilson||+1600||Jared Goff||+6000||Jimmy Garoppolo||+15000|
|Derek Carr||+1800||Carson Wentz||+6500||Desmond Ridder||+20000|
|Kirk Cousins||+2000||Zach Wilson||+6500||Sam Darnold||+25000|
|Deshaun Watson||+3000||Trevor Lawrence||+7000||Malik Willis||+25000|
|Tua Tagovailoa||+4000||Jacoby Brissett||+8000||Matt Corral||+30000|
Bryan: It's Mahomes once again for me. Hill only had nine of Mahomes' 37 touchdowns a year ago, and only 12 of his 50 the year he led the league in 2018, so I expect that his departure to Miami will do less to impact the Chiefs' touchdown numbers than it will their yardage numbers. I mean, Travis Kelce is still right there. And with the AFC West supposed to be more competitive this year, that means more passing, and more touchdowns and … why am I spending time justifying picking Mahomes as a favorite? He's Patrick Mahomes. He's really good at this "throwing the ball" thing!
Aaron: I will go with Justin Herbert, in part based on the idea that Brandon Staley will continue to eschew field goals and go for it on fourth downs to get closer to (or into) the end zone. Herbert was third last year behind Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford and could easily be No. 1 this season, especially if we see a breakout from Josh Palmer to give him another strong target. My only hesitation might be that the Chargers are not strong at tight end, but hey, Austin Ekeler screen touchdowns!
Bryan: There are two quarterbacks who have had at least a 5.9% passing touchdown rate in each of the last three seasons. Mahomes didn't do it, Herbert didn't do it, Josh Allen certainly didn't do it. One's Russell Wilson, but I'm still a little skeptical of his health and overall effectiveness in a new environment. The other is Kirk Cousins, way down there at +2000. That is a remarkably low figure for someone who has been in the top 10 in touchdown passes in each of the past five seasons, despite changing teams, changing systems, and with a shuffling group of receivers. With Kevin O'Connell coming in and adding more of a McVay flair to the Vikings passing game, I think Cousins' odds should be up there with the Prescotts and Wilsons of the world, not down with the Derek Carrs.
Aaron: OK, here's where I am going with Mahomes as the best bet at +900. Mahomes has finished fourth in the league in passing touchdowns each of the last two seasons, and of course he led the league in 2018. He currently has the highest KUBIAK projection of passing touchdowns, although Josh Allen, Herbert, and Aaron Rodgers are all within a touchdown of his projection. But Allen and Herbert have shorter odds and Rodgers lost his best target in the offseason, so I'm going with Mahomes.
Bryan: And, in turn, here's where I'll jump on your Jameis Winston optimism. I have a lot of questions about the Saints' passing attack, but there are potential answers all over the place. IF Michael Thomas is healthy, he's great—though, of course, he has a new hamstring injury that has everyone all jittery again. IF Chris Olave is able to contribute at a high level as a rookie. IF Jarvis Landry gets to be used on more than just a screen route or three. IF Alvin Kamara bounces back from the worst season of his career. And IF Winston's insane red zone performance isn't just a mirage—he threw a touchdown on 45% of his dropbacks inside the 20 last season, which screams "unsustainable." But if it's even half that, and the Saints are in the red zone a lot … I mean, you can see the potential oozing off of this offense. Plenty of questions, but at +4000, I'm willing to listen for answers.
Aaron: Hey, me too! Welcome aboard the Winston wagon, my good friend. Winston is currently 11th in the KUBIAK projections for passing touchdowns.
|Aaron||Justin Herbert (+550)||Patrick Mahomes (+900)||Jameis Winston (+4000)|
|Bryan||Patrick Mahomes (+900)||Kirk Cousins (+2000)||Jameis Winston (+4000)|
Most Rushing Yards
|Jonathan Taylor||+450||Josh Jacobs||+4000||Travis Etienne||+10000|
|Derrick Henry||+650||David Montgomery||+5000||Darrell Henderson||+10000|
|Dalvin Cook||+1000||D'Andre Swift||+5000||Clyde Edwards-Helaire||+10000|
|Nick Chubb||+1000||Damien Harris||+5000||Sony Michel||+10000|
|Joe Mixon||+1400||Breece Hall||+5000||Raheem Mostert||+10000|
|Najee Harris||+1400||Miles Sanders||+5000||James Cook||+10000|
|Javonte Williams||+2000||Devin Singletary||+5000||James Robinson||+10000|
|Elijah Mitchell||+2500||Leonard Fournette||+5000||Jalen Hurts||+10000|
|Christian McCaffrey||+3000||Kenneth Walker III||+6000||Michael Carter||+10000|
|Cam Akers||+3000||Ronald Jones||+6000||Mark Ingram||+10000|
|Rashaad Penny||+3000||Chase Edmonds||+6000||Khalil Herbert||+13000|
|Ezekiel Elliott||+3000||Aaron Jones||+6000||Isaiah Spiller||+13000|
|Saquon Barkley||+3500||Rhamondre Stevenson||+6000||Kyler Murray||+15000|
|Austin Ekeler||+3500||James Conner||+6000||Trey Sermon||+15000|
|Antonio Gibson||+3500||Tony Pollard||+8000||Kareem Hunt||+15000|
|JK Dobbins||+3500||AJ Dillon||+8000||Josh Allen||+15000|
|Lamar Jackson||+4000||Dameon Pierce||+8000||Phillip Lindsay||+15000|
|Alvin Kamara||+4000||Melvin Gordon||+8000||Gus Edwards||+15000|
Bryan: I'd love to go with Derrick Henry and celebrate him being back, but I'm just too concerned that his workload over the past few seasons has broken him down to the point where he shouldn't be in the conversation. And with Jonathan Taylor beating the rest of the league by over 500 yards last season, it feels like picking anyone else is just trying to be contrary for the sake of being contrary.
Aaron: Yeah, I'm going with Taylor as well. I think it will be closer, he's not going to beat the rest of the league by 500 yards again, but I'm a little worried that Henry is breaking down and we know the Colts will be dedicated to the run with Taylor … although I'm a little worried about the run blocking with Matt Pryor as the left tackle. Most of that line is still pretty strong though. Quenton Nelson will bulldoze you and then Taylor will dance on your entrails.
Bryan: And now we get to the part of these stat previews where I get far too optimistic about the fate of the Pittsburgh Steelers—preseason television coverage, not even once, loyal readers. Najee Harris was second to Taylor in rushing attempts last season, the only other player to break 300. I do not feel that the Steelers are exactly going to be leaning on their passing attack, regardless of whether it's Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett taking snaps for the majority of the year. Oh, I hear the noise out of Pittsburgh that they want to lighten Harris' workload some in 2022, with running backs coach Eddie Faulkner saying he wants Harris to have seven fewer snaps per game, an oddly specific number if I have ever heard one. Yeah, sure. You're gonna give those carries to Benny Snell. I definitely believe you. Or maybe I'll just listen to Harris, who, when asked about how many carries he expects this season, responded "I'll get 500, god damn it ." Give me all the workload, especially at +1400.
Aaron: Believe it or not, I'm going all the way down to J.K. Dobbins at +3500 for my best value on the board for leading the league in rushing yards. Dobbins averaged 6.0 yards per carry back in 2020. Is he going to do that again? Heck no! But he could definitely average over 5.0 yards per carry thanks to Lamar Jackson taking the attention of defenses and opening things up on the ground for the running backs. Gus Edwards is starting on PUP and I don't buy the idea that the Ravens are going to use Mike Davis as the No. 1 back for a few weeks while they ramp Dobbins up. Mike Davis was bad last year. I see Dobbins getting at least 200 carries this year, but who knows, maybe he gets more because he plays so well they use less of a committee. We do know they like to run the ball in Baltimore. Imagine Dobbins gets up to 5.5 yards per carry with 250 carries … it's a nice value at +3500.
Bryan: Your best bet has longer odds than my longshot. I'm sure I'll make up for that elsewhere, but I'm going to be a little conservative here. I'm looking for other teams who, like the Steelers, probably shouldn't be relying on their quarterbacks too much. I'm looking for teams where their best skill position player is at running back. I'm looking for a coach who doesn't necessarily know what he's doing, and thus will keep pounding a back with a length and extensive injury history. In other words, I'm looking at Christian McCaffrey at +3000. At the very least, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping we get a healthy season from him, because the league's more fun with Run CMC in it.
Aaron: If your longshot has longer odds than my best bet, then I guess my best bet is also my longshot, right? Dobbins it is.
|Aaron||Jonathan Taylor (+450)||JK Dobbins (+3500)||JK Dobbins (+3500)|
|Bryan||Jonathan Taylor (+450)||Najee Harris (+1400)||Christian McCaffrey (+3000)|
Most Rushing Touchdowns
|Jonathan Taylor||+450||Lamar Jackson||+3000||Tyler Allgaier||+8000|
|Derrick Henry||+650||Breece Hall||+3000||Brian Robinson Jr||+8000|
|Joe Mixon||+900||Antonio Gibson||+3000||Tony Pollard||+8000|
|Dalvin Cook||+1000||D'Andre Swift||+3000||Gus Edwards||+10000|
|Nick Chubb||+1000||Josh Allen||+3000||Dameon Pierce||+10000|
|Najee Harris||+1400||Aaron Jones||+3000||Kenyan Drake||+10000|
|James Conner||+1400||Saquon Barkley||+3000||Justin Fields||+10000|
|Ezekiel Elliott||+1600||Devin Singletary||+4000||Cordarrelle Patterson||+10000|
|Leonard Fournette||+1600||Chase Edmonds||+4000||Chuba Hubbard||+10000|
|Christian McCaffrey||+1800||Travis Etienne||+4000||Sony Michel||+10000|
|Austin Ekeler||+1800||AJ Dillon||+4000||Boston Scott||+10000|
|Damien Harris||+2000||Melvin Gordon||+5000||Tua Tagovailoa||+10000|
|Cam Akers||+2000||Deebo Samuel||+5000||Ryan Tannehill||+10000|
|Javonte Williams||+2000||Trey Lance||+5000||James Cook||+10000|
|Jalen Hurts||+2000||Rhamondre Stevenson||+5000||Ronald Jones II||+10000|
|J.K Dobbins||+2000||Rashaad Penny||+5000||Raheem Mostert||+10000|
|Kyler Murray||+2500||Miles Sanders||+5000||James Robinson||+10000|
|Josh Jacobs||+2500||Kenneth Walker III||+6000||Jamaal Williams||+10000|
|Alvin Kamara||+2500||Clyde Edwards-Helaire||+6500||Isaiah Spiller||+10000|
|Elijah Mitchell||+3000||Kareem Hunt||+6500||Rachaad White||+10000|
|David Montgomery||+3000||Marlon Mack||+8000|
Bryan: It's Taylor for me again, though I think this one is closer than the rushing yards prop. He only had a three-touchdown lead last year over Damien Harris and James Conner, and one or two good games could have flipped it away from him. But I just don't see anyone else with the combination of success rate and usage that would have me put them ahead of Taylor, just maybe somewhere alongside him. +450 is far too short for me to actually put any money on him here, but he's still my favorite.
Aaron: I'm sorry to make the favorites portion of this article boring, but Taylor was so far ahead of the rest of the running backs in the league last year that he could experience significant regression and still be the favorite to lead the league in everything rushing-related.
Bryan: It's alright that the favorites are chalk—that's why they're the favorites. We get to be plenty contrary elsewhere!
While writing the Buccaneers chapter in Football Outsiders Almanac 2022, I floated the idea of Rachaad White taking snaps away from Leonard Fournette, especially on passing downs. That doesn't appear to be happening, even with Fournette initially clocking in at a substantial 240 pounds as training camp began. And even if White does end up taking some snaps away, Fournette is still the point guy at the goal line for what should be one of the more explosive offenses in the league. Take away the possibility of Rob Gronkowski at the goal line, and that just ups my expectations for rushing touchdowns from this offense. Fournette is my pick at +1600; you could halve that and I think he'd still be a solid value.
Aaron: Dalvin Cook (+1000) did not bring the touchdowns last year, only six in 13 games, but he certainly brought them in the years prior. He had 29 combined rushing touchdowns in 2019 and 2020. The Vikings may pass their way down the field but they have always liked to give the ball to Cook near the end zone. I'm trusting that new head coach Kevin O'Connell will feel the same way: more passing to get down the field, but rushing at the goal line.
Bryan: You can tie in a pick of Alvin Kamara (+2500) to the general Jameis Winston optimism from a few entries ago. If the Saints offense is as potent as it potentially could be, if everything goes well, that is going to stretch defenses and open a lot of room for a guy who scored 16 rushing touchdowns in 2020. Yes, that was helped by his six-touchdown outing on Christmas, but Kamara is capable of those sorts of days when everything is going well. He was exceptionally inefficient last season but, well, that's why his odds have fallen to +2500. I don't think it's possible for Kamara to lead the league in rushing touchdowns and Winston to lead the league in passing touchdowns, and even a strong offensive performance might end up splitting the difference between the two, but there's enough potential in the Saints offense that I do think that one or the other could well hit, at least at these long odds.
Aaron: I don't think the Green Bay Packers offense will be as good as it has been the last couple of years, but it will be good. And right now, if you combined Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, that player would be leading our KUBIAK projections with 13.8 rushing touchdowns. So if we're betting on longshots here, why not take the bet on what would happen in Green Bay if one of these two men were to get injured? The other running back would probably become a workhorse in a top offense. Since Jones is at +3000 and Dillon is at +4000, and there's no reason to believe either one is more likely to get hurt than the other, will put our imaginary money down on Dillon.
|Aaron||Jonathan Taylor (+450)||Dalvin Cook (+1000)||AJ Dillon (+4000)|
|Bryan||Jonathan Taylor (+450)||Leonard Fournette (+1600)||Alvin Kamara (+2500)|
Most Receiving Yards
|Justin Jefferson||+800||Michael Pittman Jr||+3500||Jaylen Waddle||+6000|
|Cooper Kupp||+900||Hunter Renfrow||+4000||Elijah Moore||+6000|
|Ja'Marr Chase||+1000||Gabriel Davis||+4000||Christian McCaffrey||+6000|
|Davante Adams||+1200||Diontae Johnson||+4000||Amon-Ra St Brown||+6000|
|Ceedee Lamb||+1400||Amari Cooper||+4000||Allen Robinson||+6000|
|Stefon Diggs||+1400||Marquise Brown||+4000||Tyler Lockett||+6000|
|Tyreek Hill||+2000||Darnell Mooney||+4500||Russell Gage||+6000|
|Travis Kelce||+2000||Courtland Sutton||+4500||Michael Thomas||+6000|
|Jerry Jeudy||+2500||Terry McLaurin||+4500||Brandon Aiyuk||+6500|
|Deebo Samuel||+2500||JuJu Smith-Schuster||+5000||Darren Waller||+7000|
|AJ Brown||+2500||DK Metcalf||+5000||Rashod Bateman||+7000|
|Mike Evans||+2500||Devonta Smith||+5000||DeAndre Hopkins||+7500|
|Keenan Allen||+3000||Christian Kirk||+5000||Robert Woods||+7500|
|DJ Moore||+3000||Chris Godwin||+5000||George Kittle||+8000|
|Mark Andrews||+3000||Brandin Cooks||+5000||Chris Olave||+8000|
|Tee Higgins||+3500||Allen Lazard||+5000||Michael Gallup||+8000|
|Mike Williams||+3500||Kyle Pitts||+5000|
Bryan: More chalk from me, though this is more of pessimism about other players than sheer optimism about Cooper Kupp. I am skeptical of Allen Robinson's supposed rebirth. I do not love Van Jefferson as a WR3. I'm ambivalent about the pass-catching options in Los Angeles at running back and tight end. I am not skeptical about Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford's desire to throw the ball 10 zillion times. All that adds up to another huge season for Kupp—maybe not one which shatters all of our records like he did last year, but plenty of volume to go around, especially if the Rams come back to the pack a little more and are involved in a number of shootouts.
Aaron: I do think that Justin Jefferson can do amazing things in the "Cooper Kupp role" in Kevin O'Connell's "lifted from McVay" offense, but I also think Cooper Kupp already does amazing things in the Cooper Kupp role. I would go Jefferson if he was at +900 with Kupp at +800, but it's the other way around. So I'll go with Kupp.
Bryan: Did you know that Davante Adams and Derek Carr used to be teammates in college? They have kept that very quiet this offseason; it's not something people seem to want to talk about. You can make an argument that Adams is the best route-runner in football, and he's certainly the best player Carr has ever had to throw to. In what we're all expecting to be the wild West, shootouts should be the norm, especially for the Raiders, who seem to be bringing up the rear in the arms race. I'm curious as to how Adams will coexist with someone like Hunter Renfrow—Renfrow's a pure slot guy, while Adams moved in and out all the time in Green Bay. But I suspect the answer to how he'll fit is "very far downfield, with the ball in his hands, scoring touchdowns." Works for me.
Aaron: Once again, we're thinking alike. I agree with everything positive you have to say about Adams. I think he'll coexist with Renfrow because that other outside receiver position is going to be a nothingburger with Mack Hollins probably as the starter. That leaves plenty of room for both Adams and Renfrow to put up big numbers, and they can even exchange them in the slot every so often, or just bring in Adams into a tight split even if he's technically the "wide" receiver. I'll note that our KUBIAK projections match the top six receivers in the odds, except for Kupp and Jefferson changing places. Adams' projection is closest to the projection of the player above him (Chase), so that makes his +1200 probably the best value.
Bryan: The record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end is held by Travis Kelce, with ,1416 back in 2020. Now Kelce is the most experienced and trusted receiver for the Chiefs, with Tyreek Hill gone to Miami. Yes, the Chiefs are talking up Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster and Skyy Moore—goodness, if I have to see another Skyy Moore post on my timeline before he has played a single NFL game I am going to crack. But I just think that Patrick Mahomes is going to be dialed in to Kelce early and often, especially when plays break down and Mahomes goes into one of his sandlot scrambling modes. No tight end has ever led the league in receiving yards, but if it's ever going to happen, it's going to be a big slot receiver like Kelce, in a shootout of a division, in a year where the top wide receiver option for a great offense has left. The stars have aligned!
Aaron: Based on the KUBIAK projections, the best longshot bet would be Tee Higgins at +3500. Higgins is actually eighth right now in projected receiving yards in KUBIAK! But it's hard to see the circumstance where Higgins leads the league in receiving yards. Even if you imagine Higgins catching more passes than Ja'Marr Chase, there is going to be a lot of sharing of the spotlight there. So instead, I'm going with Michael Pittman at +3500. His mean projection may be lower than Higgins' but the story of how Pittman leads the league is easier to tell. If Matt Ryan is reinvigorated with the Indianapolis Colts, Pittman is his No. 1 receiver by far. He's going to feed him and feed him and feed him some more. What, they're going to Alec Pierce for 1,000 yards? No, Pittman is the kind of clear top target who leads the league in yardage. I don't think the Colts will be that good in the passing game, but it's possible.
|Aaron||Cooper Kupp (+900)||Davante Adams (+1200)||Michael Pittman (+3500)|
|Bryan||Cooper Kupp (+900)||Davante Adams (+1200)||Travis Kelce (+2000)|
Most Receiving Touchdowns
|Cooper Kupp||+500||JuJu Smith-Schuster||+2500||Michael Thomas||+4000|
|Ja'Marr Chase||+500||Mike Williams||+2500||DJ Moore||+4000|
|Mike Evans||+700||Michael Pittman Jr||+2500||Allen Lazard||+4500|
|Davante Adams||+750||Allen Robinson II||+2500||Dawson Knox||+5000|
|Justin Jefferson||+900||Terry McLaurin||+2800||Tyler Lockett||+5000|
|Travis Kelce||+1200||Marquise Brown||+2800||Robert Tonyan||+5000|
|Stefon Diggs||+1400||DK Metcalf||+3000||Rashod Bateman||+5000|
|Ceedee Lamb||+1400||Diontae Johnson||+3000||Christian Kirk||+5000|
|Tyreek Hill||+1600||Amari Cooper||+3000||Hunter Henry||+5000|
|Gabriel Davis||+1600||Hunter Renfrow||+3500||Elijah Moore||+5000|
|Mark Andrews||+1600||Darren Waller||+4000||Michael Gallup||+5000|
|Tee Higgins||+1800||Darnell Mooney||+4000||Brandin Cooks||+5000|
|Deebo Samuel||+1800||Jaylen Waddle||+4000||Devonta Smith||+5000|
|Keenan Allen||+2000||Dalton Schultz||+4000||Austin Ekeler||+5000|
|Jerry Jeudy||+2200||Courtland Sutton||+4000||Kyle Pitts||+5000|
|Adam Thielen||+2500||Russell Gage||+4000||DeAndre Hopkins||+5000|
|A.J. Brown||+2500||Chris Godwin||+4000|
Bryan: Yes, I'm picking Cooper Kupp; yes, I'm very fun at parties. Everything I said before about my lack of faith in the rest of the Rams' receivers holds up here, as does everything I said when I picked Jonathan Taylor twice re: touchdowns being a closer call than pure yards. I think there's a strong argument to be made for Mike Evans, considering Chris Godwin's recovery and Rob Gronkowski's departure, but I would just be trying to talk myself into something there for the sake of content. There's a reason Kupp's at the top of this table.
Aaron: Kupp not only led the league in receiving touchdowns last year, but he also led the league in opportunity-adjusted expected touchdowns. So while he had more touchdowns than you would expect given the specifics of his targets, he also came out with plenty of touchdown opportunity when you examine the specifics of his targets. He's the favorite.
Bryan: "It's 2022. You get into a new age and move to a new generation ... Adding new things to the offense definitely allows us to be more comfortable with the offense and work in different areas of the fields." Well, when Justin Jefferson is done getting off that bus he just parked on top of Mike Zimmer's teams, we can talk about why he's my best bet to lead the league in receiving touchdowns. Like you said earlier, Aaron—he's going to be playing the Cooper Kupp role in a McVay-style offense, and one that our projections really like this year. He's having a phenomenal camp, taking to the new system like a fish to water. I'm a little bit concerned that he has never topped 10 receiving touchdowns in his career, but I really do think O'Connell is going to unlock him with just a better selection of routes and superior volume. I do wish he was back at +1000 like he was earlier in the offseason, but I'll get on the train while I can.
Aaron: I mentioned that Cooper Kupp led all receivers in opportunity-adjusted expected touchdowns last year, but a surprising second was Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills. Diggs wasn't a big red zone target in his first year with Buffalo but last year he found the end zone 10 times with 10.5 expected scores. He's eighth right now in touchdown receptions in the KUBIAK projections, but +1400 seems like a good value for Josh Allen's favorite target.
Bryan: Can I interest you in some shares of Mike Williams? It seems everyone is expecting Justin Herbert to take one more step forward and thrust himself into the MVP conversation—more on that tomorrow, I'm sure—and if he does, that has to raise all the boats around him. Keenan Allen isn't getting any younger, the Chargers aren't super strong at tight end, and while Josh Palmer was our top prospect for this year, he hasn't broken out yet. That could lead to a lot of volume for Williams, who seems to have great chemistry with Herbert. If you're buying the Chargers breaking out this year, I think it makes tons of sense to expect Williams to ascend to the top receiving option in Los Angeles.
Aaron: Why yes, you can interest me in all the shares of Mike Williams at +2500! He's on my Scott Fish Bowl team! Back to opportunity-adjusted touchdowns, Williams leads all NFL receivers in opportunity-adjusted expected touchdowns per game over the last four seasons. He was fifth with 8.8 expected touchdowns a year ago. The dude is 6-foot-4, he's a red zone dynamo, and he's going to score a lot with Justin Herbert as his quarterback.
|Aaron||Cooper Kupp (+500)||Stefon Diggs (+1400)||Mike Williams (+2500)|
|Bryan||Cooper Kupp (+500)||Justin Jefferson (+900)||Mike Williams (+2500)|
|TJ Watt||+600||Brian Burns||+4000||Randy Gregory||+10000|
|Myles Garrett||+750||Leonard Floyd||+5000||Josh Allen||+10000|
|Nick Bosa||+1000||Jaelan Phillips||+5000||JJ Watt||+10000|
|Joey Bosa||+1200||Emmanuel Ogbah||+5000||Jonathan Allen||+10000|
|Chandler Jones||+1200||Demarcus Lawrence||+5000||Jermaine Johnson||+10000|
|Robert Quinn||+1700||Bud Dupree||+5000||Jeffery Simmons||+10000|
|Khalil Mack||+1700||Azeez Ojulari||+5000||Javon Hargrave||+10000|
|Aaron Donald||+1700||Yannick Ngakoue||+5000||Jadeveon Clowney||+10000|
|Trey Hendrickson||+1700||Preston Smith||+6500||Haason Reddick||+10000|
|Shaquil Barrett||+1700||Leonard Williams||+6500||Gregory Rousseau||+10000|
|Rashan Gary||+2000||DeForest Buckner||+6500||Derek Barnett||+10000|
|Danielle Hunter||+2000||Dante Fowler Jr.||+6500||Denico Autry||+10000|
|Micah Parsons||+2200||Chris Jones||+6500||D.J. Wonnum||+10000|
|Maxx Crosby||+2200||Chase Young||+6500||Charles Harris||+10000|
|Harold Landry||+2500||Cameron Heyward||+6500||Carl Lawson||+10000|
|Cameron Jordan||+2500||Marcus Davenport||+8000||Bradley Chubb||+10000|
|Von Miller||+2500||Kayvon Thibodeaux||+8000||Akiem Hicks||+10000|
|Za'Darius Smith||+3000||Arik Armstead||+8000||Aidan Hutchinson||+10000|
|Matthew Judon||+3500||Shaq Lawson||+10000||Sam Hubbard||+10000|
|Markus Golden||+3500||Quinnen Williams||+10000||Travon Walker||+10000|
Bryan: On the podcast last November, we were talking about whether T.J. Watt or Myles Garrett was the better choice, at the time, for Defensive Player of the Year. I pointed out that while Watt had more sacks, he also had more untouched and uncontested defensive plays, while Garrett had to fight through more of the dirty work for his numbers and led the league in pressures. According to the betting odds, we're back to the same discussion again for 2022, and once again, I'm siding with Garrett. I don't think either pick is crazy, and if you can get odds on them going one-two I'd take it. But I think the Browns are more likely to be holding leads this season, leading to them facing more passing situations defensively, leading to more opportunities for Garrett to get sacks than Watt.
Aaron: I'll stick with T.J. Watt here. He has led the league in sacks in each of the last two seasons, so he seems like a reasonable bet to do it again. In fact, he's a reasonable bet precisely because of those untouched and uncontested defensive plays. Those schemed-up plays give him access to free sacks that Garrett just doesn't get. Hard to go wrong with either of them, but if I have to choose, I'll go with Watt.
Bryan: I feel like Cameron Jordan gets comparatively little respect considering how effective of a pass-rusher he has been for years in New Orleans. Although some of his underlying numbers were down a year ago, he still finished with 12.5 sacks, tied for seventh in the league—and he has been consistently near the top of the league for years. We project the Saints to have the best defense in the NFL with strength on all three levels, and that's only going to help him. It's a little crazy to me that he's at +2500 while guys like Rashan Gary, who has never hit double-digit sacks, are at +2000. A little more respect for Jordan, please!
Aaron: Nick Bosa finished fourth in the league with 15.5 sacks last year after having 9.0 in his rookie year. He's one of the most talented pass-rushers in the NFL and has a strong middle of his defensive line with Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw to help take the offensive line's attention. Brandon Thorn ranks him as the No. 3 edge rusher in football, just behind Garrett and his brother Joey. But Joey has never quite put up the numbers to lead the league, and Nick has, so we'll take him at +1000.
Bryan: The loss of Haason Reddick opens up opportunities for other Carolina Panthers to pick up some of his 11 sacks—while we're not expecting the Panthers to be world-beaters or anything, they will sack the quarterback once or twice, and any optimism you can have about them is on the defensive side of the ball. Brian Burns is one of just 10 players to have at least 30 hurries in the last two seasons, as he continues to grow and develop into one of the better pass-rushers in the league. He needs to take another step forward—heck, two steps, even—if he's going to be listed in the same breath as the Watts, Garretts, and Bosas of the league, but he has all the promise in the world. I really loved his tape while prepping for the Almanac, so I'll put in a vote for him at +4000.
Aaron: I kind of like a player who isn't even on the board, Odafe Oweh of the Ravens, because somebody is going to have to sack the quarterback if that defense plays as well as expected. But an even better longshot would be Haason Reddick at +10000. Reddick has 23.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Now look at the schedule for the Eagles and the quarterbacks (and offensive lines) they play. Two games against Carson Wentz. Two against Daniel Jones. Two against Dak Prescott without Tyron Smith (unless he can return by Christmas). Houston is on the schedule. Pittsburgh has no offensive line right now. Kyler Murray takes sacks. Justin Fields takes sacks. Who knows what's going on with New Orleans at left tackle right now. Yes, he has to share sack opportunities with a lot of other strong edge rushers in Philadelphia, but Reddick could easily have a crazy good season against this schedule. He's currently 13th in sacks in the KUBIAK IDP projections.
|Aaron||T.J. Watt (+600)||Nick Bosa (+1000)||Haason Reddick (+10000)|
|Bryan||Myles Garrett (+750)||Cameron Jordan (+2500)||Brian Burns (+4000)|
|J.C. Jackson||+600||Jaire Alexander||+3000||Budda Baker||+5000|
|Xavien Howard||+600||Derwin James||+3000||James Bradberry||+5000|
|Trevon Diggs||+900||Quandre Diggs||+3000||Devin McCourty||+5000|
|Kevin Byard||+1600||Darius Slay||+3000||Jessie Bates III||+5000|
|Micah Hyde||+1600||Marshon Lattimore||+3000||Derek Stingley||+5000|
|Jalen Ramsey||+1600||Xavier McKinney||+3000||Tyrann Mathieu||+5000|
|Justin Simmons||+1600||Kenny Moore||+3000||Denzel Ward||+5000|
|Patrick Surtain II||+2000||Amani Oruwariye||+4000||A.J. Terrell||+5000|
|Asante Samuel Jr.||+2000||Tre'Davious White||+4000||Stephon Gilmore||+7500|
|Marcus Peters||+2000||Minkah Fitzpatrick||+4000||Ahmad Gardner||+7500|
|Kaiir Elam||+3000||Marlon Humphrey||+4000||Jeffery Okudah||+10000|
|Jordan Poyer||+3000||Harrison Smith||+5000||Jaycee Horn||+10000|
Bryan: This is not the kind of stat you want to put down any serious amount of money on. It's far too dependent on opposing offenses—you can't get any interceptions if quarterbacks don't throw the ball your way. It fluctuates wildly from year to year. It's usually a single-digit number of discrete events, so there's a lot of randomness involved and we often have ties at the top of the leaderboards. DraftKings doesn't even offer this as a prop; these numbers are from Bovada. It's dart-flinging of the highest order.
And so I'll fling a dart at Justin Simmons, because it's harder to keep the ball away from a ballhawking deep safety, especially in an AFC West which may have forgotten what the running game is. Simmons has five interceptions in each of the last two seasons, one of just four players to do that alongside Quandre Diggs, Xavien Howard, and J.C. Jackson. So sure, why not.
Aaron: Trying to predict interceptions is a total crapshoot, but I think the best bet is to go with guys who have a lot of passes defensed. J.C. Jackson actually leads the KUBIAK IDP projections in interceptions but he's going to possibly miss a couple of games now, so let's go with the guy who leads the projections in passes defensed … and also happened to have a ton of interceptions last year. That would be Trevon Diggs.
Bryan: Plus, Diggs gave up so many big passing plays, opposing quarterbacks won't shy away as much. Good shout, there!
If Jordan Poyer hadn't hyperextended his elbow earlier this month, I would have gone with him as a best bet. Instead, I'll look at the return of Jaire Alexander, as it doesn't look like he's experiencing any lingering problems from the shoulder injury that knocked him out last season.
Aaron: I'm going with your man Simmons as my best value, because that's a good dart throw at +1600.
Bryan: And despite writing dozens of offseason articles this year, I don't think I have mentioned Jessie Bates once. I should mention him! He's very good! I'm glad he has signed his franchise tag and we'll get to see him this season! He might get some interceptions, and he's at a very low +5000. Really, we're spinning a wheel of random good defensive backs to get names here, so at least I'll take the opportunity to highlight someone I should have highlighted more over the past couple months.
Aaron: YOU TOOK MY GUY! Can we both go with Bates? Sure we can! In fact, Bates is currently fifth in the KUBIAK IDP interception projections. If the Bengals offense takes a step forward this year, Bengals opponents will be throwing deep more often later in games, which gives more chances for Bates to step in front of the pass. Sure, he had only one pick last year, but he had three picks in each of 2018, 2019, and 2020.
|Aaron||Trevon Diggs (+900)||Justin Simmons (+1600)||Jessie Bates (+5000)|
|Bryan||Justin Simmons (+1600)||Jaire Alexander (+3000)||Jessie Bates (+5000)|
Bryan: That wraps up our picks for the league leaders, but stay tuned tomorrow for our picks for the winners of the league's biggest awards, as well as our Super Bowl selections. Don't miss it!