As our traditional redraft fantasy football seasons conclude with hardware being awarded, some managers and leagues pivot to a condensed version encompassing the NFL playoffs. Yet, that brings its own unique challenges and changes from what we are used to playing these last 18 weeks. As teams seal their fate and find their spot in the playoff bracket, how should managers handle Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson in 2022 playoff fantasy football leagues and in daily fantasy sports (DFS) tournaments?
How is playoff fantasy different from traditional fantasy leagues?
The major difference is the drastically reduced player pool. Additionally, you have no guarantee your players will be in your lineup for more than one game. In a season full of ups and downs and outcomes we never saw coming, who knows what the playoffs might bring along with it?
The way to compensate for the reduced player pool is also to limit the size of your league. While you might not have every fantasy manager wanting to play in the playoffs, traditionally, a league of around six members seems to work the best. It allows there to be enough talent on the board on draft day.
While the drafting process will remain the same, once a team is eliminated, those players are off your team. This forces managers to balance upside in terms of talent and stability with the likelihood of multiple games.
Now, this is just one of the multiple iterations on how playoff fantasy football can be played. Using this as our format, let’s look at the Kansas City Chiefs and how managers should handle Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle, and Demarcus Robinson in 2022 playoff fantasy football leagues.
Tyreek Hill should be one of the first fantasy picks and is a great DFS play, barring health
In an ideal world, we draft phenomenal talents on great teams likely to make a deep run in the playoffs. Add in them playing on Wild Card Weekend, and that’s the cherry on top.
Enter Tyreek Hill. One of the best players in the NFL watched his team secure the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Due to the changes in the NFL playoffs, the No. 2 seed no longer has a bye, meaning they will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first game. You can’t help but love that matchup. The Steelers squeaked into the playoffs thanks to an overtime win over the Ravens and the Jaguars pulling off an improbable win against the Colts.
The question for Hill is his heel. During pregame warmups in Week 18, Hill reportedly injured his heel. As a result, we hardly saw him on the field. Hill caught just 1 of his 3 targets for 2 yards, running only 11 routes against the Broncos. Reports have come out stating he was held out due to precautionary reasons. Nevertheless, after losing out on the bye week, this is less than ideal.
Personally, I am not overly concerned based on what we have heard so far. I would still have Hill as one of the top three WRs off the board in a playoff fantasy football draft. I could make a case for him to be the No. 2 behind Cooper Kupp and ahead of Davante Adams. Hill would have an extra game over Adams to score fantasy points, assuming they both reach the Conference Championships.
Byron Pringle has become a name to remember in fantasy and DFS
We know the pecking order in Kansas City will not change. It’s Hill and Travis Kelce sitting on top. Yet, after that, I think we can place Byron Pringle as the No. 3 target.
If we look at the last three weeks, Pringle has averaged 6.3 targets, 4.7 receptions, and 55.3 yards per game while scoring twice.
With Patrick Mahomes, the play is never dead until the whistle blows. It doesn’t matter where a player is on the field, if you are open, he can hit you.
Assuming the Steelers, much like every other team, focus their attention on Hill and Kelce, Pringle could be the man getting lost in the defense and the one who breaks their back. He has more than doubled his career totals in targets (60), receptions (42), and yards (568) in 2021 while recording 5 touchdowns. Pringle is an intriguing WR4/flex play in the Wild Card round and beyond.
Mecole Hardman could be a DFS sleeper should Hill’s heel limit his involvement
When the Chiefs drafted Hardman, it wasn’t because they were enamored with his talent. It was because they were unsure about the future of Hill who was dealing with off-the-field issues. He fits the role that Hill plays, albeit about 80% of the upside. Yet, last week we saw what Hardman can do in a Chiefs offense when things are clicking.
Filling in for Hill in Week 18 as the team managed his reps, Hardman recorded 8 receptions and 103 yards on 11 targets while adding 10 yards on his lone carry. Not only was it his best game of the season, but it also set a new career-high in receiving yards.
If Hill is limited, Hardman could be a DFS sleeper worth starting in the Wild Card round. However, I would wait until we had definitive work on Hill’s status before locking him in. Hardman has minimal upside when sharing a field with Hill.
Demarcus Robinson should not be in fantasy consideration for the playoffs or DFS
I understand we run out of options at times when we reduce our player pool. But unless you are betting on a rare touchdown from Robinson, there is not a ton of value to be found in this selection.
Robinson did see 6 targets last week, but this was a product of Hill’s injury, not a schematic change. This was the first time Robinson had seen over 4 targets since Week 6, which was also the last time he had over 33 receiving yards.
Even when we bring up touchdown upside, it’s extremely volatile. Could it happen? Absolutely. Anything is possible with Mahomes under center. Yet, Robinson has just 3 touchdowns on the season. On the other hand, the combination of Hill, Kelce, and Pringle has accounted for 23 of the 37 passing touchdowns (62.1%).
Barring a string of injuries to multiple players, I would not recommend rostering Robinson in 2022 NFL playoff fantasy football leagues.