The NFL Draft is always a great time. We get to see players’ dreams come true, while teams make decisions that will shape their future, as well as the fantasy landscape, for years to come. After the dust settles and the GMs are done making their selections, that’s when fantasy players go to work.
Of course, I am talking about rookie drafts! Dynasty leagues have become more and more popular every year. And a staple of any dynasty league is the rookie draft. While this class may not have the elite options like we saw last year with Ja’Marr Chase, Najee Harris, and Kyle Pitts, there are still players that can make a difference for years to come. Plus, there is more depth in this class, meaning that you can find values in the later rounds of your rookie draft.
I am in a dynasty league with other fantasy football content creators and we just finished our 2022 rookie draft. I had the seventh pick and there were many trades made in this league, including one I made to trade Zach Ertz and the 2.7 pick for Kadarius Toney and 4.11. While I am pumped to get Toney on my roster, we are going to focus on the rookie draft and how to attack it!
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2022 NFL Rookie Draft Board
First Round Rookie Draft Analysis
There is no talking about any draft without discussing who should be the top pick. For me, and in this draft, that honor went to Drake London. He is a big-bodied receiver who the Falcons chose when they had their pick of the litter at the position. He can be utilized downfield and in the red zone and steps into a situation with a bunch of volume up for grabs. Some may say Kyle Pitts is the top target here and they wouldn’t be wrong, but there is so little target competition outside of him that it’s possible for both to see a target share upwards of 25 percent. I would grab him with the 1.01 and not think twice.
Breece Hall went second in this rookie draft and I think that is the proper assessment. Hall was the clear-cut RB1 in this class and while he didn’t land in a wide-open backfield, he should still see the heavy side of a time split. Hall has the ability to see upwards of 200, maybe even 250 touches as a rookie and brings the most upside of any rookie in this class.
The top-two options are pretty clear cut, but afterward there is a tough decision to be made. The next best options include Treylon Burks, Jameson Williams, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Kenneth Walker III. In this draft, we saw Walker go first of this bunch, and it makes sense if you are an RB-needy team. Walker, who Seattle took in the second round, can compete for touches right away with Rashaad Penny. Chris Carson’s future with Seattle is very much in doubt due to a recurring neck issue.
Williams went second, and it is hard to argue against him when looking long-term. Williams is the most explosive receiver in this draft and you can easily make the case that he brings the most upside of anyone in this class. The only knock is he is recovering from a torn ACL and has Jared Goff, so his Year One production may not be on par with some of the other options.
Burks went third in this group and he has the chance to be a huge contributor from the moment he steps on the field. Burks reminded me of a less athletic A.J. Brown, who he will now be replacing in Tennessee. Burks is my WR2 for 2022 purposes and should be London’s biggest competition for best year one rookie. Burks vs. Williams comes down to a short vs long-term approach.
I was able to nab Garrett Wilson with the seventh pick and was happy to do so. Wilson will now compete with Elijah Moore and Corey Davis to be the Jets’ top target. He was a very productive college receiver and I have no concerns about his talent translating, it’s just that there are other receiver options and he needs Zach Wilson to take the next step. Still, Wilson should go in the first half of the first round in rookie drafts.
Chris Olave went ninth overall and he brings similar upside and concerns as Wilson. Those were the two I debated at the seventh spot. Olave landed with the Saints and would be the clear-cut number two behind Michael Thomas if he is healthy, but there have been reports that Thomas is still working his way back from the foot surgery he underwent last summer. If Thomas misses time, Olave would become the top option in New Orleans and definitely would jump past Wilson in the rookie rankings.
While those are the top options for me, we did not see them go in that order in this draft. James Cook, the Bills’ latest running back, went sixth overall to some surprise by those in the draft. He certainly brings upside as he projects as the best pass-catching back in this class. The Bills have clearly prioritized that spot in the offense after trying to sign J.D. McKissic and then nabbing Duke Johnson. He should lead that backfield in targets and has a chance to steal groundwork from Devin Singletary. I would have taken the receivers over him, but if you are an RB-needy team, he is the RB3 in this class.
After Olave, that is when the talent drop-off hits. You can argue this class is about eight or nine deep when it comes to immediate impact players and after that, there are still useful options, but there certainly is a drop-off. David Bell went 10th here and the reasoning has to be that he has a chance to be the new Jarvis Landry in the Browns’ system that is thin at receiver after Amari Cooper. But I would have taken either Skyy Moore or Christian Watson over him. To me, deciding between those two is the toughest decision in a rookie draft. On one hand, I liked Moore better as a prospect and he landed in an ideal situation, but he has Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others to compete with for targets. Watson on the other hand has a real shot at being Aaron Rodgers‘ top target, which is why I slightly lean his way.
Kenny Pickett was the only QB to go in the first and that is telling because this is a SuperFlex draft. But it is hard to argue with the logic. Pickett, who went 20th overall, was the only QB selected in the first two rounds. He is going to start sooner rather than later as he was the most NFL-ready QB in this class. He does not bring the usual upside of the first QB selected, but he should be a starter for the foreseeable future.
Second Round Rookie Draft Analysis
The second round was where we saw managers start to take a bet either on talent or on the landing spot. For instance, George Pickens kicked off the second round and there is a lot to like with that value. He has alpha-like qualities and can compete to be the second target in Pittsburgh. He did not fall into a spot where he will have an obvious Year One impact, but the opportunity is there and so is the talent.
We also saw Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder go here. Both are QBs that bring upside in fantasy, especially Willis, because of what they can do with their legs. But both have clearly lost some steam after free-falling in the NFL Draft. The early second round is the sweet spot to take the shot on their talent. Matt Corral went later in the round, who has a chance to start immediately considering his competition is Sam Darnold.
We also saw Dameon Pierce go this round and he has a chance to start immediately for the Texans, as his competition for touches in that backfield are Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead. No one was arguing for him being one of the top backs in this class, but landing spot matters and he could not fall into a better spot. The middle of the second round is a strong spot to take him.
Rachaad White and Isaiah Spiller are talented backs that did not fall into a spot with obvious opportunity, but both are worth gambling on in the second round. Spiller figures to play the secondary role in the Chargers’ backfield. Los Angeles has utilized a back behind Austin Ekeler, but they have never found someone who can consistently produce in that role. Spiller should be the answer to their problems and that means he could see upwards of 150 touches in year one. White will compete with Gio Bernard to be the pass-catching specialist for Tom Brady and the Bucs. That is a role that certainly provides value.
Trey McBride and Wan’Dale Robinson were selected toward the end of the round. Neither figure to make a huge Year One impact, but this is a long-term gamble on talent. Meanwhile, John Metchie III and Alec Pierce are betting on a Year One impact due to falling to a favorable landing spot with targets up for grabs. Jahan Dotson is sort of in between taking a bet on volume and talent, but he certainly deserves to go no later than the middle of the second round.
Later-Round Rookie Draft Dart Throws
After the first two rounds, many of the picks end up being dart throws. Tyler Allgeier kicked off the third round, but if we are being honest, he should have gone in the second. He has a chance to play a similar role as Spiller but on the Falcons. Cordarrelle Patterson is not going to go away but he also cannot man a backfield all by himself. The second back on Atlanta will be fantasy relevant and with them cutting Mike Davis, his biggest roadblock now is Damien Williams. After him, the players are more dart throws.
With Tyrion Davis-Price, you are taking more of a bet on Kyle Shanahan and that run system, which is never a bad bet. Brian Robinson Jr., Zamir White, and Pierre Strong Jr. are all long-term bets that you are hoping can make an impact in Year One rather than right away. All step into a crowded backfield right away, but each situation can look very different in a year with some contracts set to come off the books. The third round still had some receiver talent worth taking a shot on.
Jalen Tolbert went one pick before me in the third round and taking him would have been very tempting. While he did not have a ton of pre-draft hype, he does bring size to the Cowboys and landed in a very favorable spot. With Michael Gallup recovering from a January torn ACL, he may not be ready to start the season and the Cowboys are suddenly thin at receiver behind CeeDee Lamb. An opportunity to start right away for Dallas is there, making him an easy shot worth taking at that cost.
Calvin Austin is one of my personal favorites, as he is an explosive slot option who is dangerous both as a downfield threat and with the ball in his hands after the catch. He was my pick in the third round of this rookie draft, but I was also considering Khalil Shakir and Romeo Doubs, who went right after I took Austin. Shakir has a bit of explosiveness to him and could see a slot role with the Bills, but his Year One usage is a big question. Doubs is just another bite at the Green Bay target apple.
Tyquan Thornton, who is a good athlete, and Velus Jones J., rounded out the third-round receivers. At that point, it is worth taking a gamble on their real-life draft capital, which is actually higher than some of the receivers that got drafted over them in this draft.
The fourth round in rookie drafts this year is a complete dart throw. My favorite dart throws in this round are Keaontay Ingram, Hassan Haskins, Sam Howell, Tyler Badie, and Kyren Williams. Ingram only has Eno Benjamin to beat out to be the second back in Arizona, while Haskins could be in the mix as a long-term replacement for Derrick Henry. Howell is just an upside shot at QB in case Carson Wentz struggles and another team decides to give up on him. Badie could become the pass-catching back for the Ravens and that is a role that will certainly bring value. Lastly, Williams is a back that showed the ability to be a successful runner in college but then bombed the combine. The backs for the Rams have not proven to be the most durable so him playing a midseason savior role like Sony Michel had to last year is in the range of possible outcomes.
Of course, every rookie draft is a little different, and need can change the order players come off the board, but if you follow this layout, you should come away fine from your draft. While the need is important, you should never reach and pull up a player that is ranked significantly lower. Remember, you are not just drafting for 2022, but for these players’ careers, so you always want to gamble on talent as well as a landing spot in dynasty.
Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio
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