2022 Fantastic Fantasy Freshmen: Post-Draft Rankings
2022 Fantastic Fantasy Freshmen
Nine months of research and analysis have come to a conclusion with my post-draft rankings. Last fall, I watched the top players in college, analyzing their athletic skills on the gridiron. When their college tenure ended, I plugged the numbers into my position models. Over the past three months, I profiled the top fantasy prospects for draftniks and have reached the end of the journey.
An optimist by nature, I hoped that the rookies would exceed the weak draft narrative with an optimal landing spot. Unfortunately, little changed in regard to the overall perspective on the 2022 Class. The prospects have new homes, and it is time to appraise their alternative-reality value. When compiling my rankings, draft capital and potential opportunity weigh heavily when evaluating the player’s fantasy production and grade.
The quarterbacks failed to even reach modest expectations with only three—Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder and Malik Willis—selected on the first two days of the Draft. In SuperFlex leagues, desperate owners are now scrambling for options to supplement their rosters: Acquire a veteran with a starting job—Marcus Mariota, Drew Lock or Carson Wentz—or roll the dice with an untested rookie without draft capital.
In the backfield, Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker are the prize assets while James Cook and Rashaad White offer interesting options. The other ball carriers are not worthy of a selection in the first round of Dynasty drafts. In the third and fourth rounds, picking multiple runners appears to be the preeminent strategy.
The wide receivers are clearly the strength of the ‘22 Class: eight earned first round grades in Dynasty drafts. There is so much goodness and fantasy upside among the foremost receivers based on talent and landing spot. I do not want to miss out on the nice floor and high ceiling that the receivers provide.
I rank the players in tiers—Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, Cum Laude and Honors—to provide flexibility for readers based on a league’s scoring format, roster construction and starting-lineup requirements. It is more appropriate to provide fantasy footballers with player tiers along with projected statistics in 2022 for their personal rankings. Please whet your appetite by examining the tiers and projections incorporating the aforementioned standards.
Enjoy my fellow diehards!
Summa Cum Laude
Breece Hall, New York Jets
It has been over twenty years since I coveted a Jets’ running back in fantasy football—Curtis Martin rambled to fantasy prominence from 1998-2004. There have been some interesting ball carriers wearing New York’s uniform, but none that demanded my adulation until now. Breece Hall checked all the boxes in the process: film grades, on-field production and athletic skills at the Combine. The former Iowa State star ranked atop my pre-draft rankings and remains No. 1 after being selected with the fourth pick in the second round.
The newest member of Gang Green is a three-down runner, who will enter camp with competition from sophomore Michael Carter. Hall likely earns the majority of touches—60% seems a reasonable projection–in the backfield. In Dynasty drafts, Hall towers over the competition, and in redraft leagues, he is a great second running back on rosters.
2022 Projections: 960 rushing yards, 32 receptions for 230 yards and 10 total touchdowns
Drake London, Falcons
Always seeking the balance between talent and opportunity in fantasy football, Drake London enjoys both after being selected eighth overall in the Draft. The USC playmaker ascended to the top of pre-draft receiver rankings among many scouts, and Draftniks, after a tremendous 2021 season, earning 119 targets and catching 88 passes in only eight games. At 6’4” and 219-pounds, London wins with physicality, body control and hands. He excels in jump ball matchups, easily high-pointing passes, and boxing out defenders.
Over the past two years, Atlanta has lost Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage among its wide receiver corps, and London steps into a starting gig with plenty of potential opportunity. Sophomore TE Kyle Pitts is the top returning pass catcher for the Falcons. Marcus Mariota opens training camp as the starting quarterback, and will pepper both of the young playmakers in 2022. London will lead the Atlanta receivers in targets and receptions as a rookie. I do not see any reason that the newest Falcon makes it past the top three selections in Dynasty Drafts.
2022 Projections: 75 catches for 950 yards and seven touchdowns
Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
Reflecting back on all-time Jets’ receivers, it became apparent that New York has not provided many top flight fantasy wideouts over the past 30 years. Keyshawn Johnson was drafted first overall in 1996. Yet, never lived up to expectations as a fantasy producer. The last time the Jets drafted a receiver in the first round was Santana Moss in 2001, and he never became a fantasy star in New York. Only Wayne Chrebet (1995-2005) and Lavernanues Coles (2000-2008) sparked any memories of fantasy relevancy.
Last year, the Jets acquired Elijah Moore in the second round of the Draft, and plucked Garrett Wilson off the board with the tenth-overall selection to bolster the receivers in 2022. At 5’11” and 183-pounds, the Buckeyes’ speedster is a fluid, smooth and explosive athlete. A technical route runner, he employs off-the-charts short-area burst and explosion, reaching top speed rapidly. The Moore-Wilson duo are the best combo in New York for as long as I can remember. Do not hesitate selecting the former Ohio State speedster in all league formats.
2022 Projections: 70 catches for 900 yards and six touchdowns
Twitterverse on Fire!
In Dynasty Drafts, who is your biggest riser among rookies who were selected in the first three rounds?
WR Tyquan Thorton, Patriots: 18.4%
RB Tyrion Davis-Price, 49ers: 21.6%
WR Alex Pierce, Colts: 47.2%
WR Danny Gray, 49ers: 12.8%
“I'm still here with Alex Peirce. I was high on him to start, and he should have a serious role in Indianapolis.”
Magna Cum Laude
Kenneth Walker, Seahawks
In full disclosure, I did not see Kenneth Walker rambling in the Pacific Northwest among my projected landing spots. The backfield depth chart included Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson, and Seattle appeared to have many holes to fill on the roster after trading Russell Wilson in the offseason. According to reports, it now appears that Carson’s return is in doubt, and there is uncertainty in regard to Penny’s long-term ability to stay healthy and on the field. Therefore, Seattle targeted Walker In the second round–the Seahawks could not pass up adding another ball carrier on its roster.
Walker fits the profile of a coach Pete Carrol runner. At 5’10” and 210-pounds, he runs angry with purpose, and he is a physical ball carrier who packs a wallop. The former Spartan powers through traffic and excels on the goal line and in short yardage. With quick feet, he follows blockers well and has exceptional contact balance, breaking leg tackles. Who will get the majority of touches in Seattle? It remains to be seen. However, if history is a guide, Penny will not stay healthy for an entire 17-game slate, and Walker will garner a ton of carries.
2022 Projections: 190 carries for 810 yards, 15 receptions for 90 yards and seven touchdowns
Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans
The Titans moved A.J. Brown to the Eagles during the Draft, which mirrored the offseason trades by the Chiefs, Packers and Cowboys who shipped Tyreek Hill, Devante Adams and Amari Cooper out of town. All four franchises were not willing to sign its Pro Bowl playmaker to a lucrative long-term contract. With Brown gone, Tennessee needed to replace its game breaking receiver and selected Treylon Burks with the eighteenth-pick overall.
At 6’2” and 225-pounds, Burks can physically impose his will on opponents with stupendous size, speed and athleticism. He is a versatile playmaker who can be employed all over the formation: motion, slot, out wide and in the backfield. The newest Titan regularly beats press coverage and is a dangerous vertical threat, who wins one-on-one matchups downfield. He has stupendous open-field vision and run-after-the-catch ability. Currently, Robert Woods, who suffered a torn ACL injury last year, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, who has logged only 41 career receptions, are the top wideouts on the Titans’ depth chart. Burks arrives in a prime spot to get on the field immediately and earn a nice target-share of the passing game.
2022 Projections: 65 receptions for 850 yards and seven touchdowns
Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
The Sean Payton-Drew Brees era is over and a new one begins in New Orleans. The Saints open training camp with new coach Dennis Allen, who guided the Raiders from 2012-14, and veteran quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, leading the offense. In early March, Allen attended the Combine and stated that he was “watching all the offensive guys” at the event. In the Draft, the Saints identified their target and moved up from pick No. 16 to 11 with the Washington Commanders to select Chris Olave.
Veteran receiver Michael Thomas only played seven games in 2020 and missed all of last season. New Orleans clearly needed to upgrade its receiver room in the Draft. Olave, 6’0” and 187-pounds, is an explosive home run hitter, who is a savvy and fluid feld stretcher. He ran an advanced route tree at Ohio State and excelled at all three levels of the field. With elusive feet and lateral quickness, he easily separates with short-area acceleration and ascends to top speed immediately. I was not as high on Olave in the pre-draft process as other draftniks; nevertheless, I cannot ignore the draft capital and potential opportunity in the New Orleans’ passing game. The former Buckeyes’ playmaker is a top six selection in Dynasty drafts.
2022 Projections: 55 receptions for 800 yards and five touchdowns
Twitterverse on Fire!
In S-Flex Dynasty Drafts, are you drafting a quarterback in the first round?
No Way: 36.8%
Not sure yet: 27%
“Kenny Pickett has to still be worth an early Dynasty rookie pick. No?”
“Only if the right quarterback is sitting there with my pick.”