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2022 Draft Rookies to Watch for in Fantasy Football by Logan Lepiscopo

2022 Fantasy Football: Rookies to Watch

The 2022 NFL draft was full of talent at every position, but in fantasy football we need to know which of the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends are going to make an immediate impact. If you play in a league with individual defensive players, I am sorry, but you are not going to find any defensive players highlighted. In this article I plan to highlight the 15 rookies that I think are in line to have a season to put them in position to start for fantasy football players. This was the first NFL draft since 1997 only one quarterback was selected in the first round, and the first time in NFL draft HISTORY that either a running back or tight end was not selected in the first round. Without further ado shall we get to the top 15 rookies for fantasy football this NFL season *In no particular order*.

  1. Drake London (WR, ATL)

Now some people would say that London was not the best wide receiver in the draft this year, but he landed in a very good position with the Falcons. Calvin Ridley is suspended for the entire season, Russell Gage is a Buccaneer, and Mike Davis was just released from the team. There is a total of 259 targets available in the Falcons offense but with a quarterback change in Atlanta there may not be as many targets available as listed. Mariota has never played a full NFL season, and over the four seasons he has played so far, he has thrown over 259 pass attempts once. Atlanta drafted London to not only address the need at the position but because the team is trying to revamp the offense. A new era is there in Atlanta, from Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones to Kyle Pitts and Drake London. London sits at 6’4” 219 lbs., with 33” arms and 9 3/8” hands. Whether he ends up as an outside wide receiver or runs out of the slot London is going to be a guy for Marcus Mariota to give a jump ball and have more than a 50/50 chance of his receiver coming down with it. We have seen the recent success of rookie wide receivers, so it is almost for certain that one of these rookies will make a name for themselves in year number one. 

  1. Garrett Wilson (WR, NYJ)

You will see a very common trend in terms of the rookies to watch for fantasy football this season, Garrett Wilson is the next to keep your eyes on. 195 targets are up for grabs in the Jets’ offense, but with Elijah Moore appearing in just six games last season, and the plan for him to be more involved in the offense would take some potential targets for Wilson. It is very uncertain of how this Jets offense is going to run next season drafting both Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, but one thing is for certain is that Zach Wilson needs to step it up. With Garrett Wilson’s talent it should not be hard for a Wilson-Wilson connection to grow within the Jets offense. I know drafting Jets players for fantasy football is not what anybody wants to do. But, the amount of talent Garrett Wilson has is undeniable and should not be looked past because he is a Jet. 

  1. Chris Olave (WR, NO)

Jameis Winston is going to be the quarterback for at least the next two years in New Orleans, which means that the Saints had to go out and add to his weaponry. Michael Thomas was out all last season with his ankle, and it really exploited how slim the Saints are at wide receiver without Michael Thomas. Bringing in Chris Olave adds another Ohio State wide receiver to the roster and without a doubt he will be a starter come week one of the NFL season. The Saints entire offense was horrific last season playing four different quarterbacks, and not to mention Marquez Callaway lead the team with 84 targets and less than 700 receiving yards. That is very unlike the Saints offense, Michael Thomas will be back next season running his slants and Chris Olave should be on the opposite side of the field opening up options for Winston and establishing himself as the wide receiver two in the Saints offense. With Olave coming in there is a price to pay for fantasy football players. Expect Alvin Kamara’s numbers to drop or be about what they were last season, if you are comfortable with that still draft him by all means, but expect this Saints offense to be an air-raid attack. 

  1. Jameson Williams (WR, DET)

Jameson Williams is the best deep threat in this wide receiver class, and he is going to be great accompanying now sophomore wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. The only downside is that unlike Drake London and Garrett Wilson there are not a lot of targets up for grabs in Detroit. Similar to Garrett Wilson, the situation is not the best being in Detroit, but Williams talent is too good to pass up on. As long as Williams recovery stays on the course that it is right now he should be ready for training camp, and at the very latest in time for week one of the regular season. I loved Amon-Ra St. Brown going into last season, another Detroit rookie wide receiver comes into the picture this year… this time the projection is significantly higher. With Jared Goff at quarterback he can only be so successful, Amon-Ra St. Brown finished as the WR21 last season and started just nine games. With all that being said, I have full confidence in Jameson Williams to produce solid rookie year numbers, even with Jared Goff at quarterback. 

  1. Jahan Dotson (WR, WSH)

Now I am not exactly sure why the Commanders traded down from their pick when every wide receiver besides Drake London and Garrett Wilson was available, but at the end of the day Dotson is now the next guy up for the Commanders. Dotson should come in and be the wide receiver two immediately for newly acquired quarterback Carson Wentz. Terry McLaurin has needed help alongside him since his rookie season, Jahan Dotson can be the guy that Curtis Samuel was supposed to be when he first signed with the Commanders. Dotson may not have the same potential as the rest of these wide receivers but Carson Wentz throughout his career on average targets his WR2 80 times a season. Dotson has a solid quarterback in Carson Wentz and a rookie backup (Sam Howell) that is capable of taking over that staring job. Dotson has already shown he wants to be a starter for the team with reports he was going to skip graduation for practice. It is going to be a battle to get into that starting three for the Commanders, but Dotson was not a first-round pick for just any reason. 

  1. Treylon Burks (WR, TEN)

This one should come as no surprise being the Titans traded away A.J. Brown. Treylon Burks is in the best position to have a breakout rookie season and there is a couple of reasons why. Primarily, look back at the first sentence… A.J. Brown is GONE G-O-N-E. Which leaves many targets available for the 2022 NFL season, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones leaving alone puts 153 targets available from last season. Another reason that Burks can have a breakout season is the presence of a veteran wide receiver by the name of Robert Woods. This would give Burks the perks to not be going up against opponents top corners and that could really open up the field for him. Now obviously every good reason for a breakout season must come with a counterargument, and that is argument is two words… Derrick Henry. Henry only played in eight games in 2021, 219 carries for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns. If we look at Derrick Henry’s recent full seasons (2019 & 2020) he averaged 341 carries for 1,784 yards and 17 touchdowns, a huge difference from half a 2021 season. Passing numbers will go down for Tennessee but having a pro comp of Deebo Samuel Burks will not be limited as just a pass catcher. 

  1. Kenny Pickett (QB, PIT)

Finally! A position that is not a wide receiver, Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback to go in the first round this year which was shocking, to say the least. Pickett will also be the only quarterback I mention in this article because he is the only one that is going to be the starter on paper for the 2022 season. I would love to talk about how Ridder may take the job over Mariota and that Willis is going to be gunning to beat out Ryan Tannehill after his comments made, but my focus is going to be on the only first round quarterback this season. Pickett was seen as the most pro ready quarterback in the draft this season, and the Steelers, despite signing Trubisky to a two-year deal, with play time and playoff incentives, drafted a first-round quarterback. Kenny Pickett undoubtably has the potential to beat out Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job, the only concern I would have is the play calling if Pickett is under center. Last season Ben Roethlisberger threw the football over 600 times, but it was also the first season since 2017 that the Steelers starting running back carried the football over 300 times. Last season there was anywhere from three to five rookie quarterbacks being drafted in redraft leagues, I expect Kenny Pickett to be the only one with potential for Ridder and Willis to sneak in as last picks of a draft this season. 

  1. Christian Watson (WR, GB)

Some may know this, others may not, but Christian Watson was my favorite wide receiver before the draft and after landing in Green Bay my mind has not changed at all he is in a perfect spot to be successful. Christian Watson is 6’4” 208 lbs. and he tested incredibly well running a 4.36 second 40-yard dash, jumping a 38.5” vertical and a 11’4” broad jump. Watson brings size and athleticism that Aaron Rodgers will be used to from Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The only major difference is Watson’s 38.5” vertical and Valdes-Scantling’s 30.5” vertical. Watson is going to bring that over-the-top speed and fill in as a redzone target for Aaron Rodgers. I personally will be looking to get Christian Watson in ever league possible not just for this year but for years moving forward. 

  1. Breece Hall (RB, NYJ)

After a brief trip back to the wide receiver position, we hit our first running back of the article, and arguably the best running back from this class. Breece Hall is another top prospect that tested very well, and we all know that is huge for raising draft stock, but Breece Hall was a star in college. Over Hall’s sophomore and junior year he combined for 532 carries, 3044 rushing yards, and 41 rushing touchdowns. This worries me for the now sophomore running back Michael Carter however because Hall has work in the passing game too. Whether it is a 50/50 split to start or more in favor of Hall, I quite honestly would not be surprised if Hall ended up taking over the role of the every down back in the Jets’ offense. 

  1. Kenneth Walker (RB, SEA)

Back-to-back running backs?! Kenneth Walker is in just as crowded a backfield as Breece Hall, but both have the potential to take it over their rookie season. The thing I find most fascinating about Kenneth Walker’s college career is not that he was in the running for the Heisman trophy, but the numbers from his freshman and sophomore year at Wake Forest. Freshman YearSophomore YearRushing attempts98119Rushing Yards579579Rushing Touchdowns413

Kenneth Walker rushed the ball 21 more times from 2019-2020, the yardage being the same is definitely a question to be raised but look at the increase in touchdown production. Walker found a knack for the endzone his sophomore year, rather than scoring a touchdown every 24.5 carries, walker scored a touchdown every 9.2 carries. Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny are both going to be free agents after the 2022 season, and Seattle using this early second round pick on Walker screams to me that Carson and Penny will not be brought back, and Walker could be Seattle’s shorter yet more athletic Marshawn Lynch. 

  1. George Pickens (WR, PIT)

The only reason that I have George Pickens on this list is because the fact that his reaction to being drafted scared me. Ski mask on, leaned back, nodding his head, as us youngsters would say, Pickens looked absolutely menacing. Pickens college stats are not good, he was out all but 4 games in 2021 with a torn ACL, and of recent has scouts concerned with off the field issues. Pickens is a little bit of a hot head, sometimes he will lose his cool and has had moments of getting in defenders faces and even throwing punches. Even with those issues put to the side Pickens will be coming in to fill in that WR3 role that is now wide open with JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington leaving the Steelers. The matchup I am looking forward to most for George Pickens is when the team plays Baltimore and he may go up against Marcus Peters, TWICE! 

  1. Alec Pierce (WR, IND)

Pierce may not have had the most production in college, but he after a solid senior season he for sure worked his way onto a lot of teams draft boards. As per usual, his testing numbers increased his draft stock and I expect Matt Ryan to gravitate towards the youngster due to his very close measurables to Julio Jones. Now, by no means am I saying that Alec Pierce is anything close to what Julio Jones was or is, but the numbers are similar enough, if you want to see for yourself go over to Michael Pittman Jr. seems to have that number one wide receiver spot locked up, but the opportunity is definitely there for Pierce to take the number two role. Now I have not yet broken-down Matt Ryan’s target share over his career, but it will definitely be something to consider when thinking of drafting Alec Pierce. Jonathan Taylor is also a big factor after his tremendous 2021 season Indianapolis is going to look to run the ball more, but Carson Wentz was traded, and Matt Ryan was acquired for a reason. 

  1. Skyy Moore (WR, KC)

After losing Tyreek Hill the Chiefs looked to find his replacement, and they did a very poor job of doing so, but Skyy Moore found his way into this Chiefs offense. It is hard to think that any rookie receiver that lands with Kansas City is going to fail because of how high powered this passing offense is. Skyy Moore is not going to have it easy though in this wide receiver room full of mediocre talent. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are currently the top three wide receivers on the team. For that number four spot Skyy Moore is going to have to battle with Josh Gordon (assuming everything goes well) and undrafted free agent Justyn Ross. Moore is definitely worth the stash however because Smith-Schuster, Hardman, and Gordon are all going to be free agents after the 2022-23 season. 

  1. Greg Dulcich (TE, DEN)

I bet you did not expect this one, a tight end! The 2022 draft class was, slim for lack of better words when it comes to top talent, but Dulcich was one of the most highly graded tight ends for this class. Denver traded away Noah Fant as part of acquiring Russell Wilson, so now Dulcich will have to compete with Albert Okwuegbunam, or as many commentators will refer to as “Albert O.” Dulcich can win the starting tight end job in Denver, and he will be a very solid option for Russell Wilson in the passing game. Dulcich will not find himself in the offense often with run packages because his lighter weight and lower tested reps for bench, but expect him to be lined up on the field for passing downs. 

  1. James Cook (RB, BUF)

We have made it! The last rookie a name that may come as a surprise but when this draft pick came across the tv screen I got those cartoon heart eyes. Zack Moss has done nothing worth making note of since being in Buffalo, and the same goes for Devin Singletary. The only difference between Moss and Singletary is that Singletary is going to be a free agent after this season. James Cook was not the most worked running back in college, in fact he was one of the least worked in his draft class. A cliché used is “low tread on their tires,” running backs that have that “low tread” are often looked at outside the first round as potential starting every down backs. Though Buffalo is very pass heavy and Josh Allen takes a lot of the rushing attempts for himself, the team still constantly will try to establish the run in every game. Singletary and Moss typically fail to do this which leaves the offense all in the hands of the passing attack. James Cook has ability to establish the running game for the Bills but also to go out and catch passes out of the backfield. This was an amazing landing spot for James Cook, and though it may not be seen right away, eventually it will come to fruition. 

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