Fantasy News & Analysis

McFarland: 2022 Fantasy Football Rankings

Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams (33) runs the ball in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2021 fantasy football season in the rearview mirror, it is time to look ahead to 2022. Of course, the rankings will evolve as we gather new information via coaching changes, free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft.

Last updated: 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 12

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Joe Burrow finished 2021 strong with five top-10 outings — including two No. 1 spots — in his last seven games. He is an ascending talent with elite weapons around him. The only question is whether the Bengals' offense will resemble the balanced approach we saw most of the year or the pass-happy attack that took over the last two games. If it's the latter, Burrow could push into the top five.

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Trey Lance accounted for 44% and 17% of the designed rushing attempts in his two starts for the 49ers and led the NFL in scramble rate (14%). He has room to grow as a passer, but his legs alone make him a viable top-10 option along the lines of Jalen Hurts. If he improves as a passer, the sky is the limit with top-notch playmakers in Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.

Justin Fields posted QB4, QB9, QB9 and QB12 finishes in his last four full games played and was underutilized on designed rushing attempts. His 13% scramble rate was the second-highest in the NFL, and with the right coordinator, he should finish inside the top 12 with headroom to push higher.

Deshaun Watson could dramatically climb or fall down the ranks depending on where he lands and his legal situation. He will be a mid-range to high-end quarterback option in every game he plays.

Mac Jones flashed spike-week potential over the second half of the season with four top-10 finishes and four sub-10 ranks. The 2021 Patriots were the fourth-most run-centric team, but they could start to loosen the reigns as Jones develops. He needs an upgrade at receiver, but New England may not want to allocate much more of their cap to offensive skill players after overspending on Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith last offseason.

Running Back

Rank Player Team
1 Jonathan Taylor Colts
2 Javonte Williams Broncos
3 Christian McCaffrey Panthers
4 Antonio Gibson Football Team
5 Austin Ekeler Chargers
6 Alvin Kamara Saints
7 Najee Harris Steelers
8 Derrick Henry Titans
9 Dalvin Cook Vikings
10 Elijah Mitchell 49ers
11 Saquon Barkley Giants
12 D'Andre Swift Lions
13 Joe Mixon Bengals
14 Leonard Fournette Free Agent
15 Cam Akers Rams
16 Nick Chubb Browns
17 David Montgomery Bears
18 Aaron Jones Packers
19 J.K. Dobbins Ravens
20 Clyde Edwards-Helaire Chiefs
21 Travis Etienne Jaguars
22 Ezekiel Elliott Cowboys
23 Devin Singletary Bills
24 Josh Jacobs Raiders
25 Michael Carter Jets
26 James Conner Free Agent
26 Miles Sanders Eagles
28 Kareem Hunt Browns
29 Damien Harris Patriots
30 A.J. Dillon Packers
31 Cordarrelle Patterson Free Agent
32 Rashaad Penny Free Agent
33 James Robinson Jaguars
34 Rhamondre Stevenson Patriots
35 Tony Pollard Cowboys
36 Chase Edmonds Free Agent
37 Melvin Gordon III Free Agent
38 Darrell Henderson Rams
39 Gus Edwards Ravens
40 Chris Carson Seahawks
41 Ronald Jones Free Agent
42 Sony Michel Free Agent
43 Alexander Mattison Vikings
44 Jamaal Williams Lions
45 Kenneth Gainwell Eagles
46 Myles Gaskin Dolphins
47 Chuba Hubbard Panthers
48 Ke'Shawn Vaughn Buccaneers
49 J.D. McKissic Free Agent
50 Khalil Herbert Bears
51 Nyheim Hines Colts
52 James White Free Agent
53 Kenyan Drake Raiders
54 Zack Moss Bills
55 Devontae Booker Giants
56 Raheem Mostert Free Agent
57 Duke Johnson Jr. Free Agent
58 Darrel Williams Free Agent
59 Jordan Howard Free Agent
60 Mark Ingram II Saints

Javonte Williams should have an every-down role in 2022 after Melvin Gordon III likely moves on as a free agent. He will definitely have a new coach and most likely a new quarterback, as well as be on a team loaded with receiving playmakers. With the right changes, Denver's offense could be a top-five offensive unit. 

As a rookie, Williams earned playing time in all situations, including passing downs. He handled 48% of the long-down-and-distance (LDD) snaps and 52% of the two-minute offense, and he was active as receiver out of the backfield with a 19% targets per route run (TPRR) rate. As a rusher, he demonstrated elite ability across multiple key metrics.

Williams in 2021 | Among 41 RBs with 125-plus rushing attempts
Missed Tackles Forced per Attempt Yards After Contact Explosive Run Rate (10-plus yard attempts)
0.31 (1st) 3.42 (5th) 12.3% (11th)

His rank is lofty as the No. 2 back, but so are his credentials and situation heading into his age-22 season.

Antonio Gibson wasn't able to pay off his second-round ADP in 2021 as he battled through a stress fracture in his shin early in the season and then picked up toe and hip injuries down the stretch. However, he will be only 24 years old in 2022, and J.D. McKissic is a 29-year-old free agent.

In the four games where Gibson was able to play at least 50% of snaps with McKissic out, he posted RB6, RB36, RB4 and RB6 finishes. He got over 60% of the routes in three of those games, which is pushing into Alvin Kamara territory. Gibson will be a younger version of Austin Ekeler (27) and Alvin Kamara (27) if McKissic departs — which is the scenario his No. 4 ranking represents.

Elijah Mitchell doesn't carry significant draft capital as a sixth-round pick, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan remained dedicated to the rookie. He missed six games but regained the lead role each time he returned. Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. are free agents in 2022.

Mitchell gave way to other backs and Deebo Samuel on passing downs, although that role could expand in his second season. Even if it doesn't, the 49ers' offense is centered around running the ball in all game scripts, which insulates his value.

49ers' rushing rate vs. NFL average by game script in 2021
Trailing by four or more points: +1%
Within three points: +5%
Leading by four or more points: +4%

Assuming San Francisco doesn't use draft capital or sign a significant name in free agency, Mitchell belongs among the top 12 backs.

Saquon Barkley had a terrible 2021 while battling back from injuries in a terrible Giants offense.

Barkley in 2021 | Among 41 RBs with 125-plus rushing attempts
Missed Tackles Forced per Attempt Yards After Contact Explosive Run Rate (10-plus yard attempts)
0.12 (36th) 2.69 (28th) 4.6% (40th)

However, he will be only 25 and the Giants are moving on from Joe Judge. Barkley has every-down pedigree in on his resume and is still young enough to bounce back in a big way in 2022.

Leonard Fournette‘s rank is 100% tied to him and Tom Brady returning to the Buccaneers and Ronald Jones walking away as a free agent. The former first-round pick has demonstrated every-down ability in consecutive seasons with Tampa Bay.

After taking over the passing-down work in Week 11, he promptly rattled off RB16, RB1, RB5 and RB6 finishes before missing the rest of the regular season due to a hamstring injury.

Cam Akers amazingly returned from his Achilles injury to play in Week 18. We will see how he looks in the playoffs, but regardless, he will be only 23 heading into 2022 and Sony Michel is a free agent. Neither Henderson nor Michel looked great with their opportunities, leaving the door wide open for Akers to reclaim a near every-down role in a high-scoring Rams offense.

Devin Singletary took over an every-down role in Week 14 for the Bills and posted RB14, RB7, RB10, RB5 and RB3 finishes to round out the season.

Singletary in 2021 | Among 41 RBs with 125-plus rushing attempts
Missed Tackles Forced per Attempt Yards After Contact Explosive Run Rate (10-plus yard attempts)
0.24 (5th) 3.12 (13th) 10.6% (16th)

The former third-round pick will be only 25 next season and belongs among the top 24 running backs in a top-10 offense in Buffalo.

Wide Receiver

Rank Player Team
1 Justin Jefferson Vikings
2 Cooper Kupp Rams
3 Ja'Marr Chase Bengals
4 Davante Adams Free Agent
5 Tyreek Hill Chiefs
6 Deebo Samuel 49ers
7 Stefon Diggs Bills
8 D.K. Metcalf Seahawks
9 Diontae Johnson Steelers
10 A.J. Brown Titans
11 Jaylen Waddle Dolphins
12 Tee Higgins Bengals
13 CeeDee Lamb Cowboys
14 Keenan Allen Chargers
15 D.J. Moore Panthers
16 Calvin Ridley Falcons
17 Chris Godwin Free Agent
18 Terry McLaurin Football Team
19 Elijah Moore Jets
20 Marquise Brown Ravens
21 Amon-Ra St. Brown Lions
22 DeAndre Hopkins Cardinals
22 Tyler Lockett Seahawks
23 Hunter Renfrow Raiders
24 Michael Thomas Saints
25 Mike Evans Buccaneers
26 DeVonta Smith Eagles
27 Amari Cooper Cowboys
29 Brandin Cooks Texans
30 Michael Pittman Jr. Colts
30 Adam Thielen Vikings
31 Jerry Jeudy Broncos
32 Robert Woods Rams
33 Darnell Mooney Bears
34 Tyler Boyd Bengals
35 Chase Claypool Steelers
37 Rondale Moore Cardinals
38 Gabriel Davis Bills
39 Courtland Sutton Broncos
40 Antonio Brown Free Agent
41 Rashod Bateman Ravens
42 Brandon Aiyuk 49ers
43 Kadarius Toney Giants
44 Mike Williams Free Agent
45 Odell Beckham Jr. Free Agent
46 Corey Davis Jets
47 Allen Robinson II Free Agent
48 JuJu Smith-Schuster Free Agent
49 Christian Kirk Free Agent
50 Kenny Golladay Giants
51 DeVante Parker Dolphins
52 Michael Gallup Free Agent
53 Josh Palmer Chargers
54 Russell Gage Free Agent
55 Jarvis Landry Browns
56 Allen Lazard Packers
57 Julio Jones Titans
58 Sterling Shepard Giants
59 Jakobi Meyers Patriots
60 Cole Beasley Bills
61 Jamison Crowder Free Agent
62 D.J. Chark Jr. Free Agent
63 Van Jefferson Rams
64 Will Fuller V Free Agent
65 Robby Anderson Panthers
66 Marvin Jones Jr. Jaguars
67 Kendrick Bourne Patriots
67 Tim Patrick Broncos
68 Laviska Shenault Jr. Jaguars
69 Curtis Samuel Football Team
70 Deonte Harris Saints
72 Marquez Callaway Saints
73 Donovan Peoples-Jones Browns
74 K.J. Osborn Vikings
75 Nico Collins Texans

Justin Jefferson posted a 30% target share in his second season at 22 years old. Only eight receivers did that between 2011 and 2020, and DeAndre Hopkins was the youngest at 23. He edges out Cooper Kupp — who is heading into his age-29 season — for the top spot in the ranks and should remain a perennial top-five option for years to come.

Ja'Marr Chase finished fourth in receiving yards (1,455) and third in touchdowns (13) in his rookie season. He is one of those rare difference-makers who can win with separation, at the catch point and after the reception.

From 2011 to 2020, only four rookies age 22 or younger eclipsed the 20% target-share threshold: Justin Jefferson (23%), Mike Evans (22%), Odell Beckham Jr. (21%) and Sammy Watkins (21%). Chase registered a 23% target share as a 21-year-old rookie.

Paired with an ascending young quarterback in Joe Burrow, Chase could finish as the No. 1 receiver overall in 2022 if the Bengals choose to center their offense around their passing attack as they did in Week 17 and Week 18.

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D.K. Metcalf didn't turn into the elite receiver many hoped for, but he still salvaged a top-15 season in a poor-volume offense. He will be only 24 next year and now has WR30, WR8 and WR15 seasons on his resume. He remains a talent to bet on, assuming Russell Wilson returns or a viable replacement arrives.

Elijah Moore started the season slowly but posted WR36, WR26, WR1, WR27, WR3, WR40 and WR8 finishes after the bye week. His 24% TPRR tied Jaylen Waddle for the highest among rookies for receivers participating in at least 40% of routes, and he led the Jets with an eye-popping 32% TPRR against man coverage — an alpha receiver trait. With any progress from Zach Wilson and the Jets' offense, he could hit in a big way in 2022.

Tight End

Mark Andrews has always demanded targets when on the field, but he ran a route on just 45%, 58% and 71% of pass plays in his first three seasons. In 2021, that number surged to 84% (elite), and his No. 1 fantasy finish followed. 

The Ravens' dropback rate climbed from 50% in 2020 to 63% in 2021. However, the team battled multiple running back injuries, and the defensive secondary was also compromised. We can probably expect a figure between that of 2020 and 2021 next season, and the offensive efficiency could improve.

Next season, Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski will be 33, Darren Waller will be 30 and George Kittle will be 29. However, Andrews will be only 26, pushing him to the top of the ranks.

Tackle Lifes financial Challenges. Western Southern Financial Group.

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