Yes, it’s May. Also yes, most of the major pieces of free agency have fallen and the NFL Draft is over; let’s get weird and officially set our sights on the 2022 fantasy football season.
What follows is the second edition of my 2022 fantasy football rankings. Only disclaimers: full point-per-reception (PPR) scoring, one-quarterback leagues, and kickers might as well not exist. Other than that: It’s a great day to be great.
The big-five quarterbacks each boast proven upside as passers and rushers alike, but obviously to differing extents. Either way: Dual-threat quarterbacks have always been a cheat code in fantasy football land, particularly when they also carry high-end ability when throwing the ball.
Jalen Hurts is in a tier of his own thanks to his absurd rushing volume; it’s not out of the question that he could take a leap forward as a passer and find his way into the big-five group. He has posted a league-high 74% fantasy QB1 rate over the past two seasons.
Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson make up the next tier. The latter two signal-callers haven't run as much in recent years, and history tells us that we shouldn't expect this to reverse course.
Matthew Stafford gets the nod over Aaron Rodgers thanks to his superior weaponry at the moment; either way, both quarterbacks are better in real life than fantasy due to their lackluster rushing floors. They’re joined by Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins, who are each dark horses to vie for the position lead in passing yards and/or touchdowns inside of loaded offenses.
Deshaun Watson would rank fourth on this list if there was no chance of suspension.
Trey Lance would be a candidate to jump into the top-12 with confirmation that Jimmy Garoppolo is indeed out of the picture. The 2021 NFL Draft's No. 3 overall pick gets the nod over Justin Fields thanks to his enhanced usage in the designed run game.
Ryan Tannehill is the line to draw when it becomes necessary to draft your first quarterback in best-ball drafts. The artist known as TanneThrill hasn’t finished worse than 15th in fantasy points per game since taking over as the Titans’ full-time starter in 2019.
Zach Wilson is my preferred late-round quarterback addition thanks to the Jets surrounding him with rather deep wide receiver and tight end rooms. Not enough slack was given to the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 2 overall pick for playing through the pain of a sprained knee down the stretch with a pitiful group of pass-catchers — Elijah Moore and Corey Davis played a combined three games from Weeks 12-18.
Daniel Jones is also an intriguing late-round dart throw at the position. He has flashed true QB1 upside over the years, most recently ripping off QB12, QB4, QB24 and QB7 finishes in 2021 before being concussed. Inexplicably one of the position’s best rushers, Jones enters an offense with an ample number of playmakers and the best coaching staff of his short career. Here’s to hoping PFF’s 30th ranked offensive line from 2021 takes a step forward.
|Free Agent||Melvin Gordon III||40|
|Patriots||Pierre Strong Jr.||52|
Jonathan Taylor has a good case as the best real-life running back in the NFL. More targets would be nice, but nobody has a better floor/ceiling combo — particularly with Matt Ryan in town to stabilize the offense.
Yes, Christian McCaffrey has been hurt for most of the last two seasons. Also yes, I'm not going to fade the all-time leader in fantasy points per game because of a sprained ankle and pulled hamstring. CMC, like Najee Harris and Austin Ekeler, boast absurdly fantasy-friendly workloads thanks to their enhanced pass-game roles.
Derrick Henry is just about the only running back in the league with an employer willing to feed him the rock 30-plus times on a near-weekly basis. After him, Leonard Fournette, James Conner and Saquon Barkley represent the final running backs who are seemingly locked into a true three-down role.
Joe Mixon finished 2022 as the RB6 in PPR points per game, but he was the RB10 in expected PPR points per game. Mixon (48) had as many targets as Chris Evans (17) and Samaje Perine (31) combined. It’ll be tough to overcome the lack of a featured pass-game role without another 15-plus touchdown campaign.
Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara would fall in after the big-five running backs with more clarity surrounding their respective ongoing legal situations. I love Alexander Mattison thanks to his potential for a larger role than normal inside of a new offense as well as his ongoing potential to work as a weekly RB1 if Cook is forced to miss any time.
D'Andre Swift has as much pass-game usage as any non-CMC back in the league. It'd sure be a lot cooler if Nick Chubb was featured in his passing game to an even somewhat similar extent, but beggars can’t be choosers. Aaron Jones belongs in this same group from a talent perspective and has some borderline erotic splits without Davante Adams, but A.J. Dillon is more of a 1.B option in Green Bay as opposed to a clear-cut No. 2 backup. Javonte Williams and Breece Hall are the final backs in this tier of talented lead options who will unfortunately lose a good chunk of work to their backup.
There's less reason to believe in the overall talent from the next tier's backs: Ezekiel Elliott, David Montgomery, Cam Akers, Elijah Mitchell and Travis Etienne. Still, they're similar to our previous tier in that they’re also definitive lead backs. The likes of Zeke, Akers and Mitchell herald from offenses with elite scoring potential, while Montgomery as well as Etienne possess underrated pass-game floors. Note that James Robinson (Achilles) hardly guarantees to be ready for Week 1, if 2022 at all.
My RB22-29 group consists of the last remaining lead running backs. The only exception to this group was Damien Harris, primarily because of the lack of ceiling at hand inside of the New England backfield. Harris already figured to lose early-down work to Rhamondre Stevenson and pass-down work to either James White or Ty Montgomery; now Pierre Strong Jr. threatens to be added to the mix as a change-of-pace option. This profiles as a potential four-back committee, where even the lead touchdown scorer doesn’t figure to offer much of a ceiling. Last year Harris scored a whopping 15 touchdowns on the ground … and finished as the RB20 in PPR points per game. In 2016, LeGarrette Blount scored 18 touchdowns and worked as the RB15. Fade this New England backfield, and by proxy take a long pause before investing too heavily in Josh McDaniels’ Raiders backfield.
The RB30-43 range provides plenty of theoretical upside, but ultimately consists of clear No. 2 running backs. The exception in the group is Buffalo, but Josh Allen‘s reluctance to check the ball down and penchant for scoring rushing touchdowns lower the best-case scenario of every running back involved. Overall, Bills running backs rank 27th in targets and 25th in carries inside the 5-yard line over the past two seasons. It’s tough to see either James Cook or Devin Singletary carving out enough of a featured role to truly make a consistent difference in fantasy land.
The RB44-49 group is loaded with some of fantasy's premier handcuffs in Alexander Mattison, Khalil Herbert, Rachaad White, Tyler Allgeier and Haasan Haskins. These are essentially the last remaining backs who have the ability to play on all three downs inside of an offense that might just be crazy enough to feature a single running back for extended stretches should its respective every-down bell-cow miss time.
|Colts||Michael Pittman Jr.||14|
|Rams||Allen Robinson II||28|
|Lions||Amon-Ra St. Brown||31|
|Lions||D.J. Chark Jr.||63|
|Free Agent||Jarvis Landry||65|
|Free Agent||Will Fuller V||69|
|Free Agent||Odell Beckham Jr.||71|
|Jaguars||Marvin Jones Jr.||78|
|Free Agent||Julio Jones||79|
|Jaguars||Laviska Shenault Jr.||84|
|Free Agent||Antonio Brown||91|
|Free Agent||Cole Beasley||95|
Cooper Kupp just scored more fantasy points in a single season than any other wide receiver in the history of the NFL. So, yeah, he's the overall WR1 returning to the same offense with arguably even less target competition than last year.
Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase could be flip-flopped and it'd be tough to argue; it's scary to think that these young talents could possibly still be getting better. They should be first-round priorities in dynasty leagues of all shapes and sizes.
Both Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill would have been ranked ahead of Stefon Diggs and CeeDee Lamb before their respective league-altering trades, but now it makes sense to just take the clear-cut lead guy catching passes from Josh Allen and Dak Prescott. Still, all four have the potential to clear 150 targets with ease in above-average offenses; don’t be scared off simply because of a change of scenery.
Keenan Allen gets the nod over Deebo Samuel due to the latter player’s 1.) sneaky volatile workload which featured just 5.3 targets per game upon Brandon Aiyuk fully getting out of Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse and 2.) likely new quarterback under center. Ultimately, we’re betting on Justin Herbert’s No. 1 pass-game option putting up better numbers than the disgruntled man forced to deal with Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Mike Evans has scored 27 touchdowns in 32 regular-season games with TB12 under center. Last season's WR11 in PPR points per game, Evans is deserving of WR1 treatment with legit top-five upside should either 1.) Chris Godwin take his time recovering his ACL, and/or 2.) Rob Gronkowski choose to retire
Last season Tee Higgins actually averaged more expected fantasy points per game than teammate Ja'Marr Chase. The difference was that Chase averaged more fantasy points above expectation than anyone other than Deebo Samuel. Either way: Higgins is more of a 1.B as opposed to No. 2 inside of a Bengals passing attack which only seems to be getting better under the direction of Joe Burrow.
A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Michael Pittman, D.J. Moore, and D.K. Metcalf have each flashed to various high extents during their short careers (especially Brown and Metcalf). Each looks like their respective offense's projected target leader; the former three receivers receive the boost thanks to their objectively superior situations under center.
Having Tyreek Hill in town will certainly help open up the underneath and intermediate areas of the field for Jaylen Waddle, but enhanced efficiency seldom makes up for losing a good amount of volume. Overall, Waddle's 138 targets were the 10th-highest mark among all wide receivers last season; don’t assume Tua Tagovailoa is already capable of enabling multiple top-12 fantasy receivers.
Diontae Johnson isn't necessarily guaranteed to work as Mitch Trubisky's No. 1 pass-game option. This looks like the first season of Johnson's career that he's priced closer to his ceiling than floor. The latter point doesn't hold true for Chris Godwin or Michael Thomas, who are each discounted at the moment due to their respective recoveries from injury. When healthy, both represent borderline PPR cheat codes thanks to their potential to rack up double-digit targets on a weekly basis.
Marquise Brown suddenly looks a lot like Kyler Murray’s No. 1 pass-game option. The under-appreciated 24-year-old receiver worked as fantasy's WR24 on a per-game basis last season and now should see both a boost in volume as well as passing upside under center. The artist known as Hollywood still figures to offer borderline WR2 production once DeAndre Hopkins’ six-game suspension is over.
Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton profile as Russell Wilson’s top-two pass-game options, roles that certainly led to plenty of success for D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in recent history. The uncertainty surrounding Wilson’s preferred pecking order is the only reason why none of the Broncos’ talented receivers are priced higher from an ADP perspective: Denver is easily my favorite stack to target in best-ball land at the moment thanks to this affordable upside.
Amari Cooper would have a case inside the position's top-15 with more clarity surrounding Deshaun Watson‘s looming suspension. Regardless of who is under center, Cooper still profiles as Kevin Stefanski's No. 1 receiver — a role which produced an awful lot of fantasy goodness from Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs when the ex-Vikings offensive coordinator was more willing to open up the passing game.
Chris Godwin would be far higher on this list with positive news on his recovery from his late-season ACL tear.
The biggest criticism of Mike Williams seems to be that he was one of the position's more volatile receivers; he seemingly went off when fantasy managers had him on the bench, and dudded once started. Ultimately, last season’s WR17 in PPR points per game remains locked in as Justin Herbert’s No. 2 receiver and possesses the sort of boom ability to swing any given fantasy matchup.
The WR25-32 range consists of either No. 2 options in a more high-powered attack, or No. 1 wide receivers in underwhelming passing games
The No. 2 options: Allen Robinson finally has an objectively good quarterback for the first time college and NFL career. There wasn't much good from A-Rob in 2021, but as we saw with OBJ in this very same offense last season: A potential return to something close to the veteran's previous greatness shouldn't be ignored. Adam Thielen has scored 24 touchdowns in his last 28 games. Age and injury issues have him priced cheaper than just about ever before. Thielen would be ranked far higher in a Week 1-specific study; there remains plenty of upside to go around inside this Kirk Cousins-led passing attack. Throw Gabriel Davis in the same group: affordable fantasy receivers inside of objectively great offenses who have a chance to post a season in their upper range of outcomes if their projected No. 2 pass-game role comes to fruition.
Yes, Rashod Bateman is the No. 1 wide receiver in Baltimore. Also yes, Mark Andrews figures to continue to work as the No. 1 pass-game option, and this offense could get back to 2019-2020 levels of running the football with a (hopefully) healthier running back room. The Ravens’ willingness to trade Marquise Brown is obviously good news for Bateman’s projected target share; just realize their lack of commitment to add any other resources to the wide receiver room is troubling when predicting just how much they’ll throw the football.
Brandin Cooks, Elijah Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Darnell Mooney would rank higher if not for obvious concerns under center along with the presence of newfound Day 1 or Day 2 draft competition. Nobody is doubting the talent level of Cooks and these youngsters, but I’d rather take my chances on slightly older veterans in more proven offenses with slightly lower target ceilings, but far higher upside under center.
Don’t expect much from any rookie wide receiver drafted outside of the top-three rounds. Even those that managed to crack the draft’s top-100 selections are hardly guaranteed to immediately ball out. Overall, an average of just 1.6 rookie wide receivers per season have produced top-24 production over the past decade.
Michael Thomas’ complete stranglehold on the Saints’ target share is suddenly far weaker after the team traded up for Chris Olave. New Orleans ranked dead last in pass-play rate in non-garbage time situations with Jameis Winston under center last season.
DeAndre Hopkins will be back in the upside WR2 discussion upon his suspension being over. This is enough upside for me to give him the nod over guys like Tyler Lockett, Michael Gallup, Christian Kirk, DeVonta Smith, Brandon Aiyuk as well as Kenny Golladay, who all face larger quarterback and volume concerns on a weekly basis.
Russell Gage could feasibly work as Tom Brady‘s No. 2 receiver for a chunk of 2022 if Chris Godwin‘s recovery doesn't go smoothly. Or Gage will slide in as the No. 3 option inside of the league's most pass-happy offense. Another example of a player being priced closer to their floor than ceiling, Gage is the exception to the rule that typically the grass isn't greener for free agents that change teams.
More late-round receivers I particularly like: Kadarius Toney was truly special with the ball in his hands as a rookie and might be fantasy's cheapest wide receiver that (arguably) projects as their offense's No. 1 pass-game option if this offseason’s reported trade murmurs wind up simply being nonsense. … Rondale Moore is safe in the slot with the Cardinals choosing to not match Christian Kirk‘s gargantuan contract. It's tough to find another offense with more available opportunities than this Kyler Murray-led group. … Tim Patrick received a gaudy contract extension just like Courtland Sutton last offseason, yet is a fraction of the cost because the world simply refuses to recognize Patrick as the borderline great receiver he's functioned as over the past two seasons. … Look, all I'm saying is that Will Fuller was born to catch 60-yard missiles from Patrick Mahomes. This longtime Fuller stan would settle for Aaron Rodgers, too. … The price discrepancy between Robby Anderson and Marvin Jones compared to their team's respective No. 1 targets in D.J. Moore and Christian Kirk are probably far too wide.
|Free Agent||Rob Gronkowski||6|
|Vikings||Irv Smith Jr.||11|
I've been a proponent of chasing an early-round tight end in past years, but suddenly each of the position's unanimous big-five options seems to have at least one red flag:
- Travis Kelce will have to adjust to life without Tyreek Hill opening up the field; the potential for extra targets is nice, but it's not like volume has ever been an issue for the future hall of famer.
- Mark Andrews was exceptional in 2021 largely regardless of the quarterback, although the second half surge with Lamar Jackson sidelined was notable, and there’s certainly an (understandable) chance that last season winds up as his most featured campaign if his offense’s younger wide receivers wind up taking leaps forward.
- There's an argument to be made that George Kittle will finish behind both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk in targets inside of a Trey Lance-led offense that figures to embrace the run more than ever before. My pick for the game’s best real life tight end, Kittle can’t do much if his offense doesn’t throw him the ball (shocking, I know).
- Kyle Pitts has to adjust to life without Matt Ryan. Yes, Marcus Mariota was very good in his *checks notes* one extended appearance with the Raiders over the past two seasons. Also yes, 2021 demonstrated that Pitts isn’t exactly ready to take over games, and he could now feasibly work as the clear No. 2 target behind Drake London.
- Darren Waller suddenly doesn't have the chance to lead his own team, let alone the position, in targets with Davante Adams in town. Hopefully improved health leads to a boost in efficiency, but the face-melting ceiling he possessed over the past two seasons is a thing of the past.
Rob Gronkowski‘s ranking obviously assumes that he'll be back in Tampa Bay catching passes from Tom Brady. The arguable GOAT tight end was a true top-five option at the position whenever healthy enough to suit up last season; take advantage of the momentary “uncertainty” surrounding his 2021 status and scoop him up in best-ball drafts of all shapes and sizes.
Dalton Schultz might not look like a top-tier fantasy tight end, but that's largely all he's done over the better part of the last two seasons. Now franchise tagged and set to potentially work as Dak Prescott‘s No. 2 pass-game option depending on Michael Gallup‘s recovery, Schultz is deserving of priority in fantasy land thanks to his high target floor and double-digit touchdown upside.
T.J. Hockenson joins George Kittle as great real life players whose blocking ability almost works against them when it comes to fantasy projections. There's a true top-five ceiling here, although ultimately I'm comfortable prioritizing guys like Gronk and Schultz — arguably lesser talents with similar workloads, but in far better offenses — ahead of the former No. 8 overall pick.
Dallas Goedert would be higher on the list if not for volume concerns inside of the Eagles' extremely run-heavy offense. His status as a locked in top-two option gives him the nod over former teammate Zach Ertz, although the recently #paid veteran shouldn't be brushed aside after returning overall TE4 production upon being traded to Arizona last season.
Irv Smith is my favorite late-round tight end option. The former second-round pick flashed while forced to split reps alongside Kyle Rudolph during the first two seasons of his career before missing all of 2021 due to injury. With Tyler Conklin now a member of the Jets, Irv (still just 23) profiles as the potential No. 3 pass-game option inside of the Vikings' high-floor offense.
Mike Gesicki received the franchise tag and has proven capable of putting up extended TE1 production; just realize he was used as a big slot receiver in 2021, a role which 1.) might not exist in new head coach Mike McDaniel's offense, and 2.) could be reduced depending on how targets are distributed between Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Cedrick Wilson.
It's almost scary how doable the late-round tight end scene looks this year. Yes, we tend to say this every offseason, but truly: Each of Logan Thomas, Tyler Higbee and Evan Engram project to play near full-time roles; Albert O could feasibly be Russell Wilson’s new full-time tight end (although I’m skeptical that will come to fruition after the Greg Dulcich pick); David Njoku and Robert Tonyan have flashed during their short careers and are suddenly rising up the pecking order of an offense led by a great quarterback; Noah Fant, Gerald Everett and Hunter Henry are each receiving-first tight ends with the potential to work inside their passing game's top-three or four options; hell, even guys like Cole Kmet, Austin Hooper, Hayden Hurst, Brevin Jordan and Ricky Seals-Jones tentatively look like starters in offenses with either targets or touchdown upside to give. Just remember: If an offense has multiple real-life tight ends heavily involved in the passing game, there’s a good chance neither player will have enough volume to truly compete with the top-12 fantasy options at the position.