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2022 Rookie Draft Class Preview (Fantasy Football)

by Raju Byfield | @FantasyContext | Featured Writer
Jun 20, 2020

Sam Howell’s tape already screams first-round pick.

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With the 2020 NFL Draft now in the books, dynasty league managers have now set their sights on the 2021 and 2022 rookie classes. While we covered some of the 2021 class in this two-round rookie mock draft here, having a better understanding of the strength or weakness of the 2022 rookie class can give managers a competitive advantage in trade talks. With that in mind, we will take a look at the 21 underclassmen most likely to figure into the mix as first-round or second-round picks for 2022 dynasty league rookie drafts.

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Quarterback

Sam Howell (QB – North Carolina)
Sam Howell is an extremely talented quarterback who took the college football world by storm as a mere freshman. His tape already screams first-round pick, and his development over the next to seasons is going to be a joy to witness. While his 61.7 completion percentage is about what you’d expect to see from a freshman quarterback, his 3,641 passing yards, and 38 touchdowns to seven interceptions help to accentuate just how well he played in 2019. Currently, the toast of the 2022 quarterback class, Howell has the continuity at wide receiver to take an exciting leap in 2020. If he can continue to improve he could open as the Vegas favorite to be the number one overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Kedon Slovis (QB – USC)
While Sam Howell is viewed as the prize of the 2022 quarterback class, Kedon Slovis may turn out to be the better prospect. Also a freshman in 2019, he was almost as impressive as Howell. He had an outstanding 71.9 completion percentage, thanks in large part to his ability to extend the pocket and to throw off platform with accuracy when needed. Slovis threw for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He had the benefit of playing with multiple day one talents at wide receiver, and even with Michael Pittman now in the NFL, he still has one of the most talented wide receiving corps in college football. Slovis should be a first-round pick in 2022 and should make his debut on the QB1 periphery by 2023. 

Jayden Daniels (QB – Arizona State)
While Jayden Daniels threw for just 17 touchdowns as a freshman, his tape highlights a quarterback coming into his own. He had two NFL level playmakers at his disposal but was at his best when throwing deep to Brandon Aiyuk, or by simply letting him go to work on screen passes. Unlike Howell and Slovis, Daniels showed some scrambling upside as a freshman. He is hardly a dual-threat, but more of a quarterback who can extend the pocket, and pick up yardage when pressed. Brandon Aiyuk has Daniels to thank for his ascension from a fringe day two prospect to a first-round pick, something that makes us bullish on Daniels upside once he finally hits the NFL. He will need to add some more muscle weight over the next two seasons, but undoubtedly has the tape to suggest that he could be a future first-round pick. His rushing upside will make him a QB1 candidate and someone to target in 2022 rookie drafts if he lands a starting job.

Spencer Rattler (QB – Oklahoma)
While Spencer Rattler saw just 11 attempts as a freshman, he has palpable upside. As we can see from the TikTok below, he has exceptional arm talent and is in a position to absolutely explode as a sophomore in Lincoln Riley’s offense. It seems almost unfair that Oklahoma continues to gather such talent under center, but Rattler figures to be the next early draft pick and Heisman candidate for the Sooners. Oklahoma’s offense has produced two number one overall picks, and a second-round pick at quarterback in the last three seasons. There will be a gap with Rattler just a sophomore, but it would be a major surprise if he did not work his way into the first-round mix. He was included here over names like Bo Nix, Max Duggan, and Ryan Hilinski due to projecting as a sure-fire first-round talent. 

Running Back

Breece Hall (RB – Iowa State)
Breece Hall is a talented running back who is currently viewed as the toast of the 2022 running back class. He had a terrific freshman season in which his tape spoke much louder than his raw numbers. On tape in the same offense that gave us David Montgomery, he looked like the superior prospect despite being a mere freshman. He has burst, power, and contact balance, but also displayed the soft hands needed to become a potential workhorse in the NFL. He had an exciting 897 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 2019, but his 4.8 yards per carry suggests some room for improvement. However, his 23 receptions for 252 receiving yards and a touchdown as a freshman gives us plenty to be excited about. His 11 yards per reception is a mark higher than many wide receivers with a similar average depth of target. He currently projects as having RB2 upside when he hits the NFL, but could very well improve that projection over the next two seasons. 

Trey Sanders (RB – Alabama)
Trey Sanders was 2019’s top running back prospect and was expected to push Najee Harris for snaps as a freshman. Unfortunately, a torn ACL torpedoed those plans, leaving Sanders to redshirt the season. An obvious talent that even Nick Saban recognized as a potential freshman contributor before he went down, Sanders has the talent and national spotlight to work his way into the mix as the top back in the 2022 class. He is the main reason I believe Najee Harris made a miscalculation deciding to return to school. Sanders has RB2 upside with the potential for more once he hits the NFL, but we will have a more accurate gauge on him once he gets some college tape under his belt. 

Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M)
Flashes of brilliance is an accurate way to describe Isaiah Spiller’s freshman season. He showed noticeable burst and long speed at times but was also very often the victim of just average vision behind the line of scrimmage. The type of prospect that you need to watch more than just a few games in order to get an accurate depiction of his true upside, Spiller is an exciting NFL prospect. He ran for 946 yards and 10 touchdowns on 5.4 yards per carry, and added 29 receptions for 203 receiving yards through the air. It will be interesting to see how he fares with two receivers now in the NFL, as he is expected to see a massive workload increase as a sophomore. 

Zach Charbonnet (RB – Michigan)
A power back with good vision, patience, and contact balance, Zach Charbonnet looks like a potential day two back. He will need to show more as a receiver to avoid getting pigeonholed into an early-down role, but his ability as a power element is unquestioned. He has surprising burst when he finds a lane but is more of a between the tackles, one-cut type of runner. He had a solid 726 rushing yards at 4.9 yards per carry for Michigan, but it is his 11 scores that have us excited about his NFL future. What type of role he garners in the NFL will be directly tied to his growth as a receiver, but if he can display soft hands over the next two seasons he would have an RB1 ceiling due to his touchdown upside. If he proves he is just an early-down thumper, he will likely max out as a touchdown-dependent RB3.

Jerrion Ealy (RB – Ole Miss)
Jerrion Ealy will be an interesting test case. A talented dual-sport athlete who starts at running back for the football team, and center field for the baseball team, which sport Ealy ultimately chooses will be a talking point up until such time he signs an NFL contract. An uneven senior season in high school derailed his MLB plans, as his stock dropped to the point where he lasted until the 31st round before being selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although baseball is thought to be his true passion, it is hard not to get excited about his NFL prospects. He posted 722 rushing yards and six touchdowns off a whopping 6.9 yards per carry, and added 20 receptions for 172 receiving yards and one touchdown. His centerfield type speed is evident on tape, but the most impressive part of his game as a runner is his willingness to bang between the tackles. Ultimately, it would be a surprise if he chose the NFL given how players at his position are chewed up and spit out by the NFL, but his potential upside if he does choose football is undeniable. 

George Holani (RB – Boise State)
An impressive running back with good burst and contact balance, George Holani burst onto the scene as a freshman. Less heralded coming out of high school than every other name on this list other than Tyler Goodson, Holani has opened the eyes of NFL evaluators. There were times he looked like a better prospect than Minnesota Vikings running back, and Boise State alum Alexander Mattison and this was as a mere freshman. He has the great cutting ability and soft hands to be a potential starter in the NFL, and could very well be viewed as the top running back in the class by the time the 2022 NFL Draft rolls around. He rushed for 1,014 yards and seven touchdowns on 5.3 yards per carry, and added an impressive 26 receptions for 206 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Holani has no doubt caught the eye of any NFL front office member who put on Bose State tape to scout John Hightower and should be a name at the forefront of more discussion when/if his sophomore season begins. 

Tyler Goodson (RB – Iowa)
A massively impressive running back unbeknownst to many outside the state of Iowa, Tyler Goodson has the goods to be a potential workhorse in the NFL. His 24 receptions provide proof of his soft hands, but we will be looking for him to become more consistently explosive in space. He had 638 rushing yards and five touchdowns at a 4.8 yards per carry clip as a freshman and will be looking to take a noticeable leap as a sophomore. He will have to contend with the loss of Tristan Wirfs, but has shown enough to suggest that he is a legitimate day two-level NFL prospect. 

Wide Receiver

George Pickens (WR – Georgia)
A big-bodied physical receiver, George Pickens is currently viewed as the top non-quarterback skill position talent eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft. He has the skills, traits, and tools to be a dominant number one in the NFL, and proved as much in his freshman season. Pickens recorded 49 receptions, 747 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns as a freshman. He will have double-digit touchdown upside from the moment he enters the league, and only low-end quarterback play should be able to stop him from adding his name to the elite WR2 conversation in dynasty leagues. 

Garrett Wilson (WR – Ohio State)
Garrett Wilson is a talented receiver who looks to have a future as a number two wideout. He posted 432 receiving yards and five touchdowns off 30 freshman receptions and will look to become a focal point of the offense with K.J. Hill and Binjimen Victor now in the NFL. He will have to contend with a talented freshman class that includes the elite Julian Fleming but is the favorite to start opposite Chris Olave for Ryan Day. Catching passes from a legit NFL first-round prospect should only help him catch the eyes of scouts who will be watching tape to grade his teammates. He may max out as WR3 in fantasy, but should prove to be a valuable asset nonetheless. 

David Bell (WR – Purdue)
David Bell had a freshman explosion of his own at Purdue. He recorded a scintillating 86 receptions, 1,035 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns in 2019 as the team’s number one receiver. All eyes will be on Bell in 2020 as evaluators will be highly intrigued to see how his numbers are affected by the return of top receiver Rondale Moore. With that being said, he should go back to being the number one receiver role in 2021, which should allow him to post another excellent season en route to declaring the 2022 NFL Draft. He profiles as a number two receiver but could become a strong asset in PPR and half-PPR leagues if he lands on a pass-first team.

Theo Wease (WR – Oklahoma)
One of 2019’s top recruits, Theo Wease had a quiet freshman season at Oklahoma. However, with CeeDee Lamb now in the NFL, he is expected to push for starting snaps. Junior Charleston Rambo should remain part of the offense, but Wease and Jadon Hasselwood are the true talents of the wide receiver room. He ran a 4.62 coming into college, and will be looking to improve his time if he wishes to push his way into the first-round mix. Even if he remains a low 4.6 receiver he has an NFL future as a jump ball receiver who can double as a possession type. He currently projects as a WR3 type once he hits the league, but the talent is there for more. 

Jadon Haselwood (WR – Oklahoma)
Oklahoma landed two of 2019’s top wide receiver recruits, one was Theo Wease, the other was the number one overall receiver recruit, Jadon Haselwood. While he was the fifth receiver as a freshman, CeeDee Lamb, along with two seniors, have left starting roles up for grabs. Haselwood and Wease should both have chemistry with Spencer Rattler from their time together on the second team, something that should give both receivers the inside track at starting in three-wide sets. If he can improve on the 4.57 he ran on the recruiting circuit, Haselwood could start to get more love as a potential future number one in the league. Haselwood will boast elite WR2 upside with a WR4 floor once he reaches the NFL. 

Joe Ngata (WR – Clemson)
Though there are some seniors for Joe Ngata and Frank Ladson to beat out, it is expected the talent shines through as Clemson looks for the new number one and number two wideouts. Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross are irreplaceable types of talents, but Ngata currently projects as being able to step into Higgins’ number one role. He had a relatively tamed freshman season, recording just 17 receptions for 240 receiving yards and three touchdowns, but is expected to take a massive sophomore leap. He was already the receiver expected to step up before Justyn Ross was lost for the season, and will be looking to, at a very minimum, triple his numbers this season. Projecting his NFL future is difficult due to limited tape, but he should be able to land at least a number three role when he makes it to the NFL. The team he gets drafted to will directly affect his dynasty upside.

C.J. Johnson (WR – East Carolina)
Built like a running back, C.J. Johnson is a 6’2, 229 lbs wide receiver capable of making acrobatic catches look like second nature. Big and physical, Johnson projects as being Deebo Samuel like after the catch. He has already shown off this part of his game, and should only get better as he starts to use his physical advantages on a more consistent basis. Despite being a three-star recruit, he had a rock-solid freshman season that saw him haul in 54 passes for 904 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Though names like Haselwood and Wease should change the conversation a year from now, Johnson is currently arguably one of the top three 2022 underclassmen wide receivers. Johnson has WR2 upside if he gets drafted into the right situation. He has a skill set too valuable to waste on the pine, so it would be a surprise if he ranked lower than a WR4 anytime after his rookie season. 

Frank Ladson (WR – Clemson)
While there is not much in the way of game tape for Clemson receiver Frank Ladson, the reception shown below does give us a glimpse of what we can expect from him this season. With Tee Higgins (NFL) and Justyn Ross (possible career-ending surgery) both no longer available for Trevor Lawrence, Ladson is expected to step up as the number two receiver beside presumptive new number one Joe Ngata. Freshman recruit E.J. Williams should push for snaps once he gets acquainted with the playbook, but the number two role should be Ladson’s to lose. He has day two upside, something that should put him in the second round mix for 2022 rookie drafts. 

Trey Knox (WR – Arkansas)
Trey Knox is a big-bodied wide receiver who flashed as a freshman for Arkansas. He had 28 receptions, 385 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. At 6’5, his size is highly intriguing, and he is physical enough off the line of scrimmage that he will be able to deal with press coverage sufficiently. His 385 receiving yards and 13.8 yards per reception ranked him third among freshman wide receivers from the SEC. His tape makes it fairly obvious that he could have had an even bigger season if he had more stability under center. If he can continue to develop, he should force his way into the day two conversation for the 2022 NFL Draft, something that should put him in the second round mix for 2022 rookie drafts. 

Drake London (WR – USC)
Drake London is an exciting dual-sport athlete who also plays for USC’s basketball team. The term ‘plays’ is used loosely because he barely saw the floor for USC, but his ability to even make the team speaks to his top-level athleticism. He has a much brighter future as an NFL receiver, where he will be able to use his strong hands, along with his box out and rebounding skills to become a reliable big-play receiver. He has the benefit of having Kedon Slovis under center for the rest of his tenure at USC, something that should allow him to build on his 39 reception, 567 receiving yard, and five touchdown freshman season. He will likely max out as a number two or three receiver in the pros but should be able to post WR4 numbers due to his ability to contribute both downfield and in the red zone.

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Raju Byfield is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, check out his archive and follow him @FantasyContext.

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