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Best Ball Rookies to Target & Avoid Pre-NFL Draft (2022 Fantasy Football)

Rookies are always a dicey proposition in fantasy football. With no professional track record, it’s hard to predict performance, good or bad. Luckily, best-ball formats lessen that risk thanks to the lack of commitment to a starting lineup. There will still be rookies that would make beneficial best-ball options and rookies that won’t.

Targets

Drake London (WR – USC)
Drake London will hear his name early as the only receiver consistently being mocked to the top 10-15 picks. And as with most teams that are picking early, they were terrible last year and probably not much better this year. That’s good news for London, as he should shoot to the top of whatever depth chart he lands on and inherit the majority of targets.

As for how London does with those targets, at 6’5″, he’s physically comparable to other bigger receivers such as Brandon Marshall (WR – FA) and Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN). Sutton consistently makes big plays (when targeted), averaging over 15 yards per reception. While Marshall’s average was usually lower, he had multiple seasons of double-digit touchdowns. London managers will take either one when it comes to best ball scoring.

Breece Hall (RB – Iowa State)
Considered by many as the top running back in this year’s class, Breece Hall can do it all. Not only was he highly productive at Iowa State – scoring 50 rushing touchdowns during his three-year career – but his combine showed just how unique of a physical specimen he is, including a 4.39 40-time.

But that’s not all. In the passing game, he totaled 82 receptions for 734 yards and six more touchdowns. Unlike Kenneth Walker, who failed to top 20 receptions in three seasons, Hall had 23-plus in every collegiate season. That receiving skill will be essential for Hall to be a reliable option for your best ball teams.

Hall currently profiles as a late first-round pick or early Day Two at the latest. There are few backs in the league that profiles better than him right now, so he should start immediately.

Trey McBride (TE – Colorado State)
Recent history has been a mixed bag for rookie production regarding tight ends. It was years since a rookie tight end finished in the top-12 of fantasy scoring, but 2021 saw not one, but two rookies finish as TE1 in fantasy scoring. Kyle Pitts (TE – ATL) wasn’t a surprise after being the highest-drafted tight end (fourth overall) in history. But Pat Friermuth (TE – PIT), drafted in the second round, brought up the rear as tight ends go, totaling 60 receptions for 497 yards and seven touchdowns.

I think that trend will continue in 2022 with Trey McBride. McBride led all tight ends in receptions and yards and was one of the top pass catchers in those categories regardless of position. He is undoubtedly the top tight end available and had several visits with teams with top-30 picks, which means McBride may be drafted in the first round. If so, expect his new team to throw him out there from the beginning of the season and rack up the stats.

Avoid

Kenneth Walker III (RB – Michigan State)
Kenneth Walker III had an incredible season for Michigan State in 2021. He was second in the nation with 1,636 rushing yards, had the sixth-most rushing touchdowns with 18, and won the Doak Walker Award for best running back. He’s likely to go early on Day 2 of the NFL Draft and could be the first running back selected. But I would avoid him in best-ball formats. The reason? His little-to-no receiving production during his collegiate career. How little? He had 19 receptions total over his three seasons in East Lansing.

It doesn’t help that Walker III is commonly compared to former Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams. Williams’ career-high in receptions for any season was 40, and he had more than 29 receptions in any season just twice.

Any Quarterback
Both the NFL and fantasy leagues have been blessed in recent drafts with star quarterbacks. If you look at the 2021 leaders in fantasy scoring, there are quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 of their respective NFL drafts; Josh Allen (QB – BUF), Kyler Murray (QB – ARI), Justin Herbert (QB – LAC), and Joe Burrow (QB – CIN). However, of those mentioned above, only two finished as a QB1 their rookie season. It’s a rare occurrence that requires an exceptional player and sometimes in the right circumstance, and there don’t appear to be any standouts in this class. We don’t even know which quarterback will be first off the board between Desmond Ridder (QB – FA), Malik Willis (QB – FA), Sam Howell (QB – FA), or Kenny Pickett (QB – FA). With that much uncertainty about the skill level of these players, it’s unlikely any of them will prove their doubters wrong this season.

Treylon Burks (WR – Arkansas)
Few players have seen such a drop in their draft stock than Treylon Burks. Burks was once viewed as a slam dunk first-rounder after posting a 92.6 receiving grade from PFF, second only behind 2020 Heisman Winner DeVonta Smith (WR – PHI) over the last two seasons. But a disappointing combine has some dropping him to a Day Two pick. That is an ominous sign, as the leash for a first-round versus a second-round selection is usually much longer.


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Michael Moore is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Michael, check out his archive and follow him @DLF_Moore.

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