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Andrew Erickson’s Perfect 2022 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: Round-By-Round

May 27, 2022
Devin Singletary

Looking to get a jumpstart on your draft preparation? Check out Andrew Erickson’s breakdown of the perfect draft strategy for the 2022 NFL season.

You just wrapped dinner and plopped down on the couch to catch up on the latest binge-worthy TV series. Suddenly, a friend texts you: “Hey, are you ready for the draft?!?” A sick, sinking feeling sets in – you forgot to prepare for your fantasy football draft. Panic ensues.

If this sounds like you or a “friend” you know, there is no need to fret. Below is a detailed fantasy football draft strategy, laying out precisely what to do round by round for the 2022 fantasy football season.

This master plan comes with a simple premise: Follow the guide step-by-step, and you’re sure to enter the season with a quality roster that balances reliability and upside. Sept. 8th can’t come soon enough.

Pair this with FantasyPros’ ECR fantasy football rankings/projections and my 2022 Fantasy Football Rankings to build a top-tier squad.

Please advise that this article will go through many forms throughout the offseason to stay as up-to-date as possible with all the implications of training camp, player transactions and injuries, etc.

ROUND 1 (1-12): DRAFT A RUNNING BACK OR A MEMBER OF THE BIG-THREE WRS

Whether it’s best ball or redraft fantasy football, the golden standard approach of selecting a running back with your first-round pick has not changed. It wasn’t so long ago that the elite tier of WRs like Davante Adams, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Antonio Brown were drafted in the top half of Round 1, but a few talented running back draft classes have returned leagues to the glory days.

Every fantasy football draft is unique, but one thing’s for certain: Running backs are the drivers behind fantasy-winning teams. Get your studs early and wait till the later rounds to take shots on backs in ambiguous backfields. That’s where we’ll find the next breakout at the position.

However, unlike in some previous years, when the strategy was hyper-focused on grabbing a workhorse running back no matter what, 2022 presents us with a different approach in the second half of the first round.

If you miss out on the Tier 1/high-end Tier 2 crop of running backs – Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, Dalvin Cook or Derrick Henry – be open to drafting an elite wide receiver in the second half of Round 1. This is less so the move in half-PPR formats because receivers can’t make up ground versus running backs as easily without being rewarded a full point per reception. After JT and CMC, it is fair game to select an elite wideout.

From 2018-2020 in PPR scoring, wide receivers have the highest percentage of top-12 finishes (55%). That trend continued in 2021, when seven of the top-12 overall finishers (58%) were WRs, with six finishing top-8. That was true in both PPR and half-PPR scoring.

The Big 3 wide receiver tier – Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Cooper Kupp – are strong bets to meet Round 1 production without the cost. But their odds of returning value increase dramatically in the PPR-scoring format.

ROUND 2 (13-24): DRAFT A RUNNING BACK OR WIDE RECEIVER

Fantasy managers should feel comfortable taking an elite wideout in Round 1 because Round 2 is filled with a plethora of running back talent. The non-first-round running backs – Leonard Fournette, James Conner, D’Andre Swift, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, and Cam Akers – provide enough production for a roster’s RB1 slot.

If you went with a running back in Round 1, consider whoever remains from the Tier 2 wide receivers – Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, CeeDee Lamb, A.J. Brown, Mike Evans. But don’t be afraid to double-down at the running back position even if you already drafted a stud in Round 1.

The cleverly coined “Superhero RB” approach sets you up nicely with two locked-and-loaded studs in your two starting RB spots. It’s an even better strategy in best ball formats, where waiver wire RBs can’t be added once the season starts.

Solidifying running backs in Rounds 1+2 also helps you avoid reaching on running backs in the upcoming RB Dead Zone, where your primary focus should be pounding WRs poised for significant leaps in 2022.

Tight end Travis Kelce is also an option in Round 2, with his 2022 point projection just shy of Cooper Kupp. It’s impossible to ignore the high-end target share that Kelce will command in the Chiefs offense after they traded Tyreek Hill. His 20% target share ranked second-best at the position in 2021. Just keep in mind that it was a slight fall-off from his 23% average target share from 2019 and 2020.

ROUND 3 (25-36): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER OR ELITE TIGHT END

Ideally, after Round 2, you have an RB-RB or RB-WR set up. This approach makes staying fluid and flexible for the next few rounds much easier. It’s essential to draft at least one running back in the first two rounds because the talent pool starts to fall off at the start of Round 3. Also, the middle rounds are chock-full of wide receiver talent, which should be the primary focus.

Draft the next highest-ranked wide receiver from the next tier, which could include Tee Higgins, Keenan Allen, Michael Pittman Jr., and Mike Williams.

If you still haven’t drafted a tight end, Kyle Pitts is your guy here in Round 3. He’s essentially a WR playing the tight end position, but the positional advantage makes him extremely enticing for fantasy purposes. Just be sure there are not any better options at WR.

If, for some reason, you’ve avoided running backs up to this point or the other drafters went extremely receiver-heavy through the first three rounds, don’t shy away from a running back that I already mentioned.

ROUND 4 (37-48): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER

The wide receivers in Round 4 are just as good as those in Round 3, so continue to pound away at the position. The wide receiver targets include Courtland Sutton, Marquise Brown, Amari Cooper, Terry McLaurin, Allen Robinson, Jerry Jeudy, Michael Thomas, and Gabriel Davis.

If you have only one running back rostered, the aforementioned Cam Akers is the priority target. After that, it’s Jets rookie first-rounder Breece Hall.

ROUND 5 (49-60): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER OR RUNNING BACK

Continue to bolster depth with the next tier of wide receivers (Rashod Bateman, Brandin Cooks, Darnell Mooney) and/or running backs (Josh Jacobs, Antonio Gibson, Travis Etienne Jr.), assuming the ones mentioned from Round 4 have already been selected.

ROUND 6 (61-72): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER, RUNNING BACK, OR AN ELITE QUARTERBACK

A few quarterbacks might go off the board before Round 6, but the opportunity cost is too high for fantasy football’s most easily replaceable position. The priority among the onesie position should be to lock up the tight end position at value, which already leaves rosters thinner than most at RB/WR.

If you desire a QB, draft whichever top-tier passer – Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, or Jalen Hurts – remains.

Don’t feel pressured to draft a signal-caller because there are still plenty of great options in the following rounds. If there is a potential breakout running back/wide receiver available, continue to exhaust the remaining running backs and wide receivers available atop the 2022 rankings.

ROUND 7 (73-84): DRAFT A QUARTERBACK, TIGHT END, RUNNING BACK, OR WIDE RECEIVER

Round 7 brings drafters back into the tight end pool, as both T.J Hockenson and Dalton Schultz should be readily available. They sometimes fall into Round 8, so you might be able to wait if you have an early pick there. You’ll want to attack the tight end position in the seventh for every other situation.

Hockenson’s the most intriguing from an upside perspective because his ADP fell dramatically from last season after failing to deliver on his Round 5 ADP. Mark Andrews was the tight end to target in Rd 5 last season, not Hockenson. But his price dip is eerily similar to Andrews’ from 2020-to-2021 when he failed to take the massive leap we all projected. We were just one year early.

That may be the same case with Hockenson, who was productive when healthy last season.

Through 13 weeks, the Detroit Lions tight end ranked sixth in points per game, fifth in targets per game (7), first in route participation (85%), third in target share (19%) and third in air yard share. Averaging over one more fantasy point from the year prior, Hockenson fits the mold as a post-hype sleeper.

It’s easy to wait on a quarterback knowing Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott are usually available in the seventh round.

There is also a plethora of talented wide receivers per usual, so take your shots on Elijah Moore, Drake London, Treylon Burks, DeVonta Smith, Brandon Aiyuk and Skyy Moore.

The difference between most of these receivers is negligible at best, so don’t reach here. In most home leagues, many of these guys will last through Rounds 7-9.

After the starting lineup is filled, the focus should be on filing most bench spots with backup running backs – not wide receivers.

ROUND 8 (85-96): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER OR RUNNING BACK

Tight ends start flying off the draft board here as other teams reach for need. You should be squared away in that department, but don’t panic if that’s not the case.

The middle-of-the-pack tight end tier is not worth over-investing in because the difference between TE7 through TE16 is marginal. In 2020, the TE7 (Mike Gesicki) outscored the TE16 (Jonnu Smith) by just 19 total fantasy points. In 2021, the TE6 (Zach Ertz) outscored the TE16 (Darren Waller) by 36 points.

The best “hits” from TE6 to TE13 ADP were Dallas Goedert (TE10), Mike Gesicki (TE8), and Noah Fant (TE9), but all they did was meet the expectations of their ADP. They provided zero to little advantage over the tight ends drafted after them.

So although there was a more significant gap between tight ends in the middle to late tier in 2021 compared to the year prior, the difference between the two ends of the spectrum was negligible at best.

The strategy in 2022 should be attacking elite tight ends early or waiting long past the top-12.

If you’ve committed to the savvy late-round tight end approach, then stick to your guns and continue to bolster depth by targeting the best wide receivers and running backs remaining from the highest tiers. In the coming rounds, you’ll be able to scoop up guys like Zach Ertz and Cole Kmet at better values.

This is also a great round to target some potential breakout running back candidates like Kareem Hunt or Devin Singletary.

The Buffalo back was unleashed down the stretch for the Bills, finishing as the RB3 in PPR scoring over the final six weeks of the season with 17 fantasy points per game. He gained the coaching staff’s trust by earning 54-plus snaps to close out the season; the highest snap number Singletary saw all season dating back to Week 1. With a proven track record and two years of bell-cow back usage in spurts, don’t be surprised when PFF’s fourth-ranked running back in rushes of 15-plus yards and seventh-ranked player in forced missed tackles in 2021 is the highly sought-after RB breakout who emerges from a high-octane ambiguous backfield.

Hunt’s been rumored to be on the trade block this offseason. His contract expires in 2023, and the Browns have a stable of backs behind Chubb, including D’Ernest Johnson, Jerome Ford and Demetric Felton. He is a prime trade target for any team that suffers an RB injury.

Last year Hunt was limited to just eight games due to a calf injury – but he maintained his effectiveness when healthy through the first six weeks of the season. He was a top-10 running back in PPR, averaging 17 fantasy points per game and just south of 15 touches per game.

His 6th-ranked yards after contact per attempt (3.54), 6th-ranked yards per route run (1.81), and 26% target rate suggest he’s not slowing down entering the age 27-season.

CTAs

ROUND 9 (97-108): DRAFT A QUARTERBACK, WIDE RECEIVER OR RUNNING BACK

There should be solid quarterbacks available once you hit the triple-digit draft picks, making this the sweet spot to address the position. Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, Trey Lance, and Derek Carr round out the options to target in Round 9.

ROUND 10 (109-120): DRAFT A RUNNING BACK OR WIDE RECEIVER

Your lineup should be shaping into form by Round 10, so start going after the guys you want, as reaching a round or two here will not make a difference. The focus should be on bolstering your bench with running backs.

Some of them have starter potential for Week 1, such as Sony Michel, James Cook, Dameon Pierce, or Ronald Jones. In contrast, others can be a FLEX with benefits, including Chase Edmonds, Melvin Gordon, Rashaad Penny, and Brian Robinson.

ROUND 11 (121-132): DRAFT A RUNNING BACK, WIDE RECEIVER, TIGHT END OR QUARTERBACK

You’ll want to continue hammering running backs, as more wide receiver depth doesn’t necessarily mean more upside for a fantasy football roster. If there is a screaming value available at the position, then go with the flow of the draft.

My favorite running backs in this range include Darrel Williams, Rhamondre Stevenson, Alexander Mattison and Rachaad White. The best wide receiver targets are Russell Gage, Allen Lazard, Jarvis Landry, Tim Patrick, Kenny Golladay, and Jahan Dotson.

You’ll want to pay super close attention to QB ADPs on your draft platform to get the best value. Generally speaking, Round 11 is a solid benchmark and should allow you to grab Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, or Justin Fields without reaching. They all possess easy back-end fantasy QB1 upside.

ROUND 12 (133-144): LOOK AT YOUR BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE LIST

Entering the 12th round, you should have a full starting roster assembled, outside of a kicker and D/ST. As a result, the rest of the draft should focus on depth, especially at positions where you’ve invested less capital.

Depending on the draft room, you might start seeing D/STs and kickers taken this early. Don’t be that person.

My highest-ranked players in this range include D’Onta Foreman, Hassan Haskins, Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Isaiah Spiller, Jakobi Meyers, Albert Okwuegbunam and Trevor Lawrence.

ROUND 13 (145-156): LOOK AT YOUR BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE LIST

More late-round quarterbacks are available in this range, but it’s unnecessary if you have already selected one. Drafting the best player available should still be the main approach.

ROUND 14 (157-168): LOOK AT YOUR BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE LIST

In these late rounds, the remaining skill position players are all “sleepers.” Check out my full sleeper list in the FantasyPros 2022 Fantasy Football Redraft Kit.

Based on my rankings, some of the players that may be included are K.J. Hamler, Jalen Tolbert, David Njoku, Joshua Palmer, Gerald Everett, Tyrion Davis-Price, Brevin Jordan, Derrick Gore, and Rex Burkhead.

ROUNDS 15-18 (169-216): DRAFT TWO SKILL PLAYERS, A KICKER AND A D/ST

The final four rounds of drafts will offer two “sleepers” along with a kicker and a D/ST. My recommended strategy is to go with a skill player in Round 15, followed by a kicker, DST, and then another skill player with the final selection.

The majority of skill players left are not long for spots on fantasy teams, so you’re better off investing in a kicker and DST – which you will need come Week 1. It’s better to reap the benefits of having a top option at each position while your league mates stress over which player will be their seventh wide receiver.

Justin Tucker, Daniel Carlson, Matt Gay, Evan McPherson and Nick Folk round out my top five at the kicker position.

As for D/STs, you must draft teams with solid matchups in Week 1. The 49ers, Broncos, Colts, Ravens, Saints, Colts, and Browns all have great long-term outlooks in addition to plus-matchups Week 1. The Titans (versus Giants) are also in a solid spot for opening weekend.


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