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Best Ball Rookies to Avoid Following the NFL Draft (2022 Fantasy Football)

by Bradley Stalder | Featured Writer
May 14, 2022
Jahan Dotson

Now that the dust has settled from the NFL draft, fantasy managers know the landing spots for all the rookies. While the likes of Skyy Moore and Christian Watson landed with perennial top-tier quarterbacks in Kansas City and Green Bay respectively, other rookie landing spots may prove to be tough sledding to find fantasy relevance right away. Additionally, the prospect profiles and coaching schemes are also necessary considerations. Below are best ball rookies to avoid following the NFL draft.

Malik Willis (QB – TEN)

Perhaps the greatest surprise of the draft, the unceremonious fall of Malik Willis finally ended in the back end of the third round when the Tenessee Titans selected him as the third quarterback off the rookie draft board behind Kenny Pickett and Desmond Ridder. Willis’ current ADP as QB33 on Underdog Fantasy and QB32 on Drafters Fantasy indicate that he’s still being drafted as a late-round consideration. Barring a Ryan Tannehill injury, Malik Willis won’t see the field in a meaningful way in 2022. Tannehill, in fact, has stayed mostly healthy and hasn’t missed a game since Week 6 of 2018 due to a shoulder sprain. While Willis put up gaudy numbers at Liberty in 2020 and 2021, there had been serious questions about how his game would immediately translate to the NFL.

Additionally, if something catastrophic happens like Tannehill tearing his ACL in the preseason, the most likely outcome would be for Tennessee to trade for a veteran QB like Baker Mayfield instead of forcing Malik Willis into a starting role. And, even if the Titans don’t trade for a quarterback in that scenario, an unproven Willis would be throwing to the newly acquired aged 30 Robert Woods, coming off a Week 9 ACL tear, and fellow rookie Treylon Burks as top pass-catching options. This is not a formula for fantasy success. The worst-case scenario for Malik Willis is the Justin Fields 2021 starting debut against Cleveland, where Fields threw for 68 yards at a 30% completion rate and only ran for 12 yards.

Action Item: Consider drafting Jimmy Garoppolo at ADP 214 instead if you are QB-needy that late in your draft.

Jahan Dotson (WR – WAS)

Jahan Dotson was selected as the fifth WR in the first round behind Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jameson Williams. Last season, the Commanders struggled to get production from their secondary receiving options. Both Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas struggled to stay healthy. Surprisingly, Adam Humphries was second on the team in targets only behind Terry McLaurin. And even behind Humphries, DeAndre Carter and Dyami Brown rotated along with Cam Sims and Dax Milne at times for WR snaps.

And yet, Washington’s draft of Dotson felt like a reach after Jameson Williams’ selection ended that top-five tier. Dotson flashed 4.43 40-yard-dash speed but did not declare early for the NFL draft out of Penn State. His quarterback is newly acquired Carson Wentz, exiled from the Indianapolis Colts after failing to make the playoffs in 2021. Wentz likes to throw to his WR1, RBs, and TEs. Dotson will have to compete with Thomas, Samuel, and J.D. McKissic for targets to have any fantasy relevance, much less a chance to enter your best-ball lineups.

Action Item: Consider George Pickens instead if interested in a rookie WR at ADP154.

Dameon Pierce (RB – HOU)

Pierce was selected early on Day 3 by the Houston Texans. He enters a crowded backfield shared by Rex Burkhead, Marlon Mack, and Dare Ogunbowale — all three veteran RBs with varying levels of success. This situation feels eerily similar to 2021, where the Houston Texans brought in Burkhead and Mark Ingram alongside David Johnson — a difficult backfield to decipher.

As a prospect, there’s not much about Pierce that stands out. He doesn’t run fast with a 4.59 40-yard dash; he doesn’t have a lot of experience catching passes in college, with a season target share never exceeding 5%; and he was not asked to “carry the load” while averaging about eight carries per game during both the 2020 and 2021 collegiate seasons at Florida. In short, Day 3 draft capital + crowded backfield + mediocre profile = Avoid.

Action Item: At ADP 166 overall, consider Khalil Herbert or Jamaal Williams instead of Pierce.

Trey McBride (TE – ARI)

A second-round selection by the Arizona Cardinals, McBride has all the physical tools to be a fantasy-relevant TE in years to come. However, his landing spot in Arizona abruptly puts a damper on any hope he’ll achieve the elusive Pat Freiermuth or Kyle Pitts rookie-TE breakout.

Perennial Pro Bowl TE Zach Ertz re-signed with the Cardinals through at least 2023 on a 3-year, $31.65 million deal this offseason. And while DeAndre Hopkins will be suspended for six games, Rondale Moore, A.J. Green, and Antoine Wesley will step up. The Cardinals’ offensive personnel grouping frequency ranked near league average among “12 personnel”– so while McBride may get some snaps, Ertz should receive the majority of single TE reps. There’s nothing special there. For what it’s worth, Dallas Goedert‘s rookie season in 2018 playing behind Ertz in Philadelphia resulted in three top-12 TE weekly finishes — but the Eagles ran the most “12 personnel” packages in the NFL that season.

Action Item: Unless Ertz suffers a preseason injury, there’s no reason to have a high draft equity investment in McBride.

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