Predicting the Highest Scoring Rookies by Position (2022 Fantasy Football)
With the NFL draft now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to begin assessing what the results mean for fantasy football. Many skill-position players were drafted, including nine quarterbacks, 22 running backs, 28 wide receivers and 19 tight ends. Most of these players won’t impact fantasy football, but a few will shine. Predicting who will succeed, however, is easier said than done.
Below are some candidates who could have an impactful 2022 at their respective positions. After a quick synopsis, I’ll make my best guess as to whom I think will be the highest scorer next season. Next January, feel free to hit me up on Twitter to mock my inaccuracy.
The 2022 NFL draft was not replete with high ceiling QBs. Only one, Kenny Pickett (QB – PIT), was drafted in the first two rounds. Three other QBs who went in Round 3 have a shot at playing time this season: Desmond Ridder (QB – ATL), Malik Willis (QB – TEN) and Matt Corral (QB – CAR). Of these four QBs, Willis seems the least likely to contribute this year as Ryan Tannehill (QB – TEN) is firmly entrenched as the starter. The other three will probably begin the season as backups but could take over the reins at some point.
Highest Scoring Rookie QB Prediction: Kenny Pickett
Pickett enters the NFL after a fantastic senior season and is the only quarterback whose team was willing to invest an early draft pick on. He has an excellent chance to beat out Mitchell Trubisky (QB – PIT) for the starting gig to begin the season if he has a good camp. Pittsburgh has shown a willingness to start a rookie QB on a good team before, as Ben Roethlisberger started immediately upon his entrance into the NFL and led them to a Super Bowl victory during his second season. The Steelers should be plenty familiar with Pickett, as they share a practice facility with the Pitt Panthers — where Pickett was the starter the past four seasons.
Rookie Running Backs
Running backs didn’t fly off the board early in this year’s draft either. This fact may have less to do with the talent of the players in the draft and more to do with the current value of the position in NFL GMs’ minds. Of the 22 RBs drafted, none went in Round 1 and only three went in Round 2. These three players, Breece Hall (RB – NYJ), Kenneth Walker III (RB – SEA) and James Cook (RB – BUF), are also the most likely to be fantasy relevant in 2022.
Highest Scoring Rookie RB Prediction: Breece Hall
Only Hall figures to be guaranteed a substantial workload among these three backs. Walker will have to fight for carries in Seattle with Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA) — who finished 2021 strong — and potentially Chris Carson (RB – SEA) if he can return from his neck injury. Cook figures to be used some in the passing game for the Bills, but how much is questionable as long as Devin Singletary (RB – BUF), Zack Moss (RB – BUF) and the recently signed Duke Johnson (RB – BUF) remain on the team. Hall and Michael Carter (RB – NYJ) should split most of the snaps in the Jets backfield. Hall’s size, explosiveness and pass-catching ability could vault him ahead of Carter on the depth chart in short order, though both players figure to be heavily involved.
Rookie Wide Receivers
Wide receiver was the one skill position in this year’s draft that was strong and deep. Of the 28 receivers drafted, six went in Round 1, seven in Round 2 and another four in Round 3. Thus, selecting which of these talented wideouts has the best chance of breaking out as a rookie is difficult. As there is a lot of talent here, it may come down to opportunity. After perusing FantasyPros NFL Depth Charts, I narrowed it down to the four who have the best chance to make an impact this season: Drake London (WR – ATL), Chris Olave (WR – NO), Treylon Burks (WR – TEN) and Christian Watson (WR – GB).
Before jumping in a bit more on these four, the potential hurdles some of the other top picks face are worth mentioning. Here is a quick grouping of the other top receivers in this class and the obstacles they face heading into the 2022 season:
Highest Scoring Rookie WR Prediction: Treylon Burks
It was a tough call between Burks and London. Both should be utilized from the get-go, especially London, as Atlanta is very thin on established pass-catchers. Burks joins Robert Woods (WR – TEN) as the likely starting wideouts on the Titans, replacing A.J. Brown (WR – PHI) and Julio Jones (WR – FA). As Woods is recovering from an ACL tear, Burks could see a heavy target share early on. He also has the advantage of having a more consistent QB than London, and he should draw less defensive attention due to the Titans’ ability to run the ball.
Watson and Olave should also step into the starting lineup and have tremendous upside. However, it doesn’t feel like they’ll produce as consistently as Burks and London. Watson is often compared to the ex-Packer Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR – KC), who wasn’t the most consistent fantasy player in his time with the team. Not to mention, Aaron Rodgers (QB – GB) has not favored rookies much in his career. Olave should have some big games catching bombs from Jameis Winston (QB – NO) but may have trouble getting consistent targets if Michael Thomas (WR – NO) is finally back and healthy.
Rookie Tight Ends
This year’s draft did not feature many high-end tight ends. Only four heard their names called in the first three rounds, and of those, only three have potential fantasy relevance in 2022: Trey McBride (TE – ARI), Jelani Woods (TE – IND) and Greg Dulcich (TE – DEN).
Highest Scoring Rookie TE Prediction: Trey McBride
Barring an injury to the starter, it’s doubtful any of these first-year tight ends will be very relevant for fantasy purposes in 2022. So I’ll have to roll with the player who has the most upside here in McBride. McBride led all FBS TEs in targets, receptions and yards at Colorado State last year and could be the most talented pass-catcher in the class. Unfortunately, he’s stuck behind another incredibly talented pass-catcher in Zach Ertz (TE – ARI). Cardinals’ HC Kliff Kingsbury is a creative offensive coach, however, so it’s conceivable that he will find a way to incorporate McBride into the offense this season.
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