Derek Brown’s Perfect 2022 Fantasy Football Draft
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The goal of every fantasy football manager is to complete the perfect draft. Impossible, you say? Let’s call it a stretch goal and strive for fantasy football glory. Here’s Derek Brown’s perfect 2022 fantasy football draft.
*All data utilized in this article courtesy of FantasyPros, PFF, Football Outsiders and Playerprofiler.com unless otherwise specified.*
Derek Brown’s Perfect 2022 Fantasy Football Draft
Approach to Round 1
With a top-three pick, I’ll grab one of Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, or Cooper Kupp. Whoever falls to me in that range is perfectly fine, so I’ll mention some attainable players without a top-three selection for my early-round targets here.
Early-Round Players to Target
- Justin Jefferson: Justin Jefferson’s path of ascension isn’t complete yet. Jefferson could finish as the WR1 overall in 2022 after logging a WR4 ranking last year. He was near the top of the leaderboard in every efficiency metric, ranking seventh in yards per route run, tenth in route win rate, and first in weighted opportunity.
- Dalvin Cook: Dalvin Cook has played at least 13 games in each of the last three seasons, so injury concerns are a tad embellished. Over that span, Cook has been the RB9, RB2, and RB2 in fantasy points per game. Entering his age 27 season, he showed plenty left in the tank last season, sitting at 11th in evaded tackles and second in breakaway runs. Cook is among the best-receiving backs in the NFL, ranking eighth and 11th in yards per route run among running backs in 2019-2020. The Vikings are rumored to utilize him in the passing game more this season. Cook saw target shares of 13.4% (ninth) and 16.0% (tenth) in 2019 and 2020 before the downturn last season. If the pass game usage returns to previous levels, Cook could be the RB1 in 2022.
Mid-Round Players to Target
- Ja’Marr Chase: Ja’Marr Chase always had elite upside, but it was nice to see it immediately in year one as he was the WR5. Chase was eighth in yards per route run and fourth in YAC per reception while also leading the league in deep targets. Chase has the deep role for the Bengals on lockdown. After seeing only 12 red-zone targets (35th) last season, there’s an even higher touchdown ceiling that he can reach despite ranking fourth in total touchdowns last season among wideouts.
- Najee Harris: Last year Najee Harris amassed 1,667 total yards and ten touchdowns en route to an RB6 finish. Now, with worries about his weight and headlines of the Steelers possibly decreasing his workload, some might feel slight hesitancy with drafting him in the first round. They shouldn’t. Last year Harris became one of only five players since 2017 to handle 380 or more touches in a season. His workload needed to come down some if we want him available for every game. On the subject of his weight, Harris played last season at only four pounds lighter, so those worries are also overblown. If the Steelers feature an improved offense in 2022, Harris can improve on his 38 red zone touches (21st) last year and land in the top three at his position.
Late-Round Players to Target
- D’Andre Swift: Before suffering a shoulder injury last season, D’Andre Swift was the RB7 in fantasy points per game. As the season progressed, Swift distanced himself from Jamaal Williams, finishing 12th in weighted opportunities and eighth in snap share. Swift was incredibly efficient, ranking ninth in yards per route run, 18th in evaded tackles, and first in yards created per touch. Swift was only 29th in red-zone touches last year, resulting from the Lions ranking 29th in red-zone scoring attempts per game. With an improved supporting cast, Swift’s touchdown outlook is even higher in 2022.
- Stefon Diggs: Stefon Diggs wasn’t able to top his electric first season in Buffalo last year as he slipped to WR9 in fantasy points per game. His volume and usage remained top shelf as he finished top 12 in weighted opportunity (12th), target share (11th), and air yard share (12th). The largest regression point for Diggs was his yards per route run as they tumbled from 2.49 to 1.84, which was still a top 25 mark (25th) among wide receivers with 50 or more targets. At age 28, this may be the first sign of aging for Diggs, but he’s still worth drafting this early with confidence. He’s the main squeeze for arguably the best quarterback in the game, locked inside a top-five scoring offense that will push the pace and passing rates.
Approach to Round 2
Early-Round Players to Target
- Travis Kelce: You need Doc Brown and a Delorean to find a season where Travis Kelce has finished lower than the TE2 in fantasy points per game. We’d have to press the pedal to the metal and travel back to 2015 when Kelce was the TE9. Returning to 2022, Kelce is entering his age 33 season, and despite now being an elder statesman, his metrics last season remained strong. He was seventh in yards per route run and 15th in YAC per reception. Comparing Kelce’s 2021 per game fantasy output, he would have been the RB10 or the WR11. Still tied to one of the best quarterbacks in the game as his unquestioned number one option, Kelce is worth paying up for.
- CeeDee Lamb: This season is CeeDee Lamb’s opportunity to step into the league’s elite receiver tier. The Cowboys have cleared the runway for Lamb with the departure of Amari Cooper for that to happen. Lamb was 13th in yards per route run last season while also operating as a steamroller in the open field. He was fourth in missed tackles forced and 14th in yards after the catch during the regular season. As Dallas’s number one option, he can improve upon last year’s WR18 finish.
Mid-Round Players to Target
- Leonard Fournette: Leonard Fournette was the RB3 in fantasy points per game last season, yet he’ll slip to this point of the draft or later. Training camp pictures with Fournette showing off some offseason “gains” will push him down the board in some draft rooms. A workhorse running back in a top-five scoring offense should not leave the top two rounds. Fournette likely repeats his top 12 snap (12th) and weighted opportunity shares (seventh) from last season as he bulldozes his way to another fantastic season.
- Saquon Barkley: Saquon Barkley is in a fantastic spot to help himself in a contract year. The nightmare fuel of a Joe Judge, Jason Garrett, or Freddie Kitchens-led offense is gone. Barkley gets a scheme upgrade and help up front to open running lanes with their return to zone rushing. The Giants added Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinski, and Evan Neal to plow the road and protect Daniel Jones, so he can sustain drives this season. With the buzz that Brian Daboll and company want to utilize Barkley in the passing game more if the stars align, he can return to the dizzying heights of his early career production.
Late-Round Players to Target
- Mike Evans: The dawn of another NFL season equals another opportunity to draft underrated Mike Evans. He’s the poster boy for consistency, ranking as a top 20 wide receiver every year except for one. With Chris Godwin recovering from injury and Russell Gage in the first year of the TB12 experience, look for Evans’ 12.7% target per snap rate (52nd) and target share to climb. Evans was 15th in deep targets and 11th in red-zone targets last season. He could easily see more volume in both areas in 2022, propelling him into top-five status at the wide receiver position.
- Javonte Williams: Regardless of whatever metric you look to when evaluating running back play, you’ll likely find Javonte Williams near the top of the list. Williams finished last season as the RB22 in fantasy points per game despite only carving out a 50.5% opportunity share (31st). Yes, Melvin Gordon is back in the fold, but if Williams can grab even a 60% share of this backfield, he could explode in an improved offense this season. Williams ranked sixth in evaded tackles and seventh in yards created per touch. While many know his rushing prowess, his pass game skills are being slept on. With Nathaniel Hackett dialing up the screen rate this season for Russell Wilson, Williams should be heavily involved after ranking 17th in yards per route run last year. The needle is pointing up for one of the league’s best young rushers.
Approach to Round 3
Early-Round Players to Target
- James Conner: James Conner is locked and loaded as Arizona’s do-it-all back in 2022. Last season when he was the workhorse, he averaged 21.8 touches and 114.4 total yards per game as the RB2 in fantasy. The addition of Darrel Williams might hurt Conner in the pass game route department some, but his role as the primary goal-line back should be safe. In 2021 he ranked 16th in red-zone touches and 18th in red-zone touch share, but he was the most effective red-zone back in the NFL. Conner led all running backs in red zone touchdown conversion rate.
- A.J. Brown: Adding one of the league’s most efficient wide receivers, A.J. Brown, to the Eagles’ passing attack will pay immediate dividends. Brown was eighth in yards per route run last season. Brown could set career-high marks across the board if the Eagles dial the passing volume up in 2022. Philadelphia attempted to go pass-heavy last year but then skewed run-centric when they realized they didn’t have the personnel to do it. Despite two seasons under his belt ranking inside the top-five among receivers in total touchdowns, Brown has never finished higher than 29th in red zone target volume. The Eagles led the NFL in red zone rushing rate last year with 61% (league average 48%). With the touchdown pendulum set to swing back to the passing game once they get in close, Brown could challenge for the league lead in receiving touchdowns.
Mid-Round Players to Target
- Tee Higgins: The target consolidation in the Bengals’ passing attack is beautiful. We have already seen Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins both smash in the same season, so there’s no reason to think they can’t do it in 2022. Higgins was the WR12 in fantasy points per game last year. He was the 11th-highest-graded wide receiver per PFF and tenth in yards per route run (minimum 50 targets). While Higgins might not have top 3-5 upside without a Chase injury, getting a top 12-15 fantasy wideout in the third round is still nice.
- Michael Pittman: After finishing as the WR22 in fantasy points per game last year with hapless Carson Wentz, Michael Pittman is primed to ascend to WR1 status in 2022. Pittman was a top 20 wideout last season in PFF grade (18th), yards per route run (19th), and red-zone targets (14th). With the Colts likely bumping up the passing rate with the arrival of Matt Ryan, Pittman is a smash value in the late third or early fourth round.
- D.J. Moore: D.J. Moore has suffered through gag-inducing quarterback play throughout his career. With Baker Mayfield in town, this could be the year that reaches a screeching halt. Moore was the WR13 in expected fantasy points last year, commanding a 28.4% target share (fifth) and 28.3% target per route run rate (11th). The Panthers’ limp-armed signal callers last year crushed his production, though, as he finished as the WR23 in fantasy points per game. This can be traced back to him dealing with a 71.6% catchable target rate (71st) and a 4.8 target quality rating (72nd). With Moore’s volume locked in and Mayfield raising the passing bar, this could be the year we finally see his name mentioned among the best receivers in the league.
Late-Round Players to Target
- Cam Akers: Cam Akers miraculously made it back for the playoffs last season. It’s almost a definite to assume Akers wasn’t at 100%, but Sean McVay reinstalled him as the workhorse regardless. His 2.31 yards after contact per attempt was a massive decline from the 2.96 he rumbled for in his first year in the league. With a full offseason to resharpen the tools in his arsenal, Akers is a mispriced 18-20 touch per game running back in one of the league’s best offenses.
- Kyle Pitts: Kyle Pitts broke the mold for rookie tight ends last season, living up to his unicorn status. He was third in receiving yards and eighth in receptions among tight ends while also sitting at fourth in yards per route run. Expecting improvement in year two isn’t crazy despite how well he played in his first season. The easy layup for improvement in his 2022 fantasy output versus last year is in the touchdown department. Despite ranking tenth in red-zone targets, he only mustered one score. This number is going up, so we can expect Pitts to lap his TE11 finish last year.
Round 4 Target
- Breece Hall: With Breece Hall on the roster and the team looking to ease Zach Wilson into his second season, the Jets could lean even more run-heavy in close games in 2022. Last season they were 15th in neutral script rushing rate. They have added further reinforcements this offseason to an offensive line that was 11th in open field yards in 2021. Hall is a perfect fit in the Jets outside zone scheme with his electric burst and home run-hitting ability.
- Courtland Sutton: Courtland Sutton is a #DErickson approved draft pick this year. Our love affair with Russell Wilson’s new alpha wide receiver is well known. I outlined why I’m targeting him in every draft in my players to target in 2022 article.
Round 5 Target
- Rashod Bateman: Rashod Bateman’s 2022 season has breakout written all over it. Marquise Brown commanded the 12th highest target share among all wide receivers last season. That volume is in the range of outcomes for Bateman, who is a better route runner and separator than Brown. Matt Harmon’s analysis with Reception Perception concluded that Bateman’s success rate was in the 85th percentile against zone coverage and 81st percentile versus press. It’s rocket ship time for Baltimore’s new X receiver.
Round 6 Target
- Jalen Hurts: Jalen Hurts haters will never admit it, but Hurts could lead you to a league title again in 2022. The rushing upside is a known commodity as he was pacing towards 1,000 yards on the ground before his injury last year. The passing upside is what could push him over the top this season. He continued to show improvement in this area as the season wore on. Over his final six games, he was 16th in PFF grade, 15th in adjusted completion rate, and 13th in deep-ball completion rate (minimum 100 dropbacks). While none of these are among the elite-level quarterbacks in the NFL, with Hurts’ rushing dynamism, he doesn’t have to be that good as a passer to continue to ascend in fantasy football.
- Gabriel Davis: It hurts not to pick Drake London here, I’ll admit. If you’re looking for an alternate selection, it’s London. Sometimes we don’t have to make it complicated, yet here we are. Davis is the full-time wide receiver tied to Josh Allen in one of the best offenses in the NFL. Just stating this should make you drool, but if that analysis is too broad for you, enjoy this next nugget. In 2021 after becoming a full-time starter, he logged a 2.10 yards per route run. Throughout a full season, this would have been ranked 13th among wide receivers (minimum 50 targets). Don’t overthink it. Draft Gabriel Davis if you like talented players on high-scoring teams.
Round 7 Target
- Tony Pollard: Tony Pollard was one of the most efficient running backs in the NFL. Last season he was fourth in yards after contact per attempt behind only Rashaad Penny, Nick Chubb, and Jonathan Taylor (minimum 100 carries, per PFF). He was also first in yards per route run at the position. Pollard offers stand-alone production as he was the RB30 in fantasy points per game last season. If anything happens to Ezekiel Elliott, Pollard has league-winning upside, but his stand-alone upside is being slept on. I’m buying into the camp buzz that he’ll be used from the slot more this season and in the passing game. The Cowboys will remain one of the pass-heaviest teams in the NFL, and with them being short on receiving weapons, Pollard should gobble up targets this season.
Round 8 Target
- Rhamondre Stevenson: Once you’ve reached the middle rounds of a draft, the name of the game is home run swings. Which players can you target at these junctures that, if they hit, will be moonshot grand slams? Rhamondre Stevenson is one of those players. He displayed an explosive three-down skill set when on the field last year, ranking fourth in juke rate, 15th in yards created per touch, and eighth in yards per route run (minimum 20 targets). While Damien Harris is no slouch, he doesn’t have the receiving skills Stevenson does. Stevenson can dominate the passing down work if James White can’t work his way into game shape and eat into the early down work.
Round 9 Target
- Kadarius Toney: In this realm of the draft, the name of the game is home run swings. Kadarius Toney is a fastball right down the heart of the plate in round 11. Even though it was a limited sample, Toney tickled our curiosity with possibly insane upside. Last year among wide receivers with 100 or more routes, only Toney, Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, and Antonio Brown had a 29% or higher target per route run rate and 2.20 or higher yards per route run. The risk is baked into his ADP, but the upside isn’t.
Round 10 Target
- James Cook: James Cook will automatically hog the passing downs for the Bills. Devin Singletary has struggled as a pass protector and has been horribly inefficient as a receiving option. Among 73 running backs with 15 or more targets last season, Singletary was 71st in yards per route run. Cook will be a pass game weapon from Day 1 with the upside to eat into Singletary’s early-down work and high-value touches.
Round 11 Target
- Jakobi Meyers: After compiling a top 36 wide receiver last season (WR35), you’d think the fantasy community would put some respect on Jakobi Meyers’ name, but sadly this isn’t the case. Meyers should be a priority target at this point in a draft. He finished sixth in route win rate and second in win rate against man coverage last year. If the Patriots take the training wheels off Mac Jones and let him chuck the rock at will this year, Meyers could be moon-bound. Take advantage of the field’s tepid approach to the Patriots’ offense and punch your ticket for this magical voyage.
- Justin Fields: The brakes need to be pumped immediately on Justin Fields’ fear. Fields finished as a top ten fantasy quarterback in each of his final four full starts last year, with Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet leading the way. Fields averaged 64.2 rushing yards per game in that stretch. While Trevor Lawrence is granted leniency as he emerges from the depths of a broken offensive system, Fields isn’t afforded the same vibe. Unlike Lawrence, Fields displayed growth down the stretch despite his difficult surrounding last year. In his full starts after Week 7, he was the 11th highest graded passer per PFF and seventh in big-time throw rate.
- Skyy Moore: Like with Drake London, it hurts my heart not to name Isaiah Spiller here. Spiller is the 1B selection should you get sniped on Skyy Moore. Moore has the talent and tackle-breaking ability to serve as the underneath weapon Patrick Mahomes sorely needed last year. Moore ranked eighth in yards per route run and 16th in yards after the catch last year (minimum 50 targets). The hype is justified, and the “Skyy” high ceiling is real.
Round 12 Target
- Irv Smith Jr.: Irv Smith is the perfect late-round dart throw at the tight end position. He’s young, talented, in a consolidated passing offense, and in a contract year. What’s not to like here? In 2020 he was eighth in yards after the catch per reception and fifth in passer rating when targeted from the slot (minimum ten slot targets). Smith is a mismatch weapon from the slot for new head coach Kevin O’Connell.
- Albert Okwuegbunam: Albert Okwuegbunam resides in a crowded receiving depth chart with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Tim Patrick all possibly above him in the target line. Okwuegbunam is a player to push your chips to the middle with if we’re betting on talent winning out, especially late in drafts. Over the last two years, he has ranked sixth and fifth in yards per route run and seventh and fourth in YAC per reception (minimum 15 targets). Talent plus massive touchdown upside in an improved offense make Okwuegbunam a priority late-round tight end target.
Round 13 Target
- Rachaad White: While Ke’Shawn Vaughn hype memories remain, Rachaad White is an entirely different beast that resides in one of the league’s best offenses. If Leonard Fournette succumbs to injury or the Slimfast shakes don’t do the trick, White could be a league-winning pick in 2022. White finished his career at Arizona State with a 98th percentile target share and 88th percentile dominator. He was ninth in yards per route run, and the third-highest PFF graded receiving back in 2021 (minimum 20 targets). With the size and soft hands to handle a three-down workload, it is easy to envision a sky-high ceiling in his range of outcomes.
Final Round Targets Targets
- Jameson Williams: Jameson Williams is the perfect dart to throw as a premeditated stretch run difference-maker. Williams’ health is still in the air as he could start the year on the PUP. He could be the explosive element for the Lions’ passing attack and your fantasy squad when he can get on the field. In his final collegiate season as the Alabama alpha, he was 13th in yards per route run (minimum 50 targets).
- David Njoku: My love for David Njoku is well known if you have already listened to our scorching hot take podcast episode. Njoku has the perfect blend of talent and circumstances that we covet in a breakout tight end. He’s an elite athlete with target volume upside in a consolidated passing tree.
- Tyrion Davis-Price: Depending on which site you’re drafting on, Tyrion Davis-Price could be buried in the ADP, so make sure you find him and add him to the queue before you’re on the clock late. Could Elijah Mitchell return as the 49ers’ primary rusher for 2022? Sure. Is the possibility that Davis-Price wrangling the starter’s job away from Mitchell factored into his ADP? No. His bruising frame and 73rd percentile 10-yard split time could allow him to take over as Kyle Shanahan’s primary early-down and goal-line hammer.
- Jalen Tolbert: Jalen Tolbert is competing with James Washington for starter snaps once Michael Gallup returns to the lineup. Tolbert should beat out Washington, who has only been a part-time field stretcher in his NFL career. In Tolbert’s range of outcomes also lies the possibility that he supplants Michael Gallup as the main competitor with Dalton Schultz for the number two role in this passing offense. Gallup has been just a guy for most of his career, with sub 1.40 yards per route marks in three of his four seasons. Tolbert might hale from a small school, but after ranking 32nd and 12th in yards per route run (minimum 50 targets) over his final two college seasons, we can say the talent is legit.
Derek Brown’s 2022 Redraft Fantasy Football Rankings
ADP – Average Draft Position
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