The 2022 NFL season is approaching, so it’s time to prepare for your fantasy football draft. What better way to do that than to practice drafting with our free mock draft simulator! Beyond our tools, we’ll also have you covered throughout the draft prep season with our content.
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 Matthew Freedman’s perfect 2022 fantasy football draft.
Pat Fitzmaurice’s Perfect 2022 Fantasy Football Draft
Let’s start by stating the obvious: League settings matter.
If you’re playing in a superflex league, be sure to check out our Guide to Superflex Drafts. The superflex format dramatically changes the calculus, so I will stick with 1QB leagues in this article.
The setting that affects my draft strategy the most is the number of wide receivers you’re required to start. If a league only requires you to start two WRs weekly, I won’t be wedded to either a WR-heavy or RB-heavy strategy. But if a league requires you to start three WRs, I’m going with a WR-heavy draft every time.
Think about it. If the configuration is 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, and 1 flex, 37.5% of your starters (excluding defenses and kickers) will be wide receivers, and it jumps to 50% if you start a WR in your flex spot.
The WR position becomes critically important if you have to start three of them, so I want to attack the position early in drafts. Four of my first six picks will likely be WRs, and it’s a mortal lock that four of my first seven picks will be WRs.
I want to have a decisive advantage over my competitors at wide receiver. I want to put them in a headlock at the position. Wait, no … that doesn’t adequately reflect the amount of pain I wish to inflict. I want to hit them with a superkick at the position.
Nothing against running backs. Many people consider them the lifeblood of fantasy football, and there’s no denying that winning a fantasy championship with substandard production at the RB position is challenging.
But the robust-RB people should probably acknowledge that there’s a high injury rate at the position and that we see running backs emerge from the fog every year to be fantasy-relevant, if not fantasy-dominant. How many times have running backs with ADPs of RB60 or higher stepped into high-leverage roles due to injury and sparked huge bidding wars on waivers? It happens every year, often more than once.
Wide receivers get hurt, too, but it’s rare to see a wide receiver who went largely undrafted in fantasy leagues turn into an impactful fantasy asset. You get what you pay for at WR more often than at RB. I’d rather sink more draft capital into a position with low volatility than one with high volatility.
This approach requires me to set another guideline for myself: I might draft a TE early, and I might draft a QB early, but I won’t draft both a TE and a QB early.
I can’t afford to because I’m concentrating on the WR position in the early rounds while still trying to at least pay lip service to the RB position. That doesn’t afford me the luxury of paying Gucci prices for a TE and a QB, and I’ll cut corners at one of those positions, maybe even both.
All right, let’s get on with it.
Approach to Round 1
No point speaking in generalities. This is my draft board for the first round of PPR of 0.5 PPR drafts:
- Jonathan Taylor
- Christian McCaffrey
- Cooper Kupp
- Ja’Marr Chase
- Justin Jefferson
- Dalvin Cook
- Austin Ekeler
- Najee Harris
- Derrick Henry
- Joe Mixon
- D’Andre Swift
- Davante Adams*
(*This could also be Stefon Diggs, depending on my mood.)
Jonathan Taylor is a monster, and he’s been remarkably durable over three college seasons and two NFL seasons. Christian McCaffrey has not been especially durable, but he produces at a Marshall Faulk level when healthy. Since 2018, McCaffrey has averaged 22.3 fantasy points per game (0.5 PPR), and Taylor has averaged 18.4 FPPG over his first two seasons.
If Taylor and CMC aren’t available to me, I’m looking to draft one of the Big Three receivers — Cooper Kupp, Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson. Since there’s usually a frenzy to grab first-round running backs, I have a good chance to get a wide receiver if JT and CMC are already gone. The consensus FantasyPros ADP has Kupp going 1.05, Jefferson 1.07, and Chase 1.09.
I like Dalvin Cook more than most, and for the same reason, I like McCaffrey: Cook does a lot of damage when healthy. He’s averaged 112.8 scrimmage yards and 17.2 fantasy points (0.5 PPR) per game over five NFL seasons.
Approach to Round 2
This is where my RB tiers and WR tiers come into play. D’Andre Swift is probably the only one of my Tier 2 running backs with a chance to be around early in the second. If here’s there, I’ll take him.
Approach to Rounds 3-6
In principle, I think the Zero RB approach is viable and savvy. In practice, I’m not entirely comfortable with it and prefer going with a Hero RB approach or grabbing a couple of running backs in this portion of the draft.
But this is fertile ground for WRs, and I still want to throw more punches at that position. My colleague Matthew Freedman wrote something that struck a chord with me in his article about his perfect 2022 draft:
“This area in the draft is sometimes referred to as the ‘Running Back Dead Zone.’ I prefer to think of it as the ‘Wide Receiver Power Alley.’ ”
He’s right. The third and fourth rounds are laden with WR talent. Michael Pittman, Amari Cooper and Mike Williams are top-20 WRs on my board who have fifth-round ADPs. Brandin Cooks is a top-20 WR for me with a sixth-round ADP.
The question is where to find running backs in this part of the draft. I’m comfortable with the following RBs at their overall ADPs, which are listed in parentheses:
Cam Akers (27) – He has a three-down skill set, and his heavy usage in last season’s playoff suggests he will have a big role in 2022. Also, Sean McVay’s offenses are always good.
Breece Hall (44) – A blind bet on a prodigious talent.
David Montgomery (36) – The Bears’ offense is going to be lousy, but Montgomery figures to get heavy touch volume once again.
Travis Etienne (47) – I love the value here on an electric playmaker who’s good at catching passes.
A.J. Dillon (56) – If I can’t get Aaron Jones, I’ll target Dillon for many of the same reasons I like Jones.
Miles Sanders (72) – If his late-sixth-round ADP holds, Sanders will be on several of my teams. Sanders failed to score a TD on 163 touches last season, but he’s still the No. 1 back in a strong offense. The Eagles have a lot of run-pass option (RPO) stuff in their playbook, which benefits running backs. Sanders averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2020 and 5.5 yards per carry in 2021.
Again, I’m hoping to have four WRs by the time Round 6 is over, and if I don’t, I’ll get that fourth WR in Round 7.
Some other notes on this part of the draft:
- If I don’t get Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews in the second round, I’ll consider Kyle Pitts in the third or George Kittle in the fourth, but I’m not hell-bent on getting a top TE.
- If I draft Ja’Marr Chase in the first round, I’ll be aggressive in targeting Joe Burrow at or above his overall ADP (54)
- If I don’t get a top tight end, I’ll at least consider Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray or Jalen Hurts in the fifth or sixth.
Approach to Rounds 7-10
If I don’t have a QB yet, I’m getting one in this portion of the draft.
If I don’t have a TE yet, I’m (probably) getting one in this portion of the draft.
I’m probably grabbing another RB in this range and throwing another log on the WR fire.
Favorite targets in these rounds at their ADPs:
QBs – Trey Lance (105)
TEs – Zach Ertz (97)
Approach to Rounds 11-18
My favorite targets by round:
Round 11 – Cole Kmet. He’s had lousy touchdown luck, but Kmet had 60 catches for 612 yards last year, and as bad as the Chicago WR corps is beyond Darnell Mooney, QB Justin Fields is probably going to throw to Kmet often.
Round 13 – Jahan Dotson. He’s fast, has terrific hands, and is shockingly good at making contested catches for a 5-11, 182-pound receiver. Some people thought Washington reached for Dotson at No. 16 overall, but he wouldn’t have lasted more than 5-6 more picks.
Round 14 – Robert Tonyan. His 11-TD season in 2020 was a fluke, but he’s the top tight end on a team with a great quarterback and not a lot of firepower at wide receiver. Also, Aaron Rodgers loves him.
Round 15 – Darrel Williams. He’s probably going to be the passing-down RB for the Cardinals, and he’d play a bigger role than that if James Conner were to go down.
Round 16 – Zamir White. The Raiders chose not to pick up the fifth-year option on Josh Jacobs‘ rookie contract. Let’s not read too much into what that might mean for White, but the rookie from Georgia has an appealing combination of speed and power.
Round 17 – David Bell. They timed his 40-yard dash at the combine with a sundial, but Bell simply knows how to get open. Ask the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Michigan State Spartans — Bell dropped more than 200 yards on each of them last fall.
Round 18 – Will Fuller. As soon as he signs somewhere, Fuller’s ADP will skyrocket. Most likely, he’s going to sign with a team that really needs him. (Hello, Packers.)
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Trade Analyzer – which allows you to instantly find out if a trade offer benefits you or your opponent – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.