Skip to main content

Top Rookie on Each NFL Team (2022 Fantasy Football)

Jun 6, 2022


 
Some rookies explode onto the scene every year and become instant contributors to their teams and, more importantly, their fantasy managers (Hello, Ja’Marr Chase and Micah Parsons). Others have more of a “Jalen Reagor” impact.

Our analysts combed through the NFL rosters and identified the top rookie on every team. The results and accompanying justifications are below. Previously, our analysts took a look at the most overrated and underrated players on each NFL team:

CTAs

AFC East

TEAM Freedman Erickson DBro Pat Joe
Buffalo Bills Kaiir Elam James Cook James Cook James Cook James Cook
Miami Dolphins Channing Tindall Channing Tindall Channing Tindall Channing Tindall Channing Tindall
New England Patriots Pierre Strong Pierre Strong Pierre Strong Tyquan Thornton Tyquan Thornton
New York Jets Breece Hall Breece Hall Breece Hall Breece Hall Breece Hall

Buffalo Bills
The fantasy community may be a little too smitten with James Cook’s landing spot. QB Josh Allen has traditionally sunk, not lifted, the value of his running backs. Allen tends to scramble away from the pass rush rather than check down, and he also likes to call his own number on runs near the goal line. That said, the Bills are going to have one of the most prolific offenses in the league and should score a lot of touchdowns, and Cook is walking straight into a time-share with Devin Singletary. It’s not a bad setup — it’s just not quite as good as some people seem to think.
– Pat Fitzmaurice

Miami Dolphins
Linebacker is where the Dolphins needed to improve the most, and Channing Tindall fits the bill. The linebacker finished as PFF’s eighth-highest-graded linebacker in 2021 and tested off the charts at the Combine. Miami got a steal with Tindall’s sure tackling and imposing presence outside the top 100 picks.
– Andrew Erickson

New England Patriots
For the past 15 years, the Patriots have had notable success with running backs selected in Rounds 3-5: Stevan Ridley, James White, Damien Harris, and Rhamondre Stevenson, the last three of whom are still on the team and currently blocking fourth-rounder Pierre Strong. But White (hip) missed most of last season with an injury, and Harris is in the final year of his rookie contract, so whether it’s this season or next, Strong is likely to contribute at some point for the Patriots. With his athletic profile (4.37-second 40-yard dash, 207 pounds), Strong has the ability to be a big-play producer, and with his three-down skill set (240-1,686-18 rushing, 22-150-0 receiving in 15 games as a senior) Strong has the capacity to be a lead back.
– Matthew Freedman

New York Jets
The Jets selected Breece Hall at the top of Round 2, signifying his status as the team’s locked-in RB1 for the foreseeable future. Hall’s three-down skill set suggests he never has to come off the field, and the sheer volume he garners will vault him into redraft top-20 running back territory. The Iowa State product totaled over 4,500 yards from scrimmage, 50 touchdowns and 80 catches over three seasons in the college ranks.
– Andrew Erickson

AFC North

TEAM Freedman Erickson DBro Pat Joe
Baltimore Ravens Kyle Hamilton Charlie Kolar Kyle Hamilton Kyle Hamilton Kyle Hamilton
Cincinnati Bengals Daxton Hill Daxton Hill Daxton Hill Daxton Hill Daxton Hill
Cleveland Browns David Bell David Bell David Bell David Bell David Bell
Pittsburgh Steelers Calvin Austin George Pickens Kenny Pickett Kenny Pickett Kenny Pickett

Baltimore Ravens
After his pro day performance (4.70-second 40-yard dash), #DraftTwitter treated Kyle Hamilton as if he were a slug, but he’s athletic enough to succeed in the NFL. I can’t account for his pro day — but at the combine, he exhibited above-average athleticism (4.59-second 40-yard dash) for his size (6-4, 220 pounds), and he has a complete Derwin James-esque skill set: He can play deep, at linebacker, in the slot against wide receivers and tight ends, and on the edge as a situational rusher. Next to veteran safety Marcus Williams, Hamilton will be a versatile playmaker a la 2002-07 Roy Williams.
– Matthew Freedman

Cincinnati Bengals
After addressing the offensive line in free agency, Cincy needed to add to its secondary with its early picks. The Bengals did just that by adding versatile safety/slot cornerback Daxton Hill from Michigan. Hill’s addition gives the Bengals flexibility to potentially move on from franchise-tagged safety Jessie Bates.
– Andrew Erickson

Cleveland Browns
For a guy of his size (6-1, 212 pounds), David Bell isn’t fast, but he’s also not egregiously slow (4.65-second 40-yard dash) — and his mediocre athleticism is more than outweighed by his third-round draft capital and four-star recruitment status. A consensus All-American as a junior, Bell broke out as a true freshman and balled out for the entirety of his college career with 232-2,946-21 receiving in 29 games. Ready to inherit the “Jarvis Landry role” as a big-bodied Anquan Boldin-like power slot, Bell could be an immediate fantasy contributor.
– Matthew Freedman

Pittsburgh Steelers
Kenny Pickett was a late bloomer, and while many constantly point to that fact, I say, “better late than never.” Pickett has good footwork, surprising speed, and the ability to extend plays. He won’t be perfect in year one, but he should absolutely be seen as the QB who will start more games for the Steelers in ’22.
– Joe Pisapia

AFC South

TEAM Freedman Erickson DBro Pat Joe
Houston Texans John Metchie Dameon Pierce Dameon Pierce Dameon Pierce Dameon Pierce
Indianapolis Colts Jelani Woods Alec Pierce Alec Pierce Alec Pierce Alec Pierce
Jacksonville Jaguars Devin Lloyd Devin Lloyd Devin Lloyd Devin Lloyd Devin Lloyd
Tennessee Titans Treylon Burks Treylon Burks Treylon Burks Treylon Burks Treylon Burks

Houston Texans
Dameon Pierce may be stuck in a frustrating committee all season long with Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead, Dare Ogunbowale, and company. It’s equally possible that Pierce could take over the backfield. That path to ascension could begin by locking down the passing down work. Pierce is already arguably the best pass protector on the depth chart and will be Davis Mill’s best friend in that regard. He lined up in the slot or out wide on 23.7% of his snaps during his collegiate career and finished 15th in yards per route run (minimum 19 targets, per PFF) last season. Pierce could earn a three-down role in short order if he can unseat Mack on early downs. The talent is there, and the opportunity is his for the taking.
– Derek Brown

Indianapolis Colts
There aren’t many other viable candidates for the Colts. Alec Pierce could replace T.Y. Hilton as the Colts’ designated lid-lifter. With his combination of size (6-3, 208) and speed (4.41), Pierce profiles as sort of a discount Jordy Nelson, Like Nelson, Pierce was a second-round pick, and the draft capital that the Colts sunk into Pierce suggests that the Colts expect him to contribute right away.
– Pat Fitzmaurice

Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars didn’t add any impact rookies at the offensive skill positions, but Devin Lloyd could be an immediate impact player in IDP leagues. Named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last season, Lloyd ended his college career at Utah by racking up 111 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss (the second-highest total in FBS), seven sacks, and four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
– Pat Fitzmaurice

Tennessee Titans
Treylon Burks can step on the field Day 1 and offer immediate fantasy football appeal as a top-30 fantasy option. There’s hardly any target competition outside of Robert Woods, who is coming off a torn ACL. And with a similar YAC-ability to A.J. Brown, the 2022 first-rounder should slide seamlessly into the Titans passing attack as a fiend with the ball in his hands.
– Andrew Erickson

AFC West

TEAM Freedman Erickson DBro Pat Joe
Denver Broncos Greg Dulcich Greg Dulcich Greg Dulcich Greg Dulcich Greg Dulcich
Kansas City Chiefs Skyy Moore Skyy Moore Skyy Moore Skyy Moore Skyy Moore
Las Vegas Raiders Zamir White Zamir White Zamir White Zamir White Zamir White
Los Angeles Chargers Isaiah Spiller Isaiah Spiller Isaiah Spiller Isaiah Spiller Isaiah Spiller

Denver Broncos
Greg Dulcich enters a depth chart where Albert Okwuegbunam has the early lead for the starter’s chair, but he’s far from being an entrenched veteran. Even if Dulcich can’t unseat Okwuegbunam as the leader for snaps and routes, he will still get plenty of playing time in 2022. Eric Tomlinson, Eric Saubert, Dylan Parham, and Rodney Williams are all depth pieces, so Dulcich is at the very least the TE2 already. With Nathaniel Hackett now leading the Bronco’s offensive charge, the personnel usage should include plenty of two-tight end looks after Green Bay was second in the NFL in 12 personnel last season. Dulcich has ranked 20th and eighth over the last two seasons in yards per route run among collegiate tight ends (minimum 20 targets, per PFF). As recently as 2020, he was PFF’s ninth-highest graded college tight end. The talent is there for Dulcich to show out, even if it’s in a limited capacity this season.
– Derek Brown

Kansas City Chiefs
Skyy Moore has the opportunity to be this year’s breakout rookie WR. He’s playing with an elite QB in Patrick Mahomes with a HOF coach. Travis Kelce is showing some small signs of decline and the rest of the WR corps is has more questions than answers. Moore could lead the team in receptions and receiving yards if Mahomes establishes an early connection with him.
– Joe Pisapia

Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake are slated for free agency in 2023, and Drake (ankle) might not be ready for the beginning of the season after suffering a campaign-ending injury in December. Brandon Bolden is a 32-year-old special-team contributor, and Ameer Abdullah is a 29-year-old pass-catching specialist. None of them is a long-term threat to Zamir White, who has near-elite athleticism (4.40-second 40-yard dash as 6-0, 214 pounds) and was the No. 1 running back recruit of the 2018 class. Although White never had a full-on Nick Chubb-style breakout at Georgia, he did lead the team on the ground in each of the past two years with a combined 304-1,635-22 rushing in 25 games. With two ACL tears in his history (separate knees), White is unlikely to have a long NFL career, but he could be a high-impact producer for a few years.
– Matthew Freedman

Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have been looking to find a complimentary running back to Austin Ekeler ever since Melvin Gordon left town. Ekeler is a great talent, but he does take quite a pounding. Isaiah Spiller could easily give Ekeler some releif and would be in line for a massive workload if Ekeler missed any time.
– Joe Pisapia

CTAs

NFC East

TEAM Freedman Erickson DBro Pat Joe
Dallas Cowboys Jalen Tolbert Jalen Tolbert Jalen Tolbert Jalen Tolbert Jalen Tolbert
New York Giants Wan’Dale Robinson Wan’Dale Robinson Wan’Dale Robinson Wan’Dale Robinson Wan’Dale Robinson
Philadelphia Eagles Nakobe Dean Nakobe Dean Nakobe Dean Nakobe Dean Nakobe Dean
Washington Commanders Brian Robinson Jr. Brian Robinson Jr. Jahan Dotson Jahan Dotson Jahan Dotson

Dallas Cowboys
If Jalen Tolbert can beat out James Washington — on a one-year $1.2M contract — in training camp, he could offer immediate value with Michael Gallup unlikely to be ready for Week 1 coming off a torn ACL. He’s got big-play ability that should gel well with quarterback Dak Prescott.
– Andrew Erickson

New York Giants
Don’t let Wan’Dale Robinson’s size fool you. He’s a stone-cold baller. Robinson is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands. He crushed advanced metrics in his final collegiate season, no matter how you slice it. Robinson was fourth in yards per route run, sixth in missed tackles forced, and the fifth-highest graded wide receiver per PFF (minimum 50 targets). Robinson should be a starter in three-wide sets in Week 1, barring some shocking turn of events in camp.
– Derek Brown

Philadelphia Eagles
The undersized Nakobe Dean fell in the draft due to his recent injury issues. Make no mistake, Dean has a high footbal IQ and was a huge playmaker on the Georgia National Championship squad. Smaller linebackers like Devin White have proven that they can make an impact at the NFL level, so as long as Dean is healthy he will fill that gaping LB void the Eagles have had for a while.
– Joe Pisapia

Washington Commanders
Jahan Dotson should step right in as Washington’s No. 2 receiver behind Terry McLaurin and has a chance to immediately command a significant target share. Dotson has 4.4 speed and terrific hands. He’s 5-11 and 181 pounds, but like Tyreek Hill, Dotson punches above his weight (and height) on contested catches and comes down with more than his fair share of them. The Commanders took him 16th overall, indicating they have a substantial role in store for him.
– Pat Fitzmaurice

NFC North

TEAM Freedman Erickson DBro Pat Joe
Chicago Bears Velus Jones Velus Jones Jaquan Brisker Velus Jones Velus Jones
Detroit Lions Jameson Williams Jameson Williams Jameson Williams Jameson Williams Jameson Williams
Green Bay Packers Christian Watson Christian Watson Christian Watson Christian Watson Christian Watson
Minnesota Vikings Lewis Cine Lewis Cine Lewis Cine Ty Chandler Lewis Cine

Chicago Bears
On the plus side, Velus Jones was recruited by marquee programs (USC, Oklahoma, Michigan) out of high school on account of his 3-4 stars, and he enters the NFL with third-round draft capital and a playmaking athletic profile (4.31-second 40-yard dash at 6-0, 204 pounds). On the negative side, he’s already 25, and he never had even 1,000 scrimmage yards in a season despite playing into a double-redshirt senior campaign. I guess the positives outweigh the negatives?
– Matthew Freedman

Detroit Lions
Nobody will be shocked to see Jameson Williams out-produce the combination of Amon-Ra St. Brown and T.J. Hockenson once he is fully acclimated into the offense. I’ll take the draft day discount on Williams based on the landing spot, knowing that I am betting on the talent long-term for the fantasy postseason run. Williams’ No.1-ranked 13.1 yards per target last season suggests he will have a couple of massive games that will dramatically shift the tides of fantasy matchups as the season progresses.
– Andrew Erickson

Green Bay Packers
Small school or not. Christian Watson is an electric talent. Watson led the nation in yards per route run among all FBS and FCS wide receivers with 50 or more targets last season (per PFF). Even if you try to dilute that type of production with consideration to the level of competition, it’s still eye-popping. Now, pile on top of that, he was also 23rd in yards after the catch per reception, and you have a player that has the talent to produce from day 1. The noisy narratives surrounding Aaron Rodger’s disdain for rookies be damned. Watson’s ability is needed to spice up an otherwise bland receiving depth chart. Expect him to be used heavily early on.
– Derek Brown

Minnesota Vikings
Pay attention to safety Lewis Cine in IDP leagues. He finished with the most tackles on Georgia’s loaded defense in 2021. Considering the plethora of NFL talent that played on college football’s best defense, the box-stuffing safety should have no problem racking up double-digit tackles on the Vikings defense.
– Andrew Erickson

NFC South

TEAM Freedman Erickson DBro Pat Joe
Atlanta Falcons Drake London Drake London Drake London Drake London Drake London
Carolina Panthers Matt Corral Matt Corral Matt Corral Matt Corral Matt Corral
New Orleans Saints Chris Olave Chris Olave Chris Olave Chris Olave Chris Olave
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rachaad White Rachaad White Rachaad White Rachaad White Rachaad White

Atlanta Falcons
There’s no logical way I would mention anyone else here besides Drake London. London finished last season as the second-highest graded collegiate wide receiver behind only Jaxon Smith-Njigba (minimum 50 targets, per PFF). London has the size, versatility, and raw talent to immediately take the league by storm. He’ll compete with Kyle Pitts for the target lead in Atlanta from the hop. If you’re looking for the next alpha-type breakout from a rookie, London is where I’ll push my chips in.
– Derek Brown

Carolina Panthers
Equipped with a revamped offensive line along with D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Christian McCaffery — Matt Corral could make some noise in a relatively weak NFC. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was the major driving force behind Carolina selecting Corral in the first place, so it remains to be seen how committed the new Panthers’ play-caller is to Darnold — a quarterback he was not involved in bringing in last season.
– Andrew Erickson

New Orleans Saints
Chris Olave is the healthiest wide receiver the Saints have right now. Smooth as silk, Olave has NFL polish and should hit the ground running with Jameis Winston. While we await more Michael Thomas news and Jarvis Landry continues his way back from injury, Olave seems like the best draft ROI on that whole team right now.
– Joe Pisapia

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rachaad White
has serious chops in the passing game, not only as a pass catcher but as a pass blocker. You don’t get fantasy points for pass protection, but the Buccaneers wouldn’t let a rookie RB play significant snaps if he’d jeopardize the health of venerable QB Tom Brady. Entering his age-45 season, Brady will once again be quick to dump off to his RBs rather than take hits. That led to a receiving windfall for Leonard Fournete in 2021, and if Fournette were to go down in 2022, White would likely inherit that windfall.
– Pat Fitzmaurice

NFC West

TEAM Freedman Erickson DBro Pat Joe
Arizona Cardinals Trey McBride Trey McBride Trey McBride Keaontay Ingram Keaontay Ingram
Los Angeles Rams Kyren Williams Kyren Williams Kyren Williams Kyren Williams Kyren Williams
San Francisco 49ers Tyrion Davis-Price Tyrion Davis-Price Tyrion Davis-Price Tyrion Davis-Price Tyrion Davis-Price
Seattle Seahawks Kenneth Walker III Kenneth Walker III Kenneth Walker III Kenneth Walker III Kenneth Walker III

Arizona Cardinals
Yes, Zach Ertz is still on the roster, but Trey McBride is one Ertz injury ding from a full-time role in one of the league’s most dangerous offenses. McBride’s receiving upside is huge. In his final season at Colorado State, he ranked fifth in yards per route run, first in receiving yards, and was the highest-graded collegiate tight end per PFF (minimum 20 targets). In 2021 the Cardinals were 15th in 12 personnel usage, but they were 13th in pass success rate from two tight end sets. Expect Kliff Kingsbury to feature double tight end looks with regularity this season.
– Derek Brown

Los Angeles Rams
There aren’t many choices here, since the Rams only had one pick in the first two days of the draft and didn’t make their first selection until late in Round 3. The only offensive skill-position player they drafted was Kyren Williams, who had a disastrous combine performance and is ticketed to be the No. 3 RB at best. But, hey, we see running backs emerge from the fog every year and become important fantasy contributors. Williams probably won’t be taken in many 2022 fantasy drafts, but it’s not inconceivable that he could become a waiver-wire darling if the Rams run into injury problems at the position.
– Pat Fitzmaurice

San Francisco 49ers
After the Trey Sermon debacle, the hesitation with Tyrion Davis-Price is understandable. Davis-Price isn’t a prospect that will blow the doors off your prospect model, but at 6’0″ 219 lbs, he can be an early-down battering ram for a team that wants to run the ball a ton in 2022. Davis-Price and his 90th percentile speed score ranked 36th in runs of 10-plus yards last season (per PFF). Davis-Price could supplant Elijah Mitchell if he crushes camp and the preseason as a scheme versatile back who can be featured in power concepts while possessing enough juice to operate in zone.
– Derek Brown

Seattle Seahawks
Kenneth Walker is a downhill runner, but he could be running uphill in 2022 with a crowded Seattle backfield. Rashad Penny had a strong finish to ’21 after disappointing for years. If his injury history teaches us one thing, it’s that Penny is no lock to play 17 games. Therefore, Walker should get opportunities, but he’s more intriguing in dynasty than redraft.
– Joe Pisapia

If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to 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.

Mike Maher is an editor and content manager at FantasyPros and BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive, follow him on Twitter @MikeMaher, and visit his Philadelphia Eagles blogThe Birds Blitz.

Featured, Featured Link, IDP, NFL, Rookies