The 2022 NFL season is still several weeks away. However, July is arguably the best time of the year for fantasy players for a couple of reasons. First, Scott Fish Bowl is in full swing, and it’s the perfect month for startup dynasty drafts. While there are several strategies you can use during startup drafts, finding the best value in every round is critical regardless of which you deploy. So let’s look at the best value in each of the top 20 rounds in a 12-team, 1QB, PPR startup dynasty draft.
Round 1 – Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)
Kupp was the top-scoring player in PPR scoring formats last year with 439.5 fantasy points. With the upgrade to Matthew Stafford from Jared Goff, Kupp was able to break out in 2021. While he likely won’t repeat his 25.9 fantasy points per game average from last year, Kupp is still a top-three dynasty wide receiver. After recently signing an extension, Kupp is under contract with the Rams through the 2026 season. That is the same year Stafford’s contract expires. Despite turning 29 years old this month, Kupp has plenty of elite years left in his career.
Round 2 – Tee Higgins (WR – CIN)
The Bengals have an elite pair of young wide receivers. While Ja’Marr Chase deserves every ounce of credit he gets, Higgins is currently underrated. The former Clemson start was a top-13 wide receiver on a fantasy points per game basis last season, averaging 15.6 fantasy points per contest. Furthermore, Higgins averaged a team-high 7.9 targets per game last season, while Chase averaged 7.5 targets per game. More importantly, Joe Burrow looked Higgins’ way in the red zone. Higgins had a 26% red zone target share and 13 red zone targets in 14 games, while Chase had a 20.7% red zone targets share and 12 red zone targets in 17 games. Chase is a superstar, but Higgins is a steal at his current ADP.
Round 3 – Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
While he hasn’t turned into a fantasy start yet, Akers is arguably a top-five dynasty running back. After suffering a torn Achilles in July, he played 13 snaps during the 2021 regular season. However, Akers was a fantasy superstar during the 2020 playoffs, averaging 4.8 yards per rushing attempt and 21.1 fantasy points per game. Sony Michel signed with the Miami Dolphins in May, ending any possible return to Los Angeles. Darrell Henderson has struggled with injuries in his career and is entering the final year of his contract. Akers is prime to break out this season. He will have a first-round ADP a year from now.
Round 4 – Travis Etienne (RB – JAC)
Etienne is a complete unknown for fantasy players. He’s never taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game, yet fantasy players should be excited to draft him. Etienne averaged 7.2 yards per rushing attempt during his four years at Clemson. He scored at least 13 rushing touchdowns every year and averaged a touchdown once every 10.1 touches in his college career. More importantly, Etienne has explosive big-play ability and can take any touch to the house for six. Furthermore, many expect Etienne to have an Alvin Kamara-like role in the passing game. Etienne has the potential to become the next great fantasy running back.
Round 5 – AJ Dillon (RB – GB)
After losing Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling this offseason, the Packers will need to lean on their pair of star running backs this year. While Aaron Jones is the better fantasy player at the moment, Dillon is the future of the Green Bay backfield. The Packers will likely release Jones after next season and save $10.5 million in cap space. Last year Dillon had seven top-24 weekly finished despite playing only 42.6% of the snaps. Furthermore, he outproduced Jones in every major rushing category last season. A year from now, Dillon could have a top-15 ADP and become a steal as a fifth-round pick.
Round 6 – Mike Williams (WR – LAC)
Williams broke out last season with a career year in most statistical categories. He ended the year as the WR12 and had the second 1,000-yard season of his career. While many thought Williams would leave the Chargers this offseason, the veteran signed a long-term contract. He will now catch passes from Justin Herbert for the next three years. The Chargers haven’t been shy this offseason, making every move possible to improve their Super Bowl odds. More importantly, Williams has a chance to take over as the No. 1 receiver in Los Angeles as Keenan Allen recently turned 30 years old. Williams is a steal this late in drafts as long as Herbert is healthy.
Round 7 – Gabriel Davis (WR – BUF)
While he has under 1,150 career receiving yards, Davis is a popular breakout name this offseason. Despite playing under 50% of the snaps last season, he had a 16.5% target share in the red zone. He was second on the team in red zone targets and receptions among wide receivers. However, his production in the playoffs has fantasy players excited. In two postseason games last year, Davis caught 10 of his 13 targets for 242 yards and scored five touchdowns while averaging 18.6 yards per target. The fact that Davis hasn’t consistently produced during the regular season is a risk. However, it’s a risk worth taking in the seventh round.
Round 8 – Deshaun Watson (QB – CLE)
The Watson situation is a complex and ugly issue on and off the field. However, there is no denying his fantasy production. Watson has been a top-five fantasy quarterback the past three years he has played. Furthermore, he was on pace for the overall QB1 finish as a rookie before tearing his ACL in practice. Despite missing nine games with the injury, Watson threw 19 touchdown passes and averaged 24.1 fantasy points per game that year. While the weapons in Cleveland aren’t elite, Watson has the pieces around him needed to return to his elite fantasy form. Take advantage of the dip in his ADP before it goes away.
Round 9 – Christian Kirk (WR – JAC)
Kirk set the entire NFL offseason world on fire when he signed with the Jaguars. Now he has to prove he’s worth the money. Last year, Kirk had the best year of his career, finishing at the WR26. However, he averaged 12.9 fantasy points per game in the seven contests without DeAndre Hopkins. Furthermore, he scored 11.8 or more fantasy points in five of those seven contests. Kirk will see plenty of targets as the No. 1 receiver in Jacksonville. Kirk is the third-most valuable dynasty asset behind Etienne and Trevor Lawrence for the Jaguars.
Round 10 – Derek Carr (QB – LV)
There are a few quarterbacks in the NFL who don’t get the credit they deserve. At the top of that list is Carr. Despite never having an elite No. 1 wide receiver, Carr has finished as a top-14 quarterback four times in his career. Furthermore, he has back-to-back top-14 finishes despite his top wide receiver the past two years totaling 11 touchdowns. Now, Carr gets to play with his former college teammate, Davante Adams. The trio of Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow is one of the best in the NFL and arguably the best in the AFC West. Carr will be a top-10 quarterback in 2022 and beyond.
Round 11 – George Pickens (WR – PIT)
The Steelers have a history of developing wide receivers and letting them leave in free agency. This year they lost JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington. To replace them, the Steelers used a second-round pick on Pickens. However, if not for a torn ACL and some off-the-field concerns, Pickens would likely have been a first-round pick. More importantly, the Steelers are unlikely to re-sign Diontae Johnson after the 2022 season, while Chase Claypool will enter the final year of his contract in 2023. Pickens had a breakout age of 18.5, putting him in the 96th percentile. While he might have a quiet rookie season, Pickens will be a fantasy force starting in 2023.
Round 12 – David Njoku (TE – CLE)
While he has struggled so far in his career, Njoku is one of the more popular breakout names at tight end this year. Last season, he played 63.4% of the snaps and had a route participation rate of 56.6%. More importantly, the Browns released Austin Hooper this offseason and signed Njoku to a four-year contract worth over $54 million. Furthermore, Hooper led the Cleveland tight ends in red zone targets (12) and receptions (nine) last season. Njoku had nine targets and five receptions in the red zone by comparison. While Amari Cooper is the best receiving option for the Browns, Njoku has a clear path to the No. 2 role. With the upgrade at quarterback and a clear-cut starting role, Njoku will breakout this season.
Round 13 – Dameon Pierce (RB – HOU)
The fourth-round rookie was a popular pick in rookie drafts after he got selected by the Texans. Many believe Pierce will beat out Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead for the starting role and could provide low-end RB2 value this season. Mack has 37 touches over the past two years, while Burkhead had one game with over 47 rushing yards last season. More importantly, Pierce has plenty of tread left on his tires. He had only 374 touches in his career at Florida. His ADP will rise at least a round or two after he shines during training camp. Be sure to draft him now, as Pierce’s value can only go up from here.
Round 14 – Tyler Allgeier (RB – ATL)
While Cordarrelle Patterson was a fantasy surprise last season, the Falcons needed to address the running back position during the NFL Draft. However, they waited till the fifth round to select a running back, grabbing Allgeier. More importantly, the Falcons released Mike Davis shortly after the draft, making Allgeier second on the depth chart behind Patterson. The fifth-round pick from BYU had the fourth-most rushing yards in college football last year with 1,601. Patterson wore down towards the end of the 2021 season. If that happens again this year, Allgeier will become a fantasy contributor as a rookie.
Round 15 – Brevin Jordan (TE – HOU)
Jordan was the TE25 last on a points-per-game basis among tight ends with more than eight games played. More importantly, Jordan finished the week as a top-12 tight end in 50% of his games. That is a higher top-12 finish rate than Dallas Goedert (46.7%) and Kyle Pitts (43.8%). In addition, the Texans leaned on Jordan in the red zone. Despite seeing only 28 targets last year, 14.3% of them came in the red zone, resulting in three touchdowns. The Houston offense lacks proven weapons other than Brandin Cooks, so Jordan has a path to a second-year breakout.
Round 16 – Tim Patrick (WR – DEN)
The Denver receiving core got a massive boost after the team traded for Russell Wilson. Last year, Patrick was the WR42. Courtland Sutton was the WR44, while Jerry Jeudy was the WR84. While Sutton and Jeudy are popular targets in drafts, Patrick is an excellent value several rounds later. Patrick finished as a top-24 wide receiver in 26.7% of the weeks last season despite the poor quarterback play. He had a higher route participation rate than Jeudy and a higher fantasy points per route run average than Sutton. All three Denver wide receivers will have productive weeks and weeks where they will struggle. Instead of paying up for Sutton or Jeudy, wait till the later rounds and grab Patrick.
Round 17 – Darrel Williams (RB – ARI)
While Clyde Edwards-Helaire got all hype in the Kansas City backfield heading into last season, Williams was the running back to shine. He ended the year as the RB19, averaging a career-high 11.5 fantasy points per game. Williams also showed he can play a role in the passing game last season, averaging a career-high 2.8 receptions for 26.6 receiving yards per contest. Meanwhile, the Cardinals lost Chase Edmonds and his 11.9 fantasy points per game average from last season in free agency. Williams could fill that role next season. Furthermore, James Conner has struggled with injuries in his career. At worst, Williams will be a bye week replacement option. However, Williams could be a league winner if Conner misses time.
Round 18 – K.J. Osborn (WR – MIN)
After not seeing a target as a rookie, Osborn stepped up last year for the Vikings. He averaged 9.3 fantasy points per game last year on 82 targets. His seven receiving touchdowns were third-most on the team. More importantly, Osborn stepped up his play when Adam Thielen missed time. Over the final five weeks of the year, Thielen played only 16 snaps because of injuries. During that span, Osborn averaged 5.6 targets and 12.7 fantasy points per game while scoring four of his seven touchdowns. The Vikings can release Thielen after the 2022 season and save $6.4 million in cap space. Osborn is a year away from the No. 2 wide receiver role on an improving Minnesota offense.
Round 19 – Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG)
Injuries have significantly impacted Shepard’s career. He has played all 16 games only twice in his six-year career. Furthermore, Shepard has missed 40.8% of the games over the past three years. However, he has been productive when on the field. Shepard has averaged at least 11.1 fantasy points per game every year of his career. He has averaged 7.3 targets per game in his career and 7.8 per contest since Daniel Jones got drafted in 2019. While it is a really big if, Shepard is a solid flex option if he can stay healthy.
Round 20 – Desmond Ridder (QB – ATL)
The Falcons underwent several changes this offseason. Russell Gage signed with the Buccaneers while Matt Ryan got traded to the Colts. Now, Ridder takes over as the potential quarterback of the future for the Falcons. While Marcus Mariota is on the roster, Ridder should earn the starting role sooner than later. When you get to the later rounds of your draft, it’s all about the upside. With Drake London and Pitts at his disposal, Ridder could hit the ground running and become an impact fantasy quarterback.
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Mike Fanelli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @Mike_NFL2.