16 Draft Picks With Upside (2022 Fantasy Football)
Here are mid- and late-round targets that carry upside into the 2022 fantasy football draft season.
16 Draft Picks With Upside
Per the Athletic’s Dan Duggan, the Giants want to unleash quarterback Daniel Jones. It’s music to the ears of fantasy drafters looking for a late-round quarterback with upside, because Jones has the skill set to be that player in a better offensive environment.
Before a Week 5 concussion, Jones was the QB8 overall and in points per game (23.3). The Giants quarterback ranked third in rushing yards per game (47/game) and second in PFF passing grade.
This offseason, New York drafted the best offensive tackle in the draft with the selection of Evan Neal at No. 7 overall. It provides Jones the protection he desperately needs as he looks to prove to the New York organization that he is worthy of being the long-term answer at quarterback.
With the Giants upgrading their entire offensive line through free agency and the draft, Jones is back on the fantasy QB2 radar in Superflex formats. Recall that last season he was playing behind PFF’s third-worst graded offensive line.
He will also benefit greatly from the No.1-easiest strength of schedule for QBs.
Justin Fields has fallen all the way to QB18 in early best ball ADP. Everyone is afraid of the situation in Chicago. But don’t forget that a washed-up Cam Newton went from irrelevant to a top-12 ranked QB in one week last year because of rushing production.
Fields finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in his last four full games in 2021, averaging 21.7 fantasy points per game. He also averaged 56 rushing yards per game over his last six. All in all, Fields averaged 35 rushing yards per game during his rookie season. The last three rookie QBs to do so? Newton, Josh Allen and Robert Griffin III. They all finished as top-12 fantasy quarterbacks in their second seasons, with the two former QBs finishing top-6.
It won’t take long for the narrative to spin on the talented Fields after he starts the season hot out of the gates. Five of the Bears’ first six matchups are against secondaries that are the weak part of their respective defense, lost talent in free agency and/or are unproven. In Week 1, Fields takes on the 49ers. He rushed for over 100 yards against them last season.
Give credit to Sony Michel after he ranked third in rushing yards and first in carries over the final six weeks of the 2021 season. The former Rams running back performed admirably in relief of Darrell Henderson Jr., but he was immediately supplanted by Cam Akers once the second-year back was deemed healthy enough to play a full-time role.
He signed a 1 year, $1.75M contract with the Miami Dolphins this offseason, joining a backfield with Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert. Michel offers the least explosiveness of the bunch but has the most proven track record of shouldering a workload that translates into fantasy production at 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds.
Considering neither Edmonds nor Mostert (entering age 30-season) have ever commanded a consistent three-down workload, Michel has super interesting appeal if he becomes the No. 1 runner in the Miami backfield. Don’t rule it out despite his very mediocre one-year contract.
Dameon Pierce lands in a wide-open backfield where he’ll compete with the island of misfit running back toys for work. Pierce could earn work immediately with only cast-offs Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead, Dare Ogunbowale, Royce Freeman, and Darius Anderson on the depth chart. His long-term footing is questionable, with only fourth-round draft capital attached to his name, but he’s worth taking a shot on in the early second round of rookie drafts. Pierce has the size and pass game skills to operate as a three-down back. He can be the preferred passing-down option in a committee at his floor.
One of my favorite cheap back targets is Khalil Herbert. David Montgomery is on the final year of his rookie contract, and the new coaching regime will have no loyalty toward him. That could open the door for Herbert to earn a larger role, which he more than deserves after how well he played in 2021.
Herbert was PFF’s fourth-highest-graded rusher (84.6) from Weeks 5-8 with Montgomery sidelined. The rookie rushed for at least 72 yards in all four games. Montgomery rushed for 72 yards four times all season.
Former teammate Patrick Mahomes vouched for Williams, informing Arizona that he was a back he both liked/trusted. Williams posted 1,000 yards from scrimmage, scored 8 TDs and had zero fumbles on 191 touches in 2021.
He also proved that he could shoulder the load with Clyde Edwards-Helaire sidelined with injury. In the six games that Williams was the clear-cut starter in the Chiefs backfield, he averaged 19 fantasy points per game (PPR) on 18.3 touches per game. Also averaged nearly 100 yards from scrimmage (96.3).
Williams is the James Conner backup to target across all formats, as he’d likely inherit the RB1 role should the injury-prone starter go down. His body of work as a receiver and goal-line back present him immediate fantasy RB1 upside.
The former UDFA led the Chiefs backfield in red-zone touches and averaged 4.5 receptions per game as the starter in 2021. His 47 catches overall ranked ninth.
The dependable 6’2″ 224 lb Brian Robinson lands in Washington via the third round of the NFL Draft. Robinson bided his time behind a plethora of talented backs at Alabama before finally taking over in 2021 as the lead guy. He responded by ranking fourth in missed tackles and eighth in ten plus yard runs last year (per PFF). Robinson might not wow people, but he’s s battle-tested and sure-handed depth piece who can take over if Antonio Gibson gets hurt or continues to fumble away opportunities.
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Chase Claypool‘s second-year breakout was inevitably halted by Ben Roethlisberger’s lack of downfield throwing ability: On throws with 20-plus air yards, Big Ben graded 31st out of 38 qualifying QBs.
Claypool commanded a 27% air yards share on the season and led the team in the metric over the final four weeks. Better days should be ahead of the Notre Dame product if Pittsburgh can get better downfield quarterback play from Kenny Pickett/Mitchell Trubisky.
Claypool is also due for positive touchdown regression after catching just one of his 12 end-zone targets last season. The 6-foot-5 monster is no stranger to hitting paydirt, after being one of eight wide receivers to score double-digit touchdowns as rookies since 1998.
However, Claypool’s range of outcomes is quite wide heading into his third season with 2022 second-round pick George Pickens, chomping at the bit to be the No. 2 on the offense behind Diontae Johnson.
The Saints aggressively moved up for a player they have faith in with Chris Olave. If Michael Thomas isn’t fully healthy, Olave could be pressed into number one wide receiver duties as Jarvis Landry is merely a complementary piece at this stage of his career. Olave is a polished prospect who finished 11th or better in yards per route run in two of the last three seasons (minimum 50 targets per PFF). Olave is a WR4 with massive upside if Thomas isn’t ready to rock.
Kadarius Toney is a wild card. With offseason rumblings that he could be dealt and an offseason knee surgery to pile on top, Toney is a boom or bust type proposition for 2022. When Toney was on the field last year, there’s no denying that he flashed immense upside. In 2021 among all wide receivers with 100 or more routes, only Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, Antonio Brown, and Toney finished with a 29% target per route run rate (or higher) and at least 2.20 yards per route run.
With Michael Gallup‘s health questions and underwhelming effectiveness and the departure of Amari Cooper, Jalen Tolbert can compete for the number two role behind CeeDee Lamb immediately with Dalton Schultz. Tolbert dominated at South Alabama with a 96th percentile college dominator and 95th percentile target share (33.4%). Over the last two seasons, he was seventh and sixth in receiving yards among all FBS wideouts. If he seizes the number two spot, he’ll be a screaming value in fantasy football.
Albert Okwuegbunam tied for the third-highest target rate per route run in the NFL last season (23%). Now entrenched as the presumed full-time starter with Noah Fant traded to the Seattle Seahawks this offseason, the uber-athletic tight end can break out in Year 3.
It bodes well in Albert O’s favor that Noah Fant finished last season as the TE12 while the duo played in 14 games together.
Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst is hardly a world-beater, but it’s hard to not view him as a winner post-draft. The former Falcon is in sole possession of C.J. Uzomah‘s vacated role from last season offers some fantasy appeal.
Uzomah’s 78% route participation ranked fourth-highest among tight ends in 2021
Every-down tight ends on the field that often in high-scoring environments will stumble into fantasy scoring. It’s a highly coveted role primed to ooze fantasy points. However, being on the field doesn’t always translate to the requisite fantasy production especially in offenses loaded with other weapons. Uzomah’s 13% target rate per route run ranked last among tight ends with at least 40 targets in 2021. Hurst’s 15% target rate wasn’t much better.
It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that Hurst is the clear-cut late-round tight end to target in 2022, but he is well worth targeting late in drafts. Hurst is just one year removed from a TE9 overall finish in 2020.