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Matthew Freedman’s Top Early-Round Draft Picks (2022 Fantasy Football)

Matthew Freedman Early-Round Draft Targets, Terry McLaurin

Matthew Freedman breaks down his Top 5 early-round targets in 2022 fantasy football drafts, with one player for each of the first five rounds. If you miss out on Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, and Austin Ekeler, should Najee Harris be your next target?

Is Round 2 too early for Aaron Jones? Does an upgrade at quarterback mean Terry McLaurin is undervalued right now? See below for some of Freedman’s favorite targets through the first five rounds of drafts this season.

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

ROUND 1 (1-12)

In Round 1, I like Steelers running back Najee Harris, the RB6, No. 8 overall in FantasyPros average draft position. If you’re at the top of Round 1, obviously some of the other running backs are better options. Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, and Austin Ekeler are my top three.

But in the second half of Round 1, I’m happy if I can get Harris, who last year as a rookie led all running backs with an average of 57.6 snaps per game and an 84% snap rate. That information is from the Snap Count Reports you can check out at FantasyPros. With all that playing time, Harris had a league-high 401 combined carries and targets, and without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers might rely on Harris even more this year.

ROUND 2 (13-24)

In Round 2, I love Packers running back Aaron Jones, the RB12, No. 20 overall in ADP. Last year, wide receivers Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling collectively accounted for 224 targets for the Packers in the regular season. With them now gone, the Packers might lean more on the running game, which benefits Jones, and they also might reallocate a portion of the available targets to Jones, who — out of all the pass catchers in Green Bay — probably has the best mix of talent and rapport with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Since 2018, Jones has averaged 6.7 targets in seven games without Adams and 5.2 targets in nine games without Valdes-Scantling. Jones has an incredibly high floor with his increased target volume and his established scoring ability, given his 49 touchdowns in 57 games over the past four years.

I want at least 1 running back before Round 3, so if I miss on one in the first round, Jones is a guy I’m actively targeting in the second.

ROUND 3 (25-36)

Rounds 3-6 are normally called the “Running Back Dead Zone.” I prefer to think of it instead as the “Wide Receiver Power Alley.” This is where I want to load up on high-upside pass catchers, and that starts with Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown in Round 3, the WR11, No. 28 overall. This is just far too late for a receiver of Brown’s talent to go.

For his career, including the playoffs, Brown has 10.1 yards per target. Out of all players with at least 200 targets over the past three years, that’s No. 3, behind just Deebo Samuel and Justin Jefferson. Even in a run-heavy offense, Brown should surpass his career-high 106 targets this season.

ROUND 4 (37-48)

In Round 4, I like Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin, WR16, No. 43 overall. McLaurin has 1,030 yards receiving per season for his career, and he has put up those numbers with quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke, Dwayne Haskins, Case Keenum, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, Colt McCoy and Garrett Gilbert. Some of those names sound made up. Say whatever you want about Carson Wentz, but he’s an upgrade on that collective cohort and probably the best NFL quarterback McLaurin has had.

ROUND 5 (49-60)

In Round 5, I’m targeting Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore, WR18, No. 50 overall. I don’t even mind reaching for him a little and taking him in the fourth round to make sure I get him. Moore is the only wide receiver with at least 1,200 yards from scrimmage in each of the past three seasons – and he’s just 25 years old. He has the best quarterback of his career with Baker Mayfield, and Moore is clearly still in the ascension phase of his NFL trajectory.

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