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Andrew Erickson’s Perfect Fantasy Football Round-By-Round Draft Strategy (2022)

Mike Evans

You just wrapped dinner and plopped down on the couch to catch up on the latest binge-worthy TV series. Suddenly, a friend texts you: “Hey, are you ready for the draft?!?” A sick, sinking feeling sets in — you forgot to prepare for your fantasy football draft. Panic ensues.

If this sounds like you or a “friend” you know, there is no need to fret. Below is a detailed fantasy football draft strategy, laying out precisely what to do round by round for the 2022 fantasy football season.

This master plan comes with a simple premise: Follow the guide step-by-step, and you’re sure to enter the season with a quality roster that balances reliability and upside. Sept. 8 can’t come soon enough.

Pair this with FantasyPros’ ECR fantasy football rankings/projections and my 2022 Fantasy Football Rankings to build a top-tier squad.

Please advise that this article will go through many forms throughout the offseason to stay as up-to-date as possible with all the implications of training camp, player transactions, injuries, etc.

Beyond our fantasy football content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football draft season.

ROUND 1 (1-12): DRAFT A RUNNING BACK OR A MEMBER OF THE BIG-THREE WRS.

Whether it’s best ball or redraft fantasy football, the golden standard approach of selecting a running back with your first-round pick has not changed. It wasn’t so long ago that the elite tier of WRs like Davante Adams, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Antonio Brown were drafted in the top half of Round 1, but a few talented running back draft classes have returned leagues to the glory days.

Every fantasy football draft is unique, but one thing’s for certain: Running backs are the drivers behind fantasy-winning teams. Get your studs early and wait until the later rounds to take shots on backs in ambiguous backfields. That’s where we’ll find the next breakout at the position.

However, unlike in some previous years, when the strategy was hyper-focused on grabbing a workhorse running back no matter what, 2022 presents us with a different approach in the second half of the first round.

If you miss out on the Tier 1/high-end Tier 2 crop of running backs — Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, Dalvin Cook — be open to drafting an elite wide receiver in the second half of Round 1. This is less so the move in half-PPR formats because receivers can’t make up ground versus running backs as easily without being rewarded a full point per reception. After JT and CMC, it is fair game to select an elite wideout.

From 2018-2020 in PPR scoring, wide receivers have the highest percentage of top-12 finishes (55%). That trend continued in 2021, when seven of the top 12 overall finishers (58%) were WRs, with six finishing top eight. That was true in both PPR and half-PPR scoring.

The Big Three wide receiver tier — Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Cooper Kupp — are strong bets to meet Round 1 production without the cost. But their odds of returning value increase dramatically in the PPR scoring format.  

Stefon Diggs/Davante Adams are strong WR options for those picking at the turn.

ROUND 2 (13-24): DRAFT A RUNNING BACK OR WIDE RECEIVER.

Fantasy managers should feel comfortable taking an elite wideout in Round 1 because Round 2 is filled with a plethora of running back talent. The non-first-round running backs — Joe Mixon, D’Andre Swift, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Javonte Williams, Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb, — provide enough production for a roster’s RB1 slot.

Keep in mind, many of those RBs don’t need to be drafted in Round 2. Be aware of ADP based on where you are drafting.

If you went with a running back in Round 1, consider whoever remains from the Tier 2 wide receivers — Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, CeeDee Lamb, A.J. Brown, Mike Evans, and Tee Higgins. But don’t be afraid to double down at the running back position even if you already drafted a stud in Round 1.

The cleverly coined “Superhero RB” approach sets you up nicely with two locked-and-loaded studs in your two starting RB spots. It’s an even better strategy in best ball formats, where waiver-wire RBs can’t be added once the season starts.

Solidifying running backs in Rounds 1 and 2 also helps you avoid reaching on running backs in the upcoming RB Dead Zone, where your primary focus should be pounding WRs poised for significant leaps in 2022.

Tight end Travis Kelce is also an option in Round 2, with his 2022 point projection just shy of Cooper Kupp. It’s impossible to ignore the high-end target share that Kelce will command in the Chiefs’ offense after they traded Tyreek Hill. His 20% target share ranked second best at the position in 2021.

Just keep in mind that it was a slight fall off from his 23% average target share from 2019 and 2020.

ROUND 3 (25-36): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER OR KYLE PITTS.

Ideally, after Round 2, you have an RB-RB or RB-WR setup. This approach makes staying fluid and flexible for the next few rounds much easier. It’s essential to draft at least one running back in the first two rounds because the talent pool starts to fall off at the start of Round 3. Also, the middle rounds are chock-full of wide receiver talent, which should be the primary focus.

Draft the next highest-ranked wide receiver from the next tier, which could include Tee Higgins, Keenan Allen, Michael Pittman Jr., Mike Williams, and Courtland Sutton

If you still haven’t drafted a tight end, Kyle Pitts is your guy here at the end of Round 3 or the start of Round 4. He’s essentially a WR playing the tight end position, but the positional advantage makes him extremely enticing for fantasy purposes. Just be sure there are not any better options at WR, because you are paying a premium for a player on the Atlanta Falcons.

At just 21 years old, Pitts finished third among tight ends in receiving yards (1,018, 60 per game) through 17 weeks of the season and third in route participation (80%) through 18 weeks.

He’s got so much talent that nobody will be surprised to see him take a massive step forward in Year 2. In fact, the last two 21-year-old rookie years (Justin JeffersonJuJu Smith-Schuster) to average at least 60 receiving yards per game as rookies – which Pitts also did – reached 1,400 yards in their second seasons.

If, for some reason, you’ve avoided running backs up to this point or the other drafters went extremely receiver-heavy through the first three rounds, don’t shy away from a running back that I already mentioned.

ROUND 4 (37-48): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER.

The wide receivers in Round 4 are just as good as those in Round 3, so continue to pound away at the position. The primary wide receiver targets include Mike Williams, Courtland Sutton, Marquise Brown, Jaylen Waddle, D.J. Moore, Terry McLaurin, Allen Robinson, Michael Thomas, and even Gabriel Davis, the latter of which can be found sometimes much cheaper in more traditional home leagues. 

If you have only one running back rostered, the aforementioned Cam Akers is the priority target. After that, it’s Jets rookie first-rounder Breece Hall. Also in the conversation is second-year running back Travis Etienne Jr. Although there’s a chance he is long gone by Round 4.

ROUND 5 (49-60): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER OR RUNNING BACK.

Continue to bolster depth with the next tier of wide receivers (Jerry Jeudy, Rashod Bateman, Darnell Mooney, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Brandin Cooks, Elijah Moore) and/or running backs, assuming the ones mentioned from Round 4 have already been selected. But do your best to push RB out as much as possible in this range coined the “RB Dead Zone“.

I view pretty much every RB in this range — RB19-RB25, aka dead-zone backs — in the same manner, so I’ll just take whichever one falls the most later in the draft.

Really try to go WR or even elite tight end first before running back. Even if you this WR will be on your bench. Because remember, not all of these breakout WR candidates will hit. But only one or two need to truly hit for you to reap the rewards. Take as many shots as you can.

ROUND 6 (61-72): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER, RUNNING BACK, OR AN ELITE QUARTERBACK.

A few quarterbacks might go off the board before Round 6, but the opportunity cost is too high for fantasy football’s most easily replaceable position. The priority among the onesie positions should be to lock up the tight end position at value, which already leaves rosters thinner than most at RB/WR.

If you desire a QB, draft whichever top-tier passer — Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, or Jalen Hurts — remains. Joe Burrow feels a bit expensive grouped with these guys, but his QB5 ADP demands attention.

Don’t feel pressured to draft a signal-caller, because there are still plenty of great options in the following rounds. Oftentimes, one slips into Round 7.

If there is a potential breakout running back/wide receiver available, continue to exhaust the remaining running backs and wide receivers available atop the 2022 rankings.

Based on ADP you are looking at WRs like Chris Godwin Allen Robinson, Michael Thomas, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Gabriel Davis, Darnell Mooney and Brandin Cooks.

The one running back I’ll hone-in on in Round 6 is A.J. Dillon. He’s basically the only back-end RB2 I’ll consider.

Over the final eight weeks of the 2021 season, Dillon was the RB6 overall in half-point scoring averaging 14.5 fantasy points per game (11th). Dillon’s 32 red-zone touches ranked third in the NFL to end the season. He could be an every-down player in a run-heavy Packers offense.

ROUND 7 (73-84): DRAFT A QUARTERBACK, TIGHT END, RUNNING BACK, OR WIDE RECEIVER.

Round 7 brings drafters back into the tight end pool, as both T.J Hockenson and Dalton Schultz should be readily available. They sometimes go late in Round 6 or fall into Round 8, so just understand that TE is in play in this range. But ideally, you’ll want to attack the tight end position in the seventh for most situations.

Only Darren WallerTravis Kelce, and Mark Andrews have scored more fantasy points at the tight end position than Schultz since the start of 2020. His ADP has him linked closer to the second tier of tight ends rather than the aforementioned elite group. With Dak Prescott’s trust firmly in hand, Amari Cooper out the door and major question marks at No. 2 wide receiver, it’s likely that Schultz builds off his ninth-ranked 16% target share entering Year 5.

Hockenson’s the most intriguing from an upside perspective because his ADP fell dramatically from last season after failing to deliver on his Round 5 ADP. Mark Andrews was the tight end to target in Round 5 last season, not Hockenson. But his price dip is eerily similar to Andrews’ from 2020 to 2021 when he failed to take the massive leap we all projected. We were just one year early.

That may be the same case with Hockenson, who was productive when healthy last season.

Through 13 weeks, the Detroit Lions tight end ranked sixth in points per game, fifth in targets per game (7), first in route participation (85%), third in target share (19%), and third in air yard share. Averaging over one more fantasy point from the year prior, Hockenson fits the mold as a post-hype sleeper.

It’s easy to wait on a quarterback knowing Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott or Matthew Stafford are usually available in the seventh round if not even later (spoiler: they will be available later).

There is also a plethora of talented wide receivers per usual, so take your shots on Gabriel Davis, Darnell Mooney, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Hunter Renfrow, Elijah Moore, Rashod Bateman, Drake London, Allen Lazard, Christian Kirk, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Russell Gage, DeVonta Smith, Brandon Aiyuk and Treylon Burks

The difference between most of these receivers is negligible at best, so don’t reach here. In most home leagues, many of these guys will last through Rounds 7-9. There’s also a chance some guys slip that I have already mentioned if your league-mates are asleep at the wheel. 

After the starting lineup is filled, the focus should be on filling most bench spots with backup running backs — not wide receivers.

Rashaad Penny sometimes lasts this long, and is worth drafting if you still have a hole in your RB2 slot. Kenneth Walker might miss the start of the year, giving Penny the greenlight for early-season production before he gets hurt.

He was the fantasy RB1 and PFF’s highest-graded running back over the final six weeks of the season averaging 19.1 fantasy points, 6.9 YPC and 115-plus rushing yards per game.

ROUND 8 (85-96): DRAFT A WIDE RECEIVER OR RUNNING BACK.

Tight ends can fly off the draft board here as other teams reach for need. You should be squared away in that department, but don’t panic if that’s not the case.

The middle-of-the-pack tight end tier is not worth overinvesting in because the difference between TE7 through TE16 is marginal. In 2020, the TE7 (Mike Gesicki) outscored the TE16 (Jonnu Smith) by just 19 total fantasy points. In 2021, the TE6 (Zach Ertz) outscored the TE16 (Darren Waller) by 36 points.

The best “hits” from TE6 to TE13 ADP were Dallas Goedert (TE10), Mike Gesicki (TE8), and Noah Fant (TE9), but all they did was meet the expectations of their ADP. They provided zero to little advantage over the tight ends drafted after them.

So although there was a more significant gap between tight ends in the middle to late tiers in 2021 compared to the year prior, the difference between the two ends of the spectrum was negligible at best.

The strategy in 2022 should be attacking elite tight ends early or waiting long past the top 12.

If you’ve committed to the savvy late-round tight end approach, then stick to your guns and continue to bolster depth by targeting the best wide receivers and running backs remaining from the highest tiers. In the coming rounds, you’ll be able to scoop up guys like Zach Ertz, Cole Kmet, David Njoku, and Irv Smith Jr. at better values.

Although Ertz might be the one exception with is ADP starting to creep into the tail-end of Round 8. But I don’t hate him at that price. Ertz was the fantasy TE4 over last year’s stretch of games with Hopkins sidelined, averaging seven receptions per game (24% target share).

This is also a great round to target some potential breakout running back candidates like Rashaad Penny, Kareem Hunt, Devin Singletary, Chase Edmonds, Rhamondre Stevenson, Melvin Gordon III. Even rookie Dameon Pierce. 

Singletary was unleashed down the stretch for the Bills, finishing as the RB3 in PPR scoring over the final six weeks of the season with 17 fantasy points per game. He gained the coaching staff’s trust by earning 54-plus snaps to close out the season; the highest snap number Singletary saw all season dating back to Week 1. With a proven track record and two years of bellcow back usage in spurts, don’t be surprised when PFF’s fourth-ranked running back in rushes of 15-plus yards and seventh-ranked player in forced missed tackles in 2021 is the highly sought-after RB breakout who emerges from a high-octane ambiguous backfield.

Hunt’s been rumored to be on the trade block this offseason. His contract expires in 2023, and the Browns have a stable of backs behind Chubb, including D’Ernest Johnson, Jerome Ford, and Demetric Felton. He is a prime trade target for any team that suffers an RB injury.

Last year, Hunt was limited to just eight games due to a calf injury — but he maintained his effectiveness when healthy through the first six weeks of the season. He was a top-10 running back in PPR, averaging 17 fantasy points per game and just south of 15 touches per game.

His sixth-ranked yards after contact per attempt (3.54), sixth-ranked yards per route run (1.81), and 26% target rate suggest he’s not slowing down entering his age 27-season.

Stevenson experienced a very successful rookie season that should not be overlooked. After fully escaping the Bill Belichick doghouse in Week 9, Stevenson earned top grades across the board. He was PFF’s third-highest-graded running back (84.2). Stevenson also ranked 13th in rushing yards and yards per route run (1.41). For fantasy, the rookie running back was the RB25 in total points scored, eight spots behind his backfield teammate Damien Harris.

Stevenson (93) and Harris (86) split touches nearly 50/50 in the team’s remaining seven games. In the six games together, Stevenson slightly edged out Harris in expected fantasy points per game (9.3 vs. 8.9) with more favorable usage.

With impressive reports coming out of Foxborough highlighting Stevenson as a receiver, the ultra-sized back is a dark horse to see an expanded role on third downs with James White returning from a hip injury.

Stevenson needs to be a priority target as the draft slips into the double-digit rounds.

He was PFF’s highest-graded rookie RB last year, putting him into a tier with the likes of Jonathan Taylor, Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, and Alvin Kamara. They all were top-eight fantasy RBs in their second seasons.

The 4th-round rookie RB from Florida was PFF highest-graded in college football last season, and he has a chance to usurp Marlon Mack atop the Texans depth chart. Mack is only on a 1-year $2M deal, suggesting he’s not locked-in as the No.1.

The Texans have an early bye week — Week 6…So a bump in usage should be in play from Week 7 onward. Draft him and stash him. He has the capability of being an early down workhorse even though he wasn’t used that way in college. Pierce only had two college games with double-digit carries…both of which came after Gators HC Dan Mullen was fired.

Clearly, not using his best player was indeed a fireable offense. Texans won’t make that mistake citing that how the RBs on the roster play from here on out will determine who starts.

CTAs

ROUND 9 (97-108): DRAFT A QUARTERBACK, WIDE RECEIVER, OR RUNNING BACK.

There should be solid quarterbacks available once you hit the triple-digit draft picks, making this the sweet spot to address the position. Trey Lance, Derek Carr, and Kirk Cousins round out the options to target in Round 9 if some other guys haven’t also fallen. 

Russell Gage, Allen Lazard, Christian Kirk, Drake London, Kadarius Toney and Chase Claypool are solid value options at WR at this price. I also like taking additional shots on younger WRs with breakout potential. 

ROUND 10 (109-120): DRAFT A RUNNING BACK OR WIDE RECEIVER.

Your lineup should be shaping into form by Round 10, so start going after the guys you want, as reaching a round or two here will not make a difference. The focus should be on bolstering your bench with running backs.

Some of them have starting potential for Week 1, such as Sony Michel, James Cook, Dameon Pierce and Isaiah Spiller.

In contrast, others can be a FLEX with benefits, including Chase Edmonds, Melvin GordonBrian Robinson, Khalil Herbert, Kenneth Gainwell or Rachaad White. 

ROUND 11 (121-132): DRAFT A RUNNING BACK, WIDE RECEIVER, TIGHT END, OR QUARTERBACK.

You’ll want to continue hammering running backs, as more wide receiver depth doesn’t necessarily mean more upside for a fantasy football roster. If there is a screaming breakout candidate or value available at the position, then go with the flow of the draft.

My favorite RBs often in this range include Sony Michel, Isiah Pacheco, Darrel WilliamsAlexander Mattison, Khalil Herbert, Rachaad White, D’Ernest Johnson and Tyrion Davis-Price

The best wide receiver targets are Treylon Burks, Chris Olave, Tyler Boyd, Garrett Wilson, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Jahan Dotson, Skyy Moore and Julio Jones.

You’ll want to pay super close attention to QB ADPs on your draft platform to get the best value. Generally speaking, Round 11 is a solid benchmark and should allow you to grab Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, or Justin Fields without reaching. They all possess easy back-end fantasy QB1 upside.

This is also the range to hop on your favorite late-round tight end…mine being Bears third-year TE Cole Kmet. Also fine taking him a round earlier.

ROUND 12 (133-144): LOOK AT YOUR BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE LIST.

Entering the 12th round, you should have a full starting roster assembled, outside of a kicker and D/ST. As a result, the rest of the draft should focus on depth, especially at positions where you’ve invested less capital.

Depending on the draft room, you might start seeing D/STs and kickers taken this early. Don’t be that person.

My highest-ranked players in this range include Cole Kmet, Albert Okwuegbunam, Kenneth Gainwell, Irv Smith Jr., George Pickens, Gerald Everett, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Jahan Dotson, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, Rondale Moore, Brian Robinson Jr., Trevor Lawrence and K.J. Osborn.

ROUND 13 (145-156): LOOK AT YOUR BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE LIST.

More late-round quarterbacks are available in this range, but it’s unnecessary if you have already selected one. Drafting the best player available should still be the main approach.

ROUND 14 (157-168): LOOK AT YOUR BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE LIST.

In these late rounds, the remaining skill-position players are all “sleepers“. Check out my full sleeper list in the FantasyPros 2022 Fantasy Football Redraft Kit.

Based on my rankings, some of the players that may be included are Isaiah McKenzie, K.J. Hamler, Jalen Tolbert, David Njoku, Joshua Palmer, Gerald Everett, Tyrion Davis-Price, Brevin Jordan, Chris Evans, Jameson Williams, K.J. Osborn, Jerick McKinnon, Rex Burkhead, George Pickens, Curtis Samuel, Wan’Dale Robinson, Parris Campbell, Mo Alie-Cox and Romeo Doubs. 

ROUNDS 15-18 (169-216): DRAFT TWO SKILL PLAYERS, A KICKER, AND A D/ST.

The final four rounds of drafts will offer two “sleepers” along with a kicker and a D/ST. My recommended strategy is to go with a skill player in Round 15, followed by a kicker, D/ST, and then another skill player with the final selection.

The majority of skill players left are not long for spots on fantasy teams, so you’re better off investing in a kicker and D/ST — which you will need come Week 1. It’s better to reap the benefits of having a top option at each position while your league-mates stress over which player will be their seventh wide receiver.

Justin Tucker, Daniel Carlson, Matt Gay, Matt Prater, and Nick Folk round out my top five at the kicker position.

As for D/STs, you must draft teams with solid matchups in Week 1. The 49ers, Broncos, Browns, Saints, and Ravens all have great long-term outlooks in addition to plus-matchups in Week 1.

I’d draft them in that order.

The Titans (versus Giants) are also in a solid spot for opening weekend if you are caught scrambling.


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