The 2022 NFL Draft is finally upon us, and prospects are now rookies with NFL cities to call home. Follow along for real-time analysis the NFL draft’s opening round’s impact on fantasy football plans for 2022.
Fantasy draft season may not be close to hitting its crescendo, but hardcore gamers have been selecting players prior to the conclusion of the collegiate bowl season. It’s time to let the real fun begin!
Also see: Day 2 | Day 3
Round 1 fantasy football reaction
8) Atlanta Falcons | WR Drake London, USC
The Falcons selected the first skill position of this draft class by taking USC’s London, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder. He plays above the rim with the best of them, and his wingspan helps offset errant throws from a suspect quarterback situation. He can play inside and out and will be paired with last year’s standout tight end (who might as well be a receiver) in Kyle Pitts to create a towering duo.
The season-long suspension of Calvin Ridley means London instantly becomes the top player at the position, surrounded by the lofty likes of Olamide Zaccheaus, Damiere Byrd, Auden Tate, and Khadarel Hodge. How intimidating.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is the presumed starter of this “pass when you have to” offensive design that still has several missing pieces to fill before becoming truly competitive. The defense has its fair share of holes, too, which works in London’s favor to see increased volume. It’s hard to run as much as Arthur Smith would like to if the team is trailing more often than not.
In 2022 fantasy drafts, London is a flex target with more worth in PPR scoring. The season-long stats probably will fall in the range of 60-70 catches, 800-900 yards, and five or six scores. The long-term outlook is thoroughly dependent on what Atlanta does at quarterback, which appears to be wait until the 2023 draft at this point. There’s low-end WR1 upside found in London if the QB situation is even competent.
10) New York Jets | WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Wilson becomes the latest weapon added to help ensure the Jets can maximize quarterback Zach Wilson’s potential. New York revamped the position last year with wideouts Elijah Moore and Corey Davis, but having another game-breaker in Wilson makes for a dangerous trio. A second year in the system will do wonders for Wilson’s processing time, too, for a guy with all of the arm talent necessary to thrive.
The addition isn’t all that exciting for 2022 fantasy football action, however. There’s a lot to digest, and this offensive line is still a work-in-progress, but gamers have to be enamored by the long-term worth. Wilson is instant acceleration and can go the distance from just about anywhere. The Jets can rotate multiple receivers from the slot to exploit different mismatches, too. The defense remains shaky, which also bodes well.
The real issue here is how many balls will there be to go around and consistently make Wilson relevant … count on respectable production by rookie receiver standards but also erratic play from week to week.
11) New Orleans Saints | WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
Consecutive Buckeyes go after the Saints traded up to take Olave, a smooth route runner whose release is tough to defend. He can get over the top like few others. The Saints now have another Ohio Stater to pair with Michael Thomas, whose last two seasons have effectively been lost to injury on the heels of one of the position’s finest seasons ever witnessed.
Olave could share some of the deep-ball work with Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith, but the Saints didn’t trade up to let the rookie watch from the sidelines. His vertical skill set will fit in nicely with Jameis Winston’s cannon, and we really could see a more open passing attack than the tamed version of Winston last year.
Olave has WR3 potential for season-long results in 2022, even though it could be a bumpy ride at times. In the long run, he could overtake Thomas as the No. 1 weapon in the passing game as soon as 2023. We’re looking at one of the better situations for a rookie receiver in both the short and long terms.
12) Detroit Lions | WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
The Lions traded up from No. 32 to the 12th spot to nab a franchise receiver as the front office continues to build around Jared Goff. The offseason acquisition of DJ Chark Jr. and the return of Josh Reynolds to complement Amon-Ra St. Brown helps tide over Detroit until Williams (knee) is recovered enough from ACL reconstruction to see the field at full strength, which should be around October. Also, don’t discount the receiving chops of tight end T.J. Hockenson and RB D’Andre Swift.
When healthy, Williams is a lean 6-foot-1, 179 pounds, and he can flat out fly. Few receivers in the game have his wheels and athleticism to take a short dump-off and scream 80 yards later into the end zone.
As for single-year leagues, Williams may develop into a contributor late in the season, but he could be overdrafted by fantasy owners looking to make a splash play. This really is closer to a redshirt year than not.
On the plus side, the defense still remains a liability, boding well for the aerial game to rack up counting stats. Goff is a mixed bag, and aside from the 2021 breakout rookie in St. Brown, all other Detroit wideouts are mostly just dudes.
Williams is a second-half bench buy in most 2022 drafts, barring a miraculous recovery from the knee rebuild. Even still, how far behind will he be due to missing on-field work and chemistry-building opportunities?
It will take a little patience in fantasy, but the investment in dynasty formats will be well worth it. The former Crimson Tide standout will be a legitimate No. 1 receiver in both real and fake football.
16) Washington Commanders | WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State
You’ll notice a common theme among some of the top receivers in this class: explosiveness. Dotson is as quick as a lightning strike and has hands of glue. He can play inside and out, despite being smallish in stature (5-foot-10 1/2, 178 pounds).
He’ll be tasked with making Washington more dangerous in the passing game and providing its new starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, with another tool in the box. Terry McLaurin also is a touchdown waiting to happen, and he gets a running mate who can force defenses to pick their poison. If WR Curtis Samuel can get it together, this could be a promising trio in Washington.
Wentz is the key component here that is tough to forecast. He hasn’t looked like the standout we saw during his sophomore season in Philly and was a hot mess for Indianapolis when it mattered most last year. Washington must establish a strong rushing attack and play better defense to allow Wentz to sling it around without defenders waiting for him to telegraph an error.
Even if you’re a rightfully not a believer in Wentz, Dotson is an intriguing flex addition this season, but there’s also the rookie’s dangerous ability after the catch working in our favor here. All it takes is a short crosser or a quick slant and this guy is threatening for six. His long-term worth is probably capped at WR2 or so, but Dotson is simply too good with the ball in hands to ignore in any format.
18) Tennessee Titans | WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Wide receiver A.J. Brown was traded to Philadelphia, which facilitated this selection. Burks, not by coincidence, is an extremely similar weapon to the man he’ll be asked to make Titans fans forget.
Burks is nearly a Brown clone in size and plays with as fierce of a style. There’s a little bit of Anquan Boldin and Deebo Samuel in his game, too. Like Deebo, Burks can be utilized in a multitude of ways, which will make life easier on lackluster offensive coordinator Todd Downing.
Primarily playing out of the slot at Arkansas, Burks is a beast in the open field and can be game planned into manufactured touches. He’ll need to produce in a hurry for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations but little going on at receiver. Robert Woods is a capable veteran but returns from knee construction at age 30. Not ideal. Tight end Austin Hooper was a nice add in free agency, and the team hopes WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine can capitalize on his 2021 flashes.
In 2022 fantasy leagues, Burks will be a hot commodity — perhaps too toasty for gamers who tend to draft conservatively. Expect him to be drafted as a WR2 and come awfully close to living up to that placement most weeks. The star Razorback will have all of the opportunities in the world to excel, and the long view is that of a upper-echelon WR1 fantasy returns.
20) Pittsburgh Steelers | QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Pickett doesn’t have to travel far to set up shop with his new employer. A one-year marvel at Pittsburgh, the classic pocket passer provides immediate competition for offseason addition Mitchell Trubisky. The Steelers likely will enter the summer with an open competition, even if Mike Tomlin doesn’t explicitly say so. Buuuuut, we all know where this one is heading.
The Steelers landed an accurate arm with the heady Pickett. He is quick to diagnose defenses and does a pretty good job of feeling pressure. He has enough mobility to escape the pass rush and run a bootleg near the stripe, although no one will confuse him with Lamar Jackson anytime soon.
Pickett should outright win the job ahead of Week 1, and he’ll have adequate help. The Steelers sport multi-layered weaponry in wideouts Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson as well as tight end Pat Freiermuth. Running back Najee Harris is a tremendous receiving outlet, too, and he should only be improved as rusher — a valuable way to take pressure off of a rookie.
For argument’s sake, say Trubisky fends him off during the summer … it is only a matter of time before we see Pickett replace him in 2022. Tomlin won’t force this one, but we’ve all see what Trubisky is as a pro quarterback thus far, and it hasn’t exactly been inspiring. Furthermore, Pickett is the most NFL-ready QB of this class.
In 2022 drafts, Pickett is a non-factor for fantasy purposes, unless he overwhelms Trubisky early in camp and steals the show in preseason play. In that case, we’re still talking about a second QB in deep formats. The former Panther may flirt with midrange QB1 fantasy value at some point in his career. For now, he’s a safer matchup/rotational type due to his lack of mobility.