Underdog Fantasy's Hayden Winks' favorite picks in each round of 2022 fantasy football drafts. This assumes Half PPR scoring, 12-team leagues, and a 1QB-2RB-3WR-1TE-1FLEX starting lineups. And I'm not cheating here. The round designations below are based on Underdog's ever-updating ADP, not the easy to defeat default rankings on your favorite re-draft site.
The best way to prepare for your home league is to draft a few best ball teams. Sign up with promo code 'UNDERBLOG' for a $100 deposit-match bonus. That'll get you into four Best Ball Mania III drafts, where there's $10 MILLION in prizes. That's the biggest fantasy football tournament of all time. There's still time to try it out.
You can see my rankings here. Use them.
Instead of touting first-round players, I'll rank which draft spots just in case you have the option of picking your draft spot. Assuming it's a 10- or 12-team league, my clear favorites are 1.01 through 1.04, followed by 1.05 and 1.06. The back-half is hard to navigate, especially if we think there's a drop off in talent half-way through Round 3, too.
Giants RB Saquon Barkley - Fully healthy for the first time in two years, Barkley enters an offense with a play-caller that's competent and has ranked top-12 in neutral pace in the last three seasons. The OL has two first-round tackles and veterans on the interior, and the rest of the skill group is filled with question marks. The Giants improved offense flows through contract-year Barkley. Gitty up.
Bengals RB Joe Mixon - He was Half PPR's RB5 per game last year. Over the last 10 games last year, Mixon was the RB4 in expected half PPR points (my model that converts targets and carries into fantasy points). The OL added C Ted Karras, RG Alex Cappa, and RT La’El Collins in free agency, giving Mixon the best projected rushing lanes of his career. He'll be a low-end RB1 if he doesn't play passing downs. If he does play passing downs, we have a Dalvin Cook type of ceiling in Round 2.
Ravens TE Mark Andrews - I like punting TE more in best ball compared to re-draft where you can't ride the TD variance wave. Andrews has the best combination of talent, age, target competition, and QB play among any of the TEs. He led the position in yards per game last year, the stat with the most predictive power to the following season's fantasy points.
Bucs RB Leonard Fournette - Over the last 10 weeks last year, Fournette was Half PPR's RB5 per game on RB4 fantasy usage. He's a boom-bust projection given his weight and age, but we just witnessed the ceiling last year. Even if Rachaad White plays some passing downs, Fournette projects for double-digit touchdowns. He scored 10 last year on 12.7 expected touchdowns, the third-highest of all RBs.
Cardinals RB James Conner - During that five-game stretch with Chase Edmonds injured from Week 9-14, Conner averaged 22.2 touches with all inside the five-yard line RB touches and 89% of the passing situation targets to RBs. PFF handed him the best pass-blocking grade and third-best receiving grade to pair with his 13th overall yards per route run number. Conner won't score 18 TDs again, but his 11.2 expected TDs are plenty enough to return RB2 value, especially if he catches more balls this year sans-Edmonds.
Bengals WR Tee Higgins - The second-year pro was Half PPR's WR15 per game last year. He has an inconsistent WR2 floor, but there are two paths to strong WR1 value: 1) Ja'Marr Chase or Tyler Boyd misses time, or 2) the Bengals pass the ball more. Last year, Cincinnati started out with below-average neutral pass rates while Joe Burrow (ACL) gained confidence behind a very bad line. Those numbers gradually increased and should with the knee and the bad line in the rear-view mirror.
Falcons TE Kyle Pitts (Year 2) - He doesn't fall here often on Underdog Fantasy, but he might on other platforms. Pitts is more of a priority in re-draft (not best ball) leagues. Either way, Pitts' yardage projection is as good as any TE. He led the position (as a 21-year-old rookie) in yards per route run versus man coverage (3.0) and looks like a unicorn. If he eclipses last year's 5.8 expected TDs then he'll be a borderline elite TE1.
Broncos WR Courtland Sutton - He had a 72-1,112-6 receiving line in his second season and looks to be finally healthy after a lengthy ACL rehab. Sutton's contested catch downfield skills are in sync with Russell Wilson's strengths as a passer. Plus, Sutton has the size for red zone looks that the other WRs post-Tim Patrick lack. DK Metcalf like fantasy production shouldn't come as a surprise in this high-flying division.
Stacked QBs - Josh Allen (if he falls) on Stefon Diggs teams. Lamar Jackson on Mark Andrews teams. Justin Herbert on Mike Williams or Keenan Allen teams. Patrick Mahomes on Travis Kelce teams. All of them are viable in stacks, especially in the back-half of the round.
Chiefs WR JuJu Smith-Schuster - He started his first two seasons averaging a 96-1,328-7 17-game pace, but a declining QB and injuries have derailed in his last two seasons. Smith-Schuster has flashed WR1 talent previously and was brought in to be a check-down option when teams pivot to two-high shells. He'd be a target sponge if Travis Kelce missed time, and there's obviously room for at least two top-50 overall pass-catchers as long as Mahomes is upright. He's a 2-WR set starter based on his preseason usage.
Ravens WR Rashod Bateman (Year 2) - A 92nd percentile prospect in my model, Bateman has the size and skillset to be a true No. 1 target. He can win over the middle and down the field (where Lamar Jackson is best), and potentially will show more explosiveness following last year's sports hernia and battle with COVID. The heavy-TE sets and the lack of a true No. 2 WR behind Bateman give him a high-end target rate.
Seahawks WR DK Metcalf - There's not a WR going after him that has his talent. Simple as that.
Bucs WR Chris Godwin - A fifth-round pick on Underdog Fantasy, Godwin easily could slip in re-draft formats where your league-mates are typically more risk-averse. He may not play the first couple of weeks and may not be at full strength until November and December, but a WR2 finish during the fantasy playoffs is worth the patience. If Tom Brady is worried about his OL holding up following a rash of injuries/retirement, Godwin will get peppered with short-area targets.
Eagles QB Jalen Hurts or Cardinals QB Kyler Murray - Between the rushing ability and the weapons around them, Hurts and Murray have the same ceiling as the top-4 fantasy QBs. I'm comfortable drafting either QB and then finding one of their pass-catchers in later rounds.
49ers RB Elijah Mitchell (Year 2) - Training camp reports indicated a healthy distance between him and the rest of the 49ers RBs -- his speed and vision is unmatched -- and it'll be even easier to run in 2022 with Trey Lance adding another dimension. Mitchell was the 32nd overall player in per-game production last year. If he runs pure health-wise, Mitchell will be an upside RB2, especially in standard or half PPR.
Falcons WR Drake London (R) - A 98th percentile prospect in my model, London was overthought in dynasty circles. He can win contested, but was actually used in the screen game at USC at near historic rates, too, because of his wiggle and toughness. London profiles as a target hog similar to Michael Thomas, and that'll be easy to do with this barren Falcons depth chart.
Packers WR Allen Lazard - There aren't stats to back this one up, but nobody on the Packers profiles as a No. 1 receiver. Yet someone is going to ball out with Aaron MFin Rodgers at QB. When in doubt, listen to the back-to-back NFL MVP. If he calls Lazard his guy, then Lazard is his guy. Many of Rodgers' breakout WRs didn't look like breakouts before they did.
Bengals QB Joe Burrow - A healthier ACL and three veteran free agency pick-ups on the offensive line are all we need for Burrow to be a consistent mid-range QB1. If you have Ja'Marr Chase or Tee Higgins, this is a fine range to lock up your stack. This is especially so on re-draft platforms where the fantasy gods have given us lay-ups at WR later on. Leave with a decent QB. Make your life easier.
Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire - The fact that we've steamed 7th-round rookie Isiah Pacheco as the Chiefs RB2 is good news for CEH's status as the unquestioned No. 1 back. CEH has been used as the early-down and goal-line option, and it's possible he'll catch more passes sans-Tyreek Hill even if Jerick McKinnon plays on passing downs. The Chiefs have used a fullback and a second tight end more in the preseason, as they recalibrate with more traditional offensive concepts. Those play to CEH's and the OL's strengths.
Giants WR Kadarius Toney (Year 2) - There is no floor here, but he's a WR4/flex on your team based on ADP. His upside far exceeds. Last year in a shortened sample, Toney had a borderline elite 2.7 YPRR versus man coverage per SIS and that was even higher before his mid-season ankle injury. A YAC threat with better than expected outside WR skills, Toney has difference-maker potential in a much-improved Giants offense. Toney is in the Stefon Diggs role.
Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow - Darren Waller (30 years old) made it through one training camp practice due to a hamstring injury after limping through all of 2021. This McDaniels' offense has produced numerous slot studs, and Renfrow is a legit talent. Just ask Derwin James. Renfrow will be a weekly WR2/3 if Waller or Davante Adams miss time. There's nobody else in the offense to throw the ball to.
Texans RB Dameon Pierce (R) - His 0.39 broken tackles per carry rate at Florida was elite. Pierce also has soft hands and is an alpha in pass protection. It didn't equate to bellcow production in college, but he has the skillset and size to be a 250-touch player in the NFL. The Texans are hoping it happens; Pierce rested with the first-team offense in Preseason Week 2. The return of LT Laremy Tunsil and the addition of first-round LG Kenyon Green are the final positives. Here's my preseason film breakdown of him.
Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling - You can move him down a round or two in re-draft leagues because his week-to-week consistency is so nuts, but MVS will have bink weeks as the Chiefs' unquestioned top deep threat. A 3-year, $30M contract, the attachment to Patrick Mahomes, and confirmation of being a 2-WR set starter in preseason are all we need for upside WR4 production. Plus there's contingent value if the 33-year-old TE or oft-injured slot WR miss time.
Bills TE Dawson Knox - Yes, Knox is a negative TD regression candidate (+2.3 TDs over expected), but he was tied for second in expected scores because the Bills are always in the red zone. In fact, he was the TE3 in routes run per game in the red zone. And there's room for growth. Knox was the TE7 in yards per route run versus man coverage last year per SIS (he's a great athlete) but was bottom-10 versus zone coverage. With more experience (Year 4), Knox could be well rounded enough to truly breakout. And if something happens to either Stefon Diggs or Gabe Dave, then Knox will be cooking.
Broncos RB Melvin Gordon - This ADP assumes Gordon is only getting 30% of the backfield. Training camp reports suggest it could be closer to 45%. Even if it's the former, Gordon has top-12 RB contingent value if Javonte Williams misses any time. Draft established bellcows on good offenses, even if they're older than you'd like. He's been a fantasy league-winner before. Gordon could be this year's James Conner.
Seahawks RB Ken Walker (R) - A mysterious hernia procedure very well could knock him out for the first few weeks of the season, but it's rare to get top-40 NFL Draft selections at RB this late in the draft; Breece Hall goes Round 4. Najee Harris, Javonte Williams, and Travis Etienne were all Round 2-5 fantasy picks last year. There's not as much love for Walker, mainly because of his iffy receiving stats in college. Don't let that distract you from his 4.38 speed, his CFB-leading 89 forced missed tackles, and his 4.5 yards after contact per carry. There's not a RB with more talent than him later in the draft. Ride him down the stretch.
Bengals WR Tyler Boyd - He was the 119th overall player in fantasy points over replacement last year, and that's where he's going right now. Go read the Tee Higgins blurb from above to understand the baseline and contingent-upside Boyd has in Joe Burrow's third year.
Vikings RB Alexander Mattison - He scored 20.1, 24.8, 19.9, and 14.5 Half PPR points last year when he started for the oft-injured Dalvin Cook last year. His RB2 job in Minnesota appears safe after not getting substituted out on either of his drives in preseason action. It can argued that his fantasy upside is similar to A.J. Dillon and Tony Pollard, whom go way earlier.
Bucs RB Rachaad White (R) - The Buccaneers were 3rd in RB fantasy usage last year. White could spell Leonard Fournette just enough to have minimal flex value in Full PPR leagues, but the true reason to draft the rookie is for his league-winning potential as insurance. White averaged 135 total yards and 1.46 total touchdowns per game from 2020-21 at Arizona State and has the size/athleticism to hang in the NFL. His preseason tape (aside from an inexcusable fumble) has been encouraging, too.
Colts RB Nyheim Hines - One of the best passing backs in the NFL, Hines projects better going from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan, who completed the second-most passes to RBs last year. More importantly, Hines has contingent-upside if Jonathan Taylor misses time. He had 16.4 Half PPR points in the lone game JT was banged up in last year and will only face competition from Phillip Lindsay.
Chargers WR Joshua Palmer (Year 2) - When Mike Williams missed his lone game last year, Palmer played 86% of his snaps out wide (5-43-1). Two weeks later with Keenan Allen out, he had a 5-66-1 receiving line while lining up in the slot on 74% of his snaps. If Justin Herbert has an MVP-like season, Palmer could pay off this ADP just as the No. 3 receiver. If either Williams or Allen miss (and they're not known for their durability), the second-year pro becomes an every-down player.
Commanders WR Jahan Dotson (R) - There aren't many first-round rookies who started in 2-WR sets during the preseason that are available this late in fantasy drafts.
Lions WR D.J. Chark - In the two seasons before Urban Meyer showed up, Chark averaged 61 yards per game in Jacksonville. He's established a fantasy-valuable skill as a downfield threat; his average depth of target (aDOT) has been 14.0 and 16.3 yards downfield in recent seasons. And he'll be a 2-WR starter in what should be a functional Detroit offense for most, if not all, of 2022 with the Lions (smartly) taking things really slow with Jameson Williams. Chark low-key received a $10M contract this offseason.
Jets RB Michael Carter (Year 2) - As a rookie, Carter was the RB3 in PFF's elusiveness rating and the RB10 in yards after contact per carry. Despite his size, he's a very good between-tackles rusher with soft hands out of the backfield. We saw upside RB2 value as the lead back last year, so there's obvious contingent upside if Breece Hall misses time, but I'm also making a small bet on Carter playing more snaps than expected. It's August 25th and the Jets beat is still calling Carter the team's RB1. A 55/45 split would be gravy on this late ADP.
Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie - He ran away with the starting slot job by dominating training camp early. In a similar role, Cole Beasley averaged a 77-813-3.7 receiving line. McKenzie could be a WR4/flex play all season in this elite passing offense. More importantly, McKenzie lined up in 2-WR sets in the preseason when Stefon Diggs or Gabriel Davis needed a breather. That's how the real breakout happens. He has the athleticism required to do it.
Vikings WR K.J. Osborn - More 3-WR sets, a faster-paced offense, and more passing in general leaves Osborn with paths to WR4/flex value even if Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen stay healthy. In the six games Thielen missed games last year, however, the third-year pro averaged 11.4 Half PPR points per game, per my Fantasy Splits To Know column. Consider him the rare WR insurance, given his inside/outside versatility.
Browns TE David Njoku - A raw college prospect, it's taken a long time for Njoku (26 years old) to develop, but the Browns think he's ready for a breakout. Njoku is now the fifth-highest paid TE in the NFL, and he doesn't have Austin Hooper in his way. Based on his explosiveness and every-down skillset (he was 9th in YPRR out of 26 TEs last year per SIS), Njoku could be the Browns No. 2 target. In all three of Jacoby Brissett's seasons as a starter, his tight end has finished second in team targets.
Bears RB Khalil Herbert (Year 2) - He was utilized as a full-time player in preseason games with David Montgomery (hamstring) sidelined, which matches up with his short stint as the Bears starting running back last year when he scored 18.2, 15.8, and 7.8 Half PPR points. Herbert has legit vision and burst for early downs if Montgomery misses time.
Lions RB Jamaal Williams - A locker room and Hard Knocks legend, Williams has the 11th highest cap hit of any Lions player in 2022 and the 17th highest at the RB position. He'll be on the field on early downs because he's a consistent between-tackles rusher. Last year, Williams was 14th in EPA per carry. Swift was 49th out of 50, per SIS. If there's not a third-year leap from Swift, Williams could have RB3/flex value during bye weeks. If Swift misses time, Williams is an RB2. He had 20, 19, and 18 touches in healthy starts last year.
Colts WR Alec Pierce (R) - The second-round rookie has size (6’3/211), speed (4.41 speed), and leaping ability (41-inch vert). More importantly, he's in a functional offense without much target competition. Pierce is, at least, a 3-WR starter with only Parris Campbell in his way for every-down work. The rookie should come down with a couple of downfield and red zone throws with the upside for a more well-rounded game. He flashed on tape in college.
Packers TE Robert Tonyan - He's competing with a bottom-five WR room and already has an 11-score season under his built. Tonyan will need time to get comfortable post-ACL, but he could sneak back into the fringe TE1/2 mix by mid-October. This is his age-28 season.
Chargers TE Gerald Everett - Jared Cook was fifth in red zone routes per game last year. The Chargers' TEs as a whole were sixth in routes run and ninth in targets. There's clearly room for TE1/2 production if Everett can become a more consistent player. If he can't be, we at least have Justin Herbert touchdowns to run hot with.
Jets WR Corey Davis - In Preseason Week 1, Davis played on 9-of-10 first-team snaps, including on all but one snap in 2-WR sets. This late into drafts, just find players who could be near full-time players. It's possible first-round rookie Garrett Wilson steals this work eventually, but Davis has the seventh-highest 2022 cap hit ($13.6M) of any WR in the NFL. The Jets probably think he's better than you do. They appreciate his X-WR size and physicality in the run game.
Jaguars WR Zay Jones - There aren't receivers available this late in drafts with $17M guaranteed on their contracts. Jones made some plays downfield with Derek Carr last year and could easily push Marvin Jones in Jacksonville, given this new coaching staff only has allegiance to Zay.
Patriots QB Mac Jones (Year 2) - He was 11th in success rate and 14th in EPA as a rookie. I see a Philip Rivers trajectory, so I'll take the OC Matt Patricia discount.
Lions QB Jared Goff - Establish The Run's Brandon Thorn ranks this is the No. 4 offensinve line, and the primary critique of Goff's career are his splits with and without pressure. Quietly, Goff has a decent set up around him and has been an upside QB2 earlier in his career. That's as good as it gets this deep into fantasy drafts.
Chiefs RB Jerick McKinnon - After playing on 78%, 70%, and 78% of the offensive snaps in the NFL Playoffs last year, McKinnon returns to Kansas City as the potential passing-down back for Patrick Mahomes. McKinnon is (by far) the most reliable option on the Chiefs if CEH misses time.
Browns WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (Year 2) - He's a young, 2-WR set starter with size (6'2/212) and athleticism (44.5-inch vert). That's all we can ask for this late.
Falcons QB Marcus Mariota - The only mispriced dual-threat QB available, Mariota goes undrafted frequently despite averaging over 20 rushing yards in career starts and having the honor to throw the ball to Kyle Pitts and Drake London. Mariota looked decisive and as athletic as usual in preseason action. Correlation meet leverage.
Steelers QB Kenny Pickett (R) - First-round rookie QBs don't go undrafted in fantasy football anymore,,, except for Pickett. Everyone thought he was a garbage prospect (not me), but he has looked fantastic in preseason games (film video) and has the weapons to sneak into the QB2 range. From my tape evaluation, Pickett is already better than Trubisky and should start early. Pickett also isn't a zero with his legs.
Saints RB Mark Ingram - Can you name the Saints No. 3 RB?
Bengals RB Chris Evans (Year 2) - A 98th percentile adjusted SPARQ athlete, Evans has the speed and size to be a random breakout player, especially in this Cincy offense. It's unclear if he's ahead of veteran Samaje Perine as Joe Mixon's backup, but Evans runs laps around the vet in terms of explosiveness. I'll role the dice in year two.
Chargers RB Joshua Kelley - He's not good, as evidenced by him going to UCLA for college. But he was Austin Ekeler's backup in training camp and the preseason, even before Day 3 rookie Isaiah Spiller injured his ankle. This is ultimately a bet on the Chargers offense, and it doesn't hurt that he's been mostly undrafted in Best Ball Mania III.
Steelers RB Benny Snell - We can copy/paste that Kelley blurb here, but the Steelers offense is worse. Maybe Snell is better than Kelley, though. Either way, we're talking about the insurance to a top-10 overall fantasy asset. Not a bad starting point in the undrafted range.