While seasonal fantasy football drafts seem quite a ways off, 2022 best ball leagues and early mocks are starting to take off. At the very least, it’s time to start getting your projections and rankings in order.
With that in mind, I took a stab at mocking how the first two rounds of fantasy football leagues will unfold this year.
My first grand takeaway: I hate it, particularly Round 1.
It was hard to find 12 desirable picks to put in the first round especially given that we’re seemingly at an inflection point at running back. Several of the top talents from the last three years are already close to aging out and we’re lacking in projectable workhorse young guys to take their spots. Getting the middle rounds right will be crucial this year if the early rounds prove to be as volatile as I think they might end up.
Yes, I hate how this first mock turned out. I’m ready and eager to change my mind/approach the further we get into the summer.
1.01 - Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
The combination of Taylor’s age, dominant 2021 season and a potential upgrade at quarterback make him the clear first overall selection. Injuries can hit anyone at this position but no player at the top of the running back board inspires this much comfort.
1.02 - Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Unlikely to repeat his Triple Crown performance from last year, Kupp is still in position to dominate high-leverage targets for a great offense.
1.03 - Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
I would be zero-percent shocked if Jefferson takes another leap and becomes the WR1 overall this season. A growing talent on a rocketship-upward trajectory, Jefferson has a similar outlook to Kupp this season.
1.04 - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
It won’t feel good to do it but you’re going to have to have to hate-click McCaffrey in the top-five picks this year. The recent injury history is terrifying but his ceiling and floor combination is too rare at this position to pass up.
1.05 - Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler has gone over 1,500 yards from scrimmage twice in the last three years and is coming off a career-best 20 total scores. The current Chargers coaching staff didn’t put any weird sized-based limitations on his role in the scoring area. That gives us comfort when chasing that ceiling for another season.
1.06 - Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Investing in a Steelers offense captained by either Mitchell Trubisky or rookie Kenny Pickett isn’t the most comfortable proposition. But Harris is one of the few backs who is ticketed for 80-plus percent of his team’s backfield touches. It might not always be a pretty experience but the numbers will be there.
1.07 - Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Even within a running back crop that feels particularly rocky this year, Henry strikes me as more volatile than most. You can easily tell yourself a story that last year’s injury was a mere blip in an otherwise stellar run and he’s right back at the top of the positional scorers come December.
The negative extreme is just as easy to visualize given the amount of volume he’s handled since 2019. For what it’s worth, the Titans are clearly betting on the former outcome given they doubled down on their run-first, Henry-centric identity with just about every offseason move.
1.08 - Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Much like Henry, Cook is already reaching the point in a running back's career where we’re starting to weigh their projected workload against their age and history. Still, Cook looks to be the featured back of an offense that likely got a bump in the coaching department and is essentially bringing back a talented ecosystem of skill-position players.
1.09 - Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
Diggs is coming off back-to-back 160-plus target seasons and there’s no reason he shouldn’t moonwalk right into that type of alpha target share once again. The Bills are light on proven pass-catchers behind him, despite the fantasy community’s excitement over Gabriel Davis. Diggs should land somewhere between 2020 and 2021 in the efficiency department this season.
1.10 - Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Don’t overthink it.
Ignore things like, “Chase had x-percent of his fantasy points come on just a handful of plays,” or other such noisy nuggets. We should be ecstatic to bet on and project growth for elite young receiving talents tethered to such a juicy situation as Chase’s setup in Cincy.
1.11 - Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce has averaged 141.3 targets over the last four seasons and could easily clear that mark in 2022 given the changes in Kansas City’s receiving corps. Kelce will be the lone, proven, familiar face for Patrick Mahomes this season.
1.12 - Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
I’m trying to find as many reasons as possible to be ahead of ADP on Aaron Jones this season. The Packers have always been more run-heavy than you think and given the massive opening in their target share following the Davante Adams trade, Jones could set a career-high in looks. He’s an ideal selection around the turn.
2.01 - Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon seems to have successfully slid into the “safe but boring” era of his career as a fantasy running back. Totally fine. He’s a workhorse back at the center of a good offense.
2.02 - Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
Still a top-five wide receiver but not a first-round fantasy pick seems like the proper adjustment for Adams in a post-Packers world. Adams is an elite individual talent and Derek Carr is far from some slouch at quarterback.
2.03 - Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
There’s always some frustration with Chubb because of Kareem Hunt’s presence (though he’s not a 2022 roster lock) but the upside is worth the worries. Chubb is a blistering talent and the lead back of one of the top rushing ecosystems in the NFL.
2.04 - D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
Swift cleared 1,000 scrimmage yards in just 13 games last season. He’ll have more competition for targets this season but should remain high in the Lions' receiving pecking order. Swift checks a lot of the boxes we want in our fantasy backs.
2.05 - Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Evans does nothing but pile up touchdowns and 1,000-yard seasons on an annual basis. With Antonio Brown gone and Chris Godwin still recovering from a late 2021 ACL tear, Evans could see his highest target totals of the Tom Brady era.
2.06 - Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Andrews wrestled the TE1 title away from Travis Kelce last season and will push him again in 2022. I’m buying all the Rashod Bateman hype but still, with Marquise Brown traded away Andrews should own a commanding share of the Ravens’ targets. I’m not interested in his splits with/without Lamar Jackson.
2.07 - Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Some worries about a possible suspension keep Kamara out of the first-round discussion. Otherwise, his outlook appears quite nice this season especially since we no longer have to worry about the goofy Taysom Hill offense distributing things midseason.
2.08 - Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There is no reason to assume Fournette experiences a role change from what he was asked to do last season. A running back who thrived in that sort of three-down, receiving-heavy role on an offense led by Tom Brady is a Round 2 fantasy pick. Simple case.
2.09 - CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Amari Cooper leaving town is a big deal for Lamb’s outlook. Michael Gallup possibly starting the season still recovering from a torn ACL is also quite consequential. We haven’t seen Lamb dominate the targets in Dallas quite yet but it’s all laid out for him to do so this season.
2.10 - Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Anyone doing projections this year is going to struggle with Samuel. You can’t realistically give him the target share he held in Weeks 1 to 7 and he’s unlikely — or unwilling — to handle the rushing work he thrived with down the stretch.
There are also the Trey Lance questions and his own contract situation. Slotting Samuel toward the end of Round 2 despite his stellar 2021 feels fair, all things considered.
2.11 - Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Don’t let Ja’Marr Chase’s rise let you forget about Higgins. If you include playoffs, Higgins finished last season with 1,400 yards and eight scores. That’s a non-outrageous outcome for him in the upcoming regular season. He is an extremely good young receiver.
2.12 - Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins
I went slightly chalky with Hill at the end of Round 2. I really wanted to go A.J. Brown in this spot. The move to Philly is not a downgrade for his fantasy value. Just to be a bit bolder, I considered giving this spot to one of my absolute favorite wide receiver picks this year, Michael Pittman. Absolutely dripping with talent, Pittman is a true No. 1 receiver in every sense of the word who is now set to play with a steadier quarterback.
I will regret the Hill pick the moment I file this article.