🎯 Who To Target In Round 1

Strategy for every slot...

Apparently hunting wild boars isn't good cardio...

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter:

  • Who to select in the 1st round of drafts

  • The Cardinals pay Kyler

  • The Chiefs RB who could be cut

  • Fantasy Life: Round 1 Mock Draft

  • It’s 7/22. Take it away, Peter Overzet…

They say you can’t lose your draft in the first round, but you sure about that?

2022 sets up to be an interesting year for the first round of drafts, particularly if you don’t land a Top 5 pick. A true consensus has formed at the top of boards, but after that, it’s the wild west.

Understanding the pros and cons of each draft slot–and how it might inform the rest of your draft–will go a long way in determining who you take.

Here are the three tiers of the first round and some things to think about before you pull the trigger on your franchise player.

Choose Your Own Adventure - Round 1

🏆 Picks 1-5: The Elite Tier

Congrats, the fantasy football gods have rewarded your devotion to this fake sport, or you’re just lucky as hell. Probably the latter, but congrats nonetheless.

It’s tough to go wrong with a Top 5 pick in 2022. It means you are locking up one of the Top 2 consensus RBs–Jonathan Taylor or Christian McCaffrey–or landing one of the Top 3 WRs–Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, or Ja’Marr Chase.

It’s slightly easier for me to poke holes in the RBs–Taylor was very reliant on big plays and TDs for his scoring, CMC is notoriously brittle–but the point remains that all five of these picks offer league-dominating upside.

As if it couldn’t get any better for you, I believe the back half of Round 2 and the start of Round 3 offer similar quality players as at the beginning of Round 2. I don’t see much difference at all between CeeDee Lamb and Joe Mixon (early Round 2) and Deebo Samuel, Tee Higgins, Javonte Williams (late Round 2).

If you agree with me that there is a tier break after pick 28 or so (once Mike Williams is off the board), it’s somewhat unfair that early drafters are able to not only land a Top 5 elite asset, but three total top players.

All you have to do now is not mess it up. Good luck.

🙏🏻 Picks 6-9: The Click & Pray RBs

In this range we typically have 4 RBs coming off the board: Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, and Najee Harris.

All of these players have flashed elite fantasy scoring, but enter the season with big question marks…

Ekeler: He’s coming off the best rushing season of his career, but the Chargers finally added some legit competition in the backfield with rookie Isaiah Spiller. Ekeler is also on the record saying he doesn’t want to carry the ball 206 times again this year. If his workload diminishes, he quickly becomes a landmine selection.

Henry: In RB years, Henry is practically a senior citizen at age 28. After a massive 2020 season, the hefty workload finally caught up with him and he suffered a Jones fracture during a Week 8 win against the Colts last season. Now with A.J. Brown out of town, it’s fair to wonder how much the King has left in his reign if the Titans struggle to stay competitive.

Cook: Cook is second in the league in scrimmage yards since 2020, but has dealt with a long history of shoulder tears and dislocations. We don’t try to predict injuries, but the data is clear that the chances of re-dislocation and subsequent surgery are sky high for him. The Vikings have no incentive to, err, shoulder Cook with a heavy workload with a very capable Alexander Mattison chilling in the wings.

Harris: You can’t poke holes in Najee’s workload as a rookie–he finished first in the league in opportunities (rush attempts plus targets). That said, he was extremely inefficient–he finished 2021 ranked 52nd in yards per carry–and provided basically no big plays. Any time we are hanging our hat on volume alone, it’s dicey territory. The Steelers have already said they want to “lighten his load” this year.

📍 Picks 10-12: Choose Your Own Adventure

You might be able to scoop one of the backs listed above at the back-end of Round 1 if they fall, but otherwise you’ll be able to choose your own adventure.

Want to grab a solid WR? Stefon Diggs and Davante Adams should be floating around here.

Want to grab a RB? Plant your flag on one of D’Andre Swift, Joe Mixon, or even Saquon Barkley if you are feeling spicy.

Want to lock down an elite TE? Travis Kelce says ‘sup.

I won’t sugarcoat it–you are drafting at a slight disadvantage from these spots, so feel free to get your guys. My favorite picks here are the WRs and TE, although Swift and Barkley both possess Top 5 upside, and I don’t think they are much different than the RBs going in the Click & Pray tier.

In this range, it helps to know the tendencies of your draft room. If it’s RB hungry, maybe you lock up the Anchor RB. If they are WR hounds, get ahead of the avalanche.

Read on for a full first round mock draft with the Fantasy Life team to see where we are drafting all these players.

Fantasy Watercooler

🏃 What's the deal with Treylon Burks? Is it conditioning or asthma? His old coach weighs in.

✂️ Could we get a surprise cut in the KC backfield? Speculation is now flying.

🤑 Kyler gets paid. He's now one of the NFL's highest-paid QBs.

🚑 Michael Thomas placed on PUP. Nick Underhill let's us know if we should be worried or not.

0️⃣ 2022 Zero RB Targets. Denny Carter runs down his favorite late round RB targets.

Fantasy Life Round 1 Mock Draft

The Fantasy Life staff took a break from researching Zach Wilson's mom's friends to partake in a Round 1 mock draft and share their thought process for each selection. Enjoy...

Fantasy Life Mock Draft

Here's the draft order:

Kick us off, Jake...

Jake - Jonathan Taylor

Look, I’d love to be the super cool guy who comes out swinging with some outrageous contrarian pick to get the internet buzzing. But Taylor is coming off a season with over 2,000 scrimmage yards and actually got more touches as the season progressed.

New Colts QB Matt Ryan should give the team more scoring opportunities, making it possible for Taylor to lead all running backs in TDs once again.

Geoff Justin Jefferson

Super cool guy here. Yes, the consensus in this spot is to take Christian McCaffrey, but the Carolina offense isn’t something I want to invest high draft capital in for 2022. The transition to Sean McVay disciple Kevin O’Connell at Head Coach could launch Justin Jefferson (who led all wide receivers in air yards in ‘21) into a special season, and he’s a player I’m willing to go outside the box on to get exposure in 2022.

Plus, we can still target potential anchor RBs like Javonte Williams and Alvin Kamara at the turn in round two/three.

Sam Christian McCaffrey

Over the last four seasons, McCaffrey has averaged 25.6 points/game. That's four points per game more than the No. 2 RB during that stretch (Alvin Kamara). CMC has also seen a 22% target share since 2018. There’s no getting around it: he’s a game breaker.

Health remains the big question, but I’m willing to bet on the talent.

Waz Cooper Kupp

Cooper Kupp walked out of last season as Super Bowl 56’s MVP with his NFL Offensive Player of the Year trophy in tow. He walks into this season being drafted to my mock draft team. What more could he ask for?!

While the addition of Allen Robinson will naturally eat into his opportunity, Kupp’s elite skill set will keep him entrenched in the receiving title conversation once again. Fantasy Life projections have him leading the league in targets (167) and second in receptions (117), yards (1,310), and receiving TDs (10). In leagues that require you to start three WRs a week--especially in half or full PPR variants--Kupp is the player with consistency and upside that will carry you to a fantasy championship.

Kevin Ja'Marr Chase

It's a pretty big tier break after these first five picks. While I have previously said that you can get access to the Bengals offense a bit cheaper with Tee Higgins a round or two later, the sheer upside Chase represents is still a value as the third WR off the board.

Only one WR since the NFL merger in 1970 has scored more than 300 fantasy points in their rookie season like Chase did in 2021 — Randy Moss. He was pretty good, I’ve heard.

Eliot Austin Ekeler

After finishing last season as the RB2, Ekeler is set for another big season in Los Angeles. While he has said himself that his workload should decrease this year, what has made Ekeler a fantasy stud is his role in the receiving game. Over the last three seasons, Ekeler leads all NFL running backs in receptions (216), yards (2,043), and receiving touchdowns (18).

He will again be one of the best options in a Top 5 offense. Last season the Chargers scored 27.9 points per game, and with the ascension of Justin Herbert, there is no reason to expect anything different this season.

Kendall Derrick Henry

I know, I know. Don’t come after me. Henry is coming off an injury-plagued season, and that warrants legitimate concerns. Last season Henry averaged 27.4 carries per game, and his 239 carries through just nine games (including playoffs) ranked ninth in the NFL.

It’s absolutely impossible to ignore his workload opportunity. It’s comeback SZN, and it’s hard to think Henry is more injury-prone than any of the other elite RBs.

Linda Stefon Diggs

I’m admittedly into drafting early WRs and with ‘The Big Three’ off the board I’m looking to grab a guy that has a shot at finishing at the top of his position. Diggs ran the most routes in the NFL last season (643) and had the fifth most targets (158).

The Bills scored the third most PPG in 2021 on the back of an offense that threw an average of 39 passes per game, good for 3rd most in the NFL. Since joining QB Josh Allen and the Bills, Diggs has finished the last two seasons as a Top 10 WR, and there’s nothing standing in his way of finishing at the top of the position.

Cooterdoodle Travis Kelce

Eh, don’t mind me taking a TE in the first round. If you close your eyes and squint, it might just look like I put Justin Jefferson in my TE slot. Run the numbers. Kelce has dominated on offense with over 1,000 yards every season since 2016. In the last two seasons he has put up 2,541 yards and 20 touchdowns combined. Pretty #tight. Plus, now I don’t have to stress over trying to draft the next Travis Kelce.

Jordan Dalvin Cook

At pick 10, I'm clearly at the "Choose your own adventure" phase of the draft and to be honest, this isn't really my kind of adventure. So for me, this pick represents going with the best of what's available. I expected Dalvin Cook to be selected ahead of Derrick Henry and potentially Travis Kelce also, so while I don't love this pick, I do think it's a value selection.

I heavily considered Davante Adams here, but I'm significantly more comfortable with the WRs available in the early 2nd round, like CeeDee Lamb, Deebo Samuel, or Tee Higgins, than I am with RBs like Joe Mixon and D'Andre Swift.

Jonathan Najee Harris

I considered Davante Adams here but ultimately went with the guy who led the NFL in touches last season and is slated to be a workhorse again in 2022. Harris finished as the RB4 in half PPR last year, and I think there is a good chance he scores more fantasy points this season for one simple reason: TDs.

Last year he had just 17 carries inside the 10 yard line which was tied for 21st among RBs, while Ben Roethlisberger was 7th among QBs in passing attempts inside the 10. I don’t expect the coaching staff to trust Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett in those situations, which should result in Harris seeing a major increase in those high-value touches and easily topping his total of 7 rushing TDs from last season. Not bad for the guy I got as the sixth RB off the board.

Peter Davante Adams

I want to thank Jonathan for not taking Adams and forcing me to take a godforsaken RB. I do think bumping Adams out of the elite WR tier now that he’s no longer tied to Aaron Rodgers is the right thing to do, but at this price I will happily scoop the NFL’s best WR. The downgrade to Derek Carr might not even be that bad, plus we can hang our hat on the Shower Narrative with these two having played together at Fresno State.

If anything, Adams will face fewer double teams with Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow commanding more attention than the ancillary pass catchers in Green Bay. I see Adams following in the footsteps of other elite WRs who produced big numbers after changing teams, like Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins.

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