Paradise, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
• The perfect round-by-round draft strategy begins with taking two running backs over the first three rounds, headlined by the Indianapolis Colts‘Jonathan Taylor.
• There are opportunities to pick tight ends and a quarterback in the first five rounds, which could land fantasy managers San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle and Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson.
• It’s helpful to stockpile wide receivers later in the draft, including rookie wide receivers such as the New York Jets‘ Garrett Wilson and veterans like the Cincinnati Bengals‘ Tyler Boyd.
• Find Nathan Jahnke‘s other draft strategy articles by specific pick here: Picks 1-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12.
This perfect draft strategy article examines how to approach a 2022 fantasy football draft. We’ll consider average draft position (ADP) to figure out which players we can expect to be available with later picks to optimize the talent throughout the roster.
This exercise assumes a 12-team league with PPR scoring. We won’t plan for any dramatic ADP fallers, but it’s important to remain flexible and take advantage of opponents’ mistakes when that does happen.
The plan for the first round is simply to take the top player on the board and build around him. Jonathan Taylor is the consensus top player regardless of league format and should be taken if he’s available. He was in a league of his own at running back last season, and if anything, the Indianapolis Colts‘ offense has improved, which could lead to more red zone appearances.
Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson stand out among wide receivers. Kupp finished with the best fantasy season ever by a wide receiver this past season, beating out Randy Moss and Jerry Rice, while Jefferson has the most receiving yards and receptions by a player over their first two seasons, topping Odell Beckham Jr., Moss and Rice. There are plenty of other great running back options, but these two receivers are much safer. We can be more confident that they will stay top-five wide receivers than any of the running backs remaining top-five fantasy players at their position.
Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, Najee Harris, Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook should all be top-eight picks. They all have some concerns — including injury history, age, offensive lines, or being too specialized as a runner or receiver, but they’ve remained the most consistent fantasy backs in recent seasons when healthy, and there is enough reason to believe they can do it again.
It’s OK to turn back to wide receivers at the end of the first round, as it can be better to pick a wide receiver first and then a running back rather than the other way around based on current ADPs. Stefon Diggs, Ja’Marr Chase and Davante Adams are all options.
Running back will be a popular pick in Round 2, as there are only so many who are expected to be a starter rather than a player in a committee. Having two running backs who are clear starters is the first way to create an edge over your opponents.
Alvin Kamara and Aaron Jones both received more than 64 targets last season in addition to ranking first and seventh, respectively, in targets over the past three seasons. Kamara is potentially facing a suspension and Jones is fighting for snaps with A.J. Dillon, but there is no denying the two players’ talent. They join potential league winner Javonte Williams as the top three running back options in the round.
Leonard Fournette and D’Andre Swift led the league in targets per game last season. Both players are likely to see a decline in passes thrown their way this season but, hopefully, not by much.
Saquon Barkley and James Conner are other running backs to consider later in the second round.
Deebo Samuel, Tyreek Hill and Keenan Allen are the wide receivers to consider in Round 2 for anyone who picked a running back in Round 1, and Samuel is the only one who deserves consideration early in the second round. He was the fourth-best wide receiver over the first half of the 2021 season in standard formats. He ranked outside of the top 10 in receptions, but his 18.0 yards per reception ranked second-best among wide receivers with at least 25 receptions.
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