There’s a reason why rookies get hyped ahead of every fantasy football season. In a game where buzzwords like “ceiling”, “upside,” “breakout,” and “sleeper” are thrown around with reckless abandon, first-year players represent unknown quantities with fresh possibilities. No matter where they are in the 2022 dynasty or redraft rankings, we can talk ourselves into thinking they’ll finish higher.
Cutting through the hype, however, there are limited rookies who deliver immediate impact with reliable production in a given season. In ’21, while the marquee quarterbacks disappointed, there were some true standouts at running back and wide receiver.
Najee Harris and Javonte Williams did their best to live up to quick expectations, while Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle exceeded them. There always tend to be a few pleasant rookie surprises, and last year Elijah Mitchell and Elijah Moore fit that bill.
While you don’t want to go overboard and overload your fantasy roster with rookies, you need to be aware of the worthy potential starters and key reserves for your lineup. You also need to be wary of the unexpected, avoiding those set to underwhelm and looking for those who can overachieve.
2022 STANDARD RANKINGS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Top 200 | Superflex
Here’s some help to sift through all the rookies, with the annual position lean toward runners and pass catchers while considering both redraft and dynasty leagues:
2022 STANDARD RANKINGS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Top 200 | Superflex
Fantasy Football Rankings 2022: Best rookies in redraft, dynasty leagues
1. Breece Hall, RB, Jets
Hall is a very talented runner who should be featured with the potential for 15 touches per game. He will push last year’s promising rookie Michael Carter into a more comfortable, complementary role.
The Jets also further upgraded their offensive and have a good zone-rushing scheme under Mike LaFleur. Draft him as a RB2
2. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Seahawks
Chris Carson’s retirement tied leaves Rashaad Penny and his own durability issues as the veteran No. 1. That’s shaky ground for Penny.
The Seahawks used a high second-round pick on Walker, the former Michigan State star, because of his special overall skill set. He has a ton of upside in what figures to be a run-heavy attack. Draft him as a RB3.
3. Drake London, WR, Falcons
The Falcons have 287 vacated targets from last season with Russell Gage leaving in free agency and Calvin Ridley getting a year-long suspension. They were aggressive in taking London first in a top-heavy and deep wideout class.
TE Kyle Pitts will see a massive chunk of targets from Marcus Mariota in a limited, run-leaning offense, but there’s room for London to use his catch radius for some useful yardage and TD numbers. Draft him as a WR4.
4. Treylon Burks, WR, Titans
No team has more vacated targets than the Titans with 351 available from last season. A.J. Brown, traded to the Eagles, had a team-leading 105 of those. Tennessee drafted Burks as an immediate replacement, given similar skill and physical attributes. This is a low-volume passing game with a fading veteran QB who also has a seasoned vet new on the other side in Robert Woods. Still, Burks’ talent should manifest in a key role. Draft him as a WR4.
5. Jahan Dotson, WR, Commanders
Dotson seems to be the somewhat forgotten man among the real first-rounders, but he’s a flashy speedster in a good starting spot opposite Terry McLaurin. His field-stretching profile can connect well with Carson Wentz in a Commanders offense that has been desperate for a big-play No. 2. Draft him as a WR4.
2022 AUCTION VALUES (Standard & PPR):
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers | Overall
6. Garrett Wilson, WR Jets
The Jets have 218 vacated targets, so this Ohio State rookie has room to produce well playing off borderline-WR2 Elijah Moore and nice-sized veteran Corey Davis. The key is establishing good enough chemistry with Zach Wilson in order to see the necessary targets for WR3 production. Draft him as a WR4.
7. Chris Olave, WR, Saints
With Jameis Winston back healthy as the starter, the Saints want to get more out of their downfield passing game to complement a returning Michael Thomas and newcomer Jarvis Landry. With Thomas and Landry in the intermediate and interchangeable slot/perimeter roles, this other Ohio State rookie will get his chances to be the outside field-stretcher of choice. Watch out for developing volume. Draft him as a WR5.
8. Skyy Moore, WR, Chiefs
The Chiefs have 340 vacated targets, second only to the Titans. They are trying to replace Tyreek Hill by committee for Patrick Mahomes. Among the veterans, JuJu Smith-Schuster is a big, well-rounded target who can crossover into the slot, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a speedy deep threat.
For Moore, the key is displacing Mecole Hardman in the top three and pushing the latter into a primary special teams role. Moore has some Hill-like assets, and the bottom line for key targets will be getting on the same page as Mahomes. Draft him as a WR5.
9. Jameson Williams, WR, Lions
The Lions have an appealing wide receiver corps again with second-year slot ace Amon-Ra St. Brown being flanked by former Jaguar DJ Chark and this rookie. Williams might miss the start of the season while recovering from a torn left ACL, but when he returns, he’ll complement these pass catchers with his big-play skills. He might be limited by Jared Goff’s questionable downfield passing, but watch for Williams carving out a key, well-rounded role. Draft him as a WR5 or WR6.
10. Christian Watson, WR, Packers
Watson looked to be in prime position to help replace Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling after the Packers drafted him following a spectacular Draft Combine. The team has 248 vacated targets, so there’s plenty of opportunity here.
The problem for Watson is that he’s dealing with an undisclosed injury and missing valuable camp time. Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb and others could make this a full-blown WRBC, but if someone can emerge like a No. 1 with size and speed, it would be Watson. Draft him as a WR6.
2022 RANKINGS TIERS & DRAFT STRATEGY:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs
11. George Pickens, WR, Steelers
Pickens opened some eyes when he worked in the 11-personnel first team as a complement to Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool during the Steelers wide-open QB competition.
The Georgia product can be a dynamic, big-play slot with some of the qualities of a young JuJu Smith-Schuster. It actually would help if Pickens can get a rookie-rookie connection with Kenny Pickett, assuming the latter can win his QB competition with Mitchell Trubisky. Draft him as a WR6.
12. James Cook, RB, Bills
Devin Singletary has dominated the first-team work to start camp to build off his strong finish as a semi-workhorse in 2021. But as the team has disappointed with Zack Moss and wanted more of a receiving element and explosiveness to complement Singletary, Cook was more than a luxury addition.
There’s a potential flex-friendly role available for Cook in an elite offense. Dalvin’s brother also can be the preferred handcuff with some feature potential should Singletary get injured. Draft him as a RB4.
13. Rachaad White, RB, Buccaneers
Leonard Fournette has been a versatile force for the Bucs, but there always seems to be some durability and conditioning concerns with him. It’s telling that the Bucs elevated White quickly to No. 2 on the depth chart over Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard with Ronald Jones gone. White has a good blend of power running and receiving skills to consider as a plus handcuff with great upside. Draft him as a RB4 or RB5.
14. Dameon Pierce, RB, Texans
Veterans Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead are ahead of him on the depth chart…for now. Pierce is a versatile, bruising back with a flashy skill set from Florida. The talent is there, but this is more about opportunity knocking for key touches at some point this season given Mack’s injury history and Burkhead’s wear. Draft him as a RB5.
15. David Bell, WR, Browns
The Browns have 233 vacated targets minus Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins. Amari Cooper will eat up about half as the new veteran No. 1 and Donovan Peoples-Jones will see an increase in his big-play chances outside. Bell is an appealing, intermediate big slot out of Purdue who can help Deshaun Watson and Jacoby Brissett playing off what figures to still be a run-heavy offense. Bell could have a “Landry lite” role sooner than expected. Draft him as a RB6 or RB7.
2022 FANTASY DRAFT STRATEGY:
Snake drafts | Auctions | Dynasty | Best ball | IDP
16. Jalen Tolbert, WR, Cowboys
CeeDee Lamb is the dominant No. 1 for Dak Prescott with Amari Cooper gone, but Michael Gallup (left ACL) is on the mend. Tolbert has an opportunity to get work in 11 personnel given Gallup’s extra recovery time and veteran newcomer James Washington’s question marks. He will work to emerge as a key target for Prescott behind Lamb and tight end Dalton Schultz.
17. Kenny Pickett, QB, Steelers
Pickett has a chance to win the starting job in camp, but it’s more likely the team will roll with Mitchell Trubisky first. Should Pickett get a chance by midseason to show his athleticism and all-around accuracy, he has some serious weapons, including Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, TE Pat Freiermuth, and RB Najee Harris.
18. Tyler Allgeier, RB, Falcons
No one feels great that Cordarrelle Patterson, given his age (31) and additional wear and tear from feature-like work last season, will keep it up as the Falcons’ true top rusher. Damien Williams is the new veteran swing backup, but he’s also 30. Allgeier is a hammer of a power back who can end up with a key role for Arthur Smith.
19. Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Giants
The Giants have plans to make their downfield passing game more dynamic to help Daniel Jones in the new offense under Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka. They envision Robinson joining 2021 first-rounder Kadarius Toney in raising the big-play quotient, but it’s unclear how they plan to use him behind Toney, Kenny Golladay and oft-injured Sterling Shepard. Don’t be surprised if he has a key role by the end of his rookie season.
20. Alec Pierce, WR, Colts
Pierce has gotten some buzz as a rookie with a clear path to a No. 2 outside role opposite Michael Pittman Jr. with Parris Campbell back healthy as the quick slot option. But keep in mind this is a run-heavy, defensive-minded, Jonathan Taylor-centric offense with Matt Ryan’s fading arm doing the passing. The Colts do have 154 vacated targets, however, so Pierce can’t be ignored for key work with his size-speed profile.
21. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Chargers
Austin Ekeler remains a high-end fantasy RB1 for one of the NFL’s most explosive and versatile offenses, but the Chargers have been frustrated in not having the ideal power-back complement since Melvin Gordon left. With Justin Jackson gone, this Texas A&M product is at worst a solid No. 2 for handcuff purposes and at best a vital complementary power back.
22. Tyrion Davis-Price, RB, 49ers
The 49ers have had five leading rushers the past five seasons. The latest, Elijah Mitchell as a rookie in 2021, was a surprise. Kyle Shanahan, as a true Shanahan, likes to prove that his zone-blocking system can set up the right athletic back for success, so Davis-Price has to be on the rookie radar just for that. Plus, it’s cool to consider anyone with a first name out of “Game of Thrones.”
23. Zamir White, RB, Raiders
Cook and White formed a solid 1-2 punch for Georgia’s national championship backfield. The talent and pedigree is there; now it’s about the opportunity under Josh McDaniels, who is known to be rather unpredictable about his running back usage from his Patriots days. Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake are both standing in White’s way for now.
24. Malik Willis, QB, Titans
Ryan Tannehill, from his fade last season following a late-career spike, has little appeal as a QB2 with the remixed Titans’ low-volume passing game. There’s no guarantee Tannehill will keep the job should Willis develop his athletic upside faster than expected. He has enough running and weaponry potential to monitor in case of midseason change.
25. Brian Robinson, RB, Commanders
Antonio Gibson has had his share of durability issues, and the No. 2 on Washington’s depth chart, J.D. McKissic, is a complementary, change-of-pace receiving back. Given Robinson is ahead of Jaret Patterson to be the power back fill-in for Gibson, here’s a future handcuff alert.
26. Desmond Ridder, QB, Falcons
Marcus Mariota is opening the season as the bridge starter because of his knowledge of Smith’s system, but there’s no doubt Ridder has some of the same physical, mental, and athletic attributes to be groomed for long-term prospects at the position. He has rushing upside, but Ridder has less appeal than Malik Willis because of a limited Falcons passing game.
27. Hassan Haskins, RB, Titans
Derrick Henry is coming off missing half a season with a right foot injury, as the wear and tear of massive recent workloads finally caused some problems. Henry is freakish enough to rebound with another big year, but should something happen to him again, Haskins, a strong power back from Michigan, is the preferred committee handcuff over Dontrell HIlliard.
28. Trey McBride, TE, Cardinals
Zach Ertz, who turns 32 in November, was re-signed, and Maxx Williams, returning from major knee injury, is also back. Their continued presence on the roster confirms Kliff Kingsbury sees this a vital receiving position for Kyler Murray. Ertz got multiple years in a new contract and should remain a key target, but should injuries hit, the talented McBride could see his path to contribution accelerated.
29. Romeo Doubs, WR, Packers
Doubs is the other notable Packers rookie wideout with a good combination of speed, hands, quickness, and route-running. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him develop into a receiver who Aaron Rodgers likes sooner rather than later. With the injuries to others ahead of him camp, Doubs has an opportunity to impress in a hurry.
30. Khalil Shakir, WR, Bills
Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and Jamison Crowder are the starting 11-personnel wide receivers for Josh Allen, and Shakir is somewhere in the mix behind them with Isaiah McKenzie and Tavon Austin. Shakir has a shot for a key role in 2023, but injuries to Crowder, signed to only a one-year deal, and others would help move up that timeline.