NFL draft – Fantasy football live analysis of Day 2

NFL draft – Fantasy football live analysis of Day 2 post thumbnail image

The 2022 NFL draft has arrived, and Mike Clay is here to provide fantasy football reaction and projections for every skill-position player taken on the first two days (Rounds 1-3). Whether you play in season-long, keeper or dynasty leagues, this information will give you a leg up on the competition this season. What is the outlook for QB Malik Willis? Can top running backs Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III make an immediate impact? Will early-round wide receivers Garrett Wilson, Drake London and Jameson Williams (among many others) step right in as fantasy starters? Does this class have a potential fantasy starter at tight end, like Kyle Pitts last year? Get our take on their short- and long-term fantasy values, including a first look at their 2022 projection.

Round 2

2022 projection: 85 targets, 52 receptions, 700 yards, 5 TDs

The Packers needed a potential No. 1 wide receiver after trading away Davante Adams, and perhaps they’ve found one after trading up to draft Watson. The North Dakota State product was one of the biggest winners at the combine, measuring in at 6-foot-4 with 10 1/8-inch hands while showing well in every drill. The latter included a 4.36 40-yard dash and class-best 136-inch broad jump. Watson was used in a variety of ways during four seasons at NDSU. He was a vertical threat (career 20.5 YPR on 104 catches), ball carrier (49 rushes) and kick returner (27 attempts). He played at a “small” school and is older than most in this rookie class, but his outstanding combination of size, speed, physical ability and versatility makes him an intriguing prospect. He has a path to an every-down role in an elite Packers offense, as his top competition is oft-injured Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins. Watson should be on your radar in the middle rounds.

2022 projection: 211 carries, 931 yards, 6 TDs; 40 targets, 31 receptions, 223 yards, 1 TD

The Jets have put together an intriguing, young RB duo, selecting Hall as a running mate for Michael Carter. Hall is a well-built, three-down back who racked up 3,044 yards and 41 TDs on 532 carries during his final two seasons at Iowa State. He has passing-game chops, having caught 93 passes during three FBS seasons, and he rushed for a TD in an NCAA-record 24 consecutive games to finish his career. He’s one of the youngest backs in this year’s rookie class, and he crushed the combine, running a 4.39 40-yard dash and posting a class-best 40-inch vertical and 126-inch broad jump. Hall profiles as a potential feature back with a high fantasy ceiling, but there’s no doubt Carter will remain involved, especially in the passing game. This isn’t an ideal landing spot from a fantasy standpoint, but he’ll see enough carries to warrant weekly RB2/flex consideration, especially in non-PPR formats. Carter, by the way, takes a big value hit here and will only flirt with flex value in deep PPR leagues.

2022 projection: 119 carries, 520 yards, 3 TDs; 28 targets, 21 receptions, 154 yards, 1 TD

The Seahawks have quite a few NFL-caliber running backs on their roster, but health concerns for Rashaad Penny and especially Chris Carson led them to spending a second-round pick on Walker. Following a pair of ho-hum seasons at Wake Forest, Walker exploded for a 263-1,636-18 rushing line in 12 games at Michigan State in 2021. He was extremely efficient, ranking third in this class in both YAC and FMT rate. Walker has a ways to go in the passing game (a 5% target share led to a 13-89-1 receiving line last season), but he’s young (21) and sports a terrific speed/power combo (4.38 40-yard dash). His 2022 value is a major question mark and will depend on the health of Penny and Carson. For now, we’ll assume Carson (neck) is on the roster, which explains the relatively low projection. He’ll likely be worth a mid- or late-round pick when the dust settles.

NOTE: From 2011 to ’21, there were 29 running backs selected in the second round. Of the 29, a respectable 12 finished 26th or better in fantasy PPG. Only three finished top 12 in fantasy points, however (Jonathan Taylor, Eddie Lacy, Jeremy Hill).

2022 projection: 39 targets, 25 receptions, 290 yards, 2 TDs

The Giants are pretty good at wide receiver on paper, but nearly the entire room has serious durability concerns, so it wasn’t a shock to see New York select a Day 2 wideout. Robinson is a 5-foot-8, 178-pound slot receiver who was force fed the ball during his final season at Kentucky. In the slot 79% of the time, Robinson soaked up a class-high 40% of the Wildcats’ targets, as well as 45% of the air yards. He finished first or second in this rookie class in YPRR (3.5), targets (144), receptions (104) and yards (1,334). Robinson’s explosiveness and versatility (he can contribute as a rusher and returner) could lead to a gadget role in New York. He’s a long shot for short-term fantasy value and will be worth no more than a late flier in 2022 drafts.

2022 projection: 90 targets, 58 receptions, 705 yards, 4 TDs

Houston had a need at wide receiver opposite Brandin Cooks and took a big step toward filling that void by selecting Metchie. He emerged as one of Alabama’s top targets in 2021, posting a 96-1,142-8 receiving line while handling 24% of the team targets. He spent half his time in the slot (47% of routes) and was mostly used in the short area (8.4 aDOT). Metchie tore his ACL in December, so his recovery is something we’ll need to monitor, as it could cost him a few early-season games. He’s on the small side and not overly fast, but he’s a terrific route-runner and profiles as a slot man in the pros. Once healthy, expect him to soak up targets while working between Cooks and Nico Collins. He has a shot to emerge as a PPR flex option in the second half of 2022.

After trading for DeVante Parker a few weeks back, New England has again added to its wide receiver room. Thornton is a 6-foot-2, 181-pound vertical receiver with small hands but a huge wingspan, and whose game is built around speed (class-best 4.28 40-yard dash) and separation. Thornton was involved in the passing game during all four seasons at Baylor, though he made his big leap in 2021 with a 62-948-10 receiving line on 102 targets. He handled a hefty 29% target share and a massive 47% air-yard share. A nonfactor after the catch, Thornton’s 3.1 RAC was dead-last in this rookie class last season, though part of that was role-related (14.9 aDOT and class-high 92% of routes from the perimeter). New England has some respectable depth at receiver with Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor, so Thornton may have a tough time finding snaps in his first season. He’ll be worth only a late-round pick, though his dynasty value is intriguing after Mac Jones’ successful rookie season.

2022 projection: 88 targets, 53 receptions, 680 yards, 3 TDs

Pickens is a 6-foot-3, vertical receiver who almost exclusively plays outside (his 13% career slot rate is third lowest in this rookie class). We barely saw him in 2021, as he tore his ACL in the spring and appeared in only four games. Most of his damage has come downfield (career 14.2 aDOT) and, while he doesn’t do much after the catch (career 3.7 RAC), he’s shown good hands (two drops on 142 career targets) and ball skills. Pickens has some discipline issues and lacks experience relative to other top prospects, but he’s only 21 years old and can develop as the No. 3 behind Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool. With the Steelers’ QB situation a work in progress, Pickens is a long shot for consistent early-career fantasy production, but he has major long-term upside. Consider him with a late-round pick.

2022 projection: 90 targets, 57 receptions, 717 yards, 5 TDs

The Colts have found themselves a running mate for Michael Pittman Jr. Pierce is a big receiver who is more vertical/contested catch than he is quickness/separation. He never had an aDOT below 14.7 during four seasons at Cincinnati and he handled at least 24% of the team’s air yards when active each of the last three seasons. That includes a 36% share while delivering a 52-884-8 receiving line in 2021. Pierce was a winner at the combine, testing at or above average across the board, including a class-best 40.5-inch vertical and 4.41 40-yard dash at 211 pounds (112 speed score is fourth best). Granted, his ceiling will be limited by the presence of Pittman and the Colts’ run-heavy offense, but Pierce has a path to every-down snaps as the team’s likely No. 2 wide receiver (Parris Campbell and Ashton Dulin are his top competition). With Matt Ryan in town, Pierce very well could flirt with occasional flex value. He’s worth a look in the late rounds.

2022 projection: 88 targets, 56 receptions, 709 yards, 6 TDs

Moore is the latest addition to a Chiefs’ wide receiver room that said goodbye to Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson during the offseason. He was a key piece of the Western Michigan offense during his three seasons, soaking up 32% of the targets during 30 games. He was utilized both inside and out (39% career slot rate) and showed strong efficiency (his career 90% adjusted catch rate and 2.9 YPRR are both second best in this rookie class) and elite hands (four drops on 256 career targets). Moore is on the small side, but he has the biggest hands in this class and showed well athletically at the combine. Moore has the look of a reliable, shifty, short-area target in the pros and has a shot at a big rookie-season role if he can overtake the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and/or Marquez Valdes-Scantling for work. Moore could be one of Patrick Mahomes’ top targets if he progresses well, so he needs to be on your mid-to-late-round radar.

Arizona re-signed Zach Ertz and Maxx Williams, but took a look toward the future by snagging McBride in the second round. A featured target in the Colorado State offense, he handled a massive 34% target share in 2021, which is tops in this rookie class across all positions. McBride produced a 90-1,121-1 receiving line with nearly half of that damage coming in the intermediate area. The one TD is an eyebrow-raiser, but seems fluky, as he scored on eight of 67 receptions the prior two seasons. McBride has the best career drop rate in this class, having failed to secure just four of 234 targets. Down the road, he could emerge as an every-down player and one of Kyler Murray’s top targets, but he simply isn’t going to play much in 2022 barring an injury to Ertz. Expect to see McBride on many 2023 breakout lists if Ertz is out of the way.

NOTE: Over the past decade, only two tight ends have finished their rookie season as a top-12 fantasy tight end and both were first-round picks (Evan Engram in 2017, Kyle Pitts in 2021). Second-rounder Pat Freiermuth also defied the odds with a 13th-place finish last season, making him one of only four rookie TEs to post a top-15 campaign. In fact, of the 44 tight ends picked on Day 2 since 2011 that played a snap as a rookie, 34 finished their rookie season 30th or worse in fantasy points.

2022 projection: 80 carries, 334 yards, 3 TDs; 53 targets, 40 receptions, 305 yards, 2 TDs

After missing out on J.D. McKissic as its passing-down back, Buffalo snagged Cook with a second-round pick. He isn’t quite as big or strong as his older brother, Dalvin, but he has the speed (4.42 40-yard dash), explosiveness and receiving ability (huge wingspan) to make noise in the pros as a situational back. He totaled just 230 carries during four seasons at Georgia (career-high 113 as a senior), but his efficiency was terrific, as he averaged 6.5 yards per carry and 9.4 yards per target, while not dropping a single one of his 78 career targets. Cook may never come close to the volume his brother enjoys, but he’s joining an elite Buffalo offense and has big upside as a receiving specialist. Expect him to step into No. 2/passing-down duties behind Devin Singletary early on. Consistent fantasy value is unlikely, but he’ll be an interesting insurance option and is well worth a late-round pick.

Round 3

2022 projection: 80 targets, 48 receptions, 623 yards, 3 TDs

Chicago needed wide receiver help following Allen Robinson II‘s offseason departure and Jones is sure to help fill that void. He is one of the oldest receivers in this rookie class (turns 25 in May), having spent four years at USC (52 catches) and two more at Tennessee (84 catches). He wasn’t much of a factor as a receiver during most of his collegiate career, but “broke out” in 2021 with a 62-807-7 receiving line while working as a short-area (6.9 aDOT) slot receiver (72% slot). He impressed at the combine with the top 40-yard dash (4.31) and speed score (118) at the position. Jones is a special teams standout who can help out as both a gunner and kick/punt returner, though he’s likely to be needed often on offense in 2022 with the likes of Byron Pringle and Dazz Newsome next up behind Darnell Mooney. Jones has a path to significant playing time, but he’s worth no more than a late flier in an offense that may struggle this season.

Jack Doyle’s retirement left the Colts with a need at tight end. Enter Woods as a potential long-term solution. He is a super athlete with a massive frame (6-foot-7) and the biggest wingspan (82 inches) in the rookie TE class. He primarily blocked and was a nonfactor in the pass game during three seasons at Oklahoma State (31-361-4 receiving line in 33 games) before busting out with a 44-598-8 line in 11 games at Virginia in 2021. Utilized as a vertical threat by the Cavaliers, Woods’ 10.7 aDOT was third highest in this class last season. He’s an older prospect, but his size, speed (4.61 40-yard dash), strength (class-high 24 bench reps) and 2021 breakout make him a very interesting dynasty hold. Just don’t expect much early-career production behind Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson.

2022 projection: 167 of 269, 1,751 yards, 10 TDs, 9 INTs; 32 carries, 140 yards, 1 TD

Atlanta’s post-Matt Ryan QB plan now has some clarity. Marcus Mariota was signed as a bridge option and the team will hope Ridder emerges as the team’s franchise quarterback. A four-year starter at Cincinnati, Ridder is a big QB who adds substantial value with his legs (career 409-2,822-28 rushing line) despite scrambling at a lesser rate than the other highly rated QBs. Ridder was aggressive during a breakout 2021 campaign, posting a 9.7 aDOT, though his efficiency wasn’t great (65% completion rate, 71.9 QBR). Ridder showed off his size and abilities at the combine, checking in with class-high 10-inch hands and topping the QB leaderboard in the 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jump. Non-first-round QBs are long shots for NFL success, but Ridder has a path to significant rookie-season playing time and his rushing ability could help him to some fantasy value, especially in superflex formats. He doesn’t need to be selected in most season-long fantasy drafts.

Denver had a need for tight end depth after sending Noah Fant to Seattle in the Russell Wilson trade. Dulcich is a seam-stretching receiving tight end who may not add much as a blocker in the pros. He was often used as a vertical target at UCLA, posting a class-high 12.9 aDOT during his four seasons. That led to a 17.6 YPR and class-best 11.1 YPT. He peaked with a 42-725-5 receiving line in 2021, which included a generous 21% target and 27% air-yards share. Like nearly every rookie tight end in NFL history, Dulcich is a long shot for 2022 fantasy value and will likely operate as a situational player behind starter Albert Okwuegbunam. Of course, Dulcich could eventually emerge as the team’s starter, so he’s worth stashing in dynasty.

Projected by many to be an early-first-round pick, Willis plummeted to Tennessee in the third round. The Liberty product is an intriguing prospect with a big arm and elite rushing talent, but his passing efficiency is a major concern. Willis struggled with accuracy (61% completion rate, 12.1% off-target rate), INTs (3.5% rate) and sacks (11.3% rate) last season, all of which were worst or second worst in this class. On the other hand, he was aggressive (10.2 aDOT, 13.8 YPC) and a major factor with his legs (146-1,227-13 rushing line, class-high 8.4 YPC and 13.7% scramble rate). Ryan Tannehill is the Titans’ clear-cut starter and that won’t change as long as he’s healthy and Tennessee is competing for a playoff spot. Of course, he’s also entering his age-34 campaign, so Willis is a sensible pick as a developmental player. Willis has zero season-long value, but could someday emerge as a fantasy asset due to his rushing ability.

Round 1 recap

2022 projection: 110 targets, 70 receptions, 904 yards, 5 TDs

The Falcons entered the draft as the league’s neediest team at wide receiver, so it was no surprise to see them select London with the eighth overall pick. London is a 6-foot-4 possession receiver who lacks speed but makes up for it with size and terrific ball skills. He aligned in the slot 96% of the time during his first two seasons at USC, but flipped to 85% perimeter in 2021 and enjoyed a breakout campaign. He handled a massive 38% target share when active, which allowed an 88-1,084-7 receiving line during a season cut short by a broken ankle. He’s one of the youngest players entering the league (set to turn 21 in July) and has a massive ceiling. London will immediately step into an every-down role and, although Atlanta’s QB situation is a concern, he’ll see enough targets to warrant weekly WR3/flex consideration, at least.

2022 projection: 108 targets, 67 receptions, 852 yards, 5 TDs

The Jets’ interest in adding a standout wide receiver has been no secret this offseason. Enter Wilson, the second wide receiver to come off the board in the top 10. Wilson is a quick and elusive prospect who primarily worked as a perimeter receiver (30% slot in three seasons) and punt returner at Ohio State. He has terrific hands, as he dropped just six balls during his career and posted a strong 90% catch rate on on-target throws in 2021. That ’21 season concluded with a terrific 70-1,058-12 receiving line in 11 games. Wilson figures to immediately slide in as a starter opposite second-year Elijah Moore, with Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios also in the fold. He has more competition for targets than London, but history tells us he’ll see enough volume to warrant weekly flex consideration in fantasy. Wilson has an elite ceiling and should be a top pick in rookie drafts.

What can be expected from WRs drafted in the top 10? From 2011 to ’21, 13 WRs were selected in the top 10 overall, and 10 of the 13 appeared in at least 12 games. Of those 10, only Tavon Austin (2013) was not a top-30 fantasy WR as a rookie. The other nine all saw 90-plus targets and averaged a target share of at least 19%. That list includes Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle last season.

2022 projection: 101 targets, 60 receptions, 843 yards, 4 TDs

Olave is a thin, vertical receiver with good speed (4.39 40-yard dash) but underwhelming strength/bulk. The OSU product can play inside and out (28% slot in 2021) and does most of his damage downfield (14.1 aDOT). He doesn’t do much after the catch (weak 3.8 career RAC) and will need to clean up late-career drops (seven in 2021). His combination of polish, speed, route running and ball skills has him on a path to an every-down role in the pros out of the gate, and he’ll find that opposite Michael Thomas in New Orleans. Olave could quickly rise as high as third behind only Thomas and Alvin Kamara in the offensive pecking order and should find himself on the flex radar right out of the gate. He has WR2 upside in dynasty.

2022 projection: 83 targets, 51 receptions, 707 yards, 5 TDs

The Lions have revamped their wide receiver room big time over the past 12 months, first adding Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark Jr. before trading up for the speedy Williams. After inexplicably being limited to 15 catches during two seasons at Ohio State, Williams exploded for a 79-1,572-15 campaign at Alabama in 2021. His rare combination of height, elite speed and quickness make him a major threat for explosive plays. That was on display last season, as he averaged 19.9 yards per reception, a class-best 13.1 yards per target and 9.5 yards after the catch. Williams tore his ACL in the national title game, but the former hurdler is only 21 years old and won’t be rushed by a rebuilding Detroit team. Expect a slow start for Williams (and perhaps a few missed games to open his career), but there’s no doubt he has elite upside.

2022 projection: 80 targets, 49 receptions, 640 yards, 4 TDs

Washington has found a running mate for Terry McLaurin. Dotson is a small but talented, versatile and reliable receiver with decent wheels (4.43 40-yard dash). He soaked up a hefty 31% target share in 2021 (after a 30% share in 2020), posting a 91-1,182-12 receiving line while hauling in 91% of his catchable targets (second in this rookie class) and dropping only two balls. He was used often as a vertical target during his four seasons at Penn State, though his 10.7 aDOT in 2021 was easily the lowest of his career. McLaurin and a healthy Curtis Samuel and Logan Thomas could limit Dotson’s short-term output a bit, but he certainly has a path to an every-down role if he’s up to the task. Dotson will be a good bench target for 2022 and a potential fantasy WR2/WR3 in the long term.

2022 projection: 99 targets, 62 receptions, 835 yards, 6 TDs

The Titans shocked the NFL world by trading A.J. Brown to the Eagles in exchange for a package that included the 18th overall pick and, in turn, their new No. 1 WR. Burks is a big, fast receiver with strong hands and the ability to align all over the field. The Arkansas product handled a hefty 32% target share and led this entire rookie class in yards per route run (3.6) in 2021. He aligned in the slot 77% of the time during his three collegiate seasons, primarily working as a deep threat in his first year before shining as a short-range, RAC threat the last two seasons (low 9.1 aDOT and terrific 9.4 RAC in 2021). Burks ran a solid 4.55 40-yard dash at 225 pounds (heaviest in the class) at the combine. Considering his top competition for targets will be the likes of Robert Woods (once back from a torn ACL) and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Burks is well positioned for an every-down role as a rookie. The Titans’ run-heavy scheme will limit his ceiling, but Burks will be on the flex radar immediately.

2022 projection: 213 of 349, 2,312 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs; 31 carries, 124 yards, 1 TD (10 starts)

Put your luggage back in the closet, Kenny. After four years as the starting QB for the University of Pittsburgh, Pickett will step in as the Steelers’ replacement for the retired Ben Roethlisberger. Pickett enjoyed a breakout 2021 campaign, totaling 47 TDs and 4,319 pass yards during his final season at Pitt. His 81.2 QBR was best in this class last season, and his 1.4% INT rate was second best. He moves well and was one of four QBs in this class to scramble for more than 400 yards last season, but he wasn’t used much as a rusher otherwise, primarily operating as a pocket passer. Small hands (8.5 inches) and age (easily oldest among the top QB prospects) are knocks, but that’s more than offset by his strong passing efficiency. Pickett will compete with Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph for the Steelers’ Week 1 starting gig, and history (see below) suggests he’ll be under center full time prior to midseason. He won’t be a fantasy factor early on but can be viewed as a good QB2 in dynasty leagues.

NOTE: From 2011 to ’21, there were 37 QBs selected in the first round. Thirty of those 37 (81%) took over as the starter prior to Week 10, including 17 (46%) who started in Week 1. Jordan Love is the only first-round QB to not play a snap as a rookie during this span, and Trey Lance and Patrick Mahomes are the only others to not take over as their team’s starter at some point during their first season (though both did see action).

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