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NFL Draft: Round One Awards for 2022 Fantasy Football

The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft is right on par with the level of action we’ve seen so far this offseason. Just as football fans got through processing a wild free agency period, last night’s first 32 picks of the 2022 NFL Draft have everyone buzzing again. A record eight teams did not have a first round pick. On top of that, nine trades took place that sent shockwaves across the league. Most teams got a lot better. Some are still a work in progress. Regardless of who you are a fan of, this NFL season is going to be one of the most competitive of all time.

A large handful of picks, and most of the aforementioned trades, have a major impact on the fantasy football landscape. The rookie evaluation for the 2022 season and beyond is officially underway. Additionally, some veteran players will be suiting up in new uniforms this season, as well.

To break it all down, I am handing out superlative awards to the biggest picks and moves of last night’s first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. These initial reactions and superlatives will help you better understand what each player’s outlook is for the upcoming fantasy football season, as well as their future in dynasty league formats. Enjoy!

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NFL Draft: Round One Fantasy Football Superlative Awards

Biggest Splash of the Night: A.J. Brown Traded to the Philadelphia Eagles

That’s right. The biggest move of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft isn’t even a rookie selection. With their second pick of the night (18th overall), the Eagles acquired A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans by sending the pick with an additional third-round pick (101st overall). Aside from the Titans’ decision to move on from Brown, as he enters his fourth NFL season, there is a lot to unpack here for fantasy football purposes.

First, this is a massive improvement to the Eagles’ pass-catching group. However, this is a downgrade for A.J. Brown’s overall fantasy value. Brown leaves the Titans, who were first in rushing attempts per game (32.1) last season, and heads to the Eagles, who were second in rushing attempts per game (31.5). Jalen Hurts will hopefully take a step forward in the passing game, but carrying the ball is going to remain a part of his game.

Additionally, carving out the same dose of targets in Philly as he did in Tennessee will be a challenge. Brown is far and away the best receiver the Titans had. On the Eagles, he will have to compete with second-year receiver, DeVonta Smith, as well as tight end, Dallas Goedert, at the very least.

The A.J. Brown trade is the biggest splash from the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He should still be considered a top-15 fantasy football wide receiver for the foreseeable future. This move, however, caps his, as well as DeVonta Smith’s, ceiling, but elevates Jalen Hurts into top-three quarterback territory for the 2022 fantasy football season. Time will tell if Hurts is still throwing to Brown for the duration of his new 4-year/$100 million extension.

Most Likely to Let You Down in 2022: Treylon Burks to the Tennessee Titans

Moving right along, to replace the aforementioned A.J. Brown with the 18th-overall pick, the Titans select Treylon Burks from the University of Arkansas. A few months ago, Burks was considered, by some, the best receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft. As the combine and pro days came and went, the perception of Burks certainly changed.

As far as replacing A.J. Brown is concerned, the Titans could not have picked a more similar player in respect to body type. Brown stands at 6’1″ and 225-pounds while Burks is also 225-lbs at 6’3″ height. What raises some eyebrows with Burks is his 4.55 speed during the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Burks’ senior year stats, specifically his 16.7 yards per reception, and 14 rushes for 112 yards suggest he could play a “Deebo Samuel” type role for Tennessee. I doubt we see him running the ball too much with the likes of Derrick Henry commanding that backfield.

On that note, and as previously mentioned, the Titans ran the ball more than any team last season. Again, with Derrick Henry, I expect more of the same. Plugging in Burks for Brown is hitting the reset button as far as paying a wide receiver goes, but, in doing so, the Titans just lost their second-best player.

To expect Burks to come in and command Brown’s 27% target share is foolish. He is too raw of a player. Believing he is a 1-for-1 swap for Brown is a mistake, but could lead fantasy managers to a major letdown if they think otherwise. This is all better news for newly acquired wide receiver, Robert Woods, as well as the continuation of a dominant run game.

Most Likely to Finish as the Top Rookie Wide Receiver in 2022: Drake London to the Atlanta Falcons

To say Drake London is going to finish as the top rookie wide receiver is one thing. Saying he can mimic what Justin Jefferson (88/1,400/7) and Ja’Marr Chase (106/1,823/14 including playoffs) did in their rookie seasons, the last two years, is another. I’m not here to tell you London is the next Jefferson or Chase. I am here to say, though, that landing in Atlanta with the 8th-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft gives him the best chance, thus far, to finish at the top rookie fantasy football wide receiver.

In the last year alone, the Falcons have traded away Julio Jones, lost Russell Gage to free agency, and Calvin Ridley to a one-year suspension. This Atlanta team is still very much a work in progress. The 8th pick in the NFL Draft could have been used on a variety of positions, including quarterback. The decision to select London there tells us all we need to know about how they feel about him.

There are 145 vacated targets from last season, between Gage and Ridley alone, to be had by the rookie. I fully expect at least 100 for London, with plenty of looks in the red zone as a physical mismatch at 6’5″, 240 pounds. He should also open up the field for tight end, Kyle Pitts, as well.

Ultimately, Drake London should be a late-round pick in most redraft leagues that could pay off big as the season progresses. More importantly, at just 21 years old, with a likely upgrade at quarterback, from Marcus Mariota, in the next season or so, London is a top-five pick in dynasty formats for me. His future is bright.

The “Maybe Next Year” Award: Jameson Williams to the Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions are clearly swinging for the fences based on the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Aside from “stealing” defensive end, Aidan Hutchinson, with the second-overall pick, Detroit then traded up from the 32nd-overall pick to the 12th-overall pick to select Jameson Williams from the University of Alabama. Unfortunately for Williams, and Lions fans, he likely isn’t going to see the field until later in the season, if at all, as a result of a January ACL tear.

With that said, the bulk of the 2022 target share is going to be spread out amongst receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown, D.J. Chark, tight end T.J. Hockenson, and running back, D’Andre Swift. Moving forward, though, Jameson Williams should command a healthy amount of his own targets. He is on the perfect team to take the time to rehab his injury, at just 21-years old, and return to the field when absolutely ready to do so and have an impact.

His 19.6 yards per reception average are an obvious indication of his playmaking ability. Williams is a tremendous deep threat. That does not bode well for Jared Goff’s future in Detroit considering his struggles with getting the ball downfield. When Detroit does have a quarterback who can do so, Williams is going to feast. His home run potential on any given play will affect the rest of the pass-catchers opportunities at receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

The other side of that coin is that Williams, himself, could be a boom-or-bust option any given week unless the Lions get creative with his route tree. Either way, next year’s fantasy football season is more likely the time to start gushing over Williams. Similarly to the rebuilding Lions, he is a great first-round dynasty stash for teams with little-to-no hope of winning this season.

The Best Player In the Worst Landing Spot: Chris Olave to the New Orleans Saints

If I could have things my way, Chris Olave would be a Green Bay Packer right now. Instead, the Saints trade up to the 11th-overall pick to select Olave to pair with Michael Thomas in their wide receiver corps. Olave is most well-known for his ability to get into the end zone. In his time at Ohio State, Olave totaled 35 receiving touchdowns, 13 of which, a career-high, he caught during the 2021 season.

Unfortunately for Olave, I don’t expect him to score many touchdowns this season. Jameis Winston is on pace to be the starting quarterback for the Saints in Week 1 as he recovers from a season-ending knee injury last year. If he isn’t ready, then Andy Dalton likely begins the season as the starter. Not only are neither stellar options for Olave to be catching his first season of NFL passes from, but a lack of continuity at that position to start his career is troubling.

Additionally, Michael Thomas, who holds the record for most receptions in a season (149), is set to return after missing all of last season with an injury. The Saints also have one of the best pass-catching options out of the backfield in Alvin Kamara. This team does rank 11th in receiving touchdowns (29) from last season. It’s worth noting that five of those occurred in an uncharacteristic dominant win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. What’s more jarring is their 202.2 receiving yards per game, which ranks dead last across the league.

I love the addition of Olave to the Saints for real-life football. His value, this year specifically as the Saints try to rebuild, is low. They have a new head coach, former defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen, and this offense will surely have it’s growing pains.

The Home Wrecker Award: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown Traded to the Arizona Cardinals

In the midst of NFL Draft craziness, this may be the first time you’re hearing about this trade. I, myself, did not even realize it happened until I was reviewing the draft order in real-time and wondered why the Ravens suddenly had the Cardinals’ first-round pick. It’s easy to get lost in the NFL Draft broadcast, social media reactions, and conversations with who you’re watching with. The fact remains that Hollywood Brown is now an Arizona Cardinal which brings down the value of each and every one of those pass-catchers in the desert.

With Christian Kirk getting paid big money to move on to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it looked as though Kyler Murray’s top options were going to be DeAndre Hopkins, veteran, A.J. Green, second-year receiver, Rondale Moore, and tight end, Zach Ertz. Now, Brown gets added into the mix, who reunites with Kyler after having played together at the University of Oklahoma.

This is another move that benefits the franchise but hinders the fantasy football value of those within it. Kyler Murray is the real winner here. With the above options at his disposal, in addition to his own rushing ability, as well as James Conner in the backfield, he is a lock to finish as a top-10 fantasy quarterback. While he still waits for his contract extension, he should be happy to have Hollywood to help prove his worth.

If I’m tasked with ranking the Cardinals wide receivers in order of fantasy value with now, it’s DeAndre Hopkins, Hollywood Brown, A.J. Green, and Rondale Moore. It’s a significant drop-off from Brown to Green, though. It’s hard to imagine both Hopkins and Brown both finishing as top-15 receivers next season. The latter may be the better value as far as ADP is concerned.

The Deebo Dream Destroyer: Garrett Wilson to the New York Jets

This completely made-up award speaks for itself. I don’t even really think it’s an award, but rather a cold, hard fact for Jets fans. Selecting Garrett Wilson out of Ohio State with the 10th-overall pick in this year’s draft deflates any and all Deebo Samuel trade dreams. In order to get such a deal done, the Jets would likely have included the 10th pick, as they reportedly did in an initial offer.

Instead, the team uses said pick on Garrett Wilson. So, what does the addition mean for this offense? Well, for one thing, a healthy Zach Wilson has arguably the best group of pass-catchers of any of his 2021 NFL Draft quarterback peers (That’s assuming Trey Lance doesn’t start in San Francisco). He won’t have many excuses if he can’t find success on the remainder of his rookie deal. I would attempt to buy low on the young quarterback in dynasty leagues if possible.

As far as what Garrett Wilson brings to the table, he should provide Zach Wilson a safety net as a pass-catcher specifically when trying to extend drives. Wilson is one of the better receivers in this NFL Draft class at contested catches. His average size and speed (4.38 40-yd) should draw attention from opposing defenses, opening up the field more for second-year receiver, Elijah Moore, as well.

Moore is likely going to draw more interest from fantasy football managers as the “more (pun) proven commodity.” Corey Davis and newly acquired tight end, C.J. Uzomah, will still have their fair share of targets, as well. There will be a lot of streaming potential on this offense throughout the fantasy football season.

Most Likely First Round NFL Draft Pick to Be a Second Round Rookie Fantasy Draft Pick: Jahan Dotson to the Washington Commanders

After writing about all of the other first-round wide receiver picks from last night’s NFL Draft, Jahan Dotson simply seems like an afterthought. It’s a shame because I do like Dotson, but landing with the Washington Commanders is hard to get excited about at the moment.

Dotson comes off of the board in the NFL Draft after Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jameson Williams, but before Treylon Burks. It’s arguably a reach for Washington to take Dotson in the first place this early, but he’s not a bad value as the fifth receiver to be selected.

As far as what Dotson can do for the Commanders offense, he is going to catch the ball. I know. That’s his job, right? I mean, though, that if Carson Wentz can get the ball to him, Dotson is more than likely going to catch it. He only dropped two of a possible 93 targets last season. Dotson is likely going to spend a lot of time in the slot, at his size, which likely means a healthy dose of Wentz targets underneath. The rookie from Penn State is no stranger to the workload with seven of a possible 12 games last season recording eight or more receptions.

Dotson is likely going to come off of draft boards, in dynasty rookie drafts, somewhere in the early to mid-second round. It’s an appropriate ADP, especially with a more uncertain long-term outlook than other available receivers. If said leagues are Points Per Reception scoring, then Dotson is simply more valuable. It likely won’t be 2022 that we’re talking much about him, but stash him for, hopefully, better days ahead, especially if he finds a way to work in at different positions in the Commanders offense.

The “What Could Have Been” Award: Kenny Pickett to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Most football fans are seemingly disappointed that this pick, and the first quarterback off of the board, wasn’t Liberty University’s Malik Willis. It could be a situation where Steelers fans are wondering “what could have been” if Kenny Pickett struggles early under center.

This is the first NFL Draft since 2014 that a quarterback wasn’t selected in the top-10. It then took 10 more picks before Pickett came off of the board. That makes this NFL Draft the latest a quarterback has gone in 25 years.

Pickett doesn’t excite me at all as an NFL prospect. His impact for fantasy football is worth looking into, though, for the players around him. Moving past the hand size conversation, I can’t ignore that Pickett is 24 years old. I believe he will have every opportunity to compete against Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job in Pittsburgh from day one.

If Pickett does see the field, Najee Harris likely benefits as his three-down role is still very much intact. He also serves as a passing option underneath. Chase Claypool loses the most value here as I’m not sold on Pickett’s deep ball. However, anything is an upgrade over Ben Roethelisberger. Dionte Johnson benefits more as a receiver in short yardage situations. For dynasty purposes, I’m more intrigued to see where other quarterbacks end up in the NFL Draft.

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