Best players to draft in fantasy football: Rolfe’s top targets in 2022

As you look for the best players to draft in fantasy football in 2022, PFN fantasy director Ben Rolfe highlights his top targets in drafts this year.

Best players to draft in fantasy football: Rolfe’s top targets in 2022

When it comes to fantasy football, everyone has a list of players they want to target. Some of those players can be viewed as sleepers, but others are just simply players that fantasy managers are willing to look at drafting a round early. Over the coming weeks, the PFN fantasy department will be highlighting their picks for the best players to draft in fantasy football in 2022.

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Best players to draft in fantasy football for 2022

Tom Brady, QB | Buccaneers

Tom Brady has been one of the safest bets in fantasy football for his entire career. He has finished outside the top 12 for fantasy just once in the last five years and three times in the last 15 seasons where he has played more than one game. In his two seasons in Tampa Bay, Brady has been the QB8 and QB3 and averaged 40.3 passing attempts per game.

There is little to suggest that things will change in 2022. The run game in Tampa is identical to last year, and the offensive line saw a slight downgrade, which should have a bigger impact on the rushing attack than on Brady. His current ADP in fantasy drafts is between the QB6 and 13 depending on the site, at an average of QB9. My personal projections have Brady finishing as a top-five option at the position. Therefore, he will be a player I’m regularly targeting in drafts this year.

Russell Wilson, QB | Broncos

Heading into 2022, Russell Wilson is coming off his worst year in terms of fantasy output. Prior to last season, Wilson had never finished outside of the top 12 at the position in terms of total fantasy points. In the previous four years, he had finished inside the top 10, including leading the position in 2017 and finishing third in 2019.

Now, Wilson heads to Denver under offensive-minded head coach Nathaniel Hackett. In Hackett’s three years as the offensive coordinator in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers never finished below the QB9 and was a top-five option at the position the last two years. While Matt LaFleur was calling the plays in those seasons, Hackett was a big part of Green Bay’s game plan and work behind the scenes.

The value you can get Wilson at in 2022 makes him a fantastic QB target for fantasy managers. He is currently being selected in the QB8-11 range in drafts. That value simply presents a floor for Wilson. His upside is a top-five QB option making him one of the best players to draft for fantasy football in 2022.

Leonard Fournette, RB | Buccaneers

While the concerns around the Buccaneers’ offensive line could have an effect on their rushing efficiency, Leonard Fournette still presents an intriguing value at his current ADP. The main reason is the potential volume that Fournette could see in 2022. He quickly established himself as the top back in Tampa Bay last year, and the competition at the position on the current depth chart does not present an immediate threat.

When you look at the numbers from 2021, Fournette’s 12.9 rushing attempts per game are somewhat underwhelming. However, he supplemented that with six targets and 4.93 receptions per game. The only RB to average more receptions per game last season was Christian McCaffrey. That is important because, on average, a reception is worth around double the fantasy points of a rushing attempt.

Regardless of which scoring format you look at, Fournette was a top-10 player at the position in terms of points per game. However, he missed the final three contests of the season, meaning he finished outside the top 10 in total points in both PPR and non-PPR scoring. That has largely contributed to Fournette being outside of the top 12 backs in 2022.

Yet, as I discussed in our ADP comparison between Fournette and Javonte Williams, his upside is a top-10 RB. He may miss a few games due to injury, but when Fournette is on the field, he has a fantastic chance not only to provide RB1 numbers but a top-five return at the position.

David Montgomery, RB | Bears

While there are some RB sleepers that I like further down draft boards, my focus here is on players to target in the earlier rounds. Much like with Fournette, volume is my key concern in the early drafts rounds. While talent is important, volume is the real driver of fantasy value at the RB position. David Montgomery is another player who should have enough volume to return value on his current ADP.

Last season, Montgomery finished eighth in terms of rushing attempts per game (17.3). However, he also finished 12th among RBs when it came to receptions per game (3.23). That left him seventh overall in total touches per game (20.5). If we break down those touches, Montgomery had more than 15 in all but one game in 2021. He also had 20 or more touches in eight of the 13 games he played.

While Khalil Herbert had his moments during Montgomery’s midseason absence, he played a secondary role when Montgomery was available. Even if he sees a slight uptick in touches, we are talking 5-7 per game as opposed to 10-15. That should leave plenty of chances for Montgomery to prevail.

Montgomery’s current ADP sees him going off the board as the RB17 overall, with a range between RB16-18. Montgomery should be more than capable of returning value on that cost per game and has the opportunity to be a potential top-10 player at the position.

Best players to draft in fantasy football
Jan 2, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (32) runs with the ball for a touchdown against the New York Giants during the first half at Soldier Field. Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Drake London, WR | Falcons

We have seen some great returns from rookie WRs in the past couple of years, and opportunities have been a large part of it. There is arguably no rookie receiver with a greater opportunity in 2022 than Drake London. While there are concerns around the QBs throwing him the ball — Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder –, the depth chart is remarkably clear.

Of the eight players to see 30 or more targets last year, only Kyle Pitts, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Olamide Zaccheaus are set to feature in 2022. Those three accounted for a total of 232 targets, with Pitts seeing 110 of them. The remaining five players leave 272 targets up for grabs. There’s a ton of potential volume for London to pick up.

In PPR formats, London has an ADP of 99th overall for the WR39 on average. If he can assume the 94 targets left behind by Gage, as well as pick up some of the targets Ridely saw (52) when he was available, London has a great chance to finish as a top-24 player at the position.

Kenny Golladay, WR | Giants

We are not that far removed from when Kenny Golladay was viewed as one of the next big things at wide receiver in the NFL. The last two years have been a mess of injuries and poor performance, but it has meant that Golladay is a free gamble in the final rounds of fantasy drafts.

We have seen the potential ceiling outcomes for Golladay, with a 21st-place finish at the position in 2018 and a third-place finish in 2019. Of course, we have also seen the floor, with 101st and 86th place finishes in the last two years.

Right now, Golladay’s current ADP sees him as the 59th WR off the board. You may look at that and think that value is right in the middle of his two outcomes. You would be absolutely right to look at it that way. Still, with his ADP being no earlier than 125th overall in PPR formats, you are not investing anything significant to see if Brian Daboll’s offense can reinvigorate him.

With a selection outside the top 10 rounds, you are likely drafting Golladay to be nothing more than a bench option with an upside. If he comes out of the gate hot, then you have a potential starting option on a weekly basis. However, if he struggles, you can cut him without wasting significant draft capital. Those types of educated gambles in the double-digit rounds are perfect for fantasy managers looking to maximize upside later in drafts.

Cole Kmet, TE | Bears

When it comes to the best players to draft in fantasy football at the tight end position, there are different schools of thought. Some managers like to invest early and try to secure a weekly advantage at the position. Others like to target what they see as the solid options in the middle of the draft, while a third subset looks to the final four or five rounds to secure a player with an upside above his draft position.

Cole Kmet very much falls into that final subset. His ADP across the various sites currently sees him being selected after the ninth round and most commonly in the early double-digit rounds. Kmet’s story is similar to that of Drake London in that the pass-catching depth chart leaves him with a huge opportunity to succeed.

Kmet is coming off a 93-target season with 144 vacated targets up for grabs. Last season, Kmet was tied for the eighth most targets at the position but could not turn that into a significant fantasy output. Part of the problem was scoring zero touchdowns. However, with Jimmy Graham, Damiere Byrd, and Allen Robinson gone, there are 16 vacated red-zone targets available.

Kmet already had 21.1% of the red-zone targets in 2021 and was one of only two players with more than 10 red-zone targets not to score a touchdown on those targets. Positive regression would indicate that his touchdown rate should change and if he couples that with picking up more red-zone targets, he could return a huge value on his TE13 ADP.