The 2022 NFL Draft was filled with excitement. In addition to a whole new rookie class, we saw two big-name wide receivers traded. There’s a lot to unpack. We can’t possibly get to them all, but let’s discuss some of the dynasty fantasy football winners who saw their value increase (or at least not decrease).
What exactly classifies a player as a winner from a fantasy football perspective? As always, there’s admittedly some subjectivity that goes into it.
For the purposes of this article, a winner is any player whose fantasy football value either increased as a result of what his team did during the draft or didn’t decrease in a situation where it very well could have.
Fantasy Football Winners: Quarterbacks
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
There are two main knocks on Jalen Hurts. First, there are nonbelievers who don’t see him as a long-term starting quarterback in the NFL. Second, the Eagles lack the weapons necessary for Hurts to excel as a passer.
Aside from Kenny Pickett, the quarterbacks in this class fell and fell and fell. Not a single one was drafted in the second round. Yet, the Eagles passed on all of them. They did not bring in a quarterback until they signed Carson Strong as a UDFA after the draft. That’s a pretty strong signal they believe in Hurts.
As for getting Hurts weapons, instead of drafting a wide receiver, the Eagles traded for A.J. Brown. How’s that for helping your quarterback?
Hurts now has a very formidable trio of pass catchers in Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. Hurts’ fantasy managers should be feeling very good about his future as a starter and ability to produce high-end QB1 numbers.
Zach Wilson, New York Jets
At this point, the only reason Zach Wilson should fail in the NFL is if he’s just not good at football. The Jets have done everything possible to set him up to succeed. They spent four of their first six picks on offensive players — drafting a WR1 in Garrett Wilson, an elite RB1 in Breece Hall, a tight end in Jeremy Ruckert, and an offensive lineman in Max Mitchell.
Wilson has no shortage of weapons at his disposal this season. Most quarterbacks in the NFL should be jealous of what Wilson has to work with. Even the most skeptical fantasy manager should be upgrading Wilson based purely on his supporting cast.
Fantasy Football Winners: Running Backs
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
His off-the-field concerns notwithstanding, the Saints were definitely a team liable to take a running back in the 2022 NFL Draft. Alvin Kamara is entering his age-27 season and has 1,285 career touches.
Instead, the Saints didn’t draft anyone. That leaves Kamara without any real threat to his touches. While he’ll still have to deal with Mark Ingram if the Saints retain him, Ingram is 32 years old. With no heir apparent to Kamara on the roster, fantasy managers can feel confident Kamara is the guy for at least another season.
Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Another team linked to possibly drafting a running back was the Jaguars. Travis Etienne is coming off a serious foot injury, and James Robinson tore his Achilles in December. Yet, all the Jaguars did to address the position was draft Snoop Conner in the fifth round.
The Jaguars merely spending a Day 3 pick on a running back is a vote of confidence in Etienne’s health. They know Robinson won’t be nearly 100% by the start of the season — if he is ready at all. Fantasy managers should feel great about Etienne’s ability to show why the Jaguars made him a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens hosted Melvin Gordon and heavily considered signing a running back in free agency. After not signing anyone, they easily could have drafted an RB on Day 2. Instead, the Ravens waited until the sixth round to take Tyler Badie, a receiving back. Badie is more likely to replace Justice Hill than serve as any threat to J.K. Dobbins or Gus Edwards.
Dobbins and Edwards are both coming off preseason ACL tears and are fully expected to be ready for training camp. After the Ravens’ draft, fantasy managers should be confident that the backfield in 2022 will look like it was supposed to in 2021. Dobbins is Baltimore’s RB of the future, and Edwards will be his backup.
James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
James Conner was a big winner in free agency, and he’s a big winner after the draft. With Chase Edmonds in Miami, the Cardinals were in need of a satellite back to replace him and take the load off Conner.
Just one year after spending merely a seventh-round pick on Eno Benjamin, the Cardinals only spent a sixth-round pick on Keaontay Ingram. They could still sign a veteran, but this is Conner’s backfield for the foreseeable future. He’s on a three-year deal, so fantasy managers should buy into Conner as the clear RB1 in an elite offense for at least two seasons.
Fantasy Football Winners: Wide Receivers
Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens were already set to make Rashod Bateman their WR1. He profiles as an outside X receiver way more than Marquise Brown. Now, there’s no debate after the Ravens traded Brown to the Cardinals.
And what did the Ravens do to replace Brown? Nothing. The Ravens drafted two tight ends in Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely, but they didn’t take a single wide receiver. They will likely sign a veteran because they can’t go into the season with Devin Duvernay and Tylan Wallace as their WR2 and WR3, respectively. But regardless, Bateman is very clearly their WR1 of the future and is poised to see a massive target share in his sophomore season.
Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills
Gabriel Davis has become quite the polarizing player. He gained fame after his incredible 4-touchdown performance against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. However, Davis is still a Day 3 pick who hasn’t hit 600 receiving yards in a season yet. The Bills easily could have looked to upgrade their WR2.
Instead, the Bills waited until the fifth round to draft Khalil Shakir, who profiles more as a slot receiver anyway. They sent a clear message that Davis is their starting Z receiver opposite Stefon Diggs. While the jury is still out on whether Davis is the long-term answer, the Bills not drafting a replacement is a great sign going forward.
Fantasy Football Winners: Tight Ends
Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
I guess I have to make Cole Kmet a winner based purely on target consolidation. The Bears have a WR2 masquerading as a WR1 in Darnell Mooney. Behind him, they have Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown. Pringle is a capable WR3/4, but ESB should be nowhere near a three-receiver set.
It looks like Cole Kmet is at least third on the target totem pole behind Mooney and Pringle. He might even be second. The Bears need to upgrade their wide receivers in a bad way. However, in the absence of anyone dangerous behind Mooney, Kmet has a real shot to see his 17.7% target share somehow increase.
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