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2022 Fantasy Rookie Rankings: Kenneth Walker III and Jameson Williams shoot up rankings after sensational seasons

With one eye on the NFL and the other on college football, here are our current 2022 fantasy football dynasty rookie rankings.

Although we have several weeks left in the NFL season, those who play in dynasty leagues — or are draft fiends — know it is never too soon to start diving into the incoming rookie class. That is precisely what we are doing with our 2022 fantasy football rookie rankings. As the college bowl season comes to an end and we close the book on the 2021-2022 season, here are where our rookie rankings shake out for fantasy football.

2022 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings

First things first, it is still somewhat early. Very few of these players are locked in where they are. They might be inside their respective tiers, but there will always be fluctuation. I still need to go in and give each one of these players the deep dive that both they and you deserve.

That includes diving into more film and analyzing metrics, advanced analytics, and a weighted grading scale, plus looking at what happened beyond the box scores. We don’t even have Pro Day or combine data yet, which will get factored in. Not to mention, we also need NFL landing spots — but we can cross that bridge when it happens.

Don’t get too caught up in individual fantasy rankings. For now, group players into tiers. Find guys with the skill sets that will translate the best in the NFL, as that will equal fantasy production. Without landing spots, we get to judge prospects based on who they are as players, not on the role they will fill.

Those who have been around the devy/dynasty game long enough know this. For those who are new to the format, we have a few articles to help you become more familiar.

2022 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Quarterbacks

Which QBs sit atop our 2022 dynasty fantasy rookie rankings? While this is not a highly touted class, there are guys who could turn into weekly starters.

Tier 1

1) Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
2) Matt Corral, North Carolina
3) Malik Willis, Liberty

By this point, it has been well established this is nowhere close to the QB classes we have seen in the last two cycles. However, there is still talent and styles that fit whatever you’re looking for in a signal-caller.

Those who want a pocket passer should look no further than Kenny Pickett out of Pittsburgh. He is by far the biggest riser at the position and arguably of the entire draft class. The 6’3″, 220-pound senior from Oakhurst, New Jersey, finished third in the Heisman voting after completing 67.2% of his passes (334-of-497) for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns. He is not a mobile QB, but he used his legs in key moments and totaled 223 yards and 5 TDs on the season. His hand size will be a hot topic, but his talent is not up for debate.

Then we have Matt Corral, who came into the 2021 season as the No. 1 QB in the eyes of many. The redshirt junior put together a second solid season as he took advantage of a Lane Kiffin-led offense despite watching Elijah Moore go to the NFL. After a 3,337-yard, 29-TD 2020 campaign, Corral completed 68% of his passes (258-of-378) for 3,333 yards and 20 TDs in 2021.

The difference between Corral and Pickett is the Ole Miss star is a legitimate threat as a rusher. He totaled 1,003 yards and 15 TDs in his last two years. The big improvement for Corral this season was in taking care of the ball — he dropped his interception count from 14 to just 4 in 2021. He has a very quick release that aids him in an RPO-based scheme and showcases solid accuracy. Corral has a sufficient arm but is by no means the next Matthew Stafford.

Malik Willis is a project but has all the traits to be a top-tier fantasy player

Malik Willis is a bit of a project. He should not be a Day 1 starter for an NFL team. He struggles with inconsistencies with his ball placement. Willis also needs to learn how to throw the change-up instead of always relying on the Jacob deGrom four-seamer.

With all of this said, he is by far the most physically gifted QB in the class. You’re going to hear this comparison a lot, but Willis is the closest thing we have seen to Lamar Jackson. Willis has perennial Pro Bowl and MVP-caliber talent, but he needs the right environment and a little bit of patience. He also has the chance to completely fizzle out. But I am betting on the talent and stashing him.

Tier 2

4) Carson Strong, Nevada
5) Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
6) Sam Howell, North Carolina
7) Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

There are times where Desmond Ridder wows you with his athleticism (2,180 career rushing yards). And his arm is top-notch, as he can fit balls into tight winds with pace, touch, and accuracy. But on the very next drive, Ridder is capable of making a boneheaded decision and putting the ball in harm’s way because he trusts his arm too much. He has a live arm, and the ball pops out of his hands, but he needs to know his own limits.

Luke Fickell did a great job working RPOs into Cincinnati’s offense and moving the pocket to complement Ridder’s skill set instead of asking him to take a five-step drop and run through his progressions 30 times a game. The raw skills are there, and I could see Ridder competing for a starting role at some point in his career. I just don’t know when that will happen.

Tier 3

8) Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan
9) Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA (yet to declare)
10) Brock Purdy, Iowa State
11) JT Daniels, Georgia
12) Jack Coan, Notre Dame

Running Backs

We have been spoiled with elite top-end talent at running back for the last two seasons. In 2020, there was Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Cam Akers, J.K. Dobbins, and Antonio Gibson. Then in 2021, Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, Javonte Williams, and Michael Carter entered the NFL.

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If I were to place my money, the 2022 rookie class compares more closely to that of 2021, as we have a handful of high-profile RBs and a bunch of depth. Do not discount players in middle tiers as they will be competing for roles in 2022 and could turn into the next Elijah Mitchell or James Robinson.

Tier 1

1) Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
2) Breece Hall, Iowa State
3) Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M

Breece Hall and Isaiah Spiller have been the RBs 1A/1B of the 2022 class for the last two seasons. There is no wrong answer. They both have a prototypical size of 6’1″ and over 215 pounds, and both have been workhorse backs for multiple years.

Spiller is a versatile back that can work in multiple systems, but he does his best work in a power-style scheme as a North-South runner. For a big back, his feet are phenomenal. He shows patience, allows the gaps to develop, stays off the backs of his OL, and then bursts through the hole, thanks in large part to his excellent vision. The NFL will love him even if he does not have elite speed.

Then there is Hall, who is a phenomenal back on his own. In his three years at Iowa State, he rushed for over 1,000 yards twice — including a nation-leading 1,572 in 2020 — and totaled 3,941 rushing yards for his career. He was a unanimous and consensus first-team All-American, twice the Big 12’s offensive MVP, and finished his career by rushing for touchdowns in an FBS-record 24 consecutive games.

Hall is primarily an off-tackle runner but attacks a crease or the hole with the best of them. It’s the arsenal of subtleties in his running style that helps set him apart, whether it be jump cuts, side steps, one-leg jab steps, or hip movement. Add in his contact balance — especially on the perimeter  — and receiving ability (82 receptions in three seasons), and Hall profiles as a legitimate three-down back.

Kenneth Walker III might be the best of them all

Then we have Kenneth Walker III out of Michigan State, who, much like Pickett, is the highest dynasty rookie riser of the 2022 season. A transfer from Wake Forest, Walker showed flashes on film, but it was not until he got to Michigan State and was in a system more conducive to his style that he truly took off. He has every right to be the No. 1 running back selected in this year’s draft, both in NFL and in dynasty.

Walker finished the season with 1,636 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. He became the first player in MSU history to win the Walter Camp National Player of the Year and the Doak Walker Award. On his very first carry as a Spartan, Walker had a 75-yard house call and eventually ended the game against Northwestern with 275 yards and 4 TDs. He is a high-volume back, evidenced by six straight games of 23+ carries before Michigan State’s blowout loss to Ohio State.

Given that Walker touched the ball just 500 times in his three years, the “plenty of tread on his tires” crowd will love him. What I truly love about him is how angry he runs. Also, Walker’s contact balance is superb. Despite all of the jaw-dropping cuts and jukes (of which there are plenty), you better bring an Army to bring him down. He gets his pads square on short-yardage downs, doesn’t dance around, and attacks defenders. Some guys have an innate propensity to find the end zone — Walker is one of them.

Tier 2

4) Rachaad White, Arizona State
5) Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
6) Zach Charbonnet, UCLA

At 6’2″, 210 pounds, Rachaad White is one of the best-kept secrets of 2022 dynasty rookie drafts. With that said, the proverbial cat is going to be out of the bag once White shows up at the Senior Bowl. The keyword for me when watching his tape is smooth. White is an efficient rusher who doesn’t waste movement and is a dual-threat out of the backfield. He was a 1,000-yard rusher last season but also caught 43 passes for nearly 460 yards.

He can be a bit upright at times, but that is coachable, as is pass blocking. White shows solid contact balance and determination at the point of contact. I’d like to see more burst at the line, but once his next gear kicks in, White is gone. Don’t sleep on him when the draft kicks off.

Zach Charbonnet will be a quick riser in the draft process

Sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side. You will see guys transfer from a program and flounder. That was not the case for Zach Charbonnet, who transferred away from Michigan to UCLA. After rushing 149 times for 726 yards and 11 TDs as a freshman, Charbonnet recorded just 19 rushes in Year 2, totaling 124 yards. After heading west and joining Chip Kelly’s team, Charbonnet was a menace to the Pac-12. He rushed 202 times for 1,137 yards and 13 TDs, adding 197 yards on 24 receptions.

Charbonnet is an old-school, no-nonsense rusher, opting to run over you instead of around you. He has excellent burst and vision, and while he’s not a pass-catching weapon, he is not a liability either. If you have vision and contact balance, you can be a starter in both the NFL and fantasy — and Charbonnet has both in spades.

Tier 3

7) Tyler Allgeier, BYU
8) James Cook, Georgia
9) Kevin Harris, South Carolina
10) Tyler Badie, Missouri

No, he is not his brother, but James Cook will be a reliable back in the NFL, even if only as a change-of-pace RB. Cook is a patient rusher, sets up his blockers well, and has the quickness to get in and out of cuts seamlessly. He will make his money as a receiving back while working out of the backfield, the slot, and even on the perimeter.

Unless you stayed up for #Pac12AfterDark, you likely missed out on watching Tyler Allgeier. But don’t worry — there is plenty of time to catch up. After a 1,300 total yard season in 2020 (11 games), he put up silly numbers in 2021. Allgeier rushed 276 times for 1,606 yards (No. 3 in the nation) with an NCAA-best 23 touchdowns. He even hauled in nearly 200 yards as a receiver and had the fourth-most receptions on the team (28).

Allgeier is a one-cut back that explodes forward once he puts his foot in the ground. He will put his shoulder into you and take a defender for a ride that will leave them questioning the life choices that led them to this exact moment. Allgeier should not be able to hit the edge how he can for a guy his size. He is one of if not the best-kept secret right now, but if he tests like we believe he might (4.4-forty range), he won’t be a secret for long and turn into your favorite analysts’ favorite second-round pick.

11) Hassan Haskins, Michigan
12) Sincere McCormick, UTSA
13) Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss
14) Brian Robinson Jr., Alabama

Hassan Haskins will be an RB that divides the dynasty community. Some people absolutely love him as a stout, wear-a-defense-down style rusher. But for as many good games as Haskins has, he can disappear. At times, he can show too much patience and jump-cut behind the LOS instead of just hitting the hole with a head of steam.

You don’t want Haskins trying to be a perimeter back or attempting to bounce a carry to the edge. You’ll see times when he goes to hit the edge and tries to give a little shake to move the defender instead of just running. That is not him being creative — that is a guy who knows he does not have the speed to create an angle on his own. If Haskins goes to a wide-zone-style team, he will likely struggle.

Tier 4

15) Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma
16) Keaontay Ingram, USC
17) Dameon Pierce, Florida
18) Abram Smith, Baylor
19) Chris Rodriguez Jr., Kentucky
20) Zonovan Knight, NC State

Tier 5

21) Eric Gray, Oklahoma
22) Snoop Conner, Ole Miss
23) Zamir White, Georgia
24) Jashaun Corbin, Florida State
25) Tyler Goodson, Iowa
26) Noah Cain, Penn State

Eric Gray is the most disappointing name on this list. I had massive expectations for him and was in my pre-season top-5. He showed his upside at Tennessee, but when he announced his transfer to Oklahoma, I thought we would see him take the next step forward. The opposite happened.

He was the clear No. 2 behind Kennedy Brooks, who also looked like a totally different back this year, but in a positive way. Gray watched his rushed fall from 157 in 2020 to just 78 in 2021 with 412 yards. Statistically, his best game of the year was also his final one in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon, where he rushed for 82 yards on 8 carries while adding 25 yards and a score on 5 receptions.

The tools are there, but there is also a lot of room for improvement. I wish Gray were more physical, and he needs to get better at reading the leverage of his OL and where the play will develop. He has yet to declare for the NFL Draft and could opt to go back to OU, but if he does come out, he could be worth a dart throw based on his receiving skills.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.

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