The first overall pick in 2022 fantasy football drafts is the same for most: Jonathan Taylor. In some years, there’s clarity with the top three or four picks. This season, once you get past Taylor, there are several different directions you can go. Who are the options for fantasy football managers with the second pick?
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Which players could go No. 2 overall in 2022 fantasy football drafts?
For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to assume Taylor goes first overall. It won’t happen in every league, but it will in the vast majority of them. At the second pick, there are…options.
In 2021, Christian McCaffrey was the clear first overall pick. After him, the choices were Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, and Derrick Henry. That was really it. No wide receivers were in consideration.
In 2022 fantasy football drafts, it’s a whole different story. The second pick is wide open, and there are a number of players you can justify. Let’s get into them.
The argument for Christian McCaffrey at the second pick isn’t difficult to make. If you could see into the future and were able to know with absolute certainty that McCaffrey played at least 14 games this season, he goes first overall in every league without hesitation.
When healthy, McCaffrey remains the single best asset in fantasy football, and it’s not particularly close. In his five full games last season, CMC averaged 23.6 PPR fantasy points per game. In 2020, he averaged 30.1 (three games), 29.3 in 2019, and 24.1 the season prior.
Unfortunately, McCaffrey has missed 23 games the past two seasons. For a guy that went first overall back-to-back years, that stays with people. Fantasy managers are justifiably worried about torpedoing their entire seasons by trusting McCaffrey again.
If you’re taking a wide receiver this early, it’s not a bad idea to grab the guy who just had the single greatest fantasy season for a WR of all time. Cooper Kupp averaged 25.9 ppg, and nothing about his offensive situation has changed in a meaningful way.
While he’s not about to do that again, Kupp could see as high as a 25% reduction in his performance and still be a top-three wide receiver. When you hear people talk about not losing your league with your early picks, Kupp is exactly that.
The argument for Justin Jefferson over Kupp is actually not that difficult to make. I’m not saying I would do it (although I might!), but it’s not a crazy leap to make.
Kupp had his historic elite WR1 season. Jefferson is 23 years old, and his first two seasons were two of the best we’ve ever seen to start someone’s career. We know we’ve seen Kupp’s best season, but I’m pretty confident we haven’t seen Jefferson’s best. Taking Jefferson No. 2 overall is basically claiming he will finish as the overall WR1 this season…which is exactly what I think will happen.
What if you don’t want to take a wide receiver, but you’re scared of CMC? Allow me to direct you to Austin Ekeler. This man scored 20 touchdowns last year. The regression police are definitely after Ekeler, but a slightly deeper dive into his past three seasons suggests we shouldn’t really be that worried.
We’ve seen Ekeler’s floor. It happened in 2020 when he scored just three times in 10 games and still averaged 16.5 ppg. Even if we slice off eight touchdowns from Ekeler’s 2021 production, he would’ve gone from finishing as the overall RB3 (if we count Derrick Henry’s eight games) to…the overall RB3. Ekeler is an extremely safe selection with the second pick in 2022 fantasy football drafts.
The seemingly invincible Derrick Henry was broken last season…literally. He missed the second half of the 2021 season with a Jones fracture in his foot. But what Henry did before then was otherworldly.
Henry, someone I previously proclaimed lacked overall RB1 upside was the overall RB1 in ppg. Why? He finally saw work in the passing game. Even though Henry’s efficiency plummeted from 5.4 yards per carry to 4.3, his receiving work essentially doubled. Just one year after catching 19 passes in a full season, he caught 18 balls in half that. If this continues in 2022, Henry will once again threaten overall RB1 status.
Just one year ago, Dalvin Cook was the most common second pick in fantasy drafts. What exactly has changed? Cook is now fully healthy, and the offense should be better with Kevin O’Connell replacing Mike Zimmer as head coach. Sure, Cook’s a lock to miss a couple of games with shoulder or ankle issues, but when he’s out there, he’s one of the best.
It seems as though fantasy managers don’t like Cook’s 15.9 ppg when compared to 24.1 and 20.9 from the previous two seasons. Cook was the same guy last year. He averaged 4.7 ypc and had an 11.7% target share. The only reason Cook’s fantasy numbers were lower is because he experienced bad luck in the touchdown department.
Cook scored just six touchdowns last season. His expected TD rate should’ve seen him find the end zone around 9-10 times. Historically, Cook has been even more efficient than that. He scored 17 times in 2020 and 13 times in 2019. Even if Cook scored just 11 touchdowns last season, he would’ve averaged over 18 ppg. If you want to take Cook with the second pick, you’ll get no argument from me.
Who am I taking second overall in 2022 fantasy football drafts?
As fate would have it, I actually drew the second pick in my most important home league. So I’ve been preparing, researching, and mocking to figure out the best move at this exact spot for several weeks now. Of course, things could always change over the next two weeks or so, but as of now, I’m going with McCaffrey.
Without getting too far into the weeds of full draft strategy, I like my roster construction more when I take a running back in the first two rounds. I don’t want to pass on the wide receivers at the 2-3 turn, so I reluctantly will pass on Kupp or Jefferson with the second pick.
I did list four running backs as options, though. Why McCaffrey? I urge fantasy managers to remind themselves of Herm Edwards’ famous post-game press conference quote: “You play to win the game!”
Fantasy leagues aren’t won by playing it safe. You need to chase upside. And no one has more upside than CMC. Taking anyone other than McCaffrey at pick 2 is essentially predicting McCaffrey will get hurt. Predicting injuries is a very dicey proposition.
Heading into the 2020 season, McCaffrey himself hadn’t missed a game in his career. Who could’ve predicted he would suddenly become “injury prone”? Ekeler still has a bit of the injury-prone stigma to him, but he’s played full seasons two of the past three years. Cook always misses a couple of games, but I think we’d all sign for 13-14 games from our RB1 before the season. And King Henry just never got hurt…until he did.
If you want to go with a WR and take Kupp or Jefferson, by all means, do so. Especially if you’re willing to take an RB or two at the 2-3 turn. But if you’re taking an RB No. 2 overall, CMC is the league-winning play. He’s my choice for who to take with the second pick in 2022 fantasy football drafts.