Rookies are one of the hardest pieces of the fantasy football puzzle to put into place, but they also present a pretty good value opportunity if you’re able to get them right. Lots of fantasy general managers spent early picks in 2021 on Steelers running back Najee Harris, and he rewarded them with one of the best fantasy scoring seasons of anyone. Fewer spent high picks on Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase, but those who did found themselves with one of the most productive wide receivers in fantasy. Others made late-year waiver pickups of Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who starred down the stretch.
Let’s talk about six rookies who merit consideration in 2022 fantasy roster decisions. My qualification to give you this information is that I watch a lot of college football, which you, too, can do. I also took Chase in the fifth round of my draft last year, which essentially makes me the ultimate authority on all things “drafting rookies for our fake football leagues” (or something). The top of the 2022 draft tilted heavily toward defense, which makes it harder to take a stab at rookie fantasy contributors. But let’s try anyway.
1. Drake London, Falcons WR
Drake London vs Casey Hayward 👀
— PFF (@PFF) August 3, 2022
The Falcons made London the first receiver pick in the draft—No. 8 overall—and there’s good reason to think they’ll rely on him right away. London is one of those dreamy receivers who has top-end speed, a big frame, and oven mitts for hands. He fractured his right ankle last October at USC but seems healthy heading into the season, and he should get the ball a lot, both because he’s good and because the Falcons are not drowning in other receiving options beyond second-year tight end Kyle Pitts. Whether Marcus Mariota can efficiently get London the ball is another matter, but someone’s got to rack up catches on any NFL team. Atlanta does not have a better candidate than London.
2. George Pickens, Steelers WR
George Pickens was on another level at @GeorgiaFootball.
— NFL (@NFL) August 7, 2022
The Steelers have a lot of credibility in the wide receiver drafting department, and Pickens, their second-rounder this year, is their latest attempt to find high-end production outside the first round. It’s worked with Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, Diontae Johnson, and a few others, and early indications are that it might work with Pickens, who has been the talk of training camp. Injuries cost Pickens a lot of games during his college career at Georgia, but he’s a big target (a listed 6’3″ and 200 pounds) and has the athleticism and ball-tracking ability to clown defensive backs. It’s not clear who will play quarterback for the Steelers, and you shouldn’t look to draft QB Kenny Pickett unless you’re in a keeper league. But Pickens might turn out to be a major fantasy contributor right away.
3. Breece Hall, Jets RB
Breece Hall official 4.39 💨👀
— PFF (@PFF) March 5, 2022
Hall was an awesome college running back at Iowa State. The league’s devaluation of running backs in the draft meant that despite being the first running back picked, Hall’s name didn’t get called until the second round, 36th overall. He should probably go around that same pick in 2022 fantasy drafts, but it’s worth keeping in mind the format: Hall was not a hugely prolific pass-catcher at Iowa State, so he might be worth an earlier pick in standard scoring formats than point-per-reception leagues. An injury to the Jets’ star left tackle, Mekhi Becton, is a significant problem, but it also might mean Jets QB Zach Wilson has to offload a bunch of quick passes to players near the line of scrimmage—maybe like his running back.
4. Skyy Moore, Chiefs WR
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) July 29, 2022
Moore was a receptions machine at Western Michigan last year, when he caught 95 balls. The AFC West is not exactly the MAC, but Moore has a few things going for him. Namely, Patrick Mahomes is throwing him the ball, and the Chiefs traded their best receiver, Tyreek Hill, to the Dolphins after last year. Mahomes has plenty of other options and Moore does not seem likely to start early in the season, but he’s probably worth a look as a No. 3 or 4 fantasy receiver with upside. There’s a non-absurd world in which Mahomes takes a quick liking to him and Moore is the most productive rookie fantasy wideout.
5. Kenneth Walker III, Seahawks RB
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) August 6, 2022
Walker is a special running back who, at Michigan State, showed a knack for getting yards even when his offensive line didn’t bulldoze big holes or get much forward push on his behalf. He’s going to need to tap into that in Seattle, because the Seahawks have quite possibly the worst offensive line in the NFL. He’s also not a clear-cut No. 1 on the depth chart and might need some time to overtake Rashaad Penny. But the good news for Walker’s fantasy value is that the Seahawks have a brutal QB situation, with either Geno Smith or Drew Lock starting. They’ll have to run the ball and throw checkdowns, and both of those would benefit Walker’s Year 1 fantasy value. He’s a potential late-round value pickup.
6. WanDale Robinson, Giants WR/RB
DJ ➡️ Wan’Dale pic.twitter.com/5fM6FUqQRP
— New York Giants (@Giants) August 5, 2022
It’d be a big risk to take Robinson before the last few rounds, but: Think about him! He is a quintessential Swiss army knife player who has expansive college experience as both a running back and receiver. The Giants offense may be a bleak scene, but in PPR leagues, Robinson might generate real value as a slot wideout. And I very much hope this doesn’t happen, but if Saquon Barkley’s health problems continue atop the Giants’ running back depth chart, it seems reasonable that Robinson will get even more touches, no matter where the Giants decide to line him up in their formations. He hasn’t been a true running back in three years, but for fantasy purposes, all touches are good touches.
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