The 2021 fantasy football season is in the rearview mirror, so of course, it’s time to look at what the first few rounds of a 2022 fantasy draft might look like as it stands. Sure, 100 things will change between now and the start of actual drafts, but this initial mock can at least give you an idea of which player’s stock is rising and falling heading into 2022.
This is also the first mock draft I’ve done in over 20 years that doesn’t have Tom Brady involved in the value of his teammates as an active player. The GOAT decided to retire earlier in the week. Instead, it has been altered due to his absence from the Buccaneers offense, leaving the value of Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, all of whom are included in this mock draft, in a state of fantasy football limbo.
This one-man, five-round mock includes 12 teams and is based on PPR scoring. These teams used different “strategies” with their first three overall picks, so you can see how the roster is built at the top. Notice, no team took a quarterback in the first four rounds.
Teams 1, 6: Running back, wide receiver, running back
Teams 2, 3, 4, 9: Running back, running back, wide receiver
Team 5: Wide receiver, running back, running back
Team 7: Running back, tight end, wide receiver
Team 8: Wide receiver, running back, tight end
Team 9: Running back, wide receiver, wide receiver
Team 11: Wide receiver, wide receiver, running back
Team 12: Wide receiver, running back, wide receiver
1.1. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
1.2. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
1.3. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
1.4. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1.5. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
1.6. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
1.7. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
1.8. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers*
1.9. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
1.10. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
1.11. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
1.12. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Taylor emerged as the best running back in fantasy football this season. He scored 20-plus fantasy points nine times, including one game where he put up 53.4 points. Taylor led the league with 1,811 rushing yards, which was a bananas 552 yards more than the second-best runner, Nick Chubb, who finished with 1,259 rushing yards. He’s the unquestioned No. 1 overall pick heading into 2022 drafts.
Henry rushed for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games before he went down with an injured foot. Had he been able to finish the season, he might have been the first back in the league’s history to rush for 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons (he was on pace for 1,991 rushing yards).
Harris was a star during his rookie season, but what will the Steelers do at quarterback without Ben Roethlisberger? That’s a question we’ll need to have answered before giving Harris a firm ranking in the top five.
Kupp is coming off the greatest fantasy football season of all time among wide receivers, scoring 439.5 points. That passed the previous record set by Jerry Rice in 1995 when he scored 414.04 points. In his following season, Rice experienced a decline of 594 receiving yards, seven touchdown catches and 118.9 fantasy points (7.5 points per game). Kupp will be great again, but regression is imminent.
McCaffrey has missed most of the last two seasons due to injuries, so he could fall into the end of the first round in some mocks. His talent is just so tempting.
Kamara remains a first-round pick, but he’s coming off a disappointing season compared to 2020. He finished with 67 targets and 47 catches. Those were both career lows. In fact, Kamara had never had fewer than 97 targets or 81 catches in his previous four seasons with the Saints. This was also his first season playing without Drew Brees.
I’ve always been a running backs kind of dude, so it says a lot that I have four wideouts in the first round. The position is loaded with stars after the emergence of Jefferson and Chase over the last two years.
2.13. Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
2.14. Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
2.15. D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
2.16. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
2.17. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
2.18. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
2.19. Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
2.20. Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers
2.21. Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
2.22. Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders
2.23. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
2.24. AJ Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
I love me some Williams, but a lot of his value will be based on the decision of the Broncos to retain or let Melvin Gordon walk. He’s a free agent. If Gordon is out of the mix, Williams will sneak into the first round in future mocks.
Samuel enjoyed a breakout season, finishing third in fantasy points among wideouts with 77 catches, 1,405 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns. He also proved to be an absolute nightmare to tackle once again, leading all wide receivers with 22 broken tackles and 291 yards after contact. During the season, no other wideout had more than 12 broken tackles (CeeDee Lamb).
Swift missed four games due to injuries, but he still finished as the RB15 in PPR and averaged more than 16 points per game.
Kelce lost the fantasy crown to Mark Andrews at tight end based on 2021 points. I still have him ranked top at the position; however, he’s not worth a first-rounder.
Mitchell and Akers both have big upside in their respective offenses and will undoubtedly be popular breakout candidates next season.
This is the lowest I’ve ever had Zeke listed in a fantasy mock draft. His second-half slide from him and the emergence of Tony Pollard could signal the end of his days from him as an elite No. 1 fantasy football running back.
3.25. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
3.26. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
3.27. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
3.28. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
3.29. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
3.30. Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
3.31. Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
3.32. Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
3.33. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
3.34. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
3.35. Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
3.36. Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Notes: Barkley’s time as an elite fantasy running back appears to be over. He’s been plagued by injuries for the better part of the last two years, during which time he’s averaged 3.5 yards per rush. I have barely finished in the top 30 in points among backs this past season.
Waddle broke out in his rookie season, and the sky’s the limit for this future stud in Miami.
Hopkins was a dud last season, but he did score eight times and should see plenty of targets from Kyler Murray in Arizona. He’s a solid No. 2 option.
Jones finished outside of the top five fantasy backs for the first time in the last two years, as the emergence of AJ Dillon has made him more of a No. 2 runner in 2022.
I’m not sure where to rank Fournette at this point because he might not be back with the Buccaneers, and he won’t have Brady. The same can be said of Godwin, who will also be coming back from an injured knee.
Andrews will be the second tight end off the board in most drafts, but regression is coming for the veteran in 2022.
Ridley is a tough player to rank after mental health issues kept him off the field for most of last season. There have been rumblings he could wind up being moved in the offseason.
4.37. David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
4.38. Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets
4.39. DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
4.40. Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
4.41. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4.42. JK Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
4.43. Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders
4.44. Hunter Renfrow, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
4.45. Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Commanders
4.46. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
4.47. Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans
4.48. DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
Montgomery saw a decline in his fantasy totals compared to his breakout 2020 campaign, but he’s still an attractive No. 2 runner.
I love Carter’s potential in the Jets offense next season. While small in stature, he’s a versatile back who could bust out in the stat sheets.
Like Fournette and Godwin, Evans is tough to rank without Brady. I have him listed as a No. 2 fantasy wideout at this point, but that could change when the Buccaneers add (or don’t add) a quarterback.
Dobbins missed last season with an injured knee, but he’s a young runner who should rebound sooner rather than later.
Waller falls two rounds compared to his 2021 ADP totals, but he’s still one of the top tight ends in fantasy football even after the emergence of Hunter Renfrow. The slot man averaged seven catches, 70.8 yards and scored three times in six games when Waller was inactive, and 5.5 catches, 55.7 receiving yards and scored six touchdowns in the 11 games with Waller in the lineup.
Pitts is coming off one of the best rookie seasons of all-time among tight ends, but his numbers didn’t look great since he found the end zone just once. However, that will change next season, so Pitts could really break out.
5.49. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
5.50. George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
5.51. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
5.52. Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots
5.53. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
5.54. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts
5.55. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions
5.56. Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
5.57. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
5.58. Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets
5.59. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
5.60. Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Lockett finished as the WR16 this past season, but he was inconsistent at times. That’s been his MO from him in the last few years.
Kittle ranked fourth in points among tight ends, but he still dropped to the fifth round with the emergence of Deebo Samuel.
The Saints don’t have a head coach and have questions at quarterback, which makes ranking Thomas difficult. He’s a No. 2 fantasy wideout at best for the time being.
Allen and Mahomes both come off the board in this round, and I wouldn’t expect them to go much higher in traditional leagues. Even with the loss of Tom Brady, the position is still deep enough to wait until the middle rounds (or later) to draft a quarterback.
The trio of Pittman, St. Brown and Elijah Moore is an exciting one for those fantasy fans who love young, high-upside wideouts and are willing to grab them in the top 60.
I’m not sure how high to rank Singletary, who was a dud in the first half of last season but went on to become a league winner down the stretch. For now, he’s a low-end No. 2 runner.
michael fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, Youtubeand Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.