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The Best Fantasy Football Pick in Every Round

It’s best to go into every fantasy draft with a plan. These are the players worth targeting every step of the way as you draft.

Getty Images/AP/Ringer illustration

Fantasy football drafts are chaotic events that require on-your-toes decision-making and a vision for how you want to build your team. I never go into a draft with a rigid, hard-line plan for who to take in any given round—it’s far too difficult to predict what your league mates will do—but I do have a few of my top targets in mind when the timer for the first pick starts. Using FantasyPros average draft position (ADP) lists for PPR scoring, here are a few of my favorite fantasy picks―My Guys―in every round.

First Round (Picks 1-12)

The Pick: WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings (ADP WR2, 6th overall)
Honorable Mention: RB Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (ADP RB6, 8th overall)

I’m going to fudge it a little bit here because Jonathan Taylor and Christian McCaffrey are clearly my two favorite first-round picks, but if I’m not blessed with a top-two pick, Jefferson is my guy. Jefferson finished as the WR4 in PPR scoring last year but brings realistic overall WR1 potential in 2022 as the Vikings adopt a new-look, Rams-style offense. The third-year pass catcher has been extolling the virtues of new head coach Kevin O’Connell’s scheme this offseason, which is a departure from the team’s “old-style” offense under Mike Zimmer and should feature a more spread-out, pass-heavy tack. That could be a massive boon for Jefferson, who should get the opportunity to move to the slot at a higher rate after running about 70 percent of his routes from the outside in 2021, per PFF. If O’Connell treats Jefferson as his new team’s Cooper Kupp, that would give the talented receiver (who caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns his final season at LSU while lining up almost exclusively in the slot) more opportunities to soak up targets and truly explode in fantasy.

Second Round (13-24)

The Pick: TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP TE1, 13th overall)
Honorable Mention: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (RB14, 24th overall)

I don’t really feel like I have to work too hard to sell Kelce as a great second-round pick. Outside of the top few stars (Kelce, Mark Andrews, Kyle Pitts, Darren Waller, and George Kittle), the tight end position is a hellscape again this year. Kelce could give drafters an even bigger edge than normal this season thanks to Tyreek Hill’s departure, which could leave Patrick Mahomes with no choice but to pepper the veteran playmaker with a gaggle of targets over the middle of the field. Even if the Chiefs move to a more run-balanced offense this year, Kelce could enjoy a career-high target rate and should continue to be a focal point in red-zone looks.

Third Round (25-36)

The Pick: RB Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (RB13, 25th overall)
Honorable Mention: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (RB15, 28th overall)

Lenny showed up to OTAs at something close to 260 pounds, but Fournette quickly worked himself down to his fighting weight of 240 to prove that he’s ready to reprise his juicy fantasy role as the Buccaneers’ three-down back. Say what you will about Fournette’s actual talent (I think his near-complete skill set is underappreciated), but volume is the name of the game in fantasy―and this guy is going to get a lot of it. Fournette averaged nearly 18 touches per game last season and finished as the RB4 in PPR points per game. On a high-volume passing team like the Bucs, Fournette (who tied for third among backs in both targets and receptions last year) could see another 80 to 90 targets and catch 70-plus passes. I’ll take that in the third round any day.

Fourth Round (37-48)

The Pick: RB Travis Etienne Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars (RB21, 47th overall)
Honorable Mention: WR Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders (WR16, 41st overall)

Etienne is the definition of a boom-or-bust pick, but I’m comfortable rolling the dice on his upside. While slated to be part of a committee for the Jaguars this year alongside nominal starter James Robinson, the explosive former first-round pick has the opportunity to earn valuable passing-game work and has a knack for creating big plays. Etienne is the team’s “standout skill player” in training camp, according to SI’s John Shipley, and the Jaguars will undoubtedly look to get him involved on screens and in the dump-off passing game, where he can use his electric speed to make an impact and score touchdowns. He’s likely to cede some early-down work to Robinson, but it’s not hard to imagine Etienne taking up a role similar to D’Andre Swift’s role with the Lions last year. (Swift played just 67 percent of snaps but finished as the PPR RB15 thanks in large part to his 62-catch, 452-yard receiving line.)

Fifth Round (49-60)

The Pick: WR Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (WR19, 52nd overall)
Honorable Mention: WR Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos (WR23, 60th overall)

Williams is another high-variance fantasy pick, but it’s just so hard to pass up on his elite potential in the Chargers’ top-tier passing offense. We saw that upside last year when he started on a scorchingly hot pace, ranking as the overall WR2 in PPR through the first five weeks with a 23.2 points per game average. A knee injury suffered in Week 5 seemed to sap Williams of some of his explosiveness downfield, and he fell back to earth for most of the rest of the season, finishing as the still-respectable WR12 overall. Now ostensibly healthy, Williams is a new owner of a three-year, $60 million contract extension and looks ready to take the baton from Keenan Allen as Justin Herbert’s de facto no. 1 target. Playing in a fast-paced and high-scoring, high-volume offense, Williams is one of a very small group of receivers who is realistically capable of pulling off a Cooper Kupp–triple-crown-like campaign in 2022.

Sixth Round (61-72)

The Pick: RB AJ Dillon, Green Bay Packers (RB25, 61st overall)
Honorable Mention: WR Allen Robinson II, Los Angeles Rams (WR29, 68th overall)

Dillon finished 2021 as the RB23 in PPR scoring despite his measly 43 percent snap share, collecting 803 yards and five scores on the ground while adding 34 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns through the air. A bruising downhill runner who tied for third in PFF’s rushing grade last year, he’s set to once again share early-down duties with starter Aaron Jones, but he could inherit a bigger piece of the passing game pie this year, especially with Davante Adams gone to Las Vegas. That was a focus for Dillon over the offseason, and he’s gotten a good deal of praise for his development into an “APB” (all purpose back) from both Aaron Rodgers and the team’s coaches in the past few weeks. At his floor, Dillon looks capable of turning in another low-end RB2 finish as Jones’s backup. But if he earns a bigger role in the passing game and cements himself as the “1B” to Jones’s “1A” in the Packers offense, I can picture something similar to the Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb combination in Cleveland. That duo finished as the RB10 and RB11 in PPR in 2020, respectively (and it was Hunt RB9, Chubb RB15 through six weeks last season before Hunt got hurt), and the type of outcome that could be possible if the receiver-needy Packers go even more run-balanced this year. Plus, if Jones goes down with an injury, Dillon brings league-winning upside.

Seventh Round (73-84)

The Pick: WR Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills (WR32, 77th overall)
Honorable Mention: WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (WR30, 72nd overall)

Davis played behind Emmanuel Sanders for most of last year, but in the three games Sanders missed, he averaged 13.1 PPR points per game, a per-game rate that would’ve put him in the low-end WR2 range when extrapolated over a full season. This feels like Davis’s realistic projection in the Bills’ high-volume, wide-open, and vertical passing attack behind Josh Allen―making him a good value at his current ADP. His ceiling, which we saw when he caught eight passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns in the team’s loss to the Chiefs in the AFC divisional round, is clearly much, much higher.

Eighth Round (85-96)

The Pick: WR Drake London, Atlanta Falcons (WR40, 96th overall)
Honorable Mention: WR Elijah Moore, New York Jets (WR34, 87th overall)

Rookie receivers produce in fantasy. In 2021, three first-year pass catchers finished inside the top 24 in PPR formats, with Ja’Marr Chase ranking as the WR5 (through Week 17), Jaylen Waddle as WR13, and Amon-Ra St. Brown as WR21. Three more finished top 24 in 2020 (Justin Jefferson was the WR6, CeeDee Lamb was the WR22, and Chase Claypool was the WR23). Just one rookie receiver finished in the top 24 in PPR in 2019 (A.J Brown), but Terry McLaurin (WR29), Deebo Samuel (WR31), and DK Metcalf (WR33) all easily outplayed their respective ADPs. This year, I’d bet a handful of rookie receivers do the same, and London in particular is positioned to explode in year one. By all accounts, the rookie out of USC has looked great at Falcons camp. Presumptive starter Marcus Mariota looked pretty sharp in the team’s first preseason game. And most crucially, London simply won’t have much competition for targets in the talent-starved Atlanta passing game; basically the team’s pass offense is going to flow through him and Kyle Pitts. Assuming London’s knee injury isn’t serious (and the team has said it doesn’t think London will miss much time), I’ll heavily target the rookie receiver in this range.

Ninth Round (97-108)

The Pick: QB Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers (QB13, 100th overall)
Honorable Mention: RB Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots (RB37, 107th overall)

The best combination of value and upside at quarterback this year comes from Lance, a potential Konami Code star who is slated to take the reins as the 49ers starter. I’m a big believer in Kyle Shanahan’s ability to scheme any quarterback into solid, efficient passing production, and despite his lack of experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lance averages eight-plus yards per attempt in 2022. But, and this is important, even if Lance straight up sucks as a passer, he’s still going to have top-five potential because of his running ability. Running quarterbacks are a cheat code in fantasy football, while in normal settings a rushing yard is worth 2.5 times as much as a passing yard and a rushing touchdown is worth 1.5 times as a passing touchdown. After watching Lance carry the ball 24 times across his two starts last year, it’s clear the 49ers will have a plan to get him involved in the rushing game, especially in the red zone.

10th Round (109-120)

The Pick: RB James Cook, Buffalo Bills (RB40, 110th overall)
Honorable Mention: WR Kadarius Toney, New York Giants (WR46, 115th overall)

What if I told you that you could draft a guy who runs and catches the ball just like he’s Dalvin Cook’s little brother, but you can get him in Round 10? As one of this year’s Training Camp Hype All-Stars, James Cook is one of the most intriguing fantasy sleepers in 2022. He projects as the team’s passing-downs back from the start, which will give him a solid floor in PPR in one of the NFL’s highest-volume passing games. But there’s a realistic world in which Cook emerges as more than just a complementary piece in the Bills’ offense. An explosive runner with the type of quickness and burst that none of Buffalo’s other running backs possess, Cook has a path to a three-down workload that would raise his ceiling significantly. Presumptive starter Devin Singletary was an RB1 through the final seven weeks of the season last year. If Cook outright beats Singletary for the starting job, it’s wheels up for him in Buffalo.

11th Round (121-132)

The Pick: TE Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears (TE13, 127th overall)
Honorable Mention: WR Skyy Moore, Kansas City Chiefs (WR51, 128th overall)

When I miss out on one of the elite-tier tight ends in drafts this year, I skip the mid-round types and instead take fliers on a few sleepers. One of my favorites in this range is Kmet, who quietly racked up 93 targets in the Bears utterly dysfunctional offense in 2021. And while it’s true that Chicago’s offense is likely to be dysfunctional again in 2022, Kmet is due to benefit from a little natural positive regression in the touchdown department (he scored exactly zero touchdowns on his 60 receptions last season). Kmet has been solid if unspectacular in his two years in the league, but he’s clearly one of the team’s most talented pass catchers and we could see Justin Fields rely on him at an even higher rate this year.

12th Round (133-144)

The Pick: RB Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans (RB46, 137st overall)
Honorable Mention: RB J.D. McKissic, Washington Commanders (RB47, 139th overall)

This is easily the latest in drafts that you’re going to get a (good) starting running back. Pierce hasn’t been named the team’s no. 1 back just yet (and ran with the second team in the first preseason game), but it feels like it’s only a matter of time before the rookie’s superior burst, elusiveness, and three-down skill set shines through and he moves past Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead on the depth chart.

13th Round (145-156)

The Pick: WR Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots (WR53, 152nd overall)
Honorable Mention: QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars (QB19, 156th overall)

Meyers has led the Patriots in receptions and receiving yards in the past two seasons and finished as the WR41 in 2021, despite his incredibly bad touchdown luck (just two touchdowns on 126 targets). He brings a floor as a solid, relatively bankable flex option in fantasy and if he can start scoring more touchdowns in the Patriots’ new-look offense this year, he could push as a WR2.

14th Round (157-168)

The Pick: RB Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles (RB49, 160th overall)
Honorable Mention: TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns (TE16, 164th overall)

Gainwell is likely going to be playing behind Miles Sanders to start the year but should feature heavily into the team’s committee at running back. There should be plenty of volume to go around for an Eagles team that rushed 550 times in 2021—second only to the Titans—but if Gainwell can impress the coaching staff enough to turn what was a three-man committee in 2021 (Sanders, Gainwell, Boston Scott) into a two-man rotation in 2022, he could easily outplay his draft slot. After grading out well as both a pass catcher and pass blocker last year, per PFF, he “seems to be penciled in for high-leverage situations like third downs, the hurry-up offense, and goal-line work,” per Sports Illustrated’s John McMullen. Of course, if Sanders goes down to an injury, Gainwell could break into league-winner territory.

15th Round (169-180)

The Pick: WR Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals (WR62, 169th overall)
Honorable Mention: WR George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers (WR65, 107th overall)

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t missed an opportunity this offseason to talk up Moore, who flashed at moments as a rookie before ultimately being pigeonholed as a gadget player. This year, Arizona seems determined to drop Moore into the Christian Kirk role in the offense. With DeAndre Hopkins set to miss the first six games on a PED suspension, Moore will have his chance. I’m drafting him with my last pick just to see how that all plays out.

The Dream Team

QB: Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
RB: Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RB: Travis Etienne Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars
WR: Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
WR: Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
WR: Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills
TE: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
FLX: AJ Dillon, Green Bay Packers
BN: Drake London, Atlanta Falcons
BN: James Cook, Buffalo Bills
BN: Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
BN: Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans
BN: Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots
BN: Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles
BN: Rondale Moore, Arizona Cardinals

An earlier version of this piece misstated who won the Bills-Chiefs divisional-round game.