For football fanatics, the world of fantasy sports has become an integral part of the NFL season. In fact, all leagues in a variety of sports across the world have made the fantasy side of their sport a major part of the fan experience.
Fans of the NFL have always been dedicated to their favorite teams and players, collecting memorabilia and officially licensed sports apparel like jerseys, in order to show their dedication to the sport. Drafting a team of players in order to prove to your friends that you are a football master is merely an extension of the sports collectible world.
To get you prepared for the upcoming NFL season, here is a guide to the top fantasy football players for 2022.
When it comes to fantasy football, the old saying goes, “You can’t win your league in the first two rounds, but you can definitely lose it.” The first and second rounds of your fantasy drafts are where you are looking for players who may not have the highest ceilings but most definitely the highest floors.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Jonathan Taylor is the unquestioned No. 1 player on anybody’s fantasy board heading into the 2022 season. The 23-year-old running back won his first rushing crown with 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns. With new Colts quarterback Matt Ryan taking the reins in 2022, the Colts game plan should not alter drastically. Ryan is a huge upgrade over Carson Wentz, but the Colts are a run-first team, and Taylor might actually be more of a fantasy threat with a consistent passer on his side.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp is a perfect example of someone whose ceiling in terms of fantasy points probably peaked in 2021, but his 2022 floor could still win you your league. Kupp put up MVP-like numbers, hauling in 145 catches for almost 2,000 yards. However, his most impressive stats for fantasy players are his 16 touchdowns and 194 targets. His relationship with quarterback Matthew Stafford has been well documented, and that trust between thrower and catcher isn’t going to dissipate in 2022.
Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
2022 could be the year that Justin Jefferson goes from superstar NFL receiver to elite pass catcher and fantasy player. The Minnesota Vikings have been in an offensive standstill for years under former head coach Mike Zimmer’s run-first approach. Even with Zimmer heavily favoring the run over the pass, Jefferson had a spectacular 2021 season, catching 108 balls for 1,616 yards (second in the NFL). New head coach Kevin O’Connell is shifting the offense to a more pass-oriented one, which should see more big play potential for Jefferson.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Just in case you needed another reason to not take any stories from NFL training camps too seriously, Ja’Marr Chase was marred with stories of dropped passes. He would go on to have one of the best rookie seasons for any wide receiver, and his college connection with quarterback Joe Burrow only grew in the NFL. Chase won’t be catching anyone by surprise in 2022, but the Bengals have made key additions to their offensive line and there’s no reason to believe the Burrow/Chase partnership doesn’t continue to bear fantasy fruit.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
The modern NFL game is a pass-first league, and a running back who has the ability to be a weapon as a pass catcher out of the backfield is an enormous fantasy asset. Austin Ekeler had 1,558 yards from scrimmage in 2021, with an astounding 20 total touchdowns in 16 games. Health has always been an issue for Ekeler, but when he is on the field he is a top 5 fantasy player. With superstar quarterback Justin Herbert only getting better, the Chargers offense should be one of the best in the league, making Ekeler’s potential in 2022 only higher.
The Next Ones
There is no perfect formula to predict which player will take the next step into fantasy super stardom, but it most often comes down to opportunity. Talented players can get lost in the fantasy shuffle all the time because the goal of an NFL team is to win games, not boost our fantasy rosters. However, when the opportunity arises, plenty of fantasy points are there for the taking.
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Najee Harris is one of the best fantasy options in the first round of the draft due to the sheer amount of time he is on the field. Some tout Harris as a player who could be the 2022 version of Jonathan Taylor. Harris carried the ball over 300 times last season for 1,200 yards and had almost 500 yards receiving. Ben Roethlisberger is retired, and this should only add value to all the Pittsburgh Steelers, including Harris. A new offense in Pittsburgh will be built around Harris, making him a prime target in 2022 drafts.
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Entering his third season in the NFL, Lamb is under some pressure to prove to football fans that he belongs in the same conversation with other elite pass catchers. Lamb improved on his rookie year, finishing with over 1,100 yards, while competing for balls with Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson. However, both are gone, and the Dallas Cowboys are looking to build on the Lamb/Dak Prescott connection. Lamb should get more opportunity, especially in the red zone, making him a high-ceiling player in 2022.
D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
D’Andre Swift enters 2022 as one of the biggest fantasy question marks. Most fantasy experts have him ranked in the top 20 even though he only has 944 rushing yards over his two years in the league. It hasn’t helped that the Detroit Lions have been one of the worst teams in all of football, but the team has invested heavily in its offensive line and head coach Dan Campbell has instilled a lot of pride in the Lions. Swift is an excellent receiver, being targeted 78 times, with 458 receiving yards. Swift is a dual threat player who could hit over 1,500 yards from scrimmage in 2022.
Boom or Bust Players
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
The term “boom or bust” has never been more appropriate then for Christian McCaffrey, who is either going to lead your team to a championship or to the basement of your league. When he is on the field, McCaffrey is the most dynamic runner and catcher in the NFL. However, injuries have stalled his career the past two seasons in a major way (missing 23 games combined). The opportunity remains the same in Carolina as the team will rely heavily on short passes and check downs to move the ball — perfect for someone with his skill set.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
For the first time in his career, Saquon Barkley won’t be a top 10 fantasy pick and is probably an underrated player at this point. Barkley has been a big play football player his entire career, able to explode for huge runs at any point in the game. Injuries and inconsistent play calling from former offensive coordinator Jason Garrett haven’t helped Barkley, but assuming he is once again healthy, Barkley should see plenty of rushes and targets for the Giants.
Finding a hidden gem in the middle or the end of your fantasy draft can be the difference between making your league’s playoffs or being on the outside looking in. Anyone who plays fantasy sports of any kind knows how satisfying a good sleeper pick can be — like an unexpected gift tucked deep behind the Christmas tree.
Jakobi Myers, WR, New England Patriots
Everyone is raving about the progress second-year quarterback Mac Jones has made this offseason. Jones’ rookie year was better than anyone expected, and his continued progress in year two will add fantasy value to those around him, including the team’s No. 1 receiver, Jakobi Myers, who is currently going anywhere from rounds 12-18. That’s a lot of potential volume for such a late round pick.
Allen Lazard, WR, Green Bay Packers
No one expects Lazard to take the place of Devante Adams in Green Bay, but someone has to be on the receiving end of all of Aaron Rodgers‘ passes. Christian Watson, the Packers’ second round rookie, is getting a lot of the headlines, but Rodgers and rookies have not worked in the past. Rodgers needs to trust his receivers in order to use them, and Lazard has been endorsed by the star quarterback as the team’s new No. 1.
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Quarterbacks rarely make fantasy draft lists like this because of the depth at the position; however second year 49ers quarterback Trey Lance might be the exception. Lance is the undisputed top man in San Francisco, and under the guidance of head coach Kyle Shanahan, one of the best offensive minds in the game, Lance could win you your league. Lance has a huge arm, plenty of weapons in George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, and most importantly, an ability to use his legs to extend plays and get in the end zone.
Shanahan loves to run the ball and scheme around the run game. If he can do for Lance what he did for the double threat that was Deebo Samuel in 2021, Lance could find himself a top 3 quarterback, and you could find yourself at the top of your fantasy league.