Aug. 10, 2022.
The following is a round-by-round blueprint of how I plan on drafting in my fantasy football leagues this summer.
Keep in mind that depending on the circumstances, you might not be able to completely follow this strategy once your draft begins. There could be a run on a certain position; an unexpected player could fall; or another owner may take one of the key sleepers early. You have to be able to play a lot of it by ear, but having a strategy going into the draft helps a lot.
Also, most of this assumes a 12-man league with two running backs, two receivers and a flex (ESPN standard). If your league requires you start two quarterbacks or three receivers, you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Drafting Early: Picks 1-7:
ROUND 1: There are seven running backs I have way above everyone in my Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet – Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Najee Harris and Austin Ekeler – so select one of them. Don’t overthink things because you’ll be able to land a stud receiver in the second round.
ROUNDS 2-3: Running back is thin this year, as always. However, it’s not as bad as it was last year. Ideally, you’ll walk away with two running backs in the first three rounds, but going RB-WR-WR isn’t a bad strategy if you can land a couple of top wideouts, including Davante Adams, CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, Mike Evans and Tyreek Hill. Running backs I like are Aaron Jones, Saquon Barkley, Javonte Williams and Leonard Fournette.
I’m often opposed to drafting a quarterback and tight end in the early rounds. However, given Hill’s departure from Kansas City, I think Travis Kelce is in play in the second half of Round 2. Kelce might score a billion touchdowns this year, so that would give you a big edge at tight end if you obtain Kelce.
ROUNDS 4-5: You must have at least two running backs and two receivers after five rounds. Your fifth player could be a third running back, a third receiver, Kelce, or a great value quarterback. I would avoid the quarterbacks this early unless you land a surprise player, like Josh Allen in Round 4 or Patrick Mahomes in the fifth frame. It’s extremely unlikely you’ll land either there, but that’s fine. Taking a quarterback too early is a big mistake because playing matchups at the position is so easy. Also, I have no interest in any tight end thus far besides Kelce unless you can get Mark Andrews in the fifth round.
Running backs I love in the fourth or fifth rounds include Travis Etienne, Elijah Mitchell, Breece Hall and A.J. Dillon. Receivers I’m targeting in this range are Mike Williams, D.J. Moore and Michael Pittman Jr.
ROUNDS 6-7: It would be a huge mistake not to have at least three running backs after Round 7. You should also have three or more receivers. It’s still early for a quarterback unless you receive a mega value like Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson or Jalen Hurts in the seventh frame. I have no interest in any tight end in this area unless it’s Kyle Pitts or Darren Waller in Round 7. Again, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll obtain any of those players in that round, but it just goes to show how important it is to obtain running backs and receivers.
Running backs who make sense here are Tony Pollard, Devin Singletary, and Rhamondre Stevenson. My favorite receivers hare are Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, Courtland Sutton, Gabriel Davis, Hunter Renfrow (PPR only), Devonta Smith, Darnell Mooney and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
ROUNDS 8-9: Quarterbacks and non-elite tight ends are now in play, though I’d still try to wait on both positions, particularly the latter. I’d be interested in Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott and Tom Brady as my quarterback, while appealing tight ends include Dallas Goedert, Dalton Schultz and T.J. Hockenson.
Running backs and receivers should remain the priority. My favorite players in this range are Kenneth Walker, Alexander Mattison, Raheem Mostert, James Cook (PPR only), Elijah Moore, Rashod Bateman, Russell Gage and Kadarius Toney.
ROUNDS 10-11: Get your quarterback now because idiots in your league will begin to draft backups for no reason. It won’t do them any good, but their stupid strategy will hurt you if you don’t have a starter yet. Tight ends, meanwhile, now become serious options. After the first few tight ends, all of the players at the position are practically the same. I like playing matchups with tight ends, as there are some NFL teams that cannot defend the position whatsoever.
Otherwise, it’s time to begin plucking players off the 2022 Fantasy Football Sleepers list. Check out that list for players to consider. You need to swing for the fences in the double-digit rounds because your league could be won with a great value selection or two in the final third of the draft.
And lastly, I’m going to put this in caps because I can’t emphasize this enough: DO NOT DRAFT A KICKER OR A DEFENSE YET!!!!!
ROUNDS 12-13: More sleepers. Again, take high-upside players beginning in Round 10-11; doing otherwise would violate what I used to call the Wayne Chrebet Rule. Chrebet, a former Jets receiver, was a very good player in real life, but was only a WR5 (an average year for him would be about 900 yards and six touchdowns.) Yet, people would draft him even though as a possession receiver, he would offer no upside. You can always add someone like him on the waiver wire, so try to hit a home run with your late picks.
Oh, and once again, don’t choose a defense or kicker yet. That’s just lazy.
ROUNDS 14-16: In leagues that require each position to be chosen, Round 14 is my final skill-position player – a super-high-upside long shot. Round 15 is my defense. Round 16 is my kicker.
If you don’t have to draft a kicker, don’t. Select another high-upside player instead and wait until the final days before the regular season. That way, you maximize your chances of landing a great sleeper. You can simply get rid of a player who gets injured.
As far as defenses are concerned, you don’t have to draft one either. Seriously, select as many high-upside players as possible and worry about a defense later. If you need to pick a defense, I love playing matchups. Go to my 2022 Fantasy Football Defense Rankings for details.
Drafting Middle: Picks 8-9:
ROUND 1: You’re still drafting a running back with one of these picks if one of the top seven players fall to you. If they’re all gone, however, the next two players on my cheat sheet are receivers: Cooper Kupp and Ja’Marr Chase. They are better than the other running back options, so going receiver in the first round will force you to alter the rest of your strategy.
ROUNDS 2-3: I mentioned in the Drafting Early section that I would consider Travis Kelce in the latter half of the second round. I would not take him after a receiver, however, because that would leave you too thin at running back. I would definitely take one of Aaron Jones, D’Andre Swift or Saquon Barkley in the second round. If none are available, you’ll likely get another top-five receiver, and that’s OK.
The third round is trickier, as what you do will dictate based on which running backs and receivers are available. I don’t really like any of the third-round ADP running backs except for Cam Akers, but someone like Leonard Fournette could fall. This is why it’s imperative to take a running back in the second frame because you’ll likely be forced into going WR-RB-WR. Possible receivers include Mike Evans, A.J. Brown and Tee Higgins.
ROUNDS 4-5: You should continue to target the best running backs or wide receivers available unless you can get a mega-value quarterback like I discussed in the Drafting Early section. Once again, make sure to check out my updated fantasy football cheat sheets to see who the best-available players are. Some who stand out as options are Elijah Mitchell, Travis Etienne, A.J. Dillon, Breece Hall, Michael Pittman Jr., Jaylen Waddle and D.J. Moore.
ROUNDS 6-7: I don’t like any quarterbacks in the sixth- or seventh-round range unless you can get one of the names I mentioned in the Drafting Early section. It’s too early for a tight end not named Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews unless a second-tier player falls to you in the seventh frame. So, keep stocking up on running backs and receivers. Potential targets include Kareem Hunt, Rashaad Penny, Tony Pollard, Devin Singletary, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Brandin Cooks.
ROUNDS 8-9: If you don’t have a quarterback, you should probably take one in the ninth round before people begin drafting backups. Otherwise, continue to take running backs and receivers. I’d pass on tight ends until Rounds 10-11.
ROUNDS 10-11: This should be the latest you take a quarterback. Tight ends can be obtained at this juncture as well. Good options are Pat Freiermuth, Mike Gesicki and Hunter Henry, but I’d actually rather wait until Rounds 12-13 when you can nab Tyler Higbee, David Njoku or Hayden Hurst. Otherwise, keep scooping up running backs and wide receivers.
THE REST: The rest of the draft will follow “Drafting Early.” Check out my 2022 Fantasy Football Sleepers list for some ideas on whom to select late in your draft.
Drafting Late: Picks 10-12:
ROUNDS 1-2: The top six running backs will likely be off the board, but the top two receivers I mentioned earlier – Kupp and Chase – might be available. If so, follow the Drafting Middle section. However, if most of the people in your league are following my rankings – a common occurrence in my leagues – you won’t have a chance to select one of the top running backs or receivers. If so, there’s no need to panic because there’s good value in this area.
Ideally, I’d like to walk away with one running back and one receiver from the first two rounds. Nick Chubb, D’Andre Swift, Javonte Williams and Saquon Barkley are all great running back choices. As for receivers, Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs and Ceedee Lamb are my favorite options.
ROUNDS 3-4: As mentioned, you need to come away with two running backs in the first three rounds unless you get mega value elsewhere. I’d consider taking Travis Etienne or Elijah Mitchell as a second running back. Receivers I like here are Michael Pittman Jr., Tee Higgins and Terry McLaurin.
As non-quarterback options go, the only semi-realistic target I’d consider is Josh Allen. Otherwise, just keep focusing on bolstering your running backs and receivers.
ROUNDS 5-6: More running backs and wide receivers unless Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow or Justin Herbert falls to you. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to land A.J. Dillon, Breece Hall or Mike Williams. Other options are Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Allen Robinson. I only like two running backs here, so don’t feel bad if you take receivers with both selections.
ROUNDS 7-8: You can probably wait on a quarterback until Round 9 unless you can get a great value like Lamar Jackson or Jalen Hurts. Otherwise, keep picking running backs and receivers like Tony Pollard, Devin Singletary, Rhamondre Stevenson, Courtland Sutton, Gabriel Davis and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
ROUNDS 9-10: You’ll want to draft a quarterback before the dumb people in your league pick backups. Definitely don’t take a tight end with the other pick though. Get another running back or a wide receiver.
ROUNDS 11-12 AND THE REST: Find your tight end in Round 11-14. The rest of the draft will follow the Drafting Early strategy. Make sure you look at our cheat sheets. We have regular fantasy football cheat sheets and new customized fantasy football cheat sheets. Also, keep up to date with the rest of our Fantasy Football Rankings.
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Fantasy Football Rankings
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2022 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers - 9/4 (Walt)
2022 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends - 9/4 (Walt)
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2022 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Dynasty - 5/11 (Walt)
2022 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts:
2022 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts - 8/31 (Walt)
2022 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets:
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2022 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 PPR - 9/4 (Walt)
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2022 Fantasy Football Spreadsheets - 9/4 (Walt)
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