Fantasy Football: 7 must-have players in 2022

These players should be targets in all of your fantasy football drafts this year.

Because there’s so much talent at the top of fantasy football draft boards, I don’t sweat about my first-round pick.

Even if I’m at the bottom of the round and all of the workhorse running backs have been picked, I know there’s going to be a star wide receiver still available (don’t sleep on Stefon Diggs behind Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase).

After the first round or two, I do begin to game plan specific picks who could represent fantastic value during the season.

Here’s a quick look at seven players I try to target in every fantasy football draft leading up to the 2022 NFL season for you last-minute types.

Primer for the last fantasy football draft weekend of 2022

Drafting this weekend? We have you covered for everything needed to dominate.

Drafting a fantasy football team this weekend? The Huddle has you covered for everything needed to dominate in the final weekend before the 2022 NFL season begins.

Week 1 is merely days away, but there’s still time to draft a winner, and this being The Huddle’s 26th season online is a testament to our dedication to making you a champion!

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Let’s not waste any more time and get right into what you must know ahead of the big draft weekend.

Fantasy football player news

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Fantasy football draft-day rules to live by

These rules are in no particular order, and they apply to all levels of experience among fantasy owners. Just as important as the “what you should do” to create a winner in fantasy drafting, avoiding simple pitfalls is a must.

1) Living in the past: Assuming successes and failures from last year automatically will carry over to this year’s results is a quick trip to Loserville. Each year is brand new and requires a reset of the old memory bank.

2) Stay sober: While it may seem silly, don’t let one draft of hard boozing affect an entire season of fantasy football. Party it up after the draft and celebrate your soon-to-be championship roster.

3) No one likes a homer: Well, except for that Homer. Heavily drafting players from your favorite team tends to lead to an entire season of hangover-filled mornings. This also includes taking a specific player over a better option just because that player is on your favorite team. Be objective.

4) Draft by the rules: Not knowing your league’s scoring structure, lineup composition, and/or bylaws generally results in utter failure. At a minimum, it translates into lost points.

… Read the rest of the list

Fantasy football draft prep series

Fantasy football customizable rankings*

*Requires a subscription to The Huddle’s draft guide

Quarterbacks rankings

  1. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
  2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
  4. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
  5. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Running backs rankings

  1. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
  2. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
  3. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
  4. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
  5. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Wide receivers rankings

  1. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
  2. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
  3. Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
  4. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
  5. Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders

Tight ends rankings

  1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
  3. Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
  4. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
  5. Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys

Fantasy football sleepers and busts*

*Requires a subscription to The Huddle’s draft guide

Fantasy football strength of schedule series

Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers

Latest fantasy football player spotlights

Don’t forget, you still can join The Huddle even if you’ve drafted. Our team of experts will bring you to the fantasy Promised Land in 2022!

Fantasy football draft strategy: Must-have players after Round 8

Come away from your draft with these late-round sleepers.

While fantasy football leagues can be won and lost in the early draft rounds, it tends to be the latter half of the selection process where savvy owners separate themselves from the pack.

Average draft position (ADP) figures can vary wildly from service to service, so we’re using an aggregate of four prominent sites to establish as close to a uniform valuation as possible.

Let’s dive into the top-12 targets for success after Round 8 in conventional PPR redraft leagues.

Fantasy Football: 5 important handcuff running backs for 2022

Alexander Mattison is the clear choice to top this list of running back handcuffs to target in fantasy football.

There are some NFL backfields with two fantasy-relevant running backs who have standalone value in fantasy football even if both RBs stay healthy.

And there are other backfields that feature a backup who doesn’t offer much standalone value but is still a must-roster player due to the workload he’d assume if the starter went down. That’s a handcuff running back, or an insurance running back, and these are five of the top candidates you should consider this season.

Fantasy Football: 5 QB-WR duos to consider stacking in 2022

Stacking QBs and WRs from the same team can help you double up on points in fantasy football.

If you start Joe Burrow in fantasy football, a 25-yard touchdown pass could net you 5.25 points. If you also start Ja’Marr Chase and he catches Burrow’s TD pass, that could add 9.5 points for a total of 14.75 points on one play.

It’s called stacking, adding a quarterback and wide receiver from the same team hoping to double up on points when they connect for a completion or — even better — a touchdown.

Here are five QB-WR duos to consider stacking in fantasy football this season.

5 late-round fantasy football tight end fliers

These tight ends could bolster fantasy rosters with little investment needed.

Injuries happen. It’s just the nature of the NFL, and the fallout has ruined many a fantasy season over the years. After all, there’s nothing quite like the sting of losing your first-round pick a month into the season. That’s the game, however, and it’s why finding good depth at the end of drafts is so vital. With that in mind, here are five tight ends to consider in the later rounds.

Fantasy football: 5 running back duos worth drafting in 2022

These 10 running backs are part of backfield committees, but they still offer standalone value in fantasy football.

Typically in fantasy football, drafting a workhorse is the best strategy at running back. But fewer and fewer teams are relying on one running back going into the 2022 NFL season.

Beyond the top options of backs, like Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry and Najee Harris, most RBs are part of some kind of backfield rotation. Fortunately, there are many backfield duos with each RB offering some standalone value in fantasy, even if both players stay healthy.

Here’s a look at five running back committees that feature a pair of RBs who are both worth drafting in your fantasy football league.

First 3 Picks: 10-team league

Your first three picks define your fantasy team.

The first three picks define your team and set up the rest of your draft. The optimal team is built by understanding the nuances of a scoring system and how it fits into your league rules.

A 10-team league means positional quality lasts longer. Everyone has a “good” team, so you need less depth and more difference-makers.

To follow are sample three-round drafts for 10-team fantasy football leagues. They use either standard performance scoring, performance plus a point per reception, or “2QB/Super Flex” leagues where you can start two of any position. Those three formats cover almost all leagues.

The names are less important than the positions because each draft slot has its own unique situation. Just as important are your future picks and what you need after three rounds.  Rankings can change daily so these may not exactly match rankings.

Performance scoring league

Performance scoring without reception points means that running backs are at a premium, and quarterbacks are a bit more valuable. Wide receivers and tight ends are devalued but are still usually four starters in a fantasy football league.  Most teams will look to get two running backs in their first three picks, and it’s hard to argue against that logic.

Team 1: RB Jonathan Taylor, RB D’Andre Swift, WR Davante Adams
Standard start for no reception points. Smaller league size allows D’Andre Swift to fall to the end of the second round, which was too tempting to let slide past. Still reached the No. 5 wideout for an advantage at WR1. A strong opening allows best-available picks regardless of position. Wide receiver, running back and quarterback are all considerations for the next handful of picks.
Team 2: RB Derrick Henry, WR Deebo Samuel, RB Travis Etienne
Like Team 1, this size league allows for a strong start of two running backs and a top wideout. Hunt for best value the rest of the way.
Team 3: RB Austin Ekeler, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Stefon Diggs
Slightly deeper than Team 2, it makes more sense to double up on running backs first, then take a higher-ranked wide receiver since, by this point, the top half of starting running backs are ending. Free to take from any position that appeals the most.
Team 4: RB Christian McCaffrey, TE Travis Kelce, RB Devin Singletary
Christian McCaffrey is less valuable without reception points but looks great on the roster, along with Travis Kelce who is less valuable in this format but still an advantage all the same. Two straight wideouts should get some balance for the starters.
Team 5: RB Nick Chubb, RB Alvin Kamara, RB Aaron Jones
This isn’t as risky as it may seem. Locked up starting running backs and the flex for the strength of the roster. Better quality wideouts and a quarterback last longer in this smaller draft and better quality players in later rounds compared to a 12-team league. But the next three picks have to consider two wideouts, and probably a quarterback or the non-RB positions will be a liability.
Team 6: RB Joe Mixon, RB Saquon Barkley, WR Mike Evans
The RB-RB start mid-draft works well when a Mike Evans or CeeDee Lamb last into the middle of the third round. But starting with the No. 6 RB, then the No. 12 RB misses out on a top-tier running back and settles for a riskier Barkley who has upside to be sure, but this team becomes very average if he repeats either of the last two years. Wideouts are up next, but prudent to take that RB3 earlier than later to cover the risk of the RB2.
Team 7: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Justin Jefferson, QB Josh Allen
With running backs so valuable and going so fast, it may seem to be just following the crowd with the seventh-straight taken as the RB1. But also prudent knowing that skipping the position would have likely left no better than the No. 12 running back for a RB1 which hurts. But went with the No. 3 wideout and even snapped up the best quarterback at the 3.07 for advantages in both positions. Should consider two running backs and a wideout over the next three picks.
Team 8: WR Ja’Marr Chase, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR CeeDee Lamb
Opted to finally take a non-running back and went with a top receiver in the scoring system. Has the No. 11 running back for their RB, which isn’t ideal, but ends up with two of the Top-8 wideouts for an advantage at the position. Won’t need to bother with any more wide receivers for four to six rounds and must start mining for running backs and deciding when a quarterback is their best value.
Team 9: RB Najee Harris, RB James Conner, RB Antonio Gibson
The only real advantage with this plan is a strong RB2, and the other positions will have higher quality last longer in the ten-team league. But now wide receivers are a need pick in at least two of the next three rounds and needs to land a sleeper or two in order to remain above average.
Team 10: WR Cooper Kupp, RB J. Williams, QB Patrick Mahomes
That final pick of the first round grabbed the No. 2 wideout and the No. 9 running back, knowing that leaving RB1 to the end of the third-round would mean a weak spot in the starters. Grabbing Patrick Mahomes as the second quarterback taken offers a difference-maker in a high-scoring position. The running backs won’t be the best unit in the league to be sure, but at least quarterback and wide receiver are headed by top players. Probably should alternate running back and wideouts for the next four rounds.

Reception-point league

This style of scoring boosts the value of wide receivers and elite tight ends and slightly devalues quarterbacks relative to other positions. Running backs are popular in any scoring scenario but the added reception point means the position becomes deeper with third-down backs able to offer “start-able” fantasy value. The consistency of an above-average running back is also a very valuable contributor to the weekly fantasy score.

With a reception point and only ten teams, your roster should look very strong after three picks. All positions are deep in this format.

Team 1: RB Jonathan Taylor, WR CeeDee Lamb, TE Mark Andrews
This is a good use of the first pick. Top running back, solid WR1 with upside and a top tight end. The running backs will be thinning in the fourth round but still offer up Antonio Gibson, Cam Akers, and maybe Breece Hall. Running back will be a need pick with two in the next four picks, but tight end is locked up, and high-quality wideouts remain.
Team 2: RB Austin Ekeler, RB Alvin Kamara, WR Tyreek Hill
Standard start for the No. 2 drafter and smaller rosters meant that Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, James Conner and the like are still there in the fourth.  Can still reach a Top-10 wideout with the third pick. A couple of wideouts and another running back make sense in the next three rounds.
Team 3: RB C. McCaffrey, RB Javonte Williams, RB James Conner
This plan feels so safe – and maybe too safe, but the higher quality later in the smaller draft means it can still work. There’s no pressing need to think about another running back for at least four to six more rounds while the core of the starters are taken.
Team 4: RB Derrick Henry, WR Mike Evans, RB Saquon Barkley
Went with the No. 4 running back, but Derrick Henry could be No. 1. Mike Evans offers a solid WR1 and still reached Saquon Barkley (or Leonard Fournette) with the third pick. That made more sense because the quality of wideout will be better at the 4.07 than would be running back. Upside start but the risk of Barkley would be best served by taking RB3 in the next couple of rounds.
Team 5: WR Cooper Kupp, WR Deebo Samuel, RB Leonard Fournette
This mid-draft plan works better in the smaller ten-team draft since it nets two Top-6 wideouts which is huge in this scoring format. And still allows for Leonard Fournette or Ezekiel Elliott at RB1. Need to consider running backs in two of the next three picks.
Team 6: RB Najee Harris, RB D’Andre Swift, RB Ezekiel Elliott
This is a workable plan like Team 3 that also went RB-RB-RB. It also looks like a drafter who is used to 12-Team drafts and are amazed at finding decent starting running backs in the third round. Mine those wideouts maybe the next three or four rounds and consider a quarterback starting in Round 7 or so.
Team 7: WR Justin Jefferson, RB Nick Chubb, WR Keenan Allen
The running backs are getting thinner, so this plan works with two top wideouts and a legitimate RB1 to start. Wide receivers can wait for several rounds while a couple more running backs are added, and the quarterback and tight end start to be taken. But the safest play remains taking two more running backs in the next two picks.
Team 8: RB Joe Mixon, WR Davante Adams, WR Michael Pittman Jr.
No different from Team 7 other than a better RB1 and a worse WR1. Has to consider running backs next and can wait on that WR3 for several rounds.
Team 9: WR Ja’Marr Chase, RB Dalvin Cook, RB David Montgomery
A Top-3 wideout is an advantage with reception points and then went RB-RB as a safe pick. That meant both running backs are Top-16 (so slightly above average). Not much splash after Chase was taken, but running backs are not a liability here. Should consider wide receivers mostly in the next three picks with a third running back or even a quarterback as an option.
Team 10: TE Travis Kelce, WR Stefon Diggs, RB Travis Etienne
That final pick of the first round always tries to make up ground in different ways and it is a brilliant plan rather than just following well-established runs. Top right end, top wideout, and high-upside Travis Etienne (or Breece Hall) takes a risk to make up ground. Next pick could go anywhere, but RB2 here would get Hall or Devin Singletary. About as strong as a start as the final pick can hope to create.

QB-heavy/Super-Flex league

This sort of league will seed quarterbacks in varying measures depending on how and why quarterbacks are so valuable. The most common is the ability to start two quarterbacks, which change drafts significantly.

It will extend the quality of running backs and wideouts deeper into the draft since quarterbacks fly off the shelves far earlier than usual.  This sample draft assumes two quarterbacks start and that about half of the available starters are taken by the third round.

Viewing the previous year’s results are best for this sort of starting rule because quarterbacks can go slower – or much faster – than what this draft assumes. Keep up with the other picks in the league to make sure you don’t get stuck at the end of a run on quarterbacks.

In a smaller 10-team league with additional valuable players from the quarterback boost, almost every fantasy team looks great so taking elite players is paramount to winning – get your starters before worrying about depth.

Team 1: QB Josh Allen, WR Ja’Marr Chase, QB Matthew Stafford
That first pick in the draft yet again gains a benefit. Has the best quarterback and second-best wide receiver. Then still reached the No. 11 quarterback to lock up the starting quarterbacks. Has to think running backs and maybe a wide receiver over the next three or four rounds.
Team 2: RB Jonathan Taylor, QB Tom Brady, RB Dalvin Cook
Strong start for running backs and Tom Brady is a decent QB1. By the time the 4.10 rolls around, WR1 might be Amon-Ra St. Brown or Adam Thielen. But has to take two wideouts in the next three or four rounds and still think quarterback before QB2 gets too risky.
Team 3: QB Patrick Mahomes, WR Justin Jefferson, RB Nick Chubb
This team went with a safer route – started with a great QB1, then still reached the No. 3 WR. Instead of taking Russell Wilson as a QB2, went safe with the No. 8 running back for RB1.  Balanced opening, that should consider quarterback and running back next, and then just best available to fill out the other starters.
Team 4: QB Justin Herbert, RB Joe Mixon, QB Russell Wilson
Starting with QB1 makes sense at the 1.04,  and the doubling down at the 3.04 created one of the better tandems of quarterbacks that sandwich the No. 6 running back as the RB1. Best path is likely three straight wideouts interrupted with an RB3 before the sixth round. But this plan honors the 2QB format without sacrificing other positions much.
Team 5: RB Austin Ekeler, QB Kirk Cousins, RB D’Andre Swift
Middle of the draft starts with the No. 2 running back and still reaches Kirk Cousins for QB1.  Went with D’Andre Swift for two Top-10 running backs. The backfield can be ignored for the next few rounds that have to net a couple of wide receivers and a second quarterback. Strong start with RB1 but then average for the next two picks. Middle-round drafter needs to avoid an all-average team.
Team 6: RB Christian McCaffrey, QB Jalen Hurts, WR Stefon Diggs
Have to like what this plan attempts. Christian McCaffrey is a Top-3 running back, and then a Top-8 quarterback to prevent a liability. Taking the No. 4 wideout is a solid WR4 though receivers tend to last far longer in this format. Has to consider running backs and a quarterback for the next three rounds or so, unless a wideout falls too far to ignore.
Team 7: WR Cooper Kupp, RB Najee Harris, QB Aaron Rodgers
This is what happens when a quarterback is not taken in the first two rounds. It can still work, so long as the early picks in other positions are elite performers. Certainly the top wide receiver and No. 5 running back are hot starts, but that only leaves the No. 13 quarterback as QB1. Must consider a QB2 in the next two picks which would be no better than Ryan Tannehill or Matt Ryan.
Team 8: QB Joe Burrow, RB Derrick Henry, QB Trey Lance
This looks promising. No. 4 quarterback at QB1 and the No. 4 running back for RB1. That critical third pick accessed Trey Lance in this draft for high upside and yet plenty of risk. Could have been Derek Carr or Trevor Lawrence. This is sort of a generic approach in Super Flex leagues, with that middle pick as the most enticing running back, tight end or wide receiver. The next four rounds or more have to consider either a running back or a wideout.
Team 9: TE Travis Kelce, QB Lamar Jackson, RB Javonte Williams
Started with a big advantage at tight end and still reached the No. 7 quarterback for QB1. Snapping up Javonte Williams (or Alvin Kamara or James Conner) provided a low-end at RB1 but the team also picks at the 4.02 in just two turns. Davante Adams or Deebo Samuel make a great WR1 and a very solid beginning. Wideouts and running backs should dominate the next five or six rounds.
Team 10: QB Dak Prescott, QB Kyler Murray, RB Alvin Kamara 
Drafting at the end of the first round is far less challenging than in a regular league that only starts one quarterback. Those drafts typically wait for around the seventh or eighth round for team owners to recall they want a quarterback. In this, doubling down on the No. 5 and No. 6 quarterbacks made for a powerful start, and the No. 11 running back can still have upside. The 4.01 can be Saquon Barkley or Davante Adams or Mark Andrews. Certainly running back has to make up two of the next five picks, but two high-scoring quarterbacks spitting out weekly points allows for more risk-tolerance on the other starters.

First 3 Picks: 12-team league

Your first three picks define your fantasy team.

Your first three picks define your fantasy football team. Each one is critical because the player pool is ever-shrinking, and you have to select a mixture of available players to produce an optimal team. And those initial rounds determine what you’ll do in the later rounds of the draft. Get them wrong, and you may not be able to recover.

To follow are sample three-round drafts for 12-team fantasy football leagues. They use either standard performance scoring, performance plus a point per reception, or “2QB/Super Flex” leagues where you can start two of any position. Those three formats cover virtually all leagues.

The names are less important than the positions because each draft slot has its own unique situation. Just as important are your future picks, and what you still need after three rounds.  Rankings change daily so these may not exactly match site rankings. Pay the most attention to the positions and how they work together for an optimal start.

Performance scoring league

Average Points Top-10 scoring: QB 412, RB 228, WR  212, TE 127

Performance scoring without reception points means that top running backs are a premium, and quarterbacks are comparatively more valuable. Wide receivers and tight ends are devalued but still total four starters in most  fantasy football leagues.  Most teams take two running backs over their first three picks and it’s hard to argue against the logic because the supply is very low by Round 4.

The above three rounds are an optimal way to start the draft for all twelve draft slots. Let’s consider where each should be looking next after the three-pick start:

Team 1: RB Jonathan Taylor, QB Josh Allen, RB Devin Singletary
Top running back and quarterback are a big start. Cherry picking two wideouts over the next three rounds, and taking a third running back when the value seems best is in order.
Team 2: RB Derrick Henry, WR Stefon Diggs, RB Aaron Jones
The nice part of a top wideout is the consistent points. Best available with this start, but a third running back, a quarterback and another wideout make sense here.
Team 3: RB Austin Ekeler, RB Travis Etienne, WR Mike Evans
Same as Team 2. The next pick is too far to make concrete plans, but team is free to grab whatever. Strong start at running back means can wait on other positions. Best value will be wideout next, then quarterback.
Team 4: RB Christian McCaffrey, RB D’Andre Swift, WR CeeDee Lamb
This plan is pretty standard for the first half of the draft. And it usually works well in this format. This could be very good, but there is risk with McCaffrey and Swift from injury. Feel better to grab a running back and a quarterback next.
Team 5: RB Nick Chubb, WR Davante Adams, WR Tyreek Hill
Need to consider running back next, but will be looking at guys like Kareem Hunt, AJ Dillon, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire at best. Could go tight end and quarterback and then start scraping for upside running backs.
Team 6: RB Joe Mixon, WR Deebo Samuel, RB Antonio Gibson
In the middle of the draft, solid enough picks though nothing elite in any of them. Might consider a quarterback next just for a bigger bang for the buck and at least a slight advantage at the highest scoring position.
Team 7: RB Dalvin Cook, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Tee Higgins
The RB-RB start meant the No. 7 and No. 14 running backs, and there’s no advantage there but feels safe. Rather than collect more average (or worse) running backs, should consider quarterback and maybe even a tight end for the paper-thin advantage there.
Team 8: RB Najee Harris, RB Alvin Kamara, QB Patrick Mahomes
While this was much the same as Team 7, it looks better. Harris loses a lot without reception points but Kamara high-upside pick with, at least so far, risk. Scooping Mahomes up in the third means free to go where ever but needs one or two wide receivers pretty soon.
Team 9: WR Cooper Kupp, RB Saquon Barkley, RB J.K. Dobbins
This is riskier than most but Pick 9 is often the worst slot. Resisted yet another running back and gets advantage at wideout. Barkley is a scratch-off lottery ticket again this year and Dobbins fresh from his ACL tear is a risk. But at least has a core of starters. Next three picks should consider best available among any non-kicker/non-defense.
Team 10: RB Javonte Williams, WR Justin Jefferson, TE Mark Andrews
Drafting this deep, still went with the ninth running back taken. But arguably Top-2 at wideout and tight end offers some advantage. Has to look at running backs for at least the next two picks.
Team 11: WR Ja’Marr Chase, RB Ezekiel Elliott, RB Cam Akers
Chase is great in any format and two running backs just played it safe. Only two picks away from the fourth choice and Justin Herbert would be a nice add. Fifth and sixth picks should likely be a wideout and a running back.
Team 12: RB James Conner, TE Travis Kelce, WR Michael Pittman Jr.
Taking the tenth running back is no advantage, but waiting until the turn at the end of Round 3 would mean Damien Harris or David Montgomery as his best back. Getting Kelce is far less advantageous without reception points, but still makes sense here. Should still consider the 4.01 for running back.

Reception-point league 

Average Points Top-10 scoring: QB 412, RB 278, WR  314, TE 197

This scoring style boosts the value of wide receivers and elite tight ends but devalues quarterbacks. Running backs are popular in any scoring scenario, but the added reception point means the position becomes deeper with third-down backs able to offer “start-able” fantasy value.

After  the first ten or so wideouts are gone, the position will remain slightly better than comparable running backs but are also much deeper.

Team 1: RB Jonathan Taylor, WR Keenan Allen, TE Mark Andrews
The obligatory pick of Taylor was followed by the double scoop at the 2.12 and 3.01. Then went with tenth wideout for a legitimate WR1 and Andrews is more of a difference maker when the reception point is added. The next wrap- around at 4.12 and 5.01 pick from remaining committee backs and maybe take two since Top-3 quarterbacks are gone anyway.
Team 2: RB Austin Ekeler, RB Saquon Barkley, WR Michael Pittman Jr.
Safe enough start that works well depending on which Barkley shows up. But the core is accomplished and best available players are up next. Probably should consider a third running back over the next three picks.
Team 3: RB Christian McCaffrey, WR Tyreek Hill, RB L. Fournette
Bit of risk here for an early pick, but the upside of both McCaffrey and Hill are immense. Picked up the RB2 for a start that could be great if it all falls the right way. Has the luxury of taking the best available for the next two rounds and that probably will be his WR2 and RB3.
Team 4: RB Derrick Henry, RB James Conner, WR D.J. Moore
The safe start feels good but Moore as his WR1 is no advantage. Solid running backs mean two more wideouts are next and maybe a quarterback if a Top-3 still exists by the 6.09.
Team 5: WR Cooper Kupp, RB Alvin Kamara, RB Ezekiel Elliott
This could be deadly if Kamara doesn’t wear an all-orange uniform and Elliott rekindles 2019. But it could also have holes if it goes wrong. The risk of Kamara and Elliott means taking the RB3 sooner than later. But exciting start with upside.
Team 6: WR Justin Jefferson, WR CeeDee Lamb, RB D. Montgomery
By mid-draft, why not start out with two Top-8 wide receivers? Has a great advantage there and has to mine running backs to get lucky on the RB2, but good plan in the middle of a draft.
Team 7: RB Najee Harris, RB Javonte Williams, RB Travis Etienne
This is a big temptation assuming a flex position for Etienne to fill. And running back is the position that is fastest to drain. Now has to mine wideouts and the best will be Darnell Mooney/Mike Williams quality which isn’t terrible. The biggest risk here is that running backs are the most injured positions, and the first three picks have a higher chance of missing time.
Team 8: RB Joe Mixon, WR Mike Evans, RB Aaron Jones
Starts with the No. 6 running back and No. 7 wideout. This tough-to-succeed slot is building an average team. That works only when more than half the league goes to the playoffs (ands they don’t).  Should look at quarterback and tight end next to gets at least some advantage in two positions.
Team 9: RB Dalvin Cook, RB Nick Chubb, WR Tee Higgins
Like Team 8, this is the safest-feeling route but begins with the No. 7 and No. 10 running back, followed by the No. 13 wideout who is a WR2 for his team. No fan of picking ninth, and this looks like another average team. Needs to find some sparks in other positions.
Team 10: WR Ja’Marr Chase, RB D’Andre Swift, RB Devin Singletary
WR1 is spectacular, and combining Swift and Singletary are a safe play. But has the option of  A.J. Brown or Brandin Cooks at the 4.03 and possibly Mahomes or Herbert in the fifth round for a better bang in starters.
Team 11: WR Stefon Diggs, WR Deebo Samuel, TE Kyle Pitts
Picking at the end of the first round in this scoring format should be exciting and unconventional. Teams 8 and 9 went the safe route which felt natural at the time but Team 11 took a swing for the fence. Two Top-6 wideouts mean they can wait for four or even six rounds to start collecting WR3 candidates. Needs running backs, and three of them sooner than later since best available at the 4.02 is probably Cam Akers, Antonio Gibson or Breece Hall.
Team 12: TE Travis Kelce, WR Davante Adams, QB Josh Allen
This is how to handle picking last. There is no major advantage in taking running backs at the end of the first round, but owning the No. 1 tight end and quarterback is big in this scoring format. Taking the No. 5 wideout is rock solid for WR1. This does force need picks for running backs that should happen no later than the 5.12 and 6.01 wrap-around. That would yield at best often injured rushers or the RB2 from a committee backfield. But this can win if a sleeper running back can be found.

Super Flex / QB-heavy league 

Average Points Top-10 scoring: QB 412, RB 278, WR  314, TE 197

This league seeds quarterbacks depending on how and why quarterbacks are so valuable. The most common is the option to start two quarterbacks. That pushes value in other positions deeper into the draft since quarterbacks take up far more of the early picks.  Each 2QB or super-flex league can use different scoring and other aspects that impact player value, so consider the nuances of your league.

This assumes super-flex, where the option to start a second quarterback in a flex position exists and is used by most if not nearly all team owners. Some  leagues can have eight quarterbacks in the first round and six in the second round. In others, maybe half as many. So pay attention and assume the worst when the quarterbacks start flying off the shelf.

It is also assumed that there are reception points. That is by far the most common in that type of league. It is also notable that a team can win without automatically starting two quarterbacks, even when allowed.

Team 1: QB Josh Allen, WR Ja’Marr Chase, QB Aaron Rodgers
Double-dipping on quarterbacks over the first three picks is very common – like taking two running backs in the other league formats above.  The great part is that wideouts tend to last longer. So snapping up a running  back or two makes sense because likely the best available is David Montgomery or Travis Etienne. Wideouts will last longer and they already have a Top-3 WR1.
Team 2: RB Jonathan Taylor, RB D’Andre Swift, QB Trey Lance
They went for strength in running backs, unable to pass Taylor or Swift. By Trey Lance at QB14, the pickings are already riskier if not unlikely to be an advantage. But can look at wideouts over the next three picks with some quality and decide if seeding the QB2 makes sense.
Team 3: QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Dalvin Cook, RB Nick Chubb
Safe play. Getting the Mahomes for QB1 feels great, and two of the Top-9 running backs are at worst solid. QB2 isn’t going to be an advantage even at the 4.10, so shop for wideouts with an eye out for the worst QB2 you can be okay owning.
Team 4: RB Austin Ekeler, QB Russell Wilson, RB Javonte Williams
Similar to Team 3, swapping the first two positions selected. And the same issue exists – needs wideouts and quarterbacks are slipping fast.
Team 5: QB Justin Herbert, QB Matthew Stafford, WR Stefon Diggs
Picking in the middle rounds hurt less in this format. They get a top quarterback and then doubles down with Stafford in Round 2. Still reached a Top-5 wideout in Round 3 but running back becomes a need pick – at least two in the next three rounds.
Team 6: RB Christian McCaffrey, QB Tom Brady, RB Alvin Kamara
This could be spectacular or a flop depending on McCaffrey’s health, Kamara’s legal limbo and if Brady can continue to perform decades after his peers disappeared. This plan is safe and has a ton of upside, but wideouts are on tap in two of next three picks.
Team 7: WR Cooper Kupp, WR Justin Jefferson, QB Derek Carr
Interesting start in this format – could not resist the top two wide receivers. Can wait on WR3 until after the middle of the draft. But mining quarterbacks and running backs are an immediate and pressing need.
Team 8: QB Joe Burrow, RB Joe Mixon, RB James Conner
Another safe play from the dreaded eight-spot. Wideouts and quarterbacks need to take up at least three of the next four picks.
Team 9: TE Travis Kelce, QB Kirk Cousins, WR Davante Adams
This is a little early for a risk taker but this worked out well in this format as this draft unfolded. Kelce is always an advantage but was still able to reach the No. 9 quarterback as QB1 and Adams lasted until the 3.09. That can happen in this format. If wideouts are taken more heavily, it only improves the running backs and quarterbacks at the 3.09. Regardless, running back is a need now but wideouts and tight ends are not.
Team 10: QB Dak Prescott, RB Najee Harris, RB Leonard Fournette
Starting with QB1 makes sense, and Top-5 RB1 is strong. By the 3.10, quarterbacks are into the bottom half of starters and went the safe route with the thirteenth running back as his RB2. Now has to consider wideouts and quarterback.
Team 11: QB Kyler Murray, QB Jalen Hurts, RB Saquon Barkley
This format favors the end of the first round more than the start. They can take two of the Top-8 quarterbacks for a major weekly advantage. The fourteenth running back isn’t much help as RB1 and all positions will be weaker, but the point differential with two starting Top-8 quarterbacks could compensate very well.
Team 12: RB Derrick Henry, QB Lamar Jackson, RB Ezekiel Elliott
Started RB-QB but then had to chose from the No. 15 running back, No. 16 quarterback or the  No. 6 wideout. Picks again immediately and should go with that wideout. But should consider QB2 with the 5.12 even though the remaining options are not great.

Fantasy football draft prep: Breaking biases

Don’t get stuck in your ways of how you view players and situations in fantasy football.

All too often, advanced fantasy football gamers included, owners allow the past to dictate future draft plans through cognitive biases. Even full-time fantasy players need to remember from time to time that the game changes year over year and requires a press of the reset button.

In a sport where 11 constantly moving chess pieces work in harmony against a matching number of defenders trying to stifle any plans of a checkmate, all it takes is a small change to make a huge difference.

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I’ve written a number of times about expectations and how we perceive players based on what we think they will do on the field, whether it be weekly or annually. All it takes is being slightly wrong in our view of a situation to see those projections fall apart. We cannot control injuries, and life throws extenuating circumstances into the mix, but recognizing our own biases about teams and players absolutely can be controlled.

Objectivity is arguably the most important element in creating a fantasy championship. Luck always factors in, and remaining on top of the news is thoroughly important as well. Just as being armed with a reliable set of rankings is pivotal, also the ability to check emotions and individual experiences at the door is paramount. A mental checklist of “dos and don’ts” should be on everyone’s brain as they prepare for a draft and evaluate talent.