Round one of the 2022 NFL Draft is in the books, which means we have to squeeze as much content out of the first round as humanly possible before round two kicks off tonight and we get the rest of the firehose of NFL draft picks. So, let’s take a look at the fantasy football winners and losers from round one!
Fantasy Football Winners
Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
I was all the way out on Olave prior to the draft specifically because I feared a team would look at his profile and try to turn him into a #1 wide receiver. I want to be clear: Chris Olave, as currently constituted, is not built as a #1 wide receiver in any meaningful sense. But, the Saints traded #16, 98, and 120 to move up to #11 to get Olave onto their roster. And honestly, I like it! In the limited time we saw Jameis Winston in 2021, he was more than happy to push the ball downfield, with the eighth-highest 20+ yard pass attempt rate (13.7% of his pass attempts, compared to the league average of 11.48%, per data compiled on playerprofiler.com). With Olave landing in an offense willing to push the ball downfield as the #2 option, I love his fantasy football prospects out of the gate as a big-play receiver. I’ve done a complete 180 on Olave, given this landing spot.
Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens
Bateman finished 2021 with 67 targets, 46 receptions, 515 yards, and a touchdown and after the first round trade that sent Marquise Brown to the Cardinals, he’s the main wide receiver target in town in Baltimore. Now, Mark Andrews will still be there, but even if the Ravens dip back down to being the lowest passing team in the league, they can still support Bateman and Andrews on 450 or so pass attempts. Bateman’s rookie year was highly inconsistent, as he finished half of his twelve games with either 80 or more yards or under 25 yards (three games apiece). A consistent target volume will allow Bateman to flourish in his role, as he finished with more than five targets seven times, and he finished with at least 50 yards in five of those games. Bateman is primed to take a big leap forward in 2022.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts finished 2021 as the QB9, and he did it throwing the ball to a guy who was “too skinny” for the position, a guy who is now a tight end, and… Jalen Reagor… Now he has A.J. Brown as his WR1. That’s somewhat of an upgrade! The Eagles lit 124 targets on fire last season on passes thrown to Quez Watkins, Jalen Reagor, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Now, imagine a universe where those targets go to A.J. Brown. That’s a pretty great universe to live in! While haters and losers want to say that Jalen Hurts can’t throw a football more than a handful of feet to save his life (it’s me, I’m haters and losers), it won’t matter with A.J. Brown. Brown had an uneven 2021 due to injury, but in 2020, he averaged the eleventh-most yards after the catch in the NFL. Hurts will fly up the ranks because he can just make A.J. Brown do the hard part (note to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Jalen Reagor, the “hard part” is not “just catching the football.”)
Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans
Very few players enter the league with everybody knowing exactly how they could get deployed, and how useful that deployment could be for fantasy football. The Titans traded A.J. Brown to the Eagles, took Treylon Burks with that pick, and the most common comparison (myself included) for Treylon… A.J. Brown. Burks is not quite the same athlete and playmaker as Brown, but he is built in the same mold. And he’s stepping right into an offense that is built around maximizing that particular skillset, with no real target competition to speak of. Burks is my favorite rookie wide receiver to produce in year one, with his running mate being a currently-injured Robert Woods and a currently still Nick Westbrook-Ikhine… Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
There was a ton of chatter about the Bills taking Breece Hall or Kenneth Walker in the first round of the draft, pairing them with Devin Singletary in an effort to move Singletary off the field. While that could still happen, Singletary received a 24-hour reprieve on losing his iron grip on the Bills’ RB1 slot. Also, given that the Bills gave up 40+ points in the last game that they played, I’m not so sure they spend a luxury pick on a guy like Hall when defenders are still out there, defenders who can help them… not… give up 40+ points to the Chiefs.
Fantasy Football Losers
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The Packers traded Davante Adams, secured two picks in the first round, and… didn’t draft a wide receiver. As of right now, Rodgers is facing 2022 with Sammy Watkins and Allen Lazard as his WR1 and WR2. While there are still some talented receivers in this draft, I think the wide receiver run crushed the Packers’ game plan to snag (at least) one for Rodgers at the end of the first round. They could go out and get Alec Pierce in the third, which would immediately make me happy for Rodgers, but as of now, Rodgers is just a big old (rich as hell) loser.
Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders
I feel bad for Dotson, I really do. His quarterback got run out of town by management and ownership (twice!) who will be on his third team in three seasons, and he’s in a run-first offense with plenty of target competition. I’m just going to backburner Jahan Dotson until we know what the Commanders plan to do with Terry McLaurin’s contract; Dotson could be the heir apparent to McLaurin, but as of now, he has to compete with McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson for targets year one, in a system that loves to funnel targets to whoever is at tight end, too. It doesn’t bode well for Dotson’s year-one fantasy football prospects.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers (for now!)
Deebo apparently wants out of Santa Clara, and it felt like the Jets were going to be his destination, given all the smoke swirling the #10 pick. But, apparently, the 49ers were being “unreasonable” and the #10 pick became Garrett Wilson, instead. So, Deebo is now out there just twisting in the wind, seemingly wanting out of the 49ers while being contractually obligated to be a 49er. There’s also the whole “Deebo Samuel doesn’t even want the Deebo Samuel” role thing that could keep him from repeating as a top-three wide receiver again in fantasy football. While he still finished with 1400 receiving yards, his 365 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns really put things over the top for Samuel.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes can start a support group for stud quarterbacks who lost their star receiver and whose teams did a piss-poor job of replacing said stud receiver. For Mahomes, he currently has JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to replace Tyreek Hill, which won’t go very far. Mahomes struggled to produce up to his fantasy football draft stock last season, even with Tyreek Hill in tow. With no Tyreek Hill, things look iffy for Mahomes as a top-five fantasy football quarterback in 2022.