Scott Engel is beginning his 11th season as the official Fantasy Football writer and analyst for Seahawks.com. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 10-time nominee, including being a finalist for the 2020 FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year Award, which he won previously. Scott was the No. 1 most accurate fantasy football draft ranker at tight end and No. 6 at running back on fantasypros.com in 2021. You can find more of his fantasy football analysis, including 2022 player rankings, at The Game Day this season.
As the Seahawks use the NFL preseason to determine their roster and depth chart decisions, fantasy football players are readying to build their own 2022 squads. Draft day is quickly approaching, and fantasy leaguers are actively speculating on which players to target, and how to construct their teams in the earliest stages of the selection process. We prepare you to execute a successful plan on how to proceed and react at all points of the draft. This is your chance to feel like Pete Carroll and John Schneider on draft day, making the important calls and feeling good about building a team.
Your First Pick
Most fantasy football players put a heavy amount of focus on their first selection, which is natural because your first drafted player is considered the projected cornerstone of your team. As soon as fantasy players find out what spot they are picking from, the guessing games begin. They start to plan their approach based on who may be available at their draft slot. You should have an idea of a few players that may be available when it's your turn, but don't try to think for those drafting ahead of you and attempt to predict how the selection order will go. Every draft is different, and you never know for sure what others may be thinking or how they will react to the rest of the picks already made when they are on the clock. If you have the No. 8 selection, for instance, do not try to guess how the seven picks ahead of you may work out and assume any specific player may be available.
Drafters should plan for their first pick with groups of players in mind, and queue them up before the time to make the first pick arrives. So if you have the No. 6 pick, queue up your top six players and then simply take the top player still available when it's your turn.
In the first round, drafters will have to decide between selecting a top running back or wide receiver, and the first-round balance between the two positions is nearly evening out. In 2021, nine of the 12 first selections were running backs. In earlier drafts completed so far this year, seven of the first 12 picks have been at RB, with five at WR, according to Point Per Reception league Average Draft Position Reports from fantasypros.com.
Those who pick in the first three slots of the first round have been opting for one of the top three RBs, which are Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler according to the ADP reports. Then we see the top WRs come off the board, as Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson are being taken in the top six picks. Ja'Marr Chase, Davante Adams and Stefon Diggs are being selected in the No. 9 to 12 range.
Drafters in the early part of the first round usually can't pass on the chance to nab an elite RB, although Jefferson and Kupp should be considered as soon as the third slot. Jefferson could challenge Kupp, who is coming off a historic campaign, to be the No. 1 scoring fantasy WR of the 2022 season. There are eight RBs who are definitely worthy of being taken in the first round, and they include Taylor, Ekeler, Dalvin Cook, Najee Harris, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, McCaffrey, and Joe Mixon, in our latest preferred order.
Look for a few running backs to be taken in the first three to four picks in many drafts, and the elite WRs will often start to come off the board in the middle of the round. The end of the first round could be a mix between RBs and WRs. But as we indicated, all drafts are unique, and the first pick may depend on how things shake out on the selections made ahead of your slot. Those who draft in the first three or four slots can start to dictate the early flow, while those who draft in the middle to late portions of the round may have to react to what happens before they pick.
A well-prepared fantasy player can draft effectively from any slot, and all draft positions have their advantages and disadvantages, so don't groan if you learn that you will pick later in the first round. Those who pick early in the first round get a shot at one of the prime selections, but they will have a long wait until their second chance to draft a player. Being in the middle is a preference of mine, as it cuts down the waiting time between picks. Drafting late in the first round gives you an opportunity to be one of the first players to make your second pick as part of the snake draft process.
Constructing The Early Core
After making the first pick, many fantasy players will want to know in what specific order should they address their starting slots, most notably at RB and WR. There is no one rigid, set plan to follow positionally after the first pick. You will have to adjust on the run to the flow of the draft and make decisions on the fly. That said, you should mainly focus on selecting running backs and wide receivers in the first four to six rounds, with exceptions made for the very best players at tight end.
In many standard fantasy roster formats, you will be required to start one QB, two RBs, two to three WRs, one TE and a flex player, which is usually another RB or WR. Because you only have to start one QB and there are over 12 possible players at the position that are worthy of fantasy QB1 status, it is advisable to first fill out the positions where you have to start more than one player. The draft boards clearly indicate that you should concentrate on RBs and WRs, as the latest ADPs show that 30 of the first 36 selections have consisted of players from those two positions.
So if your league utilizes the aforementioned requirements, then as many as six RBs and WRs can be slotted into your starting lineup, and that is where the primary focus should be. The first pick will serve as the building block for your selection process thereafter. Those who draft a running back first can start out with two RBs, and then must focus specifically on their WR slots from the third to fifth round. There is also a balanced approach, in which you come out of the first four rounds with two RBs and two WRs, which is often satisfying. Some drafters opt for a "zero RB" start to their drafts, where two to three WRs are selected in the first three rounds, and then more risk is being taken at the RB positions. The "zero RB" strategy is employed by some experienced fantasy players who are very confident in their drafting acumen.
You can loosely plan to employ any one of those strategies in the first few rounds, while being ready to adjust based on the twists and turns of the draft flow. As an example, If DK Metcalf is still available with your pick late in the fourth round, and the drafted roster already consists of two WRs and an RB, there has to be strong consideration given to having Metcalf as your WR3 before taking a second RB.
The top three tight ends, which are Travis Kelce (ADP of 13th overall), Mark Andrews (23) and Kyle Pitts (34) provide a unique advantage at the thinnest position in fantasy football. It is certainly a good move to nab one of them in their ADP ranges, and then you simply have to bump your RB/WR approach back for one round.
The Middle and Later Rounds
After drafting most of your primary RBs and WRs, the focus then shifts to filling out the rest of the skill position starting slots. Those who pass on one of the top three tight ends should plan to take a top 10 TE by the seventh to eighth rounds. That is also the time to start targeting the quarterback. Ideally, with a starting lineup of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE and a flex, you should have filled out those slots in the first eight rounds. Of course, exceptions can be made for value targets that slip further than you may have anticipated from the seventh round on.
From the ninth round or so until the final two selections, it's best to load up on depth at RB and WR, while also considering a backup TE. In many cases, it is not essential to draft a backup QB unless you want to take an upside performer that may still be available in the later rounds. The team defense should be your penultimate selection, and you should aim for a unit that has an apparently favorable early-season schedule, because most fantasy players stream their defenses throughout the season. Do not overlook the final pick of a kicker, as the best ones can boost your team to victories at times. Do not place a high emphasis on bye weeks and late-season fantasy playoff schedules, as your roster will change frequently between now and when those situations come into play.
"Superflex" leagues are becoming more popular among fantasy players. In these formats, a second flex position is added, where a QB can be started and is usually the choice. In superflex leagues, it will be essential to come out of the first two rounds with at least one starting QB, and the second one should be taken no later than the fifth round. Many superflex drafts have a distinctive flow of their own, so you can be more aggressive or patient with targeting the second starter depending on how the rest of the league is proceeding in the draft. I will tend to be more heavily focused on QBs and RBs early in a superflex draft while viewing WR as a deeper position. If you have not played in a superflex league before, take on a new and fun challenge.
Scott Engel's Tight End Rankings
Here are our Top 20 Tight Ends for Your 2022 drafts
- Travis Kelce
- Mark Andrews'
- Kyle Pitts
- George Kittle
- Darren Waller
- Dalton Schultz
- Dallas Goedert
- T.J. Hockenson
- Zach Ertz
- Dawson Knox
- Cole Kmet
- Pat Freiermuth
- Irv Smith Jr.
- Mike Gesicki
- Hunter Henry
- Evan Engram
- Noah Fant
- Austin Hooper
- Albert Okwuegbunam
- Hayden Hurst
Scott Engel's 2022 Fantasy Football rankings are now available at The Game Day. Check out his full Top 330 overall and in-depth positional analysis.