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2022 Fantasy Football: Impact Rookies

If you’re a fantasy football nerd (like myself), dynasty leagues are the most fun way to play fantasy football, because you keep the players on your team that you’ve drafted. You can’t just start over again each year, which means you have to invest research into rookies that could have a meaningful impact in the current year, and beyond. However, researching rookies is a good strategy for every kind of fantasy football addict. There are plenty of rookies that have incredible seasons and lead you to winning your leagues (e.g. Ja’Marr Chase in 2021). Let’s highlight five rookies that you should have on your radar when it’s your turn to draft.

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2022 Impact Rookies

Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets, RB25

Mama didn’t raise no fool. I know better than to expect success out of the New York Jets. I’m not saying they won’t be good. I’m saying I am not going to be expecting it. However, the success of individual players is something that is far easier to predict. Breece Hall is currently my RB25, and highest-ranked rookie running back.

The Jets drafted Michael Carter Jr. in 2021 (4th round), and he finished with under 700 yards rushing and 4 TDs. That’s enough to show you’re an NFL running back, but it’s not enough to show that you’re good enough to be a feature back. So, naturally, the Jets drafted ANOTHER running back this year in Breece Hall (2nd round). Typically, I like to draft running backs from teams that I’m confident will be able to move the ball. Running backs on high-scoring offenses are able to get more carries in the 2nd half as the team tries to run down the clock, and they also get high-value red-zone touches, which leads to more touchdowns. I don’t anticipate the Jets having that type of offense. I do anticipate that Breece Hall will get the chance to be an every-down back, and carry a workhorse role for this team. He’s already listed at the top of the depth chart in New York. In a world where many teams use a running back by committee approach, a workhorse running back should be coveted.

Before I move on, I want to highlight some of his athletic attributes, to hammer home how special he could be. First things first, he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash. That’s in the 97th percentile for his draft class. Further, in college, he averaged 6.7 yards per carry, ranking in the 67th percentile among college running backs. Here’s the kicker: in an offense that can be expected to need to throw the ball to catch up in games, that’s usually bad for a running back. However, Breece Hall had an 11% target share in college. As a running back! That ranks in the 80th percentile among college backs.

Any way you slice it, the 6’1″, 200lb, Breece Hall will have a piece of the New York Jets offense. He’s coming off of back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons in college, and his skillset should transfer to the pros. He should be on your radar come draft time.

Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers, WR11

I’ve been getting a lot of pushback for this take. Maybe I’m wildly incorrect, but I’ve never been wrong before, so that would be unlikely! I have the rookie as my WR11 on the year, despite his consensus WR65 ranking. Let me tell you why:

The Green Bay Packers have 245 vacated targets from last season’s receiving corp. That’s 42% of their targets from last year, that are no longer on their team. Davante Adams and Marquez Valdez-Scantling are the two biggest ones. So when your #1 and #2 wide receivers are gone from the team, that means someone new will need to step up and into bigger roles. Those two players will be Lazard, and my favorite rookie, Christian Watson. I’m not worried about Aaron Rodgers’ performance in the slightest. He’s one of the most consistent QBs the league has ever seen. Consistent greatness is what we have come to expect, so his receivers will bear the fruits of that consistency. But you can’t just have success in the NFL because you’re around. You have to be good. Let’s highlight what makes Watson special:

I’ll start with size. You can’t teach height. Watson is 6’4″ and 208 lbs and is in the 97th percentile of his draft class for catch radius at 10+ feet. Next, let’s talk about speed. Watson ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine. That’s good for the 96th percentile in his draft class. You can’t teach speed either. The physical traits are incredible, but the performance is there too. In college, Watson averaged 18.6 yards per reception, which ranks in the 88th percentile in his class. All the signs are there. When he develops are rapport with Aaron Rodgers, Watson is going to be a WR to own in fantasy for years to come. There’s a reason they drafted this guy in the 2nd round. Get in early!

Treylon Burks, WR, Tennessee Titans, WR16

Treylon Burks has had some weird publicity this summer. Mike Vrabel, the Titans’ Head Coach, told reporters that Burks missed a handful of practices in minicamp and OTAs stemming from issues with asthma. I have asthma myself, and I’d like to think that’s the only reason I never became a world-class athlete, but it’s not. For Burks, this asthma isn’t new, and neither is his on-field success, so it doesn’t scare me off his bandwagon quite yet. I have him ranked at WR16, above the WR40 consensus.

Much like the Packers above, the Titans have also had a mass exodus of targets. 230, to be precise, representing 45% of their targets from last year. Someone has to step up. Ryan Tannehill needs to throw to somebody, and I think it’s fair to assume that that somebody is going to be their 1st round pick. It’s not Burks’ physical attributes that jump out at you. It’s his production. He’s 6’2″ and runs a 4.55 40-yard dash (impressive to me, but in the 49th percentile for his draft class position). That’s not what got him drafted so high. It’s the fact that he’s a ball magnet. Burks had a 31.3% target share in college. That’s good enough for 93rd percentile in his draft class. And he didn’t just fall to the ground when he caught it either. His 16.8 yards per reception is good enough for 77th percentile in his class. If you want to fade him because of Nick Westbrook-Inhine and (fresh off season-ending injury) Robert Woods, you go right ahead. I will not be following you.

Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons, WR19

Drake London is the 6’4″, 213lb, 1st-round draft pick out of USC. I admittedly wouldn’t have drafted him in the first round relative to other WR prospects in the draft, but the Falcons did, and that’s good for him. I won’t let my pre-draft biases cloud my judgement regarding the incredible opportunity he’ll have to produce. He’s my WR19, despite his WR41 consensus ranking.

You’ve probably been able to sense a theme among rookie wide receivers listed so far. You’re going to want the rookies who are walking into scenarios where there are vacated targets. The Falcons are another one of those teams, and Drake London is another one of those rookies. The Falcons have 245 vacated targets from last year (44%).

With Kyle Pitts being his biggest threat for targets, he’s going to be in a prime position to exceed a 20%+ target share. Bryan Edwards and Olamide Zaccheaus aren’t enough to scare me away. Are they both NFL WRs? Of course. Are they 1st round picks? No. 1st round picks have a lot of upfront money/investment given to them. That means the Titans will want to see a return on that investment. Expect plenty of targets to go London’s way.

Charlie Kolar, TE, Baltimore Ravens, TE25

This one is, admittedly, my lowest conviction take of the five. If I’m being honest, tight end is a throwaway position for a lot of fantasy managers, and if you’re not one of the big five or six tight end names, you’re hunting on the waiver wire each week. Lamar Jackson throws to one of those big tight end names: Mark Andrews. That didn’t stop the Ravens from drafting Kolar in the 4th round and adding to their depth. He ran a 4.67 40-yard dash which is 79th percentile for his position, and he’s 94th percentile in catch radius with his SIX FOOT SEVEN INCH FRAME. Maybe they drafted Kolar to be a blocker. Maybe. But that’s a waste, if you ask me.

Coming off a season at Iowa State (teammates with Breece Hall from above) where he had 96 targets, 756 yards receiving, and a 65% catch rate, I’d bet he caught the Ravens’ eye with his potential as a receiver. Not a blocker. The Ravens like to run two tight end sets, so don’t be surprised if Charlie Kolar sneaks into the (volatile) fantasy TE rankings this year and makes an impact. I don’t find it incredibly likely, but I wanted to show a little love to a rookie tight end who has the ability to become a big name.

Got a take on Bradlee’s impact rookies? Share it in the comments below and then head on over and check out the rest of our 2022 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

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