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Ranking the 25 best players in fantasy football ahead of the 2022 season

Ranking the 25 best players in fantasy football ahead of the 2022 season
Austin Ekeler
Jul 28, 2022; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) during training camp at Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Every fantasy football player should know that the best fantasy football players this year will likely be different from last year. That’s just the nature of the beast; every year, there are new players who emerge as fantasy stars while others fail to live up to expectations from the previous year.

That means there are bound to be some surprises when it comes to the best fantasy football players in 2022.

Best fantasy football players this year 2022

Of course, the changes in fantasy football from year to year aren’t going to stop us from making NFL fantasy predictions for 2022. After all, fantasy owners rely on preseason position rankings to know what fantasy football players to watch and what fantasy football players to target in their draft.

Of course, we can’t provide any guarantees, but here is our preseason list of the 25 best fantasy football players this year.

25. D’Andre Swift

While he’s yet to break into the top tier of running backs, D’Andre Swift surely boasts plenty of potential heading into 2022. He caught 50 passes for 420 yards last season, and that was in just nine games. If that trend continues, Swift will be the type of fantasy running back who scores points as both a rusher and pass-catcher.

He also flashed some promise as a rusher during his rookie campaign in 2020, scoring eight touchdowns and averaging 4.6 yards per carry as a part-time back. If he puts it all together this year, Swift could be something special.

24. David Montgomery

If you don’t hold his team against him, David Montgomery is a solid fantasy football option. If he had played a full season in 2021, he surely would have topped 1,000 rushing yards. The caveat is that opposing teams know that he’s Chicago’s best option, so they could stack the box and hurt his production.

Plus, if the Bears play from behind, Montgomery could lose touches, hurting his fantasy numbers a little.

23. Saquon Barkley

It could be now or never for the former Offensive Rookie of the Year. There’s no doubt that Saquon Barkley has the potential to be an elite fantasy player. But his injury history and the fact that he plays for the Giants make him a risky pick despite his incredible upside.

Even in 13 games last year, his numbers were disappointing, so it’s hard to get too excited about him putting it all together in 2022.

22. Leonard Fournette

Leonard Fournette was able to build upon his playoff heroics two seasons ago and put together a solid campaign in 2021. He nearly matched the total yards he had as a rookie while scoring 10 total touchdowns, which did match his touchdown total during his rookie campaign.

Of course, with Tom Brady, the Bucs aren’t overly concerned with establishing the run. But Fournette will be the starter in Tampa and averaged close to 13 carries per game last season, so he retains a fair amount of fantasy value.

21. Ezekiel Elliott

Ezekiel Elliott’s days of being an elite fantasy player might be over. While he still ran for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, his receiving numbers were way down. Elliott will also continue to lose touches to Tony Pollard this year, which hurts his fantasy value.

But that’s no reason to overlook him completely. Elliott will still be good for 1,200 all-purpose yards and at least eight or 10 total touchdowns, which isn’t a bad haul.

20. Mark Andrews

Mark Andrews has surely entered the upper echelon of fantasy tight ends after winning the tight end Triple Crown last year.

He even did that with Lamar Jackson missing games down the stretch. Obviously, repeating that feat will be difficult in 2022. But Andrews has surely earned the right to be selected far earlier in fantasy drafts than most tight ends.

19. Aaron Jones

Despite a slight drop-off in his numbers last season, Aaron Jones can still be considered one of the safest fantasy running backs to draft. He’s been a key part of the Green Bay passing attack for the last three years, helping him to score at least nine total touchdowns in four straight seasons.

The only caveat is that AJ Dillon could take away some of his touches this year. But Jones remains a safe and reliable fantasy option for 2022.

18. CeeDee Lamb

As the top receiver in the Dallas offense, CeeDee Lamb certainly has the potential to be one of the top NFL fantasy players in 2022. He’s caught 153 passes over his first two seasons in the league but should see an increase in his targets this year.

It’s just a matter of whether or not Lamb can move into his new role. In order to be a top-flight fantasy wide receiver, Lamb will have to increase his touchdown total from six last year and five as a rookie. But with over 2,000 receiving yards in two seasons, the upside for Lamb is undoubtedly high.

17. Tyreek Hill

There might be some reason to be concerned about Tyreek Hill with Patrick Mahomes no longer being his quarterback. But we’re still talking about one of the best deep threats in the NFL and a receiver who has averaged more than 10 touchdown receptions over the last four years.

The Dolphins could end up using him a little in the running game as well, enhancing his value. One way or another, Hill is likely to put up the stats to be considered a quality and safe fantasy option.

16. Deebo Samuel

Deebo Samuel should be happy and productive in 2022 after getting the extension he wanted from the 49ers. We’re also talking about a player who had over 1,400 receiving yards and 14 total touchdowns last season thanks to his exploits in the running game.

It’s worth taking those numbers with a grain of salt, as Samuel is still a young player and will be playing with an unproven quarterback. However, he’s a unicorn in fantasy circles as a dual-threat wide receiver, which is why he could end up being one of the most valuable fantasy players in the league this year.

15. Travis Kelce

Once again, Travis Kelce is poised to be one of the best fantasy football players this year, at least among tight ends. He’ll surely be the first tight end selected in most fantasy drafts after leading the league’s tight ends in receiving in three of the last six years.

Kelce has also scored at least eight touchdowns in four of the last five years. Equally importantly, he’s missed no more than one game in seven straight years, so he’s rarely injured and a lock to get a healthy dose of targets from Patrick Mahomes in every game this season.

14. Alvin Kamara

His size and struggles staying healthy for a full season have held Alvin Kamara back a little. But among running backs, he’s one of the elite pass-catchers in the NFL right now, which helps to drive his fantasy value.

His 3.7 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns last season are some cause for concern. But Kamara is set to remain a huge part of the New Orleans offense, so there’s no question that he’ll get enough touches to be an impact fantasy player.

13. Joe Mixon

Even if he’s not one of the very best fantasy football players this year, Joe Mixon is still a reliable option who clearly belongs among the second tier of running backs. His lack of production as a pass-catcher hurts him as a fantasy player, as his 314 receiving yards last season were a career-high.

However, he bounced back last year from an injury-hindered 2020 season and has rushed for over 1,100 yards in three of the last four seasons. Mixon also scored 13 rushing touchdowns last year and will have an improved offensive line in front of him this season, making him one of the safer picks among running backs.

12. Nick Chubb

A couple of minor injuries have been the only thing slowing down Nick Chubb over the past few seasons. In the first four seasons of his career, he’s averaging over 1,200 rushing yards and just under 10 total touchdowns per season.

Chubb’s lack of involvement in the passing game is keeping him from being an elite fantasy player and a top-five pick in every draft. However, he’s averaged over five yards per carry in his career with the Browns giving him over 16 carries per game last year, which should be enough to make him one of the best fantasy football players this year.

11. Ja’Marr Chase

Kudos to any fantasy owner who was smart enough to take a chance on Ja’Marr Chase in his rookie season last year. That will surely make him one of the top fantasy football players to watch this season, as Chase has big-play ability and a great rapport with quarterback Joe Burrow, which should lead to a healthy number of targets.

However, Chase is not without some questions, as he’ll have to avoid a sophomore slump. Also, keep in mind that he’ll be a marked man this season, as opposing teams will game plan to stop him, which could make it tough for him to replicate his fantasy numbers from a season ago.

10. Davante Adams

There is no reason to doubt what Davante Adams can do on the field, although we’re going to find out just how much of his success is owed to Aaron Rodgers. That is the only question facing Adams heading into 2022, and it’s something that fantasy owners should consider.

Of course, Derek Carr can air it out too, so there shouldn’t be too much of a drop-off from Adams after amassing nearly 3,000 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

9. Stefon Diggs

His two seasons in Buffalo have been the best seasons of Stefon Diggs’ career, and that’s no coincidence. He’s excelled while playing with Josh Allen, amassing over 2,700 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns over the last two years.

There are some other wide receivers who have received a little more attention than Diggs heading into 2022. But keep in mind he led the league in receptions and yards two years ago, making him a safe pick to be one of the best fantasy football players this year.

8. Najee Harris

Fantasy owners don’t care about his 3.9 yards per carry as much as they care about the 1,200 rushing yards and seven touchdowns Najee Harris had as a rookie. On top of that, Harris had 74 catches for 467 yards and another three touchdowns, which is what’s going to make him one of the top fantasy players in 2022.

With either Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett starting at quarterback for Pittsburgh, the Steelers are going to lean even more on Harris, increasing the number of touches he gets and giving him even more fantasy upside.

7. Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson’s upside is as high as any wide receiver in the league right now, which should make him one of the best fantasy football players this year. Over his first two seasons in the league, he has racked up over 3,000 yards and 17 touchdowns.

If you take the average of those two seasons, Jefferson is posed for at least 1,500 yards and eight touchdowns this year. That would make him the best wide receiver on just about every fantasy team. However, if all goes well for him in 2022, Jefferson is a legitimate candidate to win the Triple Crown of receiving, posting massive fantasy numbers in the process. 

6. Dalvin Cook

Dalvin Cook is always productive, making him one of the top fantasy football players to target. It’s just a matter of how many games he’s going to play. He’s missed at least two games in all five of his pro seasons, which can hurt his fantasy value a little.

That being said, he’s rushed for at least 1,100 yards in three straight seasons. Cook also scored 29 rushing touchdowns between the 2019 and 2020 seasons before only scoring six touchdowns last year.

However, last year’s touchdown total can be looked at as an aberration, and if Cook can come close to playing a full season this year, he’s a safe bet to rush for over 1,000 yards and score 10 touchdowns.

5. Christian McCaffrey

It’s tough to rank Christian McCaffrey because he hasn’t been able to stay healthy, playing in just 10 games over the past two seasons. But he’s definitely one of the fantasy football players to watch this season.

The last time he stayed healthy for an entire season, McCaffrey was a fantasy football star, racking up close to 2,500 all-purpose yards with 19 total touchdowns. That’s his ceiling heading into 2022 because the Panthers are going to lean on him as much as possible if he’s healthy. However, he’s an obvious risk given the injuries that have held him back over the past two years.

4. Cooper Kupp

It’s hard not to place Kooper among the top fantasy players in 2022 after what he did last year. While helping the Rams to a Super Bowl win, Cooper Kupp led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He was guaranteed to be a difference-maker in fantasy leagues just about every week.

To be fair, matching last year’s numbers will surely be difficult for him. But Kupp is a high-volume receiver who’s had over 90 catches in three straight seasons. He’s also among the trickiest receivers in the league to cover, so he’s going to get plenty of opportunities to catch the ball, keeping his fantasy value high.

3. Derrick Henry

Barring another injury, there’s no reason to think that Derrick Henry won’t be one of the best fantasy players this year. Even though he only played eight games last year, Henry still had 937 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Keep in mind that between 2019 and 2020, he rushed for over 3,500 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Those are the kinds of numbers he’s capable of putting up when healthy. Of course, from a fantasy perspective, Henry loses value because he’s not a big factor in the passing game. But his numbers as a runner and ability to find the end zone will make him a safe bet to do some damage in fantasy leagues this year.

2. Austin Ekeler

While Austin Ekeler isn’t among the top running backs in the league just yet, he’s likely to be among the best fantasy football players this year. Oddly enough, he’s yet to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

But Ekeler is also arguably the best running back in the league at catching passes, racking up nearly 1,000 yards in 2019 and over 600 receiving yards last season.

However, there are two things that make Ekeler stand out even more heading into 2022. First, last year was the first time he was a full-time starter, resulting in over 200 rushing attempts for the first time in his career. Second, he totaled 20 touchdowns last year, 12 rushing and eight receiving. It’s that combination that is likely to make him a fantasy star in 2022.

1. Jonathan Taylor

After the season he had last year, Jonathan Taylor is the foremost fantasy football players to target and will likely be the top overall pick in most fantasy drafts this year.

While he has just two seasons under his belt, Taylor has established himself as an elite back after leading the league in yards and rushing touchdowns last season.

He also had 40 catches for 360 receiving yards, both of which are totals that could improve this season.

The kicker is that Taylor is only 23, so there’s no reason to worry about him getting older or suffering the kind of muscle injury that older players can sometimes pick up. If anything, he’ll be even better than he was last year and the top overall fantasy player.