A Quick Guide to Fantasy Football in 2022

Fantasy football has become incredibly popular over the last 20 years, in fact, the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association estimates around 50 million Americans will participate in fantasy football this year, which is over 15 percent of the country. With so many competitors, how can you get a leg up on competitors? Which players should you target and which players should you stay away from? Where should you draft a quarterback? A defense? Fear not fellow fantasy football player. Here are some strategies you can follow, that myself and others have used in previous years, keep in mind the scoring I am using and the 2021 numbers I am using are all ESPN’s standard PPR leagues.

Always get a running back in round one

This is one that is no secret, but is still something that cannot be stressed enough. Nothing can carry your fantasy team like a running back who can consistently get at least 15-20 points. Take a young rusher, who is in line to get the majority of their teams carries. Think players like Jonathan Taylor, Najee Harris, Nick Chubb, or Dalvin Cook. While it may be tempting to take a receiver such as Justin Jefferson, Cooper Kupp, or Jamar Chase, the positional advantage of a high profile running back is unmatched.

Don’t be afraid to take a tight end early

While on the subject of positional advantages, tight ends are one that quietly win leagues every year. The top three tight ends and their total point in 2021 were Mark Andrews (301.1), Travis Kelce (262.8), and Dalton Schultz (208.8). The difference in the top three was great enough, and it doesn’t even out until the eighth, ninth, and tenth scorers from 2021, Dallas Goedert (165.0), Mike Gesicki (165.0), and Hunter Henry (164.3). Only 13 tight ends scored more than 150 points, and with a range of 150 points from first to tenth in 2021, tight end can be an often forgotten, but incredibly important position when it comes to winning leagues. Getting a reliable tight end such as Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews, who averaged over 15 points per game each, can be a huge difference maker.

Wait on a quarterback

In 2021, Josh Allen led all quarterbacks, averaging 24.6 fantasy points per game. Ryan Tannehill was the 16th quarterback in average fantasy points, with 16.6 fantasy points per game. A difference of eight points per game. For comparison, the difference in other positions from the first to 16th ranked average scorers are as follows. Running back had a difference of 9.5 points, wide receiver had a difference of 10.5, and tight end had a difference of eight points. While it is close, it is still tied for the smallest difference, and more important, you only need one quarterback. At a minimum a lineup will need two running backs and two wide receivers, it’s always better to focus on finding a reliable one-two punch at rusher and receiver, instead of drafting a quarterback who will only score a half of a point a game more than a player drafted five rounds later. While some may take the bait and draft Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes in the first five rounds, it will pay dividends to use those first five rounds to draft some combination of running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.

Target #2 receivers

This is a strategy I developed myself. In 2017 and 2018, Juju Smith-Schuster was able to be the 22nd and 8th ranked fantasy receiver while working across from Antonio Brown. In 2018, 2019, and 2020, Calvin Ridley was the 22nd, 27th, and 5th ranked receiver while Julio Jones was his teammate in Atlanta. In 2021, Mike Williams was the 12th ranked receiver, despite Keenan Allen also being on the Chargers. Number two receivers on the team are excellent sleeper picks. Most of the high quality number two receivers will still be available in the 60s or 70s. Jaylen Waddle was ranked 13th in 2021, will be across from Tyreek Hill in the Dolphins offense, and is currently ranked 35th overall and the 17th receiver. Hunter Renfrow was 10th in receiver points in 2021, will be opposite Davante Adams in 2022, and is ranked 74 by ESPN overall and the 31st receiver. Devonta Smith is currently the 37th receiver, the 80th player overall, and will being playing the number two receiver role opposite A.J. Brown, and was the 30th highest scoring receiver in 2021. No matter if it’s caused by seeing less double teams, seeing number two corners more often, or just not being as big of an emphasis for opposing teams, number two receivers have quietly been winning leagues for years without generating much buzz.

Remember it is a new season

While in years past we have seen Jonathan Taylor, Derrick Henry, Cooper Kupp, Saquon Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliott all be able to rise to fame, in part for their ability to burst onto the NFL scene and win fantasy leagues, potentially without being a first round pick. While ESPN, NFL, or even Yahoo may come out with their own rankings. Don’t be afraid to follow your gut and trust your eyes. Don’t be afraid to break the mold, and never feel like your forced to take a player just because of where you are drafting. The Bengals decided to take Jamar Chase fifth overall in the 2021 NFL draft when the world told them Penei Sewell would be much better for them, and while their are other factors in play, Jamar Chase and the Bengals were the Super Bowl runner ups in the 2021 season, while Penei Sewell and the Lions were runner ups for the first overall pick in the 2022 draft. While fantasy drafts are no NFL drafts, it’s no exact science, and a little research can go a long way. Just remember to have fun with your team and make it your own.

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