Fantasy Football

7 NFL Rookies You Should Know in 2022

Kenny Pickett

2022 NFL Rookies You Should Know

The 2022 NFL Draft is over. The rookies are in their locations and knowing who is where is half the battle for rostering a winning fantasy football team.  So here are seven rookies you should know this season.

Kenny Pickett

Quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes, he has to beat out Mason Rudolph and Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job…sort of. Pickett was drafted in the first round as the 20th overall pick.

The Steelers’ offensive coordinator Matt Canada recruited Pickett to the University of Pittsburgh, so familiarity is already there.

For Pickett to start under center he will have to beat out Trubisky.

First head coach Mike Tomlin expressed the need for Steelers to have a mobile quarterback.  Combined with Canada’s offensive philosophy depends on a quarterback who can successfully execute the RPO (run pass option) and play-action.

Trubisky has demonstrated an innate inability to create big plays.  He does escape the pocket but struggles to keep his eyes downfield and execute the “big plays”.

One of Pickett’s strengths is rolling out of the pocket and throwing on the run.  He doesn’t have an elite arm, but it is good enough to get his throws down the field consistently.

Per Andrew Wilbar, “Pickett is a very solid quarterback who has a decent arm and sneaky good athleticism…he does not have an incredibly high ceiling as a pro.  The biggest issue especially for teams that play in cold weather, will be his incredibly small hands.  Pickett participated in the 2022 Senior Bowl, but he struggled badly in practices when it was raining.  There is no doubt that he lost his accuracy and struggled to push the ball downfield when the weather got rough.”

This is the narrative of Pickett after the 2022 NFL Combine measurement section, his hands are too small.

However, we should remember Pickett played in Pittsburgh (where the weather is often unhospitable) and in 2021 amassed 4319 yards on 334 completions, and 497 attempts for a 67.2% completion percentage.  He averaged 8.7 yards per attempt and had 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Sports Betting in the USA has gained a ton of popularity, but it’s also allowed the fans to have even more insight on the NFL season as a whole. We now can see what sportsbooks think of players, teams, and future bets to help us make decisions in all aspects.

ODDS FOR OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

  • Kenny Pickett +500
  • Drake London +650
  • Treylon Burks +750

Pickett will be playing behind Pro Football Focus’ 26th ranked offensive line (ranked at end of the 2021 season).  Although the offensive line ranked 17th in pass blocking and sixth in pressures allowed (142), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger released the ball on an average of 2.20 seconds, which hid some of the blemishes the line had.

The good news is that Pickett will have weapons: wide receivers Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and George Pickens; tight end Pat Freiermuth; and running back Najee Harris.

Jelani Woods

Tight End, Indianapolis Colts

Woods is 6’7” and 251 pounds.  He has an 82-inch wingspan and has landed in an optimal place.  He is in an offense that looks for an athletic tight end that can stretch the field and put pressure on the defense.

Woods started his collegiate career as a quarterback recruited by Oklahoma State.  In 2017, during his redshirt season, he played like Mark Andrews on the practice team to prepare his team.  After witnessing that the coaches asked if he would mind moving from quarterback to tight end.  Woods agreed.

In 2018 his first season as a tight end, Woods started seven of 11 games and finished the season with seven receptions, 120 yards, and two touchdowns. In the 2019 season, he started 12 games and played in 13.  He finished with 112 yards on 16 receptions and one touchdown. In his last season at Oklahoma State, 2020, Woods played in 10 games and started nine. He again had one touchdown.

Woods transferred to Virginia in 2021.  There in his last season, he played in 11 games starting 10.  His stat line 44 receptions, 598 yards, and eight touchdowns.

This is all good.

Per Sports Illustrated,

“Woods is the type of rare athlete at tight end that would thrive in Frank Reich’s offense.  His size and explosion make him a threat down the field and a mismatch for any linebacker or safety that tries to cover him.  Reich would certainly place him in spots to take advantage of his size and catch radius in the red zone.  While his blocking technique is a legitimate concern, he could be the type of “F” tight end that gives the Colts a massive weapon in the pass game.”

Skyy Moore

Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs

Moore is currently nursing a hamstring injury that has limited him in rookie minicamp.

Tyreek Hill is out in Kansas City.  Statistically speaking that is 159 targets up for grab.

According to head coach (and offensive play-caller) Andy Reid,

“…the thing I liked in college was that he was strong, physically strong.  The things they did with him, he is very good at, so whether it was the short intermediate game there’s the long game.  He could do it all.  He has good speed.  He’s got good hands, huge hands, 10-plus, and long arms.  But he’s strong.”

In Moore’s 2021 season, he had 262 yards after contact (tied for ninth in the FBS) and forced 26 missed tackles on receptions (tied for most in the FBS).

Monitor the hamstring issue but this is good. Moore landed with the pass first Chiefs, who passed on 62.36% of their plays last season (sixth-best) with 39.9 average pass attempts per game (second-best).

The Chiefs’ have ranked in the top five in passing yards and passing touchdowns during the reign of Eric Bienemy as offensive coordinator.

This is good.

James Cook

Running Back, Buffalo

Cook was drafted in Buffalo, not necessarily for his running skills but for his receiving prowess, he is the most talented pass-catching running back in the 2022 rookie class.

Cook finished the 2021 season with 27 receptions, 284 receiving yards, four touchdowns averaging 10.52 yards per reception.  He averaged 10 yards after catch per reception.

Last season the Bills were 32nd in yards after catch per reception (4.28).

GM Brandon Beane, “This was a guy that really stood out to us with the ball in his hands.  You can split him out, he can run routes similar to a receiver obviously, he is a good guy to hand the ball to in the backfield.”

Cook who had 27 receptions without a drop in 2021, doesn’t lack the confidence. “I can do it all.  I can play in the slot.  I can play out wide.  I can run between the tackles…I’m versatile.”

When flying high on the potential of Cook, remember, as Scott Rinear @MunderDifflinFF pulls up the statistics, the Bills on average have been a bottom three team in targeting running backs with 14.3%. The highest has been New Orleans Saints at 25.9%.

Breece Hall

Running Back, New York Jets

Last season the Jets’ running backs combined for 15 drops, the most of any running back unit in the NFL.  Ty Johnson led all NFL running backs with nine drops, while Michael Carter tied for sixth with five drops. (Per PFF)

Hall had a drop rate of 3.3% from 2020-2021.

In 2021, the Jets’ running backs allowed 15 pressures tying the second-most among running back units.  Four of the 15 pressures resulted in sacks (tying for the second-most among NFL running backs).  Johnson tied for fifth with eight pressures allowed while Carter tied for 17thwith five.  Unfortunately, three of Carter’s five ended up in sacks, tying him for the most sacks allowed by a running back.

In 2021, Hall allowed a pressure rate of 5.7% when the FBS average was 8.1%.

The 2021 running backs for the Jets combined for 14 rushes of 15+ yards, 16th among running back units.  The Jets have not had a player record a rush of 70+ yards since 2019.

Hall had six rushes of 70+ yards over the last three season with three coming in the 2021 season.  He also had four rushes in 2021 for 50+ yards.

According to Next Gen Stats Hall rates as one of the analytically clean prospects in this year’s class.  He is ranked as the number one “can’t miss” prospect. Given what the Jets running backs did (or did not do) last season and what Hall can do it is hard to argue with that.

ODDS to WIN 2022 OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Player Position Team Odds to win 2022 NFL OROY
Kenny Pickett QB Steelers +500
Drake London WR Falcons +750
Treylon Burks WR Titans +750
Christian Watson WR Packers +800
Breece Hall RB Jets +900
Garret Wilson WR Jets +1000
Chris Olave WR Saints +1000
Skyy Moore WR Chiefs +1000
Kenneth Walker III RB Seahawks +1200
Jameson Williams WR Lions +1200
Desmond Ridder QB Falcons +1400
James Cook RB Bills +1500
Malik Willis QB Titans +1600
Jahan Dotson WR Washington +1800
Matt Corral QB Panthers +1800

 

Chris Olave

Wide Receiver, New Orleans Saints

With Jameis Winston under center and hoping that the new Saints brain trust don’t real him in too much, Olave may have landed feet on the ground and moving.

Here it is, Olave isn’t great in run after catch, and he has only average hand strength and as reported by draft analyses isn’t the best run blocker.

He does however possess straight-line speed that can stretch the field vertically.

Winston isn’t afraid to chuck the ball.  He had 22 deep ball attempts and 8.3 air yards per attempt.  The biggest concern, however, is that his deep ball completion percentage is a shaky 27.3% (compared to Josh Allen’s 42.5%).

Olave is a boom or bust candidate.

Isaiah Spiller

Running Back, Los Angeles Chargers

Spiller is one of the more divisive rookies in fantasy football land.  It appears the two camps are divided between those that cling to his collegiate work and those who are stat heads and are disappointed in his measurables.

It is true in measurables Spiller did miserably. After sitting out the 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine, Spiller ran a disappointing 4.63 in the 40 at Texas A&M’s Pro Day.  He was placed in the 20th percentile in his 40 and the 24th percentile in his burst scores.  All below the 30th percentile mark. (Per Fantasypros.com)

Spiller played in 12 games in 2021, he had 179 rushing attempts, 1011 rushing yards, 33 targets, 29 receptions, 189 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns.

He lost some touches (went from 188 in 2020 to 179 in 2021, yards from 1036 to 1011, and touchdowns from nine to seven) due to the emergence of speed demon Devon Achane at Texas A&M.

Still in the past two seasons, per PFF Spiller has 100 forced missed tackles and 5.5 yards per carry in his career.

Whatever side you fall on Spiller landing with the Los Angeles Chargers is a win.

If you are a dynasty nerd, Spiller could be your man.  Austin Ekeler is an unrestricted free agent in 2024.  Ekeler has also fallen to ankle sprains, concussion, quad strain, hamstring strain, and knee hyperextension.

Spiller could also have value in redraft.  The Chargers were second in red zone scoring attempts per game last season.  Look for Spiller to vulture some of the goal line carries and short-yardage attempts.  Last season Ekeler finished with 62.4% of the Chargers’ rushing share and 15.1% of their targets.  It would make sense to take some of the load off Ekeler’s back.  Think of Chargers with Melvin Gordon but Spiller playing the Gordon role.

Dan Brugler of The Athletic, “He is an average athlete, and his pass protection must continue to improve, but his ability as a pass-catcher alone should keep him playing on Sundays for a long time.  Overall, Spiller needs to be more consistent with his pad level and blocking, but he has outstanding footwork, patience and vision and ties it all together to maximize carry.  He has all the tools to develop into a three-down starter.”

This year’s rookie class does not dominate in fantasy football value unless you are playing IDP.  But there is not a lack of talent on the offensive side.  When drafting in both your redraft and dynasty leagues, look beyond the measurables and see what the landing situation is giving each rookie or is taking away.

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