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Fantasy Football

Michael F. Florio's 2022 fantasy football: Draft strategy 

One of the great things about fantasy football is that the player pool is different every year, so strategies can always be tweaked.

There are usually gradual shifts every couple of seasons.

There's been periods where its worth taking a receiver in the first and others where it was best to load up early on running backs.

But this offseason the entire league was flipped on its head!

We saw players and coaches changing teams at a rate never seen before. But the craziest offseason creates many possible strategies in fantasy football. Having already completed more drafts than I want to admit, I have crafted my 2022 fantasy football strategy. Here is how I will be attacking my drafts this year.

The first round is the most important round in the draft.

They say you can't win your draft in the first round but tell that to those who got Jonathan Taylor last year. And speaking of JT, he is the player that I would select first overall. Taylor is about as safe as a running back can be. Plus, there is a chance he can catch more passes this season with Matt Ryan, who loves the dump-off as much as any quarterback. It may seem risky to some, but I would take Christian McCaffrey second overall. I am even fine taking him first if you wanted. McCaffrey has missed time due to injuries, but none were major injuries that would have long-lasting effects. Instead, they were common RB injuries. The last time CMC stayed healthy for a full season he had the second-greatest fantasy season ever and still possesses similar upside. Third is where I would start thinking about a wide receiver or Austin Ekeler.

Justin Jefferson, Cooper Kupp and Ja'Marr Chase would be the other players to make up the first six picks of a draft for me (in that order). The second half of the first round for me would look like this: Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, Joe Mixon and Saquon Barkley. Many would push Najee Harris ahead of Barkley, which is fine. CeeDee Lamb can also be thrown into that late first-round mix. I prefer taking a receiver in the first, because you are able to find great running back value in Round 2.

The best values in Round 2 are the running backs with names like Barkley, Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones, Alvin Kamara, D'Andre Swift and Nick Chubb. You are also able to find backs like James Conner, Travis Etienne, Breece Hall and Ezekiel Elliott in the third or fourth rounds. Being able to find RB value like that after the first round is just more of a reason to grab one of the elite wideouts in the first round. I am a huge fan of grabbing Kyle Pitts as my tight end in the third round, as he likely does not make it past that. If you decide to target receivers in those rounds (two through four) some names to like are Deebo Samuel, Mike Evans, Michael Pittman, Mike Williams, Allen Robinson and Marquise Brown.

If you start WR-RB-Pitts, that fourth-round pick is an important one. I tend to like to grab a receiver there, but if an Etienne or Hall fall I will take them. Target any of the receivers listed about in the fourth round. After those running backs named go off the board, we enter what has been dubbed the "RB dead zone." This is a period where fantasy players tend to pull up risky RBs due to scarcity. I include Cam Akers and J.K. Dobbins in that bunch, but there is enough upside to justify drafting them. But Antonio Gibson, Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris are starters that have to fall well past ADP for me to justify drafting. While others are taking those backs, I will be targeting receivers. After that, the majority of rest of the draft is spent loading up on receivers and running backs.

However, you still need to address the other positions, you just do not need to use nearly as many picks to do so. The quarterback position in fantasy is so deep that it is a disservice to draft one early in leagues that you only start one. It's why I hardly end up with Josh Allen, Justin Herbert or Patrick Mahomes on many teams. But then there is a secondary tier, where the QBs have the same elite upside, but go later. That group includes Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts and Kyler Murray. If those QBs are available in the sixth round, I will draft them. If not, I will wait even longer. I like taking Trey Lance in the eighth round, since his upside is sky high, and the position is deep enough to get a strong backup like Derek Carr or Kirk Cousins in the double-digit rounds (and Ryan even later than that). But if Lance is too volatile for you, there is a surplus of proven QB1s you can get in that range. They include Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. If you end up with one of those QBs, I like pairing them with an upside QB2. My personal favorite is Tua Tagovailoa, but others I like include Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Daniel Jones.

When it comes to tight end, if I miss out on Pitts, I tend to wait until we get close to the double-digit rounds to take one. My favorite target in that range is Cole Kmet, but others I like include Irv Smith and Albert Okwuegbunam. If you can grab two of them, you should, just to increase your chances at finding a breakout tight end. If you only grab one, backup tight ends I like in the later rounds include Gerald Everett, Evan Engram and David Njoku. However, if you do not want to wait that long on tight ends, Dalton Schultz and Zach Ertz are two names to target in the middle rounds.

The one thing you should always prioritize in your drafts is upside (so players like Drake London and Kadarius Toney). That is never truer than when you get into the double-digit rounds when you are filling out your bench. Swing for the fences in those rounds! Often the players that you drop for those early season waiver-wire pickups are the players you drafted in the later rounds. So, if there is already a high chance a player will be cut, why not at least use that spot to see if you can hit a home run. Those safe floor players are also harder to drop, since they do just enough to hold on to. Which means you could be missing out on a great waiver-wire pickup to hold a player that you don't ideally want to start anyway. Those spots are best suited for trying to find a gem that can change the landscape of your teams.

Some RBs I like in the double-digit rounds: Michael Carter, Nyheim Hines, Isaiah Spiller, Darrell Henderson, Kenneth Gainwell, Isiah Pacheco, Raheem Mostert and D'Ernest Johnson.

Some WRs I like in the double-digit rounds: George Pickens, Chris Olave, Julio Jones, Skyy Moore, Isaiah McKenzie, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalen Tolbert, Jahan Dotson, Nico Collins.

There may be a temptation to take one of the top-ranked kickers or defenses, but you should not do so. You should wait until the last two rounds to address those positions. There is a lot of randomness with kickers, so I tend to take one tied to a good offense. Defenses you can stream week to week and try to find struggling offenses to target. That means you can draft a defense solely based on the Week 1 matchups. Some to target include Eagles (vs DET), 49ers (vs CHI), Colts (vs HOU), Ravens (vs NYJ), Commanders (vs JAX), Titans (vs NYG), Broncos (vs SEA), Bengals (vs PIT) and Browns (vs CAR).

The last piece of draft advice I would give is that with there being more changes and unknowns than ever, it could be a good idea to avoid as much unknown as possible. So, if you are debating between two players and one is on a new team or has a new play-caller or QB, and the other is in the same situation as last year, going with the proven situation could be beneficial.

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter and Instagram.

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