For many, the NFL Combine is the unofficial kick-off of the new dynasty season, a time when the declared rookies take the field in an attempt to raise their draft stock ahead of the NFL Draft in April.
For dynasty leaguers, there is no more enjoyable time than holding rookie draft picks with the attached anticipation of new players joining their rosters, perhaps completing the puzzle to winning the elusive dynasty championship. Whether last season was an unmitigated disaster or you secured a repeat title, the NFL Combine and NFL Draft are likely only behind your league’s rookie draft in anticipation and excitement. It’s something we all share.
You, the dynasty coach, know all too well just how important it is to ‘win’ your draft. In a game where a single player can make the difference between relevance and also-ran status, you can’t afford to leave your selection to a strategy of ‘dumb luck’ or a misinformed pick. At the very least, you need to understand each rookie’s value proposition within his class into your own team’s needs. Anything less and you might as well pull names out of a hat.
Those playing the dynasty format for any length of time understand the game has changed dramatically even over the past few years, let alone the last decade. Metrics, graphs, trends, new methods of ranking and ridiculously complex forms of analytics now have the ability to help you make more informed choices, or, for many, muddy the waters for your research. No single metric, ranking or set of analytics can guarantee success of your draft selections. To wit, NFL front offices swing and miss all too often and no group of individuals have more at stake or more experts at their disposal to maximize the success quotient of each selection. If the front office for your favorite team can’t maintain a high degree of success, how are home-gamers like you supposed to?
Tiers have obviously been around for a long time, though it seems some have cast aside their usage in favor of other draft and/or production-based metrics. That could be a big mistake. Every dynasty coach needs to understand how to tier each incoming rookie class toward determining the depth-of-class and selection value. It is through this understanding that you will be able to handicap your opportunity when holding rookie draft selections or in acquiring them. Sell out of known-production players to double-down into a weak draft and you may negatively impact your team for years to come. Skillfully leverage your roster depth and draft capital to move up or acquire additional selections into a strong draft and you seize the opportunity to be your league’s next dynasty team. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?
In short, rookie draft tiers make up the talent stratification of each year’s draft and understanding this stratification will help you to ascertain the wheelhouse and depth of each class and its potential.
The 2022 Dynasty Rookie Draft
From as far back as this time last year, there was already talk of the weakness of the 2022 draft class when compared to previous years. It was said the quarterbacks and tight ends were lackluster, running backs were thin and while receivers looked ‘okay,’ there wasn’t the big names to hang our hat on. Dynasty coaches were quick to sell out of the 2022 draft class. While I wasn’t selling out of my 2022 draft picks, I too was down on the class as a whole, at least when surveying the depth. Every year, the draft produces difference-making players, regardless of how we forecast the quality or depth ahead of time. Heading into the Combine, it seemed that our projections of this class were somewhat accurate.
But during the Combine, something started to take shape. The wide receiver class produced the fastest times on record and the running backs got a boost from some of the lower tier players. All dynasty players are all too aware about the late-round impact of running backs and how NFL teams continue to fade the position during the NFL Draft itself. Despite good size and fast 40 times, it looks as if day-one of the NFL Draft may come and go, again, without a running back going off the board. I say “again” because it has been a growing trend though, in 2021, we did see two backs (Najee Harris and Travis Etienne) selected at 24th and 25th overall. Few post-Combine mock drafts have a running back selected on day one. I have a sneaky suspicion we’ll have one selected in the bottom of the first round.
When the smoke cleared from the Combine, the buzz had returned. While still not a deep draft, and absent the tier one prospects we have seen in recent years, we do have some intriguing players and enough depth to carry the first round. I continue to project value in the back half of the dynasty first round, a key point for competitive teams holding late selections. There are going to be some nice upside players in the 1.08 – 1.12 range.
Excited yet? Tired of my rambling and just want me to get to the tiers and the players within? Let’s do just that.
1.01 Breece Hall, RB
In all reality, I could have easily listed no players in the first tier for 2022. But in reviewing Hall’s size, measurables, production and, finally, his official timed 40 (4.39), I believe he’s an elite prospect at the position displaying the most potential for volume-level three-down work. I do have minor concerns regarding his number of carries (718), total touches (800) and first-step acceleration, but not enough to downgrade his tier score. To be sure, I don’t see Hall as purely elite but just close enough to place him as a first-tier player
The line separating tiers two and three is small. Additionally, Garrett Wilson almost qualifies as a tier-one player, only needing additional collegiate production to make the leap. That said, he’s on the border in my book and the Ohio State system frequently reduces receiver production. Even once-top NFL receiver Michael Thomas produced a high of 799 yards in his sophomore season at OSU before compiling 781 yards in his junior season and declaring for the NFL Draft in 2016.
If not for injury and and sub-par early-collegiate production, Drake London may have made the jump to tier-one as well. Treylon Burks, arguably the best size-skill receiver in this year’s draft, is in the same boat as London. Burks’ pedestrian 40-time, agility visuals and good-not-great collegiate production, keep in in the second tier. As we saw with Ja’Marr Chase in 2021, I’m not unwilling to list a player as a tier-one prospect as long as there’s a combination of production, size, metrics, plus tangible skill-on-tape to provide a level of confidence for me to do so.
Kenneth Walker possesses the size, speed (4.38) and run-style to be a producer in the NFL but is on the border of tier-two and tier-three due to sub-par receiving production and a single year of significant production, though that single year was a very good one (263/1,636/18).
This tier is quality rich for the value. Isaiah Spiller and Jameson Williams are both on the border between this tier and tier-two though Spiller has been slipping of late. Jameson Williams’ ACL injury in the National Championship Game was a brutal blow and his single year of production knocks him down one peg. Finishing 2022 healthy or another year of plus-level production would have elevated him a full tier. Chris Olave and Jahan Dotson are fine upside prospects solidly in this tier while Pierre Strong’s size, speed (4.37), metrics and production can’t be ignored for the position. Strong’s lower level of competition is a concern but he projects well to the NFL and an additional 7-10 of muscle mass will pay dividends as a possible three-down back Strong reminds me of a slightly lighter version of Javonte Williams.
I like the upside potential of this tier. Pickens is a high-ceiling receiver who returned late in the season from an ACL. If he can remain healthy, he has the size (6’3″/195) and skill to be the most productive NFL receiver from this year’s rookie class. Small hands (8 3/4″) but his speed (4.47) is evident. Jerome Ford, David Bell and Zamir White all have upside as well though more dependent on situation, especially for the backs. Ford, specifically, has an NFL skill-set with underrated hands while Zamir White has ACL injury concerns and shared the backfield with intriguing tier-five back, James Cook. David Bell ran a disappointing 40 and profiles as a possessions receiver, but so did Cooper Kupp. I’ll be keeping an eye on these players’ draft situation. Pickens and Ford are most likely to get a tier upgrade based on drafted situation.
Players to watch in this tier are James Cook and Christian Watson. Both players helped themselves during the Combine and Watson has a very intriguing blend of size (6’4″/208) and speed (4.36). The Missouri Valley Football Conference receiver will come up against questions about competition, but there’s no denying his raw talent and physical measurables. Cook, on the other hand, shared the backfield with teammate Zamir White but helped himself immensely during the combine with good fluidity and speed (4.42). He’s a player in the mold of his brother Dalvin Cook as well as Alvin Kamara. I’d like to see another 10 lbs. of muscle mass added at the next level though his frame appears nearly maxed out. Brian Robinson didn’t have a great Combine but checked the boxes as a physical runner and his tape shows a determined and capable skill set which fits in the NFL. Malik Willis will be dynasty’s first quarterback off the board without much question due to an intriguing blend of arm strength and mobility, though he’s raw and will need time to develop.
2.08 Kyren Williams, RB
2.09 Rachaad White, RB
2.10 Kenny Pickett, QB
2.11 Trey McBride, TE
2.12 D’vonte Price, RB
3.01 John Metchie, WR
3.02 Dameon Pierce, RB
3.03 Desmond Ridder, QB
3.04 Kennedy Brooks, RB
3.05 Jalen Wydermyer, TE
The next two tiers round out the last half of round two and round three. Rachaad White continues to garner interest in a circle of dynasty owners. While he possesses size and a reasonable level of production, film study thus far has produced no real intrigue for me. I still have work to do but I’m not as high as others. But this tier does have some interesting players such as D’vonte Price, John Metchie and Kennedy Brooks. Brooks, specifically, has generated very little buzz even while producing 1,000 yards each season for the Sooners. Metchie is not entirely dissimilar to Jaylen Waddle in style and produced well (96/1,142/8) in his final season at Alabama. Pickett is slotted about right, if not a bit high, late in the second round of dynasty drafts. Generally speaking, however, the talent drop-off is clear as we reach the middle of the second round. Drafted situation is going to elevate many of these names while allowing more talented players to, potentially, drop.
Finishing off the tiers gets us to the end of the third round in dynasty rookie drafts. A lot of risk here as would be expected though Alec Pierce is intriguing and will fall in drafts. He measured in at 6’3″/211 pounds and was respectable in agility drills while running a 4.41. Size adjusted 40 followers should be screaming Pierce’s name from the rooftops. He made himself money with his Combine performance. Matt Corral and Sam Howell will have upside based on drafted situation, both having circles of support across the dynasty landscape. I don’t see either going off the board in dynasty drafts before the third round.
Overall, the 2022 received a nice upgrade as we exited the Combine. The fastest-on-record label for the receivers doesn’t hurt while the measurements for the group were slightly better than expected as well. The running back position does have quality at the the top but drops considerably after the third player. Similar to 2021, I see at least eight solid higher-tiered players within the first round. As always occurs, drafted situation will impact the depth here but there is enough excitement available should a coach possess one or more picks within that range.
Even when zooming out below 1.08, I see upside potential from 1.09 to 2.02, arguably 2.03, as I believe James Cook will rise in my rankings following another film review session. Depth beyond 1.08 helps competitive dynasty teams holding later first round picks. There’s enough quality talent in this class to hold those picks if desired.
As always rookie draft picks possess the most value just ahead of the actual NFL Rookie Draft. This year, however, given the lack of perceived value, I’m more inclined to hold selections until I near being on the clock. As a draft unfolds and ‘favorite players’ remain undrafted, draft picks begin to rise in value. I believe this could well be the case in the 1.07 – 2.03 range, and again as we near the end of the second round. Never be afraid to swap an unknown pick for a player with greater known production, especially as your draft enters rounds beyond the first.
Hope you enjoyed this look at my 2022 rookie tiers. There’s a lot of film review remaining and these tiers, and my rankings, are certain to be adjusted as we get closer to the NFL Draft. Stay tuned and be sure to leave me your comments below.
As always, be happy, be well and, please, be kind to each other!
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