Fantasy Football 2022: 8 Must-Have Draft Targets, Including Brandin Cooks, Allen Robinson, More
Getty Images. Pictured: Brandin Cooks
Sure, everyone wants Justin Jefferson or Jonathan Taylor on their team, but some of the most impactful value can found once the dust settles after the first few rounds. Leagues can be won by identifying undervalued players in the latter portion of drafts, when you can capitalize on misguided public perceptions.
Here are nine players I am always targeting based on their average draft positions in half-PPR scoring, according to FantasyPros.
1. Derek Carr, QB14
Carr has been one of my favorite targets to draft all offseason as an oft-underrated player and one of the big winners of the free-agency frenzy.
The 31-year-old is coming off of his most prolific passing season in which he threw for 4,804 yards — the fifth-most in 2021. Carr now has a fearsome pass-catching corps led by two-time First-Team All-Pro Davante Adams (with whom he played at Fresno State), Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller.
In spite of copious distractions, including the midseason loss of star receiver Henry Ruggs III, Carr finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback. It was his fourth consecutive 4,000-passing yard season. I am a big proponent of waiting at this super deep position, and his ADP of QB14 feels more like his absolute floor.
2. Brandin Cooks, WR22
Cooks has a number of things in his favor heading into the 2022 season. The 28-year-old is coming off of his sixth 1,000-yard season in eight seasons and a strong WR16 finish in half-PPR scoring as Houston's top target. It's an even more impressive feat considering how underwhelming the Texans' offense was projected to be.
For a brief time, it appeared that Cooks would face more competition with the addition of 2022 second-round pick, John Metchie III. Unfortunately, Metchie was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and is unlikely to play at all this season, making Cooks, once again, the heir-apparent for the No. 1 spot.
Cooks has enjoyed good health in his NFL career, missing just four games since his rookie season. He is a high-floor, blue-chip player with top-12 upside in a not-so-sexy offense. His ADP of WR22 feels excessively low for any team's top option.
3. Allen Robinson, WR24
There’s no sugar coating how horrendous Robinson was last year. After posting back-to-back WR10 finishes with the Bears, the 2014 second-round pick caught just 38 passes for 410 yards and one touchdown, coming in at WR88.
This year, Robinson finds himself in an upgraded situation after signing with the Rams. The move should be a significant boost after spending the first eight seasons of his career catching passes from suboptimal quarterbacks in Jacksonville and Chicago. Robinson won’t be the WR1 in this offense, as that distinction belongs to Cooper Kupp, though that may not be a bad thing, especially at this stage of Robinson’s career. The 29-year-old will not draw elite coverage, but he should still see a steady volume of targets.
Robinson's dreadful 2021 makes him an excellent buy-low target this year. Many in the fantasy community — myself included — were burned by him last season, but I am expecting a huge bounce-back campaign in 2022. Robinson's ADP is WR24, which admittedly has risen of late, but still offers value and room for significant return on investment.
4. Robert Woods, WR42
Woods could be one of the biggest steals of this draft season. Once a fantasy darling, the former Rams wideout has fallen out of favor due to his injury history. Woods, entering his age-30 season, is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in November. Prior to that, Woods had posted two top-12 finishes in the last three seasons, and three straight top-20 finishes at the position.
Any pass catcher’s stock would take a hit going from Matthew Stafford to Ryan Tannehill, though Woods does get the benefit of a clear path to targets on the Titans. His primary competition was projected to be rookie Treylon Burks, who was drafted by Tennessee following the A.J. Brown to the Eagles. Burks drew immediate hype based on his landing spot and attractive build, but preseason reports suggest that he may not be progressing on schedule and is not taking reps with the first team.
I try to not overreact to training camp reports like these (remember how Ja’Marr Chase allegedly couldn’t catch last summer?), though it is tempting. Setting the scuttlebutt aside, it seems fair to say that the Titans’ WR1 spot remains very much up for grabs. Woods still offers great value at cost with an ADP of WR42. His value will only increase if the concerns surrounding Burks actually ring true.
5. Damien Harris, RB25
The fantasy community has been head-over-heels of late for second-year running back Rhamondre Stevenson, especially after the retirement of James White. But when others zig with Stevenson, you can zag with Harris.
The fourth-year running back from Alabama is fresh off a banner season in which he tallied 230 touches for 1,061 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns; he finished as the RB13 in half-PPR scoring. Harris is often overlooked in fantasy because he is a Patriots running back. Also, with many leagues moving to some variant of PPR scoring, his usage in the passing game has been nearly nonexistent. While it is true that head coach Bill Belichick has given me serious trust issues over the years, it is clear to me that Harris has a major role to play in this offense. His ADP of RB25 seems excessively low for a high-floor back who possesses top-12 upside.
6. Rashaad Penny, RB31
It's natural to gravitate toward the new, shiny thing each year, as fantasy managers can be impressively quick to forget the heroes of seasons' past.
Penny was pure waiver-wire gold and a league-winner for many last year, finishing the season as the RB1 in half-PPR from Week 12 onward. His end-of-season push was impressive and he tallied 119 attempts for 749 yards over ten games — 671 of which came in the final five contests.
Seattle's offense will probably have to lean on the run frequently with an erratic Drew Lock at the helm — a dynamic we saw in Denver last year with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. I expect Penny will maintain a major role in this offense, especially with Chris Carson retiring and the possibility of Kenneth Walker's hernia issues persisting. Even with a healthy Walker, I anticipate the rookie will take on more of the passing-down work while Penny remains the go-to, three-down guy, at least to start the year. Walker is the sexy, high-risk pick with an ADP of RB36. Personally, I prefer Penny at cost (ADP: RB31) as the safer, proven option with a high ceiling.
7. James Robinson, RB44
People have been writing Robinson off for three seasons — but you shouldn't.
It’s understandable why Robinson, 23, is an afterthought on the heels of a torn Achilles in December and the return of Travis Etienne. The former undrafted free agent burst onto the scene in 2020 and finished as the RB4 in half PPR. He was once again thrown into the spotlight after first-round pick Etienne suffered a Lisfranc injury during last year's preseason. In spite of an injury-shortened 2021 season, Robinson still ended up as the RB23 with 14 games played and just shy of 1,000 scrimmage yards.
Robinson shockingly avoided the PUP list and is on track to be ready Week 1. I anticipate this becomes some kind of committee (as opposed to a full workload for Etienne), which gives Robinson more of a path to touches than previously expected. Why take Etienne at cost (ADP: RB21) when you can get Robinson five or six rounds later at RB44?
8. Hunter Henry, TE19
Henry could sneakily be one of most valuable late-round picks this year.
The 27-year-old joined the Patriots during their free agency frenzy in 2021 and quickly built a rapport with quarterback Mac Jones. He appeared in all 17 games and tallied 50 catches for 603 yards and nine touchdowns — good enough for a TE9 finish in half PPR. It was Henry’s fourth top-12 finish in fantasy in his six-year NFL career, a trend I expect to continue given New England's shallow pass-catching depth chart.
Henry is not as flashy as some of his other tight end counterparts and draws some criticism for being touchdown-dependent. He is an excellent Best Ball target and a solid overall sleeper with a dirt-cheap ADP in half PPR of TE19, which feels far too low for a player who could easily finish inside the top 10.