Hansen's Underdog Fantasy Best Ball Draft Plan

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Hansen's Underdog Fantasy Best Ball Draft Plan

The most basic difference between drafting in a Best Ball league and a typical season-long redraft league is the inclination to focus more on ceiling and upside, given the nature of the scoring format. The best ball format makes it a lot easier to stomach volatility, as long as a player’s highs are high, so a rollercoaster guy like Marquez Valdez-Scantling is a little more appealing.

But I’m surprised more BB drafters don’t take an aggressive approach with the rookies. They can also be volatile, but due to element of the unknown, the rookies are very capable of returning a league-winning ROI, like Amon-Ra St. Brown, whose 90 receptions were by far the most all-time by a fourth-round (or later) rookie receiver (Marques Colston previously held that record with 70 receptions). ARSB was one of my favorite deep sleepers in 2021, but while a lot of things worked in his favor, I certainly wasn’t expecting him to produce like he did, and that speak to what I call “the sexiness of the unknown.” I tend to be a little overly-enamored with that sexiness but it often works out, since I know which players to take. For example, in one spring BB draft against savvy listeners to my SiriusXM radio show, in Round 11, while others were making terrible picks like Evan Engram, Jamison Crowder, and Chuba Hubbard, I grabbed the eventual WR12 in scoring as the WR54 in Jaylen Waddle.

But we’re almost a month past the NFL Draft, and I’ve done a fair number of Best Ball drafts so far this year and have a good lay of the land. I’ve already popped out a lot of the players I like this year as value picks, so let me break things down by outlining my plan of action at each position. I don’t see my plan changing much at the top as the summer progresses, but there will be additions and subtractions to these lists all the way up until Week 1.

The Quarterback Plan

More so than any other season I can recall, I am just not into the top QBs this year.

I have not been averse to taking a QB early in any draft the last couple of years, and I think the savvy players have been scooping up the elite options earlier than many realize the last couple of seasons. That said, I’m usually looking to wait a little on my QB in Best Ball, and Josh Allen’s been a great target four years running. But now his price is up to 25.2 overall, and he lost OC Brian Daboll, who’s been instrumental in Allen’s development. We have Patrick Mahomes (KC, 38.3) in a transitioning Chiefs offense with a lot of new parts, and Lamar Jackson (Bal, 45.2) doesn’t look very appealing when you consider his cost (which remains high), his injury issues last year, and how the Ravens offense is devolving back to a major run focus (maybe that’s a good thing, honestly?). I may consider Justin Herbert (LAC, 46.8), but I prefer the cheaper version of Herbert, who I will get to in a minute. I’m also not into Kyler Murray (Ari, 59.5), Tom Brady (TB, 73), Russell Wilson (Den, 76), Dak Prescott (Dal, 82), and Matthew Stafford (LAR, 88) and their price points.

My ideal plan at QB this year is to not take one until at least 60-65 overall, and my top-two option are:

  • Joe Burrow (Cin, 64.8) — I’ve taken him in the 65-70 range on underdog, usually when I’m on the hook and slightly concerned I’ll miss out on a QB run if I don’t take one. He’s my favorite pricey QB, for sure, but he’s also still a cheaper version of Herbert, which I like. I’m not going to overthink Burrow. I said the guy was the next Tom Brady before he took a snap in the NFL, and he’s proven to be one of the best young QBs in league history and hasn’t yet had his best season.

  • Jalen Hurts (Phi, 65.3) — If he can improve from the pocket, the Eagles will throw a lot more this year and they now have a strong group of receivers along with their excellent OL. Hurts is pricey but I can’t argue with paying for his upside even though there is more downside with Hurts than most top-15 options. It’s possible he struggles and is pulled, but I doubt that would happen early in the season.

Burrow and Hurts are really my number two and three guys at QB this year because my real guy is sitting with an ADP in the triple digits (although he is getting pricier here in the late spring):

  • Derek Carr (LV, 107) — I view him as a value no matter what the overall ADP is because he is consistently taken as only the 12th-15th QB off the board, yet I have him as the QB11 in our season projections. I could argue he should be as high as QB8-9. Carr is the lowest-rated guy I want to roll with as my QB1.

I’ve been using Deshaun Watson (Cle, 106) as my backup plan if someone snipes Carr from me (usually because I got greedy), but that plan seems less appealing after I talked to my guy Adam Schefter earlier in the month and he pointed out how the league met with Watson three straight days (and maybe four or five). Adam thought that was a bad sign, and I wholeheartedly agreed, so I bumped Watson down. We should get full clarity on Watson soon, so we’ll see.

As for my QB2, I can be flexible this year in that I’m okay with getting a higher-end backup like Trey Lance (SF, 101), Kirk Cousins (Min, 121), or Tua Tagovailoa (Mia, 129). Lance’s ADP is quite high on Underdog, but I’d guess there’s a good chance he’s available (for now) at 115-120 overall, which isn’t bad considering Lance’s upside.

With his price down, I’m okay with Justin Fields (Chi, 132.5), but Trevor Lawrence (Jax, 146) is a slightly better value, and I do find myself targeting Lawrence as my QB2. If I end up waiting longer on my QB2, then I’ll pick and choose depending on my goals. If I want some upside, I’ll try out Zach Wilson (NYJ, 152), Daniel Jones (NYG, 173), and Mac Jones (NE, 183). Or, if I prefer stability, I could go with a boring veteran like Matt Ryan (Ind, 158), Jameis Winston (NO, 160), or Ryan Tannehill (Ten, 172).

Finally, if I opt for a QB3, once again, I’ll have upside targets ready like Marcus Mariota (Atl, 208) and Kenny Pickett (Pit, 209) and less-exciting options like Jared Goff (Det, 189), Carson Wentz (Was, 195), and Davis Mills (Hou, 203).

Some other players who might see a rise in value and upside depending on how things go for them this summer are Drew Lock (Sea, 214), Desmond Ridder (Atl, 215), Matt Corral (Car, 215), Jimmy Garoppolo (SF, 215), and Baker Mayfield (Cle, 216).

For now, as of late-May, here’s a ranking of my favorite QB picks based on ADP.

  1. Derek Carr (LV, 107.3)
  2. Joe Burrow (Cin, 64.8)
  3. Jalen Hurts (Phi, 65.3)
  4. Trevor Lawrence (Jax, 146)
  5. Justin Fields (Chi, 132.5)
  6. Trey Lance (SF, 101.1)
  7. Tua Tagovailoa (Mia, 129)
  8. Mac Jones (NE, 183)
  9. Daniel Jones (NYG, 173)
  10. Zach Wilson (NYJ, 152)
  11. Marcus Mariota (Atl, 208)
  12. Kenny Pickett (Pit, 209)

The Running Back Plan

There’s a growing trend among high-stakes and savvy Best Ball players who plan on snagging one elite RB to anchor their corps of backs, and they also attack WR/TE early, so they end up taking a RB with one of their first picks, but only one RB through the first 5-6 rounds (or more). I don’t have a problem with the approach, but I wouldn’t want it to limit my ability to go BPA early in drafts, which I like to do. For example, if I took Christian McCaffrey in Round 1 as my anchor back, I may pass on Javonte Williams in Round 2 in favor of a Tier 1 WR, even though I’d probably believe that Javonte was the Best Player Available (BPA), all things being equal.

Basically, my RB plan will be dictated by my ability to get one of the few truly elite options at WR, what I call “The Magnificent Seven.” While there is some very solid depth at the position, I see only seven truly elite options whom I feel great about as a “hammer” WR1 (Jefferson, Kupp, Chase, Deebo, Lamb). If I get a crack at one of those players in the second round, I’m taking him for sure. Or, if I don’t think I will get a crack at one of them, I might take the WR in the first, and I’m willing to take Jefferson (my #1 WR) as high at #2 overall.

The RB plan is also more flexible this year because people are shying away from the backs a little in 2022, so there’s more quality 50+ picks into a draft. Still, while I’m not in my usual rush to add RB talent this year, it’s still a big priority.

The position is a little weird this year in that there are several very high-end players I’m leery on at cost, such as Christian McCaffrey (3.2) and Derrick Henry (6), and I’m still skeptical about Austin Ekeler (6.7) despite his awesome year last season. So excluding future Hall of Famer Jonathan Taylor, there are three other RBs I’m actively targeting in Round 1:

  • Najee Harris (8) — He just turned 24 and had 385 touches last year, and the offense should be ascending with a pair of young, athletic QBs in the mix. Why he isn’t going higher I’ll never know. I’m not that worried about his increase in weight because it’s only five pounds heavier than when he reported to camp last summer at 240 pounds.

  • Dalvin Cook (10.8) — It’s all about the true bellcow with versatility at RB, and there are only a handful of them. Cook’s one of the best when healthy, and the Vikings OL is on the rise. Alexander Mattison is an affordable insurance policy and a must-have considering some type of discipline could still come down from the league (although I’m told there’s nothing imminent).

  • Joe Mixon (11.8) — He’s just as good as Dalvin, and he’s in a better offense, but his usage isn’t quite as good. But he’s still a league-winning type who’ll be running behind a seriously-upgraded OL.

Luckily for me, since I’m so into Najee this year, there’s a much better than 50% chance that I’ll get a crack at him, since he should be available if I land a top-7 or 8 pick. If I’m outside of the top-8 and Harris is off the board, I’m probably going with either Cook or Mixon to get that anchor at RB, and also since I should still get a crack at one of the Magnificent Seven WRs. I do see a slight chance that I’ll miss out on one of my top-7 WRs if I had pick 9-11 and went RB in Round 1, since I’ve seen CeeDee Lamb (the last of the Magnificent Seven) go off the board in the first.

If I did get hosed and missed out on one of my top-7 WRs, I’m probably going back to RB because the WR position is still very deep, but with the truly elite off the board, there’s a lot of sameness in Rounds 2-3. I’d greatly prefer a young talent like:

  • Javonte Williams (Den, 22.8) — His ADP is laughably low to me this year. Did we not learn last year from Jonathan Taylor? Apparently, we haven’t — and the fantasy community is convinced Melvin Gordon’s a lock for the Hall of Fame (not).

  • D'Andre Swift (Det, 17.1) — You worry if he can hold up with his small frame, but he’s bulked up and the guy’s been really good two years running. He averaged 6.7 targets per game pre-injury last year, which led all running backs. He also had 10 carries inside-the-10 while Jamaal Williams had 6.

In Rounds 2-3, I’m also looking at these guys:

  • Saquon Barkley (NYG, 28) — I’m getting good reports, so the vibes are good. He’s moving well this spring and is being used all over the formation and a lot in the passing game. This could be it.

  • Nick Chubb (Cle, 21.6) — I’ve never been a huge supporter of his for fantasy, despite publically calling him a stud in 2018, when he had fewer than 20 career carries, and I have no regrets, but he’s dropped a little and now his upside is easier to see through the trees.

  • Alvin Kamara (18.9) — I’m told there’s nothing imminent with Kamara in terms of his off-field issue, but it’s obviously not something we can ignore. But how much of that is baked into his ADP? Regardless, unless we’re looking at 4+ games missed, I’m still okay with AK in the second.

In Rounds 3-4, I’m specifically targeting three younger backs who each have the talent to be major difference-makers - but we do have to check in on their health this summer.

  • J.K. Dobbins (Bal, 49) — We have to get clearance for Dobbins in the summer, but assuming he’s on track for Week 1, I’m in on his youth/talent/upside. Based solely on his projected timeline, Dobbins should be ready by Week 1.

  • Breece Hall (NYJ, 49) — Just like Javonte Williams last year, I see a small buying opportunity that could wind up being a big one for Hall. And like Javonte, I expect Hall’s ADP to be 20-25 spots higher in 2023.

  • Travis Etienne (Jax, 58.5) — We can’t expect an explosion as he comes back from his Lisfranc injury, but Etienne said he was about 85-90% recovered in early-April, and I was told in late May that he was good. We still can’t expect him to be his best without more recovery time, but I think any concerns are baked into his ADP. That ADP is likely rising, though, due to positive reports on 6/2 about his regained explosiveness.

I’m not going to classify them as actual targets, but Ezekiel Elliott (Dal, 44.5) and David Montgomery (47.9) are certainly viable in this range. I don’t particularly like Zeke, but I do have him priced in this spot.

I don’t love the RBs going off the board in the 60-75 range, but there aren’t many as of early-= June. We have Josh Jacobs (LV, 61), Elijah Mitchell (SF, 66.7), and AJ Dillon (GB, 74.5). Those guys are okay, but they don’t particularly stand out to me. But this season is unique in that you can draft some quality players as late as Rounds 6-7, or even later than that. My favorites are:

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC, 85) — I know he’s been underwhelming, especially in the passing game, but Ronald Jones is a terrible receiver, and if CEH is ever going to do it, this is the year, and I generally love 23 year olds entering year three. His price has come down enough to merit not only a pick, but dare I say an enthusiastic one.

  • Damien Harris (NE, 89.4) — I really liked what Rhamondre Stevenson showed last year, but he never came close to usurping Harris, who they trust majorly. So he should remain their top back, and his goal line role should continue. As for the two rookies they drafted, keep in mind even the great James White, who played four years at Wisconsin, has to redshirt his rookie season in 2014.

  • Dameon Pierce (Hou, 121.7) — I’m placing him here even though his ADP is well over 100 because I suspect he’ll be in this range by the time it matters in August. I’m absolutely willing to bet that Pierce can beat the other scrubs out here.

Once we hit the double-digit rounds, my new thing (started last year) is that I’m going to be very judicious with my RB picks. In the past, I felt I wasted some picks taking RBs because I felt I had to have good depth or enough firepower to get through a season, but the reality is the viable sleepers are easier to grab on the WW, since opportunity knocks often in NFL backfields. So basically, I’m not taking a RB just because he’s a RB.

This year, most of the choice selections are rookies, and I do like a couple of complementary guys in this group as well.

  • Rachaad White (TB, 130) — I’ve been higher on White than anyone since before the draft, when I ranked him as the RB3 in the class. He was the fourth back taken, which was higher than most had him, and he landed in a really intriguing spot. This backfield can support 400+ touches, and I highly doubt Leonard Fournette can handle 300+, so I see 100+ touches with White. He could be a league-winner if Lenny is out (again).

  • Tyler Allgeier (Atl, 142.5) — I wasn’t on him like I was on White, but he is pretty solid, and he landed in an ideal situation. Unless he flops, I see him handling at least half of the backfield touches here.

  • Nyheim Hines (Ind, 157.9) — I know he’s not an ideal best ball guy, but Hines can certainly produce a couple of blowup games, as he did in 2020 with multiple TDs in a pair of games. I have Hines finishing sixth in RB receptions, thanks to Matt Ryan aka Captain Checkdown (at least compared to Carson Wentz he is).

  • Kenneth Gainwell (Phi, 161.7) — They will use 2-3 RBs in Philly, so he’s not an ideal best ball pick. But I do like Gainwell’s potential with two so-so options in front of him in Miles Sanders and Boston Scott, and a great OL in front of him. He has great hands and did have 5 TDs on the ground last year along with a quiet 36 catches. I could see him putting up starter-like numbers 4-5 this season, like he did last year in Week 4 with 3/31/1 and 6/58 receiving, or in Week 13 when he put up 12/54/1 and 5/33 receiving.

  • Tyrion Davis-Price (SF, 175.2) — A third-round pick this year, Davis-Price looks poised to have a role right out of the gate, at least as third short-yardage back. Starter Elijah Mitchell has bulked up to around 220-225 pounds, but his smaller frame should continue to be a problem that leads to time missed. TDP could be a top-15 RB for how many weeks Mitchell is out.

  • Brian Robinson Jr. (Was, 186.9) — They’re already using the RBBC term in Washington, which bodes pretty well for Robinson to get on the field early in his career. He’ll need an Antonio Gibson injury to move the needle much, but if Gibson keeps missing holes, Robinson could get a chance to usurp him.

  • Sony Michel (Mia, 206) — Michel was the RB9 the final six weeks of the season starting in Week 12, so I don’t understand why he’s not getting more love. Michel can still play, and he could be critical here because he’s the best downhill thumper on the roster, which is needed here, and he fits well with their zone blocking scheme. Michel should be their goal line guy, so at the very least he’s a threat to put up 10+ points any given week.

And finally, some of my favorite late, late and stash-and-hope picks are Hassan Haskins (Ten, 202), D'Onta Foreman (Car, 202.8), Snoop Conner (Jax, 215), and Abram Smith (NO, 215.5). Haskins, Foreman, and Conner should be locks to make their respective rosters, but we’ll see about the UFA Smith. I do like him, though.

The Wide Receiver Plan

As covered in the RB plan, the WRs are a big key to my overall 2022 Draft Plan, and I want to do whatever I can to lock in one of our top-7 WR, which are (in order of Underdog ADP):

  1. Cooper Kupp (LA, 2.5)
  2. Justin Jefferson (Min, 4.7)
  3. Ja'Marr Chase (Cin, 5.4)
  4. Stefon Diggs (Buf, 10.3)
  5. Davante Adams (LV, 10.4)
  6. CeeDee Lamb (Dal, 14.4)
  7. Deebo Samuel (SF, 16.6)

Clearly, you’re better off this year drafting at the back of Round 1, since you should get a legitimate crack at one of our top-7 WRs and one of our top-7 RBs, which is ideal.

There is some concern for those drafting at the top of Round 1, though, since Lamb isn’t going to be available at the end of Round 2, most likely. So after Jonathan Taylor, who should be drafted 100% of the time you have a crack at him, I’d seriously considering going with a top WR like Jefferson, since I’d rather open a draft with:

  1. Justin Jefferson
  2. D’Andre Swift

Rather than these two:

  1. Najee Harris
  2. Mike Evans

Ironically, the trend lately with high-stakes and Best Ball players is to draft one “anchor” RB and then draft non-RBs in the following 3-4 rounds at least. I actually like that approach — but at the wide receiver position. Not only are there fewer truly elite WR options this year, there’s better RB depth and values to be had than we usually see. Keep in mind that three of the top-5 WRs last year were drafted 50+ picks into most drafts last year (Deebo, Kupp, Chase).

I absolutely want at least one WR in the first two rounds, but I don’t love the pocket of players right now on Underdog in the 20-35 range, so Round 3 will be a RB round for me, most likely, unless I wind up going RB-RB to open a draft (possible). I don’t love Tyreek Hill (Mia, 20.3), Mike Evans (TB, 20.7), A.J. Brown (Phi, 24.4), Tee Higgins (Cin, 25.8), Keenan Allen (LAC, 28.1), and Jaylen Waddle (Mia, 33.7) at their ADPs, but I don’t hate them. I’d probably lean to Allen for that proven (but aging) stud and Waddle for the exciting youngster pick.

But I’m probably not getting my WR2 until at least the fourth round this year, and my guys in the 35-50 range are:

  • Michael Pittman (Ind, 35.9) — One of my guys from Day One, he’s about to get the rock from Matt Ryan, who loves chucking it to his top guy(s).

  • Diontae Johnson (Pit, 36) — He’s still a star and his QB situation, while maybe downgraded in terms of volume, should be upgraded in terms of playmaking and big plays, which we like in BB.

  • DJ Moore (Car, 37.5) — Don’t love the QB situation, but Moore’s a stud and another 150+ targets should be coming again in 2022.

  • Marquise Brown (Ari, 41.4) — Back with his college teammate in Kyler Murray, who is a clear upgrade for Brown over Lamar Jackson, and it may not take long for the two to get back on the same page.

That’s a good group, and those guys above are fine WR2s, and taking one of them in that role shouldn’t preclude you from securing two very strong RBs, which is nice.

But I also like the next tier of players in the 50-70 range or the fifth or sixth rounds. The quality of this group is high, and this is right around the sweet spot for some breakout WRs last year (Deebo, Chase, etc.), so these guys are tremendous WR3s and solid WR2s with upside.

This group includes my pick for breakout receiver in 2021 (whose ADP is up 60 spots this year) and my pick for 2022:

  • Gabriel Davis (Buf, 56.2) — I got a strong late vibe on Davis last year and I was feeling it, but it didn’t happen — until it did in the playoffs. They love him and his targets are about to increase about 40%. Davis has scored TD on 18 of 150 targets, an insane 12%. I’m all-in and want him in every draft.

  • Rashod Bateman (Bal, 61.6) — He was legit last year, and he’s the clear #1 WR, so I like him a lot.

  • Darnell Mooney (Chi, 66.4) — He was my top breakout guy last year, and he basically crushed it. He’s poised to dominate the targets again, and he could be a lethal BB pick if Justin Fields can play up to his capabilities as an accurate downfield passer.

  • Elijah Moore (NYJ, 68.6) — Loved him last year and it was a glorious run for eight weeks from Weeks 7-13, when he was the WR4 in total points and the WR10 in PPG. All that from a guy with a 120 ADP and a shaky QB situation. His cost has doubled, but I do think there’s some tasty upside still.

As I’m adding WRs, I’m looking for the upside angles on players, and there are still plenty of strong options even though we’re closing in on the middle rounds. From Rounds 7-9, I’m targeting these guys as great WR4s and very decent WR3s who have upside:

  • DeVonta Smith (Phi, 73.6) — Can’t expect the world given the shaky QB, but Smith’s a baller who’s going to be open a lot with AJ Brown added and set to take over the X receiver spot.

  • Skyy Moore (KC, 82.8) — It’s a leap of faith but one I’m making with this dude, who I’m convinced will make a lot of noise for Andy Reid. I actually see him leading their WRs in catches, and he’s one of my picks to be the sleeper/value WR of the year.

  • Hunter Renfrow (85.9) — His ADP would be 25-30 spots higher were it not for the addition of Davante Adams, but Adams’ presence should also help Renfrow, and if Darren Waller has more injury problems, then Renfrow’s looking really nice again.

  • Christian Kirk (Jax, 97) — I like Kirk the more that I look at him this year. I’ve actually always pumped up his upside, and he averaged an excellent 16.3 FPG, 67.8 YPG, and 8.0 targets per game as Arizona’s No. 1 WR once DeAndre Hopkins went down in Week 14. They’re paying Kirk a ton of money and their other receivers are just guys.

Once we’re 100+ picks into a draft, I’m looking for the upside guys but also some shakier guys who I think have dropped far enough for me to be interested in buying.

  • Kadarius Toney (NYG, 111.2) — Toney is volatile, but he’s a baller whose team needs his playmaking ability, so I’ll pay this minimal price for a guy with top-30 potential.
  • Jameson Williams (Det, 113.8) — There’s no secret formula with this one. Williams is an elite mover and, while he’s coming off an ACL, his low ADP alone makes him worth
  • Kenny Golladay (NYG, 124.5) — I’ve never been in on Golladay, but I’m ready to buy at this lowered price. He's certainly a solid outside receiver who can gain leverage and move the sticks as well as produce in the red area. The Giants can’t count on Kadarius Toney or Sterling Shepard, and they’re thin at TE this year. Even in (another) new offense, it shouldn’t be hard for him to return a nice ROI.
  • Jahan Dotson (Was, 142.4) — I pumped him up in my look at my top values back on 5/20, and less than two weeks later the hype is already present, thanks to a great showing so far in their offseason workouts. He’s even clicking quickly with Carson Wentz. Dotson is a little small, but he plays bigger than his size on tape, and he is not afraid to go over the middle. Dotson can line up anywhere and he’s a three-level threat. He’s a future top-15 WR for fantasy.
  • George Pickens (Pit, 147) — Pickens may be in a WRBC all year with Chase Claypool and fellow rookie Calvin Austin, but Pickens is a better player than Claypool, so there’s a good chance Pickens takes over the #2 WR role opposite Diontae Johnson by midseason.

When I’m 150+ picks into a draft, my plan doesn’t change as I continue to search for upside, value, a sneaky role or angle, anything that convinces me a player might be “Gurrific.” You can read my write ups on most of these players in my 2022 UNDERDOG BEST BALL VALUES article on the site, but my upside targets are Alec Pierce (Ind, 162.2), Joshua Palmer (LAC, 167.5), Jalen Tolbert (Dal, 169.6), Odell Beckham (FA, 174), John Metchie (Hou, 184.6), Romeo Doubs (GB, 211.9), Velus Jones (Chi, 212.8), and Calvin Austin (Pit, 215.6). The “boring” guys I see as being of great values are Robby Anderson (Car, 181.8), Kendrick Bourne (NE, 197.3), and Byron Pringle (Chi, 211.5).

It’s obvious early and I’ll be updating my favorite picks all summer, and there will certainly be some additions and subtractions to this WR list in the summer.

The Tight Ends Plan

I’m usually not one to invest heavily on a TE, but I certainly understand the appeal to dominating the position and absolutely crushing everyone else at that spot. I’m usually open to using an early pick on the position every year, but I usually don’t go that route. And this year, I’m not feeling it at all in terms of taking a TE early in drafts. Travis Kelce is showing no sign of slowing down at 33, but he’s still 33, so taking Kelce in the top-20 isn’t for me. And as much as I love Mark Andrews, who I was ahead of the curve on last year, I do not see him replicating his massive production in 2022. I understand they’re going to be all about throwing to the TEs, but they also drafted two very promising ones and Nick Boyle is usually good to vulture a couple of TDs when healthy. Andrews is clearly the #2 TE these days, but he’s also now a mid-second round pick, and that’s just too rich for me.

As usual, I’m looking to get a player in the 50-75 range and hope he pops. Last year, my two favorite picks were TJ Hockenson and, that’s right, Mandrews, who was a great value in 2021 on the heels of a so-so 2020. I’m probably also out on Kyle Pitts (Atl, 31.3) even though he’s incredibly Gurrific, and I don’t trust Darren Waller (LV, 40) at 30 years old after his injury-ravaged campaign last year. Waller will be 30 in September, yet his price tag hasn’t dropped much from 2021’s. I wrote most of these guys up in my look at 2022 UNDERDOG BEST BALL VALUES, but my TE plan is all about the players I view as values but also having upside, and these are my top-three targets:

  • T.J. Hockenson (Det , 77) — After Week 2 last year, when Hockenson had 16/163/2 on 19 targets, he sure looked like a league-winner. Injuries, so-so QB play, and an unbalanced offense did him in. He’s had some concerning injury issues, but I still believe in the player, and he has the talent to produce difference-maker results, making him appealing at his reasonable cost.

  • Dawson Knox (Buf, 96.2) — He’s a big-time athlete and former QB, and he's boys with Josh Allen. You could see their chemistry explode right in front of our eyes last year. Knox may never get a ton of targets and he might be volatile, but he could also be the king of the blowup fantasy game after posting three 2-TD performances in 2021.

  • Pat Freiermuth (Pit, 122.5) — I don’t see a lot of upside with 3-4 quality WRs here and no stud QB, but he’s a damn good player who needed very little time before he was ready to contribute. I see him as rising up the board these next couple of seasons, so if I need a TE 120 picks in, he’s an easy target for me.

The TE position looks a little deeper this year, but it’s probably going to be a bit of a bloodbath, as usual, other than a handful of options. So is I miss out on one of the three guys above, I’m going right to this guy:

  • Rob Gronkowski (FA, 128.8) — He’s not officially in the league as I write this on June 3, but he’s working out with the GOAT, so it’s happening. Gronk averaged 15.2 fantasy points per game across 13 healthy starts last year, which would have been good for the TE3 spot on the season, and the guy scored double-digit FP in 10-of-13 games last year.

  • Irv Smith (Min, 141.3) — Very nice upside for Irv if things go well for him physically, and he’s been good when he’s played, catching 66 of 90 targets for 676/7. The Viking OL is improved, which helps, and Irv’s good speed, route-running, and hands could make him a matchup nightmare this year as no worse than the third option in the passing option for the extremely capable Kirk Cousins.

  • Hunter Henry (NE, 147.8) — The production may be fluky in NE, where there’s no shortable of pass-catchers these days, but Henry was money in the red zone last year, and he’s still one of the more talented TEs in the league who scored on a solid 6.75% of his targets last year and had three 20+ FP performances in 2021.

  • Cole Kmet (Chi, 151) — He’s boring, but maybe not forever? Kmet clearly showed some nice potential in spots with Justin Fields last year, like his 6/87 and 6/81 performances in Weeks 9 and 15, respectively. 70 catches is doable on the receiver-poor Bears, and only six TEs did that in 2021.

Very late, I’m targeting, ideally as my TE3, an upside guy in Gerald Everett (LAC, 174.5), a boring 60+ catch guy in Austin Hooper (Ten, 201.8) and another upside guy in viable breakout longshot Brevin Jordan (Hou, 211.5).

So there you have it; my 2022 Draft Plan of action and the players I’m going to use to execute it. The one good thing about getting older, I’ve learned, is I’m more comfortable being clear and decisive with my picks and strategies, and there should be no mystery to my ideal course of action.

That would be:

  1. Wait on QB and target Derek Carr as the 10th-13th QB taken. On the chance that I get “stuck” in the fifth or sixth round, I’m willing to take Joe Burrow or Jalen Hurts.
  2. Do whatever it takes to get one of my top-7 WRs, which are Justin Jefferson, Cooper Kupp, Ja'Marr Chase, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Deebo Samuel, and CeeDee Lamb. Usually, that’s defined as taking a WR in the first half of Round 1.
  3. Still plan on taking at least two high-quality RBs early in the draft, ideally three RBs in the first 4-5 rounds if they fit the profile of my ideal candidates (young, versatile, etc). But like last year, I’m being very selective about the RBs I take 75+ picks into a draft.
  4. Pass on the top options at TE and target a second-tier guy like TJ Hockenson around 70 picks into a draft.
  5. Also at WR, I’m probably not going to go overboard with more than 3-4 taken the first 7-8 rounds because of the outstanding depth. In the later stages, I’ll focus on upside and hope a late pick hits.

You’re welcome.

Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer John Hansen has been an industry leader and pioneer since 1995, when he launched Fantasy Guru. His content has been found over the years on ESPN.com, NFL.com, SiriusXM, DirecTV, Yahoo!, among others outlets. In 2015 he sold Fantasy Guru and in 2020 founded FantasyPoints.com.