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The Biggest Risers for 2022 Fantasy Football - Way Too Early Mock Draft Review

Elijah Mitchell - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

The NFL playoffs may be going on right now, but for fantasy managers, we have reached the beginning of the offseason. With that in mind, it is never too early to look ahead to 2022! Following the end of the regular season, 12 members of the RotoBaller team, including myself, teamed up to do a 12-round mock draft for the 2022 fantasy football season.

Today, we will be looking at the biggest risers in the mock draft. Every year, there are players that overachieve expectations, leading to them rising up draft boards the following year. Meanwhile, players may also have opportunities to produce that they previously have not had.

The trickiest part of completing this mock draft? Doing so before the start of the actual offseason. Free agency can dramatically alter the value of individual players, as can the draft; 2022 rookies also weren't included in this mock. Nevertheless, this mock can give us a great idea of the relative value of players at the current moment. So, who is rising the most in fantasy football circles? Let us take a closer look!

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Complete Mock Draft Board

Click image to enlarge 

For full ADP data, click here.
Full draft board can be found on Sleeper here.
Previous ADP via Fantasy Pros, Stats/Expected Points via Pro Football Focus

 

Quarterback Risers

In a non-home league draft, quarterbacks did not go off the board quickly, as opposed to standard drafts. That being said, there were still two quarterbacks who were able to rise up the chart.

 Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

  • Previous ADP: 111.2 (QB13), Mock Draft: 94 (QB7)

Last season, Joe Burrow ranked at the top of the league in PFF expected points but didn't have the efficiency (6.7 yards/pass attempt) to match it. So, naturally, Burrow would see his passing volume dwindle, yet he ended up being a better fantasy quarterback. Not only did he finish as PFF's highest-graded quarterback, but he also lead the league with an 8.9 yards/pass attempt, and finished as the QB8 despite missing a game. After finishing as the QB1 in back-to-back weeks to finish out his season, the hope is we continue to see head coach Zac Taylor lead a pass-first offense with plenty of efficiency and volume heading into 2022. Will that happen? That's unclear, but you can expect Burrow to be a fringe top-five quarterback in next year's drafts, especially if he takes his team deep into the playoffs.

 Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

  • Previous ADP: 62.2 (QB8), Mock Draft: 58 (QB3)

Sticking with the same draft class, Justin Herbert also put on a show in his second season as a pro. Overall, he finished as the QB3, while finishing as a QB1 in all of the last eight games. As the orchestrator of a high-end, pass-heavy offense and one of the game's elite talents, it's hard to not see him being a top-three quarterback in next year's drafts. The infrastructure is in place with this offense, and 2022 is likely to be another special year for the 23-year-old.

 

Running Back Risers

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars

All of these running backs were being drafted high in early 2021 drafts but suffered injuries that were essentially season-ending (Akers returned in Week 18). Now, they will all be back in 2022, leading to them all being high picks in the mock draft.

Etienne went the lowest, but with James Robinson tearing his Achilles, he should be the presumed lead back in 2022. As for Akers, it will be interesting to see if the Rams make an attempt to re-sign Sony Michel. If not, he's a lead-back who already proved he could come back from injury, while Dobbins will likely be drafted in a similar position (top-three rounds) to where he was early in last year's draft. All of these running backs carry risks, but with clear upside if they return from their injuries smoothly. It will be interesting to see how their ADP unfolds as we get closer to the season.

Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos

Second-year running backs tend to get bumped up draft boards, and Javonte Williams is right at the top of the list. First, there's what he brings to the table as a player. The only player who forced more missed tackles than him was Jonathan Taylor, while he also ranked in the top-10 in yards after contact/carry (3.42). Meanwhile, he took up most of the work in the passing game this season, showing his ability to be a dual-threat back. Melvin Gordon III is currently a free agent, and since the Broncos drafted Williams at the top of the second round, there's no reason to expect him not to be the bell-cow in 2022. If so, get ready to draft him in the first round of fantasy drafts next year!

Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

At the start of last season, Elijah Mitchell wasn't even on the fantasy radar. With Raheem Mostert and third-round rookie Trey Sermon in the fold, it was difficult to see how a sixth-round pick would work his way into the lineup. Yet, Mitchell was a very productive player in college with elite athletic testing numbers. Thus, when Mostert got injured in Week 1, it was him, not Sermon, who became San Francisco's lead back. Overall, Mitchell finished as the RB12 in points per game and finished fourth in yards after contact per carry (3.63). He's the real deal, and there is no reason to expect head coach Kyle Shanahan to shy away from him in 2022. In this mock draft, he was drafted at the end of the third round, and I'd expect his stock to rise higher as the offseason goes on.

Rashaad Penny, Free Agent

The leader in yards after contact per carry? That would be Rashaad Penny, who had a dominant five-game stretch with the Seahawks to end the season. During that stretch, Penny averaged 21.54 points per game, finished as a top-10 running back four times, and finished as the RB1 during that span. Meanwhile, he also led the league with 6.3 yards/rush attempt, a 52.3% breakaway rate, and ranked seventh with an 83.6 PFF rushing grade. The question is: how does this affect Penny's outlook moving forward?

As a former first-round pick, we expected him to be a lead back with a knack for explosive plays, but injuries have hurt him during his four years in the NFL. Plus, he's now a free agent, and his future landing spot could change things further. If Penny ends up in a favorable spot, I'm all for drafting him higher than where he was (59) in this mock draft. The talent is there, but will the durability and opportunity follow? That's the question here.

 

Wide Receiver Risers

Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders

When we think of a #1 receiver, we tend to picture a physically-imposing player with game-breaking speed. Instead, the Raiders' #1 receiver is 5'10", 184 pounds, and ran a 4.59 40-yard dash. Now, no one is expecting Renfrow to finish as a top-20 player in points per game again; however, there are few players with a higher floor. Renfrow averaged 6.89 targets/game, ranked in the top-10 with 103 receptions, and also earned an 82.3 PFF receiving grade. His participation in the red zone may go down with tight end Darren+Waller" data-id="16964">Darren Waller healthy, but as long as Derek Carr is back, he's got a strong chance to lead the team in targets. Around the sixth round, that sounds like the optimal spot for him.

Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills

Season-long stats won't do justice for Gabriel Davis, who is certainly going to be a riser in fantasy drafts next year. Overall, he finished as just the WR58 and finished as a top-24 wide receiver just once. Yet, that's what happens when you're splitting time on the outside with Emmanuel Sanders. Despite being a part-time player, Davis still earned 12 end-zone targets, making him a touchdown magnet for one of the most explosive passing offenses in football. If he's the team's #2 receiver next year, be prepared to see him drafted within the first six rounds.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions

Looking for this year's fantasy playoff MVP? That likely is Amon-Ra St. Brown, who averaged over 23 PPR fantasy points during the final four games of the season. With 10+ targets in each of his last six games, his opportunity was tremendous, and he took full advantage. Now, will that opportunity be as strong next year? The Lions will likely upgrade at wide receiver, tight end T.J. Hockenson will return from injury, and this isn't the most efficient offense to chase. That being said, if you believe in the idea that targets are earned, St. Brown could still easily be the team's top target getter next year. He isn't going to be drafted as high as some of the other second-year receivers, but he'll still be a strong WR3 target for fantasy managers.

 

Tight End Risers

There weren't a lot of tight ends drafted, but two stand out above the rest, rising over 100 spots up the draft board in this mock draft.

Dalton Schultz, Free Agent

  • Previous ADP: 269 (TE33), Mock Draft: 83 (TE8)

Believe it or not, Dalton Schultz wasn't even the highest-drafted tight end on his own team. Instead, that honor would go to Blake Jarwin, who between injuries and lack of performance, took a major step back to Schultz this year. As the TE5 in points per game, Schultz was a consistent force this year, finishing as a TE1 in 11 of his last 15 games. Now, where will he land in free agency? The Cowboys likely don't have the money to keep him, and the history of free agent tight ends isn't promising. Suffice to say, he will be a tough player to assess in fantasy drafts next year.

Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

  • Previous ADP: 274 (TE35), Mock Draft: 141 (TE12)

Rather than invest in a player who is changing teams, may I interest you in a tight end that is part of one of the best offenses in football? Since the Bills pass the ball so much, even if Knox is the fourth option in the passing game, he'll still see more than enough targets. His profile, which is a bit reliant on touchdowns, can be volatile week-to-week, perhaps making him a better best-ball pick. That being said, tight end remains a shallow position, so investing in a player with continuity and in a high-scoring offense makes sense. As the TE11? Sign me up!



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