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Scott Engel's 1st Round Fantasy Football Draft Guide: The King's Pick-By-Pick Draft Strategy

Dalvin Cook - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

At this time of year, the biggest question in the fantasy football universe is naturally, “who do I take in the first round?” As an annual feature, I identify the best potential selections at every draft slot in the first round. We tell you who to consider and why in the first round of a 12-team PPR draft.

My evaluations are heavily based on my updated PPR rankings, which are available here. Ideal picks at every draft position are provided, with in-depth insights on why you should strongly consider certain players and ultimately what should be the ultimate pick to make.

What is interesting this season is that the elite wide receivers are favored targets in the first half of the first round, and one top running back deserves strong first-round consideration, but he could slip to the second round.

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#1 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

First Pick: In many leagues, this is the default Jonathan Taylor slot. But I have already seen Christian McCaffrey and Justin Jefferson bumped up to the No. 1 selection in some drafts.

The aggressive risk/reward types are going to take the McCaffrey shot on occasion here, and it’s a selection you will see executed by high-stakes players who frequently embrace the risk. Jefferson backers are expecting him to be this year’s No. 1 fantasy WR in an improved Minnesota passing game.

Taylor may not quite match last year’s numbers in a more balanced Colts offense, but he has been durable dating back to his college days and should still finish among the elite at a position where so many other top guys have some question marks about them. Personally, I am not taking McCaffrey this early.

Ideal Pick: Jonathan Taylor
Top Alternative: Justin Jefferson


#2 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Second Pick: Austin Ekeler is moving down first-round draft boards to the point where I am frequently seeing him being taken anywhere from sixth to ninth overall.

But if I cannot get Taylor, I want the RB who is the best pure combination of running, receiving, and TD production while not being an injury concern at the level of McCaffrey.

After emerging as a rushing TD force for the first time in his career last year, Ekeler has earned this lofty status and I would take him anywhere from this point on if others pass.

Ideal Pick: Austin Ekeler
Top Alternative: Justin Jefferson


#3 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Third Pick: This is where I start focusing on the top-three wide receivers. Taylor and Ekeler are less risky prime RBs in my view, and once you get past those two, I would rather opt for one of the three premier wide receivers available.

The best wide receivers are simply less of a concern for me than most of the other RB1 types on the board here. Jefferson is gaining strong widespread momentum as the overall No. 1 WR and he nearly guarantees an excellent statistical floor.

Ideal Pick: Justin Jefferson
Top Alternative: If you want to select an RB instead, Christian McCaffrey is my next highest-ranked player at the position, but if he is already taken, Dalvin Cook would be next up.


#4 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Fourth Pick: Ja’Marr Chase gets the nod for me next because Cooper Kupp’s quarterback does have an elbow issue that does factor in here. It’s not enough of a major concern for me to bump Kupp out of the top-five overall, but it does become decisive when I have two WRs ranked so closely. I don’t see any reasons for much of a falloff from Chase after his terrific rookie campaign.

Ideal Pick: Ja’Marr Chase
Top Alternatives: Dalvin Cook, Cooper Kupp


#5 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Fifth Pick: I won’t let Kupp fall any further. He is in the same offense with the same quarterback, and even if he naturally regresses from last season’s historic production, Kupp will have a much higher floor than most other wide receivers. The top- three wide receivers are all highly worthy of being taken in the first five slots this season.

Ideal Pick: Cooper Kupp
Top Alternative: Dalvin Cook


#6 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Sixth Pick: I have McCaffrey ranked sixth overall, but he is not going to be available at this spot in most drafts. So I will not end up with McCaffrey on my own teams this year. Now that the top tier of WRs has been claimed, we will revisit the RBs and likely finish out the round with picks from that position.

If you cannot get a top-three WR, I recommend focusing on the next best RBs available in the second half of the first round. I do not prefer to pull up the fourth or fifth WRs on the board this early when I am still looking at nabbing a top-five RB.

I would have Cook entered higher if there were no legitimate concerns about his shoulder. If he does stay healthy, though, Cook could lead the league in rushing TDs as the finisher for a potentially more explosive Minnesota offense.

Next Logical Pick Based On My Preferences: McCaffrey, but he is not going to be an option here.
Realistic Pick: Dalvin Cook
Top Alternative: Alvin Kamara


#7 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Seventh Pick: If Cook does fall to this spot, which certainly can happen, then it’s an easy selection. No other running back outside of McCaffrey may have as much pure upside as a dual running and receiving fantasy producer.

You obviously have to land Alexander Mattison later in the draft if you go with Cook, and should consider taking him earlier than others might just to ensure locking down a very potent Minnesota RB situation.

Mattison has a 10th-round ADP right now, so picking him in the ninth as injury insurance is a good move to make for those who draft Cook.

Ideal Pick: Dalvin Cook
Top Alternatives: Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry


#8 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Eighth Pick: Kamara has an ADP of 15th overall in PPR formats, so this is obviously pulling him up the board. It is possible you could take Henry or Joe Mixon at this point and still have a shot of getting Kamara in the second round.

The closer we get to the end of the first round, the more realistic it becomes that you can land Kamara as an RB2 in the second round. I am no longer concerned about the suspension and expect him to continue to play a huge role on offense for the Saints.

I think Kamara is being undervalued in drafts right now and endorse taking him anywhere in the back half of the first round. He’s my favorite pick at this point, but you can take the chance he will slip further if it’s a tight call against another player.

Pick I Would Make Based Purely on Rankings: Alvin Kamara
Pick To Make If You Want To Wait on Kamara: Derrick Henry


#9 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

Ninth Pick: Some will pass on Henry because they are still thinking about last season’s foot injury. But he is ready to go for the 2022 season and it’s hard to pass on him at this point of the first round.

The Titans’ opponents know that Henry is an even bigger focal point of the offense this season with A.J. Brown gone, but he remains a frequently unstoppable force, anyhow. If you do want to consider a top WR here, though, a very good RB1 option should be available in the second round.

Ideal Pick: Derrick Henry
You Have to Consider: Alvin Kamara
Top Alternative: Davante Adams


#10 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

10th Pick: If Kamara and Henry are still available by this point, they should both get very strong consideration. Some go for a top WR here, knowing that one of the top-10 to 12 RBs may still be available with the early second-rounder.

If Henry is gone, you can also go with Joe Mixon here and possibly nab Kamara in the second round and start off joyfully. Drafting late in the first round offers a lot of fun and potential flexibility.

Ideal Pick: Joe Mixon if Henry is gone
Still Considering: Alvin Kamara
Top Alternatives: Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, De'Andre Swift


#11 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

11th Pick: When you are sitting back this far in the first round, it’s just a matter of seeing which one of your best available players falls to this spot. Simply queue up your top-11 guys and take the highest-rated player available.

For me, that would obviously be Kamara, but there is a very good chance that you will be able to land him as one of the top early value selections three picks later. Swift is maybe the No. 1 pure upside target RB in the first round, and he won’t last much longer if still available at No. 11.

Ideal Pick: De’Andre Swift

Still Considering But May Chance That He Slips: Alvin Kamara
Top Alternatives: Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Najee Harris


#12 Pick - Fantasy Football Draft Guide

12th Pick: I did have Najee Harris at seventh overall before his admittance of a recent foot problem. I do see that as a minor concern, but all indications are that he should be ready for the season, so I can’t move him down much further.

If you do want to steer clear, though, this would be the perfect spot to finally take Kamara if he is still available as one of your first two picks. You can pair him with Adams or Diggs for a strong start to the draft.

If Adams and Diggs are both available here, though, anyone who can draft both of them might have the best WR corps in the league. My preference is to take at least one running back at the turn here, but it is indeed very tempting to take two top-level WRs.

Ideal Pick: Alvin Kamara
Top Alternatives: Najee Harris, Davante Adams and Stefon Diggs if still available.


Scott Engel's fantasy and betting analysis is also featured at The Game Day.

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