San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance will open the season as the team’s starter, but is one of my fantasy football players to avoid. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
MIAMI, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Trey Lance, Christian McCaffrey and DK Metcalf are among my 13 players to avoid in 2022 fantasy football drafts, due to required investment, strength of schedule and other factors.
McCaffrey, when healthy, is one of the best players in fantasy football, but talent isn’t the only measurement required to properly form a strategy for your draft.
McCaffrey’s average draft position — or ADP — is currently No. 1 or No. 2 overall, which means he is one of the priciest assets in drafts.
Kyler Murray, Saquon Barkley, Diontae Johnson, Mike Gesicki, the Los Angeles Rams defense/special teams and Pittsburgh Steelers defense/special teams units are among the options to avoid in your draft..
13 players to avoid
ADP based on 14-team leagues
Running back Christian McCaffrey missed 23 of the Carolina Panthers’ past 33 games due to injuries. File Photo by Nell Redmond/UPI
1. Christian McCaffrey (ADP: Top 3)
I favor safety over risk with the first two picks for my team, as the success of those players will likely determine your season. McCaffrey did not miss a game through his first three seasons. The dynamic running back torched the NFL for 2,392 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns en route to All-Pro honors in 2019. He missed 23 of the Carolina Panthers’ 33 games since that campaign due to several injuries.
McCaffrey missed 10 games last season due to a rolled ankle and hamstring strain. He missed 13 games in 2020 due to tight, shoulder and ankle issues.
He might not be at risk of recurrences of those specific ailments, but his high usage rate and the nature of his high-contact position could easily lead to additional injury issues.
McCaffrey led all NFL running backs in each of his last two full seasons prior to his injury riddled 2020 and 2021 campaigns. He also totaled the third-most snaps in the league through the first two weeks of last season, before he injured his hamstring in Week 3.
Heavy usage is typically a positive factor to consider when you determine which players to target in your draft, but the Panthers’ dependence on McCaffrey, paired with his injury history, ADP and a brutal schedule should make you think twice about picking the running back to lead your team.
I prefer Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor and Austin Ekeler, among several others, over McCaffrey as a Top 5 selection. You can check out my other Top 75 running backs here.
This season, the Panthers schedule features just one game against a team that ranked inside the Top 10 for the most fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2021. That schedule also features six matchups against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the fewest fantasy points allowed to the position, including five-consecutive such matches from Week 3 through 7.
The average draft position for New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is in the second round for 14-team leagues. File Photo by Corey Sipkin/UPI
2. Saquon Barkley (ADP: Round 2)
Like McCaffrey, Barkley’s potential is very tempting for fantasy football team owners on draft day. The New York Giants running back possesses many of the same attributes as McCaffrey, with excellent skills as a ball carrier and pass catcher. The Giants also used Barkley heavily early on.
He totaled 352 touches for 2,208 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns during his 2018 rookie campaign. Barkley excelled again in 2019, but has since struggled to overcome injuries and find the success from his first season.
Barkley and the Giants face a tough schedule to start, when it comes to expected running back fantasy production. Four of their first six matchups are against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for fewest points allowed to the position in 2021.
Barkley’s current ADP is in the second round. I rank Alvin Kamara and Joe Mixon, players with similar average draft positions, ahead of Barkley among running backs.
Leonard Fournette of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the No. 27 option in my Top 75 fantasy football running back rankings. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI
3. Leonard Fournette (ADP: Round 2)
Fournette is another player I think is being drafted a bit too early. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran totaled 249 touches and 1,266 yards from scrimmage in 14 games last season. He also scored 10 times and averaged a career-best 5.1 yards per touch.
His average draft position is in the second round, but I slotted Fournette at No. 27 in my running back rankings. I expect the Buccaneers to scale back Fournette’s workload a bit this season and find ways to get rookie Rachaad White and Ke’Shawn Vaughn involved in the game plan.
The Buccaneers also made additions to their wide receiver room, with Julio Jones and Russell Gage joining Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and they lost several key players from their offensive line. Their schedule features seven matchups against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs and just two matchups against teams that allowed the most points to the position.
I prefer James Conner, David Montgomery, Elijah Mitchell, Ezekiel Elliott, Chase Edmonds, Kareem Hunt, A.J. Dillon and J.K. Dobbins, among other running backs, with average draft positions similar or later than Fournette’s.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers (23) is expected to play in Week 1, but will face a tough schedule and competition for carries. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI
4. Cam Akers (ADP: Round 3)
Akers is another player who is being drafted a bit too early for my liking. The Los Angeles Rams running back’s current ADP is at the end of the second round or early in the third round..
The third-year running back showed signs of greatness as a rookie, with 748 yards from scrimmage in 13 games. He served in a complimentary role for most of that season, behind Darrell Henderson.
Akers missed most of last season due to a torn Achilles, but is expected to be ready for the start of the season. Akers still faces competition for carries, with Henderson still on the roster. The Rams also selected running back Kyren Williams in the 2022 NFL Draft. Lost carries and a schedule that features seven games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for fewest points allowed to running backs last season make me weary of picking Akers at his current ADP.
The average draft position for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is in the fourth round. File Photo by David Tulis/UPI
5. Lamar Jackson (ADP: Round 4)
Jackson is one of the best — and most exciting — fantasy football players every year, but I prefer other options in 2022. The Baltimore Ravens quarterback will likely provide a ton of value again with his legs and as a passer. His current ADP is in the fourth round.
The Ravens schedule features an NFL-high eight games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last season.
The difficult schedule, paired with the off-season departure of top wide receiver Marquise Brown and additions at the running back position are among the reasons I prefer Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes at Jackson’s ADP.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf is my No. 27 fantasy football option at his position. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
6. DK Metcalf (ADP: Round 4)
Metcalf and fellow wide receiver Tyler Lockett remain one of the best pass-catching duos in the league, but the off-season departure of quarterback Russell Wilson will result in a significant downgrade for the Seattle Seahawks offense.
Metcalf’s ADP is in the fourth round, where you can also find Mike Williams, Adam Thielen and Chris Godwin, who will catch passes from Justin Herbert, Kirk Cousins and Tom Brady and be in better offenses than Seattle.
That expectation and a fantasy football schedule with five tough wide receiver matchups should lead you to select other options, unless you can snag Metcalf a round or two later.
Wide receiver Diontae Johnson could struggle to match his statistics from last season due to uncertainty at quarterback from the Pittsburgh Steelers. File Photo by James Atoa/UPI
7. Diontae Johnson (ADP: Round 4)
Johnson is another wide receiver with a fourth-round ADP. The Pittsburgh Steelers playmaker averaged 97.5 catches for more than 1,000 yards and 7.5 touchdowns over his past two seasons, but I expect a slip in those statistics in 2022. Like the Seahawks, the Steelers also watched a veteran quarterback leave the team this off-season.
The Steelers enter the season with Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Kenny PIckett atop the depth chart, in what will likely be one of the worst quarterback rooms in the NFL, from a fantasy football perspective.
The emergence of rookie wide receiver George Pickens and presence of Chase Claypool also could hinder Johnson’s value as a potential fringe WR1. I prefer Terry McLaurin, Jaylen Waddle, Courtland Sutton, Mike Williams, Michael Thomas and DeVonta Smith at Johnson’s ADP.
The average draft position for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is in the fifth round. File Photo by Michael Goulding/UPI
8. Kyler Murray (ADP: Round 5)
Murray’s Arizona Cardinals offense ranked No. 8 in yards and No. 11 in points last season, but I believe the team will take a step back in 2022. Top playmaker DeAndre Hopkins’ six-game suspension to start the season will be a huge hit to the wide receiver room.
The Cardinals, who started last season 7-0, will start the 2022 campaign against the Kansas City Chiefs. They will play a Week 2 road game against the Las Vegas Raiders and then host the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
That tough stretch, paired with Hopkins’ absence and five matchups against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks make me lean away from Murray in drafts.
I prefer Hurts, Burrow, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford at his draft position, or just waiting another round or two to pick a quarterback.
Former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown (L) joined the Arizona Cardinals in an off-season trade. File Photo by David Tulis/UPI
9. Marquise Brown (ADP: Round 5)
Brown is now in Arizona with Murray after his off-season trade from the Ravens. He should see an uptick in usage while Hopkins serves his suspension, but I think his fifth-round ADP is too high.
I expect the Cardinals to spread to ball around to tight end Zach Ertz, running back James Conner and others, as they look to replace Hopkins’ targets. The Cardinals’ schedule also features a league-high seven matchups against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for fewest fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Four of those matchups will come during Hopkins’ suspension.
Look to draft Chris Godwin, Michael Thomas and Adam Thielen, among other wide receivers, at his ADP.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (pictured) will start the season as the team’s top option, but could face competition from backup Jimmy Garoppolo. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
10. Trey Lance (ADP: Round 8)
Lance is one of the most-hyped fantasy football prospects this off-season. The second-year San Francisco 49ers quarterback appeared in six games last season. He threw for 603 yards, five scores and two interceptions and ran for 168 yards and another score in those appearances.
Lance enters this season as the team’s starting quarterback. His passing and running ability could result in a ton of fantasy football success down the road, but I don’t think he is ready to break out quite yet.
Lance is my No. 16 quarterback for the season, but his ADP is in the eighth round. A tough schedule, potential competition from backup Jimmy Garoppolo and expected lack of production as a passer are among the reasons I would stay away from the second-year quarterback.
I prefer Tua Tagovailoa, Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford at his ADP, but you should consider selecting Lance if you already have a capable starter and can afford to leave him on your bench.
Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki could see less time on the field this season due to new coach Mike McDaniel’s offensive scheme. File Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI
11. Mike Gesicki (ADP: Round 9)
Mike Gesicki is a great pass-catching tight end, but needs to improve as a blocker. The Miami Dolphins brought in new coach Mike McDaniel this off-season, who brings in a system that values blocking from the tight end position.
I expect Gesicki to be a red zone threat this season for the Dolphins, but his targets could drop to the the presence of off-season addition Tyreek Hill. Running back Chase Edmonds also is expected to be a factor in the Dolphins passing game, which could limit Gesicki’s overall targets.
Gesicki isn’t draftable in leagues that don’t require starting a tight end and is a lower-end option in league’s that require a starter at the position.
I prefer Pat Freiermuth and Dallas Goedert at Gesicki’s ADP.
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Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) is among the reasons that the Los Angeles Rams are considered one of fantasy football’s top defenses. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
12. Rams D/ST (ADP: Round 10)
The Los Angeles Rams are one of the first defense/special teams unit coming off the board in most drafts, with an ADP in the 10th round. I recommend waiting a few rounds later to take a defense, but if you decide to select one earlier, look elsewhere.
The Rams will start the season against the Buffalo Bills, in what could be a high-scoring matchup. They will host the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2, but then battle the Arizona Cardinals on the road in Week 3 in what could be another offensive shootout.
Two subpar matchups within the first three weeks should dissuade you from picking up this unit early in your draft. I prefer the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts over this unit due to their ADPs and favorable matchups, especially early in the season.
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt (L) and the Pittsburgh Steelers defense will face a tough schedule in 2022. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
13. Steelers D/ST (ADP: Round 11)
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense/special teams is another unit I would avoid. The Steelers start the season with games against the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots. I expect the Steelers offense to struggle early in the year, which should lead to their defense being on the field more and allowing more points.
The Steelers schedule features six games against offenses that ranked inside the Top 10 for points scored in 2021.
Look to draft the Colts, Los Angeles Chargers or Dallas Cowboys at the Steelers’ ADP. The Cowboys’ schedule features six matchups against offenses that ranked inside the Top 10 for the fewest points scored in 2021.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky throws in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions during an NFL preseason game at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh on August 28, 2022. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo