kenny-pickett-1400-us.jpg
USATSI

Fantasy managers frequently look to rookies as instant-impact players. But what if the collective NFL isn't as impressed with a rookie class? Should Fantasy managers take notice and not put much stock into them, or should they still draft them anyway? 

In April's draft, only two skill-position players, receivers Drake London and Garrett Wilson, went in the first 10 picks (neither made the top five). By the time Round 1 was done, six receivers, one quarterback and no running backs were selected. By the time the first 50 overall picks were through, two running backs and four more receivers were chosen. 

Fine, 10 receivers in the first 50 picks aren't so bad. But just two running backs and one quarterback? 

The truth is that the 2022 class is solid, but imperfect. There isn't a flawless player who managers can count on for big numbers right away. Not only is there no Najee Harris or Ja'Marr Chase, but there's no Javonte Williams or Jaylen Waddle. It might be a stretch to say there's one who could produce like Elijah Mitchell or Elijah Moore.

You're about to learn that there isn't anyone in the rookie class worth going crazy for. You won't see any rookies in the top-25 picks in seasonal leagues and, if your draft is anything like the one you'll see in this magazine, you won't see any rookies in the top 45, either. And if you're in a rookie-only draft for Dynasty leagues, you may determine that you'd rather trade out of this year's picks to stock up on next year's class, which already figures to be awesome. 

Note: Players are listed in the order of Dave Richard's 2022 PPR rankings. Players ages are as of Week 1.

  • More rookies: RB | WR | TE 

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers

Height: 6-3 1/4 | Weight: 217 | Age as of Week 1: 24 

Pickett's four years as a starter at Pitt helped him develop a smart, fearless demeanor in the pocket to go with his compact release, solid footwork and good arm. But it's his mobility and moxie that could help him develop into a multi-year starter for the Steelers. Pickett was consistently above a 60% completion rate, threw a whopping 42 touchdowns as a senior and was a threat to score with his legs, but his lean body could open him up to injuries on big hits, his accuracy wasn't always on-point and his well-documented small hands were part of a problem with fumbling. Pickett figures to replace Mitchell Trubisky as the Steelers' starting quarterback at some point this season. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Only in Superflex/two-QB leagues will people pick Pickett, probably procuring him after Round 8. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Pickett's upside doesn't suggest he'll be a dominant Fantasy starter. It could mean he falls to late Round 2 in one-QB rookie drafts. In Superflex/two-QB formats, he'll be an easy top-10 pick. 

Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons

Height: 6-3 | Weight: 211 | Age as of Week 1: 23 

Ridder went 44-6 as a four-year starter at Cincinnati, frequently blending his mobile style with rhythm passing. He's adept at reading defenses pre-snap and manipulating them post-snap to create a good opportunity to deliver the ball, though sometimes he would stare down receivers. His pass velocity left a little to be desired – he was more of a flicker and a lobber than a gunner – and his arm strength and accuracy would wane. He also tended to drift in the pocket instead of staying in his base or climb the pocket to deliver a throw. Ridder also would sometimes struggle to sense oncoming pressure. No doubt the rookie needs coaching, but it might be just as well to let him gain experience once Marcus Mariota proves not to be the answer. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: With Mariota expected to be the Falcons' early-season starter, only patient drafters in Superflex/two-QB formats will look up Ridder starting in Round 9. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Because the Falcons landed Ridder in Round 3, a case could be made that the team could move on from him if he shows no development as a rookie. It's that scary thought that might leave Ridder to the later rounds regardless of format, though he's expected to ultimately be a second-round rookie pick in two-QB leagues.  

Malik Willis, Tennessee Titans

Height: 6-0 1/2 | Weight: 219 | Age as of Week 1: 23 

Willis has the best combination of arm strength, size and rushing presence in the draft class. Unfortunately, Willis still struggles with accuracy, pocket awareness, decision-making, staring down targets and taking on too many hits. It points to Willis as a project pick more than a starter-in-waiting, and since the Titans have Ryan Tannehill for at least one more season, the rookie figures to spend a lot of time watching. The Titans might opt to use Willis as an RPO quarterback for a handful of plays each game, including potentially inside of the 5-yard line, but it wouldn't be enough to warrant him as a useful Fantasy passer. 

2022 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Willis deserves a bench space in Superflex/two-QB drafts in case he plays high-value snaps as a part-time quarterback like Taysom Hill. Bank on him going in Round 10-plus. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: There's a little more long-term optimism and a lot more upside with Willis than his peers. He'll approach top-15 value in one-QB leagues and top-five space in Superflex/two-QB. 

Matt Corral, Carolina Panthers

Height: 6-1 5/8 | Weight: 212 | Age as of Week 1: 23

Corral is an athletic mover with a quick release and a strong arm, but there's so much to be concerned about on and off the field. His seeming inability to react to defenses led to a lot of head-scratching decisions and force-feeding throws into impossible coverage. He also struggled to sense pressure or deal with it when it was evident, typically resorting to his legs when in trouble. He has solid speed as a rusher, but he's undersized as a quarterback and could get hurt in the pros. In fact, he already suffered through three ankle injuries in 2021. And if that's not enough, he's admitted to having a drinking problem and had a well-documented conflict that forced him to change high schools when he was younger. The Panthers are thin on quarterback talent and may feel obligated to put Corral on the field at some point just to see what he can do. 

2021 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Corral should only be drafted late in Superflex/two-QB formats; chances are someone will get excited and take him sooner than they should. Unless his preseason is incredible, he's unlikely to play much, if at all. 

ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: If he struggles in games, or in practice, then the Panthers won't feel obligated to develop him and will simply start their search for a new quarterback next spring. A third-round pick is the highest he should go in a one-QB draft, and a second-round pick is the highest he should go in a Superflex/two-QB draft.