Pope’s Pick 6: Rookies to Target in Fantasy Football


Every year, we see managers drafting rookies in redraft leagues expecting them to become fantasy stars right away. Recent success stories like Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson have only accelerated that thought process. And sure, it happens, but many members of each year’s rookie class will be unstartable on a week-to-week basis. However, here are six rookies you should target in redraft in 2022.


2022 Fantasy football rookies to target

Treylon Burks, WR, Tennessee Titans

As one of the most dynamic playmakers in college football last season, Treylon Burks produced 1,216 scrimmage yards and 12 touchdowns at Arkansas. Something that sets him apart from the other top receivers in this class is his ability to produce in the run game, even as a big-bodied receiver standing 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. Over his three-year career at Arkansas, he totaled 222 rushing yards and one touchdown on 38 carries. With this dynamic playmaking ability, it was surprising when he fell down the board to the Titans at pick No.18 in the draft. He is joining a shallow depth chart this year, which will allow him to have an immediate impact – especially on a team looking for playmakers. 

With both Derrick Henry and Robert Woods returning from injury, it’s easy to see how there could be some lingering issues with the Titans offense. This will ultimately create a lot of opportunities for Burks in both phases of the game. This becomes magnified if they have to supplement the run game with the screen game, as Burks created 219 yards off screens last year. It’s an area the Titans need improvement, as no wide receiver had over 30 yards off screens last season. With all this versatility, it’s likely Burks manages to produce at an extremely high level, resulting in high-end weekly fantasy football points. 

Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints

While producing 2,709 yards and 35 touchdowns on 176 receptions in his four-year at Ohio State, Chris Olave showcased his crisp route-running and ability to create separation at the wide receiver position. He paired this with his 4.39 speed to become one of the best deep threats in college football. Most impressively, he averaged a quarterback rating of 133.4 when targeted throughout his career. This helped him get drafted 11th overall by the Saints this past spring. He joins a depth chart that contains only Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry as established targets – neither of which have played the role of a field stretcher. With his skill set, Olave will carve out a significant role this season. 

Chris Olave WR New Orleans Saints

Olave is being paired with Jameis Winston, a quarterback who has displayed an ability to stretch the field regularly throughout his career. Last season, he attempted a deep pass at the seventh-highest rate in the league, with 13.7% of his passes being over 20 yards. However, he completed only 22.7% of these attempts – 25% of them were dropped. This should change in 2022 with Olave as his primary deep target, and it will lead to a significant amount of fantasy points for both players. For me, Olave is a dark-horse candidate to lead all rookie wide receivers in fantasy points.

Isaiah Spiller, RB, Los Angeles Chargers 

Isaiah Spiller produced consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons the past two years en route to 2,993 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns throughout his three-year career at Texas A&M. Impressively, also produced 585 receiving yards as one of the focal points of the Aggies offense. Although he lacks some of the more explosive traits, he did produce 83 runs of 10-plus yards and 45 runs of 15-plus yards while at Texas A&M. On top of this, he also forced 120 missed tackles and produced 1,922 rushing yards after contact, both impressive numbers in three years. On the flip side, he did fall to the fourth round in the draft before the Chargers selected him, creating some doubt in people’s minds that he can become a workhorse in the NFL.

Despite the lack of draft capital, it’s likely Spiller sees a significant role this season behind Austin Ekeler – who has voiced concerns about his workload this offseason. Even as a complementary back, there’s room for Spiller to carve out viable fantasy production on a team that averaged the fifth-most points per game in the NFL last season (27.9). Because this pass-heavy team tends to lean on the run game more in the red zone, this is an area the bigger-bodied Spiller could carve out a key role. Expect some highly productive fantasy weeks for Spiller in 2022. 


James Cook, RB, Buffalo Bills

James Cook established himself as one of the best pass-catching backs in the nation, as he saw 74 targets and turned them into 67 receptions for 718 yards and 6 touchdowns in his four years at Georgia. Throughout this time, he displayed great route-running skills and incredible hands, only dropping one pass in his college career. He helped post a 134.1 passer rating when targeted throughout college and averaged 1.95 yards per route run. So it was no surprise that the Bills selected him in the draft, as they are one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league. Last season, the Bills targeted running backs 91 times with a lion’s share going to Devin Singletary, who was very ineffective with these targets. He only averaged .74 yards per route run and dropped 9.5% of his targets. 

With a clear need for a pass-catching back, it’s likely Cook steps in immediately and seizes this opportunity. On top of this, he has the versatility to line up in the slot, which he did 19.5% of the time at Georgia. This is also an area of need for the Bills after cutting Cole Beasley. Add this onto some rushing work, and possibly even a significant role in the ground game on one of the most explosive offenses in the league, and there’s a path to a top-24 finish for Cook. 

Tyler Allgeier, RB, Atlanta Falcons

While playing at BYU, Tyler Allgeier was one of the best running backs in the nation, leading the Independent teams in 2020 and 2021 in rushing yards, yards per attempt and scrimmage yards. He also led the entire nation in rushing touchdowns last season with 23. All of this production helped him get drafted this spring to Atlanta, a team with a shallow depth chart. Along with this, he is now paired with a coach in Arthur Smith, who in two of the last three seasons has led his offenses to a top-three finish in rushing attempts. Last season, he was forced to pass more due to a lack of production from their run game, as the Falcons only averaged 3.7 yards per carry and 39% run plays. 

This season, Allgeier doesn’t have much competition on the depth chart. He only has to beat out 32-year-old Cordarrelle Patterson and 30-year-old Damien Williams. Both have never produced more than 650 yards in a season, so it’s easy to see how this highly productive collegiate back can step in and seize this opportunity. On top of this, the Falcons also added dual-threat quarterback Marcus Mariota in hopes to improve the rushing attack this season. With all of the signs pointing toward an increased rushing attack in Atlanta this season, it’s easy to see a path for Allgeier to see a significant amount of touches and produce quality fantasy points on a weekly basis. 

Jalen Tolbert, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Jalen Tolbert produced consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at South Alabama and led the Sun Belt Conference last season with 1,474 receiving yards. Last season, he did all this while averaging 18 yards per reception, 3.16 yards per route run, 581 yards after the catch and 13 missed tackles. Quarterbacks targeting Tolbert posted a 116.9 rating last season when zeroing in on the speedster. As a result, he was selected 88th by the Cowboys in this year’s draft to help round out their receiving corps. With Michael Gallup likely missing time as he recovers from injury, there is an opening for Tolbert to step in immediately. This will allow him to see a significant role in an offense that passed 59% of the time in 2021. 

This season, it’s likely he sees a significant target share early on. However, it’s also likely he doesn’t fend off Gallup upon his return. But when this happens, Tolbert can still carve out 5-8 targets a game. Ultimately, Dallas’ passing volume led to three players finishing with over 100 targets (CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Dalton Schultz) last season. It’s possible Tolbert may finish as part of this trio this season, leading him to become a flex viable fantasy producer every week throughout the season. 

Previous 2022 Fantasy Coaching & Coordinator Breakdown: New York Jets Next Sleepers, Busts and Bets: The 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers