Tight Ends Preview
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On Friday’s episode of Fantasy Football Today, Adam Aizer had an interesting prompt to lead off the show: “Would you rather be weak at running back or wide receiver coming out of your draft?” I find the question absolutely fascinating because I think it boils down so much of how Fantasy players approach the game and draft season.
I think most players would look at the upside of the high-end running backs and the relative depth at wide receiver and say they’d rather be weak at WR, with depth at RB in case things fall apart. And I think there’s some merit to that idea – If you have two true difference makers at running back, it can cover up for a lot of holes elsewhere because high-end running backs tend to be more consistent from week to week than their high-end WR counterparts.
But, I think that is the wrong way to look at it. Because while of course you’d want multiple elite running backs, unless you’re willing to go for two in your first two picks, it’s pretty hard to guarantee that. Historically, running backs are very good bets to hit in the first two rounds – typically better than wide receivers, even. The first 12 running backs drafted hit 200-plus points in a season in PPR scoring about 63% of the time; the next 12 get there around 25% of the time – I did a deep dive on historical draft results last season, in case you want to know where I’m getting this from.
At least based on history, even if you try to make sure running back isn’t a “weakness,” there’s a pretty good chance that whoever you take as your RB2 or especially RB3 isn’t going to be a stalwart in your lineup. To put it another way: Running back is probably already a weakness for your roster, but you just don’t know it yet. That’s just how the position goes.
I want you to keep that in mind as we take a look at the latest rankings for each position for this season. I have my own tiered rankings for you in today’s newsletter, and you can also see tiers from Dave Richard and Heath Cummings, plus rankings from the entire FFT team right here. Next week on CBSSports.com/Fantasy, we’ll be diving deep into the running back position with our RB preview week content, and the newsletter will reflect that as well – I’ll break down the state of the position for on you Monday, and we’ll have our latest sleepers, breakouts, and busts for the position, along with updates on everything you need to know from training camp.
For now, here are my latest updated rankings for the 2022 seasons, with each position covered plus my latest overall top-150 rankings.
There hasn’t been much movement at the quarterback position for me of late. Note that I’m not ranking Deshaun Watson until we get some clarity on his eligibility for this season — I don’t know any more than any of you about his chances of playing a full season, and I wouldn’t be willing to tell you when or where to draft him until I do know.
That’s probably the biggest remaining question mark at the position, assuming Joe Burrow recovers from his appendix surgery without issue — if the time I had my appendix removed back in eighth grade is any indication, Burrow just needs to avoid laughing for a few days, and he’ll be back on his skateboard — err, the practice field — in no time.
That’s not to say there aren’t question marks at quarterback, of course. Questions abound about how the Eagles plan to deploy Jalen Hurts and how Trey Lance will mesh with the 49ers offense, as well as whether the Vikings might turn into a pass-first offense with new head coach Kevin O’Connell and what that could mean for Kirk Cousins‘ upside. We might get some answers to those questions during training camp and the preseason, but we won’t know how the likes of Justin Fields, Tua Tagovailoa, Daniel Jones or Trevor Lawrence will look until we actually see them in games. You can go as far down as No. 22 (Trevor Lawrence) before you run out of players I could realistically see finishing as top-12 guys, though that doesn’t mean I’m just going to wait and bet on upside — I’ve already written this offseason about how .
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Things are largely holding steady in my running back rankings, but there has been some movement, for sure. The top 12 seems pretty set, with the exception of one player: Alvin Kamara, whose off-field questions still loom. He’s set for a preliminary hearing for his assault charges on Aug. 1, but we probably won’t know much more about the timetable then than we do now. Kamara has every incentive to try to delay legal proceedings as much as he can, and the NFL is unlikely to take action until and unless the legal system plays out, so it’s entirely possible Kamara won’t face any discipline until next season. If I knew he was going to be eligible to play the whole season, Kamara would be a top-five option for me, likely No. 4.
A few players I did notably move up in this update are James Robinson and Rhamondre Stevenson, who both now sit in the fringe RB3 range. There has been buzz about Stevenson pushing Damien Harris for the lead RB role for the Patriots, and he’s the only RB there with three-down potential, meaning he’s the most high-upside one there. That’s a trend we’ll be keeping a very, very close eye on during training camp, and I .
As for Robinson, while he still has a lot to prove in coming back from a ruptured Achilles, the fact that he won’t be on the PUP list to open camp seems like a big deal to me. We’ve seen him be a difference-making contributor for Fantasy, and while it’s fair to be skeptical about his physical readiness coming off this specific injury, there simply aren’t many proven backs with three-down skills available late in your drafts. Robinson still went outside of the top-100 in our , so he still looks like a value to me.
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If you want to sum up the state of the wide receiver position heading into 2022 drafts, I think this does it about as well as anything else: Wide receivers make up just nine of my top 24 and 19 of the top 48, but then 48 of the next 102 players are WR. The position is lighter on obvious impact players than we’ve gotten used to in recent years, but it remains as deep as ever with contributors.
In recent weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that I think there’s probably a more definitive gap between Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase than I initially thought, hence the tier gap between them. Chase could, of course, take a step forward in his second season the same way Jefferson did, though I think it’s worth noting that while Jefferson did maintain elite efficiency, he still averaged 1.5 yards per target less in his second season than his first; he made up for that with 42 more targets, and it’s harder to project that kind of increase for Chase with Tee Higgins also demanding targets.
Of course, I’m happy to have either as my No. 1 wide receiver, and it might be more important to get one of those elite guys because I’m just not sure how many of them there are this season. I feel very confident in the top five in my rankings being elite, and pretty good about the next two tiers, but there are enough questions about them all to be at least a little skeptical. Deebo Samuel in particular fell a few spots (and a tier) for me, as I’m just not at all convinced that he’s going to get the volume or quality of touches he needs to come close to repeating last season.
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No man is an island, but at tight end, one man can be his own tier. That’s how it is for the first three, where I view Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and Kyle Pitts to be separated from both each other and the rest of the position. I’m willing to take all three in the first two rounds if I really want them, whereas I think George Kittle and Darren Waller are more like fourth or even fifth-rounders this season, with another multi-round drop after those two.
I’m not buying the idea that tight end will be different this year. We say that every year, and every year, there are like three tight ends who actually matter and then everyone else wouldn’t be worth starting if you didn’t have to have a tight end in your lineup. That doesn’t mean I don’t like T.J. Hockenson or Dallas Goedert (or even lower-end guys like Albert Okwuegbunam, Noah Fant, or Irv Smith). I’m just not going to reach for any of them except for the guys I know will be difference makers. This year, that only includes the top three.
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