The NFL is a snow globe league. Things change fast, day to day, week to week, even minute to minute on game day. Ask Raiders, Ravens and Browns fans how they were feeling entering this week. Today’s assignment is to redraft a fantasy league that theoretically starts in Week 3. Some picks might seem too reactionary to you, and others might not feel reactionary enough. That’s why we have a game.
The constant goal is to adjust to the new realities quicker than our opponents and to do the best we can to decipher what’s signal and what’s just noise.
I’m on the clock for the next 24 picks. Assume a 12-team, half-point PPR league.
1. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts
It’s an ugly start for the Colts, but Taylor has been fine. He’s capable of playing in all packages, and the Indianapolis offensive line shouldn’t be a problem. As wonderful as the league’s receiving talent is right now, I still think taking a stab at the back most likely to finish as the RB1 makes sense in this spot.
2. Cooper Kupp WR, Rams
Everyone reasonably expected regression after Kupp broke football last year, but maybe no one has solved the Kupp matrix yet. It’s extremely rare to land a player who offers the weekly ceiling and floor that Kupp provides. Apparently, the Matthew Stafford elbow issue is not a big deal.
3. Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings
Minnesota didn’t do much right on Monday, but give Philadelphia credit for that. I still expect the Kevin O’Connell hire to be a fantastic spike to Jefferson’s value, and Jefferson was already an overlord under the previous, dated regime.
4. Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills
Call this team Buffalo Springfield; it’s an absolute steamroller. Tennessee is a team with issues, but Buffalo made them look like a junior college team Monday. Diggs is tied to a franchise quarterback, and although the Bills offense has strong depth at the skill spots, Diggs is special enough to force a heavy market share most weeks.
5. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals
The Bengals invested in their leaky offensive line, but offensive lines need time to jell. It obviously hasn’t happened yet, but it will. I’m still willing to follow Joe Burrow anywhere, and Chase is capable of winning on every spot on the field. Any pass to Chase can turn into a highlight-film touchdown, and he has the right mix of athleticism, intelligence and swagger. He knows he can’t be covered.
6. Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
I viewed Barkley as a reactive (not proactive) second-round pick in the summer, which obviously looks wrong now. The Giants finally have an adult in the coaching room, and the offense needs to flow through Barkley to offset a weak receiving group. Maybe Barkley’s upside isn’t quite what it was in his early years, but it’s still plenty high — and only health can ding his sturdy floor (you can say that for any running back). If you wanted to draft Barkley higher, I would not fight you.
7. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
He’s been okay through two weeks, not great. I was hopeful that Baker Mayfield would be a notable upgrade at quarterback; thus far, that hasn’t happened. Maybe Matt Rhule is in over his head. An early running-back pick is a bet on infrastructure, and Carolina’s current infrastructure has me concerned.
8. Davante Adams, WR, Raiders
He absorbed all of the targets in Week 1, and hardly any in Week 2. They’ll iron that out. I weep of the Rodgers-to-Adams poetry we no longer have, but Derek Carr knows where his bread is buttered. The Raiders are also coming off a loss, which is all the more reason to fix the glaring Week 2 Adams usage.
9. Tyreek Hill, WR, Dolphins
I still don’t know if Tua Tagovailoa is actually good. But with Hill and Jaylen Waddle running past opponents like they're traffic cones, I’m not sure it matters. Hill doesn’t get enough credit for being dynamic on the medium and short routes; he’s a defensive nightmare no matter what pattern he’s running. Miami has shifted to an attacking passing model, which is what you do after you acquire Hill.
10. Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
He’s an unquestioned bell cow and as I said in the Chase section, I expect the Bengals to figure out the offensive line. But I also can’t shake the fear that the Bengals made the Super Bowl in spite of Zac Taylor, not because of him.
11. Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
He had three touchdowns (in just 10 games) under the old coaching staff in 2020. Last year Ekeler spiked 20 times, although his usage might have gotten away from the team. Where is the proper adjustment in the middle? Nonetheless, a featured back on a plus offense has to land in the first round, somewhere.
12. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
His yards per target dropped significantly last year and it’s even lower so far in 2022. If Cook wants to hold first-round real estate, he needs to go back to being a multi-dimensional weapon.
13. Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
He was comically underused in the opener, but give Matt LaFleur credit — he owned the mistake and corrected it in Week 2. A.J. Dillon is a capable player too, but he’s the Robin in this backfield — Jones is the Batman.
14. A.J. Brown, WR, Eagles
So many things are coming up Eagles — the offensive line is a monster, Jalen Hurts has improved, the skill talent is outstanding, the schedule is laughably easy. But the team also recognizes Brown as the true alpha in an offense filled with plus pass catchers, and I can’t wait to see what Brown does now that he’s finally going to get a target count commensurate with his talent.
15. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Lions
Man, was he mispriced in summer drafts, even among his industry proponents (and I was one of them). St. Brown’s proven that a crowded offense isn’t going to stop him, and his skill set matches up perfectly with what Jared Goff does well. All hail the Sun God.
16. Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
The tight end position is constantly filled with trap doors and false promises (my Cole Kmet shares wave hello), so I understand if you want to grab a vanity option early. Mark Andrews ultimately didn’t make this list, but he also merits second-round consideration.
17. Nick Chubb, RB, Browns
The most elegant runner in the game today, and the Browns know they have to win with controlled offense and a plus defense. I wish the Browns would let Chubb catch 50 passes a year, something he’s capable of doing — and worthy of doing — but this deep into the game, we have to assume that’s never happening.
18. D’Andre Swift, RB, Lions
Detroit is the NFL’s funhouse right now — they score on everyone, they can’t stop anyone — and Swift is a big part of what they do. But with Jamaal Williams owning the goal-line role, Swift makes more sense in the second round.
19. Leonard Fournette, RB, Buccaneers
Maybe Tampa Bay is finally taking a step down in class, but Fournette’s role is meaty and there’s too much talent for this team not to win the NFC South by accident. Bell cows are almost extinct, so enjoy Lenny while he’s still playing.
20. Javonte Williams, RB, Broncos
Melvin Gordon isn't going to disappear, but Williams is obviously the better receiver, and he should be a special runner, too. Both backs had goal-line fumbles in the opener, and Williams was wide-open for a touchdown last week but Russell Wilson didn’t see him. I understand reservations about Wilson’s slow start and Nathaniel Hackett’s growing pains, but I’m still giving this offense the benefit of the doubt. Williams doesn’t have the obvious floor for this spot, but I’ll take a swing at the upside.
21. Najee Harris, RB, Steelers
Yes, I’ve slotted him like I don’t want him on my roster. That’s fair. Harris is a pounder and a compiler, but might not have any special traits. I don’t know how soon Kenny Pickett will be ready to play, but he can’t be any worse than Mitch Trubisky.
22. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
So many arrows pointed in the wrong direction — the team has been dismantled, the carries have added up, attrition is an issue. And Henry is never going to be much of a receiver. If you don’t see Tennessee with a winning record (and I sure don’t), Henry doesn’t belong anywhere close to the first round.
23. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Dolphins
It was frustrating to see Waddle pigeonholed into a short and horizontal role last year, not a comment on him but on his quarterback and coaching staff. This year the Dolphins are letting it rip downfield, and Waddle has emphatically proven he can win on chunk plays. Hill and Waddle deservedly get this draft real estate because the team’s target distribution is so heavily weighted towards them.
24. Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers
He’s keeping a fair chunk of last year’s running role, and the San Francisco downfield passing game gets an obvious upgrade from green Trey Lance to experienced Jimmy Garoppolo. I ranked Samuel below Waddle because the Niners have more competition for the ball.
Just missed (in no particular order): Michael Pittman, Mike Williams, Mark Andrews, Tee Higgins, James Conner.