Stars leaving first round of 2022 drafts

It’s the second week of February. We don’t even have an NFL champion yet. But fantasy football discussion is a year-long pursuit.

Today’s assignment is to look at name-brand players who were previously first-rounders but likely to move out of that exclusive club next season. The arrow is moving in the wrong direction. Heck, in some cases, maybe the cheese has gone bad.

Everything here is written in pencil, of course. Although I am a staunch advocate that high-volume Best Ball drafting is the best way to prepare for the next fantasy year, I won’t start my portfolio until after the NFL Draft. We’ll be ironing things out for a while.

Preamble to the side, here are 2021 first-rounders that I likely will rank outside the first round for next season.

Although I love Chubb’s game and it hurts me to move him down, this is one of the easiest calls of the exercise. Early round running backs need to be tied to winning teams and usually need a reliable pass-catching role. I can’t guarantee you the 2022 Browns will be a good team, and although Chubb seems like a reasonable receiver to my eyes, Cleveland does not throw the ball to him much.

Staying on the field has been a problem — Barkley has missed 21 games in three years. And when he was on the field in 2021, it wasn’t a treat — a piddly 3.7 YPC, just four total touchdowns. Barkley’s PPR value was buoyed by 41 catches, even as his yards per target dipped to a meager 4.6. New head coach Brian Daboll is an exciting hire and the Giants have interesting skill talent on offense, but Barkley’s medical file pushes him out of first-round consideration.

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Although Zeke played hurt much of the year, he did get into all 17 games. But his efficiency from him has been ordinary for a while, especially in the passing game, where his yards per target have fallen five straight years. Elliott steps into his seventh NFL season — that’s old for a running back — and the Cowboys have a younger, fresher alternative to consider in Tony Pollard. This could be close to a 50-50 timeshare next year, even considering Elliott’s gigantic contract.

Ezekiel Elliott is likely off Scott Pianowski’s 2022 fantasy football first-round board. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

It’s possible the Aaron Rodgers breakup is finally here, and no one wants to imagine the Packers offense with jordan love at the controls. Jones also has to deal with AJ Dillon, a threat for goal-line work and a more capable receiver than anyone expected. If Rodgers isn’t here, I don’t see Green Bay making the 2022 playoffs. And Jones isn’t going to be a bell cow unless Dillon gets hurt.

This is a nit-picky inclusion for two reasons: Diggs was a borderline first-round pick last year, and I would likely consider him around the 18-24 range for a 2022 draft. But despite his outstanding volume from him in three of the past four years, he’s only been good in the touchdown area, not dominant — a high of 10 spikes, and 33 over four years. I understand that touchdown rates have randomness to them, but much like BABIP with a baseball pitcher, I don’t consider a touchdown rate to be completely random; the player has to own some of it. If I can’t assume 10 Diggs touchdowns in August, I can’t draft him in the first round.

Hard to pick on a guy who’s ranked TE1, TE2, TE1, TE1, TE1, and TE2 in the past six seasons. But Kelce moves into his age-33 season, and I’m trying to draft younger with my premium fantasy picks. Kelce did n’t have bad efficiency numbers in 2021, but his YPC was at a six-year low, and his yards per target was a personal worst. His yards per game from him also dropped by 24 yards. No one expects a down season for Kelce next year, but I’d prefer to draft an ascending talent, not someone who’s obviously on the back nine — even if we’re talking about a walk-in Hall of Famer.

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Davante Adams, WR, Packers

If he’s still with Aaron Rodgers, he’s a first-rounder to me, maybe even a top-six pick. If Adams runs with Jordan Love, I can’t do it. And if Adams links up with a plus quarterback other than Rodgers, I’ll re-open the case. The fan in me hopes Rodgers and Adams stay together; since Jerry Rice retired, no QB/WR combination has shown the chemistry of the Green Bay connection.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers

I still don’t know what to do with him; I might slide him back with the big tickets when the bell rings. The Panthers might be screwed at quarterback, but McCaffrey has produced with lesser QBs before. His physical build of him does not have to be a problem if the team continues to use him as a hybrid; the 287 carries back in 2018 were probably a mistake, but McCaffrey’s 2018 usage would get him back into the first round. You want McCaffrey being tackled by the lighter defenders.

Bottom line, I’m human; I have a hard time writing a check for someone who’s been hurt and a major fantasy loss for two years running.

Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints

He steps into his sixth season after a messy fifth one — 3.7 YPC, and his worst yards-per-target figure. The Saints have a new coaching staff and uncertainty at quarterback. Kamara is also dealing with an unclear personal future after last week’s arrest on a battery charge. We’ll have to revisit this one.

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