There’s no prize more polarizing in fantasy sports than the first overall pick. On one hand, it signals a chance at growth and greatness, which you could potentially achieve with my number one guy, Jonathan Taylor. On the other hand, it presents a dangerous potential pitfall. Most fantasy drafts are conducted in snake order, meaning the person who picks first in the first round then picks last in the second round and so on.
But you knew that already. What you may not know is just how dangerous the first pick can be. Barring draft pick trades, owners of the first pick wait for more than 20 selections until their next pick. That’s a scarily large gap between talent, especially if your first pick doesn’t live up to the hype. And spoiler alert, they rarely do. Below are the first picks by ADP for each of the last eight seasons and their respective finishes by the end of the season.
2021: Christian McCaffrey – RB37
2020: Christian McCaffrey – RB54
2019: Saquon Barkley – RB10
2018: Todd Gurley – RB3
2017: David Johnson – RB114
2016: Antonio Brown – WR1
2015: Le’Veon Bell – RB47
2014: Adrian Peterson – RB128
You see? You don’t get the best player with the first pick, you get last year’s best player. We have no clue who this year’s best player will be and it’s almost never the player it was the year before.
Only Antonio Brown in 2016 and Todd Gurley in 2018 proved to be sufficient first-overall picks. And even then, Brown was outscored by three running backs. As you can see, injuries and suspensions struck the first picks at an astonishingly high rate. Now, I’m not saying the first player picked will probably get hurt or suspended, I’m simply pointing out the futility of placing most of your eggs in the basket of one player because if that player doesn’t live up to the hype, you’ll be in for a rough season.
That’s why, if possible, you must avoid the first pick at all costs. Yes, injuries happen, but even when they don’t, fantasy football is simply a game centered around predicting the future. There are no certainties with that, only probabilities. You have to weigh all potential outcomes rather than fixating on one potential outcome. In other words, the player drafted first overall has a way greater chance of not finishing as the best player in fantasy than he does at returning you that value.
Who Should Be The First Pick in 2022?
If you draw the unlucky straw of picking first, there’s really only one good option and I already mentioned him: Jonathan Taylor. This season, Taylor’s ADP is 1.01 across almost all leagues and formats – as it should be.
If you had Taylor on your fantasy roster last season, then you almost certainly enjoyed a successful season. Taylor scored the most fantasy points among all non-quarterbacks while averaging the second-most fantasy points per game behind Derrick Henry. Taylor’s success shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise considering how focused the Colts are on establishing the run. Indianapolis ran the ball at the fifth-highest rate last season, which allowed Taylor to see the fourth-highest snap rate among all running backs. The Colts also ran the ball in the redzone more times than all but two teams (Eagles and Browns).
And what’s not to love about Taylor this season? Nothing suggests the Colts will shy away from Taylor, despite the addition of quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan is there to help fix a nonexistent passing offense, not to overhaul the team’s offensive philosophy. If anything, defenders may need to respect Indy’s pass game a bit more. You shouldn’t be too concerned about Nyheim Hines, either. Even as the Colts’ primary receiving back, he saw just six more targets than Taylor. And yet, Taylor was still fantasy’s RB1.
So why does Taylor get the nod this year over other top candidates for the first pick? Let’s see why they don’t compare to Taylor:
Christian McCaffrey: Played ten games in two years.
Cooper Kupp: Would be unprecedented for Kupp to repeat his success from last season. Plus, positional value of running backs surpasses the positional value of wide receivers.
Derrick Henry: Played only eight games. Possibility of hitting the running back wall. Not nearly as involved in the passing game.
Austin Ekeler: Pivotal part of the Chargers’ offense, but he’s not their offense. Taylor is the Colts’ offense.
Jonathan Taylor is the undisputed 1.01 in fantasy this season, but if you can help it, make sure you don’t get the first-overall pick. The risk is far too great, and the reward of potentially drafting the best player in fantasy rarely pays out. Unless you feel uber confident in your drafting abilities, look for a pick in the middle or end of the first round instead.