2022 IDP Rookie Rankings

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The 2022 NFL Draft is in the books, and while there was plenty of grousing about the lack of star power at the quarterback position in this year's class, there was no such shortage of talent on the defensive side of the ball. As a matter of fact, beginning with Georgia's Travon Walker going to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the first overall pick, the first five selections in Las Vegas were all defensive players.

Now that the draft has come and gone, fantasy draft season will soon start ramping up –and the first order of business in dynasty leagues is the rookie draft. It's a chance for every team to add talent for 2022, and if your fantasy team needs some pop on defense there's no shortage of potential impact players available.

These rookie rankings are technically for dynasty IDP leagues, but truth be told there wouldn't be that much difference in them were they for a redraft format. There's an awful lot that can change from one year to the next on an NFL defense, whether it's personnel changes, a new coordinator or a different scheme. While dynasty managers have to keep one eye on the future, it's wise not to look too far ahead.

Before we stop with the jabbering and get to the good stuff, a couple of notes.

First, these rankings are for a fairly standard IDP setup—one that doesn't specifically require the likes of defensive tackles or cornerbacks and has scoring that is slanted toward tackles. Different scoring or roster requirements could alter these rankings a bit.

Also, many IDP providers are now eschewing the old position classifications (defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs) and grouping 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 "rush" linebackers together as edge-rushers. Beginning in 2022, the NFL depth charts here at NBC Sports Edge will follow a similar format. It's one that is more reflective of a 21st -century NFL of "hybrid" fronts and teams spending 70-plus percent of games in sub-packages.

These rankings follow that format, with edge-rushers and interior defensive linemen sharing positional eligibility ala the "DL" of old. If your league is an "old-school" format that lumps in the likes of Walker and Kayvon Thibodeaux with the linebackers, then sadly the IDP value of those youngsters takes a sizable hit.

EDGE-RUSHERS/INTERIOR DL

1. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, DET: The Lions almost pulled a hamstring racing to draft Hutchinson after the Jaguars passed on him with the first overall pick. Hutchinson may not have the athletic upside of Walker or the astronomical ceiling of Thibodeaux. But he's got easily the highest floor of any rookie edge-rusher in the class and is the best bet to make an immediate impact in the NFL.

2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, NYG: When Thibodeaux is on his game, he's an unstoppable force—a physical freak of nature who can take over a game. Questions about his consistency caused the 6'4", 254-pounder to fall a few spots, but if Thibodeaux puts it together and comes anywhere close to his ceiling, he has high-end DL1 potential.

3. Travon Walker, EDGE, JAX: A monstrous outing at the NFL Scouting Combine that included a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at 271 pounds vaulted Walker into the No. 1 overall spot in the draft. Walker's athletic potential is off the charts. But he only had 9.5 sacks combined over three seasons with the Bulldogs, so there's a measure of risk here for both the Jaguars and IDP managers.

4. George Karlaftis, EDGE, KCC: A 6'4", 266-pounder and three-year starter at Purdue, Karlaftis didn't post huge numbers last season. But he has an explosive first step and landed on a Chiefs team that needs pass-rush help as much as any team in the NFL. There's a clear path to early snaps for Karlaftis, who could find himself in the DL2 conversation sooner rather than later.

5. Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, NYJ: The Jets made the 6'5", 254-pound Johnson the third of their first-round picks after a trade up as the draft's first day wound down. After racking up 11.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss a season ago, Johnson joins a formidable-looking Jets front that already includes defensive end Carl Lawson and tackle Quinnen Williams.

6. Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, ATL: The 6'2", 250-pound Ebiketie was an early Day 2 pick by a Falcons team that had fewer sacks as a team in 2021 (19) than T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers had by himself. He's a talented player with plenty of potential, but this ranking has as much to do with his landing spot and odds for significant snaps off the jump as the player himself.

7. Boye Mafe, EDGE, SEA: This is another instance where a player's landing spot has almost as much to do with his IDP value as talent. Not that Mafe can't get after the quarterback—the 6'4", 261-pounder had 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks a year ago at Minnesota. Add in Seattle's desperation to get some pressure off the edge, and you have a real chance at an early IDP impact.

8. David Ojabo, EDGE, BAL: A second-round pick of the Ravens, Ojabo was being talked up as a potential top-10 pick not that long ago. But that was before Ojabo tore his Achilles tendon at Michigan's pro day. That injury puts much of Ojabo's 2022 season in doubt, but assuming he returns to form once healthy, he's a first-round talent with excellent athleticism.

9. Devonte Wyatt, IDL, GBP: Wyatt wasn't the first interior lineman drafted—his former Georgia teammate Jordan Davis took home that honor. But he's a highly disruptive 305-pounder who should be a big part of Green Bay's defensive plans from the get go. He's the highest-rated big man among this year's rookie class and should benefit from playing with the outside/inside duo of Preston Smith and Kenny Clark.

10. Sam Williams, EDGE, DAL: A 6'4", 261-pounder who piled up 12.5 sacks last year at Ole Miss, Williams was a second-round pick of the Cowboys despite a sexual battery charge while in college. After losing Randy Gregory in free agency, the Cowboys need someone to step up opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. Williams has the athletic potential to be that guy.

LINEBACKERS

1. Nakobe Dean, ILB, PHI: Dean's slide into the third round due to medical concerns was almost as surprising as the Philadelphia Eagles spending actual draft capital on an off-ball linebacker. Dean insisted after the draft that he's 100 percent healthy and raring to go—if that's the case, the Eagles got a difference-making sideline-to-sideline linebacker for pennies on the dollar.

2. Devin Lloyd, ILB, JAX: After amassing 111 total tackles at Utah last year, the Jaguars traded up into the latter stages of Round 1 to bring in the 6'3", 237-pounder to replace Myles Jack alongside free agent addition Foyesade Oluokun. Lloyd should be a three-down starter out of the gate and is the safest IDP bet among this year's rookie linebackers.

3. Quay Walker, ILB, GBP: Somewhat surprisingly, it was Walker who was the first off-ball linebacker drafted, going 22nd overall to the Green Bay Packers. A 6'4", 241-pounder who excelled in coverage at Georgia, Walker will likely start next to De'Vondre Campbell for the Pack and could easily work his way into higher-end fantasy LB3 territory as a rookie.

4. Troy Andersen, ILB, ATL: A small-school standout from Montana State, Andersen turned heads in Indianapolis by peeling off a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at 243 pounds. After losing Oluokun in free agency the Falcons have a hole in the middle of their defense that could offer quite a few tackle opportunities. The only question is how Andersen will weather going from the Big Sky Conference to the NFL.

5. Christian Harris, ILB, HOU: This is the point in the rookie linebacker rankings where the waters start to muddy. Alabama linebackers have been known to make a dent in IDP leagues, and Harris has the talent to be the next such impact player. But early snaps could be an issue behind linebackers Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill.

6. Channing Tindall, ILB, MIA: Tindall doesn't have the notoriety of former Georgia teammates Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean. What he does have is 4.47-second speed and impressive athleticism. Tindall lacks polish and could take a while to get going, but Miami's depth chart at his position thins out quickly after Jerome Baker. If he's a quick study, the playing time will be there.

7. Chad Muma, ILB, JAX: As a talent, Muma had a chance to be one of the 2022 draft's best values, both for NFL teams and IDP managers. He's a more athletic version of fellow Wyoming standout Logan Wilson. But then the Jaguars went and ruined everything by drafting Muma after also taking Devin Lloyd. Barring an injury, it's hard to see Muma getting many snaps as a rookie.

8. Leo Chenal, ILB, KCC: The 6'3", 250-pound Chenal was productive for the Badgers in 2021, racking up an impressive 115 total tackles. He's also something of a throwback—a "thumper" type whose range and coverage skills could come into question in the NFL. With that said, Willie Gay hasn't lived up to expectations as a pro, so Chenal has at least a puncher's chance of carving out IDP relevance in 2021.

9. Brian Asamoah, ILB, MIN: As a two-year starter at Oklahoma, Asamoah was stout against the run and showed some aptitude playing coverage in the Sooners' Cover-2 defense. Still, the 6'0", 226-pounder is undersized and will likely have to wait his turn for a chance at playing time behind Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks in the Twin Cities.

10. Brandon Smith, OLB, CAR: A fourth-round pick of the Panthers after tallying 62 tackles at Penn State last year, Smith is an intriguing prospect—250 pounds with the wheels to roam sideline to sideline. The Panthers also aren't exactly loaded at linebacker. This is probably a pick for 2023 as opposed to 2022, but if Cory Littleton or Damien Wilson falters, Smith could see the field even sooner.

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DEFENSIVE BACKS

1. Kyle Hamilton, S, BAL: Hamilton was considered not only the best safety prospect in his class but also the best to come along in multiple years. That he fell to the Ravens at No. 14 overall was a gift. He'll slot into the starting lineup immediately and could easily post top-20 fantasy numbers in his first professional season. He's the No. 1 defensive back by a mile.

2. Jaquan Brisker, S, CHI: A hard-hitting 6'1", 199-pounder the Bears selected in the second round, Brisker has a varied skill set but does his best work in the box. That should set him up to open the season as the Bears starting strong safety, and it's possible that he could give Hamilton a run as the highest-scoring IDP defensive back.

3. Lewis Cine, S, MIN: The final pick of the draft's first round, Cine displayed the total package at Georgia—he can stuff backs at the line of scrimmage and showed off 4.37-second speed at the scouting combine. Given Cine's first-round status and the lack of depth at safety behind Harrison Smith in Minnesota, he should open the season as a full-time starter.

4. Bryan Cook, S, KCC: The Chiefs brought in Justin Reid to "replace" Tyrann Mathieu in the offseason, and the team has Juan Thornhill on the roster as well. But the Chiefs played a lot of three-safety looks last year with Daniel Sorensen acting as a de facto nickel linebacker. That could be the same role the team has in mind for Cook, who was drafted in the second round.

5. Jalen Pitre, S, HOU: Pitre was a productive tackler over the past two years at Baylor, notching 135 total tackles over the past two years. He also played all over the place for the Bears, whether it was in the slot or as a subpackage linebacker. The 5'11", 198-pounder has a good chance at starting in 2022 for a Texans defense that should be on the field quite a bit.

6. Daxton Hill, S, CIN: Hill's talent and versatility aren't in question—he's capable of playing all over the secondary, and the Bengals made him their first pick for a reason. What is in question is Hill's role (and potentially his positional classification). The Bengals are set at safety and in the slot, and Hill has already expressed an openness to transitioning to boundary cornerback. There's risk here, especially in 2022.

7. Kerby Joseph, S, DET: Joseph was a third-round pick of the Lions after a standout career at the University of Illinois in which he was named first-team All-Big Ten. However, Joseph will likely be slated for a deep safety role once he does work into the starting lineup, and he'll need to beat out a capable veteran in DeShon Elliott to do that.

8. Nick Cross, S, IND: A third-round pick of the Colts out of the University of Maryland, Cross impressed at the scouting combine with a 4.34-second 40 and a 37" vertical jump. The 6'0", 212-pounder has the talent to be a quality starter in the pros, but he needs to work on his coverage skills and will probably be slated for a reserve role in the early-going.

9. Ahmad Gardner, CB, NYJ: "Sauce" wasn't the first cornerback drafted in 2022—that honor went to LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. He probably won't be the highest-scoring rookie corner, either. Some other youngster will wind up a starter and "rookie corner rule" his way to IDP relevance. But he'll start right away and isn't afraid to get his helmet dirty, so he's the top-ranked rookie corner on my board.

10. Dane Belton, S, NYG: A fourth-round pick of the Giants, Belton on paper looks the part of a safety who can make hay in IDP leagues—the 6'1", 205-pounder is a physical tackler who spent most of his time as a hybrid safety/linebacker at Iowa. But Belton will have to beat out Julian Love in training camp if he's going to see significant playing time as a rookie.

TOP 25 ROOKIE IDPs

  1. Nakobe Dean, ILB, PHI

  2. Devin Lloyd, ILB, JAX

  3. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, DET

  4. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, NYG

  5. Quay Walker, ILB, GBP

  6. Kyle Hamilton, S, BAL

  7. Travon Walker, EDGE, JAX

  8. Troy Andersen, ILB, ATL

  9. George Karlaftis, EDGE, KCC

  10. Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, NYJ

  11. Christian Harris, ILB, HOU

  12. Jaquan Brisker, S, CHI

  13. Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, ATL

  14. Channing Tindall, ILB, MIA

  15. Boye Mafe, EDGE, SEA

  16. Lewis Cine, S, MIN

  17. David Ojabo, EDGE, BAL

  18. Chad Muma, ILB, JAX

  19. Devonte Wyatt, IDL, GBP

  20. Leo Chenal, ILB, KCC

  21. Bryan Cook, S, KCC

  22. Sam Williams, EDGE, DAL

  23. Brian Asamoah, ILB, MIN

  24. Jalen Pitre, S, HOU

  25. Brandon Smith, OLB, CAR