Although finding players with league-winning upside is an essential part of a successful fantasy draft, avoiding those who may end up having dismal seasons is equally important. The best drafters will mix in some upside picks with several players who have a high floor due to their age, skills and expected role. Let’s take a look at the safest picks in each round of 2022 Yahoo drafts, with an acknowledgment that I included running backs whenever possible due to the annual struggle to find safe picks at a position that is inherently full of risk.
Round 1: Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (Overall ADP 5.2)
Drafting Jefferson is the perfect recipe for sleeping easy at night. The former LSU star amassed over 3,000 yards in his initial two NFL seasons and just recently turned 23 years old. He is the clear No. 1 weapon in an offense that is expected to pass more often this year, and his teammates such as Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen are good enough to keep the chains moving when they get their opportunities.
Round 2: Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers (Overall ADP 15.3)
As I mentioned earlier, no RB is truly safe, but we need to start two of them and some are safer than others. Jones will undoubtedly be essential to a Packers offense that is led by an MVP-caliber QB but lacks weapons at WR and TE. Sure, Jones will share opportunities with A.J. Dillon, but Jones has the versatile skill set, long resume and large contract to ensure he'll get plenty of touches.
Round 3: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (Overall ADP 31.1)
I understand the reasons not to draft Allen — he has never posted a double-digit TD season and recently hit the wrong side of 30 — but in terms of consistency, he can’t be topped. The favorite target of emerging star Justin Herbert (more on him below) has caught between 97 and 106 passes in each of the past five seasons, averaging 1,184 yards and tallying at least six scores in those campaigns.
Round 4: Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (Overall ADP 37.7)
As you can already tell, I have plenty of confidence in the Chargers' passing attack. Herbert is arguably the safest QB option this year, as he enters Year 3 of his career as an established star with the passing skills to throw for 5,000 yards and the rushing ability to contribute points in multiple ways. And the Chargers' offense is returning all of Herbert’s top weapons from last season.
Round 5: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (Overall ADP 43.4)
I could have picked Mike Williams for this spot, but by now I have made my faith in the Chargers' passing attack perfectly clear. For those who want a star QB and miss out on Josh Allen, Herbert and Patrick Mahomes, Jackson is the final option who blends a high floor with a massive ceiling.
The fifth-year pro runs too fast to leave fantasy managers high and dry, as last year he would have posted his third straight 1,000-yard rushing campaign if he didn’t miss five games due to injury. Jackson posts such remarkable rushing totals that he doesn’t even have to be an average passer in order to warrant a fantasy lineup spot.
Round 6: Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys (Overall ADP 56.3)
A Round 6 investment in Schultz is unlikely to be the key to a championship, but he is also among the safest options in any round. The 26-year-old is a favorite target of Dak Prescott, which resulted in 78 catches for 808 yards last year. And with the departure of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup still recovery from a knee injury, Prescott is going to open the season with few established options at his disposal. CeeDee Lamb and Schultz will do plenty of heavy lifting for a Dallas passing game that ought to be productive.
Round 7: Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans (Overall ADP 69.9)
Cooks has shown that change can’t slow him down, collecting six 1,000-yard seasons for four different teams by the time he celebrated his 28th birthday. He has also proved that he can be productive in an offense that is otherwise mediocre, which is a good thing because that’s the exact situation he's in this season. Sophomore QB Davis Mills should undoubtedly rely heavily on his most established receiver.
Round 8: Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions (Overall ADP 73.0)
The options in Round 8 are not especially safe, with St. Brown emerging as the choice because of his great rapport with Jared Goff. The Lions have added WR talent this year, but rookie Jameson Williams is recovering from a torn ACL and there is no guarantee that DJ Chark, who played four games last year, will find chemistry with Goff. As the Lions' primary slot option, St. Brown will catch plenty of underneath passes.
Round 9: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (Overall ADP 89.6)
The safety drop-off that occurred in Round 8 continues in the subsequent 10 picks. And because we have arrived at the point in the draft where the RB and WR options mostly have unsettled roles, this is a great spot for those who waited on drafting a QB to take a future Hall of Famer.
Sure, Rodgers has to find a new No. 1 receiver, but we have seen him faced with this problem before, and he always makes it work. In fact, it’s remarkable that a player at any position who is coming off back-to-back NFL MVP awards is available this late in drafts.
Round 10: Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys (Overall ADP 93.5)
No matter what happens with Ezekiel Elliott, Pollard is going to have a significant role in the Cowboys' offense. In fact, one could make the case that Pollard is the most dynamic playmaker on his team after he averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 8.6 yards per reception last year.
The floor for Pollard is splitting time with Elliott; the ceiling is taking over the backfield.