Brace yourself for some truly ground-breaking fantasy football advice: To make the playoffs this season, you need to draft the best players.
Obviously obvious advice or not, that was true during the 2022 fantasy football regular season, spanning Weeks 1-14, at least judging by the most available players on ESPN playoff teams’ rosters. More importantly, that realization represents a stark contrast to his previous season, proving once again that there is no single, one-size-fits-all path to success. Sometimes, it’s the stars that propel us to championships. Other times, it’s waived-wire wonder who does it. In 2022, they’re the ones who carry us… well, at least they have this away
Consider: Eight of the 10 players found on 60% or more of ESPN’s playoff teams were selected within the first 29 picks in the preseason, and none of the 10 went higher than 56 picks, compared to 31 of the top 50 most drafted players. Also Average was a top-50 preseason pick. For a point of comparison, six of the 12 highest-rated players on the 2021 playoff team went undrafted in the preseason, proving a piecemeal strategy to build the team into an unusually successful cornerback.
This year was overall ahead Kansas City Chiefs‘ Travis Kelce, also clear his position category. The Kelce’s 71.7% roster rate in playoff qualifiers is the fourth-highest rate in the sixth season I’ve written this column, trailing only Christian McCaffrey78.1% of that in 2019, when he scored the second-best 471.2 PPR fantasy points in history; Alvin Kamara77.4% of that in 2017, his rookie season when he went from fantasy bound to leading the league with 148.0 points in the five weeks before the playoffs; And James Conner75.9% of that in 2018, when he took over and did a good job starting the Steelers’ run after Le’Veon Bell’s holdout.
You’ll notice that all three of these players ahead of Kelce are running backs, while Kelce is a tight end. Considering the lack of quality options at the tight end position this season, Kelce’s league-leading status is a logical outcome, though it’s as much about his outstanding season as it is about the lack of position.
Through 14 weeks, Kelce finds himself 12th all position with 257.4 PPR fantasy points (he would have ranked 15th using per-game averages), and he has a nearly 100-point advantage over his positional brethren (second to Mark Andrews’ 157.9 points). That’s already enough to rank Kelce among the top 20 single-season totals in history by a tight end, but he’s actually on pace for 336.6 points, which would break Rob Gronkowski’s positional mark (330.9, in 2011). Additionally, even if adjusted for 16 games, which was the season length for each of the position’s three best point totals (including Kelce’s 312.76 in 2020, which is his personal best as well as the second-best at the position), Kelce is on pace for 316.8 points. , which would set a new career high and second only to Gronkowski’s 2011.
The 99.5 PPR fantasy point advantage Kelce holds over the rest of the tight end field currently represents the second-largest differential in history between the 1 and 2 scorer positions, trailing only Kellen Winslow’s 111.6 point advantage over the field in 1980 (he scored 272.0 that year). Kelce’s excellence comes in a year that has been particularly difficult for fantasy managers looking to fill their tight end position, with his 70%-plus roster rate on playoff teams, presenting a strong candidacy for early Fantasy MVP honors.
Before we get into other such playoff-relevant stories, let’s get to the list itself. Below is a list of the top 50 players based on the percentage of ESPN leagues in which their teams advanced to the playoffs. Year-to-date earnings are included in their preseason ADP (average draft position) as well as PPR scoring.
Seven players scored 282.8-plus PPR fantasy points this season, and six of them will be available on at least 60% of ESPN league playoff rosters. Joe Baro (290.8 points, 53.4%) just outside that group. Jalen gets hurt (65.4% playoff rate), the league’s leading scorer (334.88 PPR Fantasy Points) was selected 56th on average, making him a compelling candidate for Fantasy MVP status as well.
Josh Jacobs (second-best 65.7% playoff rate), who is second among running backs with 282.8 PPR fantasy points on the season and easily tops the position over the past five weeks (130.3 points), is another strong contender for that honor. He faces the Patriots (Week 15) and 49ers (Week 17), two of the toughest defenses against the run this season, during the fantasy playoffs, so we’ll see if he’s able to keep his teams afloat during these challenging weeks.
Seemingly undrafted players were a lot 2022 has less impact on the fantasy playoff race than the previous five seasons. In fact, only two players who went truly undrafted — with an ADP of 170 or higher or selected to fewer than one-third of ESPN league teams in the preseason — found themselves on the playoff rosters of more than 40% of the league’s teams. Christian Watson (44.2% playoff rate) and Geno Smith (41.6%). Watson was the No. 4 wide receiver in PPR fantasy points in the five weeks before the playoffs (99.2), during which he totaled eight touchdowns in four games, while Smith was the No. 6 quarterback on the season (245.62). )
Justin Fields (49.8% playoff rate) is one of the more intriguing stories of 2022, performing so poorly in September that a drop to shallow fantasy leagues was warranted, only to charge back with five straight games worth at least 22.62 fantasy points from Weeks 7-11. Fields’ season contributions made him the fifth-highest ranked quarterback on a playoff team (49.8%). That’s despite his 18th ADP in the preseason.
As always, your team’s defense/special teams look set to pay dividends again in 2022. Philadelphia Eagles Ranked the No. 13 defense in the preseason, yet ESPN playoff teams ranked themselves at a league-best 57.5%. The New England Patriots, also, 42.7% made their preseason positional ADP the No. 14 among league playoff rosters. It was, however, paid off to get the defense No. 1, as Buffalo Bill Had the second-best playoff rate among D/STs (51.1%).
While Kelce, Hurts, Jacobs and Fields can lead their fantasy teams through this critical stretch of the calendar, can any or all of the four put their team over the top on their way to a championship? We’ll find out soon enough, as we’ll be back in two weeks to update the list with the most finalist team players.
Good luck to you in the fantasy playoffs!