These are not rankings (look for those in the coming days), but rather a rundown of the picks and evaluation of several mitigating factors into potential fantasy output. We will be referring to MyFantasyLeague’s position designations, as there will, of course, be gray areas in terms of the edge rushers.
Devin Lloyd (JAX): With some comparisons to Darius Leonard, Lloyd is a do-everything ‘backer who will slide right in at middle linebacker for the Jags. Despite signing Foye Oluokun from the Falcons, the Jaguars had a gaping hole in the middle of their linebacking corps. Lloyd is a three-down linebacker who should make an immediate impact both in the strength of the Jaguar defense and fantasy-wise.
Quay Walker (GBP): Walker fits exactly what the Packers need to line up alongside De'Vondre Campbell: a long, rangy run-stopper that has some upside as a pass rusher. He’s projected to start ahead of Krys Barnes, so immediate fantasy impact is expected here. The upside may be limited due to the presence of Campbell, but Walker can gobble up tackles, making him a solid pick in rookie drafts.
Nakobe Dean (PHI): Great landing spot for one of the better overall defenders in this rookie class. Dean will likely overtake T.J. Edwards as the MLB for the Eagles. His upside could be capped with the presence of Kyzir White, who was signed this off-season. But Dean just has too much athleticism, ability to cover running backs out of the backfield and pass-rush instincts to get lost. He’s definitely one of the top IDP rookies of 2022.
Troy Andersen (ATL): Andersen was one of my sleepers going into the NFL Draft, as his measurables were off the charts as well as the intangibles. Andersen has experience at not only linebacker but quarterback and running back as well. That experience gives him a leg up and a lot of upside, especially with Foye Oluokon now in Jacksonville. Andersen may not be a Day 1 starter since the Falcons did sign Rashaan Evans and of course still have the veteran Deion Jones, but there’s a lot of upside here.
Brian Asamoah (MIN): Like Andersen, he will likely start his NFL career backing up a veteran. The Vikings were terrible against the run in 2021, so a rangy run-stopper like Asamoah was a solid pick. At some point, you must think he’ll supplant Jordan Hicks, who’s entering his age-31 season, and is only signed through 2023. Asamoah is a draft-and-stasher who will eventually be a solid fantasy producer.
Chad Muma (JAX): If the Jags hadn’t signed Foye Oluokon, we would be looking at the top two rookie IDPs being from the same team. That said, Muma is still a nice draft-and-stash candidate as he and Devin Lloyd are certainly two of the future centerpieces of the Jaguar defense. Muma will back up Oluokon at the MIKE spot initially. Oluokon is signed through 2024, so it may be some time before Muma produces for your fantasy team.
Christian Harris (HOU): Christian Kirksey is no spring chicken and while Kamu Grugier-Hill was a surprise producer in 2021, Harris has way more talent and his long-term prospects look good for this Houston defense, which ranked near the bottom in overall defense in 2021. Harris may not start given the presence of those two veterans and the signing of Jalen Reeves-Maybin, but Harris is a plus athlete with great instincts which could keep him on the field for all three downs eventually.
Nik Bonitto (DEN): Right now MFL has Bonitto listed as a linebacker, which limits his fantasy value. Bonitto is too lean to play end but has terrific pass rush capabilities, so may prove useful in big-play leagues with deep benches.
Others to watch: Channing Tindall, Terrel Bernard, Leo Chenal, Brandon Smith
Travon Walker (JAX): MFL lists Walker as a defensive tackle, which makes him uber-valuable in leagues that split apart defensive tackle and defensive end. He’s raw but has a ton of upside. He lined up all over the line for Georgia and could end up spending enough time on the edge to be switched to defensive end. He won’t be a double-digit sack artist anytime soon but will blend enough tackling in the run game with pass-rush upside to be a good fantasy producer.
Aidan Hutchinson (DET): Hutchinson is probably the safest defensive lineman in terms of production and upside in this class. He’ll immediately step in as a starter at defensive end for the Lions and could easily approach the Top 8 in sacks as a rookie. Don’t think you’ll ever get Bosa-level production, but he’ll slide in as a lower-end DL1 after a year or two of NFL seasoning.
Kayvon Thibodeaux (NYG): The defensive lineman with the most upside at least in my mind is the explosive Thibodeaux. As long as he retains the defensive lineman designation, he has the chops to enter the top tier in terms of fantasy production. He fits well into the Wink Martindale scheme for the Giants. He can rush the passer with the best of them, and is also an adept tackler in the run game. High floor here, with a sky-high ceiling.
Jermaine Johnson (NYJ): The Jets landed Johnson near the end of the first round; some thinking that was an absolute steal. Johnson is pro-ready with a lot of upside. He will likely start out in a rotation with a couple of other Jet defensive ends, but could quickly become one of their snap count leaders. His floor is a little lower than Thibodeaux’s, for example, but his ceiling may be higher than Hutchinson’s. A nice draft-and-stash candidate for fantasy owners that are either rebuilding or needing a young defensive lineman for their taxi squad.
George Karlaftis (KCC): Karlaftis comes in to improve an area of need for the Chiefs, so he will likely begin his NFL career as a starter or at least a regular contributor. His work in the run game looks fairly average on tape, but he is a stud when it comes to rushing the passer, either from the outside or up the gut. Given the 4-3 scheme and average outlook when it comes to gobbling up tackles, his upside is limited, but he projects as a solid DL2 in most leagues.
Logan Hall (TBB): Jason Pierre-Paul is gone and William Gholston isn’t necessarily striking fear in any offensive coordinator’s mind. Question is, though, will Hall remain listed as a defensive end or does he shift inside to wreak havoc alongside Vita Vea? The latter is probably the case, so if you’re drafting Hall, make sure you’re doing so in a league that splits apart defensive tackle from defensive end.
Jordan Davis (PHI): Davis is a game-wrecker in the mold of Haloti Ngata, but his fantasy upside could be limited by the Eagles’ defensive scheme. Fletcher Cox was re-signed, but he’s 31 and could potentially be dealt if they think Davis is ready to step right in and produce alongside Javon Hargrave. In leagues that break up the defensive lineman position, Davis should have some value as a run-stuffing defensive tackle that can also rush the passer.
Devonte Wyatt (GBP): Another stud off the Georgia Bulldog line, Wyatt fits nicely with what the Packers do defensively. Likely to start from Day 1, he’s a nice complement to Kenny Clark on the inside of the line. Definitely one to watch in those leagues that start defensive tackles.
Arnold Ebiketie (ATL): Right now he’s listed as a defensive lineman but in the Falcons' scheme he may be better suited as an edge outside linebacker. He’s adept at rushing the passer and is a capable tackler in the run game. The downside here is a potential switch to linebacker which would pretty much kill his value except for in big-play leagues or super-deep formats.
Josh Paschal (DET): As long as Charles Harris is around (signed through 2023), Paschal will be a rotational pass rusher. That said, he has a lot of upside and could be a value pick lining up on the other side from Aidan Hutchinson. Additionally, he has the bulk to shift inside and rush the passer from the interior. So he may see a good number of snaps even if Harris maintains the other defensive end spot.
Others to watch: Alex Wright, DeMarvin Leal, Cameron Thomas
Kyle Hamilton (BAL): Great landing spot for one of the better defenders in this class. Hamilton is smooth, rangy and a playmaker all over the field. With his ability to line up all over the field, he’ll have a safe floor given the number of tackles he’ll make, along with a ton of big-play upside. The Ravens did add Marcus Williams in free agency and still have the competent Chuck Clark, but Hamilton will likely slide in as a starter from Day 1 and produce right away.
Daxton Hill (CIN): The Bengals have two very solid safties in Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III, but Hill’s ability to slide inside and play slot corner will give him a leg up on immediate and significant playing time. Mike Hilton is a competent slot corner but the Bengals do rotate their defensive backs quite a bit and Hill’s just got too much talent to not see the field. He’s currently listed as a safety in MFL, but if he’s ever switched to cornerback there, his value would rise significantly in leagues that break apart the two defensive back spots.
Lewis Cine (MIN): With Xavier Woods now a Panther, there is a gaping hole alongside Harrison Smith in the Viking defensive backfield. Enter Cine, who is an instinctual run-stopper who is also adept at playing centerfield. Cine will eventually supplant Smith as the key to the Viking secondary. Right now he’ll be a solid DB2 with some serious upside based on the playmaking ability.
Jalen Pitre (HOU): Like the other top-tier defensive backs in this class, Pitre is versatile enough to line up pretty much anywhere in the defensive backfield. With Justin Reid in Kansas City, Pitre should be a Day 1 starter on a defensive totally needy of a playmaker like Pitre. If you miss out on Hamilton and think Hill and Cine are going too high for your tastes, Pitre would be a solid consolation prize if you’re in the market for a rookie defensive back.
Jaquan Brisker (CHI): Like the defensive backs already discussed here, Brisker is a versatile player who can line up just about anywhere. That will be key in terms of new head coach Matt Eblerflus' defensive scheme. Eddie Jackson will continue to play free safety, allowing Brisker to slide in at the strong side and gobble up tackles.
Derek Stingley (HOU): Because his run support needs some work, Stingley’s value will only be present in leagues that break out cornerback and safety. He’s a lockdown corner that will make big plays if tested, so if he can remain healthy he’ll have value in CB-start leagues.
Ahmad Gardner (NYJ): Like Stingley, Gardner is a plus athlete who excels in press coverage. He will make the big play, which makes him a solid future CB1 in leagues that split out the position. He’s a bit more adept at stopping the run than Stingley, so he may have some lower-end value in leagues that combine the position at some point.
Trent McDuffie (KCC): McDuffie will likely slide in to the starting lineup and could be tested from Day 1 with L'Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton manning the other two corner spots. With Charvarius Ward and Tyrann Mathieu departed, the Chiefs were desperate for a versatile corner that could help plug running lanes. With his penchant for run-stopping, McDuffie offers a lot of upside.
Others to watch: Nick Cross, Kerby Joseph, Roger McCreary, Kyler Gordon, Kalir Elam