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Fantasy Football 2022: Best Landing Spots for Rookie Quarterbacks and Running Backs

Malik Willis, Liberty Flames Football

Malik Willis may or may not be the first quarterback taken in the draft but regardless, where he ends up is arguably more important, at least from a fantasy perspective

With all the shocking free-agent signings and trades that occurred this offseason, the draft seemed miles away. But it's now suddenly upon us, set to begin on Thursday. So we couldn't help but think of some of the best fantasy football landing spots for both quarterbacks and running backs that will hear their names called later this week.

There are tons of variables to consider. For one, certain offensive "systems" just fit certain players better than others. But other major factors like competition and surrounding talent play a big part as well.

Furthermore, given how wild this offseason was, it would be little surprise to see some huge Draft Day trade that completely nullifies some of my thoughts. But let's assume that doesn't happen for now.

Here are some of the best landing spots for fantasy purposes for both quarterbacks and running backs.

Best Landing Spot for Rookie QBs: Seattle Seahawks

Having to follow Russell Wilson is far from an ideal situation. The expectations foisted upon that player alone can be daunting. However, no situation might be more attractive than Seattle's. First off, Seattle currently has two top receiving options in DK Metcalf (who has been the subject of trade rumors himself) and Tyler Lockett. If that's not luxury enough, Seattle's signal-caller will also have the benefit of new tight end Noah Fant, who has 130 catches over the last two seasons.

Add in a head coach like Pete Carroll who loves to run the ball, and the pressure to perform immediately in the pocket will be minimal. Seattle's rookie quarterback will also be able to lean on a strong running game whether that lead runner is Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, or both.

Lastly, unlike some of the other potential landing spots for rookie quarterbacks, Seattle offers little in the way of being the Week 1 starter. The competition he faces to be that Week 1 starter is currently Drew Lock, Geno Smith, and Jacob Eason. Competition is likely too strong of a word.

Potential "Perfect Fit": Malik Willis (Liberty) is often compared to Jalen Hurts, who is often considered a "poor man's Russel Wilson." Should Willis land in Seattle, the comparisons will come easily and naturally. It would be a perfect fit. However, I don't think Willis is landing in Seattle as at least two other teams with QB needs will pick before Seattle and I don't see them trading up.

I think it is far more likely we see a QB outside of the consensus top three options (Willis, Kenny Pickett and Matt Corral) go to Seattle. So perhaps a Sam Howell or Desmond Ridder end up as the new favorite of the 12th Man? I would not elevate either one above any of the top three popular choices. But should either one end up in Seattle, I like the potential value.

Other Potential Strong Landing Spots for Rookie QBs: Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers

Both of these teams have too much offensive talent outside of the quarterback position to not bring in some competition. Detroit features Twitter favorite, Amon-Ra St. Brown, coming off a first-year season of 90 catches and more than 900 yards. The Lions also have D'Andre Swift, who posted more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season.

Carolina meanwhile has regular top fantasy pick Christian McCaffrey. That should take plenty of pressure off a young quarterback, who also will benefit from having DJ Moore as his primary target. Moore recently signed a contract extension after producing more than 4,300 receiving yards in his first four seasons.

I got a feeling Kenny Pickett ends up on one of these two teams. 

He completed more than two-thirds of his passes last season at Pittsburgh while throwing for 42 TDs. His floor alone makes him a nice fit for either the Lions or Panthers. 

Best Landing Spot for Rookie RBs: Atlanta Falcons

No, I didn't forget about Cordarelle Patterson. And yes, Patterson is good. He's an incredible weapon on pitches and sweeps. But he's not exactly a between-the-tackles ball carrier I'd be relying on for blasts, traps, powers and so forth. In fact, I would be shocked if Atlanta doesn't grab some kind of power back in this draft.

The Falcons actually limited Patterson's role down the stretch too. In the season's final month, Patterson saw just 37 touches and averaged fewer than 30 rushing yards per game. And Atlanta signed him for only two more additional years. By the 2024 season, I'd expect Patterson to be gone, if not sooner.

Furthermore, we know that head coach Arthur Smith loves to run the ball. Smith oversaw Derrick Henry's ascent to the rushing throne as Tennessee's offense ran the ball more often and far more effectively (by more than 700 yards) when he was the Titans' offensive coordinator from 2019-20. Sure, some of that is because of Henry himself. But Smith is a former offensive lineman himself. With the Falcons having recently traded former franchise quarterback Matt Ryan, look for them to try to establish the run this season.

Potential "Perfect Fit": Brian Robinson Jr. (Alabama) has all the attributes of a classic power/short-yardage back, with potential improvement in other areas. He uses both his power and size to drive defenders backward. He also has a nose for the end zone, producing 29 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide even though most of his time was spent sharing carries. He's well-built with a thick frame and powerful lower body that keeps his legs pumping through contact. He's a balanced runner who maintains low pad level with the power to keep moving after initial contact. He's ultra-reliable in short-yardage situations.

Other Potential Strong Landing Spots for Rookie RBs: Houston and Chicago

Houston currently has half a dozen RBs on the roster, but in this case, quantity far surpasses quality. Their two best backs are Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead. Neither is under contract for 2023. The Texans have so many needs they will probably have to bypass any of the top three RBs (Breece Hall, Isaiah Spiller and Kenneth Walker III, per Athlon Sports). But if some of those second-tier talented backs like Kyren Williams or perhaps Rachaad White land in Houston, they would be an easy first-round pick in rookie drafts.

Chicago only has three RBs currently on their roster, so the Bears present a decent opportunity for a rookie back. David Montgomery is currently the No. 1 guy and you could do far worse for a starting fantasy RB. But like the Houston backs, he too is a potential free agent in 2023. If some of those college backs in the back half of the top-10 of the position's rankings land in Chicago, be sure to keep them on your radar.

— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.