Last night featured several surprises, seeing 3 QBs, 2 RBs, 4 (consecutive) WRs, and a TE taken in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, while QB Will Levis went unpicked through Day 1. Here's a recap of what happened and everything notable for fantasy football:
Round 1, Pick 1 - Carolina Panthers: Bryce Young (QB, Alabama):
Young going first overall doesn't come as much of a surprise as he had been the consensus expectation for the Panthers heading into draft night. The Panthers get their QB of the future, but nobody should have major expectations for Young from a fantasy perspective, especially in Year 1.
A bottom-tier receiving corps, headlined by Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, and Hayden Hurst, awaits the top pick, meaning (barring a major acquisition via trade or in the 2nd round), Young should go undrafted as a rookie. The supporting cast isn't enough to give Young significant fantasy potential in 2023 and I have reservations over his dynasty value with the Panthers' lack of draft capital going forward (traded away their 2024 1st rounder, 2025 2nd rounder).
Round 1, Pick 2 - Houston Texans: C.J. Stroud (QB, Ohio State):
All the draft noise around Stroud falling was simply that - noise. It seems rather likely that Stroud immediately steps into the starting role (if not early on in 2023) and, like Young, it seems that 2024 will be the starting point of Stroud's fantasy relevance.
With a sub-par receiving corps at the moment, even with the return of John Metchie, Stroud should go undrafted in fantasy as a rookie outside of dynasty/rookie drafts. Like Young, the supporting cast isn't there to provide enough realistic potential to become a top-15 fantasy QB beyond the occasional streaming option in 2023.
Round 1, Pick 4 - Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson (QB, Florida):
Richardson has to be the Week 1 starter, right? There's no way the Colts actually go with Gardner Minshew or Sam Ehlinger out of the gate or, if they do, Richardson must see the field within the first 4-5 weeks.
While I strongly believe both Young and Stroud are better QB prospects, I have no doubt that Richardson will be the more promising option for fantasy football. The versatility on the ground and a (somewhat) serviceable receiving corps with Michael Pittman Jr. in the WR room should give Richardson enough to be a viable QB2 option once he sees the field.
I still don't see him as a worthwhile pick in re-draft leagues this season, barring a major change to the receiving corps and/or a fantastic training camp/preseason. My attention is turned more towards Richardson as a dynasty option, especially with the Colts likely finishing towards the bottom of the league next year as well, giving them a strong chance at filling out the receiving corps in 2024.
Round 1, Pick 8 - Atlanta Falcons: Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas):
It seemed like the most likely destination for Robinson coming into draft night and it came to fruition: Bijan to Atlanta.
The situation (offensive line, QB, etc.) isn't as ideal as what most other destinations would've offered (i.e. Philadelphia, Detroit), but one thing is for certain, Robinson will get a VERY heavy workload in Atlanta from Day 1.
Purely from a volume perspective, Robinson stands as a fringe top-10 RB heading into 2023, should easily be a top-5 RB for dynasty leagues, and is undoubtedly the 1.01 in rookie drafts this season. I'm anticipating a top-10 finish for Robinson as a rookie, but it will likely be clouded by some inconsistencies given the Falcons' relative lack of strength, both at QB and as a team overall.
Round 1, Pick 12 - Detroit Lions: Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Alabama):
I genuinely don't know whether this pick pains me more as a Detroit Lions fan or as someone looking from the outside with fantasy football in mind.
This was a worst-case scenario for fantasy football purposes. Gibbs is extremely talented and would step into fantasy relevance into 90% of the league's backfields - but not Detroit. With David Montgomery and D'Andre Swift already in the backfield, it is difficult to envision Gibbs seeing significant work before midseason without either Swift being traded or an injury to Montgomery/Swift.
Long-term, I love the fit for Gibbs in an RB-oriented offense, projecting him as an RB2 option for dynasty purposes, but for re-draft, I find it difficult to value him as anything more than a high-risk/high-reward RB3/4 option in the middle rounds of drafts, unless Swift is moved during the offseason, which could present Gibbs with RB2 opportunities as a rookie.
Round 1, Pick 20 - Seattle Seahawks: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR, Ohio State):
It was quite a surprise to see the draft's first WR taken in the 20s but it was no surprise that it was Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
While the landing spot of Seattle isn't ideal for JSN, it's far from a poor destination, especially long-term. JSN likely starts the season as the team's "WR3" behind Metcalf and Lockett but should see starting action out of the slot, taking on a larger role as the season progresses.
He's my favorite WR as an NFL Draft prospect but the likely volume competition leaves him as my WR2 for 2023 and for dynasty leagues out of the rookies (behind Addison). I would not have any reservations about taking him as a high-upside WR4/5 option in redraft leagues with his potential should Metcalf or Lockett miss time to an injury.
Round 1, Pick 21 - Los Angeles Chargers: Quentin Johnston (WR, TCU):
This pick was a bit puzzling to me, not in the sense of L.A. drafting a WR, but the one that they selected. Quentin Johnson was my definitive WR2 heading into the 2023 Draft behind Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but I don't see a schematic fit for him in the Chargers' offense with Mike Williams already serving as the big-bodied WR and Kellen Moore's offenses typically revolving around possession receivers.
I like Johnston much more as a long-term, dynasty option with Keenan Allen (31 years old) likely seeing a reduction in role beyond the 2023 season, forcing Johnston into a more prominent role in Year 2. For 2023, I would limit expectations due to the number of weapons, especially in the receiving game, that the Chargers have - something that likely caps Johnston's potential outside of a Mike Williams injury.
The upside is certainly there in 2023 for a WR2/3 season, but it is highly unlikely he reaches that ceiling outside of an 80+ target campaign, which doesn't come to fruition without a major shake-up to the existing Chargers' receiving corps.
Round 1, Pick 22 - Baltimore Ravens: Zay Flowers (WR, Boston College):
Flowers fits what the Ravens were missing this past season: a smaller-framed, twitchy, electric receiver. Since Marquise Brown was traded to Arizona, that void had been glaring in the Ravens offense and Flowers now slides right into that role.
The fantasy value isn't as ideal as it would be in other situations, given Lamar Jackson's rushing tendencies and the return of WR Rashod Bateman that somewhat clouds the potential target split. However, the upside, especially long-term, is certainly there with the Ravens seeing a similar WR in Marquise Brown finish as the WR22 in 2021 and with Baltimore leaning into transitioning towards a more balanced offensive approach (which bodes well for the passing attack).
Year 1, he should be a risk/reward depth WR for fantasy. In dynasty, he's a likely WR3/4 option with some upside.
Round 1, Pick 23 - Minnesota Vikings: Jordan Addison (WR, USC):
This is an absolutely perfect fit for both Addison and the Vikings alike. Minnesota moves away from a slower, possession receiver in Adam Thielen in favor of an electric, yet sound, WR while Addison gets the benefit of playing opposite of Justin Jefferson, drawing any notable defensive attention away from him, while still allowing for a solid target share.
Addison was my WR3 heading into the NFL Draft, but with his landing spot, which is ideal from both an NFL and a fantasy football perspective, he slides up to my top fantasy WR among the rookie class, both for 2023 and in dynasty leagues.
I see the very realistic potential that Addison draws 90+ targets opposite of Jefferson and with that volume, a possible WR2/3 finish. He's a low-risk/high-upside WR that I will be heavily targeting on draft day, especially in PPR leagues.
Round 1, Pick 25 - Buffalo Bills: Dalton Kincaid (TE, Utah):
Buffalo made it clear that they had their eyes on Kincaid, leap-frogging the Dallas Cowboys to land the Utah TE with the 25th overall pick. While I love the player as a draft prospect, I am a bit more reserved about his fantasy outlook, at least for 2023.
The opportunity should be there for Kincaid to take upon a significant workload in the receiving game, but a majority of my concerns for his fantasy prospects stem from the inconsistencies that have plagued the Bills' TE room in recent years, even despite preseason narratives that have pushed for an expected expanded role for the TE (most recently, Dawson Knox).
It is yet to be seen whether Josh Allen naturally looks elsewhere in his reads or if it was simply the quality of options at TE that kept him from consistently utilizing the position outside the redzone. If Allen shows a liking to Kincaid (and can provide a stable target share), the TE could be lethal given the Bills' TE production in the redzone.
I don't mind a "dart throw" on Kincaid as a mid-range TE2 option if you are rostering one in re-draft leagues (though he would be preferred as a priority waiver wire option), but his real potential comes in dynasty leagues where he projects as a likely long-term top-10 TE with top-5 potential, especially if he can establish himself as a go-to target for Allen.