The 2023 NFL Draft continued on Friday night and Saturday, featuring some major surprises and several situation-changing picks. Here's a recap of what happened and everything notable for fantasy football:
Round 2, Pick 33 - Tennessee Titans: Will Levis (QB, Kentucky):
Levis is a major project QB coming out of the NFL Draft, joining a deep but highly-competitive QB room in Tennessee with veteran Ryan Tannehill and sophomore Malik Willis.
Titans' Head Coach Mike Vrabel has named Ryan Tannehill the starter for OTAs, Willis as the backup, and Levis as the 3rd QB but whatever happens after the first day of OTAs "will be up to the players". Tannehill is easily the most technically sound of the trio and is likely to enter Week 1 as the starter, but it seems unlikely that he'll end the season as the starter and almost certainly won't be the team's starter in 2024 (as he is in the final year of his contract).
The arm talent is off the charts for Levis, so the potential is there once he sees the starting role, but the major concern (and the reason he fell on draft night) was a lack of accuracy, which saw him struggle more often than not in his collegiate career. I'd recommend keeping an eye on Levis, especially in dynasty leagues, but I personally won't be investing much in him given the relative lack of weapons surrounding him, which hurts the odds of him overcoming his accuracy issues.
Round 2, Pick 34 - Detroit Lions: Sam Laporta (TE, Iowa):
It was a definite surprise pick by Detroit, taking Laporta with Michael Mayer still on the board, but the player definitely fits the Dan Campbell offensive scheme in Detroit and is likely to far exceed his collegiate production given the quality of QB play (or lack thereof) at Iowa.
I don't have extremely high expectations for Laporta in Year 1, even despite the massive void left in the Lions' TE room with the midseason departure of T.J. Hockenson last year. Rookie TEs that produce are extremely rare - rookie TEs outside the 1st round that produce are virtually non-existent. I like Laporta in dynasty leagues, but he's a non-factor for the meantime in re-draft formats.
Round 2, Pick 35 - Las Vegas Raiders: Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame):
Mayer was a surprise as the 3rd TE off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft, but he likely falls into one of the more ideal situations, being selected by Las Vegas in the early 2nd round.
With Darren Waller gone (traded to New York), Mayer likely steps into the starting role from Day 1 and does such within an offensive scheme that has historically revolved around the TE receiving a plethora of targets.
I have the same stance on rookie TEs as I did with Laporta (see above), but I see more Year 1 potential with Mayer and have TE1 expectations for him in dynasty formats.
Round 2, Pick 39 - Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Mingo (WR, Mississippi):
The landing spot couldn't have been better for Jonathan Mingo, joining an extremely weak receiving corps in Carolina where he has the potential to earn a starting role from Week 1.
I wouldn't bet on him being the most productive rookie WR in 2023 but there is a decent chance he is in contention for that title given the relative lack of competition for targets. Mingo should project as a short-term "dart throw" of an upside pick in the later rounds of re-draft leagues and is a WR4 option in dynasty leagues.
Round 2, Pick 42 - Green Bay Packers: Luke Musgrave (TE, Oregon State):
It is only fitting the year that Aaron Rodgers leaves Green Bay, the Packers finally invest in receiving weapons early in the draft, taking a TE (Musgrave) and a WR (Jayden Reed, see below) in the top 50 picks.
I like the fit for Musgrave, who has the potential to start Week 1 amid a limited TE group in Green Bay, but the Packers' offensive scheme, the uncertainty around Jordan Love, and the Packers' drafting of another TE in Round 3 leave more questions than answers about what type of workload Musgrave will see as a rookie. I'd recommend passing on him with the potential to add him off the waiver wire in re-draft leagues, but keep an eye on him in dynasty.
Round 2, Pick 50 - Green Bay Packers: Jayden Reed (WR, Michigan State):
Reed fits the same mold as Jonathan Mingo - stepping into a weaker receiving corps with the realistic potential to be a Week 1 starter and make an impact (both in reality and in fantasy) in 2023.
The upside is definitely there for one of my favorite WR prospects coming out of the 2023 NFL Draft and I will definitely be targeting Reed in the later rounds of re-draft leagues, but the security concerns (around workload, Jordan Love) keep him from entering the same 'tier' as those WRs drafted on Day 1.
Round 2, Pick 52 - Seattle Seahawks: Zach Charbonnet (RB, UCLA):
This was likely the biggest shocker of the draft from a fantasy standpoint. Just one year after drafting Kenneth Walker in the 2nd round of the draft (and seeing him put up excellent numbers as a rookie), Seattle invested a high draft pick on another RB in Zach Charbonnet.
It's yet to be seen whether the Seahawks plan on a 1A-1B split (and who will take the lead in that scenario) or if Charbonnet is the planned long-term replacement for Walker, especially given the two share similar playing styles.
Seattle was the worst-case scenario for Charbonnet's 2023 outlook as he holds zero security and could vary from a potential RB2 to seeing virtually no work as a rookie, but his dynasty outlook is more appealing - at least from a security standpoint, given Walker's mileage from collegiate touches.
Round 2, Pick 55 - Kansas City Chiefs: Rashee Rice (WR, SMU):
Rice is the Chiefs' first true "contested catch" receiver in years, moving away from the traditional route-running, small-framed WR that has filled Mahomes' receiving corps since entering the league.
That gives him both a tremendous amount of upside if he were to become Mahomes' go-to guy (especially with Kelce entering the back half of his career) but also a tremendous amount of uncertainty as we have never truly seen a WR like Rice produce with Mahomes.
The upside makes him worth a buy, not necessarily in re-draft leagues (outside the final pick or two of drafts) but more so in dynasty leagues, where he holds more value given the lack of WR talent in the Chiefs' offense.
Round 2, Pick 58 - Dallas Cowboys: Luke Schoonmaker (TE, Michigan):
Dallas got their Tight End! After missing on Dalton Kincaid in the first round (with Buffalo trading up to draft him), Dallas landed Luke Schoonmaker in the 2nd round.
With Dalton Schultz gone, Schoonmaker likely slides into the TE2 role in the Cowboys offense with Jake Ferguson stepping into the starting role to begin 2023. From there, it's anyone's guess on how the workload is split and/or if Schoonmaker can overtake Ferguson as the top TE in Dallas.
Schoonmaker's value, both short-term and long-term will come down to his ability to take over as the starter early in his career as it has been shown time and time again with Dallas that whoever steps into the starting TE role will produce. He needs to take over as the starter at some point as a rookie or extremely early in 2024 to have any chance at reaching his potential, which projects to low-end TE1 upside in dynasty leagues.
Round 2, Pick 61 - Jacksonville Jaguars: Brenton Strange (TE, Penn State):
An extremely underrated TE in the 2023 Draft class, Strange really didn't get much action at Penn State due to the offensive scheme that featured 3 TEs consistently getting the ball. When Strange did get the ball, he was excellent, especially after the catch.
Strange seems more like an insurance TE to Evan Engram, who had a tremendous 2022 season and received a massive 1-year, "prove it wasn't a fluke" deal. If Engram struggles and/or Strange shows promise as a rookie, he could very easily be the starting TE late in the season or to start 2024. With that role, in a Doug Pederson offense that revolves around TE utilization and Trevor Lawrence at QB, Strange could emerge as a top-10 TE down the line.
There's not a fit for drafting him in re-draft leagues (keep an eye on him in case of an Engram injury), but definitely target him at a value in dynasty leagues.
Round 2, Pick 63 - Denver Broncos: Marvin Mims Jr. (WR, Oklahoma):
Mims is a very interesting pick for Denver, likely spelling the end of Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler's potential starting duties in the Broncos' offense.
He's a major deep threat with excellent speed - something that Russell Wilson has shown to utilize before (and utilize extremely effectively). If he can establish a rapport with Wilson early and can earn a starting job, Mims could be a sneaky find in fantasy.
WR2 upside in dynasty with WR3 (albeit, likely very inconsistent) upside in re-draft, but worthwhile of a low-risk/high-reward investment in the later rounds.
Round 3, Pick 68 - Detroit Lions: Hendon Hooker (QB, Tennessee):
Hooker was an intriguing pick for Detroit in the 3rd round, especially considering he is likely to miss most (if not all) of his rookie season due to a late-season ACL tear in 2022. That leaves his potential return in 2024, where Lions' QB Jared Goff is due for a $31.7 million cap hit with a potential out after this season with only $5 million in dead cap.
It's unlikely Detroit moves on from Goff after this season (especially after his 2022 year), but we've seen wilder scenarios unfold. If Hooker were to progress well from his injury, showing promise late in 2023, we could easily see him compete for the starting job with a down year from Goff. Unfortunately, that's the only scenario where Hooker truly serves as anything more than a backup/project QB.
He's nothing more than a desperation dart throw in dynasty leagues.
Round 3, Pick 69 - Houston Texans: Tank Dell (WR, Houston):
A small, twitchy receiver that likely won't see a ton of action early on in his rookie season (with Robert Woods occupying the slot), but I would anticipate Dell seeing more work later in 2023 and emerging as a go-to weapon for C.J. Stroud heading into Year 2.
Not worth a draft pick in re-draft leagues but worth a look in dynasty leagues at a value.
Round 3, Pick 71 - New Orleans Saints: Kendre Miller (RB, TCU):
A very intriguing pick by the New Orleans as Miller is more of a traditional power back at 6'0", 220 lbs. I would've anticipated a more elusive back for the Saints' selection, especially given the likelihood of an Alvin Kamara suspension and the signing of Jamaal Williams this offseason.
I would love to be able to see a potential scenario to value for Miller, as I really like him as a prospect, but the route to notable production, at least long-term isn't very clear. With Jamaal Williams' contract presenting over $6 million in dead cap if cut after 2023, it doesn't seem that Williams will be gone until 2025 at the earliest ($2.34 million in dead cap), meaning the only way Miller sees a notable role is Alvin Kamara's departure or an injury to Kamara and/or Williams.
I'd take a look at him in the later rounds in re-draft leagues, but I don't see enough value to make a worthwhile investment in dynasty leagues - that's not something you want to hear for a rookie RB.
Round 3, Pick 73 - New York Giants: Jalin Hyatt (WR, Tennessee):
Hyatt is a deep-threat receiver that New York desperately needs after Darius Slayton failed to fully develop into the WR2 that the Giants were hoping for.
The fit is there, but the opportunity may not be for Hyatt to present significant fantasy value. Jones' lack of production among WRs (or any receiver for that matter) leaves significant uncertainty that Hyatt will have the ability to truly produce to a WR2/3 level for fantasy, especially with TE Darren Waller and RB Saquon Barkley likely drawing the largest target shares in the offense.
I like Hyatt more of a long-term option as the likes of Waller, Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton, and Sterling Shepard will be phased out of the offense over the next few years. Target in dynasty - not worth a pick in re-draft.
Round 3, Pick 74 - Cleveland Browns: Cedric Tillman (WR, Tennessee):
I like the player, but I don't like the fit (at least for fantasy purposes). Tillman steps into a situation where he faces significant competition for targets with Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, and Donovan Peoples-Jones firmly ahead of him on the depth chart at WR while David Njoku will draw notable looks at TE.
This is another "wait and see" situation for fantasy purposes as Tillman's production will come down to injuries or replacing Cooper/Peoples-Jones on the outside beyond 2023. Pass in re-draft, only take at a value in dynasty.
Round 3, Pick 79 - Indianapolis Colts: Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina):
Downs is the perfect WR to complement the Colts' rookie QB Anthony Richardson, who needs to develop his accuracy/mechanics with a go-to short-range, possession receiver like Downs.
His only immediate competition is Isaiah McKenzie out of the slot, which likely means a late-season role is the route Downs will take to fantasy relevance. Downs' value and production will come down to Richardson's development as a passer so hold off on the WR in re-draft and take a depth pick on Downs if you believe in Richardson as the Colts' franchise QB.
Round 3, Pick 81 - Tennessee Titans: Tyjae Spears (RB, Tulane):
The perfect complement to prolong Derrick Henry's career, Tyjae Spears will likely immediately step in as the RB2 and serve as the Titans' receiving and change-of-pace backs when Henry gets a break.
I like him as a handcuff/depth RB for re-draft leagues, but I really like him for dynasty purposes with Henry likely gone after this season (UFA in 2024).
Round 3, Pick 84 - Miami Dolphins: Devon Achane (RB, Texas A&M):
Achane is the RB that Mike McDaniel would design in a lab: 5'9", 185 lbs & a pure "track speed" RB.
With the unclear situation of Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., and Achane in the backfield for Miami, it's anyone's guess how the workload is split up to start the season - but it does seem more likely than not that Achane will see more work as the season progresses and goes into 2024.
I like Achane as a low-risk/high-upside pick later in re-draft and dynasty leagues, giving the potential, but not expectation, for a Week 1 starter.
Round 3, Pick 88 - Jacksonville Jaguars: Tank Bigsby (RB, Auburn)
Tank Bigsby fits the Jaguars' needs perfectly as a true power RB to complement Travis Etienne's speed/receiving abilities, similar to James Robinson earlier in 2022.
Now I don't expect Bigbsy to replicate Robinson's early-season success from last year, as Etienne will likely be the lead back, but I would anticipate around a 10-touch per game workload from Bigsby, even as a rookie, with goal-line and short-yardage work that is extremely valuable.
I will be heavily targeting Bigsby as a late-round depth RB and as a high-priority "handcuff" given the potential should Etienne go down to injury.
Round 3, Pick 94 - Arizona Cardinals: Michael Wilson (WR, Stanford):
Wilson is extremely talented but has suffered a plethora of injuries throughout his collegiate career, playing just 14 games in his last three seasons and just 36 games in a 5-year career at Stanford.
A potential replacement for DeAndre Hopkins, should he be traded, Wilson has the potential to make an impact early in his career if the opportunity presents itself. If Hopkins is moved, Wilson is a potential WR3/4 for fantasy, even as a rookie.
Round 4, Pick 115 - Chicago Bears: Roschon Johnson (RB, Texas):
Johnson gets the extremely desirable situation of being selected by Chicago into what should be expected as a 1A-1B situation with Khalil Herbert.
The rookie is unlikely to have a chance at the lead duties to start the year, but he likely gets his shot throughout the season. It's definitely worth the investment to get even a 40% chance at the Bears' lead RB for 2023, especially given the success David Montgomery had in recent years, even despite a struggling Bears offense that now appears to be on the rise.
Round 6, Pick 212 - Dallas Cowboys: Deuce Vaughn (RB, Kansas State):
Deuce Vaughn hit the jackpot, getting picked by Dallas in the 6th round of the NFL Draft. Typically 6th rounders aren't noteworthy for fantasy, especially entering their rookie season, but it appears that Vaughn could be an immediate player on rosters for fantasy.
It appears likely that he enters the season as the RB2, or at the very least in a 2A-2B split with Mailk Davis, behind Tony Pollard, who is coming off a season-ending injury. The opportunity is there for Vaughn to contribute early and often in a backfield that has produced fantasy stars left and right for the past 2 decades.
Vaughn is a must-target in both re-draft and dynasty leagues, likely as a player you can get at a value, but one that could offer RB3 upside.