10 Fantasy-Relevant 2023 Rookies: A First Look

Feb 23, 2023
10 Fantasy-Relevant 2023 Rookies: A First Look

Even though we are still over two months from knowing where any of these first-year players will be suiting up for the start of their NFL careers, getting familiar with some of the bigger names in the 2023 rookie class is always a good thing for fantasy purposes.

The fantasy football world had been spoiled in recent years with plenty of fresh-from-college talent, but it appears this season may not feature as many players who have the potential to contribute to fantasy rosters right away as we’ve seen over the past handful of years.

Here’s a position-by-position look at some noteworthy newbies with a mind on best ball and seasonal formats ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.


The QB position is a difficult one to predict pre-draft because landing spot plays a more significant role in fantasy relevancy than the other positions, and this year’s class features a few highly-touted options. There could be four quarterbacks selected in the first round and a few more taken by Day 2, but only one or two could end up with starting numbers or see any significant playing time.

Bryce Young, Alabama

The 21-year-old is the clear QB1 in this draft class and should be selected within the first few picks to either the Texans or perhaps the Colts via a trade-up. Bryce Young is a smart, dual-threat signal-caller, which is something to covet in the fantasy football realm. He leaves Alabama as second all-time in passing yards with 8,356, second in passing touchdowns with 80, and a little piece of hardware known as the Heisman Trophy.

Size or lack thereof is certainly in the conversation as it always is with QBs who measure under 6’0”. Young is listed as exactly that height for now, but we could see 5’11 come NFL Combine time. The rookie’s football IQ, pocket awareness, and rushing ability plant him on the fake football radar, but his landing spot and whether he’s asked to play from Day 1 or sit back and develop will obviously determine if Young is someone to consider drafting in 2023 fantasy drafts. For now, he’s at least worth a stab in early best ball formats and carries an Underdog ADP of 129.2.

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

Similar to Young, C.J. Stroud will likely be drafted within the first handful of picks to a QB-needy team and could be asked to hit the field as the starter right away. He’s a strong and accurate passer, leading CFB last season in yards per attempt (9.5), with just six interceptions. Stroud was a Heisman finalist in both 2021 and 2022 and posted an insane 8,123 passing yards and 85 passing touchdowns in his two years as the starter.

When it comes to size, Stroud is a prototypical NFL QB at 6’3”, and while he doesn’t have the rushing prowess fantasy managers seek out, the former Buckeye isn’t a statue in the pocket either. After the draft, we will have a better idea of his potential—if any—in 2QB redraft leagues, but for now, he's a dart throw in the latter rounds of best ball drafts (UD ADP: 148.8).

Rookie signal-callers Will Levis and Anthony Richardson are also names to familiarize yourself with this offseason, but will more than likely not find a seat at any fantasy table in 2023.

Running Backs

Rookie rushers tend to transition well into the NFL and historically add fantasy relevancy to rosters in their first professional season. Last year we saw eight running backs finish the season as a fantasy RB4 or better in total half-PPR points with four of those checking in as a top-36 RB in half-PPR points per game.

Rookie RB Output and Ranks, 2022
Running Back Overall 0.5-PPR Rank 0.5-PPR Points 0.5-PPR/Game Rank 0.5-PPR/Game
Ken Walker RB16 189.1 RB15 12.6
Dameon Pierce RB27 151.4 RB23 11.6
Tyler Allgeier RB28 151.4 RB34 9.5
Isiah Pacheco RB36 128.5 RB50 7.6
Rachaad White RB38 114.1 RB56 6.7
Brian Robinson RB41 108.2 RB39 9.0
Breece Hall RB42 105.6 RB7 15.1
James Cook RB45 95.2 RB61 6.0

Bijan Robinson, Texas

There is no shortage of hype surrounding Bijan Robinson as he’s one of the most exciting RBs to enter the draft in recent seasons. He ran for 3,510 yards in his three seasons at Texas, with an additional 805 receiving yards and 41 total touchdowns. He’s fast and versatile and should contribute right away.

While the RB position has experienced a devaluation in recent NFL Drafts, Robinson should find a home in the first round with a wide range of landing spots and outcomes. The rookie will cost you though, as he’s currently being selected with an ADP of 14.4 in Underdog best ball drafts.

Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama

While Jahmyr Gibbs doesn’t boast the size of the great Alabama RBs who have come before him, he’s speedy with solid hands and has the potential for PPR gold in the right situation. He’s projected as a Round 2 guy in the NFL Draft and will most likely be part of the dreaded committee approach we’re seeing in today’s NFL.

If he lands in a favorable scheme, Gibbs has potential for fantasy goodness, particularly in leagues that reward receptions. He’s worth a look as a later-round redraft stash and is currently leaving boards in the early-sixth round in Underdog drafts.

Zach Charbonnet, UCLA

We’re still ahead of the NFL Combine so draft stock can certainly change both in the real and fake football world in the weeks and even months to come. At 6’1”, 220 lbs, Zach Charbonnet has the size and skillset for success as an every-down back in the NFL. He rushed for 1,359 yards last season (19th among RBs), averaging 7.0 yards per attempt which ranked seventh.

Charbonnet isn’t just a bruising runner, he also has soft hands. The UCLA product posted 321 yards on 37 catches, which was seventh among CFB RBs in 2022. If he lands in a favorable spot, the 22-year-old has bell-cow potential from the start and he carries a low price tag, for now. Charbonnet’s current ADP is in the ninth round in Underdog best ball formats.

Some other names to take note of when researching rookie backs are Sean Tucker, Devon Achane, Zach Evans, Tyjae Spears, Tank Bigsby, Kenny McIntosh, and Kendre Miller.

Wide Receivers

Rookie wideouts tend to be productive fantasy assets, considering the variety of offenses implemented and multiple WR sets becoming more commonplace around the league. There were five rookie wideouts from the 2022 class who ended the season as starting fantasy WRs in half-PPR formats—Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Christian Watson, Drake London, and George Pickens. This year, four more rookies seem to be in an elevated tier with several other wide receivers primed for fantasy relevance, as well.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s college career was a bit of a roller coaster, as he posted just 49 yards on 10 receptions his freshman year, busted out for 1,606 receiving yards with nine scores in 2021 which was the third-highest yardage among WRs, then a hamstring injury limited his output to just 43 yards on five catches his junior year.

Teams considering him in the first round are banking on his precise route running and high-volume potential. Smith-Njigba lived in the slot in college but has the chops to possibly be utilized on the outside. Right now the former Buckeye is the first rookie WR off Underdog draft boards in the fifth round.

Jordan Addison, USC

The 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner led all college WRs in touchdowns with 17 in his true sophomore season for Pitt, he then transferred to USC and tacked on another 875 yards and eight scores. Jordan Addison is a dynamic route runner with versatile playmaking ability and could fill several roles for any NFL WR room. Mocks show a first half of Round 1 selection in April for Addison and fantasy managers are drafting accordingly, as his Underdog ADP is currently 76.2 as WR37.

Quentin Johnston, TCU

If you’re looking for size, Quentin Johnston is your guy. At 6’4” and 215 pounds, the TCU product goes from a receiver to a runner with ease and averaged an impressive 19.0 yards per reception in his three seasons as a Horned Frog. 4for4’s Scott Smith has Johnston going to the Texans with the 12th overall pick in his first mock draft of the season which could provide immediate fantasy value given the lack of weapons attached to Houston. For now, the 21-year-old is an early eighth-rounder in Underdog drafts but that could fluctuate after his NFL team is determined.

Zay Flowers, Boston College

Despite a less-than-ideal QB situation last season, Zay Flowers managed to post 1,077 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns for Boston College, while also carrying the ball 12 times for 40 yards. His separation ability is tops in this draft class and Flowers should be a force on the perimeter throughout his NFL career. In early Underdog drafts, the rookie is the 46th WR off the board in the first part of the ninth round.

Outside of that top tier, Jalin Hyatt, Josh Downs, Kayshon Boutte, and Rashee Rice are all players who could find themselves with a ticket to fantasy pertinence after the NFL Draft and training camps get underway.

Tight Ends

Rookie tight ends are not historically fruitful for this game within a game. Even Kyle Pitts, who was touted as the second coming of everything that is everything in the world of football, struggled his rookie year in an ideal situation. Last year Greg Dulcich cracked fantasy TE2 territory with 7.0 half-PPR points per game as the TE16, but he was only healthy for 10 contests. This year’s tight-end class has just one stand-out, and he’s nothing more than a best ball stab.

Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

The most polished tight end in the 2023 draft class, Michael Mayer to the Packers at pick No. 15 seems to be the consensus among mockers around the NFL Draft space. With the QB position in Green Bay still a question mark it's tough to elevate expectations for Mayer in his first professional season. Even if the former Irish TE lands elsewhere, history tells us he belongs as a best ball flyer. Mayer is appropriately boasting an ADP of 162.6 on Underdog.

Utah’s Dalton Kincaid, Darnell Washington from Georgia, and former Oregon State Beaver Luke Musgrave are also notable tight ends in this draft class but should only be drafted in the final rounds of best ball formats if at all.

Bottom Line

This article is not meant for dynasty purposes but is more of a first look at rookies to watch for in 2023 best ball and redraft leagues. We will get more detailed as the off-season progresses with more mock drafts, big boards, and NFL Draft coverage.

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