An Early Look Into the 2023 Rookie Draft Class

The 2022 season hasn’t kicked off, but taking an early look at the 2023 rookie draft shows just how deep the class is. Everyone and their mother has heard about how loaded thIS 2023 draft class is. Now that we’re just around the corner, why not do a little way too early deep dive to familiarize ourselves with the players potentially declaring for this upcoming draft. There’s no doubt that this draft class has some big names and some quarterback talent that we were lacking in this past class. Let’s take a  look at these players through the lens of a dynasty Superflex rookie draft as if we were drafting today.

1.01 - Bryce Young - QB - Alabama - Jr

Realistically the debate at this stage of the offseason is whether the 1.01 will be Bryce Young or CJ Stroud. If both players have the season that most expect them to, with the loaded supporting casts around them, the debate will rage on well into the next offseason. While Young doesn’t have the size, and that will be his main knock throughout the draft process, he has all the skills you could look for. He delivers accurate passes at all levels of the field and processes the field extremely well. While he is a dual-threat quarterback he fits in more of a Russell Wilson-style archetype where he doesn’t do a lot of scrambling unless forced to, but can extend plays and maneuver the pocket very well. Most scouts would have told you this past offseason that if Bryce Young was in this year’s draft class, he would’ve clearly been the top QB off the board and a top 10 pick. The Heisman candidate is, in my opinion, the front runner for the 1.01 in rookie drafts next season.

1.02 - CJ Stroud - QB - OSU - Jr

Stroud’s biggest leg to stand on when comparing him to Young is his size. He’s 6’3”, 218lbs compared to Young’s 5’11”, 183lbs. They both have all the tools to be NFL quarterbacks: processing, arm strength, and collegiate success in big moments. One knock on Stroud is his mobility. While he’s ripped off some big runs at Ohio State, he finished the year with negative rushing yards (remember that sacks are counted against quarterbacks in college). I think Young has a slight edge on Stroud as a processor and the clear edge in mobility, but both of these quarterbacks are excellent prospects one year out. There will be a heavy debate between these two for the next year, which gives dynasty managers a sigh of relief after the 2022 quarterback class.

1.03 - Bijan Robinson - RB - Texas - Jr

Bijan has been considered the top running back prospect in college basically since he stepped onto campus at Texas. That was until a guy named TreVeyon Henderson exploded onto the scene for Ohio State last season. But, make no mistake, Bijan might be the best running back prospect we’ve seen in the past few years. He has the prototypical size (6’0” 220lbs), the rushing production, and the pass-catching ability that has been on display since his freshman year. And if he were in the 2022 Class, he would have been a near-lock for the 1.01 in rookie drafts and will be regarded as a top 5 dynasty runningback right out of the gates.

1.04 - Jaxson Smith-Njigba - WR - OSU - Jr

Once again, we’re at a point where there are two prospects vying for the top prospect of this position group. Will it be Jaxson Smith-Njigba (JSN) or Kayshon Boutte? As we sit right now, I think JSN will be the leader in this group by year’s end, albeit with a slight lead. As a true sophomore, we saw JSN break out with over 1600 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. He did that with two first-round picks on his team in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. While he played 2 more games, he still outpaced Wilson and Olave by ~600 yards each and over 25 more receptions. While he was mainly a slot receiver this past year, it’s expected that he’ll be moved around the formation so that we’ll get to see his ability to play out wide or in the slot. JSN has the chance to prove he’s a really special prospect next season.

1.05 - Kayshon Boutte - WR - LSU - Jr

While JSN has the stats and accolades, many (including myself) believe that Kayshon Boutte is the more talented receiver. He’s a smoother athlete and runs effortless routes. The issue with Boutte is the injury that cut his 2022 season short and how it appears to still be lingering into this year. He hasn’t participated in camp this offseason, which could prove to be an issue with a brand new coach and quarterback. This injury seems very mysterious and there isn’t a clear timetable to return. On top of that uncertainty, it appears that Boutte and new LSU head coach Brian Kelly are still “working on their relationship”, which just doesn’t sound very optimistic. While Boutte may be the most talented wide receiver in this class, there’s a lot of uncertainty around whether or not he’ll get a chance to prove it this season.

1.06 - Jahmyr Gibbs - RB - Alabama - Jr

Running back might be the only position that doesn’t have a neck and neck competition between the top running back prospect. But while Bijan has a lock on the RB1 position, the next tier in this class is deep and extremely talented. At the top of this next tier, I have Jahmyr Gibbs who is an excellent pass catcher and has shown flashes between the tackles. Georgia Tech didn’t do him justice, but he’ll be on an Alabama team this upcoming season that will boast a stout offensive line, be balanced in the passing and rushing game, and feature Gibbs in more creative ways than he’s been used thus far into his career. The sky is the limit if he proves himself as a plus rusher between the tackles, but he is right on the edge of the size threshold at 5’11” and 200lbs. If he can get up to at least 205, preferably 210lbs, he’s going to skyrocket up draft boards. With the Alabama strength and conditioning program, it’s well within the possibility of outcomes.

1.07 - Zach Evans - RB - Ole Miss - Jr

Evans is an interesting case. We’ve seen high-end upside from his game in both the rushing and passing game. But we didn’t get to see Evans put it all together as he suffered a toe injury at mid-season and missed the rest of the year. Now, he transferred to Ole Miss where we still may not see him get that full workload. Ole Miss has deployed a running back by committee approach in recent years, and that is most likely what we’ll see again this year. Evans should get a lion’s share though, but other transfer Ulysses Bentley from SMU will also get his fair share of the backfield. Evans has incredibly high upside as a running back that can do it all, it’s just whether or not we’ll see him get that workhorse role.

1.08 - Jermaine Burton - WR - Alabama - Jr

Burton has shown flashes as a receiver for the Georgia Bulldogs, but the team has never been a high passing volume team, caping Burton under 500 yards in each of the previous two seasons. That’s all going to change as he transfers to the Alabama Crimson Tide, a pass-happy team with an elite-caliber quarterback to get the ball out to Burton. Burton has put on display his speed, downfield threat, and ability to run crisp and smooth routes. He has the potential to prove himself as a complete receiver and difference-maker this upcoming season.

1.09 - Jordan Addison - WR - USC - Jr

You might be asking why the most recent Biletnikoff Award winner, Jordan Addison, is this far down into the first round? While Addison had a very impressive season and is indeed a very impressive talent, there are just other players in this draft class that project to be more complete receivers with difference-making potential. And while he did have an impressive season both statistically and on film, he benefited greatly from being the only real target in the Pitt offense and getting force-fed the ball. But Addison this far down also speaks to the depth in talent in this draft class. Addison may not replicate his 2021 with a bit more competition for touches at USC, but he’s going to be a near-lock for second-round draft capital in the NFL Draft.

1.10 - Quentin Johnston - WR - TCU - Jr

Quentin Johnston is a tall wide receiver with legitimate top-end speed to blow by defenders on deep, vertical routes. Listed at 6’4” and 212lbs, he’s got good size with an outstanding catch radius. He specializes as a deep threat averaging 19.2 yards per reception last year and 22.1 yards per reception in his freshman season. Last season Johnston missed a good amount of games with an undisclosed injury, really putting a damper on ending his breakout season. But, all signs are that he is back at camp and will be ready for the opening of the season. If he continues his development and boasts another career year, he could be flirting with first-round NFL Draft capital.

1.11 - Joshua Downs - WR - UNC - Jr

Downs was peppered with targets last year during Sam Howell’s final year with UNC. He was the only legitimate option on the team after the mass exodus of Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome, Javonte Williams, and Michael Carter, the team’s four leading receivers. He did make the most of it though with a career year of 100+ receptions, 1300+ yards, and 8 touchdowns. UNC will have a new quarterback this upcoming year, but nothing should change in terms of the funneling of targets. Downs figures to be the focal point of the passing attack once again and is expected to be peppered with volume again. While his statistics will wow a lot of analysts, the guys above him in this list are more complete receivers with higher upside (pre-Junior year that is).

1.12 - Michael Mayer - TE - Notre Dame - Jr

This year’s tight end class isn’t very deep as it sits right now, but Mayer appears to be a very complete tight end overall. He is a good blocker, has great size at 6’4.5” and 251lbs, and is a real force in the receiving game. Kevin Austin was the only player to get more yards through the air than Mayer last season by only 48 yards, but Mayer led the team in receptions and tied in touchdowns. He’s not the most athletic tight end we’ve seen, but can gets open consistently and has great body control when plucking the ball out of the air. He should be in real consideration for top 12 draft capital next year, even in a draft class as deep as this one.

Honorable Mentions

Anthony Richardson – QB – Florida – Jr

High risk and high reward is the name of the game for Anthony Richardson. He was scoring at an insane clip last season with a very small workload at the beginning, displaying his explosiveness with every game. It’s a small sample size, but an enticing one.

Spencer Rattler – QB – South Carolina – Sr

It was Rattler vs Howell this time last year, but Rattler fell off at Oklahoma and is looking for a fresh start at South Carolina. It’s a long shot that he bounces back to his former hype, but he’s still a name to keep an eye on.

Will Levis – QB Kentucky – Sr

I’m personally not sold on Will Levis, but he’s shown to have the tools to be an exciting player. He could take a step next season and become much more consistent, which is exactly what his game needs. 

DJ Uiagalelei – QB – Clemson – Jr

Another quarterback that has an outside chance to return to former hype. But DJ U also has Cade Klubnik, a freshman 5-star quarterback recruit hot on DJ’s heels. If some of these quarterbacks hit, it could make this draft class even deeper than it already is.

Arik Gilbert – TE – Georgia – Jr

This isn’t an overly deep tight end class, but if Arik Gilbert can get it together both on and off the field, this tight end group could be elite. Gilbert played 8 games in the 2020 COVID-shortened season plus a knee injury. Then he missed all of 2021 after deciding to transfer out of LSU, deciding to come back, and then finally deciding to join the Georgia Bulldogs. But he never took a snap for Georgia due to missing the entire season for “personal matters”. If he can come back and return with the same potential he had in 2020, he could easily be the top tight end in this class thanks to his raw athleticism. 

Tank Bigsby – RB – Auburn – Jr

Bigsby had a bit of a down year last year despite going over 1000 yards rushing and catching 21 passes. But his efficiency took a hit and watching him on the field, it just wasn’t the same. But the offense as a whole took a step back. Time will tell if Bigsby gets back to his freshman year hype, but he could very well be in that dynasty first-round talk this time next year. 

Sean Tucker – RB – Syracuse – Jr

Tucker is built like an absolute tank if you’ve ever seen any of his workouts. On the field, he’s top-notch as well as he hit almost 1500 yards rushing and caught 20 passes for over 250 yards. He’s another do-it-all back that has the chance to jump up into the first round. This running back class could be healthy with quality running backs all the way into the middle of the second round next year. 

Kendall Milton – RB – Georgia – Jr

Milton hasn’t done much on the field up to this point, but he has a lot going for him this upcoming year as the assumed lead running back for Georgia. Standing at 6’1” and 220 lbs, he has the size, and has shown physicality and ability to make defenders miss, albeit in a limited sample size. He could easily be the biggest riser on this list. 

Marvin Mims – WR – Oklahoma – Jr

Mims has had back-to-back impressive years with Oklahoma. Going into his junior year, there are question marks about the head coach, offensive scheme, and a new quarterback. But, Mims is still an excellent wide receiver that creates separation with ease. The issue is that he has a slight frame and really projects as just a slot receiver at the next level. At the same time, the NFL has been trending to these smaller receivers right around Mims’s size though, so we’ll see if he can elevate his draft stock this season.

Parker Washington – WR – Penn State – Jr

While Parker Washington was overshadowed by Jahan Dotson during his first two years at Penn State, he is primed to break out in 2022. Like Dotson, he has incredible hands and exceptional body control. Additionally, he’s an explosive athlete that brings a bit more to the yards after the catch game that Dotson was lacking. He has a huge opportunity in front of him to boost his draft stock.

Ainias Smith – WR – Texas A&M – Sr

Smith is an interesting wide receiver that looks like a bit of a longshot to be a high-end draft pick this upcoming year. He’s been a bit of a swiss army knife, going back and forth between running back and wide receiver. Despite the back and forth, he’s primarily been a wide receiver and an explosive one at that. He has tweener size at 5’10” and 190lbs, but one thing is undebatable, he can ball out and is a weapon on offense.

Rakim Jarrett – WR – Maryland – Jr

Jarrett stepped in and filled veteran Dontay Demus’ role in the Maryland offense this year and became a name a lot of devy and C2C players know well. Others might know him as well for being the 4th overall wide receiver prospect in 2020 per 247. He’s a well-rounded receiver with strong hands, body control, and high-end athleticism. Demus should be back at full strength this year, so both Jarrett and Demus will be splitting the receiving volume. It could go either way for Jarrett’s draft stock and whether or not he’ll come out in the loaded 2023 draft class.

Even with all the players I’ve mentioned here, there are always players that come out of nowhere and make a name for themselves. Plus, there are a lot of players I wasn’t able to get into here even though they have a solid chance to be a name we’re talking about during the rookie draft next offseason like Devin Leary, QB out of NC State, Cedric Tillman, WR out of Tennessee, Jaheim Bell, TE out of South Carolina, and many more. This class is already very deep at both running back and wide receiver, although a bit more top-heavy at wide receiver. The quarterback position has a good chance of being another deep class, although there are some question marks. Tight end has a solid chance to have at least a couple of top-end options, but depth is a question mark here. All in all, I’m still very in on this draft class and 2023 rookie draft picks are only going to get more expensive!

Check out our draft kit. Full of everything that you need to be successful this season. And, as always, if you want something more specific to your league- reach out! You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Image Credit: Dale Zanine – USA TODAY Sports