Redrafting the 2023 Rookie Class

As we are halfway through the NFL Regular Season, I think this is a perfect time to check in on the 2023 Rookie Class and see how they’re doing and how they stack up now by redrafting. Who has made the largest jump from the preseason? Who’s future looks bleaker than expected? While we shouldn’t make drastic overreactions to these young players through just 9 weeks, we can use the information we have so far to get a better picture of what to expect throughout their careers. Let’s see how these players fall in a rookie draft format:

1.01 - Bijan Robinson - RB - Atlanta Falcons

Bijan has been awesome, there’s just no other way to put it. He’s RB17 in points per game (excluding his headache game anomaly) and RB13 in total points after a few down weeks. The volume has been there every week he’s played in both the rushing and passing game, averaging ~5 targets per game (again excluding the headache game). He’s a certified workhorse who has been efficient with his touches as well and gets valuable touches through the air.

He boasts a top 10 PFF Grade (of running backs with over 25 carries) and top 12 ratings in True Yards per Carry, Yards per Touch, Juke Rate, Evaded Tackles, Yards Created, and Yards Created Per Touch. All of that while facing the 4th most Average Defenders in the Box and the 5th most Stacked Front Carry Rate per PlayerProfiler. While some players have worked their way into the tier that Bijan occupied by himself this offseason, I think Bijan is still the 1.01 in this draft.

1.02 - Anthony Richardson - QB - Colts

Richardson already showed top 5 fantasy quarterback upside in his limited play so far this year. But at the same time, he showed the risks that come with rushing quarterbacks, and that’s the injuries. He played 2 full games this season where he scored over 20 points in both outings. Then he played in one game where he played 32% of the snaps and still put up nearly 18 fantasy points. And then in his last game, he played 33% of the snaps before ending his season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. The upside we all knew was there was put fully on display and I’m not going to let the injuries hold me back from that kind of upside.

1.03 - CJ Stroud - QB - Houston

Stroud has shown exactly what you’ve wanted to see from him with a fairly average supporting cast. Nico Collins and Tank Dell’s emergence has been great to see and exactly what Stroud needed to show off his accuracy and precision like he’s been able to thus far. Completing a respectable 62% of his passes for 2,270 yards and a 14-1 TD-INT ratio is about as perfect as it gets for any quarterback, much less a rookie. He looks poised in the pocket, processes the field well, and throws pinpoint accurate passes.

 As he grows more comfortable, he’ll improve those touchdown numbers as he gets more consistent in the red zone. But the promise we’ve seen thus far is easily enough to put him as the QB2 with a solid case to push for QB1 as he continues to progress this year.

1.04 - Jahmyr Gibbs - RB - Detroit Lions

It took some time, but in weeks 7 and 8 we finally saw what Jahmyr Gibbs is capable of in this offense with the right utilization. Back-to-back weeks with over 27 PPR points with success on the ground AND through the air. These last two weeks I think will be more indicative of what his career will be long term now that he’s fully meshed with this offense. He’s going to be a threat on the ground and through the air with explosive plays waiting to happen. That is exactly what we expected coming out of the NFL Draft.

1.05 - Puka Nacua - WR - LA Rams

I have been in on Puka from the get-go and if you read either my article on him here at King Fantasy Sports this offseason or my prospect film breakdown on Twitter, you probably also were able to snag Puka in the 3rd, 4th, or even off waivers following your rookie drafts. But I’d be lying to you if I said I predicted this kind of production this quickly. There was a clear opportunity with Kupp missing time early in the season and the lack of options behind him. Puka was also presented this opportunity with a veteran quarterback who gave him ample opportunities to develop. And he took those opportunities presented to him and ran with them as he went on a historic pace to start his career. The tweet below details just how historic and unprecedented this breakout is, not only for rookie wide receivers but for veterans as well. He’s a clear top 12 Dynasty Wide Receiver and pushing top 5 status.

1.06 - De'Von Achane - RB - Miami Dolphins

If you haven’t already heard 1,000 times this offseason, De’Von Achane is a track star and you witnessed it for 3 electric weeks straight. He ran at an absurd pace with weeks of 51, 27, and 21 PPR points averaging over 11.2 yards per carry and scoring 7 total touchdowns during this span. That is the upside of De’Von Achane playing around half of the offensive snaps every week in a McDaniel offensive scheme that couldn’t fit Achane’s skillset better. 

But, one of his knocks coming out of college was his size and that might have had an impact on his knee injury that will hold him out until they return from their bye week. He is a borderline top-5 dynasty running back going forward and locked in as a top-10 dynasty running back thanks to his immense upside in this offense.

1.07 - Bryce Young - QB - Carolina Panthers

I think it’s way too early for everyone to be writing off Bryce Young, and chances are that if you are writing him off already you were never in on him from the start. The most encouraging part of his game is that while there have been dips in his play, he still shows that cerebral part of his game we saw at Alabama. What he’s done thus far, completing 63.9% of his passes for 1,375 yards and an 8-7 TD-INT ratio isn’t great but it’s hard to ask for more with his supporting cast as a rookie. He’s been sacked 26 times so far this season (top 10) and has been throwing to 33-year-old Adam Theilen who hasn’t sniffed 1,000 yards since his 20s, a washed DJ Chark who hit 1,000 yards once 2 teams ago, Terrace Marshall, and a rookie Jonathan Mingo. Oh, and a bottom-seven rushing offense.

This situation reminds me a lot of when everyone wrote off Trevor Lawrence after an abysmal season with terrible weapons and supporting cast, albeit also with the trainwreck that was Urban Meyer. Lawrence’s situation was worse due to Meyer and I do think Lawrence is a better quarterback. While he’s definitely moved down in ranks, let’s give Young a chance to produce with some legitimate weapons before completely throwing him into the abyss. Even a Christian Kirk and Evan Engram free agency upgrade could do wonders for Young’s development and fantasy output.

1.08 - Jaxon Smith-Njigba - WR - Seattle Seahawks

The pedigree and talent are still there and we’ve seen flashes of it early in this season. Smith-Njigba shined when DK missed time this season, but has been limited in his role with a crowded and ingrained wide receiver core already in place. It’s going to take time for him to break into this starting rotation more often and earn the trust of Geno Smith. But we all knew this coming into the season, so there should be no change in our perception of JSN thus far. Give it time and continue to be patient, Buy the dip if any managers are panicking.

1.09 - Sam LaPorta - TE - Detroit Lions

LaPorta has been on a tear to start the season and as I write this, he is TE4 on the season and in PPR fantasy points per game so far. He’s already in the fantasy scoring conversation with Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, TJ Hockenson, and George Kittle (plenty of former Iowa alumni there). In a super efficient and balanced Detroit Lions offense, LaPorta is garnering over 7  targets per game as a rookie and is top 10 in offensive PFF Grade out of eligible tight ends. 

He has a legitimate shot this season to be up there with Kyle Pitts and Mike Ditka as the only tight ends to reach 1,000 yards as a rookie. I’m all in on LaPorta and think he’s got so much room to grow and improve upon an already excellent fantasy rookie year.

1.10 - Jordan Addison - WR - Minnesota Vikings

In the absence of Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison has been on an absolute heater. Weeks 5-9, he’s the WR8 averaging 18.6 points per game. Even on the season, he’s still WR11 on the year and WR17 in points per game so far this year. He’s obviously going to take the WR2 role back over once Justin Jefferson makes his way back, and with Kirk Cousins going down for the year, I expect Addison to cool off just a bit. But he’s shown what he’s capable of and has had an impressive rookie season thus far. His ceiling will remain capped so long as Justin Jefferson is in the same wide receiver room as him, but he can still operate at a high fantasy level in this offense.

1.11 - Dalton Kincaid - TE Buffalo Bills

Kincaid had a slow start to the season as the Buffalo Bills insisted on splitting his time with Dawson Knox to start the year. But Knox went down with a wrist injury, and Kincaid capitalized. In weeks 7-9, Kincaid scored over 15 points each week and had 7+ targets in each appearance. This situation is very reminiscent of his college experience as he was splitting time with long-time Utah Utes starter, Brant Kuithe up until his senior year. Then Kuithe went down with a season-ending injury in the first half of the season which led to Kincaid’s massive breakout as he dominated the snapshare going forward and garnered 890 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. 

With Kincaid no longer splitting snaps with Knox, I fully expect this breakout to continue. And as this breakout continues, it’s going to be very hard for the Bills coaching staff to continue letting him split snaps when Knox returns. Kincaid and LaPorta look to both be TEs with the realistic upside in a few years to be considered the same way Andrews, Kittle, and maybe even Kelce are considered today. That’s a massive advantage for dynasty squads.

1.12 - Zay Flowers - WR - Baltimore Ravens

Zay Flowers has looked dynamic at moments this season but also has had some not-so-great games mixed in. But with his high target volume, he still has maintained a fairly safe floor throughout this season. Currently, he ranks 18th in the league in targets, but only 32nd in the league in receiving yards. That is mostly due to his aDOT ranking in the 100s. 

He’s had success underneath and near the line of scrimmage, but there is still another part of his game that can be unlocked, and that’s his field-stretching ability. He displayed downfield ability while he was a do-it-all receiver in college for Boston College. If he can add that facet to his game in the NFL, he’s going to rocket up rankings as he puts up huge fantasy numbers. But that was also a concern in his profile coming out of college as an undersized receiver potentially pigeonholed as a slot-only/low aDOT receiver.

Round 2

2.01 – Will Levis – QB – Tennessee Titans

2.02 – Josh Downs – WR – Indianapolis Colts

2.03 – Tank Dell – WR – Houston Texans

2.04 – Rashee Rice – WR – Kansas City Chiefs

2.05 – Quinten Johnston – WR – LA Chargers

2.06 – Luke Musgrave – TE – Green Bay Packers

2.07 – Michael Mayer – TE – Las Vegas Raiders

2.08 – Tyjae Spears – RB – Tennessee Titans

2.09 – Roschon Johnson – RB – Chicago Bears

2.10 – Marvin Mims – WR – Denver Broncos

2.11 – Zach Charbonnet – RB – Seattle Seahawks

2.12 – Jayden Reed – WR – Green Bay Packers