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2023 Fantastic Fantasy Freshmen: Post-Draft Rankings part I
Post-Draft Rankings part I
Scouting players for fantasy football leagues is a labor of love, and publishing post-draft rookie rankings concludes months of research and analysis. Throughout the fall, I watched countless games, graded potential prospects and analyzed their athletic skills on the gridiron. When their college careers concluded, I plugged the numbers into statistical models and profiled over 40 fantasy prospects for diehards.
I have finally reached the end point as the 2023 Class wears new uniforms. It is time to appraise their alternative-reality value as professionals. When compiling my post-Draft rankings, draft capital and potential opportunity weigh heavily when evaluating the player for the upcoming season.
I rank the players in tiers—Summa Cum Laude, Magna Cum Laude, Cum Laude and Honors—to provide flexibility for readers based on a league’s scoring format, roster construction and starting-lineup requirements. The projections are based on the 2023 campaign.
I have also included my Stupendous 60 Dynasty rankings (see link below). Please whet your appetite by examining the tiers and projections…Enjoy my fellow diehards!
Summa Cum Laude
RB Bijan Robinson, Atlanta
During a decade of rookie analysis, selecting Bijan Robinson first in Dynasty drafts might be the easiest decision ever. I am also comfortable selecting the newest Falcons runner among the Top 10 picks in redraft leagues. My projections are based on coach Arthur Smith’s philosophy and offensive scheme, which foreshadow high-end fantasy production.
In three of the past four seasons, Smith has orchestrated a ground game at Tennessee and Atlanta that ranked in the top five: In 2019, 138.9 ypg. (3rd), in 2020, 168.1 ypg. (2nd) and in 2022, 159.9 (3rd). Last year, rookie Tyler Allgeier earned 210 carries, averaged 4.9 ypc. and scored three touchdowns.
At 6’0” and 222-pounds, Robinson is a much-better runner than Allgeier. “Bijan is an impact football player. We just feel he’s an explosive weapon. He’s a home run hitter; however, he gets the football in his hands," coach Smith stated after the Draft (nesn.com). He is a three-down ball carrier, and the former Longhorns’ playmaker easily out-touches Allgeier’s totals from last year. Robinson ascends to a fantasy stardom immediately.
2023 Projections: 1,375 rushing yards, 45 receptions for 340 yards and 13 touchdowns
RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Lions
I did not expect two runners to be plucked off the board within the Top 12 picks in the First Round, and especially not by the Lions, who signed free agent David Montgomery in the offseason and rostered DeAndre Swift before trading him to Philadelphia. The organization obviously graded Jahmy Gibbs highly and took him off the board with the first of their two selections on Day 1 of the Draft.
Despite many in the analytics community disagreeing with the selection of Gibbs so early, the entire Detroit organization felt otherwise. "Brad Holmes (General Manager), myself, the staff, the personnel department, we all fell in love with this guy a long time ago. He pops off the tape, he’s dynamic, he’s explosive and he’s an unbelievable human being and a worker. He brings an explosive element to our offense,” coach Dan Campbell declared (si.com).
The fantasy community should rejoice and feel confident that the Lions made the right decision. Campbell will clearly bestow Gibbs with an abundance of work in the passing game, which is fantasy gold. Acquire the former Alabama star with confidence in 2023.
2023 Projections: 625 rushing yards, 50 receptions for 330 yards and 7 touchdowns
(Hit link above for the Stupendous 60)
QB Anthony Richardson, Colts
For the past three seasons, the Colts placed a bandaid on the quarterback position by acquiring veterans Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz and Philip Rivers and made the playoffs only once. With the fourth-pick overall, the organization could not bypass upgrading the quarterback position in the long-term and selected Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson.
When I began breaking down the quarterback prospects in January, I made the comment that Richardson was an amalgamation of Cam Newton and Tim Tebow. How would he develop as a professional? It appears that landing in Indianapolis with a great coaching staff—head coach Steve Steichen and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter—that his career more likely resembles Newton than Tebow and will catapult the rookie to fantasy prominence sooner rather than later.
There is no question the trajectory that Richardson envisions for himself. "I want to be a legend. I want to be like Patrick Mahomes, I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats…I will be one of the greats," Richardson opined at the NFL Combine in March (usatoday.com). It is music to the ears of fantasy managers.
At 6’4” and 244-pounds, Richardson has idyllic size, traits, athletic ability and leadership skills. He is the definition of the modern dual-threat signal caller. All projections for the rookie must begin with the number of games started in 2023. How long before he replaces Gardner Minshew in the starting lineup? I based my projections on 14 starts for the dynamic rookie, and he will also be a fantasy starter once he calls signals for the Colts.
2023 Projections: 2,660 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, 700 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns
Twitterverse on Fire!
Who moved up Dynasty rookie rankings the most after the first three rounds of the Draft?
RB Kendre Miller, Saints: 35%
WR Jonathan Mingo, Panthers: 47%
WR Michael Wilson, Cardinals: 6%
TE Luke Schoonmaker, Dallas: 12%
Scholar’s Selection: “I like Kendre Miller in New Orleans this year and moving forward. He was my pre-Draft No. 5 running back prospect, and he warrants first-round consideration in Dynasty drafts.” @Gridironschol91
“Kendre Miller for me…he might have instant touches, especially if a suspension of Alvin Kamara happens. He could have a big role early.” @NinoBrown_T2T
“I’ll take Jonathan Mingo. He has high second-round draft capital with a 1.01 overall pick at quarterback. Don’t fear the current WR room. There is not much on the roster locked into guaranteed targets or major competition.” @FabFalco
“Jonathan Mingo for me. He’s going to a WR room with Adam Thielen and DJ Chark. He has a chance to build a relationship and grow with a new quarterback in a new system.” @caliking49er17
“It has to be Luke Schoonmaker, who was undrafted in leagues that already ran theirs.” @svpc0urage
WR Jordan Addison, Minnesota
The Vikings already employ all-world gamebreaker Justin Jefferson, the most dangerous pass-catcher in the league. Yet, the organization sought another playmaker who can win one-on-one contests to take advantage of defensive coverage on Jefferson. With the twentieth-fourth pick in the Draft, Minnesota plucked Jordan Addison off the board.
“We added a really good player…at a very, very important position that continues to be a major position as this game continues to evolve. Combining Addison with our skill group as a whole, we feel like we're going to be able to attack some premier match-ups. We feel like we've added a real weapon," coach Kevin O'Connell proclaimed after selecting the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner (cbsnews.com).
Last year, veteran Adam Theilen registered 107 targets and corralled 70 passes but averaged only 10.2 ypc. In the offseason, Theilen, a free agent, signed a contract with the Carolina Panthers, and Addison strides into a starting position. At 5’11” and 172-pounds, the Vikings rookie is a fleet-footed, home run hitter, who is a savvy and slippery route runner with elusiveness and quickness.
2023 Projections: 65 receptions for 930 yards and seven touchdowns
Magna Cum Laude
WR Rashee Rice, Chiefs
Looking at depth charts, the Chiefs need an influx of talent at wide receiver: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore are the projected starters in 11-personnel formations. Scantling is a journeyman, Toney cannot stay on the field and Moore rarely touched the ball as a rookie last year.
In order to provide more options, Kansas City traded up eight spots with Detroit to snag SMU wide receiver Rashee Rice with the 55th selection. Rice was the seventh receiver off the board before higher-ranked prospects Marvin Mims, Jalin Hyatt and Cedric TIllman. Obviously, the Super Bowl Champions graded Rice highly and believed he fits into their system.
“(Rice is) really good with the ball after the catch; he’s like a running back after the catch. Explosive, fast-twitch kid. He can play inside, he can play outside. Coaches will find a way to get him involved in the offense,” Chiefs assistant general manager Mike Borgonzi said Friday night (kansascity.com).
At 6’1” and 204-pounds, the former Mustang has a nice frame with long arms and sticky hands. He quickly gets off the line of scrimmage and produces YAC totals once the ball is in his mitts. In each of the past two seasons, the Chiefs have thrown over 625 passes with Patrick Mahomes pulling the trigger. Rice is in a near perfect spot to begin his professional career and become a viable fantasy option sooner rather than later.
2023 Projections: 68 catches for 840 yards and six touchdowns
RB Devon Achane, Dolphins
In the Nineties, I watched Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson covet speed when building a roster, and he captured two Super Bowl rings. The Dolphins are on a similar crusade, seeking gamebreakers at the skill positions. Opponents must defend every yard of the gridiron against Miami’s dynamic speed demons Tyreek Hill and Jayden Waddle.
With the eighty-fourth selection in the Draft, Miami added another speedster with RB Devon Achane. “We generally like speed around here. You’re always keeping in mind that you’re adding players, and the running back room is very important. You find a person and player that fits the organization’s skill set but also within the locker room. We’re really excited to add Achane, who is really fast,” coach Mike McDaniel affirmed after the selection (thephinsider.com).
Before the Draft, I did not wax poetically—like other analysts—in regard to Achane’s fantasy potential. However, I am always willing to change my opinion when the facts presented highlight a different conclusion. I cannot ignore the landing spot, offensive scheme and depth chart in Miami.
Coach McDaniel coordinated the 49ers’ run game from 2017-20 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2021. In San Francisco, Elijah Mitchell, Raheem Mostert, Matt Brieda and Carlos Hyde all produced fantasy-worthy numbers at times, and last year, Mostert and Jeff Wilson sometimes performed well in McDaniel’s outside zone-blocking scheme.
Achane is better than all of the aforementioned ball carriers McDaniels employed. I will make the bet that the former Aggie, despite not surpassing the 200-pound threshold and a smaller frame, succeeds with limited touches and high efficiency in Miami.
2023 Projections: 650 yards rushing, 50 receptions for 440 yards and seven touchdowns
Twitterverse on Fire!
Identify the veteran starter who retained, or gained, the most fantasy value after Day 2 of the Draft?
QB Sam Howell, Washington: 22%
RB Dameon Pierce, Houston: 33%
QB Geno Smith, Seattle: 38%
RB Samaje Perine, Denver: 7%
Scholar’s Selection: “I am still in shock that Denver did not grab a running back in the Draft. With Javonte William’s status (knee) up in the air, Samaje Perine enters training camp atop the depth chart. I am acquiring Perine in all my Best Ball drafts at his current ADP.”
“I went with Geno Smith. Not only did Seattle pass on a future quarterback, but the Seahawks added the No. 1 WR in the class and the No. 3 RB. Wheels up on this offense.” @FabFalco
“Dameon Pierce not getting a Day 2 challenger was nice to see for my shares.” @DmicMedia