Now that the dust has settled from the 2023 NFL Draft, it’s time to examine this year’s rookie class for the upcoming fantasy season. The Fantasy Points staff already broke down which veteran players saw their stock rise and which players saw their stock fall for the 2023 season based on this year’s selections in our Veteran Market Watch.
Based on pre-draft expectations, let’s see which fantasy rookies are looking better and which rookies are looking worse for the upcoming season. I primarily focused on playing opportunities and a player’s supporting cast to determine if I’m feeling better or worse about each prospect for the 2023 fantasy season.
Note: The available targets used for the receivers are courtesy of 4for4.
Based on pre-draft expectations, rookies whom I’m more optimistic about for the 2023 fantasy season because of potential playing opportunities and/or a strong supporting cast.
Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Selected: Fourth overall, QB3
Competition: Gardner Minshew
The Colts made no bones this winter that they were going to select a quarterback with the fourth overall pick, but they threw everyone off the scent by drafting Richardson instead of Will Levis. Richardson left a lot to be desired in his one and only season as a starter at Florida, in his third year on campus. In 12 starts in 2022, he completed just 53.8% of his passes and averaged 7.8 YPA and 212.4 passing YPG with a TD rate of only 5.2% and a 2.8% INT rate. What he lacked as a passer he made up for as a dynamic runner, averaging 54.5 rushing YPG with nine scores. Richardson significantly helped his stock by blowing up the combine, blazing a 4.43-second 40-yard dash while breaking quarterback records in the vertical (40.5”) and broad jumps (10’9”) at 6’4”, 244 pounds. Our Brett Whitefield described Richardson as a Marvel superhero because of his physique and running ability, and Brett thought his lack of consistent accuracy was his only pain point.
Richardson landed in an ideal spot with new HC Shane Steichen, who helped to develop Jalen Hurts into the MVP runner-up over the last two years. He also worked with Justin Herbert (2020), who set rookie passing records for passing TDs (31) and completions (396) with Steichen as his OC. Steichen earned a reputation as an aggressive playcaller with the Eagles, one who wasn’t afraid to attack downfield with vertical concepts, and he adapted his offense to a mobile quarterback with the Eagles posting the most rushing yards (5224) over the last two seasons. Richardson comes into the league with less experience than Justin Fields, who took his lumps as a rookie. Fields averaged 38.6 rushing YPG and 180.0 passing YPG but accounted for just eight TDs on a Bears team lacking offensive talent. Richardson will have more help from Michael Pittman and Jonathan Taylor, and the big question for 2023 is just how early Richardson will play after starting just 13 games at Florida. He’ll battle Gardner Minshew in training camp, and I believe owner Jim Irsay will want to see his new toy play earlier rather than later this season. Richardson’s rushing ability gives him the highest upside and makes him the most appealing in this year’s rookie class. He’ll be worth a late-round stash in redraft formats if it looks like he has a legitimate chance to open the season as the starter, and he’ll have legit low-end QB1 upside when he’s in the lineup this season.
Michael Mayer, Las Vegas Raiders
Selected: 35h overall (TE3)
Competition: Austin Hooper, O.J. Howard, Jesper Horsted
Available Targets: 191 (10th most), 97 TE targets (most)
Multiple TEs, including Mayer, were expected to be drafted in the first round, but he fell to a spot where the Raiders could trade up and select him at 35th overall. Mayer drove Notre Dame’s passing attack in his final two seasons, which propelled him to become the Fighting Irish’s first consensus All-American TE since Ken MacAfee in 1976. He also passed Tyler Eifert for the most receptions by a TE in school history with 180 catches. Mayer posted 67+ catches, 800+ receiving yards, and 7+ TDs in each of his final two seasons. Over his final two seasons, he averaged 11.9 YPR and owned per-game averages of 5.8 receptions and 68.7 receiving yards. Mayer was highly productive at Notre Dame, but he failed to impress at the combine with a SPORQ score of 65.1. He posted a respectable 4.7-second 40-yard dash and a 9’10” broad jump at 6’4”, 249 pounds. Our Brett Whitefield believes Mayer is lacking in athleticism compared to the other top TE prospects in this class, but he makes up for it with his refined skill set and attention to detail in all facets of the game.
Mayer found a perfect spot to make an immediate fantasy impact, landing in an offense that had the most TE targets vacated (97) from last season. The Raiders traded Darren Waller to the Giants this off-season, and they were unable to re-sign the ascending Foster Moreau, who has a tragic cancer diagnosis. Mayer instantly vaults to the top of Las Vegas’ depth chart ahead of Austin Hooper and O.J. Howard. Josh McDaniels has always valued tight end play dating back to the days when the Patriots trotted out Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez together. McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler did a good job of catering the passing game to their new quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, bringing in Jakobi Meyers and Mayer, who excel in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. Garoppolo owned an NFL-best passer rating of 133.8 on throws of 10-19 yards before his season-ending foot injury. Mayer doesn’t have the massive upside of some TEs in this rookie class, but he has the best chance to be on the fantasy radar in redraft formats. He should be a solid PPR option as a low-end TE2 for best ball and TE-premium formats.
Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions
- Selected: 34th overall (TE2)
- Competition: Brock Wright, James Mitchell, Shane Zylstra
- Available Targets: 227 (4th most), 67 TE targets (7th most)
The Lions had a hole at tight end after trading away T.J. Hockenson in the middle of last season, and they turned to another Iowa prospect to fill the void. LaPorta transitioned from playing wide receiver and defensive back in high school to tight end at Iowa. His career took off in his final two seasons, earning first-team all-Big Ten honors and being named a Mackey Award finalist as a true senior in 2022. LaPorta totaled 111/1327/4 receiving (12.0 YPR) in his final 26 contests for per-game averages of 4.3 receptions, 51.0 receiving yards, and .15 touchdowns. He checked in on the small side (6’3”, 245 pounds) at the combine, but he logged impressive marks in the 40-yard dash (4.59 seconds), broad jump (10’3”), and three-cone drill (6.91 seconds). Our Brett Whitefield believes LaPorta has the athleticism and alignment versatility to contribute right away as a receiver.
LaPorta has a chance to be a starter from Day 1 with the likes of Brock Wright, James Mitchell, and Shane Zylstra blocking his path to the top of the depth chart. Detroit’s receiving corps is also suddenly thin following Jameson Williams’ six-game suspension for violating the league’s gambling policy. Amon-Ra St. Brown is the only receiver guaranteed to see regular targets from Jared Goff while Williams is shelved, and LaPorta is already prepared to take on a big role in Detroit’s passing game if he’s needed to. He carried Iowa’s anemic passing game last year, accounting for 32.3% of its passing yards (657 of 2037) and 30.2% of its receptions (58 of 192) in 2022. Goff also notably targeted TEs on 12 of his 29 TD passes (41.4%) last year despite trading Hockenson after seven games. LaPorta will likely be off the redraft radar barring a strong showing in the preseason, but he’ll be worth a late-round look as low-end TE in best ball and TE-premium leagues.
Luke Musgrave, Green Bay Packers
- Selected: 42nd overall (TE4)
- Competition: Tucker Kraft ®, Josiah Deguara
- Available Targets: 258 (2nd most), 74 TE targets (6th most)
The Packers drafted Musgrave with their second pick of the draft to cap off a TE run in the early second round. Musgrave comes from strong football bloodlines as his father, Doug, played quarterback at Oregon, and his uncle, Bill, also played QB at Oregon before becoming a longtime NFL offensive coach. He comes into the league with just 45/615/2 receiving in 18 games over his final three seasons at Oregon State. Musgrave had his redshirt junior season cut short by a knee injury after posting 11/169/1 receiving in his first two contests. Musgrave finished with the class’ best SPORQ score at 93.4 thanks to a 4.61-second 40-yard dash, a 36” vertical, and a 10’5” broad jump at 6’6”, 253 pounds. Our Brett Whitefield believes Musgrave will face a developmental curve because of his lack of college snaps, but he has massive upside with his blend of athleticism and size.
GM Brian Gutkunst clearly saw tight end as a spot he needed to quickly upgrade by selecting another TE, Tucker Kraft, just 36 spots after they selected Musgrave. Green Bay vacated the sixth-most TE targets (74) from last season after Green Bay moved on from Robert Tonyan this off-season. The Packers most notably moved on from Aaron Rodgers, and they’re going with an extremely young receiving corps with Jordan Love at the helm. Second-year players Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs will lead this WR corps, with second-round pick Jayden Reed joining the mix. Musgrave is insanely talented and a strong dynasty buy, but it’s asking a lot for him to be an instant fantasy option in redraft formats with just 45 catches in 18 games over the last three years. With that said, he’s worth a flier pick as a TE3 in best ball drafts just in case he can quickly earn targets in a wide-open receiving corps.
Luke Schoonmaker, Dallas Cowboys
- Selected: 58th overall (TE5)
- Competition: Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot
- Available Targets: 197 (9th most), 89 (2nd most)
The Bills traded one spot ahead of the Cowboys to select Dalton Kincaid in the first round, and Dallas ended up waiting until the second round to address their glaring need by reaching for Schoonmaker. He’s a 24-year-old prospect who took until his fifth season at Michigan to make an impact as a receiver. He posted 35/418/3 receiving (11.9 YPR) as a redshirt senior for per-game averages of 2.9 receptions, 34.8 receiving yards, and .25 touchdowns. He checked in at 6’5”, 251 pounds at the combine, and tested well in the broad jump (10’7”), 40-yard dash (4.63 seconds), and 20-yard shuttle (4.27 seconds). Our Brett Whitefield believes Schoonmaker profiles as a well-round tight end, but he projected him as a #2 TE and as a Day 3 prospect with some upside.
Schoonmaker found one of the best landing spots for a rookie TE to potentially make a fantasy impact in 2023. The big question is if he’s ready to play and contribute right away after posting just 54 receptions over 43 games and five years at Michigan. The Cowboys have the second-most vacated TE targets (89), with Dalton Schultz grabbing the bag from the Texans in free agency, which left just 2022 fourth-rounder Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot atop the depth chart. Dak Prescott isn’t shy about throwing to his TEs, with Dallas ranking in the top 10 in targets at the position in three of the last four seasons. Schoonmaker should be left to the waiver wire in redraft formats and is a final-round dart throw as a TE3 in best ball formats.
Based on pre-draft expectations, rookies that I’m less optimistic about for the 2023 fantasy season because of a lack of playing opportunities and/or a weak supporting cast.
Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers
- Selected: First overall (QB1)
- Competition: Andy Dalton, Matt Corral
The Panthers made it official and selected Young with the first overall pick, which made him the second top overall selection in Carolina’s 29-year history, joining Cam Newton from the class of 2012. C.J. Stroud became the betting favorite to go No. 1 after the Panthers traded up from No. 9 with the Bears in early March, but Young surpassed him with a near-perfect S2 score after pro days. He’s coming off a stellar three-year career at Alabama, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 2021, throwing for 4872 yards and 47 TDs in 15 games with Jameson Williams and John Metchie. His production tailed off as a junior without his star WRs, posting 3328/32 passing in 12 contests in 2022. He completed 65.9% of his passes and averaged a healthy 8.8 YPA and 303.7 passing YPG with an 8.5% TD rate and 1.3% INT rate over his final two seasons. Young alleviated some worries about his slight frame by checking in at 5’10”, 204 pounds at the combine, but he still has durability concerns as he moves to the next level — he missed three games last year for an AC joint injury in his throwing shoulder. Our Brett Whitefield described Young as a hyper-accurate passer to all three levels of the field with the IQ to get through his progressions in a timely fashion.
Young has a path to start from Day 1, with veteran Andy Dalton set to serve in a mentor’s role behind him. Dalton worked in a similar role with Justin Fields two years ago, and he actually won the Bears’ starting job out of training camp, but Young comes into the league with enough polish to start in Week 1, barring a disastrous training camp. Owner David Tepper is doing everything in his power to make sure his top pick succeeds by putting Dalton, HC Frank Reich, and QB coach Josh McCown around Young to start his career. The same can’t be said about his near-league-worst receiving corps after the franchise had to part ways with stud D.J. Moore in order to land the No. 1 pick. Adam Thielen is set to be his #1 option after averaging 1.08 YPRR in his age-32 season with the Vikings, and D.J. Chark is the top big-play threat after undergoing yet another surgery for his troublesome ankle. (The Panthers did add promising rookie Jonathan Mingo in the NFL Draft.) Young is capable of extending plays, but he isn’t a prolific runner, with just 185 yards and seven TDs in his final 27 games at Alabama. Young should have no trouble opening 2023 as a starter, and he’ll be a viable low-end QB2 in best ball and two-QB formats, but he should be left to streaming duties during his rookie campaign in redraft leagues.
C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans
- Selected: Second overall, QB2
- Competition: Case Keenum, Davis Mills
Stroud went from being the odds-on favorite to be the top overall pick after the Panthers traded up in early March to supposedly being in a free fall right before the draft. In the end, he landed exactly where most expected him to at the second overall pick to the Texans. Stroud enters the NFL off of a highly efficient and productive two seasons as the successor to Justin Fields at Ohio State. He finished as a Heisman Trophy finalist in each of his two seasons as the starter, completing a healthy 69.3% of his passes and averaging 9.8 YPA and 324.9 passing YPG with a 10.2% TD rate and a 1.4% INT rate. Stroud rarely created with his legs, with just 88 rushing yards and no scores over 25 games the last two seasons, but he showed he has the tool in his arsenal with a career-high six scrambles against Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals. He checked in a little on the light side at 6’3”, 214 pounds at the combine, but he dazzled during his throwing session with Daniel Jeremiah, even calling it one of the best he’s ever seen at the event. Our Brett Whitefield believes Stroud profiles as a franchise quarterback with his repeatable accuracy and enough arm talent.
Stroud enters a QB room with Case Keenum and Davis Mills, so he should be the starter from Day 1 unless he really struggles in camp. The Texans receiving corps is less than ideal, with TE Dalton Schultz leading the way, followed by uninspiring options like Robert Woods and Nico Collins. New OC Bobby Slowik has never called plays at any level, and he’ll be doing it with a rookie quarterback leading the offense. Slowik will bring San Francisco’s run-heavy, zone-blocking system to Houston, which he learned from Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel. He’d ideally like Stroud to be his version of Jimmy Garoppolo as an efficient point guard for Houston’s offense. Stroud has more rushing ability than he showed at Ohio State, and it will be interesting to see if Slowik tries to unlock it at all as a rookie. Stroud is in a similar situation to Bryce Young as a low-end QB2 in best ball and two-QB formats, and he should also be left to streaming duties during his rookie campaign in redraft leagues unless he surprisingly unlocks some rushing upside.
Will Levis, Tennessee Titans
- Selected: 33rd overall (QB4)
- Competition: Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis
Levis endured the dreaded first-round fall on national TV, but it took just two picks into the second round for the Titans to end his slide. Levis had an interesting journey to the league, starting his career as a backup to Sean Clifford at Penn State before transferring to Kentucky, where his draft stock started to skyrocket in 2021. He completed 65.7% of his passes and averaged 8.2 YPA and 218.0 passing YPG with a 6.8% TD rate and an ugly 3.6% INT rate in 24 games with the Wildcats. He absorbed so many sacks that he finished with negative rushing yards as a senior, but he posted 376 yards and nine TDs as a junior. At 24 years old, Levis is nearly two years older than the other top QB prospects, but he’s a physical freak like Anthony Richardson. He checked in at 6’4”, 229 pounds at the combine, and he ranked in the 95th percentile in the broad jump (10’4”) and the 79th percentile in the vertical jump (34”). Our Brett Whitefield described Levis as a big-armed quarterback with accuracy and decision-making concerns, who could be unleashed more as a runner.
The Titans have been looking for Ryan Tannehill’s eventual replacement the last two off-seasons, and they’re hoping Levis will turn out better than their third-round experiment on Malik Willis last season. Tannehill fell off a cliff last season after the franchise traded away A.J. Brown, and he never got right after suffering an ankle injury in Week 7. He’ll likely enter the final year of his contract as the Week 1 starter, but he’ll need to elevate his weak receiving corps and get back to winning double-digit games like the Titans did in 2020-21 to hold off Levis later in the season. It’s notable that HC Mike Vrabel didn’t rule out Levis opening the season as the starter, and it’s at least a signal Tannehill won’t have the longest leash to open the year. The Titans still have one of the league’s worst receiving corps, but at least he has emerging second-year receivers in Treylon Burks and Chig Okonkwo. Levis is only a final-round QB3 pick in best-ball formats, and he could eventually be a streaming option in redraft formats if he gets back to running as he did in 2021.
Hendon Hooker, Detroit Lions
- Selected: 68th overall (QB5)
- Competition: Jared Goff, Nate Sudfeld
Sportsbooks set the number of quarterbacks to be selected in the first round at 4.5, with plenty of action to the over, but Hooker ended up not even sniffing the first 31 picks. He started his career at Virginia Tech in 2018, where he earned 16 starts in three years before transferring to Tennessee for his final two seasons. He completed a nice 69% of his passes with the Volunteers while averaging 9.6 YPA and 253.3 passing YPG with a 9.2% TD rate and .8% INT rate. He also added 43.6 rushing YPG with 10 rushing TDs in 24 games at Tennessee. Hooker took home the 2022 SEC Offensive Player of the Year despite tearing his ACL in late November, which prevented the 25-year-old prospect from working out in the pre-draft process. Our Brett Whitefield believes Hooker has the size (6’3”, 217 pounds), arm talent, accuracy, and running skills to be a good NFL starter.
Jared Goff turned back the clock to his time with the Rams in 2017-20, turning in 29 touchdown passes (4.9% TD rate) to just seven INTs (1.2%) last season. The Lions, with extra draft capital, still bought some insurance just in case he turns back into Goff from 2020-21 when he had 39 TDs (3.7%) and 21 INTs (2.0%). The good news for Goff is that Hooker faces a lot of obstacles to play this season. Hooker is seven months older than Jalen Hurts and will turn 26 years old next January. He’s also coming off ACL surgery last December, which will limit his development this season, and he’s already a bit of a project since he played in a gimmicky offense with the Volunteers. Hooker is off the radar in all formats in 2023 since he’s unlikely to start unless Detroit’s season goes sideways. He does have some rushing upside so he could be a streaming option if he would see the field late in the year.
Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills
- Selected: 25th overall, TE1
- Competition: Dawson Knox
- Available Targets: 157 (12th most), 1 TE target
Kincaid appeared to have the best chance to be an impact fantasy tight end before the draft, but his path to snaps and targets took a hit by landing on the same depth chart as Dawson Knox. Kincaid emerged later in his college career after starting at San Diego at the FCS level. He broke out with eight touchdowns for Utah in 2021 before exploding for 70/890/8 receiving as a redshirt senior last season. He averaged 13.2 YPR with per-game averages of 4.2 receptions and 56.0 receiving yards to go along with his 16 TDs in 2021-22. He checked in on the lighter side at 6’4”, 246 pounds at the combine, and was unable to work out in the pre-draft process because of a back injury. Our Brett Whitefield believes Kincaid is one of the better TE prospects he’s evaluated, and his level of polish entering the league is unparalleled in recent drafts.
The Bills were hoping to land a new running mate for Stefon Diggs at the back end of the first round, but the top four WRs went off the board in succession from picks 20-23. Buffalo’s brass settled for a trade up to No. 25 to draft a sliding Kincaid, which was a bit of a bizarre move for a franchise that just extended Knox for four years with $31.2 million guaranteed at the start of last season. Knox notched consecutive top-13 TE finishes in FPG thanks to playing with the great Josh Allen, but Kincaid figures to eat into his routes per game (31.5) and snap share (80%) from last season. The Bills will certainly feature more two-TE sets now that they have Knox and Kincaid after they used 12 personnel at the second-lowest rate on first downs last season. It also wouldn’t be surprising if Kincaid runs the majority of his routes out of the slot after Knox did it 47.2% of the time in 2022. It helps that Kincaid gets to play with Allen in one of the league’s best offenses, but Kincaid’s landing spot in Buffalo nuked two potential top-12 options for 2023. Kincaid is a strong dynasty buy but off the radar in all but deeper redraft formats. He’s still an upside low-end TE2 for best ball and TE-premium formats.
Brenton Strange, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Selected: 61st overall (TE6)
- Competition: Evan Engram, Luke Farrell
- Available Targets: 113 (9th fewest), 21 TE targets (16th most)
Strange picked up some late momentum to potentially be a Day 2 pick, but it was still surprising to see him go off the board in the late second round ahead of players like Darnell Washington and Tucker Kraft. Strange is the latest Penn State TE to be drafted in the second round in the last six years, following in the footsteps of Pat Freiermuth (2021) and Mike Gesicki (2018). Strange made a limited impact with just 52/587/8 receiving (11.3 YPR) over the last two seasons for per-game averages of 2.2 receptions, 41.9 receiving yards, and .33 touchdowns. He checked in at 6’4”, 253 pounds at the combine with impressive marks in the broad jump (10’4”), vertical jump (36”), and 10-yard split (1.57 seconds). Our Brett Whitefield believes Strange has some untapped potential in the passing game, but he viewed him as a developmental Day 3 pick.
The Jaguars are going year to year with Engram, placing the franchise tag on him this off-season after he earned every cent of his one-year, $9 million deal from 2022. HC Doug Pederson has never been shy about using two-TE sets, and he’ll try to develop Strange into the TE of the future for Trevor Lawrence. Strange doesn’t have a path to fantasy relevance even in an ascending passing attack, as he’ll be, at best, the fifth option in this receiving corps. Strange is off the redraft and best ball radar despite his second-round draft capital, and he’ll need an Engram injury this season to even be in consideration as a streaming option.