We have had a few excellent rookie draft classes over the past few years. Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, and Jonathan Taylor highlight a superstar filled 2020 rookie class. Trevor Lawrence, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith were drafted in 2021 and have been fantasy stars in the NFL.
Meanwhile, it’s a little too soon to judge last year’s draft class. However, how does it compare to the upcoming group? Let’s see which year’s draft class has the advantage at each position.
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2022 Rookie Class vs. 2023 Rookie Class
Quarterback → Advantage 2023
This one wasn’t even close. Last year there was only one quarterback drafted in the first two rounds. Kenny Pickett had some solid moments as a rookie, while Desmond Ridder could be the starter in Atlanta next season. However, Malik Willis struggled as a rookie. Meanwhile, Matt Corral missed the year with a foot injury. More importantly, the most fantasy-relevant rookie quarterback last year was Brock Purdy. The ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ pick led all rookies in passing touchdowns with 13. He had only two fewer passing touchdowns than Daniel Jones despite playing seven fewer games.
Meanwhile, the 2023 draft class has four first-round graded quarterbacks. Bryce Young is the likely first-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and a top-two pick in most Superflex rookie drafts. C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis could all get drafted in the top 10 in April and will be first-round rookie draft picks in Superflex leagues. Unlike last year, NFL teams will be trying to jump over one another to get their hands on one of these four quarterbacks.
Running Back → Advantage 2023
Last year’s draft class had several impact players. Breece Hall was on his way to winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award before suffering a torn ACL. Meanwhile, Ken Walker III became a fantasy star after Rashaad Penny got hurt. Dameon Pierce was the sleeper everyone wanted, as the former Florida Gator was the seventh running back drafted in 2022. However, he was the third rookie running back drafted in most redraft leagues last season. All three rookies ended the year in the top 24 running backs on a points-per-game basis. Furthermore, last year’s draft class had several other productive fantasy players. James Cook, Rachaad White, Brian Robinson Jr., Tyler Allgeier, and Isaiah Pacheco all played meaningful roles last season.
The 2023 running back draft class is the deepest in recent memory. Bijan Robinson will be a first-round NFL Draft pick and the unanimous 1.01 pick in 1QB rookie drafts. Furthermore, many have already made Robinson the RB1 in their dynasty startup rankings. Behind the former Longhorn superstar is Jahmyr Gibbs. He had an outstanding 2022 season at Alabama and has drawn a comparison to Alvin Kamara. It’s a matter of flavor after the top two running backs. However, there will be 10 or more running backs drafted this year that could make an impact as a rookie.
Wide Receiver → Advantage 2022
Finally, the 2022 draft class gets a win. Last year’s draft class lacked a superstar prospect like Chase. However, the depth was incredible. There were six first-round wide receivers last year. All six were drafted inside the first 18 picks, while four got picked within the first 12 selections. Garrett Wilson won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and is a star in the making. Meanwhile, Drake London, Chris Olave, Jahan Dotson, Christian Watson, and George Pickens flashed tremendous upside as rookies. While Treylon Burks and Jameson Williams didn’t make much of an impact as a rookie, both players missed time with injuries. Yet, fantasy players should expect impact sophomore seasons from both receivers.
In 2022 we had six first-round wide receivers. This year we could have five get drafted in the first round. Jaxon Smith-Njigba was a projected top-10 pick a year ago following his outstanding 2021 season at Ohio State. The former Buckeye had 95 receptions for 1,606 receiving yards despite splitting snaps with Wilson and Olave. Meanwhile, Jordan Addison has back-to-back productive years with two different quarterbacks. Quentin Johnston, Zay Flowers, and Jalin Hyatt could also be first-round draft picks. While the depth at wide receiver isn’t as deep as in 2022, there are plenty of quality wide receivers in the 2023 draft class.
Tight End → Advantage 2023
Last year’s tight end class lacked appeal. Kyle Pitts and Pat Freiermuth had productive rookie seasons, and fantasy players wanted another superstar prospect. However, the 2022 tight end class produced several appealing draft and stash players. Trey McBride and Jelani Woods should have bigger roles next year after limited work in 2022. Meanwhile, Greg Dulcich, Cade Otton, and Chigoziem Okonkwo had multiple fantasy-relevant moments as rookies. Furthermore, Jake Ferguson and Cole Turner could become starters next season, depending on what happens this offseason. Fantasy players shouldn’t be surprised if 3-4 of the 2022 draft class tight ends have a top-12 season in 2023.
While last year’s draft class is full of potential upside, the 2023 draft class is arguably the best we’ve had in forever. Dalton Kincaid, Michael Mayer, and Darnell Washington are all likely first-round NFL Draft picks. All three could get drafted inside the top 20 this year. More importantly, the depth this year is excellent. Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft will likely be Day 2 NFL Draft picks. However, they have the talent to make an impact right away. While none of the tight ends have the potential upside of Pitts, we could have five or more fantasy-relevant tight ends from this year’s draft class.