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Derek Brown’s Dynasty Rookie Draft Sleepers (2023 Fantasy Football)

Derek Brown’s Dynasty Rookie Draft Sleepers (2023 Fantasy Football)

Dynasty rookie fever is heating up. The Combine has dynasty GMs percolating on the new crop of talented prospects primed to enter the NFL soon. While most dynasty players know the Bijan Robinsons and Jaxon Smith-Njigbas of the world that can transform your roster overnight, the deeper gems of this class can take your good rookie draft to great in 2023.

With the help of DLF’s February (1QB) rookie ADP, I unearthed my favorite players after the top-24 picks in rookie drafts. Grab your shovel. It’s time to dig deep and uncover players that can help your dynasty teams shine in 2023.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

Derek Brown Dynasty Rookie Draft Sleepers

Israel Abanikanda (RB – Pittsburgh) | ADP: RB11 (25.4 overall)

Isreal Abanikanda is a patient runner with an electric burst. When he sees a crease, he moves like lightning. He’s tailor-made for an outside-zone team. He’s a natural moving down the surveying for a hole or cutback lane. He sets up his blocks in the second level well before exploding to daylight. He’s a linear runner that has some hip tightness. He is likelier to spin move a defender to avoid a tackle than move laterally or jump-cut. Abanikanda has house call type of speed. Any touch can go for 50 yards if he gets a crease. He looks the part of a 4.3 speedster. His spindly lower half doesn’t lend itself to many broken tackles. Abanikanda more than makes up for what he lacks in power with speed.

Evan Hull (RB – Northwestern) | ADP: RB19 (44.4 overall)

Evan Hull is a tough runner with a compact build. He’s more quick than fast, but Hull also displays good burst when the ball is in his hands. He has excellent lateral agility and can jump cut on a dime. Hull has a strong leg drive to finish runs with impressive contact balance. He’s rarely dropped by the first defender he encounters. Watching Hull weave through traffic with jump cuts and impressive vision is a treat. Hull is also a plus-pass catcher. He is fluid in the passing game and has soft hands. He’s not a nuanced route runner, as he was utilized on dump-offs and simple stop routes. This part of his game could grow further in the NFL with a creative play-caller.

Cedric Tillman (WR – Tennessee) | ADP: WR11 (34.3 overall)

Cedric Tillman will never be described as a “burner,” but that doesn’t mean he’s slow. Tillman has build-up speed with the ability to pull away from corners on deep patterns. Tillman also has no problems stacking opposing corners. Tillman runs a full complement of routes with nuanced jab steps and head fakes. His foot speed won’t wow you, but his quick first step allows him to get separation on slants and drive routes.

Tillman has a well-developed understanding of how to use his size, especially on slants and above the rim. He flashes nice body control in the air on back-shoulder throws and errant passes. Tillman compensates for average foot speed with a strong upper body that allows him to beat press, but he needs to continue to work on his releases and footwork at the line. NFL corners will offer a stiffer test for him. He has good bend for his size. Tillman’s next quarterback must become accustomed to trusting him to win at the catch point. While he can get early separation on routes, late separation is usually the name of the game for him.

Xavier Hutchinson (WR – Iowa State) | ADP: WR13 (34.9 overall)

Xavier Hutchinson is a bully with the ball in his hands after the catch. Hutchinson ranked 38th (2022) and ninth (2021) in missed tackles forced over the last two seasons. He was also top-25 in YAC in each of the last two years (minimum 50 targets). Good leg drive and tenacity fuel this man’s contact balance. Hutchinson is a versatile receiver who can also work from the slot. He flashes crisp cuts on short area routes, ins and outs. I would love for an NFL team to give him a 60% slot rate and let him push around nickel corners all day. He is patient on screens and in the open field, allowing blocks to set up in front of him before he shoots upfield. Hutchinson puts some acrobatic downfield receptions on tape. He has good ball-tracking skills and body adjustment on back-shoulder and bucket catches.

Puka Nacua (WR – BYU) | ADP: WR18 (43.6 overall)

Puka Nacua might not get the hype of some of his prospect brethren because he attended BYU. However, he deserves all the praise. Nacua ranked second and sixth in yards per route run over his final two collegiate seasons (minimum 50 targets, per PFF). He flashes good footwork and a varied release package at the line of scrimmage. Nucua also adds subtle nuances to his routes with pacing in his routes and head fakes. He’s strong after the catch.

While he’s not a jitterbug, he’s tough to bring down with the ball in his hands because of his physicality and vision in traffic. He is a magician near the boundary, as his film is littered with tough grabs near the sideline and impressive footwork. Those strong hands have also served him well in contested situations. He ranked 17th in contested catch rate in 2021 (minimum 10 contested targets per PFF). BYU tried to get the ball in Nucua’s hands in any way possible. He was utilized on jet sweets and the ground in 2022 as the fifth-leading rusher on the team, with 8.4 yards per carry and five rushing scores. Nucaua has that dog in him.

Sam Laporta (TE – Iowa) | ADP: TE5 (44.6 overall)

Sam Laporta will make his mark as a receiver in the NFL. Blocking will be a skill he must continue honing in the NFL. If Laporta hits his ceiling in the NFL, it will be because of his pass-game abilities and not his run-blocking chops. Laporta runs routes like a wide receiver. He’s smooth in and out of his breaks with surprising foot quickness. Laporta played 20.2% of his snaps as a boundary receiver in 2022. He proved up to the task by leading all FBS tight ends in man coverage targets. He was also second in PFF receiving grade and third in yards per route run against man coverage (minimum 10 man coverage targets). He’s also adept at finding the soft spots in zone coverage. He puts in some impressive work after the catch on film. His start/stop ability and change of direction skills are noticeable. He has good acceleration after the catch with jukes, spin moves and stiff arms to make a defensive back’s job of getting him to the ground tough. He ranked second in missed tackles forced and third in YAC among tight ends last year.

Beyond our fantasy football content, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you prepare for your draft this season. From our free mock Draft Simulator – which allows you to mock draft against realistic opponents – to our Draft Assistant – that optimizes your picks with expert advice – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football draft season.

2023 NFL Draft Guide: Prospect Rankings & Player Profiles

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