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Fantasy Football First-Round Draft Pick Targets & Takeaways (2023)

Fantasy Football First-Round Draft Pick Targets & Takeaways (2023)

The 2023 NFL season is approaching, so it’s time to prepare for your fantasy football draft. Of course, there’s no better way to do that than to practice drafting with our free mock draft simulator! Beyond our tools, we will have you covered throughout the draft prep season with our content.

The goal of every fantasy football manager is to complete the perfect draft. Impossible, you say? Let’s call it a stretch goal and strive for fantasy football glory. Here’s Andrew Erickson’s perfect 2023 fantasy football draft.

*Note that a blend of ADP sources was used, including Underdog, FFPC, Drafters, ESPN, CBS and BB10s.

Andrew Erickson’s Perfect 2023 Fantasy Football Draft

Early-Round Players to Target

Justin Jefferson: The Vikings WR finished first in fantasy points scored, 10th in target share (28%), third in yards per route run (2.70) and second in expected fantasy points per game (15.9) in 2022. His 11.1 expected TDs and 26 red-zone targets tied for first among all WRs. With Adam Thielen‘s TD presence gone — and Jefferson coming off a curiously low 8-TD year (two fewer than in 2021) — I expect him to score inside the double-digits in 2023

Ja’Marr Chase: I fully expect Justin Jefferson to be the consensus No. 1 wide receiver, but Ja’Marr Chase will be right on his heels as the No. 2. Chase led all WRs in red-zone targets per game (28 in 14 games played) and expected fantasy half-PPR points per game (16.4). Therefore, he’s a solid bet to finish No. 1 in red-zone targets and receiving touchdowns in 2023.

His 22 receiving touchdowns through his first two seasons are the most by any WR since Odell Beckham Jr. In the games that Chase was healthy in 2022, he also posted a superior target share (30% vs. 28%) and identical air yards share (39%) to Jefferson. All things being considered, Chase also has a quarterback that could easily throw for 50 TDs. Kirk Cousins won’t toss 40-plus touchdowns in this lifetime.

Mid-Round Players to Target

Bijan Robinson: The highly touted rookie running back from Texas was selected 8th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, and his fantasy football ceiling is sky-high. In his final college football season, Robinson was the second highest-graded rusher in the FBS per PFF and posted a staggering 37% dominator rating with 18 rushing TDs and 1,575 rushing yards. In addition, his impressive 40% broken tackle rate and 104 missed tackles forced demonstrate his ability to thrive at the NFL level.

In Arthur Smith’s run-heavy offense last season, Tyler Allgeier, a former 5th-round pick, finished as PFF’s highest-graded rookie RB and ranked 6th in rushing EPA. Allgeier averaged nearly 18 carries and 96 rushing yards per game from Week 13 onward in 2022. Given Robinson’s superior talent and size compared to Allgeier, the first-year rusher is primed to be a three-down back for the Falcons. Considering the offense ranked first in early down run rate last season, Robinson has the potential to eclipse 300 carries and 1,500 rushing yards, making him a top-3-ranked running back in season-long formats.

Cooper Kupp: Cooper Kupp was originally in the S Tier of my 2023 WR rankings, but I moved him down in regard to concerns about Matthew Stafford‘s health. However, I still think Kupp will produce at an extremely high level if he and Stafford are healthy. Last year he led all WRs in points per game (18.4) while commanding the league’s second-highest target share (31.3%) before his injury.

Austin Ekeler: In 2022, Ekeler led all running backs in receptions and targets, resulting in an RB3 finish in half-point scoring. His role as a receiver is particularly valuable in the Chargers’ pass-heavy offense, especially with the team’s WRs struggling to stay healthy.

Ekeler is the focal point of the offense and should continue to see a high volume of touches in the final year of his deal. And better yet, the lack of RB depth behind him ensures his stranglehold on high-value touches. If the Chargers don’t add any significant competition to their backfield — they have not as of this writing — Ekeler should remain a top fantasy option in a Kellen Moore-led 2023 Chargers offense. It’s the final year of his contract, which was recently restructured to include an additional $1.75 million in incentives. Don’t be surprised if we see one last monster year from Ekeler before he hits free agency.

Late-Round Players to Target

Johnathan Taylor: 2023 was a year to forget for the consensus 1.01 in last year’s fantasy football drafts. Jonathan Taylor underperformed as the RB30 in 11 games played, averaging 12.6 fantasy points as the RB18 when healthy. JT’s usage was that of a top-8 running back – 8th in expected points per game, 4th in touches per game (20) – but a lack of touchdowns decimated his fantasy stock in the Colts’ anemic offense. After scoring a combined 33 TDs through his 1st two seasons, Taylor scored just four rushing TDs in 2022.

From an efficiency standpoint, I’d expect a bounce-back effort from Taylor in 2023. He will be healthier in 2023, and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson‘s mobility under center should increase JT’s rushing efficiency. When Taylor first returned from injury (Weeks 10-13 in the 2022 season), he ranked as the RB3 overall. And he should experience some positive TD regression entering the final year of his rookie deal. However, it should be noted that with Richardson under center, Taylor won’t cannibalize all the goal-line carries.

However, a mobile quarterback didn’t stop Shane Steichen’s running back, Miles Sanders, from scoring 13 TDs in 2022. Considering the wide talent gap and proven production from Taylor compared to Sanders, I’d bet Steichen’s new RB1 will reach double-digit scores even if his rookie QB runs in a few himself.

A.J. Brown: Being high on A.J. Brown was a big hit for me in 2022, as the Eagles’ WR1 finished as the WR4. I acknowledged his uber-talent from his days in Tennessee, combined with an offense willing to throw more than his old team would unlock his fantasy football ceiling.

He did just that, finishing 8th in points per game (15.0) with a 29% target share. He posted the NFL’s 6th-highest air yards share (39%) despite running fewer routes than his teammate DeVonta Smith. AJB tied a bow on his first year in Philadelphia, second overall in yards per route run (2.89) behind only Tyreek Hill and 6th in yards after the catch per reception. The 26-year-old remains in his uber prime and needs to be valued as such.

Round 1 Takeaways:

  • Running backs have traditionally been the preferred choice in the first round, but there is a shift toward top-tier wide receivers like Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase.
  • Having a solid RB1 early in the draft can be beneficial, while the RB Dead Zone in later rounds should focus on WRs with the potential for significant improvement.
  • Flexibility is crucial, and if you miss out on elite running backs, considering an elite wide receiver or even an elite quarterback in Superflex formats can be a viable strategy.
  • In PPR formats, wide receivers historically have a higher percentage of top-12 finishes, while running backs tend to dominate in half-PPR formats.
  • Cooper Kupp, Tyreek Hill, and A.J. Brown are strong options after Jefferson and Chase, particularly in PPR formats.
  • In Superflex formats, elite quarterbacks become valuable selections. In tight end premium formats, Travis Kelce stands out as a potential first-round pick, although concerns about his age and potential overvaluation should be considered.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

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