2023 NFL Draft Landing Spots: Round 1 (Fantasy Football)
The 2023 NFL Draft started as expected, with Bryce Young becoming the first overall pick. After that, it was anyone’s guess where things would go. After an early run on quarterbacks, the first round saw two running backs taken in the top 15 and a late-round run on wide receivers. Let’s take a look at where everyone landed and the initial reaction to their landing spots.
The final count for Round 1, by position: 3 QB, 2 RB, 4 WR, 1 TE
Bryce Young, QB – Carolina Panthers
Round 1, Pick 1
The long, steady march toward Bryce Young began in March when Carolina traded multiple picks to the Chicago Bears for the top overall pick. Now it’s official: the Panthers have their man.
Bryce Young will be the starter from day one in Carolina, and he should be a first-rounder in rookie dynasty drafts. Young’s size is a legitimate concern for his long-term durability, and he may end up being a better quarterback in real life than in fantasy. I wouldn’t blame a dynasty manager for looking elsewhere for upside. Still, Young is guaranteed to have playing time behind a solid offensive line, so he represents a solid pick for Superflex teams needing a guaranteed starter.
C.J. Stroud, QB – Houston Texans
Round 1, Pick 2
With Bryce Young out of the way, it was anyone’s guess what the Texans would do with the second pick. Instead of choosing between defense and offense, Houston drafted C.J. Stroud at the 1.02, then traded into the 1.03 for Will Anderson.
The Davis Mills era is over in Houston. The Texans view Stroud as their quarterback of the future, and he should have at least two years of playing time to prove them right. I like Stroud more than Bryce Young, but I am tempering my expectations for 2023 and for single-quarterback leagues. Houston has a projected win total of 5.5 games this season, and the team is not exactly oozing playmakers at the skill positions. Rookie quarterbacks on bad teams don’t have a strong history of fantasy performance in Year 1, so it could be a rough go for Stroud in 2023. In Superflex, however, a guaranteed starter is a valuable asset, so Stroud is worth a top-5 pick.
Anthony Richardson, QB – Indianapolis Colts
Round 1, Pick 4
The Colts opted for the upside and athleticism of Anthony Richardson at the 1.04, capping off the early run on quarterbacks and surprising many who thought head coach Shane Steichen and GM Chris Ballard would go with a more experienced Will Levis.
Instead of getting experience and reps as a backup somewhere, this draft capital for Richardson thrusts him directly into the spotlight. In three years, we might look back and see Richardson was the most valuable player from this year. Alternatively, he could be out of a starting job in the same amount of time. He’s that raw. However, new head coach Shane Steichen should be a boon to Richardson’s development, coming to Indy fresh off the offensive coordinator gig for the Eagles. Jalen Hurts, have you heard of him, lad?! Richardson’s athleticism is off the charts and he represents a top-five pick in Superflex rookie drafts, but there’s still a chance he won’t start right away. There’s not a lot of competition outside of Gardner Minshew in the quarterback room, but Richardson could take a little longer to get NFL-ready. If he progresses quickly, he has some solid offensive weapons to help him adjust to life in the league.
Bijan Robinson, RB – Atlanta Falcons
Round 1, Pick 8
Do you hear that sound? That’s Jason wheezing, not from his unending respiratory condition, but from exhaustion after running circles around the room at Ballers HQ. Despite the desperate need for a pass rush, the Falcons again go for an elite offensive talent with their first pick of the draft. Rise up, Bijan.
The Bijan Minute? Oh baby, it just turned into the Bijan Year. For fantasy purposes, this is about as good of a landing spot as there is for Bijan. He’s locked and loaded as the 1.01 in any rookie draft, and landing in Atlanta makes Robinson a fringe first-rounder in redraft leagues. His competition for touches is 5th-rounder Tyler Allgeier and 32-year-old Cordarelle Patterson. Don’t overthink it.
Jahmyr Gibbs, RB – Detroit Lions
Round 1, Pick 12
This was a shock. The Lions traded back from the 1.06 with the Arizona Cardinals and selected Jahmyr Gibbs at the 1.12.
On the one hand, I don’t know what to make of this pick. Remember, the Lions just signed David Montgomery to a three-year deal in addition to having DeAndre Swift already on their roster. The Lions clearly don’t think Swift can hold up for a whole season, but this muddies the waters in Detroit. On the other hand, Gibbs was thought of as a fringe first-rounder and now has top-12 draft capital. I’m interested to see what other moves the Lions make, but there’s a lot of uncertainty for Gibbs and his immediate fantasy impact. In rookie drafts, it’s better to draft talent over opportunity because situations change. If the depth chart remains unchanged, Gibbs could be the third Detroit running back in redraft leagues and a mid-to-late first-rounder in rookie drafts.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR – Seattle Seahawks
Round 1, Pick 20
The run on wideouts finally started toward the back half of the first round, with Jaxon Smith-Njigba falling to the Seattle Seahawks. Plenty of mock drafts had the Seahawks taking a receiver here, but it was a surprise that JSN fell to them.
Yes, Seattle already has two phenomenal receivers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, and yes, Geno Smith is probably wondering how he got so lucky. The Seattle offense is stacked, and the Seahawks receive a “D” grade for WR fantasy opportunity. It’s not an ideal landing spot, and the challenge for JSN in Year 1 will be to establish any sort of consistent weekly performance in an offense with so many mouths to feed. Geno Smith had a career year in 2022, but better quarterbacks than him have struggled to support three wide receivers consistently. With that being said, wide receivers have a long shelf life and typically will outlast whatever situation they inherit as a rookie. Smith-Njigba has the skillset to be in the league for a long time, and he’s the best WR in this class by a large margin. In rookie drafts, you could justify taking him anywhere from 1.02-1.06 and I wouldn’t argue too much.
Quentin Johnston, WR – Los Angeles Chargers
Round 1, Pick 21
Johnston was the second receiver off the board, and what was his consolation prize? Justin Herbert. In a class of small receivers, Johnston stands out (literally) and lands in a high-powered offense with plenty of opportunity to carve out a role for himself.
Johnston finds himself in a pretty good situation in Los Angeles as he enters a receiving room with 31-year-old Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Both players have struggled with injuries, and Keenan Allen could be gone by 2024 as the Chargers manage their cap. According to our Team Fantasy Opportunity analysis, the Chargers receive a “B-” grade for WR opportunity for Johnston. And of course, there’s Justine Herbert. Not too shabby. There’s an opportunity for Johnston to start the season as the third wide receiver and continue to grow into the WR1 for one of the few elite quarterbacks in the NFL. His landing spot gives him an opportunity to contribute in 2023, which is all you can ask for.
Zay Flowers, WR – Baltimore Ravens
Round 1, Pick 22
Just before the draft, it was reported that the Ravens and Lamar Jackson had finally come to terms on his new contract. On the first night of the draft, the Ravens drafted a new receiver for Jackson.
Flower will have plenty of opportunities to contribute immediately for Baltimore. Odell Beckham Jr. is not the elite receiver he once was, and Rashod Batemen isn’t the answer, either. The Ravens score an “A” grade in WR opportunity. The question in Baltimore will be if reality ever catches up with opportunity. Lamar Jackson has struggled to support fantasy receivers, given the run-heavy approach and the presence of Mark Andrews. The competition is slim for Flowers, but the opportunity may not be enough to provide consistent weekly production.
Jordan Addison, WR – Minnesota Vikings
Round 1, Pick 23
Adam Thielen is now in Carolina, so the Vikings picked Jordan Addison at the 1.23 to fill out the receiving core and replace Thielen’s 17% target share from 2022.
Minnesota is an excellent landing spot for a player like Jordan Addison. There won’t be the pressure and defensive attention that comes with being the WR1, but there’s an opportunity to become Kirk Cousins‘ second option immediately. Going in a similar place to the other three receivers in this round, Addison lands in possibly the best immediate situation: a passing attack with a proven quarterback and a large number of vacated targets from Adam Thielen (107 in 2022).
Dalton Kincaid, TE – Buffalo Bills
Round 1, Pick 25
The Buffalo Bills completed a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars to move up two spots to nab the first tight end of the draft, Dallas Kincaid. Perhaps most significantly, the Bills jumped over the Cowboys, who may have also been considering using their first-round pick on the pass-catching tight end.
Kincaid lands in a top-five offense and could be a real red-zone option for Josh Allen. The first-round draft capital bodes well for Kincaid’s opportunity to get playing time, but history tells us that there won’t be much production for Kincaid in 2023. He’s a solid prospect and worth an early second-round pick in rookie drafts, but Kincaid shouldn’t be treated as another more than a late-round flyer in redraft leagues.