Hello everyone and welcome to the first edition of this fantasy football rookie ranking’s series. Today, I will be covering the top 12 fantasy players in next month’s draft class, or the first round of rookie drafts for most dynasty leagues. Check it out for the latest updates after the NFL Combine. Look for the 13th through 24th ranked players to be released later on this week as well.
1- Bijan Robinson – Running Back – Texas
Bijan Robinson is considered one of the best running back prospects of this generation, and there is no need to think too hard about this. He had nearly 1,900 all-purpose yards last year and is excellent as both a runner and receiver. His 104 missed forced tackles were the most ever for a college running back in one season since the stats were recorded.
Robinson isn’t the same caliber athlete as Saquon Barkley, but he has everything else general managers look for in a running back prospect. He also still posted very good scores at the NFL combine, receiving over a 80th-percentile score in every category.
Given the shorter careers of most running backs, Robinson is already my dynasty fantasy football RB1. This may seem aggressive, but every running back holds a significant amount of risk. Particularly, those entering into their second contract, as players have historically shown a significant drop in production at that point. Given his age and talent, there isn’t a single landing spot that would make me change my mind, either.
2- C.J. Stroud – Quarterback – Ohio State
C.J. Stroud fits the prototype of an NFL quarterback, standing 6’3 and 215 pounds with a strong pocket presence. He won’t add much fantasy production with his legs; however, he is athletic enough to extend plays and pick up short first downs. Stroud is very accurate as well, with above-average arm strength. This was reinforced by his NFL Combine performance, where he was one of the most impressive passers there.
Despite recent reports suggesting otherwise, I also expect him to be the first pick in the NFL Draft next month. Given his size and arm talent, he is most likely to be a long-term starter among the quarterbacks available. His lack of rushing upside will limit his fantasy football production, though.
Stroud shouldn’t be a priority in single quarterback formats, but he should be a valuable player in superflex formats. He is my 13th-ranked quarterback in dynasty superflex leagues, where he will settle in as a high-end QB2 for fantasy purposes. Top 12 numbers are within his range of outcomes, but shouldn’t be expected on a consistent basis.
3- Bryce Young – Quarterback – Alabama
Bryce Young is still in contention to be the first overall pick and is the best passer in the 2023 draft class. He has the arm strength and accuracy to make every throw, and that was clearly displayed in college. Despite playing just two full seasons as a starter, he ranks second in both career passing yards and touchdowns in Alabama history.
My concerns about Bryce Young rest solely on his size. Some may not like this as he is a fantastic player, however, there aren’t many historical comparisons for him. Despite being a similar height to Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson, they carry significantly more weight on their frame. While he weighed in at 204 pounds at the NFL Combine, his playing weight is likely much closer to 190.
With a lack of rushing upside as well, there are a lot of concerns in his profile that give me pause. For him to be a consistent top-12 quarterback in fantasy football, he will need to have elite passing numbers. This depends on him playing the bulk of the season and elevating a likely poor Carolina or Houston offense.
As a result, Bryce Young is not someone I’m targeting in single quarterback formats due to a lack of upside. In superflex though he certainly has the ability to be a long-term starter, which is why he’s slated here.
4- Anthony Richardson – Quarterback – Florida
Anthony Richardson is the biggest riser from the NFL Combine, and his fantasy football upside is off the charts. He stands 6’4 and weighs 244 pounds. He is also literally the most athletic quarterback to ever test at the NFL Combine.
Richardson ran the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash all time for the position, while also setting the record for the vertical and broad jump. It should be noted that Richardson is significantly larger than those who ran a faster 40-yard dash as well.
He has been compared to Cam Newton; however, Richardson is still very raw as a quarterback prospect. He didn’t play significantly in his first two seasons at Florida, and was very inconsistent as a junior. The offense was a mess, but Richardson still struggled with his progressions and accuracy.
It will likely take him time to develop as a passer, but the upside is undeniable. In one quarterback fantasy football formats, he has an argument to be the first quarterback drafted because of his rushing ability. The risk in superflex though puts him behind Young and Stroud in my rankings.
5- Jahmyr Gibbs – Running Back – Alabama
Jahmyr Gibbs is coming off an extremely productive college career at Alabama and Georgia Tech. He is a very good pass catcher, but also took on a larger role as a rusher in his final season at Alabama, too. Additionally, Gibbs ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, reinforcing his claim as one of the best athletes in this class.
The biggest concern for Gibbs is his size and inconsistent rushing volume in college. He measured just 5’9 and 199 pounds, which will leave some questioning if he can handle a large workload in the NFL. This was the case in college as well, where he didn’t assume a workhorse role for most of his career.
There aren’t many of those running backs left in the NFL anyway, nonetheless, it does limit his upside a bit. Due to the age of some of the other top running backs in the NFL, though, he is already a low-end RB1 in my dynasty fantasy football rankings. This is likely his ceiling without consistent rushing volume, which does make him a risk.
6- Jaxon Smith-Njigba – Wide Receiver – Ohio State
Jaxon Smith-Njigba has been known among the fantasy football community for a long time now and is my top-ranked receiver in the class. He has all the tools to be a fantastic route runner at the next level and is great in contested catch situations. His sophomore season where he outproduced Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave is hard to ignore as well.
The obvious concern about Smith-Njigba is that he only recorded 23 targets in his other two collegiate seasons combined. He played sparingly as a freshman, and struggled through injuries in 2022. He lacks top-end speed as well, which has some concerned about his ability to play outside the slot in the NFL.
His athletic ability isn’t a major concern in my eyes though, as he still had the fastest shuttle time of any receiver since 2013 at the NFL Combine. This might keep him from being an elite prospect, but he is still a top 24 wide receiver in my dynasty rankings. In 2023 fantasy football leagues, he should be an interesting flex option with the potential to have a big second half of the year.
7- Will Levis – Quarterback – Kentucky
It was a tale of two seasons for Will Levis, as fantasy managers will be wondering which quarterback they’ll be getting in the NFL. After a fantastic debut as a junior at Kentucky, Levis and the offense struggled in 2023. This was due to a multitude of factors though, which included injuries to Levis and the loss of Wan’Dale Robinson.
Levis has the ability to make every throw on an NFL field, has perfect size, and underrated dual-threat ability. He won’t be a significant factor with his legs at the next level, but Patrick Mahomes or Justin Herbert level rushing production is possible. Unfortunately, Levis does struggle with processing and has accuracy issues as well.
Nonetheless, he should be a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft due to his arm talent. Levis reminds me of Zach Wilson with his athletic ability and the areas he struggles. Levis is much more physical though and has played against much better talent in the SEC. He possesses a lot of risks, but in a superflex league, the QB1 potential is too much to pass up at this point.
8- Zach Charbonnet – Running Back – UCLA
Zach Charbonnet is one of the more physically gifted running backs in the class, standing 6’3, 214 pounds. He is a four-year college player coming off a very productive career in Los Angeles. This included 1,680 all-purpose yards as a senior, fueled by 37 receptions for 321 yards.
The ability to play on all three downs is his most attractive trait in a class full of undersized players. He runs a bit upright and is just an average athlete, but many have succeeded with his profile in the NFL. Charbonnet actually tested much better than expected at the NFL Combine, quieting some of these concerns as well.
He should be a second to third round pick in the NFL draft and has the ability to come in and be a starter right away. Charbonnet may lack the long end speed to break big plays consistently, but he has one of the more complete skill sets in the class. He’ll slot in as a low end RB2 in my dynasty rankings, with the potential to rise higher in a good landing spot.
9- Devon Achane – Running Back – Texas A&M
Devon Achane is one of the most unique players in this class given his size and athletic profile. Despite his small stature, he recorded a 99th-percentile 40-yard dash and 88th-percentile speed score at the NFL Combine. He had 60 receptions over his last two years in college, and rushed for 1,102 rushing yards in his final season too.
As I dived into the tape, I expected to want to criticize his between the tackles running ability. Achane is actually a surprisingly physical runner though, and continues to fight for yards after initial contact. He’s a former track star and that is obvious on tape too as he easily outruns most college defenders.
At 5’9, 188 pounds, Achane simply doesn’t have the size to take on a heavy workload in the NFL. As I mentioned in the Jahmyr Gibbs section, though, there aren’t many backfields that operate this way anymore. He should be able to excel and maximize his fantasy production in a 15-plus touch per game role. If Achane is drafted within the first 75 picks of the NFL draft, he will have top 24 running back value in dynasty leagues, and flex value right away in 2023.
10- Quentin Johnston – Wide Receiver – TCU
Another extremely physically gifted player, Quentin Johnston, also stands out among a group of smaller receivers. At 6’3, 208 pounds, he fits the prototype and showed off strong athletic ability at the NFL Combine. Johnston was fantastic in his final year at TCU as well, recording 1,069 yards and six touchdowns on a 21% target share.
One of the big critiques of his game is that he doesn’t always play to his larger size. He can get bullied by opposing corners or in press coverage, which could give him issues at the next level. Johnston has also spent his career playing against Big 12 defenses, which have fairly weak secondaries.
Regardless, his physical traits could make him the top wide receiver selected in the NFL draft. More than likely, he slots in behind Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but he could hear his name called in the top 15 picks next month. Due to the depth of the wide receiver position, though, it’s hard to rank him higher than a low-end WR3 in dynasty fantasy football.
11- Jordan Addison – Wide Receiver – USC
Jordan Addison had as productive a college career as any receiver in this draft class. He had over a 20% target share in each of his first two seasons at USC, and recorded 1,593 receiving yards as a sophomore. Addison ultimately struggled with injuries in 2022, but he was still the clear top target in the offense.
Addison’s skill set is of no concern, however, his size and athletic profile should give fantasy football managers pause. At the NFL Combine, he measured in at 5’9, 173 pounds, while running a 4.49 40-yard dash time. Not a bad time in itself, but given his size, Addison actually had a first-percentile size-adjusted athletic score.
Football is played on the field, nonetheless, these concerns keep him from being an elite fantasy prospect. People will point to DeVonta Smith, who is of similar stature and didn’t test great at the combine either. Not every undersized wide receiver can be compared to Smith, though, who is truly a special talent and Heisman Trophy winner. The NFL is changing, the concerns keep him toward the end of the first round, though.
12- Josh Downs – Wide Receiver – UNC
This is where the rankings get tough for me, as this represents a large tier drop. I could see a number of players filling this spot after the NFL Draft next month. Regardless, If I were drafting today, I would select former North Carolina receiver, Josh Downs.
Downs is a fantastic athlete, although similar to many of the receivers in this class, he is undersized (5’9, 171 pounds). What separates him from other players is his ability to play bigger than he is. He is fantastic at high-pointing balls over defenders and has great hands.
Draft capital will be the ultimate indicator; however, he is in the same conversation as receivers Zay Flowers and Jalin Hyatt. These players will be nearly back-to-back in my fantasy football rankings, and you could make an argument for any of them at this point. Look for this group of players to come off the board in the first 50 picks of the draft.