The NFL Draft is finally here and by the end of tonight, fantasy managers will have the landing spot for 31 of the top players. Although there is a lot of talent in the trenches in this draft, there will be plenty of fantasy football relevant players picked as well. Rather than a final mock draft, I will discuss the skill position players I expect to be selected in the first round this evening. Prospect profiles will be discussed, and I will give a final prediction on their landing spot as well.
Expected NFL First Round Selections & Fantasy Football Takeaways
Bryce Young – Alabama
The sportsbooks have Bryce Young as the heavy favorite to be the first overall pick, meaning they likely have some insight. He is one of the best pure passers in years, ranking second all-time in passing yards and touchdowns in Alabama history. This was despite only playing two full seasons as the starter for the Crimson Tide.
There are significant concerns about his size though, and he isn’t expected to add fantasy value with his legs either. In Superflex leagues, Young will be worth the risk as a player who has the moxy and NFL arm to be a long-term starter. However, in 1QB formats, the lack of elite upside and injury risk make him just a third round rookie pick.
Prediction: No. 1 – Carolina Panthers
Will Levis – Kentucky
To the surprise of many, Will Levis is now the expected selection of the Houston Texans at second overall. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise as Levis has the biggest arm in the 2023 draft class with the ability to make every throw. Passing while on the move is something he does with ease, too. The potential is there to be an elite fantasy quarterback in the right system.
Decision-making and processing have been issues at times though for the Kentucky quarterback. Levis also regressed as a senior after struggling with injuries and a depleted supporting cast in 2023. As a result, he will carry a lot of risk as an older prospect going into a situation where he once again will be asked to elevate the offense. Similar to Zach Wilson years ago, Levis will ultimately be a boom or bust selection in dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts.
Prediction: No. 2 – Houston Texans
CJ Stroud – Ohio State
Despite being the third signal caller selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, CJ Stroud will remain my top-ranked quarterback in dynasty rookie drafts. He has all the physical tools and is a smart player with elite accuracy. While he wasn’t asked to add a lot as a rusher in college, he’s capable of adding 300-500 yards at the next level.
Nonetheless, Stroud doesn’t make the flashy plays that Levis or Young can make with their arms. Without the elite dual-threat ability of Anthony Richardson either, he just fails to generate the excitement others have. There ultimately isn’t a safer quarterback prospect in this class though, and he ranks as my QB12 in Superflex formats. Like Young, Stroud lacks elite upside and can be faded in 1QB formats.
Prediction: No. 4 – Indianapolis Colts
Anthony Richardson – Florida
Anthony Richardson is the most polarizing player in this draft class, and his draft capital will be telling. Despite being the most athletic quarterback to ever test at the NFL Combine, his one season as a starter was less than stellar. He had a completion percentage below 55% and the offense failed to generate much success.
The talent around him though did him no favors, and he has every physical tool an NFL general manager could ask for. He will need time to develop, and New England could be the perfect place to let him do that too. Bill Belichick could implement a run-first, ball-control style offense for Richardson similar to what he had under Cam Newton.
Prediction: No. 14 – New England Patriots
Bijan Robinson – Texas
That’s a wrap, as Arthur Smith will likely never not run the ball again. Bijan Robinson will be too hard for the run-first head coach to resist, and he will be the first running back selected in the top 10 since Saquon Barkley. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as Bijan Robinson is one of the prospects at the position this past decade.
Overall, Robinson is the complete package and is a home run threat anytime he touches the ball. His 104 forced tackles missed in 2022 were the most for a player since the stat has been recorded. Furthermore, although he didn’t have elite receiving numbers in college, he runs fluid routes and has strong hands.
Prediction: No. 8 – Atlanta Falcons
Jaxon Smith-Njigba – Ohio State
Will Levis won’t be asked to do it alone, as I have Jaxon Smith-Njigba slated to join him in Houston. After quieting any doubts about his athletic ability with strong testing numbers this offseason, he should be set to be the first wide receiver selected. Smith-Njigba has strong hands and is an adept route runner with an ability to create space between himself and defenders.
The obvious concern is that he had only 15 receptions combined between his freshman and junior seasons. Fantasy managers will be drafting him based on his incredible sophomore season, where he outshined Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Although he projects to work out of the slot, that isn’t a problem in today’s NFL, and he should settle in as a top 20 dynasty wide receiver.
Prediction: No. 12 – Houston Texans
Zay Flowers – Boston College
Zay Flowers was one of the three wide receivers invited to the NFL Draft and has been a huge riser over these past two months. Standing at 5’9, 182 pounds, he doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional first round wide receiver prospect, though. Nonetheless, Flowers was an effective deep threat at Boston College and showed he can make catches in traffic.
Flowers is one of the best receivers in this class with the ball in his hands too, and I’m very excited to see where he lands in drafts. His size will hold him back from top 12 wide receiver upside, but the average size of a WR1 has decreased steadily over the years.
Prediction: No. 15 – Green Bay Packers
Jordan Addison – USC
Jordan Addison was one of the most productive college receivers in this draft, with nearly 1,600 receiving yards as a sophomore at Pittsburgh. He garnered over a 20% target share each of his first two collegiate seasons too and was a massive part of the offense. Although he wasn’t nearly as successful at USC as a junior, injuries, and scheme fit played a part.
More concerning for Addison is his first-percentile size-adjusted athletic score. Fantasy managers expect smaller receivers to be extremely fast, and he isn’t going to blow anyone away with his speed. Addison is an extremely skilled route runner though and doesn’t need to be a blazer to create separation between himself and defenders. This landing spot won’t provide fantasy value right away, however, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams could both depart next offseason.
Prediction: No. 21 – Los Angeles Chargers
Quentin Johnston – TCU
Quentin Johnston is the first receiver in this draft that fits more of an alpha role with his size. He is coming off a productive junior season at TCU too, where he caught 1,069 yards and six touchdowns. Although he didn’t have strong testing numbers, he plays faster on tape and won’t lack for speed given his stature.
The biggest criticism of Johnston is his inability to play to his actual size. His contested catch rate was very poor and he doesn’t have very strong hands either. Big 12 receivers ultimately haven’t paid off as of late, but regardless, he has the biggest upside of any of the receivers on this list.
Prediction: No. 25 – New York Giants
Michael Mayer – Notre Dame
Michael Mayer fits the mold of a prototypical high-end tight end prospect, with a big frame and strong pass-blocking ability. He can play a full-time role lined up at the line of scrimmage, which bodes well for getting him on the field early. Mayer is coming off an extremely productive career at Notre Dame as well, with back-to-back seasons of over 800 yards receiving.
He may lack the upside of some of the more polarizing tight end prospects in this class, but he should be a strong fantasy contributor for a long time. Mayer does all the little things to have an immediate role for an NFL team. His dynasty ranking will vary somewhere between TE7 and TE9, depending on the landing spot.
Prediction: No. 26 – Dallas Cowboys