Fantasy Football Rookies to Draft: Target Anthony Richardson, Zay Flowers, Sam LaPorta, More
Getty Images. Pictured: Anthony Richardson (left) and Sam LaPorta.
The 2023 NFL Draft class features a number of players who will be relevant in fantasy football in their rookie seasons.
Sean Koerner and Chris Raybon are high on players at each position, notably the third quarterback taken in the draft (Anthony Richardson) and some receivers who find themselves in great situations to produce (like Zay Flowers). They also like some tight ends, which is great for those who don’t get an opportunity to land studs like Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews.
Check out the rookies that Koerner and Raybon are targeting in fantasy football drafts this year ahead of the 2023 NFL regular season.
2023 Fantasy Football Rookies
QB Anthony Richardson
Koerner: Now that Richardson has officially been announced as the Week 1 starter, he moves up into my top 10 QBs. He’s arguably the best athlete we have ever seen play the QB position (6-foot-4, 244 pounds with 4.43 speed) and has a cannon for an arm.
While he will likely have a tougher time transitioning to the NFL as a passer, his accuracy needs some work, Richardson will be able to lean on his legs heavily as a rookie, which should be music to fantasy drafters’ ears. He should be in good hands in terms of coaching as he will be playing for new Colts head coach Shane Steichen, who helped develop Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.
QB Anthony Richardson
Raybon: There’s no telling exactly when Richardson will put it all together, but as a QB with massive rushing upside and a cannon arm, he has more upside than any other QB going outside the top 10.
Richardson’s floor is likely similar to Justin Fields’ rookie year, which saw the Bears QB average 180.8 yards, 0.7 TDs and 0.9 interceptions on 25.5 pass attempts per game while adding 6.1 attempts for 38.6 yards and 0.1 TDs on the ground. Fields had a rough start to that year but ended by posting four top-10 QB finishes over his final five starts and likely would have continued at that rate if his season didn’t end in Week 15.
Given that new head coach Shane Steichen anointed Richardson as the Week 1 starter just one week into the preseason, it’s also possible that Richardson won’t be operating in as condensed an offense as Fields.
When Steichen took over as the Eagles offensive coordinator in Jalen Hurts’ second season, Hurts finished as the QB9 in 15 games, averaging 209.6 yards passing on 28.8 attempts and 52.3 yards rushing on 9.3 attempts, which are reasonable expectations for Richardson as a rookie.
RB Zach Charbonnet
Koerner: Charbonnet is one of the most talented runners of the 2023 class and whenever I’m watching his film, I get Nick Chubb vibes (not just because they are both No. 24) because of his smooth running style and ability to pick up extra yards after contact.
Charbonnet will be backing up one of the NFL’s better young RBs in Kenneth Walker, but I think he will be a better fit for goal-line situations than Walker. I can see Charbonnet carving out a big enough role to command RB3/Flex most weeks, and he has low-end RB1 upside if Walker misses time.
RB Tank Bigsby
Raybon: The rookie third-rounder out of Auburn was listed as the RB2 behind Travis Etienne on the Jaguars’ official depth chart before the preseason and has since rushed 22 times for 122 yards (5.5 yards per carry) through two preseason games.
Bigsby has the receiving and pass-blocking chops to assume Hasty’s role, but that should be viewed as his floor, whereas his ceiling with a healthy Etienne could be the James Robinson role from early last season that saw Robinson average 11.7 touches per game over the first six games before the coaching staff decided he was cooked.
Etienne had a snap rate at or below 55% in 10-of-19 games, including three of Jacksonville’s final four games, so standalone FLEX value for Bigsby is not out of the question. If Etienne were to go down, the 6-foot, 213-pound Bigsby could get a chance to be a workhorse. Bigsby is in a similar position as Zach Charbonnet but typically goes a few rounds later.
WR Jayden Reed
Koerner: Reed wasn’t one of the top receiving talents in this year’s draft, but he ended up in one of the better situations.
The Packers’ WR depth chart was wide open, and he looks set to be their starting slot receiver for Week 1. I think Jordan Love could potentially be this year’s Geno Smith as someone who is replacing a future Hall of Famer but could be getting overlooked. Based on his preseason play so far, Love has looked like a QB that is ready to take a huge step forward.
Investing in a player like Reed later in drafts is a great/cheap way to invest in the Packers offense this year.
WR Zay Flowers
Raybon: Flowers caught 78 passes for 1,077 yards and 12 TDs in his final season at Boston College before running a 4.42 at the Combine en route to becoming the No. 22 overall selection in the draft. If Odell Beckham Jr. is unable to recapture his early-career magic at age 31, it’s not a stretch to say Flowers may well already be Baltimore’s most talented WR. Beckham has missed 29 games over the past three seasons and Rashod Bateman has missed 16 of a possible 34 career games, so Flowers is a good bet to be the Ravens’ most productive WR one way or another.
New offensive coordinator Todd Monken ranks in the 70th percentile in pass attempts across his four prior seasons of experience as an NFL offensive coordinator. That means the Ravens’ pass offense shouldn’t be thought of as one to avoid for volume-based reasons the way it was under previous OC Greg Roman.
I expect fellow rookie WRs Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, and Quentin Johnston to have strong seasons, as well, but Flowers often is drafted after all of those guys despite having the best chance among them to finish as his team’s No. 2 target. Smith-Njigba is more clearly behind D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, Addison is more clearly behind Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson, and Johnston is clearly behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, in addition to perhaps Austin Ekeler (or even Joshua Palmer, at least to start the season).
TE Sam LaPorta
Koerner: The Lions were a perfect landing spot for LaPorta considering they needed a talented pass-catching TE after trading away TJ Hockenson last year. LaPorta was actually who replaced Hockenson at Tight End U (Iowa) after Hockenson entered the NFL draft. They’re very similar players and by all accounts, it sounds like LaPorta is already locked in as the Lions’ starting TE and will be a focal point of their offense.
There will be weeks where LaPorta will be Jared Goff’s No. 2 target. He’s worth a flier in deeper leagues and should be on everyone’s waiver wire speed dial early in the season.
TE Sam LaPorta
Raybon: LaPorta’s stock shot up after Week 2 of the preseason, as he sat out against the Jaguars along with the rest of the Lions’ first-team offense, indicating that he is in line to be the Week 1 starter over Brock Wright and James Mitchell, who combined to play 51 snaps against Jacksonville. That is a key development for a player like LaPorta, who lined up in the slot or out wide nearly 40% of the time last season at Iowa and was previously at a much greater risk of losing inline snaps to Wright and/or Mitchell.
LaPorta appears ticketed as the long-term replacement for T.J. Hockenson. Opening the season as Detroit’s TE1 gives him an outside shot of approaching Hockenson’s usage from last season (89% of pass snaps, 78% of routes in seven games before being traded).
TE Dalton Kincaid
Raybon: Kincaid was drafted 25th overall because the Bills want to use more 12 personnel this season, with their new tight end operating as a big slot WR who forces defenses to either match up with an extra defensive back or risk Kincaid torching a linebacker. So although Kincaid may technically start the year as Buffalo’s TE2, I still expect him to be part of the base offense.
Given Kincaid’s receiving chops – he was second in the nation among tight ends with 890 receiving yards last season and caught 16 TDs over his final two collegiate seasons at Utah – it wouldn’t be surprising if he plays over Knox on passing downs when the team only has one tight end on the field.
Kincaid is a good bet to draw more targets than Knox, and he has an outside shot at drawing more than Gabe Davis, considering Davis runs mostly low-percentage routes. That means Kincaid could climb as high as second in line for targets behind Stefon Diggs.