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NFL Rookie Targets for 2023 Fantasy Football Drafts - Bryce Young, Jahmyr Gibbs, Tyjae Spears, Marvin Mims, more

In this article, I will lay out the case for five rookie draft targets. While I expect these five players to be some of my most highly-rostered players this draft season, I will still be aggressively targeting a lot of other rookies – and I suggest you do too. This includes Bijan Robinson, Anthony Richardson, C.J. Stroud, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and a handful of others. Take advantage of league-mates who don't watch college football or are overly risk-averse.

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Rookies are extremely important in fantasy football. In dynasty leagues they ARE the draft and in re-draft leagues, they can be season-defining draft picks or waiver wire pick-ups. Even with all the content out there, I still think the fantasy football market generally underrates rookies in redraft fantasy football.

Drafters don't like taking players they haven't seen play yet or don't know much about, and drafters underestimate the impact of late-season contributions. Rookies are likelier to put up their best fantasy scores in the fantasy playoffs rather than at the beginning of the season.

 

Bryce Young - QB, Carolina Panthers

The first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is somehow being slept on. Anthony Richardson offers tantalizing upside and C.J. Stroud is a pinpoint passer. However, there's a reason Bryce Young was chosen before both.

Last year's rookie QB class was horrendous, and the fantasy football market is holding that against Bryce Young. Young is a guaranteed starter as long as he's healthy and has the ultimate draft capital – corroborated by both objective and subjective scouting metrics. So why exactly is he being drafted behind Jordan Love, Kenny Pickett, and Brock Purdy as the QB25? One reason is recency bias. The market has been burned by rookie QBs in a big way over the past few years, from Trey Lance in 2021 to last year's disastrous group.

Another possible reason for Young's ridiculously low ADP is the narrative around his supporting cast. While the Panthers don't exactly have the best receiver group in the NFL, Young has a young and talented offensive line and a bright offensive mind as his head coach in Frank Reich.

One of my fantasy football philosophies is to prioritize talent over projectable volume. I think far too often fantasy players overrate circumstantial factors that have nothing to do with the individual player's talent. For all the great research out there about roster construction and predictive statistics, the bottom line is that drafting actual good players is what sets you up for success. Bryce Young is really good, and I wrote an article supporting that claim before the draft. Read it here and draft Young confidently – he'll make his teammates better.

 

Jahmyr Gibbs - RB, Detroit Lions

Jahmyr Gibbs was selected No. 12 overall in the NFL Draft, which came as a shock to many. Clearly, the Lions believed they were adding a multidimensional weapon – not just a running back. I wrote this article about Gibbs before the draft and called him "an explosive playmaker with the home run speed and receiving ability of an All-Pro RB" while comparing him to Jamaal Charles.

Some have questioned his landing spot, but I think Detroit is a great place for him to carve out a very fantasy-friendly role. While David Montgomery is a solid player in his own right, Gibbs has a lot going for him in terms of the situation. First, Detroit has an awesome offensive line, ranked top-five by PFF.

Second, Detroit threw to their RBs at the fifth-highest rate in the league last season following their trade of T.J. Hockenson. I fully expect that rate to go up with Gibbs as a focal point of the passing offense. The Lions also lack established pass-catching threats outside of Amon-Ra St. Brown, so there should be plenty of targets to go to Gibbs. He will be by far their most explosive player while Jameson Williams serves his six-game suspension.

While Montgomery could be the primary goal-line back, Gibbs is a great bet to score some long TDs. His 4.36 40-yard dash corroborated the long speed he showed on film. Expect home runs.

 

De'Von Achane - RB, Miami Dolphins

De'Von Achane was drafted with the 84th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel was surprised he was still on the board. After a preseason of speculation about Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor, the Dolphins chose to stand pat at RB, even with Jeff Wilson Jr. dealing with an injury. Achane is slated to practice this week after dealing with an injury of his own, and all signs point to a significant week one role.

Achane drew positive reviews this offseason, as ESPN Dolphins reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques identified him as an offseason standout. While he lacks workhorse size, Achane's burst looks like a speed boost in a video game, and he's built low to the ground which should help him have natural leverage at just 5'8". Achane measured in at sub-190 pounds at the combine, but he's reportedly up to 192 pounds in preparation for his rookie season. Achane explained that he had previously been unable to put on weight during college offseasons because he ran track at Texas A&M.

An adept receiver, Achane caught 60 passes for over 554 yards and five touchdowns in his three years in college. In a potentially explosive offense without a prominent WR3 or TE1, Achane could emerge as the third-best skill player on the team. I expect him to be a highly efficient player, the only question is volume. Draft talent and let the chips fall.

 

 

Tyjae Spears - RB, Tennessee Titans

Sharp fantasy players have been waiting for Derrick Henry's downfall for years. Henry is THE outlier and certified freak, but there will come a time when he falls off. Tyjae Spears is a talented rookie with a path to an early-season role, and enormous contingent value if Henry were to be injured or traded.

Spears was drafted 81st overall by the Titans, who had used their first two picks on offensive line and quarterback. Spears famously doesn't have an ACL and has a history of knee issues. The Titans are at a crossroads of re-building and competing, so the only way to read a Day 2 RB selection, especially one with such sketchy long-term health, is that they plan on using him early. I would be shocked if Spears isn't the clear-cut No. 2 RB behind Derrick Henry in Week 1.

Spears as a player is dynamic. He put up video game numbers at Tulane and capped off an awesome college career with a 205-yard, four-touchdown masterpiece against USC. Oh, and he can teleport.

Spears has been balling out this preseason. Check out the run below.

 

Marvin Mims - WR, Denver Broncos

The Broncos no longer have a crowded WR room prior to Tim Patrick's injury, and Marvin Mims is the only receiver on the roster hand-picked by new head coach Sean Payton. Jerry Jeudy is also dealing with an injury of his own. If he's out, Mims has a chance to secure a Week 1 role in two WR sets.

Mims' curious pre-draft valuation (by media sites) was sort of inexplicable and rendered meaningless by ultimate draft capital as the 63rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Broncos didn't spend a premium draft pick on him to just return punts. I personally had him ranked as the 25th-best prospect in the entire class.

He has legit deep speed (4.38) but stands just 5'11" and weighs 183 pounds. His frame is a little more compact than some of the other small receivers in this class and his explosive lower body makes him a threat from anywhere on the field. In terms of ball-tracking and coordination, especially on high-difficulty catches, Mims is outstanding.

If Russell Wilson bounces back with Sean Payton calling the shots, Mims has the type of exciting profile that meshes with his game. Wilson at his best was a terrific deep ball passer, and Mims has all the tools to be an excellent deep threat as early as his rookie year.



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