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Fantasy Football Early First-Round 2023 Mock Draft

Travis Kelce - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

With the 2022 fantasy football season drifting out of our rearview window, it’s time to look forward. Whether you were crowned champion last year or endured a grueling season of agony and heartache, what you reap will soon come to sow. The last-place finishers will be granted the gift of the first overall selection in an act of kindness so that no one has to experience the disappointment of back-to-back last-place finishes. Although they certainly still do happen and to those we say, thank you.

Today, we will be examining what the first two rounds of 2023 fantasy football drafts will look like in the coming months. What player will be anointed as the 1.01? For this exercise, we will be using a full-PPR scoring method.

For the longest time, running backs have reigned supreme. It’s a tale as old as time – the 1.01 has always been a running back, but Bob Dylan said it best when he said, “The times they are a-changin'," and that certainly holds true today. So, who will be the consensus 1.01 pick? Who will be the top 24 players selected? Let’s see how accurate we can be here in April.

 

1.01 – Justin Jefferson, WR1 – Minnesota Vikings

Is there an argument to go with Christian McCaffrey? Sure, there absolutely is. But I’m going with the player whom I believe is the most talented offensive player – not named Patrick Mahomes – on the face of the Earth. Jefferson finished last season averaging 22.6 PPR PPG, which was second to only Austin Ekeler. If you’re wondering why Ekeler isn’t getting any consideration at the 1.01, know that he did, but there is some uncertainty around his future. In 2021, Jefferson averaged 19.3 PPR PPG and was the seventh-best non-quarterback in fantasy football.

2023 will be Kirk Cousins and Jefferson’s second year in head coach Kevin O’Connell’s system, and historically, we’ve seen teams take a significant step forward in that second year. Matt Ryan won MVP with Kyle Shanahan in their second year together. Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur, the same thing happened, and we just saw what happened in Nick Siranni and Jalen Hurts’ second year. I’m not saying Cousins is going to be the MVP, just that we should expect to see a better version of 2022’s offense.

Adam Thielen leaving town doesn’t really hurt the offense; he didn’t have much left in the tank. If nothing else, it frees up some red-zone targets, where Thielen continued to be a worthwhile asset.

Jefferson finished as a WR1 in nine out of 17 games last year and scored 15 or more points in 11 of them. He scored more than 30 points in seven games. Last year, he led the league in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. With a depleted group of pass catchers in Minnesota, it’s not out of the question that Jefferson flirts with a 200-target and 2,000-yard receiving season. I know just how crazy that might sound, but I’m not entirely sure that it’s all that crazy.

What is crazy? This catch. This catch is crazy, and more of that is likely to come in 2023.

1.02 – Christian McCaffrey, RB1 – San Francisco 49ers

If you want to pick Christian McCaffrey at No. 1, I won’t fight you. He’s a fantasy football superstar and he proved that again last year, despite the midseason trade to the 49ers. We all know about the injuries the past few years, but that hasn’t stopped him from being extremely effective on the field.

In 2021, when he played more than 50% of the snaps – basically eliminating the two games he got injured – CMC averaged 23.6 PPR PPG. In an injury-shortened 2020 campaign, he averaged 30.1 PPR PPG in three appearances. 2019 was his last full season before 2022, and he finished with 29.9 PPR PPG. Among non-quarterbacks, those PPG averages ranked third in 2021 to Derrick Henry and Cooper Kupp, first in 2020, and first in 2019. In 2022, he finished fourth. That’s some amazing consistency.

Looking at just his time with San Francisco, CMC finished as an RB1 in seven out of 10 games. One of the three games he failed to reach that threshold was the first game he played for them following a mid-week trade and having to learn a brand-new playbook. In just his second week with his new club, he scored 40.6 points and would go on to score more than 25 points in four of the remaining eight weeks.

 

1.03 – Ja’Marr Chase, WR2 – Cincinnati Bengals

Ja’Marr Chase comes in as our second receiver and third overall player off the board. Last year, the second-year LSU standout struggled with a hip injury, but when he came back, he was unstoppable.

In those four games, Chase averaged 11.8 targets, 8.0 receptions, and 88.2 yards per game. He registered a 30.9% target share compared to the 20% target share Tee Higgins operated at those final four games. Chase also saw 106 air yards per game and averaged 20.54 PPR PPG.

In 2022, Chase scored 25 or more points in four of his 12 contests. As a rookie in 2021, Chase averaged 18.9 PPR PPG, and now entering his third season, he appears ready to explode. He offers an insane level of upside, evidenced by his 55.6-point performance in Week 17, championship week, of the 2021 playoffs.

Ekeler and Saquon Barkley would make excellent selections in this spot as well. Still, I’d be willing to bet on Chase continuing the utilization trend that fantasy managers started to get a glimpse of to end the season last year.

 

1.04 – Austin Ekeler, RB2 – Los Angeles Chargers

Austin Ekeler’s offseason has gotten off to a bumpy start. He is in the final year of his contract and set to make just $7.75 million this season. In 2020 and 2021 combined, his total take-home pay was $12.75 million. He’s criminally underpaid, which is why he requested to talk to other teams to accommodate a trade and a new contract. The Chargers granted him that request and that’s where we stand. Where will Ekeler be suiting up in 2023? Betting odds are still on the Chargers, but a holdout cannot be ruled out.

When it comes to his fantasy value over the past two years, no one rivals him. From 2021-2022, he averaged 22.4 PPR PPG and has been an RB1 in just shy of 70% of the games he’s played. Eliminating Week 18 of the past two years, Ekeler has played in 32 regular-season games and he’s scored over 25 in 10 of those contests. He’s scored over 20 in 19 of them.

Among running backs, he ranks first in targets, receptions, and total touchdowns the past two seasons. The concern with Ekeler is simple: He’ll be 28 this year, and at some point, the touchdowns will dry up because that’s just what happens. Last year, he scored 18 touchdowns and Justin Herbert had a lowly 3.6% touchdown rate. That’s unlikely to happen again, for both players because they play hand-in-hand with each other.

His role in the receiving game will keep him a valuable asset and worthy of a high-end selection. However, the Chargers have attempted to find a running back to work in tandem with him, and if that ever happens, his number of opportunities could decrease.

 

1.05 – Saquon Barkley, RB3 – New York Giants

After two injury-plagued seasons, Saquon Barkley returned and returned with a vengeance. Among running backs, he finished third in carries, sixth in targets, fourth in rushing yards, 14th in receiving yards, and 10th in overall touchdowns. His 17.8 PPR PPG was fifth among running backs.

The former Nittany Lion got back to dominating fantasy football last season. With him being another year removed from his injuries, we should only expect him to get better. Last year, he finished as an RB1 in seven out of 16 contests. He finished as an RB2 six other weeks. In 13 out of 16 weeks, Barkley was providing RB2 value or better. He scored over 20 points in five contests and over 17 points in three others.

The Giants’ offense will be entering its second season under head coach Brian Daboll, and this added experience and knowledge of the system should help the entire offense. They’ve also added Darren Waller in a trade with the Raiders, an acquisition that will make the offense stronger. Overall, not only is Barkley moving in the right direction but so is his team. Barkley can be in consideration as high as No. 3.

 

1.06 – Travis Kelce, TE1 – Kansas City Chiefs

Travis Kelce is a cheat code when it comes to tight ends. He provides top-five receiver production, but at a position where just over half of the owners in a 12-team league have a tight end scoring double-digit points. Last year, he averaged 19.2 PPR PPG, which was better than Ja’Marr Chase, who finished as the WR6.

This offseason, the Chiefs lost JuJu Smith-Schuster to the Patriots, and he was the team’s clear No. 2 receiver in 2022. Right now, the depth chart stands as Kelce, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. If any of Moore, Toney, or Valdes-Scantling compiles more than 700 yards in 2023, it would be the first time any member of that group accomplishes the feat in eight combined seasons between them. Needless to say, Kelce is destined to be Mahomes’ No. 1 target again this season. Maybe even his No. 2 target, as well.

He finished as a TE1 in 14 out of 16 contests last season. He scored over 15 points in five contests, 20 points in five more, and over 30 in two others. Last season, on a PPG basis, he provided fantasy managers with a 7.6-point advantage over TE6. And over TE12, Kelce had them completely doubled up, outscoring them by 9.6 points. That’s just incredible positional value on top of being an elite fantasy option regardless of position.

 

1.07 – Cooper Kupp, WR3 – Los Angeles Rams

Over the past two seasons, Cooper Kupp’s fantasy production has been stupid. Truly, it has been unfair. It’s very similar to that of a healthy Christian McCaffrey or Travis Kelce – just complete domination over his peers. But there are at least some questions about Kupp moving forward.

Is Matthew Stafford truly healthy? He was dealing with a nagging elbow issue all year in 2022. He suffered two concussions and was eventually shut down following a neck injury, that at times, was being talked about as a career-ender. Retirement was on the table. There were rumors that the Rams would listen to trade offers. Now more recently, Sean McVay has said Stafford is full-systems go and that he’ll be the Rams’ starting quarterback in 2023, but consider me a touch concerned. Not fully concerned, as you can see he’s still the third receiver off the board and going seventh overall, but a touch concerned nonetheless.

There’s also the concern that the Rams look like a terrible football team on paper, have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, and virtually zero offensive weapons not named Kupp, which could be a good or bad thing – who knows?

Still, we can’t ignore his production over the past two seasons. From Week 1 of the 2021 season until Week 9 of the 2022 season, Kupp has been active in 26 games. He’s been a WR1 in 22 of them and a WR2 in three. In a year and a half of action, he’s been a WR3 just one time.

Over that span, he’s scored over 20 points seven times, he’s been over 25 points five times, over 30 points six times, and over 35 points twice. His lowest weekly output was 11.4 points. He has never, not even once, finished with fewer than 10 points.

As we get closer to the regular season, if all reports on Kupp’s ankle and Stafford’s neck and elbow check out, Kupp has every reason in the world to move up in this very early mock draft, into the top five. And he would have real consideration of being the selection at No. 3.

 

1.08 – Tyreek Hill, WR4 – Miami Dolphins

Going into 2022, there were some concerns about how Tyreek Hill would handle the change in scenario. He would no longer have Andy Reid scheming him open, he’d no longer have Patrick Mahomes throwing him the ball, and he’d no longer have Travis Kelce keeping defenses honest. In the end, none of that mattered.

Hill finished with the third-most targets, second-most receptions, and second-most receiving yards among receivers in what was arguably the best season of his career. He put an exclamation point on the fact that he didn’t need Mahomes to be awesome because he’s simply one of the best receivers in the game. Period.

He finished the 2022 campaign averaging 21.1 PPR PPG, which was third to only Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp. Out of 16 games, he finished as a WR1 seven times. It should also be noted that he had to endure a couple of games' worth of quarterback play from the backup, Teddy Bridgewater, and the backup’s backup, Skylar Thompson, which makes his production even more impressive.

Despite all of that change at the quarterback spot and learning a new offense, he still scored over 25 points six times. He still provided fantasy managers with that elite, high-end weekly production that could win fantasy matchups all by himself. He scored over 40 points in one matchup and over 29 in three others. The Dolphins have brought back Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., indicating, once again, this offense is going to be funneled through the passing game. It’s wheels up again for Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

 

1.09 – Josh Jacobs, RB4 – Las Vegas Raiders

Josh Jacobs had an incredible 2022 season and there’s no reason, at this time, to think he can’t repeat that in 2023. While they lost Derek Carr, the team added Jimmy Garoppolo, who, at worst, is just a lateral move from Carr. However, there’s a chance Jimmy G provides a real upgrade to the offense compared to how Carr played last season. They’ll also be returning a lot of what ended up being a really good offensive line. PFF ranked the Raiders’ offensive line as the 10th-best unit last year.

With very little competition behind Jacobs, he finished the season with the most overall touches in the NFL. He led the league in rushing, but a more surprising element was that he ranked 11th in targets among running backs.

Jacobs has always been underrated. He finished as the RB15 as a rookie in 2019, the RB13 in 2020, the RB15 in 2021, and the RB3 just last year. He has a strong track record of success, which was largely, incorrectly, written off last season.

In 2022, Jacobs finished as an RB1 in nine out of 16 games and finished as an RB2 in three others. It wasn’t just his consistency that made him so valuable; he was a matchup winner, scoring more than 30 on three occasions and more than 45 once. Those are week-winning performances. Jacobs looks destined to be the driving force behind Las Vegas’ offense again this season.

 

1.10 – Davante Adams, WR5 – Las Vegas Raiders

No Aaron Rodgers? No problem. Just like Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams made sure the world knew that Aaron Rodgers didn’t make him. While there’s no question Rodgers helped elevate Adams’ game – and vice versa – he was more than talented enough on his own to get it done, even with a middling quarterback like Derek Carr.

Last year, his first in Las Vegas, Adams finished with the second-most targets, seventh-most receptions, third-most receiving yards, and the most touchdowns among receivers. He averaged 20.2 PPR PPG, which was the fourth-best number of his positional group.

One of his best assets last year also happened to play into one of his biggest downfalls. Adams provided fantasy managers with some incredible highs, but unfortunately, that also came with some pretty disappointing lows. He finished as a WR1 in eight out of 16 games, but also as a WR3 in seven. He scored more than 25 points on two occasions, over 30 three times, and over 35 points twice. Those are some high-scoring weeks, which will put fantasy managers in a great position to win their weekly matchup, but he also scored less than 10 points four times and less than 15 on three other occasions.

Jimmy G may very well help balance some of those highs and lows out, making Adams a more consistent fantasy asset. That’s a double-edged sword because it likely means fewer week-winning performances, but also fewer duds too. Sometimes you need to take the good with the bad and the bad with the good. Don’t fret though – Adams should still be treated as a top-five receiver for 2023.

 

1.11 – Stefon Diggs, WR6 – Buffalo Bills

Since coming over to Buffalo in a trade three years ago, Stefon Diggs has been nothing but an elite and consistent fantasy producer. In his first year with the Bills in 2020, Diggs finished as the WR3 averaging 20.9 PPR PPG. The following season, he fell to WR9 with a 16.4 PPR PPG average. This last season, he finished as the WR5 and averaged 18.6 PPR PPG. Elite consistency.

He has not missed a single game over the past three years, appearing in all 51 contests during the regular season. During that time, Diggs has finished as a WR1 18 times and finished as a WR2 14 times – 63% of the time, fantasy managers have been provided WR2 value or better. During this three-year span, he’s scored over 25 points on nine occasions, almost 18% of the time.

This past season was one of his best in Buffalo, finishing as a WR1 in nine of 16 contests – an elite 56% rate. He scored over 20 points six times, over 25 points once, over 30 once, and over 40 once. Among receivers, he finished fifth in targets, third in receptions, fifth in receiving yards, and second in touchdowns.

Diggs is set to star as Josh Allen’s No. 1 target once again in 2023, and there’s no reason to expect anything different from the last two seasons. The Buffalo offense is a very pass-oriented offense, which means Diggs will once again finish as one of the most heavily-targeted players in the NFL.

 

1.12 – Jonathan Taylor, RB5 – Indianapolis Colts

It seems crazy that Jonathan Taylor is this close to falling out of the first round, but there are major question marks surrounding what his value is. To be fair, those questions do not persist about Taylor’s talent, but rather the talent around him. Running backs, unlike almost any other position, are greatly impacted by the teammates around them, and in Taylor’s case, this becomes awfully worrisome.

The offensive-line play fell significantly in 2022 compared to where it was in 2021. There are rumors starting center Ryan Kelly could be a trade candidate, which wouldn’t help matters in 2023. Hopefully, for Taylor’s sake, this unit will play better this season, but there’s still the question of who will be under center.

They signed Gardner Minshew and have the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, which right now looks like it could be Will Levis or Anthony Richardson, two prospects who have been defined more as projects and are unlikely to be ready in Year 1 without some significant bumps. All of that begs the question: How different will 2023 be compared to last season?

There’s also a new coaching staff in place, which creates even more unknowns. Taylor is undoubtedly going to be the engine of their offense, but every defense in the NFL will know that. Will the starting quarterback be good enough to keep 7-8 men from the box? I'm not so sure. How many points and touchdowns will this offense score? Again, I'm not overly optimistic. Still, volume reigns supreme in fantasy football.

Taylor is shaping up to be one of the biggest bell-cow running backs in the NFL this upcoming season. Based on the team’s current roster, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if the former Badger leads the league in total touches. If the offensive-line play improves from last season and Taylor is healthy, his elite skill level will give him a chance to outplay this current spot based on his incredible talent and likely high touch totals.

 

Best Players Available In Order

A.J. Brown, WR7 – Philadelphia Eagles

Tony Pollard, RB6 – Dallas Cowboys

CeeDee Lamb, WR8 – Dallas Cowboys

Kenneth Walker, RB7 – Seattle Seahawks

Derrick Henry, RB8 – Tennessee Titans

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR8 – Detroit Lions

Garrett Wilson, WR9 – New York Jets

Nick Chubb, RB9 – Cleveland Browns

Travis Etienne, RB10 – Jacksonville Jaguars

Najee Harris, RB11 – Pittsburgh Steelers

DeVonta Smith, WR10 – Philadelphia Eagles

Tee Higgins, WR11 – Cincinnati Bengals

Jaylen Waddle, WR12 – Miami Dolphins

Keenan Allen, WR13 - Los Angeles Chargers

Patrick Mahomes, QB1 – Kansas City Chiefs

Josh Allen, QB2 – Buffalo Bills

Jalen Hurts, QB3 – Philadelphia Eagles

DK Metcalf, WR14 – Seattle Seahawks

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB12 – New England Patriots

Breece Hall, RB13 – New York Jets

Dalvin Cook, RB14 – Minnesota Vikings

Chris Olave, WR15 – New Orleans Saints

Aaron Jones, RB15 – Green Bay Packers

Amari Cooper, WR16 – Cleveland Browns

DeAndre Hopkins, WR17 – Arizona Cardinals



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Justin Gaethje3 days ago

Gets KO'd At UFC 300
Max Holloway3 days ago

Scores Highlight-Reel KO At UFC 300
Zhang Weili3 days ago

Retains Strawweight Title At UFC 300
Alex Pereira5 days ago

Set For First Light Heavyweight Title Defense
Jamahal Hill5 days ago

Faces Alex Pereira In The Main Event Of UFC 300
Yan Xiaonan5 days ago

Set For A Title Shot At UFC 300
Charles Oliveira5 days ago

Returns To Action On UFC 300 Main Card
Arman Tsarukyan5 days ago

Has A Tough Test In Front Of Him
Cody Brundage5 days ago

A Massive Underdog At UFC 300
Bo Nickal5 days ago

Puts Undefeated Record On The Line
Max Holloway5 days ago

Moves Back Up To Lightweight At UFC 300
Justin Gaethje5 days ago

Puts BMF Belt On The Line At UFC 300
Zhang Weili5 days ago

Defends Strawweight Title At UFC 300
RANKINGS
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3B
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OF
SP
RP

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