The trajectory of an NFL draft prospect’s career doesn’t always align with fans’ preferred timing. Often, however, a player’s talent eventually shows up, making them fantasy football favorites. This year’s class brings intriguing skill sets and a renewed optimism to the virtual game. Below are 10 of my favorite prospects and where I think they’ll best — and most realistically — fit.
Aptly nicknamed “The Gingerbread Man” by Georgia’s defense, Young’s pocket mobility is best in class. His ability to feel the rush and remain elusive in space regularly helped him extend plays and deliver to all levels of the field. Seemingly impossible to rattle or contain, Young ripped off an FBS-high 24 TD passes when pressured over his final two seasons at Bama. Don’t let his diminutive frame (5-foot-10 and 204 pounds) fool you. The 21-year-old is a baller, who remains the only QB in Bama history to record at least 3,000 passing yards in a season twice.
Best fit: Carolina Panthers. The Heisman Trophy winner is the favorite (-1200) to be the first selection in the 2023 NFL draft. It’s assumed that he’ll land in Carolina with new head coach Frank Reich. Though Justin Herbert managed a top-10 fantasy finish in his inaugural campaign, most rookie QBs don’t crack the top 12. It’ll be even more difficult for Young given the Panthers’ shallow WR corps. But the future is still bright, and Young deserves top-15 consideration in dynasty formats.
With speed (4.43) and burst scores (135.4) in the 99th percentile, Richardson is an athletic marvel. Everything about his playing style screams Avenger. His mobility rivals that of Quicksilver’s (6.4 yards per rush in 2022) and his arm strength could make even Thor blush. While his physical tools appear infinite, his experience is certainly limited.
Best fit: Indianapolis Colts. Richardson will enter the NFL with just 13 collegiate starts under his belt. He remains a raw prospect with inconsistent mechanics and some accuracy concerns (54% completion rate in 2022). The right coach, however, can unlock Richardson’s potential greatness. After witnessing Jalen Hurts’ growth under Shane Steichen, Indianapolis seems like a slam-dunk spot for the former Gator.
Sia needs to voice Robinson’s post-draft hype video because the dude is unstoppable. An impressive blend of size, speed and power, Robinson is a determined runner who refuses to be brought down. He led the FBS with 201 forced missed tackles over the past three seasons, which is 35 more than any other player. But he’s not just a downhill grinder. Robinson’s game is rife with creativity and nuance. His stutter step is dizzying, his stiff arm is fierce and his spin move is a thing of beauty. Additionally, he’s a capable pass-catcher who can thrive as a dual-threat RB in today’s NFL.
Best fit: Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys. Don’t come at me Rashaad Penny stans, but Philadelphia would be a fire spot for the former Longhorn. Dallas would be another attractive location. Robinson would bring the juice that Ezekiel Elliott has been missing over the past couple seasons. Elliott’s release from the Star additionally opens upwards of 40 red zone touches. Either NFC East location would give the rookie immediate top-eight appeal.
Gibbs is serving major Dalvin Cook vibes. A versatile back with natural hands and blazing speed (4.36), Gibbs is dangerous in space. Over the past two seasons, he led all FBS backs in receiving yards (914) while also managing the second-most yards after the catch (980). Despite being on the smaller side, he broke or evaded 54 tackles on rushes in 2022.
Best fit: New Orleans Saints. The consensus No. 2 RB in this year’s class, Gibbs could thrive as a potential Austin Ekeler replacement in Los Angeles, if the Chargers trade the star back. I’m not trying to manifest that, though. Instead, I’d like to see the Bama back land in New Orleans. Given Alvin Kamara’s legal woes and the likelihood of a suspension, Gibbs would offer fantasy managers solid RB2 value working in tandem with Jamaal Williams.
After playing for Jim Harbaugh in 2019 and 2020, the SoCal native decided to head back home and transfer to UCLA. He made an immediate impact and became a Bruin fan favorite after recording a dominant 167 rushing yards against rival USC in November 2021.
Best fit: Dallas Cowboys or Cincinnati Bengals. A patient and powerful runner, Charbonnet chisels away at defenders, constantly churning his legs until finding a crease and blasting toward daylight. He broke or evaded 124 tackles during his time at UCLA (second only to Bijan Robinson in that span). He also has experience as a pass-catcher, averaging 3.4 receptions per contest in 2022. Charbonnet’s skill set would be maximized in either Dallas or Cincinnati. If the Bengals release Joe Mixon this summer, Charbonnet could be in line for 16-18 touches per week.
A hamstring injury limited JSN to just three games (and five grabs) in 2022. Despite this, he remains a top-three pick at the position and is expected to come off the board in the first round. That’s largely because of his elite 2021 effort. Working as the team’s third receiving option, Smith-Njigba led the team in catches (95) and yards (1,606). And he did it while sharing the field with former first-round picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.
Best fit: New England Patriots or Houston Texans. An uber-efficient slot man (81% slot rate), JSN is a smooth and reliable receiver who uses agility and crisp routes to gain separation. His measurables might not jump off the page, but his savvy and polish would be a welcome addition to any WR corps. With Jakobi Meyers now in Vegas, JSN would flourish in New England. His strong hands would be a boon to a rookie signal-caller, making Houston another interesting landing spot. Either way, Smith-Njigba could clear 70 catches in his first pro campaign.
In a class flush with small receivers, Flowers stands out. And it’s not because he’s tall. It’s because of his versatility. Early in his college experience, Flowers ran 62% of his routes via the slot (2020). By 2022, however, the Florida native was running 53% of his routes from the outside and just 44% in the slot. Flowers is a crafty receiver who leans on creative route-running and quick feet to excel in space. He leaves BC as the Golden Eagles’ all-time leader in catches (200), receiving yards (3,056) and receiving scores (29). A limited catch radius (29.5″ arm length) and 24 career drops are worth noting, but his balance, burst and vision cannot be overstated.
Best fit: New York Giants. He’d be a nice addition to the G-Men’s stable of WRs. With Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson coming off ACL tears, New York could benefit from a dynamic playmaker like Flowers. If he does land with the Giants, Flowers could work his way into the WR3 conversation, but expectations should be tempered to start the season.
After winning the Biletnikoff Award (and with Kenny Pickett off to the NFL), Addison transferred from Pitt to USC. His connection with Caleb Williams led to immediate production, as Addison converted nearly 73% of his targets last season (up almost 2% from his award-winning 2021 campaign). Considered one of the best route-runners in this year’s class, the 21-year-old presents an impressive blend of speed, balance and savvy. He’s an ace ball-tracker who thrives as a deep threat: Addison led the FBS with 14 catches and 601 receiving yards on post routes over the past two seasons.
Best fit: Minnesota Vikings or Buffalo Bills. While he’s not as big or explosive, Addison’s skill set is reminiscent of that of a young Stefon Diggs. Ironically, I’d love to see him end up in either Minnesota or Buffalo. With Adam Thielen off to Carolina, Addison would make an immediate impact working opposite Justin Jefferson. He’d also add a delightful outside element to the Bills’ current WR corps (while learning under the player who embodies Addison’s ceiling). Either landing spot would put Addison in the top-40 conversation.
All of the tools are there for Johnston. His consistent use of them, however, is not. Still, there’s no denying Johnston’s rare physical profile and subsequent potential. With a burst score in the 98th percentile (135.9) and a catch radius in the 89th percentile (10.25), his upside as an alpha is evident. On the field, Johnston dominated at the boundary and after the catch. He averaged 17.8 yards per reception (WR23) and racked up 533 YAC (WR11) in 2022.
Best fit: Los Angeles Chargers. But Johnston needs to fade the drops (eight in 2022) and regularly crush contested situations if he’s going to thwart the TCU receiver curse at the next level. The Texans and the Ravens certainly have a need at the position, but I think Johnston would benefit from learning under pre-existing veteran talent. Given the ages, injury histories and contract situations of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the Chargers feel like Johnston’s best shot at long-term success. I’m likely to fade the 21-year-old in redraft leagues, but would consider him just outside of the top five in rookie dynasty formats.
Somebody call a radiologist because this man’s got that dawg in him. Downs may not be big (5-foot-9 and 171 pounds) but he sure plays like he is. A solid route-runner who relies on awesome acceleration and above-average straight-line speed, Downs isn’t your typical slot receiver. He’s focused and unafraid in contested situations, as evidenced by his 14 contested catches (56%, WR10) in 2022. Additionally, it didn’t matter whether Sam Howell or Drake Maye was throwing the ball, Downs remained productive. With a 202-2,483-22 career stat line, he exited Chapel Hill as one of North Carolina’s most prolific receivers.
Best fit: Green Bay Packers. He could find himself immediately called into action if the Packers were to select him in the second round. With Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb changing teams, Green Bay could use a strong-handed slot man like Downs. There are obvious questions at QB that don’t exactly inspire confidence for Downs’ immediate fantasy stock, but the fit could result in an intriguing number of targets.
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NFL draft 2023 – Best fantasy football team fits for rookie class