Fantasy Football: Early top-12 rankings per position

We’re a long way from drafting for fantasy football 2023, but it’s always fun to take a look ahead. Have a gander at my early draft boards for the next fantasy season. I’ll include each player's upcoming seasonal age; it’s no fun to draft like an actuary, but it’s something we have to consider, especially at the attrition positions.


1. Josh Allen, enters age-27 season

2. Patrick Mahomes, 28

3. Jalen Hurts, 25

4. Joe Burrow, 27

5. Justin Herbert, 25

6. Trevor Lawrence, 24

7. Justin Fields, 24

8. Lamar Jackson, 26

9. Dak Prescott, 30

10. Tua Tagovailoa, 25

11. Daniel Jones, 26

12. Kirk Cousins, 35

Isn’t it interesting that, at a position where age means the least for fantasy purposes, the top fantasy prospects are all young guys? . . . Allen’s rushing chops keep him in the yellow jersey, though if the Chiefs add anything major to the receiver room, I could consider Mahomes there. And Hurts also has to be considered, given that 10 rushing touchdowns is probably his 2023 floor, and the Eagles have three dynamic receivers to work with . . . It’s not really a leap to rank Lawrence here, as he quietly settled in as the QB7 this year. Some of that was survivor bias (playing every game, in a year where so many quarterbacks didn’t), but he also improved in every major passing metric . . . Tagovailoa would be one tier higher if we could be sure about his health . . . The logical assumption is that Jackson returns to Baltimore, but that receiver room badly needs reinforcements.

Running Back

1. Christian McCaffrey, enters age-27 season

2. Austin Ekeler, 28

3. Jonathan Taylor, 24

4. Saquon Barkley, 26

5. Derrick Henry, 29

6. Bijan Robinson, 21

7. Josh Jacobs, 25

8. Travis Etienne, 24

9. Kenneth Walker, 23

10. Nick Chubb, 28

11. Breece Hall, 22

12. Najee Harris, 25

13. Rhamondre Stevenson, 25

14. Tony Pollard, 26

15. Dameon Pierce, 23

The 49ers still have that big uncertainty at quarterback, but everything in this offense infrastructure is perfect. McCaffrey will probably be the consensus 1.01 pick when draft season starts up . . . Taylor had a pristine football resume before an ankle injury ruined his 2022 season; to be fair, he was also submarined by the poor play around him. Sometimes it’s important to have a short memory . . . Robinson’s running game alone would push him into the first-round conversation, but he also averaged 13.4 yards per catch at Texas. This isn’t merely a dump-off option, this is a route runner . . . Jacobs smashed expectations in 2022 and was one of the biggest league-winners of the season, but it’s the type of player you often want to fade the following year when the ADP expectantly climbs . . . Walker doesn’t have electrifying skills as a pass-catcher, but at least the Seahawks don’t see him as a zero in the passing game . . . A healthy spring and summer from Hall could easily bump him up a tier. The Jets are also expected to improve their quarterback situation.

Wide Receiver

1. Justin Jefferson, enters age-24 season

2. Ja’Marr Chase, 23

3. Stefon Diggs, 30

4. Cooper Kupp, 30

5. Tyreek Hill, 29

6. CeeDee Lamb, 24

7. Davante Adams, 31

8. A.J. Brown, 26

9. Amon-Ra St. Brown, 24

10. Jaylen Waddle, 25

11. Tee Higgins, 24

12. Deebo Samuel, 27

13. DeVonta Smith, 25

14. D.K. Metcalf, 26

15. Garrett Wilson, 23

My podcast friend Michael Salfino sees Chase as the No. 1 receiver next year and it’s a reasonable case, given that Burrow is a step up from Cousins . . . Lamb took the expected leap in his third year, and should enjoy a full Prescott season next year . . . The age cliff isn’t quite as concerning for receivers as it is for running backs, but the NFL isn’t overflowing with difference-making receivers in their 30s. At least take a deep breath and do your diligence before you consider some of these wideouts who are obviously on the back-nines of their careers . . . Smith is one of the more affordable paths into the lucrative Philadelphia offense. The shape of his route tree will bring some extra variance, but you can smooth this out with a PPR monster one slot ahead of him . . . If you figured out last summer that Geno Smith would be good enough, you scored a huge fantasy windfall with Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. The Seattle passing tree is once again likely to be narrow.

Tight End

1. Travis Kelce, enters age-34 season

2. T.J. Hockenson, 26

3. Mark Andrews, 28

4. George Kittle, 30

5. Dallas Goedert, 28

6. Kyle Pitts, 23

7. Dalton Schultz, 27

8. Darren Waller, 31

9. Evan Engram, 29

10. David Njoku, 27

11. Pat Freiermuth, 25

12. Dawson Knox, 27

Kelce is going to hit the first round this year, but I’m unlikely to pay the freight for someone entering his age-34 season. I’ll also admit Kittle is a year or two older than I thought, top of mind . . . Andrews, Kittle, and Hockenson comprise the semi-affordable second tier, and I’m hoping Hockenson keeps his early ADP (TE4, 48.0 in NFFC) so I can scoop up some shares . . . Schultz is still at a safe age and he figures to be the second option in a plus offense. You can make a boring but useful profit there . . . Michael Mayer is an exciting rookie prospect, but if there’s one fantasy position where we know better than to chase first-year players, it’s tight end. And while we're on that subject, I'm in "believe it when I see it" mode with Pitts. The Falcons still haven't figured out how to best deploy him.

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