Weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason have provided fantasy football managers their first real look at the potential of the much-hyped 2023 NFL Draft class. “Don’t trust rookies” suddenly doesn’t hold much credence when we’re looking at a group of players with some immediate opportunity to play.
Without further ado, here’s a look at the 2023 All-Rookie team for fantasy football.
The Colts officially announced fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson as their starter for Week 1, signaling to fantasy managers everywhere to buy, buy, buy at that current ADP of QB14. Richardson is definitely raw as a passer and can benefit from the experience, making the team’s decision to sit the rookie in Week 2’s preseason game all the more interesting.
However, fantasy managers aren’t drafting Richardson for his arm; they’re drafting him for his upside as a rusher.
Richardson’s biggest knock coming out of Florida was his accuracy — an area in which he’ll need to show significant improvement if he hopes to establish some consistency as a passer. However, his athleticism and size will continue to force opposing defenders to make some very difficult decisions when they’re attempting to tackle him in an open field. Richardson’s PFF rushing grade of 84.8 ranked seventh among non-running backs in the 2022 season, posting 713 rushing yards and nine TDs with a 40% missed forced tackle rate that tied with none other than generational rookie running back, Bijan Robinson.
And speaking of Bijan …
Bijan Robinson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Is this the most obvious pick for the 2023 All-Rookie fantasy team? Yes. We still have to talk about him, though, especially following his Week 2 preseason debut, where he bulldozed through the Bengals' defensive line for a 12-yard gain on his first NFL carry. Robinson played 12 of 17 snaps with the starting offense against the Bengals, totaling five touches for 26 yards, including a whopping five missed forced tackles.
The Atlanta Falcons led the league with 559 rush attempts and ranked third among NFL teams with 2,718 rushing yards in 2022. Even if we project teammate Tyler Allgeier with a 30%-40% market share of running back touches, Robinson’s projected volume, physicality, ability to force missed tackles and ability as a receiver projects him as a true three-down back with enough upside to project him as a candidate to finish as the overall RB1 in fantasy … as a rookie.
The Lions had Jahmyr Gibbs as the top running back on their board this season, and since drafting the former Alabama prospect at 12th overall, reports have been “all systems go” on his potential in fantasy. Though he’s actually a relatively inexperienced runner with just 368 total rush attempts over his career, it’s his usage and production as a receiver that should have fantasy managers excited to see his upside.
While Gibbs doesn’t project as a workhorse necessarily, he does project as a receiving weapon immediately, with the work he sees as a ball carrier feeling like a bonus to raise his overall floor as a fantasy producer. Gibbs ranked top six in receptions and receiving yards among FBS running backs in 2022, with proven reliable hands evidenced by his two total drops on 121 targets through his college career.
The Lions offense ranked top five in points scored and offensive yards, and Gibbs projects to be a big part of that moving forward. Don’t be surprised if Gibbs outproduces some of his more celebrated fellow rookies at the wide receiver position in receiving yards — making Gibbs a huge upside play in PPR leagues.
Fantasy managers haven’t seen much from Jordan Addison just yet, but it’s been clear in his limited opportunities that his prowess as a route runner will be a threat to opposing defensive backs sooner rather than later. The 2021 Fred Biletnikoff winner, awarded to the best wide receiver in college football, earned All-American Honors with 1,649 scrimmage yards and 18 touchdowns as a true sophomore with Pitt while playing with now-Steelers quarterback, Kenny Pickett.
Though he saw a decline in overall production after transferring to USC, he maintains his reputation as one of the best route runners in college football heading into an NFL offense filled to the brim with opportunity. Earlier this offseason, Minnesota released WR Adam Thielen, who’s seen an 18.2% target share over the last three seasons, averaging just under seven targets per game. Addison projects to see a decent share of those vacated opportunities, having been the recipient of some glowing training reports and an excellent showing in Week 1 preseason action.
In fact, Kevin Seifert of ESPN noted, “Addison has been open so often in training camp, in fact, that it has been difficult to judge his aptitude for making contested catches,” which surely is a problem the Vikings are happy to have. Playing alongside Justin Jefferson as the projected WR2 in Minnesota will pose a lot of upside in one of the NFL’s top-scoring offenses.
Tank Dell, WR, Houston Texans
After a string of obvious picks for the 2023 All-Rookie team, I’m here to highlight a solid sleeper. Dell still has to officially make his way into the starting lineup, listed with the second team on the Texans’ unofficial depth chart. Regardless of the depth chart and his notably small frame at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, it shouldn’t be long before the NCAA’s most productive wide receiver over the last two seasons starts to earn his reps. Over the past two seasons, Dell led the FBS in receptions (199), receiving yards (2,727) and receiving touchdowns (29), playing both out of the slot and from the outside in his time at Houston.
Dell becoming a viable fantasy asset, particularly at his size, would make him a huge outlier. After all, Eagles WR DeVonta Smith is the only receiver since 2010 to post 200 or more fantasy points weighing less than 175 pounds. This does feel like a case where skill could win out over past precedent, however. The concern regarding a small wide receiver is usually play strength; can they match up against the NFL’s bigger, faster, more physical cornerbacks?
What sets Dell apart (literally) from other wide receivers his size is his ability to generate separation — particularly in short-yardage scenarios, with his burst well-evidenced by a 1.49-second 10-yard split, ranked 93rd percentile among receivers. His ability to manipulate defensive backs with his skilled route running generates enough separation that his size is no longer an issue.
After all, when you’re that good, there’s probably not another defender in the same zip code that you need to overcome with strength anyway.
There’s an opportunity among this receiving corps to quickly become a favorite target of rookie QB C.J. Stroud, as Dell stands to compete with players like Robert Woods, Nico Collins and Noah Brown for starting snaps.
Sam LaPorta, TE, Detroit Lions
Lost in the shuffle of Dalton Kincaid hype has been the widely praised offseason of Lions rookie TE Sam LaPorta. Stepping into 2023, it already appears a done deal that LaPorta has carved out his spot as the team’s starting tight end, having played 16 of 18 snaps with the starting offense in Week 1 of the preseason, running nine total routes — second most among the starting offense behind WR Jameson Williams. It amounted to only a 18-yard target that went incomplete in tight coverage, but everything about his usage, from the routes run to the depth of that lone target, was all that fantasy managers could hope for in his preseason debut.
In his final season with Iowa, LaPorta ranked second among tight ends with 20 missed tackles forced after the catch, with his 4.59 speed giving him a huge advantage after the catch in the open field. LaPorta ranked sixth among FBS tight ends with 592 receiving yards and 317 yards after the catch in 2022, posting 2.10 yards per route run. He’s an excellent athlete, but his smaller frame at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds projects him primarily as a receiving threat — which is exactly what we’ve seen in his usage so far as a rookie.
While rookie tight ends often take a bit of time to develop at the next level, his most immediate contributions to the team will be as a receiver rather than as a blocker, which should ease the transition. Don’t be surprised when LaPorta leads all rookie tight ends in targets, receptions, receiving yards and, by extension, fantasy points in 2023.