With the 2023 NFL draft behind us, we should now be looking at who the best players in the best situations are and who will immediately be on fantasy radars during their very first season.
While there are a ton of great players in this class that will likely become significant fantasy football contributors at some point, these are the players that I believe will make a strong fantasy impact during their first season. This is based on a lot of different criteria including the player’s talent, landing spots, NFL readiness, as well as having the tools to be a dominant fantasy football option.
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Anthony Richardson (Florida), Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
After all the rumors and speculation surrounding the Colts on who they might take, Anthony Richardson was always the guy they wanted — with owner Jim Irsay even saying that Richardson would have been who they went with if they had the 1st overall pick.
The quarterback out of Florida will have to put in the work and prove that he’s ready in order to win the job over Gardner Minshew and start in week one. Richardson will be the best fantasy QB in this draft and has the tools to be one of the top fantasy QBs in all of the league one day. Richardson ran the third fastest 40 time for a quarterback in the history of the combine, he clocked in at a 4.43 while being listed as 6-foot-4 and 244 pounds. Seeing what new Colts’ head coach Shane Steichen has done with both Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert over the past couple of seasons, I expect Richardson to immediately be an every-week QB1 once he’s on the field.
Bijan Robinson (Texas), Running Back, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta now has their franchise running back in former Texas Longhorn Bijan Robinson. The Texas back had almost 1900 yards from scrimmage along with 20 total touchdowns in his final season with the team. Being the first RB to be taken in the top 10 of the NFL draft since Saquon Barkley in 2018, Robinson has a lot to prove at the next level.
This is the best possible destination for Robinson in terms of fantasy football and having immediate production. The Falcons ran the football more than anyone else in the league in 2022, with almost 33 carries a game as a team. This will not change as Coach Arthur Smith has always been known to run the football as much as possible. Atlanta was one of the top offensive lines in 2022 and they have only improved this with the 2nd round draft pick of Syracuse Guard Matthew Bergeron. The team also has the easiest schedule for the upcoming season, meaning a positive game script for Robinson and the run game.
There is some competition in the backfield as Tyler Allegier ran for over 1000 yards as a rookie. But with using draft capital as high as the 8th overall pick on an RB, there will be no hesitation to make Robinson the workhorse of the team immediately. Robinson is in a perfect situation and should be a first-round pick in all fantasy leagues, with a real chance to finish as a top-5 fantasy RB as a rookie.
Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama), Running Back, Detroit Lions
A pick that many people thought was a reach by Detroit may end up being a great pick when it’s all said and done. Jahmyr Gibbs is by far the best pass-catching back from this draft class and will be a top receiving back in the league for many years to come. Gibbs had a limited amount of touches in college but averaged 6.1 yards per carry and over 10 yards per reception for Alabama in 2022. Running a 4.36 at the combine, he showed that he has elite speed along with the talent which is very hard to come by.
The Lions immediately traded 24-year-old D’Andre Swift once they drafted Gibbs. General Manager Brad Holmes made it very clear that Gibbs was someone they had to walk out of this draft with and that they were even willing to draft him at #6 ahead of Bijan Robinson. This indicates that the organization and coaching staff as a whole love Gibbs and will use him in all different kinds of ways maximizing his skill sets. Gibbs has a mixed play style of both Alvin Kamara and Dalvin Cook, that alone shows what type of impact he can have.
I expect him to be the third down/pass down back at the start of the season, but progress into a change of pace back as well and even play in the slot as a receiver. Jared Goff has been known to target his RBs very frequently and Gibbs will dominate in this role.
Despite the signing of David Montgomery, Gibbs will still have a significant role in this high-powered offense and will be behind one of the top o-lines. Expect Gibbs to be a high-end RB2 in full PPR leagues with the ability to finish ahead of Montgomery by the end of the season.
Jordan Addison (USC), Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings
The knock on Jordan Addison has been his size as he weighed in at just 173 pounds at 5-foot-11. Watching his tape, this size means virtually nothing as he can still dominate the game like any other receiver in this class. Being very similar to Devonta Smith, he can make an immediate impact just like the Eagles receiver has.
The year before transferring to USC, Addison put up 100 catches for 1649 total yards and 18 TDs at Pitt. This incredible season resulted in him winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award for being the most outstanding wide receiver in all of college football that year. Addison can play on the inside and outside and has great agility and acceleration as well as route running that will translate to the next level.
I expect Addison to come in and almost immediately play ahead of K.J. Osborn. The Vikings have shown to not trust Osborn as a number two receiver and that is the role Addison will fill. While he still will be behind Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson in terms of targets in his rookie season, Jordan Addison will be a weekly WR3/flex and will only get better as the season progresses.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State), Wide Receiver, Seattle Seahawks
Being the first wide receiver drafted, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a slot guy that can just shred opposing defenses. Very Keenan Allen-like, he is not the most athletic but has the hands, quickness, and route running dominance to become a matchup nightmare in the middle of the field.
Before suffering from a hamstring injury that kept him out for almost the entire 2022 season, JSN had an incredible 2021 season racking up 95 catches for 1606 yards and nine touchdowns. What is even more impressive is the fact that he did this while competing with both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave for targets, JSN did outproduce both during that season.
Seattle let Geno cook in 2022. The quarterback had more pass attempts in his first season starting for the Seahawks than Russell Wilson has ever had in a season. This resulted in both Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf finishing in the top-16 WRs in PPR scoring. While JSN will have an uphill battle competing for targets with those two, he will be the pure slot receiver for the team and be in for a high percentage of snaps as Seattle will look to play in a lot more 11 personnel.
Tyler Lokcett will be 31 in 2023 and JSN is the future of this receiving core along with DK Metcalf. I expect Smith-Njigba to overtake Lockett at some point during the season and become a pretty reliable WR2 option in PPR leagues.
Dalton Kincaid (Utah), Tight End, Buffalo Bills
After trading up ahead of the Dallas Cowboys to the 25th pick, Buffalo took the first tight end off the board and he is a perfect fit for the team. The Bills have shown to need another reliable target behind Stefon Diggs and Dalton Kincaid can be this for them. He is a dynamic receiving threat that can play both as a traditional tight end and in the slot, which is where I expect him to play the majority of the time in Buffalo.
He has been knocked for his blocking ability but the Bills did not trade up and draft him to block, they want him to simply catch the ball. Rookie tight ends have historically not performed very well because of how difficult the position is to get down, but because Kincaid is more of a receiver than a tight end disputes this for me. Drawing striking similarities and comparisons to Zach Ertz, Kincaid can come in and immediately become a top target for Josh Allen. I expect Kincaid to eventually become a weekly fantasy tight end/flex starter in just his first season.