TIn our annual Draft Kit, we identify targeted “hot topics” that currently hold extreme relevance in the current dynasty landscape. Nothing raises the temperature of discussion more than the 2023 rookie class and how to value draft picks that class. As we approach 2022 rookie drafts and we begin to see 2024 rookie draft picks now available to trade in leagues, the 2023 class and pick values absolutely need their own section in the guide. I discuss how to navigate the current market, how it stacks up to a previous highly-touted class, and strategies to take after you find the value pulse in your specific dynasty league.
The 2023 Class – Overview
Let us start by discussing why so many are so excited about this class. To start, running backs drive the value of rookie classes. Look no further than the latest 2023 mock draft from Shane Hallam at Draft Countdown which projects four running backs in the first round, including Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs in the top fifteen picks. The last NFL Draft that produced multiple top fifteen selections at the position was 2017 and the NFL has not selected four or more running backs in the first round since 2008. There are others at the position in the class that can move up the board including the likes of Sean Tucker, Jase McClellan, Trey Sanders, Kendall Milton, Devon Achane, MarShawn Lloyd, Jalen Berger, and others as part of the vaunted 2020 high school recruiting class. Consensus top ten standouts eligible for the 2022 class, Zach Charbonnet, and Eric Gray opted to return to school and both will look to cement themselves in the mix next season. The total count in the mock draft is nine ball-carriers in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft and with ten of the top 24 running backs by current ADP over the age of 26 on opening day 2022, the timing is perfect for reinforcements on your dynasty rosters.
Data according to Draft History
If you do not like chasing running backs, as the current mainstream strategy tends to be, quarterbacks may be your primary driver of why you consider a rookie class strong. Look no further than the current superflex startup ADP in which 12 quarterbacks are coming off the board before the end of the second round, and this does not include the polarizing Deshaun Watson who checked in at QB2 in ADP the last time he played an NFL game. While you may be asking how we can possibly find room at the top, teams are reeling after the retirements of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and the constant turnover at the position and many are looking to get their hands on the next Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow. We saw the dynasty community react with conviction to Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance in 2021 and the 2023 class will be much of the same. According to NFL Mock Draft Database, early returns have both CJ Stroud and Bryce Young as top three selections in the 2023 NFL Draft along with two other first-round picks at the position.
Former devy QB2 by ADP DJ Uiagalelei also becomes eligible for the draft along with many such as Will Levis, Kedon Slovis, Hendon Hooker, and Phil Jurkovic who could have been selected in the 2022 class. I have not mentioned Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall, Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke, and Florida’s Anthony Richardson as massive upside candidates that could round out the class. Although this class may be top-heavy, at minimum, it offers multiple shots at high-end players at the position, with the potential of four or five selections in the first round.
One of my common sayings over the last few seasons is “wide receivers” do not matter. This often gets confused with thinking I do not value the position. Not true. The reality is the NFL is developing wide receivers at a faster pace than ever before. Dynasty managers are valuing wide receivers earlier in their careers and expecting them to produce right away. The value of players who do not return on their ADP after one or two seasons of disappointment and unfortunately for them, a new crop seems to enter every season ready to jump into a coveted spot in our ADP. Over the past five seasons, 46 wide receivers have been drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, an average of 9.1 per season. 2022 likely exceeds that number and for 2023, the quantity is looking right on par with the current trend. In addition, the 2023 WR class does not look to take a back seat to the strong running backs and quarterbacks as we currently have seven who have posted at least one season (in their first two) above the predictive threshold to become an NFL wide receiver with at least one top 24 seasonal finish.
This list also does not include both Jermaine Burton and Parker Washington who barely missed this mark as freshmen, and seniors Zay Flowers and Dontay Demus who chose to return to school. Consider this to be another wide receiver class that will offer numerous high-end options and plenty of depth in the first two rounds of your drafts.
Data and YPTPA chart according to Campus2Canton
Tight Ends – Michael Mayer
Not much more needs to be said about Michael Mayer. A projected top fifteen pick in the class from a factory school like Notre Dame will be the cherry on top of any dynasty rookie draft with a heavy focus on tight end. Any league with at least 1.75 points per reception or with a start two requirement can pencil Mayer as another placeholder and rock-solid profile in the first round. He posted a breakout as a sophomore and should cement his draft capital with size and athletic testing next spring.
Data according to Player Profiler
The 2023 Class – Market Values
The toughest part for individuals to wrap their heads around is the market price of the 2023 draft picks. After all, I just illustrated a class that could potentially go 4-5 deep at quarterback (round 1 NFL draft picks), 5-6 deep at running back (round 1 and 2 NFL draft picks), and 7-9 deep at wide receiver (round 1/2 NFL Draft Picks), along with a first-round tight end. Conservatively, this pushes the depth of this class out to nearly the end of the second round of superflex drafts and includes some extremely highly-touted and hyped devy prospects. Although much of this is speculation and yet to be determined, the market has been excited about this class for two years and the train is not going to slow down any time soon. The question becomes, have we jumped the value shark? Some context.
I recently completed a startup draft with the following settings:
28 teams (2 copies of each player, 14-team equivalent)
Superflex (+6/-2 for TD/INT)
Start 2 TE (1.75 PPR)
The following trades took place in the startup draft that included 2023 first-round picks:
Keep in mind, these trades took place in a startup draft. All future picks are random. There is very little known about the teams giving up the future picks, plus we are earlier enough into the season that very much can change with their current rosters between now and the end of the 2022 season.
In addition, I have completed multiple trades in 12-team superflex formats including shipping off multiple 1.08 picks in the 2022 Draft for a random 2023 1st. At this point, anything at 1.06 or below seems like the optimal point to attain a 2023 1st straight up for the current rookie class selections and this number is subject to going even higher as we still await much more information on the 2022 class.
Finally, crowd-sourced data is often the best gauge of market values. I ran numerous Twitter polls right before the beginning of the NFL combine and have decided to share the results of where the masses value the 2022 picks relative to the 2023 random 1sts.
These polls were a relatively small sample size but the results reflect the trades noted and my assumption from above. Any move that you can net a 2023 1st round pick in exchange for a pick at 1.06 or later in the 2022 class seems to be a value win on the current market.
The 2023 Class – Actionable Advice
Ultimately, the question you must ask yourself today is, have the 2023 rookie picks become too expensive? I have never seen a class as anticipated as this one and combined with the heavy fading of the 2022 class, draft picks one year out seem impossible to obtain. In many seasons, the team acquiring the current class’ pick will be charged a tax to acquire a player sooner, not in 2022. As noted above, the threshold has crept up into the 1.05 to 1.06 range already, before the NFL Draft results come in. My prediction is this figure continues to rise and ultimately ends up in the 1.04 range.
However, compare this trend to a stock that will continue to hold steady for another year and at any moment, in a specific economy or individual transaction could be liquidated at an even higher profit. This is how I view the current 2023 pick market.
There are still creative ways to acquire picks and I highlight a few below.
The WR Pivot
The wide receiver position is deeper than ever. This has created a logjam of talent at the WR2/3/4 level where the production flattens off at a much faster rate than the player value. This thread discusses historical production data and why making this type of deal is simply a bet against the higher-valued receiver you are trading away not becoming elite. In the trade above, the value absorbed in the downgrade at wide receiver is insured by moving off of an undesirable pick (2022 2.02) and coloring the asset up to a random 2023 first-round pick.
The 80/40 (Player and Pick)
This is my favorite type of trade to make when attempting to secure future draft picks. Trade away a player in a certain tier (represents 100 percent) for another player in a lower-tier who you feel can get close to matching the one you are trading away (represents 80 percent). Add a future draft pick (represents 40 percent) to the lesser asset and bet that your side can close the gap. The draft pick acts as insurance on a swing and a miss but a winning bet pays off at a much higher rate.
The Pick Package
This trade assumes all of your 2022 picks are outside of the range where a direct swap for a 2023 pick can take place. Combining the 1.10 and the 2.04 for any random 2023 first allows you to get to a place that was unattainable with a single pick. Furthermore, this move saves a roster spot down the road which represents intrinsic value not present in the trade calculation.
Being creative is the name of the game with the 2023 class. The cat is out of the bag. The majority of dynasty managers are aware of the clout the class holds, even if they are not up to speed on all of the names in the class. Ultimately, the perception of the class matters even more than the actual players who end up in it. Playing the day trading game with the picks means you have to have them in your portfolio to move them at the most advantageous times. I certainly do not want to make every 2023 pick on the clock next spring but using time to my benefit allows me to stock them now, evaluate their projection during the season and combine that with my own team needs to determine when to cash in for points to make a run in 2022. Like it or not, these picks will be the most desired currency over the next twelve months and much of your off-season should focus on how to continually add them as creatively as you possibly can.