Welcome back for the second part of this ongoing off-season mock draft series. In last week’s series premiere, I compared three popular NFL mock drafts and discussed the consensus first-round picks among the offensive skill position players. I’m going back to the well and will be using those three mocks again (USA Today, SBNation, and FoxSports), but this time I’m looking at the other positions and how those picks can impact the fantasy landscape. I’ll also dabble into the IDP world a little bit. I’m fully aware that this is likely to be the least sexy edition of this series; however, it is vitally important for dynasty owners to be mindful of how potential lineup changes to teams as a whole can impact the fantasy landscape around them.
For example, if the Bengals were projected to draft TCU’s Quentin Johnston, how would his presence in that offense impact Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd? If Seattle were to draft two run-blocking offensive linemen with their two first-round picks, that tells us they’re likely going run heavy in 2023, and Kenneth Walker could be in for a monster year. Often, these little things get overlooked by dynasty owners, and they impact players every year. So without further ado, let’s jump into it.
Of the three mocks I used, both USAToday and SBNation had five offensive linemen selected, while FoxSports had six. There were four that were in all of the mocks:
- Peter Skoronski, OT Northwestern
- Broderick Jones, OT Georgia
- Paris Johnson Jr., OT Ohio State
- O’Cyrus Torrence, OG Florida
Skoronski was mocked twice to the Raiders, Jones was mocked twice to the Jets, and Torrence was mocked twice to the Giants. Skoronski is versatile and can play guard and tackle at the NFL level. Any upgrade to an offensive line is good for fantasy and would be especially good fantasy news if we had any clue who the Raiders’ quarterback and starting running back will be in 2023.
We saw Jones mocked to the Jets twice. If that winds up being the case, he will join a Jets’ line that currently has three starters from the last three drafts in Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Max Mitchell. An improved O-line is outstanding news for Breece Hall as he returns from a torn ACL and whoever the Jets bring in at QB.
Johnson Jr. was mocked to multiple teams, including Tennessee, Green Bay, and Washington. Oh, yay, more teams with numerous question marks on offense. I’ll pay you one-hundred American dollars if you can tell me who will be the starting quarterback for all three of these teams in week one. There are slightly fewer questions regarding their running backs, but if we’re talking about dynasty impact and looking at big-picture, down-the-road concepts, good luck knowing who might be each of their RB1s over the next three seasons.
We saw three tackles as the first three offensive linemen off the board, but with the fourth unanimous first-round lineman, we get our first guard, O’Cyrus Torrence. Torrence has been mocked to the Giants twice at pick 23. Again, another team with many offensive questions. Daniel Jones seems to have done enough to be under center for 2023, but we don’t know that 100%. Saquon Barkley is a pending free agent. The team has no healthy, fantasy-viable wide receivers, either. So even with an improved offensive line, the potential beneficiaries are yet to be known. Honestly, Daniel Bellinger might be the biggest winner if the Giants draft a lineman. With an improved line, maybe tight ends would be asked to block on fewer snaps and run more routes throughout the season.
IDP players are notoriously hard to project year-to-year. Defensive predictions and projections are even harder to do for incoming rookies based on mock drafts, months before the NFL draft and before NFL free agency. I’ll do my best to guesstimate what players’ potential landing spots mean for production, but at this point, this is a simple thought exercise to help get familiar with names ahead of the combine and draft.
Unless you play in Defensive Tackle premium leagues, this position has minimal upside. It is a far more important and productive real-life position than a fantasy position. This year, however, we have two first-round DTs in all mocks; Jalen Carter of Georgia and Clemson’s Bryan Bresee. They are both projected to be top-ten picks, so they have plenty of upside. Carter has universally been mocked to the Cardinals at 3. However, people in the know think he is a bona fide star and a potential defensive cornerstone a team can build around.
Bresee was mocked to the Eagles at ten repeatedly as a luxury pick for a stacked team as a potential heir apparent to the 32-year-old Fletcher Cox. The other landing spot was sixth to the upstart Lions. If you believe in building the trenches, Detroit already has an outstanding O-line, and pairing Bresee with Aidan Hutchinson would also solidify the other side of the ball. The big winner might be Hutchinson if Bresee draws more attention inside.
The constant caveat with IDP is that everything depends on your league scoring and settings. Right now, four EDGE players are universally projected to be first-round picks:
- Will Anderson, EDGE Alabama
- Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
- Myles Murphy, EDGE Clemson
- B.J. Ojulari, EDGE LSU
The first big concern related to fantasy football is how their players get designed based on their respective landing spots. For example, if a team runs a base 3-4 defense, EDGE players tend to lose value if they’re considered outside linebackers. Conversely, if they find themselves in a 4-3, and they’re considered a DE, that tends to be a more favorable designation for fantasy. Some leagues allow a specific EDGE designation which is the best-case scenario for dynasty managers.
Only referencing NFL mock drafts without trades, Will Anderson is the unanimous first-overall pick going to the Bears. Although the Bears are likely to trade out of this spot, there is a good chance they can still land Anderson if the move back is small (hello, Indy at No 4). The Bears have a bunch of holes on both sides of the ball- and a ton of money to dump in free agency- so they’ve got almost unlimited options as to what to do in the draft. Anderson is a stud and has a chance to be the top IDP player off the board in your IDP drafts.
SBNation has Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson as a top-five pick to Seattle, while USAToday and FoxSports have him falling to Atlanta with the eighth pick. Clemson’s Myles Murphy is mocked to Seattle or Atlanta as well. No matter how it shakes out, both teams desperately need a disruptive pass rusher, and the speedy Wilson is dripping with upside. With three edge rushers mocked in the top ten, they’ve all got a chance to make a splash in fantasy as rookies in 2023.
The final EDGE that’s currently viewed as a first-round talent is LSU’s B.J. Ojulari. Judging by their positioning in mocks, Ojulari is considered to be a tad less talented than the top three at the position. He was mocked to the Eagles and Chiefs, and in other mocks, different EDGE players were drafted to the Eagles and Chiefs, so even if it isn’t Ojulari, we should anticipate this being a position of need at the end of the first. For reasons I’ll get into shortly, with first-round draft capital, Ojulari becomes one of the top IDP options in fantasy drafts.
Linebackers are often the crown jewel of IDP drafts. Middle linebackers, in particular, are placed in a position to accumulate gaudy tackle totals and the corresponding fantasy points that come along with them. Sadly, there is currently no consensus first-round talent at the position. As a matter of fact, FoxSports didn’t even have a single linebacker in their mock draft. Usually, the earliest drafted linebacker ends up being the top one or two IDP draftees, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. I suspect this talent vacuum at linebacker will result in a bump up in draft position for the EDGE players, especially. Depending on your scoring, defensive tackles and safeties should also see a bump.
First, a little IDP strategy talk: With many teams using three-receiver sets, cornerbacks have become hot commodities in recent drafts. We’ve seen 75 cornerbacks selected in the last two drafts, and corners have been the most drafted in four of the previous six drafts. Ironically, for fantasy, it doesn’t matter. Cornerbacks are staggeringly undervalued in nearly all IDP leagues. However, you can use this to your advantage. They are usually (and rightfully so) under-drafted. I happily fill out the bottom end of my IDP rosters with rookie corners. Three of the top 12 corners and six of the top 24 corners were rookies last year. Opposing offenses like targeting rookie corners and those additional opportunities often result in fantasy points, so get yourself some rookie corners. Investigating the names to know, the top options in this year’s class are:
- Kelee Ringo, CB Georgia
- Joey Porter Jr., CB Penn State
- Cam Smith, CB South Carolina
- Christian Gonzalez, CB Oregon
- Clark Phillips, CB Utah
The names are irrelevant, honestly. Find out which rookies will likely be day-one starters and get them on your rosters. Corners are always plentiful on the waiver wire, you can turn over the position on a weekly basis, but I have several teams where I cut all my corners every off-season and replace them with a group of rookies- who I’ll cut next year for the 2024 class.
Safety is one of my favorite positions. Generally speaking, you want to target strong safeties instead of free safeties. Typically, a strong safety will play in the box and accumulate high tackle totals. There are some exceptions to this, but as a general rule of thumb, lean heavily towards strong safeties. Every once in a while, if you pay attention, you can get players at safety who have a slightly different role. For example, as a rookie, the Panthers’ Jeremy Chinn was playing strong side linebacker role with a safety designation. Last year Chauncey Gardner-Johnson started the season as the Saints’ nickel back. He was traded to the Eagles and was their strong safety. Until he got hurt, Gardner-Johnson was far and away the top CB in fantasy because he was actually playing safety. Keep an eye on these things and use them to your advantage.
Alright, now that that little blurb on strategy is out of the way, there is only one safety listed as a first-round pick in all drafts; Alabama’s Brian Branch. Branch is one of my favorite IDP players in this draft, and if I were needy at safety, I would consider over drafting him as my top IDP player in drafts if he ends up in a dream landing spot. One of those spots would be with the Bills at the end of the first round. With Jordan Poyer set to be a 32-year-old free agent at the end of the season, there could be an immediate opening for a starting position if Poyer doesn’t return.
Hopefully, you enjoyed this look at the projected first-round offensive line and defensive players. I know it’s not as fun or instantly useful as looking at quarterbacks or receivers, but the offensive line is an integral part of the offensive unit as a whole. Unfortunately, for the 2023 draft, it appears that the teams in the running to draft the top O-line prospects have plenty of other issues on offense. These concerns will (hopefully) clear up as we get deeper into the off-season, so keep an eye on trades and rumors between the Super Bowl and the draft. If the Jets were to acquire Derek Carr, their landing of a top offensive tackle would be more significant than if they were to trot out the corpse of Joe Flacco for a season.
On the other hand, there seem to be quite a few impactful IDP players forecasted as early picks. If you haven’t tried IDP leagues, you should give them a try. DLF has plenty of articles and resources to help you prepare before jumping in. IDP leagues can add a new wrinkle to your dynasty portfolio and give you more things to pay attention to during the NFL draft. Thanks for reading, see you next week!
- 2023 Off-Season Mock Drafts: First Round Supporting Cast and IDP - January 21, 2023
- 2023 Off-Season Mock Drafts: Consensus First Round NFL Draft Picks - January 14, 2023
- Fantasy Football Playoff League Options - January 11, 2023