2023 NFL Draft: What We Expect On Day One

Bruce Matson

As we approach round one of the NFL Draft, it’s important to focus on the top prospects. This will be an overview of what can happen with some of these players in the first round along with some outside-the-box thinking, considering anything can happen during the draft.

From a dynasty perspective, this is a very diverse draft that can change the course of a lot of dynasty teams if the dominos fall the right way. We have a very talented running back class along with a deep group of tight ends. The quarterback and wide receiver classes have their positives and negatives, making them a hot-button topic off draft-season.

Let’s take a look at what the first round could look like.

QUARTERBACK

Kenny Pickett was the only quarterback to get drafted in the first round last year. The fantasy football industry wanted Malik Willis to get selected in the first round and become one of the better fantasy scores in the league due to his rushing ability. The NFL did not share the same fondness for Willis as he slid to the third round to the Tennessee Titans.

Brock Purdy was the surprise from last year’s draft. Nobody was expecting the seventh-round pick to step up and pass for 1,374 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was a forgotten about until attrition granted him his opportunity to be the 49ers’ starting quarterback to finish the season.

We should expect more quarterbacks to get drafted in the first round of this year’s class. This class has more talent on the top end and has more potential to make an impact in fantasy as a whole. Bryce Young and CJ Stroud are expected to be the first two quarterbacks selected. They have been locked in throughout the draft process.

Everyone will be watching to see what happens to Will Levis and Anthony Richardson. Do they follow what many mock drafts are indicating and get drafted in the top 10 or will they fall to the back half of the first round? You never know what’s going to happen on draft day, but the odds are looking good that we see the top four quarterbacks receive high-end draft capital when everything is said and done. There’s also a chance one of these quarterbacks gets drafted higher than expected.

Another storyline that emerged during the draft season is the rise of Hendon Hooker. Before his ACL injury, many draft analysts were pegging him as a first-round prospect. However, due to him being an older player and having to sit through his rookie season as he rehabs his ACL, his draft stock took a major hit. As we approach draft day, we are hearing rumors that he could creep into the first round. This is something to monitor considering it could have an impact in super-flex leagues.

Outside of the top-five quarterbacks, we should not expect any surprise quarterbacks to get selected into the first round. This year won’t be like the Royal Rumble where you get a surprise quarterback coming down the aisle to get drafted. The only thing we have to worry about on Thursday is where the top-five quarterbacks get selected in the draft.

Top Available Rookies

Bryce Young

CJ Stroud

Anthony Richardson

Will Levis

Hendon Hooker

dlf dynasty draft coverage

RUNNING BACK

The last running back selected in the first round was Travis Etienne in 2021. He was drafted right behind Najee Harris at 25th overall. We didn’t see any running backs come off the board in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Last year’s running back class was not near as strong at the running back position. Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker became the main drivers from the 2022 class.

This year’s running back class doesn’t need an introduction because it’s stacked with talent. This class has everything from generational talents to late-round running backs who has the potential to deliver top-tier fantasy production.

The story everyone will be following on Thursday night is Bijan Robinson. He could go all over the place in the draft. Robinson is one of the top running back prospects we’ve ever seen and whether you like it or not, he’s a fit for just about every team. There’s a chance he will fall to the latter part of the first round due to the devaluation of running backs. On the same note, all it takes is one team to pull the trigger, and he’s one of the top players selected in this year’s class.

Jahmyr Gibbs is the only other running back prospect who has a chance of being drafted in the first round. If he does get his name called Thursday night, it’s going to be during the backend of the draft, making him a candidate of being one of the last players selected in the first round. If he doesn’t get drafted on day one, expect him to be one of the first running backs selected in the second round.

Top Available Rookies

Bijan Robinson

Jahmyr Gibbs

WIDE RECEIVER

We saw six wide receivers get selected in last year’s draft. Four of them were drafted in the top-15. This year’s class is not as deep with talent compared to previous years, but we will see some prospects get selected in the first round. Dynasty gamers will need to monitor to see if any of the top prospects falls to the second day of the draft since the talent level isn’t as dynamic at the top end compared to previous years.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a candidate for being the first wide receiver selected in the draft. His stock has been slowly increasing over the last month and per many draft sites, he appears locked in as the WR1. Look for him to get drafted somewhere in the middle of round one.

The rest of the wide receivers could get interesting. There have been rumors that we could see some of the top receivers slide down the board to day two. Jordan Addison comes into this year’s class with a strong production profile and could be a dependable option for a lot of NFL teams. He’s almost a lock to get drafted in the first round but some people are skeptical that he might fall out of the first round due to him weighing 173 pounds with a 19th percentile size-adjusted speed score.

There are similar projections for Zay Flowers. He entered the first-round conversation earlier this off-season and has been gaining traction all off-season. Like Addison, he’s very close to being a lock for the first round, but skeptics are believing that we could see fewer wide receivers drafted in the first round than what big media is projecting.

Quentin Johnston has been a hot debate all draft season. It seems like you either love him or you hate him. He has good production metrics with a 24.81 percent market share of TCU’s passing production at age-18. He also averaged 8.3 yards after the catch per reception in his career. The divide between him comes from his tape where he doesn’t show consistent separation and a lot of people question his ball skills. Also, to play devil’s advocate with his metric profile, his counting stats is a little light for a top prospect. Nonetheless, the debates will continue after the draft. For now, we will have to wait to see who selects in the draft. With that being said, he’s another one of those first-round wide receivers who could dip into the second round.

Jalin Hyatt is another receiver who has been mocked consistently in the first round of the draft. Out of all the receivers mentioned he is the most likely to fall into the second round. His ability to stretch the field to burn the defense separates him from the rest of the wide receivers in this year’s class. This allows him to be used for strategic purposes and not just for production. With that being said, there could be a team that values his deep speed as a tool to help clear things out for the other receivers on the roster.

This is a wide receiver group that could give us a surprise late in the first round. This is something you don’t want to bet on but picks 25-32 could become head-scratchers. It’s a better bet that we get fewer receivers drafted in the first than expected, but you can’t rule out contrarian options.

Cedric Tillman or even Jonathan Mingo could surprise us. These are two bigger receivers that can provide a side on the perimeter or downfield which is something that is lacking at the top end of this year’s class. Josh Downs is a very reliable receiver with a good production profile. He’s getting mocked in the second round a lot, but a team could fall in love with his ball skills and route-running ability earlier than expected.

Top Available Rookies

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Jordan Addison

Quentin Johnston

Zay Flowers

Jalin Hyatt

TIGHT END

The 2023 NFL Draft is not lacking talent at the tight end position. The first tight end didn’t come off the board until the second-round last year, but we could see up to three tight ends come off the board on Thursday night.

Michael Mayer is a lock to get drafted in the first round. He has been a top-tier prospect ever since his freshman season. The only question is who is going to draft him and how quickly can he make an impact in dynasty. Tight ends tend to take a few years to develop, so a situation where he can make an immediate impact is going to be best for his dynasty stock. There are a lot of dynasty gamers who are down on him due to his size-adjusted athleticism, but look for his stock to increase immensely if he gets drafted by a team like the Dallas Cowboys where there’s an opening on the depth chart and the tight end is a focal point in the passing game.

Dalton Kincaid is a good receiving tight end who has the potential to be the first tight end drafted. He caught 70 of his 93 targets for 890 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Like Mayer, his landing spot in the draft will dictate his fantasy value. He’s a good tight end that can make an impact in dynasty, but his new NFL team may be an indicator of how quickly we should expect him to start being productive.

Most mock drafts have Mayer and Kincaid as the only two tight ends selected in the first round. However, we all know strange things can happen at the end of the first round. There’s a chance Darnell Washington or Luke Musgrave gets selected late in the first round. Washington is highly athletic and is also a tremendous blocker. Musgrave looked good at the Senior Bowl and posted good size-adjusted athleticism at the combine, he could sneak into the first round.

Remember, there will be trades in the draft. If there’s a player there at the end of the first that a team believes is a tier breaker for them, then they might be tempted to trade up to make sure they get their guy.

Top Available Rookies

Michael Mayer

Dalton Kincaid

Darnell Washington

Luke Musgrave

I’ll be back tomorrow to see what we got right and wrong, and then for a look at what to expect on Day Two.

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2023 NFL Draft: What We Expect On Day One