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2023 NFL Draft: Rookies Who Landed in the Worst Situations for Dynasty Leagues

Which rookies are stuck in situations we hadn’t hoped for before the NFL Draft?

Zach Charbonnet

As dynasty managers know, landing spot and draft capital are crucial to any rookie’s success. We have looked at the rookies who landed in the best situations, in case you want to check that one out first.

This year, there wasn’t much certainty for landing spots at the top of the NFL Draft. Bryce Young and CJ Stroud flip-flopped between the Panthers and the Texans for most of the process, and Anthony Richardson was in the mix across the top-ten picks. Additionally, there were no Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase-type prospects this year, where they were consistently linked to the Falcons and Bengals throughout the pre-NFL Draft cycle. However, that uncertainty led to many surprises.

Let’s jump into the worst situations!

Zach Charbonnet, RB SEA

There’s no competition for the worst landing spot in the NFL Draft. In the pre-draft process, I wrote the article on Charbonnet, and I was highly bullish on his prospects. I rated him as the clear RB3 in this year’s class, behind Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs but well ahead of everyone else. I even thought that he could challenge Jordan Addison and Quentin Johnston for the fourth spot in 1QB rookie drafts, slotting in behind Robinson, Gibbs, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

For Charbonnet to hit that value, I wanted to see him get late second-round draft capital and a good landing spot. Unfortunately, he only received one of those two things, as he landed in the late second round to the Seattle Seahawks, sharing a backfield with Kenneth Walker. I always say to value talent over landing spot, but it’s difficult to do so here. I was a huge fan of Walker in the 2022 rookie process, and I truly believe he’s a young, rising star type of running back. But injuries are common in the NFL, so I wouldn’t write Charbonnet off. However, he’s the biggest faller from the NFL Draft.

Will Levis, QB TEN

The Titans landing spot is not a disaster for Levis, but his draft capital makes his situation one of the worst compared to pre-NFL Draft expectations. I didn’t like Levis coming into the NFL, as I felt his college profile wasn’t overly impressive.

Chart courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

He redshirted his first college season in 2018 at Penn State before serving as Sean Clifford’s backup for the following two seasons. Considering that Clifford was only a fifth-round pick this year, it’s concerning that Levis couldn’t pass him on the depth chart.

In 2021, Levis transferred to Kentucky, where he immediately won the starting job. However, he wasn’t particularly impressive as a passer, throwing 24 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions. But he utilized Wan’Dale Robinson effectively and scored nine rushing touchdowns, putting him on the NFL Draft radar heading into 2022.

However, after Robinson declared for the 2022 NFL Draft, Levis regressed in 2022, especially as a runner. He went from nine touchdowns in 2021 to two in 2022 and recorded negative rushing yards. Additionally, the team fell to a 7-6 record compared to 10-3 in 2021.

Despite these struggles, Levis declared for the NFL Draft, where most analysts expected him to be a top-15 pick. But he fell to the second round, representing a massive drop in draft capital. Most second-round quarterbacks don’t work out, although there are some exceptions like Jalen Hurts. The Titans also are a poor offense, lacking receiving weapons for Levis to develop. He’s one of the biggest losers from the NFL Draft.

Josh Downs, WR IND

I don’t understand what happened with Downs. Heading into the NFL Draft, he was my clear WR5 in this year’s class, behind Smith-Njigba, Addison, Johnston, and Zay Flowers and well ahead of everyone else. However, he was the 12th wide receiver off the board, behind unimpressive prospects like Jonathan Mingo, Jayden Reed, and Tank Dell.

Beyond his fall in the draft, I also dislike his landing spot. Michael Pittman is the clear top receiver on the Colts, and they also spent a second-round pick on Alec Pierce last year. While Pierce didn’t light the world on fire as a rookie, he still had 41 receptions for 593 yards and two touchdowns.

Additionally, the Colts now have Anthony Richardson as their quarterback and Shane Steichen as their head coach. While I love Richardson’s fantasy prospects as a runner, even Steichen’s 2022 Eagles struggled to consistently support three relevant fantasy weapons in AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. Considering that Richardson doesn’t have the college passing production Hurts did, I’m highly concerned about any ancillary receiving weapons on the Colts, like Downs.

Darnell Washington, TE PIT

I wrote the pre-NFL Draft article on Washington, where I saw some significant issues in his fantasy profile. The only receiving highlights I saw on Washington’s college tape were from Brock Bowers. Washington performed exceptionally well as a blocker but showed little to nothing as a receiver at Georgia.

Unfortunately, that superior blocking profile left him vulnerable to assuming a blocking tight end role in the NFL. Additionally, concerns about his foot injury caused him to slip in the NFL Draft, falling to the late third round to the Steelers as the eighth tight end taken. The Steelers are a horrific landing spot for Washington, as they already have tight end Pat Freiermuth, who is an excellent receiver but a mediocre blocker.

Interestingly, the Steelers lack reliable receiving weapons beyond Freiermuth and top two receivers Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. Johnson and Pickens typically play on the outside, so the Steelers could run 12 personnel to get Washington involved. They also have washed-up veteran Allen Robinson and 2022 fourth-rounder Calvin Austin as depth options, but they’re no more than bench players. Therefore, while Washington might be a solid pick for the real-life Steelers, he will mostly serve as a blocker in this offense, opening lanes for Najee Harris. He’s essentially dead for fantasy football.

Israel Abanikanda, RB NYJ

Abanikanda was one of my favorite second-tier prospects heading into the NFL Draft.

Chart courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

He started his college career during the 2020 season, which had disruptions due to COVID-19. However, he still played six games and got on the field, which was incredibly impressive due to his young age. He’s one of the few players I’ve seen who played college snaps before his 18th birthday in October 2020.

After 2020, he developed into a critical part of Pitt’s offense, splitting carries in a committee with Vincent Davis and Rodney Hammond Jr, with Kenny Pickett also involved. His overall numbers weren’t the most impressive, but he averaged 5.3 YPC and scored eight touchdowns. Most notably, I loved his 24 receptions, which is strong for any season for any college running back.

Then in 2022, Abanikanda became the workhorse back, taking most of the backfield touches. He scored 20 rushing touchdowns, leading the entire FBS division in rushing and scrimmage touchdowns. After his breakout performance, he declared for the NFL Draft, where he projected as a potential day two pick. Considering that he doesn’t even turn 21 years old until October, he was one of my favorite running backs outside the top tier.

Unfortunately, the NFL rejected Abanikanda’s profile, and I’m honestly not sure why. He fell to the fifth round as the ninth running back off the board to the Jets. When examining late-round running backs, I always look for a path to playing time and a potential path to the starting job as factors, but this landing spot is abysmal. Breece Hall is their clear starter, and they also have two other running backs, Michael Carter and Zonovan Knight, who have played well in the past. I’d rather take a shot on Abanikanda over Carter or Knight, but I’m not particularly interested in drafting a player who isn’t even a clear top-three back on their team in rookie drafts.

2022: Best Situations Part 1, Best Situations Part 2, Worst Situations

2021: Best Situations, Worst Situations

2023 NFL Draft: Rookies Who Landed in the Worst Situations for Dynasty Leagues
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Matthew Winks
27 days ago

Thanks for the article, it’s great content

I’m not making an argument for Downs and don’t like the Colts offense either, but I wouldn’t say Steichen’s 2022 Eagles struggled to consistently support three relevant fantasy weapons as AJ Brown finished WR5, DeVonta Smith WR9 and Dallas Goedert missed some games but finished as TE5 in PPG

J Cakes
26 days ago

Tyler, good article. When faced with Abinakanda or Evan Hull, who do you think has a more relevant path to possibly contributing? They’re both behind stud RBs but like you, I really liked abinakanda coming out. Hull seems to outwork everyone and I can see him getting the RB3 with the outside shot of RB2 and passing down work. Who do you like better?

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