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Dynasty Fantasy Football: Surprise Undrafted Players in the 2023 NFL Draft

We examine four backs who ended up undrafted and examine whether or not they are worth pursuing.

Sean Tucker

Every year, there are players who the dynasty community loved pre-draft who go undrafted in the NFL Draft. I believe dynasty managers improve yearly with their rookie evaluations, but sometimes, the NFL doesn’t agree with us. I wrote this article last year, covering Justyn Ross, Zonovan Knight, Jalen Wydermyer, and Kennedy Brooks.

Of course, most of those players did nothing, but Knight had some fantasy relevance as a rookie. Therefore, it’s important to note not to expect much from these UDFAs, but to keep them on our radars, as there are always a few who become relevant each year. Interestingly, though, there were no big surprises at quarterback, wide receiver, or tight end this year. Pretty much every player on my radar at those positions actually went off the board in the NFL Draft. But let’s jump into four running backs no NFL team bothered to select.

Sean Tucker, RB TB

Of all the undrafted players, Tucker is the only true shock. Throughout the pre-draft process, he was a consensus second-round dynasty rookie pick, slotting in 14th overall in February, 13th overall in March, and 18th overall in April. There were some concerns that he would fall to day three due to his lack of NFL Combine numbers and a potential heart issue, but I never imagined he could go undrafted.

Tucker had an excellent career at Syracuse, where he hit the ground running as a true freshman in 2020.

Chart courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

He served as the workhorse back that year, taking more than three times the carries of anyone else on the roster. Unfortunately, he only managed 4.6 yards per carry and failed to participate much in the passing game. But considering he was a true freshman, he played exceptionally well in 2020.

Then in 2021, he fully blossomed. Syracuse transitioned to a running quarterback in Garrett Shrader, who took 173 carries and scored 14 rushing touchdowns. But Tucker took essentially all the running back carries, as no other running back had more than 17 carries. He also saw added involvement in the passing game and scored 14 total touchdowns.

However, despite his strong 2021, his 2022 performance may have slightly dropped his draft stock. He fell to 5.1 YPC with fewer carries than in 2021 in the same number of games played. But he made up for that regression on the ground with 36 receptions, which is incredibly impressive for a college running back. Even though he had two seasons of eligibility left, he declared for the NFL Draft, where he profiled as a day two pick.
DLF Dynasty Draft Coverage

Everything went wrong for Tucker after he declared, though. First, he couldn’t do drills in the NFL Combine after he didn’t receive medical clearance. Then, he didn’t participate in Syracuse’s regular pro day for the same reason before having his own pro day on April 24th, just before the NFL Draft. Eventually, news came out that Tucker had a heart issue that caused most NFL teams to remove him from their draft boards.

Despite that issue, the Buccaneers decided to take a chance on him, giving him $155,000 guaranteed as a UDFA. The Bucs have a relatively open depth chart at running back behind Rachaad White as their starter. Chase Edmonds and Ke’Shawn Vaughn represent their primary backups, neither of whom is trustworthy at all. Therefore, if Tucker has a strong camp and avoids setbacks from his heart issue, he has a path to make the roster. He’s currently the only UDFA worth drafting in all rookie drafts.

Keaton Mitchell, RB BAL

Beyond Tucker, I’m not that surprised that anyone else went undrafted. However, Mitchell was projected to go in the fifth round in most mock draft data, so it’s slightly surprising that he didn’t get drafted. Although, his April rookie ADP of 49th overall suggests that dynasty managers weren’t expecting much draft capital.

Mitchell’s main strength lies in his youth and college production.

Chart courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

He scored 25 total touchdowns over his final two years at East Carolina, averaging 6.5 and 7.2 YPC in his two seasons. However, his tiny size may have scared NFL teams, as he’s only 5-foot-8 and around 180 pounds.

He’s only 21 years old though, giving him plenty of time on the dynasty age curve to find fantasy relevance. Additionally, he landed on a run-heavy team with the Baltimore Ravens, who always involve multiple running backs in their offense. JK Dobbins is their entrenched starter, but their backups, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, are somewhat suspect.

Unfortunately for Mitchell, both Edwards and Hill have significant guaranteed money in their 2023 contracts, and the Ravens also have a locked-in fullback, Patrick Ricard. Therefore, for Mitchell to make the team, he must impress the coaching staff enough to force them to keep a fifth running back or fight an uphill battle to push Edwards or Hill off the roster. Mitchell is probably worth a roster spot in deeper dynasty leagues, but I’m not drafting him in most rookie drafts.

Mohamed Ibrahim, RB DET

Ibrahim has been on devy radars for many years, as he’s spent the last six years in college at Minnesota.

Chart courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

He took a redshirt year in 2017 before emerging as Minnesota’s starting running back in 2018. He lost the starting job to Rodney Smith in 2019, taking some of the shine off his budding career.

Then, he dominated during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, averaging almost 29 carries per game and scoring 15 rushing touchdowns over only seven games. He also saw his most passing-game involvement that year, with eight catches for 56 yards. I’d argue that he should’ve declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, as he was already 22 years old during his 2020 campaign and coming off an impressive showing.

However, he returned to school in 2021 and tore his ACL in the season-opener, missing the rest of the 2021 season. Because of the COVID-19 eligibility rules, he retained a sixth season of eligibility for 2022, allowing him to return for another year. As a 24-year-old super senior, he dominated, taking 320 carries for 1,665 yards and 20 touchdowns.

After 2022, he automatically entered the 2023 NFL Draft, but I understand why NFL teams were skeptical of his stock. He will turn 25 during week one of the NFL season, meaning he’s already middle-aged in running back years. He’s older than 2020 draft picks Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift to give a comparison.

Additionally, he landed on the Lions, where he has no path to the top two spots on the depth chart. Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery will dominate touches in this offense, similar to Swift and Jamaal Williams last year. The Lions also have Craig Reynolds on the roster, who provided value in a depth role over the past few years. I have zero interest in drafting Ibrahim in rookie drafts.

Deneric Prince, RB KC

Prince is a different type of surprise, as I had never heard of him before the NFL Draft. However, he landed on the Chiefs, allowing him to gain dynasty value. He started his college career at Texas A&M before transferring to Tulsa for the 2020 season.

Chart courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

Considering that he played outside a Power 5 conference, I’m not impressed with his college numbers. He failed to score more than five rushing touchdowns in any season, and he didn’t eclipse 6.0 YPC in any of them, either. There’s a reason he wasn’t on the radar before the NFL Draft, and he wasn’t selected in any of the 30 DLF rookie mocks from February to April.

However, on the Chiefs, there’s a path to playing time behind Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs’ beat reporters seem to be hyped by Prince, as I couldn’t avoid seeing his name across Twitter the past couple of weeks. He has a lousy college production profile, but it’s actually far superior to Pacheco’s. I’m not saying Prince will succeed in the NFL or fantasy football, but I’d rather draft him over Mitchell or Ibrahim in rookie drafts.

Dynasty Fantasy Football: Surprise Undrafted Players in the 2023 NFL Draft
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