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    2023 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase Lead the Way

    With free agency mostly over and the new NFL landscape settling in, let's take a look at the first few rounds of a 2023 fantasy football mock draft.

    The initial wave of NFL free agency is now over. While there are still a handful of fantasy-relevant players out there, most of them have signed. It’s been about three months since our last mock draft, and with the new fantasy football landscape settling in, this is a great time to conduct another one.

    This mock will be for a typical 12-team PPR league starting 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, and 2 Flexes.

    Fantasy Football Mock Draft

    1.01 Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

    Even after all the moving pieces of free agency, Justin Jefferson retains the top spot. Jefferson enters his third NFL season coming off an overall WR1 finish where he averaged 22.6 PPR fantasy points per game. While I always prefer running backs early, there just aren’t any I trust enough to take ahead of Jefferson.

    1.02 Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

    The more I think about it, the more I feel like when push comes to shove, I won’t be able to take any of the running backs ahead of Ja’Marr Chase. The last time we saw a first round this wide receiver heavy was in 2016 when Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. were the consensus top three picks.

    MORE: PFN’s FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator (With Trades)

    Chase will be 23 years old next season and just averaged 20 ppg in his second season. He and Joe Burrow are still not set in their final forms. This is one of those situations where Chase is my WR1, but I can’t justify him over Jefferson. So, I’ll just take him second.

    1.03 Christian McCaffrey, RB, San Francisco 49ers

    You don’t have to end the wide receiver train just yet, but I will.

    Fantasy football is a game where it’s very easy, and usually reasonable, to have various different opinions. But when I saw people suggesting the trade from the Panthers’ bottom-five offense to the 49ers’ top-five offense was somehow going to hurt Christian McCaffrey’s fantasy value, my jaw hit the floor.

    McCaffrey averaged 22.2 ppg with San Francisco against 19.7 with Carolina. He was the overall RB2, trailing Austin Ekeler by 1.5 ppg. Given McCaffrey’s track record, he gets the slight edge for me.

    1.04 Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

    I would not fault anyone for taking Ekeler over McCaffrey. While it is scary that so many of these elite RBs are closer to 30 than 25, Ekeler has shown no signs of falling off. If he ends up getting traded, of course, we will reevaluate the situation. But for now, I’m assuming Ekeler stays where he is.

    Tethered to an elite quarterback on an elite offense, there’s no reason to doubt Ekeler can post another 20 points-per-game season in 2023.

    1.05 Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins

    2017 and 2018 were great years for me in fantasy. Why? Tyreek Hill. This was during the time when the fantasy community hadn’t yet accepted Hill was an elite wide receiver. They hadn’t even accepted him as a WR1. So, I was able to get him in the third round. After 2018, I presumed that price was gone forever.

    Then, in 2022, it basically happened again. I was gifted Hill in late Round 2 and drafted him in as many leagues as possible. 2022 was another very good year for me. Coincidence? I think not.

    Despite going from Patrick Mahomes to Tua Tagovailoa, Hill averaged 21.4 ppg — just 0.5 ppg off the best season of his career — and finished as the overall WR2. You can make an argument for him anywhere in the top three.

    1.06 Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

    This is the first pick where I wonder if I’m not just doing what I’m supposed to here. There’s no denying Cooper Kupp when on the field. Jefferson may have technically finished as the WR1 last season, but it was going to be Kupp again if he didn’t get hurt after playing just nine games. He averaged 22.4 ppg over that span.

    If Kupp and Matthew Stafford are healthy, Kupp is unstoppable. But if either suffers an injury, it’s a problem.

    Kupp will be 30 years old this season. Stafford is reportedly returning, but rumors of his retirement, as well as reports he can barely throw, loom large. For now, I will assume its business as usual, though.

    1.07 Bijan Robinson, RB, TBD

    We’ve seen plenty of rookie running backs go in the first round before. Najee Harris, Saquon Barkley, and Ezekiel Elliott, to name a few recent ones. When they’re sure things, they usually smash. Bijan Robinson is a sure thing.

    There aren’t many realistic landing spots where Robinson wouldn’t immediately be a three-down back. Even on teams with decent incumbents, I’m not concerned. Unless Robinson goes somewhere like Dallas, this should be an Adrian Peterson/Chester Taylor or Todd Gurley/Tre Mason situation.

    1.08 Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills

    It really is wild how many of the top players in fantasy are at or pushing 30 years old. A seismic shift is coming soon, but I don’t think it’s coming yet. At least not for Stefon Diggs.

    Diggs has an Antonio Brown-like skill set that will likely age very well. I think he can remain elite well into his early 30s. With plenty left in the tank, he’ll play nearly all of next season at 29 years old.

    In 2022, Diggs averaged 18.6 ppg, and remains the top wide receiver for the second or third-best quarterback in football. No need to overthink it. Diggs is a sure thing.

    1.09 CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

    The way you win in fantasy football is to draft players who end up more valuable than their ADP. For CeeDee Lamb, it’s damn near impossible. His growth is baked into his ADP every year. But last year, Lamb made it worth it.

    He’s improved each year of his career. Last year, Lamb averaged 17.8 ppg, finishing as the overall WR7. But in order to truly assess Lamb’s value, it’s best to separate his production with Dak Prescott from Cooper Rush.

    Prescott returned in Week 7 but was eased back in. Week 8 was when Prescott started to look like himself, and from that point forward, Lamb averaged 20.8 ppg. Lamb is an elite WR1, and given his age, you can make an argument for him to go ahead of Diggs and Kupp.

    1.10 Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

    After what Davante Adams did against the 49ers’ elite defense with Jarrett Stidham, I’m confident in calling him QB-proof. Adams finished 2022 as the overall WR3, averaging 20.2 ppg. He’s just turned 30 years old but has shown exactly zero signs of decline. I think he has at least two more elite seasons in him.

    MORE: Fantasy Impact for Raiders After Jimmy Garoppolo Signing

    Jimmy Garoppolo has a lot of negative stigma surrounding him, but I think a lot of it is unwarranted. He’s a competent NFL starting quarterback and capable of feeding his WR1. Combine that with Darren Waller’s departure, and we’re looking at another massive target share for an elite WR1.

    1.11 Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

    I don’t know what scares me more: taking a soon-to-be 34-year-old tight end in the first round of fantasy drafts or being forced to start a tight end not named Travis Kelce.

    We have literally never seen dominance at the position quite like Kelce. Sure, we had Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, and Rob Gronkowski, but none of them were as elite as Kelce for as long while never getting hurt.

    Kelce has yet to show any signs of slowing down. His snap share has decreased a bit from his late 20s/early 30s, but his production has not. Tethered to Mahomes, I’m willing to gamble at securing the biggest edge in fantasy football for at least one more year.

    1.12 Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

    Just four running backs in the first round. Incredible. I don’t even feel confident about Saquon Barkley here at all. It’s just we’re past the point of drafting players we’re not worried about at all.

    The actual fantasy-point output from Barkley last year (17.8 ppg) is quite literally the worst from the overall RB2 in NFL history (and by history, I mean since 2000, since that’s as far back as I checked).

    With that said, Barkley is still immensely talented, and he remains one of a select few backs in a three-down role. The Giants still lack any true alpha offensive weapons other than him. The offense will run through Barkley. While he doesn’t give you anywhere near the edge you’d want from a first-round RB, at least the upside is there.

    2.01 Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

    The Colts have a new coaching staff and will either be starting a rookie QB or Gardner Minshew this season. I’m cool with either scenario, since, no matter what, it will be an upgrade on the version of Matt Ryan we saw in 2022.

    Jonathan Taylor averaged 13.3 ppg as one of the biggest first-overall pick busts in fantasy history. His talent didn’t go anywhere, but it’s fair to have a bit of concern over his lack of a three-down role. We know his ceiling is the overall RB1, though, so Taylor’s worth selecting at this point.

    2.02 A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

    I can already tell I will be out on an island when it comes to A.J. Brown. It’s not that I don’t like him. Nor is it that I don’t acknowledge his incredible talent. I just don’t see 20 points per game in his realistic range of outcomes. Not with a running quarterback and DeVonta Smith there.

    Brown also ascended to the ranks of the elite in 2022. He averaged 17.9 ppg, finishing as the overall WR6. His connection with Jalen Hurts was undeniable.

    In 2023, as the elite WR1 for one of the best offenses in football, at worst, Brown should be able to replicate his 2022 season. At best, he cracks the 20 ppg threshold. But since I consider that roughly his ceiling, I just can’t get him into the first round.

    2.03 Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets

    Is Garrett Wilson QB-proof? No. But he’s close. The fact that all he needs is quarterback play at the level of Mike White or the 2022 version of Joe Flacco says all you need to know about Wilson’s talent. Anyone other than Zach Wilson is good here.

    Wilson averaged 12.7 ppg last season, but he averaged 17.3 ppg with quarterbacks who do not share a last name with him.

    This pick is obviously predicated on the Aaron Rodgers trade coming to fruition. I’ll believe it when I see it. Nevertheless, given the reports, I’m drafting assuming it will happen. Even if we get 75% of prime Rodgers, Wilson should push 20 ppg this season.

    2.04 Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions

    Entering the 2022 season, the consensus wasn’t sure whether Amon-Ra St. Brown’s absurd finish to his rookie season was due to his talent or a product of there just being no one else to throw to.

    While the answer was undoubtedly both, in 2022, St. Brown proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is, in fact, talented. He averaged 17.1 ppg and was one of the most valuable selections in all of fantasy.

    The Lions’ offense is trending upward, and Jared Goff will likely be back as the starter next season. I’m not scared at all about Jameson Williams eating into St. Brown’s volume. St. Brown is a fantasy WR1 and well worth a second-round pick.

    2.05 Kenneth Walker III, RB, Seattle Seahawks

    When asked what name he prefers, Kenneth Walker III said, “Ken is good.” He is correct. Ken is good… very good at the game of football. Kinda?

    In his 10 games following Rashaad Penny’s season-ending injury, Walker averaged 16.1 ppg. Those numbers over a full season would’ve made him the overall RB7. However, Walker was quite inefficient, often relying on splash plays to produce.

    With that said, Penny is gone. This is Walker’s backfield now. Unless the Seahawks draft or sign someone to make me feel otherwise, Walker is confidently an RB1 for me in 2023.

    2.06 Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys

    We know what three-down back Tony Pollard looks like. He’s an elite RB1. We also know we’re not getting three-down Pollard, which is why he’s a mid-to-late second-round pick.

    That’s the thing with this price. The Cowboys signing or drafting a running back is already baked in.

    MORE: Dynasty Rankings 2023 — Top RB Options

    Last season, even with Ezekiel Elliott stealing snaps (and touchdowns), Pollard averaged 15.6 points per game. This season, the only way this backfield isn’t mostly Pollard’s is if the Cowboys draft Robinson. Anything else, and Pollard is likely an early second-rounder. He’s a talented RB on an elite offense with top-five upside.

    2.07 Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints

    It’s only April, but I’ve already pinpointed Chris Olave as “my guy” for the 2023 season. So much so that I fully expect some of you to grow to resent my love for Olave and root against him just because my adulation of him has made you sick. That’s fine. I accept it. I just want Olave in all the leagues.

    Olave averaged 13.2 ppg and produced a 1,000-yard season with Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston at quarterback. Now, he has Derek Carr, who, despite not being elite, is a massive upgrade on Dalton/Winston.

    Carr has proven capable of producing an elite WR1. It’s only a matter of time before Olave gets there. I think it happens this year. I truly believe 20 ppg is within Olave’s range of outcomes. No, I do not care about Michael Thomas — this is Olave’s receiving corps now.

    2.08 Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders

    The second round is going to be very RB-heavy this season. Mostly because the first round will feature so few running backs.

    I wasn’t sure what to do with Josh Jacobs in my January mock because, well, it was January. While April is still extremely early, at least we know where Jacobs will be playing football this season. In 2022, Jacobs proved to be far more talented than I ever gave him credit for. As a true three-down back, he averaged 20.1 ppg, finishing as the overall RB3.

    We now know Jacobs will remain in Las Vegas. That’s a good thing, given his usage last season. We also know his quarterback will be a capable one, and, perhaps equally importantly, a statute. Garoppolo’s lack of mobility will lead to checkdowns, and that should bolster Jacobs’ floor receptions, while his ceiling should remain the same.

    I will definitely have some trepidation about paying up for Jacobs after the career year, but he strikes me as one of those players who I won’t target. Still, I’d have no problem selecting him if he’s the right pick when it’s on me.

    2.09 Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

    And now back to our regularly scheduled programming of drafting old players with premium picks. Derrick Henry has amassed 1,846 career touches. He’s 29 years old. It’s not often we see 29-year-old running backs finish as RB1s.

    At the risk of aging myself (just kidding, I don’t actually care), Shaun Alexander won MVP in 2005 at age 28. In 2006, he was a middling RB2, averaging 14.8 ppg. By 2007, he was done. He retired after the 2008 season.

    I’m not saying Henry will fall off a cliff in 2023, but I’m certain it will happen by 2025. And it won’t be gradual. Henry will go from a 16-20 ppg guy to someone you can barely start in the blink of an eye.

    I’m sure there will be scenarios we can concoct where I’d happily draft Henry, but he won’t be someone I’m aggressively pursuing. Henry is likely going to be fine for 2023, but I’d rather be out a year too early than a year too late.

    2.10 Travis Etienne Jr., RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

    On the other side of the age coin, we have Travis Etienne Jr. Don’t let the 12.3 ppg fool you, Etienne was a monster in his first full NFL season. He recorded four weeks with RB1 finishes and was used as a three-down back in every game from Week 7 onward.

    Trevor Lawrence is well on his way to being the prince that was promised and will likely take another step forward in his third NFL season. The addition of Calvin Ridley and more weapons to this offense doesn’t necessarily help Etienne, but the added competition isn’t in the RB room. This remains his backfield. Even if he loses some volume to the passing game, Etienne should more than make up for it in touchdown upside.

    2.11 Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets

    It’s April. The only question mark surrounding Breece Hall’s fantasy draft stock is the status of his surgically repaired knee. Nothing else matters. If Hall is healthy, he’s an elite RB1. In fact, if Hall didn’t get hurt, he’d be a top-five pick.

    In seven games played, Hall averaged 16.4 points per game. With Rodgers, this offense will only get better. Hall is a three-down back who can be efficient even with substantial volume.

    I’m not yet sure where I stand on Hall because, again, it’s April. But if the reports surrounding his recovery are good, I’ll probably be willing to roll the dice that even if he starts slow, I’ll get elite RB1 Hall by the middle of the 2023 season.

    2.12 Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

    I’ve made the call. Jalen Hurts is my overall QB1 for the 2023 season. He’s not the best quarterback in football. And he wouldn’t be my QB1 in dynasty. But for this year, give me Hurts.

    Had he not missed the two most important weeks of the fantasy season, I would argue Hurts was the single best pick of 2022 fantasy drafts. He finished as the overall QB1, averaging 26.8 ppg. He was always an elite rusher, but his massive leap forward as a passer truly elevated Hurts to new heights. We have every reason to believe this is sustainable.

    Round 3

    3.01 Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
    3.02 Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
    3.03 DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
    3.04 Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
    3.05 Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots
    3.06 Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
    3.07 Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
    3.08 DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks
    3.09 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
    3.10 Amari Cooper, WR, Cleveland Browns
    3.11 Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
    3.12 Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Round 4

    4.01 Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears
    4.02 Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
    4.03 Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons
    4.04 Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos
    4.05 Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
    4.06 Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
    4.07 George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers
    4.08 Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
    4.09 Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts
    4.10 Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
    4.11 Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
    4.12 Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans

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