The first round of the NFL Draft is in the books. Our projections team has been hard at work updating projections throughout the night. Let’s take a look at how the rookies look in our projections.
BRYCE YOUNG, PANTHERS
Projection: 335.3 completions on 537.3 attempts for 3,723.1 yards, 22.2 TDs, and 15.0 interceptions. 46.1 carries for 171.4 yards and 1.6 TDs.
- The 2021 Heisman winner, what Young lacks in size — he’s 5-foot-10 and (generously) 204 pounds — he makes up for in accuracy, poise, and processing ability. The Alabama product would likely be in the Trevor Lawrence/Joe Burrow no-doubt No. 1 pick conversation if he had the same skill set and was a few inches taller, but he still managed to dice up opposing defenses in the SEC despite his diminutive stature. Put simply, Young is the best quarterback prospect in this class and should be a Day 1 starter in the NFL. For fantasy purposes, he’s fairly mobile but shouldn’t exactly be classified as a running QB since he mostly just relies on his legs to buy time behind the line of scrimmage.
- The Panthers aren’t loaded at WR, but D.J. Chark and Adam Thielen are capable enough weapons to ensure Carolina gets to properly evaluate Young in his rookie season. Hayden Hurst is coming off a quietly solid season in Cincinnati, and Miles Sanders is an above-average backfield mate for the rookie gunslinger. If Young lives up to expectations, the Panthers’ offense could be fairly serviceable. Young is NFL-ready and should beat out Andy Dalton for the Week 1 starting gig. Consider him a fantasy QB2.
C.J. STROUD, TEXANS
Projection: 360.9 completions on 584.0 attempts for 3,832.3 yards, 21.2 TDs, and 16.4 interceptions. 35.9 carries for 133.6 yards and 1.3 TDs.
- Stroud’s allow-me-to-introduce-myself game came in the 2023 College Football Playoff semifinals when he threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns against Georgia’s nationally acclaimed defense. He posted dazzling numbers during his two years as a starter, but critics will point to the fact that he had a receiving corps comprised entirely of future NFL players with Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Marvin Harrison. Still, Stroud has the second-best statistical profile in the class behind Young and should also start all 17 games in Houston.
- Nico Collins, Robert Woods, and Dalton Schultz will be Stroud’s primary pass catchers in Houston. Stroud is capably athletic but doesn’t actually use his legs very much, so the best thing you can say about him fantasy-wise is he figures to start all 17 games. He’ll be drafted in best ball leagues as a QB2/3 but doesn’t have a ton of appeal in most formats.
ANTHONY RICHARDSON, COLTS
Projection: 280.7 completions on 442.6 attempts for 3,050.6 yards, 17.0 TDs, and 12.4 interceptions. 105.8 carries for 571.5 yards and 5.3 TDs,
- At nearly 6-foot-4, 244 pounds with a 4.43 40-yard dash and record-breaking jumping numbers, Richardson is a Madden Create-A-Player with tantalizing upside. He started just one season at Florida and completed only 53.8% of his passes in that season, but scouts note his feel for the game standing out on film despite his inexperience (and this is also the school that barely used Kadarius Toney and Dameon Pierce). Richardson likely won’t be a Day 1 starter like some others in this draft, but his long-term upside is perhaps best in class and his dual-threat ability could make him a fantasy monster.
- The Colts passed on Will Levis — who was heavy chalk to go fourth overall when the draft began — for the upside shot in Richardson. With only one starting college season under his belt, Gardner Minshew may open the season as the QB1, but top-five draft capital is no joke and Richardson figures to earn the job sooner rather than later. Once he gets the nod, he’s immediately a fantasy-relevant option given his rushing ability. Keep an eye on this QB battle throughout the summer.
- We made the Colts slightly run-heavier in our projections with the Richardson selection, and that, combined with AR’s lack of high-level QB experience, adds some volatility to Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce.
BIJAN ROBINSON, FALCONS
Projection: 282.8 carries for 1,272.8 yards and 7.6 TDs. 41.2 catches on 54.2 targets for 327.3 yards and 1.3 TDs.
- The best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley, Robinson boasts a spotless profile and immediate three-down capability. The Texas product posted 45 catches for 609 receiving yards over his final two seasons in college, demonstrating the ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield that will likely make him a mid-tier RB1 in fantasy as soon as he steps on an NFL field. As a rusher, he posted 6.1 yards per carry on 21.5 carries per game as a true junior and punched in 18 touchdowns. With prototypical workhorse size, Robinson is the crown jewel of the 2023 class for fantasy purposes. It’s no surprise to see him go so early despite the devaluation of running backs in the modern NFL.
- The Falcons had the lowest pass rate in the league last year (48.5%) and the second-lowest Pass Rate Over Expectation (-13.1%). Robinson is going to get as many carries as he can physically handle as a rookie and should be among the league leaders in production on the ground. The only caveat is that Atlanta may not take full advantage of his sterling pass-catching ability; they throw as little as anyone in the league and Arthur Smith famously underutilized Derrick Henry as a pass catcher in Tennessee (and Henry’s pass-catching involvement jumped once Smith was gone last year). Still, Robinson should immediately be a fringe first-round pick in fantasy drafts.
- This is a crushing blow to Tyler Allgeier‘s value and likely signals the end of Cordarrelle Patterson‘s run as a fantasy-relevant player. The Falcons moved more toward Allgeier as the year went on in 2022, so we have him ahead of Patterson as the Robinson insurance.
JAHMYR GIBBS, LIONS
Projection: 140.1 carries for 572.6 yards and 4.0 TDs. 48.7 catches on 64.8 targets for 388.0 yards and 1.9 TDs.
- An electric pass catcher out of the backfield with blazing speed, Gibbs is an ideal fit for the modern NFL. He may never handle 20+ carries per game given his roughly 200-pound stature, but he more than makes up for that in pass-catching ability. Frequently compared to Alvin Kamara by those within the league based on his play style and receiving ability, Gibbs will surely be a favorite of Zero RB drafters immediately, and it’s easy to see the allure.
- In the first truly shocking move of draft night, the Lions selected Gibbs 12th overall despite already having David Montgomery (recently signed in free agency) and D’Andre Swift on the roster. This could signal the end of the Swift era in Detroit, as the Lions only sporadically used him last year and instead gave some of the non-Jamaal Williams early downs to Justin Jackson. That’ll be something to watch over the summer, as Swift could have real upside in the right spot. For now, we are assuming Gibbs takes over the primary pass-catching back role for the Lions with Montgomery holding the edge in carries. Both RBs can be fantasy-relevant on a weekly basis — and we actually expect that to be the case after Detroit shelled out for Montgomery in free agency and chose Gibbs way earlier than expected. This could be a really fun backfield for fantasy.
- Both RBs also offer contingent upside if the other one gets injured. The Lions may not want to give Gibbs 15+ carries if Montgomery goes down (but maybe they do!), but his combination of pass-catching volume and an increased rushing volume could thrust him into the RB1 conversation if something happens to DMont. For DMont, it’s easy to imagine a world without Gibbs where he just sees more receiving work and enters must-start status.
JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA, SEAHAWKS
Projection: 57.4 catches on 92.8 targets for 712.1 yards and 4.5 TDs.
- Smith-Njigba played just three games for Ohio State in 2022, but he dazzled as a sophomore two years ago despite competing for targets with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, both of whom were at least one year older than him. JSN worked primarily in the slot at Ohio State and won’t have elite athleticism at the next level, but his 26% Dominator Rating in just his second college season alongside two elite NFL WRs lands him as a first-round draft pick. Smith-Njigba actually had more receptions and receiving yards than Olave in games for which all three future NFL WRs were healthy, and he should be a factor in the pros immediately.
- Smith-Njigba will immediately assume primary slot duties for the Seahawks. We have him with a lower base target share than both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett as a rookie, but it’s not hard to envision him surpassing Lockett — who turns 31 years old in September — at some point during the season. It’s a passable landing spot for JSN and he’ll play a lot given draft capital, but he likely won’t be a target hog in Year 1.
QUENTIN JOHNSTON, CHARGERS
Projection: 44.2 catches on 74.4 targets for 596.8 yards and 3.6 TDs.
- At nearly 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds with elite jumping ability, Johnston possesses the size and athleticism combination that makes NFL teams drool, but scouts note he doesn’t always play like the big-bodied receiver he is. Regardless, he was immediately productive at TCU, posting a 27% Dominator Rating as a freshman before officially breaking out (>30% DR) as a sophomore. Johnston may need to improve his technical skills to dominate at the next level, but the framework for an alpha WR is undoubtedly there.
- The Chargers could be the most fantasy-friendly passing attack in the league, especially with Kellen Moore in town, but Johnston is a raw receiver who has to compete for targets with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, and Gerald Everett. He should be the WR3 for the Chargers right away — although Josh Palmer could still rotate in — but those four guys will command the overwhelming majority of Justin Herbert‘s targets. Still, Johnston got strong draft capital and would become extremely relevant if either Allen or Williams missed time. He’s an option in the double-digit rounds.
ZAY FLOWERS, RAVENS
Projection: 41.0 catches on 69.8 targets for 537.0 yards and 3.2 TDs.
- At just 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, Flowers is on the smaller side among NFL WRs, but he was incredibly productive over his final three seasons at Boston College and as such lands on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. Flowers posted at least a 34% Dominator Rating in three straight seasons — including an absolutely gaudy 47% figure in his final year in Chestnut Hill — negating many of the worries about him being a four-year player. He blazed a 4.42-second 40-yard dash and can play both inside and out.
- Flowers will join Rashod Bateman and Odell Beckham in the Ravens’ WR corps, although the aerial attack obviously runs through Mark Andrews. This is a tricky situation to figure out simply because Baltimore gave Beckham so much money even though he hasn’t produced at an elite level in a few years. We have all three Ravens WRs relatively tight in base target share but believe Bateman and Flowers have higher upside since they are younger. With Lamar Jackson locked up long term and three presumably competent WRs, the Ravens could look to pass more in 2023, especially with Todd Monken calling the shots.
JORDAN ADDISON, VIKINGS
Projection: 53.6 catches on 90.1 targets for 697.6 yards and 5.0 TDs.
- Addison’s 4.49 40-yard dash at just 173 pounds gave scouts some pause, but the 2021 Biletnikoff winner for the best WR in college boasts unmatched production among this year’s wideout class. He posted 18 touchdowns and more than 1,600 yards as a true sophomore at Pitt alongside Kenny Pickett before teaming up with projected 2024 No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams in Southern California last season. Addison also displayed versatility throughout his collegiate career via his usage on the ground and as a returner. What he lacks in size and speed, he makes up for in skill, and there’s plenty of reason to expect him to be a Day 1 contributor at the next level.
- Addison should immediately slot in as the WR2 for the Vikings with K.J. Osborn operating in a similar role as last year. With Adam Thielen gone, Minnesota is missing a 17.5% target share from last year (although T.J. Hockenson wasn’t on the team the whole year). Addison is a pro-ready prospect in a pass-first offense and has a relatively straightforward path to volume in Year 1. His upside will be determined by how much of a role he can carve out behind alpha dogs Justin Jefferson and Hockenson.
DALTON KINCAID, BILLS
Projection: 38.9 catches on 59.6 targets for 425.3 yards and 3.5 TDs.
- An elite pass catcher at 6-foot-7, Kincaid’s profile screams mouth-watering upside to fantasy gamers. He didn’t test at the Combine after suffering a small fracture in his back — something that has been cited as a potential concern throughout the process — but there’s no denying his upside when healthy. Kincaid exploded for a 70-890-8 line as a premier pass-catching threat for Utah in 2023.
- Kincaid could sometimes play alongside Dawson Knox as a slot receiver in Buffalo, and the Bills purposely moved ahead of the Cowboys to secure the guy they wanted. Rookie TEs have a treacherous history from a production standpoint, but Kincaid already possesses NFL-caliber receiving ability and goes to one of the best passing offenses in the league. He’s an upside shot in the final rounds of best ball drafts and has fascinating contingent upside if something happens to Knox. Bills GM Brandon Beane also noted post-draft that the Bills don’t plan to use him as a traditional tight end, confirming our intuition that he could rotate in as a slot guy.