12 Early Rookie Predictions & Sleepers (2023 Fantasy Football)

Early Rookie Predictions & Sleepers (2023 Fantasy Football)

As we gear up for the upcoming 2023 Fantasy Football season, we turn our attention to one of the most intriguing and unpredictable aspects of the game — the rookie class. Each year, a new wave of talent enters the NFL, brimming with the potential to take the fantasy world by storm. From highly touted prospects who are already making waves to under-the-radar talents poised for a breakout, our featured pundits have you covered. Here are the rookies our featured experts are most interested in drafting as early breakout candidates and sleepers.

Early Rookie Predictions & Sleepers

Which rookie are you most interested in drafting for redraft leagues and what are your expectations?

Devon Achane (RB -MIA)
Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs are the clear top two rookie running backs in both dynasty and redraft. It gets more interesting after that, as Zach Charbonnet, Kendre Miller and Devon Achane are all candidates for RB3 in this class. Consider me firmly in the Achane camp, especially at his cost in redraft. Yes, we all know about his size limitations, but targeting players with elite traits (and a 4.32 40 certainly qualifies as elite) in elite offenses is typically a formula for success. Miami moving up in the third round indicates that they have a plan for taking advantage of Achane’s speed and receiving ability, making him my rookie RB3 and a strong target in best ball.”
Matthew Hill (DataForce Fantasy Football)

Zach Evans (RB – LAR)
“Is Bijan cheating? I expect 1,200 rushing yards, 30 catches, and 8-10 TDs. Now since that is low-hanging fruit, I love Zach Evans, as Cam Akers has never been able to make it through a season healthy. Evans should approach 700 total yards and 6 TDs this year, but he has a much, much higher ceiling.”
Ken Zalis (Pressbox)

Jordan Addison (WR – MIN)
“I love drafting Minnesota Vikings WR Jordan Addison in the back-end WR3 range. He is much cheaper to acquire than fellow first-rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba despite the former having the much better landing spot as the No. 2 WR in the Vikings offense. He can win downfield and offers the ability to play inside/out. Considering the Vikings have been trotting out a declining — yet very productive — Adam Thielen for the past few years, Addison as the No. 2 will provide fantasy managers with immediate return in a pass-happy offense. We could easily see the Jefferson-Addison combination mimicking other top WR duos like DK MetcalfTyler Lockett and A.J. BrownDeVonta Smith sooner rather than later.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

“Factoring in cost, I’m most interested in drafting Jordan Addison at his eighth-round ADP. Addison’s route running is sublime, and we know Justin Jefferson is going to draw a lot of defensive attention, making Addison’s job a little easier. Kirk Cousins milked some strong fantasy seasons from his previous slot receiver, Adam Thielen. The Vikings’ defense could be one of the worst in the league, setting up Minnesota for a lot of pass-heavy game scripts. It’s not inconceivable that Addison could finish in WR2 range as a rookie.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Bijan Robinson (RB – ATL)
“The only right answer is Bijan Robinson. Arguably the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley goes to the team with the most rushing attempts in 2022. Tyler Allgeier and Cordarelle Patterson will get their share of work, but you don’t draft a running back eighth overall and not get him as many touches as possible. Patterson was a top-10 fantasy back in 2021 under Arthur Smith, and there is no reason to think Robinson can’t do the same, if not better. He’s worthy of a top-5 pick in any league setting.”
Joe Serpico (Pressbox)

Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR – SEA)
“I’ll be walking away from a ton of drafts this year with Jaxon Smith-Njigba on my roster. I’ve heard all the rumblings about “heavy 12 personnel usage and his surrounding wide receivers capping his upside.” Drafting Smith-Njigba is a bet on talent that I’m willing to make. In 2021, he was first in yards per route run and first in PFF receiving grade (minimum 50 targets per PFF) while drawing a 22.7% target share alongside Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. If Smith-Njigba can be “the guy” surrounded by the talent of that level, he can continue to draw targets alongside Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Smith-Njigba is a WR3/4 who could be a WR2 this season and a stretch run difference maker. ”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Zach Charbonnet (RB – SEA)
“If you listened carefully, you could hear the collective groan from the fantasy community when the Seahawks selected Zach Charbonnet with the 52nd pick. Obviously, this team already has a young star back in Kenneth Walker III. However, Charbonnet is an excellent complement to his skill set. Despite his bigger build, Charbonnet is more rounded as a pass catcher and pass blocker. We all know that this team loves to run the ball, and this could easily become the best 1-2 punch in the league. I believe this will be closer to a 50-50 split than many Walker managers want to believe. As a result, give me the well-rounded prospect to find consistent weekly touches with the upside of backing up one of the league’s best run games.”
Ellis Johnson (True North Fantasy Football)

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Which under-the-radar rookie (i.e. Isiah Pacheco in 2022) is your favorite sleeper this year and why?

Chase Brown (RB – CIN)
“After months of speculation about Cincinnati moving on from Joe Mixon, it looks like the rumors were false, as Mixon seems ready to begin another season as the Bengals’ lead back. However, high-end backup Samaje Perine did sign with Denver, making Chase Brown, Cincinnati’s fifth-round selection, a priority handcuff and target in the early third round of rookie drafts. Brown, has the potential to earn a passing-down role, making him a potential bye-week flex option in deeper leagues. His real value is his league-winning ceiling if he were to assume a workhorse role in the prolific Bengals offense if something were to happen to Mixon.”
Matthew Hill (DataForce Fantasy Football)

Chase Brown enters a peculiar situation in Cincinnati. Joe Mixon had one monster game where he racked up five touchdowns, but he was otherwise pedestrian at best at 3.9 yards per carry and just four scores the remainder of the season. Mixon is also subject to league discipline for an off-the-field situation this offseason and could be in his final season with the Bengals. Semaje Perine (now in Denver) was one of my favorite handcuffs last season, and his playing time increased as Mixon’s effectiveness waned. If Mixon gets off to a slow start or does face a suspension, Brown has a good opportunity to take on more carries in what figures to be one of the league’s best offenses. ”
Joe Serpico (Pressbox)

Keaton Mitchell (RB – BAL)
“Under the radar, huh? How about an off-the-grid rookie? Keaton Mitchell of the Baltimore Ravens. New offensive coordinator in town. Mitchell is a nightmare in the open field. He should beat out Justice Hill for a role in the offense. With Dobbins and Edwards having injury histories, this is the dart throw for me late in rookie drafts (dynasty) or the last round of redrafts.”
Ken Zalis (Pressbox)

Kendre Miller (RB – NO)
“Kendre Miller can be a league winner in 2023. Standing at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds (identical to Bijan Robinson), the highly productive TCU running back possesses the ideal size at the NFL level. He showcased his efficiency and explosiveness on a per-play basis, leading the FBS in yards after contact per attempt in 2021 and finishing fourth in career yards per play among his RB draft class. And despite not testing due to recovering from a knee injury, the New Orleans Saints selected Miller in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He may not have an immediate opportunity to start, given the presence of Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams on the depth chart, but Miller’s explosive running style and big-play ability make him an exciting stash across deeper formats as a high-upside running back in the later rounds. The Saints also benefit from the league’s easiest schedule, putting Miller in a spot to face soft matchups when he finally earns opportunities.”
Andrew Erickson (FantasyPros)

Kayshon Boutte (WR – NE)
“Kayshon Boutte isn’t even a lock to make the Patriots’ final roster, but if he can replicate the magic show he put on during parts of his first two seasons at LSU, he’ll be fantasy-relevant as a rookie. As an 18-year-old freshman, Boutte ended his first season in Baton Rouge with three consecutive 100-yard games, including a 14-catch, 308-yard, three-TD performance in the season finale against Ole Miss. In six games as a sophomore, he had 38 catches for 509 yards and 9 touchdowns before breaking his ankle against Kentucky. It took two procedures to repair the damage, and Boutte couldn’t get his mojo back in his third and final season at LSU, finishing with 48-538-2. Boutte is a solid route runner, he makes some tough grabs, and he’s at his best after the catch. The Patriots may have found a diamond in the rough when they drafted Boutte in the sixth round.”
Pat Fitzmaurice (FantasyPros)

Puka Nacua (WR – LAR)
“I can’t stop. I won’t stop talking about Puka Nacua. Yes, I love him in dynasty, but he will also have redraft value this year. Nacua only has to hop a bunch of scrubs to secure a starting spot in the Rams lineup. If Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and this offensive line can hold in terms of health, this team will pass a ton. In 2021 the Rams were ninth in neutral passing rate and eighth in red zone passing rate. The Rams’ defense outside Aaron Donald is a shell of its former self, so this team will have to get back to throwing early and often to keep up. Nacua can be a starter in Week 1 while offering some Robert Woods-esque usage in this offense. Nacua finished his collegiate career with 357 rushing yards and five rushing scores. He’s a final-round darling this year in redraft.”
Derek Brown (FantasyPros)

Xavier Hutchinson (WR – HOU)
“The sentence ‘Xavier Hutchinson was selected by the Texans with the 28th pick of the sixth round’ is probably the most unappealing opening line in this entire FantasyPros article. Unless you’ve already scrolled past this (and I don’t blame you), why not hear me out? When looking for a sneaky rookie selection, I look for talented prospects in ambiguous situations. Texans receiver Xavier Hutchinson checks both of these boxes. The Iowa State product enters a rag-tag receiving core consisting of an aging Robert Woods, a developing Nico Collins, and last year’s second-round pick, John Metchie III. Hutchinson’s talent was shown through his decorated college career as a three-time All-Big 12 selection and Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2022. He is a bigger player at 6-3, 210 pounds, and has the quick feet and fast release of a smaller receiver. It’s not hard to see Hutchinson find his way on the field in three WR sets, and potentially develop chemistry with fellow rookie C.J. Stroud.”
Ellis Johnson (True North Fantasy Football)

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