The 2023 NFL Draft is in the books, so all that is left is trying to determine which teams used the draft to maximize their offensive production and which teams let us down horribly. Some teams made a commitment to upgrading key parts of their offense. Other teams decided that having a bottom-tier offense meant that the best way to make their offense better was to improve their defenses. Let’s take a look at the fantasy football winners and losers for the 2023 NFL draft
Fantasy Football Winners
Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
I can’t think of a more exciting destination for Bijan Robinson. Last season, the Atlanta Falcons had the most rushing attempts in football, the third most rushing yards, and were the sixth most efficient rushing offense. They did this with Marcus Mariota at quarterback and a rushing combination of Cordarelle Patterson and Tyler Allgeier. The Falcons brought back the same offensive line and even drafted Matthew Bergeron in the second to beef it up. This team was built to run before the draft
Now the Falcons added the sexiest running back prospect to come out of college since Christian McCaffrey. Bijan Robinson is a man, an athletic freak with a great combination of power and speed. If you were to build a running back in a lab, it would fail to live up to the expectations Bijan will have this year. Bijan’s college tape is so good, I wanted my Chicago Bears to draft him despite how badly we needed to upgrade our offensive line. The wonderful THfantaC crew did a write-up on Bijan for us and told us what everyone with eyeballs already knows — Bijan is amazing. Arthur Smith loved feeding the ball to Derrick Henry in Tennessee and there is no reason to believe he won’t do the same with Bijan Robinson in Atlanta.
Jordan Addison, Minnesota Vikings
Last year, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings were blessed with an unsustainable win rate that was mostly smoke and mirrors. Despite the team’s flaws, the offense was still extremely successful. This was due to Justin Jefferson having one of the all-time great seasons for a wide receiver. Jefferson’s 2022 campaign was the 6th-most yards by a receiver in a single season… ever. JJ’s back is still sore from carrying 39.8% of the receiving production.
Jefferson had to do this work due to the decline of Adam Thielen. Over the last three seasons, Thielen’s target share on the Vikings’ offense has gone from 20.9% to 18.5% to 17% this past season. This is why 2023 first-round draft pick Jordan Addison is such a great addition to this offense. The very handsome Tony Martin and super studly Shane Schwager did a fantastic write-up on Jordan Addison and it very nicely illustrates how he could transition with this offense. Jefferson’s historic target share is due to regress and Jordan Addison’s draft capital makes him the perfect candidate to get more opportunities and see very favorable matchups.
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
The Waleed is not capable of writing an article about fantasy football winners without talking about his lord and savior Justin Fields. I was screaming all last season that Justin Fields is the absolute truth and now it is time for you to accept the word of Justin. Last season the Chicago Bears tore down their team to the studs. Because of this, Fields had to work with an offense that was so bad on the offensive line they had a sack rate of 13.3%, 3.3% points higher than the next worst team.
Because of how bad the Bears’ offensive line was in pass protection, their dropback ETA ranked 27th, with a success rate of 41.4%, ranking 24th. They had to run the football at a league-high rate because if they didn’t, Justin Fields would have died a hero’s death on the field. Which he frequently did. Because of this, they ranked 6th in rushing EPA, yet their success rate was only 40.9%, 17th. While some analysts liked to point to the Bears having the fewest amount of pass attempts in football as a criticism of the passing game, that number is misleading. On a significant amount of Field’s dropbacks, he was either being sacked or forced to run for his life.
Despite all these obstacles, Fields still finished as the QB7. The addition of DJ Moore with the trade of the first pick instantly turns their wide receiver core from a weakness to a strength. The addition of Darnell Wright adds an elite-level talent at tackle to help protect the quarterback. Just elevating the offensive line to league average gives the Bears the chance to get elite production out of Justin Fields this year. Mark my words, he will be a league winner.
Fantasy Football Losers
Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots
Last season, Rhamondre Stevenson was the RB16 in half PPR. If you grabbed him in the later rounds, you were very happy with his production. However, if you are hoping for his numbers to improve on last year, I have some bad news for you. The Patriots lost their best receiver in Jakobi Meyers and replaced him with JuJu Smith-Schuster. Outside of that, they did very little to improve their offense. Last season, the Patriots ranked 21st in rushing EPA and 22nd in success rate. Rhamondre is clearly the Patriots’ best player on offense, but the Patriots waited until the fourth round to invest in a project center. They didn’t add any skill position players until the sixth round. You can try for the ninth straight season to convince yourself that this is the year DeVante Parker finally breaks out, but the truth is that there is nothing to scare teams away from keying in on Rhamondre. He is very unlikely to outperform his ADP unless something significant changes in New England.
Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks
If you listened very carefully on Friday night, you heard the collective wails of Kenneth Walker owners in dynasty leagues. When the Seahawks drafted Zach Charbonnet, they made a very clear statement that Walker is going to be limited on touches. As well he should be, considering he spent a lot of his rookie season dealing with injuries. Charbonnet is built to steal goal-line carries from whoever is in front of him, based on the tantalizing THfantaC prospect breakdown.
The really concerning thing is that the lead back’s usage in Seattle was fairly inconsistent, last year. They had the 11th fewest rushing attempts last year and the lead back only received 20 or more touches just 7 times, whereas they had under 15 or fewer touches 7 times. If this turns into a full-blown committee with Charbonnet seeing a lot of the goal line work, it will be very hard for Walker to return value on his current ADP.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders
I honestly wonder why Terry McLaurin let Washington extend him. The man is one of the best receivers in football, but you would never know it because he has had some of the worst quarterbacks over the last three-year stretch. Last year, Washington had the 8th-best scoring defense to go along with the 9th-worst scoring offense. So of course they decided to ignore the offense in the draft and just load up on defense because they are Washington. The Commanders had the 12th fewest passing yards and 13th fewest passing attempts and decided the answer to their problems was 2022 5th-round draft pick Sam Howell. If Jacoby Brissett wins the job, they are starting a quarterback who came from a passing offense that was just as bad as their offense was last year. The more things change, the more things stay the same in Washington – bad! Unfortunately for Terry McLaurin, that puts a serious cap on his fantasy upside.