Rookies have become a much bigger part of the fantasy football landscape in recent seasons. In years past, it was the first-year running backs who typically made the most significant statistical impacts among rookies. But nowadays, we’re seeing an increased number of quarterbacks and wide receivers come right in and produce.
While no rookie field general flourished last season (besides Brock Purdy late in the year), we once again saw a number of wideouts make some noise. Garrett Wilson, the Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Chris Olave both scored 198-plus fantasy points. We also saw Christian Watson make a huge second-half impact, and others – like George Pickens, Drake London, Treylon Burks and Jahan Dotson – showed off some upside.
With that in mind, here are my top-10 dynasty rookies heading into the 2023 NFL draft. The list starts with two running backs, but it’s also chock full of wide receivers. The eventual landing spots of these players will of course play a huge role in their ultimate short- and long-term value, but here’s how the first-year players stack up talent-wise. (Note: For the record, my highest-ranked rookie quarterback at this stage is Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, who currently checks in at No. 12.)
1. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas: Robinson is the best running back prospect in this class, and many scouts believe it’s not close. A tackle-breaking machine at Texas, he compiled 1,894 scrimmage yards (1,580 on the ground) and scored 20 times in his final collegiate season. He will be the top pick in most dynasty league drafts.
2. Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama: Gibbs isn’t the biggest back at 5’11” and 200 pounds, but he’s versatile (44 catches in 2022) and an explosive runner. In fact, Pro Football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson has compared him to Chris Johnson. While he might not become a three-down NFL back, Gibbs could emerge as a PPR machine.
3. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State: Smith-Njigba missed most of last season due to an injured hamstring, but he was a stat sheet stuffer in 2021 with 95 catches, 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. A strong route runner with impressive ball skills, he could be a PPR dream as a slot receiver in the NFL if he can avoid injuries.
4. Quentin Johnston, WR, Texas Christian: Johnston’s college numbers don’t pop off the page, but he’s a freak athlete at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. He can use his size to shed defenders and his speed and strength to make plays in the vertical passing game. He’ll be an ideal X receiver for a team in need at that position.
5. Jordan Addison, WR, USC: Addison’s 2022 totals also aren’t eye popping (875 yards, eight TDs), but his 2021 stats at Pittsburgh (100 catches, 1,593 yards, 17 TDs) tell a different tale. While he’s not a big wideout at 6-feet and 175 pounds, Addison is a playmaker with good route running skills who will be a Day 1 selection.
6. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College: Flowers isn’t a big receiver at 5’9” and 182 pounds, so he’ll project as a slot receiver at the next level. He had a career year in 2022, posting 78 catches for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Eagles. NFL teams like the Panthers, Titans or Chiefs could have interest in “planting” Flowers.
7. Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee: Hyatt is coming off a career season that saw him put up 67 catches, 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Volunteers. While his route tree was limited in college, he earned the 2022 Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best wideout. He’s an explosive vertical threat with field-stretching skills.
8. Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA: Charbonnet is a versatile running back with good size who averaged seven yards per rush in his final season. His 2022 totals were career highs, in fact, as he ranked 15th in rushing yards despite missing three games. He was also No. 4 in rushing yards per game and No. 7 in scrimmage yards.
9. Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M: Achane is a smaller running back at 5’9” and 185 pounds, but he’s an explosive playmaker who caught 60 passes in his final 22 collegiate games. He doesn’t project to be a three-down runner in the NFL, but rather a pass-catching, explosive complementary piece to an early-down grinder.
10. Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina: Downs posted 94 catches for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final collegiate season, making it consecutive years he had 90-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards. His lack of size (5’9”, 171 pounds) is evident, but Downs still figures to be a top-five pick among dynasty wideouts.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business to help you win a fantasy championship!