Can you believe it? We are less than 10 weeks away from the start of the 2023 NFL season. For fantasy football managers everywhere, it’s time to start getting in the draft day mindset. My favorite way to tap back into the manager mindset for fantasy football is with a good ol’ fashioned mock draft. With training camp kicking off at the end of this month, and even some big-name free agents yet to sign, there is still to be a lot of movement from now until our real drafts take place. It’s never too early to mock draft, though, to get an idea of what our teams may look like drafting from different spots in the order.
For the next 10 weeks, every Monday, I will be completing a fantasy football mock draft on what I like to call “Mock Draft Monday.” This series is a favorite of mine and one of the articles I look forward to the most during fantasy football draft season. I encourage you to review these mock drafts and complete some of your own!
Each week, I will select a mock draft team selecting players from a different draft spot with an analysis as to why I picked each player where I did and when I did. As I break down the results of each mock draft, I guarantee my reasoning for every pick will help guide your own decision-making process when it comes time to select your teams for the upcoming fantasy football season. So, follow along all summer long!
Picking First Overall in the First Mock Draft
The following mock draft was completed, simulating my strategy and results for a 10-team, 1 quarterback, Points Per Reception league. The hypothetical roster consists of 3 wide receivers, 2 running backs, 1 tight end, and 1 RB/WR/TE Flex position. I drafted from the first overall pick in this mock draft and will make selections from different draft positions each week. For this mock draft, I will break down just the first 10 of the total 16 rounds as many Average Draft Positions, particularly for the later rounds, are bound to change once NFL training camps begin. As always, I spend my final two picks on a Defense/Special Teams and Kicker so they won’t be included as we focus on individual player analysis.
1.01- Christian McCaffrey (CAR RB)
1.02- Austin Ekeler (LAC RB)
1.03- Justin Jefferson (MIN WR)
1.04- Ja’Marr Chase (CIN WR)
1.05- Tyreek Hill (MIA WR)
1.06- Bijan Robinson (ATL RB)
1.07- Cooper Kupp (LAR WR)
1.08- Saquon Barkley (NYG RB)
1.09- Jonathan Taylor (IND RB)
1.10- Josh Jacobs (LV RB)
MY PICK: Christian McCaffrey
Death, taxes, and drafting Christian McCaffrey with the first overall pick in a mock draft. There are plenty of players you can justify spending the 1.01 pick on this season. Given the lack of depth at the running back position, and the ceiling McCaffrey provides any given week, he is a player I feel comfortable building my 2023 teams around, as I did in 2022.
The difference in drafting Christian McCaffrey in 2023 is that he’s starting the season on the San Francisco 49ers as opposed to the Carolina Panthers. McCaffrey ranks second on a points-per-game basis (21.2) amongst running backs in PPR formatting last season. More specifically, from Week 7 through 17, once traded to the 49ers, McCaffrey averaged 22.1 points per game. Not counting his Week 7 debut with San Francisco, McCaffrey ranks first amongst running backs from Week 8 through 17 with 23.7 points per game.
McCaffrey will remain a focal point on the 49ers’ offense in 2023, a team that was sixth in scoring last season, even with three different starting quarterbacks. McCaffrey remains one of the best receiving running backs in the game. He’s in line for another massive season in any fantasy format, but specifically in PPR leagues.
2.01 – Travis Kelce (KC TE)
2.02- Tony Pollard (DAL RB)
2.03- Stefon Diggs (BUF WR)
2.04- A.J. Brown (PHI WR)
2.05- Rhamondre Stevenson (NE RB)
2.06- Ceedee Lamb (DAL WR)
2.07- Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET WR)
2.08- Garrett Wilson (NYJ WR)
2.09- Nick Chubb (CLE RB)
2.10- Derrick Henry (TEN RB)
MY PICK: Derrick Henry
Let my second pick of this mock draft be a lesson in value. When it’s staring you in the face on the board, take it. While I’m admittedly lower on Henry than in previous years, he is still a volume-based RB1 in fantasy football. He’s finished inside the top-seven running backs on a points-per-game basis since 2019, including three-straight top-four finishes over the last three seasons.
There are serious questions regarding the Tennessee Titans’ wide receiver group. Especially early on in the season, Henry should continue to average over 20 carries per game as the team should lean heavily on the run game. There’s also a lack of competition for touches behind Henry in the backfield. As of now, it’s rookie Tajae Spears and Hassan Haskins, but Haskins is facing recent legal trouble.
Henry is turning 30 years old, has 2,046 career touches, and just 140 total receptions over the last seven seasons. Consider these cons, in addition to a complete overhaul of their offensive line, and I see the argument against drafting Henry in 2023. It’s conceivable he finishes this season on a different team, but for now, I’m chasing the volume in this mock draft. He and McCaffrey are a rock-solid running back combination I just can’t pass up.
3.01- Davante Adams (LV WR)
3.02- Mark Andrews (BAL TE)
3.03- Jaylen Waddle (MIA WR)
3.04- DeVonta Smith (PHI WR)
3.05- Chris Olave (NO WR)
3.06- Najee Harris (PIT RB)
3.07- Tee Higgins (CIN WR)
3.08- Breece Hall (NYJ RB)
3.09- Aaron Jones (GB RB)
3.10- Kenneth Walker III (SEA RB)
MY PICK: Davante Adams
When you spend the first two picks in any draft on running backs, the next pick almost has to be a wide receiver. Having the opportunity for that wide receiver to be Davante Adams as the 21st player off of the board in this mock draft is a dream.
Adams far and away leads the entire league in total touchdowns over the last five seasons with 61. The next closest player is Tyreek Hills with 50. Sure, an obvious majority of Adams’ are from four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. However, his 14 receiving touchdowns in his first season with the Las Vegas Raiders last year are the second-most of his career in a single season.
Adams will catch passes in 2023 from a third different quarterback in as many seasons. Assuming it’s Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s arguably the worst of the three between him, Derek Carr, and Aaron Rodgers. Regardless, Adams’ standalone talent is undeniable and he will be a major target magnet this season. With 20 more picks until my next one in this mock draft, selecting Adams’ ceiling here is a no-brainer.
4.01- Travis Etienne (JAX RB)
4.02- Calvin Ridley (JAX WR)
4.03- T.J. Hockenson (MIN TE)
4.04- Jahmyr Gibbs (DET RB)
4.05- Keenan Allen (LAC WR)
4.06- Joe Mixon (CIN RB)
4.07- Patrick Mahomes (KC QB)
4.08- Jalen Hurts (PHI QB)
4.09- Miles Sanders (CAR RB)
4.10- D.K. Metcalf (SEA WR)
MY PICK: D.K. Metcalf
Once again, knowing that I have my starting running backs in place, I’m focusing on building a starting wide receiver trio to rely on. Metcalf is the second addition to that group, with Adams, on that mock draft team. Both receivers rank inside the top seven in red zone targets from last season. So, I like the potential this team has so far to put up major points with touchdowns.
The Seattle Seahawks are going to be battling for a playoff spot in 2023. After paying Geno Smith, drafting running back Zach Charbonnet, and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, this offense should take a step forward as a whole. Locking in their top receiver, with expectations of him leading a top-10 scoring offense in targets, is a great addition to this mock draft team.
5.01- Amari Cooper (CLE WR)
5.02- D.J. Moore (CHI WR)
5.03- J.K. Dobbins (BAL RB)
5.04- Alexander Mattison (MIN RB)
5.05- Josh Allen (BUF QB)
5.06- Drake London (ATL WR)
5.07- Deebo Samuel (SF WR)
5.08- Terry McLaurin (WSH WR)
5.09- Michael Pittman (IND WR)
5.10- Jerry Jeudy (DEN WR)
MY PICK: Amari Cooper
There are a lot of wide receivers to choose from at this point in the draft. Drafting from the top spot, with back-to-back picks, leaves me with some tough decisions knowing I won’t be on the clock for a while. I love the upside of D.J. Moore, Drake London, and others taken later on, but Amari Cooper checks a few more boxes for me.
Cooper is the top target on a Cleveland Browns offense that I expect to pass more in 2023. With quarterback Deshaun Watson entering the second year of his fully guaranteed deal, there’s good reason to believe they ask more of him through the air this season. Speaking of contracts, Cooper is likely a cap casualty next off-season as the Browns would save $20 million if he’s released or traded after June 1st, 2024. That said, they will get as much out of him this season as possible.
With Jacoby Brissett under center for 11 games and Watson stepping in for the final six, Cooper managed to catch a career-high nine touchdowns last season. His 1,160 yards were the second-most of his career and his 78 receptions were his third-most, one away from tying as second-most. He’s due for another big season especially with Watson as his quarterback for a full 17-game slate. This is a player getting drafted as a WR3 in PPR leagues that can finish inside the top-12.
6.01- Chris Godwin (TB WR)
6.02- Darren Waller (NYG TE)
6.03- DeAndre Hopkins (Free Agent WR)
6.04- George Kittle (SF TE)
6.05- Kyle Pitts (ATL TE)
6.06- Christian Watson (GB WR)
6.07- Christian Kirk (JAX WR)
6.08- Mike Williams (LAC WR)
6.09- Brandon Aiyuk (SF WR)
6.10- Lamar Jackson (BAL QB)
MY PICK: Lamar Jackson
I’m not waiting to draft a quarterback for the 2023 fantasy football season. This year, I want one of my top-eight ranked players at the position. That obviously includes Lamar Jackson who enters this season with a new, massive contract.
Plain and simple, Lamar Jackson is a cheat code in fantasy football. He has led all Ravens in rush attempts in all but one season since entering the league in 2018. Given that most leagues score one point per 10 rushing yards, plugging Lamar’s rushing upside into your lineup provides that much higher of a ceiling week-to-week and is an advantage against most of your opponents’ quarterbacks.
With new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, there are expectations of Lamar Jackson throwing more in 2023, as well. He’s also adding Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Zay Flowers to his receiving corps. All signs point to a major bounce-back from Lamar after missing five games last year and just barely 3,000 combined yards in passing and rushing.
7.01- Diontae Johnson (PIT WR)
7.02- Joe Burrow (CIN QB)
7.03- Dameon Pierce (HOU RB)
7.04- Cam Akers (LAR RB)
7.05- D’Andre Swift (PHI RB)
7.06- Tyler Lockett (SEA WR)
7.07- Rachaad White (TB RB)
7.08- Marquise Brown (ARI WR)
7.09- Treylon Burks (TEN WR)
7.10- Justin Fields (CHI QB)
MY PICK: Diontae Johnson
I’m adding the seventh-most targeted player from the 2022 season to this mock draft team as my flex. That’s after securing two others in the top-13, Davante Adams (2) and D.K. Metcalf (13), a few rounds prior. This pick is purely based on volume. With rookie Kenny Pickett under center in 2022, Johnson still managed 86 receptions and 882 yards on 147 targets, tied for seventh-most in the league.
Johnson, unfortunately, did not score a touchdown last season. With as many targets as he had, including the 18th-most targets in the red zone, it’s mind-blowing he was unable to haul in at least one. That will change in 2023. As far as this mock draft goes, this is the best value of any pick I’ve made.
8.01- Mike Evans (TB WR)
8.02- Justin Herbert (LAC QB)
8.03- Trevor Lawrence (JAX QB)
8.04- David Montgomery (DET RB)
8.05- Dak Prescott (DAL QB)
8.06- Jaxon Smith-Njigba (SEA WR)
8.07- Jahan Dotson (WSH WR)
8.08- Kadarius Toney (KC WR)
8.09- Jordan Addison (MIN WR)
8.10- James Conner (ARI RB)
MY PICK: James Conner
We have no idea when Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is going to return to the field after tearing his ACL last December. As a result, with a new head coach, as well, I expect Arizona to lean on the run game. Playing on the last year of his contract, James Conner is sure to be busy this season handling a large majority of touches out of the backfield. Conner is a good bet for 225 or more touches in 2023 and a high-end running back option off of this mock draft team’s bench.
9.01- Dallas Goedert (PHI TE)
9.02- George Pickens (PIT WR)
9.03- Gabe Davis (BUF WR)
9.04- Quentin Johnston (LAC WR)
9.05- Isiah Pacheco (KC RB)
9.06- Courtland Sutton (DEN WR)
9.07- Dalvin Cook (Free Agent RB)
9.08- Alvin Kamara (NO RB)
9.09- Rashod Bateman (BAL WR)
9.10- Brandin Cooks (DAL WR)
My Pick: Dallas Goedert
Similarly to my approach to the quarterback position, I either want one of the top players or I’m drafting two upside players later on when it comes to tight end. Surprisingly enough, in this mock draft, I’m able to land one of my top six guys in Dallas Goedert in the ninth round. There is a ton of talent to choose from at this point in the draft, but I like the idea of rounding out my starting roster and drafting a tight end now. I can still add depth at running back and wide receiver with the next few picks, but I’m less likely to find a starting tight end as high-quality as Goedert then.
10.01- Javonte Williams (DEN RB)
10.02- Elijah Moore (CLE WR)
10.03- James Cook (BUF RB)
10.04- Antonio Gibson (WSH RB)
10.05- Juju Smith-Schuster (NE WR)
10.06- Zay Flowers (BAL WR)
10.07- Michael Thomas (NO WR)
10.08- Jameson Williams (DET WR)
10.09- Jakobi Meyers (LV WR)
10.10- Elijah Mitchell (SF RB)
MY PICK: Elijah Mitchell
At this point in the mock draft, I like the wide receiver depth still available compared to the running backs. There are still plenty of opportunities to snatch a few rookie running backs with upside later on, as well, so getting my top pick, Christian McCaffrey’s, handcuff felt like a good move here. Both McCaffrey and Mitchell have their fair share of an injury history. Securing both on my roster is good piece of mind, especially considering the San Francisco 49ers will be one of the best teams in the league.
QB – Lamar Jackson
RB – Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry
WR – Davante Adams, D.K. Metcalf, Amari Cooper
TE – Dallas Goedert
FLEX – Diontae Johnson
Bench: James Conner, Elijah Mitchell, Darnell Mooney (11.1), Jamaal Williams (12.10), Adam Thielen (13.1), Devin Singletary (14.10)
Mock Draft 1.0 CONCLUSION
This mock draft team doesn’t have any new, exciting, up-and-coming talent. In fact, this mock draft team would probably win a 2019 or 2020 PPR league. The combination of Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Davante Adams, and Lamar Jackson especially gives me a change to blow teams out of the water each week. These players still have plenty of juice and I’ll take a discount on them, however slight, to put together a winning roster while others are looking for “the next big thing.”
That’s the key to the first few picks of any fantasy football draft. Spend your first three to four picks on the best group of players available to build a team around that can make a run at a title. It’s not even so much about focusing on which positions and when, but rather getting the most value from the draft as you can.
This team’s bench could be a lot better. The back half of the draft will likely see a lot of changes as we move through July and August. With each mock draft, I’ll do more in depth analysis on specific players and expectations for the 2023 season. Strategy will continue to be a focus on these articles as I believe winning your draft often leads to winning your league. Overall, I’m excited about how this team turned out and anyone drafting from the 1.01 position should come away with a contending team.
For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!
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— Lisa Ann (@thereallisaann) May 6, 2023