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2023 Fantasy Football: Rookie Quarterbacks – If and When to Draft Them

Three of this year’s first four picks in the 2023 NFL Draft are quarterbacks. Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, and Anthony Richardson came off of the board with the first, second, and fourth-overall picks respectively. While other names, like Will Levis and Hendon Hooker, are worth discussing, I’ll be primarily focusing on the top-three guys in this piece.

With such high draft capital invested on Young, Stroud, and Richardson, it begs the question of whether or not fantasy managers should invest in them, as well. With a variety of different formats of fantasy football, there is also a variety of different approaches to these players.

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How to Approach 2023 Rookie Quarterbacks for Fantasy Football

Redraft Leagues

Below is a list of rookie quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft over the last 10 seasons and where they finished in end-of-the-season fantasy football rankings on a points-per-game basis:

2022: Kenny Pickett QB37

2021: Trevor Lawrence QB38, Zach Wilson QB37, Trey Lance QB43, Justin Fields QB42, Mac Jones QB28

2020: Joe Burrow QB17, Tua Tagovailoa QB31, Justin Herbert QB10, Jordan Love N/A

2019: Kyler Murray QB12, Daniel Jones QB14, Dwayne Haskins QB41

2018: Baker Mayfield QB18, Sam Darnold QB34, Josh Allen QB24, Josh Rosen QB43, Lamar Jackson QB42

2017: Mitchell Trubisky QB33, Patrick Mahomes N/A, Deshaun Warson QB1 (7 games before ACL tear)

2016: Jared Goff QB44, Carson Wentz QB30, Paxton Lynch N/A

2015: Jameis Winston QB20, Marcus Mariota QB18

2014: Blake Bortles QB31, Johnny Manziel QB55, Teddy Bridgewater QB27

2013: E.J. Manuel QB27

As you can see, from the last 10 draft classes, only TWO first-round rookie quarterbacks, that played 10 or more games (Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert), finished inside the top-12 in points per game. Only 12 of the 30 rookie quarterbacks listed even started at quarterback in Week 1 of their rookie season. It’s worth noting that Lamar Jackson started his final seven games as a rookie averaging 18.6 points in that span as the QB8. That’s largely due to his 119 rushing attempts during that time.

If you’re going to draft a rookie quarterback from this class in 2023 redraft leagues, let it be Anthony Richardson. His rushing upside is going to give him an edge over any other rookie quarterback in this draft class. His 4.4 [40-yard dash] speed, at 6’4″ 244-pounds, separates Richardson from most others at his position.

Consider, too, that Indianapolis Colts head coach, Shane Steichen, is the former offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers from their 2020 season. Justin Herbert notably won Offensive Rookie of the Year under Steichen and finished as the QB10 in fantasy football. Steichen is also, most recently, the former offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles with the reigning fantasy football QB1, Jalen Hurts.

Richardson’s potential as a dual-threat starter in this league provides him with a solid floor for fantasy football but arguably one of the highest ceilings at the position. While Richardson carries immense upside, make sure you have a safe veteran available on your roster just in case.

Dynasty Leagues

The most consideration given to the 2023 class of rookie quarterbacks will be in dynasty leagues. Selecting one of these rookie quarterbacks in a dynasty league is an investment for more than one season. Obviously, in a Superflex league, where quarterbacks naturally carry a higher value, all three of Young, Stroud, and Richardson should come off of the board within the top four or five picks of rookie drafts. If you’re doing a dynasty Superflex startup draft, with veteran players to consider, I have these three rookie quarterbacks just inside my top-15 ranking of the position.

As for 1QB dynasty leagues, there is a lower emphasis on selecting one of these rookie quarterbacks over skill position players. When you only have to start one quarterback, it’s unlikely any of these three provide a significant return on investment out of the gate in their first month, let alone first season. Of the three, I would consider Anthony Richardson a first round pick in this format with Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud coming off of the board somewhere in the second round.

So, what should we expect moving forward? Let’s look back at the above list of rookie quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. Of the applicable 29 rookie quarterbacks (no Pickett data) 14 of them finished inside the top-12 in fantasy football in their sophomore season. That’s 48%. The easiest explanations as to why are an increase in comfortability at the pro level as well as added assets via free agency and the draft once established.

There are, of course, plenty of unknown variables that can come into play. However, we can only operate on what we have in front of us. I believe all three of Young, Stroud, and Richardson are on ascending teams with solid coaching staffs. History tells us one, and more likely than not, two of them will finish as QB1s in fantasy in 2024.

Best Ball Leagues

Best ball fantasy formats remove the level of guessing as to when these rookie quarterbacks will have performances in their first season that make them worth starting. Just having them on best ball rosters provides managers the opportunity to capitalize on those weeks. Given the history of lackluster play on a points-per-game basis from rookie quarterbacks, it’s best not to invest too heavily on any of these players in best ball. While they’re all worth drafting, using a mid-to-late pick on Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud is more worthwhile.

Anthony Richardson is the obvious choice of the three to draft in best ball. Especially if he starts Week 1 or in the first month, Richardson’s rushing ability should yield high-scoring performances. Last season, Jalen Hurts was tied for the second-most rushing touchdowns (13) amongst all positions. Hurts also ranks second in rushing attempts inside the five-yard line amongst all positions. Assuming Richardson and this Colts offense are able to move down the field, he could perform similarly, especially in goal-to-go situations.

Between Young and Stroud, I think Young is in a better position to succeed. Therefore, I’m ranking him higher than Stroud as a best ball pick. Young is supported by a great coaching staff with better weapons in Carolina than Stroud has in Houston. If Young can succeed in getting the ball to Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark, rookie Jonathan Mingo, and others, they’re all capable of making big plays to rack up points for him.

Other Rookie Quarterbacks Worth Mentioning

Will Levis is the fourth rookie quarterback off of the board from the 2023 NFL Draft. He is projected to sit behind Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee for the 2023 season. Levis is the future of the Titans, but they need to surround him with a better group of pass-catchers. He is worth stashing in dynasty and perhaps a late best ball pick in the chance he steps in for Tannehill at any point this season.

Hendon Hooker is still recovering from a November ACL tear. He’s not going to get any playing time on a playoff-hopeful Detroit Lions team led by Jared Goff. That said, Hooker is only worth a late dynasty pick if drafting in 2023. There’s a likelihood that the Lions and Goff work out a contract extension. If that’s the case, Hooker, who’s already 25 years old, would firmly be Goff’s backup for the foreseeable future.

Prior to the 2023 NFL Draft, Matthew Stafford was the only quarterback on the Los Angeles Rams depth chart. Now he has newly-signed vet, Brett Rypien, and rookie quarterback, Stetson Bennett, behind him. Stafford, 34, has a long injury history. The Los Angeles Rams don’t really have a clear direction for their franchise, either. It’s possible that 26-year-old, two-time college national champion, Stetson Bennett, starts a significant number of games for this team over the next two seasons. Don’t count on it, but if you have a large dynasty roster, I would look to stash Bennett as the QB6 of this rookie quarterback class.

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