Being dealt the #No. 1 pick in any given Fantasy Football season can be both exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. On one hand, you get to pick who you feel will be the best Fantasy option for the year before anyone else gets to pick, while on the other hand, you can end up making a major error.
Here is a quick recap of players from 2018-2022 who had an average draft position (ADP) or #1 overall in points per reception leagues (PPR) and then their final outcome in total fantasy points. Year: Player – Total Fantasy Points Rank (running backs, wide receivers and tight ends)
- 2018: Todd Gurley – 3
- 2019: Saquon Barkley – 22
- 2020: Christian McCaffrey – 163
- 2021: Christian McCaffrey – 112
- 2022: Jonathan Taylor – 89
As you can see, the #1 picked player based on ADP vs. the actual outcome has not always lined up to be the best decision. Health is typically the biggest indicator at the end of the day, but in many leagues, it can simply come down to just not picking the best player.
So with the 2023 Fantasy season getting closer and closer, many leagues will draw the question, who should be selected as the #1 player in one-QB PPR fantasy football leagues? I will offer up some potential answers I would be fading, along with the two options that I feel are the best for this year.
Who is the No. 1 Pick in 2023 Fantasy Football?
Potential Candidates – Not Buying In
These are some candidates that may be voiced by others as players who can be drafted as the No. 1 pick for Fantasy Football. In each of these cases, I present my concerns as to why I do not think they should be.
This does not mean they will be bad for Fantasy Football, or that they will not be great to roster for 2023, I just feel the concerns result in them not being the best possible option to select first overall.
- Christian McCaffrey, 49ers RB: When healthy, McCaffrey has been an amazing Fantasy Football player to roster. CMC looked great in San Francisco last season. My concern is the potential split in touches on the ground with Elijah Mitchell. Along with the polarizing question – who will be the starting quarterback and will that be consistent?
- Cooper Kupp, Rams WR: Historic 2021 season that broke Fantasy Football. Just nine games played in 2022 though for both Kupp and his quarterback, Matthew Stafford. Are there any 2023 injury concerns for either of them? At 30 years old, does he have the juice to have another major season to warrant the #1 pick?
- Travis Kelce, Chiefs TE: 2022 was Kelce’s best season in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. The positional advantage was massive, but Kelce was still closer to the 10th-best Fantasy option than the first.
- Austin Ekeler, Chargers RB: Huge 2022 season guided by 107 receptions for PPR leagues. Keenan Allen played in just 10 games and Mike Williams in 13 last season. Both of those veterans are healthy, and LA just drafted Quentin Johnston in the 1st round in this year’s NFL Draft. These factors should impact Ekeler’s target ceiling.
2023 Best No. 1 Pick Candidates
When identifying the best possible candidate to draft with the No. 1 pick, I look directly at two factors: safety in consistency and upside. Safety in consistency means that this player should have a very consistent role throughout the season, where they are highly involved each and every week in their offense. The upside part means that the player should be able to produce high Fantasy points due to their skillset and the statistical numbers they can produce. Narrowing the search even further, I identify two wide receivers who should see high and consistent target volume, both have receiving yard upside and both are two of the best offensive talents in the league: Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase – former college teammates at LSU.
Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN
Selected as the 20th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Justin Jefferson made an immediate Fantasy Football impact as a rookie. In 2020 Jefferson caught 88 of his 125 targets for 1,400 receiving yards, seven touchdowns and ranked 9th in Fantasy PPG with 17.1.
Jefferson put “The Griddy” celebration on the map and instantly became a major Fantasy Football target prior to his sophomore season.
In 2021, all statistics took a big jump for Jefferson: 167 targets, 108 receptions, 1,616 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns resulted in 19.4 Fantasy PPG (#4 for wide receivers). Following the sophomore explosion, Jefferson became the Dynasty Fantasy Football consensus WR1 across Fantasy sites and would draw high draft capital for 2022 Redraft Leagues going sixth overall.
2022 was Jefferson’s best season, as he absolutely exploded for Fantasy Football. Comparing Jefferson vs. all wide receivers he ranked #1 in targets (184), #1 in routes run (648), #7 in target share (29.3%), #1 in red zone targets (28), #9 in deep targets (26), #1 in receptions (128), #3 in air yards (1,935), #1 in receiving yards (1,809) and #4 in total touchdowns (9). Jefferson scored the most total Fantasy points for the position with 368.6, which was the sixth most for all positions and the second most for non-quarterback positions. 21.7 Fantasy PPG ranked second. Jefferson likely was the reason many people won Fantasy Football championships in 2022.
The connection to Kirk Cousins has been clear in all three seasons, with Jefferson’s opportunity and production being high his rookie season and that combination growing in each of the next two seasons. Cousins threw a career-high 643 attempts in 2022, which was the fourth highest in the NFL.
The passing volume is solid in Minnesota, which is encouraging seeing that TJ Hockenson stepped in and received heavy target volume last season along with the Vikings selecting Jordan Addison in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. Both Hockenson and Addison are great weapons to have within an offense, but Jefferson remains the alpha option.
For 2023, we should expect Justin Jefferson to see 165+ targets and be a candidate to hit 1,500 receiving yards. I do believe Jefferson gets back to double-digit touchdowns, seeing the high looks in the red zone. Jefferson’s production has been very consistent and progressed in all three seasons. The talent is evident by the numbers, and he seems to be one of if not THE safest bets in Fantasy Football. Tough picturing a season, fully healthy, where Jefferson is not an elite Fantasy Football option.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, CIN
In 2021, Ja’Marr Chase was selected fifth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals to reunite the star wide receiver with his former college quarterback from LSU, Joe Burrow. The Bengals already rostered both Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd who both earned over 100 targets the year prior, which drew some questions on what Chase’s role would instantly look like. Chase ended up leading the team in targets (128), receptions (81), receiving yards (1,455), and receiving touchdowns (13) to finish the year. Chase ranked fourth in both receiving yards and total touchdowns for the position in 2021, and his 17.9 Fantasy PPG ranked fifth.
Ja’Marr Chase, unfortunately, missed time in 2022, playing in 12 games his sophomore season. Chase still produced over 1,000 receiving yards and even upped his total targets to 134 seeing 11.16 targets per game and had six more receptions (87). Chase saw 10+ targets in 75% of his games played. For fantasy scoring, Chase averaged 20.2 PPG for the season which ranked fourth for wide receivers, and scored over 30 points twice. The production was heavy, and seeing his numbers surpass his rookie ones in some categories was impressive and makes you think about what could have been.
The Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase connection has been one of the best in football over the last two years.
- 31.42% of Joe Burrow’s passing touchdowns in the last two years have been caught by Ja’Marr Chase (22/70).
- 23.18% of Joe Burrow’s total passing attempts have gone to Ja’Marr Chase (262/1,130) in the last two seasons.
These percentages are even more impressive when you again factor in that Chase only played in 12 games last season. Having a quarterback who he has a previous college connection to, has thrown for over 4,500 yards and 34+ touchdowns in back-to-back seasons is a major boost to Chase’ fantasy stock.
Projecting ahead to 2023, Ja’Marr Chase is a candidate to see 155+ targets, finish with 1,500+ receiving yards, and double-digit touchdowns. The upside in yardage and scoring has been very evident the last two seasons as a top-five fantasy wide receiver in PPG. Hot take but if there is a player to beat Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yard record, it can be Ja’Marr Chase in 2023. Doing the math we have a wide receiver who has been very productive for Fantasy, earns major target volume, has huge receiving yard and touchdown upside, and is tied to one of the league’s best quarterbacks.
For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!
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— Fantrax (@Fantrax) July 4, 2023