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Best Fantasy Football Picks 2023

By Jared Smola 4:58pm EDT 7/6/23

How do you define "best fantasy football picks?"

Is it simply the players who score the most raw fantasy points? That's not bad. But it misses a key point.

Value

Value is at the heart of any best fantasy football pick. In fact, it's one of the three pillars of our fantasy football draft strategy.

You win fantasy leagues by drafting players who return a profit. Who score more fantasy points than others in the same range of drafts. 

That means you can find the best fantasy picks at any point in your draft.

That’s exactly what we’re doing here: Highlighting the best fantasy football picks at every position at every point of drafts.

 

Best Fantasy Football Picks: QB

Early Rounds: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

A lot went wrong for Herbert last year.

  • WRs Mike Williams and Keenan Allen missed a combined 11 games. 
  • Herbert played through a rib cartilage injury, which likely impacted his play.
  • And he threw a TD on just 3.6% of his pass attempts, 21st league wide.

Herbert still finished eighth among QBs in fantasy points, which feels like his absolute floor in 2023 (barring injury).

The ceiling? Just look back to 2021, when Herbert ranked third at his position in fantasy scoring.

He's capable of returning to that level of production this year.

TD rate should bounce back

Herbert threw a score on 5.2% of his passes as a rookie in 2020 and then 5.7% in 2021. (League average is around 4.5%.)

The WR corps should be significantly better with healthier seasons from Williams and Allen, plus the addition of first-round rookie Quentin Johnston.

And new OC Kellen Moore projects as an upgrade over former OC Joe Lombardi.

In the current QB landscape, getting an elite QB that can score 25+ fantasy points per game is a real edge. 

Herbert has that potential – and he's going later than most of the other elite QBs.

That upside-to-price equation makes Herbert one of the best fantasy football picks at QB.

Middle Rounds: Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

Smith was one of 2022's biggest surprises, finishing seventh among QBs in fantasy points per game.

And there was nothing fluky about it. Smith just played really good football. 

He led the NFL in completion rate and ranked ninth in yards per attempt. Smith finished eighth among 31 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' passing grades.

That makes him easier to bet on in 2023, even though he's a 32-year-old who looked like a bust before last season.

Smith in even better spot for 2023

He returns to the same offense piloted by OC Shane Waldron that last year ranked: 

  • 12th in pass rate
  • fifth in situation-neutral pass rate
  • eighth in pass rate over expected

This projects as a pass-leaning offense again in 2023, especially after Seattle spent a first-round pick on WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba. He joins D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to give Smith one of the league's top WR trios.

If you miss out on the elite QBs in your draft, Smith is your best fantasy football draft pick.

See where Geno Smith lands in the 2023 QB Rankings.

Late Rounds: Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Murray tore his left ACL and meniscus last December. He didn't lose a leg.

But drafters are seemingly treating him as if he's Lieutenant Dan, letting him slip into the final few rounds of fantasy drafts.

Yes, Murray is not expected to be ready for the start of the season. But Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said in February that Murray should be back before midseason, setting him up to be a fantasy asset over the second half of the year.

In 10 healthy games last season, Murray ranked fifth among QBs in fantasy points per game. That's also exactly where he finished in each of the previous two seasons.

So, even if Murray's production dips, we're still talking about a potential top-12 QB in fantasy points per game that's available at the very end of your draft.

Murray is an ideal QB2 for best ball draft strategy and worth stashing in redraft leagues with deep benches and/or IR spots.

 

Best Fantasy Football Picks: RB

Early Rounds: Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

Few RBs have been more efficient than Pollard since he entered the league four years ago.

His 5.1 yards per carry ranks third among 55 qualifying RBs. His 8.3 yards per catch is good for 16th among 65 qualifiers.

Ezekiel Elliott’s presence has kept Pollard from a truly monstrous fantasy season. (Although he did finish as a top-10 RB across scoring formats last year.)

Zeke is now out of the way. Only Ronald Jones, Malik Davis, and Deuce Vaughn sit behind Pollard on the depth chart.

That sets him up for the biggest workload of his career. And Pollard has been awesome with big workloads.

In 11 career games with a 50+% snap rate, he has averaged:

  • 13.8 carries
  • 69.0 rushing yards
  • 4.5 targets
  • 3.5 catches
  • 33.3 receiving yards
  • 0.91 total TDs

Pollard’s 19.2 PPR points per game in those 11 contests would have ranked fourth among RBs in each of the last two seasons.

Pollard has a ceiling projection of 322.5 PPR points – the ninth highest among RBs. That makes him one of the best fantasy football picks at RB at his price tag (late second to early third round).

See every player's true range of outcomes with ceiling and floor projections.

Middle Rounds: Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

It’s been a rocky start to Akers’ NFL career, especially that 2021 Achilles tear.

But Akers has flashed the ability to score fantasy points in bunches on a couple of occasions.

He closed his rookie season by averaging 22 carries and 94 rushing yards over his final six games (including playoffs). His PPR scoring average would have ranked 13th among RBs for the season.

Then, after a tumultuous start to 2022, Akers was a fantasy league-winner down the stretch. Only three RBs scored more PPR points over the final six games.

Akers averaged 17.3 carries, 85 yards, and 1 TD per game over that stretch. He ripped off 4.9 yards per carry and ranked third among 35 qualifying RBs in Pro Football Focus’ rushing grades.

It sure looks like Akers has regained pre-injury form

Remember that this guy was the 52nd overall pick of the 2020 draft after three strong seasons at Florida State. Akers is still in his prime at 24 years old.

With only Kyren Williams, Sony Michel, Zach Evans, and Ronnie Rivers behind him on the depth chart, Akers has an opportunity to capture a huge share of the Rams’ backfield work

HC Sean McVay has a history of riding a feature back. 

Todd Gurley averaged 17.2 carries per game under McVay from 2017 to 2019. 

The Rams haven’t had a consistent lead back over the past three seasons. But there were 29 instances of a Rams RB carrying 15+ times in a game during that stretch. (Akers accounted for 13 of those.)

Akers has workhorse upside in 2023, making him one of the best RB picks in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.

Late Rounds: Jeff Wilson, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins traded for Wilson midway through last season.

In seven healthy games with Miami (including playoffs), Wilson averaged:

  • 12.7 carries
  • 55.1 rushing yards
  • 3.7 targets
  • 1.9 catches
  • 15.3 receiving yards
  • 0.71 total TDs

Wilson’s scoring averages in those games would have ranked 21st among RBs in PPR points and 16th in non-PPR.

He benefited from RB Raheem Mostert missing two of those games. But Wilson out-carried Mostert 66 to 45 in their five healthy games together.

Dolphins backfield gets more crowded

Third-round rookie Devon Achane joins the backfield mix this year. He’s the early favorite to lead Dolphins RBs in targets. But at sub-190 pounds, he’s unlikely to get a ton of carries.

The biggest reason that Wilson is one of the best late-round RB picks: He’s the third Dolphins RB off the board in most fantasy drafts, with an ADP sitting outside the top 50 at the position.

Wilson checks in 41st in our PPR RB Rankings -- even higher in half-PPR and non-PPR.

 

Best Fantasy Football Picks: WR

Early Rounds: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions

St. Brown is in the midst of a red-hot stretch of fantasy production. 

Over his last 20 healthy games, St. Brown has averaged: 

  • 10.3 targets (29.6% target share)
  • 7.6 catches
  • 85.0 yards
  • 0.55 TDs

He closed his rookie season by scoring the second most fantasy points (PPR and non-PPR) among WRs over the final six weeks.

Then he finished WR11 in PPR points per game and WR12 in non-PPR points per game last year

And even that's understating how good St. Brown was because he missed most of two games with injuries.

If we look at just his 14 healthy games, St. Brown jumps to seventh in PPR and ninth in non-PPR

St. Brown should continue racking up fantasy points in 2023. He returns to the same offense (OC Ben Johnson) with the same QB (Jared Goff) that ranked top 10 in pass attempts, yards, and TDs last year. And the Lions didn't add a legitimate threat to his target share.

St. Brown isn't at the top of our WR Rankings. But factoring in his projections and second-round price tag, he's one of the best fantasy football picks at WR.

Middle Rounds: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

Fantasy football doesn't need to be complicated.

The case for Lockett is simple:

He has scored as a top-25 WR in PPR points per game in five straight seasons, including three straight top-20 finishes.

His ADP is sitting outside the top-30 WRs.

You’ll hear two primary arguments from Lockett detractors. Let’s tackle each one.

Lockett turns 31 in September.

That’s certainly past prime. 

But our aging-curve research shows that WRs of Lockett’s quality produce, on average, 82% of their peak numbers at age 31.

For Lockett, that would be 13.6 PPR points per game – good for 22nd among WRs last year.

And he has shown no signs of decline. Lockett beat teammate D.K. Metcalf last year in:

  • yards per target
  • yards per route run
  • PFF receiving grade

He ranked 20th in all three metrics among 80 WRs with 50+ targets. 

Jaxon Smith-Njigba will nuke Lockett’s numbers.

Smith-Njigba is an exciting prospect who should play a significant role right out of the gate. But that doesn’t mean he’ll have a big impact on Lockett’s production.

Seattle’s WRs behind Lockett and Metcalf totaled 75 targets last year. Smith-Njigba figures to soak up the majority of those. 

The rookie should also pull targets from Seahawks TEs, who combined for 135 last season – a 23.6% share that was well above the league average (around 20%).

There’s room for Smith-Njigba to have an impactful rookie season – and for Lockett to still return big value for your fantasy team.

Late Rounds: Nico Collins, Houston Texans

Collins turned in a sneaky promising sophomore season.

His 20.1% target share in nine healthy games was up from 13.4% as a rookie and a top-30 mark among WRs.

He improved his yards per route from 1.24 as a rookie to 1.68 last year – good for 37th among 96 qualifying WRs.

Collins ranked 40th among those 96 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus receiving grade.

Still just 24, Collins should still be ascending

And he gets a big QB upgrade in 2023 in first-round rookie C.J. Stroud. 

The Ohio State product totaled 8,123 yards and 85 TDs on a 69% completion rate and 9.8 yards per attempt over the last two years. 

Stroud should immediately boost a Texans passing game that finished bottom-8 in passing yards, completion rate, and yards per attempt last year.

Houston added WR Robert Woods and TE Dalton Schultz in free agency and spent a third-round pick on WR Tank Dell. But WRs Brandin Cooks and Chris Moore are gone, leaving 29% of last year’s targets up for grabs.

It’s an underwhelming pass-catching corps, giving Collins a chance to be a rare late-round fantasy football pick with the potential to lead his team in targets.

TIP

Nico Collins is one of our 2023 Fantasy Football Sleepers.

  

Best Fantasy Football Picks: TE

Early Rounds: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

If you're gonna spend an early-round pick on a TE, spend all the way up for the most dominant fantasy TE of all time.

Kelce has finished as a top-2 fantasy TE in seven straight seasons. He's led the position in fantasy points in six of those seven, including last year.

Kelce was even more dominant than usual in 2022, scoring 103 more PPR points than any other TE; 64 more in non-PPR.

That's a HUGE edge over your competition.

And, despite turning 33 in October, Kelce has shown no signs of decline. He just registered his second-best PFF receiving grade and fourth-most yards per route run last season.

Back with QB Patrick Mahomes -- and with the Chiefs' WR corps looking questionable -- Kelce should be in for another massive season.

His 76.1 DMVP value makes him worth considering in the second half of Round 1 fantasy drafts.

DMVP values fuel all of our player evaluations.

Middle Rounds: David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

A couple injuries masked a strong 2022 from Njoku.

In 13 healthy games, he averaged:

  • 5.9 targets (18.4% share)
  • 4.3 catches
  • 47.0 yards
  • 0.33 TDs

Njoku's scoring averages in those 13 games would have ranked seventh among TEs in PPR points and eighth in half-PPR.

And he did it on a Browns offense that finished just 22nd in passing yards.

Cleveland's passing game is in for a big leap if QB Deshaun Watson can rediscover anything close to pre-suspension form. Watson was an elite passer from 2018-2020, registering a 68.7% completion rate and 8.3 yards per attempt.

Both marks ranked top-4 league wide.

Money says Browns want Njoku heavily involved

Njoku got a four-year, $55 million deal from the Browns last offseason, making him a safe bet to be a big part of the passing game. And he's still only 27 – peak age for a TE, based on our aging-curve research.

Njoku sits in the same tier of our TE rankings as George Kittle, Dallas Goedert, Darren Waller, and Pat Freiermuth. But he's usually the last of those guys to be picked in fantasy drafts – often 2+ rounds after Goedert and 3+ after Kittle.

That's value.

Late Rounds: Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers

Is Hurst an exciting fantasy pick? Nope.

Is he a good bet to return value? Yep.

Recent ADP has Hurst coming off the board 28th among TEs. He sits 11 spots higher than that in our rankings.

Hurst is simply a bet on volume at a position at which volume is tough to find.

The Panthers signed Hurst to a three-year, $21.75 million deal in free agency. That makes him the 17th-highest-paid TE in the league – and a safe bet to play a significant role in the passing game.

Iffy Carolina WRs help Hurst's volume case

Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark arrived via free agency. But the former is a declining 33-year-old; the latter has played just 15 games over the last two years. 

Second-round rookie Jonathan Mingo is an intriguing prospect but never delivered consistent production at Ole Miss. 

Terrace Marshall and Laviska Shenault return from last year's squad.

There's room for Hurst to carve out a significant target share in what should be an improved passing game with rookie QB Bryce Young.

Hurst won't be a fantasy league-winner. But he looks like a helpful spot starter – especially in PPR leagues – that you can get with one of your last few picks, or even snag off the waiver wire.

 

Pinpoint the Best Fantasy Picks in YOUR League

We just ran through some of the best fantasy football picks at each position.

But the best picks in YOUR league depend on myriad factors.

Seventeen of them, to be exact. Including:

  • League scoring
  • Positional value
  • Real-time team needs
  • Upside
  • Injury risk

We've built all 17 of these value factors into the Draft War Room, the most customizable and powerful fantasy football cheat sheet.

Learn more about how the Draft War Room helps you make the best pick every time you're on the clock. 

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