The 2022 NFL regular season is now officially finished, but we already started looking ahead to 2023 last week. I gave you my way-too-early rankings for quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end in last week's newsletter, and having just completed my first 2023 mock draft, now is as good a time as any to try to get a sense of what the top of the draft should look like.
It is very different from what it should look like if you ask any other analyst, let alone how things will look by the time we get to August and September. I'll have some thoughts on that first mock draft later in the week, but even that draft saw five players go in the first two rounds who I don't have ranked in my top 24, including one who went in the first round.
Everyone has their own opinion, of course, and everyone is entitled to change their opinion between now and when most drafts happen. And, of course, free agency figures to change where at least a few players end up getting drafted, and I'd bet at least one rookie from the 2023 NFL Draft ends up in the top 24 in ADP next season – Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson projects as a possibly elite Fantasy option coming off a 1,894-yard, 20-touchdown season as a junior.
We aren't going to include any rookies in our rankings until after the draft, and there are still plenty of moving pieces. We'll have our full rankings finalized for the first time after the Super Bowl, but even those will be subject to a lot of change, and I hope to be able to provide some insights from Jamey Eisenberg, Heath Cummings, and Dave Richard as they go through the process of finalizing their rankings this offseason.
But that's for the weeks and months to come. This newsletter will be slowing down to once or twice a week in the offseason – hey, I need to take some time off, too – but we're going to make sure we're a constant presence in your inbox, and you can expect reactions to the playoffs, more offseason coverage, and updated Dynasty rankings in the coming weeks. If you have any questions or thoughts, you can email me at Chris.Towers@CBSInteractive.com anytime, too.
And now, here's a first look at my top 24 for 2023:
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Way-too-early 2023 top 24
I think there are, realistically, four players who could go No. 1 overall in any given draft for the 2023, though that won't be reflected in my top four. I have Travis Kelce ranked fifth overall, but I'm pretty sure he's going to end up ahead of at least Cooper Kupp in the consensus rankings and in ADP, so I suppose I'll start there.
Kelce is arguably the biggest difference maker at the worst position in the game, which is the case for him. He gives you top 10 wide receiver production from your tight end spot, and he's probably a six-to-eight point edge on the average tight end – he ranked third or higher at the position nine times in 2022, a level of dominance relative to his peers nobody else can touch.
But Kupp came pretty close, finishing as a top-five WR in five of his eight full games in 2022. He had arguably the best season by a WR in Fantasy ever in 2021 and wasn't much worse in 2022 – his 17-game pace for his eight full games was 153 catches, 1,838 total yards, and 15 touchdowns, after he had 145 catches, 1,965 yards, and 16 touchdowns the prior season. I didn't think he'd be able to keep that pace up, but he came very close, and he did that with Matthew Stafford playing at a lot less than 100% for pretty much the entire season.
Kupp is going to take a hit in many player's eyes for three reasons: Age, Stafford's status, and Sean McVay's status. Stafford has already said he's going to play in 2023, but it looks like there's a real chance McVay may opt to step away from the Rams after a very difficult season. That's a fair reason to be skeptical that Kupp can replicate his prior production at his age; Kupp is going to be 30 next season, an age at which most wide receivers tend to decline.
Of course, Kelce will turn 34 next season, so it's hard to hold that against Kupp. Frankly, I don't think you should hold it against either too much, since neither has shown much evidence that the decline phase has begun. If you want to rank Kelce ahead of Kupp, I think that's perfectly reasonable, but I'll give Kupp the edge for being one of maybe two or three players who has shown legitimate 25-PPR-PPG upside.
Another call that might stick out to you: DeAndre Hopkins sneaking into the back half of the top 24, something I don't think you're going to see with too many analysts. Injuries cost him the last few games of this season after derailing his 2021, and there's a lot of uncertainty in Arizona with Kliff Kingsbury getting fired. However, Hopkins still finished as a top-12 receiver in four of his nine games this season, including top 15 in three of four with Kyler Murray and top 24 in all four with Murray.
In fact, Hopkins only had one bad game out of nine, when he had one catch for 4 yards with third-stringer Trace McSorley in Week 16 – he was WR31 or better in every other game. He'll be 31 next season, so there's definitely some risk of age-related decline, but he didn't really show too many signs of it after there was some concern of that coming out of 2021.
And one other thing you'll certainly notice here: Two quarterbacks in my first two rounds. Regular readers of the newsletter will know I've been hammering home the early-round QB narrative for a while now, and Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Jalen Hurts' impact might have somehow gone under-discussed this season. Each member of that trio finished as a top-six quarterback at least 10 times. Hurts finished third in per-game scoring in six-point-per-pass-TD leagues at 27.9, which was 5.6 points ahead of the No. 5 QB, Lamar Jackson; Allen and Mahomes were both 6.5 points clear of Jackson.
For years, Fantasy analysts have been arguing that an early-round investment in a quarterback was a waste. For the first time in 2022, I argued the majority of Fantasy analysts were wrong. I bet I'm going to have more support for that position in 2023.
Here are the rest of my top-24 for 2023:
- Justin Jefferson
- Austin Ekeler
- Christian McCaffrey
- Cooper Kupp
- Travis Kelce
- Ja'Marr Chase
- Jonathan Taylor
- Tyreek Hill
- Stefon Diggs
- Davante Adams
- Saquon Barkley
- Josh Jacobs
- Derrick Henry
- A.J. Brown
- CeeDee Lamb
- Amon-Ra St. Brown
- Breece Hall
- Joe Mixon
- Patrick Mahomes
- Josh Allen
- Chris Godwin
- Nick Chubb
- Tony Pollard
- DeAndre Hopkins