The Footballguys staff already took a look at the veterans who gained value after the 2023 NFL Draft, so let's turn their attention to the newest crop of rookies.
We asked them to name a rookie who came out of the draft with a better-than-expected path to production. Check out their answers.
WR Jordan Addison, Minnesota Vikings
Jason Wood: Before the draft, this was a jumbled receiving class with no consensus for redraft or dynasty value. And while a number of elite options landed in potentially advantageous long-term situations, many face long odds to be immediate contributors barring injuries to proven veterans atop the depth chart. But USC's Jordan Addison stands out as he lands in an instant-impact situation for the Vikings. Minnesota released Adam Thielen in the offseason and didn't add anyone in free agency, which leaves Addison in line for 100+ targets in a highly-productive passing offense.
WR Jalin Hyatt, New York Giants
Kevin Coleman: This may not be a popular opinion, but Jalin Hyatt’s value received a nice bump after the draft. The New York Giants have no receiver with Hyatt’s profile, and he could immediately step in and be the team’s WR1. He is the only true vertical option in Brian Daboll’s offense, and you have to think they envision Hyatt in the Stefon Diggs role. Hyatt’s strengths also pair exceptionally well with Daniel Jones' ability as a quarterback and his ability to extend plays outside the pocket. Based on his current rookie ADP he is a value in all fantasy drafts.
WR Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs
Ryan Weisse: I will walk headfirst into this trap with my eyes wide open. Rice could easily be the next Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Skyy Moore, but I'm always going to bet on Patrick Mahomes II and this Chiefs offense. The fact of the matter is that the Chiefs' wide receiver depth chart is wide-open, and Rice could contribute right away. If he becomes an immediate starter, his value will outshine his fantasy draft position.
WR Quentin Johnson, Los Angeles Chargers
Andy Hicks: Landing spots for highly credentialed wide receivers are crucial in the NFL. Out of all the first-round wide receivers, none find a better spot than Quentin Johnson. He teams with an ascending elite passer and veteran wide receivers to help ease him into the passing game. Plus, Johnson has the upside to be an elite fantasy wide receiver within the first year. His attributes are like he was created in a video game, 6-foot-3, built like a running back with high-end speed. He will be a deep and end-zone threat. Watch him climb the depth chart quickly.
TE Michael Mayer, Las Vegas Raiders
Jeff Haseley: Usually, a tight end draft prospect will enter a team where there is a proven veteran in place, and that's not incorrect with Las Vegas. They have Austin Hooper on the roster, whom they signed in the offseason. But like Mayer, he'll be brand new to Josh McDaniels' offense and will need to acclimate himself to the team. Hooper and his veteran experience may be a part of the offense, but Mayer, being one of the top tight ends in this class, coming from a pro-ready Notre Dame offense, is clearly the future replacement for Darren Waller in Las Vegas. He could see significant involvement starting this season, especially if he shows well over equally new Hooper.
TE Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions
Jeff Bell: LaPorta was just three picks away from landing in the first round as the second tight end selected and before presumptive favorite Michael Mayer. He lands in a wide-open receiving landscape, with the suspension knocking Jameson Williams out at the beginning of the season. There is minimal roster competition to prevent him from becoming a day-one starter. His ability to work after the catch compliments Jared Goff's game well, and he can split the seam behind players like Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jahmyr Gibbs. Great landing spot.
TE Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills
Ben Cummins: Kincaid was going to be intriguing in 2023 even before the draft, but he landed in the dream spot after Buffalo traded up for him to pair him with Josh Allen as the Bills' new slot receiver. Kincaid amassed tons of experience and production lined up in the slot in college as Utah essentially utilized him as a receiver. He didn't disappoint, producing a 70-890-8 line last year and catching 16 total touchdowns over his final two collegiate seasons. Because of this, Kincaid won't compete for snaps and targets with Dawson Knox as much as many think. Kincaid is currently my TE12 overall, with more upside expected as the season goes along.
RB Devon Achane, Miami Dolphins
Dave Kluge: At 5-foot-9 and just 188 pounds, there were understandable concerns about Devon Achane’s size after he declared for the NFL Draft. But what Achane lacks in size, he makes up for in blazing speed. His 4.32 40-yard dash was the third-fastest time among all players at the 2023 Combine and the best for running backs. As evidenced by Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Raheem Mostert, head coach Mike McDaniel is a speed freak. And his outside zone scheme bodes well for running backs with that second gear. As the current roster stands, oft-injured and aged Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. are the only impedance on Achane’s chance to have a big rookie season.
RB Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals
Gary Davenport: Illinois running back Chase Brown didn’t have a huge bandwagon heading into the 2023 draft, and there are still plenty of seats left after the 5’10”, 209-pounder was picked in the fifth round. But Brown was picked by a Cincinnati Bengals team that lost Samaje Perine in the offseason, and there have been rumbles for months that Joe Mixon’s days with the team could be numbered. Brown has the skill set to be much more than just a complementary player, and there’s a realistic path to him becoming the No. 1 back for one of the most potent offenses in the NFL.
RB Jamyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions
Matt Montgomery: For all the hate this pick got at the time, I believe this fits exactly to the style of offense the Lions are transitioning to. Gibbs' catch ability allows Goff to improve his intermediate passing threats and can really soften a defense up to allow for rush lanes as well. He is the #1 back here with the trade of Swift to Philly and should immediately produce. The pick disdain should also improve his value in drafts.
Chad Parsons: The difference between a Round 1 running back and Round 2 is stark historically. Not only did Gibbs go in Round 1, but he was also picked No.12. And the post-draft feedback is there were other teams likely to take him in the top 20. Gibbs also goes to a Detroit offense with one of the highest HLO (High-Leverage Opportunity) scores for running backs in 2022.
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