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2023 Class Preseason Top 40

Matthew Barnhill (@MBarnhill19)


The following list is for 1QB PPR leagues, and is divided into 6 tiers: Blue Chips, High Value, Second Rounders, Sleepers, Taxi/Bench Depth, and Fantasy Priority Free Agents. Blue chips I’d consider consensus first round picks in rookie drafts, and High Value would be late firsts or early seconds. Sleepers I’d consider 3rd rounders, but would hear arguments for them in the second. Taxi/Bench Depth I’d classify as developmental players or bench players. Fantasy Priority Free Agents are players that might not be drafted in rookie drafts, but are still talented enough to keep track of. This is how I’d rank the players today, but the rankings will surely change as the season progresses.


BLUE CHIPS


Bijan Robinson, RB, TEXAS

If you’ve followed the talk about the 2023 class already, it will be no surprise to see Bijan ranked number one in 1QB rankings. Robinson has everything a game changing RB should have: size, power, elusiveness, and outstanding receiving ability. He is the rare prospect that will grab immediate volume in any NFL offense, and snagging him in next year’s rookie draft could single-handedly alter the course of your fantasy team. One thing to monitor for him though is his injury history, and possibility of injury this upcoming season. His all-out running style and workload have led to some pretty nasty hits taken, leading to a back strain his Freshman year, and a season ending elbow injury last year. Yet, I won’t count that against him, and don’t think anyone should. Robinson is the best prospect in the nation when he’s on the field.


Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, OHIO STATE

What Jaxon Smith-Njigba did last season at Ohio State was nothing short of incredible. He was third in the nation with 1,606 receiving yards, and was number one in this category if one was only to count Power 5 schools. The next three on this list? Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison, first round pick Jameson Williams, and Jalen Tolbert, who didn’t play at a P5 school, but is currently tearing it up at the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp. Oh, and he did this all while in the shadow of two other first round picks, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. “JSN” primarily was a slot receiver for the Buckeyes, but we are just coming off a season where Cooper Kupp broke fantasy football playing the same role for the Los Angeles Rams. Like Kupp, Smith-Njigba has adequate size to play anywhere on the field when needed as well. He absolutely shredded the Utah defense in the Rose Bowl while Wilson and Olave sat out to prepare for the draft, setting records with 15 receptions, 347 receiving yards, and 3 TDs. If JSN can even come close to last year’s level of dominance I would not be surprised to see him be a consensus top three pick next spring.


Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, ALABAMA

Jahmyr Gibbs has done some incredible things during his first two years at Georgia Tech, but now that he has transferred to Alabama the sky's the limit for him. The Crimson Tide always touts one of the best offensive lines in the country, and they will open up a lot of lanes for Gibbs’ extraordinary burst. When Jahmyr is in the open field, there might not be a more elusive playmaker at the collegiate level right now. And on top of all that, he presents an additional receiving threat out of the backfield for Heisman winning QB Bryce Young. Whether it’s in the run game, getting lined up out wide, or returning kickoffs, Gibbs will make plays this fall. The only hole in Gibbs’ prospect resume will be his size. NFL teams may hesitate to give him 20 carries a game because he is listed at 5’11'' and 200 lbs. But, because of Jahmyr’s versatility, he shouldn’t be without a team for too long on draft night. He shouldn’t be on the board for too long in your fantasy leagues either; Jahmyr Gibbs is a baller.


Devon Achane, RB, TEXAS A&M

This will surprise some because Achane has not yet been the RB1 for the Aggies, but after this season, he could easily be a top five player in this class. Now that Isaiah Spiller has gone on to the NFL, Devon is primed for a breakout season. He averaged seven yards per carry last year as A&M’s change of pace back, and ran for 910 yards and 9 TDs. He is also a viable receiving threat, but didn’t get to show off his skills in this area as much as he’s capable of because of poor quarterback play last year in Aggieland. However, QB play should be much improved this year, meaning Achane can be used as an offensive weapon for head coach Jimbo Fisher this year. Similarly to Jahmyr Gibbs, some may detract from Achane because of his size (listed as 5’9'' and 185lbs) but this once again does not disturb me in the slightest. For one, Achane is part of the TAMU track team in the spring, meaning he could likely put on a little more weight once he is fully devoted to football. Devon has also already shown he can be a reliable runner between the tackles. To me, Devon Achane will be entering the league at the perfect time for his skill set. His size and speed are similar to other RB prospects that have been fantasy gold: Chris Johnson and Tyreek Hill (yes, Tyreek was a RB in college). NFL teams are obsessed with playmakers with trackspeed and video game-like wiggle. With a creative play caller, he could be the next gem for fantasy football in the NFL.


Jordan Addison, WR, USC

Addison was absolutely dominant last year during his Sophomore season, and was rewarded the Biletnikoff award as a result of his efforts. Now, he joins Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley on the west coast. It will be curious to monitor this situation because transferring to a new program is challenging, no matter who you are. But, Addison is the kind of proven talent that you can bet will impress immediately for a USC squad hungry to reclaim their days of dominance. His route running is awesome; he can attack any area of the field with his speed, quick feet, and manipulation of DBs. His hands are sticky, and he’s capable of making catches in traffic despite his sleight, 170 pound frame. Pair these skills with Caleb William’s arm, which can place the ball anywhere on the field, and Lincoln Riley’s top notch play calling, and Addison could get close to repeating his 100 reception, 1,593 yard 2021 stats, or even surpass them after another offseason of working on his game. He seems destined to be a first round pick next spring.


Sean Tucker, RB, SYRACUSE

With running backs like Larry Csonka, Ernie Davis, and Jim Brown among their alumni, Syracuse has a rich history at the position. While it might not be fair to compare him to these Hall of Famers, Sean Tucker is making a strong case to be remembered as a standout player in Orange history. Last year, he ran for the school’s single season rushing record, totalling 1,496 yards on the ground at 6.1 yards a carry. Tucker displayed great vision and patience for a younger player, and is fast and elusive in the open field. With quarterback Garrett Schrader being more of a dual threat, opponents often would key in on the run game when playing Syracuse, but Sean proved to be a talent that cannot be contained. While there was some national speculation that Tucker may transfer to greener pastures heading into 2022, Tucker remained adamant that he wanted to stay at Syracuse. While the Orange will likely not be in the national spotlight very often, I will be attempting to watch Tucker at every opportunity that I can this fall, and I suggest that dynasty fantasy footballers reading do the same. If he builds upon his performance of yesteryear, Tucker should be a first round draft pick in rookie drafts next spring.


Tank Bigsby, RB, AUBURN

The hype around Bigsby in this class has dwindled, but he remains one of the better prospects in this class. Auburn has struggled to find an effective starting five up front to pave the way for Bigsby, and the coaching staff believes it has another RB worthy of taking snaps behind him in sophomore Jarquez Hunter. Despite these obstacles, “Tank” still ran for 1,099 yards last year on 4.9 yards per carry. His burst and cuts are a sight to behold. At 6 feet tall and 213 pounds, he is sizable enough to be a lead back at the next level, and his previously mentioned burst should make him stand out at the NFL combine. If Auburn can get stronger in the trenches under second year head coach Bryan Harsin, Bigsby could shine again and establish himself as a must-draft player next spring.


Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU

Last year, it felt like Kayshon Boutte was on the precipice of showing the nation he could be the next great wideout from LSU. After finishing his freshman season with some fantastic games, many saw great things in Boutte’s future, and he was putting together more great tape in 2021. However, halfway through the year he was derailed by an ankle injury that cost him the rest of the year, and later, spring ball under new head coach, Brian Kelly. Even with his season cut in half, Kayshon was still LSU’s leading receiver last year with 509 yards and 9 touchdowns in just 6 games. An outstanding feat, but Boutte falls to the eighth spot for me before the 2022 season because of two things: lack of continuity and practice time. With Brian Kelly, a lot has changed at LSU, including the starting quarterback, who has yet to be announced. Whether that QB is Jayden Daniels or Garrett Nussmeier, Boutte can be effective either way. But to have a consistently dominant year from start to finish, he will have to have good chemistry with the starter, and he missed spring camp after having two surgeries on his right ankle, which could possibly slow him to start the year as well. This is all just speculation, and I sincerely hope he overcomes these hurdles. He certainly has the talent to do so, and make the case as the WR1 in this class. He is the most physically gifted wideout in the country when healthy. But for now, I will safely rank him as my WR3 and let the season play out a bit before moving him in my 2023 rankings.


Michael Mayer, TE, NOTRE DAME

Mayer is not a Kyle Pitts level tight end prospect, and Georgia sophomore Brock Bowers would be my preferred player in devy leagues. Yet, that is more of an indication of how historically great those two were and have been, rather than taking away from Mayer’s abilities. At 6’4”, 265lbs, Michael uses his large frame as a receiver, boxing out opponents and using contact to separate when breaking off his route. He’s a capable blocker as well, which means nothing to fantasy managers, but is invaluable for NFL teams’ prospect evaluations. Mayer had 840 yards on 71 catches last year, stats that very few collegiate tight ends achieve today with so many offenses scaling back on TE usage. He should be considered when drafting rookies in the first round next spring because of what he may have to offer in a position with few superstars.


HIGH VALUE


Parker Washington, WR, PENN STATE

The Nittany Lions had quite the receiving duo with Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington. Now, with Dotson off to play for the Washington Commanders, it feels like Washington’s time to take over as the top target. He had 64 receptions for 840 yards in 2021 while in the shadow of Jahan, displaying steady hands, contested catches, and ability to make some chunk plays after the catch. From a size standpoint, he doesn’t profile to be an “X” receiver for a team in the NFL, but he can consistently make things happen in the slot or as a flanker, and at 215 pounds he has a sturdy build that assists with contact balance after the catch and matching opposing DB’s physicality. With another good year, Washington would have a floor of being a day 2 NFL draft pick, and to me reminds me a lot of Jacksonville wideout, Christian Kirk. Near the end of round one in rookie drafts, it might be worth taking a swing at his potential.


CJ Stroud, QB, OHIO STATE

After a shaky start in 2021, Stroud began to string some absolutely dazzling games to end the season, proving he was worthy of filling Justin Fields’ shoes for the Buckeyes. Stroud has the size, arm talent, and receiving corps to put up similar production in 2022, and make his case as the QB1 next spring in the NFL draft. In 1QB leagues, he would definitely be worth a second round pick, but his lack of rushing upside might keep him out of the first round.


Zach Evans, RB, OLE MISS

The number one RB in his class out of high school, Evans’ talent has never been a question. He’s averaged over seven yards per carry for his collegiate career, and can contribute in the passing game as well. He’s extremely elusive, and large enough to carry a workload for a team. However, after some strange happenings in his recruiting and disagreements with the TCU staff, Evans as a prospect off the field remains a potential red flag. Now that he’s transferred to Ole Miss, he has a chance to clear up these concerns, and star in Lane Kiffin’s high flying offense. Zach’s second chance in the SEC could prove how great he can be, and if everything works out, he could easily be moved up in these rankings.


Josh Downs, WR, NORTH CAROLINA

Downs broke out in a big way during his sophomore year, racking up 101 receptions for 1,335 yards as Sam Howell’s top target. He is fast and elusive in the open field, makes good decisions and cuts as a route runner, and is a tough and consistent catcher of the football. Yet, his 5’10” 175lb frame will likely limit him as a number two target for most NFL teams. This will probably move him down a few notches come rookie draft time, but Downs would be an absolute value in the second round if that is to happen.


Marvin Mims, WR, OKLAHOMA

A lot has changed in Norman, Oklahoma for the Sooners this offseason, yet Mims remained true to his school, and will catch passes from transfer QB Dillon Gabriel this fall for OU. An elite field stretcher, Mims will undoubtedly impress NFL scouts with his athleticism both on the field and at the NFL combine. Marvin also has shown his route tree can be more than just vertical routes, which ups his value for fantasy managers because he should be on the field more often than a rotational player.


Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA

Charbonnet is a big, angry runner that will make a lot of highlight plays with his strength and contact balance. Transferring to UCLA has revitalized his career, and he proved last year that he can be a team’s lead back. But, his lack of breakaway speed and elite receiving ability means he will likely slide to the second round in a deep RB class after deciding to return to L.A. for his senior season. At the moment, he appears to be a late day two or early day three NFL draft pick that will make his money by being a capable short yardage and goal line RB.


DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB

McBride is a sneaky good talent that will have the Conference USA discount in many rookie drafts, but probably shouldn’t. For a 215 pound back, he has surprising burst and footwork, and has shown some good vision on zone runs at UAB. After running for 1,371 yards on 6.7 yards per carry in 2021, he should once again be a focal point for the Blazers in 2022. Scouts and fantasy managers should be watching for more signs of McBride being an asset in the passing game this year, after only catching three passes in his first two years. If he does improve upon this part of his game, McBride could become a favorite draft riser for managers everywhere.


Jermaine Burton, WR, ALABAMA

He hasn’t crossed the 500 yard mark in a season of his career yet, but Burton may be this year’s biggest riser after transferring to pass-happy Alabama after being limited in Georgia’s run-heavy scheme. Recently announced as the Crimson Tide’s starting “X” receiver, Burton averaged 19.1 yards per catch last season, and now should be Bryce Young’s number one target. He will make plays in the intermediate and deep levels of the passing game, using his blazing speed and ability after the catch to create huge plays.


Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

A size/speed prospect, Johnston immediately jumps out at you when watching him play. Johnston has a ton of potential, and has led the Big 12 in yards per reception the past two seasons, but last year his momentum was slowed after suffering a knee injury and missing a few games. If Quentin begins to consistently dominate opponents like he did last year against Oklahoma, he could leap up into the first round conversation during rookie drafts.


SECOND ROUNDERS


Kendall Milton, RB, GEORGIA

Following the departures of Zamir White and James Cook, Milton has an opportunity to become the next star for the running back factory that is the University of Georgia. A former four star prospect, Milton has patiently been waiting his turn, and will compete for touches with teammate Kenny McIntosh. Milton is a 220lb bruiser, and hasn’t posted big stats yet after being buried in the depth chart and dealing with an MCL strain last year. But, he has averaged 5.5 and 4.7 yards per carry to begin his career, and profiles as a better between the tackles guy than the swift McIntosh. Milton is a guy worth monitoring, and 2022 may be the breakout season Bulldog fans and dynasty managers have expected for a while.


Bryce Young, QB, ALABAMA

For the reigning Heisman trophy winner, I will admit that this ranking may be a bit too low. But, Bryce will have to continue his great play with an almost entirely new supporting cast from last year’s playoff team. There have also been whispers before this season that some NFL teams are concerned with Young’s size as well, so if he wants to lock down the QB1 spot he will need to show the poise, smarts, and accuracy we saw so often in 2021. Without much upside as a ball carrier, it’s reasonable to expect him to have a high floor, but lower ceiling than other young QBs in fantasy right now.


Blake Corum, RB, MICHIGAN

Corum has rushing and receiving skill, and with Hassan Haskins gone, can finally show what he’s capable of as a potential lead back. He will likely share snaps with teammate Donovan Edwards, a highly ranked recruit from the ‘21 class. Will he maintain his 6.6 yards per carry efficiency with more touches, and will he hold off Edwards to be a clear cut, number one RB for the Wolverines?


SLEEPERS


Jalen Cropper, WR, FRESNO STATE

Cropper is a WR that can attack all parts of the field, but likely would fit best in a west coast scheme due to his RAC ability, route tree, and contested catch skills. He had 85 receptions for 899 yards and 11 TDs in 2021, and his QB Jake Haener returned to Fresno State after receiving transfer interest to run it back. Signs of further progression in Cropper’s game during his senior season could move him up draft boards, both in the league and in fantasy.


Lew Nichols III, RB, CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Led the nation with 1,848 rushing yards in 2021. Also offered some receiving ability, adding 40 receptions for 338 yards. Reminds me of D’Onta Foreman at Texas. Doesn’t offer elite athleticism, but is capable of reading running lanes, breaking tackles, and using power in short yardage situations. Will probably be a day three NFL pick, but is capable of carrying a workload (341 carries in ‘21) and could make a fantasy impact should a starter go down.


Rasheen Ali, RB, MARSHALL

Ali exploded onto the scene in 2021 with 1,401 rushing yards, 23 rushing TDs, and 46 receptions for 342 yards. Has the straight line speed, agility, footwork, and contact balance NFL teams covet. Playing at Marshall, he’ll have competition concerns, much like McBride and Nichols. But there’s no denying how dominant he was, and could be again. I may have to move him up in my rankings, but would like to see how he’s improved while preparing for his junior season.


Deuce Vaughn, RB, KANSAS STATE

Nearly had 2,000 yards from scrimmage on less than 300 touches his sophomore season. His talent is evident, but so is his primary concern as a prospect: Vaughn is 5’6” and 176lbs. This likely will limit his draft capital, and possibly his NFL usage, but it certainly doesn’t limit his skill. He’s extremely fast and elusive in space, and is a very talented receiver out of the backfield. With the right NFL coach, Vaughn could surprise a lot of people, especially in PPR leagues.


Kendre Miller, RB, TCU

With Zach Evans off to Ole Miss, Kendre is now the unquestioned lead RB for the Horned Frogs. The former 3 star prospect has proven he can make big plays in limited action, averaging over 7 yards per carry in his first two seasons. With less RB controversy and a possible Quentin Johnston breakout season on the horizon, Kendre Miller and the TCU offense could exceed many people’s expectations.


TAXI / BENCH DEPTH


Tyler Van Dyke, QB, MIAMI

Van Dyke stepped up in a big way after D’Eriq King went down with an injury early in the 2021 season. Tyler is a pro style QB, and won’t flash as a runner, but he can hit every part of the field with his strong arm. He had 2,931 yards through the air, and a 25:6 TD to INT ratio. Will new head coach Mario Cristobal continue to shape the offense around Van Dyke’s strengths as a passer? If he does, there has already been talk that Tyler is a NFL dark horse to sneak into the first round of the draft.


Sam La Porta, TE, IOWA

La Porta has been a receiving weapon for the Hawkeyes thus far in his career, and Iowa has proven that they can develop NFL-ready TEs. Will he improve upon 2021’s 670 receiving yards? He’s probably worth a late round shot either way, especially if he has good numbers at the NFL combine.


AT Perry, WR, WAKE FOREST

At 6’5”, 205 pounds, Perry looks like an NFL receiver already. His sophomore stats were impressive as well, as he had 1,293 yards and 15 TDs. But Wake Forest runs an offensive system that doesn’t translate well to the pros. While watching Perry, I really liked his ball tracking ability, and contested catches come easy to someone so large, but his route running will take time to develop. I think near the end of the third round of rookie drafts, fantasy managers can take a shot on Perry’s athleticism, and taxi him in hopes he becomes a more well rounded threat in the NFL.


Evan Hull, RB, NORTHWESTERN

Hull had 1,009 rushing yards on 5.1 yards per carry last year, and at 210 pounds he has good enough size to play a 17 week NFL season. He also caught 33 passes for 264 yards. Evan won’t wow scouts with athleticism, but can do the little things right. Hull seems like a likely career backup that can contribute to fantasy teams when a starter goes down.


Devin Leary, QB, NC STATE

Leary is building some steam in NFL draft circles after an incredible 2021 for the Wolfpack. He certainly doesn’t have a rocket arm, or the ability to score points with his legs, but was an extremely efficient passer with 3,433 yards and 35 TDs to just 5 INTs. I liked his touch on passes and command of the NC State offense his junior year, which upset Clemson and went 9-3. I’d project he goes day two in the NFL draft, but could be valuable in deep leagues.


Rakim Jarrett, WR, MARYLAND

Despite being a 5 star prospect, Jarrett has yet to have a 1,000 yard season going into his junior season. In fact, before he was injured Dontay Demus looked like Maryland’s top target at times. This could be the year Jarrett puts it all together though. He had 829 yards and 5 TDs receiving last year, and his positional versatility as a threat inside or outside makes him very intriguing as a prospect. His ability to elude or run through defenders after the catch is his best skill, and it makes up for a lot of subpar QB play from the Terrapins. Rakim’s willingness to lay out to go get a misplaced ball is admirable, and is something worth giving him some brownie points for. Jarrett in the third could be a huge steal, with good play this season he could climb up the ‘23 WR rankings rather easily.


Zay Flowers, WR, BOSTON COLLEGE

Flowers had a rather disappointing statistical year in 2021, but losing Phil Jurkovic was a huge blow for him. Now that they're both back, we could see the special kind of plays he made his sophomore season again. Flowers is a burner, and will confuse DBs using double moves with regularity. He will juke defenders out of their shoes when he’s in space. At 5’10” 172lbs, Zay is another smaller prospect at WR, but gives off Diontae Johnson and Darnell Mooney vibes as a late sleeper that can excel with the right situation.


Anthony Richardson, QB, FLORIDA

Looking at traits that help fantasy managers the most, Richardson could very well be the QB1 in this class for fantasy drafts if everything goes his way. He has a cannon for an arm, and is extremely athletic on the run for someone as big as him (6’4” 231lbs). But he has very little experience and a brand new offensive system. He threw 6 TDs and 5 INTs in limited action so far, numbers that aren’t very impressive. If he goes off this year, being a more efficient passer and showing off that rare rushing talent, he will be the biggest riser on this list. But in the preseason, #34 feels like a fair spot until he proves himself.


FANTASY PRIORITY FREE AGENTS


Chase Brown, RB, ILLINOIS

An all around threat, and Illinois’ best offensive player. Brown had over 1,000 yards rushing last year, but is a fifth year senior this season. Chase has been around for a while, but last year was his only year of note. He could still be a good role player at the next level for an NFL squad, but likely won’t be a full time starter.


Jaylon Knighton, RB MIAMI

Knighton is a smaller RB that primarily wins with speed, cuts, and elusiveness. Not a bad recipe for success, but if he’s going to be a fantasy impact player he needs to carve out a big role for himself once again at a Miami program with a lot of talent at the position.


Ronnie Bell, WR MICHIGAN

While he only had one touchdown in 2020, he did a nice job carving out a role for himself while competing for touches with Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. He was primed to be the Wolverine’s WR1 in 2021, but unfortunately tore his ACL in the first game of the season. Hopefully he can return to form, and the NFL trajectory he was on before his injury.


Zakhari Franklin, WR UTSA

Zakhari had 81 receptions for 1,027 yards and 12 TDs his junior season, where UTSA shocked the world and went 12-2. But his athleticism appears to be a bit lacking to make an impact in the pros. Watch Zakhari closely at the combine and possibly the Senior Bowl. If he exceeds expectations there against stiffer competition, perhaps he can make a roster.


Tavion Thomas, RB UTAH

Had 1,100 yards rushing and 21 TDs, but the 6’2” 238lb prospect seems to simply be a north-south plodder. If his breakaway speed and footwork improve, so will his draft stock, but for now he appears to be more of a successful college player than he will be as a pro.


Travis Dye, RB USC

Dye is a smaller RB who has had his success at Oregon, but is going into his 5th year, now at USC, and will be competing against several other talented RBs in a new offense. Perhaps he has another good statistical season and impresses NFL scouts, but the fact is most of his production has come as an upperclassmen beating up on inferior PAC-12 defenses.


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