2023 NFL Rookie Fantasy Rankings: Quarterback
Kyle Dvorchak breaks down his top 10 rookie quarterbacks for dynasty and redraft fantasy football leagues, highlighted by Anthony Richardson.
NFL Rookie QB Fantasy Rankings
No. 1 Anthony Richardson, Florida
C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young posted far better-passing numbers in college and are better real-life selections. Fantasy football is a different beast though. At the combine, Richardson set the broad jump (129 inches) and vertical jump (40.5 inches) records for a quarterback. His 4.43 forty is top-five for a QB and he towers over the players ahead of him on that list. As a thrower, Richardson struggled with accuracy, completing 53.8 percent of his passes in 2022. He did, however, have one of the highest aDOTs (11.5) among Power Five passers. Richardson also displays strong in-game awareness. He throws the ball away when he needs to and doesn’t take sacks when pressured. He is a project coming into the league, but that is to be expected from a prospect who will be drafted at 20 years old with fewer than 400 career pass attempts to his name. Based on how much rushing production we can expect from him in the NFL, Richardson will have the strongest fantasy outlook of the rookie class once in a starting role. In Superflex leagues, I can see an argument to take the sure bets in Stroud and Young over Richardson, though I’d rather shoot for upside with the latter.
No. 2 C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
Stroud and Young are a tossup at No. 2, but the former is going to be taken with the first pick, stands five inches taller, and has comparable efficiency stats. Over Stroud’s two seasons as a starter, he threw for 8,123 yards and 85 touchdowns. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks, he ranked second in EPA per dropback as a sophomore and fifth as a junior. The only knock on his production is a lack of rushing output. He did not score once on the ground in two years as a starter. Stroud may not have the biggest arm in this class, but he undoubtedly has the best functional arm strength. No quarterback marries accuracy and velocity at the level Stroud does. This allows him to hit receivers with pinpoint precision to generate more yards after the catch and turn 50/50 balls into better bets for his wideouts. His biggest issue is making throws under pressure. He rarely uses his legs to escape defenders but also refused to take sacks, often resulting in risky or inaccurate throws. In 2022, he ranked 81st out of 144 qualified passers in Pro Football Focus passing grade when pressured. Stroud is the rare prospect who could use a little more freelance in his game. He is an average athlete, but that’s enough to punish defenses who completely ignore his legs. Stroud rarely took off but showed an ability to do so in his semifinal game against Georgia. An elite prospect with minor issues that can likely be improved via coaching, Stroud only missed out on my No. 1 ranking because of how valuable rushing yards are to fantasy production.
No. 3 Bryce Young, Alabama
Young’s career arc looks shockingly similar to Stroud’s. He sat behind a future NFL quarterback as a freshman but immediately shined in the starting role as a sophomore. Young threw for 4,872 yards and 47 scores in 2021 en route to a Heisman Trophy on top of a case full of other awards. His 2022 season wasn’t quite as impressive, but that’s only because of how high he set the bar a year before. He still threw for 3,328 yards and 32 scores while playing in three fewer contests. There aren’t many holes to be poked in Young’s game, and they are primarily related to his physical attributes. He doesn’t possess elite arm strength and ranked 25th in completion percentage on deep throws in 2022. However, he recognizes this and chooses his spots to go deep with perfection. Young ranked outside of the top 100 quarterbacks in deep throw rate last year, but PFF charted him with a top-10 passing grade and a low Turnover Worthy Play rate. His size is at the root of this issue. Young will be the first quarterback in the 21st century to weigh under 205 pounds and go in the first round. The ones under 210 were universally elite athletes with supreme rushing upside. The closest comp for Young is somewhere between Drew Brees and Tua Tagovailoa. He is a similar size to the former and leaves Alabama on a similar trajectory to Tua, though Young doesn’t need the persistent use of RPOs and play-action that Tua does for his game to thrive.
No. 4 Will Levis, Kentucky
Levis entered the college ranks at Penn State in 2018, but transferred to Kentucky after seeing almost no action for three years. He immediately took on the starting role and threw for 2,826 yards, 24 scores, and 13 interceptions. He also added nine scores on the ground. This was his best season by far. As a senior, PFF charted him with a Big Time Throw rate half that of his junior year. He also increased his Turnover Worthy Play rate while taking 10 more sacks on 76 fewer dropbacks. On top of all of that, his rushing production ceased to exist. At his best, Levis uses his cannon of an arm to pick apart defenses on intermediate and deep throws. He also has more than enough athleticism to punish defenses that aren’t dedicating a man to him. However, Levis doesn’t exactly have his Howitzer dialed in yet. He can make every throw but fails to consistently put the ball on the correct part of a receiver’s frame based on the situation. Levis also struggles with his decision-making, resulting in some stunningly easy interceptions. The Kentucky grad has consistently drawn comparisons to Josh Allen. Those are more than warranted, but it’s important to remember how much Allen struggled through two years, and that his MVP-level turnaround was incredibly unlikely.
No. 5 Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
In a world where Hooker doesn’t tear his ACL late in his final season, we could be talking about him as a locked-in first-round pick. He averaged .33 EPA per dropback, 10.9 adjusted yards per attempt, and earned PFF’s No. 11 passing grade among all Power Five QBs last year. However, his receivers were schemed open seemingly at will, giving him an easy path to jaw-dropping counting stats. Tennessee spread defenses out with a deep group of talented wideouts, manufactured space for them, and let Hooker go long or to find the open man. He wasn’t tasked with reading defenses or working through his progressions nearly as much as he will be in the NFL. He is also over 25 years old and the ACL recovery will likely force him to redshirt as a rookie. The hope will be that he can have a Jalen Hurts-like path early in his career, though his first start and any increase in dynasty value may not come until 2024.
No. 6 Clayton Tune, Houston
With no clear consensus after Hooker, Tune checks enough boxes to come in at No. 6 in my rankings. As a senior, he threw for 4,074 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions with an additional 544 yards on the ground. He ranked 21st in EPA per dropback in 2022. Though Houston’s spread offense certainly made life easier for him, Tune had no issues standing tall in the pocket and waiting for the play to develop, despite having the legs to take off when needed. His biggest issue is his arm strength. He doesn’t rifle throws into tight windows and his accuracy drops off as he pushes the ball downfield. He may ultimately have a ceiling that is somewhere on the border of starter and backup in the NFL, similar to Gardner Minshew. That is valuable in Superflex leagues, but Tune should only be rostered in 1QB leagues that are particularly deep.
No. 7 Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
DTR was the Bruins’ primary starter as a freshman and held that job down for five seasons. Playing under Chip Kelly boosted his counting stats, but he improved based on efficiency metrics and the eye test throughout his career. DTR capped his UCLA tenure with 3,169 passing yards and 27 touchdowns in 2022. He rushed for an additional 645 tards and 12 scores. Thompson-Robinson averaged .31 EPA per dropback, top-10 in the FBS. His rushing output helped, but even when looking at just EPA on pass attempts, he ranked top-20 in the country. Despite the lengthy career, DTR still looks raw at times. His footwork occasionally betrays him and he needs to work on hitting the mark while under pressure. The hope will be that DTR lands with a staff who can develop him into a capable backup. With improved mechanics and a solid scheme, he could resemble a player like Tyrod Taylor.
No. 8 Jake Haener, Fresno State
By all accounts, Haener has that dog in him. Washington was the only Power Five school to make him an offer, but he didn’t start as a freshman and transferred to Fresno State, only to see his first season as a starter disappear because of COVID-19. He finally got his shot in 2021 and threw for 4,096 yards and 33 scores. He gritted his teeth through a cracked bone in his foot in 2022 and averaged 8.3 yards per attempt and a 5.7 percent touchdown rate, though that came on 150 fewer passes, suppressing his counting stats. Scouts generally had glowing reviews of Haener’s mental attributes. He displays sound footwork and throws with impressive anticipation. His issues are primarily physical. He’s undersized, doesn’t threaten defenses with his legs, and is lacking in arm strength. Haener could become an NFL backup quicker than most rookies, but his odds of finding a starting gig are slim.
No. 9 Stetson Bennett, Georgia
Bennett runs a fast but not blazing Forty (4.67 seconds) and his arm is underwhelming for NFL standards. As expected, you won’t see a swathe of perfectly thrown deep shots or otherworldly scrambles when you watch him. Then, at the end of the game, you’ll notice he scored four times as Georgia pummeled another SEC team into submission. In 2022, Bennett led all quarterbacks in EPA per dropback, earned a top-10 passing grade from PFF, and averaged 9.1 yards per attempt. He is fundamentally sound with solid footwork and throwing mechanics. However, he isn’t going to beat you with his arm and doesn’t throw with notable anticipation. He is also far from the average size of an NFL quarterback. Kellen Moore comes out as a reasonable comp for Bennett.
No. 10 Tanner McKee, Stanford
As a data-inclined analyst, I don’t see it with McKee. He ranked 115th in EPA per dropback in 2022 and PFF had him at 45th in passing grade. He threw 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his final collegiate season. Scouts have generally given him credit for having a strong arm, but he ranked 81st in completion percentage on deep throws in 2022 and rarely even tried to go long. Most of his profile is propped up by his size and experience in a pro system. If he comes off the board on the second day of the draft as some analysts expect, he could rise as high as sixth in my rankings. Otherwise, he will remain a fringe top-10 dynasty prospect.