It feels like just a few years ago when we used to see running backs come rattling off the board at the start of and throughout the first round of Fantasy Football drafts. So much has changed since then. The first round in 2023 is filled with early wide receivers and even one non-running back/receiver. With more receivers coming off the board in the first half of the first round, an opportunity presents itself to grab running backs when you're at the end of the round. That's the position I found myself in during our pick-by-pick draft when I inherited the 12th overall selection -- the back-to-back.
Typically, I'm not a fan of starting my drafts with two running backs. I believe in an antifragility strategy that places emphasis on avoiding using your primary assets (early-round picks) at the position. I'm typically either a Hero-RB drafter or a zero-RB drafter. However, it's more important to adjust your strategy to how the draft plays out rather than being inflexible. That's exactly what I did in the position I was in with the 12th pick overall. After locking in two lead backs, it was time to devote my attention to the wide receivers -- in a full PPR format -- you can never have too many receivers. Any week you start a non-WR in the Flex is a bad week as far as I'm concerned.
- Pick-by-pick series: | | | | | | | | | | |
As a reference point, all touchdowns in this league are worth six points, and we award one point for every 10 yards rushing and receiving and one point for every 25 yards passing. We also award one point for every reception. We feature a starting lineup of QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE and FLEX (RB/WR/TE).
Here's my squad from the 12th pick:
1.12: Nick Chubb, RB, CLE
2.1: Tony Pollard, RB, DAL
3.12: Jerry Jeudy, WR, DEN
4.1: D.J. Moore, WR, CHI
5.12: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, SF
6.1: Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI
7.12: Brandin Cooks, WR, DAL
8.1: Khalil Herbert, RB, CHI
9.12: Rashod Bateman, WR, BAL
10.1: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, MIA
11.12: Geno Smith, QB, SEA
12.1: Sam LaPorta, TE, DET
13.12: Michael Wilson, WR, ARI
14.1: Gerald Everett, TE, LAC
It was vital for me to seek volume in the passing game after starting my draft with two running backs even though I believe both Chubb and Pollard will combine to reach near the triple-digit reception mark combined for me in 2023. In Jeudy and Moore, I found two players who have a realistic opportunity to accrue 300-plus targets combined in 2023. Moore has been Justin Fields' locked-on. go-to receiver in Bears camp and their rapport has been automatic since the start of OTAs. Jeudy concerns me more as a major target getter, but his production with Russell Wilson in 2022 plus the injury to Tim Patrick quells some of those concerns.
Aiyuk has been the standout receiver at 49ers camp this summer and let's not forget that anyone who blocks the way he does in a Kyle Shanahan scheme will get targeted in the pass game. Shanahan hasn't been shy about that, and if you ask any 49ers player they'll tell you the same. Aiyuk has long been one of the most underrated receivers on game film as far as creating separation and winning routes, so any uptick in target volume could lead to a breakout.
I feel a bit more concerned about my running back depth with this build, so I would be looking to use the waiver wire early in the season to replace some of my flier tight ends. At that stage of the draft, the running back well had dried up. Of course, another major area of concern is at quarterback where I waited and then scooped up two players I like above consensus. We'll get to more on that below:
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SF San Francisco • #11
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
With the last pick of Round 5, I was ecstatic to see Aiyuk still on the board. Sure, his upside might be limited based on the 49ers run-heavy approach and the target competition around him, but Aiyuk is the NFL's best kept secret and he's been the most dominant player at 49ers camp. A Year 4 breakout could mean an uptick in targets that allows him to be a reliable back-end WR1 with enough touchdown volume -- and he's always been a playmaker inside the red zone. Aiyuk is the type of talent who should come off the board in the first 30 picks. I am betting on the talent here.
Jerry Jeudy WR
DEN Denver • #10
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
I didn't love the position I was in at the end of Round 3 after my go-to Calvin Ridley was already off the board. I drafted Jeudy, but I am concerned that we are using a small sample size in a completely different offensive system to prop up his draft value. With Sean Payton in town, Jeudy may not be the volume-grabber he was with Russell Wilson in 2022. He is also a receiver who has struggled at times with drops in the past.
MIA Miami • #1
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Whenever you wait on quarterback, the goal is to grab two players with upside and hope one breaks out. Tua already showed the ability to put up QB1 numbers in his first season with Mike McDaniel and he has two of the fastest and most explosive receivers in the game in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Of course, I might regret this because Tua also has a concussion history and missed a lot of games in 2022. With only Geno Smith behind him on my depth chart, I might end up that manager looking to the wire for streaming matchups at QB.