Ideal 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Picks In Each Round

Jun 1st 2023

Hayden Winks

My ideal fantasy football draft is baed on Underdog Fantasy scoring, so half PPR with 18 rounds for 1QB-2RB-3WR-1TE-1FLEX rosters. Here's what I did in summary:

3-5-7-3 build. I'm lightest at WR, but I drafted Kupp and six other WRs through Round 13. That's been an optimal approach in each of the Best Ball Mania seasons. They also happen to be correlated with all 3 of my QBs (Herbert with Williams, Stafford with Kupp and Higbee, Mac with JuJu and Henry). Late in the draft is when I spend a lot of picks on QBs and TEs, who project better over positional replacement than the dusty RBs and WRs that go in the same range because they are legit on the field. And finally, all 5 of my RBs have a history of 20+ touches in a game with goal line size. Underdog Fantasy is about touchdowns, so let's build rosters that have paths to multiple scores.

Round 1 - WR1 Cooper Kupp

He was on pace for 153 receptions in his 8 healthy games last year. Since then, the Rams OL is improved/healthy and their defense has lost multiple key starters including Jalen Ramsey. Coach Sean McVay will essentially be playing Madden this year, and he plays with the fastest pace and passes at the highest rate in the NFL when trailing. Health and age (30) are concerns, but the environment almost couldn't get better for an established elite.

Since 2020, Kupp has 19 (!!!) games of 20+ half PPR points.

Round 2 - RB1 Nick Chubb

No Kareem Hunt (6.9 expected TDs last year) in an offense that has top-5 potential. Chubb hasn't had either of those things throughout his career, yet he's been worthy of a Round 2 selection just about every season. There's almost nothing but upside at this selection, as his 19th overall ADP is one of the best values on the entire draft board. The WR sickos are overlooking his projection versus the WR2s currently being taken around him.

Round 3 - RB2 Breece Hall

We talked about Hall's workload and skillset in the video below, but in summary, few have his size and explosiveness. He'll be the goal line and receiving back, leaving him with top-5 overall ceiling paths if his ACL tear recovers on time and if Aaron Rodgers is a meaningful upgrade on the Jets 2022 QBs. Those seem like fairly easy assumptions to make, at least at his 29th overall cost.

Round 4 - WR2 Mike Williams

The WRs in this Round 4-5 range (43rd overall) are quite flat to me, so I'll go with Williams as he's at least shown weekly and season-long ceilings in an offense that I expect to rebound. Williams' back fracture scares me, but we play for ceiling in best ball. Since 2020, he has 6 games of 20+ half PPR points. That's when this QB came into town...

Round 5 - QB1 Justin Herbert

Stacking is massively important in fantasy football, but especially in best ball. If you're not team stacking, you're not going to be a consistent winner. It's that simple. In the early rounds, I want to find at least one QB-WR or QB-TE pairing. The Chargers are a very easy one right now. Herbert's down 2022 season could be explained away by OC Joe Lombardi, his own ribs injury, elite LT Ra'Shawn Slater missing the season, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams only playing 22% of the season snaps together, and by missing a vertical threat at No. 3 receiver. Well, all of those things are expected to be fixed this year. In 2021, Herbert had four spike weeks, only trailing Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. I'd argue his environment is better in 2023. He goes 53rd overall right now.

Round 6 - WR3 Jordan Addison

An underappreciated prospect because he's a route running purist with great play awareness, Addison fits beautifully next to Justin Jefferson who will let Addison get single coverage looks all year. The Vikings were 2nd in WR fantasy usage last year, and Adam Thielen actually only trailed Justin Jefferson in total routes of any player in the NFL. Thielen had 7 games of 20+ half PPR points since 2020 in this offense as a 29+ year old.

Round 7 - WR4 George Pickens

As you can see in the chart below, it's best to have at least 4 WRs in this Round 7-8 range. I wrote about When To Draft WRs here, but firmly believe it's impossible to catch up on WR ceilings late in drafts, as 86% of last year's spike weeks came from the top-36 WRs in ADP this year. Pickens was a boom-bust prospect, who played like a boom-bust WR as a rookie. His downfield and near sideline skillset leaves him with weekly ceiling potential, but Pickens needs to develop better tempo and body control on underneath and intermediate routes to be a true No. 1 receiver. If he does that in the Steelers' WR program, then there's upside at cost (WR38, 73rd overall).

Round 8 - RB3 Alexander Mattison

He'll be a Round 4-5 pick if Dalvin Cook is traded or released, which became more likely after this analytics-focused front office re-signed Mattison to a $7M contract this offseason. If Cook takes a paycut to stay, Mattison remains a sweet insurance pick in this range. He's also correlated with Jordan Addison, my 6th round selection.

Round 9 - WR5 JuJu Smith-Schuster

Sure, it was with Patrick Mahomes, but JuJu finished as the WR38 and 97th overall player per game in my best ball points over replacement metric. He's replacing Jakobi Meyers, who was the WR36 in this metric. The Patriots could've kept Meyers for similar money, so they view JuJu as a slight upgrade. More importantly, New England is a near lock to improve offensively with the OC change. JuJu goes 103rd overall right now.

Round 10 - WR6 Tyler Boyd

He finished 133rd overall in best ball points over replacement last year, so this 114th overall ADP is slightly ahead of his normal baseline. Boyd's upside is obvious, however. If Ja'Marr Chase or Tee Higgins miss time, Boyd projects better. If the losses of Hayden Hurst and Samaje Perine mean more targets, Boyd projects better. If Joe Burrow goes brrrr, Boyd projects better. More importantly, after being light on WRs through Round 5, I feel fully caught up by having 6 WRs through Round 10. That's been optimal in every year on Underdog Fantasy.

Round 11 - RB4 Elijah Mitchell

There's a chance he sees a few games of 10 carries and a score alongside Christian McCaffrey, but the real value is as an insurance play. Mitchell has 17+ touches in 10-of-13 games where he played 50% or more of the offensive snaps.

Round 12 - WR7 Nico Collins

I don't like the WRs in this range, and I at least like Collins' youth and better in best ball skillset. He's the Texans only true outside WR with downfield ability, an area of the field that CJ Stroud has had lots of success in. The difference from Davis Mills to Stroud could be staggering.

Round 13 - TE1 Tyler Higbee

Last year's OTs were injured, which led to Higbee having an outlier year of pass blocking instead of route running. This year, Stafford should have more time to operate, potentially leading to top-5 routes for Higbee. At this cost with this Kupp-Stafford-Higbee correlation, it's a nice price to pay.

Round 14 - QB2 Matthew Stafford

Sean McVay's offenses have finished top-3 in neutral pace when trailing multiple times, and I expect it to be elite again this year based on their roster strengths. Stafford is obviously best stacked with Kupp (check), but he's also cheaply stacked with Higbee (check), Van Jefferson, TuTu Atwell, and one of the free insurance RBs. We saw this offense pay off similar priced tags in massive ways in 2021.

Round 15 - RB5 Devin Singletary

There's some correlation with Round 13 Collins, and the Texans are a team I want to get exposure to late in drafts. CJ Stroud is good in my opinion, as is his OL that five potential plus starters. Singletary has handled big workloads before, so he just needs Dameon Pierce to miss time to be a weekly RB2/flex.

Round 16 - QB3 Mac Jones

This team already has Round 10 JuJu, and Mac is easily paired with very late in drafts, too. Tyquan Thornton is the young gun with better in best ball speed. DeVante Parker is absolutely free on a big contract (and he quietly had 80+ yards in 3-of-9 healthy games last year). Then there's a certain TE I'm targeting...

Round 17 - TE2 Hunter Henry

It's EXTREMELY rare to be able to draft the 2nd-highest paid TE in the NFL in the very last rounds of fantasy drafts, but that's where we are with Henry, who has 5 games with 13.8+ fantasy points in New England. Mike Gesicki is a rotational slot, while Henry gets all of the big boy routes and snaps. The Patriots are one of my favorite stacks right now. What can go wrong?

Round 18 - TE3 Luke Musgrave

Rookie TEs don't produce. BUT Musgrave's primary competition comes from another rookie TE who was drafted 40 picks later. Musgrave checks all of the breakout boxes, too: path to a meaningful target share, size to play an every-down role, and athleticism to make plays. If he didn't miss so much time in college, Musgrave would be touted more often. As a bonus, he's almost never drafted in best ball. If he hits, there's massive leverage. That's why he's my most drafted player through 26 drafts.