Dynasty Startup Mock Draft: 12-Team, 1QB (2023 Fantasy Football)

Now that the 2023 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, it’s officially rookie draft season. Yet, there is no wrong time to do a dynasty startup draft. However, practice makes perfect, and the best way to prepare is by using the FantasyPros Draft Wizard Mock Draft Simulator.

Therefore, I did a 12-team, half-point PPR, 1QB mock draft to help you prepare for your dynasty startup draft. I used a Hero-WR draft strategy in this mock draft. The starting lineup is one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, three flex spots and nine bench slots. Let’s see how things turned out drafting from the second spot.

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Fantasy Football Mock Draft

Pick 1.02 – Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN)

Justin Jefferson and Chase are the clear-cut top two dynasty startup picks in a 1QB draft. While many have Jefferson ahead of his former college teammate, Chase has a less cloudy future. Kirk Cousins is entering the final year of his contract in Minnesota with no clear successor on the roster. Meanwhile, Chase will have Joe Burrow as his quarterback for the next decade or more.

Pick 2.11 – Najee Harris (RB – PIT)

Some in the fantasy football community are down on Harris after his disappointing 2022 season. The former first-round pick was the RB4 as a rookie, averaging 15.5 fantasy points per game. Last year he saw those numbers regress, ending the year as the RB14, averaging 11.9 fantasy points per contest. However, Harris played well to end the year. Over the final eight games last season, the star running back averaged 86.4 scrimmage yards and 14.7 fantasy points per game. After the Steelers made several additions to the offensive line this offseason, fantasy players should expect a top-seven finish from Harris in 2023.

Pick 3.02 – Rhamondre Stevenson (RB – NE)

I’ve always been a fan of Stevenson since his time at Oklahoma. The young running back broke out last season, ending the year as the RB11, averaging 12.6 fantasy points per game. He had his first career 1,000-yard rushing season in 2022. More importantly, the second-year running back took over the James White role in the passing game. Stevenson had 69 receptions last year after totaling only 14 as a rookie. Furthermore, he finished first on the team in receptions. With Damien Harris in Buffalo, Stevenson’s fantasy value will only go up from here.

Pick 4.11 – Joe Burrow (QB – CIN)

Usually, I would wait a few more rounds before selecting my first quarterback in a 1QB startup draft. However, the chance to stack Chase with Burrow is too good to pass on. After he suffered a severe knee injury as a rookie, the superstar quarterback had been outstanding over the past two years. Burrow was the QB4 last season, averaging 21.9 fantasy points per game. He was the QB8 in 2021, averaging 19.6 fantasy points per game. My dynasty team will have a chance to win every week for the next several years if the Cincinnati duo is healthy.

Pick 5.02 – George Kittle (TE – SF)

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Kittle is a draft with caution tight end to me. He is a superstar talent, but he’s played a complete season only once in his career (2018). However, fantasy players can mitigate Kittle’s injury history by drafting multiple tight ends. Meanwhile, the veteran tight end was a fantasy superstar last season, averaging 11.4 fantasy points per game. He had the second-highest fantasy points per game average, only behind Travis Kelce. More importantly, Kittle turned into a touchdown machine last year, totaling 11, a career-high.

Pick 6.11 – Aaron Jones (RB – GB)

Some will be afraid to draft Jones, given his age and poor rushing touchdown production last year. Yes, the veteran running back had only two rushing scores in 2022, a career-low. However, he had 1,121 rushing yards, 59 receptions and five receiving touchdowns, all career highs. More importantly, Jones hasn’t shown signs of decline. He averaged 3.2 yards after contact per rushing attempt last year, the second-highest average of his career. With Jordan Love taking over at quarterback, the Packers will rely on Jones even more moving forward. Expect positive touchdown regression in 2023.

Pick 7.02 – Calvin Ridley (WR – JAC)

Unfortunately, fantasy players haven’t seen Ridley on the field in nearly two years. While the star receiver only played five games in 2021 because of mental issue problems, Ridley was unstoppable in 2020. That year he was the WR4, averaging 15.8 fantasy points per game, a career-high. Furthermore, the star receiver had 143 targets in 2020, the ninth-most in the NFL. Meanwhile, Trevor Lawrence will be the best quarterback Ridley has ever played with in his career. Fantasy players shouldn’t be surprised if the star receiver has a top-10 finish this year.

Pick 8.11 – David Montgomery (RB – DET)

While he has never been a fantasy superstar, Montgomery has always been a consistent RB2 for fantasy players. Last year the veteran running back averaged 10 fantasy points per game, making it the third consecutive season he has averaged double-digit fantasy points per contest. More importantly, Montgomery averaged 2.9 yards per rushing attempt after contact, the second-highest average of his career. Meanwhile, he now takes over as the lead back in Detroit. Jahmyr Gibbs will cut into Montgomery’s workload. However, expect the veteran running back will replace Jamaal Williams‘ role around the goal line, which should result in a career year scoring touchdowns.

Pick 9.02 – Tyler Lockett (WR – SEA)

Many expected the veteran wide receiver to struggle last season with Geno Smith under center. Instead, Lockett had another productive year. The star wide receiver had totaled at least 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in four consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, Lockett was once again one of the top deep ball wide receivers in the NFL. Last season he scored 66.7% of his receiving touchdowns on passes 20 or more yards downfield, up 4.2% from the year before. More importantly, Lockett was consistent for fantasy players to end the season, scoring double-digit fantasy points in all but one of his final nine games.

Pick 10.11 – JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – NE)

Unfortunately, Smith-Schuster has struggled with injuries since his top-10 finish in 2018. However, the veteran had a productive 2022 season with the Chiefs. He had 78 receptions on 101 targets for 933 receiving yards, finishing second on the team in every category. More importantly, Smith-Schuster joined the Patriots this offseason after the team lost Jakobi Meyers to the Raiders. Last season Meyers led the team in targets (96), receiving yards (804),and touchdowns (six) while finishing second in receptions (67) behind Stevenson. Smith-Schuster lacks top-12 upside but could finish the 2022 season in the WR2 ballpark.

Pick 11.02 – Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS)

Gibson was a popular fantasy pick a few years ago but has struggled with injuries during his NFL career. Unfortunately, the veteran running back had the worst year of his career in 2022. He had 140 rushing attempts for 546 rushing yards and three touchdowns, all career lows. However, Gibson had his best year in the passing game, with 46 receptions on 58 targets for 353 receiving yards, all career highs. Meanwhile, new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy made Jerick McKinnon an RB2 last season, averaging 4.2 targets per game in Kansas City. With J.D. McKissic no long with the team, Gibson is the most likely candidate to fill the McKinnon role in Washington.

Pick 12.11 – Alec Pierce (WR – IND)

Yes, the Colts spent a third-round pick on Josh Downs this year, and the rookie has seen plenty of hype lately. However, Pierce was a second-round pick last year and flashed potential as a rookie. While the former Bearcat averaged only 5.7 fantasy points per game last season, inconsistent quarterback production played a role in Pierce’s struggles. Meanwhile, the former second-round pick was productive when given the targets. Pierce averaged 11.1 fantasy points per game in the five contests with six or more targets last year. Furthermore, the receiver was at his best downfield, posting a 95.3 PFF receiving grade on passes 20 or more yards downfield in 2022.

Pick 13.02 – Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE – TEN)

The Titans waited until the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft to select a wide receiver, which means Okonkwo and Treylon Burks will be the top two pass catchers this season. Last year the rookie tight end started slowly but picked up his play over the final several weeks. Okonkwo averaged 3.5 receptions on 4.3 targets for 40.5 receiving yards per game over the final six games last season. He was the TE8 over those six weeks, averaging 8.2 fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, the rookie was one of the top tight ends after the catch, averaging 7.8 yards after the catch per reception.

Pick 14.11 – Trey Lance (QB – SF)

Unfortunately, fantasy players haven’t seen what Lance can do in the NFL after he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2 last season. However, the young quarterback has been productive when on the field. The former No. 3 overall pick started two games as a rookie and played the second half of the Week 4 matchup. In those 2.5 games, Lance averaged 18 fantasy points per contest. However, adjusting that he only played 10 quarters of football instead of 12, he would have averaged 21.6 fantasy points per game in those three matchups. My QB1 spot is locked in place with Burrow. Therefore, I can swing for the fences with Lance.

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Pick 15.02 – Jaylen Warren (RB – PIT)

After spending my second-round pick on Harris, it’s time to secure his handcuff. Warren was a solid player as an undrafted free-agent rookie. Last year, he had 77 rushing attempts for 379 yards and a touchdown. While the rookie averaged only five fantasy points per game, Warren was productive with his touches. He averaged 4.9 yards per rushing attempt. Furthermore, 14.3% of the rookie’s rushing attempts went for more than 10 yards. By comparison, Harris had only 7.4% of his rushing attempts go for more than 10 yards last season. If my RB1 goes down, I have his handcuff ready to go.

Pick 16.11 – Juwan Johnson (TE – NO)

Despite spending two picks on the tight end position, including a top-50 selection, I can’t pass on Johnson. Last season, the emerging star had seven receiving touchdowns, the third-most among tight ends and a career-high. While the Saints recently signed Foster Moreau, the veteran won’t impact Johnson’s fantasy value. More importantly, Michael Thomas is arguably the most injury-prone wide receiver in the NFL. The young tight end could be the No. 2 pass catcher this year behind Chris Olave if Thomas can’t stay healthy. At this point in the mock draft, it’s all about the upside, and Johnson has plenty.

Pick 17.02 – Adam Thielen (WR – CAR)

The veteran receiver has regressed over the few years. However, Thielen is still one of the best at finding at the end zone, totaling 45 receiving touchdowns over the past five seasons. More importantly, he will be the new No. 1 wide receiver after the team traded away DJ Moore this offseason. Moore has averaged 133.5 targets per season over the past four years. Eventually, Jonathan Mingo or another receiver will surpass Thielen as the team’s No. 1 receiver. Yet, the veteran will provide my team with a reliable flex option this season based on expected volume alone.

Pick 18.11 – Aaron Rodgers (QB – NYJ)

This pick might be my favorite in this mock draft. Burrow gives me a plug-and-play QB1, while Lance is an upside lottery ticket. Rodgers provides my team with a talented fantasy quarterback with years of experience. The future Hall of Famer gives me a safe backup option if Burrow gets hurt and Lance isn’t starting. Meanwhile, Rodgers had 26 passing touchdowns last year, the seventh-most in the NFL. Yet that was considered a down year for the quarterback, as he played with a thumb injury on his throwing hand. Rodgers will be motivated in New York, and no one should be surprised if he has a top-five finish this year.

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Mike Fanelli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @Mike_NFL2.

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