Rookie Class Progress Reports
Part 1: (The Quarterbacks and Running Backs)
Article by: Mike Lindberg
Class has been in session for the 2023 NFL rookie class for weeks now and we are roughly a third of the way done the season. NFL teams have started to give us a real indication on how they are playing, patterns are forming, and we can now finally see a little more clarity as we head into the middle section of this NFL season. Some of the biggest unknowns heading into every NFL season are how all the rookies will adapt to their new settings. It’s always fun to see how the rookies come in and earn their playing time. There is always a surprise or two out of the gate. This year is no exception; three of the top fantasy-producing rookies were all drafted in the 3rd round or later! Who would have expected this from the likes of Puka Nacua, Tank Dell and De’von Achane? With the good there is always the bad, some expected faster starts from Bryce Young, Jahmyr Gibbs, Zach Charbonnet, and Jaxon Smith Njigba, for various reasons we are still waiting for them to break out. There has been a lot of information to process with these rookies, and I am here to dig deeper and help you process it all. I’ve given each rookie a report card grade on how I feel they did vs. expectations headed into the year. I’ll recap how each relevant rookie fared to start the year, and look ahead to help project what is ahead for them in the next portion of the season. In this edition I will cover the Quarterbacks and Running Backs. Next week I will cover the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends. Let’s dive in!
It wouldn’t have been a proper NFL draft if there weren’t some intriguing drama headed into it. Rumor’s of the Colts being high on Will Levis and CJ Stroud fading out of the first round were floating around plenty. The draft played out like many had projected in March with Stroud landing in Houston with the #2 overall pick. Stroud has come out of the gate ahead of both Richardson and Young so far to start this season. With Richardson on IR and Young struggling, CJ Stroud has been the bright spot in the rookie QB landscape.
Bryce Young #1 Overall
Report Card Grade: C+
When the Panthers moved up to #1 in the draft to snag former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young many thought he would be the most complete passer out of the rookies headed into the 2023 season. Bryce Young was touted to have great awareness and pinpoint accuracy, attributes that made him go #1 overall. Unfortunately, his lack of size, durability, and timing with his receivers has caused Bryce Young to start 2023 slower than many expected. Now, the Panthers are sitting at 0-6, with the worst record in football and tensions are building in the front office. Rumors of discontent about drafting Young, between head coach Frank Reich, the front office decision makers are swirling in Carolina. With a 64% completion percentage through 5 games, the Panthers have resulted in simplifying their playbook for Young. This clearly is not the direction the Panthers were hoping to be heading with Young when they paid up to get him with the #1 overall pick. Through six games Young has underwhelmed completing only 115 passes on 182 attempts for 967 yards, with 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 63.2%. These are pedestrian passing numbers at best for a player touted to be an elite pocket passer. Young missed week 3 with an ankle injury, further raising eyebrows about his durability and longevity as an NFL quarterback. With so much optimism heading into 2023 for Young and the Panthers, this start for this regime has clearly been one that has disappointed many. With all of this said, Young has earned a C+ for his underwhelming start to 2023. Unfortunately a lot will need to change positively in order for Young to emerge and live up to pre season expectations. The Panthers desperately need better offensive line play; he’s been sacked 16 times in 5 games. Secondly, the Panthers need to bring in a bonafide #1 wide receiver. Finally, Young needs to process his reads more quickly to get the ball out quicker. Young will need to be better and quickly, because rumors are already swirling about Carolina being a potential landing spot for the most coveted piece of the strongest draft class in years.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: QB13
My current in season adjustment: QB14
CJ Stroud #2 Overall
Report Card Grade: B+
CJ Stroud has come out of the gate looking like he should have been the #1 overall pick, so why was there so much pre draft controversy? Stroud’s ability to process the game and opposing defenses was questioned by many critics of the game and caused quite the stir before the draft. Once the dust settled, Stroud ended up going where everyone thought he would go, the Houston Texans. Many thought Stroud would struggle because of the West Coast style offense Houston ran in 2022, which asks the quarterback to make quick reads and move outside the pocket. Stroud struggled in College with these assignments and many thought he would fail in the NFL. The Texans have done a good job designing their game around Stroud’s strengths, not his weaknesses. Go figure. One of the biggest concerns for Stroud headed into 2023 was his lack supporting cast, and a true #1 alpha wide receiver. It seems that the Texans have found a couple great weapons for Stroud in 3rd year receiver Nico Collins and rookie Tank Dell silencing these pre season concerns. Stroud comes in strong with a solid B+ for his strong fantasy start to the 2023 season. Look for Stroud to continue his strong rookie as he pushes through the juiciest part of his schedule.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: QB15
My current in season adjustment: QB11
Anthony Richardson #4 Overall
Report Card Grade: B
The ceiling is as high as any player ever, but so is the risk. Let’s see if Shane Steichen can do what he did with Jalen Hurts with Anthony Richardson. Richardson’s freak size and incredible 4.43 speed was on full display from the get go, showing his elite rushing upside. Richardson finished as a top 10 quarterback in the 2 games he finished so far this season. Shane Steichen and the Colts did great job of game planning so far for their rookie quarterback. Interestingly enough, Richardson has the best completion percentage out of the three rookies so far in 2023, a stat many thought would be dominated by the other two. Richardson looks as advertised and the Colts look like they found their franchise quarterback. Unfortunately, when you are a running quarterback you are more susceptible to taking bigger hits and that’s exactly what happened to Richardson he is now on the IR. This is a huge set back for what was looking like a monster rookie season coming from Richardson. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out with Gardner Minshew at the helm, the Colts are in the thick of the division race and have played well under Minshew. If the Colts are playing great once Richardson is healthy it’ll be interesting to see if there will be a quarterback controversy. Either way Richardson has done everything I wanted to see from him to ensure him being an elite dynasty QB asset.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: QB12
My current in season adjustment: QB9
The Running Backs
Bijan Robinson #8 Overall
Report Card Grade: A
Many thought that Tyler Allgeier wasn’t good enough to take meaningful snaps away from Bijan Robinson, but here we are through 6 games it has been roughly a 60/40 split in favor of Robinson. Arthur Smith continues to amaze me with the way he utilizes his top first round offensive draft picks. Bijan Robinson has shown us everything that fantasy managers had hoped for when they drafted him; his uncanny ability to make defenders miss, his ability to create yards after contact, and his elite receiving and route running have been on full display. One could only imagine how incredible he could be if he were to receive that full workhorse running back role that many of us envisioned him getting right off the hop. Allgeier has cut into that dream a little, however Bijan has still been great with his opportunities. Perhaps Bijan’s season has been overshadowed by the surprise starts by De’von Achane and Puka Nacua. As a rookie Bijan is currently the RB8 in PPR scoring, rushing for 401 yards, and adding another 189 yards in receiving on 26 receptions, and scoring 2 times. His 5.0 yards per carry is efficient and among the league’s best. A great debut, earning Bijan an grade of an A, only knock is he has not yet seized the full workhorse role he was projected to be. Looking ahead I see Bijan’s talent being able to overtake that 60/40 split and push it closer to a 70/30 split, pushing Bijan into a top 5 finish at the position.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: RB1
My current in season adjustment: RB1
Jahmyr Gibbs #12 Overall
Report Card Grade: B-
With the jubilation exuded in the Detroit Lions draft room when they drafted Jahmyr Gibbs, one would have thought the Lions already knew Gibbs would be a future hall of famer. Leading the draft room cheers was Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell, so it comes to a surprise to many that Campbell hasn’t utilized Gibbs to his fullest potential. David Montgomery, the veteran battering ram was always going to be a factor in that backfield, however not many thought, when healthy he’d be earning 75% of the snaps. Montgomery has been incredible, out producing Gibbs by double the fantasy points. When Montgomery is healthy and playing, Gibbs is only seeing 33% of the snaps. Gibbs has been great with his opportunities, earning a nice 4.6 yards per carry. Gibbs has looked very fast and his burst through the second level of the defense is noticeable. The Lions have looked great to start the year and have not been in many games that had a favorable game script for Gibbs. So there is still optimism that Gibbs can be a big factor down the stretch for the Lions and fantasy managers when games are closer and more meaningful. Gibbs is now dealing with a hamstring injury that could potentially sideline him until after the Lions bye in week 9 further crushing the hope of an incredible rookie season. One day Gibbs’ may evolve into the Austin Ekeler type role but it won’t be this year. Gibbs lands with a respectable B- with plenty of room for improvement. Temper expectations when Gibbs returns from his hamstring injury, but he should be a factor in close games down the stretch for the Lions and fantasy teams.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: RB6
My current in season adjustment: RB6
Zach Charbonnet #52 Overall
Report Card Grade: C
Many thought the Seahawks went and crushed the fantasy stock of Kenneth Walker III by selecting Zach Charbonnet in the second round of the 2023 NFL draft. With similar skill sets many thought it would be closer to a 50/50 split between Walker and Charbonnet. Through 5 games Walker has been dominating snaps roughly 65/35. There was talk about Charbonnet being able to take on the 3rd down role as he was touted as a better pass catcher then Walker, but that hasn’t come to fruition. Charbonnet has mostly been a relief guy, coming in only to spell Walker for the odd series. Charbonnet has actually been quite efficient with his opportunities rushing for 104 yards on 21 carries for a nice 5.0 yards per carry. It is looking more and more like Charbonnet will need an injury to Walker for him to emerge to be fantasy relevant this year. A more likely scenario in a Pete Carrol smash mouth style run game. As the season moves on and the run games get leaned on more down the stretch I can see Charbonnet carve out a big enough role to make him flex worthy.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: RB26
My current in season adjustment: RB28
Kendre Miller #71 Overall
Report Card Grade: C
I am sure no one is shocked that Kendre Miller has hardly played to start the year when you are behind Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams on the depth chart. 2024 was always going to be the year for Kendre Miller to take over the Saints backfield. Fantasy managers were filled with optimism for Miller when Kamara started the season with a suspension and Jamaal Williams heading to IR early on. The door was open for 71ist overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft to seize a prominent role in that Saints backfield. Miller was supposed to showcase his elusiveness, footwork, quickness, burst and long speed, unfortunately Miller dealt with injuries in the preseason and wasn’t game ready due to reduced reps. Miller missed the first 2 games and didn’t get into his first game until week 3 where Tony Jones drew the majority of the work. Miller hasn’t been all that efficient with his limited work either, rushing for only 74 yards on 22 attempts for a poor 3.4 yards per carry. A disappointing start to his career, Miller earned a C and has plenty of room to improve upon this headed into the next stretch of the season. There is optimism moving forward as Miller will certainly be more involved as the season progresses. Miller should be the future of the Saints backfield and will get his chances to prove that down the stretch.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: RB32
My current in season adjustment: RB32
Tyjae Spears #81 Overall
Report Card Grade = B+
With what seemed like so much working against Tyjae Spears to start this year, it’s impressive to see the role that Spears has carved out for himself. Earning playing time alongside Derrick Henry has been a feat many have failed at. Historically, when healthy Henry plays a dominating 80+ percent of the snaps for the Titans. Secondly, the Titans have not historically targeted running backs enough to make them fantasy relevant. Finally, concerns about Spears’ ACL had people scared off of Spears. The odds were stacked against Spears carving himself out a decent role in 2023. Right out of the gate Spears has earned the Titans trust playing an average of 50% of their snaps. Spears has ran the ball 31 times for 171 yards with an impressive 5.8 yards per carry. Spears has also added 15 receptions for 111 yards in receiving. Spears earned an impressive B+ for cutting into Henry’s workload already. If the Titans end up fading away in the playoff race, I can see them fading Henry and his playing time in order to give more looks to Spears. Opening up the opportunity for Spears to seize the future of the Titans backfield.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: RB32
My current in season adjustment: RB41
Devon Achane #84
Report Card Grade: A-
Speed is a deadly weapon and the Miami Dolphins have plenty of it. Achane stormed on the scene in week 3 after barely playing in his debut in week 2. Heading into Week 6 De’von Achane was the second leading rusher with 460 yards on just 38 carries for an unsustainable 12.10 yards per carry. To add to this, Achane has a knack of finding the end zone as well, scoring a whopping 7 touchdowns in 4 games. Achane’s biggest knock on him was his size and durability being only 5’8 and 190 pounds, illustrated by the time he missed in the pre season, followed by the latest knee injury that landed him on the IR until at least Week 11 after the Dolphins bye. The latest injury clearly exemplifies the risk of rostering these smaller players and that’s why Achane earned only an A- for his debut in the league. Achane has landed in the perfect spot, playing for offensive mastermind Mike McDaniel. Look for Achane to continue his dominance once he returns from IR. Achane is looking like the real deal and has shot up dynasty rankings.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: RB29
My current in season adjustment: RB15
Tank Bigsby #88
Report Card Grade: C-
A tough in between the tackles runner, who can pass protect and has great hands. Tank Bigsby was being talked up all summer and was supposed to cut into Travis Etienne’s workload, stealing passing down snaps, and goal line work. It is looking more and more like Tank Bigsby is just a high-end handcuff. Many predicted, including myself that Tank would cut into Etienne’s workload, roughly earning a 35/65 split in favor of Etienne. Unfortunately for Tank Bigsby and his fantasy managers his 17% snap share is far below what some expected headed into the year. Bigsby has been an inefficient runner with his opportunities rushing 18 times for 43 yards for 2.4 yards per carry. Bigsby has seen some red zone looks which turned into 2 touchdowns on the year. Bigsby has earned a C- for his inability to earn more playing time. Moving forward, look for Tank Bigsby to continue playing roughly 15-20% of the snaps weekly. It would take an injury to Etienne for Bigsby to become fantasy relevant, an unfortunate situation as there was optimism Bigsby would carve out a flex worthy role.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: RB40
My current in season adjustment: RB42
That covers the most noteworthy rookie quarterbacks and running backs. In the next edition of the 2023 Rookie Progress Report, I will be covering the most relevant rookie wide receivers and tight ends.
Mike Lindberg has been playing fantasy football since 2008. He specializes in Dynasty, Keeper and Redraft leagues.
He spends a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts, and mock drafting in order to give you the best fantasy advice possible.
His DM’s are open so don’t hesitate to give him a follow on Twitter @FFCanuck99
Let’s go win some championships!