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2023 ESPN Fantasy Football Strategy, Tips, Targets, Fades

This article contains everything you need to dominate your 2023 fantasy drafts on ESPN. We walk through a few targets and fades for each round, along with a few strategy notes. 

Targets are players we are actively drafting on this platform. Values are players who go rounds later on ESPN compared with other fantasy draft platforms. 

ESPN is a full PPR (one point per reception) platform. Our free, color-coded, downloadable PDF Top 160 Cheat Sheet is designed for half and full PPR formats. If you want a more in-depth strategy guide that walks you through roster construction tips, read the Fantasy Football Game Plan.

ESPN Fantasy Football Targets

Round 1 (Picks 1-12)

Targets: Tyreek Hill (6), Cooper Kupp (7)

Tyreek Hill and Cooper Kupp were above 20 fantasy points per game last season and should be going a couple of picks earlier in this format. Kupp has led all receivers in fantasy points per game the past two seasons. Hill quietly had more receiving yards per game than Justin Jefferson in the 13 games started by QB Tua Tagovailoa last year.

Round 2 (Picks 13-24)

Targets: Amon-Ra St. Brown (21), Jaylen Waddle (23)

Value: CeeDee Lamb (16)

Round 2 is a gold mine for wide receivers. Amon-Ra St. Brown ranked 10th in our fantasy rankings, so we’d be thrilled to land him in the second round.

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Round 3 (Picks 25-36)

Target: Chris Olave (28)

Value: DeVonta Smith (29)

Chris Olave is often gone by the start of the third round in tournaments and competitive leagues. We’re interested in getting him in the third round as your second or even third wide receiver. If Olave is off the board, DeVonta Smith is another difference-maker you can get at a strong value.

Round 4 (Picks 37-48)

Target: Jahmyr Gibbs (37)

Value: Calvin Ridley (40)

In the fourth round, we want to target the immense upside of either Jahmyr Gibbs or Calvin Ridley. Which one we’d prioritize depends on our roster construction. For instance, in the zero running back sample at the bottom of this article, we would not draft a fourth receiver (Ridley) in that build.

Round 5 (Picks 49-60)

Target: Breece Hall (55)

Value: DJ Moore (56)

Rounds 6 and 7 have plentiful receiver options, so we’d recommend Breece Hall as a home run swing.

Trevor Lawrence (60) at the end of Round 5 or early Round 6 is one of the more palatable quarterback prices on ESPN. We’ve noticed quarterbacks are going early on this platform.

Round 6 (Picks 61-72)

Target: Mike Williams (67)

Values: Diontae Johnson (64), Alexander Mattison (65)

Mike Williams consistently goes in the fourth round of competitive drafts, so he’s a great value in the sixth round on ESPN. Diontae Johnson is a strong consolation prize, especially in full PPR leagues.

Round 7 (Picks 73-84)

Targets: Brandon Aiyuk (76), Drake London (79), Marquise Brown (80), David Montgomery (82), Christian Kirk (83), J.K. Dobbins (84)

We’d recommend taking one of these players in Round 6 and another in Round 7 if you aren’t happy with your Round 6 options. These players go multiple rounds earlier on other platforms and have true upside.

Round 8 (Picks 85-96)

Pittsburgh Steelers Pat Freiermuth

Targets: Pat Freiermuth (81), D’Andre Swift (85)

Value: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (94)

If you hit the eighth round and still don’t have a tight end, Pat Freiermuth is a beacon of stability with some mild breakout potential. D'Andre Swift is one of our favorite home run swings at running back. If you’re light on wide receivers, Jaxon Smith-Njigba might miss time to open the year, but he could be a PPR monster down the stretch.

Round 9 (Picks 97-108)

Targets: Jahan Dotson (101), Tua Tagovailoa (106)

Value: Brian Robinson (107)

Tagovailoa is on the short list of quarterbacks who can lead the league in passing yards. If you still need a quarterback, he’s a solid option. Brian Robinson is an excellent option for zero running back teams because he’s a virtual lock to lead Washington in carries. Jahan Dotson is yet another great value at wide receiver.

Round 10 (Picks 109-120)

Targets: Skyy Moore (110), Jordan Addison (111), Daniel Jones (112), Zay Flowers (117), Gabe Davis (120)

This is a great round for high-upside wide receivers with two first-round rookies (Jordan Addison and Zay Flowers) available. If you missed out on the premium plug-and-play quarterbacks, Daniel Jones is an excellent option to pair with another signal-caller in this range.

Round 11 (Picks 121-132)

Los Angeles Chargers Quentin Johnston

Targets: Tyler Higbee (121), Geno Smith (122), Quentin Johnston (124), Samaje Perine (125)

In the 11th round, a strong value option is available for each position. In a vacuum, we prefer Quentin Johnston. He’s a first-round pick with a path to significant playing time in an elite offense. Overall, you can use the 11th round to fill a roster construction gap at any position.

Round 12 (Picks 133-144)

Targets: Dalton Kincaid (138), Zach Charbonnet (139)

In the 12th round, we want one of these high-upside, wait-and-see rookies who we can get at a value. In most situations, we prefer the premium handcuff option in Zach Charbonnet. A pivot to Dalton Kincaid could make sense on teams weak at the tight end position.

>> READ: 11 Fantasy Football Sleepers

Round 13 (Picks 145-156)

Targets: Elijah Moore (147), Raheem Mostert (151)

Value: Nico Collins (153)

We see a lot of value discrepancies between where we are ranking players and where ESPN ADP defaults for player rankings.

Round 14 (Picks 157-168)

Targets: Elijah Mitchell (158), Tyler Allgeier (164), Jaylen Warren (167)

Value: Greg Dulcich (163)

You can find a number of premium running back handcuffs at a significant value in the 14th round. You can’t go wrong with any of these options, but we’d order them as Jaylen Warren, Elijah Mitchell and Tyler Allgeier.

Round 15 (Picks 169-180)

Target: Zay Jones (180)

Zay Jones had more receptions per game than Christian Kirk last season and could start ahead of him in two-receiver sets in 2023. At worst, Jones is a Ridley or Kirk injury away from replicating last year’s production.

>>READ: Top 15 Fantasy Defenses

ESPN Fades

Derrick Henry (10): Derrick Henry should be a second-round pick on a full PPR platform such as ESPN because he has never been a high-volume pass-catcher. In a standard scoring league, Henry in Round 1 is greenlighted. 

Patrick Mahomes (13): We don’t recommend taking a quarterback in borderline Round 1 territory.

Josh Jacobs (19): After Josh Jacobs led the league in opportunities last season, we are fading him unless he slides. His 393 touches from last season ranked fifth-highest over the past decade. Other players with similar usage usually struggle with injuries and ineffectiveness the subsequent season.

Joe Burrow (34): This is the earliest we’ve seen Joe Burrow go on any platform.

Aaron Jones (35): Aaron Jones cedes goal line work to A.J. Dillon, who had more than three times as many rushing scores last season. Jones has also been propped up by elite receiving efficiency from Aaron Rodgers, who is now a New York Jet.

Darren Waller (44): On almost every other platform, we love Darren Waller. You can grab him multiple rounds later nearly everywhere else, so ESPN is not the ideal place to select the Giants’ starting tight end.

George Kittle (49): George Kittle never had more than six touchdowns in a season until he had 11 last year. His receptions per game fell by nearly 30 percent last year compared with his prior four seasons, and his receiving yards per game dropped by nearly 35 percent. Kittle probably won't catch half of Brock Purdy’s touchdown passes again in 2023.

James Conner (54): The Arizona Cardinals might be the NFL’s lowest-scoring team until Kyler Murray returns. James Conner is second in the NFL in total touchdowns over the past two seasons, and he won’t have those scores as a fantasy points crutch in 2023. He should go in Round 6 or 7.

Dallas Goedert (61): Dallas Goedert is the third pass game option in a Jalen Hurts–led offense that doesn’t throw at a high rate. We don’t view Goedert as a bust, though it’s hard to see him being a true difference-maker like some of the other middle-round options at tight end.

49ers Defense (66): Do not draft a defense until the double-digit rounds of your draft.

Justin Tucker (71): Do not draft a kicker until the double-digit rounds of your draft.

Dalvin Cook (74): We’d like Dalvin Cook a round later because he should be taking a backseat to Hall by October. We’re thinking of Hall as Jones and Cook as Dillon for the New York Jets’ backfield behind Rodgers. Long term, we’re worried Cook will become more of a handcuff for the fantasy playoffs.

Aaron Rodgers (93): Rodgers has been the slowest-paced quarterback in the past two seasons and offers little with his legs. The Jets have an elite defense, too. It’s hard to see Rodgers throwing enough to pay off as a difference-maker in fantasy football.

Cole Kmet (108): Cole Kmet is the third or fourth option in a Bears offense that set historic lows for pass rate in 2022.

>>READ: ZeroRB Targets to Draft

ESPN Sample ZeroRB Draft

Round 1: WR Tyreek Hill (MIA)

Round 2: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET)

Round 3: WR Chris Olave (NO)

Round 4: TE T.J. Hockenson (MIN)

Round 5: QB Trevor Lawrence (JAX)

Round 6: WR Mike Williams (LAC)

Round 7: RB David Montgomery (DET)

Round 8: RB D’Andre Swift (PHI)

Round 9: RB Brian Robinson (WAS)

Round 10: RB Jamaal Williams (NO)

Round 11: RB Samaje Perine (DEN)

Round 12: RB Zach Charbonnet (SEA)

Round 13: K Younghoe Koo (ATL)

Round 14: Washington Commanders D/ST

Round 15: WR Zay Jones (JAX)

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