2023 Fantasy Football: Analyzing Rookie QBs Based on Draft Capital

With the NFL draft done, it’s time we begin to see updated rookie rankings. Notably, there is some excitement about the rookie quarterback class, given they accounted for three of the first four picks. That said, are any worth taking in a redraft?

It should go without saying, but the only path for a rookie quarterback to finish as a QB1 is to start nearly every game. Since 2016, the four best rookie quarterbacks by points per game have started at least 15 games (or have been Deshaun Watson).

It’s one of the many reasons Kenny Pickett wasn’t commonly selected in redraft last season; Mitchell Trubisky was the Day 1 starter, and Pickett needed to earn his reps. On average, quarterbacks taken in the first round don’t start their first game until Week 5.

Draft Round  Average Weeks Until First Start
Round 1 5.13
Round 2 6.20
Round 3 8.27
Round 4 8.78
Round 5 12.63
Round 6 10.22
Round 7 10.80
Undrafted  12.93

Quarterbacks taken in the first round since 2016 have started a median of just 12 games with a median finish of QB28. Basically, Round 1 rookie quarterbacks are just as likely to finish as QB28 or lower as they are to start more than 12 games.

Draft Round  Median Position Rank Median Games Started
Round 1 QB28 12
Round 2 QB34 5
Round 3 QB45 3.5
Round 4 QB59 0.5
Round 5 QB51 1
Round 6 QB54 1.5
Round 7 QB57 2
Undrafted QB59 0.5

Looking at Round 1 QBs who have started 12 or more games in that timeframe, their median ranking is just QB24.

Draft Round  Median Position Rank Median Games Started
Round 1 QB24 13
Round 2 QB25 15
Round 4 QB6* 16
Round 6 QB19 12

*Dak Prescott (2016) is the only rookie quarterback in this sample

Since 2016, most Round 1 rookie quarterbacks have not been worth selecting in redraft leagues. Though, there are exceptions. Of the 15 quarterbacks who have started at least 12 games in their rookie season since 2016, just the three in the table below have posted a QB1 fantasy season by points per game.

Season Name  Draft Round  Games Started Pass Attempts Per Game Rush Attempts Per Game  Fantasy Points Per Game
2016 Dak Prescott 4 16 28.7 3.6 17.9
2019 Kyler Murray 1 16 33.9 5.8 17.8
2020 Justin Herbert 1 15 39.7  3.7 22.2


Analyzing This Year’s Rookie QBs

This year, we can expect the following rookie quarterbacks to start at least 75 percent of their team’s games: Bryce Young (Carolina Panthers), C.J. Stroud (Houston Texans) and Anthony Richardson (Indianapolis Colts).

Note: While there’s a chance Will Levis starts at least 12 games this season. However, it wouldn’t be wise to draft him in redraft now. I’ll review his outlook in a different piece with a dynasty focus.

All three rookie quarterbacks since 2016 to finish as a QB1 averaged at least 3.5 rushes per game. Notably, Dak Prescott and Kyler Murray were considered mobile quarterbacks in college (10+ rushes per game in their last year). Justin Herbert averaged 4.1 rushes per game and was considered mobile.

Season Player Rush Attempts Per Game Rush Yards Per Game EPA Per Rush (Rank)
2022 Anthony Richardson 8.33 53 .34 (6)
2022 Bryce Young  4.08 15.42 -0.20 (61)
2022 C.J. Stroud 3.92 9 -0.59 (139)

Of the rookie quarterbacks entering 2023, Richardson is the only mobile one. It’s why he’s regarded as the fantasy QB1 of the class. His athleticism and mobility make him interesting, as there’s a chance he finishes as a top-12 quarterback.

On the other hand, Young and Stroud averaged fewer than Herbert’s 4.1 rushes per game in their final year in college. There’s a chance Stroud is forced to be mobile, given his limited supporting cast in Houston, but he ranked 139th in Rushing EPA per carry among all quarterbacks last year. On the other hand, Richardson’s EPA per rush ranked sixth among quarterbacks. Stroud is not a good bet to be an efficient mobile quarterback in the pros.

>> READ: 2023 Isn’t the Year to Draft Richardson

Draft Capital Is Important

Ultimately, the highest-performing rookie quarterbacks in fantasy football since 2016 have been the ones with the highest draft capital.

Even if Richardson doesn’t exceed his eighth-round ADP, hit rates are not common in later rounds; his draft capital and rushing upside could make him worth a flyer in redraft leagues. He’s the only rookie QB worth drafting in re-draft but temper your expectations.

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