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Who should be 1.01 in 2023 fantasy football drafts?

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Last year, I was tasked with identifying the 1.01 of 2022 drafts in February. I pinpointed Christian McCaffrey as the guy, and boy oh boy did that end up leading to some interesting conversations all offseason.

 

After playing every game in 2022, will drafters still be so scared of CMC? Is he even still the 1.01? He technically finished last year third overall in fantasy value behind Austin Ekeler and Justin Jefferson, but he did switch teams halfway through the year.

Let’s dive into the 1.01 spot for 2023.

The Contenders for the 1.01 Spot in 2023 Fantasy Drafts

Let’s start by looking at last year’s fantasy MVPs:

Player Pos Team Wins Added
Austin Ekeler RB LAC 2.29
Justin Jefferson WR MIN 2.23
Christian McCaffrey RB SF 1.94
Travis Kelce TE KC 1.92
Davante Adams WR LV 1.88
Tyreek Hill WR MIA 1.72
Josh Jacobs RB LV 1.69
Stefon Diggs WR BUF 1.59
Josh Allen QB BUF 1.51
Derrick Henry RB TEN 1.49

That gives us a pretty solid list of 1.01 contenders for 2023. Early Underdog ADP data shows that Ja’Marr Chase (15th in total value lsat year with 1.31 fantasy wins added despite missing five games) and Cooper Kupp (17th, 1.26 wins added, eight missed games) are also being drafted at or near the top.

Cutting through the fanfare, I think there are six viable choices for the 1.01 spot in 2023:

Let’s go through each one.

Christian McCaffrey’s Case as the First Overall Pick in 2023 Drafts

McCaffrey shined in San Francisco for a half-season, and on the season as a whole, his stats pop across the board:

Year G Rush Yds TD Tgt Rec Yds TD
2022 17 244 1139 8 108 85 741 5

These stats don’t even include his passing TD. Labeled an injury-prone bust coming into 2022, CMC played every game — including the playoffs. He so good, he finished the season as San Francisco’s QB in a game in which he gave us this beauty:

In all seriousness, CMC is my top choice for the 1.01 spot again in 2023. He contributed positively to your fantasy team in 14-of-16 games, and he earned an “A” fantasy grade in six games. He now gets an entire offseason in the 49ers program, which is such an optimal fit for CMC. 

A coach that wants to keep him healthy means CMC’s days of being vintage LaDainian Tomlinson might be over — which is why there are even other names on this list — but even a reduced version of CMC is worthy of the 1.01. 

Austin Ekeler’s Case as the First Overall Pick in 2023 Drafts

Ekeler’s case seems pretty straightforward: He was worthy of the 1.01 in 2022 (he finished as the fantasy MVP last year) — so why not again in 2023?

Ekeler scored 18 total TDs after scoring 20 in 2021. Everyone said he would regress, which technically happened, but 18 is still incredible. Even further regression would keep him in the 1.01 discussion.

But more importantly, Ekeler went bananas as a receiver, catching 107 passes. Ekeler was a positive player for your fantasy team in all but one game last year (Week 1) — and even in that game, he only finished just slightly negative. He earned an “A” grade in half of his games and finished as the top overall scorer across RBs an astonishing four times.

Week Wins Added Fantasy Grade
1 -0.01 77.6
2 0.09 88.5
3 0.02 81.1
4 0.26 100.0
5 0.27 100.0
6 0.21 93.3
7 0.31 100.0
9 0.18 90.1
10 0.03 81.5
11 0.10 85.1
12 0.16 89.8
13 0.04 82.4
14 0.17 90.6
15 0.03 81.8
16 0.15 91.0
17 0.26 100.0

Justin Jefferson’s Case as the First Overall Pick in 2023 Drafts

Early 2023 best ball drafts have Jefferson going in the 1.01 more often than any other player. He finished the year second overall with 2.23 fantasy wins added. He nearly had “2022 fantasy MVP” wrapped up before a complete dud in Week 17 while Ekeler went off as the top player of the week. 

So Jefferson’s case in a sentence is: He was the fantasy MVP if you ignore the fluky Week 17. 

Jefferson just keeps getting better and better. His yards have improved by 200 each year, and his receptions have increased by 20 each year:

There’s absolutely no reason to think Jefferson is going to slow down. Historically, it’s unrealistic to expect 1,600-plus yards every year, but when you’re start-of-career comp is Randy Moss, “historical” baselines hardly apply to you.

 

Ja’Marr Chase’s Case as the First Overall Pick in 2023 Drafts

As noted above, Chase finished 2022 as a top-15 player in total fantasy value despite missing five games. If we take his average fantasy wins added from last year and apply them to his missing games, he would have finished top-five in overall value. 

Week Wins Added Fantasy Grade
1 0.22 93.1
2 -0.01 76.5
3 0.03 81.6
4 0.02 80.6
5 0.02 80.2
6 0.30 100.0
7 0.28 100.0
13 0.06 83.3
14 0.22 94.1
15 0.11 86.1
16 0.07 83.0

He was a positive contributor to your fantasy team in all but one game last year, and he makes for a great stacking chip with Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon and Joe Burrow all going later in the draft. If you’re playing best ball, this is a very legitimate factor. 

In terms of raw single player vs. single player value, I think you’re better off with one of the names above for the 1.01 spot. But stacking is so important that roster construction is an inherent part of each players’ value, and that gives Chase a boost big enough to be worthy of the 1.01 spot, too.

Cooper Kupp’s Case as the First Overall Pick in 2023 Drafts

Kupp also has a solid case for the 1.01 spot: He was by far and away the most valuable player back in 2021, and just prior to his injury in 2022, he was on his way to repeat that task:

So those are the pros. But there are some cons: Cooper Kupp will be 30 next year, he has gone through numerous major surgeries now, and the Rams team suddenly went from Super Bowl to Matthew Stafford-to-Kupp and nothing else.

The cons are enough to remove Kupp from your 1.01 spot given the other options, but you are not completely insane if you think that’s the move.

Travis Kelce’s Case as the First Overall Pick in 2023 Drafts

As last as Thanksgiving last year, Kelce was the fantasy MVP:

The automatic TE has such a positional advantage, that his production as an elite WR1 is elevated even further. The concern last year was whether Kelce might struggle some without Tyreek Hill to take attention away, but that was squished. Kelce is getting older (he’ll turn 34 next season), but this looks like a “ride it until the wheels fall off situation.”

The one thing Kelce has working against him is that if other TEs have better years (Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson, George Kittle, dare I say Kyle Pitts?), it hurts Kelce by extension because of a loss in positional advantage.

Kelce is not an insane 1.01 pick, but I don’t think it’s the right one. 

The Verdict: Who Should be the First Overall Pick in 2023 Fantasy Football Drafts?

Christian McCaffrey. Again.

Christian McCaffrey Fantasy Football Who Should Be the 1.01

He’s the best RB on one of the best, most creative offenses in football, and he still has 1-2 years of “prime” left. He’s simply automatic for 100 yards and/or a TD, and he hits the ceiling games just as well as any other RB.

Justin Jefferson and Austin Ekeler would be my next two choices — in that order — followed by Chase, Kupp and Kelce.

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