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Fantasy Football: Pre-draft rookie sleepers from the 2023 NFL Draft class

Inglewood, CA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Kenny McIntosh (6) runs with the ball against the TCU Horned Frogs during the second quarter of the CFP national championship game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

• Invest in McIntosh: With all the hype surrounding Alabama’s receiving back, Georgia offers one of their own who is just as deserving of praise as a top receiving back in this class.

• Marvin the big play Martian: The Oklahoma wide receiver is as much of a threat for an explosive play as any receiver in this class and has the potential to be one of the steals of the draft.

• Tune in to learn more about Houston’s contribution to the quarterback class: Clayton Tune earned high marks in key passing metrics, scored well athletically and offers rushing upside for fantasy managers to get excited about.

Estimated Reading Time: 14 mins

Most fantasy football managers are well versed with the key names at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft and with who will be first-round picks in fantasy rookie drafts this offseason. While the first round is crucial for dynasty managers, maximizing value in the later rounds of drafts is often a more complicated task.

By identifying the potential of these players, fantasy managers can bet on talent in the later rounds of rookie drafts instead of taking blind fliers in the hopes of finding the next Dak Prescott, Austin Ekeler, Tyreek Hill or George Kittle.

This list consists of two players at each offensive position who project to go in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft or later, with quarterback being one of the likely exceptions due to a smaller group of prospects to choose from at the most valuable position. Most of these players are far enough removed from the top names at their position in positional rankings that they typically do not come up in the conversation as the best five, six or even 10 players at their position.


Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

While not the deepest of sleeper candidates on this list, especially amid recent rumors of him potentially going in the first round, there are at least reasons for optimism that Hooker can hang with the top quarterback options in this class and is deserving of first-round consideration. One reason Hooker may not get a first-round grade from NFL teams is a torn ACL that he suffered in Week 12 of this past season, which will assuredly keep him from participating in his first NFL offseason and training camp. The Volunteers’ up-tempo offense makes for another difficult projection to the NFL — a system that asked Hooker to throw go balls, wide receiver screens and slants at a much higher rate than is typically seen in the NFL.

Where Hooker stood out, though, was in his accuracy, posting the second-highest percentage of throws deemed accurate or away from coverage (24.2%) in this class. Those are throws that allow receivers to stay in stride and give only the pass catcher a shot at the ball. The Tennessee offense heavily relied on the deep ball last season (10.6%), and Hooker finished second in accuracy on go balls, behind only C.J. Stroud, at 54.5% of attempts. Hooker has shown the ability to create big plays, averaging the highest depth of target (11.7), the highest yards per attempt (9.5) and the highest percentage of air yards (64.0%) on his pass attempts this past season among all quarterbacks in this class.

When adding in what Hooker can do as a rusher, averaging 7.5 yards per carry on 76 attempts in 2022, there’s even more reason to be excited about him as a dual-threat prospect who, in the right system, could be a much better fantasy asset than his current draft stock represents.

Hendon Hooker’s rushing ability | Ranks among 2023 QB class
Metric Value Rank
Yards per carry 7.5 2nd
Missed tackles forced/attempt 0.24 2nd
Yards after contact/attempt 4.4 1st
Explosive run rate 25.0% 2nd

Clayton Tune, Houston

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