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Top 5 Veterans With Stock Going Up Post Draft
The NFL draft is one of the most exciting events in the league, not only for the rookies who are drafted but also for the veterans who see their stock rise as a result. These veterans find themselves in a more advantageous position due to the new talent that has been brought in, or by the talent that wasn’t. How a player’s team decides to navigate the draft can lead to increased playing time, more opportunities to showcase their skills, and potentially elevate their fantasy value.
This article will highlight my top five veterans whose stock is going up post-draft. There are likely more and the five I have listed below are up for debate. This is fantasy football after all and player value debates are as old as the game itself. So, let’s take a closer look at the top five veterans whose stock is on the rise after the 2023 NFL draft.
Top 5 Veteran #1: Geno Smith – Seattle Seahawks
Entering the 2022 season, the fantasy community was collectively excited to see Russell Wilson “cook” in Denver, and his former team in Seattle was deemed a fantasy football wasteland. Seattle had offensive weapons, but how would they be deployed with Geno Smith leading the Seahawks offense? The question marks were valid, looking at his career stats below it’s not hard to find the outlier season or to see why fantasy managers had so much trepidation when valuing Geno.
When all was said and done in 2022, Geno Smith finished as the QB5 in standard scoring and was awarded the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Entering 2023, Smith is in a position to be even more productive. His core of weapons, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Kenneth Walker III are all returning.
In the draft, Seattle added Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Zach Charbonnet, arguably the top WR in this class and one of the top RBs available. Most importantly Seattle who had two first-round selections opted not to select a Quarterback. Geno is in a great spot with highly skilled weapons all around him. As a result, he is a Top 5 Veterans With Stock Going Up Post Draft
Top 5 Veteran #2: Rhamondre Stevenson – New England Patriots
New England Patriots second-year RB Rhamondre Stevenson broke out last season finishing as the RB7 in PPR scoring. Stevenson was the primary benefactor in the Pats offense when fellow RB Damien Harris was injured in Week 5. A backfield that has frustrated fantasy managers for what feels like forever suddenly had clarity, it suddenly had a bell-cow back.
As noted in the tweet above, Stevenson dominated this backfield last season and the addition of James Robinson should have little to no impact entering 2023. New England focused on bolstering their defense early in the draft and added some offensive line support in the middle rounds. The Patriots passing attack is a question mark. The additions of Juju Smith-Shuster and to a lesser extent Kayshon Boutte should help.
The passing game in New England is what makes Rhamondre so appealing for fantasy purposes. In addition to being a powerful between-the-tackles RB, Stevenson showed us all his ability to catch the football in 2022. He lead the team in receptions with 69, and his 88 targets ranked second. Smith-Shuster should lead the team in targets and receptions, and Stevenson should remain right up there with him. 2022 was Stevenson’s breakout year, and in 2023 barring injury he will solidify his spot in the game’s top-10 fantasy backs.
Top 5 Veteran #3: Irv Smith Jr. – Cincinnati Bengals
I mentioned early in this article that the five players I have selected for my Top 5 Veterans With Stock Going Up Post Draft are up for debate. Well, this is certainly one I expect to be challenged on. Irv Smith Jr. has found himself in a great spot entering 2023.
Since Ja’Marr Chase joined Tee Higgins in the Bengals offense, Joe Burrow has thrown 1,126 passes, with 175 targeting the TE position. A 15.5% target share in an offense with Higgins and Chase is significant, especially for a team that averages over 580 pass attempts a season since 2021.
Do I expect Irv Smith Jr. to receive 100% of Joe Burrow’s TE targets in 2023, no I do not. But feel free to stop me if you feel Smith is less talented than Hayden Hurst, Drew Sample, Mitchell Willcox, or C.J. Uzomah. Smith’s biggest challenge in his time in Minnesota was staying healthy. In parts of four seasons, Smith’s best finish was TE22 in 2020, a season in which he started only seven games. In this offense, Smith has 60 catches, 800 yards, and 5 touchdowns upside. That line will land a TE in the middle of the to-12 most seasons.
Top 5 Veteran #4: Garrett Wilson – New York Jets
In his rookie season a year ago, Garrett Wilson finished with 83 catches for 1,103 yards and 4 touchdowns. He finished the year as the WR21 in PPR scoring. Top-24 seasons from rookie wide receivers are rare and what makes Wilson’s even more impressive is he accomplished this with Zach Wilson, Jo Flacco, Mike White, and Chris Streveler as his quarterbacks.
In 2023, Wilson and his Jet teammates will have the opportunity to play alongside QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers a QB that is one year removed from back-to-back MVP seasons is clearly a massive upgrade.
With Rodgers at QB, Wilson projects to have a much more consistent season. When looking at the 36 Most Consistent Fantasy Wide Receivers of 2022, Wilson finished in a tie for 26th. He had eight weeks under 10 PPR points. Eight weeks as WR3 or better and nine weeks as WR4 or worse. Barring injury to Rodgers or Wilson the number of WR4 or worse weeks is about to decrease significantly.
Top 5 Veteran #5: Cam Akers – Los Angeles Rams
Cam Akers entered the NFL in 2020 and the 2nd round selection was a top first-round rookie pick in rookie drafts from coast to coast. Since being drafted by the Rams, Akers has given his fantasy managers RB45, 144, and 35 finishes. Inconsistent usage in his rookie season, a torn Achilles entering his sophomore season, and a very strange 2022 campaign.
In the first 12 weeks last season, Akers sat at RB67 averaging a whopping 3.9 PPR points per game. The belief in the fantasy community was that his injury was too much to overcome and as a result, it appeared Akers was washed. In those 12 weeks, he was inactive twice, saw less than 10 touches five times, and was the subject of trade rumors.
From Week 13 through 18, Akers finished as the RB4. In these six weeks, he totaled 512 rushing yards, 99 receiving yards, and 6 scores on 115 touches. The RB that averaged 3.9 points/game in the first 12 weeks, suddenly averaged 17.7 in the last 6 weeks. He looked to be recovered from his Achilles injury and was out of Sean Mcvay’s doghouse.
Fast forward to the 2023 NFL draft, Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson are gone, 2022 rookie Kyren Williams was a bust, and the Rams waited until the sixth round to add RB Zach Evans. In rounds two and five they added much-needed offensive line support. The Rams are a rebuilding team in 2023 and Cam Akers should have a firm grasp on the majority of the running back touches barring injury.
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