2023 NFL Rookie Sleepers
Newcomers such as Bijan Robinson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Jahmyrr Gibbs have already been impressive, playmaking all over the field for their respective squads.
However, let’s dive a bit deeper to discover some of the rookies that will prove to be a positive addition to your fantasy football squad and make your league-mates say, “How’d you know about this guy?”
RB Deuce Vaughn (Dallas Cowboys)
The underdog from the 6th round, Deuce Vaughn, is turning heads at camp, especially due to his skills as a pass-catching halfback.
Despite being just 5’6 tall, this Kansas State talent earned back-to-back All-American honors and became a key player in their passing game.
He even led the NCAA in yards from scrimmage in 2022. With his versatility, Dallas is likely to utilize Vaughn both in the slot and out of the backfield, making his receiving performance an appealing betting option. Plus, if Tony Pollard were to get injured, Vaughn could step up as Dallas's primary RB1 right away.
RB Israel Abanikanda (New York Jets)
Abanikanda is this season’s Isiah Pacheco. The Pittsburgh Panther ranked top 10 in production score, athleticism score, and total score for running backs at the combine and was hailed a “steal” for the New York Jets.
The Brooklyn native is a gold medal 100-meter dasher and was awarded All-American and first-team All-ACC honors for his 20 rushing TDs alongside 1,805 all-purpose yards last season.
If that doesn’t get you excited, just turn on the tape. The 6.0 YPC and home-run play ability illuminated the field against Virginia Tech when Izzy ran for 320 yards and found the endzone six times. Yes, a half-dozen times against an ACC opponent.
While he wasn’t the biggest pass catcher in his career, Abanikanada has all the intangibles to become a solid NFL running back.
The agility shown in his senior year and his ability to plow through defensive backs was elite. Talent, size, speed, and elite cutting are enough for me to believe that the RB2 spot in New York is locked up for Izzy.
RB Tank Bigsby (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Another player impressing in training camp, Tank Bigsby is an automatic draft or pickup in your fantasy league if Travis Etienne is also on your roster.
Outside of a handcuff, Tank brings elite athleticism and a change of pace to the running back room and should produce a handful of scores this season for the potent Jaguars offense.
After finishing with 10 TDs in his last two seasons at Auburn in a tough SEC, expect Tank to have a productive NFL career beginning this season.
With an NFL-ready frame and backup workload ahead of him, he’s a name to look out for in dynasty and best ball formats, especially towards the later part of the season when the Jags might choose to lay off Etienne’s massive workload.
WR Tank Dell (Houston Texans)
Our second Tank off the board, Tank Dell is already a fan favorite and C.J. Stroud's favorite in Houston. On top of a fantastic combine, the former Houston Cougar led his conference in receptions, receiving yards, and TDs for two consecutive seasons.
Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik stated that his newly acquired speedster is a “natural separator”. Compared to the rest of the wide receiver room between Robert Woods, Nico Collins, and John Metchie, I’ll predict a 50-60% snap rate for Dell to start his career.
That's enough to take him with a late-round pick simply due to the connection with his rookie quarterback and the uncertain wide receiver depth chart as we head into training camp season.
If the Texans lose a slew of games to begin the season, which has a high chance of happening, expect Tank to earn a lot of volume with favorable game scripts for the passing attack.
WR Puka Nacua (Los Angeles Rams)
As I headed to the Rams' open practice in Irvine on Tuesday, I didn't have high expectations. Cooper Kupp was absent from practice, Aaron Donald wasn't wearing his iconic 99 jersey, and my focus was mainly on observing the coaching staff and getting a sense of how the training camp was being conducted, as it was my first time attending training camp.
However, this tall wideout wearing number 17 just kept making play after play while getting a lot of attention from McVay and the offensive staff. Watch out for BYU product Puka Nacua this season.
Among all the "rookie sleepers," Nacua appears to have the highest potential to secure a spot in the top 30 within his position. During Tuesday's practice, the Rams deployed him on the outside, in the slot, utilized him in motion, and even positioned him in the backfield at times.
While he competes with Tutu Atwell for the #3 WR position, it's likely that McVay will provide Puka with numerous chances to showcase his skills during the pre-season, a critical period where the competition for that role will be determined.
TE Sam LaPorta (Detroit Lions)
LaPorta is becoming less and less of a sleeper, but due to his stagnant prop bets on Prize Picks and Underdog, I’d recommend jumping on the hype train before preseason begins.
Due to Sam running exclusively with the starters, look for the connection with Goff to be on full display starting Week 1 in a tough matchup against the reigning champs.
While the Lions might not completely fill the gap left by T.J. Hockenson a few seasons back, a promising new Iowa TE, LaPorta, has emerged to contribute to Dan Campbell's team.