The 2023 NFL Draft has come and gone. We saw a number of players drafted to NFL Teams which shifted values. Over the next three pieces, I’ll be looking at how those values shifted. We’ll look at veterans whose stock improved, veterans whose stock dropped, and rookies whose stock changed. Today, we’re starting with veterans whose stock improved.
Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons
About: A third-round pick a year ago, Ridder got a shot to close the 2022 NFL Season. Heading into this off-season, the team has said he’s their starter. They followed that up by grabbing Taylor Heinicke, a solid veteran backup in free agency. The question was whether the Falcons might also eye a franchise player in the draft. There were many quarterbacks taken the last few days but none by the Falcons. That sets Ridder up to, indeed, be the starting option for the Falcons to start the 2023 season, a boon to those that snagged and held him after last season’s rookie drafts.
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
About: Howell was a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and almost an afterthought in rookie drafts. He entered the season behind Carson Wentz and Heinicke but ended up the starter for the final game of the season. That seemed to be enough for the Commanders to proclaim him the starter going into the off-season. They added veteran Jacoby Brissett as insurance, but the question was whether they’d make a splash in the draft. Like the Falcons, the Commanders went three days and seven rounds without taking a quarterback, seemingly solidifying Howell’s position, at least to start the 2023 NFL Season.
Dameon Pierce, Houston Texans
About: Pierce was a fourth round pick a year ago that had a strong rookie campaign, rising above the competition. But would the rebuilding Texans make a splash in the backfield? The team added veterans Devin Singletary and Mike Boone in free agency, but neither figure to usurp Pierce. In the draft, the Texans took a number of players, but no running backs. That gives Pierce, who rushed for 939 yards as a rookie, a shot at again putting up RB2 numbers.
James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
About: Two years ago, Conner’s value seemed to be a question. He landed a one-year deal with the Cardinals and exploded, which led to a three-year deal last off-season. His 2022 season was uneven, as he struggled with some injuries, and the team struggled in general. Still, he finished as RB19 with little competition on the roster. Heading into the draft, it was fair to wonder if the Cardinals would look to make an upgrade. They didn’t. That leaves Conner as something of a solid RB2 option again in 2023.
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Kyle Phillips, Tennessee Titans
About: Few teams have as dubious a wide receiver depth chart as the Tennessee Titans. Heading into the draft, it made logical sense the Titans would target a receiver in the draft. And yet, coming out of the draft, they snagged only Colton Dowell as a late-round selection. That gives Westbrook-Ikhine and Phillips, role players who contributed in 2022, a chance to play a similar role in 2023. Maybe they are not reliable starters, but they are certainly players worth keeping on your roster, given the lack of options in the Tennessee pass game.
Van Jefferson and Ben Skowronek, Los Angeles Rams
About: The Rams have Cooper Kupp coming off an injury, but mostly questions behind him in the receiver room. The Rams dealt Allen Robinson to the Steelers and seemed to be a team in the market for a receiver in the draft. They took Puka Nacua in the late Fifth Round, but mostly it leaves the depth chart as is. That means behind Kupp, Jefferson, and Skowronek project as starters. That gives them fantasy value heading into the season.
Durham Smythe, Miami Dolphins
About: When the Dolphins let Mike Gesicki sign with the New England Patriots, it left Smythe as the defacto starter for the team. The question was whether the Dolphins might change that in the draft. While the team grabbed Elijah Higgins, who is converting to tight end, it left the depth chart relatively unchanged. Smythe has 88 career receptions for 809 yards. He’s now got a great chance to be fantasy relevant and should be a sleeper pick-up.
Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints
About: Johnson had a strong 2022 season, which he parlayed into a free-agent contract this off-season. During the draft, not only did the Saints not take a tight end, but they also traded Adam Trautman to the Denver Broncos. While Taysom Hill is still on the roster, Johnson is the clear starter for a team with only a few proven weapons in the receiving corps.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.