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2023 Fantasy Football First Overall Pick: Justin Jefferson Is Clear Choice

2023 Fantasy Football First Overall Pick: Justin Jefferson Is Clear Choice article feature image

Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Jefferson.

Are you picking first overall in your fantasy football draft and unsure of whether to take Austin Ekeler, Justin Jefferson, Christian McCaffrey or Travis Kelce? If so, no worries – all of those players are studs and you probably can’t go wrong.

That being said, there actually is one player who stands alone and is most worthy of going No. 1, according to Action Network NFL experts Sean Koerner and Chris Raybon.

Below they each discuss how you should go about drafting with the first pick — delving into process and positional scarcity — and why Jefferson is the guy this year.

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Sean Koerner

Having the first overall pick in your fantasy football draft can feel like a blessing and a curse.

Yes, you get first dibs on whoever you want — but what if you mess up and that player gets injured or busts?

I'm here to tell you to not worry about the latter and instead simply focus on what you can control: the process.

Let me start by saying that I don’t think you can go wrong with Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Travis Kelce, Cooper Kupp, Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler or Tyreek Hill. You don’t need me to tell you how good those players are, and there isn’t some magical stat I can give you that will prove why you have to take a specific one first overall.

However, I think the closest we can get to that is by taking a look at which player(s) will make it back to us in a 12-team, half-PPR format. The idea is to take the player who has the biggest drop-off value in order to maximize our leverage over the rest of the league.

This is typically how I approach the first few rounds of a draft. At that point, you are going to be drafting more based on team needs.

PositionBest Player Available (BPA)ProjectionBPA Next PickProjectionDrop-off
QBJosh Allen372Lamar Jackson328-44
RBChristian McCaffrey249Tony Pollard217-32
WRJustin Jefferson244Tee Higgins183-61
TETravis Kelce216Mark Andrews160-56

As you can see, Jefferson represents the biggest drop-off in terms of which WR will be available for your next pick. It’s worth noting that the “best player available next pick” is also a projection as I'm guessing at who may be available at the Round 2-3 turn based on recent ADP.

There is a reasonable chance Jalen Hurts or Josh Allen make it back to you, a reasonable-to-less-likely chance Garrett Wilson makes it back to you and a less-likely chance that Mark Andrews will be drafted before you in Round 2. I’m usually thinking about those probabilities in my head before making a decision.

I'm going to lock in Jefferson as my first pick due to the considerable drop-off expected at the position before my next pick. In Rounds 2-3, I am hoping for one of the top-three QBs, Tony Pollard or Garrett Wilson.

Of course, once we make our first pick, we can update our expected drop-off chart to guesstimate which players will last to the Round 3-4 turn. I think having this approach for the first handful of rounds is a helpful way to make what I would consider the optimal pick(s) to start your draft.

Chris Raybon

You can’t win your draft with the first pick, but you can lose your draft with the first pick.

That’s why you should take Justin Jefferson first overall.


It’s not just because Jefferson is averaging 108 receptions, 1,608 yards and 8.3 touchdowns per season in his career and has never posted anything worse than 88/1,400/7. And it’s not because I have Jefferson projected to score the most fantasy points in the league (both half- and full-PPR). Selecting him first overall on that basis alone would ignore positional scarcity, which is why many drafters sitting at No. 1 also consider the top running backs (Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler) and the top tight end (Travis Kelce).

It’s because while all these players have massive ceilings, Jefferson combines the highest ceiling with the lowest risk.

Jefferson vs. Kelce is a simple case. While it’s true that drafting Kelce gives you a massive edge at TE, it hasn’t been enough to justify taking him over prime JJ. Using PPR VBD (value-based drafting) rankings, we can see that Jefferson has beaten Kelce handily in terms of point value in each of the past two seasons.

2022: Jefferson +193 VBD (2nd overall); Kelce +179 (3rd)

2021: Jefferson +163 (5th); Kelce +106 (13th)

Even with Kelce finishing just one spot behind Jefferson in VBD ranks last season, Jefferson had a 14-point edge. With Jefferson entering his prime (age 24) and Kelce inching closer toward his twilight years (age 34), the odds aren’t in Kelce’s favor.

We can also look at it another way: Since 2014, the top overall TE in fantasy scoring has never beaten out the top WR or the top RB in VBD. Kelce is one of the safest plays in fantasy, but he’s still a bigger risk than Jefferson.

Comparing Jefferson to the top RBs, it’s as simple as looking at the potential for missed games. Jefferson has yet to miss a game in his three-year career. And while McCaffrey and Ekeler both played 17 games in 2022, they have still managed to miss 30 games combined — 23 for McCaffrey, seven for Ekeler — since Jefferson entered the league in 2020.

This tracks with what we know about positional injury risk: RBs tend to miss 3-4 games per year, which is double the typical 1-2 games missed at WR (as well as TE and QB).

Just to drive the point home, here’s a comparison of the average games missed for the WR1 and RB1 by ADP starting from 2022 and dating back to 2014 (via

WR1: 0, 1, 9, 4, 1, 2, 1, 0, 3 (avg. 2.3)

RB1: 6, 10, 14, 3, 2, 15, 0, 0, 0 (avg. 5.6)

Jefferson is being mentioned in the same breath as McCaffrey and Ekeler simply due to the recency bias of the latter two each playing 17 games last season. Over the long term, you’re better served drafting the top receiver any time it’s close.

Here are my current projections for Jefferson, McCaffrey, Ekeler and Kelce:

Justin Jefferson: 16.3 games, 112 rec, 1,561 rec yd, 9.2 TD | 325 PPR, 269 half-PPR (WR1)

Travis Kelce: 16.2 games, 99 rec, 1,229 rec yd, 11.5 TD | 292 PPR, 243 half-PPR (TE1)

Christian McCaffrey: 14.8 games, 215 car, 941 rush yd, 63 rec, 503 rec yd, 11.6 TD | 275 PPR, 244 half-PPR (RB1)

Austin Ekeler: 15.4 games, 185 car, 793 rush yd, 72 rec, 546 rec yd, 11.4 TD | 272 PPR, 236 half-PPR (RB2)

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