Jake Ciely’s 2023 fantasy football projections vs. Average Draft Position: The 19 biggest differences

Fantasy football projections are only a part of the drafting puzzle. As mentioned with my draft rankings, the projections go straight by points scored — and that doesn’t account for upside, risk, team construction and more. That’s why my “how I’d draft” rankings differ from my projections.

So, just for some context, maybe to plant some flags, possibly for fun… I’m going to examine the 19 biggest differences between my projections and current (last month of NFFC) ADP.

And if you don’t like my projections, download the cheat sheet and tweak away!


Bryce Young, CAR

  • Projections: QB17
  • ADP: QB25

With quarterback being flat, it was surprising to see a gap this big. It comes down to his added rushing, as Young adding a mere 63-316-4 on the ground boosts him over several others. The 4,020 passing yards and 24 touchdowns I’m projecting are on the optimistic side, too, as Young could easily struggle as a rookie. Nevertheless, those numbers are lower than the next five quarterbacks in projections, which again, means Young’s rushing will be a significant factor in his fantasy success.

Sam Howell, WSH

  • Projections: QB23
  • ADP: QB26

Howell’s passing is extremely close to Young’s projected passing numbers, but he only adds 36-166-2 on the ground. I have Howell and Young closer in my draft ranks, as I believe their upsides are similar and Howell’s passing projections feel more conservative, particularly when you compare weapons around each quarterback. I’ve also made no secret of my love for Howell.

Dak Prescott, DAL

  • Projections: QB15
  • ADP: QB10

Prescott used to be locked into around 300 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He’s not a significant rushing touchdown threat anymore, which means Prescott needs to throw near 600 times and reach mid-4000 yards and 30+ touchdowns to return QB10 value. With a run-first offense and how poorly Prescott looked last year, adding Brandin Cooks isn’t enough to get him in my Top 10 ranks (or the projections).


Rachaad White, TB

  • Projections: RB18
  • ADP: RB26

The only true risk for White is a bottom-10 offense, as the Buccaneers are still deciding who the direct backup is, including UDFA Sean Tucker (someone I like). White is much like Dameon Pierce in that he’s a bellcow for a questionable offense, but he carries even more passing game upside. Instead of trying to figure out split backfields, I’d rather take a bellcow role back.

Khalil Herbert, CHI

  • Projections: RB21
  • ADP: RB35

In a similar situation to Pierce and White is Herbert, who’s already shown terrific upside when stepping into the lead role. The concern with Herbert is his potential lack of passing game work, but in this offense, that’s much less of a concern. Herbert’s upside lies in 200+ carries alongside Justin Fields, a 5.1 YPC mark in every game with 10+ rush attempts, and the rushing touchdown potential as the goal line back. Roschon Johnson could be a threat, but it shouldn’t have Herbert outside the RB2 range.

Samaje Perine, DEN

  • Projections: RB23
  • ADP: RB36

Perine will get enough work to warrant RB3 fantasy value. The projections might be a bit optimistic for his touches, especially with Javonte Williams trying to force his way into more touches already. However, Sean Payton has always given his No. 2 running back weekly double-digit touches (on average), regularly turning that player into an RB2/3.

Kenneth Walker, SEA

  • Projections: RB31
  • ADP: RB17

Walker should have been (should be) more efficient in short-yard and goal-to-go touches. Zach Charbonnet is a nice passing game option who also does well in the short-yard situations, which adds to the split backfield concern. It’s possible that Walker maintains 60% of the work, but the projections aren’t as optimistic with 53% for Walker and 41% for Charbonnet. As you can see, it could even be worse for Walker, and yet, drafters appear confident in Walker clearly leading the backfield.

Kendre Miller, NO

  • Projections: RB75
  • ADP: RB50

I like Miller, and I understand that Alvin Kamara will miss three games. However, unless Jamaal Williams misses time, I don’t understand how Miller returns value after the first three weeks, especially when he profiles as a Jamaal Williams type player.


Micheal Wilson, ARI

  • Projections: WR59
  • ADP: WR92

One of the most underrated receivers in the draft class, Wilson is already making his case for the No. 2 receiver role with the Cardinals. Wilson could rank even higher if not for the quarterback situation, and WR59 is a reasonable upside ranking. Wilson has Top 40 upside, and WR92 is regularly undrafted.

Skyy Moore, KC

  • Projections: WR23
  • ADP: WR47

A rank of WR23 is likely peak value for Moore. Even if he’s the clear No. 1, Moore could finish around JuJu Smith-Schuster’s rank last year, which was WR27, and even worse — WR38 — in FPPG. Moore has a higher ceiling than Smith-Schuster given his ability, but if Justyn Ross is healthy he could be a wrench in Moore’s target share, which is why my ranking is lower at WR34… about a halfway point to ADP.

Zay Jones, JAX

  • Projections: WR41
  • ADP: WR58

The projections are taking into account two factors. First, the target distribution will lean heavily on the wide receivers and second, that the volume is funneled with Jones being a big part of the trio (similar to Tyler Boyd for the Bengals). Jones has been playing in two-receiver sets with Christian Kirk coming off the field. It’s strange, after Kirk was everything the Jaguars hoped he would be, but Calvin Ridley is the clear No. 1, and Kirk and Jones appear to be combined for the No. 2 and 3 roles. Even if the target percentage is a tad high, Jones’ upside is worth an earlier pick than WR58, especially since he’s also a handcuff of sorts for Ridley and Kirk.

Jahan Dotson, WSH

  • Projections: WR20
  • ADP: WR37

Breakout, bold prediction (find those here), you name it. I love Dotson and so do the projections. Dotson has a near identical target share to Terry McLaurin with a higher touchdown rate. The downside (risk) is if Sam Howell bombs, which would hurt McLaurin and Dotson. As it stands, though, Dotson and McLaurin can be 1A and 1B, and it won’t matter who’s the “A” if Dotson continues his trajectory and role as the top red and end zone threat. He’s a great value at WR37.

Gabe Davis, BUF

  • Projections: WR28
  • ADP: WR38

Davis is also a “last year’s trash” option, as the hype surrounding his full-time role as the clear No. 2 put Davis’ ADP in the Top 20. Now, he’s barely hanging onto a Top 40 ADP despite the mess behind him. There are 3-4 names in contention for the No. 3 receiver job, and in the end, it matters little as Davis finished WR34… in a disappointing season. Davis can easily rebound and become Mike Evans-like for the Bills with a 70-1100-8 line, which would actually be Top 15 and a massive return on value, even at WR28, which the projections have at 63-951-8.

Diontae Johnson, PIT

  • Projections: WR50
  • ADP: WR31

Johnson heads the other way from ADP, and it pains me as someone who’s loved DionBAE since he entered the NFL. The problem with his situation, and this is echoed in the projections, is two-fold. Johnson has plenty of competition for targets with George Pickens taking a step forward, Allen Robinson in town, Pat Freiermuth at tight end and the backfield targets. Even with a healthy 21.9 TmTGT%, Johnson has just 126-76-819-3 (well, 3.5) and 140.9 points. That’s seven more points than last season, and while some argue his numbers should be even better given that came with zero touchdowns, the projections aren’t as confident in the repeated target volume (147) — and neither am I.

Deebo Samuel, SF

  • Projections: WR26
  • ADP: WR17

Brock Purdy loves George Kittle. That’s an issue for Samuel, who will find it hard to make 2021 happen again, especially with the ascension of Brandon Aiyuk and Christian McCaffrey in the backfield. An ADP of WR17 feels high given the options for the 49ers offense and unlikelihood of Samuel getting the rushing attempts and targets from 2021.

Drake London, ATL

  • Projections: WR33
  • ADP: WR23

This one surprised me a bit, particularly as I have faith in Desmond Ridder being a middle-level quarterback (as in, not a massive disappointment). The Falcons offense will be run-heavy, we know. Still, the good thing about the passing game is the heavy funneling to two options: London and Kyle Pitts. Even with 23.5 TmTGT% though, London still gets just 119-76-934-5.5, due to 1) Ridder and 2) the offense’s success. If the Falcons pass just a bit more (team 51.2 Pass%) or see more touchdown success (20.5 passing touchdowns), London could reach that WR23 ADP. For more Falcons perspective, Friend of Fantasy Josh Kendall predicted the touches and stats for all the skill players.


Hunter Henry, NE

  • Projections: TE14
  • ADP: TE29

The Patriots love their tight ends. Henry is healthy, unlike Mike Gesicki, and the No. 1 even if Gesicki is out there. Even with just 14.1 TmTGT% and 80-53-616-4, those 112.3 FPs still gets Henry to TE14. Tight end stinks.

Tyler Higbee, LAR

  • Projections: TE8
  • ADP: TE16

While everyone is trying to figure out who is No. 2 behind Cooper Kupp, we already have the answer and it’s not a wide receiver. Higbee is the second-best option for the Rams, coming off 108 with four of his five highest target games coming while Kupp was healthy (for all those concerns that he only benefited from no competition for targets). Higbee has 105-71-692-5 for 137.7, which isn’t much different than last year outside a bump in YPC and touchdowns (banking on a healthy Matthew Stafford).

Pat Freiermuth, PIT

  • Projections: TE13
  • ADP: TE9

This is a repeat of the Diontae Johnson concern. Freiermuth had 98-63-732-2 and 116.7 last year, and the projections have 88-60-643-4 for 117.5. The points are the same, which has him as TE13, merely on the players leaping him — Pitts, Darren Waller and Higbee.

(Top photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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