As we get closer and closer to fantasy football draft season, one of the biggest questions on every manager’s mind is – who should I take with my first overall pick?
This year, there are two clear front-runners for that coveted top spot: Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Niners running back Christian McCaffrey. Both have incredibly strong cases to be taken first, so let’s break down the pros and cons of each to help you make this big decision.
Also read: who should you pick for QB1?
Here is our 2023 projection stats for Justin Jefferson and Christian McCaffrey:
|Stat||Justin Jefferson||Christian McCaffrey|
- Jefferson projected for more receptions and vastly more receiving yards/TDs.
- McCaffrey expected to have big edge in rushing production as lead RB.
- McCaffrey’s projected total yards slightly higher than Jefferson’s.
- McCaffrey projected to score 4 more total TDs than Jefferson.
- In full PPR, Jefferson’s receptions upside gives him the edge.
- In standard, CMC’s rushing and TD advantage makes him the top projection.
- Both have elite projections, but format impacts which you’d prefer.
The Case for Justin Jefferson
As we dive into Justin Jefferson’s stats, it’s easy to see why he’s one of the top candidates to be the first overall fantasy pick this year. In just 3 NFL seasons, Jefferson already has a massive 324 receptions, 4,825 receiving yards, and 25 touchdowns.
His production has increased each year, going from 88/1,400/7 as a rookie to 128/1,809/8 in 2022. He’s a big play threat too, averaging 14.9 yards per catch in his career with a long of 71 yards.
Jefferson was a star right away, making 1st-team All-Pro in just his second season at age 23. He’s clearly emerged as one of the best receivers in football. In the high-flying Vikings offense, Jefferson is in a prime spot to continue putting up huge numbers.
Minnesota figures to be in plenty of shootouts again, meaning ample opportunity for targets, yards, and touchdowns for Justin Jefferson.
An Argument for Christian McCaffrey
On the other side, you have Christian McCaffrey making a compelling case to be the first pick. When healthy, McCaffrey has proven to be the most dominant fantasy player at any position.
In 2019, he became just the 3rd player ever with 1,000+ rushing and 1,000+ receiving yards in a season while piling up 19 total touchdowns. In his career, McCaffrey has 1,025 carries for 4,726 yards and 38 rushing TDs along with 442 receptions.
CMC is the definition of a dual-threat, elite pass-catching running back. Although injuries have hampered him recently, if McCaffrey stays healthy this year, his upside is unmatched. The potential reward of a healthy McCaffrey having a historic season is extremely enticing. The versatile McCaffrey could be in line for monster volume and goal-line work in the 49ers’ offense.
The Verdict: McCaffrey Has the Edge Now in San Francisco
While I still love Justin Jefferson’s outlook, the case for McCaffrey gets stronger now that he’s on a San Francisco team with a rising young QB in Brock Purdy.
Purdy showed promise after taking over as starter late last season. With a full offseason to develop chemistry, he and McCaffrey could form a lethal combo. The 49ers have a strong defense and run game that should lead to plenty of close, competitive games where Christian sees big volume as a runner and receiver.
Coach Kyle Shanahan loves featuring pass-catching backs, so McCaffrey could be in line for a massive share of touches. If he stays healthy, his upside is unmatched given his proven dual-threat ability. Even in standard leagues, CMC now warrants consideration as the top overall fantasy pick.
It’s still very close between McCaffrey and Jefferson, you can’t go wrong with either. But playing in San Francisco’s dynamic offense and catching passes from an emerging QB, a healthy McCaffrey is primed to put up monster numbers. His upside is just too great to pass up, so I’m now leaning CMC as my top pick in 2023 fantasy drafts.