The end of the Super Bowl officially concluded the 2022 season and with it, rookie seasons all over the league. Several standouts helped fantasy teams this season, but can they do the same in 2023? Below are a few now-sophomore players to keep an eye on for next season’s draft.
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2nd Year NFL Players To Watch in 2023
Here are sophomore players that will be worth monitoring in 2023.
The NFL has been spoiled in recent years with the number of quality quarterbacks entering the league. The 2020 rookie class now has two quarterbacks who have led their teams to the Super Bowl in Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts not to mention fantasy darling Justin Herbert. 2021 saw five quarterbacks taken in the first 15 picks with two of them already leading their teams to the playoffs (and individual Pro Bowl selections) with Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones. That doesn’t include Justin Fields who looked like a fantasy league winner for long stretches of the 2022 season.
So it was rather disappointing to have less quality and quantity of quarterbacks as part of the 2022 class. There was only one quarterback taken in the first round, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett. He was the only one taken in the first two rounds as we didn’t see another one taken until pick 74th in the third. Pickett didn’t start the season under center but ended up playing most of it, seeing his first action in Week 4. From then on, he was a low-end QB2 in fantasy scoring.
But as the title of this article suggests, let’s look ahead. A handful of quarterbacks finished ahead of Pickett in fantasy scoring in 2022 and likely won’t be given the opportunity in 2023. Tom Brady is retired (for now), Davis Mills is likely to be riding the bench and we don’t yet know what Tennessee will do with Ryan Tannehill.
Pickett will also benefit from an entire offseason to prepare with the talented players around him. Najee Harris is a reliable option in the backfield with sophomore Jaylen Warren showing some burst behind him. Receiver George Pickens is on the cusp of being a star after totaling 800 receiving yards in his rookie campaign.
Make no mistake, Pickett doesn’t look like an elite quarterback option anytime soon. Nothing in his draft profile or rookie season showed any flashes of that. But could he sneak into the top 10 in fantasy scoring? Absolutely. He’ll be given every chance in the world next year as the Steelers are now fully committed.
For an offense led by a retread veteran under center, a fifth-round rookie in the backfield and a rookie receiver, the Falcons’ offense did ok. They finished in the top half of the league in points scored and offensive DVOA. The backfield portion was led by Tyler Allgeier, the 151st pick in the 2022 NFL Draft who, besides second-round pick Kenneth Walker, was the only rookie running back to record at least 1,000 yards rushing. It wasn’t due to volume either as Allgeier totaled only 210 carries but averaged nearly five yards per carry.
But while Allgeier certainly paid dividends to the Falcons and those fantasy managers that picked him up late in drafts, it’s not a guarantee he can do it again or if he’ll even be the starter heading into 2023. Yes, it’s the same regime in Atlanta and it’s very possible 2022 third-round pick Desmond Ridder will keep the starting job, but Atlanta has no significant investment in Allgeier. They got lucky and are financially able to draft or sign a running back if they think he’ll be better than Allgeier.
Atlanta has over $50 million in cap space and nine picks in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. So while Allgeier has done everything in his power to keep the job next year, we’ll be in wait-and-see mode until Week 1.
Much like the quarterback class, the tight-end rookie class of 2022 was slim pickings. No tight end was taking for nearly two full rounds until the Cardinals made Trey McBride the first at pick 55. But once he went, the run was on as 10 more tight ends were taken between rounds three and four including Chigoziem Okonkwo. The former Maryland Terp could have been lost amongst the others but managed to break out and become the top rookie tight end in fantasy football last year. Despite four games where he recorded no receptions, he still managed 32 receptions for 450 yards and three touchdowns. Compared to other tight ends, he finished as a low-end TE2.
Okonkwo is in a prime position to finish higher in 2023. For example, if you remove the first three weeks of the 2022 season (when Okonkwo recorded just one catch) and start from Week 4 on, he’s now a top-20 fantasy tight end. If you only look at the second half of the season, all of a sudden Okonkwo is now a top-10 tight end.
And luckily for Okonkwo, the situation around him that led to those finishes will remain relatively the same (as of the Super Bowl, at least). While the Titans did fire their offensive coordinator, they promoted passing game coordinator Tim Kelly to the position. Kelly is familiar with the Titans’ pass catchers, including Okonkwo, and saw first-hand how good he was.
The wild card is at quarterback, where it’s unknown if Ryan Tannehill will return as the starter or if second-year quarterback Malik Willis will win the job. Or it could even be a yet-unknown third option. Whoever it is, they will have Okonkwo to lean on.
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