The only guarantee in fantasy football is that there are no guarantees. There is almost always a player you confidently give your stamp of approval only to have it blow up in your face. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mid-round sleeper or a fantasy stud. Anyone can have an off-season.
The players below had little to no impact in 2022, but they are primed to reclaim their fantasy supremacy in 2023.
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2022 Duds That Will Be 2023 Studs
We can generalize this as the entire Broncos’ offense. Last year was a disaster from the beginning, and with their last-ranked scoring offense and seventh-ranked scoring defense, it was an under bettor’s dream.
Nathaniel Hackett was deservedly one and done in Denver. Instead of taking a risk with another first-time coach, they went all in on grabbing Sean Payton, which also cost them draft picks as he was still under contract with the Saints. Wilson slid his way into slimming down. Now, you can slide him back into your lineups.
Wilson looks noticeably leaner than last season. pic.twitter.com/6P673gh8CI
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) June 17, 2023
Watson did not start off well when he returned from his 11-game suspension, averaging 12.25 points in his first four games. As he got acclimated, his production surged. In the final two games, he averaged 20.75 points and finished both in the top ten.
One thing about Cooks is that he can make an impact no matter where he goes. He has six 1,000+ receiving yard seasons out of nine and finished inside the top 20 in those same years.
Even this past season, there are some metrics that show his skills haven’t regressed. He finished eighth in contested catch rate, 13th in target separation vs. man, and 20th in win rate vs. man, according to Player Profiler.
Coming to Dallas, there is a better opportunity to see an uptick in production, especially with Mike McCarthy now calling the plays. His ADP is currently tracking outside of the top 100, and for the potential he brings, the return is hard to pass up.
We did not see the usual big play ability of Deebo last season as he dealt with injury. In 2021, where he finished behind Cooper Kupp in points, he had eight top-ten PPR finishes, in 2022, it was only two. There were still some flashes that you can take away, including being 13th in fantasy points per route run.
The 49ers’ offense will continue to cater to Samuel’s ability to break out the big plays, and if he can stay on the field, he will return to his former glory.
The spectacular rookie year had the Steelers running back going high on draft boards in 2022, but we could categorize last year it as a sophomore slump. Towards the end of the season, we saw some trends that can leave you optimistic about taking the chance at a cheaper price.
After cracking the top 20 in PPR just once in Weeks 1-8, he did it six times in Weeks 10-18, including two top ten finishes. He also never saw more than 20 carries in those first eight games, he would have five in the final nine. Mike Tomlin still had confidence in him, and he finished with the fifth-most snaps amongst running backs and sixth-most carries inside the red zone.
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) June 24, 2023
There was a setback in his recovery from a torn ACL in 2021, and while playing in four of the first six games, he did not look his best. He got the knee cleaned and was much better from Week 14-18 and finished the year with a respectable 5.7 yards per carry. The Ravens will again have one of the better offensive lines in the league and allow Dobbins plenty of opportunities for big plays.
Injuries have plagued Waller the last couple of seasons, but a change of scenery could do him good. In 2019 and 2020, Waller was considered a premium, early-round tight end, and he still has flashes of those abilities when he’s on the field. Amid a change in Vegas, he was traded to Giants. With what we’ve seen Brian Daboll do in his first year, there is a lot of optimism.
Waller and Daniel Jones have spent a lot of time together in the offseason. They could build chemistry quickly.
Daniel Jones and Darren Waller is a stack you’ll want this year pic.twitter.com/mm5bFsJNX5
— John “Supi” Supowitz (@ImThatSupi) April 13, 2023
Smith is someone whom you can undoubtedly look for in later rounds of your draft that has the potential to play better than his ADP. He has had trouble staying on the field the last couple of seasons but can make an impact when he plays.
In late 2020, when the Vikings started to give Smith more opportunities, he finished with two top-three performances in his final four games. In 2022, after missing the previous season to a meniscus tear, he had a top-four performance and averaged 5.1 targets in Weeks 2-8 before missing most of the season with a thumb injury. Smith is in Cincinnati now and the top tight end on the depth chart.