The 2023 NFL season is rapidly approaching, so it’s time to prepare for your fantasy football draft. Of course, there’s no better way to do that than to practice drafting with our free mock draft simulator! Beyond our tools, we will have you covered throughout the draft prep season with our content.
The goal of every fantasy football manager is to complete the perfect draft. Impossible, you say? Let’s call it a stretch goal and strive for fantasy football glory. Here’s Andrew Erickson’s perfect 2023 fantasy football draft.
*Note that a blend of ADP sources was used, including Underdog, FFPC, Drafters, ESPN, CBS and BB10s.
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Andrew Erickson’s Perfect 2023 Fantasy Football Draft
Approach to Round 1
Whether it’s best ball or redraft fantasy football, the golden standard approach of selecting a running back with your first or second-round pick has not changed. Although, of course, the landscape at the very top has changed slightly to favor the league’s top-tier WRs, such as Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Cooper Kupp. But this isn’t the first time we have seen elite WRs favored against their running back counterparts.
It wasn’t so long ago that the elite tier of WRs like Davante Adams, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown were drafted in the top half of Round 1. So, seeing WRs being drafted ahead of many of the RBs is just part of the natural fantasy football cycle. Right now, there’s a strong argument that today’s top WRs are just better than the top RBs. However, with a strong crop of diverse running backs entering the player pool, I’d bet we return to the glory days where RBs reigned supreme in Round 1 — as they did just one season ago.
Because one thing’s for certain — running backs are still the drivers behind fantasy-winning teams, so get your talented studs early in Rounds 1-3.
However, if I hold the first or second overall pick in a 2023 snake draft, I am 10/10 drafting either Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase or Cooper Kupp. As I alluded to in the introduction, these guys are in their own separate tier at the top. The S TIER. And it makes sense to take them that high because there will still be very strong RB pairings available in Round 2.
It sets the stage nicely for the cleverly coined and my personal favorite “Hero RB” approach with a locked-and-loaded stud in your RB1 slot you can snag in Round 2 (or Round 1 if you are a mid-to-late snake draft pick). You’ve got one spot dialed in, and the other spot can be filled by the rotating carousel of remaining RBs on your roster.
Solidifying a top dog in Rounds 1/2 also helps you avoid reaching for running backs in the upcoming RB Dead Zone, where your primary focus should be drafting WRs poised for significant leaps in 2023.
It’s not till the later rounds that you take shots on RBs with potential red-zone roles and pass-catching chops. You’ll also want to hone in on impending free agents, proven running backs and RBs in ambiguous backfields. That’s where we’ll find the next breakout at the position.
It’s the exact balancing act of drafting up-and-coming running back breakouts with the elites/top talents — while also playing matchups and avoiding red flags — that will help you draft the perfect team.
But, like with all successful strategies, being flexible is supercritical. Don’t be so hyper-focused on grabbing a workhorse running back, no matter in Round 1, with some WRs representing equally, if not better, value in Round 1.
If you miss out on the Tier 1/high-end Tier 2 crop of running backs — Christian McCaffrey, Bijan Robinson, Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley –, be open to drafting an elite wide receiver in the second half of Round 1. This is less so the move in half-PPR formats because receivers can’t make up ground versus running backs as easily without being rewarded a full point per reception.
From 2018 to 2020, in PPR scoring, wide receivers have the highest percentage of top-12 finishes (55%). In 2021, seven of the top-12 overall finishers (58%) were WRs, with six finishing top-eight. That was true in both PPR and half-PPR scoring. However, the trend did not continue in 2022. Just six WRs finished inside the top-12 overall scorers, with five RBs and one tight end (Travis Kelce). Only four inside the top-8, and even split between WRs/RBs inside the top-6. In half-PPR, five running backs finished inside the top-8 overall, with just three WRs.
After Jefferson/Chase/Kupp at 1.01/1.02/1.03, respectively, the strongest bets to meet Round 1 production include A.J. Brown, Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill. Note their odds of returning value increase dramatically in the PPR-scoring format.
As for picks 1.04 and beyond, I feel more comfortable going after the top crop of running backs, assuming I missed out on selecting Jefferson/Chase/Kupp. In Superflex formats, I am 100% drafting an elite quarterback if I own a top-4 selection. I am drafting a quarterback most likely if I hold a top-7 pick in the 2-QB format.
In tight end premium formats, Kelce is also worthy of a top-4 selection. As I wrote in the tight end best ball primer, Kelce is in a tier by himself as a first-round pick. And having him this past year as a backend first-rounder was awesome with his 30% advance rate from Round 1 and 8% live rate on Underdog.
However, the fact that he is entering his age 34-season coming off a year where he distanced himself from the rest of the tight ends by a massive outlier amount has me slightly concerned he might be overvalued in 2023.
Should we expect him to perform as well or better in 2023? And expect the rest of the tight end field to perform as badly as they did in 2022? Especially when we have data from 2021 in a more “normal/flatter” tight end scoring year where going tight end in Round 1 did not yield the most optimal results. Hence, my hesitation. Not to say he can’t run it back as TE1 (again). Antonio Gates finished as their TE2 at 34 years old with 12 receiving touchdowns. But he also wasn’t a first-round pick in fantasy.
Ja’Marr Chase: I fully expect Justin Jefferson to be the consensus No. 1 wide receiver, but Ja’Marr Chase is MY 1.01. The Bengals WR led all WRs in red-zone targets per game (28 in 14 games played) and expected fantasy half-PPR points per game (16.4). Therefore, he’s a solid bet to finish No. 1 in red-zone targets and receiving touchdowns in 2023.
His 22 receiving touchdowns through his first two seasons are the most by any WR since Odell Beckham Jr. In the games that Chase was healthy in 2022, he also posted a superior target share (30% vs. 28%) and identical air yards share (39%) to Jefferson. All things being considered, Chase also has the superior quarterback that could easily throw for 50 TDs. Kirk Cousins won’t toss 40-plus touchdowns in this lifetime.
Justin Jefferson: The Vikings WR finished first in fantasy points scored, 10th in target share (28%), third in yards per route run (2.70) and second in expected fantasy points per game (15.9) in 2022. His 11.1 expected TDs and 26 red-zone targets tied for first among all WRs. With Adam Thielen‘s TD presence gone — and Jefferson coming off a curiously low 8-TD year (two fewer than in 2021) — I expect him to score inside the double-digits in 2023.
Cooper Kupp: Cooper Kupp is BACK in the S Tier of my 2023 WR rankings, as my concerns regarding Matthew Stafford‘s health have lessened. Because Kupp will produce at an extremely high level if he and Stafford are healthy. Last year he led all WRs in points per game (18.4) while commanding the league’s second-highest target share (31.3%) before his injury. He leads all non-quarterbacks in half points per game over the last two seasons. Kupp leads all PLAYERS (including QBs!) in PPR points per game since the start of the 2021 season (24.65). Madness. Kupp ranks 5th in total fantasy points over the past two seasons – despite missing 8 games last year.
Bijan Robinson: The highly touted rookie running back from Texas was selected 8th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, and his fantasy football ceiling is sky-high. In his final college football season, Robinson was the second highest-graded rusher in the FBS per PFF and posted a staggering 37% dominator rating with 18 rushing TDs and 1,575 rushing yards. In addition, his impressive 40% broken tackle rate and 104 missed tackles forced to demonstrate his ability to thrive at the NFL level.
In Arthur Smith’s run-heavy offense last season, Tyler Allgeier, a former 5th-round pick, finished as PFF’s highest-graded rookie RB and ranked 6th in rushing EPA. Allgeier averaged nearly 18 carries and 96 rushing yards per game from Week 13 onward in 2022. Given Robinson’s superior talent and size compared to Allgeier, the first-year rusher is primed to be a three-down back for the Falcons. Considering the offense ranked first in early down run rate last season, Robinson has the potential to eclipse 300 carries and 1,500 rushing yards, making him a top-3-ranked running back in season-long formats.
Austin Ekeler: In 2022, Ekeler led all running backs in receptions and targets, resulting in an RB3 finish in half-point scoring. His role as a receiver is particularly valuable in the Chargers’ pass-heavy offense, especially with the team’s WRs struggling to stay healthy.
Ekeler is the focal point of the offense and should continue to see a high volume of touches in the final year of his deal. And better yet, the lack of RB depth behind him ensures his stranglehold on high-value touches. If the Chargers don’t add any significant competition to their backfield — they have not as of this writing — Ekeler should remain a top fantasy option in a Kellen Moore-led 2023 Chargers offense. It’s the final year of his contract, which was recently restructured to include an additional $1.75 million in incentives. Don’t be surprised if we see one last monster year from Ekeler before he hits free agency.
A.J. Brown: Being high on A.J. Brown was a big hit for me in 2022, as the Eagles’ WR1 finished as the WR4. I acknowledged his uber-talent from his days in Tennessee, combined with an offense willing to throw more than his old team would unlock his fantasy football ceiling.
He did just that, finishing 8th in points per game (15.0) with a 29% target share. He posted the NFL’s 6th-highest air yards share (39%) despite running fewer routes than his teammate DeVonta Smith. AJB tied a bow on his first year in Philadelphia, second overall in yards per route run (2.89) behind only Tyreek Hill and 6th in yards after the catch per reception. The 26-year-old remains in his uber prime and needs to be valued as such.
Stefon Diggs: Before Josh Allen‘s injury in Week 9, Stefon Diggs was the WR1 overall in points per game among WRs with a 28% target share averaging 109 yards per game.
Round 1 Takeaways:
- Running backs have traditionally been the preferred choice in the first round, but there is a shift toward top-tier wide receivers like Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Cooper Kupp. This sets up a “Hero RB” Approach in Round 2. Drafting an elite wide receiver early allows for the “Hero RB” strategy, where a top-tier running back is targeted in Round 2, followed by rotational RB options in later rounds.
- Drafting a solid RB1 in the middle of Round 1 can be beneficial. This helps you avoid the RB Dead Zone in later rounds, where the focus is on WRs with break-out potential.
- Flexibility is crucial, and if you miss out on elite running backs, considering an elite wide receiver or even an elite quarterback in Superflex formats can be a viable strategy.
- In PPR formats, wide receivers historically have a higher percentage of top-12 finishes, while running backs tend to dominate in half-PPR formats.
- Cooper Kupp, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Amon-Ra St. Brown and A.J. Brown are strong options after Jefferson and Chase, particularly in PPR formats.
- In Superflex formats, elite quarterbacks become valuable selections. In tight end premium formats, Travis Kelce stands out as a potential first-round pick, although concerns about his age and potential overvaluation should be considered.
Approach to Round 2
Fantasy managers should feel comfortable taking an elite wideout in Round 1 because Round 2 is filled with a plethora of running back talent. Running back is DEEP with only three RBs typically drafted in Round 1. The potential non-first-round/second-round running backs — Nick Chubb, Jonathan Taylor, Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, Derrick Henry — provide more than enough production for a roster’s RB1 slot. Keep in mind many of those RBs don’t need to be drafted in Round 2. Be aware of the ADP based on where you are drafting.
And I’d hardly say this crop of RBs differs too drastically from guys you can also select in Round 3 like Rhamondre Stevenson, Breece Hall, Travis Etienne Jr.
But don’t be afraid to double down at the running back position even if you already drafted a stud in Round 1 if the value presents itself. Anytime you can build a team that a bystander would look and say, “How did you draft that team!?,” you pull the trigger. Especially in half-PPR scoring formats.
Round 3 is where we have typically seen the elite quarterbacks come off the board. But this year, we have already seen them rise into Round 2 based on the edge elite fantasy quarterbacks presented to drafters last season. However, as I laid out in my QB Best Ball Primer — as did Tom Strachan in his early approach to best-ball drafts last season — being the first to draft a quarterback doesn’t always grant you the best advance rate.
Tom said it best by defining the elite QBs’ win rate as “disappointing, to say the least,” entering 2022.
And he would be proven right. Only two of the QBs drafted inside the top-4 rounds finished with top-4 advance rates. Essentially a coinflip.
Meanwhile, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts were being drafted outside the first five rounds. And the other five quarterbacks with the highest advance rates from Round 1 were drafted outside the top 100 overall picks.
Value is still the name of QB, so I stress a pseudo-late-round “elite” quarterback strategy. Essentially getting the last or second-to-last quarterback with top-tier upside to capitalize on value. Of course, this will change based on where QBs fall in ADP, but Rounds 4-6 is the more appropriate range.
Early-Round Players to Target
Nick Chubb: As one of the league’s premier pure rushers, Nick Chubb quietly amassed an impressive 1,525 rushing yards (5.0 yards per carry again) and 13 touchdowns in 2022, finishing as the RB6 overall with a top 10 backfield opportunity share (64%). From Weeks 1-12, he was the RB4 overall and in points per game. However, his production tailed off towards the end of the season with the return of Deshaun Watson to the lineup, dropping him to RB23 overall in Weeks 13-17. However, with Watson expected to raise the ceiling of the Browns’ offense with a full offseason back to football, Chubb’s fantasy production should remain more consistent throughout the 2023 season, making him a near-bust-proof draft pick. Last season alone, Chubb was just one of 3 running backs to finish inside the top-36 in every single game (Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler).
Chubb is currently the betting market’s favorite to lead the NFL in rushing yards at +600 odds per DraftKings Sportsbook. Additionally, with the departure of running backs Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson, Chubb could see an increase in opportunities in the receiving game. He demonstrated his ability in this area with a strong Week 18 performance, playing a season-high 75% snap share, running a route on 71% of dropbacks, and catching five-of-six targets (22% target share) for 45 yards. Chubb finished Week 18 as the RB1 overall.
Unproven 2022 fifth-rounder Jerome Ford is currently pegged as the No. 2 RB.
Amon-Ra St. Brown: Amon-Ra St. Brown is one of my other favorite targets in this range. I feel so comfortable pushing the draft button on him in Round 2 with zero hesitance to speak of. His 32% target rate per route run trailed only Tyreek Hill in 2022.
The Lions also own a top-10 schedule for the entire season and through the first six weeks of the year. With no Jameson Williams and a slate of favorable defensive matchups, there will be no stopping the burn from the Sun God himself. Detroit is tied with Jacksonville with the most favorable strength of schedule for fantasy WRs this season.
From Weeks 8-18, St. Brown averaged 80.5 receiving yards, seven receptions and 17 PPR points per game.
#Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown
Since Wk 12 2021
-6th in PPR pts/gm (18.5)
-1st in tgt rate/route run (30.5%)
-6th in team tgt share (27.4%)
-5th in total tgts (217)
-2nd in catches (161)
-7th in rec yds (1744)
-3rd in 1st downs (98)
Looks more like a 1st round pick
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) July 1, 2023
Saquon Barkley: Barkley was finally healthy in 2022 and reaped the rewards of playing in a much better offensive environment. The Giants RB finished as the RB5 overall and in points per game, as he was able to recapture his explosive upside as both a rusher and receiver. Barkley finished second in overall touches (352) and backfield opportunity share (80%) behind only Josh Jacobs through 17 weeks. He also scored 10 rushing TDs with 23 carries inside the 10-yard line. In 2021, Barkley totaled just 13 red-zone touches all season. Let Barkley’s return to glory show that you want to target young impending FA RBs in improved offensive situations that project to earn high volume with proven records of production.
Without a long-term contract in place – even after agreeing to a new one-year incentive-based deal worth up to $11 million – expect the Giants to run Barkley hard in 2023. They have no long commitment to him, and Barkley likely will want to maximize his financial gains from his on-field play. Per Spotrac, if Barkley earns all the incentives and earns the $11 million, his franchise tag value will increase to up to $13.2 million in 2024 or a $24.2 million payout over two years. His incentives are each $303,000 (1,350 yards rushing, 65 catches, 11 total touchdowns) and are also tied to the Giants making the playoffs based on a report from the NY Post.
Mid-Round Players to Target
Garrett Wilson: From Day 1, Garrett Wilson was my favorite rookie WR from the 2022 class. The dude could get open at will and check off all the boxes as an early declare being selected inside the top 10. And he did not disappoint. The former Buckeye commanded a 53% target share in Week 18 to close out a rookie season with a 25% target share, 86% route participation and 146 targets (top-10), despite not being a full-time player until Week 8. WR22 overall and WR20 in expected points per game.
Entering 2023, Wilson will have a major upgrade at quarterback with Aaron Rodgers under center. Last year in games started by non-Zach Wilson Jets QBs, Wilson averaged over 17 fantasy points, six catches, 11 targets, and 82 receiving yards per game. Top-10 fantasy WR numbers. If Rodgers can provide just average accuracy throwing the ball (which seems manageable), Wilson will crush it in 2023. No Jets QB completed more than 60% of their passes last season. Rodgers completed 64.6% of his passes last season, which was close to his career average (65.3%). Wilson is also a prime candidate to experience positive TD regression after finishing as just one of three WRs with 1,000 receiving yards to score fewer than five TDs.
Johnathan Taylor: 2023 was a year to forget for the consensus 1.01 in last year’s fantasy football drafts. Jonathan Taylor underperformed as the RB30 in 11 games played, averaging 12.6 fantasy points as the RB18 when healthy. JT’s usage was that of a top-8 running back – 8th in expected points per game, 4th in touches per game (20) – but a lack of touchdowns decimated his fantasy stock in the Colts’ anemic offense. After scoring a combined 33 TDs through his 1st two seasons, Taylor scored just four rushing TDs in 2022.
From an efficiency standpoint, I’d expect a bounce-back effort from Taylor in 2023. He will be healthier in 2023, and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson‘s mobility under center should increase JT’s rushing efficiency. When Taylor first returned from injury (Weeks 10-13 in the 2022 season), he ranked as the RB3 overall. And he should experience some positive TD regression entering the final year of his rookie deal. However, it should be noted that with Richardson under center, Taylor won’t cannibalize all the goal-line carries.
However, a mobile quarterback didn’t stop Shane Steichen’s running back, Miles Sanders, from scoring 13 TDs in 2022. Considering the wide talent gap and proven production from Taylor compared to Sanders, I’d bet Steichen’s new RB1 will reach double-digit scores even if his rookie QB runs in a few himself.
Tony Pollard: Looking ahead to the 2023 fantasy football season, Tony Pollard will be playing for the Cowboys on the franchise tag after an impressive 2022 campaign. With Ezekiel Elliott no longer on the roster, Pollard will have the opportunity to take over as the team’s lead back. Last season, he finished as the RB7 in fantasy despite ranking outside the top 25 in touches per game.
Pollard’s efficiency was on full display as he averaged 5.3 yards per carry and was the third-highest-graded running back by PFF. From Weeks 7-16, Pollard was the highest-scoring running back in fantasy with 19.3 points per game while playing as the team’s featured back. Although the Cowboys added Ronald Jones in free agency and drafted Deuce Vaughn late in the 2023 draft, neither player poses a significant threat to Pollard’s touch volume, as a healthy Pollard should continue to be a formidable asset in fantasy football. Even if Dallas eventually does bring in another body, Pollard’s efficient play style will mitigate any workload limitations.
Late-Round Players to Target
Jaylen Waddle: Waddle averaged over 15 fantasy points per game with Tua Tagovailoa at QB which would have ranked 7th best among all WRs. The Miami speedster was averaging over 85 receiving yards per game with Tua at QB, showcasing his top-tier upside with his former college QB. With Waddle just 24 years old, I am expecting him to take another step forward entering Year 3, with the idea that he will have his QB healthy for most of his games played. His season-long 21% target share has room to grow with Tyreek Hill potentially taking a slight step back after averaging a likely unrepeatable 31% target share and 3.00-plus yards per route run. Keep in mind that Waddle finished second in the NFL in total EPA on his targets. He also ended 2022 with just one fewer top-3 week than Hill, and his top-12 finisher rate at 38% tied with A.J. Brown and CeeDee Lamb.
Chris Olave: Chris Olave ended his strong rookie season eighth in total air yards (1,531) while commanding a 25% target share and 10th-ranked air yards share (38%). He was the WR26 in points per game (11.0), sixth in yards per route run (2.42) and eighth in target rate per route run (28%). He joins his ex-teammate Garrett Wilson as one of just six first-round WRs drafted since 2014 to average at least 64 receiving yards per game. The former Ohio State Buckeye posted of the most efficient seasons we have ever seen from a rookie WR.
His downfield skill set and per-route efficiency will gel extremely well with his new quarterback, Derek Carr, in 2023. Olave is also a prime candidate to experience positive TD regression after finishing as just one of three WRs with 1,000 receiving yards to score fewer than five TDs.
Round 2 Takeaways:
- Round 2 is filled with a wealth of fantasy RB1 talent, making it a good opportunity to secure a strong RB1 for your roster.
- Consider the potential non-first-round running backs available, such as Nick Chubb, Jonathan Taylor, Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Derrick Henry
- Pay attention to the average draft position (ADP) of these running backs to ensure you’re selecting them at the appropriate value based on your draft position. Players like Rhamondre Stevenson, Breece Hall or Travis Etienne Jr. might offer similar production and can be targeted at the top of Round 3.
- If you drafted a running back in Round 1, target the remaining Tier 2 wide receivers in Round 2, including A.J. Brown, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Davante Adams, Garrett Wilson, CeeDee Lamb or Jaylen Waddle.
- Don’t Shy Away from Doubling Down: If the value presents itself, don’t hesitate to draft another top-tier running back in Round 2, even if you already have an elite RB1. Building a stacked team can lead to fantasy success, especially in half-PPR formats.
- Historically, Round 3 is when elite quarterbacks have been drafted, but recent trends have seen them rise into Round 2. However, drafting a quarterback early doesn’t always guarantee the best results in terms of advance rate.
- Consider a pseudo-late-round “elite” quarterback strategy, aiming to secure a quarterback with top-tier upside in the later rounds, typically around Rounds 4-6.
- The value should be a key factor in selecting quarterbacks, as demonstrated by the success of quarterbacks drafted outside the top four rounds in previous seasons.
- Adapt your approach based on the ADP and draft trends of quarterbacks, but prioritize value and potential upside when selecting your fantasy quarterbacks.
Overall, the key themes in Round 2 are the depth of running back talent, targeting wide receivers from Tier 2, and being strategic with quarterback selections to find value and maximize fantasy team potential.
Approach to Round 3
Ideally, after Round 2, you have acquired at least one elite running back as your hero RB. This approach makes staying fluid and flexible for the next few rounds much easier. It’s essential to draft at least one running back in the first two rounds because the talent pool starts to fall off toward the end of Round 3 into Round 4. Essentially, you almost run out of reliable “hero-RB” targets.
Also, the middle rounds are chock-full of wide receiver talent, which should be the primary focus.
If you still haven’t drafted a tight end, Mark Andrews is your guy in Round 3
If, for some reason, you’ve avoided running backs up to this point or the other drafters went extremely receiver-heavy through the first three rounds, don’t shy away from another stud running back if one falls with zero-RB all the rage nowadays. Especially in half-PPR, where running backs are better versus WRs, with the format more dependent on touchdowns.
The RBs in this range definitely come with more question marks, but there’s no denying they have some high ceilings if the deck is stacked in their favor.
Early-Round Players to Target
Rhamondre Stevenson: If Rhamondre Stevenson experiences positive TD regression with the red zone role all but his in New England, he will build off a strong sophomore season as PFF’s 11th-highest graded rusher. It’s his backfield with little competition for touches in an offense that should be substantially better than last season. Damien Harris was originally replaced by human meat shield James Robinson on a monopoly money and heavily incentive-based contract, but J-Rob didn’t even make it to July before getting released.
The low commitment suggests that Stevenson’s role in 2023 will be more of what we saw from Weeks 5-16 when he was the RB13 in points per game as the Patriots’ No. 1 RB. Stevenson has a sky-high fantasy ceiling that is worth buying into. His combined size and pass-catching props are a fantasy manager’s dream for the running back position.
Stevenson finished as RB1 in 44% of his games last season, which tied Chubb for 6th-highest at the position.
Mark Andrews: Mark Andrews was nearly matching Travis Kelce’s expected fantasy point output last season before Lamar Jackson‘s injury. His season-long 29% target share led all tight ends in 2022. And only four other tight ends scored fewer fantasy points under expectation than Andrews. All reasons to buy into Andrews having a bounce-back season.
Because even if Andrews sees fewer targets after the WR additions the Ravens made this offseason, I’d bet it ends up being a net positive with a boost in overall efficiency (which was severely lacking last season).
Mid-Round Players to Target
Breece Hall: Breece Hall burst onto the scene in 2022, showcasing his talent and proving that he has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best running backs. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to a torn ACL, but Hall is expected to make a strong recovery and be ready for training camp. In just seven games played, Hall was the RB6 in half-PPR points per game, averaging an impressive 5.8 yards per carry as a rusher and ranking fourth in yards after contact per attempt (4.13). He also made an impact as a receiver, ranking fourth in RB receiving yards with an elite 34.4% target rate per route run.
DeVonta Smith: It was a true 1A-1B WR situation in Philadelphia last season. DeVonta Smith actually finished the season with more routes run than A.J. Brown (his 96% route participation ranked fourth overall), and the two were basically even split in target share (27% vs. 29%). Smith’s high-end usage resulted in a backend fantasy WR1 finish in his second season with an average of 12.3 points per game (16th). The “Slim Reaper” also ended the year 14th in yards per route run.
DK Metcalf: DK Metcalf was one of my biggest dynasty targets last offseason, and he did not disappoint even with a new quarterback. The super-sized WR finished as the WR24 in points per game and as the WR17 overall, but I’d argue that Metcalf left meat on the bone in his first year with Geno Smith at the helm, considering his final output didn’t truly reflect his alpha usage. He was the WR12 in expected points per game based on ranking 18th in target share (25.5%) and 12th in air yards share (37%). He tied for second overall in red zone targets with Justin Jefferson.
Late-Round Players to Target
Lamar Jackson: In his six games played with wide receiver Rashod Bateman last year – a talented healthy WR – Lamar Jackson averaged nearly 27 fantasy points, 2.1 passing TDs and 208 passing yards per game. That per-game average would have ranked first over the last two seasons. But without Bateman or any decent WRs? Just 17 fantasy points, 0.67 passing TDs and 165 passing yards per game. Looking ahead to 2023 with a healthy Bateman plus the additions of veteran Odell Beckham Jr. and first-rounder Zay Flowers, Jackson looks primed to return to his fantasy MVP form. I love his betting odds to win the league’s real MVP award. With rushing still part of Jackson’s game – 69.5 rushing yards per healthy game in 2022 – second to only Justin Fields – he looks like a steal as the QB4 outside the first “elite” tier of QBs. Jackson was PFF’s highest-graded passer throwing from 10-19 yards downfield in 2022, which tends to be an extremely sticky stat and an indicator of future success at the QB position. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken is also sure to bring in a more pass-happy approach based on his experience in the NFL. Back in 2018 as a play-caller with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monken called an offense that ranked fourth in pass-play rate on early downs and first in passing yards.
Amari Cooper: Cooper will be one of my primary targets in this range, with quarterback Deshaun Watson under center. Cooper finished as the WR9 overall and WR13 overall in points per game in 2022. His 2.11 yards per route run was the second-best mark of his career. And Cooper’s 42% air yards share ranked second among all WRs.
Travis Etienne Jr: The Jags new RB1 proved himself to be a great fantasy asset during the 2022 season, averaging 15 fantasy points per game from Weeks 7-17 (RB8 in points per game) and finishing tied for 5th in carries inside the 10-yard line (23) despite only scoring four touchdowns on those carries. ETN ended the year with 1,291 rushing yards averaging 5.1 yards per carry in 19 games played as PFF’s 19th-highest graded rusher.
He finished fourth in total forced missed tackles, trailing only Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, and Derrick Henry. All that was despite Etienne suffering a foot injury that knocked him out of a Week 12 contest versus the Baltimore Ravens. Additionally, Etienne’s potential as a receiver remains tantalizing. While he had a limited role in the passing game in 2022, he was the primary route runner among the Jaguars’ running backs, and his 22% target rate per route in three of his last four games played is a strong indication of his receiving upside.
Josh Jacobs: Jacobs was arguably the most valuable fantasy asset during the fantasy football regular season based on his finish as the RB2 overall in relation to his super cheap draft-day ADP. The market was convinced that Jacobs would become part of a dreaded RB-by-committee under new head coach Josh McDaniels, but that was hardly the case. He was a full-blown bellcow for the Raiders leading the NFL in touches through 17 weeks. The 24-year-old will have to play on the franchise tag after leading the NFL with 1,653 rushing yards. With a similar cast of characters returning as depth behind him, it’s hard to envision the Raiders not heavily leaning on him again as a true featured back. But there’s a lot of risk involved considering Jacobs is threatening to hold out into the regular season. He is not going to report to training camp. Furthermore, only 2 RBs finished as RB1s the following year after leading the NFL in touches since 2013.
Round 3 Takeaways:
- Prioritize acquiring an elite running back in the first two rounds to secure a strong RB1 for your roster, as the talent pool starts to decline in Round 3.
- Focus on drafting wide receivers in the middle rounds, as there is typically a plethora of talent available.
- Target the next highest-ranked wide receiver from the next tier, which may include Chris Olave, DeVonta Smith, Tee Higgins, DK Metcalf, Amari Cooper, Deebo Samuel or Calvin Ridley
- If you haven’t drafted a tight end yet, consider selecting Mark Andrews at the end of Round 3.
- If running backs have been scarce in the draft or other managers, have heavily prioritized wide receivers in the first three rounds, don’t hesitate to select another stud running back if one falls. This is especially relevant in half-PPR formats where running backs have an advantage over wide receivers due to the format’s emphasis on touchdowns.
Approach to Round 4
The wide receivers in Round 4 are almost just as good as those in Round 3, so continue to pound away at the position. The primary wide receiver targets include Deebo Samuel, Amari Cooper, Keenan Allen, Calvin Ridley, Terry McLaurin, D.J. Moore, Jerry Jeudy, DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Watson, the latter of which can be found sometimes much cheaper in Round 5 at times.
If you have only one running back rostered (or none), Breece Hall and Travis Etienne Jr. are the priority targets. After that, rookie Jahmyr Gibbs. RBs in Round 4 become slim pickings, which is why it’s better to have at least one already rostered by this point.
Round 4 Targets:
Jahmyr Gibbs: Jahmyr Gibbs, the highly-touted rookie running back, is set to take the field for the Detroit Lions in the upcoming 2023 fantasy football season. Gibbs displayed his impressive skills in college, with a 24% dominator rating during his time at Georgia Tech, where he played alongside future NFL running back Jordan Mason.
In his first year with the Crimson Tide, Gibbs demonstrated his receiving prowess, ranking third in the FBS in receiving yards and leading all RBs in the nation in receiving yards in the previous year. Gibbs’ breakaway run rate was fifth in the class, indicating his explosiveness as a rusher. At 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds, Gibbs is smaller than some other backs, but his speed and receiving ability more than makeup for it.
The Detroit Lions invested heavily in Gibbs, selecting him 12th overall in the NFL Draft, indicating that he is likely to take on a significant workload. Gibbs is expected to fill the role previously held by D’Andre Swift, who was highly efficient last season. Despite splitting touches with Jamaal Williams, Swift managed to rank highly in fantasy points per touch, yards per carry, and yards after contact per attempt.
With Swift now with the Eagles, Gibbs is expected to inherit a workload of at least 224 touches (based on the usual workload for a first-round rookie RB), with the potential for even more if he takes the lion’s share of the carries. With his size and receiving ability, Gibbs could be a backend RB1, making him an attractive prospect for fantasy football enthusiasts in the upcoming season. He’s an even better draft pick in full-PPR formats.
Justin Fields: Looking ahead to this season, it’s highly anticipated that Bears’ quarterback, Justin Fields, will make a significant leap in his performance. Not only did he finish last season as QB6 in points per game with 20.6, but during his 11 games played from Weeks 5-17, he ranked as QB5 in points per game with a 24.1 per game mark. Moreover, the Bears have made significant improvements to their supporting cast in the offseason – highlighted by the additions of D.J. Moore and Darnell Wright — which sets the stage for Fields to continue his upward trajectory and become a supernova fantasy producer in Year 3.
Calvin Ridley: Marvin Jones‘ usage can provide us an idea of how the Jaguars will deploy their three top WRs in 2023, between Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Calvin Ridley. Jones ran a route on 73% of the dropbacks and led the Jaguars in deep targets (18) in 2022. He only caught three of them. All three players will be full-time starters in three WR sets, with Ridley providing a much-improved upgrade as a deep/red-zone threat.
Let’s not forget that the last time we saw Ridley suit up, he was borderline elite at commanding targets. As the Falcons’ No. 1 receiver, he owned the sixth-highest target rate per route run and ranked second among all wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game (16.5). He’s being drafted as a fantasy WR2 with easy fantasy WR1 upside, just two years removed from a 90-1374-9 2020 campaign.
Not to mention, Per FantasyPros’ strength of schedule tool, the Jaguars boast the No. 1 SOS for fantasy quarterbacks and fantasy WRs. The 2023 calendar is great for quarterback Trevor Lawrence and co. to take another leap in Year 3.
Jerry Jeudy: Jeudy impressed tremendously down the stretch when healthy. No player scored more fantasy points in (PPR) with a sub-75% overall route participation. Or posted higher yards per route run versus man coverage than Jeudy last season. Overall, he finished 13th in target rate per route run (23%). In Jeudy’s last six games to close out 2022, he earned a 25% target share (15th) and finished fifth in receiving yards overall (87/game).
In the final five weeks (when he was playing a full allotment of snaps after injury) – Weeks 14 onward, the Broncos WR was the WR3 overall in points per game (half-PPR) and WR4 in full PPR. In the last four games played with Russell Wilson at QB, Jeudy was averaging 18.2 PPR points per game (better than CeeDee Lamb) and 15.25 half-PPR points per game (same as Ja’Marr Chase).
From Week 10 onward, the Broncos wide receiver LED the entire NFL in yards per route run (2.71). He was averaging the 10th-most fantasy points per game from Week 7 onward in half-PPR (13.5).
Obviously, any upgraded quarterback play from Russell Wilson is great for Jeudy because he easily projects as the No. 1 WR on the offense from a volume perspective. And last year, he finally showed that he could score fantasy points finishing as the WR21. After failing to crack the top-45 his first two years in the league. With great route-running and separation skills to boot, Jeudy’s stock should continue to rise. He’s easily my favorite breakout WR in the middle rounds…because we’ve already seen him do it with the current QB in place.
Round 4 Takeaways:
- Wide receivers in Round 4 offer similar value to those in Round 3, so continue focusing on building depth at the position.
- Target wide receivers like Deebo Samuel, Amari Cooper, Keenan Allen, Calvin Ridley, Terry McLaurin, D.J. Moore, Jerry Jeudy, DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Watson, the latter of whom can often be found at a more affordable price.
- If you have only one running back rostered (or none), Breece Hall and Travis Etienne Jr. are the priority targets. After that, rookie Jahmyr Gibbs.
- Take into account the average draft position (ADP) when considering a quarterback selection in Round 4. This is where you may feel most comfortable selecting an elite fantasy QB like Justin Fields, Joe Burrow, or Justin Herbert.
Approach to Round 5
Continue to bolster depth with the next tier of wide receivers (Drake London, Mike Williams, Christian Watson, D.J. Moore, Chris Godwin, Brandon Aiyuk) and/or running backs (Joe Mixon, Kenneth Walker III, Aaron Jones, J.K. Dobbins, Cam Akers), assuming the ones mentioned from Round 4 have already been selected. But do your best to push RB out as much as possible in this range coined the “RB Dead Zone.”
Really try to go WR or even elite tight end first before another running back. Elite QBs may also be drying up at this point, so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.
Round 5 Targets:
Christian Watson: Christian Watson could experience a sophomore slump if Jordan Love can’t deliver as the full-time starter for the Packers. However, I’d remain a buyer of Watson in Round 5 because Watson was absolutely dynamite as a rookie.
His 26% target rate per route run is nothing but impressive, ranking 17th among all WRs with at least 400 snaps. Watson’s 2.47 yards per route run ranked inside the top 10 and tied with superstar Davante Adams.
And in a must-win Week 18 contest vs. the Lions, he was once again the target leader (23% target share), going for 104 receiving yards on a team-high five catches. From Week 10 through Week 18, Watson ranked first in yards per route run (2.78). Over the same span, Watson was the WR9 in both total points and on a per-game basis in PPR.
If Watson takes over the downfield and red zone looks that Allen Lazard saw the majority of in 2022, prepare for a massive second-year leap.
Drake London: One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years when drafting WRs is to not over-evaluate how often a team is going to be “run-heavy.” It’s gotten me in trouble in numerous spots over the last two seasons, and I vowed that I won’t let it happen again. Drake London did everything you want from a rookie WR in Year 1 and is heavily discounted because of the offense he plays in. Sure, it’s still entirely possible that a Desmond Ridder-led offense is still not great, and London suffers as a result. But how silly are we going to be when we reflect on the 2023 ADP and think about how London was sometimes being drafted outside the top-24 after posting a 29 percent target share and finishing fifth in expected yards per route run (2.33) in his first year? In his SECOND game, he posted a 48 percent target share. With Ridder as his QB, London was the WR22 in scoring. 10th in expected fantasy points per game (half-PPR). In full PPR (WR16 to close out the year with Ridder) and ninth in expected fantasy points per game. London averaged over 83 yards and 5 receptions per game to close out his rookie year with Ridder under center. It’s entirely possible that London doesn’t fire. But I think the worst-case scenario is a fantasy WR3 finish, which seems like a small loss and not necessarily a player that will nuke your team.
Chris Godwin: Godwin should remain at worst in the fantasy WR2 conversation regardless, based on a solid role in the slot. He still will be the heavy favorite to lead the team in targets and will be another year removed from his ACL injury. Over 1,000 receiving yards last season with just three TDs. Mayfield posted decent completion numbers with the Rams, and I think the offense in Tampa will be similar to that based on new OC Dave Canales coming from the Sean McVay, Shane Waldron scheme. From Week 4 onward, Godwin was WR11 in points per game last season.
J.K. Dobbins: J.K. Dobbins’ 2022 campaign got off to a sluggish start as he was recovering from major knee surgery and missed the first two weeks of the season.
However, when Dobbins finally returned later in the year, he showed why he’s such a highly regarded talent. In his last five games, including the playoffs, he averaged an impressive 6.6 yards per carry, 92 rushing yards, and 14 carries per game. This strong finish is a promising sign for his 2023 prospects in an offense that should light the league ablaze under the QB/OC combination of Lamar Jackson/Todd Monken.
And although he continued to split carries with Gus Edwards in 2022, Dobbins’ explosive running style and effectiveness in the Ravens’ offense make him the best fantasy asset. Despite the presence of Edwards and Justice Hill in the backfield, Dobbins is the clear lead back for the Ravens and should be viewed as a top-tier fantasy option in 2023. Baltimore could ride him into the ground as an impending free agent.
Round 5 Takeaways:
- Focus on bolstering depth at wide receiver by targeting the next tier of receivers, such as Drake London, Mike Williams, Christian Watson, D.J. Moore, Chris Godwin and Brandon Aiyuk.
- Consider drafting running backs like Joe Mixon, Kenneth Walker III, Aaron Jones, J.K. Dobbins or Cam Akers if the running backs mentioned in Round 4 have already been selected. However, be aware of the “RB Dead Zone” and try to prioritize other positions.
- It’s advisable to prioritize selecting a wide receiver or even an elite tight end before adding another running back to your roster in this round. There are a few other solid RBs available in Round 6, so you can afford to wait.
Approach to Round 6
Many of the elite quarterbacks will be off the board before Round 6. If you desire a QB, draft whichever top-tier passer — if any — remains. The opportunity cost of drafting an elite quarterback is so much better in Rounds 4-6 versus Rounds 2-3.
And as always, don’t feel pressured to draft a signal-caller because there are still plenty of great options in the following rounds. Oftentimes one slips into Round 7 or 8, such as Trevor Lawrence or Deshaun Watson.
If there is a potential breakout running back/wide receiver available, continue to exhaust the remaining running backs and wide receivers available atop the 2023 rankings.
Round 6 Targets:
Cam Akers: Akers had a rocky start to the 2022 season, getting benched in Week 1 and facing doubts about his role in the Rams’ backfield. However, Akers eventually emerged as the team’s RB1 and finished the season as the RB4 in the final six weeks leading the NFL in rushing yards (85 yards/game). As the Rams enter a new season, Akers’ potential for high volume makes him an appealing option in fantasy football.
One reason for optimism is that Sean McVay is staying in Los Angeles, which bodes well for Akers to remain the primary option in the backfield. Akers played every snap in the Rams’ season finale, and the team did not select any running backs until the sixth round of this year’s draft. This means that Akers will face little competition for touches, with only Day 3 picks Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers, as well as Zach Evans, as potential “threats”. Do not be swayed by the addition of Sony Michel and his 2.9 YPC from last season.
Brandon Aiyuk: There’s no question in my mind that the easiest and best fantasy football value on the roster is wide receiver, Brandon Aiyuk. Aiyuk’s breakout potential was on full display last season, finishing as the WR15 with impressive yards per route run and route participation. Career high in yards per route run at 1.82 and 96% route participation. Making him just one of six players in 2022 to run a route on at least 96% of team dropbacks. And this high route participation dates to the middle of the 2021 season.
Aiyuk has run a route on 95% of his team’s dropbacks since Week 9 of the ’21 season. Third behind only Diontae Johnson and Justin Jefferson. Without Deebo Samuel in the lineup for a stretch of games, Aiyuk averaged 13.2 points per game – fantasy WR1 numbers. ADP prices considered, Aiyuk is an easy bet to beat the WR30 rank.
He has also missed zero games over the last two seasons…something that is not true for his three teammates (Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel) that are drafted ahead of him.
Diontae Johnson: Johnson is slated for a massive bounce-back campaign. He didn’t score last season – likely a fluke – and that’s being held against him. Even though DJ ranks: 5th in total targets (460), 7th in receptions (281) and 9th in target share (25%) over the past 3 seasons. Johnson’s ability to command targets based on his 28% target share and seventh-ranked 137 targets in 2022 suggests he is a prime candidate for positive regression in many facets. His combined downfield targets and red-zone targets were the most of any player not to score in 2022. Those trends don’t tend to carry over from year-to-year. Buy-low on the WR15 in expected fantasy points per game from last season. His WR30 ADP is insulting.
Rachaad White: White’s rookie season saw him flash his legitimate 3-down back skill set in the Buccaneers’ offense. Despite working in a timeshare with Leonard Fournette, White was able to average 11 fantasy points per game (RB26) and operate as the 1A back in the second half of the season despite averaging just four yards per carry. While he wasn’t particularly efficient on the ground, White was still a better rusher than Fournette. And more importantly, he showed proficiency as a receiver with 50 receptions (11th among all RBs), which helped him solidify his role as the team’s RB1 for the upcoming 2023 season. And with White’s work as a receiver, he could still be valuable in games where the Buccaneers are chasing points. Additionally, the release of Fournette and the additions of cast-off Chase Edmonds and UDFA Sean Tucker gives White less competition for touches in the backfield. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is the No. 2 back and has totaled just 79 career carries. White is a supreme value as the RB24 in ADP.
Round 6 Takeaways:
- If you’re targeting an elite quarterback, this is a good round to draft one. Look for any of the remaining top-tier passers who may still be available. The opportunity cost of drafting an elite quarterback in Round 6 is better compared to earlier rounds.
- However, remember that there are still plenty of great quarterback options in the following rounds, so don’t feel pressured to draft one in Round 6.
- Quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson may slip into Round 7 or 8.
- If there are potential breakout candidates available at the running back or wide receiver positions, prioritize selecting them.
- Continue to exhaust the remaining running backs and wide receivers atop the 2023 rankings to maximize your roster’s depth and potential upside.
- Cam Akers, Rachaad White and James Conner are three of the cheapest starting bell-cow RBs you draft from Round 6-plus. Perfect for zero and hero RB builds.
Round 7 Targets:
Darren Waller: By far, my favorite tight end to draft in this range is Darren Waller. He is my No. 3-ranked tight end. Because becoming the No. 1 pass-catching option for a team as tight end is a rare feat. There’s only a handful of teams that feature such a player, with the Giants being the newest to join the list after their acquisition of the ex-Raiders tight end.
The 6-foot-6 pass-catcher came to Big Blue in exchange for a third-round pick, and he immediately should step in as the clear-cut No. 1 target for Daniel Jones. That was not the case for Waller last year, as he was fighting for targets with alpha Davante Adams. But Waller showed that when he was healthy that he could still deliver, ranking second in the NFL in yards per reception (13.9) and 10th in yards per route run. Waller “the baller” still has plenty left in the tank and should be viewed as a clear-cut winner post-trade.
He has the chance to replicate his 2021 numbers when he was the No. 1 receiver in his offense, posting top-5 fantasy tight end numbers. And better yet, Daniel Bellinger‘s elite usage/route participation from last season in the Brian Daboll offense as an every-snap player — 80 percent-plus snap share in six of the last seven games — suggests that Waller won’t leave the field. That will make it that much easier for the TE7 in ADP to crest elite fantasy tight-end status.
James Conner: Crazy to think you can get a massive workhorse like James Conner in Round 7 as the RB26, because he is the ideal first RB to draft on a zero-RB squad. He played essentially six games last year without Kyler Murray and averaged over 21 fantasy points per game. Conner never finished outside the weekly top-15 running backs over that same span.
Deshaun Watson: Watson seems like a potential fantasy football quarterback winner if he can recapture a QB1 overall form from his days with the Houston Texans. His return in 2022 was horrible, but it’s excusable based on so much missed time. He has weapons ranging from Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman, Nick Chubb and David Njoku. Plus, Watson will benefit from an entire offseason to prepare as the Browns’ full-time starter in 2023 under the coaching combination of HC Kevin Stefanski/OC Alex Van Pelt.
That coaching duo helped Baker Mayfield bounce back in his third season to an 11-5 record. And just last season, they put Jacoby Brissett in a position to finish 17th in passing EPA and 12th in PFF passing grade. And let’s not forget the Browns’ top-3 offensive line.
If Watson returns to form, he will not only be a huge win in fantasy, but he will make every Browns player a screaming value. Watson will be 28 years old at the start of the season. Mike Vick came back after essentially three years removed from NFL football and finish as the fantasy QB1…four years after he was the fantasy QB2 overall.
The former Texans QB has been a top-5 fantasy QB every single year he has played at least 15 games. And he is being vastly undersold as a rushing threat. As bad as he was last year, he still posted a solid 175 rushing in 6 games (nearly 30 rushing yards per game). Over 17 games, that extrapolates to nearly 500 rushing yards. That would have ranked 6th among all QBs in 2022.
Among the 7 QBs who rushed for at least 30 yards per game last season – Justin Fields, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Daniel Jones, Josh Allen, Marcus Mariota and Kyler Murray – only Murray failed to crack the top 10 in fantasy points per dropback. Five finished inside the top-5 fantasy scoring QBs on a per-dropback basis.
And as bad as Watson was as a thrower in 2022, there’s a glimmer of hope from one particular metric. He showed he could still be a very effective passer throwing at the intermediate level (10-19 yards) which tends to be a sticker statistic year after year. His 68.4% completion rate on those throws ranked second-best in the NFL. His yards per attempt (12.9) also ranked second. Joe Burrow ranked first in both those categories in 2021.
Round 8 Targets:
Jordan Addison: I love targeting first-round rookie WR Jordan Addison in this range. He tends to be cheaper than fellow first-rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba despite the former having the much better landing spot as the No. 2 WR alongside Justin Jefferson in the Vikings offense.
Minnesota selected Jordan Addison in the first round of this year’s draft, with the idea that he will step into the No. 2 WR vacated by Adam Thielen. That role last season translated into the 8th-most routes run per game. So even as the third potential target in the pecking order, Addison’s rare role makes him very different from the majority of other No. 2 WRs
It’s the NFL team fit and Addison’s college profile that has me fully expecting him to hit the ground running. Recall that Addison broke out as an 18-year-old freshman in 2020 with 60 catches for 662 receiving yards and four receiving TDs.
The early-age production is a sign of an elite prospect, and it clearly foreshadowed Addison’s rise to become one of the best WRs in college football. He transferred to USC from Pittsburgh this past year and led the Trojans with 59 catches for 875 yards and eight receiving TDs (79 targets). But more importantly, the 5-foot-11 and 173-pound wide receiver proved that he could play more outside after spending most of his time in the slot at Pittsburgh.
Gabe Davis: The Gabe Davis hate has gone too far. He finished as a WR1 at a higher rate last season than Devonta Smith and Brandon Aiyuk. He had more top-12 finishes than Mike Evans, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Chris Olave, Deebo Samuel. But because he couldn’t meet his unrealistic expectations, his 2023 ADP has cratered outside the top 40 WRs. But what has changed about his projected outlook? With the rest of Buffalo’s supporting WR cast filled out with Trent Sherfield, Khalil Shakir, Deonte Harty and Justin Shorter, Davis is going to have the opportunity to be a big factor in the Bills passing game. Unless rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid commands an extremely high target share, Davis can easily be trusted as a fantasy WR3/4 with plenty of upside as a post-hype sleeper. All the reasons to be “in” on him last season are there in 2023. Keep in mind, Davis finished 9th in routes run per game last season (39.3) ahead of Diggs (36.6, 16th). He also ranked 22nd in red-zone targets and 13th in deep targets.
Antonio Gibson: Gibson had a polarizing 2022 season, splitting work in the Commanders’ backfield with rookie Brian Robinson. However, Gibson’s proven track record of production, ideal size, and pass-catching chops make him an enticing buy-low running back target. Despite operating as an RB3 for much of the second half of 2022, Gibson remained much more involved in the passing game than Robinson, with an impressive 14% target share and an 80.5 PFF receiving grade.
The release of J.D. McKissic further solidifies Gibson’s role as the primary receiving back for Washington. As a free agent at the end of 2023, the team could ride Gibson till the wheels fall off. Additionally, new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s arrival may lead to more opportunities for Gibson, as he has no prior commitments to the hierarchy of the backfield from the 2022 season.
We could easily see him in a Jerick McKinnon-esque role in Washington. The Commanders’ tough schedule also foreshadows negative scripts, which favor Gibson’s pass-catching abilities. Grab him as early as Round 9 or as late as Round 11.
Round 9 Targets:
Zach Charbonnet: Charbonnet had an impressive college career, starting ahead of future NFL draft selection Hassan Haskins at Michigan in 2019. However, his numbers regressed in 2020 due to COVID-19, splitting time with Haskins and losing work to other NFL-drafted players. In 2021, Charbonnet transferred to UCLA and saw his production skyrocket, posting a 25% dominator rating as a junior and finishing third among all RBs in PFF rushing grade.
His 2022 senior production was also elite, finishing fourth in PFF rushing grade among all RBs, while improving his receiving game, catching 37 balls for 320 yards on 44 targets. Charbonnet’s collegiate accolades made him an attractive option for the Seattle Seahawks, who selected him in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft (52nd overall). Paired with last year’s second-round pick, Kenneth Walker III, Charbonnet’s skills complement Walker’s home run rushing ability.
While Charbonnet can’t match Walker’s explosive plays, he can be counted on to deliver consistent production as a rusher and receiver. His 3-down skill set and draft capital suggest that he will be heavily involved in the Seahawks’ offense as a rookie, and he may even be the better fantasy asset compared to Walker when you consider the difference in ADP.
Geno Smith: Geno Smith is my favorite late-round quarterback because he’s being so vastly undervalued. The 32-year-old proved all his fantasy doubters wrong in his first year as Seattle’s fully-entrenched starter, finishing as the fantasy QB6 while averaging 19 fantasy points per game (QB8). The only QBs that scored more points per game than Smith last season were Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Justin Fields, and Lamar Jackson. Additionally, all the Seahawks did during the draft was invest in No. 1 WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba. QB16 is still too cheap for Chef Geno in early best ball ADP. He should be viewed as a low-end fantasy QB1. Oh well, more for me (and you).
Elijah Moore: Moore was the WR2 overall during his last stretch of six games during his rookie season, despite catching passes from Mike White, Zach Wilson, and Josh Johnson.
I am buying Moore with the hopes that he recaptures that same fantasy ceiling with an upgraded quarterback and a new situation in 2023. There’s a path where he is easily second on the team in targets, and I wouldn’t completely rule out him out-targeting Amari Cooper after we saw Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones (a free agent at the end of the season) post similar production at times in 2022.
Cooper’s status as a “fake alpha” and inconsistent producer always seems to improve the efficiency of the No. 2 WRs he plays alongside: Michael Crabtree, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and Donovan Peoples-Jones. And Moore comes at a two-round discount compared to last season…even though he has a major upgrade at quarterback and softer competition for targets in the Cleveland Browns’ new-look 2023 offense.
WR Elijah Moore, Cleveland Brownshttps://t.co/zddh2FgTiZ
Moore is in a brand-new situation with the Cleveland Browns and could easily emerge as the No. 2 WR in the offense.
Because the talent is THERE.
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) July 12, 2023
Round 10 Targets:
Anthony Richardson: The Colts rookie quarterback is my best bet to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and to break out in Year 1. The former Gator brings an exceptional level of athleticism to the table, and with the right coaching staff, his sky-high potential can be fully realized. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him secure the Day 1 starting position, especially with Gardner Minshew as his only competition. Even if the Colts don’t have a strong real-life record, Richardson’s rushing production and off-script playmaking will put him over the top. At Florida, Richardson averaged 60 rushing yards per game. Also, Richardson’s extremely low pressure-to-sack rate (sub-10%, first in the 2023 QB Class) further highlights his off-script playmaking. With passers being pushed up the board more aggressively than in recent years, Richardson as the QB15 gives late-round QB drafters a chance to compete.
Zay Flowers: Flowers spent four seasons at Boston College simply dominating as the team’s best wide receiver. He posted a career 33% dominator rating – the highest in the draft class. His senior year was truly special as the 5-foot-9, 182-pound wideout racked up 78 receptions for 1,077 yards and 12 receiving TDs. Per Sports Info Solution, Flowers finished 3rd in the class in unique routes run, 6th in target share (30%) and third in deep route percentage (49%). With first-round draft capital and projected inside/slot usage that will work well with Lamar Jackson…don’t count out Flowers emerging as Baltimore’s WR1 at a WR48 price tag. The best ability is availability… which has not been the case for either Beckham Jr. or Bateman.
Damien Harris: Damien Harris had a lackluster 2022 campaign with the New England Patriots, playing in just 11 games due to injuries and averaging only 8.8 fantasy points and 49 rushing yards per game when he was on the field. However, he has found a new home with the Buffalo Bills, who signed him to a one-year contract to add more size to their backfield. With the Bills prioritizing a more balanced run-pass offense this offseason and improvements made to their offensive line, Harris could be in for a bounce-back season.
While Rhamondre Stevenson was the primary RB for the Patriots last season, Harris could carve out a role as the Bills’ featured red-zone back. In 2022, former Bills RB Devin Singletary totaled just four rushing TDs inside the 10-yard on 16 carries. Harris scored just as many times from inside the ten-yard line as Stevenson (three times) despite being out-carried in that area of the field 19 to six.
However, it’s worth noting that QB Josh Allen is often used as a goal-line rusher, which could limit Harris’ touchdown upside. But we have seen quarterbacks run less at the goal line as they get older, so there’s still a chance that Harris flirts with double-digit scores should his arrival mean the team leans on him more as their preferred rusher near the pylon to protect their franchise quarterback in the long term. Harris has landed in a situation that could provide him with plenty of scoring opportunities in 2023.
Rashaad Penny: In 2022, Rashaad Penny’s on-field production was impressive, averaging over six yards per carry and ranking second among all RBs in rushing percentage that resulted in 10-plus yards. However, he missed a significant amount of time due to injuries. Quarterback Jalen Hurts‘ presence at the goal line will obviously hinder Penny’s TD potential to some extent but make no mistake that the former first-round pick has the potential to score beyond just the 5-yard line. Of his 14 career touchdowns, 11 have come on 10-yard-plus plays, with seven of those being 30-plus plays from scrimmage. However, the addition of D’Andre Swift and the re-signing of Boston Scott could hinder Penny’s chances of a significant role in the Eagles’ offense. While Swift and incumbent Kenneth Gainwell are expected to be the superior pass-catchers, Penny’s efficiency as a pure rusher should not be overlooked. With his low-risk contract, fantasy managers should consider Penny as a high-upside late-round selection, but it’s important to monitor his role/injury health status in the Eagles’ backfield throughout the offseason. He is a cheap way to get access to the Eagles’ offense as the RB37 in ADP.
Eagles RBs will start off in a committee.https://t.co/fEgvZtjfUn
But Rashaad Penny got the first carry of training camp with first-team offense…
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) July 27, 2023
Skyy Moore: A lackluster rookie season has everybody writing off 2022 second-round WR Skyy Moore. But the young WR showed bright spots as the season progressed. After JuJu Smith-Schuster got hurt in Week 10, Moore went on to lead all Chiefs WRs in targets over the next two weeks (12 targets, 10 catches for 99 yards, 3.19 yards per route run) as the team’s primary slot receiver. Moore was hyper-targeted on 36% of his routes (25% snap share, 4 targets) in Week 17 vs. the Broncos when, again, he saw high usage from the inside. And in the conference championship game, Moore once again commanded 6 targets, while running 12 routes from the slot (second-most in 2022). Many draft pundits and Chiefs beat writers are crowning Kadarius Toney as the heir to the KC WR1 chair, but Moore looks like the dark horse to earn starting slot duties that Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman left behind. Simply put, Moore saw 6 targets in the games where he ran at least 10 slot routes. He also had at least 2 receptions in five games where he ran at least 7 slot routes. Hardman and Smith-Schuster averaged 13.5 slot routes per game last season. Therefore, don’t count Moore out quite yet. Recall, Moore ranked second in college football in his final year in yards per route run from the slot.
Round 11 Targets:
Round 12 Targets:
Round 13 Targets:
- Kenny Pickett
- Gerald Everett
- Sam LaPorta
- Roschon Johnson
Round 14 Targets:
Round 15 Targets:
Round 16 Targets:
Final Round Targets:
- Michael Gallup
- Darius Slayton
- John Metchie III
- Zamir White
- Terrace Marshall Jr.
- Jelani Woods
- DeWayne McBride
- Justyn Ross