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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy & Advice: Targeting Good Offenses (2023)

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy & Advice: Targeting Good Offenses (2023)

When it comes to fantasy football success, targeting players on good offenses may seem like an obvious strategy. After all, high-powered offenses often produce the top scorers at each position. Last season, the Seattle Seahawks defied expectations, but when we look at the overall results, it becomes clear that hitching our fantasy wagons to high-octane offenses is a winning approach.

EPA/dropback

Analyzing the expected points added (EPA) per dropback, we find that the majority of great fantasy skill players, such as Dameon Pierce, Garrett Wilson, Terry McLaurin, James Conner, Derrick Henry, and Rhamondre Stevenson, were associated with offenses that had positive EPA. These players represent just a fraction of the top scorers, highlighting the significance of being connected to high-powered teams.

While it’s true that some players can overcome a poor offensive situation, the ones that consistently excel are those who benefit from volume. Running backs who excel as receivers thrive in negative game scripts, allowing them to accumulate fantasy points even on mediocre teams. This trend held true in both 2021 and 2022.

Volume reigns supreme in fantasy football, which is why taking shots on discounted players like Drake London, Chris Godwin, Diontae Johnson, and pass-catching running backs from average offenses can pay off when their prices are right. Paying a premium for players whose upside is constrained by their offensive environment doesn’t make sense, particularly for wide receivers who are more dependent on quarterback play compared to running backs who can rely on volume and dump-offs.

In the past two seasons, only one wide receiver, Diontae Johnson in 2021 and Amari Cooper in 2022, finished in the top 10 in half-point scoring on offenses with negative EPA per dropback. 4.5 WRs per year ended up in the WR14-WR24 range.

This clearly indicates that these players are fantasy WR2s who require exceptional target volume or favorable touchdown variance to become WR1s.

Avoiding high-priced landmines on predictably bad offenses is crucial to maximizing your team’s upside. While the market has become more aware of this, suppressing prices for players in unfavorable situations, there are still opportunities to find value. Constructing a draft strategy around exposure to the league’s best and most fantasy-friendly offenses, while factoring in cost, can give you an edge.

In this fantasy football draft guide, we will explore a round-by-round recap of player targets from the top 16 offenses based on aggregate best ball ADP. These teams are regarded as the best offenses in the market, and by identifying cost-effective options within these offenses, you can secure high-potential players without breaking the bank.

So, let’s dive into the highly anticipated sequel fantasy football guide and discover how to build a winning fantasy football team by targeting players on the league’s most explosive and productive offenses.

Fantasy Football Draft Kit

Methodology

To best capture the mean ADP of each NFL offense, I collected the ADPs of the first seven players drafted from each team. That way, I would be able to consider each team’s QB plus a combination of six skill players between running back, wide receiver, and tight end.

It also prevents “good” offenses from being penalized because all the late-round guys drafted from those teams will suppress the team’s overall score.

Every offense had at least seven players with an actual ADP. The Chiefs, Ravens, Saints and Patriots have the players the most drafted players with legitimate ADPs on average. KC and NE were in the same category last season, with TB no longer being a heavily drafted roster.

Top Offenses

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Fly Eagles Fly. From the 12th-ranked offense from a season ago, Jalen Hurts and company enter as the league’s most expensive offense to draft. And what did it take for them to make the major leap? Add a dynamic WR1 in A.J. Brown as the tide that lifts all boats.

He remains a target for me in Round 1/2.

Can’t say the same for DeVonta Smith who is being drafted as the WR12. Vastly overvalued in my estimates. His ADP last season was WR38. Meanwhile, Dallas Goedert‘s ADP has stayed in the same round (Round 7) as last year.

What’s the cheapest access point to the Eagles? The RB backfield. D’Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Gainwell round out the ambiguous backfield that is sure to pay dividends if one emerges above the rest.

I prefer the latter two because the cost is non-existent. Swift goes as back-end RB2, which is steep for an RB with a totally unknown role on a brand-new offense. He’s got red flags as I laid out in my Fantasy Football Bust Guide: Draft Strategy & Advice (2023).

Penny and Gainwell are two of my favorite Eagles RB sleepers.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

Absolutely wild folks. The hype is real. The Jaguars are “America’s Team.” Their team ADP has skyrocketed from 26th to second from last season. Everybody is more expensive than there were last year…except for running back Travis Etienne Jr. ETN was RB16, 36th overall, and now is priced at RB14, 39th overall. What a shame after a great first season in the NFL.

The Jags 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.

WR Calvin Ridley‘s price continues to rise to Round 3 in some draft rooms, making him a slightly tougher target after so much time missed. And Christian Kirk seems like he is being drafted as the WR26 nearly 3 rounds ahead of his ADP last season, when he faces his stiffest target competition to date with Ridley added to the fold.

There’s not much value juice to squeeze in Jacksonville County outside perhaps No. 3 WR, Zay Jones. He’s obviously come a long way since WR87 from 2022, but WR60 is hardly giving him much credit for his WR26 finish through 17 weeks.

We cannot overstate how effective Jones was in his first year in the offense after signing a 3-year $24M deal with $14M guaranteed. He played a nearly full-time role running a route on 87% of dropbacks (37.1 per game, 14th, same as Kirk). He ended the year as the WR24 while posting career highs across the board in receptions (82), yards (823) and yards per route run (1.44). But what was most impressive, was Jones’ 27% top-12 finisher rate, which ranked 16th-best among all WRs. His four top-12 finishes were the same amount that Christian Kirk tallied.

Even if Jones takes a small step back in terms of targets with the addition of Ridley, I don’t envision his actual playing time decreasing too drastically. Remember, the Jaguars had three WRs last season running a route on at least 73% of the dropbacks (30-plus per game). And Marvin Jones‘ departure vacates 22 targets of 20-plus air yards. There are still plenty of opportunities to go around in this Jaguars’ ascending offense, and Jones represents the cheapest access point.

Just seems to me that the market is penalizing Jones more for the addition of Ridley than they are with Kirk.

3. Cincinnati Bengals

More faith in the Bengals this season compared to last season. They have jumped up to 3rd overall, 5 spots from last season. You have the usual suspects at the top, and Joe Mixon‘s ADP continues to rise since he restructured his contract to avoid being cut from the team entirely. All in all, there are two ways to get cheap exposure to Bengals offense that ranked 1st in pass rate on early downs under neutral game script conditions: WR Tyler Boyd and TE Irv Smith Jr.

Boyd ranks 5th in total routes run over the past two seasons. Last year, he was a top-48 WR in 56% of his games played. Currently, he is being drafted outside the top 50 WRs.

Smith Jr. has still yet to turn 25, but injuries have plagued him over the last two seasons. His impressive sophomore campaign seems like a distant memory, more than an actual way to project him moving forward. At least Smith was able to return from the high-ankle sprain that placed him on IR in 2022, and he will get the chance to be fully healthy during off-season activities. Before his injury in Week 8, ISJ was the TE23 in points per game (5.7) and caught at least two passes in all but one game. The former second-round pick still has talent and could easily rebound on a high-powered Bengals offense that features tight ends plenty in the passing game. His 20% target rate per route run ranked 12th among all tight ends with at least 30 targets in 2022.

As for the backfield behind Mixon…it’s slim picking. I am not a fan of rookie Chase Brown, and Trayveon Williams has never had a role on offense despite a number of preseason puff pieces the last few years. Chris Evans would be my favorite sleeper of the bunch.

But in all honesty, if Mixon were to go down I am pretty sure the Bengals would add a free agent instead of addressing the backfield internally. Specifically, I think Ezekiel Elliott would be their guy.

Frank Pollack is the Bengals’ current offensive line coach and run game coordinator. Before then, he spent two seasons in Dallas with Ezekiel Elliott. Right tackle La’el Collins and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie are former Cowboys.

Elliot’s remaining strengths are at the goal line and in pass protection. Only Jamaal Williams totaled more carries inside the 5 than Zeke did last year. And his TD conversion rate (47.4%) was better than Mixon’s 35.3%. Seems logical that Elliott could find his way back to Ohio, should Mixon falter or get into further off-the-field issues. Either way, I’d be proactive in adding Elliott to Bengals best ball stacks.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

KC has fallen 3 spots in ADP – although they ranked 1st in EPA/dropback by an insane margin – simply because we know even less about who their No. 1 WR could be. JuJu Smith-Schuster was that guy last year pre-draft. This year it’s a mixed bag between Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore, Rashee Rice and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

For me, Moore is the value target. He’s still much cheaper than Toney even though Moore is projected to take over the starting slot role in the Chiefs offense.

As for the backfield, Isiah Pacheco leads the pack as the RB28, 80th overall (similar to Clyde Edwards-Helaire‘s draft ADP in 2022). But the former 7th-rounder is still recovering after he underwent surgery after suffering a shoulder labrum tear at the end of the season. He should return in the middle of training camp but new reports have claimed he could start the year on the PUP. Still, I have no doubt that Pacheco is the lead back when he’s healthy, but his seventh-round draft capital does him no favors keeping the job should he falter or miss substantial time in any way.

Meanwhile, CEH is a completely free running back playing on the league’s best offenses (RB63 outside top-200 overall picks). And we saw him as the starter from Weeks 1-7, CEH benefited from the Chiefs offense as the RB12. Saw his production buoyed by the second-most fantasy points scored from the red zone (6 TDs) over that span. Whether you like it (or him) or not Edwards-Helaire has a ton of upside in KC’s elite offense with almost zero risk attached. KC finished 5th in fantasy points scored from RBs in 2022.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

Another top unit that has taken a slight hit from last season, the L.A. Chargers has gone from second overall in team ADP down to fifth. Mike Williams went from WR15, a Round 3 pick to WR27 in Round 5. Keenan Allen went from WR13, a Round 3 pick to WR17 in early Round 4. Justin Herbert has fallen from the QB2 to the QB7.

And that’s where the value is.

Keep in mind that last season, Herbert played just four games with a fully healthy combination of Allen and Williams. He also suffered a rib injury which further limited his fantasy production. Considering all the injuries, it should surprise no one that Herbert posted a career-low 3.6% TD rate, nearly two percentage points down from the previous season. As a result, Herbert also failed to eclipse 22 fantasy points per game, a mark he surpassed as a rookie and in his second season. But with fully healthy weapons, first-round pick Quentin Johnston added to the fold AND Kellen Moore taking over as the offensive play caller…

There’s never been a better time to BUY Herbert’s suppressed ADP. In Moore’s first season as the Cowboys offensive coordinator, Dak Prescott finished second in the NFL in passing yards (4,902).

Johnston and Gerald Everett are great ways to get exposure to Herbert’s arm later in drafts.

Johnston was a menace with the ball in his hands, finishing 7th in his draft class in yards after the catch per reception (8.9, 19 forced missed tackles). Perfect fit in Moore’s scheme, which aims to create chunk plays. WR44 is too cheap for this guy. Think of a potential Josh Palmer role, but amped up to the degree of a 1st-round WR talent.

RB Joshua Kelley is also an intriguing last-round pick that could be a major difference-maker. The Chargers finished second in fantasy points among RBs last season. Dallas (Kellen Moore’s old team) finished 4th.

6. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo is down just two spots from the year before (thanks Gabe Davis). But Davis’ fall from grace is worth buying. Because the hate has gone too far. He finished as a WR1 at a higher rate last season than DeVonta Smith and Brandon Aiyuk. Davis had more top-12 finishes than Mike Evans, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Chris Olave and 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.

But if you simply cannot go back to Davis, there are still plenty of value options on the Buffalo offense including RB Damien Harris, TE Dalton Kincaid and WR Deonte Harty.

You can find their sleeper write-ups in my article, Fantasy Football Sleepers for All 32 NFL Teams (2023)

7. Baltimore Ravens

We haven’t had many risers among the top offenses, but the Baltimore Ravens profile firmly as a big riser compared to last season. They are up eight spots from 15th in a season ago. Lamar Jackson is more expensive by one round, as we have seen a premium placed on elite fantasy QBs. Mark Andrews is a Round 3 pick versus a Round 2 pick that he was in 2022.

The value still lies in the backfield. J.K. Dobbins just has a slightly inflated price tag (RB22 – R18) but he is still only a Round 5 pick. The main difference is he’s no longer coming off a devasting multi-ligament knee injury.

Gus Edwards is a super cheap No. 2 handcuff. He has been uber-efficient ever since entering the NFL, with a career 5.1 yards per carry. He owns the second-highest yards per carry since 2018. Last season alone, the Gus Bus posted the league’s 7th-highest rushing yards after contact per attempt (3.5).

Rashod Bateman fell from WR30 to WR47 outside the top 100 due to his inability to stay healthy and with added competition in Odell Beckham Jr./Zay Flowers. They are all cheap and are drafted in a similar range. All things considered, I’ll opt for one that falls the most in ADP or the rookie.

Flowers spent four seasons at Boston College simply dominating as the team’s best wide receiver. He posted a career 33% dominator rating – 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 Jackson…don’t count out Flowers emerging as Baltimore’s WR1. The best ability is availability… which has not been the case for either Beckham Jr. or Bateman.

Targeting highly drafted rookie WRs tends to be a +EV strategy anyway. 26% of 1st round WRs drafted since 2013 have finished as top-24 options. 32% inside the top-36. Rookie WRs ADPs often do not fully capture the upside they possess.

Isaiah Likely is cheaper from TE25 to TE29 despite us now knowing he’s #goodatfootball. Likely played two games without Mark Andrews last season: Averaged nearly 14 PPR points per and 9 targets per game. His 3 top-12 finishes were the same as Kyle Pitts last season. Likely has great upside if Andrews gets hurt and could provide standalone value if Baltimore decides to deploy heavy 12 personnel. Or if their new WR corps fails to stay healthy.

8. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are up 15 spots from last season Geno Smith operating as head chef. So why can’t the Seahawks support three viable WRs? The offense ranked 6th in early down pass play rate in 2022. +4% pass rate over expectation.

The “crowded” wide receiver room in a “run-heavy offense” is the reason why guys like Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba go outside the top 30 WRs. But they are VALUES. Especially in the case of JSN.

Smith-Njigba led the nation in yards per route run (4.01) at 19 years old during the 2021 season despite playing in an offense with two future first-round picks: Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. The Ohio State Buckeye also finished third in the FBS in receiving yards (1,595) and ranked first in PFF receiving grade (91.9). He played 88% of his snaps from the slot with a 9.3 average depth of target (a lower mark than any starting Seattle WR last season).

I think his role in the slot will transition well at the next level, especially with his quarterback who led the NFL in completion percentage in 2022 (69.9%).

Smith-Njigba’s addition allows Seattle to run more 3WR sets, which Geno Smith should find success with. Smith was one of the better QBs passing from 11 personnel in 2022, ranking 10th in yards per attempt (7.2), seventh in TD-INT ratio, and sixth in passer rating. But Seattle ran it at the seventh-lowest rate without any worthwhile third-receiving option. That changes with the addition of the rookie first-rounder.

Seattle’s 2022 tight ends ranked fourth in fantasy points total points scored, while their WRs ranked 13th. If we see fewer 12 personnel sets (most likely) than you will see the Seattle WR points skyrocket inside the top 10.

As for Lockett, he appears like a screaming value yet again. In 2022, Lockett outperformed Metcalf, finishing as the WR12 overall and WR15 in points per game, despite Metcalf posting the higher target share (25% vs. 22%). However, don’t fall into the potential trap with Lockett should he get serious steam heading into the draft season. Call it the “Brandin Cooks Bump.”

AKA…a player who is touted as undervalued to such an extent that he becomes overvalued.

Because there’s strong evidence to believe that Lockett won’t be as good in 2023. He will be 31 years old coming off a year when his production was heavily boosted by TDs. In fact, no WR scored more TDs over expectation than Lockett did in 2022 (5.8 vs. 9). His expected fantasy points per game output (10.2) was WR32. His 22% target rate ranked 36th and his team target share ranked 22nd.

Ergo, I believe the market is pricing Lockett accurately. Especially considering that Smith-Njigba is a candidate to gobble up snaps and targets from the slot, where Lockett played 42% of snaps from last season.

All in all, the best way to get access to this underrated Seattle Seahawks passing game is to just draft Geno Smith. His hyper accuracy will make it easy for him to simply distribute the ball to his playmakers and watch them rack up the points. His QB15 ADP is still too cheap.

Among the league’s top 10 offenses based on ADP, no team’s quarterback is drafted later than Smith. That guy last season was Kirk Cousins.

As for the backfield, I like rookie Zach Charbonnet much more at his cost than Kenneth Walker III.

Charbonnet’s 2022 senior production was also elite, as he finished 4th in PFF rushing grade among all RBs topping his grade from the year before. But more importantly, for fantasy purposes, the 6-foot, 214-pound running back improved his receiving game, catching 37 balls for 320 yards on 44 targets. He posted the 5th-highest PFF receiving grade and tied for first in receptions per game (3.7) among his draft class. The former UCLA running back also finished with the highest positive run rate (57%) and lowest bust rate (4%) among drafted running backs.

The Seattle Seahawks selected Charbonnet in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft (52nd overall) pairing him with last year’s second-round pick, Kenneth Walker III. Charbonnet can’t deliver home run rushes like Walker, but he can be trusted to hit doubles as a rusher and receiver consistently. Charbonnet’s 3-down skill set combined with his draft capital suggests he will be used by the Seahawks plenty as a rookie, and he could end up being the better fantasy asset compared to Walker. Keep in mind that head coach Pete Carroll is never afraid to shake things up when it comes to his backfield. The team drafted Rashaad Penny in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

But former 7th-round draft pick Chris Carson was the team’s leading rusher in 2018, 2019 and 2020. One of Charbonnet’s closest comparisons based on his size and weight is Carson.

9. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings were 7th last year in the offensive rankings, so they haven’t moved much. Their offense has mostly the same core of pieces, led by two top pass-catchers and other ancillary pieces that could provide upside in a heavy passing unit (+3% pass rate over expectation and 9th pass rate on early downs under neutral game scripts in 2022).

I love targeting rookie Jordan Addison, as he should see a favorable role in his first year. It’s Addison’s NFL team fit and college profile that have 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.

Addison is expected to slide into Adam Thielen‘s role, which translated to the 8th-most routes run per game in 2022.

The biggest question marks are in the backfield, with Alexander Mattison (presumably) taking over as the lead dog. Currently, Ty Chandler, DeWayne McBride, and Kene Nwangwu are behind him on the depth chart. Still, there are risks involved in selecting Mattison at the high end of the RB2 range in 2023 as there’s a lot of projection with him as the team’s featured back for an entire season. That’s something he has never done. He’s never actually played more than 50 percent of his team’s offensive snaps in back-to-back games.

Drafting players simply on the situation tends to not work favorably in the long run. Remember, nobody ever vied for Mattison to get touches over Cook at any point during the last four years. And if there was ever a year to do so, it likely would have been last season, considering Cook ranked last in rushing EPA and percentage of rushes for zero or negative yardage among all ball carriers. He graded 34th out of 38 qualifying RBs in PFF rushing grade. Yet, Mattison could barely sniff the field, topping out at 43 percent snap share in Week 5 versus the Bears. In fact, the only two games that Mattison saw increased playing times were versus the Chicago Bears – the team that earned the NFL’s worst record in 2022.

Mattison has always been the inferior back. So, although he’s no longer the most inferior back on the Vikings roster, that doesn’t mean he is an RB to get overly excited about for fantasy football. There are a lot of scenarios where he doesn’t live up to expectations, and I am not paying the back-end RB2 price tag to find out.

For more of his bust potential (along with other potential 2023 busts) check out my bust manifesto.

I’d much rather take a late-round dart throw on another part of this backfield, most notably, DeWayne McBride. McBride has done it all for the UAB Blazers over the last three seasons, totaling a top-five dominator rating (27 percent) for his excellent efforts. He ranks first in the class in career yards per play (4.18) for being so efficient anytime he is on the field. His production is captured in his PFF grades, with him finishing second, eighth, and third, in PFF grading the last three seasons, respectively. Aside from being a complete afterthought in the passing game and some ball security issues, McBride checks off a lot of boxes you want to see from a smaller school prospect, and he easily saved his best for last as a junior, finishing second in the FBS in rushing yards (1702, 155 yards per game), second in yards after contact per attempt (4.6) and fifth in dominator rating (35 percent) among the 2023 draft class. Per PFF, his 36 percent missed tackle rate ranks third all-time since the data started being tracked.

I also want to highlight the Vikings running back coach, Curtis Modkins, who has been part of backfields in the past that has shaken things up with Day 3 picks or undrafted free agents. He was the Broncos RB coach when rookie UDFA Philip Lindsay, took the Broncos’ starting RB1 job outright from 3rd rounder, Royce Freeman.

10. Cleveland Browns

From 21st a season ago, all the way back into the top-10 ranked fantasy offenses.

And it’s heavily based on the market betting on a bounceback from quarterback Deshaun Watson. I’d argue Watson not only offers a cheap access point to the Browns offense, but access to a quarterback with an elite top-5 fantasy football ceiling.

Last season, Watson 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.

And we cannot overlook the rushing production that Watson displayed either. As bad as he was last year, he still posted a solid 175 rushing in 6 games. Nearly 30 rushing yards per game.

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.

Nick Chubb and Amari Cooper are routinely drafted in the top three rounds, so they don’t profile as screaming values despite them being some of my favorite targets. When attacking this offense late in Round 9-plus, I love WR Elijah Moore. Because talent is THERE.

And it comes at a two-round discount compared to last season…even though he has a major upgrade at quarterback and softer competition for targets.

The former Jets WR is in a brand-new situation with the Cleveland Browns and could easily emerge as the No. 2 WR in the offense. He 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. There’s a path where he is easily second on the team in targets, and I wouldn’t completely rule out him out-targeting 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, which further bolsters the case for Moore to hit value in 2023.

Names like Michael Crabtree, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and Donovan Peoples-Jones all thrived with Cooper. I expect Moore to be the latest name to benefit, as Watson’s new favorite vertical target from the slot.

When Cooper was targeted in the slot last season, he generated an almost perfect passer rating (157.0). Wheels up for Moore if he takes on that starting slot role. Watson posted the league’s second-highest passer rating targeting the slot in his final year in Houston (112.4).

David Njoku is drafted in the middle tier of tight ends that I typically look to avoid. I just don’t like the historical ROI on these mid-priced TEs. But don’t sleep on Njoku as a player to draft in Browns/Jets best ball stacks and/or he falls closer to the late-round tight end tier. Because he has massive TD upside and he played a full-time role on the Browns offense.

Only Travis Kelce saw more red-zone targets among tight ends than Njoku last season, but he scored just three times. If Watson’s TD rate positively regresses closer to his career rate (5.8%) another year back into football, Njoku will be a top fantasy tight end in 2023.

The soon-to-be 27-year-old could explode, considering his 2022 usage as a full-time player with top-10 route participation. With Watson at QB over the final six weeks of the 2022 season, Njoku played 94.2% of the offensive snaps (3rd) while running a route on 78% of the dropbacks (9th). The athletic pass-catcher finished last season sixth in PFF receiving grade and inside the top 10 in several other efficiency metrics, including yards after the catch and yards per route run. It was easily his best professional season since 2018.

11. San Francisco 49ers

All the turmoil. The drama. The QB injuries. And the San Francisco 49ers are back in the exact same spot in aggregate ADP that they ranked last year (11th overall).

And 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.

12. Detroit Lions

The Lions are up four spots from last season’s 16th-highest drafted unit. I’m shocked they aren’t higher as a total unit, but it’s likely due to the Jameson Williams suspension knocking the team down several rounds.

The fact that the team is relatively cheap compared to the league’s other top-tier offenses, is exactly why you should be scooping up Lions at all points during the draft. This offense accumulated the 3rd-most fantasy points among teams last season when combining all the positions.

Amon-Ra St. Brown is available in Round 2 when his production looks much more like a first-round pick. At WR9…the Sun God is a value.

First-round rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs is slated to take on the D’Andre Swift role, which is salivating for fantasy purposes. Swift managed to rank highly in fantasy points per touch, yards per carry, and yards after contact per attempt. And back in 2021, Swift was a top-10 fantasy RB in points per game because of his heavy usage in the passing game. The fantasy market was drafting Swift as a fringe 1st-rounder as the RB8 overall last year.

The Lions invested heavily in Gibbs, selecting him 12th overall in the NFL Draft, indicating that he is likely to take on a significant workload. With Swift gone, Gibbs is expected to inherit a solid workload of at least 224 touches (based on the average workload for a first-round rookie RB since 2013). With his size and receiving ability, Gibbs is an easy breakout candidate.

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 make up for it.

I wouldn’t say Gibbs is as huge a value as the RB13, but it’s more than a fair price to pay given his upside, especially in PPR formats. I also don’t think his price is going to be any cheaper than it currently is.

New Lions RB David Montgomery is probably the better value, given his price tag as the RB27.

Montgomery signed a lucrative contract with the Detroit Lions, making him the potential goal-line and red-zone back for the team in 2023. Despite his overall inefficiency last season, Monty’s upside lies in his ability to score touchdowns. In his 15 healthy games, he averaged 10.9 fantasy points per game, finishing as the RB26. However, his production decreased in the 11 games he played alongside Khalil Herbert, averaging just 9.2 fantasy points (RB35) and 48 rushing yards per game (13 carries per game, 32nd in rushing EPA/attempt). But with the departure of Jamaal Williams, Montgomery has an opportunity to claim a similar red-zone role that led to Williams carrying the ball a league-high 45 times inside the 10-yard line and scoring 17 rushing touchdowns.

Montgomery’s contract and projected role suggest that he will be involved enough (likely as a rusher on early downs) to maintain his fantasy viability alongside Gibbs. Therefore, while Montgomery may not be the flashiest pick, he presents a solid value at a relatively cheap price tag as a potential RB2/RB3 with touchdown upside in an above-average offense.

Lions RBs combined for the most points at the position last season.

The best pure values don’t come until the very late rounds.

Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta has a chance to step in on Day 1 and earn substantial targets in an offense that was fantasy friendly for tight ends. The Lions finished 7th in total fantasy points scored from TEs in 2022. They tied for second in receiving TDs (12) by tight ends collectively.

Jameson Williams will serve a six-game suspension to open the year, but don’t let that negatively sway you. As a rookie, Williams remained buried on the Lions’ depth chart as the WR5. But he will undoubtedly be a starter when he hits the field in 2023 with D.J. Chark leaving town for the Panthers this offseason. The Lions have zero established tight ends and journeymen Josh Reynolds/veteran Marvin Jones duking it out for No. 3 wide receiver duties. We should see Williams take over that role which also produced 61 receiving yards per game from Weeks 13-17. Chark led the team in air yard share (30%) and in total deep targets (15) when healthy in 2022.

And although Williams was extremely limited in 2022 with just 34 routes run, the former 12th overall draft pick was hyper-targeted when on the field. with a 26% target rate per route run to go along with the league’s 6th-highest average depth of target. And better yet, his six-game suspension to open the year makes him that much more attainable. Let’s also not forget that Williams was a top-tier prospect.

In his final college season, Williams commanded a 31% dominator rating by hanging 1,561 receiving yards, 20 yards/reception and 15 TDs. All achievements ranked top-three among his 2022 NFL Draft class and earned him draft capital as the 12th overall pick. The Lions traded up 20 spots to select him

Remember, how your fantasy football team performs at the end of the year is more important than the start. I want high-upside players on my bench. That’s Jamo as the WR48 in ADP. The WR49 in ADP last season you ask? Garrett Wilson. Mic drop.

13. New Orleans Saints

The Saints made an “upgrade” at quarterback this season and have moved up five spots in team ADP as a result. They aren’t super top-heavy, so there are a lot of great values to target on this team with them benefitting from a cakewalk schedule to open the year.

PSA: Draft the Saints’ DST.

For me, it’s all about targeting the backfield. There’s an argument to be made that each of the trio can provide value at some point during the fantasy football season.

Here’s how I broke it down in FantasyPros’ NFL Training Camp Players to Watch on Each Team (2023 Fantasy Football).

Alvin Kamara has pleaded no contest to a lesser misdemeanor charge of breach of peace stemming from a 2022 incident in Las Vegas. It’s now up to the league’s decision-makers on how to discipline Kamara, most likely in the form of a suspension. For the sake of uncertainty, let’s estimate Kamara is suspended for the first four-to-six weeks of the season. That aligns with what players typically get knocked on for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Could see it less than six games as it was a non-domestic violence incident, which the league punishes players harsher for. And considering how soft the Saints’ schedule is overall and to open the season, I’d bet the team leans into Kamara taking on the suspension earlier rather than later should he go through the appeal process. Teams want to hit their stride in the year’s second half, and keeping Kamara fresh would be in their best interest.

With Kamara out for four-six weeks, Jamaal Williams and Kendre Miller will see boosts in their ADPs. Ergo, you should be drafting both with ADPs outside the top 30 and sometimes top-40 RBs (platform-specific). The team invested in both RBs through free agency and the NFL Draft because they likely knew Kamara would be slated to miss some time. Why else would they sign Williams to a three-year deal with $8 million guaranteed? Or draft Miller 71st overall? They are going to have roles when Kamara misses time at some point this season. That’s just not reflected enough in their ADPs. Furthermore, their ADPs are at a price where you could still draft them at value, knowing that Kamara wouldn’t miss games (injuries withstanding). Williams is being drafted alongside the likes of A.J. Dillon, Rashaad Penny, Khalil Herbert, Elijah Mitchell, etc. A la the same tier of No. 2 real-life RBs he would already be drafted around should Kamara have no suspension looming. Remember, the Saints coaching staff has never shied away from featuring the likes of backup grinders such as Latavius Murray/Mark Ingram with a healthy AK41 and when he has missed time in the past. Miller is more of the home-run lottery ticket option, as his explosive skill set gives him the ability to usurp Williams entirely. I prefer him more in the best ball format, as he seems destined to be a featured asset down the stretch.

As for Kamara himself, his current price is more accurately baking in his potential suspension, unlike with the other two RBs. I think it will move up just when we know how many games he will miss or if it comes in very light (under 4 games). But aside from his deflated ADP suspension, Kamara has a lot going against him. Williams and Miller are legitimate snap/touch threats, especially in the red zone. Taysom Hill remains a threat in the red zone. Kamara’s receiving usage was hot garbage last season, dropping his target share from 22% to 11%. The Saints RB never caught more than two passes in any game from Weeks 13-18, and his days as a game-breaking receiver seem to be long gone. His rushing production was also subpar, finishing second worst in the rushing EPA (-41) and managing only two games with over 65 rushing yards before the schedule eased up in the final four games. So, although I understand the “get Kamara at a discount” rhetoric due to his suspension, I think the better way to approach the better ambiguity is through the untapped upside of the other RBs on the depth chart, particularly with the rookie Miller. But I can’t argue drafting any of these RBs at their current prices, with them all seriously discounted based on the rare circumstances.”

14. Denver Broncos

Somehow, the market was not burned enough by the Denver Broncos offense last year to knock them out of the top-16 teams based on aggregate ADP. They ranked 5th last year. Man, we got carried away.

Jerry Jeudy is actually more expensive than he was last season. WR28 up to WR22. But at least those top-five expectations are long gone. And that means we have some nice fantasy values in the Broncos offense. My two favorite value targets are Samaje Perine and Marvin Mims Jr.

Perine could be a valuable pickup for fantasy managers looking for a starting running back in the late rounds (RB34, 101st overall).

He signed a 2-year, $7.5 million contract with the Denver Broncos with $3 million guaranteed after the team released Chase Edmonds and Mike Boone. With Javonte Williams potentially delayed in his return from a 2022 multi-ligament knee injury, Perine has a chance to make an impact early in the season. We’ve also historically seen Sean Payton deploy a running back by committee suggesting that Perine has a role even if Williams returns from his injury in a timely manner.

Perine played a big role in the Bengals’ offense last year, serving as the primary third-down back and earning the starting nod from Weeks 11-13. During that stretch, he averaged an impressive 23.6 fantasy points per game. He also showed his versatility as a pass blocker and receiver, finishing 6th in PFF pass-blocking and 14th in RB targets.

If Williams’ injury lingers, Perine could become the RB1 in the Broncos’ backfield, potentially taking over passing-down duties and even challenging Williams for early-down work. Perine is undervalued in ADP and could provide significant value for those who take a chance on him.

Mims is currently drafted as WR78. And I am ALL IN on him at this price.

Mims was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round (63rd overall) in the 2023 NFL Draft, solidifying his status for me as the clear-cut No. 5 WR in the draft class behind the four 1st-rounders. As the first pick in the new Sean Payton regime, I think we see Mims hit the field sooner rather than later. The Broncos traded up to acquire him. Denver sent the 68th-overall pick and 138th-overall pick to Detroit in exchange for the 63rd-overall pick and 183rd-overall pick. Trading up for a skill position player is not out of the norm for Sean Payton. He traded up for Brandin Cooks and Alvin Kamara in previous drafts with the Saints.

At worst, Mims can fill the much-needed deep-threat role vacated by the often-injured K.J. Hamler. Watch him emerge as Russell Wilson‘s new favorite moonball target. Mims finished third in the FBS in receiving yards and fifth in targets on 20-plus air-yard throws in 2022.

But at best, Mims could be the No. 1 WR on the Broncos. Because I think this depth chart is more wide open than most would think. Remember, the trade rumors were hot and heavy regarding Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton previously this offseason. How locked in are they to their starting roles under a new regime? Tim Patrick is a team favorite but is coming off a season-ending knee injury.

Meanwhile, Mims was drafted in the second round by the current coaching staff in place. And his college profile is ELITE.

He burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old freshman with a 24 percent dominator rating, triggering an early-age breakout. Mims led his team with 37 catches for 610 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns. He also finished fifth in the nation in yards per route run (4.07) and seventh in PFF receiving grade (89.1). The 5-foot-11 and 183-pound wide receiver would cap off his college career strong with over 1,000 receiving yards as a junior, averaging 20 yards per reception for the second straight season. Mims was a fiend with the ball in his hands, finishing seventh in his class in yards after the catch per reception (8.1) despite a high average depth of target (17.0).

It’s rare to find a wide receiver like Mims who can make plays after the catch and win downfield. He also offers ability as a punt returner. The one concern about his production profile is that the majority of it came against zone coverage looks. He only caught nine passes in man coverage. But in today’s NFL, the WRs that can find the soft spots in zone coverage tend to turn into PPR monsters.

Based on his profile alone, Mims was emerging as one of “my guys” in this overall lackluster wide receiver class. But his 2023 NFL Scouting Combine cemented his status for me inside my upper echelon of rookie WRs. The Oklahoma Sooner ran a 4.38 40-yard dash (90th percentile), jumped a 39.5-inch vertical (89th percentile), leaped 129 inches in the broad jump (89th percentile), and posted a 6.9 3-cone drill (72nd percentile). His impressive testing, early-age production, deep-threat prowess, and ability to win after the catch are all reasons to be “in” on Mims for fantasy football. The dude just turned 21 years old.

15. Chicago Bears

The Bears were the 24th-ranked offense last season, with not many convinced they would be a fantasy-friendly offense. The market was correct, as the Bears finished with the league’s worst record and total fewest fantasy points collectively on offense. But that was last year, and the market has adjusted based on the key additions Chicago has made this offseason. They added more pass-catchers and improved their offensive line.

To get cheap access to an ascending Bears offense, draft Darnell Mooney. He was a top-60 overall pick in 2022. The WR29 is the Bears projected WR1. And before his injury in 2022, Mooney ranked 12th in air yards share (37%) and 15th in target share (27%) in his 11 healthy games. His ESPN WR Open score ranked 18th among all WRs. Since the start of 2021 until Mooney’s injury in Week 12 of 2022, he ranks 5th among ALL WRs in team target share at 27.1%. D.J. Moore ranks 4th (27.7%) over that same span. Moore also ranked 67th in ESPN open score last season.

The Bears added D.J. Moore to be No. 1, but Fields should take another step forward. If Mooney can return to 100% off a late November broken ankle, the fourth-year wide receiver can play an integral role in Fields’ growth as a passer in 2023. Specifically, the two should be able to connect on Fields’ long ball, providing Mooney with spiked fantasy weeks. I’d also bet on Mooney emerging as the team’s primary slot receiver. He’s undervalued as a well above-average real-life No. 2 WR. I’ve found those WRs can be a great investment for value drafting.

But the real question people want to be answered concerns the Bears’ backfield. They are all dirt cheap, and I believe there’s a strong case to be made for all three of Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson. In the NFL’s most crowded backfields. Khalil Herbert is a former Day 3 pick but has been super-efficient and explosive. And I get the major appeal if he emerges as the team’s RB1.

Foreman made a major comeback from a torn Achilles and has been a rushing monster down the stretch over the last two seasons. Rookie Roschon Johnson enters the NFL with little tread on the tires and a three-down skill set. I can make a case for any of these running backs to emerge as “the guy” from this backfield. And that’s why keeping up with this team’s offseason news will be critical. As the incumbent, Herbert has the most to lose with the expectation of being the team’s starter. If he can hold off Foreman/Johnson, his R38 ADP will look like a joke. But if he falters, Foreman and/or Johnson as RBs outside the top-45 will be major steals. The focus now should be taking shots on ALL these Bears rushers, with their ADPs mostly nowhere to go but up as the dust settles. I’d also note that “getting the work” is less impactful for Herbert, as he has shown he can produce on limited touches – not true of the other backs who are likely designed and need to take on large volume roles to find fantasy relevance.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers just missed the cut as an above-average offense during last year’s draft season, falling to no. 20 in the ADP rankings. There’s a little more optimism regarding their offense in 2023, with an upgraded offensive line and Kenny Pickett entering Year 2. But even though the unit is being regarded higher by the drafting community, the top pieces are discounted from 2022.

RB Najee Harris has fallen into Round 3. WR Diontae Johnson has gone from WR20-WR30. Both guys are values primed for bounce-back campaigns. The only guys that have seen their ADPs increase inside the top 100 are George Pickens and Pat Freiermuth

Jaylen Warren is a super cheap (RB 46 ADP) and a great zero RB target after he showed out in limited work as a rookie.

Pickett is a solid late-round quarterback target in an offense that is littered with weapons. He offers underrated rushing ability and should progress in his second season under Matt Canada.

I wrote the following about Kenny Pickett and the Steelers’ offensive outlook in FantasyPros’ Biggest Fantasy Football Question for Each NFL Team (2023)

“Projecting a second-year leap for a quarterback is not hyperbole. Gone are the days of the sophomore slump as we routinely see QBs take a step forward in Year 2. And Kenny Pickett did enough as a rookie for those to be optimistic that he can deliver. From Weeks 12-18, Pickett was PFF’s highest-graded quarterback. He also added 235 rushing yards on the ground, putting him close to that desired 250 rushing yards threshold we should be aiming for our fantasy QBs to hit. Pittsburgh did an excellent job revamping their offensive line this offseason, and the offense is not short on playmakers between Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth, Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren.

The one glaring weakness I see with the Steelers comes down to offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Since he took over as the OC in 2021, Pittsburgh ranks 26th in yards per game and 31st in net yards per attempt. But as alluded to earlier, the offensive improved with Pickett in the second half, going 5th in EPA per dropback, 7th in first downs per game and 12th in red-zone efficiency. Part of the boost in passing efficiency came in the form of a complimentary stable run game. No team rushed the ball more than the Steelers over this stretch. They ran the ball on 1st down at a 62% clip (5th). Their overall pass-to-run percentage was 51% run, and 49% pass. Considering this was the most success Canada had as the Steelers OC, I doubt he goes too far away from the ground attack in 2023. That doesn’t mean Pickett is a bad fantasy option – efficient QB play matters – but don’t expect this team to be near the top of the league in total passing yards, attempts, etc. But like other low-volume efficient passing offenses (49ers are the first to come to mind), oftentimes supporting 3-plus pass-catchers doesn’t work. One of Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth or George Pickens likely won’t provide consistent fantasy production in a run-heavy offense.”

 

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