25. Breece Hall, RB, Jets
The new-look Jets are the talk of the town, but are their top offensive players worth a top fantasy pick? Aside from wideout Garrett Wilson, we have some reservations about the Jets’ skill players. Namely, sophomore running back Breece Hall who is coming back from an ACL tear he sustained in Week 7 of last year. Typically, an RB coming off major knee surgery needs at least a full year until the burst returns. Take for example Saquon Barkley who looked significantly rejuvenated last season — two years removed from an ACL tear. Adding Dalvin Cook to the mix provides further assurance that Hall won’t receive the type of workload he saw last season as a rookie.
24. Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers
Diontae Johnson’s days as one of the most targeted players in football are numbered. For the past few seasons, Johnson has been a PPR-machine thanks to having one of the biggest target shares among all wideouts. Since 2020, the only WR’s who have seen more targets than Johnson are Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Justin Jefferson, and Tyreek Hill. And, he was mostly ineffective last year despite hogging a majority of Pittsburgh’s aerial looks. Johnson had nearly double the amount of targets as rookie teammate George Pickens, but finished with just 80 more yards while failing to reach the end zone even once. With Pickens stepping into a larger role, and Allen Robinson taking slot duties, Johnson will find it difficult to be a major fantasy factor.
23. Dameon Pierce, RB, Texans
Don’t let Dameon Pierce’s solid rookie season fool you. This isn’t a player who is primed for an even bigger breakout in ’23. Pierce ran well in Year 1, but mostly earned his value through volume. We don’t see him getting that sort of volume as a sophomore. The Texans will be better at passing the ball with C.J. Stroud at the helm, and the team signed Devin Singletary who will likely serve as the pass-catching back. Pierce’s touchdown upside will rise, but we’re projecting he does not reach 250 touches for the second-straight season — ultimately limiting his upside on an offense that will likely still not be very good.
22. Trey Lance, QB, Cowboys
Trey Lance’s time in San Francisco came to an abrupt end. After being named the third string quarterback behind Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold, Lance’s days in the Bay Area were officially numbered. The 49ers moved on from Lance just two years after trading up in the 2021 NFL Draft for the chance to select him. If Lance had won the backup role, he may have been worth a roster spot given his dual-threat upside. Now, he’s Dallas bound and it seems unlikely he’ll receive any major role on a team this season. Once looked at as a potential fantasy star, fans of Lance will have to wait for his next chance at starting role — and that’ll only happen if starter Dak Prescott goes down.
21. DJ Moore, WR, Bears
The Bears made a major upgrade to their WR room with the addition of DJ Moore. The former Panther gives Justin Fields a true deep threat who can stretch the field and make plays after the catch. Teams will have to respect Moore’s speed, opening up the field for Chicago’s other playmakers. But, we’d still be cautious about Moore’s value as a fantasy contributor. At their core, the Bears are a team built on Justin Fields’ legs — not his arm. Fields will see an uptick in passing numbers, but we expect the targets to spread around to Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, and Cole Kmet.
20. Any Rookie TE
Whether it’s Buffalo’s Dalton Kincaid, Vegas’ Michael Mayer, or Detroit’s Sam LaPorta, fantasy drafters would be wise to steer clear of all rookie tight ends. Teams are leaning on tight ends more than ever to produce as both a receiver and blocker. But, history indicates that TE’s typically struggle in their first year. With the exception of Kyle Pitts (the highest drafted TE in NFL history), we haven’t seen much production from first-year players at that position. Pitts was the first rookie TE since Mike Ditka in 1961 who registered 1,000 yards in his first season. We’ve only seen five rookie tight ends go over 60 receptions. If you’re not snagging Travis Kelce or one of the other elite TE’s early, you can find value in under-the-radar veterans like New Orleans’ Jawun Johnson or Denver’s Greg Dulcich.
19. Kenneth Walker, RB, Seahawks
Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker had a strong rookie campaign, compiling over 1,200 yards from scrimmage with nine scores in 15 games. The electric back has a bit of a boom-or-bust nature, but he certainly possesses the home run ability to break off big gains at a moment’s notice. While Walker will serve as the No. 1 option for a team that has always favored running backs, his usage could be stifled in ’23. The Seahawks spent a second-round pick in this past NFL Draft on former UCLA runner Zach Charbonnet. While Charbonnet will be featured in more of a change-of-pace role, he’s looked excellent in the preseason and was drafted far too high to sit on the bench. A committee approach will limit both player’s fantasy potential.
18. Russell Wilson, QB, Broncos
Russell Wilson’s days of being an elite fantasy quarterback are over. That much was proven true in Wilson’s first year with the Broncos. Denver’s offense struggled mightily, and a large portion of the blame can be put on Wilson’s shoulders. He set career-lows in completion percentage and touchdowns while leading the league in sacks. Previously, Wilson could make up for dud passing games by picking up yards on the ground. But, he’s been running less frequently as he ages. He’s carried the ball just 98 times over the last two seasons — Wilson averaged nearly 90 carries per year over his first nine NFL seasons. Denver’s punitive passing game coupled with Wilson’s declining athleticism makes the former Super Bowl winning QB a mediocre fantasy option.
17. Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals
There’s always one person at your fantasy draft that isn’t prepared. When it’s their turn to pick, they quickly glance a list of available players, and pick one name they recognize. Don’t be that person. Kyler Murray may look like a potential steal at his current price (QB26 on ESPN, QB29 on Yahoo), but it’s unlikely the former No. 1 overall pick will pan out in 2023. Murray is recovering from a torn ACL, and is expected to make a full recovery and return to the field at some point. He’ll begin the season on the PUP list (meaning he’s going to miss at least the first four games), but the Cardinals hope to have him back at some point this season. However, the team’s tune might change after the losses start stacking up. Once the front office realizes the season is going nowhere, Murray’s return date will get pushed back again and again until the season is suddenly (and mercifully) over.
16. Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Patriots
This isn’t a knock on Stevenson as a player, but more of a nod to how difficult it can be to trust Patriots running backs. Stevenson burst onto the scene last season in Year 2, gaining 1,461 scrimmage yards while hauling in 69 receptions (the fourth-most among RB’s). He’s an every-down back who has the size to run between the tackles coupled with strong instincts as a pass catcher. However, we’ve seen this ‘song and dance’ before from a Bill Belichick led team. As soon as fans start to get excited about a Patriots bell cow, Belichick decides to swerve in a different direction. This is the same guy who basically cut Jonas Gray after a 200-yard, four-TD game, and kept James White on the team for eight years to vulture touches and scores. Oh, and Ezekiel Elliott is on the team now — and, he didn’t sign on to be a blocker.
15. Darren Waller, TE, Giants
Darren Waller is sporting new threads after being traded away from the Las Vegas Raiders to the New York Giants. It seemed like a long-time coming for Waller, who had been thrown around in trade rumors dating back to before the Raiders acquired Davante Adams. A matchup nightmare as a receiver, Waller has put up some monstrous fantasy seasons in the past including finishing TE2 in 2020 and TE4 in 2019. While he has suffered from some drop issues over the last two seasons, the only thing that has really held him back is health. And, we’re not sure if that’s going to change as he approaches his 31st birthday. The Giants plan to have him heavily involved in the passing game, but Waller doesn’t seem to have the durability to withstand a full season.
14. Deshaun Watson, QB, Browns
Much like Russell Wilson, Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson saw his fantasy value plummet in ’22. Watson’s poor play was a bit more expected, as he was coming off a nearly two-year hiatus. He made his debut for the Browns in Week 13, and looked completely lost over the final six games of the season. Watson tossed seven touchdowns (and five picks) while throwing for just 183.7 yards per game. The Browns aren’t going to ask Watson to throw the ball as much as he did during his days with the Texans when he was one of the top fantasy quarterbacks in the league. And, it just doesn’t seem like he’s the same caliber of player anymore.
13. George Kittle, TE, 49ers
Make no mistake, George Kittle is an elite player who is an invaluable piece to the 49ers offense. His versatility as both a blocker and receiver, coupled with his ability to run after the catch makes him a top-2 tight end in the league alongside Kansas City’s Travis Kelce. But, for fantasy purposes, Kittle hasn’t been nearly as reliable. While he did score 11 TD’s last year, Kittle finished with the 10th-most targets among tight ends — behind guys like Gerald Everett, Tyler Conklin, and Pat Freiermuth. Minnesota’s T.J. Hockenson — who is being drafted after Kittle in most leagues — finished with 43 more targets. Opportunity is key in fantasy football, and Kittle doesn’t get nearly as many looks as his peers. Factor that into your calculation before selecting him as your starting TE.
12. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Ravens
A refreshed Odell Beckham Jr. starring alongside Lamar Jackson in a pass-happy offense? What could possibly go wrong? The Ravens have a new-look after signing Beckham Jr., drafting Zay Flowers, and hiring Todd Monken to direct the offense. Former league MVP Jackson is expected to air the ball out this year as he will be accompanied by the best pass-catching group of his tenure. While Beckham Jr. is the biggest name of the bunch, we’re wary of his ceiling in ’23. It’s easy to forget Beckham Jr. has been in the league since 2014, and will be 31 this year. Mark Andrews will be the primary option offensively, and both Flowers and Rashod Bateman figure to be utilized often. Coming off an ACL tear, Beckham Jr. is an obvious injury risk. We’d rather roll the dice on similarly injury-prone players who are higher up on their respective team’s pass-catching totem-pole like Courtland Sutton or Michael Thomas (both of whom are being drafted behind OBJ in standard leagues).
11. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Patriots
Ezekiel Elliott is a New England Patriot, what does that mean for his fantasy value? The introduction of the former Cowboy is unlikely to usurp Rhamondre Stevenson’s starting position, but he’ll likely figure into the offense just enough to ruin both of their potentials as fantasy producers. Elliott has consistently been one of the league’s best at cashing in short-yardage situations. His 80 touchdowns since entering the league is only bested by Derrick Henry (81) during that span. Zeke will steal a few touchdowns here and there, but he doesn’t have the burst or power to punish defenses anymore. He’s more of a waiver wire add should Stevenson go down with an injury rather than a player who is worthy of a draft pick.
10. Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Alvin Kamara can be had at a discount in fantasy drafts this year due to his three-game suspension. He’s being drafted at RB20 — right inbetween Philly’s Miles Sanders and Minnesota’s Alexander Mattison — but can he provide top-10 value for fantasy managers who are patient? We aren’t so sure. Even when he does return, Kamara will enter a rather crowded room of skill players. Aside from last year’s touchdown leader Jamaal Williams and rookie Kendre Miller, Kamara will also be contending for targets with perhaps the league’s deepest group of pass catchers — Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed, Tre’Quan Smith, Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham, and, even, Taysom Hill.
9. Dalvin Cook, RB, Jets
Dalvin Cook has been one of the most consistent running backs in the league. Since 2019, Cook has compiled at least 1,300 scrimmage yards every year and has reached the Pro Bowl four-straight times. But, we did see some wear and tear towards the end of last season. In six of the final eight games, Cook failed to score over 11 fantasy points (PPR). His decline at the end of the year may have led to Minnesota’s decision to not retain him. Cook landed with the Jets in the offseason, citing Aaron Rodgers’ presence as a deciding factor. He’s an exceptional luxury piece for a team hoping to make a run, but will likely operate in a committee backfield for an offense that will almost certainly revolve around Rodgers’ arm.
8. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
Mike Evans has been one of the steadiest fantasy contributors since entering the league. Utilizing his entire 6-foot-5 frame, Evans boxes out smaller defenders and routinely makes spectacular catches. But, a QB change in Tampa Bay could hinder this passing attack greatly. Of course, going from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield is always going to be an issue. In his last full season with the Browns, Mayfield’s top WR went for only 597 yards. And, Mayfield has a history of being unable to get the ball to an elite wideout (just ask Odell Beckham Jr. about his tenure in Cleveland). Evans’ streak of nine-straight 1,000-yard seasons could be in peril.
7. DK Metcalf, WR, Seahawks
Some players are better on the field than they are as fantasy producers. D.K. Metcalf fits into that mold. The juggernaut wideout can completely warp defenses with his speed and catch radius, but he hasn’t exactly dominated fantasy circles. Metcalf finished last year as WR16 in PPR formats behind Brandon Aiyuk and teammate Tyler Lockett. When you consider Metcalf is a third-round pick in most leagues while Lockett can be had 3-to-4 rounds later, it doesn’t bode well for the more physically imposing Seahawks WR. We’re also much more interested in the upside of wide receivers being drafted around Metcalf, including DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle.
6. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts
We’re not even completely sure if Johnathan Taylor will be playing football in ’23. The Colts RB is just a year removed from leading all running backs in fantasy points (both PPR and standard leagues). Now, the relationship between Taylor and the organization appears to be nearing an end. The team announced that he will be placed on the PUP list after they failed to determine an adequate trade partner. He’ll miss the first four games, and it doesn’t seem like at that point he’ll be any more eager to join the team. Taylor is going elsewhere, that much is certain. The timeline for a potential deal happening is anybody’s guess. Plus, it’s going to take some time for him to assimilate to his new team once he joins. He’s a clear stayaway as the season is set to start.
5. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Jets
Completing our Jets trifecta, we can’t advise selecting the oldest active NFL player entering 2023. The longtime Packer QB cut ties with his former team to join the New York Jets (sound familiar?). Rodgers reunites with former offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in a situation that doesn’t look all that different from the one he was enduring in Green Bay. The Jets have one great receiver in Garrett Wilson, and not a whole lot else in terms of pass-catching options. New York will rely on its stingy defense to win games, limiting the amount of potential offensive shootouts they’ll be involved in. Rodgers will be better than he was in ’22, but we’re not sure we see him as a top QB for fantasy purposes (he’s being drafted as QB12 on average). A better use of your draft resources would be rolling the dice on somebody like Anthony Richardson or Daniel Jones who will both generate a ton of points as scramblers.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Titans
DeAndre Hopkins is no stranger to dire QB situations. In fact, the most impressive season of Hopkins’ career was in 2015 when Houston’s starting QB duties were split between Brian Hoyer (9 starts), Ryan Mallett (4), T.J. Yates (2), and Brandon Weeden (1). The gifted wideout signed with the Titans this offseason, and Ryan Tannehill is considerably better than any of those Houston options. However, Tannehill’s hold on the starting job is hardly ironclad as the team is in flux. Malik Willis or Will Levis could be called upon at any moment. Additionally, the Titans will always be a running team for as long as Derrick Henry is on the roster. Hopkins saw 150 or more targets each year from ’15-’20. No Tennessee wideout has seen more than 112 targets in a season during the Vrabel era.
3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
Lamar Jackson in 2019 was basically a fantasy football cheat code. He was a QB (led the league in passing touchdowns) and RB (finished sixth in rushing yards) rolled into one superstar player. Since then, Jackson has consistently been among the first couple of quarterbacks taken off the board in most leagues, but he’s failed to produce at quite the same level. In ’20, Jackson finished 10th in scoring among QB’s — narrowly ahead of Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan. The last two years, Jackson has been limited by injuries and struggled mightily as a passer while seeing declining numbers as a runner. If he’s healthy and the new-look offense clicks, Jackson could be a league winner. That being said, he’s been banged up each of the two years and there’s no guarantee he meshes with Todd Monken’s offense immediately.
2. Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
Arguably the training camp holdout with the most fantasy implications at stake was that of Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. The former Alabama runner had always been regarded as talented, but he was downright sensational in his first year within Josh McDaniels’ offense. Remember, some pundits were worried about Jacobs’ future on the team 12 months ago when he played a handful of snaps in preseason. By the end of the year, no other Vegas running back saw more than 17 carries as Jacobs finished second in the NFL with 340 totes (and a league-leading 1,653 rush yards). While Jacobs ended his holdout by signing a one-year deal, we don’t imagine the Raiders using Jacobs quite as often as they did in ’22. With even a slightly reduced workload, Jacobs will fall out of the elite tier of backs.
1. Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams
Cooper Kupp is an excellent player who plays for a terrible football team. The Rams have been gutted since winning the Super Bowl two years ago. Matthew Stafford remains the QB, but he’s coming off an awful, injury-riddled season. The offensive line is suspect, and there are no legitimate receiving threat outside of Kupp to draw attention away from defenses. Likely on their way to finishing with one of the worst records in the league, the Rams will be careful with their usage of the 30-year-old Kupp who still has three years left on his current deal.