Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate for the 2023 fantasy football season
My daughters don’t listen.
As you might remember, I have twin 11-year-old daughters and these days, they constantly disobey me.
Everything I try falls on deaf ears.
I have begged, I have threatened and I have bribed.
None of it works.
“Please,” I say, tucking them in at night, “Stay little forever.”
But they don’t listen.
Every day, every damn day, they grow.
They turn 12 in late October, but it might as well be 25. The product of growing up with three older brothers, both of them being whip smart and, well, the vastness of social media, they are becoming amazing, savvy young women before my eyes and I am both incredibly proud and truly horrified. They know more than they should and the more I want them to stay my little girls the more they become mini adults.
The list of things I don’t know anything about is long and storied and we don’t have nearly enough time or space in this column to list them all. So for now I’ll just focus on my daughters.
I try. I legit try. But I don’t know about fashion and makeup and most of the social media stars they follow. They are starting to like boys and there is school drama and too often when I walk in the room they get quiet and look at me. “Sorry Dad. This is girl talk!” as they giggle to my wife. Oh yeah, I forgot. They call me “Dad” now, not “Daddy” because, you know, Daddy is “what little kids say.”
I have one daughter I play video games with. Another daughter I do Wordle with every day. I’ve coached their soccer teams and basketball teams the last few years. I go to every gymnastics meet and cheerleading performance. We share a private TikTok account. I help them with their summer “business,” selling snow cones around the neighborhood and I do what I can to stay involved and engaged but, man, it gets harder every day.
They have friends and teams and sleepovers. Parties, camps and practices. I worry I am slowly losing them and just like the stereotypical dumb Dad in a sitcom, am fairly clueless about what to do about it. Some of it is natural, of course, the result of kids turning into young adults. Some it is the result of me letting them find their own way as opposed to forcing them into my world, making them mini versions of me, obsessed with things like Sam Howell’s footwork. And some of it is just what it is.
It makes me sad and anxious and worried.
It is against this backdrop my daughters came to me about six months ago and asked an impossible question.
They entered my office together, standing next to each other, clearly rehearsed.
“Dad,” they say in unison. “We have a question.”
“Can we go see Taylor Swift?!?!?” they squeal, hope in their voice. “Please?!?!?!?”
I look at them, their pleading eyes staring at me as they clutch their hands together and I say the phrase every Dad in the universe has learned from the start of time.
“Let me talk to your Mom.”
This is not a no, so they are very excited. They go off and after my wife and I discuss briefly, I get back to them with a question.
“Okay, so we looked into it and Taylor isn’t playing in Connecticut. And we are out of town when she is playing in New York and New England. So we’d have to get on a plane to go see her. And remember, we talked about going to Orlando this summer. We can go to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, all the Disney parks, the water parks, everything. For an entire week. Now that I work for NBC Universal I think I can get us hooked up and we’ll have an amazing time at Universal Studios. Remember, they have the Harry Potter world!” I’m selling hard. (One of my daughters is obsessed with Harry Potter).
I continue: “So we could do that like we were planning or….we can try to see Taylor Swift.”
They look at each other and without a moment’s hesitation, they scream. “Taylor Swift!!!”
They leave happy, assuming this is a done deal as I start to think through the task of getting four impossible tickets.
My wife is not into this. She’s not a Taylor fan (not a hater, she just doesn’t listen to her music and isn’t a huge fan of concerts in general) and she already has a lot going on this summer, with our 18-year-old heading off to Alabama in the fall. (Roll Tide!). “If you want to do it for them,” she says, “Go ahead. Up to you.” Which is her way of telling me I’m on my own here.
So, yeah. If we are going to go to Taylor Swift, it’s on me and me alone. The dumb dad. The dumb dad that feels increasingly distanced from his daughters and is desperately clinging on, trying to slow down time.
So, I decide in that moment I want to do this. I want to do this in the worst way. Two days prior I hadn’t given seeing Taylor Swift in concert one thought and it has now become the most important thing in the world. I want to do this for my daughters more than anything in the universe.
I look online. We already know we’ll need to buy airplane tickets, hotel and transportation. So adding four tickets via broker sites to that would cost more than a year of college in some places. My wife is not having that. We can go, she admonishes, but we are going to stay within a budget.
Now the task is even harder. I somehow have to find reasonably-priced tickets to the hottest show in the history of entertainment.
I start calling, texting, and emailing everyone I can think of. This is now my full-time job. My daughters don’t ask me for much (well, they don’t ask for much that’s major) and I am frantic and determined to come through for them. They are so excited at the prospect, so hopeful it breaks my heart. Every single day they ask, often multiple times a day. “Did we get tickets yet?” “Not yet. I’m still working on it.”
“Any luck?” “Dad did you hear about Taylor Swift?” “Not yet, I’m trying. Go brush your teeth.” “Okay but do you think you’ll hear tomorrow?” It’s non-stop. They’re not like this around the holidays or anything else. And all it does is make me more determined to want to come through for them.
It’s quite the roller coaster. “I think I can help…. Ah sorry, it’s a no go.” Many starts and stops, potential leads, slight hope only to be dashed, and back and forths that I won’t bore you with other than to say my heart went up and sunk down quite a bit for a few weeks.
“Did you get tickets yet Dad?” “Not yet, love bug. Still working on it.”
And then, on June 8, at 4:24 pm, I get the email from my new favorite person in the world, a friend of a friend, someone who works with Taylor Swift. (Name withheld to save them from a million more emails like mine). “Hi Matthew. Happy to help. Here is the info we need to get the ticket purchase request submitted. Thanks!”
I think it’s my proudest Dad moment ever when I told my girls we got them. Four tickets. June 16, 2023. Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA.
The screams of joy and running around the house reminded me of Christmas morning when they were five. Jumping, smiling, hugs upon hugs upon hugs. Honestly, it was worth it all just for that moment.
But as we started talking about it I suddenly realized I had no idea about everything that was involved.
I thought we were just going to a concert. I’ve been to a ton of concerts in my life. I know how this goes. You get your friends or family together, you grab dinner and/or pregame before it, you go to the show, you go home. Bingo bango, simple and fun.
Oh no. That’s not it at all.
I quickly come to realize this is my daughters’ Super Bowl. It’s just a little over a week before the big show and we’ve got THINGS. TO. DO.
We have to go shopping. We need supplies because we need to make bracelets. “You HAVE to have bracelets to trade, DAD!” they tell me excitedly, in a voice that is equal parts happy and patient, explaining to me in a way that they know there is no way myself, a dumb father, could possibly know this.
They start explaining everything we need to do, slowly bringing me into their world. They teach me, among other things, that “You don’t just show up wearing whatever to a Taylor Swift concert, Dad.”
Turns out we need to dress as an “era” of Taylor’s career. So in search of bracelet parts, clothes and accessories we head to the stores.
We carefully selected parts to make enough bracelets for, I believe, all 68,400 people heading to the show that night. They try on shoes and sunglasses and everything in between. Normally, I’m not a shopping fan, but I loved every minute of this.
One daughter knows immediately she wants to go as Taylor’s “Red” era while the other one can’t decide. Her favorite album is “Reputation” but she also loves “Midnights” and “Fearless.” We are trying on outfits and accessories, every detail asked and considered. Sunglasses or no? Earrings? What kind of shoes? This era or that? The excitement and nervousness is amazing and adorable and a blast to see. Ultimately, my other daughter decides on “Fearless” as her era and my wife is gonna grab a cowboy hat, find something with sparkles and go as Taylor’s country music era.
But then they ask about me. “Dad, what era are you going to go dressed as? We need wardrobe approval,” one says. “Full approval” nods the other.
Because the only thing that could ruin seeing Taylor Swift is a cringey or embarrassing Dad. A role I, ahem, have been known to play before.
And in that moment it dawns on me. I can’t just be a spectator here. My plan of just watching my daughters enjoy themselves isn’t good enough. I need to be ALL. IN. For them and for me… I need to become a Swiftie.
This day is too important. Like fantasy football draft day, if I screw this up, it will have repercussions all year long.
So I do what I know how to do best. I research. I dig in. I cram.
I have only one goal.
To become a full-fledged Swiftie in six days.
Instead of reading training camp reports, I’m reading about Taylor’s life. Instead of mock drafting, I download the Eras tour playlist and spend the next week listening to nothing but. Instead of ranking players, I’m ranking potential outfits for me to wear.
What draft day is to us, this concert is to them. So I decide, just like I approach every season, there’s no such thing as being too prepared.
Day of the concert and there are complications. The plane is delayed. President Joe Biden, of all people, is speaking in Connecticut that day so they are clearing the air space for his plane and no flights can leave or land until he is clear. And he is running late. And checking the weather it shows heavy rain is moving into the Pittsburgh area later. Even if we can take off soon are we gonna be delayed landing in Pittsburgh?
I am a ball of nerves, but externally I am trying to sell it. Everything is going to okay. Don’t worry, I tell them. We will get to the concert in time, I promise.
I have no idea if this is true. I need it to be true. But the gate agents can give us no updates. “We can’t go until we get the all clear from the Secret Service and we have no idea when that will be.” We were supposed to land at 2:50 p.m. ET that day and now that’s far out the window. I start doing calculations in my head. Swiftie in training that I am, I know the schedule by heart. Doors open at 4:30, opening act at 6:30, Taylor goes on at 8:15pm. We will need about an hour before the show to get official “Eras” tour merch, which we cannot leave without.
The hotel (luckily staying in the airport hotel, so we won’t have to spend a lot of time getting to the hotel after we land) is about 45 minutes away with expected show day traffic. I’m guessing my wife and daughters will need an hour to get ready. Which means we need to land by around 5pm at the latest. The flight was originally supposed to land at 2:50pm. Ok. I’ve got a two-hour buffer. And we are already an hour behind.
As I am telling my daughters not to worry, secretly doing all this math, and most certainly worrying, I start thinking about everything else. What if we don’t ever make the show? What if we are late to the show? What if we get stuck in traffic going to the show? This is basically as big as a Super Bowl. Always nutty. What if we make the show and it doesn’t live up to the hype? My daughters are, you know, kid sized. What happens if we get to the show and some tall person stands in front of us for the entire show? Because no one sits at a Taylor Swift concert. What if a lot of people recognize me, which often happens at games and events? I am normally happy to meet folks when people come up to me to ask for a picture or discuss their teams, but my daughters get annoyed with it. And this night, of all nights, I want to focus entirely on my daughters and not whether some random person should keep D’Andre Swift in the seventh round.
What if, somehow, someway, dumb cringey Dad over here ruins this?
I’m all smiles to the kids, going full “it’s fine” Dad mode. “We’re good. Plenty of time. Don’t worry! What song do you think will be our mystery songs, you think?” I am all smiles, but secretly I am insanely nervous. More so than any time I can ever remember.
Because of the weight I have put on this concert. It’s all in my head, of course, but I have somehow built up this concert to somehow be responsible for my relationship with my daughters. If it goes well, all is good. If it goes poorly, I’ve lost them forever. All nuts, of course, but welcome to my psychosis.
We eventually board the plane and the first piece of good news comes through. A flight attendant comes on the speaker and announces to the plane “Who here is going to the Taylor Swift concert tonight?”
To my shock, the entire plane roars. I look around, getting out of my head for the first time, suddenly seeing my fellow passengers. Almost every single person is dressed as an Era and wearing a bunch of bracelets. A plane full of Swifties. Amazing.
“Well,” the flight attendant says, “We have been cleared for take-off. We will be taking off in just a few minutes and all of you will make the concert!” The crowd roars again, and getting this official word makes me relax.
The girls are all smiles, pulling out their bracelet making kits to make a few last-minute bracelets as we fly there. We strike up conversations with people around us. One has seen Taylor on every tour. Another is seeing her for the third time this tour. My daughters are talking with adults, trading favorite albums and wondering what our “mystery song” will be. Taylor has a fairly consistent playlist at her show, but there is a spot during the show where she plays two different songs every night, her “mystery songs.” My daughter tells the woman in front of her she’s hoping for “Mr. Perfectly Fine”, the song Taylor supposedly wrote about her relationship with Joe Jonas. (I’m telling you. I went in).
We do in fact land around 4:30, we get to the hotel room where the hotel has hung a sign. “Welcome to Swifts-burgh!” I tell my daughters they have 45 minutes to get ready and whatever else isn’t done, we can finish in the car. Worried about, well, everything, I have called in a favor with NBC Sports Production Manager Extraordinaire Jeff Adams who in turned called in a favor to a driver he knew in the Pittsburgh area that knew the city and stadium well.
The girls and my wife do in fact get ready in 45 minutes or so, we hop in the car and do a video. A “before the Taylor Swift concert” video to show our voices normal with the idea we will finish the video after the show, when our voices will be incredibly hoarse. Our driver knows all the back roads and the best way to get to the stadium on a “game day.”
We walk into the stadium and I have to tell you. From that moment on? The best concert experience of my life. Not close.
My daughters quickly become bracelet trading fiends, while I tell them I will stand in line to get the merch. I do, in fact, get stopped a lot by folks asking to take pictures, but it’s not because anyone knows who I am. It’s because people love my outfit, a cowboy hat and a t-shirt that reads:
It’s Me, Hi.
I’m The Dad.
This is a play on her song “Anti-Hero” (one of my new faves, by the way) and people seem to love that I am owning my role at the show. My daughters are excited everyone likes my outfit and our seats are great. The way she has laid out the stage is really ingenious. There’s not a bad seat in the stadium for the show.
Everyone we meet is incredibly kind, happy and excited. In many ways like a fantasy football league, this is a community. And it’s the nicest, most supportive community I have ever experienced. We got the merch, including two shirts for me that I proudly wear.
The show is really something to behold. Every song is an incredible production, with set design, costume changes and effects. Even my wife, who didn’t listen to any songs prior to seeing the show, said “Wow. She’s a really great performer.”
As for my daughters… I’ve legit never seen them happier. They screamed and sang every single song and when Taylor did, in fact, for the first time on tour, play “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” I thought my daughter would explode from happiness.
As for me? I sang along to every song I could, my daughters and I danced and laughed and hugged and I am telling you... time stood still. I had hoped the concert would become a core memory for my daughters and it did, but what I didn’t expect is it became one for me.
And after the show, as we walked out of the stadium, all of us floating on air, we were discussing, arguing over what were the best moments from the show. Personally, I’m partial to Taylor’s “Lover” and “1989" (Taylor’s version, of course) eras, but as my wife started to answer, my daughter disagreed with her.
“No Mom,” she said. “You’re not a Swiftie…like Dad.”
I think you could see my smile all the way in Philly.
Since the show, whenever I drive my daughters anywhere we listen to Taylor Swift. We discuss news about her, we marvel at the mind-boggling crowd she drew on Long Beach Island when she was there to attend a wedding. And we talk about what else we should do. Because, as we walked out the stadium that night, my daughters grabbed my hand. “You know Dad, we should do more stuff together as a family.”
“Of course,” I said, looking at their huge smiles and bright eyes. “Us Swifties got to stick together.”
Which brings me, meandering very slowly, into the 2023 preseason edition of “Love/Hate.”
This is old hat for many, but for the new kids in class, this is NOT a sleeper and bust column. This is a column about market inefficiency. I don’t Love or Hate any player.
I love and hate their ADP.
For this column I am using the Consensus ADP on FantasyLife.com. Please. You thought you were getting through this column without a plug? Come on. You know me better than that. Anyways, FantasyLife.com is the 100% free fantasy football tools and analysis site I have started with some fantastic other analysts (Ian Hartitz, Dwain McFarland, Peter Overzet, Kendall Valenzuela, Chris Allen and Matthew Freedman to name a few) and among our many free tools is our consensus ADP, pulling in from multiple sites and our new ADP Grid, so you can quickly see how your draft will play out once you pick your draft slot, league size and scoring system.
Back to the column. The players I “Love” are players that I think are going too low and/or I believe will greatly exceed their consensus ADP on FantasyLife.com. Players I “Hate” are those going too high and/or I believe will fall short of the production needed to justify their current ADP. Just because I hate Dak Prescott and love Kenny Pickett does not mean I think you draft Pickett over Prescott. Rather it means I think Prescott is being drafted too high and Pickett too low. Got it? As always, please check my rankings (always free, always updated) here on Rotoworld.com to see exactly where I feel a player should go.
For more of my thoughts on players, strategy, theory and nonsense, please check out Fantasy Football Happy Hour with Matthew Berry on Peacock live every weekday at noon ET. The show is then on demand on Peacock, the NFL on NBC YouTube channel and of course wherever you get your podcasts. I do the show with former sportsbook head trader Jay Croucher, draft expert Connor Rogers and @LordDon’tLose himself, Lawrence Jackson. Fantasy football, sports betting and a lot of laughs. Please subscribe and give it five stars. I don’t care if you listen, I just want you to subscribe to it. I’m not above a pity click.
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And with that, let’s get to it.
You know, going to that Taylor Swift show, I didn’t know what to expect. I had high hopes, of course, but was also nervous and unsure of what it would bring. Just like a fantasy football season. So here’s hoping, that your backup running back becomes a superstar. That your late-round tight end is this year’s version of 2019 Darren Waller. That you have a core memory of one of the best experiences of your life. Here we go.
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QBs I Love in 2023
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
For my money, the biggest story of the offseason wasn’t Aaron Rodgers to the Jets. It wasn’t all the running back movement or the influx of young quarterbacks entering the league through the draft. It wasn’t even my Commanders finally ridding themselves of Dan Snyder. No, it was when the Baltimore Ravens straight up handed Lamar Jackson their starting quarterback job over Tyler Huntley. That is … Pro Bowl quarterback Tyler Huntley. Bold! But, in fairness, if you look at the numbers, you can see why the Ravens are so high on Jackson. I mean, he has averaged at least 20.0 PPG in all four seasons as a starter, putting up at least 750 rushing yards each season, too. And even last season, in what felt like a down year, Jackson averaged 21.3 PPG in his 11 full games and was second among quarterbacks in rushing yards per game with 63.7. His floor is always high, and now his ceiling gets even higher with the additions of Odell Beckham, Jr., Zay Flowers and fantasy friendly new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. No. 1 QB in fantasy football is very much in the range of outcomes for Jackson this year which is why you have to consider him near the top of your list of quarterbacks … yes, even over Tyler Huntley.
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
I considered putting longtime NFL backup QB Kellen Moore, new to the Chargers this year, on my preseason Love-Hate list at Quarterback, but after doing several rounds of intensive research, I found that Moore hasn’t thrown an NFL pass since 2015 and hasn’t been on a roster since 2017. So, I thought better of it. Instead, I’ll put his new protege, Justin Herbert on the list. But why the Kellen Moore love? Well, because Moore will actually utilize Herbert’s strengths, i.e. his incredibly strong arm. Through Herbert’s first three NFL seasons, he has the most passing yards and the second-most passing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history. That is especially impressive considering the Chargers have oftentimes been maddingly conservative on offense. Enter Moore, who led a Dallas offense that ranked top six in points in three of his four seasons as offensive coordinator and led the NFL in offensive yards twice. Moore even got Dak Prescott to rank top five in TD rate in each of the past two seasons. Now, Moore gets Justin Herbert running his offense? An offense that will have a much healthier offensive line and added explosive rookie Quentin Johnston. I’m excited – and you should be, too. Herbert was on the short list to be my “Fantasy Ride-or-Die” this year. Adjust your pre-draft QB rankings to move Herbert up and well, Kellen Moore down. Again, really should look at active rosters before doing my initial ranks.
Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
Last season, Trevor Lawrence was one of just three quarterbacks with 4,000 passing yards and five or more rushing touchdowns. (It’s pretty much always good to be on an exclusive list with Josh Allen and Joe Burrow, hashtag: analysis.) Lawrence was also tied for fifth among quarterbacks in games with 18-plus fantasy points (9) and games with 20-plus (6). And he had a Top 15 QBR in 2022 after finishing 27th in that metric as a rookie. All of which to say: Lawrence’s leap in 2022 was very real and spectacular. He continued to progress throughout the season, averaging 20.8 PPG from Weeks 6 to 16 (QB6 over that stretch). I’m betting on Trevor Lawrence to continue to progress in 2023, and why I think you should bet on it, too. Unless you are Calvin Ridley, in which case: please do not.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa has spent the offseason learning jiu-jitsu so he can learn to fall more safely and better protect himself. In the off-chance Tagovailoa has also taken up martial arts so he can pummel fantasy analysts who don’t speak highly of him, I am adding him to the Love list. But I probably would have put him here anyway – my fear of throat punches notwithstanding. Don’t forget: Tua led all quarterbacks in passer rating in 2022 and had the third-highest QBR (68.8), behind only Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. He led all quarterbacks in yards per pass attempt and completion rate on deep passes, had the second-highest touchdown rate and was fifth in passing yards per game, putting up at least 270 passing yards in eight of his 12 full games. All that made him QB10 in PPG despite the health issues. Now healthy and in Year 2 of that Mike McDaniel offense, look for Tagovailoa to deliver a … (Googles “jiu-jitsu moves”) … bow and arrow choke to the competition.
Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Is Anthony Richardson going to struggle at times this season? Yep. Is he also going to win some weekly matchups essentially all by himself? Yep! Already named the starter in Indianapolis, Richardson is 6-foot-4, 224 pounds and runs a 4.43 40. Why is that significant? Because last season, four of the top six quarterbacks in PPG had 700-plus rushing yards. With a chance Jonathan Taylor may hold out or be traded, Richardson is very much in play to lead the Colts in rushing touchdowns this year. And don’t forget: new Colts head coach Shane Steichen saw Jalen Hurts finish as QB2 in PPG in his first two seasons as a starter. Richardson will develop as a passer in time – or at least the Colts hope he will – but there are plenty of fantasy points to be had in the meantime.
Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks
It only took 10 years since he was drafted, but Geno Smith has a team committed to building around him. After Smith’s career season in 2022, the Seahawks selected WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba and RB Zach Charbonnet in the first two rounds and did NOT draft a quarterback in any round. Seattle is apparently convinced Smith is the real deal and, honestly, it was hard to watch him play last season and think otherwise. Smith led the NFL in completion percentage (69.8%) and was second in completion rate on deep passes. He was tied for the most games with multiple touchdown passes with 12. He was Top 10 in passing yards per game (251.9), had 17-plus fantasy points in 11 of his 17 games and he even put up some yards on the ground, posting eight games with 20-plus rushing yards. Those are all legit numbers. I’m not saying Geno Smith is going to lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory this season over Aaron Rodgers and the Jets. I’m not sure humanity deserves to enjoy a punchline that funny. I’m just saying that Smith has done enough to be taken seriously as an NFL quarterback and – more importantly – as a fantasy quarterback.
Others receiving votes: … Am I high on Jared Goff this season simply because he is the human who will be sending footballs in the direction of Amon-Ra St. Brown? I mean, it helps! But, last season Goff led all quarterbacks in TD/INT ratio (4.1), was Top 5 in touchdown passes and tied for the most games (6) among quarterbacks with 20-plus fantasy points. Goff also averaged 20.6 PPG indoors last season and seven of his last eight games this season are in a dome. Keep that in mind come trade deadline time if you don’t get Goff in your drafts. … I am hereby declaring Brock Purdy to be my pick to be 2023’s Brock Purdy because it really does seem like people are forgetting Purdy exists. Again. So let me remind you: Purdy was QB10 in PPG since taking over at quarterback in Week 13 and led all quarterbacks in passer rating over that stretch. He also had multiple touchdown passes in every game in which he played the majority of the snaps and San Francisco posted 35-plus points in four of his five starts. … That’s right, I like me some Sam Howell this season. “Oh, here we go, Berry is overestimating another quarterback from his Commanders.” How wrong you are. Because they have only been the Commanders for one season and I was not that high on Carson Wentz last season. Because even I am not that much of a homer. IN YOUR FACE. Anyway, it’s a small sample size, but Howell did put up 18.3 fantasy points in his lone start of 2022. And he’s mobile, too. As a senior at North Carolina, he had 11 rushing scores and 1,104 rush yards (adjusted for the stupid college practice of deducting sack yards from QB rush totals.) Surrounded by good talent and a new play caller that will be aggressive down the field, I love me some Sam Howell, fantasy wise and Commander wise.. … The Steelers gave Kenny Pickett the kid-gloves treatment last season because he was a rookie quarterback thrown into the starting job partway through the season and, well, because he wears kid-sized gloves. But he looks primed to take a Trevor Lawrence-esque leap in Year 2. He closed 2022 with a 5-1 record and threw just one interception in his final eight games. Plus, his paltry 1.8% TD rate as a rookie has to experience at least some positive regression to the league average of 4.4%, right? Hey, maybe even Diontae Johnson can catch a touchdown in 2023. Dare to dream.
QBs I Hate in 2023
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott is now on the wrong side of 30 and is coming off a season in which he tied for the NFL lead in interceptions, despite missing five games. On paper, that looks bad. It also looks bad on the digital device you’re reading this on. And it sounds bad if someone says it to you or sings it to you (the way I imagine all of my columns are shared). Because it IS bad. Dak posted less than 15 fantasy points in six of his 12 games last season and had just four games with more than 20. His 238.3 passing yards per game were his fewest since 2017 and his dip in running production has proved to not be an aberration. Dak has now averaged 11.7 rushing yards per game over the past two seasons, compared to 19.1 yards per game between 2016 and 2019. Oh, and his long-time offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is gone, too. Mike McCarthy has said he wants to run more and whether you believe that or not the key part here is that Mike McCarthy is still the head coach. Hashtag: not a fan. (I may still be bitter about me having to yell #FreeAaronJones all those years). Anyways, all that is more than enough to put Dak squarely atop my 2023 Hate List at QB.
Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets
Here’s a sneak peak of the next episode of Hard Knocks. Aaron Rodgers gets word that fantasy analyst Matthew Berry has him on his preseason Hate list. Rodgers texts Berry to “lose his number,” which Berry proudly shows everyone he knows because he’s really proud that Aaron Rodgers has his number. Then Berry calls Rodgers back and explains that he doesn’t hate Rodgers as a person or as a player, only that he feels that Rodgers’ ADP is too high. Intrigued by the line of reasoning, Rodgers listens to Berry’s case. He hears that he averaged a career-low 14.1 PPG in 2022, as well as a career-low 217 passing yards per game. He hears that he was 26th out of 31 quarterbacks in QBR last season and that his 12 interceptions were his first season with more than eight interceptions since 2010. Berry points out that Rodgers doesn’t really run that much at this stage of his career and that the majority of the best QB’s in fantasy need to get you at least something with their legs. Berry even gently mentions that Rodgers turns 40 in December. Berry explains that he really likes the Jets defense and thinks they will be very effective running the ball, which means it’s unlikely Rodgers gets into shootouts or even has a high pace of play. Thankful for the thoughtful presentation of information, Rodgers invites Berry to hang out. They get tattoos and ayahuasca enemas together and become best friends. The end.
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RBs I Love in 2023
Bijan Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
For years the fantasy community has taken shots for supposedly seeing players as nothing more than commodities. But as we enter the 2023 NFL season, I have to say: the world of fake football values running backs far more than the world of real, professional football. While NFL teams dump backs left and right, in fantasy we value them all. And we will especially cherish Bijan Robinson. Get this: last season, with a backfield of Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson and Caleb Huntley, the Falcons led the NFL in running back rush yards and were second in running back carries. That was before Bijan Robinson was in uniform. (Passes out.) And let’s not forget that when Falcons head coach Arthur Smith was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee for two seasons, Derrick Henry had 718 touches and put up at least 1,500 rushing yards and 15 rushing scores in each season. (Passes out again, briefly regains consciousness, hits head on counter, falls back to the floor.) Oh, and one more thing: Since 2012, six running backs have been taken in the Top 10 picks of the draft and they combined to average 295 touches as rookies. The Falcons didn’t take Bijan Robinson No. 8 overall to not use him in a massive way. I mean what is he, Kyle Pitts? Ignore that. Bijan is too good and has too much versatility in the passing game for even Arthur Smith to mess up his usage. (Passes out again. Paramedics arrive, lift me onto gurney and ask if I have any final words. “Draft Bijan Robinson early and often,” I whisper.)
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Nick Chubb recently told The Pivot podcast “I’m not active on Twitter and social media, but I see everything. I do search my name. I see who’s talking. I’m guilty of that. I see where they got me ranked. And I don’t say anything. I just put my head down. I go to work.” So two things: 1) Hi, Nick! Thanks for checking in. And 2) You’ll be happy to know I have you on my Love list for 2023. (Maybe you want to be best friends with me and Aaron Rodgers now?) But honestly, I’m not sure how anyone could not have you highly ranked. You now have four seasons in a row averaging at least 88 rushing yards per game and at least 100 scrimmage yards per game. You have averaged at least 5.0 YPC in all five of your NFL seasons. And last season your 7.3% target share was the second-highest of your career, and that should only increase with Kareem Hunt out of the picture. Hunt vacates 158 touches from the Cleveland offense. Yes, some of those will go to your teammate Jerome Ford (and others), but Ford isn’t likely to jump from eight career touches to 158 in a season. Considering you, Nick Chubb, averaged 19.0 PPG in your eight games with 20-plus touches, I suspect an even slightly increased workload will put you in line for a career year. And if this offense does indeed take a step forward offensively with Deshaun Watson under center this year, you should be in scoring position more often and see less loaded boxes. Cool, huh? Hey, thanks again for reading, Nick Chubb!
Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
Despite suffering a broken leg and a high ankle sprain in Dallas’ playoff loss last January, Tony Pollard entered camp saying he feels “faster” than ever before. Does that qualify him for “Best Shape of My Life” training camp notoriety? Sure, I’ll give it to him. But I don’t need Pollard to be faster than last season. I’ll take him exactly the same as last season, because last season was pretty darn good. Pollard was RB8 overall and in PPG, but was RB2 in PPG (22.0) from Weeks 8-16. And, as you may have heard, Ezekiel Elliott is no longer on the Cowboys. Elliott saw 248 touches last season and his 26 carries inside the 10-yard-line were tied for third-most in the league. That’s the craziest stat because last year Pollard had nine rushing touchdowns with ONLY 12 carries inside the 10-yard-line. Zeke leaves 26 goal-to-go carries on the table for Pollard who averages 19.3 PPG in his career when he gets 15 or more touches in a game. I reserve the right to forever hate the Dallas Cowboys, but I love me some Tony Pollard.
Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery, Detroit Lions
Look, I don’t want to have to love two running backs on the same team, but the modern NFL game has forced me into it. There aren’t exactly a ton of set-it-and-forget-it RB1s out there to be had. Once they’re off the board, they’re gone. So in this crazy, mixed up, timeshare world, the Detroit Lions duo of Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery is what I’m going with. The departures of Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift open up 421 running back touches in Detroit. Last season, Williams led the NFL in rushing touchdowns, while Swift finished as a Top 15 back in PPG in each of the past three seasons. Detroit can clearly sustain two fantasy backs. Now, the Lions turn to Montgomery and Gibbs. Montgomery had at least 1,000 scrimmage yards in all four seasons in Chicago and 300-plus receiving yards in each of the last three. Gibbs is an electric rookie who runs a 4.36 40 and is someone the Lions like so much they used the 12th overall pick on him. I love both Montgomery and Gibbs sharing the workload in this offense. Yes, I’m in a polyamorous running back relationship. My fantasy teams, and my wife, will have to be okay with that.
Others receiving votes: Drafting James Conner at this point in his career isn’t a sexy pick, but I can’t imagine anything sexier than what I am about to write. Are you ready? Are the kids out of the room? Okay. Here we go. James Conner is atop a running back depth chart that includes no one but Keontay Ingram, Corey Clement and Ty’Son Williams. Oh, baby. Is it hot in here? Coming off a season in which he was RB9 in PPG, Conner provides a lot of value in drafts. … Conner may be the poster boy for cheap volume but there’s two other guys that are right there with him. Dameon Pierce’s ADP continues to baffle me. Here’s a guy who got 19 touches per game last year and was a top 13 running back from Weeks 2-10. He got a bit banged up in the second half of the season, getting 10 or fewer touches in six of his final eight games (including not playing the final four games) but Houston, for all its issues, has a decent offensive line and should at least be better than last year. I’m not worried about Devin Singletary as Pierce is a talented running back who will flirt with 20 touches per game. And in games last year when he got at least 15 touches, he averaged over 103 yards from scrimmage. ... Cheap volume is also a hallmark of Cam Akers, who has no real competition in the Rams backfield and was the 5th best running back in fantasy over the final six games last year, averaging over 19 touches per game. He looked like the Cam we remember and there’s no way their line can be any worse than it was last year, right? Right?!? ... With Devin Singletary vacating 215 touches in Buffalo, I think we’ll see our most productive James Cook since he charted the Pacific in the 1700s. (Sorry if that joke was too current.) Cook was plenty productive last season, too, as his 5.7 YPC were second-highest among backs with at least 80 carries. … I get it. Kansas City’s offense is so good that even Freddie Pacheco could put up numbers. (That reference is some 200 years more relevant than the James Cook joke, so there.) But Isiah Pacheco manages to draw your attention even when surrounded by superstars. Over the final nine games of the season, Pacheco was Top 5 in the NFL in rushing yards and Top 7 among backs in red zone touches. He should only continue to gain work out of KC’s backfield. … Just as I like what Kellen Moore can do for Justin Herbert, I love me some Eric Bieniemy working with Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson. Robinson got 20+ touches in four of his final five games last year, you know, a year in which he HAD BEEN SHOT earlier in the year. His passing game usage in the preseason has been encouraging and scroll up to read what I just wrote about Isiah Pacheco. That heavy RB usage was called by new Washington offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Speaking of Bieniemy, Kansas City ranked fourth in RB targets during his five seasons as KC OC. Gibson also happens to be coming off a season in which he had a career-high 46 receptions and J.D. McKissic is no longer around to take targets away from him either. … Javonte Williams is coming off of an ACL injury and Sean Payton famously loves using two backs anyway, which means Samaje Perine … “Come on down! You’re the next contestant on Others Receiving Votes.” Remember, in Perine’s 13 career games with 15-plus touches, he averaged 15.6 PPG. He also put up 21.3 PPG in four games last season when he got just 10-plus. … Among running backs with 150-plus carries over the past two seasons, Rashaad Penny ranks first in both YPC (6.2) and yards after contact per rush (4.4). And now he gets dropped into that Philadelphia offense, one that ranked third in red zone rush late last season? Yes, please… Speaking of Rachaad’s, they spell their first name differently but both Penny and Rachaad White get votes on the Love list this year. Todd Bowles is a lot of things, but one thing he isn’t? He’s not stupid. He doesn’t want Baker Mayfield throwing any more than you do. Bowles is gonna try and win games by grinding it out. Play good defense (a hallmark of Bowles coached teams) and run the damn ball. Much like Conner, Pierce and Akers above, White is a great candidate for cheap volume on a team without much competition. Leonard Fournette’s departure opens up 262 touches from last season and as a rookie, White was one of only 10 running backs with 120+ carries AND 50+ receptions. ... What if (insert Brian Windhorst meme) Khalil Herbert is actually the Bears starting running back? His ADP is massively depressed because people think it’ll be a committee and maybe it will be. But Herbert is actually really good when he gets a chance. In his eight career games with 12+ touches, he averages 105.5 yards from scrimmage and 15.9 PPG. His 5.7 yards per carry last year lead all qualified RBs. Herbert is going to get first shot at the starting job and there’s a decent chance he… wait for it… runs away with the job. It certainly won’t cost very much to find out… It’s easy to say that Pittsburgh’s offensive line prevents Najee Harris from reaching his potential. But then you realize that while Harris averaged 4.0 yards per touch last season, Jaylen Warren averaged 5.6. Warren also averaged 67.5 scrimmage yards in his six games with at least nine touches and earned multiple red zone touches in three of his final four games. The Pittsburgh backfield may become the new version of Dallas, with Warren playing the role of Tony Pollard gradually eating into the workload of the supposed RB1. I MUCH prefer Warren to Harris at cost… Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, Jr. have missed a combined 38 games over the past three seasons. Enter Dolphins rookie Devin Achane and his 4.32 speed. I’m attempting to run at least that fast to move him up my draft boards. (Oh, god, I pulled my hamstring. Pain. PAAAAIIIIIN.)
RBs I Hate in 2023
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Through two NFL seasons, J.K. Dobbins has zero games with more than 17 touches. Zero. And with Gus Edwards still around … and Justice Hill … and Melvin Gordon added to the mix and you know, Lamar Jackson… I see zero reason Dobbins will get any kind of RB1 or even RB2-type workload this season. Especially considering the Ravens rank 28th in running back carries over the past two seasons and expectations are they are going to pass even more this year under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. And more passing is an issue for Dobbins because he’s basically a nothing in the Ravens passing attack. Since entering the NFL he has only one, count ‘em, one game with more than 25 receiving yards. For his career he has a career target share of just 5.6%. To justify where he is going in drafts he needs volume or passing game work and I don’t see either happening this year. Add in the ongoing health concerns and yeah. It’s a pass for me. Which still might be more passes than Dobbins sees. Hey-o! I’ll be here all week.
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
Before being injured in Week 4, Javonte Williams had fewer than 60% of the snaps in two of his three full games and received just 50% of Denver’s running back red zone and goal-line carries. And I’m not sure what was worse for Williams’ long-term fantasy prospects: tearing his ACL and LCL or Sean Payton arriving in Denver. In five of Payton’s final six seasons with the Saints, he gave 150-plus touches to multiple backs. That gives Williams a solid floor, but also a fairly low ceiling. He’s a great player and his recovery is truly incredible but as his ADP continues to rise he needs to exceed expectations in usage and the typical lack of explosiveness for a guy coming off a ACL tear. Clearly, favoriting in cost, I’m Samaje Perine over Williams and think there’s a chance Perine our scores him straight up.
D’Andre Swift, Philadelphia Eagles
While the Eagles offense is a great fit for Rashaad Penny, it’s less than ideal for D’Andre Swift. With A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert grabbing 75.3% of the target share last season, there’s little left for backs. In fact, in 2022 the Eagles ranked dead-last in RB target share. There’s simply no way Swift retains the 16.5% target share he’s had over the past two seasons. Especially with reports that Kenneth Gainwell is going to be a thing this year. And without heavy involvement in the passing game, Swift loses much of what fuels his fantasy production. Swift probably now has a better chance of winning a Super Bowl championship in 2023, but he won’t help win many fantasy titles.
Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
In Alvin Kamara’s last game of 2020, he had six rushing touchdowns. In his two seasons since then he has … six rushing touchdowns. If only that was the only stat pointing to a decline. Over Kamara’s final nine games of 2022, he averaged just 10.5 PPG – good for RB36 over that span. He also posted a career-low 32.7 receiving yards per game last season and his 3.9 YPC over the past two seasons is well off the 5.0 YPC he averaged the previous four seasons. Oh, and now he’s suspended for the first three games of the season. All of this is why I’m suspending myself from drafting Kamara anywhere before Round 10.
WRs and TEs I Love in 2023
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions
In case you didn’t see it on NBC or Peacock or on Twitter or on whatever Twitter is called now or Instagram or TikTok or the Fantasy Life App or displayed on the side of a zeppelin or written on a tiny paper tied to the foot of a carrier pigeon that landed on your bedroom window sill one morning or just saw me ranting about on a street corner dressed like a crazy vagrant, Amon-Ra St. Brown is my 2023 Ride Or Die. And really, there weren’t a lot of other contenders. Since St. Brown’s huge breakout in Week 13 of the 2021 season, Justin Jefferson is the only player in the NFL with more receptions over that stretch. St. Brown is also just one of seven players with 90-plus receptions in each of the past two seasons. He had an insane 29% target share in his healthy games last season and only one game with a target share under 24% in which he played the full game. He had at least six receptions in 12 of his 14 full games and averaged 19.3 PPG in his 13 games with eight-plus targets. Want me to stop? Can’t stop won’t stop. Because St. Brown was also Top 7 among wide receivers in red zone targets. There’s pretty much nothing to not LOVE about St. Brown this season. Jameson Williams being suspended for the first six games only helps St. Brown’s usage and by the time Williams gets back, the Lions will be heading into an end-of-season stretch in which they finish with seven out of eight games in domes. In 2023 the Sun God becomes the Fantasy God.
WR Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
You’ll see on the next episode of Hard Knocks, but when my pal Aaron Rodgers and I were halfway through our enema cleanses, I really let loose. Both literally and figuratively. But the part that didn’t require clean-up was when I spoke candidly on how high I am on Garrett Wilson this season. I mean, Wilson won Offensive Rookie of the Year last season with a quarterback triumvirate of Zach Wilson, Mike White and Joe Flacco. That’s like winning on All-Madden level with your eyes closed. Despite the limitations at quarterback, Wilson still averaged 16.1 PPG in his 12 games with at least seven targets. He also received 43% of his team’s end zone targets last season, third among all wide receivers. Rodgers has already compared him to Davante Adams and I expect their on-field relationship to be similar to his and Adams, including all the cheap close touchdowns. Look, if Wilson could go for 83-1,103-4 last season, good for WR21 overall, he should easily beat all those numbers in 2023. And that’s not the ayahuasca talking.
WR Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
As good as Wilson was in 2022, fellow rookie Chris Olave had a higher target share, more yards per game, a higher aDOT and a higher catch rate. Chris Olave was another player on my short list of potential “Fantasy Ride or Die’s” this season. That’s not to disparage Wilson in any way, just to remind fantasy managers not to overlook Olave. The arrival of Derek Carr in New Orleans should help Olave take the next step, too. Over the past two seasons, Carr ranks Top 5 in deep ball rate and deep completions. Olave’s 14.2 aDOT – fourth-highest among qualified receivers last season – should remain high as Carr will likely go deep to his new No. 1 receiver early and often.
WR DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
It’s been nearly a month since I saw the video and I’m still not sure how DeVonta Smith’s footwork on the ladder drill is humanly possible. Yet, my awe and wonder will by no means prevent me from hitting you with a tortured bit of wordplay about Smith quickly moving up the career ladder. (See, I told you it was bad.) After a solid, but not spectacular rookie season in 2021, Smith improved across the board in 2022 to finish as WR9 overall. Smith came out of the gate slow in Week 1 last season, posting zero catches. But from then on, he finished as WR12 in PPG (15.9). Over the same span, he equaled A.J. Brown in target share (27.7%) and averaged one reception more per game and just nine receiving yards less. The Eagles have a WR1 and WR1A. And you can easily make the case that Smith is the WR1 in 2023 but is going almost two rounds after Brown.
WR Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
I’m not saying Brock Purdy and Brandon Aiyuk are the new Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, but the 49ers may have themselves a pretty nice QB-WR combo here. A combo I’m calling Brockdon. No … Purdyuk. Wait, no … Aiyudy. I’ll keep working on it. In the meantime … Aiyuk, at just 25 years of age, is coming off of career-highs in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. He was one of just 11 receivers last season with at least 75 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He also tied for the San Francisco team lead in red zone targets and was a Top 15 WR in PPG from Week 6 on. He could easily have as good a fantasy season as Deebo Samuel (who likely runs less with CMC around) at a much lower price point. I’m high on Aiyuk for the same reason I’m high on Purdy this season: upside, upside, upside. Love me some Branock. Dammit. I’ll get there.
TE T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings
In nine full games with the Vikings last season – from Weeks 9 to 17 – T.J. Hockenson was TE2 in PPG (14.1), averaged 9.4 targets per game, 6.6 receptions per game and had 11 red zone targets, which was Top 3 among tight ends over that stretch. Basically, Minnesota Vikings T.J. Hockenson was the next best thing to having Travis Kelce on your fantasy team. And that was joining the team in mid-season. Now, after an off-season of being there full-time and spending more time with Kirk Cousins and the coaching staff, the sky is the limit for Hockenson. Turns out that all this time the key to having success on the Vikings is looking like a Viking. Who could have guessed?
TE Darren Waller, New York Giants
Waller the Baller is back. I think. After a career year in 2020 when he averaged 17.4 PPG, he’s averaged just 10.9 PPG since and has struggled to stay on the field, missing 14 games since the start of the 2021 season. Now for the good news. Waller still led all tight ends in end zone targets per game last season. And since 2019, he has the third-most receptions in the league on crossing routes, while last season Daniel Jones targeted crossing routes at the third-highest rate. Waller is one of the few tight ends in fantasy football – Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews are the other two big ones – who has a legit chance to lead his team in targets, receptions and receiving yards. Especially considering that the Giants likely do not want their running back, Saquon Barkley, to lead the team in targets again this season. Waller should be a Baller once again.
TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
David Njoku was drafted in the first round by the Browns six years ago and it was hoped that he would provide a big target for their second round pick in that same class, quarterback DeShone Kizer. I’m comfortable saying that the Kizer-Njoku combo is not on track to pan out as hoped. However, Cleveland’s current quarterback, Deshaun Watson, has found Njoku quite useful. Njoku led all tight ends in percentage of team red zone targets (31%) last season and had the second-most red zone targets total at the position. Cleveland also ranked fourth in total TE target share last season, with Njoku bringing in a target share of at least 18.5% in 11 of his 14 games. At a position that always drops off precipitously after the top tier, Njoku provides a lot of value and upside in later rounds.
Others receiving votes: The Titans are fortunate to have DeAndre Hopkins on their team, but the big winners of the Hopkins move might just be Marquise Brown managers. In eight games without Hopkins dressed last season, Brown had a 25% target share and averaged 6.3 receptions, 69.1 receiving yards and 15.4 PPG. … I don’t know yet if Jordan Addison or KJ Osborn will be the No. 2 receiver in Minnesota. What I do know is that it probably doesn’t matter. Minnesota ranked third in pass attempts last season (672). Adam Thielen ran the second-most routes of any wide receiver in 2022 and as the No. 3, Osborn saw 90 targets. I’ll happily take someone with Addison’s talent landing anywhere in that range of routes and targets. … Last season, Gabe Davis led all players in aDOT (15.3) and his 17.4 YPR was second in the league. And that was on what we found out this off-season was a high ankle sprain! Heading into this season, Josh Allen says he wants the Bills to put Davis in more “catch and run” situations. Throw it to Gabe Davis deep, throw it to Gabe Davis not-so-deep, just throw it to Gabe Davis…. Fine call me a homer but Jahan Dotson is an all-out baller. The 17th best WR from Week 13 on last year, you know I already love me some Sam Howell. When you think about how many touchdowns he scored in college and then last year in limited time, it’s hard not to get excited about Dotson this year, especially as his low ADP…. George Pickens is the most explosive receiver the Steelers have seen since their stadium collapsed behind Hines Ward partway through The Dark Knight Rises. As a rookie, Pickens had the second-highest aDOT among qualified receivers and was Top 10 among receivers in yards per target. Improvement from Kenny Pickett in Year 2 could see exponential growth in Pickens’ fantasy production … Since entering the NFL, Justin Herbert ranks Top 5 in completions and attempts on passes of 15-plus air yards. Enter rookie Quentin Johnston, who averaged 19 YPR in his college career, is 6-foot-3, runs a 4.49 40 and has a 40.5-inch vertical. If/when Keenan Allen and Mike Williams miss time due to injury, per usual custom, Johnston is in line to produce even more. … Considering Johnston’s vertical, his name should probably be Sky More. Alas, I was not consulted on the naming process. However, I do like Skyy Moore in a Kansas City offense that has 135 targets (28% target share) up for grabs following the departures of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman. Over the final eight games last season, Moore caught an impressive 80% of his targets and Kadarius Toney is already hurt. Worth noting that Moore has played 100% of snaps with Patrick Mahomes in two-wide receiver sets in the second week of preseason … Russell Wilson was third in deep-ball rate in 2022. Denver drafted Marvin Mims in no small part because he averaged more than 20 YPC each of his last two seasons at Oklahoma, and now Tim Patrick’s injury opens up even more targets in the Bronco offense. … Not long ago, every fantasy manager wanted to get Odell. But today’s fantasy managers want them some Tank Dell. The Texans rookie ended his college career with back-to-back 1,300-plus receiving yards and he’s drawn rave reviews from fellow rookie, QB CJ Stroud, and throughout the preseason. I interviewed Tank at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere and absolutely loved his approach to the game… My friend Dwain McFarland at FantasyLife.com does one of the best columns in all of fantasy football. The Utilization Report looks at important underlying data every single week, which helps identify some not so obvious guys to grab or let go. Which is why it might surprise you that Dwain and I actually like Rashod Bateman while everyone else loves OBJ and Zay Flowers. Those two may very well also have good years, but while I get it, Bateman has been hurt a lot, he does still have a first round draft capital. And it’s a small sample size but Bateman has also flashed a high-end target-earning ability. Last year he had a 24% target share in five healthy games. Earning targets is a skill and I know, it’s just five games but still. It also matches up with what we saw from him in college. Don’t be surprised if Bateman is the WR1 for one of the best offenses in football and he is FREE in drafts this year… Tyler Higbee is coming off a season in which he had the third-highest target share (20.9%) among all tight ends, was Top 5 at the position in targets, receptions and red zone targets, and Top 10 in receiving yards. And Matthew Stafford’s return should help stabilize that Rams offense. … I also like what Kellen Moore could do for Gerald Everett in fantasy. With Moore in Dallas over the past two seasons, Dalton Schultz was TE7 in PPG. Even a slight boost to Everett’s production from last season, when he finished as TE13 overall, could move him into the Top 10 at the position and he’s going much later than that. … With the Patriots not exactly loading up on elite pass catchers for yet another offseason, keep an eye on holdover tight end Hunter Henry. He tied for the team lead in red zone targets in 2022. There’s a connection with Mac Jones. … A 6-foot-6, 253-pound tight end with 4.6 speed playing 100% of snaps with the first team offense in the preseason? What else do you need to know? Oh, right. The guy’s name probably. It’s Packers rookie Luke Musgrave. With only Tucker Kraft and Josiah Degura on the depth chart behind him, Musgrave should draw almost all of the TE targets from Jordan Love this season.
WRs and TEs I Hate in 2023
WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans is one of my favorite players in the NFL, especially as someone who grew up in College Station, Texas and roots for Texas A&M to this day. Gig’Eem Aggies. So why is Evans on this list? Again, a “Hate” simply means that I feel a player is unlikely to perform up to their ADP. I don’t personally hate any of these players. I reserve my real hatred for things that are truly terrible. Like the scourge of male pattern baldness. Or how less handsome the NFL will be without Tom Brady around. And honestly, as much as our eyes and sense of fashion will suffer without seeing Brady every week, Mike Evans might suffer even more. Already his production has been on the decline. Last season, he had a catch rate below 0% in nine games. And he only finished inside the Top 15 in WR PPG last season because of one monster game in Week 17. He was WR30 in PPG entering Week 17. Now, Evans changes from Tom Brady, under whom Tampa averaged 702 pass attempts per season, to Baker Mayfield who is: a) decidedly not Tom Brady; and b) has one career season with 500-plus attempts. And you already heard me say in the bit about Rachaad White that I believe the Buccaneers offense will be run heavy and conservative this year. All that and I don’t love the ADP of Evans who is now on the wrong side of 30, too. (Helpful reminder: aging impacts everyone except Tom Brady.)
WR Michael Pittman, Indianapolis Colts
Last season, Michael Pittman had fewer than 60 receiving yards in 10 of his 16 games. His 9.3 yards per reception were 77th out of 80 qualified receivers. And despite reeling in 99 balls last season, only three of those receptions were on passes of 15 yards or more. Almost impressive! The worst part is that it could all get worse, as Pittman is now playing with a rookie quarterback in Anthony Richardson who is expected to need some time to develop into an NFL-quality passer. But, hey, it’s not all bad news. Maybe the Colts will package Pittman in a Jonathan Taylor trade and he’ll land in a better opportunity for production?
TE George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have done an amazing job stacking their offense with playmakers. The bad news is that they might have a few too many to keep George Kittle’s managers happy. In the seven games last season in which Kittle, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk were all active, Kittle had a target share of just 15.7%. He also got less than 30 receiving yards in five of those seven games, and he had seven games on the season with fewer than eight fantasy points. The 49ers have a lot of mouths to feed. Don’t bite on Kittle too early in your drafts.
TE Dalton Schultz, Houston Texans
Look, I respect Dalton Schultz. He figured he wasn’t going to win a Super Bowl in Dallas, as it’s not the 1900s, so he decided to definitely not win Super Bowls while making a lot of money in Houston. I completely get it. What I don’t get is drafting Schultz to be a Top 10 fantasy tight end. Last season the Texans were 31st in yards per game, 31st in offensive points per game, 27th in red zone efficiency and 25th in passing yards per game. Sure, they probably will improve … at least a little bit? But there are other tight ends out there with higher floors, and ceilings, than Dalton Schultz has in 2023.
TE Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos
Normally adding Sean Payton to an offense is cause for celebration! He coached Jimmy Graham! He made Taysom Hill a thing! He likes to throw. Here’s the issue. He also went out and got his former player from the Saints, Adam Trautman. Trautman has played ahead of Dulcich on early downs in the pre-season with Dulcich mainly playing third downs and clear passing situations. He had three of fewer reception in 50% of his games last year (5 of 10 games). He also had only two red zone targets in 10 games and whatever you think of Adam Trautman, the fact is he’s gonna be enough of a thing to be annoying to those who draft Dulcich, who is going as a top 11(!) tight end on Yahoo. Let’s ride! (away from Greg Dulcich).