100 Questions: Fantasy Football 2023 (NFC North)
(As we head toward training camp and the start of preseason, our own Daniel Kelley is asking — and attempting to answer — the most pressing questions around fantasy football for 2023. This is 100 Questions.)
I mentioned this in the Browns section above, but only two teams haven’t won the division since 2002 realignment. One is the Browns. The other is actually this year’s NFC North favorite (+140 on DraftKings Sportsbook), the Detroit Lions. Intrigue!
The Bears won 12 games in 2018. They have either equaled that win total or gotten worse every year since (8 in 2019, 8 in 2020, 6 in 2021, 3 in 2022). Only the Texans (11, 10, 4, 4, 3) and Saints (13, 13, 12, 9, 7) have active streaks as long. If the Bears extend that streak to 2023 … disaster.
17. DJ Moore Finally Has a … Wait, Does DJ Moore Have a Quarterback?
- DJ Moore has 21 touchdowns in five years
- The best quarterback who has thrown him a TD is Sam Darnold … or Teddy Bridgewater … or the remains of Cam Newton
- On the Bears now, which means Justin Fields
For a while it was Larry Fitzgerald who was the great receiver to never have a good quarterback. Then it was Andre Johnson, then DeAndre Hopkins, then Allen Robinson. Now, the mantle belongs to either Moore or Terry McLaurin. But for fantasy, I don’t care that much — he’s been WR20, WR18, WR17 and WR21 the last four years with that sad assortment in Carolina throwing him the ball. Fields might not be great, but he’s at worst in a league with them. And you can get Moore as WR27 in early drafts. He’s underrated … again.
18. Is Justin Fields a (Fantasy) Sure Thing?
- Fantasy QB6 in 2022 despite missing two games and not topping 15 points until Week 5, 20 until Week 7
- Minimum of 200 dropbacks, 30th of 35 quarterbacks in PFF passing grade (54.4)
- Second-most rushing yards for a QB all time (1,143)
- 54.8% of fantasy points came on the ground (runaway leader among quarterbacks with 250-plus fantasy points, last decade):
If the Bears want to commit to Justin Fields as their long-term starter at quarterback, they have to find out if he can grow as a passer. The rushing is amazing and great, but a quarterback who is that reliant on his legs is just never going to lead a contender. I am certainly in the camp that Fields can develop into a good passer, but there is also the chance that the road to getting there will be rocky, and if the path goes “run less” to “pass more” to “oh wait, he can’t pass that well,” the Bears will learn, but the fantasy managers will suffer. Fields has overall QB1 upside, but he could easily fall down to the high-end QB2 range. I think the higher end is more likely than the lower, but anyone drafting him as a sure thing is too confident.
19. Isn't That a Lot of Running Backs?
- Khalil Herbert led all running backs with 5.7 yards per carry last year (min. 100 carries)
- D'Onta Foreman had 11.6 PPR points per game for Carolina after the Christian McCaffrey trade
- Roschon Johnson had an 88.3 PFF rushing grade in college last year, but in limited work behind Bijan Robinson
Fantasy drafters have no idea! Right now in ADP, Khalil Herbert is RB40, Roschon Johnson RB49, D'Onta Foreman RB52. Our FTN Fantasy rankers are similarly stuck at the top, with Herbert at RB38 and Foreman at RB41, but they are more out on Johnson (RB69). But here’s where I talk a little game theory — if there is one back here who finishes top 15 or top 20 in 2023, it’s probably Roschon Johnson. This front office didn’t add Herbert and made a point to get new faces this offseason. Also, Herbert is averaging under a target per game in his career (0.93). Foreman’s average is even lower, at 0.72. Johnson might be the third or fourth man in this backfield, but if he develops, he has more upside than either of his teammates. And considering the ADPs here, you aren’t drafting a Bears running back as your fantasy starter. So for my money, unless I’m going zero-RB and getting my starters late, I’m taking Johnson and hoping for the upside.
The Lions haven’t won the division since 1993, haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, haven’t won a title since 1957, a year that can’t actually be real. Despite that, they’re favored in the NFC North in 2023, which either means some long-suffering fans are about to feel a real release, or some long-suffering fans are about to be longer-sufferinger.
20. What Is Amon-Ra St. Brown’s Ceiling?
- Second-highest graded wide receiver in 2022, per PFF (90.7, behind Tyreek Hill’s 92.1)
- 2.40 yards per route run — ninth among WRs — despite 6.7-yard average depth of target; next-best YPRR for WR under 7.0-yard aDOT was 1.76
- Top-24 WR in nine of 16 games, but top 10 in only four
- Per FTN Fantasy splits tool, yardage spiked after T.J. Hockenson trade:
Amon-Ra St. Brown is an interesting case. It’s hard to make an argument for him to be the overall WR1 (his aDOT and general usage make it really difficult for him to get to the 1,400 or 1,500 yards or massive TD total that you really need to contend for that), but the Jameson Williams suspension and Lions’ refusal to add any notable WR this offseason mean that his target share is as secure as anyone’s. In other words, St. Brown probably can’t climb to the top three receivers, but he also really can’t fall out of the top 10. That has to be one of the smallest ranges of any player other than the overall top contenders. But you can get him as WR8 right now, and that’s just fine. There are some receivers below him who have higher ceilings, some above him with lower floors, but he is where he is, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
21. Do We Even Care About the WR2?
- Jameson Williams was supposed to be the No. 2 to St. Brown before getting a six-game gambling suspension
- Until his return, the veteran candidates are underwhelming — Marvin Jones, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond
- Only receiver drafted was seventh-rounder Antoine Green
Probably not! I would hazard a guess that anyone who drafts Williams with plans to stash him until his return will not still have him on the roster by the time he’s contributing. Remember, he missed most of his rookie season and barely contributed when he was back, so even when he debuts, you aren’t going to want to use him. You’ll want to see a couple of weeks before committing. Are you really willing to sit on a wild card unknown until Week 10 (mid-November)? He’ll be cut and added at least once. Maybe a Jones or Reynolds or Raymond is an option as a desperation bye play, but you’ll never be excited. And I hyped Green a bit in our Lions Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions, but even with that I am certainly not drafting him. If you want a second Lions pass-catcher, the answer is rookie TE Sam LaPorta, and even then it’s only a last-round flyer. Most likely, it’s St. Brown or bust.
22. Are Gibbs/Montgomery Swift/Williams 2.0?
- Detroit was one of only two teams with multiple top-24 PPR backs last year (Jamaal Williams RB13, D'Andre Swift RB21), along with Dallas (Tony Pollard RB8, Ezekiel Elliott RB22)
- Lions let Williams leave as a free agent and traded Swift to Philadelphia, replacing them with Jahmyr Gibbs (12th overall pick) and David Montgomery (free agent)
It would be easy to do a copy/paste here; the archetypes are similar enough. Montgomery is the ground-and-pound back from an NFC North rival signed as a free agent who can get the goal-line and short-yardage work, while Gibbs is the undersized young early draft pick from an SEC school with pass-catching chops. Drafters sort of agree, as one of these backs is available at RB13, the other at RB25 … except it’s reversed, with Gibbs going earlier than Montgomery. And if anything, I think the gap isn’t large enough. For Montgomery to approximate what Williams did a year ago, he’d need to repeat Williams’ TD success, and asking anyone to score even 10 touchdowns, let alone 17, is a big ask. The Lions could have kept Swift and drafted another position in the first, that they didn’t tells me (and should tell you) that they want someone to do even more than Swift did. Gibbs is a borderline RB1, while for me, Montgomery is a handcuff. A high-upside handcuff, sure, but a handcuff, not a weekly starter.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is the poster boy for the Packers’ 2022 struggles — and he was worse than his back-to-back MVP seasons, to be sure — but it’s easy to forget that injuries meant no Packer tackle reached even a 70% snap share, with David Bakhtiari missing six games. Losing Rodgers hurts, but a heathy O-line would offset a lot of that.
23. Aaron Rodgers:Brett Favre::Jordan Love:Aaron Rodgers?
- Aaron Rodgers: Drafted first round, 24th overall, 2005; barely played first three seasons (59 pass attempts); took over as starter in 2008; Hall of Famer
- Jordan Love: Drafted first round, 26th overall, 2020; barely played first three seasons (83 pass attempts); taking over as starter in 2023; _____
All right, so this is a bit of a cheeky one. Even if Jordan Love does end up as a Hall of Famer, we can’t exactly approach him as such yet. Aaron Rodgers was QB2 in 2008, but also the Packers went 6-10. That said, the aforementioned offensive line being healthy and competent (our Dan Fornek has them ranked as the No. 7 offensive line) is a big boost. The group of pass-catchers is not only young, it’s one of the youngest we’ve ever seen—the entire group of receivers/tight ends has a combined 135 career receptions for 1,550 yards, or roughly Stefon Diggs’ 2020 (127 for 1,535). Still there’s a lot of upside (we saw Christian Watson last year, and they have three Day 2 rookies in TEs Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft and WR Jayden Reed. That’s a lot of words to say … Jordan Love has a very low floor, simply because he’s about as unknown a quantity as you’ll find. But given he’s QB21 in ADP, no one is drafting him as a clear starter, and there isn’t currently a QB behind him I’d want earlier. If you’re taking a second QB, I like Love.
24. Will the Real Christian Watson Please Stand Up?
- Weeks 1-9: 14 targets, 10 receptions, 88 yards, 4.5 PPR points per game, WR107
- Weeks 10-13: 27 targets, 15 receptions, 313 yards, 24.9 PPR points per game, WR2
- Weeks 14-18: 25 targets, 16 receptions, 210 yards, 9.6 PPR points per game, WR49
It’s easy to key in on the differences there. WR107 to WR2 to WR49! That’s crazy! Why, if he just does what he did during that WR2 stretch he’s a superstar! But I’m more interested in the similarities. Those last two bullets are both four-game stretches, during which Christian Watson had virtually identical target and reception totals … and dramatically different fantasy totals, owing to 8 touchdowns in one chunk and zero in the other. It’s not quite as easy as saying “average WR2 and WR49, get WR25 or so, then downgrade him a little for the quarterback,” but … I mean, for me it kind of works. That gives you Watson at WR30 or worse. And yet he’s WR21 in ADP. Hard no at cost.
25. Is AJ Dillon Our Post-Hype Sleeper Darling?
- 2021: 187 carries, 803 yards, 37 targets, 7 total touchdowns, RB23; 2022 ADP: RB26
- 2022: 186 carries, 770 yards, 43 targets, 7 total touchdowns, RB26; 2023 ADP: R33
Everyone (myself included) had designs on an AJ Dillon breakout last year, only for him to more or less carbon-copy his 2021. Except … that 2021 production was enough to have us drooling over what he could do for 2022. Sure, it didn’t come to fruition, but now he’s the second-most veteran presence in this offense with a raw quarterback. Aaron Jones is only RB16 in ADP. The offensive line should be improved. Unless you think the Packers are just going to have a “2022 Broncos”-esque sad offense, there is going to be some fantasy value here, and my money says it comes from the running backs, which means both Jones and Dillon are going underdrafted.
You’ve seen it in various forms since sometime around midseason last year, but this is my favorite. This is every team in the last decade by winning percentage and point differential. Last year’s Vikings stand out!
26. Who Is the WR2 Here?
- Other than 2019 — when Adam Thielen got hurt — the No. 2 pass-catcher in Minnesota has had at least 95 targets each of the last seven years
- K.J. Osborn had 90 targets in 2022 but was inefficient, at 1.10 yards per route run; his 650 yards were fourth fewest among 46 receivers with at least 90 targets
- First-rounder Jordan Addison — the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner — had a drop in raw numbers in 2022 (1,353 yards and 17 touchdowns down to 810 and 8) but was actually more efficient, rising from 2.87 yards per route run to 2.99
Addison has missed time in OTAs with an injury, but all reports out of Minnesota are that he’ll be ready for training camp. Still, despite a nice pedigree, he’ll need to show something sooner rather than later if he’s going to return value on his ADP, given that he’s currently WR38 by ADP, compared to Osborn’s WR66. I do believe Addison will be the clear second-best receiver in Minnesota behind Justin Jefferson in time, even if it’s not right off the bat. That said…
27. Wait, Is T.J. Hockenson Just the WR2?
- T.J. Hockenson had 86 targets for the Vikings last year, the sixth-highest TE total in Vikings history, despite not even becoming a Vikings until November
- Hockenson was a top-20 TE every week in Minnesota (except Week 18), including seven TE1 finishes in 11 games)
I’m more than happy investing in Jordan Addison in dynasty, but if there is a book taking bets on “Who will finish second in targets in Minnesota in 2023?”, I am taking Hockenson 10 times out of 10. His 10-game target total works out to 146.2 targets in 17 games. If we can get anything even in that ballpark from Hockenson in 2023 — especially given the extra mouths to feed in Baltimore — he’s the TE2 this year, not Mark Andrews. If you’re taking a non-Jefferson pass-catcher in Minnesota, it’s Hockenson. If you’re getting Addison as a wait-and-see, fine, but I’m not expecting a huge rookie year.
28. Goodbye Dalvin Cook, Hello … Who?
- Dalvin Cook got 79.6% of the Vikings’ backfield carries in 2022, 64.4% of the backfield targets; he’s gone now
- Alexander Mattison has been under 4.0 yards per carry each of the last two years and is only at 1.01 yards per route run for his career
- The backups (Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, DeWayne McBride) have a combined 44 receptions in 14 player-seasons in college and the NFL, and only seventh-round rookie McBride was a significant rusher in college
If there’s a Viking who finishes as a top-24 fantasy running back in 2023, he’s not on the roster right now. Maybe that means Leonard Fournette or Ezekiel Elliott or Kareem Hunt. Maybe it means a training camp trade or someone who gets cut. But Mattison’s biggest virtue during his days as the dream handcuff was a lack of competition, not any great ability on his part. That hasn’t changed; if it had, he would have gotten more than the two years, $7 million he got this offseason. Mattison is the RB18 in ADP right now, but I probably wouldn’t take him at double that.