2023 Fantasy Risers and Fallers of the New League Year
The Panthers’ trade for the No. 1 draft pick overshadowed early free agency — at least for this apprehensive Panthers fan. But Week 1 of free agency still had major fantasy football implications. And this article explains my biggest redraft ranking adjustments since the start of the offseason.
2023 Fantasy Risers in Free Agency
Miles Sanders, RB, Carolina Panthers
From RB31 to RB17
Miles Sanders certainly hasn’t improved his Super Bowl chances in his move from the Eagles to the Panthers, but he has likely improved his fantasy prospects for 2023. Jalen Hurts threw just 12.2% of his passes to running backs in 2022, and Sanders saw fewer than half as many targets (26) as he did in his career-best receiving season in 2019 (63). In contrast, possible Week 1 Panthers starter Andy Dalton threw 23.9% of his passes to running backs last season, the sixth-highest rate among regular quarterbacks.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
From WR64 to WR50
Jakobi Meyers may not seem to benefit much from his move from the Patriots to the Patriots West with Josh McDaniels and Jimmy Garoppolo. But the move should help Meyers thread the needle of a major offensive role and less defensive attention. The latter should follow No. 1 option and three-time reigning All-Pro receiver Davante Adams. And even with Adams that involved in 2022, former Raiders receiver Mack Hollins saw 94 targets, just two fewer than Meyers saw as the No. 1 on the Patriots.
Khalil Shakir, WR, Buffalo Bills
From WR71 to WR62
The Bills’ release of receiver Isaiah McKenzie may not seem like a major move, and it shouldn’t disrupt the top of the team’s depth chart with Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis. But McKenzie played a sneaky big role in 2022 and is vacating 555 offensive snaps, 16th among the receivers poised to play for different teams next season. Khalil Shakir will have to contend with versatile special teams addition Trent Sherfield and any draft picks the Bills make at the position. But he may no longer need a teammate’s injury to live up to his sleeper potential.
Rachaad White, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
From RB34 to RB26
Rachaad White and Leonard Fournette ranked sixth and seventh among regular running backs with 12.4% and 12.0% targets per snap in 2022. White won’t have Tom Brady to throw him passes next season. But without Fournette, White could ascend to a featured back role and threaten his predecessor’s 84 targets from 2021 that were the third most at the position.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Dallas Cowboys
From WR54 to WR46
Brandin Cooks will not be the same No. 1 option on the Cowboys that he was on the Texans. But he should gain efficiency by switching from quarterback Davis Mills to Dak Prescott. Mills threw catchable passes on just 63.5% of his wide receiver targets in 2022, the seventh lowest rate among regular passers. Meanwhile, Prescott threw catchable passes on 78.4% of his wide receiver targets, the highest rate at the position.
Samaje Perine, RB, Denver Broncos
From RB50 to RB44
Samaje Perine told reporters than Sean Payton’s history of a two-back system attracted him to the Broncos. That should help his fantasy value. But Perine has an even greater near-term potential. Presumed No. 1 back Javonte Williams tore his ACL and other knee ligaments last October, early enough in the season to potentially return by Week 1 this year. But Matthew Berry reported at the combine that there was more pessimism for Williams’ early-2023 return than the Broncos have expressed publicly. And if Williams misses any time, Perine should benefit in fantasy.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
From RB46 to RB41
Rashaad Penny’s one-year, $1.4-million free agent deal reads like a flier, and his extensive injury history makes him one. But Penny has been exceptional when he’s found the field in his career. His 9.8% breakaway carry rate is the best among backs with 250 or more carries since 2018 and well ahead of Nick Chubb’s 7.5% in second place. When healthy, Penny seems better equipped to fill the Miles Sanders void than either Eagles incumbent Kenneth Gainwell or Boston Scott.
Devin Singletary, RB, Houston Texans
From RB42 to RB37
Devin Singletary may not have escaped his traditional backfield committee in his move from the Bills to Dameon Pierce’s Texans. But Singletary at least found a presumed committee role and one where he is the more definitive top receiving back than he was next to James Cook in Buffalo. Don’t expect RB2 value, but I’m optimistic Singletary continues his consistently moderate fantasy success.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Las Vegas Raiders
From QB25 to QB22
Jimmy Garoppolo has missed a lot of starts and rarely runs. That isn’t the recipe for fantasy success. But Garoppolo also played for the best run schemer in football in Kyle Shanahan and threw passes on just 50.2% of his snaps in 2022. Derek Carr passed on 53.1% of his snaps for Garoppolo’s new/old coach Josh McDaniels. And if the latter maintains that status quo, then Garoppolo could throw upward of two extra pass attempts per game next season.
David Montgomery, RB, Detroit Lions
From RB32 to RB31
Lions fans are understandably skeptical of the team’s Jamaal Williams-for-David Montgomery exchange after the former exploded for 17 touchdowns in 2022. But Williams owed much of that fantasy success to an outlier total of 33 carries within 5 yards of the end zone. Other backs could do the same with the same opportunity, and Montgomery is no different. He has bested Williams in yards after contact per attempt in each of the last three seasons.
2023 Fantasy Fallers in Free Agency
Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Free Agent)
From RB36 to RB52
Ezekiel Elliott has seen his real-world efficiency fall from an 11.7% rushing DVOA rate in his first four seasons to a 1.0% rate the last three seasons. But he had staved off a similar fantasy decline thanks to a featured red zone role. Elliott outcarried his teammate Tony Pollard 59-12 inside the 5-yard line the last three years. I’m skeptical he enjoys such a fantasy-friendly role on whatever new team he finds.
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
From RB15 to RB29
Off-field issues aside, I was optimistic for an Alvin Kamara bounceback in 2023 because of his fifth-biggest shortfall in expected touchdowns last season. But then free agency hit. Kamara already ranked last among the 63 running backs with 75 or more carries with just 3.6% of his carries coming within 10 yards of the end zone. And now he doesn’t just have Taysom Hill to contend with — he also has Jamaal Williams. Hill and Williams ranked fifth and second with 12.5% and 16.9% of their carries coming inside the 10-yard line. If Kamara wants to score this season, he may need to do so from distance.
Hunter Renfrow, WR, Las Vegas Raiders
From WR51 to WR63
Hunter Renfrow can blame an oblique injury for some of his fall from 103 catches in 2021 to just 36 in 2022. But his bounceback chances are hurt by the Raiders’ addition of traditional slot receiver Jakobi Meyers. Perhaps Renfrow will be dealt. But until he finds a landing spot as attractive as his position before the Meyers addition, I think it makes sense to be cautious.
Khalil Herbert, RB, Chicago Bears
From RB33 to RB43
Khalil Herbert may still be the favorite for the No. 1 role in the Bears backfield. But he and inexpensive veteran addition D'Onta Foreman have comparable 3.1 and 3.2 yards after contact per attempt the last two seasons. Herbert is an unheralded prospect as a sixth-round draft selection. And even if he wins a starting job, he will have to contend with a mobile quarterback in Justin Fields in the red zone.
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers
From RB51 to RB60
After the Christian McCaffrey trade, Chuba Hubbard found his way on some fantasy radars as the Panthers skewed their run/pass balance toward the run. But he will not inherit the departing D'Onta Foreman’s No. 1 running back role. Free agent addition Miles Sanders will take that, which likely leaves Hubbard with just handcuff value.
Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans
From RB18 to RB27
I was bullish on Dameon Pierce’s Year 2 breakout chances after he led all regular running backs with a 28.2% broken tackle rate as a rookie and with the Texans poised to add a top quarterback prospect. But then the team added Devin Singletary to their backfield. And while Singletary might not threaten Pierce’s red zone role, he has broken 19.3% or more of his tackles in all four of his professional seasons and finished top 10 in three of his four seasons. The team should have an exceptional backfield committee, but that is still bad news for Pierce in fantasy.
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
From RB21 to RB28
Javonte Williams led backs with 150 or more carries with a 26.1% broken tackle rate in his rookie 2021 season. He is poised for stardom. But Berry’s pessimistic temperature check of Williams’ Week 1 availability led me to lower him in my rankings.
Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, New York Giants
From WR58 to WR64
I have no idea how to handicap the Giants’ wide receiver room for fantasy potential. And just because the team added slot competition in Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder the last two weeks, I wouldn’t reject Wan'Dale Robinson’s sleeper potential. He was a second-round draft pick last year and remains on pace to return from his ACL injury by the start of the 2023 season. That said, Robinson could win a starting job and still suffer in fantasy. That’s because the team’s new tight end Darren Waller has a history as a de facto No. 1 receiver. Waller saw just 4.8 targets per game next to Davante Adams last season. But before Adams arrived in Las Vegas, Waller averaged 8.5 targets in 2021.
Leonard Fournette, RB (Free Agent)
From RB35 to RB40
After asking for his Bucs release, Leonard Fournette is in a similar position and will start 2023 at the same 28 years old as Ezekiel Elliott. I rank Fournette higher because he has a much more recent standout season. He ranked fifth at the position with a 15.9% rushing DVOA rate in 2021.
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers
From QB13 to QB17
Trey Lance remains a compelling fantasy sleeper thanks to his 29 rushing attempts in just two full starts. But his chances of 2023 starts took a hit when his teammate Brock Purdy had successful elbow surgery in late February that has him poised to throw in three months and play in Week 1 or soon after. Purdy may have to beat Lance out for the starting job, but his undefeated 8-0 record in games in which he has played at least half of snaps could tip the scales in his direction.
DJ Moore, WR, Chicago Bears
From WR25 to WR28
DJ Moore was a creative solution to the Bears’ lack of receiving options and may be exactly what the team needs to evaluate Justin Fields’ franchise quarterback potential. But that doesn’t make the move a plus for Moore’s fantasy value. The receiver converted his top-12 27.7% target share to 6.9 targets per game in 2022. But if he maintains that with Fields’ traditional 21.2 pass attempts per start, Moore will slip to just 5.9 targets per game.
Chase Claypool, WR, Chicago Bears
From WR62 to WR65
Chase Claypool’s just 29 targets in seven games since his trade to the Bears informed my pessimistic ranking to start the offseason. But since DJ Moore is a better receiver addition than the Bears could likely have made in free agency or in the draft, Claypool falls even further for fantasy consideration.
Dalton Schultz, TE, Houston Texans
From TE7 to TE10
Dalton Schultz enjoyed a 79.8% catchable target rate the last two seasons that was fourth highest among regular tight ends. The Texans are poised to draft a new starting quarterback with their No. 2 pick. But whether that passer is Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, or someone else, he will have a difficult accuracy standard to hit to help Schultz maintain his recent productivity.
Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears
From TE14 to TE17
DJ Moore has spurred the bulk of the Bears’ offseason receiver headlines. But I believe a less-heralded offseason addition will be the bigger drag of Cole Kmet’s fantasy value. Robert Tonyan has seen 14.2% of his targets thrown to within 5 yards of the end zone since 2020. That is the fourth highest rate among tight ends and nearly double Kmet’s 8.7% rate. Kmet will be hard-pressed to score an encore seven touchdowns in 2023.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, New England Patriots
From WR42 to WR45
JuJu Smith-Schuster may not have Jakobi Meyers to fear after the latter player signed with the Raiders. But the Patriots still have slot competition with Kendrick Bourne and seem more likely than most teams to take a wide receiver in the first few rounds of the draft this year.
Derek Carr, QB, New Orleans Saints
From QB22 to QB23
In his move to the Saints, Derek Carr will not sacrifice his home-dome advantage and may not sacrifice his envious set of skill talent. Chris Olave looked like a budding superstar in his rookie season, Rashid Shaheed looked like the steal of undrafted free agency, and Michael Thomas is still just 30 years old and was an All-Pro receiver as recently as 2019. But Carr could still suffer in fantasy because of his new playcaller Pete Carmichael’s red zone preferences. Last year, Carr threw on 62.5% of his snaps inside the 5-yard line, the highest rate among 34 qualified quarterbacks. In contrast, former Saints quarterback Andy Dalton threw on just 37.5% of his snaps inside the 5-yard line, 22nd among those qualifiers.