Calvin Ridley (WR16, 3rd Round)
When I look at Calvin Ridley’s price, it feels pretty damn high. But I’m perfectly ok paying the third round price for a receiver that has overall Top-5 upside at the WR position.
In his last 33 games played, dating all the way back to the 2019 season, Ridley has 21 games in which he garnered at least 8 targets. He had less than 6 targets in a game just four times in those 33 games. So we know he’s going to demand targets regardless of who he’s competing with, because he did so even running alongside Julio Jones in 2019 and 2020. You know, pre-washed Julio.
Now he’s on an offense with a quarterback who I would argue figures to be better than Matt Ryan was in those years, with a teammate in Christian Kirk who will demand targets, but not like Julio Jones did. Ridley has a history of producing in more difficult circumstances in his career, and now he’s the clear WR1 on a good Jaguars offense.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Ridley can reclaim his status as a top-flight fantasy WR1 in 2023, and he’s probably my favorite upside pick in drafts right now.
Cam Akers (RB21, 6th Round)
I know, we’ve fallen for the Cam Akers upside promise plenty of times before. But what we didn’t have going into those seasons when he burned us was any sort of evidence proving that he could capitalize on his situation. We got that evidence at the end of 2022, albeit in a small amount.
He squeaked in an overall RB1 weekly finish in Week 16, and from Week 13 on, he was third in the NFL in rush attempts, 1st in rushing yards, and tied for first with Austin Ekeler in rushing touchdowns in that span. And that was on an absolutely horrific offense devoid of Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford, who are both back for the 2023 season.
The offseason hype parallels what we were hearing about Akers last year at this time, but it feels much more warranted now that Akers has something concrete to build upon heading into this season.
And before anyone asks about Sony Michel, I’m not concerned. He might vulture a touchdown here or there at the goal line, but Akers will be just fine even if Michel grabs five on the year – and that’s a high projection.
In the sixth round, is the floor low for Akers? Perhaps. But if Akers can establish a stranglehold on the lead role and produce like he did at the end of last season, he can sneak into the Top-12.
Russell Wilson (QB18, 12th Round)
I get it, he had an abysmal year last year and the year before in Seattle wasn’t exactly all sunshine and rainbows either. But the main difference maker that gives me hope for Wilson is the arrival of Sean Payton.
If there’s anyone that can turn things around for Wilson, it’s Payton, and it’s not like there’s a whole lot of work to do from a roster building perspective to get Wilson back to his winning ways, either.
Denver’s offense has quality pass catchers in Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and Greg Dulcich, plus two very capable running backs in Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine. They also retooled their offensive line through free agency to give Wilson, last year’s most sacked quarterback, more time to throw.
Wilson is just two years removed from an overall QB5 season that saw him throw for 40 touchdowns, and we got a taste of that level of play last year from Wilson once Nathaniel Hackett was canned. Wilson rattled off back to back Top-5 finishes in Week 17 and 18, which saw him capitalize both in the passing game and the run game (6 total TDs in two weeks, 4 passing, two rushing). Wilson still has chops in the run game even after rushing for just 276 yards on the season, and Payton can bring out the best of his dual threat skillset in 2023.
Better days are ahead for Wilson, and I think a Top-8 finish is in the cards for Wilson if the Sean Payton hire is all that we’re cracking it up to be.