In our “32 in 32” series, we are highlighting three of the most notable fantasy football players for each team, covering all 32 teams in 32 days!
Justin Herbert (QB – Los Angeles Chargers):
2022 was a rough season for Herbert, who took a massive step back from his incredible 2021 season that saw him go for over 5,300 total yards and 41 TDs as the overall QB2, falling to the QB11 with just 4,886 total yards and 25 TDs.
A big reason for that was the injuries to both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, seeing the two play together in 2022 in just 8 games (3 of them in which at least one would exit early to injury), never giving Herbert a truly healthy WR corps very often. Herbert was actually the QB5 in games where both Allen and Williams played, showing it’s more likely than not that the absence of weapons played a major role in his struggles.
Heading into 2023, he doesn’t have to worry about that. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are fully healthy, plus the Chargers went out and acquired another major weapon for Herbert (in the instance of another WR injury) with Quentin Johnston in the 1st round of the NFL Draft.
Between the numerous additions/returns of weapons, plus (perhaps more notably) the addition of Kellen Moore as OC (the man behind Dallas’ explosive offense over the last several years), I am definitely targeting Herbert as a bounce-back QB in 2023.
At his price as the QB7 off the board, projecting somewhere in the 6th to the early-7th round range, I am more than comfortable with spending a mid-round pick on Herbert for the potential overall QB1.
Austin Ekeler (RB – Los Angeles Chargers):
After a 2021 season that saw him finish as the RB2 with 20 total TDs, Austin Ekeler was expected to see some type of regression in 2022, particularly from a step back in TDs. Well, that definitely didn’t happen – Ekeler went on to have a career year in 2022, tallying over 1,600 total yards and 18 TDs en route to finishing as the RB1 in PPR scoring.
In his elite 2022 season, Ekeler was the pinnacle of consistency, posting 9+ points in every game, 11+ points in all but one game, and 18+ points in 11/17 games.
The reason for his exceptional production and consistency: receiving work.
Ekeler was the top receiving back in the NFL by a mile in 2022, drawing the most targets (127) and receptions (108) by far, plus ranking 2nd in receiving yards (722) and TDs (9). With 4 or more catches in all but two games, you knew you were getting a stable floor week-in and week-out.
It’s expected that Ekeler will naturally take a step back in the receiving game with the duo of Mike Williams and Keenan Allen finally healthy (only 8 games where both played in 2022) to go with the addition of 2023 1st Round pick Quentin Johnston at WR. However, the lack of movement at RB with the Chargers declining to draft or sign a free agent RB, even despite the contract situation with Ekeler this offseason, indicates another season of him controlling the backfield work.
You can’t go wrong with Ekeler as an elite-RB1, so it ultimately comes down to whether you prefer the security of Ekeler or the upside in Christian McCaffrey to determine who should be your RB1 off the board in 2023.
Keenan Allen (WR – Los Angeles Chargers):
Allen has always, and will always be one of those players that simply find their way onto my team nearly every season. That’s not from personal bias or anything – that’s from Allen continuously providing amazing draft-day value and lineup flexibility each and every season.
Many will point to the narrative that Allen is “injury prone” after suffering a hamstring injury that would cost him 7 games in 2022, but that narrative simply doesn’t fit.
Allen had played 16 games in four of the previous five seasons before 2022 with the lone season that he failed to hit that mark, seeing him play in 14 games and only sitting the final two due to the Chargers being out of playoff contention. His early-career injuries were unpredictable and unpreventable (broken collarbone, lacerated kidney, ACL tear), showing no trend of injuries or repeated concerns.
With Allen, you know what you’re getting each and every week: you’re getting elite consistency. You’re not going to frequently get a week-winning performance but you will never get a week-losing one either. In Allen’s last 38 healthy games, he put up 10+ points in 37 of them. That’s a double-digit floor dating back to the middle of 2019 – that’s unparalleled consistency at the WR position.
He’s a perfect WR on your roster as it lets you go for a bit riskier options elsewhere in your lineup (RB, FLEX) but still have a stable floor to compete each week. That flexibility, both weekly and yearly, makes it significantly easier to build a championship-contending roster.
Am I worried about Williams and Johnston for Allen? Not very much, especially with Allen dominating the short-to-intermediate range as Herbert’s go-to guy.
With Kellen Moore at OC now, the upside is incredible for Allen, especially at his price as a likely 4th rounder and mid-WR2 option. At that price, I am all-in on Allen as my WR2 with realistic WR1 upside.