Dark Horse QB1: Justin Herbert, LAC
Justin Herbert ranked second in the NFL in passing yards last season with an average depth of target of 7.0. What does that tell you?
First and foremost: the Chargers were not utilizing Herbert’s howitzer arm appropriately at all. Lombardi is out in LA and Kellen Moore is in, who just happened to coordinate the highest scoring offense in the NFL last season in Dallas.
That change will be a tremendous addition to the Chargers and a very positive change for Herbert, who will be allowed to push the ball downfield in a fast-paced offense. They’ll obviously remain pass-first with weapons at every position in the receiving corps., from Keenan Allen to Quentin Johnston and all the way down to Gerald Everett at tight end.
It was the lack of production in the touchdown department last year that strapped Herbert for production in 2022. After two straight seasons of 30+ passing touchdowns, Herbert threw just 25 touchdowns on 699 attempts.
If his volume can hang around in that 625-700 attempts range in 2023 (spoiler alert: it can and it will), a regression to the mean in terms of TD efficiency could mean a resurgence back into the top-5 fantasy stratosphere – and potentially an overall QB1 finish if his receivers can stay healthy for the majority of the year.
Dark Horse WR1: Chris Olave, NO
No wide receiver has had the stars align for a breakout of massive proportions like Chris Olave this offseason. The former 1st-round wide receiver absolutely smashed the underlying metrics that point to not only career-long success, but also success in a player’s sophomore season.
All five of the rookie wide receivers to post at least 2.25 yards per route run have went on to finish inside the top 7 in PPR points per game in their second year. Olave finished 2022 with 2.42, leading all rookies and ranking 7th among all WRs with 75+ targets.
He also gets a massive quarterback upgrade in the form of Derek Carr, who most recently helped propel Davante Adams to an overall PPR WR3 finish in points per game in 2022. Carr went to his top wideout early and often, targeting Adams 168 times in 2022.
Olave now assumes the role of Derek Carr’s WR1, and the two are a perfect fit for each other’s play styles. Carr threw the ball deep at the 9th-highest rate in the NFL last year, and Olave ranked 4th among those same WRs with 75 or more receptions in average depth of target (14.9).
Not to mention one of the easiest strength of schedules in the league by virtue of playing in the NFC South, Olave has realistic upside of the overall WR1 in 2023.