As the dust settles from the festivities of the NFL draft, team rosters are starting to come into focus as we head into the longest part of the offseason. It’s never too early to take a look at some players to target and avoid in fantasy football for 2023 – I do just that in the first part of an eight-part series covering one player to target and one player to avoid in redraft for the upcoming season.
One player to target: WR Courtland Sutton
Target him as your: Speculative WR3
Since the beginning of his career, Cortland Sutton has struggled to put the pieces together to a strong year in the NFL. While the Russell Wilson era started with a tremendous backfire, bringing in new head coach Sean Payton should help to put the Broncos' offense back on track for 2023. Sutton is a target primarily because his ADP doesn’t match the upside he presents if Payton can heal what ailed the Denver passing offense last season – as the WR48 off the board on Underdog at the 8-9 turn, taking a shot on a player who hasn’t yet broken out and is in their prime like Sutton is a no-brainer. It’s also worth noting that even with the dysfunction that plagued the Broncos' offense last season, the underlying usage for Sutton wasn’t all that discouraging. As a matter of fact, it was somewhat encouraging, with Sutton registering 13 end zone targets last season (t-5th most in the NFL) despite turning just two of those into touchdowns. At his price, there’s no real downside to taking a swing on him.
One player to avoid: WR Tim Patrick
With the Broncos' offense still questionable at best even with the addition of Sean Payton, I’m not looking to add its WR3 coming off of an ACL tear at age 29. Even though Patrick was a nice role player and a solid flex play in his last healthy season in 2021, the Broncos drafting Marvin Mims in the second round (and moving up for him, too) signals to me that Sean Payton is out with the old, and in with the new. Running behind Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy also limits his weekly upside, and between that and the injury, Patrick is squarely off my fantasy radar for 2023.
Kansas City Chiefs
One player to target: RB Isiah Pacheco
Target him as your: Ideal Flex
The Chiefs’ 7th-round RB spun his tires a bit to open the 2022 season, but eventually gained traction both on the stat sheet and with the coaching staff en route to a very promising finish to it. Pacheco ramped up from just 7.5 rush attempts per game between Weeks 1 and 11 of last year to 12.3 attempts per game in the playoffs, almost doubling his workload in the ground game from September to February. And it wasn’t just the increased workload that has me excited about his prospects or 2023 – it’s what he ultimately did with that extra work. With a larger workload, Pacheco actually became even more efficient as a runner. His 5.1 yards per carry bumped up to 5.3 in the playoffs, and his yards after contact per attempt skyrocketed up from an already impressive 3.17 on 75 attempts between weeks 1 and 11 to 3.86 in the playoffs. For context, 3.86 yards after contact per attempt would have been 2nd in the NFL in the regular season in 2022 behind only Breece Hall (4.17). Oh, and he was suffering from a torn labrum and throughout the playoffs while averaging these eye-popping numbers, too. He’s the RB24 off the board currently on Underdog, which means he’ll have to return very low-end RB2 / high-end RB3 numbers to break even on your investment in him, but as the presumptive lead back on an Andy Reid-coached offense, I absolutely love Pacheco to smash his ADP and potentially enjoy a sophomore fantasy breakout.
One player to avoid: Skyy Moore
Moore was touted by some as a potential replacement for Tyreek Hill as the speedster in the passing game, but those lofty projections never came close to fruition in 2022. The Western Michigan receiver failed to command 5+ targets in fourteen games last season, while also never logging more than seven targets in any game, either. A large part of that problem has to do with the fact that he hardly saw the field last season, but even when he was lining up, he didn’t demand targets anywhere near close to the rate we want to see. His 32 targets on just 181 routes run comes out one target per seven routes run – in layman’s terms, not anywhere near enough to make an impact on most, if not all, fantasy rosters. The Chiefs also brought in veteran WR Richie James from the Giants for added competition, and currently are one of two teams that are odds-on favorites to land DeAndre Hopkins. If Hopkins ends up in Kansas City, Skyy Moore might end up buried too deep on the depth chart to even warrant being selected in most fantasy drafts.
Las Vegas Raiders
One player to target: Josh Jacobs
Target him as your: RB1
Last year’s rushing leader and overall fantasy RB3 is going as the RB9 currently on Underdog. Enough said. No, his team situation hasn’t changed drastically; it’s simply a different flavor of mid at quarterback moving from Derek Carr to Jimmy Garoppolo. No, he’s not dealing with some drastic injury that hampers his outlook for 2023; he started and finished all 17 games for the Raiders in 2022. No, his production wasn’t wildly inconsistent; He finished outside the weekly top 20 just five times last year. So why is Jacobs being drafted so low? The world might never know. Until then, enjoy drafting a player with top-5 fantasy RB potential in the third round.
One player to avoid: Hunter Renfrow
Renfrow was hanging by a thread in the Raiders offense as it was in 2022 thanks to Davante Adams’ domination of the target share, but with Las Vegas adding slot ace Jakobi Meyers from the Patriots this offseason, his fantasy future might be as bleak as it will ever be. Meyers ran 70% of his routes from the slot in 2022, while Renfrow ran a whopping 86% from the slot. The two will likely fight every week for their share of work in the slot, but regardless of which receiver sees the field more in a given game, both will act as a ball and chain for the other’s fantasy production. What’s worse: Renfrow’s average depth of target was tied for 6th-lowest in the NFL (6.5), and while he’s proven to be plenty capable after the catch (7 missed tackles forced in 2022, T-13th most among WRs with 37+ targets), relying on after the catch production will net managers little in the way of upside. Meyers also reunites with Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas, where he will likely receive a level of preferential treatment when it comes to seeing the field.
Los Angeles Chargers
One player to target: QB Justin Herbert
Target him as your: QB1
Adding Quentin Johnston in the draft two months ago will prevent Herbert from really dialing in on a single receiver in 2023, but it doesn’t matter who the weapons are for quarterbacks – it only matters that they have them. And boy do the Chargers have them. Between Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Johnston, and Ekeler out of the backfield, Herbert will have plenty of opportunities to not only make easy passes and be efficient, but also benefit from excellence after the catch. It might feel like deja vu because we were saying the same things about Herbert at this time last year, but Herbert should bounce back from a very average 2022 showing in 2023.
One player to avoid: Quentin Johnston
Johnston will have to grapple with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to land a concrete role in the Chargers’ offense, and that could take weeks or potentially months. As the WR43 off the board, he’s going one spot later than a much safer option in Brandin Cooks but lacks the target security that Cooks provides by a long shot. Johnston can eventually replace Keenan Allen and/or Mike Williams, but I don’t see him unseating both as Herbert’s favorite target in a new offensive scheme brought over by Kellen Moore.