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: RB James Conner
Target him as your: Low-end RB1/High-end RB2
Conner is going to be the best fantasy asset on the Cardinals offense at this point with DeAndre Hopkins out the door as a cap casualty. Arizona is going to be a bad team in 2023, and with Colt McCoy slated to be under center for the majority of the fantasy regular season, the Cardinals passing attack projects to be anemic. Enter James Conner, who is currently going at a fantastic RB27 price on Underdog. That’s an RB3 price tag on a running back in an offense that, albeit likely to have trouble scoring, will be playing a full 17-game schedule and will have to lean on the run to move the ball. Faraz also did an excellent post on our Instagram @upperhandfantasy – go check it out there!
One player to avoid: WR Rondale Moore
As I mentioned above, having Colt McCoy at quarterback doesn’t inspire tons of confidence that the Cardinals WRs will be able to remain fantasy relevant on a week-to-week basis. Hollywood Brown is the new WR1, but his ceiling is capped as long as Kyler Murray is missing time. The same goes for Rondale Moore. It might seem easy to jump at Rondale Moore with the departure of DeAndre Hopkins, but he’s had trouble in his career both staying healthy and making a consistent impact in the offense. There are also very few receivers at his size who become substantial fantasy contributors, and on a bad offense that’s likely to score very few touchdowns, there’s virtually no upside to selecting Moore in 2023.
Los Angeles Rams
One player to target: RB Cam Akers
Target him as your: Upside RB2
One of the most intriguing running backs in the NFL heading into last season is just as intriguing heading into 2023. Akers inexplicably spent most of 2022 in the dog house, but absolutely crushed it upon his return to the game plan in Week 13, tallying four Top-15 weekly finishes in the last six weeks of the season. The Rams didn’t add any notable names in free agency or the draft, which indicates to me that Akers will be the lead back for Los Angeles in 2023. He’ll also be another full year removed from his Achilles tear, and at just 23 years old, his best fantasy days are ahead of him. And despite losing some key pieces this offseason, the Rams should be better in 2023 than they were in 2022. The best part of Cam Akers, though, has to be his price, which sits at a very palatable 7th-round tag as the overall RB24 off the board. I’m buying that up all day until I see the price go up.
One player to avoid: QB Matthew Stafford
Things have only gotten worse for Matthew Stafford this offseason, with the Rams largely failing to address the offensive line issues that allowed Stafford to be banged up for much of the year in 2022. Losing Allen Robinson shouldn’t change much with Cooper Kupp slated to be back in the lineup in Week 1 for 2023, but it wasn’t just Stafford’s surroundings contributing to the worst Super Bowl Title defense in NFL history; Stafford himself also took a big step back. He threw for just ten touchdowns in his nine games played to go with eight interceptions en route to finishing just once as a weekly Top-12 QB. At 35 years old, it’s fair to wonder whether age is starting to catch up to the Rams QB – if that’s the case, we could see a performance very similar to 2022 from Stafford in 2023. While his price as the QB22 off the board leaves some room for him to be a value, that should only come as your fantasy team’s QB2/replacement quarterback. Depending on Stafford as your QB1 is risky at best.
San Francisco 49ers
One player to target: WR Brandon Aiyuk
Target him as your: WR3
Last year’s leader in catches and yards for the 49ers looks to see more of the same usage and production this year. Any weapon with talent like Aiyuk’s is going to thrive and have their games in a Shanahan offense, and that’s even given the talent surrounding him. If Deebo Samuel, CMC, and George Kittle are all able to stay healthy in 2023, Aiyuk could potentially see a drop in production overall. However, on an offense as good as San Francisco’s, he won’t have any trouble being a solid flex and WR3 play on a weekly basis. He scored eight touchdowns to finish as last year’s WR15 on the season, which is well within his range outcomes in 2023 as the WR31 off the board. Sure, there’s uncertainty at quarterback for the 49ers, but its not like they’re choosing a QB from a group of career backups: Purdy, Lance, and Darnold all have experience in the league, with Lance and Purdy having yet to come close to reaching their potentials.
One player to avoid: Elijah Mitchell
Christian McCaffrey has done very well in making Mitchell an obsolete fantasy player, and that will continue as long as he stays in San Francisco. You can target Mitchell as a handcuff in case McCaffrey would go down, but even then, Mitchell is far from bulletproof and hasn’t been able to stay healthy in his first two seasons in the NFL. He’s the current RB41(!!!) on Underdog, which is FAR too rich for a running back who logged just 45 regular season carries in 2022. That’s also ahead of promising rookies like Roschon Johnson (RB45) and Tank Bigsby (RB49). There’s no reason to draft Mitchell outside of his role as a handcuff, as the 49ers' offense features just too many prominent weapons for him to carve out a fantasy-relevant role in 2023.
One player to target: WR Tyler Lockett
Target him as your: Strong WR3
The Seahawks might have drafted Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first round, but they didn’t release Tyler Lockett in a corresponding move, did they? Lockett has been one of the most quarterback-friendly receivers in the NFL since 2018, posting five straight 1,000 scrimmage-yard seasons with at least eight touchdowns. Despite his age getting up there (he’s currently 30 years old) and the Seahawks adding his eventual replacement in JSN, there shouldn’t be any reason to worry about Lockett falling off the fantasy map in 2023. He’s the least expensive Seahawks wide receiver in terms of his ADP (currently Underdog Fantasy’s WR33), and at that extremely affordable price, coupled with the fact that he’s liable to produce as well as either of D.K. Metcalf or JSN in any given week, he’s a prime target of mine as a set-and-forget WR3.
One player to avoid: RB Zach Charbonnet
The Seahawks backfield got a lot more crowded in the draft with Seattle selecting Zach Charbonnet and Kenny McIntosh in the second and seventh rounds, respectively. I’ll likely be avoiding all of these players in 2023, but the player I’m fading the hardest is Charbonnet. He’s a talented runner, but so is Kenneth Walker, and Walker has an entire rookie season up on Charbonnet heading into 2023. My bet is on Walker being the lead back with Zach Charbonnet coming in to spell him when he needs a rest, and Kenny McIntosh rotating in on long third downs. Walker still has the upside to be a weekly low-end RB1, and that’s going to seriously limit Charbonnet’s ceiling for this season. There’s too much ambiguity right now, and I just can’t see the Seahawks taking the keys to the backfield from Walker and giving them to Charbonnet in any kind of full-time role.