Fantasy Football: 8 players whose situation improved dramatically for 2023

2MG269C Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) celebrates his first career touchdown pass during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

  • Justin Herbert with a new OC: The opportunity Moore’s offense should present in the deep passing game should complement a healthy Herbert as well as his big-bodied deep threats in WRs Mike Williams and rookie Quentin Johnston to help do damage down the field.
  • Lamar Jackson‘s improved supporting cast: A new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken in addition to improved talent at wide receiver between a (hopefully) healthy Rashod Bateman, rookie Zay Flowers and wild-card veteran Odell Beckham Jr. may be enough to get him back to the level of efficiency Jackson showed back in his 2019 MVP season.
  • Tony Pollard is finally RB1 in Dallas: The Dallas Cowboys released veteran RB Ezekiel Elliott earlier this offseason, paving the way for Pollard's potential top-five fantasy performance in 2023.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

NFL training camps will be in full swing this week, which can only mean one thing — fantasy football drafts are right around the corner. Here, we’ll take a look at eight players whose situation has dramatically improved over the offseason, which could put them in a prime spot for fantasy football production in 2023.



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QB Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

Herbert posted his lowest passing grade to date in 2022 (76.7), but there are several reasons to believe things will be much better in 2023, both on the field and in our fantasy football lineups. One of the biggest moves the Chargers made this offseason was hiring OC Kellen Moore, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, to replace Joe Lombardi. 

Lombardi’s offense set Herbert up for some easy completions, mostly to RB Austin Ekeler, who’s led all running backs with a whopping 16.4% target share over the last two seasons. Herbert’s 6.9 aDOT (average depth of target) in 2022 ranked fourth lowest among quarterbacks with 100-plus pass attempts, and unfortunately, it came at the expense of upside, as his big-time throw rate declined each year since he was a rookie. In Moore’s four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, QB Dak Prescott has ranked 11th among QBs in 20-plus air-yard attempts, sixth in EPA per dropback on such attempts and fifth in deep passing touchdowns. The opportunity Moore’s offense should present in the deep passing game should complement a healthy Herbert, who managed a rib injury for most of last season, as well as his big-bodied deep threats in WRs Mike Williams and rookie Quentin Johnston to help do damage down the field.


QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

With his contract situation finally behind him, Jackson heads into the 2023 season with the best receiving corps he’s seen to date and a massive upgrade at offensive coordinator in Todd Monken. Jackson’s prowess as a rusher is obviously well-known, but it’s the strides he can make as a passer that has the potential to bring him back into the conversation as a top fantasy option. 

Monken should pave the way for increased passing volume (an area he’s ranked top-five in two of his four seasons as an OC). Plus, improved talent at wide receiver between a (hopefully) healthy Rashod Bateman, rookie Zay Flowers and wild-card veteran Odell Beckham Jr. may be enough to get him back to the level of efficiency he showed back in his 2019 MVP season. That year, Jackson ranked fifth among QBs with an 85.5 passing grade and led the league with 36 passing touchdowns while completing just over 66% of pass attempts.


RB Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys released veteran RB Ezekiel Elliott earlier this offseason, paving the way for a potential top-five fantasy performance in 2023. Even with Elliott in the mix, Pollard had a breakout 2022 season, notching a career-high 232 touches for 1,378 scrimmage yards and 12 touchdowns. He was the poster of efficiency, ranking third among running backs in breakaway runs after totaling 737 yards after contact and 41 total missed forced tackles. Behind Pollard on the depth chart are Malik Davis, Ronald Jones, and rookie Deuce Vaughn — none of which should push for a significant chunk of carries in the 2023 season.


RB Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

White didn’t post the most efficient performance in his first NFL season, but the offseason departure of former teammate Leonard Fournette has set him up for a chance to be atop the league in total opportunities in 2023 — even if they aren’t the most efficient ones. He leads the team depth chart, with just Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Chase Edmonds (signed in free agency) behind him, neither of whom is a considerable threat to steal work.

White averaged just 3.7 yards per rush attempt in his first regular season, ahead of just his teammate, Leonard Fournette, and New York Jets RB Michael Carter. He also struggled to generate yards after contact but should see some improvements there with a healthier offensive line. Last year, the Bucs OL struggled with injuries in 2022, and therefore saw a lot of shuffling between positions, starting with a massive injury to starting center Ryan Jensen in training camp on through the year. Their 53.9 run-blocking grade ranked eighth worst in the league, but having Jensen healthy for a full season with the additions of OG Matt Feiler and rookie Cody Mauch could prove to be the right combo to help find the Bucs RBs some space.


RB Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Mixon’s future with the Bengals felt very much in question heading into the offseason given his lucrative contract, which is set to count just under $13 million against the cap in 2023. Without reworking his deal, it seemed likely that Mixon could become just another cap casualty, but the two came to an agreement on a reduced salary in mid-July. The Bengals' loss of backup Samaje Perine in free agency, paired with the addition of OT Orlando Brown Jr., could set Mixon up for one of his most efficient (and voluminous) seasons to date.


WR Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

In his rookie season, Wilson caught passes from four different quarterbacks: Mike White, Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco and Chris Streveler. Not a single one of them finished the season with a passer rating above 83, and Flacco was the only one of the bunch to have thrown more passing touchdowns than interceptions (5-3). Despite this, Wilson still managed to total 1103 receiving yards and four touchdowns to take home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. 

This year, he’ll catch passes from future Hall of Fame QB Aaron Rodgers, who’s reigned as an accurate passer through the course of his career. Rodgers led the league in accurate-plus throws with a 19.3 rate in 2022 despite a down season — a match made in heaven with Wilson, who finished his rookie season as the sixth-highest graded wide receiver on accurate throws (despite not seeing them all that often).


WR Brandin Cooks, Dallas Cowboys

A disappointing 2022 season from former Cooks may have fantasy managers quick to forget the years prior. However, the 29-year-old veteran has provided plenty of fantasy upside on a week-to-week basis in the past, and his new standing as the WR2 with the Cowboys, who’ve averaged a league-high 29.3 points per game across the last two seasons, could be just what the doctor ordered.

The upgrade for Cooks this offseason will surely be quarterback, having spent the last two seasons working with Davis Mills, Kyle Allen, Jeff Driskel, and Tyrod Taylor. Now, he’ll catch balls from Dak Prescott, ranked third among QBs with a 65.5% accurate throw rate last season, going from teams that rank almost worst to almost first in terms of offensive production. At his current ADP of WR35, Cooks could end up being a value should Prescott still manage to flourish amidst the departure of OC Kellen Moore.


TE Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers

There are a lot of questions about what the Panthers will be able to accomplish after their massive offseason overhaul with a rookie quarterback under center. Hurst was signed in free agency coming off a season with the Cincinnati Bengals, and though his situation may not have improved in terms of quality, he does have an immediate path to lead the team in terms of opportunity. Last year, he competed with WRs Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd for targets. In Carolina, Hurst suddenly has a lot less competition to earn targets alongside a less improve receiving corps. Atop the depth chart are WRs Adam Thielen, who enters his age-33 season, D.J. Chark, who is yet to play a full season over his five-year career, and Terrace Marshall Jr., who’s totaled just 628 receiving yards and a score in his two seasons despite limited competition. 

Since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2018, Hurst has yet to exceed 100 receiving yards in any game, but fantasy managers who are punting the tight end position could do worse than a last-round flier on Hurst, especially in full-PPR leagues. Hurst has scored 10 or more PPR points in nine of his 14 career games with six or more targets, giving some credence to his potential as a volume play in this offense.

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