- Anthony Richardson is too talented to pass up: Question marks surrounding when he will start have suppressed Richardson's value, but he has an identifiable pathway toward instant fantasy success.
- Dameon Pierce should build off rookie season: In order to make the necessary second-year leap for a top-five finish, Pierce will need to make strides as both a blocker and a receiver. However, the pathway, particularly with Rex Burkhead’s departure this offseason, is there for him to make the leap.
- Khalil Herbert is ready to thrive in Chicago Bears offense: Taking a look at his 2022 performance is more than enough to earn your buy-in at his RB36 ADP, as his metrics gave us a lot to be excited about any time he touches the ball.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Your goal every fantasy football season is to draft league winners — that much is obvious. What really sets the true “league winners” apart, however, is value. Everyone with the 1.01 pick will walk away with fantasy football lineup cornerstones in San Francisco 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey or Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson. Identifying and drafting top-five upside beyond the first three rounds is what really can set your lineup apart.
Here, I’ll outline one player at each position that holds top-five upside at his respective position at an immense ADP value ahead of NFL training camps (All ADP is courtesy of ESPN live draft data as of July 17, 2023).
Current ADP: QB16 (124th overall)
The question of when Richardson will take the field has undoubtedly had a negative effect on his overall ADP in fantasy football mock drafts this summer. However, that’s good news for those who believe he take the field. Richardson's biggest concern in his rookie season will undoubtedly be the very basic question: “Is he going to be the Colts’ starting quarterback?” Nonetheless, once we know the answer, it’s lights out.
Richardson came out of Florida as a relatively raw passer with accuracy issues, but his arm strength, deep passing ability and athleticism, which is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from the position previously is what fantasy managers need to keep in mind when taking the leap on the massive cheat code that is the rushing quarterback.
In 2023, QB5 Geno Smith averaged just under 19 fantasy points per game with over 4,282 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Though that mark seems far beyond what we can expect from Richardson in Year 1, his rushing floor (and ceiling) could reasonably elevate him to a top-five finish with enough luck and development through this first offseason. Since 2019, there have been 12 total instances where a quarterback has averaged 19 or more fantasy points while throwing for fewer than 250 passing yards per game.
What do they have in common?
All but one of those instances (Ryan Tannehill, 2020) averaged 40 or more rushing yards per game – which could be accomplished with Richardson’s size, speed and elusiveness on a single play in any given game.
Current ADP: RB17 (43rd overall)
The Texans haven’t built the sexiest offense in the league, but they’ve certainly made strides in the 2023 offseason that should help Pierce in a big way.
In 2022, quarterback Davis Mills was throwing to an uninterested Brandin Cooks, WRs Nico Collins and Chris Moore, and TEs Brevin Jordan, O.J. Howard and Jordan Akins. Simply put, it was a dumpster fire. Opposing defenses knew exactly what was coming — after all, Pierce was the only real offensive threat. Still, they couldn’t stop Pierce from bulldozing his way down the field, one missed forced tackle at a time.
Despite missing four games due to a season-ending ankle injury, Pierce posted a solid rookie season, totaling 1,104 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns. He led all running backs with a 98.5 PFF elusive rating, averaging 3.28 yards after contact per attempt (ninth) for a whopping 62 missed forced tackles on rush attempts (fifth).
This team will look a bit different in 2023 with rookie C.J. Stroud in command of the passing game, throwing to a new cast of weapons — including former second-round WR John Metchie, TE Dalton Schultz, and the small but very mighty Tank Dell, who has reigned as one of the most prolific wide receivers in college football over the past two seasons. At the running back position, the Texans also signed former Buffalo Bills RB Devin Singletary, but looking beyond him and Pierce, it’s slim pickings out there. In order to make the necessary second-year leap for a top-five finish, Pierce will need to make strides as both a blocker and a receiver. However, the pathway, particularly with Rex Burkhead’s departure this offseason, is there for him to make the leap.
Current ADP: RB36 (116th overall)
This offseason, RB David Montgomery‘s departure (briefly) cleared the pathway for Herbert to lead the Bears backfield. Unfortunately, offseason additions of D’Onta Foreman, who is coming off a career year with the Carolina Panthers, and fourth-round rookie Roschon Johnson have placed a few obstacles in that pathway. I’m just here to remind you that the pathway still exists if all things go right based on what we’ve seen so far from him in the league.
Taking a look at his 2022 performance is more than enough to earn your buy-in at his RB36 ADP, as his metrics gave us a lot to be excited about any time he touches the ball. Among RBs with 100 or more rush attempts in 2022, Herbert led all running backs with 5.7 yards per rush attempt, averaging an absurd 3.67 yards after contact/attempt (third) and totaling 22 rush attempts of 10-plus yards (tied for 16th). His 82.5 PFF elusive rating ranked sixth in the league, which was all before the offseason additions of guard Nate Davis and tackle Darnell Wright. Pair him in the backfield with the unstoppable rushing force that is Justin Fields, and suddenly, this team is seemly impossible to stop on the ground, with fantasy upside for days.
Current ADP: WR20 (50th overall)
You know how I know that Godwin has top-five upside as a fantasy football wide receiver? He’s already done it — it’s too darn easy. Remember back in 2019, when Godwin finished as the overall WR2 in PPR-scoring fantasy leagues? Perhaps what is more impressive is that he wasn’t all that far out from the top five last year, finishing as the WR18 coming off a torn ACL.
In 2022, Godwin totaled 1,023 receiving yards and three touchdowns on a career-high 142 targets in his least-efficient season to date. When I hear “least efficient season to date” for a good wide receiver, I’m usually thinking the phrase “regression to the mean” almost simultaneously. This past season marked career lows for Godwin with a 76.4 PFF receiving grade, just 9.8 yards per reception and 1.76 yards per route run, leaving a lot of room for improvement during a (hopefully) much healthier season.
The biggest question mark will be the quarterback position for the Buccaneers, specifically where Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask sit atop the less-than-ideal depth chart. Even then, it’s worth noting that Jarvis Landry managed 1,154 receiving yards and six TDs with Mayfield as a starter in 2019 with the Cleveland Browns, good enough for WR12 that season.
Current ADP: TE11 (104th overall)
There are two things I like to consider when looking at a tight end’s overall upside for fantasy football. 1) Do they have hands and run routes?, and 2) Do they have the potential to see 100-plus targets in their current offense? As of this moment, the answer to both of those is a resounding “yes” for Schultz.
Schultz signed with the Texans in 2023 free agency coming off his third consecutive season with 80-plus targets and 575-plus receiving yards. In that three-year span, Schultz has amassed 2,075 receiving yards (seventh most), 17 receiving touchdowns (fifth) and a 59.1% contested catch rate to boot. He hasn’t been overly efficient when it comes to yards after the catch per reception (4.2) or yards per route run (1.30), but the volume Schultz has the potential to see amidst a lack of a true WR1 in Houston is more than enough to make up for it, particularly with his current ADP at TE11.