Fantasy Football: 5 players poised to be league winners

2M9PK7E Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) carries the ball during an NFL game against the New York Giants on Thursday, November 24, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)

  • Tony Pollard earns his opportunity: Pollard is finally the Dallas Cowboys‘ lead back, so his opportunity can finally be as big as his talent.
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown can be a more complete receiver: St. Brown has made his name catching short passes and making players miss, but he’s looking to become a deep threat at well.
  • Dominate your fantasy league in 2023: For up-to-date fantasy draft rankings and projections, check out PFF’s fantasy rankings tool!
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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

These league winners are players who have an ADP in the first four rounds on ESPN and who I have ranked notably higher than their ADP. For help for sleepers, draft strategy, rankings or for more details about the players, check out the rest of my summer content below. For better filtering of the rankings along with auction values, check out our draft rankings page.

Check out PFF's 2023 Fantasy Draft Kit for even more content to help you dominate your league.

Player Profiles | Depth Charts | 10 tips to win | Undervalued | Overvalued | 500 Stats
Rankings: PPR | Half-PPR | Standard | Superflex | Best Ball
Dynasty Rankings: PPR | Rookie | Superflex | Superflex Rookie
Position Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE
Sleepers: Top-10 | QB | RB | WR | TE
League Winners: Top-5 | QB | RB | WR | TE
Breakouts: Top-5 | QB | RB | WR | TE
Position Draft Strategy: QB | RB | WR | TE

 16-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy

 14-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy
12-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy | Picks 1-3 | Picks 4-6 | Picks 7-9 | Picks 10-12
10-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy | Picks 1-3 | Picks 4-7 | Picks 8-10

Preseason Recaps:  Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Hall of Fame Game

Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Sunday, September 3

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys ESPN ADP: 15.5, From ESPN)

Pollard has graded out as an elite runner in recent seasons and finally gets a chance to shine without Ezekiel Elliott in the offense.

  • His head coach Mike McCarthy has made it clear he wants to run the ball more this year.
  • His 92.0 run grade is the second-best among running backs over the last two seasons.
  • He has been among the best backs at making big plays. He gained at least 10 yards on 16.1% of his carries and averaged 3.8 yards after contact per attempt. Both ranked first out of 31 running backs with at least 175 rushing attempts since 2022.
  • This led to 0.802 rushing fantasy points per attempt, which ranked second out of the same sample of backs.
  • He finished at RB8 last season despite Ezekiel Elliott playing every game, taking 75% of the goal line carries and leading to 12 rushing touchdowns.
  • If Pollard can take those goal-line opportunities, he should rank even higher than this. There is still a chance the Cowboys add a bigger back or bring Elliott back, and Pollard doesn’t receive as many touchdown opportunities.
  • He should also benefit from a healthier offensive line, which ranks sixth overall heading into the season. Every projected starter was on the team last season, so they should also benefit from having worked together already.
  • Pollard should also benefit from running more routes. While he was a much better receiver than Elliott, he just barely ran more routes last season at 245-234.
  • His 1.51 yards per route run ranked fifth among running backs.
  • Pollard only needs to average 6.2 more PPR points per game this season compared to last to reach RB1. With his excellent rushing efficiency, receiving production and the Cowboys offensive talent, he doesn’t need to be a 20-carry-per-game back to get there.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions (ADP: 21.7)

St. Brown is an underrated pass-catching machine.

  • St. Brown’s rookie season started slowly but ended in the best way possible. He caught at least eight passes and racked up 70-plus yards in each of the last six games, scoring a touchdown in five of those contests. 
  • He ranked second in fantasy points over that stretch, averaging 25.2 points per game.
  • He followed that up with an even more impressive 2022 campaign, as his 90.4 receiving grade ranked third among wide receivers last season.
  • He was targeted on 28.8% of his routes and caught a pass on 21.9% of his routes, both of which ranked second at the position last season. His 0.53 receiving PPR points per route run ranked fourth.
  • The Lions no longer have T.J. Hockenson, D.J. Chark or D’Andre Swift — three of the Lions' highest-graded receivers last season. So, this passing game will rely even more on St. Brown this season.
  • He received plenty of praise in camp and is looking to expand his route tree by becoming more of a deep threat this season. This development would allow him to have more huge games rather than just consistently good ones.
  • The only problem is St. Brown ran the 43rd-most routes last season, at 483.
  • The Lions invested a lot at running back this offseason, drafting Jahmyr Gibbs and adding David Montgomery in free agency. If anything, Detroit will be getting the ball more to running backs — not less.
  • If the Lions end up increasing how much they pass the ball, St. Brown has a chance at being the overall WR1.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 46.6)

Despite his age, Allen remains one of the most effective receivers in the NFL.

  • Allen hasn't graded as highly as he did during his peak from 2017-2018, but he’s continued to grade very well and posted an 84.4 mark last season.
  • He has run 37.9 routes per game since 2020, third among the 148 wide receivers who have played at least 25 games in that span. 
  • He’s maintained a high reception rate despite the large sample, as he's come down with the ball on 17.9% of his routes to rank sixth at his position.
  • He's generated 9.3 targets and 6.8 receptions per game, fourth and third among wideouts, respectively.
  • His success continued into 2022 despite the Chargers' down season. His 150.3 PPR points from Weeks 11-18 in 2022 ranked third among wide receivers.
  • Kellen Moore now comes in as his offensive coordinator. Moore's offense in Dallas threw to the slot more frequently than the Chargers have in recent seasons, which could lead to more targets for Allen.
  • Allen has been Justin Herbert’s favorite target when there is no pressure, and his target share sees a significant drop when there is pressure. And Los Angeles’ offensive line should be even better this season — Rashawn Slater will return and Jamaree Salyer will be moved to guard.
  • Allen was WR3 over the last eight weeks, and there is reason to believe he can improve on that this season.
  • The main concern for Allen outside his age was the addition of Quentin Johnston, but the rookie appears to be fourth on the depth chart to start the season. Even when Johnston becomes a starter, that shouldn’t stop Allen from seeing a very high percentage of targets.

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears (ADP: 50.2)

A quarterback has run for 132 or more yards 16 times in NFL history. Fields logged three of those games in November and December.

  • Fields had 20.5 PPR fantasy points per game, which ranked fifth-most last season. Over half of that production came as a rusher.
  • When he threw, it often went for a big play, as 48.4% of his completions gained 10-plus yards over the last two seasons — third-most among quarterbacks.
  • Chicago traded for D.J. Moore this offseason, which is arguably the biggest receiver addition any team made this offseason. 
  • Moore’s achieved an 85.4 PFF receiving grade over the last four seasons, which is the 20th-best among wide receivers despite sub-par quarterback play.
  • The two have already begun turning heads at the start of training camp.
  • Fields should also benefit from more general stability at the position. The Bears had seven different wide receivers run at least 70 pass routes, but none of them topped 350.
  • Fields should consistently have a top three wide receivers of Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool this season.
  • We have recently seen other quarterbacks have subpar passing seasons, gain a new top wide receiver, and propel them to be better passers.
  • This includes Hurts gaining A.J. Brown last season, as well as Tua Tagovailoa gaining Tyreek Hill.
  • Fields has the potential to have another elite rushing season. If he makes progress as a passer, he has a shot at the top overall quarterback spot.

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 52.7)

Kittle has been nearly as talented as Travis Kelce, just without the pass-happy offense and future Hall-of-Fame quarterback to boost his fantasy value.

  • Kittle has finished in the top-four among tight ends in fantasy points per game in each of his last five seasons.
  • He finished second in the league last season.
  • He’s averaged 5.5 receptions per game along with 70.8 receiving yards and 15.0 PPR points over the last five seasons, which all rank second to Kelce.
  • One problem in his career has been a lack of touchdowns, but he overcame that this last season. His 0.73 receiving touchdowns per game ranked first among tight ends.
  • The big reason to be even more excited for Kittle this season compared to past seasons is Brock Purdy.
  • In Kittle’s career, he’s averaged one touchdown per game when Purdy plays 80% of snaps or more, and 0.3 touchdowns per game in all other games, including the playoffs.
  • Kittle has consistently graded among the league’s best tight ends on deep passes, but it’s been on a small sample size as most previous 49ers quarterbacks and Jimmy Garoppolo in particular don’t throw deep very often.
  • Purdy was right at league average in terms of how often he threw deep.
  • Kittle caught five of seven deep passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns from Week 13 on including the playoffs once Purdy took over. He only caught two deep passes over the first 12 weeks, and four deep passes in all of 2021.
  • Kittle led all tight ends in fantasy points from Week 13 to 18 once Purdy started playing.
  • He will still be stuck in a run-first offense, but more big plays and more touchdowns gives Kittle a chance to be the overall TE1.


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