Fantasy Football: 5 players poised to breakout in 2023

2MAE2M5 Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Live Draft Assistant

Subscribe Button

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

These breakout players are those who have an ADP between 48 and 120  on ESPN who I have ranked notably higher than their ADP, and they have a good chance of producing the best season of their career. For help on draft strategy, rankings or for more details about other players, check out the rest of my summer content below. For rankings with better filtering 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

Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos (ADP: 78.7, From ESPN)

Williams was one of the most electric running backs in the NFL before his ACL and LCL tear.

  • Williams has been excellent at making defenders miss. His 3.8 forced missed tackles per game as a runner over the last two seasons ranks fifth among running backs, even though he's been a part of a committee nearly every game.
  • Similarly, his 1.25 forced missed tackles on receptions per game ranked sixth last season.
  • In Week 4, Williams played 23 of a possible 25 snaps in the first half, so it seemed like he would finally get the playing time fantasy managers were hoping for. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL and LCL on the first offensive play of the second half and missed the rest of the season.
  • He avoided the PUP list to start training camp and even played in the second preseason game.
  • Some running backs were able to be the same player they once were a year after an ACL tear, but some players needed an extra season of sub-optimal play before rebounding.
  • The Broncos didn’t invest much at running back despite Williams’ injury. Their main free-agent addition at the position was Samaje Perine from the Cincinnati Bengals.
  • Perine's 3.3 yards after contact per attempt over the last two seasons rank 11th among running backs with at least 145 carries. Williams is at 3.4, which ranks 10th.
  • Still, if Williams is 100% healthy, he can play as many snaps as the Broncos will give him. If Williams is struggling, Perine is more than capable of starting.
  • Williams was the primary early-down back in the second preseason game, while Perine was the primary third-down back. Williams’ saw five targets on eight routes in that game, suggesting that Denver knows what he can do as a receiver.
  • Williams could benefit significantly from a new coaching staff and an emphasis on the offensive line.
  • Broncos head coach Sean Payton led a New Orleans Saints offense that targeted its running backs 2,276 times from 2006-2021, 300 more times than any other team.
  • Williams could follow in the footsteps of several past Saints running backs and finish among the top five at the position if he is 100% after his injury.

Drake London, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 84.4)

London was a constant target for Atlanta, and he could build on a strong end to his 2022 season.

  • London was the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. 
  • He was the clear top wide receiver on the Falcons' depth chart by the team’s first preseason game in 2022. 
  • He made an immediate impact with 16 catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns over his first three games.
  • Atlanta then stopped throwing the ball as much, leading to nine straight games with 40 receiving yards or less.
  • Desmond Ridder started the last four games of the 2022 season, leading to the Falcons passing more. London was WR18 during that time despite not scoring a touchdown.
  • Atlanta also had a noticeable uptick in passing plays after the switch to Riddler.
  • That is very promising for this season with Ridder still at quarterback, but those big games to end the season also came at a time when Kyle Pitts was injured, and Bijan Robinson wasn’t on the roster yet.
  • On the bright side, Atlanta’s other starting wide receivers are slated to be Mack Hollins and KhaDarel Hodge, who shouldn’t be taking many targets away from London.
  • London achieved an 83.2 PFF offensive grade, which was the best among the rookie class with at least 800 offensive snaps but also the second-best for a rookie over the past five seasons, just behind Justin Jefferson and just ahead of Ja’Marr Chase.
  • The only thing that will hold London back is passing volume, but if he takes a step forward, Atlanta will have no choice but to get him the ball more often.

Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders (ADP: 107.2)

Dotson is entering his second season with the Commanders after being a touchdown machine as a rookie.

  • The first-round rookie won the starting job before the team’s first preseason game.
  • He scored four touchdowns in the team’s first four games.
  • Dotson missed the following five games due to injuries and was eased back into action for the following three.
  • He averaged 68.8 receiving yards per game in the Commanders' last five outings, including another three touchdowns in that stretch.
  • The wide receiver and tight end room look nearly identical to last season, with the only changes being the additions of Byron Pringle and undrafted rookie Mitchell Tinsley to the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart.
  • It was clear in Washington’s preseason games that he will continue to be one of the two outside wide receivers, playing a high percentage of the team's offensive snaps.
  • Obviously, you can’t take too much out of preseason performance, but he was already back to scoring touchdowns in the Commanders' first preseason game.
  • He also caught five passes for 76 yards in one half during their second preseason game.
  • The offense should be more pass-heavy this season.
  • The main concern is his quarterback Sam Howell, and how well he’s played given his lack of NFL experience. At the very least, Howell is a big fan of Dotson.
  • His teammate Terry McLaurin has been missing practice with a toe injury and might not play Week 1. This shouldn’t impact where you’re picking Dotson but could make it easier to put him in your starting lineup Week 1.

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 67.6)

Lawrence looks to build on a strong end to his 2022 season.

  • Lawrence was the first overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft but had a disappointing first season with Urban Meyer as his coach.
  • Jacksonville changed head coaches to Doug Pederson and added receivers Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Evan Engram.
  • It took some time for Lawrence to adjust to the new offense. His 58.9 PFF offensive grade of 58.9 from 2021 to Week 8 of 2022 was 58.9. That was third-lowest among quarterbacks with at least 1,000 snaps in that time. No one lower than his mark is still an NFL starter.
  • He rebounded in a major way over the second half of the season. His 90.3 grade from Week 9 on was the second-best for quarterbacks with at least 300 snaps, just behind Joe Burrow and just ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.
  • He averaged 20.5 fantasy points per game since Week 9, which ranked sixth among quarterbacks.
  • Expectations are even higher for him in 2023 as he gains a new top wide receiver in Calvin Ridley
  • Ridley missed all of 2022 due to suspension and most of 2021, but he achieved an 84.9 PFF grade in 2020.
  • While Lawrence isn’t known for his rushing, he ran the ball 54 times last season (ignoring kneel-downs), which ranked ninth among quarterbacks. He was also top-10 in rushing yards and fifth in rushing touchdowns at five. He should have just enough fantasy production to be among the top quarterbacks.
  • If he improves how everyone expects, he can easily be a top-five fantasy quarterback this season. Even if he remains the same, he is a relatively safe bet to finish in the top 10. 

Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: 88.7)

Freiermuth is a clear top-10 fantasy tight end who has the potential to be elite.

  • While Pitts has the fifth-best receiving grade for a tight end in their first two seasons since PFF started collecting data, Freiermuth has the sixth-highest at 79.3.
  • Freiermuth has been targeted on 22.1% of his pass routes last season, which ranked fourth out of 28 tight ends with at least 300 receiving pass routes since 2022.
  • He’s been particularly good at making defenders miss tackles, with the fourth-most avoided tackles per game over the last two seasons.
  • The main problem is the Steelers rotate him out more than other tight ends ranked in the top 10 get rotated out.
  • His 27.2 pass routes per game ranked 16th-best among tight ends last season. His backup Zach Gentry ranked 49th-best at 10.9.
  • This is even more likely to be a problem this season after Pittsburgh spent a third-round pick on Darnell Washington. Washington will likely only take snaps in run formations, but teams still throw at times from run formations, which could continue to cost Freiermuth routes.
  • He will continue to be a fantasy starter for several years if the Steelers continue to use him this way. Still, if he continues down his current trajectory in receiving talent, he should win over those remaining snaps.
  • The Steelers used a heavy rotation of tight ends in the first preseason game which was concerning, but played all 18 snaps with the starters over their last two games which is a sign his snap share could actually improve rather than decline.
  • Part of his success will also simply depend on the Steelers' offense. He only ran 20 routes last season when the Steelers were within 10 yards of scoring, ranking 21st-most among tight ends.
  • This led to only two tight ends compared to seven the year before.
  • There is a lot that needs to go right for Freiermuth to join the elite fantasy tight ends, but there are very few tight ends outside of the top seven with any chance to get there.


Unlock the 2023 Fantasy Draft Kit, with League Sync, Live Draft Assistant, PFF Grades & Data Platform that powers all 32 Pro Teams

$31 Draft Kit Fee + $8.99/mo
$89.88/yr + FREE Draft Kit