Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Jon Macri's favorite 2023 picks — my guys

2RH8JJC Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell passes against the Cleveland Browns during the first half of a preseason NFL football game on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Tony Pollard’s path to RB1: Coming in as my RB4, Pollard is a personal favorite to be my fantasy team’s RB1 and potentially the overall RB1 for 2023.

• Never stop drafting Sam Howell: The rushing upside and potential for the Washington Commanders’ offense is too great to pass up outside of the top 15 quarterbacks.

• Dominate your fantasy league in 2023: For up-to-date fantasy draft rankings and projections, check out PFF’s fantasy rankings tool!

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

The fantasy season can be a grueling journey of avoiding inefficiencies and injuries en route to an eventual championship so it’s often difficult to enjoy our favorite players while they’re grinding away fantasy points for us on a weekly basis.

With that in mind, this may be the last chance we get before Week 1 to be entirely positive about our most rostered players for the year, so listed below are players that I have ranked higher than consensus, and are also among the most rostered players on my many fantasy rosters.

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QB Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

Fantasy Pros consensus ADP: QB7
My rank: QB6

While my Fields ranking is nearly the same as his ADP, he’s also the main reason that I don’t draft any of the other quarterbacks going ahead of him, outside of superflex leagues.

  • Fields possesses elite rushing upside as the only quarterback in the league to average double-digit rush attempts per game last season, which led to a league-leading 1,143 rushing yard and was nearly 400 more than the next closest quarterback.
  • Fields finished as the overall QB7 last season and wasn’t utilized in the designed run game until Week 7, averaging fewer than three designed rushes per game prior to that mark before jumping up to over seven per game from that point on.
  • Once that happened, he managed three of the 13 greatest rushing performances from a quarterback of all-time, including No. 1 overall (Week 9 – 178 rushing yards).
  • From Weeks 7-17, Fields was the overall QB3 in that stretch despite ranking 23rd in total passing yards (1,373).
  • With D.J. Moore coming in as Fields’ new WR1 and natural progression as a passer, Fields will have a chance to improve his fantasy production from last season by adding more passing yards, more completions and getting more help after the catch from his receiving corps after ranking 35th in that regard last season (43.6%).
  • Fields should have no trouble maintaining his elite rushing upside while also improving as a passer, which makes him a legitimate candidate to finish as the overall QB1 in 2023.

QB Sam Howell, Washington Commanders

Fantasy Pros consensus ADP: QB24
My rank: QB19

Howell has a chance to be the late-round quarterback in 2023, as he is drafted well outside the top 20 at his position. 

  • Howell flashed a lot of fantasy potential during his time at North Carolina but also in his limited NFL action in Week 18 last year and the past two preseasons.
  • In 2021 at North Carolina, Howell averaged 6.3 rushing attempts per game while averaging 8.4 yards per attempt, which led to over 1,000 rushing yards on the year.
  • As a passer, Howell established his talent in his final two years at UNC, posting top-10 marks in big-time-throws (48), big-time-throw rate (7.7%) and passing touchdowns of 20-plus air yards (21).
  • He’ll have all the weapons he needs in Eric Bieniemy’s offense this season to continue to showcase his talents, which should translate to strong fantasy production.
  • The potential for Howell to add value with his legs to raise his production floor and overall upside is more enticing than anything else and why he should be valued over a lot of other unproven options in this range who don’t necessarily offer the same upside. 

Honorable mentions: Tua Tagovailoa (QB9), Daniel Jones (QB11)

RB Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

Fantasy Pros consensus ADP: RB8
My rank: RB4

Pollard is set for a significant workload increase in 2023 with Ezekiel Elliott‘s departure. As a player who has never exceeded 200 carries in the regular season, he should have no problem clearing that number this year.

  • Pollard’s undisputed RB1 status in Dallas should allow him to absorb a lot of the goal-line opportunities vacated by Elliott, who ranked tied for second among running backs last season (22) in that regard, which led to 10 rushing touchdowns for him in goal-to-go situations.
  • Pollard getting an overall bump in touches, and goal-line touches alone could be enough to vault him toward becoming the overall RB1 after finishing as the PPR RB9 just last season without hitting those high-value thresholds.
  • Pollard has been one of the most effective running backs in the league over the past two seasons, ranking second in PFF rushing grade (91.8), tied for second in yards per carry (5.3) and third in yards after contact per attempt (3.7).
  • There are concerns that Pollard will become less effective on a larger workload but looking at previous year’s numbers when getting double-digit carries in a game, his efficiency actually slightly increased.
  • Playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the league and in line to get 250-300 carries and around 60-70 targets, there are many reasons to be in on Pollard — one of the league’s best backs — as the potential overall RB1.

RB Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos

Fantasy Pros consensus ADP: RB23
My rank: RB22

Williams coming off a knee injury pushed his ADP down quite a bit early this offseason, which is why he is someone that I would consistently scoop up as RB29/30. Now, with him set to play Week 1, the ADP has adjusted.

  • While there’s still concern that he will not absorb a full-time workload right out the gate, if he continues to prove that he’s healthy and back to his old self, then it will only be a matter of time before he gets back to that every-down role.
  • Williams has proven that he is one of the best running backs at creating yards after contact.
  • Over the past two seasons, Williams has led all running backs (min. 200 attempts) in missed tackles forced per attempt (0.26) while also ranking seventh in yards after contact per attempt (3.43) — 77.5% of Williams’ rushing yards have come after contact, which is the third most among qualifying running backs since 2021.
  • Williams figures to split time with Samaje Perine to open the season, which makes sense coming off a major injury, but with him already appearing during the preseason, it’s a strong indicator that he’s trending in the right direction to get back to a full workload sooner rather than later.
  • Head coach Sean Payton has a history of leaning into one running back, so there may come a time this season when Williams fully takes over the lead-back role, and if that happens, he’ll push for potential top-10 running back production.

Honorable mentions: Breece Hall (RB15), Khalil Herbert (RB28)

WR Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

Fantasy Pros consensus ADP: WR10
My rank: WR9

My ranking and the ADP are nearly exact, but Wilson has been someone that I have continuously targeted as my WR1 this season, as I am a big believer that he will have an overall WR1 season in 2023.

  • The Offensive Rookie of the Year earned the highest receiving grade among rookie wide receivers (85.9), which was also a top-10 mark among all receivers last year.
  • Wilson posted over 1,100 receiving yards as a rookie and finished as the PPR WR21, but after only seeing 66.2% of his targets deemed as catchable last season, the quarterback upgrade to Aaron Rodgers should greatly improve his fantasy value.
  • Wilson should have no problem becoming Rodgers’ new favorite target in New York, and targets should be coming at a very high rate, similar to what we’ve seen from Rodgers and Davante Adams in years past.
  • After earning a 23.4% target rate last year, expect Wilson to potentially see over 25%, and perhaps closer to a 27%, target rate this season, vaulting him into elite territory.
  • I have two common targets in the second round of drafts one is Tony Pollard and the other is most definitely Garrett Wilson.

WR Drake London, Atlanta Falcons

Fantasy Pros consensus ADP: WR25
My rank: WR20

London is another second-year wide receiver who I’m excited about in Year 2, even though his rookie year was still very strong.

  • London posted an 85.3 receiving grade in 2022, which was among the top-10 receivers in the league.
  • London finished as the PPR WR28, which is fine for a rookie but leaves room for improvement, which we should see in 2023.
  • Since the 2015 NFL season (not including last year), there have been nine rookie wide receivers who earned an 80.0 receiving grade in their first season (min. 100 receiving snaps), and of those nine, seven (77.8%) went on to improve their fantasy production per game in Year 2.
  • The average increase in points per game for those seven players was 3.3 points per game, creating an average above 15 points per game in Year 2, which figures to be high-end WR2 production on a weekly basis.
  • London established a strong connection with starting quarterback Desmond Ridder near the end of 2022 when Ridder took over as the starter in Week 15, as he saw 8.8 targets per game over that span, which was up from 6.1 previously.
  • London also saw a near-10% increase in catchable targets (74.3%) over that span, which drastically improved his yards per route run to 3.03 in those final four games versus the 1.72 with Marcus Mariota at quarterback.

Honorable mentions: Christian Watson (WR17), Diontae Johnson (WR28)

TE Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles

Fantasy Pros consensus ADP: TE7
My rank: TE6

Goedert has consistently been one of the best receiving tight ends in the league since 2018, never earning a season-long receiving grade below 70.5.

  • Target competition is what has most drafters passing on Goedert with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith in the mix, but this is already baked into his ADP for the year and could stand to potentially even improve his fantasy production to a new career-high in 2023 should things bounce his way.
  • Goedert has never finished higher than the PPR TE9 in any given season and was the TE11 last season after missing five games.
  • Goedert still managed a career-high in PPR points per game (11.8), ranking fifth at the position in that regard.
  • Goedert could stand to see some natural progression in the touchdown column, as he earned a strong target rate in the red zone (21.3%) but only managed three touchdowns in 2022.
  • There’s room for improvement there, especially as one of the league’s most efficient tight ends, ranking fourth at the position in yards per route run (1.82) this past season and top five at his position in yards after the catch per reception in each of the past two seasons.
  • Goedert should once again be in for a significant role in the Eagles' offense this season, which should allow for plenty of opportunities for him to find the end zone and have his best fantasy year yet.

TE Luke Musgrave, Green Bay Packers

Fantasy Pros consensus ADP: TE19
My rank: TE16

The 6-foot-6 athletic tight end out of Oregon State is another rookie at the position who continues to impress this offseason and is sitting at the top of his team’s depth chart to start the year.

  • Musgrave missed a big chunk of his final college season due to an injury but in the games that he played, it was clear that Oregon State was ready to build their offense around him.
  • He posted 11 catches for 169 yards, 3.38 yards per route run and a touchdown through just two games in 2022.
  • Musgrave has a high-end receiving ability, especially as a potential deep threat where he earned a 91.5 receiving grade on targets of 20-plus yards downfield since 2021.
  • There is room for Musgrave to carve out a substantial role in this offense’s passing game and depending on how effective Jordan Love is as the team’s starting quarterback, he has the potential to be a consistent starting fantasy tight end in Year 1.
  • Musgrave has been an every-down player for the Packers' starting offense this preseason and should factor in as a high-end receiving option for Jordan Love, potentially pushing for the No. 2 target share on the team behind Christian Watson.
  • Musgrave’s cost and potential add up to me spending a lot of late-round draft picks to acquire him this offseason in order to take a high-upside swing at a position that is lacking in that regard.

Honorable mentions: Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE11), Sam LaPorta (TE13)


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