Fantasy News & Analysis

PFF's 2023 fantasy football awards

2M7AC7F Santa Clara, United States. 08th Jan, 2023. San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) runs against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Sunday, January 8, 2023. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 38-13. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

• The clear choice for fantasy football MVP: Christian McCaffrey delivered on his high ADP all year long, consistently coming up with elite fantasy performances on a weekly basis, making him the 2023 fantasy MVP.

• So many quality rookies to choose from: Only one can be named 2023 Rookie of the Year, though, there are several excellent choices who delivered in Year One deserving of this award.

• A disappointment like no other: One of 2022’s elite fantasy performers let fantasy managers down in a big way this season, while coming at a very high cost in drafts to boot.

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

With the 2023 fantasy football season wrapped up (Weeks 1-17 only — sorry, Week 18 players), it’s time to dole out the awards to the standout players in the NFL who delivered, and those who didn’t, throughout the year to help fantasy gamers secure the most important award of all — a fantasy football championship. 

  • Data referenced is from Weeks 1-17
  • Scoring referenced is full-PPR from ESPN for scoring totals and averages.
  • Average draft position (ADP) is taken from Fantasy Pros composite ADP which uses multiple site’s data.

WR:CB Matchup Chart 


Starting with the big one, this award will go to the player who was the most consistent throughout the year, delivering high-end fantasy performances and providing the greatest points per game edge over his peers in 2023. 

WINNER: RB Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers

McCaffrey was a consensus top-three pick this season by ADP heading into this year, and he delivered on the investment by scoring more fantasy points than any other players (391.3) by a significant margin — over 20 more fantasy points than the next closest player, Josh Allen

McCaffrey appeared in all 16 games this season, averaging 24.5 full-PPR points per game, which was 3.2 more than the next closest running back, Kyren Williams, who appeared in just 12 games this year. Not only did McCaffrey deliver on his high ADP, but he also led all scorers in full PPR for the year, delivered 21 total touchdowns on the season and had the second-most total fantasy points from Weeks 15-17 during the fantasy playoffs despite leaving Week 17 with a calf injury.

No player at any other position held even more than a one PPR point per game advantage over the next closest scorer at their position while McCaffrey did so by over three points per game. Whether it was full-PPR, half-PPR, or non-PPR, McCaffrey was the clear 2023 fantasy MVP.

Runners up: 

Rookie of the year

This award is given to the first-year player who performed above and beyond the expectations of a rookie and delivers an MVP-like performance in their own right. There were several worthy candidates but only one can take home this specific hardware.

WINNER: TE Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions

The 2023 rookie class had many stars emerge in Year 1. A number of them were more than deserving of this specific award, but there’s something truly special about LaPorta finishing as the overall PPR TE1 as a rookie. The general consensus for rookie tight ends has been to avoid them in fantasy football because there’s such a low success rate, but now, whenever the fantasy community is going to cite a reason to ignore that narrative, LaPorta’s name is sure to be at the top of reasons as to why.

LaPorta finished with seven top-five PPR and half-PPR finishes in 2023 while playing every game as a rookie and immediately establishing himself as a fantasy option from Week 1. PFF, specifically, was high on LaPorta coming into this season, pegging him as a potential Year 1 contributor, making a number of sleeper articles, and with Nic Bodiford citing his dual-threat ability and role in the Lions offense as a reason to take advantage of his low cost in drafts. Dethroning Travis Kelce seemed impossible heading into this year, but thanks to his remarkable rookie season, LaPorta has certainly made a case for himself as the new TE1 heading into 2024.

Runners up:

Waiver wire addition of the year

WINNER: WR Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams

A small segment of the fantasy community was in on the potential of Nacua before Week 1, but even the most optimistic of the bunch would be lying if they told you that the rookie season he had had was in his range of outcomes, which started with a combined 33 targets over the first two games of the years. With Cooper Kupp on injured reserve to start the season, Nacua stepped in and did an uncanny Kupp impression, dominating the Rams’ target share and posting some huge fantasy performances through those first four games. Before waivers ran prior to Week 2, Nacua was rostered in just 2.3% of ESPN fantasy leagues until that number soared well beyond 50% and only continued to climb before he was unavailable in all leagues in just a few short weeks.

Even when Kupp returned, Nacua continued his impressive rookie season by finishing with 1,445 receiving yards, five touchdowns and 101 receptions through 17 weeks, finishing as the PPR WR7 in points per game (17.8) and WR5 overall. The 2023 fifth-round pick out of BYU immediately made himself a top dynasty target and elite 2023 fantast asset all season long for those who were able to add him off waiver wires for the cost of nothing more than a mouse click.

Runners up:

Most improved player of the year

This award goes to the player who saw the biggest jump in value from last season to this season, delivering a high-end fantasy performance in 2023. This player will have increased their points per game total by a significant margin and overall positional finish just the same. 

WINNER: RB Kyren Williams, Los Angeles Rams

Williams has a case for many fantasy awards this season but his incredible jump in production from 2022 where he appeared in eight games as a rookie and managed just 3.8 PPR fantasy points per game to 21.3 this year is an improvement that nobody saw coming. Williams stepped into a much larger role this season, pushing Cam Akers out the door on his way to dominating the Rams' backfield touches, which allowed him to finish as the overall RB6 in PPR, despite missing four games. 

Along with his significant increase in workload, Williams’ production improved across the board as well, totaling over 1,100 yards rushing to go along with 12 rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns. Williams averaged 19 carries per game for the season, which is among the best marks in the league, and he made the most of those opportunities to the delight of fantasy managers who added him off the waiver wire following Week 1. Williams is more than deserving of being called waiver wire addition of the year, and even fantasy MVP or playoffs MVP, but there’s no denying his incredible jump in production makes him the most improved player of the season.

Metric 2023 (RB Rank) 2022 (RB Rank)
PPR points per game 20.5 (2nd) 3.8 (67th)
PPR points 21.3 (2nd) 30.5 (91st)
Yards per carry 5.0 (6th) 4.0 (N/A)
Yards after contact per attempt 3.34 (T-9th) 2.86 (N/A)
Rushing grade 90.6 (T-3rd) 74.8 (N/A)
Runners up:

Playoff MVP

Weeks 15-17 are the most important weeks of the season for fantasy managers — a time when a small three-week stretch can make or break an entire season. This award is given to the player who consistently delivered high-end fantasy performances for all three weeks of the fantasy playoffs and ended up being the primary reason a championship was secured once all the smoke had settled.

WINNER: WR CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys

Lamb not only finished the year as the overall WR1 for fantasy this year, but he did so by saving his best performance of the year for last. Lamb started the fantasy playoffs with a PPR WR16 finish, which he followed up with a WR9 finish in the semi-finals before delivering a massive 40-plus point WR1 performance in Week 17 to be the top fantasy scorer in championship weekend. Lamb’s 345 receiving yards and two touchdowns over the final two weeks solidified him as the top choice for this award.

CeeDee Lamb from Weeks 15-17
Metric Value WR rank
Targets 37 2nd
Receptions 26 1st
Receiving yards 398 1st
Receiving touchdowns 2 T-8th
PPR fantasy points 86.0 1st
Half-PPR fantasy points 73.0 1st
Non-PPR fantasy points 60.0 1st
Runners up:

Waiver wire addition of the fantasy football playoffs

WINNER: QB Joe Flacco, Cleveland Browns

Considering that Flacco was not even on an NFL team for the first 12 weeks of the season, his five-game stretch with the Browns from Weeks 13-17 made for a legendary run that helped a lot of fantasy managers who had been affected by the unending quarterback injuries of 2023. 

Flacco started the year in Week 13 with a QB13 finish, and never finished lower than that from that point on, finishing as QB6, QB8, QB3 and finally QB4 in Week 17. He was the only quarterback to throw for over 1,000 yards (1,065) from Weeks 15-17, and his eight touchdown passes over that span tied for the best mark in the league. Flacco’s run not only helped fantasy managers who added him, but he also went on a four-game winning streak to help the Cleveland Browns secure a playoff spot. Truly legendary stuff from the 38-year-old quarterback.

Runners up:

Comeback player of the year

WINNER: QB Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

After tying for the league lead in interceptions last season (15) and finishing the year as fantasy football’s QB18, many were down on the Dallas Cowboys franchise quarterback heading into the year, as he was often drafted outside the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks according to ADP. Prescott had previously finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback in four of the prior five seasons, including as QB2 in 2019, but his 2022 season was admittedly a disappointment. However, Prescott got back to his productive ways in 2023 after a relatively slow start. He caught fire from Week 6 on, posting six top-five fantasy finishes over that span and ultimately finishing as QB4 overall for the year.

Despite limited rushing upside and interceptions from last season, there was reason to be optimistic about Prescott for 2023 fantasy purposes, including the stars around him like WR1 CeeDee Lamb, which was a big reason to believe in him bouncing back this season and being a potential darkhorse QB1 candidate, as highlighted here. Prescott essentially cut his interception total in half this year while throwing for the most touchdowns (32) on the year and making fantasy managers believe in him again as a high-end fantasy asset.

Dak Prescott’s numbers in 2023 compared to 2022:
Metric 2023 (QB rank) 2022 (QB rank)
Passing yards 4,237 (4th) 2,860 (20th)
Passing touchdowns 32 (1st) 23 (13th)
Passing grade 88.7 (2nd) 68.6 (23rd)
Overall grade 90.5 (2nd) 72.0 (21st)
Fantasy points per game 19.9 (5th) 16.6 (16th)
Runners up:

“You were the chosen one!” of the year

Also known as the player who disappointed fantasy managers the most this season — non-injury related. Average draft position is certainly going to play a major part in this award and consistently not living up to that investment is what will ultimately decide who is most deserving of Obi-Wan Kenobi yelling at them on behalf of fantasy managers everywhere.

WINNER (loser?): RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

This past year's RB1 in full and half-PPR leagues was unsurprisingly drafted among the top-five picks in most fantasy drafts this offseason despite coming into the year as a 28-year-old running back, which really should have been the biggest red flag of them all. It seems that the running back cliff finally caught up to Ekeler in a big way, as he reached career lows in efficiency across the board this season that led to a reduced workload and a really poor return on investment for fantasy managers who drafted him this year.

Austin Ekeler’s career numbers compared to 2023:
Rushing Metric 2023 (RB rank – min. 55 carries) Career Numbers (RB rank – min. 500 carries)
Yards per carry 3.7 (T-49th) 4.6 (T-12th)
Yards after contact per attempt 2.66 (46th) 3.1 (T-10th)
First down/touchdown rate 19.5% (42nd) 23.7% (16th)
Rushing grade 66.9 (52nd) 90.3 (11th)
Receiving Metric 2023 (RB rank – min. 90 routes run) Career numbers (RB rank- min. 400 routes run)
Receiving touchdowns 1 (T-23rd) 29 (1st)
Yards per route run 1.29 (16th) 1.96 (2nd)
Receiving grade 56.1 (T-42nd) 93.6 (2nd)

Ekeler had a short stretch from Weeks 8-10 where he was able to deliver the fantasy production he was drafted for, but it was short-lived, as he finished outside of the top-20 PPR running backs in eight of his 13 games played this year, and outside the top-30 PPR running backs in half of those game. On top of missing four games early in the year, Ekeler just never looked like the 2022 running back that fantasy managers drafted him to be and ultimately became one (of many) disappointments in fantasy this season, though, he is arguably the greatest disappointment of them all considering his quick fall from grace.

Runners up:

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