25 Things I Learned from The Fantasy Footballers 2023 Projections (Fantasy Football)

The FootClan
Unlock Exclusive Tools + Bonus Episode
Join the FootClan

Statistical projections aren’t the end all be all when it comes to predicting how a season is going to go – They are, after all, projections. They do, however, provide a great framework for rankings and for understanding what’s most likely to happen in the 2023 season. Of course, there’s chaos every year, which is why we get projections wrong all the time – players get injured, there’s coaching/scheme changes, and players may not perform as we expect (the 2022 Broncos and Seahawks, anyone?).

Projections do help us wrap our head around NFL teams, players’ roles and their potential range of outcomes. I dove into The Fantasy Footballers’ award winning statistical projections and came away with these 25 fantasy football takeaways:

To get access to Andy, Mike and Jason’s Projections and Tier-Based Rankings, be sure to check out the 2023 Ultimate Draft Kit.

1. Buy the Chargers passing offense.

Everything went wrong for Justin Herbert and the Chargers in 2022. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both missed time, Justin Herbert dealt with a rib injury that limited his production, and the offensive line dealt with injury, too. In fact, only 22.9% of Herbert’s dropbacks last year came with both Keenan and Big Mike on the field according to 4for4’s John Daigle. As a result of all the turmoil around him, Herbert’s TD rate plummeted to 3.6% and his YPA dropped to 6.8. Both of those marks were career lows. With OC Kellen Moore now in town and the addition of first round talent Quentin Johnston, this Chargers offense should be more explosive with more downfield passing. All three Ballers have Herbert pushing for 5,000 yards in their projections. Giddy. Up.

2. D.K. Metcalf should catch more TDs in 2023.

In four seasons as a pro, Metcalf’s TD totals are 7, 10, 12 and 6. Those six TDs in 2022 were an obvious career low despite Metcalf seeing a career high 141 targets last season with Geno Smith. Immediately after moving on from Russell Wilson, Seattle ranked top-10 in both neutral situation pass rate last season and pass rate over expectation. While Metcalf and Lockett’s target competition did get more difficult with the addition of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the fact that the team used a Round 1 pick on a WR suggests the offensive should remain pass-centric in 2023. In addition to the TD rate improving for Metcalf, his usage in the red zone is a strong signal that the six scores he had last year were fluky. No WR saw more end zone targets (22) than Metcalf a year ago. If he converts on a few more of these targets in 2023, Metcalf is likely to score 8+ times, which is in line with our projections.

3. Van Jefferson might be the most obvious fantasy football value in 2023.

We all know it’s the Cooper Kupp show in Los Angeles. Prior to last year’s season-ending ankle injury, Kupp was averaging 11.6 targets per game for an elite 33% market share. As long as Kupp’s on the field, he’s going to dominate targets for LA. Behind him, however, this depth chart doesn’t have a lot of talent, which means Van Jefferson is necessary to this passing attack. Jefferson missed the first half of last year recovering from a knee scope, which forced him to start the season on IR. After his return, he played behind Allen Robinson (whoopsies!) until ARob eventually got injured and missed the final month and a half of the season. Jefferson is just one year removed from a 50/802/6 season in 2021 when he finished as the WR35, and he’s a complete afterthought in most fantasy drafts. Currently going off the board as the WR68 (!!) in the 15th round on Sleeper, Jefferson is our consensus WR44. Will he win you your league? No, of course not, but will he be a viable plug-and-play option for bye weeks and injuries? Probably. The good news is, he’s free.

4. George Kittle won’t score as many TDs as he did last year.

Kittle is coming off a season in which he finished as the TE3 in half PPR formats. Unfortunately, that looks unlikely to happen again this season due to the fact that the majority of his production came from an outlier 11 scores last season. Prior to 2022, Kittle had never scored more than six times in a single season. From 2017 to 2021, Kittle’s career TD rate was 4.3%, but in 2022, that number sky-rocketed to an unsustainable 12.8%. With Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Christian McCaffrey all earning targets in a low volume passing attack, Kittle is one of the most obvious negative regression candidates entering 2023 and looks like a potential trap at his current TE4 ADP on Sleeper. He’s our consensus TE7. For more on Kittle, be sure to check out this year’s Fire & Ice Episode.

Abbie Parr/Getty Images

5. There may not be much value beyond D.J. Moore in the Chicago passing attack.

Justin Fields only attempted 21.2 passes per game in 2022 for an average of 149.5 passing yards per game. After they traded for D.J. Moore and brought in Chase Claypool halfway through the year last season then let David Montgomery walk, it’s plausible to expect Chicago’s pass rate to jump a little bit in 2023, but we still project them to be among the NFL’s run-heaviest teams. Fields’ average projection for passing yards is 3,350 yards and 21 passing scores, a significant jump from last year’s numbers. Even with that jump, no one in the Chicago passing game pops in projections behind Moore, who is our consensus WR18.

The FootClan
Love the show? Join our community!
Join the FootClan

6. Brandin Cooks looks like the better bet for the Dallas WR2 job.

We all know it’s the CeeDee Lamb show in Dallas when it comes to target share. Behind Lamb, the WR2 job is up for grabs between Brandin Cooks, who was acquired from the Texans this off-season and Michael Gallup, who struggled last season off the torn ACL. Among 80 WRs who saw 50+ targets last year, Gallup ranked 71st in PFF receiving grade, 78th in catch rate and 77th in yards per route run. In those same metrics, Cooks ranked 39th, 54th, and 38th respectively.

Below are the consensus average projections for Cooks and Gallup:

7. Jameson Williams is a tough sell with the six game suspension.

Williams was slapped with a six-game suspension to start the 2023 season after spending the majority of 2022 recovering from a torn ACL. According to Sleeper’s ADP, Williams goes off the board early in Round 10 as the WR49, yet our rankings have Williams as the WR69. By the time Williams gets back on the field, he’ll only be eligible to play in 11 games. In those 11 games, his consensus projection is 583 yards on 60 targets. To put it another way, we’re only projecting 5.5 targets per game. As a speedy deep threat, that can still pay off with splash plays, but there’s volume concerns, and to be honest, we truthfully don’t even know if Williams can win at the NFL level (just 8 targets on 37 routes last year). There’s an upside case to be made, but it’s tough to hold a player for six weeks in a managed league with this much uncertainty.

8. Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery can both pay off their ADP.

More Lions! Most fantasy gamers and analyst have spent the summer trying to decide which Detroit Lions RB to target in drafts. What if the answer is both? The Lions let Jamaal Williams and his hip thrusting 17 rushing TDs walk only to pay David Montgomery more in free agency. They then decided to spend the 12th overall pick in the NFL Draft on Jahmyr Gibbs. Financially, this team is committed to getting both backs involved, and when you look at the WR depth chart, it makes all the sense in the world. We have Gibbs projected for 235 total opportunities (rush attempts + targets) with Monty projected for 255 opportunities. Detroit ranked 4th in the NFL in yards per play a season ago and has PFF’s 5th ranked offensive line entering 2023.

9. Don’t forget about Jeff Wilson Jr. if Dalvin Cook doesn’t sign in Miami.

As of late July, the Dolphins reportedly had an offer on the table for Dalvin Cook, but nothing has come to fruition as of this writing in early August. Of course, if Dalvin signs with the Dolphins tomorrow, you can straight up ignore this blurb, but in the event Dalvin doesn’t sign in South Beach, Jeff Wilson looks like a strong value right now. We have him projected as the Dolphins’ RB1 ahead of 31-year-old Raheem Mostert and 3rd round rookie De’Von Achane. Last year after the trade to Miami, Wilson logged 13.5 opportunities per game compared to Mostert’s 12.8. This backfield does project to be a committee with Achane working in as the change of pace back, but Wilson looks like a solid late round RB target who could be a fill in option for bye weeks and/or injuries. Worth noting, we took an under on Mostert in props.

10. Be careful chasing Skyy Moore‘s ADP.

Even after Kadarius Toney‘s knee injury in late July, our projections don’t love Skyy Moore, who checks in as WR65 in rankings on the back of just 74 projected targets. Of course, this projection could certainly change if we get more news on Toney’s injury and/or confirmed playing time for the KC wide outs, but the bottom line here is that there’s a lot of mouths to feed in the passing game. We know Kelce will get his, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling is still being paid like a starting perimeter WR (2023 $11M cap hit ranks 23rd among all NFL WRs), the team drafted Rashee Rice in Round 2, and the running backs will continue to get utilized as pass catchers out of the backfield. Even Justyn Ross and Richie James Jr. are getting some hype in camp, and Justin Watson quietly played 43% of the snaps last season. Oh, and don’t forget about the backup TEs! Moore is a fine late round target who can be dropped if it doesn’t work out, but be careful if his ADP climbs over the next few weeks as we get closer to week 1. As of the writing of this article, projections have Moore roughly 10 WR spots behind ADP on Sleeper, he’s a top-100 pick on Underdog.

11. Drake London looks like the Falcons pass catcher to take at ADP.

Drake London (5.07) and Kyle Pitts (5.10) are essentially going back-to-back in half PPR drafts on Sleeper. Our projections favor London over Pitts when you look at the raw numbers. London is projected for 138 targets and 184.5 fantasy points compared to Pitts’ 117 targets and 167.5 fantasy points. Of course, there’s a positional advantage at the onesie positions, so it’s not a straight forward apples to apples comparison, but if you’re worried about Desmond Ridder (37th out of 48 qualified passers in PFF grade) supporting multiple fantasy options in a run heavy scheme, London looks like the better bet given their nearly identical ADPs.

12. Miles Sanders is in line to set a career high in touches.

Sanders’ touch totals since entering the NFL in 2019 are as follows: 229, 192, 163, 279. He’s currently projected for 302 total touches after signing a 4-year, $25.4M deal in free agency. Carolina’s offensive line performed admirably in the run game last season (T-12th in team yards per carry), and now all five starters are back. Coming off his best season as a pro in Philly, Sanders’ offensive environment is worse going from Jalen Hurts and the Eagles to a rookie QB and the Panthers, but the volume should be there for Sanders, who checks in as one of our breakouts in the 2023 UDK.

The FootClan
Love the show? Join our community!
Join the FootClan

13. Don’t forget about James Cook in one of the NFL’s best offenses.

Cook’s 2022 stat line as a rookie wasn’t all that encouraging. He only played 25% of the snaps and totaled 89 rush attempts and 32 targets. What was encouraging, however, was Cook’s efficiency. His 6.2 yards per touch was the sixth best by a rookie RB over the last decade, and as a pass catcher, his 1.43 yards per route run ranked 15th among 60 RBs who saw 20+ targets. The team added early down grinders Damien Harris and Latavius Murray in free agency, but even so, Cook looks set to see a massive bump in usage entering year two in the NFL. Based on our projections, the former Georgia Bulldog is projected for just over 200 total opportunities. Of course, Josh Allen will still be utilized at the goal line, so the league winning upside may not be there for Cook, but he looks undervalued at his current RB31 ADP.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

14. Darren Waller is the Giants WR1.

New York has about nine slot WRs on the roster and two perimeter options in Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins. In other words, it’s a bit of a lackluster group of pass catchers behind the big man, Darren Waller. New York traded for the Wallerus this off-season and, he has been getting a ton of buzz in training camp after he dealt with injuries over the last two years in Las Vegas. Our projections have Waller seeing almost 100 targets, resulting in just over 800 yards and 6 scores. After failing to force a single missed tackle a year ago and posting the lowest yards per route run (1.58) since he became a full-time player in 2019, it’s fair to question what Waller has left in the tank, but one thing is clear – he looks like the Giants pass catcher you want to take a shot on in fantasy.

15. Don’t expect Travis Etienne to make a big jump as a receiver.

Etienne saw 45 targets last season, which resulted in only 2.6 targets per game and just over two receptions per game. Entering 2023, we’re projecting a similar role for the former Clemson RB with projections showing 48 targets for the Jags RB1. With the addition of Calvin Ridley and an already loaded pass catcher group, it’s going to be tough for the RBs as a whole to see a large target share in this offense, and of course, there’s concern that Tank Bigsby could eat into the receiving role as well (currently projected for 18 targets). Among 47 RBs who saw 25+ targets last year, Etienne ranked 43rd in PFF’s receiving grade.

16. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans might still see enough volume to overcome poor QB play.

Will we see Godwin and Evans be league winners in 2023 with the combination of Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask under center? Probably not, but they’re still projected to see a ton of volume. Godwin (128 targets) and Evans (116 targets) should dominate the target share in Tampa Bay. Over the last two years, Tampa has been among the league leaders in pass rate with Tom Brady. That should certainly come down in 2023 given the state of the QB room, but as long as the target share remains ultra-condensed with these two options, we probably shouldn’t bury them just yet. Both WRs remain talented playmakers, and while the ceiling may not be there, they do have projectable volume that might help sustain their floor from a fantasy perspective.

17. Terry McLaurin is Washington’s WR1, but the gap may not be as wide as ADP suggests.

There’s no question Terry McLaurin is #good at the game, and he’s consistently commanded a large target share since he’s been in the NFL. Since entering the league, Scary Terry has averaged 119.3 targets per season (24% target share), and our projections suggest he’ll be right around that number again in 2023. He’s projected for 129 targets, but Jahan Dotson is quietly right behind him at 117 projected targets. In 12 games as a rookie, Dotson posted a solid 35/523/7 stat line and from Weeks 13 to 18, Dotson earned a 24% target share. The 16th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Dotson is one of our top WR breakout picks in the 2023 UDK.

18. Antonio Gibson‘s receiving role looks legit.

It’s a little scary to buy back into Antonio Gibson in fantasy after the Commanders used him in a completely different way in 2022 after they drafted Brian Robinson out of Alabama. In his first two years as a pro, Gibson banked back-to-back top-12 fantasy finishes before falling off as the RB31 with a career low 149 rushing attempts. He did, however, log a career high 58 targets last season, and all of the talk this off-season has been about Gibson inheriting “the J.D. McKissic” role. McKissic only played in eight games last year before a neck injury ended his season, but in those eight games, he saw an average of five targets per game for a 17-game pace of 85 targets. As it stands, Gibson is projected for a career high 70 targets and 55 (!!!) receptions. Because of that, he makes our list of top values in the UDK. A former college WR, Gibson has always popped in receiving metrics. In 2022, he was 4th in PFF’s receiving grade among all backs who saw 25+ targets.

19. If you’re betting on a Broncos WR, Jerry Jeudy looks like the guy.

Everything went wrong last year for Russell Wilson and the Broncos, but if you are going to invest in a Denver pass catcher in 2023, it looks like Jerry Jeudy is the guy you want based on projections. Our numbers have Jeudy for 129 targets, over 1,100 yards and seven scores. Sutton, on the other hand, comes in at 106 targets, just over 800 yards and four scores. If you’re looking at the underlying efficiency numbers from last season, Jeudy’s numbers are head and shoulders above Sutton’s, too. Among WRs with 50+ targets last year, he ranked sixth in yards after the catch per reception and 12th in yards per route run. For reference, Sutton ranked 41st in yards per route run with a career low 1.58 in that metric.

20. T.J. Hockenson‘s 2022 numbers may be misleading.

To be clear, the numbers still like Hockenson. After all, he’s a Tier 3 TE in our 2023 Rankings as the TE4, but from a numbers perspective, last season’s pace with the Vikings may not be sustainable. After the trade from Detroit, Hock was a volume monster in Minnesota, averaging 9.4 targets per game from Weeks 9-17 (starters didn’t play a full game in Week 18). To put that in perspective, Hockenson’s 17-game pace using that sample would have been 161 targets and 111 receptions. For reference, Travis Kelce saw a career high 152 targets last year. Anyone banking on the volume that Hockenson put up after the trade to Minnesota could be disappointed. We have him projected for an average of 123 targets and 84 catches.

The FootClan
Love the show? Join our community!
Join the FootClan

Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

21. Trevor Lawrence looks primed for a year three leap.

That rookie season with Urban Meyer feels like it was ages ago (thank goodness). Lawrence showed some growing pains in his first year with Doug Pederson, but he came on down the stretch, and he posted some awesome numbers. From Week 9 on, Lawrence was second in PFF passer grade, second in adjusted completion rate and 11th in YPA. Now, Lawrence enters year two in Pederson’s system and the team upgraded their already good WR room with the addition of Calvin Ridley. Our projections have Lawrence throwing for more yards and TDs in 2023.

22. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is awesome, but don’t forget about Tyler Lockett.

It’s reasonable to expect the addition of JSN to take some targets away from D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but that doesn’t mean Lockett can’t still be a value for fantasy. Lockett has finished as a top-15 WR in half PPR formats in five straight seasons. We’ve got him at WR23, so we’re not projecting that, and in fact, we’re projecting a small step backwards with the addition of JSN, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad pick at his current WR31 ADP. Lockett still projects for 84 catches and over 1,000 yards.

23. Daniel Jones looks like the late round QB target in 2023.

Anthony Richardson obviously qualifies here as well, but the Daniel Jones projection really popped for me when looking at QB Rankings. We’ve got DJ ranked as our consensus QB8 on the back of over 3,600 passing yards and 21 passing TDs. For reference, he threw for just over 3,200 yards and 15 scores a year ago. Down the stretch, we saw the Giants lean a little bit more into the passing games, and now they added Darren Waller (see above), upgraded the pass catching core, and the offensive line is improving. Jones enters year two in Brian Daboll’s system, and we know he’s one of the better ‘tier two’ rushing QBs in the league. Will he run like Lamar Jackson? No of course not, but we’re projecting over 600 yards for Dimes in 2023, and that helps to insulate his floor while also adding some weekly ceiling to his outlook.

24. Now looks like the time to buy back in on Gabe Davis.

There’s really no other way to put it – 2022 was a disaster for Davis when you factor in his ADP, which in best ball leagues, got steamed up to the 3/4 turn by the time August got here. Davis was wildly inconsistent, dealt with a high ankle sprain, and his QB Josh Allen, also dealt with an elbow injury for roughly a month. Even with all of that, Davis still finished as the WR27 in 15 games played. His final stat line: 48 catches, 836 yards, 7 TD. Our 2023 projection: 61 receptions, 1,028 yards, 7 TD. The best part is that now his price in ADP is way down relative to a year ago. You can get Davis as the WR43 on Sleeper and the WR37 on Underdog. He checks in as the WR33 in consensus rankings.

25. It might not be worth chasing the Green Bay WR2.

As long as Christian Watson stays healthy, he is a shoo-in to lead the Packers WR room in fantasy points, but behind Watson, there may not be much upside in Romeo Doubs or Jayden Reed…unless Jordan Love is that dude. We project Love for just 3,400 yards and 21 scores. For reference, Aaron Rodgers threw for about 3,700 yards last season and 26 TDs in a down year, and as we saw, no one really got there for fantasy purposes beyond Watson down the stretch after he got healthy. Doubs ranked 69th in yards per route run last year while Jayden Reed is a rookie.

Note – for more on Watson, check out our Fantasy Court series between Caleb Leach (The case for Christian Watson in 2023) and Aaron Larson (The case against Christian Watson in 2023).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *