If your commissioner has their head screwed on then you haven’t yet had your NFL Fantasy draft, but it’s probably just around the corner. With the 2023 season only one week away, coaches across the globe are in the final prep stages as they aim to construct a championship-calibre roster when draft day arrives. While every draft will unfold differently, there are some players that you’ll want to target regardless of where your picks may fall. These 13 fantasy studs should not only help you get off to a fast start, they can be the key to success over the duration of the season.
All stats/numbers provided are based on ESPN fantasy leagues
If you like what you read, check out more SportsbyFry articles by hitting this link. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest NFL and NFL Fantasy articles and follow my fan pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to never miss a minute of the action!
Garrett Wilson, WR, Jets
Current ADP: 18.0 (WR 8)
2022 stats: 17 games, 83 REC, 1,103 YDS, 4 TD’s
The fact that Garrett Wilson managed to haul in 1,000 receiving yards last season while he caught passes from Mike White, Zach Wilson and Joe Flacco speaks volumes of his talent. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year now enters his second pro season with a significant upgrade under center in the form of three-time MVP Aaron Rodgers. Even as a rookie, Wilson finished just outside the top-20 for fantasy receivers and consistent end zone trips mixed in with a healthy dose of targets as Rodgers’ No.1 option has Wilson ready to flirt with a top-5 season at his position.
Anthony Richardson, QB, Colts
Current ADP: 131.2 (QB 16)
2022 stats: 12 games, 2,549 YDS, 17 TD’s, 9 INT’s
If you haven’t heard much about Indianapolis’ new quarterback, here’s a quick synopsis. Anthony Richardson is a shaky, developing passer – but he is always a threat to gain yards by running the ball. Last season for Florida, the No. 4 overall pick rushed for over 650 yards while helping himself to 9 touchdowns and his ability to run for fantasy points coaches enthused. Players like Josh Allen, Justin Fields and Jalen Hurts combined for almost 3,000 rushing yards to all finish as top-6 QB’s last season and while I’d feel uneasy with Richardson as my weekly starter, his upside makes him a tempting pick.
Image from marca.com
Samajie Perine, RB, Broncos
Current ADP: 129.4 (RB 37)
2022 stats: 16 games, 95 CAR, 394 YDS, 2 TD’s – 38 REC, 287 YDS, 4 TD’s
Having served as Cincinnati’s RB2 behind Joe Mixon over the past few seasons, Perine now lands at the Broncos eager to carve out a larger role. We all expect Denver halfback Javonte Williams to steal some of his carries when he recovers from an ACL tear, however there is a clear pathway to Perine starting the season with a bang. In a three-week stretch last year following the Bengals’ bye, Perine went OFF with 71 PPR points and 330 yards from scrimmage including three touchdown catches against the Steelers. I won’t expect him to dominate on a consistent basis, but the veteran running back deserves to be drafted 10-15 picks earlier than where he’s currently coming off the board.
Darren Waller, TE, Giants
Current ADP: 51.1 (TE 5)
2022 stats: 9 games, 28 REC, 388 YDS, 3 TD’s
Unless you annually draft Travis Kelce it can be quite tricky to nail a tight end in fantasy. Toeing the line between finding value in your draft and still picking a TE you can trust each week is one of the hardest tasks in each draft, but there are a few candidates who jump off the page. New York’s newest starter Darren Waller is one such character who fits the mould – eager to put a handful of injury-interrupted seasons behind him. During his time with the Raiders, Waller recorded top-3 fantasy campaigns at his position in 2019 and 2020 while hauling in over 2,300 yards and 12 touchdowns. It’s not impossible to see Waller recording a 1,000-yard season once again in his first year as a Giant.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Current ADP: 57.2 (RB 19)
2022 stats: 15 games, 223 CAR, 897 YDS, 2 TD’s – 57 REC, 490 YDS, 2 TD’s
Full disclosure, Alvin Kamara faces a three-game ban to start the fantasy season which has led to New Orleans’ tailback slipping down the RB pecking order. Currently being drafted behind the likes of Breece Hall and Dameon Pierce seems disrespectful to the star Saint, given Kamara has consistently finished as one of the top fantasy backs during his six seasons in the league. His ability to excel as both a runner and a pass-catcher has made Kamara one of the most popular players to target each season and if you can find a short-term replacement during his suspension, the versatile RB is definitely still worth adding to your squad.
Chris Olave, WR, Saints
Current ADP: 30.4 (WR 14)
2022 stats: 15 games, 72 REC, 1,042 YDS, 4 TD’s
Kamara’s teammate Chris Olave had a great rookie season, finishing as the 25th-best wideout in PPR leagues and registering over 1,000 receiving yards. Entering the 2023 campaign, the writing is on the wall for Olave to not only repeat his antics from last season but perhaps surpass them. An upgrade at quarterback with Derek Carr now hitting him in stride could lead to more touchdowns for Olave and as a result, another monster fantasy season. He would be ideal as a WR2, but if you load up on other positions first, there’s nothing wrong with having the Saints pass catcher as your lead wide receiver.
Image from sicscore.com
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
Current ADP: 77.2 (WR 28)
2022 stats: 16 games, 84 REC, 1,033 YDS, 9 TD’s
Why do we keep sleeping on Tyler Lockett? For the 5th consecutive season, Lockett finished as a top-15 WR and his elite consistency has the Seattle wideout poised to produce once again for those who are willing to invest. Last season, Lockett actually outscored his popular teammate DK Metcalf in almost every fantasy format, however, the Seahawks’ elder statesman is being drafted 50 spots behind Metcalf in current PPR leagues. At the age of 30, I won’t be shocked if we see Lockett take a slight step back, especially when rookie receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba has a clean bill of health. Until then though, we can expect Lockett to pick up the slack and score in big bunches.
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jaguars
Current ADP: 65.9 (QB 8)
2022 stats: 17 games, 4,113 YDS, 25 TD’s, 8 INT’s
Following a massive leap in year two, Trevor Lawrence and the Jags are eager to build on their promising performances and establish themselves as a playoff mainstay. For that to happen, the former No. 1 overall pick will once again need to reach great heights, one season after he finished as the QB7 in fantasy leagues. The rushing ability Lawrence has at his disposal is making him a sought-after quarterback and if he can continue to take strides as a passer, we may see Jacksonville’s quarterback shine. There are a handful of big names being selected ahead of him and if you are willing to be patient while you fill out the rest of your roster, then snagging Lawrence in the middle rounds as your starter could be a masterstroke.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Jaguars
Current ADP: 39.8 (WR 17)
2021 stats*: 5 games, 31 REC, 281 YDS, 2 TD’s
Sticking with the Jacksonville theme, their quarterback isn’t the only fantasy prospect on my wishlist. Returning from a near two-year absence from the game, Calvin Ridley is poised to be a difference-maker this season and reintegrate himself into the conversation as one of the NFL’s best receivers. Smart coaches are catching on, with Ridley’s ADP climbing with every week that passes. The former Falcons wideout is now being selected inside the first 3-4 rounds of most drafts, although if you’re happy to invest the draft capital early I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
* Ridley was suspended for the entire 2022 season
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Steelers
Current ADP: 87.7 (TE 9)
2022 stats: 16 games, 63 REC, 732 YDS, 2 TD’s
Entering his third NFL season, the expectation is that Pat Freiermuth will once again be a reliable source of production at the tight end position. Even though he wasn’t able to reach the end zone regularly last year, Pittsburgh’s former second-rounder was more often than not a top-10 TE on any given week and there’s optimism surrounding him once again a week out from the new season. Young QB Kenny Pickett is expected to improve after the Steelers finished dead last in passing touchdowns (12) a season ago. If he can become better and that leads to more frequent trips to the end zone, there’s no reason why Freiermuth won’t be the main beneficiary a season removed from being targetted 98 times by Pittsburgh quarterbacks.
Alexander Mattison, RB, Vikings
Current ADP: 67.1 (RB 23)
2022 stats: 17 games, 74 CAR, 283 YDS, 5 TD’s – 15 REC, 91 YDS, 1 TD
A big portion of the fantasy community are optimistic about what Alexander Mattison can achieve this season, with the annual handcuff pickup set to sit atop the depth chart for Minnesota at running back. Following a few seasons supporting Dalvin Cook, Mattison will now have a defined role for the Vikings and if his small sample size of starts is anything to go, we’re in for a treat. In the games that Cook has missed over the past few years, we’ve seen Mattison step up and average 23.7 PPR points with 90+ rushing yards and while I don’t expect him to produce those numbers on a weekly basis, there’s a world where Minnesota’s halfback pieces it together and becomes a serviceable RB2 for the bulk of the season.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles
Current ADP: 22.9 (QB 3)
2022 stats: 15 games, 3,701 YDS, 22 TD’s, 6 INT’s – 165 CAR, 760 YDS, 13 TD’s
I didn’t nail many of my bold predictions last season, but one thing I was correct about was Jalen Hurts establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks in all of fantasy. He finished exactly 3rd in total points at the QB position and after Philadelphia retooled their roster this offseason, I’m predicting Hurts to not only finish as the No. 1 fantasy player in 2023 but also claim league MVP honours. On a per-game basis last season Hurts was the best-scoring quarterback, finishing marginally ahead of Mahomes with 25.2 PPG while rushing for over 50 yards a game. There’s no reason why the Eagles’ lead man won’t be scoring at the same clip again as they aim to avenge their Super Bowl loss.
Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals
Current ADP: 168.5 (QB 26)
2022 stats: 11 games, 2,368 YDS, 14 TD’s, 7 INT’s – 67 CAR, 418 YDS, 3 TD’s
Kyler Murray doesn’t enter the season as the surefire key to success that he has in years past. With Arizona undergoing a complete list turnover, I wouldn’t be shocked if Murray found himself in different colours next year – perhaps even before the trade deadline. A fresh start could rejuvenate Kyler, but even if he stays with the Cardinals there’s a path to fantasy success once he’s fully healthy. Restricted to just 11 games last time season, Murray still ranked as the 8th best QB on average (18.2 per) and his upside makes Murray worthy of a flier in your draft, perhaps with your final bench pick.
Banner from nypost.com