As we inch closer to preseason football, it’s imperative to select your personal risers a few rounds early in fantasy football drafts, while straying away from fallers that include a few QBs on struggling offenses.
As for the risers, look for opportunity and offenses that are clicking on all cylinders coming into 2023 including buying into the Jacksonville Jaguars QB and RB duo.
QB Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Coming into his 2nd year, Kenny Pickett has looked calmer, confident, and “stronger”. When I mention “stronger”, I’m not only talking about the muscle he’s added over the offseason but also his attitude and presence that fits like a glove with Tomlin and the organization.
After a QB28 finish last season, expect this full off-season of Pickett taking starting reps to propel him into the top 20 QB realm this season with young playmakers including Najee Harris, Pat Freirmuth, George Pickens, and Diontae Johnson making plays all over the field.
QB Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars)
The Jaguars are clicking on all cylinders under Doug Pederson. The former Super Bowl winning Head Coach has a 23-year-old superstar Quarterback and solid receiving core while playing in the easiest division in football.
Lawrence’s 4,113 passing yards earned him Pro Bowl honors although finishing 9-8 on the season, before mounting a 24-3 comeback in the 2nd half to defeat the Chargers in the Wild Card Round. Looking forward to the 2023/24 season, Trevor has Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram as his top four targets.
This core four is due for a huge season, especially while playing the Texans, Titans, and Colts six times during the season. With former college mate Travis Etienne out of the backfield alongside rookie Tank Bigsby out of Auburn, this offense is a top-tier AFC offense.
RB Travis Etienne (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Speaking of Lawrence’s backfield mate, Etienne will be put in the same category as Austin Ekeler and Alvin Kamara after this season.
Looking fully healthy coming into his 3rd season with the Jags, look for Travis to become a more efficient pass catcher and be utilized in the red zone even more this upcoming season.
Finishing as the RB17 in 2022, I don’t think there are 10 better fantasy RBs than the Clemson product coming into the 2023 year.
RB Antonio Gibson (Washington Commanders)
Drafted in the RB30 range, Gibson has a great chance of getting back to his normal 1,000-yard total this season. With added targets in an Eric Bienemy-run offense, I’d expect the game script to fit Gibson’s game more so than Brian Robinson’s.
As a productive red zone producer throughout his career, look for Gibson to lead the Washington playmakers in TDs on route to an RB20 or better campaign.
WR Elijah Moore (Cleveland Browns)
A sleeper rising up in ADP, Elijah Moore will finally get his opportunity as a WR2 or 3 with a competent QB and solid offensive playbook.
Without Kareem Hunt and trustworthy backup wideouts next to Amari Cooper, I’d look for Moore to produce out of the slot and backfield and rack up a career-high in carries and targets this upcoming season in Cleveland. Due to the sheer amount of opportunity, buy low on Elijah Moore before the preseason.
QB Russell Wilson (Denver Broncos)
After back-to-back QB16 finishes in fantasy football, the question has been raised. How many more seasons does Russ have left? I’ll give you my answer. Zero.
The Broncos have brought in Sean Payton to lead a comprehensive transformation of this struggling AFC team, and that doesn’t involve Russ Wilson.
It wouldn’t be unexpected if Russ ends up playing fewer than 10 games this season, as the Broncos set their sights on contending for a top 5 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, which features top QB prospects, Caleb Williams and Drake Maye.
QB Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)
I’m a huge Dak Prescott fan. One of the best leaders in football, he’s had a rather underrated career. However, without Zack Martin and OC Kellen Moore, I expect a tough season coming Dak’s way, especially after some struggles early on in training camp.
While he should find a way to finish inside the top 20 at his position, the turnovers as a massive concern, and with a new offensive system, expect growing pains from the 30-year-old that you don’t want to deal with from your fantasy starter.
RB Dalvin Cook
If you are an RB reading this, please don’t go searching for $10 Million contracts if you aren’t top five in the position.
Dalvin Cook finds himself in a tough spot, and even if he gets a $5 Million deal, he’ll be sharing carries with a back that has proved himself in training camp already. Behind schedule, stray away from free-agent running backs as we head into mid-August.
WR Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Evans has made a living off the deep ball and in the red zone throughout his illustrious fantasy football career.
Finishing inside the top 20 every season since 2016 with more than 5 TDs in each of those campaigns, it’s hard to believe Evans even cracks the top 25 with either Trask or Mayfield throwing him the rock.
Although the team will be down in most games, Godwin might be a better play in this Tampa offense due to his short-yardage gains.
WR D.J. Moore (Chicago Bears)
If you are a believer in Justin Fields elevating D.J. Moore past his WR2 status, props to you. It’s difficult for me to envision Moore excelling as the 1st option in Chicago in a run-first offense that hasn’t provided a top-20 wideout since… Allen Robinson.
While D.J. should have a productive year, catching his 60-70 passes for a handful of scores, topping his back-to-back WR25 finishes or better will be difficult in a new system with a run-heavy QB.