Fantasy Football: Players poised to make the leap in 2023
Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence struggled down the stretch and lost the most fumbles in the NFL in 2022 but still made significant growth during his second year in the league. The Bourbon Meyer season needs to be factored into his progress, which now points toward superstardom. It might happen as soon as 2023 when Calvin Ridley will join Jacksonville and Lawrence is drafted as a borderline top-five fantasy QB.
Teammate Travis Etienne is ready to make a leap into first-round fantasy territory next year as well.
Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
Lance is still recovering from a second ankle surgery but expects to be 100 percent for OTAs. Assuming his leg cooperates, Lance still has a bunch of fantasy upside given his rushing ability and playing in a system with weapons that just helped Mr. Irrelevant lead the NFL in passing TD% — all without the hefty draft price tag. Brock Purdy will undoubtedly battle Lance for the starting job in 2023, which could suppress Lance's ADP even further.
In fact, hype has turned to hate throughout many circles, including Lance's own GM.
It remains entirely unclear if Lance can actually play, but he led the league in fantasy points per dropback as a rookie and has gotten 8.6 YPA in the NFL aside from the one game in which he played through a monsoon — when he somehow also led the league in Big Time Throw percentage that week. The criticism toward Lance should revolve entirely around injuries (and his inexperience).
Lance remains the league’s biggest mystery, as one of the NFL’s best offensive minds traded three first-round picks to draft someone who’s made five starts on a football field since 2019 and has attempted just 420 passes since high school (2017).
Whether good or bad, let’s hope we actually find out if Lance can play quarterback in 2023.
Breece Hall, New York Jets
Hall was the RB7 on a per-game basis in 0.5 PPR leagues as a rookie despite never eclipsing 20 carries and dealing with Zach Wilson at QB for the majority of his games. Assuming Hall’s return from ACL surgery goes smoothly, he should be ready for Week 1 and will benefit from a loaded Jets roster likely to greatly improve at quarterback (with Aaron Rodgers a real possibility).
Hall is a fully capable three-down workhorse who led all running backs in yards per touch and explosive rush rate while commanding targets at an eye-popping rate as a rookie. He’s trending toward providing first-round fantasy value.
Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
Wilson led the NFL in targets and was fantasy’s WR7 in games without Zach Wilson last season. That’s awfully impressive for a rookie sharing the field with Elijah Moore and historical target hog, Corey Davis. Wilson led the league in targets per routes run versus press coverage and finished top-five in percentage of his team’s end-zone targets. And there’s zero to no chance New York runs it back with Zach at quarterback with an otherwise loaded roster.
The upgrade from the wildly inaccurate Wilson to someone like Aaron Rodgers would be immeasurable, but I have G. Wilson as a top-10 fantasy wideout regardless of who plays QB for the Jets in 2023.
Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
Not all quarterback play was equal, but Olave was the most productive wide receiver per snap in a historically impressive rookie class. With Alvin Kamara staring at a possible lengthy suspension and Michael Thomas restructuring his contract to pave the way to be released from New Orleans, Olave is looking at a massive sophomore role and should also be considered a top-10 WR entering 2023 fantasy drafts.
Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers
Watson badly outplayed fellow rookie teammate Romeo Doubs after a slow start (that included one of the worst drops of 2023 during Green Bay’s first offensive snap of the season). Only Stefon Diggs produced a higher Passer Rating when targeted than Watson in 2023, and only one of them was a rookie. Some touchdown% regression is inevitable, but Watson is ready to make the leap to become one of the league’s premier fantasy receivers moving forward.
Drake London, Atlanta Falcons
London’s stats didn’t jump out like other rookie wideouts in the 2022 class, but he flashed as much as any on film. He also finished with a 32% target rate and as a top-20 fantasy WR in games with Desmond Ridder despite not scoring a touchdown.
London just finished top-five all-time in targets per route run at age 22 or younger, so his fantasy arrow is pointing straight up heading into 2023.
Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders
Dotson jumped off the screen at times during his underrated rookie campaign, which was very similar to Christian Watson’s. Sam Howell could’ve easily been drafted far higher and has real potential moving forward, so Dotson is ready to leap into the top 25 fantasy wideouts next season.
Hot take alert: Dotson scores more fantasy points than Terry McLaurin in 2023.