The 2023 NFL season is drawing closer with training camp just over a month away and the first pre-season games kicking off a week or so later, before the Chiefs and Lions get us properly underway on 7th September. At this stage of the year it’s hard to escape the constant flow of reports of players that are going to take a leap forward in fantasy football and in the real world and others who are looking unlikely to make the final roster.
It is important to take every bit of news with a pinch of salt and to not overreact. However, there are several players in the league heading into their sophomore year that we know we need to keep an eye on in fantasy football this year.
Let’s take a look at some of these below.
Desmond Ridder (Atlanta Falcons)
A third round pick in 2022, Ridder started the season as backup to Marcus Mariota. He would end up taking over the starting job in Week 15 after the Falcons bye week. He lost his first two games as the starter, only throwing for just over 150 yards per game. There was slight improvement in the final two games of the season, as he lead the Falcons to two, albeit meaningless, wins. He finished with two touchdowns across the four games. While he avoided any interceptions, he did lose a couple of fumbles.
Atlanta only added Taylor Heinicke at the position in the off-season. Ridder is going to get the chance to prove he is the long term starter. He certainly cannot argue that he doesn’t have the talent around him after the Falcons spent the eighth overall pick on running back Bijan Robinson. This is the third top eight pick they have used on a skill position player in three years.
In his brief stint as the starter last season, Ridder only had one of those three first rounders (wide receiver Drake London) alongside him as tight end Kyle Pitts was out with an MCL sprain. London averaged 83.3 receiving yards per game in this four game split, a massive improvement on his season average of 50.9. You could argue this was more due to the lack of other options in the receiving corps for these games. Nevertheless, the additional volume is encouraging with Ridder averaging 25% more pass attempts than Mariota.
At this stage Ridder should be nothing more than a bench option for our Dynasty rosters. He is currently QB29 on KeepTradeCut (KTC) and Dynasty League Football’s (DLF) May ADP. Looking at the players above him, even with a good season it’s hard to see his ceiling being much higher than a low end QB2, somewhere in the 20-24 range. It’s a big if, but if he can keep the starting job for the full season and Atlanta don’t end up with a high draft pick to replace him with, he will hold some value in superflex leagues for at least another year and could end up being a bargain.
Rachaad White (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
With the departure of Leonard Fournette, the path appears clear for Rachaad White to be the Buccaneers lead back in 2023. He logged 129 carries and 50 receptions in his rookie year. 30 of those receptions were from Week 12 – 17 and those numbers should only increase without Fournette on the roster. The veteran had 189 carries and 83 catches of his own. This is his biggest workload since moving to Tampa Bay. From a Dynasty perspective, White was viewed as a borderline RB3/4 a year ago. He has seen a big rise to see him valued as a mid to low RB2 now (RB24 on KTC, RB18 on DLF), but is that really justified?
The question marks for White heading into 2023 are his individual efficiency and the quality of Tampa Bay’s offense in general. In his rookie year, White averaged 3.8 yards per carry which ranked 44th of the 50 players that had 100 or more carries and his 5.8 yards per reception was the lowest of any running back to log at least 50 catches. And then you add to the mix that the offense will be quarterbacked by Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask following Tom Brady’s retirement.
White will need to significantly improve on his efficiency numbers from 2022 where he finished as the RB36. Otherwise it’s hard to see him being anything more than a low end RB2 in an offense that will almost certainly be worse overall. On the other hand, the receiving work should provide a somewhat solid floor. He should see some positive touchdown regression after scoring just once on the ground in 2022.
The signs are pointing towards him getting enough work to be a solid producer and potentially finish the season in the RB18-24 range. This is without really putting in any week winning fantasy performances. If he doesn’t show more explosiveness and ability to find the endzone, then he may not be the long term answer for the Bucs or our fantasy teams.
Skyy Moore (Kansas City Chiefs)
Skyy Moore shot up Dynasty rankings in April 2022 when the Chiefs took him in the second round of the draft. We all had dreams of him being Tyreek Hill’s long term replacement as the top receiver in Kansas City. Since then things have not gone to plan. This is at least for those who spent a first round pick on him in last year’s rookie drafts.
Seven Chiefs players saw more targets than Moore’s 33 last season. His sole touchdown came in the Super Bowl. That can hardly be taken as a sign of things to come as it was his only target in that game. Despite all the evidence of an underwhelming rookie year, the departures of Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman leave us asking if he will make the step up in his sophomore season.
Richie James was added in free agency. Rashee Rice was this year’s second round pick. Prior to that, Marques Valdez-Scantling and Kadarius Toney were the only other receivers of note remaining on the roster to have caught a pass in the NFL. There remains a lot of uncertainty over who, if any, of these receivers will stand out as a regular and viable fantasy option alongside tight end Travis Kelce.
In Dynasty, we are not going to be able to rely on Moore for a significant period of time, even if he becomes a regular target for Patrick Mahomes. But simply because of the power of this offense, we may want to hedge our bets on one of these receivers. His value has dropped enough that he is worth taking a chance on again in the circumstances. He is WR52 (one behind Rice) on KTC and WR60 in DLF’s May 2023 startup ADP. That’s a drop of around 20 spots on both sites from a year ago. This means he is now ranked near players who have similarly not proven themselves at the NFL level or could be out of the league in a year.
Greg Dulcich (Denver Broncos)
Greg Dulcich finds his name on this list through no real fault of his own as he led the league in receiving yards per game for rookie tight ends last year. He sat out the first five and final two games of the season through injury. When healthy, he was on the field for over two thirds of the snaps on all but one occasion. He turned that game time into 33 receptions on 55 targets for 411 yards and two touchdowns. Only Kyle Pitts, Evan Engram and Jordan Reed have had a better yards per game output at the position as a rookie in the last 20 years. So, what does Dulcich have to prove?
Denver’s offense in general was awful in 2022. They ranked bottom of the league in points per game. The only surprise was that they waited until boxing day to fire head coach Nathaniel Hackett. Sean Payton is his replacement. He will almost certainly get more out of this roster, although admittedly the only way is up. This could point towards Dulcich taking a step forward along with the rest of the offense. However,will he remain a feature of the offense? Or will there be too many mouths to feed?
The Broncos’ start the season with plenty of options in their receiving room. Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton have been joined by rookie Marvin Mimms. Not to mention a fit again Tim Patrick, KJ Hamler (who could be back healthy to start the season) and off-season addition Marquez Callaway. And there was also the draft trade to acquire fellow tight end Adam Trautman.
Trautman certainly isn’t a threat to Dulcich on the targets front. He could see his fair share of snaps given he was drafted by Payton for the Saints in 2020. We will be playing a waiting game to see how this offense plays out in 2023. Will Payton be able to get quarterback Russell Wilson back on track?
If he does, which of the Broncos receiving options will be the beneficiaries? There is uncertainty over the incumbent top targets Jeudy and Sutton. As a result, there is a great opportunity for Dulcich to consolidate himself as a top two or three option on this offense long term.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him either inside the top 6 tight ends this year or outside the top 20 with how clustered the position tends to be. But from a dynasty perspective, we just want to see proof that he will be a key part of the offense going forward.