The 2023 NFL season is just weeks away which means many of you are getting ready for your fantasy football drafts. The hopefully by now you've done your fantasy football mock drafts and you've checked out the loaded Fantasy Alarm Fantasy Football Draft Guide which has everything you could possibly need from updated fantasy football player rankings and fantasy football player projections to offensive line breakdowns; from top sleepers and busts to the fantasy football cheat sheet. Today we talk flag plants. These are the players we are taking stands on and looking to put on our fantasy football rosters this season.
Howard Bender's 2023 Fantasy Football Flag Plants
Bijan Robinson, RB Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 9.46) - Will be a Top 5 RB
The fantasy football industry still seems to be a bit split on the value of Robinson at his current ADP, but I am not afraid of drafting him as a top-five overall pick this season. I can cite Ezekiel Elliott if you’re looking for an example of how a rookie running back dominated during his inaugural season, but instead prefer to highlight the Atlanta offensive scheme and the opportunities Robinson will have. How many times have you heard me say “I wish I loved anything as much as Arthur Smith loves to run the football?” Too much, probably, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true or relevant. The scheme will be run-heavy just like he showed you last year and during his brief time running the offense in Tennessee. The Falcons spent their offseason fixing the offensive line through free agency and the draft, as well as revamping their entire defense so that the offense can continue to ‘ground and pound’ instead of every game turning into a second-half track meet. Robinson is expected to see somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 touches and that probably only covers about 20-percent of the passing work he could start to get as well. Yes, you will want to draft Tyler Allgeier as a handcuff. Who knows, maybe they run the ball enough to give him some late-season standalone value. But the bottom line is that Arthur Smith did not draft Bijan as the eighth overall pick to give him a shared workload this season. Draft him as a top-five running back with confidence and you can thank me after you win your league’s championship.
Brandin Cooks, WR Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 96.96) - Will be a WR2
While I haven’t been nearly as vocal about Cooks as I have been about Bijan, it doesn’t mean I am any less bullish on him this season. In fact, by the time I am done drafting all of my season-long and best ball leagues, I will have some pretty heavy exposure numbers to Cooks this season and I don’t hate it one bit. Let’s start with the fact that Cooks surpassed 1,000 receiving yards and had at least five touchdowns in six of his last eight seasons. The two down years were 2019, when injuries and a complete change of passing direction to feature Cooper Kupp cost him his target share, and last year when more injuries and a run-first, garbage-type offense limited his workload. Outside of those two seasons, he’s been one of the most productive wideouts in PPR formats and should be again, this season. What I love most about Cooks is that he doesn’t need to be the featured receiver in an offense to be productive. In fact, it probably works better for him to not have the opposition’s top corner on him. In New Orleans, he saw his best touchdown totals while playing WR2 to Marques Colston and Michael Thomas. Now in Dallas, CeeDee Lamb is going to be front-and-center, leaving lesser corners to have to contend with Cooks’ speed and crisp route-running. A return to 80-plus receptions and at least 1,000 receiving yards seem very plausible in this Cowboys offense and if we pencil him in for half a dozen touchdowns, I don’t think anyone will be unhappy with him as an eighth or ninth-round pick.
Courtland Sutton, WR Denver Broncos (ADP: 102.79) - Will be Broncos leading WR
Yes, this has been a drum I’ve been banging quite loudly over the past few months and only until the hamstring injury to Jerry Jeudy did people start trying to push their way onto the bandwagon. The problem is, they don’t really know why. They actually believed Jeudy would be the team’s No. 1 receiver and that his injury pushes Sutton into that spot. But the truth is, if you know what Joe Lombardi’s offense does for the X-receiver, you would have been in-tune with what I’ve been preaching about all offseason. Go back and look at what being an X-receiver in a Joe Lombardi offense does to a player’s target share. Go look at Marques Colston and Michael Thomas from back in the New Orleans days. Go and look at what happened to Mike Williams’ target share over the last two seasons. It’s pretty tough to miss it if you know what you’re looking for. That isn’t to say we can’t trust in the fact that Jeudy will also see a strong workload. He will, when he returns. Keenan Allen stayed relevant the last two seasons and you can also look back to Lance Moore who had almost 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns working out of the slot. Don’t let weak Saints personnel over the years, outside of Thomas, fool you into thinking it’s not possible, because it is. But Sutton is the focus here and Sutton should be the guy you look for in your drafts. The Jeudy injury might make the first few games a little more difficult as the Broncos don’t have much in the way of quality receiving depth behind these two, but don’t go bashing my flag-plant too soon or you’re going to regret ever doubting me. By the end of the season, Sutton will lead this team in targets, receptions, receiving yards and probably receiving touchdowns as well. You’re welcome.
Britt Flinn's 2023 Fantasy Football Flag Plants
Brandon Aiyuk, WR San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 67) - Will be a high-end WR2 to Deebo Samuel's WR4 Finish
I don’t know how bold this is, but nonetheless, it is a flag that I’m planting. If you followed the 2022 Fantasy Football Hot Takes article on the site last year, I pontificated that Brandon Aiyuk would supplant Deebo Samuel as the 49ers WR1 by the end of the season. Not only did that happen, from Week 6 on, Aiyuk was the WR10 overall in PPR leagues, stacking up 180.4 points. He had a couple of double-digit target games, but the appeal of Aiyuk was his consistency; only three of those 12 games resulted in single digit points. Aiyuk also outperformed Samuel in nearly every measurable aside from yards after catch, but he especially excelled in separation, ranking third in the league with an average of 2.31 yards of separation per target.
With Brock Purdy, someone who is more of a game manager quarterback, I don’t see him going to Samuel and forcing contested catches. He will lean on Aiyuk to be open in critical situations and continue building the trust they finished the year on. When you look at the difference in ADP between Aiyuk and Samuel, this is a no-brainer.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB New England Patriots (ADP: 125) - Will be a RB2
“Efficiency this, efficiency that.” Sure, Zeke didn’t exactly return value in fantasy last year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good real-life running back. He was used in short yardage situations to move the chains, and he was especially effective at finding the end zone, finishing sixth in rushing touchdowns. Elliott also faced a stacked box at the sixth-highest rate in the league and still managed to finish as RB22 in PPR leagues despite playing from Week 4 on with a torn PCL. Zeke is still a very competent back and his usage in Patriots’ training camp is extremely encouraging, with reports he’s being used in goal line situations and passing situations. He still has plenty of gas left in the tank and will prove it this season with a change of scenery.
Anthony Richardson, QB Indianapolis Colts (ADP: 104.5) - Will be a low-end QB1
I realize that Anthony Richardson was touted as a high-upside developmental prospect, but I don’t hear the fantasy community harping on Justin Fields who also has a lot of development to do as a passer. The truth is that Richardson’s athletic profile broke every record imaginable at the NFL Combine and the “Baby Cam Newton” moniker that has already been bestowed on him seems apparent. His rushing upside should make him a viable fantasy option regardless of how good he is as a passer, but with Shane Steichen at head coach, that development should happen at a much faster pace. The Vegas books currently have him at 2,800 passing yards and 16 passing touchdowns, and although there are no current lines listed for his rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, I think 800 should be the bare minimum. For context, Fields finished last season with just over 2,200 passing yards, 17 passing touchdowns, and 1,100 rushing yards and wound up as QB6 on the year. Richardson’s ceiling is sky high.
Kevin Tompkins' 2023 Fantasy Football Flag Plants
Jordan Addison, WR Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 88) - Will be a Top 24 WR
I have been banging the drum on Jordan Addison since the second the Vikings drafted him as the last of four consecutive wide receiver picks in the first round. He was drafted to the perfect spot where he can overcome some of the “size” limitations he has at 175 pounds because he gets to play next to Planet Earth’s alpha wide receiver, Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson and Adam Thielen last season ran the most and second-most raw pass routes in the NFL last season. And K.J. Osborn was 14th. There will be receiver running routes, and now that Thielen has been exiled to slot receiver hell in Carolina, Addison should be able to run at least 600 routes this season, which would have put him top-12 in the NFL last season.
He’s got zero competition for any of the backups, considering the next-highest route runner at wide receiver for the Vikings last season was Jalen Reagor at 52 routes — about as many as Jefferson, Thielen, Osborn and Hockenson all ran in Week 15, the shootout vs. Indianapolis.
So we know he’s going to run routes. The offense he plays in helps as Minnesota was 6th in pass rate over expected last season with the 5th highest raw pass rate at 65%. The team was 3rd in pass attempts last season with 672, and they subtracted Dalvin Cook and added nobody except a 7th round rookie who will be a healthy scratch each week, barring injury.
And the defense in Minnesota is awful, which should get the offense on the field a ton. Add in the fact that the Vikings' plays per minute were above league average and also ran the sixth-highest percentage of no-huddle.
Kevin O’Connell himself said that Addison would “get the easiest looks in the NFL” thanks to playing alongside Jefferson. I truly don’t know why Jordan Addison isn’t steamed up to higher than WR38, but I’m thankful because my bags are packed.
Drake London, WR Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 65.5)- Top 12 WR this season
Arthur Smith has done some very dumb things with his skill position players *cough* Kyle Pitts *cough*, but he’s done Drake London right, and as a rookie, he earned 117 targets, 85% routes on the season, and a robust 2.07 yards per route run as a rookie. The 29% target share and 27% targets per route run are admittedly inflated because of the poor passing volume in Atlanta, but in the four games London played with Desmond Ridder, London averaged 9 targets per game, 83 receiving yards per game and was WR18. While that seems modest, the passing attempts in Ridder’s four starts went up by 6 attempts from abject failure Marcus Mariota.
London is the explosive second-year breakout we’re looking for, and the stink of the Atlanta offense is keeping his price down on the WR2/WR3 fringe.
The Falcons have toyed with Pitts and have tried to make him into a blocker and have taken him out in jumbo packages, but the guy that’s NOT coming out? Drake London. London might have some of the sneakiest touchdown upside available in his ADP, and the offense can’t be pass-averse as they were last season. They could easily add 100 or so pass attempts from last season to this season, and that would STILL put them at 515 pass attempts, which would put them in the bottom eight last season, but hey, it’s still 100 pass attempts. That’s a LOT. If London gets 25 of them with better QB play from Ridder or Taylor Heinicke, then we’re talking top-10 upside at a pretty reasonable price in drafts.
Efficient rookie year, draft capital, and target-dominant. Top-12 Drake London.
Zach Charbonnet, RB Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 97.5) - Will score more fantasy points than Kenneth Walker
There’s a reason why the Seahawks went back to the well in 2023 to draft a second-consecutive 2nd round running back.
Kenneth Walker has always profiled as a rush-first, breakaway type back similar to J.K. Dobbins, and he got to show that in a major way last season as a Zero RB stud. Even then, his 35% success rate (a percentage that measures consistency and how often a running back runs for more yards than expected) was outright bad, being only better than Dalvin Cook and Ezekiel Elliott among backs with 200+ carries.
But the knock in his game has been in the receiving category, where he ran less than 10 routes per game in college, and his yards per route run of 0.45 was THE lowest of all Day 1 and Day 2 running backs since 2015 per Pat Kerrane. Walker’s 2022 YPRR of 0.63 was the fourth worst among backs with 25+ carries next to Jonathan Taylor, Zeke, and Miles Sanders.
Enter Zach Charbonnet, who the Seahawks drafted and should have multiple paths to the high-value touches that Walker was inefficient and just downright bad with. If Walker continues this explosive-play-only two-down profile, Charbonnet is going to be able to easily work into a receiving role and work into goal-line touches as well, which could build as the season continues. The clearest path to running back upside is goal-line work plus receptions.
Just looking at the cost, which admittedly isn’t that BAD for Walker because he is an explosive big-play rusher, but with capped upside, Charbonnet comes out as the much better play at cost, and I want to be in on him as much as I possibly can, and I truly think that Charbonnet outscores Kenneth Walker in all fantasy formats this season.
Andrew Cooper's 2023 Fantasy Football Flag Plants
Miles Sanders RB Carolina Panthers (ADP: 62.77) - Will be a RB1
I actually did a full article on just this one player - that’s how committed I am here. But here’s the cliff notes from that. Everyone THINKS the Eagles are a good spot for a running back in fantasy. And, with their offensive line and the RPO style offense, they are good for efficiency metrics on the ground. But they are not good in two aspects. And those are the two most important aspects for fantasy. The Eagles were dead last in targets to the RB group. And Jalen Hurts had the second most carries inside the 5 yard line of any player. In 2019, Doug Pederson called 39 screens - 34 to Miles Sanders (19) and Boston Scott (15). Last year Nick Sirianni called 11 (Sanders had 3, Scott had 3). The last time both backs were healthy, Panthers head coach Frank Reich called 39 screens for Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. The Panthers made Miles Sanders the highest paid free agent running back so that he could be their every down back and make things happen both at the goal line and in the passing game. That’s all we want in fantasy football. But you don’t have to take it from me. You can literally watch this clip of Panthers GM Scott Fitterer saying they signed Miles Sanders to come in and catch passes.
Diontae Johnson, WR Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: 69.45) - Will be a WR1
The treatment of this player in fantasy football makes absolutely no sense to me this year. We spend so much time scouring advanced metrics and deep diving film to try and figure out who could be this year’s breakout. We’re wondering who could have a huge target share. Because, at the end of the day, targets are king right? And, as everyone loves to say, targets are earned, aren’t they? Meanwhile, Diontae Johnson, who has had 140+ targets in three straight seasons, is going off the board as the WR31 at pick 69 based on our composite ADP. We don’t need to do the deep diving - the stat is right there! And it’s been there for multiple years now! In terms of targets, he’s been WR6, WR2, and WR6 the last three seasons. But just because he was unlucky enough to not find the endzone last year, we don’t draft him in the top 30 WRs? It boggles my mind. My mind is boggled. I’m taking him in virtually every draft.
Dalton Kincaid, TE Buffalo Bills (ADP: 118) - Will be a Top 5 TE
This pick is simple - you get to take advantage of a MASSIVE misconception within the fantasy football community. Folks simply say “rookie tight ends can’t be good in fantasy”. And that is incredibly lazy and short sighted analysis. I mean, a rookie tight end literally just had a 1,000 yard season a year ago. Yet people still promote that myth. What folks really should be saying, is that conditions need to be perfect for rookie tight ends to break out. I did a full write up right here on what those conditions are. The short and sweet is that you not only need to be the best pass catching TE on the team but you also need to be a top two target on the team. That’s a tall order for a rookie tight end - but Dalton Kincaid 100% has that opportunity. The Bills general manager Brandon Beane, live on the Pat McAfee show, TOLD US HIMSELF, that Dalton Kincaid was going to play slot receiver with Dawson Knox as the inline tight end. Think about what a 30-32 year old Cole Beasley did on a partial snap share playing slot with Josh Allen. Anything an old Cole Beasley is capable of, Dalton Kincaid is absolutely capable of. And more.
Jon Impemba's 2023 Fantasy Football Flag Plants
Jahmyr Gibbs, RB Detroit Lions (ADP:33) - Top 12 RB
One of the more contested players in this year's fantasy football analysis has been that of Lions rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs. The Lions drafted Gibbs with the 12th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and then traded D'Andre Swift to the Eagles making it a clear statement that Gibbs is going to be a core part of the team's offense.
The discussion surrounding the value of Gibbs however stems from the Lions also signing free agent running back David Montgomery this offseason as a replacement for Jamaal Williams who ran for 1,066 yards last season with an NFL leading 17 rushing touchdowns. Most are arguing that Montgomery is going to just pick up where Williams left off and that Gibbs will be nothing more than a change of pace or pass catching back.
Do you know how many times Jamaal Williams played more than 50-percent of the offensive snaps last season? The answer was once. Just one time last season did Williams play more than 50-percent of the offensive snaps and that was with D'Andre Swift constantly dealing with injuries.
In 2021, despite playing only 13 games Swift was the RB10 in PPR point per game scoring. Jared Goff will throw to his running back and the Lions draft capital investment in Gibbs only makes me project that IF he can stay healthy, unlike Swift, we could be seeing at the VERY LEAST a 50/50 split in offensive snap share.
There has been some comparison to Jahmyr Gibbs and the potential scenario to be played out with David Montgomery with one of those being the New Orleans Saints usage of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram during Kamara's rookie year. That season Kamara rushed for 728 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 81 catches for 826 yards and five more scores. He finished as the RB3 overall. Mark Ingram that season had 1,124 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.
Now, I'm under no delusion that an offense led by Drew Brees and an offense led by Jared Goff are going to be the same from a production stand point but let's not just count out Gibbs because we don't think he's going to be this 1,000-yard three-down back. In fantast, in PPR-formats, he doesn't have to be.
Give me Jahmyr Gibbs as my RB2 this season in PPR leagues and I think he will finish among the Top-12 scoring running backs in fantasy football this season.
Calvin Ridley, WR Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP:36) - Top 10 WR
Guess who is back? After missing all of last season due to a gambling suspension we saw Calvin Ridley traded to the Jaguars and now back on the field and ready for the start of the 2023 NFL season. The last time we saw Ridley play an entire NFL season he finished with 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns with the Atlanta Falcons. He is still only 28-years old and unlike some players who miss an entire year, he isn't coming back from injury. Ridley has reportedly come into camp in great shape, he is looking fast and making plays. When you want to talk about drafting players with upside, this is what you should be looking at. This is a player who finished as WR5 overall in PPR formats just two-years ago.
What I love even more about this player is the QB he gets to play with. I'm personally very bullish on Trevor Lawrence and why shouldn't I be? The number one overall pick in the draft two seasons ago proved why he was worth that investment last season when he threw for 4,113 yards with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions with his leading receivers being Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Evan Engram. No offense to those three but when compared to the talent of Calvin Ridley we are talking horses and ponies. Ridley is a bonafide number one WR in the NFL and we now get to see Kirk and Jones slot correctly into the offense as the WR2 and WR3 options which is scary for defenses .
That highlight above feels like just a taste of what's to come this season and for me, I'm grabbing Ridley where I can with the expectation that he finishes the season as a top-10 fantasy football wide receiver.
Daniel Jones, QB New York Giants (ADP: 115.5) - Top 12 QB
Under year-one with Brian Daboll we saw the Giants make the playoffs and Daniel Jones finish the season as a top-10 fantasy football QB. Jones may not have had eye-popping passing totals last year, throwing for just 3,200 yards and 15 touchdowns but he set a career high in completion percentage at 67.2% and his five interceptions were the fewest thrown of his career. He also added a nice little fantasy wrinkle to his game as he ran for 708 yards and seven scores. His previous rushing high was 423 yards back in 2020 in just 14 games.
The detractors for Jones will tell you the 700 rushing yards is not sustainable and therefore he will fall back when it comes to his overall fantasy value but they give him no credit for potentially improving his passing numbers. For what feels like the first time in Daniel Jones career there is some consistency. The head coach is the same, the offensive coordinator is the same and the QB coach is the same. We saw Brian Daboll work and turn Josh Allen into one of the leagues top QB's and while I'm not sitting here and saying that Daboll will turn Daniel Jones into Josh Allen I do think that Daboll is a really good offensive coach and knows how to put his players in positions to get the most out of their talent.
This offseason the team traded for Darren Waller and drafted rookie Jaylin Hyatt to help add some punch to the team's passing attack that certainly fell short of expectations due to all the injuries and no-show performances last season. But why not give Jones the benefit of the doubt here? Even if his rushing numbers regress a little bit, I still think 500+ rushing yards should be in the conversation. Again, he had 423 yards in just 14 games a few seasons prior so the mobility is real. Josh Allen in Buffalo under Daboll had three 500+ yard rushing seasons which included 763 yards in his final season as the team's offensive coordinator which means Daboll has now had back-to-back 700-yard rushing QB's in his offense.
I think Jones takes a step forward this year and his rushing totals remain somewhat consistent putting him back in the conversation as a top-12 fantasy football QB this season.
Related Links & Articles:
- Howard Bender's Fantasy Football Fades
- Fantasy Alarm Staff Bold Fantasy Football Predictions
- Fantasy Football Mock Draft: 12-PPR
- Anchor RB Overview & Draft Strategy
- Wide Receiver Dynamic Tier Fantasy Football Player Rankings
- 2023 NFL Training Camp Battles