A lot of data gets taken into account when it comes to a player’s fantasy projection in a given season. Fantasy analyst Antonio Losada highlights some 2023 projections he thinks are too low.
It took veteran rusher Joe Mixon more than a while to rework his contract with the Bengals, but both parties finally agreed to a deal and the running back will lead Cincinnati’s backfield for the seventh year this season.
Mixon hasn’t failed to score at least 207 fantasy points in half-PPR leagues in the last four seasons in which he’s played more than six games, and that shouldn’t change in 2023 even with a Bengals team that clearly has all of their talent in the QB/WR group of players.
With a clear RB1 role and no opposition, as well as opposing defenses paying attention to other more capable options on passing plays, Mixon will have everything he needs to thrive in Cincy’s backfield.
Even though Mixon missed three of a potential 17 games last year, he still ranked seventh in targets among running backs while catching 80% of those passes. The rushing yards might fall short of RB1-level production, but the all-around skill set makes up for that.
This is the year you, me and everyone else has been waiting for. It’s Tony Pollard’s time in Dallas as the leading rusher of the Cowboys. Will it work? Will Pollard produce to the expectations of many fans and fantasy players who have been calling for this change to happen for years on end?
I believe it will work out that way.
Pollard never had a real chance of outperforming now-former Cowboy Ezekiel Elliott in their four years together. Zeke racked up more targets and rushing attempts in all of those four seasons except 2022 when Pollard just beat him in the target department.
That said, on an opportunity basis, Pollard has beaten Elliott in all four years, which speaks volumes of whom the most valuable player was and what might be coming Pollard’s way. After beating Zeke to the RB1 role in production last season while finishing 2022 with more fantasy points than his elder, Pollard has now established himself as the RB1 in the pecking order with Elliott out of Dallas.
If nothing else changes compared to the last few campaigns — other than Pollard getting around 50+ touches by carrying the ball more often — that’d be enough to see him outperform most projections in 2023 on his way to an RB1 finish in fantasy leagues.
It took Daniel Jones more than a few reps and games to earn his flowers, but I don’t think his talent and skill set are deniable anymore.
Jones appeared in and started more than 14 games for the first time last season, and he was once and for all given the full trust of a Giants offense that, simply put, hasn’t been packed full of great players during the Jones era. Jones inked a massive extension earlier this offseason, so his role and prominence in Big Blue should only rise even higher.
If you want to, you can consider Jones some sort of Josh Allen-lite; Jones is on a slower developmental track but has been catching up to the latter of late. Jones finally rushed the rock in the triple digits (120 carries) for the first time in 2022 and he amassed 708 yards for an average of 5.9 YPC while scoring seven touchdowns.
The passing numbers are out of the question: Jones has gone from completing 61% of his passes as a rookie to 62, 64 and more than 67% last year. He’s topped 2,900+ passing yards three times, and although the touchdowns aren’t gaudy in numbers (15 last year), the interceptions are mostly kept at bay, limiting the downside of his game.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone to find out Jones is a legitimate QB1 in fantasy leagues in 2023, even moreso with a bunch of new and returning juicy weapons in TE Darren Waller and RB Saquon Barkley making his life easier.
In the last 11 seasons, looking at rookie quarterbacks with at least 10 starts in their first year in the NFL, only 13 players completed at least 62% of the passes they attempted — Kenny Pickett is one of those players. In NFL history, only one other rookie quarterback did it: fellow and former Pittsburgh Steeler Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.
That list includes the likes of Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson. I’m not saying Pickett is a lock to have an above-average career, but the comps are great for the most part and although there are some more dubious names there (Marcus Mariota, Baker Mayfield) it’s not like some of those didn’t perform to at least viable extents.
Pickett didn’t really have a great set of weapons at his disposal last year. He also missed a quarter of the season’s games, but he still got to put up some serious numbers. Pickett was, also, one of the best passers in the NFL throwing catchable passes (83% of them) and he also showed some ball-carrying skills, finishing the year with 237 yards on 55 attempts and scoring three touchdowns on the ground.
You would never (not for now and in 2023, at least) build your fantasy team around a quarterback like Pickett considering what he’s shown in his brief career in the NFL, but the signs are there for him to ascend every year. If Pickett can ramp up his passing volume while keeping up his consistency and efficiency, he should destroy his current projections.
WR Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers — Yahoo Projection: 162.67
Betting on Diontae Johnson for the 2023 season is trusting in the veteran putting together a bounceback-type campaign. Johnson is entering his fifth season as a pro, and last year he struggled for the first time after having improved on the prior year for the first few seasons he’s spent in Pittsburgh.
Even though Johnson played all 17 games, the veteran receiver finished with nearly as few fantasy points as he did in his rookie season. For context, he was targeted 92 times in 2019 compared to 147 last year, though the production was pretty much the same. Something was clearly wrong.
Johnson’s main problem last year was turning chances into proper gains. He caught 86 passes after hauling in 88 and 107 in the prior two seasons, but he failed to break the 900-yard barrier on those receptions while not scoring a single touchdown.
I wouldn’t advise drafting players on touchdowns alone (no matter the position), but it can’t be denied that not scoring even one touchdown through the whole season was rather odd. That should change in 2023.
Yahoo projects Johnson to score 4 TDs, and while that’s reasonable, I’d bet on the over and also give him 900+ yards throughout 2023 considering I’m also projecting a jump up in production by quarterback Kenny Pickett.
There is little question about who is the best pass-catcher of the 49ers, no matter who ends up tossing him the ball: that’s TE George Kittle. Other than him, though, there is an interesting debate involving the two main wide receivers of the team, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.
Samuel has been considered the better player for a while, but that could be about to change entering 2023 — if it has not happened already. Aiyuk has matched or outproduced Samuel’s per-opportunity production (that takes into account rushing attempts and targets) the last three seasons and since he entered the league.
Aiyuk is coming off his best campaign, has played 17 games in back-to-back seasons and topped Samuel’s per-game production for the second time in the careers of the two since they’ve shared the field (2020+).
While Samuel has produced both from the backfield and out wide, Aiyuk is a receiver through and through. In fact, Samuel can be considered a rusher masquerading as a wide receiver (he’s all about after-the-catch production) while Aiyuk has proved better at getting more yards per route, catching balls in the red zone and spreading the field vertically.
The projections of the two main 49ers wide receivers can’t be much closer, but 2023 could easily be the year Aiyuk finally jumps above Deebo in the pecking order.
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