Welcome back to the third season of Fantasy Billboard! We kick off the pre-draft analysis with a list of players that are ripe for exploding stats that your competitors may overlook. Last year I gave you Daniel Jones (9th in QB scoring) and encouraged you to keep the faith with oft-injured Christian McCaffrey (2nd in RB scoring) as breakout players. Let’s look at my choices for 2023.
Jordan Love, Packers QB — Now that his love-hate relationship with Aaron Rodgers is over, all you need is Love. Rodgers took Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb with him to New York, but he left some pretty good receivers behind in Green Bay. The triumvirate of Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs (Love’s favorite target in camp thus far), and rookie Jayden Reed should ease Love’s learning curve to put up some solid stats in the weak NFC North. And don’t forget his pedigree. He was the 26th pick in the 2020 draft after throwing for 6,969 yards and accounting for 59 TDs in his last two seasons at Utah State. Love had three years of apprenticeship under Aaron. Let’s hope he was paying attention.
Mac Jones, Patriots QB — In fairness to Jones’ horrific 2022 season, his offensive coordinator was former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. That’s like asking Willie Nelson to sing an opera. Jones’ last game of the season was apparently the last straw, and lip-readers could discern his profanity-laced diatribe at Patricia on the sidelines in Buffalo. Jones regressed in every statistical column his sophomore season, throwing for 800 less yards and 8 fewer TDs. To improve the Mac-attack, the Pats upgraded their receiving corps with the additions of TE Mike Gesicki and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. Underrated WR DeVante Parker finished the season strong and should help Mac return to his 2021 Pro Bowl form.
Malik Davis, Cowboys RB — Between RBs Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard and Davis, Dallas wasn’t big enough for the three of them. The Cowboys did not re-sign Elliott. He’s home on the range because there’s a younger, faster sheriff in town. Davis averaged a healthy 4.2 yards per carry in limited action last year, good enough to make him the RB2 behind Pollard. His gliding, low-to-the-ground running style reminds me of Herschel Walker, who also wore No. 34 for Dallas. Watch Malik’s 23-yard TD run against the Colts from last year and you’ll see why I’m so high on him.
Javonte Williams, Broncos RB — Having avoided the PUP list and apparently running at 23 mph in camp, Javonte is fully recovered from the torn ACL, LCL and PLC that ended his season. Will Fantasy owners finally see his long-awaited break-out? Gone is Javonte’s “person of mass obstruction,” Melvin Gordon, who stunted Williams’ growth for two years. Cincinnati transfer Samaje Perine will be a complimentary runner, but Williams will be the workhorse. Sean Payton produced a top ten Fantasy RB in his last six years with the Saints. Javonte should play the Alvin Kamara role. He’s the best bet in Denver. I’m bustin’ out this Bronco by Round 4.
Rashod Bateman, Ravens WR — The first three games of 2022 started off spectacularly for Bateman, averaging a ridiculous 29 yards per reception for 226 yards and 2 TDs. His 15.3 points per game average put him in the same echelon as Jaylen Waddle and Keenan Allen. Bateman’s dream season ended after six games with a Lisfranc injury. But Bateman is in training camp and projected to start opposite Odell Beckham Jr. in an improved Ravens passing attack. It would not be a surprise to see Bateman lead Baltimore in receiving despite the presence of the aging Odell, who’s been out of football since the 2022 Super Bowl. Bateman is currently rehabbing on the PUP list, so track his progress before your draft.
Rondale Moore, Cardinals WR — I really don’t want any Cardinals this year, but Moore intrigues me. He’s a yardage compiler. In his limited 2022 action, Moore compiled 414 yards on 41 catches over 7 games. Extrapolate those numbers over a full 17 game season and it’s 100/1,005 yards. In comparison, last year’s No. 13 WR Tyler Lockett had 84/1,033. I don’t care that QB Kyler Murray will miss the first half of the season. His backup Colt McCoy has a better completion percentage (68% vs 66%) and throws from the pocket, unlike the scrambling Murray. Less is Moore if you steal him in the 14th round.
Gerald Everett, Chargers TE — If you saw Everett’s playoff performance last year at Jacksonville, you would have sworn you were watching Travis Kelce in a Chargers uniform. Everett was unstoppable with 6 receptions for 109 yards and a TD in Los Angeles’ crushing 31-30 loss. He has continued his aggressive play in training camp this week, getting into a scuffle with a teammate. Head coach Brandon Staley approved: “We want that edge. We want guys like Gerald Everett [on the Chargers].” I consider Everett to be Kelce-West for 2023. He’s my No. 1 breakout player this season.
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