2023 fantasy football bold predictions from Underdog Fantasy's Hayden Winks. Watch our videos on YouTube and enter Best Ball Mania IV with promo code 'THESHOW'. We'll match your first deposit up to $100.
Let's start with mild wings. Kupp has been the most valuable player per game over the last two seasons, and nothing about that upside has changed now that both Kupp and Matthew Stafford are training post surgeries. The Rams defense is multiple tiers worse in 2023, and there's nobody else in the offense that competes for targets. I'm expecting Sean McVay to essentially play Madden this year, so I'm drafting Kupp ahead of both Christian McCaffrey (3.5 ADP) and Tyreek Hill (4.5 ADP).
His Fantasy Points Over Replacement value was 15th overall last year. This year, it could be Full Chubb sans Kareem Hunt, who quietly saw 6.9 expected TDs in 2022. Jerome Ford is unlikely to see as much work as Hunt has seen in recent seasons, and even if he did, the Browns offense could be significantly better if Deshaun Watson rebounds. With the bellcow RBs of years' past aging out, this is the best Chubb looks pre-season in fantasy rankings. He shouldn't be a late Round 2 selection.
Andrews is a Round 3 target of mine. He and Lamar Jackson were both banged up in 2022, but Andrews had an absurd 107-1361-9 line the year previous. We're expecting more pass attempts now because of an OC change from Greg Roman to Todd Monken, and I think Zay Flowers and Odell Beckham are overrated in general. Andrews is the alpha in Baltimore, and he actually had more receptions (73) and TDs (5) than Chris Olave had last year (72-1042-4) when Michael Thomas wasn't competing for targets. Olave goes 11 picks before Andrews, who also has the positional value boost if my prediction is correct.
Pierce handled big workloads last year. He averaged 89 total yards on 20 touches from Week 2 on as a rookie, leading to the 44th overall finish in Fantasy Points Over Replacement. That's 9-of-12 games with 20+ opportunities by the way. Etienne averaged 93 total yards on 17 touches from Week 6 on post-James Robinson, leading to a 49th overall finish. Their workloads are quite similar, but I trust Pierce near the goal line more than I do Etienne, who is an inconsistent player with more thicc competition in 2023. I also like the Texans top-10 OL versus the Jaguars bottom-10 OL now that their LT and RT tackles from last year won't crack their Week 1 starting lineup.
Adam Thielen was second in routes (674) last year. The Bears had 377 pass attempts last year. Of course, the Bears will pass more (possibly even significantly more) with better WRs in town, but this Vikings-to-Bears gap is still really significant. Moore will be the true No. 1 WR after giving up a future first-rounder for him, yet Chase Claypool was also traded for the 32nd overall pick just months earlier. Addison has underrated contingent value if either Justin Jefferson or T.J. Hockenson miss time, too.
Their ADPs are completely flipped: Higgins (24.4) vs. Mixon (58.5). That gap will inevitably close, as we get more confident that the Bengals' plans at RB still include Mixon. In fact, he's almost all they have with Samaje Perine being replaced by fifth-year $1M vet Trayveon Williams, older 5th-round rookie Chase Brown, and special teamer Chris Evans. Mixon and Perine combined for 12.9 and 4.9 expected scores last year in this potent offense, which would've made the RB1 overall if combined last year. Even if Mixon keeps his exact stat line from last year, his Fantasy Points Over Replacement value was 21st overall compared to Higgins' 37th overall.
Waller's injuries and age scare me. The Giants passing offense also has their issues. In fact, New York had fewer completions and passing TDs than the Texans did last year when they were starting Davis Mills. CJ Stroud is a massive upgrade over Mills, and Houston's OL will be better this year, too. Schultz isn't a game-breaking player by any means. He is a nice scheme fit with Stroud, who can't rely on Nico Collins, Robert Woods, John Metchie, and Tank Dell as volume hogs. With Houston's defense also ready to get run over, Schultz can soak up a lot more targets than people expect. I stack the Texans a bunch in best ball tournaments for their cheap prices.
Now we're cooking with some heat. This one is purely offense related. The Steelers added multiple OL upgrades, plus have Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, and Pat Freiermuth in the breakout portions of their careers. Pittsburgh should finish better than 26th in scoring this year, and Harris quietly was the RB6 in expected TDs last year. In other words, he dominated red zone work, so a big jump in TDs isn't that hard to see. Taylor, meanwhile, inherits an inexperienced rookie QB who is unlikely to throw to his RBs because he's such an elite scrambler. The new Colts coaching staff also revolutionized the game with QB rushing in short area, so Taylor could lose red zone scores to Anthony Richardson. It wouldn't surprise me if the Colts and Steelers flipped their rankings in RB fantasy usage:
The Lions led the NFL in expected fantasy points to their RBs, so both RBs can get home as top-24 RBs. In fact, Jamaal Williams (RB10) and D'Andre Swift (RB21) did so last year despite this coaching staff viewing Montgomery and Gibbs being upgrades. Gibbs will be schemed up touches between the 20s, but he only had four carries inside the 5-yard line and 10 carries with two-or-fewer yards to go for a first down last year at Alabama. Montgomery is a heavy favorite for goal-line opportunities, which we love in half PPR. Montgomery is more liked by the NFL than the fantasy community, as evidenced by his 3-year, $18M contract. He's not a nothing on passing downs either, so Montgomery could be an every-down bellcow if Gibbs gets injured (199 pounds) or busts like other tiny early-round rookie RBs have historically.
Do you want to bet against Matt Patricia as an OC? I do! Bill O'Brien runs laps around Patricia, who ruined Mac Jones and a functional OL in his lone season designing an offense. And even with the offense cratering in 2022, the Patriots still finished 11th in RB fantasy usage because their defense kept them in games. Stevenson has the size and skillset of a bellcow, and the rest of the depth chart doesn't have a Damien Harris level talent. If we combine Stevenson's and Harris's expected TDs from last year, we'd have 15.7 of them. Keep in mind, New England should have even more of them without the Pencil Ear God calling plays.
Dalvin Cook gets released with a Post June 1st designation to clear cap space after McBride proves that he can be Alexander Mattison's early-down backup. Ty Chandler stays in his passing down backup role, while McBride steps into the Vikings' starting spot following a Mattison ankle sprain in Week 16. McBride finds the end zone twice, one at the goal line and one from 32 yards showcasing his underrated speed for his size. Zero receptions on the day? Who cares. TDs, baby.
Call me crazy, but he's going to overcome the odds and put points on the board at least six times in 2023. Will it come on 6.4 yards per target? Of course, but there will be 6 TDs on 145 targets for Diontae. Trust.