Fantasy Billboard: Top picks for the breakout players for the 2023 NFL season

Welcome back to Fantasy Billboard’s third season! We begin the pre-draft analysis with a list of players who are primed for exploding stats but who your opponents may overlook. Last year, I recommended Daniel Jones (9th in QB scoring) and encouraged you to stick with the frequently injured Christian McCaffrey (2nd in RB scoring) as breakout players. Let’s take a look at my options for 2023.

Jordan Love, Packers quarterback — All you need now that his love-hate relationship with Aaron Rodgers is over is Love. Rodgers moved Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb to New York, but he left some talented receivers behind in Green Bay. Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs (Love’s favorite target in camp thus far), and rookie Jayden Reed should help Love’s learning curve and allow him to put up solid numbers in the weak NFC North. Not to mention his pedigree. He was the 26th overall pick in the 2020 draft after throwing for 6,969 yards and 59 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Utah State. Aaron had Love apprentice for three years. We can only hope he was paying attention.

Mac Jones, Patriots quarterback — To be fair, Jones’ offensive coordinator in 2022 was former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. It’s like asking Willie Nelson to perform an opera. Jones’ final game of the season was apparently the breaking point, with lip-readers picking up on his profanity-laced rant at Patricia on the sidelines in Buffalo. Jones regressed in every statistical category his sophomore year, throwing for 800 fewer yards and eight fewer touchdowns. To help the Mac-attack, the Pats added TE Mike Gesicki and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster to their receiving corps. DeVante Parker, an underrated wide receiver, finished the season strong and should help Mac regain his Pro Bowl form in 2021.

Malik Davis, Cowboys RB — With RBs Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, and Davis, Dallas wasn’t big enough. Elliott was not re-signed by the Cowboys. He’s back on the range because the town has a younger, faster sheriff. Davis averaged 4.2 yards per carry in limited action last year, making him the RB2 behind Pollard. His gliding, low-to-the-ground running style reminds me of Herschel Walker, who also played for Dallas and wore No. 34. Watch Malik’s 23-yard touchdown run against the Colts last year to see why I’m so high on him.

Broncos RB Javonte Williams — Javonte is fully recovered from the torn ACL, LCL, and PLC that ended his season, having avoided the PUP list and apparently running at 23 mph in camp. Will his long-awaited breakout finally happen for Fantasy owners? Melvin Gordon, Javonte’s “person of mass obstruction,” has been fired after stunting Williams’ growth for two years. Samaje Perine, a transfer from Cincinnati, will be a complementary runner, but Williams will be the workhorse.Sean Payton was a top ten Fantasy RB in each of his last six seasons with the Saints. Javonte should fill in for Alvin Kamara. He’s Denver’s best bet. By Round 4, I’ll be busting out this Bronco.

Rashod Bateman, Ravens wide receiver — Bateman had a spectacular first three games of 2022, averaging a ridiculous 29 yards per reception for 226 yards and two touchdowns. His 15.3 point per game average ranks him alongside Jaylen Waddle and Keenan Allen. Bateman’s dream season was cut short after six games due to a Lisfranc injury. However, Bateman is in training camp and is expected to start opposite Odell Beckham Jr. in the Ravens’ improved passing attack. Despite the presence of the aging Odell, who has been out of football since the 2022 Super Bowl, it would not be surprising to see Bateman lead Baltimore in receiving. Bateman is currently on the PUP list, so keep an eye on his progress before drafting him.

Cardinals WR Rondale Moore — I don’t want any Cardinals this year, but Moore piques my interest. He works as a yardage compiler. Moore accumulated 414 yards on 41 catches in seven games in 2022. If you multiply those numbers by a full 17-game season, you get 100/1,005 yards. In comparison, No. 13 WR Tyler Lockett had 84/1,033 last year. I don’t care if quarterback Kyler Murray misses the first half of the season. Unlike Murray, his backup Colt McCoy has a higher completion percentage (68% vs 66%) and throws from the pocket. Moore is less if you steal him in the 14th round.

Chargers’ Gerald Everett TE — If you saw Everett’s playoff performance against Jacksonville last year, you’d swear you were watching Travis Kelce in a Chargers uniform. Everett was unstoppable in Los Angeles’ crushing 31-30 loss, with 6 receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown. This week, he continued his aggressive play in training camp, getting into a fight with a teammate. “We want that edge,” said head coach Brandon Staley. On the Chargers, we want guys like Gerald Everett.” Everett is my pick to replace Kelce-West in 2023. This season, he’s my No. 1 breakout player.

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