After cramming mock drafts to prepare for fantasy football this season, I have assembled a list of players who I believe to be values at their respective Average Draft Positions (ADP).
ADPs via Fantasy Football Calculator as of Sept. 1
TE Mark Andrews (ADP: 29)
No longer are the Ravens slow-paced with outdated concepts and unremarkable wideouts. This offense is fully armed and should be operational sooner than later.
New offensive coordinator Todd Monken will bring more passing and more volume, via faster snaps, than his predecessor Greg Roman. The last time Monken called plays in the NFL was in 2019, when his Bucs ranked fourth in offensive plays and Jameis Winston led all passers in attempts and yards.
Despite some new names at the receiver position, Baltimore’s quarterback and tight end won’t have any early hiccups. Only seven quarterback-receiver duos have more touchdowns than Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews since they entered the league together in 2018. In the same span, Andrews ranks 13th among all players in scores and first downs.
Beyond playing with an underrated passer in Jackson, Andrews benefits from opportunity. He ran a route on 95% of Baltimore’s dropbacks last year, which led all tight ends and ranked 24th among all players (per PFF). He’s actually led his position in route share each year of his career besides 2021, when he finished third.
That remarkable usage will decline with free agent signing Odell Beckham Jr., first-round rookie Zay Flowers, and a now-healthy Rashod Bateman also running routes in 2023. But Andrews can afford a dip in his target rate -- and it won’t be big unless one of those receivers significantly overperforms -- if the new system means more plays and the new weapons mean more scoring chances.
It’s asking a lot for Andrews to dethrone Travis Kelce as the top-scoring tight end in fantasy, but his production will align closer to Kelce’s than the T.J. Hockenson/George Kittle tier.
WR Calvin Ridley (ADP: 31)
Davante Adams listed him as a top-five wideout, stating, “He’s gonna be back this year.”
Trevor Lawrence recently told The Pivot podcast, “He’s a freak. I mean I can’t wait.”
Calvin Ridley was on his way to superstardom before his career took a turn in 2021. Now he’s hungry to get back on track and prove himself as a premier player. It won’t take long for fantasy managers to speak as highly of Ridley as his peers already do.
Here are the ADPs for players who will be the No. 1 target for a top-10 quarterback* in 2023.
- Ja’Marr Chase: 3 (WR2)
- Travis Kelce: 6 (TE1)
- Cooper Kupp: 7 (WR4)
- Stefon Diggs: 8 (WR5)
- CeeDee Lamb: 11 (WR6)
- A.J. Brown: 12 (WR7)
- Garrett Wilson: 16 (WR9)
- Mark Andrews: 29 (TE2)
- Calvin Ridley: 30 (WR15)
- Keenan Allen: 31 (WR16)
WR Deebo Samuel (ADP: 40)
For my money, Samuel is the most talented player on San Francisco‘s Mount Rushmore of current skill players between him, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey.
Samuel was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2021 with 1,770 total yards and 14 total touchdowns. He followed that WR2 fantasy finish with an underwhelming 2022 campaign in which he failed to reach 1,000 scrimmage yards.
Samuel described last year’s performance as “awful” and “sloppy” and vowed, “I’ll never put nothing on tape like that again.” But despite playing through multiple injuries, he still led his team in targets per route run and first-read target share (per Graham Barfield).
A better argument against the fight for touches and suspect quarterback room is simply recognizing that a player this good shouldn’t be available this late. Samuel is one of the best playmakers in the NFL, period. He leads all non-running backs in broken tackles and yards after catch per reception since entering the league in 2019.
WR Drake London (ADP: 44)
I think London, like fellow 2021 rookies Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, can be a team’s primary No. 1 receiver with the ability to earn a 30% target share.
Why do I think this? Because it’s already happened. London was one of four players with a 30% target share last year (per RotoWire). It was “the second-highest target rate by a rookie wideout in the Next Gen Stats era, trailing only Tyreek Hill’s debut in 2016” (per NFL.com).
The former Trojan has a similar case to Samuel (even if their play styles are near-opposite): though the offense has viable concerns, the individual player is too gifted to pass up.
The Falcons deploy a non-fantasy-friendly scheme that ranks high in run rate and low in snaps per game. The jury is still very much out on second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder, but if he can be just an average NFL thrower, London will break out soon enough.
The gap between London and Wilson (ADP: 17) and Olave (ADP: 21) should be smaller.
WR Mike Williams (ADP: 66)
Mike Williams was on a tear to start the 2022 season. Through the first seven weeks, with help from three games of 10-plus targets and 100-plus yards, he ranked 13th in fantasy points at his position and 15th in receiving yards among all players. (He also ranked top-12 in fantasy points and yards among receivers the year prior.) Unfortunately, a high ankle sprain caused Williams to miss some time in ‘22 and finish the season as fantasy’s WR31.
He’s also going as the 31st receiver, his supposed floor, off the boards in fantasy drafts now.
The surrounding injury concerns are fair but it’s a risk I’m willing to take at this price. Williams can win at all three levels of the field, has a quarterback in Justin Herbert who can do the same, and now has a playcaller in Kellen Moore who can take full advantage. Herbert’s putrid 6.4 average air yards per throw from last year should skyrocket.
There were also training camp rumblings of Williams being deployed out of the slot more. It’s hard to imagine the Chargers frequently removing him from wide alignments, where he’s most valuable as a possession receiver for Herbert; but maybe an increase in slot snaps leads to more gimme catches to pair with his valuable-yet-volatile downfield production.
If you haven’t noticed by now, I like targeting skilled players who should have significant roles in rising offenses. Williams fits the bill.
George Pickens (ADP: 73)
Kenny Pickett said of his fellow 2022 draft class member George Pickens on August 6:
“He’s the best athlete I’ve ever played with. And now that his route tree is coming along and you’re seeing him catch different routes out there, I think it’s night and day from last year from how much he can do now. ... He’s a really, really smart player.”
Pickens was eventually listed as a training camp winner by Mark Kaboly of The Athletic:
With so much already expected out of Pickens, it’s tough to top that. He just might have done that over three weeks. That proverbial next step by a second-year receiver appears to be in progress. He’s no longer just a deep-ball or highlight-catch guy like we saw last camp and last season. He has transformed into a more polished receiver with an expanded route tree, and that will do nothing but help Pickett and this offense. There was always a concern that he might not be as good as he was last year, but nothing like that came to fruition in camp.
Just go watch the dude’s highlights. I’m not expecting a full-on, London-like breakout, but Pickens can be similar to Williams as a menace of a downfield/endzone target.
RB David Montgomery (ADP: 80)
Montgomery rushed for 800-plus yards and 5-plus touchdowns for four straight seasons in Chicago. Jahmyr Gibbs (5’9”, 200lb rookie) and Craig Reynolds (79 carries in four seasons) stand in his way for carries on a Lions team that ranked first in running back fantasy usage, fifth in offensive DVOA, and ninth in run block win rate last year.
That environment led Jamaal Williams to a league-high 17 touchdown dances in 2022. Montgomery could score half that and still pay off his current ADP as he transitions from one of the NFL’s worst offenses to one of its best.
James Cook (ADP: 81)
I remain skeptical that James Cook has the frame and skill set to be a “three-down back” as hinted at during training camp. But the excitement coming out of Buffalo hasn’t slowed.
From Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic:
Those expecting the Bills’ backfield to be the same split committee approach as it’s been the past several years haven’t been paying close enough attention. From everything we have seen from Cook this summer — his practice usage, his preseason game usage, how the team is talking about him and how he’s performed every day — there is a big gap between Cook and the backup options.
WR Gabriel Davis (ADP: 92)
It was always absurd to assume a massive breakout from Gabe Davis following his 200-yard, 4-touchdown performance against the Chiefs in the 2022 Divisional Round. Davis didn’t meet anyone’s expectations last year, but it was due more to injuries than overhype.
He suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 2 and Josh Allen partially tore the UCL in his right elbow in Week 9. Davis still finished fifth in routes run and 15th in air yards (per Rotowire).
This Bills offense is rivaled only by the Chiefs at full health; Buffalo actually led the league in most advanced metrics last season prior to Allen’s injury. I’m expecting a bounce-back campaign from Davis, a full-time player on arguably the most fantasy-friendly team.
Skip to the 11:40 mark of this Stefon Diggs presser to hear why he agrees. Davis is currently being drafted as WR42, significantly lower than his last year’s finish as WR24.
Rashaad Penny (ADP: 101)
I can’t quit on talent, especially in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. Rashaad Penny’s 5.7 yards per attempt from five seasons in Seattle bests the career marks of Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Jamaal Charles, Derrick Henry, and every other running back in league history.
Now in Philadelphia, Penny will be the main rusher between the tackles and at the goal line for a top-five scoring team and top-two offensive line. Kenneth Gainwell is still around, but not a risk to Penny’s snaps; D’Andre Swift may lead the backfield in touches, albeit he was originally traded from Detroit for durability concerns.
Penny has missed significant time to injury himself, but they just don’t make running backs like him anymore. Space-erasing speed and nonchalant tackle shedding is a rare combo.
RB Samaje Perine (ADP: 102)
Sean Payton utilized running backs out of the backfield at a high rate in a past life. It shouldn’t be difficult for Samaje Perine to carve out a role with the Broncos, just like he did with the Bengals to the dismay of Mixon managers. A similar split could occur between Perine and Javante Williams, and the latter is still recovering from an Oct. 2022 ACL tear.
Thanks for reading! Let me know your own favorite 2023 fantasy picks in the comments.