NFL Free Agency this year featured many of the league’s long-time veteran quarterbacks finding new homes in 2023. Derek Carr was a Raider for nine years but is now the starting QB for the New Orleans Saints. Baker Mayfield is getting a last chance at being a starter in Tampa, and long-time Packer Aaron Rodgers is going to try to win a Super Bowl for the Jets.
The teams that didn’t play musical chairs in NFL free agency were expected to find replacements for their team needs or at least competition through the NFL Draft. However, the following 5 players luckily dodged this drama over the NFL offseason, keeping their fantasy stock somewhat unscathed.
Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
It’s not a resounding vote of confidence that Smith signed a contract in 2023. In the 2023 contract, Smith will earn a base salary of $1,200,000, a signing bonus of $26,100,000, and a workout bonus of $200,000.
Smith had a Comeback Player of the Year in 2022. He finished the season with a 69.8% completion percentage. Smith threw for 30 touchdowns with 11 interceptions on 4,282 yards. And he also rushed for 366 yards and one touchdown while leading the Seahawks to the postseason.
But in the 2023 NFL Draft, the talk was dominated by the quarterback class. The Seahawks had four picks in the first two rounds, and with Smith only getting one year, having 10 total picks and four of those coming in the first two rounds, a quarterback pick wasn’t’ out of the question.
The Seahawks did not pick a quarterback. The current depth for quarterbacks in Seattle remains the same as last season. Smith appears safe for now.
Per fantasypros.com, Smith finished as QB5 last season. He averaged 18.5 fantasy points per game (ahead of Justin Fields, who averaged 20.5). Smith had 314.9 total fantasy points (Fields had 307).
The fantasy downside for Smith will be Weeks 11-13. During that span, the Seahawks will play the Los Angeles Rams on the road, then play back-to-back Thursday night games. The first game on Thanksgiving will be against the San Francisco 49ers, followed by Thursday’s’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.
These three teams surrendered 14.2, 13.6, and 14.3 average fantasy points per game to the quarterback position last season.
While Smith is safe for your fantasy redraft, remember that his season last year was a roller coaster. He scored a season-low of 7.2 fantasy points in Week 2 and a season-high 31.7 in Week 4.
Quarterback, Las Vegas Raiders
There were plenty of rumors regarding the Raiders and one of the top five quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft. Yes, Garoppolo had surgery that has kept him out of preseason activities. Did the Raiders know about it before the 2023 NFL Draft?
The Raiders had nine picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. They did pick a quarterback, trading up to the 135th pick of the fourth round to pick the quarterback from Purdue Aidan O’Connell.
Garoppolo’s’ main issue is his ability to stay on the field. In the last three years, he has played 32 games. When healthy, he averages 8.3 yards per pass, the first among active quarterbacks. His propensity to throw short and rely on his receivers’ yards after catch bodes well for Davante Adams. Adams was third in yards after the catch last season.
In 2021, Garoppolo played 15 games. That was his highest playing time in the last three seasons. He finished as QB17 averaging 16 fantasy points per game. That’s his high. Will a fourth-round pick challenge Garoppolo? He appeared safe before the announcement of his preseason surgery.
If Garoppolo is ready for the season, he is a viable candidate in super-flex leagues. His weapons raise his ceiling. His consistent injury status lowers that same ceiling. But he isn’t looking over his shoulder at the incumbent rookie this year.
Tight End, New York Jets
Even though the Jets had both Conklin and CJ Uzomah, there were stories that quarterback Aaron Rodgers requested the services of Marcedes Lewis. Was that a sign of Rodgers’ lack of confidence in the Jets’ roster of tight ends? If so, the 2023 tight end class offered tight ends highly rated in blocking and catching.
The Jets had seven picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, including one in the first round and a pick in the second round. They did pick a tight end until their last pick of the draft. In the seventh round, the Jets acquired tight end Zack Kuntz. Pro Football Focus assessment on Kuntz” “Kuntz is an elite athlete in a position where many developmental projects in such a mold have succeeded. That’s worth a flier”.”
Both Conklin and Uzomah can breathe easily for now. Last season neither Conklin nor Uzomah was a viable fantasy option. Conklin finished as TE17 averaging 4.3 fantasy points per game. Uzomah finished as TE40 averaging 2.3 fantasy points per game.
But this season, all players have a higher ceiling with the acquisition of Rodgers.
Conklin is the fantasy option that gained after the 2023 NFL Draft. Conklin has averaged 87 targets in the last two seasons. While after having 63 targets in 2021, Uzomah was limited to 27 targets in 2022.
Wide Receiver, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots allowed their leading receiver Jakobi Meyers to leave during free agency. They acquired JuJu Smith-Schuster, but that still left veteran wide receiver Parker as one of the three starting wide receivers, with Smith-Schuster and Tyquan Thornton as the other two.
Last season Parker played in 13 games. He was on the receiving end of 47 targets and 31 receptions. In the 2021 season, he played 10 games and had 40 receptions on 73 targets.
It would be understandable if Parker held his breath during the 2023 NFL Draft. The Patriots had 12 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. They waited until round six to acquire a wide receiver. With the 187th pick, the Patriots picked LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte. Then the Patriots doubled down and picked Liberty’s’ wide receiver Demario Douglas with the 210th pick.
Meyers was the most relevant receiving fantasy option in New England last season. He finished as WR33 in standard and WR29 in PPR leagues. Parker finished 70th in PPR formats and 58th in standard.
It is safe to say that the Matt Patricia experiment did not aid fantasy players. The hiring of Bill O’Brien as the offensive coordinator raises the ceiling.
Parker can breathe a sigh of relief as it did not appear New England was in a rush to find a replacement for him in the 2023 NFL Draft Parker’s’ ability to stay on the field is still a red flag for fantasy. Redraft fantasy players did not gain in the draft. Parker’s gain may be fantasy’s loss.
Running Back, Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler was very vocal about wanting a trade preseason. The Chargers were equally vocal about wanting to keep Ekeler without extending his contract. Ekeler will be a free agent next season. Making the Chargers’ seven picks in the 2023 NFL Draft interesting.
The Chargers did not pick a running back in the 2023 NFL. They did choose two wide receivers and a quarterback. None a threat to Ekeler’s fantasy dominance.
Ekeler finished the 2022 season as RB4 in standard fantasy and RB1 in the PPR formats. He averaged 21.9 fantasy points in PPR and 15.6 in standard leagues.
The Chargers have a new offensive coordinator this year. Kellen Moore will be calling the plays. At the end of their yearly press conference last year, the head coach and general manager expressed the desire for the Chargers to be more efficient in the run game.
Ekeler gained when the Chargers did not choose a running back in the 2023 NFL Draft. Fantasy managers gained as Ekeler has been a consistent fantasy producer. In 2021 he finished as RB2 (21.5 fantasy points), and in 2020 he finished as RB9 (16.5 fantasy points).
Gladys is obsessive about fantasy football, Pittsburgh Steelers, dogs/cats, pop culture movies and television shows, and Ben & Jerry’s 7 Layer Vegan Ice Cream (although not necessarily in that order). A writer about NFL, college ball, and fantasy football for more than 10 years, she attempts to combine her degree in statistical variance (BS Policy Analysis) with player knowledge and game script. Though her concentration is on IDP, redraft, and PPR leagues, all fantasy formats are fair game. Reach out whenever you can find me on Twitter @gladysLtyler. And remember, don’t suck and tip your bartenders well.