Potential league-winners being drafted outside of the first round
ADP: Second Round
Pollard has the backfield to himself now. Despite the rumors that the Dallas Cowboys would still be interested in resigning Ezekiel Elliott after releasing him in March are officially dead. Elliott signed a one-year deal with New England, taking him off the market and clearing the way for Pollard to have a true breakout season.
In half-PPR leagues last season, the Pro Bowl running back finished as the RB8 on the year even though he was splitting the workload. Pollard finished with 16 fewer touches than Elliott and averaged fewer snaps per game. However, during the two-week stretch that Elliott was out, Pollard was second in fantasy points per game among running backs and receivers. Over that span, he averaged 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries per game. This kind of pace is likely unsustainable over a 17-game season, but a stat line close to that is not out of the realm of possibility. In 2022, he ranked third in yards per attempt among running backs with at least 100 carries. He’s one of the most electric players in the league when he has the ball in his hands.
Right now, according to Fantasy Pros, he’s being drafted as the RB8 with an overall ADP of 17, slotting him as an early to mid-second-round pick in half-PPR redraft leagues this year. In my opinion, he’s being drafted at his floor. Pollard has just as good a shot as any to finish as the RB1 this season. He showed elite potential last season, all that’s left is for him to prove he can sustain a full season of being the featured back in Dallas. If he can stay on the field while keeping his efficiency up, Tony Pollard could be in for a special season in 2023.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
ADP: Second Round
The third-year leap for wide receivers is real. Michael Thomas broke the single-season receptions record in his third season, Tyreek Hill became an All-Pro for the first time and just last season, Justin Jefferson won Offensive Player of the Year. This year, Amon-Ra St. Brown could be that receiver that breaks out into superstardom.
In 2022, St. Brown finished as the WR8 despite scoring just six touchdowns. Of the top 13 wide receivers in fantasy points last season, the 23-year-old pass catcher was the only one with less than seven receiving touchdowns on the season. This screams positive touchdown regression in one of the most explosive offenses in football. Last season, the Lions finished 5th in the NFL in scoring, 8th in passing yards, 8th in passing touchdowns, 12th in pass attempts and 13th in offensive plays per game. They played fast and threw the ball a lot, I don’t see any reason as to why that would change in 2023. St. Brown is set up to have a massive season on a team that shouldn’t have any trouble finding the endzone.
Currently, he’s being drafted as the WR9 with an overall ADP of 19 according to Fantasy Pros, indicating that he’s being drafted in the mid-to-late second round of half-PPR redraft leagues this season. This could look really silly at the end of the season. I see a lot of similarities to when Tyreek Hill finished as the WR1 in 2018, despite being drafted as the WR10 in drafts. Hill was entering his third season while playing on a fast-paced, pass-heavy offense after a season in which he had a mini breakout with over 1,100 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. This year, St. Brown will be entering his third season while playing on a fast-paced, pass-heavy offense after a season in which he had a mini breakout with over 1,100 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
I’m really excited for Amon-Ra St. Brown and you should be too. At the end of the year, don’t regret that you missed out on the seemingly annual third-year breakout wide receiver.
ADP: Second Round
To me, this one is obvious and the argument is simple. Wilson, who won Offensive Rookie of the Year last season despite having Joe Flacco, Zach Wilson and Mike White as his quarterbacks, will now be playing with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Fantasy football doesn’t have to be hard.
In 2022, Garrett Wilson became just the third player in NFL history to record at least 145 targets, 80 catches and 1,100 receiving yards during their rookie season. Moreover, in the season’s final seven weeks, Wilson saw the second-most targets behind only Justin Jefferson. As a rookie, Garrett Wilson was seeing elite usage and showed exceptional route running and after-the-catch ability. One of the biggest reasons he finished as the WR19 in half-PPR leagues and not inside the top 10, aside from horrific quarterback play, was his touchdown total. He was the only receiver inside the top 19 in total fantasy points with less than five receiving touchdowns. For a player who finished the season with the sixth most targets at the position, it’s safe to say he’s due for more trips to the endzone in 2023, especially with the addition of Aaron Rodgers.
In half-PPR redraft leagues, Garrett Wilson is being drafted as the WR10 with an overall ADP of 20. Considering the major upgrade at quarterback, the elite talent he displayed in his rookie season and the massive target share, I’m very comfortable with taking him in the mid-to-late second round knowing that he has the potential to finish as the WR1 in 2023.
ADP: Fourth Round
Mixon has been one of my most highly targeted players in fantasy drafts this season. On the surface, I don’t see anything keeping him from having the potential to finish as a top 5 player at the position by the end of the 2023 season. He’s a proven running back with very little competition for touches in the backfield on a team that scored 7th in the NFL last year. Simply put, he’s going to have plenty of opportunities to score fantasy points.
One of the most underrated aspects of Mixon’s game is his pass-catching ability. Last season, the 27-year-old running back ranked 5th at his position in receptions and 7th in targets while seeing a 12.5% team target share. This shouldn’t go unnoticed when you’re preparing for your drafts.
Another reason I’m high on Mixon this season is his expected increase in usage. In 2022, Mixon had to split some opportunities with Samaje Perine. In the red zone, Perine enjoyed a 32% share of touches in the Cincinnati backfield, leading to five touchdowns near the goal line. Mixon was still able to control 65% of the red zone touches for the Bengals last season while cashing in on nine touchdowns, but his share could have been a lot larger. This season, Mixon won’t have to share the load as often after Perine signed a two-year deal with Denver. This means that there is one less mouth to feed on one of the most explosive offenses in the league.
Right now, Joe Mixon is being drafted as the RB15 with an overall ADP of 37 in half-PPR redraft leagues. The possibility of a suspension is baked into the ADP, but I’m not worrying too much about that. He was recently found not guilty in his aggravated menacing trial, giving him a shot at avoiding discipline from the NFL altogether. However, even if he were to face a small suspension during the season, it won’t be large enough to justify drafting 14 other running backs ahead of him. Considering that he should have one of the largest workloads at his position on one of the best offenses in the NFL, the pieces are there for Joe Mixon to win fantasy leagues this season. As a third-round selection with a high-end RB1 upside, he could be the perfect pick for someone who doesn’t like taking running backs in the first two rounds of drafts.
ADP: Third Round
There aren’t too many players I like drafting this year more than Calvin Ridley. He’s one of the most gifted route runners in the NFL and he has a knack for finding the endzone. From 2018 to 2020 (the only full seasons he’s played so far), Ridley caught the 6th most touchdowns behind only Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans, Adam Thielen, Tyler Lockett and Travis Kelce. He was mixed in with some pretty elite company. Following the 2020 season, he took most of the year off in 2021 due to personal reasons and was suspended for the entirety of the 2022 season due to gambling. Before then, he was one of the best pass catchers in the NFL.
In his last full year, he finished as the WR4 with an aging Matt Ryan as his quarterback while sharing targets with Julio Jones. This year, Ridley has third-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence throwing him passes with Christian Kirk as his biggest target-share threat. The 2018 first-round pick has a realistic pathway to getting back to high-end WR1 production and making his current average draft position one of the biggest mistakes of the year.
As of mid-August, Calvin Ridley is being drafted as the WR17 with an overall ADP of 41 in half-PPR redraft leagues. To me, this makes him the best value pick in drafts this year. Despite being drafted in the third round on average this Summer, the 28-year-old pass catcher has a realistic shot at finishing inside the top 5 at his position by the end of the season. He’s shown that he can produce at an elite level in a less-than-ideal situation. In 2023, he should be in the best situation of his career as the clear WR1 in an exciting offense with an ascending quarterback at the helm. There isn’t anything I don’t love about Calvin Ridley this season, so I’m making sure I don’t leave any of my drafts without him.
Will Holtz is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a degree in journalism. He has been playing fantasy football for 15 years and hopes to help fantasy managers become fantasy champions. When he is not writing about fantasy football, he writes about the NBA and spends time with his family and girlfriend.