Fantasy Football 2023: Rankings for Top Sleeper and Bust Candidates
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The arrival of another NFL season brings with it focused attention on fantasy football and the construction of a championship squad.
To do put together a team that can win one’s league and the bragging rights that come along with it, it is imperative to avoid potential busts while stockpiling sleepers who can exceed projections and help win games when stars position players are sidelined by injury or bye weeks.
Ahead of the drafting season, here are five sleeper candidates from each skill position to keep an eye on and five busts from each to leave on the board for your opponents.
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- Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns
- Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
- Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons
- Bryce Young, Carolina Panthers
- Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
- Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
- Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets
- Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
- Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers
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On the surface, considering a second-year quarterback with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in his rookie season a potential fantasy sleeper may seem ludicrous but improved confidence late in 2022 and the emergence of young playmakers makes Pittsburgh Steelers signal caller Kenny Pickett a potential revelation for fantasy managers.
From November on, Pickett threw one interception to five touchdowns, all while growing noticeably more comfortable in the role of starting QB for one of football’s most storied franchises.
Wide receiver George Pickens broke out, catching 52 balls for 801 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 15.4 yards per reception. He is a deep threat, as is Diontae Johnson, who caught 86 balls for 882 yards. Allen Robinson is a veteran wideout who may not have had the season anyone expected in Los Angeles but has sure hands and should prove to be a quality possession receiver if nothing else.
Pickett has the weapons, the confidence of his team and coaches and a full offseason as the starter under his belt. He should be markedly improved in 2023 and while he may not throw up the gaudy numbers of Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow, is in a position to be a surprise contributor to any fantasy squad.
Even if it means coming off your bench to spell a higher-profile under-performer.
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- Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons
- Rashaad Penny, Philadelphia Eagles
- Samaje Perine, Denver Broncos
- Chase Brown, Cincinnati Bengals
- Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
- Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
- D’Andre Swift, Philadelphia Eagles
- Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks
- Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
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The last two seasons have seen Alvin Kamara’s production fall off and that can be directly linked to the absence of retired quarterback Drew Brees.
The New Orleans Saints offense has not been as dynamic without the future Hall of Famer and Kamara, in particular, has seen his numbers decline.
In 2021 and ’22, he scored just 13 total touchdowns. This, after a 2020 season that saw him find the end zone 16 times on the ground and five as a receiver. Injuries have also caused him to miss starts, cutting into his numbers.
The Saints offense will likely benefit from having Derek Carr under center but the addition of Jamaal Williams to the backfield following a 17-touchdown season in Detroit is likely to make it more difficult for Kamara to achieve the stats that he had previously.
Perhaps a crowded backfield ultimately makes the former Pro Bowler expendable and Kamara has the opportunity to play with another team via trade later in the season but for now, fantasy managers should tread carefully when it comes to selecting No. 41 too early in drafts.
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- Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
- Jordan Addison, Minnesota Vikings
- Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers
- Kadarius Toney, Kansas City Chiefs
- Odell Beckham, Jr., Baltimore Ravens
- Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
- Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders
- DJ Moore, Chicago Bears
- Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
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Much has been made of Baltimore’s attempt to surround Lamar Jackson with wide receiver talent, starting with acquiring free agent Odell Beckham Jr.
The world is fully aware of the dynamic playmaker Beckham is. From the sensational receptions to the run-after-catch ability, he is a game-changer.
When he is on the field.
Beckham has played a 16-game season only twice in his career, with injuries often forcing him to the sidelines. For the Ravens to become a more balanced offense that can rely on the passing game to win them games, Beckham would have to be available to Jackson and history tells us there is no reason to believe that will be the case.
Even if he is, there is the production question.
Beckham has not scored more than six touchdowns in any season since 2016. Some of that can be attributed to iffy quarterback play, some to the aforementioned injuries, but the numbers are what they are.
In Los Angeles, with Matthew Stafford, he enjoyed a renaissance of sorts and was on his way to being the MVP of Super Bowl LVI before an unfortunate knee injury took him out of the game.
If he bounces back from the ACL injury, can display the same explosive route running that helped him succeed with the Rams, and can stay healthy enough to stay on the field, he can be a considerable asset to fantasy managers.
There are too many variables, and ‘ifs,’ to justify taking Beckham in the top half of any draft and that does not take into account a Ravens offense that has traditionally struggled to get be a dynamic passing unity.
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- Irv Smith Jr., Cincinnati Bengals
- Hayden Hurst, Carolina Panthers
- Mike Gesicki, New England Patriots
- Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints
- Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills
- Darren Waller, New York Giants
- Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
- Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
- TJ Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings
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There is nothing particularly explosive about Irv Smith Jr but as part of an explosive offense in Cincinnati, he will have the opportunity to put up numbers.
Opposing defenses know they have to account for Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. They know Joe Mixon is a problem out of the backfield and rookie running back Chase Brown could be a problem on the ground and in the passing game.
Smith gives Burrow another option that defenses will not be able to key on.
He scored five touchdowns in 2021 and another in the Wild Card game between Minnesota and New York a season ago. He can get open, find the endzone and be a safety net for an elite, young quarterback who likes to throw the ball all over the field.
There are concerns that the sheer volume of playmakers may prove problematic for Smith’s numbers but if the Bengals find themselves in a goal-to-go situation, instead of predictably handing off to a back, do not be surprised if Burrow looks for Smith and, as a result, increases touchdown totals for both himself and the receiver.