Fantasy Football 2023: Players Who Should Be Getting Drafted Earlier
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The 2023 NFL season is inching closer, which means it’s officially time for managers to begin drafting their fantasy football teams in anticipation of what should be an exciting year around the league.
While players like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson are expected to be some of the earliest picks among fantasy managers this year, it’s always worth while to consider potential sleepers that could exceed expectations.
That said, here’s some players managers might be drafting too low entering the 2023 season.
Russell Wilson, QB, Denver Broncos
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AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Russell Wilson entered the 2022 season with high expectations following his move from the Seattle Seahawks to the Denver Broncos, but the year proved to be disastrous for the veteran quarterback and the franchise.
The 34-year-old had arguably the worst season of his career, completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,524 yards and 16 touchdowns against 11 interceptions in 15 games, in addition to rushing for 277 yards and three scores.
Denver ultimately fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett following a 4-11 start to the season and ended up finishing the year with a 5-12 record, missing the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
Much of Wilson’s struggles were blamed on Hackett’s inability to effectively lead a team, and the former Seahawk is expected to have a bounce back year under new head coach Sean Payton.
While Wilson certainly isn’t the quarterback he once was, he was consistently a solid passer prior the 2022 season, and his past success can give fantasy managers some hope that he’ll get back on track this year.
Additionally, Wilson has no shortage of weapons in the Denver offense with solid pass-catchers in Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and Marvin Mims Jr., who was selected in the second round of the 2023 draft.
Furthermore, a healthy Javonte Williams is expected to return and will bring more versatility to a lineup that struggled mightily last season.
Taking Wilson can be viewed as a risk, but he has high upside and the opportunity to return to form this year.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Dallas Cowboys
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AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth
Brandin Cooks spent the last three seasons of his career with the perpetually rebuilding Houston Texans, and he put together a disappointing 2022 campaign that saw him appear in just 13 games.
The 29-year-old caught 57 passes for 699 yards and three touchdowns in his final year with the Texans after posting back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons in 2020 and 2021.
Cooks wanted the Texans to trade him prior to the 2022 season’s deadline, but the franchise was unable to find a partner and he suffered through another losing season before reiterating his trade request in January.
The Cowboys, in significant need of receiving help, acquired Cooks from the Texans in March in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2023 and a sixth-round pick in 2024.
Cooks suffered in an inefficient Houston offense in 2022 led by quarterback Davis Mills, but he’s getting a significant upgrade in Pro Bowl signal-caller Dak Prescott in Dallas entering the 2023 campaign.
While CeeDee Lamb will continue to be Prescott’s top target, Cooks should become one of the most reliable receivers in the Cowboys offense. Additionally, with all the attention both Lamb and Michael Gallup will receive from opposing defenses, Cooks could be freed up for far more opportunities this year.
Cooks is no Ja’Marr Chase or A.J. Brown, but he is an awfully effective, consistent receiver who has been a proven impact player in fantasy football for much of his career.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
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AP Photo/Chris Szagola
Rashaad Penny signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason after spending the first five seasons of his career with the Seattle Seahawks.
When healthy, Penny is an effective fantasy football running back, but that’s the catch. He has played just 18 games over the last three seasons due to injuries and was limited to just five games in 2023.
However, he was effective in those five games, rushing for 346 yards and two touchdowns on 57 carries, averaging 6.1 yards per attempt, in addition to catching four passes for 16 yards.
The 27-year-old’s best season came in 2021 when he rushed for 749 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt, in addition to catching six passes for 48 yards.
Penny is currently behind D’Andre Swift and Kenneth Gainwell on the Philadelphia depth chart, which will restrict his playing time, but there’s always the chance he gets more touches in the event one of those players gets hurt or he proves to be more effective.
Drafting Penny is a huge risk, but it’s one that could pay off handsomely if he serves as a bench player on a manager’s roster.