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Players who will outperform their ADP

Eric Moody makes his case for the players he's willing to take ahead of their ADPs in hopes of securing them in fantasy drafts.



Players who will outperform their ADP
Players who will outperform their ADP
Fantasy football leagues are gearing up, with some drafts having already taken place and many more on the way. What better time to identify which players you really have an affinity for to target in your leagues? Below are 16 players I'll be "planting my flag" on ahead of the 2023 NFL season. These are players I think will exceed expectations and outperform their average draft position. I'm hoping to get as much exposure to these players as possible this season, so these are the guys I'm adding to my queue and whom I suggest you keep on your radar.

Chubb averaged 19.4 touches and 16.5 fantasy points per game last season. He finished the season as the RB5, but most of his fantasy production came prior to Deshaun Watson returning as the starter in Week 13. Don't let that deter you. The Browns' offense should be more efficient in 2023 with Watson fully acclimated, which should benefit both Chubb and the healthy Cleveland O-line that dealt with injuries but still finished 12th in run block win rate last season. Additionally, Chubb might see increased targets with Kareem Hunt and D'Ernest Johnson gone. His chances of exceeding expectations are excellent.

Harris was perceived as a disappointment by fantasy managers last season after finishing as the RB12. He dealt with a Lisfranc injury early on, but his workload and fantasy production went up as his health improved. He was the RB8 in Weeks 10-17, averaging 15.3 fantasy points during that span. The Steelers' offense should improve in 2023, with quarterback Kenny Pickett expected to make a significant jump in Year 2. Also, Pittsburgh's O-line improved dramatically over the offseason after finishing 14th in run block win rate in 2023, positioning Harris to return to the form of his rookie year, when he finished as the RB3.

White's role grew for the Buccaneers in the second half of last season, resulting in a timeshare with Leonard Fournette. During Weeks 10-17, White averaged a solid 12.6 fantasy points per game with a Tampa Bay offensive line that often struggled. Now that Fournette is out of the picture, White is the Buccaneers' undisputed starter. New offensive coordinator Dave Canales will implement a wide zone scheme similar to what White played in at Arizona State. White's ability as a receiver out of the backfield makes him extremely valuable, particularly in PPR leagues. The quarterback situation might make some managers queasy, but White is a solid RB2. He's surprisingly the RB18 in our draft trends.

Our draft trends have Mattison as the RB23, making him a tremendous value in fantasy drafts. Mattison has performed well in games where the Vikings were without Dalvin Cook, and Cook is no longer in Minnesota. In five career games with at least 20 touches, Mattison has averaged 145.8 total yards and scored four touchdowns. From 2019 to 2022, Cook averaged 21.5 touches per game. Although Mattison might not receive all of those touches, he will be involved enough to outperform his average draft position. Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell recently offered high praise for Mattison, describing him as an every-down back.

Cook, who comes in as the RB27 in our draft trends, is projected to lead the Bills' backfield this season after a productive and efficient rookie campaign despite limited touches. Cook ranked third in yards per touch in 2022 and should thrive as a receiving threat on one of the top offenses in the league. The Bills have been a top-three scoring offense in three consecutive seasons with Josh Allen under center. General manager Brandon Beane has been insistent that Allen not run as much because of the injury risk it poses, which could mean more action for Cook, who has three-down-back potential, according to offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. Cook is a very good flex option with upside for more, even if in a committee with Damien Harris.

Despite the Jets' massive quarterback troubles last season, Wilson piled up 1,103 receiving yards and caught 56.5% of his 147 targets to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Now he'll be receiving passes from Aaron Rodgers, who sports a career 65.3% completion percentage. The new Jets QB has said the second-year receiver has similar traits to Davante Adams, who averaged 10.8 targets and 21.8 fantasy points from 2018 to 2021, when he played for Green Bay with Rodgers. Rodgers and Wilson should have similar success.

Despite inconsistent QB play, Olave had the second-best rookie season for a wideout in Saints history in 2022 with 72 catches for 1,042 yards. His 26.7 % target share ranked 15th in the league and his air yards share was third at 40.8%. Those particular stats put him on par with the likes of Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb and Tyreek Hill. With Derek Carr now under center, Olave should make a big leap in 2023. The second-year receiver is projected to finish the season with more targets than veteran Michael Thomas. Olave is the WR16 in our draft trends, but he has a good chance of finishing in the top 10.

Cooper was exceptional in 2022, achieving the target and air yard volume that fantasy managers had been eagerly anticipating. He ranked top 12 in the league in both target share (26.4%) and air yards share (38.4%) and finished as the WR10 in fantasy. With an improved rapport with QB Deshaun Watson, Cooper, the WR18 in our draft trends, could replicate that performance in 2023. Don't overlook the veteran receiver.

New Broncos head coach Sean Payton likes what he has seen from Jeudy so far. The receiver has been diligent in learning Payton's system ahead of his fourth season and has also been studying film of Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas. With the Broncos now without Tim Patrick for the season due to a torn left Achilles tendon and KJ Hamler waived due to a non-football injury, Jeudy and Courtland Sutton will be leaned on even more. Jeudy is the WR21 in our draft trends and is projected to lead the Broncos in targets. He dealt with injuries early last season, but in Weeks 13-18, Jeudy averaged 7.5 targets and 18.5 fantasy points. Perhaps it's a glimpse of what's to come from Jeudy in 2023.

Evans is being overlooked as the WR26 in our draft trends. Is it because he'll be 30 when the season begins? Does Tampa Bay's quarterback situation have something to do with it? Maybe we should discuss a few things. Evans is the only receiver in NFL history to begin his career with nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and trails only Jerry Rice for consecutive 1,000-yard seasons at any point of a career (11). He wants to own the record and is projected for 120-plus targets in 2023. One more thing if you're still worried about the quarterback situation: Evans and Chris Godwin have played in 84 games together; the Buccaneers' quarterbacks have averaged 20.3 fantasy points per game as a group.

Johnson finished the 2022 season as the WR28, but he will bounce back in 2023. Let me elaborate. Johnson missed camp time while negotiating a contract extension, so he didn't have many reps with Kenny Pickett, who took over for Mitch Trubisky during the season. The Steelers' offense averaged only 18.1 points per game last season (26th), and despite 147 targets, Johnson scored zero touchdowns. I anticipate some serious positive regression. Since 2020, Johnson has averaged 9.5 targets and 14 fantasy points per game. He's shockingly the WR27 in our draft trends and is one of my favorite values in fantasy drafts right now.

Despite their positions in our draft trends, I prefer the value of Aiyuk (WR31) to Deebo Samuel's (WR15). Aiyuk appears to be back in head coach Kyle Shanahan's good graces, and the receiver appears poised for a another big season after a productive offseason and positive impression so far in training camp. Aiyuk surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career last season and ranked third in target separation and 16th in air yards share on his way to a WR15 finish. Aiyuk averaged 6.71 targets and 13.4 fantasy points per game compared to Samuel's 7.2 targets and 12.9 fantasy points. Aiyuk is projected to lead the 49ers in targets. Don't leave your fantasy drafts without him.

Waller should see a ton of targets for a Giants team without a ton of receiving talent. He has been unstoppable so far in training camp, whether as an inline tight end, operating from the slot or lined up out wide. The Giants have big plans for their new tight end, for whom they traded a third-round pick to the Raiders this offseason. One red flag with Waller is his injury history. He surpassed 1,000 receiving yards twice with the Raiders but has played in only 20 of 34 games over the past two seasons because of injuries. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was excellent at targeting tight ends in 2022, ranking in the top five in quarterback rating, completion percentage and first-down rate. If I don't get Travis Kelce early, I usually aim for Waller in the middle rounds. If I can't snag him either, I tend to hold off until the later rounds to draft a tight end.

My favorite quarterback to target early. Herbert finished the 2022 season as the QB11 behind Kirk Cousins, Daniel Jones and Jared Goff, but torn rib cartilage affected his performance. With a contract extension in place, Herbert is having the best camp of his career. He also might have the perfect offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore, who will emphasize the vertical passing game with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and rookie Quentin Johnston as his top three pass-catchers. Herbert is the QB7 in our draft trends but has the potential to finish as the top fantasy quarterback in 2023. He is the only player in league history to throw for at least 4,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.

Cousins continues to be underrated, especially as a QB2 in superflex formats. I couldn't care less about the narrative of him underperforming in prime-time games. From a fantasy perspective, Cousins is consistent and positioned for success with receiving playmakers Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson. Since 2019, Cousins has averaged 18.5 fantasy points per game.

Pickett is the perfect QB3 for your superflex fantasy football team. He's entering his second season and has upside with a full offseason and training camp to work with Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth, Allen Robinson and Najee Harris. Pickett also provides you with rushing stats. It also might surprise you that Pickett averaged 30 pass attempts per game last season. The Steelers are comfortable relying on Pickett as a passer. It is never wise to underestimate how much a rookie can develop from one season to the next, especially a quarterback. It is common for quarterbacks selected in the first round to break out in their second year. In their second seasons, Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence averaged a combined 22.7 fantasy points per game.

Follow Eric on X, formerly known as Twitter: @EricNMoody