The majority of Fantasy Football drafts in the world are taking place over the next week. It's an exciting time as we get closer to the start of the regular season.
With that in mind, I wanted to give you my final preseason breakouts column for this year. I've written about a lot of breakouts already dating back to just before the NFL Draft, but this is my all-star list.
Hopefully, these are the players who prove to be difference makers in 2023.
Fields had a mini-breakout campaign in 2022 when he averaged 22.0 Fantasy points per game, but he has top-five upside this season. We already know what he can do as a rusher, and you have to love the addition of D.J. Moore this offseason. Along with that, Darnell Mooney is healthy after dealing with an ankle injury last year, and hopefully, guys like Chase Claypool, Tyler Scott, Cole Kmet and Robert Tonyan can contribute in a big way as well. If Fields can improve as a passer then he could break records. He only attempted 318 passes in 2022 and had 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, but all of those totals (minus the interceptions) should rise. But we know the allure to Fields is his rushing prowess, and he was amazing in that category last year with 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns. If he can somehow stay above 1,000 rushing yards and surpass 2,500 passing yards or more then Fields could be in the conversation for the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2023. I love drafting Fields in Round 5.
Lawrence made a small leap as a Fantasy quarterback from Year 1 to Year 2 in 2022 when he got better coaching (Doug Pederson over Urban Meyer) and better weapons (Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Evan Engram). The coaching is the same in Year 3, and the weapons got even better with Calvin Ridley joining the aforementioned group. Now, Lawrence is about to become a star. He had plenty of good moments last season when he scored at least 24 Fantasy points in four of his final eight games, but just watching him you could see there's potential for more. Lawrence should see his Fantasy production rise from 19.5 points per game in 2022 to potentially over 25.0 points per game this season. He has top-five upside, and I plan to have a lot of shares of Lawrence on my Fantasy teams. I would prefer to draft him in Round 6, but I'm not going to pass on him in Round 5 based on his potential for a breakout campaign.
It's evident why Tagovailoa can be a breakout quarterback this season. He has arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and a great play caller in Mike McDaniel. In 2022, Tagovailoa had four outings with at least 29 Fantasy points in the 11 healthy games he played. But it's the six games he missed or didn't finish that have Fantasy managers concerned, and Tagovailoa was plagued by concussions last year. He's hopeful that's a thing of the past, but it's going to be a concern until he plays a full season. We'd love to see that happen in 2023, and then he'll end up as a steal in Round 8. Given his offense and receiving corps, Tagovailoa can be a top-five Fantasy quarterback in all leagues. And, if you draft the right backup quarterback with a late-round pick, you should be covered in case Tagovailoa misses any time again, and my favorite targets are Daniel Jones, Geno Smith and Jared Goff.
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Richardson's ADP on CBS (112.9) puts him in sleeper territory, but anyone calling him a sleeper is cheating. He's a breakout candidate since he should be drafted as a No. 1 quarterback in all leagues. Since 2010, there have been 16 times where a quarterback has rushed for at least 700 yards. Of those 16 times, only Daniel Jones last season was below 20 Fantasy points per game (he scored 19.9). And two rookies accomplished that feat with Robert Griffin III in 2012 and Cam Newton in 2011. We expect Richardson to potentially run for 1,000 yards -- his SportsLine projection is 1,039 yards -- and he could be a surprise as a passer. In 12 games for the Gators in 2022, Richardson had 2,549 passing yards and 654 rushing yards, which is 212.4 passing yards per game and 54.5 rushing yards per game. That puts him on a 17-game pace for 3,611 passing yards and 927 rushing yards. It's hard to expect that level of production exactly, but Richardson has the chance to make an immediate impact for Fantasy managers in his rookie campaign. I would draft him as early as Round 7.
Gibbs is a top-10 running back for me this season in PPR, and it appears like the Lions are going to give him plenty of chances to succeed. That should be the case after Detroit selected Gibbs at No. 12 overall in Round 1 of the NFL Draft. He should be a significant factor in the passing game, and he just led Alabama in receptions in 2022 with 44. Last season, D'Andre Swift was No. 10 in running back targets and No. 12 in running back receptions despite missing three games and parts of others, and Gibbs should prove to be a better version of Swift, especially if Gibbs stays healthy. And if he can prove that he's a better rusher than David Montgomery then Gibbs has immense upside in all leagues. I love drafting Gibbs early in Round 3 in PPR.
Dobbins is someone I would target as early as Round 4, but his ADP puts him in the middle of Round 5. I get that there are concerns over his health given his injury history and potential lack of work in the passing game. But I'm expecting Dobbins to have the best year of his career, especially since he's two years removed from the torn ACL he suffered prior to the 2021 campaign. He returned last year and struggled for most of the season, but he closed the year on a high note with at least 93 rushing yards in three of his final four games. He averaged 6.9 yards per carry over that span, and I love his upside in new offensive coordinator Todd Monken's system. Having a healthy and rejuvenated Lamar Jackson will help also, but Monken should help Dobbins have a career season in the passing game. I'm counting on Dobbins to perform like a top-15 Fantasy running back in all leagues.
Pierce had a solid rookie campaign in 2022 before missing the final four games of the year with an ankle injury. He fell 61 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards, but he had six games with at least 13 PPR points in the 13 outings he played. While he does get tougher competition this year with the addition of Devin Singletary, everything around Pierce should also improve. New coach DeMeco Ryans brought offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik over from San Francisco with designs on running the Kyle Shanahan system, which has been amazing for running backs. C.J. Stroud should provide better quarterback play. And the offensive line should be better with the addition of right guard Shaq Mason. Pierce is a tough runner, and last year he had 62 forced missed tackles, which was fourth in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. His 28.2 percent forced missed tackles rate last season led the NFL. If he can improve in the passing game (30 catches on 39 targets) then Pierce could be a top-10 Fantasy running back. But let's be realistic and just root for a top-15 finish, and he's an excellent pick in Round 4 in all leagues.
I think everyone is excited to see Mattison have a healthy season as the new lead running back in Minnesota now that Dalvin Cook is gone. He'll face competition from Ty Chandler and potentially Myles Gaskin, but this is Mattison's backfield now. He has 14 games in his career with at least 10 carries, and he scored at least 15 PPR points in seven of those outings. He's averaging 13.4 PPR points over that span. In seven games in his career where he's played at least 48 percent of the snaps, he averaged 19.5 carries, 84 rushing yards, 3.7 catches and 34 receiving yards, along with five total touchdowns. Over a 17-game season, that puts him on pace for 332 carries, 1,430 rushing yards, 63 catches, 583 receiving yards and 12 total scores. We'll see how much the Vikings put on Mattison's plate, and if he can handle being the full-time guy for an entire season. You should plan on drafting Mattison as early as Round 4 in all leagues.
Most Fantasy analysts were already excited about Cook this season prior to the start of training camp. But then Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey fueled the fire when he said Cook can be an "every-down back." As Dorsey said, "we're really excited about him and what he can do." Cook didn't do much in his rookie campaign in 2022 when he played in tandem with Devin Singletary. While he averaged 5.7 yards per carry and 8.6 yards per catch, he only had 110 total touches. He had four games with double digits in carries in 2022, and he scored 16 PPR points in two of them. He'll compete with Damien Harris and potentially Latavius Murray for touches, but Cook should prove to be more versatile than both of them. And Harris was already hurt in training camp when he dealt with a knee injury, although he'll be ready for Week 1. While the Bills don't typically involve their running backs in the passing game -- Singletary's best season was 40 receptions in 2021 -- that could change with Cook this season. It's easy to draft Cook in Round 6 in all leagues, and he has the potential to be a top-20 running back in 2023.
The biggest positive for White is the lack of competition he should face in Tampa Bay with Leonard Fournette gone. His backups are Chase Edmonds, Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Sean Tucker, and most likely those guys aren't taking White off the field for any significant amount of time. White also proved himself as a receiver last season, as he was one of 11 running backs in the NFL with 50 receptions. Now, the downside for White is Tampa Bay might be a terrible team, but the Buccaneers offensive line should be improved. Pro Football Focus actually has Tampa Bay's offensive line ranked No. 14 going into the season, and the Buccaneers should be much better at running the ball in 2023 after having the fewest rushing yards in the NFL in 2022. Tom Brady's retirement will definitely hurt, but Baker Mayfield might actually surprise you with how much he'll use White in the passing game. I'm not sure White has top-10 upside this season, but he could be a top-20 running back in PPR, which is why you're drafting him in Round 6.
Wilson is an obvious breakout candidate, but you can't have an all-star breakouts column without mentioning him. I'm drafting him in Round 2 in all leagues, and I would consider him in the top 15 overall in PPR. I love the potential of the second-year receiver. The addition of Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback for the Jets should help Wilson become a star. It's fun to look at how well Wilson did last season whenever he didn't have Zach Wilson under center. In seven games with Joe Flacco or Mike White, Garrett Wilson averaged 17.6 PPR points per game, including three outings with at least 24 PPR points. At that average, he would have been the No. 7 PPR receiver in 2022. There is plenty of competition for targets with Wilson, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman and Randall Cobb all competing for Rodgers' attention, along with the tight ends and running backs, but Wilson should stand out above the rest. He has top-three upside at receiver in his sophomore campaign.
Olave has gone from a mid-round 3 pick to a borderline second-round selection. And he's worth drafting in that range. We'll see how Olave does with a new quarterback in Derek Carr and (hopefully) playing a full season alongside Michael Thomas. But Olave should be the star of this passing game. Carr is an upgrade over Andy Dalton, which is a plus for Olave, who averaged 12.9 PPR points per game in 2022. But he left a lot of production on the field. He was sixth in the NFL in air yards among wide receivers (1,686), seventh in targets per route run (targeted on 31.2 percent of his routes) and sixth in yards per route run (2.73). Prior to Week 13, Olave was actually No. 10 among all wide receivers in targets (92) and receiving yards (822) and 15th in receptions (56). At that time, he was on pace for 143 targets, 87 catches and 1,270 yards, but he struggled down the stretch while dealing with a hamstring injury. He will hopefully maximize his potential in Year 2, and he has top-10 upside this year.
Jordan Love is going to surprise people this season as the new quarterback in Green Bay, and a big reason why is his young receiving corps of Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed and Luke Musgrave. Watson is the leader of the pack, and you should plan to draft him in the early part of Round 4 in the majority of leagues. Watson showed flashes of his potential in 2022 when he had a four-game stretch from Weeks 10-13 with at least 20 PPR points in each outing, and he also had 18 PPR points in Week 18. In each of those games he had at least six targets, and only twice did he fail to score 18 PPR points when he had that much work (one of those games was Week 16 at Miami when he left with a hip injury). If Love isn't a disaster then Watson has the chance to be a top 15 Fantasy receiver in all leagues.
Dotson said in training camp "I feel like this is my breakout year," and he should be right. He's had a strong training camp and preseason, and Terry McLaurin is dealing with a toe injury that could linger into the season. While some people might prefer to draft McLaurin ahead of Dotson, I view Dotson as the No. 1 receiver in Washington this year. He's ready to build off his strong rookie campaign. Over his final five games in 2022, Dotson had 21 catches for 344 yards and three touchdowns on 35 targets, and he scored at least 16 PPR points in three of those outings. In his lone start with Sam Howell in Week 18 against Dallas, Dotson had three catches for 72 yards on four targets. While McLaurin will play a big role if healthy, Dotson should be considered the better Fantasy option of this receiving corps. He actually led the Commanders with seven receiving touchdowns last year despite missing five games with a hamstring injury. I'm planning to draft Dotson as early as Round 5 this year.
As you can see, I'm excited about this sophomore receiving class, and Pickens belongs in this category of breakouts. But he's the lone receiver listed here outside my top 24 rankings, and I think he only has top 20 potential. Now, that's nothing to scoff at, but Pickens has the most to overcome in this group. For starters, he's not the No. 1 receiver on the Steelers, and please don't expect him to have more catches or targets than Diontae Johnson. Pickens might end up with more yards and touchdowns because of his big-play ability, and that's where he should contribute to your Fantasy roster. He's had plenty of highlights already in training camp and the preseason, and it looks like Kenny Pickett will take a big step forward in his sophomore campaign. Pickens should benefit with the improved quarterback play, and he should be drafted as a high-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver as early as Round 6.
The reports this offseason on Freiermuth have been great, and the Steelers want to use him as more of a big slot receiver, which should only enhance his production as a No. 1 Fantasy tight end. Last year, Freiermuth averaged 2.28 yards per route run when lined up in the slot, which was second only to Travis Kelce. Furthermore, Freiermuth finished 2022 ranked sixth in targets per game among tight ends with 6.13. He only scored two touchdowns last season but had seven as a rookie, and I'm hoping he's closer to that total in 2023. Pickett seems poised to improve in his sophomore campaign, which is great, and you just have to hope there are enough targets for everyone with standout receivers Johnson and Pickens also on the field. But clearly, the Steelers have a plan to feature Freiermuth, and he has top-10 Fantasy upside in all leagues. He's my No. 8 tight end this year, and I love drafting him after Round 8 in all formats.
I went into training camp with the idea that Kincaid would be a sleeper this year, but that's cheating to put him in that category. His CBS ADP is 108.2, but he's being drafted as TE10, which makes him a breakout. And since training camp, he seems to be living up to the billing. The Bills are making sure Kincaid is ready to play a lot, and it doesn't seem like he'll be coming off the field much in his rookie campaign. After Buffalo traded up in the first round of the NFL Draft to select Kincaid from Utah at No. 25 overall, you knew there were big plans ahead. While he's listed as a tight end, the expectation is the Bills will use Kincaid as a big slot receiver. He should be a big part of Buffalo's passing game along with Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, and that's a good thing since Kincaid is catching passes from Josh Allen. While he might struggle as a rookie tight end given the history of the position, he still has the potential to succeed in a big way given his expected role and quarterback. He's worth drafting at his ADP in Round 9.
Like Kincaid, I went into training camp with Johnson listed as a sleeper. And his CBS ADP still has him in that range at 152.1 as TE18. But I'm expecting a big year out of Johnson, and he's worth drafting as a low-end starter as early as Round 10. Johnson quietly had a nice Fantasy season in 2022, and he scored at least 11 PPR points in six of his final 10 games. He should have the chance to build on that with new quarterback Derek Carr, and we know Carr loved using his tight end with the Raiders given his rapport with Darren Waller. Now, we'll see what the Saints receiving corps looks like if Michael Thomas is healthy all season to join Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed, as well as Alvin Kamara out of the backfield. But all reports this offseason and training camp have been positive for Johnson, who could be used as a big slot receiver and lead to a big jump in his production. Johnson should be a nice surprise this season with Carr now under center in New Orleans.