Call To Arms
2023 Fantasy Football Preview: QB Rankings, Risers, Fallers, Sleepers
With preseason football in full swing, and the regular season right around the corner, the next few weeks typically spell the dawn of fantasy football season.
Amid the incessant number-crunching, player rankings, and heavy deliberation, drafts are commencing worldwide.
In preparation for draft day – the most enjoyable moment of the roller-coaster season – the Inside The Birds 2023 Fantasy Football Preview Series starts with a breakdown of the game’s most important position.
Part 1 of our four-part weekly series previews quarterbacks, with my top-five rankings, along with some risers, fallers, and sleepers. Geoff Mosher’s quarterbacks preview runs Thursday.
Here’s our Inside The Birds video previewing fantasy quarterbacks including me. Mosher, and Adam Caplan.
This time last year, there was speculation of a Mahomes regression in the wake of departing speedster Tyreek Hill. All told, Mahomes turned in his best season to date, yielding the highest point total of any player in the fantasy realm on his way to securing NFL MVP honors and a Lombardi trophy. A five-year sample size indicates that Mahomes is not only as consistent as it gets in term of weekly production, he’s also matchup-proof. I’m partial to his fresh-faced group of dynamic pass-catchers, including Kadarius Tony, Skyy More, and 2023 second-rounder Rashee Rice.
A leading MVP candidate before a debilitating shoulder ailment hampered his 2022 campaign, Hurts is poised to make another leap forward. For one, Hurts figures to greatly benefit with newly minted offensive coordinator Brian Johnson – who has a longstanding relationship with Hurts and served as his position coach a season ago – at the controls. If there’s anyone who knows how to accentuate Hurts’ ability, it’s Johnson. Continuity along the offensive line as well as skill positions should also aid in what figures to be another MVP-caliber season. I expect Hurts, who appears to have taken the Super Bowl loss personally, to particularly elevate his game as a passer.
Allen finished as the No. 2-ranked player at his position last year in terms of points scored, but I’m bumping him down one peg this season. Still, Allen provides dual-threat value – the Bills quarterback has accumulated over 700 rushing yards in each of the past two seasons – and pilots an offense that ranked second in yards per game (397.6) and second in points per game (28.4). Factor in the additions of tight end Dalton Kincaid and offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence – along with a new-look backfield – and this Bills offense should be among the elite once again.
Sure, Burrow doesn’t offer the dual-threat upside of the first three listed. He does, however, offer the allure of throwing to what’s perhaps the league’s most prolific receiving corps. I also like the additions of left tackle Orlando ‘Zeus’ Brown and right guard Alex Cappa. Tight end Irv Smith, when healthy, has also been an effective player. Burrow did sustain an early-camp calf injury, an ailment that tends to linger, but is expected to return in time for the opener. While last year’s MVP race was largely between Mahomes and Hurts, I’ll go out on a limb and say it’ll be between Hurts and Burrow this time.
A change at offensive coordinator – former Georgia OC/QB coach Todd Monken in, Greg Roman out – should yield a more balanced and explosive offense. Jackson, however, must prove he can stay healthy after missing 24 games over the past two seasons. The 2019 NFL MVP should reap the benefits of throwing to a receiving corps comprised of Odell Beckham, first-rounder Zay Flowers, and a healthy Rashod Bateman, as well as the free-agent addition of right guard Kevin Zeitler. While Jackson might currently live just outside the top-5 in many rankings, confidently pounce when it feels right and reap the rewards.
Don’t look now but the Brian Daboll-led Giants have quietly built a well-rounded roster seemingly equipped to finally produce a competitive product. While Jones tossed just 15 touchdowns in 2022, expect that number to rise in ’23. The offensive line is markedly improved, and the offseason acquisitions of tight end Darren Waller and second-round center John Michael Schmitz should help amplify Jones’ passing numbers. Wide receivers Isiah Hodgins and Darius Slayton return, while 2023 third-rounder Jalin Hyatt, free-agent pickup Parris Campbell, and a healthy Wan’Dale Robinson should also help. It’s also worth mentioning that Jones rushed for a career-high 708 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022.
Though still a work in progress, Richardson boasts a rocket launcher for an arm and can also rack up yards with his legs – a dimension that should also open things up for running back Jonathan Taylor. Sure, his ball placement needs refinement, but having a trio of big-bodied passing targets in Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and Jelani Woods should aid in his acclimation. Richardson’s upside is immense, so he’s going a bit earlier the closer we get to the season, but his true value isn’t likely to reveal itself until the second half of the fantasy season.
I’m understandably weary that in Year 11, Smith will be primed to follow up – or even match — a career season. Yes, the passing game added another preeminent weapon in first-round wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, which should theoretically open things up for D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. But the Seahawks, traditionally embodying an old-school, run-heavy DNA, also drafted UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet in the second round to complement holdover Kenneth Walker. While I fully expect the Hawks to be a viable playoff contender and an NFC heavyweight, I’m also of the belief that last season was an aberration for Smith, and the team will return to its philosophical ground game foundation.
Engulfed by the enlarged shadow cast by departed future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Love has seemingly become an afterthought in many pre-draft circles. While I’m hardly suggesting a “no quarterback” approach, let the masses sleep on Love’s 2023 prospects while you scoop him up late to stash on the bench as a potential upside play down the line or eventual bargaining chip. Though young at wide receiver, the Packers aren’t short on playmakers, including running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon and ascending second-year pass-catcher Christian Watson.
I feel strongly that the Steelers, in general, aren’t getting enough attention, but one would be hard-pressed to find a more appealing late-round quarterback with a more enticing supporting cast than Pickett. Drafting tackle Broderick Jones in the first round and inking former Eagles guard Isaac Seumalo to a free-agent deal should help pave running lanes for running back Najee Harris, and I’m expecting second-year wide receiver George Pickens and tight end Pat Freiermuth to make quantum leaps this season, on their way to becoming household names.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Watch Part 1 of ITB’s 2023 Fantasy Football Preview Series featuring Adam Caplan, Geoff Mosher and Andrew DiCecco: