Fantasy football analyst Dalton Del Don analyzes some key figures as we move through 2023 draft season.
Will Breece Hall continue where he left off?
Breece Hall was always going to be slow-played early in the season returning from ACL surgery, and now his ADP is sure to drop after Dalvin Cook signed with the Jets. Cook could be better after shoulder surgery, but he ranked 35th out of 37 qualified backs in rush yards over expectation last season and is 28 years old. He’ll also be learning a new offense and is yet to be cleared to practice coming off the surgery.
Hall, meanwhile, was taken off the PUP list Tuesday and remains a top-15 fantasy RB on my board. He averaged 97.2 yards from scrimmage on just 14.1 touches per game while playing with a bad QB situation last year (scoring five touchdowns in six-plus games).
Hall also led all backs in explosive run rate, was second in yards per route run and quite simply stood out as a rookie. Hall had the most air yards among running backs despite running 250+ fewer routes than the next-most (Christian McCaffrey) while playing only 6.5 games (oh, and being a rookie). He now goes from one of the league’s worst QB situations to a Hall of Famer who likes targeting RBs.
Hall is an exceptional athlete who just became one of the best targets in fantasy if he falls to rounds five/six because of the Cook signing.
Jalen Hurts > Patrick Mahomes?
Patrick Mahomes might be the best football player ever, but Jalen Hurts is my No. 1 fantasy QB entering 2023. Hurts led all quarterbacks in fantasy points per game Weeks 1-15 before a shoulder injury cost him two games and limited him in another to end last season. He’s now played injured over the final month during all three years in the NFL, so it’s possible his playing style continues to hamper him down the stretch in 2023 — or, he’ll put up historic fantasy stats if he ever stays healthy for 17 games.
Hurts has significantly improved since entering the league and has benefitted from A.J. Brown’s arrival, DeVonta Smith’s growth and a dominant offensive line. Hurts got 8.0 YPA and was second (including RBs!) in expected rushing touchdowns (11.2) last season, which is a pretty sick fantasy combo. He scored 10 TDs from inside the 2-yard line, and the “push play” somehow remains legal.
Miles Sanders had the fourth-most red-zone carries last year but is now gone. Moreover, Hurts was 32nd among qualifying QBs in dropbacks per game (just 12.9) in second halves, which is sure to regress in 2023 — the Eagles won 14 games last year but have an Over/Under of 10.5 wins in 2023. With more passing volume and a ton of rushing upside that Mahomes doesn’t match, Hurts is my top fantasy QB and is worth an early second-round pick.
Is Calvin Ridley and Trevor Lawrence a match made in fantasy heaven?
Calvin Ridley has impressed in Jacksonville after missing the last 1.5 years, and a full offseason with his new team should help. Ridley was emerging as one of the league’s best receivers before stepping away and then later getting suspended, and he’ll now get to play with one of the league’s best emerging quarterbacks.
Trevor Lawrence saw the biggest Passer Rating increase from Year 1 to Year 2 in NFL history and is likely to develop into a full-blown star this season (with the help of Ridley’s addition). Lawrence attempted the fourth-most end-zone passes last year, and there’s no alpha WR competing for targets in Jacksonville.
Ridley is a top-15 WR on my board. Reports have Ridley looking fantastic, and he landed in an ideal spot in Jacksonville with an ascending franchise QB and on an offense that utilizes wide receivers heavily. I recently bet on The Talented Mr. Ridley to finish with the most receiving yards in the NFL this season at 50/1.
Will Tua Tagovailoa break out fully?
I have Tua Tagovailoa ranked over Justin Herbert, who goes six rounds earlier in drafts. Tagovailoa comes with additional health risk, but that’s the best argument for Herbert, who threw the same number of touchdowns last season with 299 more attempts. Tua’s 8.9 YPA was one of the 10 best season marks since the 1980s. Tagovailoa gets to play with two legitimate superstar wide receivers in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and benefits from a coaching legend on a team with a high pass rate over expectation.
We just need him to stay healthy, and Tua can be an MVP candidate this season.
Herbert was playing through rib and shoulder injuries last year, got a major upgrade at OC during the offseason and watched LAC draft a WR in the first round, so his efficiency will rebound in 2023. Still, these two quarterbacks shouldn’t be going 70 picks apart.