We’re heading into the 2023 fantasy season. If you’re playing Campus2Canton or Dynasty, your roster is set now and into the future. And you might have made moves hoping for a desired outcome in 2023. But will it happen? Today, I’m looking at a couple of player options at each position who carry some risk of underperforming into 2023 despite being targeted players. It doesn’t mean they won’t produce, but it does mean you should have a backup plan.
Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks
About: Geno was one of the surprises of the 2022 NFL Season. He finished as QB5 and got a big new contract. He also has some great weapons in D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Noah Fant, and rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Those are some reasons people bet on Smith for the 2023 season as a veteran who could help get a team a win. That could well happen.
But it’s important to note that 2022 was by far a career season for Smith. In fact, it’s quite possible that was the best Geno Smith we’re going to see. Even toward the end of the season, he was sliding off a bit. From Week 15, the heart of the season, Smith was just QB13. So, there’s some risk. In fact, I feel more comfortable viewing him as a low-end QB2. If you’re hoping for last year’s heights, it would be good to have a backup plan.
Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
About: By all measures, 2022 was a mediocre season for Wilson coming over to Denver. The offense, in general, was poor, and it started with the quarterback, who finished as just QB16. But there was a ray of hope when Nathaniel Hackett was fired. For the last two games of the season, under new leadership, Wilson finished as QB1. That, combined with the addition of Sean Payton, has people believing in a Russ-surgence in 2023. As a Broncos fan, I’m one of those.
But I’m also a realist. The Broncos’ receiving corps is beat up already, and we haven’t seen enough this pre-season to feel confident Wilson has figured it all out. If you’re relying on him as a steady QB2, OK. If you’re hoping he might move back to the glory of those early Seattle years, it would be wise to have some alternative options.
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
About: Last season was a career year for Jacobs. He finished as RB3 and was a force for the Raiders. He rushed for 1,653 yards and 12 touchdowns, catching 54 passes. It also came on a career-high 340 carries, which was more than 100 more carries than any of his previous three seasons. Can he get that workload again? It’s possible. But if the Raiders employ more of a split, that could limit Jacobs’ upside.
In addition, the team’s offense is a question, transitioning from Derek Carr to Jimmy Garoppolo and playing in the fierce AFC West. After getting the Franchise Tag, Jacobs also sat out training camp and the pre-season. He’s back now for Week 1, but it’s fair to assume there will be a bit of a slow start.
Jacobs is still a talented back, but there’s some baked-in risk this season that can’t be ignored, even without considering that many backs that crest over 300 carries struggle with injuries the following season. Have a backup plan.
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
About: Taylor is one of the best backs in the league. He’s also disgruntled. He was given permission to seek a trade, but nothing has come of it as we hit the Colts’ imposed deadline. What does that mean? Well, it means he could be traded later, or he could remain a Colt. If he remains a Colt, does he play? We know he’ll miss at least four weeks, as the Colts left him on the PUP List at the roster deadline. That means he can’t play for any team for at least four weeks.
Even if Taylor is traded and happy in the destination, it could take time to learn a new offense and find a groove. He’s another player that didn’t get much out of camp and didn’t play in the pre-season. Taylor is a great talent, but his situation is about as uncertain as it gets. You need a backup plan, and it probably isn’t Zach Moss or Evan Hull.
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
About: For receivers, I’m going with two pairs of teammates. The first is in San Francisco. This has nothing to do with Samuel and Aiyuk, who are talented receivers. It has everything to do with the embarrassment of riches in the San Francisco offense, which also includes Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle. That’s four-star players that are being drafted as such. Can they all produce like stars each week? I have my doubts.
McCaffrey feels like the safest bet owing to his multi-faceted role in the offense. When it comes to the passing game weapons, I expect them all to have big games. But I don’t expect them all to have big games every week.
That means that Samuel and Aiyuk are talented players and solid fantasy assets that might be frustrating for fantasy players. In particular, I feel better with Samuel as a WR2, which aligns with the ADP of WR17. Given the abundance of weapons, it’s good to have options when rostering the 49ers’ receivers.
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
About: This has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with the situation. The Buccaneers’ offense struggled in 2022, and that was with Tom Brady. Now the team has Baker Mayfield at quarterback, with Kyle Trask waiting in the wings. In addition, the offensive line is still a work in progress. All that puts a ceiling on the offense in general.
The Buccaneers threw it a ridiculous 751 times in 2022, which is what helped both Godwin and Evans go over 1,000 yards. It’s fair to be more suspicious of the offense in 2023. The pair are still talented receivers, but it’s wise to moderate expectations for the 2023 season. This might be the year Evans’ streak of 1,000-yard seasons comes to an end.
Greg Dulcich, Denver Broncos
About: Dulcich seemed like a potential winner with the change of coaches. We saw flashes from him as a rookie, where he caught 33 passes for 411 yards. But heading into the 2023 season, he’s not even the Broncos’ starter. That is Adam Trautman, a veteran who played for Payton in New Orleans. Dulcich had a quiet pre-season and an uncertain role in an offense that’s still something of a mystery.
I still like him long-term, but his 2023 season is far from a known quantity. That’s why his ADP has slipped to TE18 after being in the Top 12 earlier this off-season. If you grabbed Dulcich hoping to rely on him as your weekly start at tight end, it’s time to have a backup option.
Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills
About: Kincaid was the first tight end off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft, as the Buffalo Bills moved up to snag him. There’s also a lot of optimism he’s going to have an immediate impact. He’s currently sitting as TE13 in ADP and was a trendy first-round selection in rookie drafts.
But will he produce at that level? The Bills have Stefon Diggs as a focal point in the passing game. They also have Gabe Davis and tight end Dawson Knox. While Isaiah McKenzie’s leaving opens some targets, it might not be enough for Kincaid to have the kind of volume needed to produce a fringe TE1 season. If I drafted Kincaid, I have a backup plan as well.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.