10. Deshaun Watson – CLE
Projected Ranking: QB11, 89th overall
It truly pains me to paint Deshaun Watson in a favorable light, as his disgusting off-field behavior and ridiculous guaranteed contract have justifiably tanked his reputation with fans. However, his talent is undeniable, yet after sitting for a year in Houston he looked like a shell of himself in 2021.
Watson spent the tail end of the Browns’ season gelling with receivers, adjusting to the playbook, and re-acclimating himself to the NFL after nearly two years of inactivity. It feels like it has been ages since Deshaun Watson was second only to Patrick Mahomes in the young quarterback hierarchy. He made it as far as the AFC Divisional Round, where he led his team to a 24-point lead over Mahomes and the Chiefs.
That lead was subsequently squandered thanks to subpar coaching from Bill O’Brien and trademarked wizardry from Patrick Mahomes, and the rest is history. Watson may not be someone you want to root for, even in fantasy football, and I would not blame you if you faded him on moral grounds. Nevertheless, with an ADP near average talents like Daniel Jones and Tua Tagovailoa, Watson could shatter expectations and finish as a top five quarterback.
9. Russell Wilson – DEN
Projected Ranking: QB13, 112th overall
Russell Wilson has suffered quite the fall from grace in the past year, but the Broncos have already begun to pick up the pieces left behind by the brief but nightmarish Nathaniel Hackett era in Denver. Wilson is an undersized quarterback, and with age, his mobility has dwindled in recent years.
However, he will be playing behind a revamped offensive line in 2023, with Ravens guard Ben Powers and 49ers tackle Mike McGlinchey joining the team in free agency. He will also be playing under a coach in Sean Payton who knows a thing or two about creating throwing lanes for an undersized quarterback.
Wilson has been compared to Drew Brees in the past, and I would be remiss if I did not say that I love the fit between Payton and Wilson. Throughout his career, Russ has displayed impeccable work ethic and leadership, even though he has been a little cheesy. You would be wise to erase the 2022 season from your rearview and take a flyer on Wilson as your QB2 in 2023.
8. Pat Freiermuth – PIT
Projected Ranking: TE8, 82nd overall
Do people realize how good Pat Freiermuth has been in his first two NFL seasons? Last year’s TE7, currently ranked as the TE8, has produced exceptionally well despite playing with three different quarterbacks in that time. Last season, Freiermuth recorded eight games with seven plus targets, including a 12-target game. The Steelers’ offense was abysmal with Mitch Trubisky and only improved slightly with a developing rookie in Kenny Pickett.
Freiermuth was the second-best tight end prospect behind generational talent Kyle Pitts in the 2020 NFL Draft. Despite this, he has not garnered much fantasy hype despite playing a position that was void of any elite options outside of Travis Kelce. For what it is worth, Freiermuth has outperformed his draft classmate Kyle Pitts in their first two seasons, while garnering a fraction of the hype and media attention.
7. Rondale Moore – LV
Projected Ranking: WR61, 162nd overall
The 2022 season was disappointing for Moore and the Cardinals, as the talented slot receiver struggled with injuries and the Cardinals struggled to win games. Nevertheless, in his first two seasons Moore has displayed a lethal mix of speed and athleticism and could be in line for a third-year breakout season.
Do not let Kyler Murray’s injury rehab scare you off either, as Moore proved last year that he could produce with Cardinals’ longtime backup Colt McCoy. McCoy is a veteran quarterback whose mind for the game exceeds his arm talent, but he has garnered respect in the Cardinals’ locker room for his ability to lead the team when Murray has missed time with injuries.
Moore saw 13 targets in a week 10 start by McCoy, recording nine receptions for 94 yards. He even made a spectacular one-handed sideline catch on fourth down with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter of that game, essentially sealing the win for the Cardinals. With DeAndre Hopkins likely to be traded, Moore will likely step up as the Cardinals’ number two on the depth chart behind Marquise Brown, and I view him as a near-lock to shatter his ADP.
6. Khalil Herbert – CHI
Projected Ranking: RB31, 95th overall
Before I get into how much I like him as a player, I would like to point out how funny it is that Khalil Herbert’s name reads like a hybrid of two massive football stars (Khalil Mack and Justin Herbert) yet he stands 5’9” and weighs 212 lbs.
For years, fantasy junkies watched as Tony Pollard’s fantasy production suffered behind Ezekiel Elliot. Pollard produced incredibly efficiently while seeing limited volume, hinting at league-winning glory if only Elliot would get out the damn way. Now look at Khalil Herbert’s production from last season, and tell me you do not see the exact same thing.
Herbert finished the 2022 season with 731 rushing yards, on 5.7 yards per carry (!!!), in just 13 games with one start. Now that David Montgomery has signed with the Lions, the door is wide open for Herbert to earn a starting role.
He will surely see pushback from D’Onta Foreman in the Bears’ backfield, and may not have the size to earn a three-down role, but what he lacks in size Herbert makes up for in explosiveness and drive. Hecould also benefit from improving as a pass-catcher, as Foreman will likely not contest him in that department. Regardless, he has freakish value as the RB31, and he could easily sneak into high-end RB2 territory.