Welcome to Week 1 of the NFL preseason, where every player is in the best shape of his life and is 100% totally and completely guaranteed a 2023 fantasy football breakout.
Just kidding. Kind of.
Amid an endless amount of training camp hype, there’s a lot of noise to suss out ahead of your fantasy football drafts. Who’s primed for a fantasy breakout in 2023 versus another training camp one-hit wonder? Here, I’ll break down six players I’m nominating for the 2023 All-Breakout Fantasy Football team as potential values in your fantasy drafts.
One might argue that Jones broke out in his 2022 season, delivering an overall QB9 finish — the first top-10 fantasy season of his career. However, I’m here to say that Danny Dimes isn’t quite done with the breakout he started just a year ago in his first season under Giants HC Brian Daboll.
A big part of that success came thanks to the system, emphasizing safe plays to establish a rhythm, often giving up the potential of playing deep for the greater good of limiting turnovers. It worked, too. Jones posted career highs in passing yards (3,205), touchdown-to-interception ratio (3.0 — good for eighth best in the league) and passer rating (92.5), among others. Where he really shined, however, was on the ground as one of just five quarterbacks in 2022 to post 700 or more rushing yards — a mini Konami code quarterback, if you will.
Now, let’s circle back to remember Jones accomplished all of these career highs while ranking dead last among quarterbacks with a 6.4-yard average depth of target (aDOT). Perpetuating that low aDOT was a lack of deep pass attempts, where Jones attempted the second-lowest rate of throws of 20 or more yards at just 4.9%.
This year, the team traded a third-round pick for TE Darren Waller in addition to drafting WR Jalin Hyatt 73rd overall. Both of these assets will provide Jones some upside downfield, putting him in the conversation for a legitimate top-six finish on the season, should he take the next step as a passer.
We don’t need to beat you over the head with it, folks. Alexander Mattison is set to break out, even though he’s coming off a 3.8-yards-per-carry season. In fact, Mattison was generally less efficient than former teammate Dalvin Cook in 2022 across the board, from yards per attempt to yards after contact per carry and yards per route run. However, there’s no denying that the former third-rounder has absolutely made the most of his limited opportunities as the team’s lead back.
In Mattison’s six career games played without Cook, he averaged a full 25 opportunities (targets and rush attempts) for 115.5 scrimmage yards and just under a touchdown per game. That translated to over 20 fantasy points per game in full-PPR scoring formats.
Mattison now has the workhorse role to himself on 2022’s seventh-highest-scoring NFL offense. Buy.
The Bucs drafted RB Rachaad White with the 91st overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Now, after playing a backup role through his rookie season, it’s officially his job to lose. The team released Leonard Fournette earlier this offseason, having functioned as the team’s lead running back over the last three years. Tampa Bay has yet to make any moves that might signal a true threat to a potential workhorse role for White moving into the 2023 season.
Fantasy managers are most likely hesitant to buy into this offense due to the question marks at quarterback. After all, a training camp battle between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence. However, even if we project some targets to backup RB Chase Edmonds on third down, there’s still some significance here for that early-down role. In White’s lone game without Fournette in 2022, he scored 19.9 fantasy points on a 70% rushing market share, catching nine of nine targets for 45 receiving yards.
White’s inefficiency, averaging just 3.7 yards per attempt in the regular season, should be (at least, in part) attributed to the offensive line — a bottom-10 run-blocking unit in 2022 — one that is now much healthier. Even if you’re not in on his talent, it’s really difficult to pass up on White as a 2023 fantasy breakout given the volume he’s likely to see, both on the ground and as a receiver.
There are a lot of questions about what this Cleveland offense might look like in 2023, but most of those have to do with what kind of performance we’ll see out of Deshaun Watson — not necessarily whether or not he’s got the talent around him. Elijah Moore, now headed into his third career season after a dreadful start with the Jets, has a fresh start.
What Moore lacks in size at 5’9" and 178 pounds, he more than makes up for in athleticism, having ranked 90th percentile or better at the combine in the 40-yard dash, 3-cone and shuttle drills. His athleticism and movement skills have made him a force to be reckoned with after the catch … even if he hasn’t had the opportunity to showcase that ability so far.
Moore has been the subject of glowing reports throughout Browns training camp — the subject both of coach hype and frequent targets by Watson. Cleveland’s offense has never ranked lower than 18th in yards and 20th in points scored during Stefanski’s tenure as head coach, and now, he’s got a perfect combination of speed and technique to line up from the slot and maximize yards after the catch.
The former Ole Miss product is in for a career year with the Browns. The last two seasons? They never happened. Enjoy his current Yahoo ADP at 120.2 while it lasts.
There might not be a better post-hype sleeper than Titans WR Treylon Burks, especially with the free-agent signing of DeAndre Hopkins back in July. Though many fantasy football drafters saw a lot of potential for Burks heading into Year 2, a lot of that hype was on the back of a presumed monstrous target share, with some retracting their vote of confidence now that there’s some more competition.
Me? I’m doubling down.
My willingness to buy into Burks is quite simple. Where he has excelled historically is in his ability to generate plays after the catch — especially working out of the slot, where he played 77% of his career snaps across his three seasons at Arkansas. The addition of Hopkins to this offense provides the Titans an opportunity to utilize Burks elsewhere.
Maybe his gigantic frame (6’2", 225 pounds) doesn’t scream “slot receiver,” but his usage there has lent itself well to production after the catch. I’m buying in now that Hopkins provides Burks the luxury to move around the formation, and provides an extra threat to defenses, which could allow him to get back to doing what he does best: making plays in the open field.
Greg Dulcich might very well have posted the most underrated rookie tight end performance from the 2022 draft class. Dulcich first took the field in Week 6, going on to score 11 or more fantasy points in five of his 10 games active. Despite the several options at receiver in WRs Jerry Jeudy, Cortland Sutton (who somehow led the team with 109 targets), and fellow TE Albert Okwuegbunam — who most had pegged for a breakout himself — Dulcich still managed to earn a significant role in the offense.
Dulcich posted 411 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 55 targets in his season, but let’s not forget — that was only across a 10-game span. On a per-game basis, Dulcich ranked 13th among tight ends in targets (5.5), fifth in targeted air yards (63.1) and 10th in receiving yards. The Broncos are in a new era under HC Sean Payton, with the assumption that we’ve absolutely got to see some improvement from QB Russell Wilson. If we see it, expect Dulcich to be along for the ride as a huge fantasy value in 2023 at his current ADP of 117.1.