Fantasy Football: Late-round draft targets with easy early schedules in 2023

By Jennifer Eakins, 4for4

Special to Yahoo Sports

4for4 takes using strength of schedule to a different level with our signature metric, schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed, or aFPA. By removing schedule bias, we can level the playing field and compare matchups in an apples-to-apples manner.

Making decisions on who to draft at ADP can come down to several factors, but for this article, I’ll point out some players who have an easier start to the season than others so that you can maximize points right out of the gate.

By ensuring a solid start to the year, like beginning 3-1 or 4-0, we can vastly increase our odds of making it to the fantasy promised land in the cold months of winter: the playoffs. In a fantasy league where six teams out of 12 make the playoffs, there's a 92% chance of making the playoffs if you start 4-0; conversely, if you start 0-4, your odds are 9%.

[Visit 4for4, where 92% of subscribers made the playoffs, for more]

I omitted elite players whom you’d be drafting anyway and focused on more of the middle-to-late-round guys whom we sometimes have difficulty distinguishing from one another.


Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings (Yahoo ADP: 115.1)

Kirk Cousins 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by
Kirk Cousins 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by

Not only does Kirk Cousins have some of the best pass-catchers in the league to toss the ball to, but he also boasts one of the easiest full-season schedules with a glorious beginning. Four of the Vikings' first six contests are against defenses that were ranked 20th or worse in QB aFPA, and as an added bonus, there are only two teams in his 2023 schedule that sat among the top 10 in QB aFPA last year. Cousins has quietly been a fantasy QB1 for the last three seasons and the team’s decision to move on from Dalvin Cook and draft wide receiver Jordan Addison could indicate a heavier passing plan for 2023. Yahoo drafters are selecting the 34-year-old signal-caller as QB16, while he’s 4for4’s QB12, presenting some early draft season value.

Running Backs

David Montgomery, Detroit Lions (Yahoo ADP: 75.6)

David Montgomery 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by
David Montgomery 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by

He may not be a very sexy selection, but David Montgomery does offer a tasty start to the 2023 season. Three of Detroit’s first four matchups are against teams that ended last season ranked 22nd or worse in RB aFPA.

Montgomery should assume the role vacated by Jamaal Williams, which could include 230 touches with a large chunk of the goal-line work. The Lions are an effective offense with a top-five offensive line, so add in that soft start, and Montgomery is set up for a fantasy RB2 campaign in 2023.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Commanders (Yahoo ADP: 115.2)

Antonio Gibson 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by
Antonio Gibson 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by

I wrote an entire article in May on why I believe Antonio Gibson is a steal this season. Despite a slight rise in ADP over the past few months, he’s still a solid target in any format. Gibson was the RB35 in Half-PPR points per tilt in 2022, which has the potential to be his floor this year and he’s leaving Yahoo draft boards as the fantasy RB34.

Not only do the Commanders play just one defense that was ranked within the top 10 in RB aFPA last season through the first eight weeks, but half of those teams sat 22nd or worse at defending enemy backs, surrendering an average of 23.1 aFPA to opposing backfields every week. With J.D. McKissic no longer on the roster and an upgrade in Eric Bieniemy at OC, Gibson has low-end RB2 potential for the price of an RB4. He also looked good in Week 2 of the preseason.

Wide Receivers

Quentin Johnston, Los Angeles Chargers (Yahoo ADP: 127.5)

Quentin Johnston 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by
Quentin Johnston 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by

Obviously, Chargers receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams have the same schedule as the rookie this season, but I included Quentin Johnston in this column as someone to draft later in double-digit rounds when you are trying to distinguish among the unknown. The Chargers begin the 2023 season at home against Miami’s 15th-ranked defense in WR aFPA, then get the Titans (31st), Vikings (30th) and Raiders (23rd) before a Week 6 bye. As an added bonus, after a quick rest, Johnston will face the Cowboys, who sat 26th last season in the metric.

Both Allen and Williams have their knocks, particularly in the injury department, so Johnston could have the opportunity to emerge as the team’s No. 2 WR sooner rather than later in his first year as a pro. Right now, the 21-year-old will cost you a 10th-round pick as the WR50 and boasts the upside to return fantasy WR3/4 numbers.

Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers (Yahoo ADP: 129.0)

Romeo Doubs 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by
Romeo Doubs 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by

Green Bay is boasting one of the easiest schedules across multiple positions in 2023. Before their Week 6 bye, three of the Packers' five defensive opponents sat 23rd or worse in WR aFPA last season, which could bode well for a fast start for fantasy managers. That schedule is also pretty gentle in the fantasy postseason, which never hurts draft value.

Christian Watson is Green Bay’s most-hyped wide receiver heading into this season, but Romeo Doubs is also primed for a breakout and boasts a price tag that’s 10 rounds cheaper than his teammate. Doubs flashed legitimate upside in 2022 but lacked consistency in an up-and-down offense. With the departures of Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and even Sammy Watkins, the Packers have the second-most available WR targets from 2022 heading into the season (184), with a whopping 47.7% of their total target share up for grabs.

We don’t know exactly how the volume will shake out between all of the young pass-catchers, including rookie Jayden Reed and a set of first-year tight ends, but with Doubs projecting as the more consistent, reception-based receiver to Watson’s big, splashy plays, give me the cheaper option in any PPR format.

Tight End

Dalton Schultz, Houston Texans (Yahoo ADP: 126.5)

Dalton Schultz 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by
Dalton Schultz 2023 fantasy schedule. (Photo by

Houston is not known for producing fantasy tight ends, but this is a new era for the Texans and there’s always hope. Dalton Schultz is coming off two fantasy TE1 seasons in a row with the Cowboys in Half-PPR points per game and despite the projected downgrade in offense, could be his team’s target leader in 2023.

Before their Week 7 bye, the Texans face just one defense that was ranked in single-digits in TE aFPA last season with juicy contests against the Jaguars and Falcons in the mix, who allowed an average of 11.3 half-PPR points to enemy tight ends per tilt. Schultz is 4for4’s TE12, yet is being selected as the TE17 in early Yahoo drafts so there’s value in the pick if you decide to wait to grab your starter this season.

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A proud alumna of the UGA Grady College of Journalism, Jennifer Eakins has been working in the sports industry for well over a decade. She has had stints with CNN Sports, the Atlanta Hawks and the Colorado Rockies. Her first fantasy football draft took place in 1996 where she selected Ricky Watters with the first overall pick, and she has been a fantasy degenerate ever since.

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