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Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

Branson School News, Sports, Life and Opinion

The Blazer

These 4 players will help win your fantasy football league in 2023

Fantasy football draft guide
Ryder Lariviere

View a comprehensive draft guide here, courtesy of the author.


Quarterback: Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

ESPN average draft position: 48th overall, QB7. Draft over: Joe Burrow, Justin Fields. Ideal target: Early-mid fourth round and later

Coming off an MVP-caliber 2021 season where he threw for over 5,000 yards and had 41 total touchdowns en route to a QB2 overall finish, Herbert had a disappointing 2022 season, regressing in every statistical category and finishing as the QB11. However, there are a lot of reasons for this regression, all out of Herbert’s control. His two best receivers, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, missed a combined 11 games last year, leaving Joshua Palmer as Herbert’s top target for parts of the season. He was also dealing with an offensive coordinator who did not like to throw the ball deep, which plays to Herbert’s strengths and ran a very uninspiring and underwhelming offense. To top it all off, he played the entire season with broken ribs. 

This year, he gets a new offensive coordinator in Kellen Moore who has led top-three scoring offenses the past two seasons and who loves to throw the ball downfield. Both Allen and Williams are healthy this season, and the team invested a first-round pick in another receiver, Quentin Johnston. Johnston is another big-bodied deep threat, and all signs point to the Chargers throwing the ball down the field, which is perfect for Herbert’s generational arm talent. Expect him to throw the ball 700 times this year, and with his weapons fully healthy and a new Offensive Coordinator, he should smash his projection as the QB7. 


Running Back: James Conner 

ESPN ADP: 67th overall, RB25. Draft Over: JK Dobbins, Alexander Mattison, Cam Akers, D’Andre Swift. Ideal Target: Late fifth round and later

A lot of people think of James Conner as a typical dead-zone RB: high volume, low efficiency on a bad team. And while some of that is true, Conner has the potential to smash his ADP. In his final eight games last season, he finished as a top 12 running back in weekly scoring five times, and did not finish a week lower than the RB19. While Kyler Murray is still recovering from an ACL tear, Conner was still able to be productive with Trace McSorely at quarterback, meaning I am not worried about Conner if Murray were set to miss an extended period of time. He also saw a 90% snap share five times, something that not a lot of other running backs will have, even the ones taken in the early rounds. The team did not bring in another complementary running back, and Conner seems set up to have the same amount of volume, if not more, than last year. While the injury risk is always there, when he is on the field, Conner’s snap share and volume alone make him a top 15 option at the position. 


Wide Receiver: Calvin Ridley 

ESPN ADP: 37th overall, WR16. Draft Over: Tee Higgins, DK Metcalf, Devonta Smith, Chris Olave. Target: Late third round and later.

Coming back after missing a year and a half due to mental health struggles and violating the NFL’s anti-gambling policy, Ridley was traded from the Falcons to the Jaguars, where he and quarterback Trevor Lawrence seem poised for a breakout. In Ridley’s last full season, he put up almost 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns with an aging Matt Ryan at quarterback, and reports said he even had a broken foot during that time. Now, he gets a third year quarterback in Trevor Lawrence who looked very good last season and is at the helm of an ascending offense, and he had time to get fully healthy. All reports from Jaguars training camp say that Ridley looks like he has “extra gear” and reporters are raving about how fast and explosive he looks. We have also seen this in the most recent pre-season games, where he has played very well. While there might be a small adjustment back to regular season game speed, it shouldn’t take Ridley long to pick back up right where he left off. A lot of people are worried about target competition, especially with Christian Kirk, but Kirk spends most of his time in the slot and Ridley plays outside in the “X” position, so they really aren’t competing for targets. Ridley is also by far the most talented receiver on his team, and with a quarterback poised for a breakout year, Ridley has legitimate top-five upside. 


Tight End: Darren Waller 

ESPN ADP: 57th overall, TE5. Draft Over: George Kittle, Dallas Goedert. Target: Early fifth round and later.

Drafting a tight end is a yearly struggle. If you can’t get Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews, there are usually few good options to take. Every year, analysts try to find a “sleeper” tight end who could put up numbers similar to Kelce and Andrews, and this year that guy is Darren Waller. Waller has had a disappointing past couple of seasons with the Raiders, riddled with a variety of injuries and bad quarterback play. The Oakland Raiders decided to cut their losses this off-season and traded him to the New York Giants. The Giants are in desperate need of receiving weapons, as they have a very weak wide receiver core. Waller has the opportunity to join an improving offense and be the number one pass catching option, with one of the best offensive play callers in the league in Brian Daboll. He also has Daniel Jones at quarterback, who had a breakout season in 2022 and should be an upgrade from Waller’s previous signal caller Derek Carr. Jones has been looking Waller’s way a lot in the pre-season and training camp, and reports say Waller has separated himself from the other Giants’ pass-catchers. With a fresh start in a new scheme and as the number one option in a potentially potent offense, we could see Waller put up numbers that resemble his 2019 and 2020 seasons and bounce back from his previous two campaigns. 



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