We are one quarter of the way through the 2023 NFL season, and there have been relatively few surprises when it comes to the highest producing offensive players -- although Puka Nacua has been the revelation no one saw coming.
But what about the players who should be getting more love in their respective offenses? That's why I'm here. Today, I'm taking a week off from my regular top 15 offensive player rankings to identify 10 players who should be more involved moving forward. Let's jump right in.
The rookie has exploded onto the scene over the last two weeks, scoring six touchdowns after having just two touches in his first career game in Week 2. Achane’s snap count has increased in every game he’s played this season, playing 10 percent of Miami’s offensive snaps in Week 2, 41 percent in Week 3 and 60 percent in Week 4. With tremendous speed, he poses a tough matchup for linebackers and safeties as a pass-catcher, yet he can also be used to control the clock, something I’d like to see Mike McDaniel do more of with the run game. One thing playing in Achane's favor is he won’t be asked to block for his quarterback as much as the other young running backs around the league because Tua Tagovailoa usually gets rid of the ball quickly in McDaniel's scheme. It's been a highly impressive start to his pro career, but there's much more untapped potential in the third-round pick. We could begin to see it Sunday against the New York Giants, as colleague Cam Wolfe reported we should expect the rookie to have a bigger role.
There is so much emphasis on Kirk Cousins getting the ball to Justin Jefferson in the Minnesota offense. It’s hard to argue against throwing to the reigning Offensive Player of the Year, but I believe Kevin O’Connell should use the threat of Jefferson to create more opportunities for Addison. Cousins has targeted Jefferson a team-high 47 times this season, with T.J. Hockenson second with 31 and Addison third with 20. A perfect example of how the Vikings could better utilize Jefferson to benefit the rookie wideout can be found in the Super Bowl champion Rams team, which featured Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. Oh, I should mention that O’Connell was the offensive coordinator for that squad. Kupp was the offensive engine with Matthew Stafford leaning on his WR1, yet OBJ was then free to work in space opposite Kupp and was always -- always -- open when Stafford needed him. I believe there are lessons from that team that O’Connell can look back on to get his WR2 going.
When I watch Jacksonville, I see a pretty vanilla offense right now. Bigsby has just 12 carries this season, but the Jaguars have a real opportunity to use his physicality to build more of a downhill rushing attack, as opposed to running a spread offense with Travis Etienne in the backfield. Etienne is a tremendous player, so I'm certainly not suggesting the team should not be using him. All I'm saying is Bigsby could offer a new element to this offense. As a runner, Bigsby is physical, but he also has the ability to bounce outside and win in open space. More importantly, he should be highlighted more often to open up play-action, especially with all the playmakers at Trevor Lawrence’s disposal downfield. If the Jaguars truly want to take their offense to the next level, Bigsby could be the answer.
Days before the NFL season started, Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said, “We might use Gibbs in some ways that people might not expect.” I’m still waiting to see that four weeks into the season. So far, the rookie has had some success, compiling 179 yards on 39 carries and 70 yards on 14 receptions. His best performance came in Week 3 (82 scrimmage yards on 18 touches) when Gibbs replaced David Montgomery as the starter while the veteran battled an injury. Montgomery has handled a majority of the workload out of the backfield, and while both playmakers are effective with the ball in their hands, Montgomery can better protect Jared Goff. It’s not that Gibbs can’t do it, but he’s still getting acclimated to the NFL and I would imagine Montgomery is the more confident player when it comes to stepping up and stonewalling a defender in the pocket.
That said, Gibbs should be getting used in more creative ways. Through four games, Gibbs has taken 73.5 percent of his snaps in the backfield, just 15.7 percent aligned in the slot and 11.5 percent out wide, per Pro Football Focus. I don’t want to see the Lions get into the trend of letting a young running back come along slowly due to pass protection issues. He’s a home run hitter -- 10 of his 39 carries have gone for 10-plus yards this season. Gibbs could give this offense a more explosive element in the short passing game if the Lions give him chances in the slot and out wide more often.
After posting a career-high 1,108 receiving yards in his first season with the Jaguars, Kirk leads the team in targets (35) and receiving yards (257) entering Week 5. I feel like Kirk has been lost in the Calvin Ridley hype a bit, though. Sure, Ridley has the wow factor and is a good route runner but he can disappear at times, while Kirk is a more consistent option having been in this offense longer. But for such a consistent player, it’s been feast or famine for Kirk this season when it comes to opportunities. In four games this season, Kirk -- who’s played 77.4 percent of offensive snaps in 2023 (down from 88.2 percent in 2022) -- has been targeted at least 12 times in two contests but six times or fewer in the other two. I’d like to see Doug Pederson get more creative in the pass game and utilize Kirk’s route-running ability to the fullest in an effort to get him the ball more consistently.
The Bears are coming off their best offensive performance of the season. It seemed like they finally played to Justin Fields' strengths, allowing him to use the play-action pass and distribute the ball to his weapons. Moore was targeted a season-high nine games, making eight catches for 131 yards and hauling in his second touchdown of 2023 on a 29-yard toe-tapping grab in the back corner of the end zone. Bears OC Luke Getsy has just scratched the surface of how he can use Moore, a do-it-all wideout who will earn chunk yards on screens but also stretch the field and make contested grabs. He’s also a willing blocker on the back side of run plays. If I’m Getsy, I’d design the run game around Fields and find ways to force feed Moore in the pass game. Show teams that you’re committed to your talented WR1 (SEE: Los Angeles Rams and Puka Nacua), which in turn should open things up for the rest of the team. I’ll tell you one thing, Moore would be so tired at the end of games if I was the Bears’ play-caller.
After the Chiefs drafted Skyy Moore in 2022, my initial thought was that he’d be able to help fill the void left by Tyreek Hill, taking pressure away from all-world tight end Travis Kelce. For whatever reason, that hasn’t materialized yet, and the Chiefs still need some help in the pass game. Moore's playing time and production has increased, with seven catches for 122 yards and a touchdown through Week 4 (22 catches for 250 yards in all of 2022). I’d love to see Andy Reid -- who’s now operating without Eric Bieniemy for the first time since taking the head coaching job in Kansas City in 2013 -- get the ball into Moore’s hands a bit more, whether on jet sweeps, screens, in the return game, you name it. Getting him more opportunities should then help Moore grow into a downfield threat and a player who can stretch the field. Right now, the Chiefs lack a consistent second receiving threat, and Kelce can be taken away with the right personnel or scheme. I’d love to see Reid dust off some of the old Tyreek Hill plays and use them with Moore.
Prior to Sunday night’s win over the Jets, I rarely saw Patrick Mahomes turn his back to the defense when handing off the ball to the running back (he’s normally in shotgun or running a run-pass option play), but he did it several times. That showed me that for the first time in a long time, the Chiefs were making a conscious effort to get the run game going, and it proved to be the difference in the game. Pacheco set career-highs with 115 rush yards and 43 receiving yards in the win. He racked up 100 rush yards after contact, per Next Gen Stats. We established that the Chiefs’ offense isn’t built like it once was, but a physical rushing attack led by Pacheco can help grind out some clock, which could be huge for this offense late in the season.
After a big rookie season in 2021, Pitts has almost disappeared over the last two seasons. An injury cut his 2022 campaign short and he's posted just 11 receptions for 121 yards in four contests this season. He is one of the most talented players at his position and a nightmare for defenders to cover, yet he has the second-most receiving yards of tight ends(!) on the Falcons behind Jonnu Smith. (That’s wild to me!) Now, the entire offense, and more specifically, the quarterback is struggling for Atlanta right now. Tied for the league lead with 10 turnover-worthy plays, per Pro Football Focus, Desmond Ridder is an inconsistent passer and the results have not been pretty. It's tough for an offense to get into a rhythm, especially in the pass game, with an unpredictable quarterback. It’s on Arthur Smith to figure out ways to get Pitts the ball because he’s simply not getting enough targets with Ridder under center and the Falcons leaning heavily on the run game.
One of the best route runners in the NFL, Renfrow has just five receptions for 52 yards on seven targets this season. He is being used as a conventional receiver running cookie-cutter routes in Josh McDaniels’ offense, and he’s rarely being used on third down this season. The Raiders rank 30th in the NFL in converting on those downs, and that's where Renfrow thrived in the past. He has been targeted just three times on third down this season with one catch for seven yards. In 2021, the year prior to McDaniels’ arrival, Renfrow was second in the league in third-down targets (33) with an 84.6 percent catch rate, per Next Gen Stats. Renfrow’s usage is a bit surprising knowing what McDaniels did in New England. Rob Gronkowski was the go-to player on third down but if he wasn’t open, Tom Brady regularly hit Julian Edelman or Wes Welker, who routinely won on option routes. If Davante Adams is Gronk in this instance, Hunter should be that option route target.