Welcome to the 2023 NFL fantasy football season. I'm taking our traditional fantasy rankings one step further and arranging them into tiers to help prepare you to dominate your drafts. Tiers give you a better idea of player values and will allow you to construct a more well-rounded roster.
We should finally put the injury-prone label to rest when it comes to Christian McCaffrey. He's averaged 18-plus fantasy points per game in five consecutive seasons, and he's started 16 games in three of the past five seasons. He looked like he was built for the 49ers' offense after San Francisco acquired him last October. ... Saquon Barkley signed his one-year deal and is in camp, so you have no reason to stay away from him this season. Barkley led the Giants in targets in 2022, and I expect him to do so again in 2023, even with the addition of tight end Darren Waller. ... Austin Ekeler has been a top-four fantasy back in three of the last four seasons. He was the RB1 last year.
Nick Chubb accounted for 28.5 percent of the Browns' scrimmage yards in 2022 (fourth highest in the NFL). Imagine what he could do if he started getting more targets. ... Derrick Henry was a top-four fantasy running back in points per game in each of the last four seasons. ... There is a lot of buzz around Bijan Robinson. I understand it. I love shiny new things, as well. And he has a lot of tools. His camp videos are already blowing up. ... Jonathan Taylor is currently on the PUP list and has requested a trade. But let's not forget what happened with Danielle Hunter. I had decided Hunter -- who attracted trade interest this offseason -- was going to the Bears a few days ago, and then he signed a new deal with the Vikings. Colts owner Jim Irsay has said the team is not trading Taylor. So, I'm not panicking here with Taylor. But as always, keep an eye on the situation. ... It's worth monitoring the Patriots and Rhamondre Stevenson, too. If they don't sign another running back, we're good. ... Josh Jacobs, the league's leading rusher last season, is on the bottom of Tier 2. He and the Raiders failed to work out a multi-year deal prior to the July 17 deadline for franchise-tagged players, and he has not reported to training camp. He will be trending down if he doesn't join the team soon.
I'm really intrigued by what Jahmyr Gibbs will bring to the Lions' offense. I wasn't sure about it on draft night, but I could really see him being the third-most targeted player on the team. ... Dameon Pierce gained 1,104 yards from scrimmage in 13 games last season, but it will be huge if new Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik can help him become a bigger factor in the receiving game (30 catches for 165 yards in 2022). ... Alexander Mattison has been great when starting in place of Dalvin Cook during his career, averaging 129.5 scrimmage yards per game in his four starts since 2021 (most scrimmage yards per game as a starter in the NFL over that span among those with a minimum of four starts). I know those starts came when Mike Zimmer was head coach, but I'm a big believer in Kevin O'Connell's offense, which will be leaning on Mattison to replace Cook this year. ... James Conner averaged 15.4 fantasy points per game last season, the ninth most among running backs. He's a great option for WR-heavy fantasy teams.
One of the biggest things to monitor in camp is the return of Javonte Williams from the ACL tear that ended his 2022 season in Week 4. Williams in Sean Payton's offense? I like the potential of that pairing. ... James Cook has been moving up the ranks lately, and it has nothing to do with the touchdown he scored in Week 1 of the preseason (though that was nice). He survived Ezekiel Elliott and his brother, Dalvin Cook, coming to the AFC East, continuing to hold position as the lead back in Buffalo. ... Dalvin Cook is interesting. He's still got some juice left in the tank, but this feels like a situation where Breece Hall will end up being the guy you want in December -- even if it might hurt a little bit immediately. Brian Robinson posted 100-plus scrimmage yards in three of his last five games. And remember, Washington has a new offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy. ... I'm a sucker for how players finish. Cam Akers scored six rushing touchdowns over his last six games. And he averaged 20.7 fantasy points per game during the fantasy playoffs (fifth among RBs). Maybe this is the year for him. ... Khalil Herbert has a chance to win the Bears' starting gig, but you'll want to cuff him with D’Onta Foreman or Roschon Johnson, the latter being the player I would prefer.
The Seahawks need to get back to running the football. However, I'd rather not spend for Kenneth Walker III; instead, I'd take a run at Zach Charbonnet. Both players are dealing with injuries as of this writing, but Pete Carroll noted the team is being cautious with them. ... I want one of the Dolphins' running backs to be the guy. It probably won't happen, but De’Von Achane has the ability to be a three-down back. ... Evan Hull is quickly rising in my rankings. He led Northwestern in rushing last season, but he was also second on the team with 55 receptions. He needs to work on his pass protection in order to really cement his role on offense. But he's currently one of the few healthy running backs in Colts camp and is worth reaching for. ... I mean, it's easy to think Jamaal Williams will have some touchdown regression this year after he led the league with 17 rushing TDs last season. So, that's exactly what I think will happen. Sometimes, the easy way is the way.
Travis Etienne didn't catch a ton of passes last season (35 total) -- but it seems like most people believe that he did. Tank Bigsby could play a big role as a pass-catcher for Jacksonville. ... Zamir White takes on a more prominent place in fantasy football as the situation with Josh Jacobs plays out. ... Call me biased -- it doesn't bother me -- but Roschon Johnson needs to be rostered.
Ronald Jones has been suspended for the first two games of the regular season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. ... I'll be keeping an eye on Keaton Mitchell in Ravens camp in the coming weeks. He might be one of those guys who plays special teams before he gets a chance on offense. But he's worth monitoring. ... Zack Moss broke his arm in practice and is expected to miss about six weeks, per NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo.