Welcome back Bruno Boys Nation! Here we are, at the start of the 2023 fantasy football, and we’re all getting ready for the upcoming Week 1. But first, there is business to take care of. We’re talking about dominating your fantasy football draft. Whatever the format or scoring system, you won’t win your league unless you fill your bench with players who can score and produce. There are always good players who will slide by and fall into laps late, but there are players that everyone’s sleeping on that are ready to break out in 2023.
The Get No Respect Sleeper: Jared Goff, QB, Detroit Lions
In the 1989 time travel movie, Back to the Future II, Marty McFly steps out of the Delorean in 2015 and sees that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series (in reality, the Cubs won it a year later in 2016). To think at that point, the Cubs could even reach the World Series, much less win it was far-fetched. That’s what it must feel like to see the Lions become the media darlings, the vogue pick to win the NFC North and make a serious run in the playoffs up until last year. It’s the stuff of science fiction, or is it?
To those who have been following the Lions since Dan Campbell’s arrival knows the blue-collar, hard-nosed identity head coach Dan Campbell has given this team. They have confidence and are demanding excellence out of themselves and slowly turning the corner. Since Goff has got there, he’s been a consummate professional. Most importantly, Goff’s play is showing a quarterback who doesn’t want to be an afterthought in the Matthew Stafford trade, a bridge to yet another rebuild. Goff played in a Super Bowl too and he’s playing better since then. In 2022, Goff finished as the QB10 overall with 29 touchdowns, 4,438 yards and seven interceptions. A lot of fantasy owners slept on Goff.
The outlook for 2023 looks even stronger with better pieces around Goff. His offensive line will look to build off a phenomenal season where they gave up just 23 sacks. Amongst the top 10 quarterbacks in 2022, Goff’s sacks were the least, beating out notable scrambling quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (27) and Patrick Mahomes (26). Goff’s not that nimble with his feet so that’s a testament to his line. He’s got talent at receiver, youth in the backfield, what doesn’t Goff have? Fantasy respect.
He’s currently being drafted as the 16th quarterback off the board, in the middle of the 10th round, after Colts rookie QB Anthony Richardson. Even with the Lions having the 7th easiest schedule and the NFC North wide open for the hungriest team, Goff is seen as the third-best quarterback in the division. If the Lions finish the season where they want to, fantasy owners will be kicking themselves again.
The Aging Vet Sleeper: Aaron Rodgers, QB, New York Jets
Despite what you want to think about the polarizing quarterback for the Jets, formerly of the Packers, Rodgers is surrounded by a lot of good talent. He has a defense that will get him extra possessions and you can get him in late rounds. Rodgers leaves behind him the stability of Wisconsin and is donning a different green, but maybe after drinking some of the Hard Knocks Kool Aid, this environment looks just as ripe for fantasy production as any.
His teammates include Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Corey Davis, Mecole Hardman and yes, Randall Cobb. Rodgers will eventually get Breece Hall back to share the backfield with and until then, Dalvin Cook and Michael Carter. Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah are serviceable. Offensive line is a valid concern, but there are few quarterbacks past the age of 35 that don’t come with concerns.
Still, Rodgers’ current ADP is in the middle of the 9th round, and is sitting as the QB12 overall, with a slight edge over Tua Tagovailoa. There are no sure things in this league, but I can confidently say that I prefer Rodgers over half the quarterbacks being taken ahead of him. Owners taking the plunge can expect near 34-36 touchdowns (~2 per game). 40 though, might be pushing it.
Can He Do it Again Sleeper: Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Smith returns to the Seahawks as the feel good story of 2022. A high draft pick bust turned backup quarterback, Smith asserted himself as the Seahawks starter. The opportunity arose after Russell Wilson was traded to the Broncos. It would be Smith’s coming out party as he finished as the QB5, throwing 30 touchdowns, (plus another rushing) and throwing for 4,282 yards and completing a league-high 69.8 percent of his passes. Smith still has his doubters though because none of that has carried into this draft season so far. He is lasting until the 10th rounds of fantasy drafts as the 14th QB off the board, so at least he’s being thought of as a backup.
That’s a staggering fact when you consider that the Seahawks will only get better. They added rookies RB Zach Charbonnet and Jaxon Smith-Njigba and have their dynamic playmakers, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett returning. Kenneth Walker is expected to start off as a work horse in a Pete Carroll run-heavy offense. Noah Fant is the tight end still and this young defense is only getting better.
Seattle is young, but balanced, and will look to try and knock off San Francisco for the division. On paper, their schedule is difficult, but this isn’t the first time that Smith has been an underdog. Fantasy owners simply want to see it again. Can he do it again? That’s for savvy fantasy owners to make the leap.
The Deep Sleeper: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Every season there are a handful of players who level up. The best thing is when it happens to players whom you least expect. Of all of the starting quarterbacks in the league, Pickett has the most room to grow, but also has the tools around him to make that leap. He has a trusted veteran hands in receivers in Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson and tight end Pat Freiermuth; a phenom in the making with George Pickens and maybe a surprise fellow deep sleeper in Calvin Austin. Plus, Pittsburgh is never out of it as long as Mike Tomlin is the coach.
When you see Pickett play in the preseason, you see poise, pocket control and he is throwing completion after completion. Pickett’s probably not lighting up the scoreboard for 300 yards and three touchdowns each game, but if you have a Jalen Hurts or Patrick Maholmes, you’ll only need Pickett to fill in for one game. It’s a low risk move with high returns if everything works out,