Well, folks, it is about that time. Training camps are complete. The three-week preseason is complete. I have published articles regarding WR values and RB, WR, & TE fades. There is a good chance you have completed all your drafts and are simply sitting back and awaiting the kickoff of the 2023 fantasy football season this Thursday.
Other than tinkering with your rosters leading up to Thursday and then every waking minute prior to kickoff of the early games on Sunday, I think we should share our hot takes and bold predictions for this season. Bring me all your comments, whether you agree or disagree. Like the kids would say, “@ me,” and let’s have a conversation to fill the time before we incessantly click refresh on our league scoring page.
Also, do not forget the @Razzball NFL team of writers will be hosting our Sunday Morning Start/Sit podcast every week, starting three hours before kickoff all the way up to the official start of the early games. @BobbyLaMarco, @SkyGuasco, @Derek_Favret, and me, Mitch Staniger @stiles08, will be answering all your questions to help you win your weekly matchups. Come for the analysis, and stay for the laughs!
Now, onto my 2023 Bold Predictions, and these are not your ‘Derek Henry will lead the league in carries if he stays healthy’ or ‘Jefferson and Chase will be the WR1-2 this season’ hot takes. Not at all. The comments you see below are like the old soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful, so let’s get after it!
NOTE: The predictions become more and more bold as you read down the list, so make sure you see them all.
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Nick Chubb will be the 2023 RB1, even though he is being drafted at the top of the second round. In most of your draft’s names like Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, Bijan Robinson, and Saquon Barkley are being selected ahead of Nick Chubb. It happens every season, and Chubb just keeps producing. This is the year he takes the leap and finishes atop the RB leaderboard. The Browns will be better with a full season of Deshaun Watson under center, leading Chubb to see fewer 8-man fronts.
With defenses having to consider the Browns’ passing attack more this season will undoubtedly allow Chubb more opportunities to exploit softer defensive fronts. Kareem Hunt is out of the picture, and the RB2 is a guy named Jerome Ford, which equates to exactly zero competition for Chubb. I think Chubb has a shot at leading the league in carries over Derrick Henry.
If you need a little more convincing, consider the weather for the outdoor games in the AFC North, and you have the makings of a run-first offense led by Chubb. Those things, coupled with McCaffrey’s injury history, Ekeler’s mind being on his next contract, and Bijan being a rookie in a not-so-impressive offense on a lackluster team, lead me to predict Chubb as the RB1 this year.
Darren Waller finishes the season as the TE1. A prediction that will have all Travis Kelce truthers stop reading here. That’s fine. I am here for it. Remember, I just faded Kelce as a first-round selection in my latest article, 5 Tight Ends to Fade at Their Current ADP (razzball.com). Is Kelce the stud he was last season? I think he might be, but let’s remember, he is a year older (34) and has played extra games (playoffs, Super Bowl), thus taxing his body more than other TEs.
Waller is fully healthy and has a QB that is hyper-focused on getting him the ball. There will be little to no help from the NYG WR corps this season, so the entire offense will be Daniel Jones to Darren Waller, with Saquon Barkley running and catching. If you watched any of the preseason or read any of the preseason chatter from the ‘experts,’ and I know you did, then you realize Waller is in for a massive target count. Give me both the draft capital discount and the clear path to the most targets on the team, and I predict Waller as my TE1 at the end of 2023.
A QB who will go undrafted in 99% of 12-team leagues, Baker Mayfield, will end the season as a Top 12 fantasy QB. You read that right. Baker will go from waiver wire fodder to fantasy relevance in 2023. If you need reasons, here are the two main ones: Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. These two WRs are QB-independent. They do not require a brand-name QB to be ideal fantasy performers. You saw what I saw last season when Baker showed up and showed out on Monday Night Football with a handful of hours under his belt as Rams QB.
Sometimes, it looks like backyard football with the ball in Baker’s hands, and I am fine with that. Outside of two games against the Saints, the division matchups are not scary and will allow Baker to throw the rock to his two stud WRs and a significant amount of dump-offs to Rachaad White to increase his passing stats. The Bucs are not making the playoffs unless they win their division, and I do not see either happening.
What I do see is a QB who has proven ability to throw for stats in the NFL, and let’s be honest here: we do not care if the Bucs win or lose as long as Baker is throwing the ball. We want and should get volume passing from the Bucs, as White is not a proven alpha RB1 to carry the load between the tackles, thus placing the onus on Baker to throw more. The volume and two stellar WRs are why I predict Baker as a Top 12 QB for 2023.
This is a fun one that may find some of you using your Google box to search for the name of my next bold prediction. Puka Nacua outscores Van Jefferson this season, and it won’t be close. With the recent news of Cooper Kupp heading for additional tests and information on his soft tissue injury, the door is wide open for Puka to be the clear WR1 over Jefferson, a guy who has never commanded the fantasy world to stand up and pay attention.
Puka will immediately fill the Kupp role and will move to WR3 once Kupp is back in the huddle. Puka’s preseason was fantastic, and both Matthew Stafford and Stetson Bennett have praised the rookie’s football acumen and skill sets. Likely available in the final rounds of your fantasy draft, especially in deep leagues, now is the time to fade Jefferson and roster Puka everywhere. Kupp’s injury is scary but is also a part of fantasy football. The next man up mentality and his ownership of the preseason lead me to predict Puka outscoring Jefferson. Book it!
My fifth and final prediction is my favorite. Jordan Love and his WR corps (Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed) will produce better season-long fantasy numbers than Aaron Rodgers and his WR trio (Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman). Love has waited, and his time has come. He is now the starting QB for the Green Bay Packers. He is ready. He has kept his head down and his mouth shut. He has learned from one of the best to ever do it. He comin’! Do you believe? I do! Without a doubt, Rodgers has the top WR option in Garrett Wilson and will probably make him a superstar.
Where I think the differences pop up are the WR2-3 and the division for each team. I will happily put my money on Doubs/ Reed over Lazard/Hardman while understanding Wilson will probably outproduce Watson. The Lions’ defense is stout, so Love will have to prove himself in those two games. He will need to manage the team and lead them to a split at worst. The Bears and Vikings defenses do not strike fear into any prepared NFL offense. I think those games could be shoot-outs, and I like Love’s chances in those four games.
Rodgers will face Buffalo, Miami, and New England six times. Most will agree the AFC East defenses are much stronger than the NFC North. Mix in the New York media once Rodgers has a bump in the road, a bad interception and/or a tough loss to someone the Jets were favored to defeat, and I think you have a chance to see Rodgers’ fragile ego suffer. Do not get me wrong, I still love Rodgers, but our time is over, and my QB (insert Terrell Owens crying gif/meme) is now Jordan Love. I believe. I have full confidence in his abilities. Give me the younger WRs and less formidable defenses while mixing in the media scrutiny, and I predict Love will outperform Rodgers in 2023.
Call me bold. Call me a Packers homer. Call me crazy. Whatever you do, call me at the end of the season to compliment these predictions. Regardless of how these predictions play out, you must admit they are bolder than most you will find floating around, and you know I will not shy away from the controversy. I will be here to discuss those I nailed and those I missed.