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USATSI

Two rookies this season have the chance to be historic players for Fantasy managers and breakout candidates: Bijan Robinson and Anthony Richardson.

I have Richardson ranked as the No. 9 quarterback already, but he could finish in the top five. He has that much upside given his dual-threat ability, and it wouldn't shock me if he becomes the second quarterback in NFL history to pass for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards, joining Lamar Jackson in 2019.

While that seems unlikely -- only one quarterback has ever done that -- Richardson wasn't far off from that level of production at the University of Florida. In 12 games for the Gators in 2022, Richardson had 2,549 passing yards and 654 rushing yards, which is 212.4 passing yards per game and 54.5 rushing yards per game. That puts him on a 17-game pace for 3,611 passing yards and 927 rushing yards. 

You can't expect the exact similar production in the NFL, but you can see the potential Richardson provides. And Colts coach Shane Steichen should give Richardson the chance to maximize that potential.

Steichen was just the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, where Jalen Hurts proved to be one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL. In the past two seasons for the Eagles, Hurts had at least 3,100 passing yards and 760 rushing yards each year. This is a favorable system for Richardson, and he has the chance to be historic in his rookie campaign, especially if Michael Pittman, Alec Pierce and Josh Downs make things easy for Richardson as a passer.

Now, Richardson will most likely fall short of joining the 3,000-1,000 club. A more realistic goal is 2,200-2,500 passing yards and around 800 rushing yards. If he can score 25-plus touchdowns and limit the turnovers, he should be a star. I plan to target Richardson as early as Round 7 in the majority of one-quarterback leagues, and he's an early Round 2 selection in Superflex and two-quarterback leagues. 

Richardson has the chance to make an immediate impact in his rookie campaign, and he's one of my favorite breakout candidates this year. Here are the other breakout candidates I plan to target in 2023.

Quarterbacks

Justin Fields
CHI • QB • #1
CMP%60.4
YDs2242
TD17
INT11
YD/Att7.05
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Fields showed the ability to be a star in 2022, and I love what the Bears did for him this offseason since he finally has a legit weapon in D.J. Moore, who was acquired via trade from Carolina. Chicago's receiving corps is actually a strength now with Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet, and Fields should improve as a passer. He only attempted 318 passes in 2022 and had 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and all of those totals (minus the interceptions) should rise. But we know the allure to Fields is his rushing prowess, and he was amazing in that category last year with 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns. If he can somehow stay above 1,000 rushing yards and surpass 2,500 passing yards or more -- maybe he joins Lamar Jackson in the 3,000-1,000 club -- then Fields could be in the conversation for the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2023. I'm drafting him as a top-five quarterback in Round 4 in one-quarterback leagues and Round 1 in Superflex and two-quarterback leagues, and I love the outlook for Fields this season.

Trevor Lawrence
JAC • QB • #16
CMP%66.3
YDs4113
TD25
INT8
YD/Att7.04
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Lawrence lost Urban Meyer and actually looked like a standout NFL quarterback in his sophomore season under Doug Pederson. Now Lawrence is about to become a star. He had plenty of good moments last season when he scored at least 24 Fantasy points in four of his final eight games, but just watching him you could see there's potential for more. And now he might have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL with Calvin Ridley in Jacksonville along with Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Evan Engram. The Jaguars should be the best team in the AFC South, and they have a favorable schedule against their own weak division, as well as matchups with the NFC South. I wouldn't be surprised if Jacksonville is among the highest-scoring teams in the NFL, and Lawrence should see his Fantasy production rise from 19.5 points per game in 2022 to over 25 points per game this season. He has top-five upside, and I plan to have a lot of shares of Lawrence on my Fantasy teams. He's worth drafting as early as Round 6 in one-quarterback leagues and Round 1 in Superflex and two-quarterback leagues.

Running backs

Tony Pollard
DAL • RB • #20
Att193
Yds1007
TD9
FL0
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When Dallas decided to stick with Pollard and move on from Ezekiel Elliott this offseason, it was the gift Fantasy managers have been waiting for over the past two seasons. Pollard's competition for touches at the time of publication is Ronald Jones, Malik Davis and Deuce Vaughn, which means Pollard should dominate the workload. We saw last season, even when Elliott was healthy, Pollard had 193 carries for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns, along with 39 catches for 371 yards and three touchdowns on 55 targets. He averaged 14.8 PPR points per game, which was good enough to be the No. 9 running back last year. But more could be in store for Pollard this year. Elliott missed two games in 2022 with a bad knee in Week 8 against Chicago and Week 10 at Green Bay. In those two games, Pollard combined for 54 PPR points with 36 carries for 246 yards and four touchdowns and four catches for 29 yards on seven targets. It was amazing production and actually two of six outings that Pollard had with at least 19 PPR points. With Elliott gone, there are 231 carries and 12 rushing touchdowns, including eight from the 2-yard line or closer, available in Dallas. We hope the majority of that goes to Pollard. He is worth drafting toward the end of Round 1 in all leagues.

Rhamondre Stevenson
NE • RB • #38
Att210
Yds1040
TD5
FL1
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Stevenson had a mini-breakout in 2022 when he averaged 13.8 PPR points per game, but he can be even better in 2023 as long as the Patriots leave their backfield as is heading into the season. I'm not overly concerned about Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong Jr., Kevin Harris or J.J. Taylor taking Stevenson off the field. With Damien Harris gone, Stevenson could be looking at 300 total touches, which could lead to a top-five Fantasy finish in all formats. He proved himself as a receiver out of the backfield in 2022 with 69 catches for 421 yards and a touchdown on 88 targets, and he averaged 5.0 yards per carry. He only scored five rushing touchdowns, and New England had just 10 rushing touchdowns from its backfield in 2022, but in 2021 the Patriots running backs combined for 24 rushing scores. I'm expecting a better offensive performance from New England this season with Bill O'Brien back as the offensive coordinator, and Stevenson should be the team's best offensive player. I plan to draft him toward the end of Round 2 in all leagues.

Alexander Mattison
MIN • RB • #2
Att74
Yds283
TD5
FL0
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The numbers for Mattison whenever he's gotten an increased workload are outstanding, and now Dalvin Cook is no longer in Minnesota. Mattison has 14 games in his career with at least 10 carries, and he scored at least 15 PPR points in seven of those outings. He's averaging 13.4 PPR points over that span. In seven games in his career where he's played at least 48 percent of the snaps, he averaged 19.5 carries, 84 rushing yards, 3.7 catches and 34 receiving yards, along with five total touchdowns. Over a 17-game season, that puts him on pace for 332 carries, 1,430 rushing yards, 63 catches, 583 receiving yards and 12 total scores. We'll see how much the Vikings put on Mattison's plate and if he can handle being the full-time guy for an entire season. It's why you should invest in Ty Chandler as a sleeper with a late-round pick. But Mattison has the potential for a huge season in 2023, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 4 in the majority of leagues.

Gibbs is going to have a role in Detroit's backfield right away, most likely in the passing game, and he just led Alabama in receptions in 2022 with 44. If he can prove that he's a better rusher than David Montgomery, Gibbs has top-15 upside in all leagues. Now, you might question Gibbs' size at 5-foot-9, 199 pounds, but Dalvin Cook (5-10, 210), Aaron Jones (5-9, 208) and Christian McCaffrey (5-11, 202) weren't much bigger coming into the NFL. Gibbs ended up in a good situation with the Lions, who have been top nine in running back rush attempts and running back targets over the past two seasons. Jamaal Williams just led all running backs with 17 rushing touchdowns in 2022 (Detroit had 23 running back rushing scores), and D'Andre Swift has at least 46 catches and 57 targets for three years in a row. There's a lot of production available for Gibbs and Montgomery, but I would bet on Gibbs leading the backfield based on his talent and the investment Detroit made in him as the No. 12 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. I plan to target Gibbs in Round 4 in all leagues.

Wide receivers

Garrett Wilson
NYJ • WR • #17
TAR147
REC83
REC YDs1103
REC TD4
FL1
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The addition of Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback for the Jets should help Wilson become a star. He's worth drafting as early as Round 2 in the majority of leagues as a top-10 Fantasy receiver. It's fun to look at how well Wilson did last season whenever he didn't have Zach Wilson under center. In seven games with Joe Flacco or Mike White, Garrett Wilson averaged 17.6 PPR points per game, including three outings with at least 24 PPR points. At that average, he would have been the No. 7 PPR receiver in 2022. Now, the Jets clearly trusted the non-Zach Wilson quarterbacks to throw the ball more, and part of the reason for Garrett Wilson's gaudy numbers in those games was higher volume. That trust factor should be there for Rodgers, and Wilson should be able to play at a high level for a full season. He should dominate targets for the Jets ahead of guys like Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Randall Cobb and Corey Davis, and Wilson has the chance to be a standout Fantasy receiver in his sophomore campaign.

Chris Olave
NO • WR • #12
TAR119
REC72
REC YDs1042
REC TD4
FL2
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Olave should improve with Derek Carr as the starting quarterback for the Saints after Olave suffered playing with Andy Dalton for the majority of his rookie campaign. While the stats were encouraging -- 72 catches for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns on 119 targets for 12.9 PPR points per game -- Olave left a lot of production on the field. He was sixth in the NFL in air yards among wide receivers (1,686), seventh in targets per route run (targeted on 31.2 percent of his routes), and sixth in yards per route run (2.73). Prior to Week 13, Olave was actually No. 10 among all wide receivers in targets (92) and receiving yards (822) as well as 15th in receptions (56). At that time, he was on pace for 143 targets, 87 catches and 1,270 yards. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 15 and was out for Week 16, and he struggled down the stretch. But he should rebound in a big way this season with Carr. Even though Michael Thomas remains in New Orleans, Olave is the top receiver to target for the Saints, and Fantasy managers should plan to draft him as early as Round 3.

Christian Watson
GB • WR • #9
TAR66
REC41
REC YDs611
REC TD7
FL0
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The Packers offense will look different this season with Jordan Love taking over for Rodgers, and Watson has the chance to be a star in his sophomore campaign. Matt LaFleur expects Watson to have a big season as the No. 1 receiver in Green Bay. "Obviously, you can see the explosive playmaker that he is and what he's capable of doing," LaFleur said at the NFL league meetings. "I'm just excited to watch him grow and just his understanding of the offense. He is a guy that can handle a lot. I haven't been around too many rookies where you can move their position in-game, and he didn't even flinch. He is exceptionally intelligent, bright and knows the plan inside and out, but I think there's a level of detail that will get better with him. We're going to ask him to run more routes than he did a year ago." Watson showed flashes of his potential in 2022 when he had a four-game stretch from Weeks 10-13 with at least 20 PPR points in each outing, and he also had 18 PPR points in Week 18. In each of those games he had at least six targets, and only twice did he fail to score 18 PPR points when he had that much work (one of those games was Week 16 at Miami when he left with a hip injury). If Love isn't a disaster, Watson has the chance to be a top-15 Fantasy receiver in all leagues, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 4.

Drake London
ATL • WR • #5
TAR117
REC72
REC YDs866
REC TD4
FL3
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Desmond Ridder started the final four games of the season for the Falcons, and London's production was much improved. In those four games against New Orleans, Baltimore, Arizona and Tampa Bay, London averaged 13.3 PPR points per game (he averaged 10.1 points per game overall for the season) with 36 targets for 25 catches and 333 yards. He didn't score a touchdown, but nine targets per game were fun to see. Keep in mind that only 10 receivers in 2022 averaged at least nine targets per game -- Ja'Marr Chase (11.3 targets per game), Cooper Kupp (10.9), Justin Jefferson (10.8), Davante Adams (10.6), DeAndre Hopkins (10.7), Tyreek Hill (10.0), Stefon Diggs (9.6), Chris Godwin (9.5), CeeDee Lamb (9.2) and Amon-Ra St. Brown (9.1) -- so that's elite company for London if he can keep that up with Ridder. However, Kyle Pitts (knee) was out for that stretch, and hopefully, Ridder and this Atlanta passing game can support two standout receiving options, especially with the addition of running back Bijan Robinson. I'm counting on London to take a big step forward, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 5 in the majority of leagues.

Tight ends

Pat Freiermuth
PIT • TE • #88
TAR98
REC63
REC YDs732
REC TD2
FL0
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You have to like the reports that Freiermuth could be used as a big slot receiver because that should only enhance his production as a No. 1 Fantasy tight end. And the addition of rookie Darnell Washington, who is an inline tight end, only adds to that. Last year, Freiermuth averaged 2.28 yards per route run when lined up in the slot, which was second only to Travis Kelce. Furthermore, Freiermuth finished 2022 ranked sixth in targets per game among tight ends with 6.13. He only scored two touchdowns last season but had seven as a rookie, and I'm hoping he's closer to that total in 2023. Kenny Pickett needs to improve in his sophomore campaign, and Freiermuth has to compete for targets with Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. But clearly, the Steelers have a plan to feature Freiermuth, and he has top-10 Fantasy upside in all leagues. He's a fantastic tight end to wait for on Draft Day with a mid-to-late-round pick.

Chigoziem Okonkwo
TEN • TE • #85
TAR46
REC32
REC YDs450
REC TD3
FL0
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I caught up with Okonkwo this offseason while he was training at XPE Sports in South Florida, and he's been working on improving his game since February. I expect Okonkwo to have a second-year breakout campaign, and he's worth drafting as a No. 1 Fantasy tight end with a late-round pick in all leagues. He fits the bill of what we look for as a starting option with upside because he could be first or second on the Titans in targets. This is an inexperienced receiving corps led by second-year guys in Treylon Burks, Kyle Philips and Okonkwo, and Ryan Tannehill should lean on Okonkwo a lot. As a rookie, he had plenty of positive moments down the stretch with at least 10 PPR points in three of his final six games, including two touchdowns over that span. He averaged 9.5 PPR points during that time, and that actually would have made him the No. 9 tight end in PPR if he did that for a full season. Tannehill also played in just three of those games, and Okonkwo is excited to have his starting quarterback return for 2023. He told me his goal is 100 catches this season, which doesn't seem realistic, but I wouldn't be shocked if he doubled his production from 2022 (32 catches, 450 yards, and three touchdowns on 46 targets). He's an elite athlete and primed for a lot of opportunities this season, and he should finish the year as a top 10 Fantasy tight end in all leagues.