Ranking 2023 NFL free agents through the lens of fantasy football

Ranking 2023 NFL free agents through the lens of fantasy football

NFL free agents and fantasy football impact

Ranking 2023 NFL free agents through the lens of fantasy football


The NFL’s free agency opens in March, and we’re ranking their expected fantasy football importance for the 2023 season. While some players who currently are not on this list will indeed become free agents via being released rather than seeing their contract expire, our focus is on the players we currently know will hit the market.

These players are ranked from least to most likely to make a significant difference in fantasy, and some nuanced adjustments factor in for those who aren’t as likely to leave their 2022 franchise.

WR Jarvis Landry

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2022 team: New Orleans Saints
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): WR107

Landry is a bit player at this point in his career but still can offer a little something on the back end of fantasy rosters, in the right situation. First of all, he needs to stay healthy, which has been a problem of late. The Saints are in cap hell and without a defined starting quarterback, and it’s unlikely we see Landry return. Keep tabs on where he winds up for his age-31 season.

RB D'Onta Foreman

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2022 team: Carolina Panthers
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB38

The veteran journeyman logged five 100-plus-yard performances in a nine-game stretch after the trade of Christian McCaffrey. Foreman will be 27 years old in April, and it will be interesting to see if he gets a shot at being at least a 1b in a split backfield. The main factor that could squash any chance of him is how poorly he played down the stretch. Foreman’s 165-yard outburst vs. Detroit in Week 16 during a game in which the Lions appeared to have forgotten they were supposed to play defense was his only double-digit fantasy effort over the final five games.

WR DJ Chark Jr.

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2022 team: Detroit Lions
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): WR75

Chark turns 27 early in the 2023 NFL season, and his future in Detroit is a bit murky. While the stat line of 30-502-3 over 11 games isn’t particularly impressive, it highlights how he can be effective in the downfield passing game. Injuries are always a concern with him, and now that 2022 first-rounder Jameson Williams is healthy, Chark probably walks in free agency. The former Jaguar and likely to soon-to-be ex-Lion is just late-round roster depth barring an improbable role change.

WR Darius Slayton

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2022 team: New York Giants
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): WR51

Freshly 27, Slayton was thrown back into the mix late in the 2022 season as the receiving corps was down to any warm body who could catch a pass. The vertical wideout isn’t going to be a lineup fixture in fantasy, though his big-play traits could offer some volatile utility in an opened-up passing game.

RB Jerick McKinnon

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2022 team: Kansas City Chiefs
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB19

A career-year in his age-30 season should have gamers extra cautious about McKinnon in 2023. He entered the campaign with seven receiving touchdowns, and his nine aerial scores in ’22 is such an extreme number that it’s unfair to expect even half of that in any non-Andy Reid offense. Even worse, eight came in six games. Should he return for a third-down role with the Chiefs in 2023, McKinnon can be added as roster depth.

RB Rashaad Penny

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2022 team: Seattle Seahawks
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB72

Penny will be 27 before free agency and is coming off broken ankle but should get a shot at proving himself to be healthy prior to the signing period’s opening. The oft-injured veteran certainly could come back to Seattle to pair with Kenneth Walker III. In an ideal world, he signs where there’s an opportunity to be “the guy” … in reality, Penny has shown himself incapable of shouldering a starter’s workload. The best gamers can hope for here is a strong performance out of a split backfield that results in occasional spot duty.

WR Allen Lazard

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2022 team: Green Bay Packers
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): WR34

A few factors are at play here: Green Bay is way over the cap, and there’s a growing chance Aaron Rodgers isn’t part of the 2023 equation. With those factors in mind, don’t be surprised if Lazard is playing in a new city this upcoming season. There’s a decent chance he’ll take a one-year deal to stick in Green Bay as an audition for 2024 free agency, but that’s only if Rodgers returns. The two would make some sense with the New York Jets, reuniting both with Nathaniel Hackett. Stay tuned!

QB Daniel Jones

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2022 team: New York Giants
2022 fantasy ranking: QB12

The Giants declined Jones’ fifth-year option but will look to either secure his return with a multiyear deal or slap the franchise tag on the Duke product. The latter would be the smarter option for New York as it’s still not entirely clear that Jones is indeed the team’s quarterback of the future. If head coach Brian Daboll believes Jones has room to grow, expect the dual-threat quarterback to return again … now let us see if he’ll have weapons in the aerial attack.

WR Jakobi Meyers

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2022 team: New England Patriots
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): WR29

The Pats brought in Bill O’Brien to help get Mac Jones to the next level, and we should see his favorite target standing a decent chance of returning. The possession-minded slot receiver won’t be commanding a huge contract from any team, and New England enters February with the seventh-most cap space for 2023. Expect Meyers to be worth somewhere around $11-13 million per year, which is overvalued for what he brings to the table, but comfort for Jones may supersede the financials. Meyers still isn’t more than a WR3 in PPR with a hint of potential to sneak into No. 2 territory.

QB Geno Smith

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2022 team: Seattle Seahawks
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): QB7

The NFC’s leader in touchdown passes (30), who completed a league-best 69.8 percent of his throws in 2022, heads into free agency at age 32 with a single season of even remotely competent play under his belt. The Seahawks have expressed interest in Smith returning, and the feeling is mutual on his end, so it would be surprising if he ended up anywhere else at this point. Presuming he indeed winds up back in the Pacific Northwest, Smith is a risk-reward decision for those who prefer to wait on the position. He has fringe QB1 appeal but is best selected as a primary backup or rotational starter due to the lack of track record.

RB Devin Singletary

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2022 team: Buffalo Bills
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB23

Buffalo enters the offseason with the eighth-lowest cap space and could have several tough decisions to make. It’s not that Singletary wouldn’t necessarily be welcomed back as much as the Bills have a cheaper, more explosive option in James Cook, and this team just doesn’t run enough to invest veteran-tier money in even an average back like Singletary. He offers perhaps a little more fantasy upside than we’ve seen from him through four pro seasons, largely due to the general lack of utilization to date and room to grow in a passing role. Singletary could be a sneaky play in the right situation, so don’t write him off based on what we’ve seen thus far.

RB Damien Harris

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2022 team: New England Patriots
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB49

Mostly one-dimensional and TD-dependent backs find their careers typically heading in two directions — flame out of the league entirely (think Jeremy Hill) or hang around into their 30s as a situational player (Latavius Murray). Given the way backfields are compartmentalized in today’s game, in addition to the cost of veteran backs in relation to RBs without vested contracts, it’s understandable that tends to be the fork in the road for most rushers. Harris fits into this category as a one-trick pony. He’ll get a shot somewhere as a rotational option, though it seems unlikely to be in New England after the Pats invested two draft picks into the backfield in 2022. Harris said he’s open to returning but also said he’ll do what’s best for his family. His 2023 fantasy outlook is a big, fat “TBD” for the time being. He’d be at least a flex consideration in an offense that would grant him consistent attempts in the red zone.

RB Jamaal Williams

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2022 team: Detroit Lions
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB13

Williams is a little more dynamic than the aforementioned Damien Harris, but he’s also nearly 28 years old and coming off a season in which he’ll never be able to match. The Lions love him, and he’s looking to return to Motown. Dan Campbell’s culture and desire to split up the backfield chores point to both sides making something happen. Detroit has plenty of cap space and an obvious need to fill, so it will be surprising if they cannot come together on a one- or two-year contract agreement. Operating on that premise, Williams won’t be scoring 17 touchdowns again, and he’s unlikely to top 1,000 yards if D’Andre Swift can manage to finally stay healthy, but there’s no reason, barring an injury of his own, the former Green Bay Packer isn’t an RB3 target in upcoming drafts.

RB Alexander Mattison

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2022 team: Minnesota Vikings
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB52

The Boise State product spent four years backing up Dalvin Cook and managed to showcase his skills on more than one occasion while filling in for the oft-injured star. Entering his age-25 season, Mattison could get an opportunity elsewhere to be a No. 1 back, or at least shoulder the larger share of a split backfield, and it wouldn’t be a big shock if he proves to be a prized acquisition from a fantasy perspective. An underrated receiver, there’s dual-threat potential here. Pencil in his name as a fantasy RB2 target if he lands in the right spot, among which could include the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

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2022 team: Kansas City Chiefs
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): WR27

The Super Bowl LVII champs saw Smith-Schuster step up his game in the second-half comeback, and it will be interesting to see if he uses the performance as a springboard into a different location or sticks around in KC for another stint. His entire body of work with Chiefs suggests he’s not in line for a huge contract in any city, and remaining with Kansas City (13th-most cap space) could prove to be the best opportunity for another shot at a title. He’s a possession threat who occasionally surprises with a strong performance, but no gamer should consider him more than a WR3 entering 2023 draft season.

QB Derek Carr

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2022 team: Las Vegas Raiders
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): QB16

Carr declined to lift his no-trade clause and was granted his release on Feb. 14, making him eligible to sign anywhere he pleases once the market opens. A few things will factor in at this stage of his career: Can the team afford him, and will he have a real chance to compete for a championship. While he may be inclined to give up a little money for the right situation, the latter is far more important to Carr. There’s always a chance someone like Lamar Jackson shockingly departs from his current team, but more reasonable options appear to be Tennessee, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Miami. He certainly could be in play for teams that may not be in contention even for their division title, such as Houston, Washington, Carolina, and the New York Jets. Given how much remains up in the air, we’ll revisit Carr’s outlook once more is known, but his ceiling should be around QB13 or so.

TE Mike Gesicki

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2022 team: Miami Dolphins
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): TE23

The Dolphins had no desire (or room) to consistently incorporate Gesicki in offense installed ahead of the 2022 season, and it resulted in his worst season since being a rookie in 2018. He finished last season with only 52 targets after logging 112 in 2021 and posted a 32-362-5 line over 17 appearances. Gesicki will wind up in a different city in all likelihood. While we’ll reserve full judgment on his 2023 fantasy worth until a location is known, he presents rock-solid TE1 talent alone, so a bounce-back performance is more likely than not. Teams near the front of the line for his services could include Arizona, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Houston and Tennessee.

RB Kareem Hunt

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2022 team: Cleveland Browns
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB39

An inseason trade request was denied, and the Browns continued to sparsely utilize the former Kansas City standout. There’s a snowball’s prayer in you know where of Hunt returning to Cleveland in 2023 free agency, and there will be suitors for the former Toledo standout to latch on with a chance to be an RB1. Hunt has been used sparingly as a change-of-pacer in Cleveland and should be as fresh as one can expect from a pro running back who turns 27 in August. Carolina could be an intriguing landing spot for him to be the lead back, but we have far too many potential openings to get specific about his fantasy worth.

RB David Montgomery

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2022 team: Chicago Bears
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB24

Montgomery enters his first free-agent market and is not expected to return to the team that drafted him. Chicago’s executive staff has no loyalty to bringing him to the roster, and he hasn’t lived up to his potential through four seasons. That’s not to say Monty has been terrible or even bad, but for a versatile player with his natural skills it’s a little surprising that his career hasn’t taken off. There’s no guarantee he even finds an RB1 gig awaiting him in free agency, so the landing spot will be crucial in terms of his expected utilization. Montgomery is poised to again wind up in a split approach and continue to churn out low-end RB2/flex results in fantasy lineups.

RB Tony Pollard

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2022 team: Dallas Cowboys
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB9

A fractured ankle in the postseason led to surgery and some doubt about what’s next for Pollard. He hits free agency after watching his stock soar over the last two campaigns, finishing 2022 as RB9 in point-per-reception scoring. The Cowboys have a fading Ezekiel Elliott sporting a massive contract, which is supposed to be restructured to help get Pollard franchise tagged. If this doesn’t happen, Pollard should get enough offers to choose where he’d like to play in 2023, and his ankle recovery will not prevent him from seeing the field in Week 1, barring a setback.

RB Miles Sanders

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2022 team: Philadelphia Eagles
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB14

It took Sanders four seasons to truly break out after being fairly hyped coming out of Penn State, but he couldn’t have done it at a better time from a personal perspective. Timing-wise, a return to Philly could be in jeopardy, however. The Eagles sit roughly $2 million under the cap as of mid-February and have three key impending free agents along the defensive line, could have to re-sign Jason Kelce if he doesn’t retire, need to address the No. 2 cornerback spot, face a few important holes along the offensive line, and need to decide if they’ll be in the running for C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Long story short, this one really could come down to pure economics for a team that will be stretched thin across the board. Drafting a replacement is cheaper, and loyalty goes only so far. Everything came together for Sanders’ breakthrough campaign, and fantasy owners probably have seen the best he has to offer. Cap his ceiling in the midrange RB2 territory regardless of where he lands.

TE Evan Engram

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2022 team: Jacksonville Jaguars
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): TE5

The former New York Giant set career highs in receptions and yardage with the Jaguars in 2022, and he has been open about his desire to return to the team. Last year, he played on a one-year, $9 million contract, earning a raise and a likely long-term deal for the 28-year-old. Jacksonville is trending in the right direction, and Engram showed considerable chemistry with Trevor Lawrence. It makes sense for both sides to come to an agreement, provided the dollars work out. The Jags don’t have too many pressing free agents to re-sign, the real issue is this team sits $34.52 million over the cap, the third-lowest available space. Restructuring and cutting enough money to add rookie contracts as well as fill holes will prove difficult. Engram, always an injury concern, is a viable TE1 should he return, but all bets are off in a different city.

TE Dalton Schultz

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2022 team: Dallas Cowboys
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): TE9

The money required to re-sign Schultz isn’t currently available to the cap-strapped Cowboys, a team sitting nearly $10 mill over the limit. With running back Tony Pollard expected to be slapped with the franchise tag for a similar $10.1 million, which is likely to come from restructuring Ezekiel Elliott’s gaudy contract, Dallas will need to get creative elsewhere to sign rookies and plug any necessary leaks. The ‘Boys have a pair of young tight ends waiting in the wings, and it will be surprising if Schultz returns. He could be a primary target for the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, and Detroit Lions — all but Carolina have a wealth of cap space. Despite leading his position in drops last year, Schultz’s volume-based game makes him among the strongest contenders in Tier 2 of fantasy tight ends.

QB Lamar Jackson

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2022 team: Baltimore Ravens
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): QB17

Another player in line for the franchise tag, Jackson and the team have been embroiled in a lengthy contract saga that reportedly has the two sides as much as $100 million apart. That sounds insurmountable, and recent reports even suggest he could be traded if they cannot agree on terms. For now, we’ll operate on the premise he will return to the Ravens. In that scenario, Jackson will have a new coordinator in Todd Monken, though the system isn’t likely to alter a great deal. What must change, however, is the lack of weapons in the passing game. More to come….

RB Saquon Barkley

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2022 team: New York Giants
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB5

Barkley’s 2022 rebound should have any team less concerned with signing him after three straight injury-marred seasons. There are several options available for the Giants, including placing the franchise tag on him, which Barkley admitted wouldn’t sit well with him. New York also could work out a long-term deal with the veteran, and there’s always the slim chance they simply don’t want to spend the necessary money to retain the former Penn State star. The G-Men are in fantastic shape with $45 million and change in cap space, though quarterback Daniel Jones also is a free agent, but that’s the extent of high-priced re-signings ahead. That said, the offense will need to spend on wideouts to restock a depleted corps. All things considered, be shocked if the Giants don’t find a way to get Barkley under contract. He’s a strong RB1 regardless of where he winds up.

RB Josh Jacobs

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2022 team: Las Vegas Raiders
2022 fantasy ranking (PPR): RB3

Prior to the 2022 season, Las Vegas chose to declined Jacobs’ fifth-year option, which sent him into the pool of available players on the ’23 market. He responded with a season for the ages, and there’s mutual interest in his return. Working out whether it’s a long-term deal or on a franchise tag is the hang-up as Jacobs stated he’s only willing to play through the latter scenario of the team builds a competitor around him. If not, Jacobs said, “But if you want me to come back and be the hero, you’ve got to pay me like the hero.” The Raiders have approximately $18 million in available space but need to address several needs, including quarterback, offensive line, and much of the defense. Six players count at least $12 mill against the cap, which offers the chances to free up extra space. The lean is Jacobs returns. He’ll be drafted as a No. 1 fantasy option in just about any setting, though everyone should be concerned after a ridiculous 393 touches in 2022.


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