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Early Best Ball Sleepers for 2023 Fantasy Football (QB, RB, WR, TE)

Russell Wilson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

The 2022 fantasy football season saw plenty of sleepers pay off and high draft capital players bust, but that's always part of the game. Fantasy football addicts who are reading this article in late February are sure to be drafting teams for next year or are just looking ahead, so it's time to dive into the top early best ball sleepers for 2023 fantasy football!

While we see rookies (especially wide receivers) pay off and them some at ADP every year, this article will focus on all players except 2023 rookies. The 2023 rookie class will get plenty of coverage through a fantasy football lens, but we can't forget about young players and veterans who are poised to break out and bounce back during the 2023 season.

Always remember the golden rule of drafting -- never fade a particular player, fade ADPs! That being said, some of these players had disastrous seasons in 2022, but their early best ball ADP makes them attractive sleepers. Not every player you draft can be a superstar, but taking a solid flex piece of depth QB at a huge discount can prove valuable toward capturing a best ball title. Without further ado, let's dive in!

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

Average Draft Position based on 4for4 Underdog ADP from Feb. 17 to Feb. 24, 2023.


Top Quarterback Best Ball Sleepers

Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos; QB1ADP

There are sure to be plenty of fantasy enthusiasts rolling their eyes at the thought of drafting Wilson after the worst season of his career, which is exactly why I'll be drafting him in bunches this offseason and heading into next season. One down season shouldn't discredit Wilson's illustrious body of work, so I'm comfortable taking the flyer on him at QB17 ADP.

While the thought of Sean Payton fixing all of the Broncos' offensive woes in one offseason isn't realistic, it certainly won't hurt to have him calling plays. Jerry Jeudy showed flashes of breaking out in his third season and the team gets Tim Patrick back from a torn ACL. Expect Denver to add to its offensive weaponry this offseason. A low-end QB1 season for Wilson is in his range of outcomes.

Sam Howell, Washington Commanders; QB27

The Commanders' offense has plenty of offensive firepower with Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Jahan Dotson, so don't be surprised if the offense looks better than expected under the new offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy. Ron Rivera seems sincere when he says Howell will operate as the starter next year, so he's worth a dart throw as a late-round backup QB in best ball.

Howell rushed for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final season at North Carolina, so he has more rushing upside than he's given credit for. Since his price is so low, there's not much to lose here.

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans; QB32

In his first two full seasons as the Titans' starter, Tannehill posted QB1 numbers and finished only behind Cam Newton and Kyler Murray for the most rushing touchdowns among signal-callers. Last season, Tannehill finished as just the QB27, but there are plenty of reasons for the slump. His offensive line was one of the worst pass-blocking units in football and after losing A.J. Brown, his wide receiver group was among the worst in the league.

He only shared the field with Treylon Burks for eight games, but otherwise relied on Robert Woods and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine to be his top two options in the passing game. His rushing upside was limited thanks to an early-season high ankle sprain that hindered him all season, too.

A lot of NFL fans and media members assume Tannehill won't be the Titans' starter in 2023, but there's still a good chance he gets one more shot at it. If not, he'll likely be a starter for another franchise, as a bridge quarterback if nothing else. If he's a starter at all, there's a very low chance he can't exceed his QB32 ADP.


Top Running Back Best Ball Sleepers

J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens; RB22

Dobbins is viewed as damaged goods after a major knee injury that cost him his entire 2021 season. He reaggravated the injury and missed a chunk of the 2022 campaign, but looked good late in the season. Dobbins posted games of 120, 125, and 93 yards in three of his final four regular season contests. On the season, Dobbins averaged 5.7 yards per carry. With new offensive coordinator Todd Monken coming in, there's a chance he could see a usage increase.

If Lamar Jackson isn't the quarterback in Baltimore next season, the overall ceiling of the offense could be limited; however, a more traditional pocket quarterback could feed Dobbins with targets out of the backfield if the team goes that direction. Dobbins was an electric prospect with real pass-catching upside, so he makes for a solid RB1 on a zero-RB build team.  The further removed he is from knee surgeries, the more effective he should become.

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams; RB 26

Akers was in the Sean McVay dog house and was rumored to be a trade or cut candidate in the middle of the 2022 season, but down the stretch, he looked more like what the fantasy community expected when the Rams drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Akers finished no lower than the RB25 (PPR) in each of his final six games, including an RB1, RB8, and RB11 finish. He rushed for more than 5.0 yards per carry over his final four contests.

Ultimately, Darrell Henderson is gone, and the Rams have more pressing needs than running back and don't have a ton of draft capital to work with. After considering retirement, McVay is back as the Rams' head coach in 2023 and the offense will get back a healthy Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. While we can't fully expect the offense to get back to its Super Bowl-winning form, I expect somewhat of a bounce back – meaning more scoring opportunities for Akers.

Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; RB32

At RB32 ADP, White is seemingly being drafted at his floor, so he's another zero-RB build target. Leonard Fournette is rumored to be cut this offseason, and if that happens, White will catapult to a top-20 running back off the board. White has the pass-catching chops to be an RB1, even in an underwhelming offense.

Even if Fournette remains on the roster, White should see an uptick in usage after a regression year for Fournette. Playoff Lenny posted just 668 rushing yards on 189 attempts, a 3.5 yards per carry average. White wasn't much better at 3.7 yards per carry but began to earn the trust of the coaching staff as the season progressed.

Ultimately, this Tampa Bay team could be headed toward a rebuild, so expect the franchise to see what they have in their young assets next season. Tampa spent Day 2 draft capital on White, so they're not going to let the young RB sit in the wings much longer.

Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears; RB34

David Montgomery is a pending free agent, so there's a chance Herbert is moved into the RB1 role in the Chicago Bears' offense next season. Per PlayerProfiler.com, Herbert finished in the top 10 among running backs in True Yards Per Carry (5.2), Yards Per Touch (5.7), Juke Rate (39.1%), and Yards Created Per Touch (3.29).

While Herbert was a late-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and doesn't have job security even if Montgomery isn't brought back, we have to take some calculated risks in early best ball drafts. Herbert is at the very least a premier handcuff running back, and there are plenty of running backs being drafted ahead of him with far lower ceilings. If the Bears' offense takes a big leap, an RB1 season is in his range of outcomes.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Commanders; RB43

There are plenty of ADPs that are head-scratchers, but Gibson at RB43 might take the cake for the most mind-boggling one at the running back position. Sure, there are plenty of young, fun running backs coming into the NFL, but Gibson remains a top-flight pass-catcher among running backs and should see plenty of work in the new-look Eric Bieniemy offense.

Despite underwhelming last season, Gibson finished as the RB28 in PPR leagues. If Washington's offense can take a step forward, his floor is likely around an RB30 this upcoming year. Brian Robinson has a feel-good story, but Gibson has a more well-rounded skill set and PPR upside. If he falls anywhere near the RB43 range of your best ball draft, take him without hesitation. Could we see him in the Jerick McKinnon role in 2023?


Top Wide Receiver Best Ball Sleepers

Marquise Brown, Arizona Cardinals; WR32

Before DeAndre Hopkins returned in Week 7, Hollywood Brown was the WR5 in PPR leagues and looked like a truly elite fantasy wideout. He suffered a foot injury, Hopkins returned, and Kyler Murray tore his ACL, so he never replicated those numbers. However, Hopkins is reportedly on the trade block, and as Arizona goes through a rebuilding year, there's a good chance he sees a change of scenery in 2023.

While Brown will be without Murray for a good chunk of the start of the season, he should be able to produce at least low-end WR2 numbers if the team brings in a serviceable placeholder like Jacoby Brissett, Teddy Bridgewater, or Gardner Minshew. Ultimately, he could be the clear-cut WR1 by the start of the season, so WR32 is too late for him to go off the board. It's worth noting Rondale Moore is also a nice sleeper selection at his WR57 ADP. He was productive in Year 2 when healthy, so he could benefit mightily from Hopkins' departure, too.

Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers; WR38

Johnson infamously broke the NFL record for most targets without a touchdown reception (147) in 2022. His 147 targets placed him tied for seventh in the league. The usage was there, but it didn't come together and materialize into fantasy production. Nonetheless, wide receivers with rookie quarterbacks are historically poor fantasy options, so a step forward in Year 2 of the Kenny Pickett era could be an explosive one for Johnson.

Johnson has done nothing but dominate the Steelers' target share in each of the last three seasons. Even as a rookie, the Toledo product earned 92 targets. While George Pickens is an exciting young player, he figures to be a deep threat who makes the most of his targets, but Johnson should continue being the No. 1 volume option. Ultimately, better days are ahead for the Pittsburgh offense, so his 2023 ADP being 10 spots lower than his 2022 PPR finish is a big mistake and will be corrected as the season draws closer. Take advantage now.

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cleveland Browns; WR52

Peoples-Jones eclipsed 60 receiving yards in eight of his 17 games, despite playing with bridge quarterback Jacoby Brissett and the clearly rusty Deshaun Watson. Betting on the Browns' offense in 2023 feels like a smart move, as Watson will have a full offseason to get back to his former Pro Bowl-caliber status. Fantasy drafts aren't about "safety," so the upside is worth the risk of another down season for Watson. If Watson is firing on all cylinders, Peoples-Jones should reap the rewards.

While Cleveland could bring in another wide receiver or two, they don't have a first-round pick thanks to the Watson trade with Houston. That being said, their capital to bring more weapons in is limited and the team has more pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball.

Elijah Moore, New York Jets; WR56

Moore regressed in all statistical categories from 2021 to 2022, despite playing in five more games. However, we can't just erase what he did in his rookie year. As a first-year player, Moore caught 43 passes for 538 yards and five touchdowns in just 11 games (six starts). He posted a 141-yard game with a touchdown as a rookie, catching passes from Joe Flacco.

While Garrett Wilson is the clear-cut WR1 and Moore will likely never take that role, his upside with Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, or any formidable placeholder quarterback should be at least within the WR3 range. There was some friction between Moore and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, but he's been replaced by Nathaniel Hackett, so hopefully, the drama will be squashed in 2023.


Top Tight End Best Ball Sleepers

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears; TE13

The Chicago Bears offense was flat-out awful in 2022, but Kmet still finished as the TE8 in PPR leagues. He led the team in receiving and posted seven touchdowns en route to the first TE1 season of his career. Chicago ranked last in passing yards per game by a wide margin, accumulating just 130.5 yards per game through the air. The probability of the passing offense taking a step back is almost zero, so why is his ADP taking a step back from his 2022 finish?

Yes, injuries to Dalton Schultz, Zach Ertz, Darren Waller, and Kyle Pitts likely propelled him into a top-eight season, but Kmet has every chance to replicate a mid-level tight end season in 2023. Chicago is sure to add more pass-catching options, but he'll continue to be the red zone target hog and security outlet for Justin Fields in Year 3. If you miss on Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or T.J. Hockenson, you might as well take the value on Kmet since tight ends are eerily close in fantasy production after the first two tiers.

Noah Fant, Seattle Seahawks; TE27

Geno Smith far exceeded expectations in 2022 and supported Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf's productive fantasy seasons, but Fant also finished as a top-20 fantasy tight end during his first year in Seattle. Fant is a size-speed specimen waiting to break out and is entering his age-25 season. Tight end breakouts often take longer due to the complexity of the position, but if Geno Smith is back in Seattle, it could finally be that time for the former Iowa Hawkeye.

Even if Fant posts similar numbers but adds a few red zone touchdowns, he has a shot at low-end TE1 production. At tight end, the idea is to target fast, big, and athletic pass-catchers in good offenses. In 2023, Fant fits the bill.

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