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2023 Fantasy Football Preseason Watch List: Potential Risers

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

We are getting ready for our annual regimen of fantasy football summer exercises.  The drills are to follow the observations from training camps and preseason actions, keep a regular watch on nuggets from beat reporters and fantasy analysts, and adjust our player outlooks, personal rankings, and cheat sheets accordingly.

From now through August, you will be checking the RotoBaller Player News feeds for all the latest news and expert insights that will shape your draft approaches. As the busiest days of the fantasy football preseason beckon, I will have my eye on some specific players that will see their values possibly rise in the weeks and months ahead.

Here is a rundown of 10 key guys who may gain increased fantasy football appeal during the 2022 NFL preseason. Monitor reports and player updates on these possible climbers, as they are top candidates to stir increased fantasy football buzz during the summer.

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Fantasy Football Preseason Names That Will Make News

Brandin Cooks, WR, Dallas Cowboys: I have been landing Cooks as a fantasy WR4 type in some early mock drafts. The veteran is entering his best QB situation in six years with Dallas. I will be watching for the beat reporter takes and corresponding player updates that will point to a superb connection between Dak Prescott and Cooks. He will at least leap into firm fantasy WR3 territory.

Russell Wilson, QB, Denver Broncos: You can expect many feature stories on how the fallen star is regaining his better form under Sean Payton. Wilson will be under close watch from the local and national media, and any positive strides made will generate some fantasy intrigue. It is possible that the Payton influence can return Wilson to fantasy respectability, so his draft stock may improve to possible top-15 QB territory.

Jonathan Mingo, WR, Carolina Panthers: There is a real opportunity for this size/speed prospect to quickly vault to the top of the depth chart in Carolina. D.J. Chark continues to live off the reputation of his 2019 season and Adam Thielen is definitely past his prime. Mingo will start to develop his long-term on-field relationship with Bryce Young this preseason.

Jelani Woods, TE, Indianapolis Colts: As I noted in my recent fantasy football dynasty league rookie/free agent draft reviews, I was able to tab Woods as a value play. Expect Anthony Richardson to take well to his 6-7, 253-pound target, and there should be some Woods incoming buzz in the weeks and months ahead that will mark him as an interesting fantasy TE2 type.

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams: He played well later in 2022, and Akers is coming off a healthy offseason. Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp are ready to return, and the Los Angeles offense can certainly return to respectability. We should hear more preseason talk that a healthy Akers may have a good year in an offense that will regain stability. He won’t have much significant competition for featured work.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins: He was seemingly never properly utilized in Miami under various regimes. Landing with a team that has always tried to feature the TE can truly elevate Gesicki’s outlook. The Patriots have swung and missed on some notable TE acquisitions in recent seasons, but can now get it right with the former Dolphin.

New England has obviously noticed Gesicki’s continued promise when facing him in the same division, and he seems to fit as a key target on important passing downs and in the goal line area. The Patriots don’t have enough at WR to prevent the 27-year-old from taking on a prominent role in the passing game.

Darren Waller, TE, New York Giants: The ex-Raider was a big acquisition for the Giants in the offseason, yet some fantasy players and analysts harbor some lingering skepticism about Waller. He is going to operate as a clear primary target, one that was missing for Daniel Jones. The Giants very much needed Waller and the acquisition is going to turn out to be a truly positive move for both Waller and his fantasy value.

I am envisioning a Lamar Jackson/Mark Andrews type of connection for Daniel Jones and Waller, to slightly lesser degrees of success, but enough to return Waller to possible top 5 fantasy territory.

Mecole Hardman, WR, New York Jets: I have drafted Hardman in the final rounds of early mocks. He never took advantage of the opportunity to become a frequent option for the best QB in the game in Kansas City. Yet Hardman signed with the Jets because they want to possibly expand his role from the gadget player he was in Kansas City. New York realistically doesn’t have a solid No. 2 WR on their depth chart, and Hardman might emerge as a promising playmaker for Aaron Rodgers once the two start to develop an on-field rapport.

Zach Charbonnet, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll ideally wanted Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny to operate as a complementary duo, but that never happened because of injuries. Now the Seahawks can attempt to have two of their top RBs function in the same projected manner. Charbonnet is an optimum physical alternative to the big-play ability of Kenneth Walker III.

The Seahawks’ backfield should be loosely comparable to Green Bay’s Aaron Jones/AJ Dillon model, but Charbonnet can be the better pass-catcher for fantasy purposes. This scenario also conjures up productive RB duos of the past such as DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart. Consistency may be an issue as either RB can outshine the other in any given week, but Charbonnet can be the 1B to Walker’s 1A, and the rookie may start to see his appeal grow as an interesting flex target.

Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers: Brock Purdy was a later-season revelation last season, but published reports have already indicated that Lance’s off-season work has led to an improved outlook. Considering the draft capital the 49ers spent on Lance and his tremendous potential as a dual threat, he could make a strong push for the starting job. Sam Darnold will ultimately function as quality depth, and fantasy players will want to take the shot on Lance to see if he beats out Purdy and emerges as the upside performer we have been waiting on.

Scott Engel's fantasy and betting analysis is also featured at The Game Day.

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