Fantasy Football Breakouts 2023: Targets Include George Pickens, Elijah Moore, and David Montgomery

The 2023 fantasy football season is right around the corner! With that in mind, the PFN Staff has compiled an extensive list of breakout candidates to target.

Fantasy football drafts are fast approaching, which means that it’s time to absorb as much helpful information as you possibly can going into the 2023 NFL season. As fantasy football becomes more and more popular and essentially everyone in your league does research, identifying the players who can give you an edge in your league is essential.

With that in mind, here at Pro Football Network, we do the research to make sure you can walk into your fantasy draft prepared to put together the best possible team.

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Fantasy Football 2023 Breakouts

Before we get to some breakout players to draft this season, defining what players qualify for this exercise would be helpful. These are players that we believe are going to take a massive step forward in their production this year, who may be flying under the radar at the moment.

It’s important to note their ADP doesn’t necessarily weigh a ton into the decisions, as it does with topics like sleepers or busts. Players on this list can be anywhere from at the top of your drafts all the way to the final rounds.

Here are our PFN Staff consensus breakouts for the 2023 fantasy football season.

George Pickens, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

If the QB situation was a bit more secure, Pickens would be surging up draft boards. Unfortunately, the range of outcomes for second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett is a bit too shaky to project a monster stat line for Pickens heading into 2023.

Regardless of your thoughts about Pickett, there is no doubt in my mind Pickens will be a big-time fantasy producer in the near future. He registered a productive year despite the struggles of both Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky under center during his rookie season.

Over the final eight weeks, Pickens logged a very healthy 16.2 aDOT, which included 10 receptions of 20+ yards. His rookie season stat line of 52-801-4 feels like his floor with room for a big jump into top-20 WR territory if Pickett makes significant strides in 2023.

– Derek Tate, Fantasy Football Analyst

It seems that everyone is ready for Kenny Pickett to take a nice step forward this season, and Pickens could be the one who makes that possible.

As a team, the Steelers had the second-worst passer rating on deep passes, and yet, Pickens had a catch gaining at least 25 yards in five of six games late in the season.

He is the clear big-play threat in this otherwise low-octane offense (his aDOT was 44.7% greater than that of Diontae Johnson), and if Pickett takes that projected Year 2 jump, Pickens could well return WR2 numbers with his fair share of top-15 finishes at the position.

– Kyle Soppe, Fantasy & Betting Analyst

Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints

I’m not exactly providing groundbreaking information here that Chris Olave is a top breakout candidate. Although he finished as the WR25 last season averaging 13.2 ppg, the breakout is baked into his 2023 ADP.

I’m just here to say I completely buy it. Derek Carr provides a huge upgrade at QB, and I’m not concerned at all about Michael Thomas being able to actually play football ever again. I fully expect Olave to finish as a WR1 this season.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Aiyuk already took a massive step forward last season, as he ended the year as the WR15 in half-PPR scoring formats. However, in 2023, we shouldn’t be surprised if the ascending WR continues his development into the top-tier of fantasy football rankings.

Fantasy managers seem convinced that Samuel is still the best WR to roster in this 49ers offense, but they don’t realize that Aiyuk actually outperformed Samuel on a per-game basis in 2022. And while there are plenty of mouths to feed in this San Francisco system, durability for the other receiving weapons has been a bit of a concern recently.

A steady drum beat continues for Aiyuk out of 49ers camp, and this could be the year that we truly see him dominate the target share. He’s one of the league’s most underrated route-runners, and his ADP is laughably low going into the 2023 season, which makes him a target for me in every single draft this year.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins offense took a big jump last season and added even more speed to go with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle when they drafted RB De’Von Achane out of Texas A&M in the third round of the NFL Draft.

In a make-or-break 2022 season, Tua showed command of the new offense while displaying the accuracy, anticipation, and processing that made him such a promising prospect coming out of college.

His Achilles heel continues to be his durability concerns, but if Tua can stay healthy and build off of his successful 2022 campaign, which included four top-four QB finishes in the 11 games he took more than 90% of the snaps, then he could produce the first top-10 fantasy season of his NFL career.

– Derek Tate, Fantasy Football Analyst

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

No player has grown on me more over the past few months than Cam Akers. He showed enough down the stretch last season when he averaged 17.5 ppg from Weeks 13-18 to make me believe he is the exception to the torn Achilles rule.

With no competition to speak of and an offense lacking weapons behind Cooper Kupp, Akers’ volume could be massive. And volume is king in fantasy football. Akers averaged 9.4 ppg last season, but what we saw from Weeks 13-18 could be closer to what we get over a full season in 2023.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

David Montgomery, RB, Detroit Lions

Montgomery has put some solid fantasy seasons on display in the past, but fantasy managers seem to be completely out on the veteran RB now that he’s in his new offense in Detroit. However, this could easily be the season where Montgomery defies expectations and dramatically outperforms his ADP.

Jamaal Williams was a fantasy star last season due to his role in this high-powered Lions offense. While he was known for his touchdown production in 2022, he also put up over 1,000 rushing yards running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Montgomery now slides into Williams’ vacated role, and he’s expected to be the thunder to Jahmyr Gibbs’ lightning. With Gibbs expected to be moved around the formation as a receiver to compensate for the thin WR depth chart, Montgomery should easily see 15+ touches per game this season.

If that’s the case, in an offense that spent a ton of time in the red zone last season, Montgomery could surpass all of our expectations and be a league winner in 2023.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

Brian Robinson, RB, Washington Commanders

Antonio Gibson and Ron Rivera got to Washington ahead of the 2020 season, and they’ve … well, they haven’t exactly made this offense a successful one on the ground.

During those three seasons, the Commanders ranked below league average in every major rushing stat (yards per game, yards per carry before contact, yards per carry after contact, rush TD rate, first down yards per play, etc.).

With Eric Bieniemy taking over offensive coordinator duties, what motivation does he have to continue to keep trying to make Gibson happen?

Washington Commanders RB Brian Robinson Jr. (8) runs with the ball.

Robinson Jr. didn’t exactly take the NFL by storm during his rookie season, but he was better both before and after contact than Gibson and should benefit from running behind a revamped offensive line.

The pass-catching limitations are a major concern, but with Washington ranking seventh in red-zone rush rate a season ago, why can’t B-Rob get to back-end RB2 status the way Cordarrelle Patterson did last year for the Falcons (eight rushing scores in 13 games and under three targets per game)?

– Kyle Soppe, Fantasy & Betting Analyst

Zay Flowers, WR, Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens’ passing game is going to look a lot different than in previous seasons. Most of the buzz has surrounded the free agent signing of Odell Beckham Jr., but I would not be surprised one bit if Zay Flowers ends up being the highest-scoring fantasy WR for the Ravens this season.

He has the vertical speed to beat you deep. He has the suddenness to beat press coverage and separate out of breaks. He has the route-running savvy to set up defenders by attacking leverage and make himself available to quarterbacks at all three levels of the field.

He has the playmaking chops to do real damage after the catch. And he has the versatility and full route tree to line up all over the formation.

Flowers is an NFL-ready WR going to a team with an elite QB that has a WR1 role up for grabs. I’m putting my money on Flowers to be the most productive WR wearing a Ravens jersey in 2023.

– Derek Tate, Fantasy Football Analyst

Drake London, WR, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons’ steadfast aversion to throwing the ball last season contributed to Drake London’s lackluster production. But in terms of usage, he was every bit an alpha with his 29.4% target share.

And it wasn’t just the offensive philosophy — Marcus Mariota was not good. Desmond Ridder has to at least be a moderate upgrade. This is a consolidated offense that should run through Bijan Robinson, London, and Kyle Pitts. Even on limited passing volume, London’s market share should be high enough to propel him into the top 24.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

Elijah Moore, WR, Cleveland Browns

Moore’s production dropped off significantly in 2022 due to the QB play, but his talent didn’t simply disappear overnight. He’s still the same explosive playmaker that fantasy managers fell in love with coming out of Ole Miss.

Now, Moore finds himself in a different setting for 2023 as he was shipped off from the New York Jets to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns wanted to add speed to this offense, and they were comfortable parting with a second-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to make sure Moore was a part of this offense this season.

We’ve seen what Watson can be when he’s in a groove and comfortable in a system. If Watson can bounce back in a major way this year, which all reports are indicating that fantasy managers should be optimistic, Moore will dramatically outproduce his ADP as a result.

The flashes of Moore’s potential have been there in the past, but this could be the season that we truly see him ascend to a whole new level.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

Jakobi Meyers, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

There’s a nonzero chance I end up with north of 90% exposure to Meyers this draft season, and I’m not apologizing.

He ranks 12th in slot receptions over the past two years, and Jimmy Garoppolo’s numbers when targeting that spot on the field during his time with the 49ers rival that of Patrick freaken Mahomes. OK, so there’s that, but wait, there’s more!

Remember when there were some concerns about Davante Adams moving away from Aaron Rodgers? Not only was he the same ol’ Adams, but he actually thrived in making big plays with 10 deep touchdown catches (he had a total of eight over his final three seasons in Green Bay).

Also happening in Mick Lombardi’s first season as the Raiders OC was a career-high 400 receiving yards for Josh Jacobs. With that level of success, it’s tough to see Lombardi straying too far from that game plan, even with a new quarterback.

With Adams demanding attention downfield and Jacobs stretching the field horizontally, guess where defenses stand to be vulnerable? That’s right: short routes across the middle of the field. That, friends, is the Meyers zone.

If he can marry his catch total from 2021 (83) with his scoring rate and yards per catch from a season ago, a major return on your 10-11th round pick is more than possible!

– Kyle Soppe, Fantasy & Betting Analyst

D’Andre Swift, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Well, someone has to be brave enough to try to figure out the winner from this backfield. Last year, Miles Sanders finished as the RB15 after touching the ball 279 times (20 of those being receptions) while averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

D’Andre Swift finished as the RB21 on just 147 total touches while averaging 5.47 yards per carry. Additionally, Swift has never caught fewer than 46 passes in a season.

His biggest competition comes in the form of Rashaad Penny, who has never played a full season in his entire NFL career.

If Swift manages to maintain his floor as a pass catcher while seizing the lead ball carrier role in one of the league’s most productive rushing attacks, Swift could finally live up to his RB1 potential while flirting with league-winner-type status at his current ADP.

– Derek Tate, Fantasy Football Analyst

Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings

This may be low-hanging fruit, but I don’t quite understand the fantasy community’s pushback on the Alexander Mattison ascendance. I’m not saying he will be Dalvin Cook, but this idea that because he was inefficient or dominated weak run defenses means he’s going to struggle to post top-24 numbers is strange to me.

Every time Mattison filled in for Cook, he provided the same value, averaging over 20 ppg. Given his cost in 2023 fantasy drafts, and the likelihood he’s used as a three-down back, Mattison seems like a shoo-in to finish not only top 24 but top 18 this season.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

Treylon Burks, WR, Tennessee Titans

Burks struggled with his transition from Arkansas to the NFL last season. While we saw flashes here or there of what he can be, Burks struggled with conditioning in his rookie season, and injuries derailed his development.

Heading into Year 2, though, all reports have been glowing regarding the talented wideout. Burks reportedly has worked hard on his conditioning. He’s looked more explosive in drills. And another full offseason to develop chemistry with Ryan Tannehill can’t exactly hurt.

While the LCL sprain in training camp — plus the arrival of DeAndre Hopkins — doesn’t seem like it helps Burks’ outlook on the surface, having a bona fide WR1 to steal away the defense’s attention should only put Burks in more advantageous situations. Additionally, Burks projects to be ready for the start of the season at the time of writing.

The target totals may not be jaw-dropping, but A.J. Brown — who Burks compared favorably to coming out of Arkansas — proved that he didn’t need 150 targets to be a fantasy star in this Titans offense.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

AJ Dillon, RB, Green Bay Packers

2022 didn’t exactly go as planned for me and my AJ Dillon call. It looked great after one week. Then Dillon went 10 straight games without reaching double-digit fantasy points. But over the final five games of the fantasy season, Dillon looked like the guy I was aggressively targeting.

He averaged 16.7 ppg over that span and scored a touchdown in every game. That’s why I’m a believer in Dillon — touchdowns. He is the unquestioned goal-line back for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers may be gone, but it’s not like this team scored a bunch of touchdowns last season.

Dillon could easily score 10+ touchdowns this season, which, in a timeshare with Aaron Jones, should be enough to propel him into the top 24 for the first time in his career.

– Jason Katz, Fantasy Football Analyst

Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Commanders

If I write Gibson’s name in this category every single year, eventually, I’ll be correct, right?

At this point, fantasy managers are beginning to build up some disdain towards Ron Rivera for failing to recognize just how talented Gibson is and how deploying him in a better fashion might actually lead to more victories for the Commanders.

In the past, Gibson has remained buried on the Commanders’ depth chart and deployed as more of a rotational back vs. the workhorse option that we all know he can be. Yet, there seems to be something different brewing in Washington as the offseason progresses.

J.D. McKissic is officially out of the picture, which opens the door for Gibson to be utilized as the third-down back in this system. In previous years, McKissic’s pass-blocking proficiency kept Gibson on the sideline as the receiving option out of the backfield, but that role is now Gibson’s for the taking.

All the former Memphis offensive weapon needs is the opportunity to be a factor in fantasy football. The talent level is evident on tape whenever Gibson does touch the ball, but there have been obstacles in his way in prior seasons.

This may just be the year that Gibson does what fantasy managers have been predicting for years: break out.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

It feels kind of ridiculous to be talking about Williams as a breakout option for fantasy football in 2023 due to the fact that he’s been a fantastic fantasy asset in the past already. However, this year could truly lead to some special production in Los Angeles.

The addition of Kellen Moore to this offense and how it will lead to more offensive firepower for this team this season cannot be talked about enough. Joe Lombardi seemed perfectly content to limit Justin Herbert to a quick passing game QB that would occasionally throw the ball downfield just a handful of times each game.

That’s not how Herbert should be utilized, though, with his rocket of an arm, and Moore seems intent on fixing that heading into this season. We should see the ball spread out to every level of the field, and this means great things for Williams, who is one of the best deep-ball WRs in the entire NFL.

At his current ADP, he can be added as a WR2 or WR3 on your roster, which feels unfair for a player who carries top-eight upside this year if this offense is truly unleashed.

– Kyle Yates, Fantasy Football Director

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