Fantasy football leagues are won by selecting players in your draft that outperform expectations. These are the players that take a massive step forward in their careers and defy the odds to be solid contributors for fantasy lineups, which we commonly refer to as breakout candidates.
In a recent episode of The PFN Fantasy Football Podcast, we discussed eight players at the WR and QB positions that could be in line to produce in a big way in 2023.
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2023 Wide Receiver Breakout Candidates
George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers
George Pickens had moments last season in Pittsburgh where he showcased his playmaking ability. Whether that was ridiculous one-handed catches deep downfield or creating separation right off the line of scrimmage, Pickens showed that the NFL was foolish to pass on him for as long as they did in the NFL Draft.
Heading into Year 2, Pickens should be the big-play threat for a Pittsburgh offense that should take a step forward under Kenny Pickett. As a value right now in drafts, Pickens should be a priority target in the middle rounds.
Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
At this point, fantasy managers are tired of hearing Jerry Jeudy discussed as a breakout WR. While he’s dealt with horrific QB play throughout the course of his NFL career that has directly resulted in lackluster performances, Jeudy’s continued to be hyped up each season.
But now that Sean Payton is in town, this may be the year that finally satisfies fantasy managers. If anyone is going to get Russell Wilson back to playing at a high level, it’s Payton, and Jeudy should solidify himself as the top target in this receiving corps.
Gabe Davis, Buffalo Bills
Fantasy players didn’t get what they were expecting in 2022 with Gabe Davis, but that’s most likely because the hype got a bit too far out of control going into last season.
Davis still shows plenty of potential in this offense to be a solid fantasy option. In each of the past three seasons, Davis and DK Metcalf are the only players to have 11+ end-zone targets. The scoring opportunities are there for the downfield threat, but we have to recognize that we’ll live with some boom-or-bust performances.
Zay Flowers, Baltimore Ravens
This Baltimore Ravens’ passing attack promises to look much different in 2023 with Todd Monken in as the new offensive coordinator. We should see Lamar Jackson air the ball out dramatically more than he has in prior seasons, which means that Baltimore’s wide receivers may finally have fantasy relevance.
While it’s a mystery as to which one exactly it’s going to be, Zay Flowers has the skill set to step in and contribute at a high level immediately. He’s a route-running and separation artist, with the ability to make some big-time plays deep downfield.
We shouldn’t be shocked if Flowers emerges as the No. 1 option in this passing attack right away.
Jakobi Meyers, Las Vegas Raiders
Jakobi Meyers has been a solid fantasy option in the past, especially in full-PPR formats. While Meyers had his historic — and well-documented — scoring drought, that’s behind him now, and he’s shown that he can get the job done out of the slot.
Now paired up with Jimmy Garoppolo in Las Vegas, we could see an incredibly solid floor from the veteran WR week in and week out from the slot. With that being said, there are still some concerns over whether or not Meyers is going to be the true slot option with Hunter Renfrow still on the roster.
This will be a situation to monitor throughout training camp and the preseason, but if Meyers can lock up that role in 2023, he’ll outperform his ADP by a wide margin.
Elijah Moore, Cleveland Browns
Elijah Moore was a disappointment for fantasy managers in 2022, but there were plenty of factors to point to and blame in that New York offense. Moore now finds himself a member of the Cleveland Browns, and all signs point to him bouncing back in a big way in 2023.
Reports are glowing regarding Moore coming out of Browns’ training camp. Reportedly, Cleveland plans to utilize the playmaker all over the field this season. If Deshaun Watson can get back to top form, Moore could crack the top 15 this season.
2023 Quarterback Breakout Candidates
Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence bounced back from the Urban Meyer saga in a big way last season and showed everyone why he was so highly regarded coming out of Clemson. Looking ahead to 2023, everything is essentially the same in Jacksonville, which bodes well for Lawrence’s projection going into Year 2.
Adding in Calvin Ridley can only help as the third-year QB attempts to take that next step into the top-tier of fantasy football rankings. It’s important to keep in mind that the last four QBs with 4,000 pass yards and five rushing touchdowns were top-two fantasy QBs the following season.
Could Lawrence be next in line?
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
After being put under a microscope by essentially everyone for the first few years of his NFL career, Tua Tagovailoa silenced the critics last year as the Miami Dolphins’ passing attack was arguably one of the most potent in the entire NFL.
However, the conversation now completely turns towards Tua’s health and whether or not he’s going to be able to make it through all 17 games. At his current ADP, fantasy managers are able to take that chance and live with the potential that he hits the waiver wire a few weeks into the year.
With all of the playmaking threats that surround him, Tua could easily work his way into the top-five fantasy football conversation. You may just need to draft another QB later on in your draft to provide some insurance.