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Top 200 Big Board, PPR: Version 1.0


Preseason Matchup Analysis

By Doug Orth | 8/8/23 |
PPR | Half-PPR | Non-PPR | Superflex | FFPC

Football is simple at its very core but a very complex game to evaluate and analyze because 11 men try to work in harmony roughly 60 times per game, while 11 other men make it their job to disrupt that harmony. Pro football is not pro basketball in that a team can clear out one side of the court when things break down and the offense can still score. Pro football is also not pro baseball in that one player can defeat a pitcher and eight fielders by timing his swing just right. Even as great as Barry Sanders was, he never beat a defense all by himself. In football, every player needs some help to accomplish his goal. That is part of what makes football so great and part of what makes it so highly unpredictable. The violence of the game - even by the tamer standards now - adds another element to the equation that is difficult to quantify.

Regardless, it does not mean we should not try. Over the last month, I have evaluated the weekly matchups for 500-plus players. Analyzing matchups alone requires me to make more than 8,000 "decisions". Each year, my goal is to give those who put their faith in my evaluations the confidence they have the best draft-day tool at their disposal. Even if my grading process is only 70 percent accurate, that is still a significant advantage over any analyst that does not consider it at all.

Fantasy football is a stock market game, and the job of an analyst is to identify when stocks are poised to skyrocket or ready to tank. While last year's results help fantasy managers/analysts set the table for the following season, they are merely a starting point. Fantasy rankings and drafting need to be predictive, not reactive. I have taken this approach for more than 15 years. While some of the processes have changed in that time, the main goal has not.

The Success Score Index (SSI) below is powered in large part by my target and carry predictions. As always, the matchup grades are included in the algorithm. SSI allows me to compare apples to oranges across positions. Perhaps just as importantly, I have been able to eliminate most of the guesswork across different scoring systems (PPR, standard, etc.).

For all of those unfamiliar with my Big Boards, allow me to explain the color-coding system before we start:

Red For lower-level players, a red matchup is the most difficult one a player can face. For a second- or third-tier player, drop your expectations for them at least one grade that week (i.e. from WR2 to WR3). For elite players, expect them to perform one level lower than their usual status (i.e. RB1 performs like an RB2).

Yellow For lower-level players, he is a borderline start at best. For a second- or third-tier player, the slight edge goes to the defense in what is essentially a toss-up. For the elite players, expect slightly better than average production.

White This one can go either way, but I favor the player over the matchup. Generally speaking, these matchups are winnable for all levels of players.

Green For non-elite players, the stage is set for a player to have a productive day. For the elite player, this matchup could produce special numbers.

Note: Players with a next to their name have some degree of injury/character/holdout concern. In addition, I have added distinct tiers for this round of Big Boards (represented by the different colors in the "Pos" column).

Over the next two weeks, I will release my first Big Boards for Half-PPR, superflex and standard leagues as well as the FFPC Big Boards. In the second and final round of Big Boards near the end of the preseason, I will rank at least 225 players and present my final rankings for kickers and defense/special teams.

Here is the scoring system that I used to rank the players in the PPR format:

 PPR Big Board - Top 200
Rk Pos Player Tm SSI 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
1 WR1 Justin Jefferson MIN 8.5
2 WR2 Ja'Marr Chase CIN 7.2
3 WR3 Cooper Kupp LAR 7.2
4 RB1 Christian McCaffrey SF 7.0
5 WR4 Tyreek Hill MIA 7.0
6 WR5 CeeDee Lamb DAL 5.5
7 RB2 Austin Ekeler LAC 5.5
8 RB3 Nick Chubb CLE 5.1
9 RB4 Bijan Robinson ATL 4.9
10 TE1 Travis Kelce KC 4.9
11 WR6 Davante Adams LV 4.8
12 WR7 Stefon Diggs BUF 3.7
13 WR8 Garrett Wilson NYJ 3.5
14 WR9 Jaylen Waddle MIA 3.3
15 RB5 Tony Pollard DAL 3.0
16 WR10 Amon-Ra St. Brown DET 3.0
17 WR11 A.J. Brown PHI 2.8
18 RB6 Jonathan Taylor IND 2.5
19 RB7 Saquon Barkley NYG 2.5
20 RB8 Derrick Henry TEN 2.3
21 TE2 Mark Andrews BAL 2.3
22 RB9 Rhamondre Stevenson NE 2.3
23 QB1 Jalen Hurts PHI 2.2
24 WR12 Calvin Ridley JAC 2.2
25 WR13 Chris Olave NO 2.1
26 QB2 Josh Allen BUF 1.8
27 RB10 Breece Hall NYJ 1.7
28 WR14 Terry McLaurin WAS 1.6
29 RB11 Joe Mixon CIN 1.5
30 TE3 Darren Waller NYG 1.3
31 RB12 J.K. Dobbins BAL 1.3
32 WR15 DeVonta Smith PHI 1.3
33 RB13 Dameon Pierce HOU 1.3
34 WR16 Keenan Allen LAC 1.3
35 RB14 Najee Harris PIT 1.2
36 RB15 Aaron Jones GB 1.1
37 RB16 Jahmyr Gibbs DET 1.1
38 WR17 DK Metcalf SEA 1.0
39 WR18 Tee Higgins CIN 1.0
40 WR19 Brandon Aiyuk SF 0.8
41 WR20 Tyler Lockett SEA 0.6
42 WR21 D.J. Moore CHI 0.6
43 RB17 David Montgomery DET 0.5
44 QB3 Lamar Jackson BAL 0.2
45 QB4 Patrick Mahomes KC 0.2
46 WR22 Deebo Samuel SF 0.0
47 WR23 Amari Cooper CLE -0.2
48 WR24 DeAndre Hopkins TEN -0.2
49 RB18 Kenneth Walker SEA -0.3
50 WR25 Drake London ATL -0.3
51 WR26 Mike Williams LAC -0.3
52 WR27 Jerry Jeudy DEN -0.4
53 QB5 Joe Burrow CIN -0.4
54 WR28 Christian Watson GB -0.4
55 RB19 Travis Etienne JAC -0.4
56 QB6 Justin Herbert LAC -0.5
57 WR29 Christian Kirk JAC -0.5
58 WR30 Chris Godwin TB -0.6
59 WR31 Mike Evans TB -0.6
60 WR32 Treylon Burks TEN -0.7
61 TE4 T.J. Hockenson MIN -0.7
62 RB20 Miles Sanders CAR -0.8
63 WR33 Diontae Johnson PIT -0.8
64 WR34 Courtland Sutton DEN -0.8
65 WR35 Gabriel Davis BUF -0.8
66 RB21 James Conner ARI -0.9
67 TE5 Evan Engram JAC -0.9
68 TE6 David Njoku CLE -1.0
69 RB22 Josh Jacobs LV -1.1
70 RB23 Cam Akers LAR -1.1
71 RB24 Alexander Mattison MIN -1.2
72 RB25 James Cook BUF -1.2
73 WR36 Michael Pittman Jr. IND -1.2
74 RB26 Rachaad White TB -1.4
75 RB27 Alvin Kamara NO -1.5
76 TE7 Dallas Goedert PHI -1.6
77 WR37 Elijah Moore CLE -1.6
78 TE8 George Kittle SF -1.6
79 WR38 Kadarius Toney KC -1.7
80 QB7 Justin Fields CHI -1.7
81 QB8 Trevor Lawrence JAC -1.8
82 WR39 Brandin Cooks DAL -1.9
83 RB28 Antonio Gibson WAS -1.9
84 TE9 Kyle Pitts ATL -2.0
85 WR40 Marquise Brown ARI -2.0
86 TE10 Tyler Higbee LAR -2.1
87 WR41 Jahan Dotson WAS -2.1
88 TE11 Gerald Everett LAC -2.2
89 TE12 Juwan Johnson NO -2.2
90 QB9 Deshaun Watson CLE -2.3
91 QB10 Geno Smith SEA -2.3
92 RB29 Devon Achane MIA -2.3
93 RB30 Javonte Williams DEN -2.5
94 WR42 Jaxon Smith-Njigba SEA -2.5
95 WR43 Jordan Addison MIN -2.5
96 TE13 Jake Ferguson DAL -2.6
97 WR44 George Pickens PIT -2.6
98 TE14 Dalton Schultz HOU -2.7
99 QB11 Anthony Richardson IND -2.8
100 WR45 Jakobi Meyers LV -2.8
101 RB31 Isiah Pacheco KC -2.8
102 TE15 Pat Freiermuth PIT -2.8
103 WR46 Nico Collins HOU -2.9
104 WR47 Zay Flowers BAL -2.9
105 RB32 D'Andre Swift PHI -2.9
106 WR48 Allen Lazard NYJ -2.9
107 QB12 Russell Wilson DEN -3.0
108 WR49 Isaiah Hodgins NYG -3.0
109 TE16 Chigoziem Okonkwo TEN -3.1
110 TE17 Greg Dulcich DEN -3.1
111 QB13 Dak Prescott DAL -3.3
112 RB33 Samaje Perine DEN -3.4
113 RB34 Zach Charbonnet SEA -3.4
114 RB35 Brian Robinson Jr. WAS -3.5
115 WR50 JuJu Smith-Schuster NE -3.5
116 QB14 Kirk Cousins MIN -3.5
117 TE18 Hunter Henry NE -3.6
118 WR51 Quentin Johnston LAC -3.6
119 TE19 Cole Kmet CHI -3.7
120 WR52 Marvin Mims DEN -3.7
121 TE20 Tyler Conklin NYJ -3.7
122 QB15 Daniel Jones NYG -3.8
123 RB36 Jerome Ford CLE -3.8
124 TE21 Dalton Kincaid BUF -3.8
125 WR53 Jonathan Mingo CAR -3.9
126 QB16 Aaron Rodgers NYJ -4.0
127 WR54 Michael Thomas NO -4.0
128 WR55 Romeo Doubs GB -4.0
129 WR56 Michael Gallup DAL -4.1
130 WR57 Darnell Mooney CHI -4.1
131 RB37 Damien Harris BUF -4.1
132 TE22 Sam LaPorta DET -4.1
133 RB38 Tank Bigsby JAC -4.1
134 WR58 Skyy Moore KC -4.1
135 TE23 Jelani Woods IND -4.2
136 WR59 Alec Pierce IND -4.2
137 WR60 Odell Beckham Jr. BAL -4.2
138 WR61 Tyler Boyd CIN -4.2
139 RB39 AJ Dillon GB -4.3
140 TE24 Irv Smith CIN -4.3
141 RB40 Jeff Wilson MIA -4.3
142 WR62 Parris Campbell NYG -4.6
143 WR63 Rashee Rice KC -4.6
144 RB41 Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC -4.6
145 TE25 Hayden Hurst CAR -4.7
146 RB42 Tyjae Spears TEN -4.9
147 WR64 Adam Thielen CAR -5.0
148 WR65 John Metchie HOU -5.1
149 WR66 Puka Nacua LAR -5.1
150 RB43 Jaylen Warren PIT -5.3
151 WR67 Van Jefferson LAR -5.3
152 RB44 Khalil Herbert CHI -5.3
153 WR68 Curtis Samuel WAS -5.3
154 WR69 Hunter Renfrow LV -5.4
155 WR70 Darius Slayton NYG -5.4
156 WR71 Robert Woods HOU -5.5
157 WR72 Marquez Valdes-Scantling KC -5.6
158 QB17 Derek Carr NO -5.8
159 WR73 Zay Jones JAC -5.8
160 TE26 Mike Gesicki NE -5.9
161 QB18 Tua Tagovailoa MIA -5.9
162 QB19 Jared Goff DET -6.0
163 TE27 Trey McBride ARI -6.0
164 WR74 K.J. Osborn MIN -6.1
165 QB20 Mac Jones NE -6.2
166 WR75 D.J. Chark CAR -6.4
167 QB21 Sam Howell WAS -6.4
168 RB45 Zamir White LV -6.4
169 RB46 Devin Singletary HOU -6.4
170 RB47 Roschon Johnson CHI -6.4
171 RB48 Rashaad Penny PHI -6.5
172 RB49 Tyler Allgeier ATL -6.5
173 RB50 Jamaal Williams NO -6.5
174 QB22 Ryan Tannehill TEN -6.6
175 QB23 Brock Purdy SF -6.8
176 QB24 Kyler Murray ARI -6.8
177 RB51 Kendre Miller NO -6.9
178 WR76 Jameson Williams DET -7.0
179 RB52 Deuce Vaughn DAL -7.0
180 WR77 DeVante Parker NE -7.0
181 WR78 Rashod Bateman BAL -7.1
182 RB53 Michael Carter NYJ -7.1
183 QB25 Bryce Young CAR -7.1
184 RB54 Sean Tucker TB -7.1
185 WR79 Chase Claypool CHI -7.2
186 WR80 Michael Wilson ARI -7.8
187 TE28 Isaiah Likely BAL -7.9
188 RB55 Jordan Mason SF -8.0
189 WR81 Rondale Moore ARI -8.0
190 RB56 Kenneth Gainwell PHI -8.1
191 RB57 Cordarrelle Patterson ATL -8.2
192 RB58 Chuba Hubbard CAR -8.3
193 RB59 Gus Edwards BAL -8.5
194 RB60 Deneric Prince KC -8.5
195 RB61 Raheem Mostert MIA -8.5
196 RB62 D'Onta Foreman CHI -8.6
197 RB63 Elijah Mitchell SF -8.6
198 RB64 Malik Davis DAL -8.6
199 RB65 Jerick McKinnon KC -8.6
200 WR82 Richie James KC -8.6


PPR | Half-PPR | Non-PPR | Superflex | FFPC

Top 10

The times are a-changin' in fantasy football. Honestly, they changed several years ago. It just became embarrassingly obvious over the last year. Fantasy managers are tired of running back committees and backfield work getting split up in two or three different directions. Of course, that assumes there is also not a mobile quarterback threat stealing goal-line touchdowns or ignoring the running back in the flat.

For the first time in Big Board history, three receivers sit atop the Big Board. The thing about it is that it should not come as a surprise now. The league has dropped hint after hint showing the football world how much they value the running back position with how they pay (or don't pay) them and the level (or lack) of commitment to them. None of this means that running backs are no longer valuable - they are - but it does mean that fantasy managers need to rethink how they view the position. It is OK to enter the season feeling unsure about the RB2 slot on your roster. The odds are extremely high now that every other manager in a 12-team league or bigger feels the same way.

Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase have just about everything a manager could want: youth, ridiculous talent, high-volume target earner on a good offense, good if not great quarterback play, etc. The questions - albeit minor - begin at No. 3 with Cooper Kupp having turned 30 years old in June and suffering a hamstring injury early in camp. His age - combined with a soft-tissue injury and the fear that comes attached when those happen to older players - is just enough of a reason to knock him down a peg. Christian McCaffrey does not come with many blemishes, but managers likely remember how much work Elijah Mitchell took from him when Mitchell was healthy following CMC's trade from Carolina. My feeling is that HC Kyle Shanahan will continue to monitor McCaffrey's workload for the foreseeable future, but Mitchell's inability to stay healthy may change his thinking on that as this season progresses.

There is a ton of optimism surrounding the Chargers' offense this season following the arrival of former Cowboys OC Kellen Moore. With that in mind, it may come as a bit of a shock to see Austin Ekeler at No. 7. It is entirely possible he enjoys a third straight season of at least 200 carries, 70 receptions and 18 total touchdowns. What is also possible is Moore will turn the Chargers into more of a quick-strike offense that relies more heavily on $262.5 million man Justin Herbert in the red zone and less on the 28-year-old Ekeler. Adding another sizable weapon such as Quentin Johnston in the draft is another reason to believe such a change could be coming.

The range of outcomes for Bijan Robinson varies greatly, although the range begins at late first-round pick worthy and ends at the most valuable player in fantasy football in 2023. Fantasy managers can badmouth HC Arthur Smith all they want, but he has proven over multiple years - while using different types of running backs - that he can design a highly productive rushing attack. Robinson is also the most complete back he has worked with since he rose to prominence as the Titans' offensive coordinator in 2019. It should surprise no one if Smith finds a way to run the ball another 500 times this season (Atlanta ran 559 times last year). If he does, Robinson should be expected to handle at least 60 percent of them. Based on the way he used Cordarrelle Patterson in 2021, Atlanta's investment in Robinson and the rookie's all-purpose skill set, Smith can be trusted to get his top back involved in the passing game. While it is difficult to expect any running back to top 350 touches in today's game, Robinson and Derrick Henry are probably the two safest bets to do so in 2023.

11-25

Receivers dominate the first four spots (and six of the first seven) of this group as well, and for good reason. No receiver is quarterback-proof per se, but Davante Adams is about as close as they come. Jimmy Garoppolo does not inspire a great deal of confidence as a quarterback capable of helping a receiver reach great heights, but the drop-off from Derek Carr to him has been overstated. Then again, that is not the most concerning thing for Adams' fantasy stock. It is what will happen if Garoppolo misses multiple games and Brian Hoyer has to take over for any length of time.

Most people who already have a few drafts under their belt might be surprised by the placement of Amon-Ra St. Brown. This has nothing to do with his ability to earn targets or an underappreciation of his talent, but rather the influx of talent in Detroit. In the last two seasons, St. Brown has needed to carry the Lions' offense at times. He has lived in the short area of the field since becoming a pro, drawing around a tight end-like 60 percent of his targets in the 0-9 yard range. Unlike previous seasons, Jahmyr Gibbs will siphon some of those targets in 2023, as will fellow rookie Sam LaPorta. David Montgomery may not steal many, but he will get more than Jamaal Williams did. When Jameson Williams comes off his six-game suspension, he will as well.

There has been talk in Detroit about St. Brown running more intermediate and deep routes due to the new arrivals, which would be a good thing. The problem is that while deeper targets are worth more when they are caught, they are lower-percentage throws, which means fantasy managers should not expect another season in which St. Brown catches 70-plus percent of his targets. Although St. Brown typically goes around the 1-2 turn in drafts, I believe I have him projected at the ceiling and I still can only get him into the middle part of the second round.

Mark Andrews' inclusion inside the top 25 figures will be a shock to some. Consider for a moment that Andrews was the only tight end within shouting distance of Travis Kelce through six weeks last season before knee and shoulder injuries slowed him from Weeks 7-10. He returned in Week 11 only to lose Lamar Jackson for the season early in Week 13. However, a recap of what he did last season with and without Jackson is not enough of a reason to consider him in the second or third round. New OC Todd Monken wants Jackson to operate the same kind of up-tempo, pro-style passing attack he did en route to winning the Heisman Trophy at Louisville.

Despite Baltimore's offseason additions at receiver, Andrews will almost certainly remain Jackson's go-to guy for the foreseeable future. A strong argument can be made that the presence of Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers actually makes Jackson more likely to throw to Andrews. Defenses need to account for two and perhaps three legit receivers (Rashod Bateman, if he can stay healthy) and have little choice but to play zone because they also need to account for Jackson's ability to run. Andrews should feast on throws just over the heads of linebackers and in front of the safeties in 2023.

If Andrews inside the first two rounds is not a surprise, then perhaps Calvin Ridley is. The only question in my mind regarding Ridley is how his surgically repaired foot holds up. We obviously will not get that answer until the end of the season, so we have little choice but to believe the people covering the team. ("Ridley simply moves differently than any other receiver on the field" was the word in late May.) Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback Ridley will have played with to this point of his career. It also helps that Ridley is a very good deep threat, which is the one area of the field Lawrence has struggled to attack efficiently through two NFL seasons.

26-100

Terry McLaurin has consistently finished as a WR2 in fantasy despite his surroundings. Over his four-year pro career, he caught passes from Case Keenum, the late Dwayne Haskins, Colt McCoy, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, Garrett Gilbert, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz before Sam Howell entered the picture in Week 18 last season. It is my opinion - based almost entirely on what I saw from him at the University of North Carolina - that Howell will be the best of that bunch. McLaurin has been stuck in a bit of a rut - if 1,000-plus yards and 4-5 touchdowns in three straight seasons can be considered a rut - that can largely be blamed on sub-par quarterback play. Most of the aforementioned quarterback group are not great deep-ball passers either, which means McLaurin's 4.3 speed has largely gone to waste in Washington.

Howell may not be elite at anything, but he can throw the ball vertically and buy time with his legs. Jahan Dotson has already emerged as a quality sidekick as well, which will keep defenses from focusing too much on McLaurin. Washington should also have a solid rushing attack, which should open up the play-action passing attack and give McLaurin more one-on-one opportunities downfield. McLaurin creates separation as well as any receiver; I expect Howell to take advantage of that as often as any quarterback McLaurin has played with in his pro career.

As far as Darren Waller is concerned, my only concern with him is his ability to avoid the lower-body injuries that have plagued him over the last two years. Fantasy managers probably should plan on at least two or three missed games for the soon-to-be 31-year-old, but they should also expect him to perform at a near WR1 - not TE1, but WR1 - level when he is on the field in 2023. Why is that? In a receiving corps that features a ton of slot receivers (Parris Campbell, Jamison Crowder, Wan'Dale Robinson and Cole Beasley, at least for now), a couple of deep threats (Jalin Hyatt and Darius Slayton) and a big possession wideout in Isaiah Hodgins, Waller can do all of it. Waller is also the most obvious red zone option on that team after Saquon Barkley. He is a third-round value that is often still available in the sixth round of most fantasy drafts. He has no business going that late.

There is a trio of interesting names in the early 40s, at least in terms of how they rank here versus where seem to go in most drafts. We are entering what must be at least the third straight season in which Tyler Lockett is being disrespected. He maximizes his targets (71.8 percent catch rate and two or fewer drops in three of the last four seasons despite seeing at least 107 targets every year) and wins at every level. Fantasy managers already know about his five straight seasons of top-20 finishes at receiver, so his ability to produce is not in question. Let's go one step further:

 Tyler Lockett's Target Breakdown (2018-22)
Year BLOS Short (0-9) Med (10-19) Deep (20+)
2018 13.8 33.8 24.6 27.7
2019 12.0 35.2 26.9 25.9
2020 6.8 58.6 22.6 12.0
2021 7.8 39.8 14.6 37.9
2022 8.3 47.7 26.6 17.4

Receivers usually experience some level of year-to-year consistency regarding where they see the bulk of their targets. Lockett's chart reads more like a player who just fills in where he is needed because Seattle knows he can get open at every level. This year's threat to a sixth straight top-20 finish is Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Perhaps instead of thinking Lockett will simply fade away this year, drafters need to consider the possibility that Geno Smith can support three receivers.

For the first time in years, D.J. Moore is being viewed more as a middling WR3 option and less as a high-upside WR2. He is a classic example of how the fantasy industry tends to base too much of its opinion on last season. The first (and usually only) argument that his detractors use is that the Bears will remain extremely run-heavy. If that is the case, why did they insist on Moore in the Bryce Young trade? Why did they give the Steelers a second-round pick for Chase Claypool? Why give Cole Kmet $12.5 million per year? Does it not make more sense that the Chicago coaching staff opted to throw a mere 377 times last year because the Bears had an elite athlete at quarterback and virtually nothing after Darnell Mooney at receiver? Furthermore, Moore is a monster after the catch, so even if the Bears remain more conservative than I expect, he can be an extension of the running game by turning five-yard routes into 15-yard gains.

Fields is the best quarterback he has played with up to this point of his pro career (an older Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield are the competition). I am going to take my chances that Chicago will throw the ball at least 450 times in 2023 and Moore will command a target share of at least 25 percent. If he does that, a 75-80 catch season is well within his range of outcomes. The two times he has topped 70 catches in a season, he has finished as a top-20 receiver.

Our next "questionable" early 40s entry is David Montgomery. Fantasy managers and fans alike tend to be easily swayed by shiny new objects. One of this year's shiniest new objects is Jahmyr Gibbs. To his credit, he deserves the attention. If OC Ben Johnson uses him in the way we expect, he will be a PPR dynamo. Here's the problem for those who want to ignore Montgomery: Detroit was poor defensively for at least half of last season and still managed to get its running backs 509 touches. Gibbs never handled more than 195 touches in three college seasons. The Lions are expected to be better this year and should play in favorable game scripts more often. They also do not have a quarterback that will steal a handful of goal-line scores from the running backs.

Montgomery was signed to be an upgrade on Jamaal Williams, who scored 17 touchdowns last season. While Montgomery has almost no chance of replicating that number, he is a more complete back and the only back on Detroit's roster capable of handling a heavy workload. Never mind the fact he will run behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Montgomery's current price may not be the best reason to load up on receivers, an elite tight end and an elite quarterback early, but it is a damn good one. He possesses top-10 running back upside.

It feels as though Christian Watson is being drafted at his ceiling. There is no questioning his athleticism. His situation feels less certain. Touchdown regression feels like an almost certain outcome for him in 2023 after scoring nine times on 48 touches as a rookie. He scored eight of his nine touchdowns during a four-week stretch leading into the fantasy playoffs before the team's Week 14 bye and did not find the end zone after that. Did defenses adjust? It seems like that could be a possibility.

 Breakdown of Christian Watson's Production (second half of season)
Weeks Tgt Rec Re Yd YPC Re TD Ru Att Ru Yd TD FPts/G
10-13 27 15 313 20.9 7 2 49 1 24.8
15-18 25 16 210 13.1 0 2 12 0 9.6

Keep in mind that three of the Packers' last four opponents were the Rams, Vikings and Lions - three teams that finished inside the top 11 in most fantasy points allowed for receivers. There is also the small matter of his quarterback downgrade this year, going from Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love. Remember at this time last year that Rodgers was singing the praises of Romeo Doubs. Furthermore, Doubs has consistently meshed well with Love when they have been paired together, whether it was during the 2022 preseason or this offseason. Watson is too talented to bust completely, but the warning signs are there for him to disappoint as someone fantasy managers hope can be a potential WR1/high-end WR2.

Fantasy managers are going to be confronted with a question they need to answer in the coming weeks: is Elijah Moore the player the Jets soured on last season or the receiver that shredded defenses for the better part of seven weeks at the end of his rookie campaign? My answer is the latter, and I think I may be able to explain why 2022 was so disappointing. Much of Moore's rookie-year breakout was fueled by the quarterbacking of Mike White, Joe Flacco and Josh Johnson. Moore has reached double-digit fantasy points eight times in 27 NFL games. Only twice did it happen with Zach Wilson. What are the chances Moore had enough of Wilson a few games into last season, especially once it became clear Garrett Wilson was the alpha?

If we are to believe camp reports, New York's loss will quickly become Cleveland's gain. Not only will Moore play for the best quarterback he has ever had in Deshaun Watson, but the Browns also seem intent on getting him the ball in any way possible. An every-week WR3 should be Moore's floor this year, and it should surprise no one if he ends up outperforming teammate Amari Cooper.

101-200

I am incredibly high on the Ravens' passing attack this year, as evidenced by where Mark Andrews and Lamar Jackson fall on the Big Board. The likely increased volume figures to benefit Andrews the most (obviously), but rookie Zay Flowers could easily emerge as the top receiver in Baltimore. I believe my projection for Flowers represents his floor, if only because Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman seem unlikely to play the 14 games apiece I have them projected for this season. The beauty of an athletic quarterback like Jackson and a do-it-all tight end like Andrews is that it makes things so much easier for the wide receivers and vice versa. If Flowers plays with the same speed and quickness he did at Boston College, he will continue to see single coverage because defenses cannot afford to take their eyes off Jackson or Andrews.

One of the many factors I consider when drawing up my Big Board every year is durability. We will never know in the preseason if/when a player will miss game action, but it would be ridiculous not to account for his durability when ranking players. This brings us to one of fantasy football's favorite punching bags: D'Andre Swift. There are better examples of what I am talking about here than Swift, but I want to use him as a way to explain part of my SSI approach. Swift has missed at least three games in each of his three seasons as a pro but never more than four. Two or three missed games do not seem like a big deal in August because we don't have to worry about it now. However, Swift's history says it will happen, and so his SSI score gets docked one point for each game I expect him to miss. If you want to bet against his history and project him for all 16 games Philadelphia will play during the fantasy season, he would be an early sixth-round pick. Ditto for other players such as Rashaad Penny, who would move into the top 100 if I could assume a full season, or Tua Tagovailoa, who would fall in line behind Aaron Rodgers in my rankings if he could do the same.

Process aside, it is hard to imagine Swift being a consistent fantasy performer in 2023. The Eagles sound as if they want to utilize his talents in the passing game as much as possible, but how many targets will be left for him after A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith combine for 250-plus and Dallas Goedert gets 75 or so? There are third and fourth receivers to consider, not to mention another pass-catching back in Kenneth Gainwell - someone who could see his fair share of third-down work. Philly also thinks it has the answer regarding Penny's durability issues. If that ends up being the case, Swift's ceiling appears to be capped in just about every way. I entered the summer believing Swift was underappreciated for what he could do in fantasy in 2023. I no longer feel that way. I want shares of him just in case, but he will need to slip a bit for me to take him.

Let us conclude today's exercise by discussing two "backup" running backs who should be on the radar of every fantasy manager after the first 7-8 rounds. In the worst-case scenario, Samaje Perine should push for at least 40 percent of the workload in Denver's backfield. A 50-50 split of the backfield work with Javonte Williams (when both are healthy) cannot be ruled out, nor can the possibility that Williams' knee starts giving him trouble a few weeks into the season. It seems unlikely Perine would become a true workhorse in such a case, but there is little doubt he would push for 20 touches every week given what is behind him. That kind of workload almost guarantees RB2 production, and he is only one likely setback to Williams away from getting there.

Many of the same things that are true for Perine are also strong possibilities for Zach Charbonnet. The major difference between the two situations is that Kenneth Walker is not coming off a major injury. Nevertheless, the rookie is like Perine in that he is a physical runner and capable receiver, which makes him a nice complement to Walker and his big-play ability. The problem with Walker is he can be an undisciplined runner, which could draw the ire of HC Pete Carroll and OC Shane Waldron at some point. Charbonnet may lack Walker's breakaway speed, but he will hit the hole he is supposed to and generate yards after contact.

While the probability of Javonte Williams missing time is likely much higher than Walker, the probability Charbonnet becomes an overnight RB1 in fantasy is likely much higher than it is for Perine. Both backs are worthy fantasy RB3 selections that will occasionally fall into RB4 range in drafts and could produce like RB1s if things break right for them.


Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM's "Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.