Someone is going to start at quarterback for the Green Bay Packers when they open the 2023 regular season, and fantasy managers surely will be watching. The pressure will be on, too. Future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers and potential replacement Jordan Love are the likely options, but this is the NFL and things are constantly changing, so who really knows for sure? We can say that Rodgers and Love -- for different reasons and assuming each starts for an NFL team at quarterback -- will have much to prove for fantasy football during the 2023 season.
Rodgers won the league MVP award after the 2020 and 2021 seasons and has little left to prove in the sport, but fantasy managers didn't enjoy his 2022 season so much. Rodgers, who finished outside the final top 10 QBs in fantasy scoring for the first time in a full season (he was 13th), played all 17 Packers regular-season games, but never did reach the rather modest bar of 20 fantasy points in any game, after doing so four times or more in each of his prior 14 seasons. He came close, but he didn't get to 20. Geno Smith got there in five games, the beleaguered Russell Wilson four times and reserves Jacoby Brissett and Andy Dalton twice. Rodgers did not. His lone top-10 fantasy finish came in Week 10.
If Rodgers moves on to another team or to another career choice, then presumably Love will finally get his chance. You remember Love, don't you? The Packers drafted the heralded Utah State product with the 26th pick in the 2020 NFL draft -- roughly mirroring the entrance to Rodgers joining the organization in the later Brett Favre years -- and Love started one game in three seasons, throwing 83 passes. Perhaps he is a really good player worthy of our attention and perhaps he is not. Perhaps we mercifully find out in 2023.
Regardless, it seems safe to say that Rodgers and the Packers, who blew their chance to qualify for the playoffs by losing at home to the rival Detroit Lions in the final regular-season game, will have quite the interesting offseason. It wasn't the easiest season for the Packers, but they played well in December before missing the playoffs for only the third time in 14 seasons. As for other Packers, running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon played consistent roles and should return, while rookie wide receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs emerged and should only improve.
Alas, the focus tends to come down to the quarterback and whoever it is for the Packers this fall, be it a Hall of Famer with seemingly little to prove or a touted prospect who has proven little, they will be on the proverbial hot seat, for fantasy and perhaps otherwise. All of us will be watching.
We covered the weekly ups-and-downs of players on the fantasy hot seat this past season and figured we would continue the theme now that the regular season has ended, looking ahead to 2023. So many things will change in the coming months, of course, as players and coaches move on and the next crop of college performers joins the league, but here is an early look, by position, at other veterans who will have much to prove in the fantasy world next season.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He has a television job awaiting him, but Brady seems likely to desire another shot at a Super Bowl. There will be no shortage of franchises lining up for his services, should the Buccaneers wish to move on. Like Rodgers, Brady was among the top 10 QBs in ESPN ADP, but finished at No. 12. Brady had two top-10 fantasy finishes this season, including his 37.6 points in Week 17, but who knows how many fantasy managers were in their playoffs to rely on Brady that week.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens: Jackson was a legit MVP candidate in September, but then he delivered only two top-10 finishes over an eight-game period before hurting his knee, and he missed the final five games. Fantasy managers love him and for good reason, but even before the injury, his performance was not at the expected level.
Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers: The No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft, right after the Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence (who is a top-10 QB now) and the Jets' Zach Wilson (who certainly is not), Lance broke his ankle in Week 2 this season, and much like Love, left his own team -- and fantasy managers -- with an incomplete picture of what he might statistically offer. The 49ers survived the loss of Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo because Brock Purdy, the final pick of the 2022 draft, thrived down the stretch. We've been led to believe Lance offers top-10 QB upside. This is going to be an interesting offseason for the 49ers, too.
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams: Stafford led the Rams to a Super Bowl title in his first season, but he and his team fell apart this past campaign, and everyone will be on notice next season. Stafford tossed eight interceptions in the first six games. He should recover from a spinal cord contusion by the summer, but whether fantasy managers trust him again is another matter.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins: Tagovailoa's third season started nicely with a six-touchdown explosion in Week 2, but several concussions ultimately derailed his breakout campaign. Put simply, what Tagovailoa needs to prove is that he can play a full season.
Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos: After being a top-12 fantasy quarterback in each of his first nine NFL seasons, let's just say Wilson did not perform to that level the past two seasons, one for the 2021 Seahawks and then for Denver, a franchise that paid dearly for his services. Fantasy managers assumed a return to statistical greatness was pending. It was not. Wilson will not be a top-10 QB on draft day 2023, but he should not be dismissed, either.
Others: Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders; Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals; Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns; Zach Wilson, New York Jets
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams: Returning from a torn Achilles tendon isn't quite like doing so from a knee injury, and Akers, who missed nearly all of the 2021 season, struggled for much of this season. Then he ran well for the final six weeks, topping 100 rushing yards in each of the final three contests, once the Rams were done playing games that mattered. Fantasy managers can make the case for Akers as an RB2 or someone they cannot trust, and everything in between.
J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens: Dobbins had a better 2020 rookie season than Akers did, then wrecked his knee at roughly the same time as Akers' injury in 2021. Fantasy managers were advised that Dobbins may start the 2022 season slowly and, after four games with frustrating production, he needed another knee procedure. Dobbins returned in Week 14 and ran better. Injuries, man.
D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions: The No. 12 RB in ESPN ADP, Swift missed all but one game in October with an ankle injury, then hurt a shoulder and the Lions were so cautious with him that he earned more than 10 touches in only five games all season. If durability is a concern moving forward, it must affect his fantasy potential.
Others: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs; Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Damien Harris, New England Patriots; Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers; Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints; James Robinson, New York Jets; Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts; Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals: All may seem well, but Hopkins missed the first six games due to a suspension for violating league policy for performance-enhancing substances, and he missed the final two games with a knee injury. He also missed six games in 2021 for hamstring and knee woes. Hopkins played like a WR1 in his eight full games, but durability and concern about starting QB Kyler Murray returning from his own knee injury by September clouds his statistical potential a bit.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers: Johnson wasn't necessarily bad this past season, though every other wide receiver among the top 50 in PPR scoring actually scored a touchdown. Johnson did not. He also failed to catch 100 yards worth of passes in a game. Pittsburgh's QB play wasn't awesome, and fantasy managers looking at a Steelers option may wish to invest in younger Steelers WR George Pickens instead.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Most fantasy managers didn't choose him early in drafts, but they did take him on the premise he was finally healthy. For two-plus games, maybe he was. Thomas scored three touchdowns in three games and ... that was it for his season. Thomas, who was the best player in fantasy, setting records in 2019, has played in 10 NFL games since then, for various physical reasons. Oh, and the Saints need a QB in 2023. Other than that, all is well.
Others: Rashod Bateman/Devin Duvernay, Baltimore Ravens; Marquise Brown, Arizona Cardinals; Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans; Chase Claypool/Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears; Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts; Allen Robinson II, Los Angeles Rams; Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers; Kadarius Toney, Kansas City Chiefs
Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons: The third TE selected in ESPN ADP came off a 1,000-yard rookie season, albeit with only one touchdown catch, and fantasy managers dreamt of monster numbers. They didn't get them. Pitts did double his touchdown output, but he averaged only 2.8 receptions and 35 receiving yards in his 10 games before needing knee surgery, mystifying usage for such a talented player. If healthy, we have to rank him as top-10 TE for 2023, but the Falcons have to utilize him properly.
Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders: Waller dominated during the 2020 season, catching 107 passes for 1,196 yards and 9 TDs. In 20 games since then, he has 83 catches, 1,053 yards and 5 TDs. Now 30 years old and hardly durable, he, like so many NFL players, has much to prove to fantasy managers in 2023.