Fantasy football season recap, key stats and look ahead to 2023

The 2022 fantasy football season featured plenty of highs and lows, with some big surprises and other glaring disappointments. Which trends and stats are worth reading into as fantasy managers take a look at next season?

Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft recap the key takeaways from the season and offer a look ahead to 2023.

Jefferson's season was historic

If you're a "what have you done for me lately" type, his name might elicit painful memories of his pitiful fantasy point totals in Weeks 17 and 18, which are typically the fantasy championship weeks. Don't let that dissuade you, however, from again drafting one of the most impactful players across the entire game in 2022, as Justin Jefferson's season was historic on many fronts. He scored 30-plus PPR fantasy points seven times, setting a new single-season record for a wide receiver, and finished with a positional-best 368.66 points, the 12th-best total among wide receivers in history. Jefferson's skills are equal to -- and in this columnist's humble opinion, better than -- anyone's at his position; he's a dynamic, game-changing talent who can stretch the field and make contested catches like few others. He's the No. 1 name to build around in dynasty leagues and a compelling candidate for the No. 1 pick even in annual drafts. -- Cockcroft

Kelce leaves rest of TEs in the dust

His 2022 season was arguably the greatest in history among tight ends for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that his 316.3 PPR fantasy point total was second highest at his position in NFL history. Yes, the extra game helped Travis Kelce's cause in that regard, but even if we adjust to a 16-game schedule, Kelce's 306.5 points through the Chiefs' first 16 games were third most behind only Rob Gronkowski's 330.9 in 2011 and Kelce's own 312.76 in 2020.

Additionally, Kelce enjoyed a level of dominance rarely seen over the rest of his position. His 100.9 point advantage over No. 2 tight end T.J. Hockenson (215.4) was the second-largest such gap in history, behind only Kellen Winslow Sr.'s 111.6 point margin in 1980, and Kelce's 174.3 point margin over the No. 11 tight end -- that ranking selected to reflect a 10-team standard ESPN leagues -- was second-largest since the merger, behind only Todd Christensen's 187.8 point advantage in 1983.

Many worried that Tyreek Hill's trade to the Dolphins during the offseason might weaken Kelce's top-shelf fantasy status, but instead it strengthened Kelce's grip on that as well as his role as Patrick Mahomes' go-to guy. Kelce's PPR fantasy point total was, naturally, a personal best, as were his 156 total targets (tied with 2018) and 32 red zone targets. His 25.4% target share was his second-best total, and his 11 end zone targets were third. Now 33, Kelce might be hard-pressed to repeat the effort in 2023, but he surely has at least another year in the tank as the position's clear best as well as a bona fide first-round fantasy draft pick. -- Cockcroft

Taylor, the preseason No. 1, flops

Jonathan Taylor would be a compelling candidate for bust of the year, though like Kyle Pitts, Taylor missed time due to injury. Ankle problems cost Taylor Weeks 5, 6 and 9 and the final three weeks of the season, but in the 11 games he did play, he failed to replicate the 2021 excitement that propelled him into No. 1 overall draft pick status entering this year. Even if we counted only his stats from the 10 weeks in which the Colts played and he played at least half their offensive snaps, Taylor would've been fantasy's RB9, with extremely inconsistent week-over-week point totals. What the team does with its quarterback situation entering 2023 will probably have a big say in Taylor's fantasy outlook, but if he enters training camp healthy, he has a good chance at recapturing midtier RB1 status. -- Cockcroft

Hurts proves to be a draft-day steal

Jalen Hurts, the No. 56 overall player and No. 6 quarterback selected on average in ESPN leagues in the preseason, might not have been the player who carried your team during the fantasy playoffs, but he certainly played a big part in many teams advancing there. Through the Eagles' first 14 games, he scored a league-leading 369.58 fantasy points, the third most by any quarterback in history through that many team games. -- Cockcroft

Speaking of draft-day steals ...

Josh Jacobs finished as RB3 this season in total scoring, logging 328.3 PPR points in Josh McDaniels' offense. Big-game numbers here, too, as the Raiders running back posted 30 or more PPR points four times this season, including the 48.3 PPR points he dropped on the Seahawks back in Week 12. Ridiculous. A good fit for McDaniels' pass game, Jacobs will hit free agency this March. Stay tuned. -- Bowen

Ekeler finishes as RB1

A candidate for the 2022 fantasy MVP, Austin Ekeler is almost automatic in PPR formats, posting nine games of 23 or more points despite the poor run game efficiency in L.A. The Chargers running back produced only two games of over 100 yards rushing yards this season. That's it. But the scoring upside and receiving numbers make the difference here. Ekeler logged at least one touchdown in 10 games played this season, with multiple scores in six games. And he posted four or more receptions in 15 games. Given his consistent totals here, plus the big-game juice (four games of 32 or more points), there's a reason he finished the year as RB1 in fantasy scoring. -- Bowen

More on Ekeler's and Jacobs' dominance

They might have started the season slowly (and the latter had a somewhat sluggish finish), but fantasy managers might not truly appreciate how impactful Austin Ekeler's and Josh Jacobs' final 15 weeks of the season were. After the duo completed the three-week month of September as fantasy's RB13 (42.9 PPR fantasy points) and RB29 (32.1), Ekeler scored a running back-leading 329.8 points in his final 14 games, while Jacobs totaled a third-best-at-the-position 296.2 in his final 14. Both have firmly established themselves as front-end RB1s with first-round valuations heading into 2023. -- Cockcroft

Two huge receiving duos emerge

It's not completely uncommon to see a team place two wide receivers among the top 10 in PPR fantasy points, as it had been done 24 times this century entering 2022, and twice more this season. You might've guessed during the preseason that the Dolphins' Tyreek Hill (347.2 points, second) and Jaylen Waddle (259.2, eighth) would do it, but would you have also predicted the Eagles' A.J. Brown (299.6 points, sixth) and DeVonta Smith (254.6, ninth) would join them? -- Cockcroft

Other observations, takeaways and numbers


Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: Mahomes set a new single-season record for fantasy points by a quarterback with 417.40, breaking his own previous mark of 417.08 in 2018. He's only the second player (LaDainian Tomlinson) and first quarterback in NFL history to exceed 400 fantasy points in multiple seasons. Since entering the league, Mahomes has enjoyed a historic level of dominance, scoring 1,867.94 fantasy points in his first 80 starts, 128.74 more than the next-closest player, Aaron Rodgers, had through that many to begin a career. -- Cockcroft

Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals: With an average of 22.6 fantasy points per game, Burrow finished as QB4 in total scoring this season. Burrow also topped the 30-point mark twice, in addition to rushing for a score in five games this year. With breakout game potential, and two premier targets in Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, Burrow should enter the '23 season as a top-5 player at the position. He's an upper-tier passer with the best pocket mobility in the NFL. -- Bowen

Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars: Coaching matters. So does talent. We saw that this year with Doug Pederson and Lawrence in Jacksonville. The quarterback made a jump in his second season, hitting the defined throws, reading it out with speed and also utilizing his second-reaction movement traits. Lawrence averaged 17.4 fantasy points a game in '22, with six games of 20 or more points. And I really believe he is still developing as a pro. Lot of upside with Lawrence going into the '23 season, where he should be a lock as a top-10 play at the position. -- Bowen

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: This was the first time in any of Rodgers' 15 seasons as a starting quarterback that he failed to score even 20 fantasy points in any single game. He had at least four 20-point games in each of his previous 14 seasons. -- Cockcroft

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brady's Week 17 game (432 yards passing, three touchdowns, 37.68 points) was a vintage performance. Identifying and throwing the deep balls to Mike Evans. Hitting the second-level windows. And taking the throws that were available. But outside of that one game, Brady failed to top the 20-point scoring mark this season. This Bucs passing attack simply lacked rhythm in '22. Multiple reasons for that, including the offensive line/wide receiver injuries, plus the lack of the tight end element in the route tree. You can add in Tampa's inability to run the ball consistently here, too. And Brady's numbers were reflective of those issues this year. -- Bowen

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears: Fields' 178 rushing yards in Week 9 against the Dolphins set an NFL record for a quarterback, and he scored more fantasy points on rushing plays alone (162.3) than any other quarterback in history did in a single season. -- Cockcroft

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks: Smith scored 303.88 fantasy points in this, his 12th NFL season, which is more than he totaled from his second through his 11th seasons. Smith's point total exceeded his previous career best of 194.74, set in his rookie season of 2013, by 109.14. The only quarterbacks since the merger to experience a greater breakthrough at that career stage or later were Steve Beuerlein (+136.78, 1999, 12th season), Doug Flutie (+115.34, 1998, 13th season) and Lynn Dickey (+109.26, 1983, 13th season). -- Cockcroft

Running backs

Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers: With his dual-threat traits and Kyle Shanahan's heavily schemed offense, McCaffrey will be my RB1 heading into the 2023 season. In his 11 games played with the 49ers this season (after the trade from the Panthers), McCaffrey posted double-digit PPR production in nine games, with 25 or more PPR points in five games. And that included the 40.26 PPR points he dropped on the Rams back in Week 8. He's a game-changer in this system given the pass game deployment, paired with a rushing attack that creates both blocking angles and numbers to the play side. -- Bowen

Travis Etienne Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars: Among the many things that propelled the Jaguars into an AFC South title -- Doug Pederson's coaching and Trevor Lawrence's second-half progress being two other standout factors -- was the team's decision to trade James Robinson and unleash Etienne as its clear backfield leader following Week 7. Etienne delivered his fantasy managers a trio of 20-point PPR fantasy performances and six double-digit scores, but he fell considerably short of a top-10 ranking at his position, which could continue to keep his 2023 draft stock reasonable. Dig deeper, though, as Etienne flashed some of the best raw speed in the game, as NFL's Next Gen Stats this season clocked him with a 10.8 mph average when crossing the line of scrimmage, third fastest among qualified running backs. Additionally, he wasn't nearly utilized in the receiving game to the extent that scouts had touted at the time he was picked 25th overall out of Clemson in the 2021 NFL draft. Etienne is one of those running backs who, thanks to his second-half momentum this year, could take a huge leap forward in 2023, a genuine RB1-caliber talent you might get somewhat cheaper. -- Cockcroft

Kenneth Walker III, Seattle Seahawks: Walker's ability to handle heavy rushing volume, with breakout-game potential (two games of 27 or more PPR points), puts him in the mid-to-high tier RB2 mix heading into the 2023 season. He's a sudden accelerator with the lower body agility and contact balance to grind out yards or create explosive plays. -- Bowen

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys: Playing in a backfield rotation with Ezekiel Elliott, Pollard still produced 11 games with double-digit PPR production, including two games with over 33 PPR points. A back with home run speed and explosive-play juice, I also see dual-threat ability here with Pollard. He logged four or more receptions in five games this season, and those numbers could jump in '23 if Pollard can lock in a No.1 role. Remember, Pollard is a free agent. And he will be the top running back on the market -- with the expectation that Saquon Barkley re-signs with the Giants. -- Bowen

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers: Among the bigger fantasy disappointments, Harris followed up his 300.7 PPR fantasy point rookie campaign, that the 14th most by a rookie running back, by losing 76.84 points off his total despite playing every one of the Steelers' games. He joins Matt Forte as the only rookie running backs to score 300-plus as a rookie, then play every game as a sophomore while seeing their total drop by 75-plus points. -- Cockcroft

Jerick McKinnon, Kansas City Chiefs: The veteran McKinnon gets my vote as fantasy's "playoff hero" for 2022, having scored a league-leading (across all positions) 102.0 PPR fantasy points in Weeks 14-17. That represented 52% of his entire season total (196.3), and it exceeded his totals from five of his preceding eight NFL campaigns. -- Cockcroft

Wide receivers

Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals: Chase's hip injury, which cost him four games (Weeks 8-9 and 11-12), concealed the fact that he was again excellent during his sophomore season. His 20.2 PPR fantasy point-per-game average was fourth best among wide receivers who played at least half their teams' games. Chase now has 547.0 career PPR fantasy points through 29 career games, second most among wide receivers since the merger. -- Cockcroft

Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins: Hill's 342.9 PPR points ranked him second to only Minnesota's Justin Jefferson in wide receiver fantasy scoring this season. A scheme-transcendent player at the position who worked more intermediate concepts in this Miami offense to fit the throwing traits of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Hill logged eight games this season with 21 or more PPR points. He's still a difference-maker regardless of the passing system. -- Bowen

A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles: Brown's arrival in Philly was a major boost for the development/production of quarterback Jalen Hurts in '22. He's a big body target, a receiver who can play through contact at all three levels of the field, with the vertical one-on-one ability to stretch defenses from slot or boundary alignments. In his first season with the Eagles, Brown showcased his big-game traits too, scoring 25 or more PPR points four times. Given the Eagles' offensive structure and the run game volume we see here, Brown should be targeted as a midtier WR1 next season. -- Bowen

Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints: Let's see what the Saints do to upgrade the quarterback position this offseason, because Olave has some real upside as a potential WR2 in 2023. The rookie averaged 13.1 PPR points this season, showing his perimeter ability as a vertical stretch target, with the route running to work the intermediate cuts. -- Bowen

Garrett Wilson, New York Jets: Wilson can be a star in this league -- if the Jets can solidify the quarterback position. The rookie posted five games with 17 or more PPR points this season. He's sudden and dynamic with playmaking traits after the catch. -- Bowen

Drake London, Atlanta Falcons: I drafted London in three leagues. Yeah, that was me. The physical profile fit here as a rookie wideout. Formation flexibility, too. Work into the boundary. Stretch the seams. And in the red zone? I was thinking easy money here. Throw slants, fades. And while London did show flashes of a No. 1 target in this league, the Falcons' low-volume throwing offense and subpar quarterback play really limited the rookie's totals. London finished with four touchdown receptions and only seven games of double-digit PPR production -- including just five over his past 14 games. And I've yet to figure out the Falcons' red zone plan for London (and tight end Kyle Pitts). Now, a quarterback upgrade in Atlanta this offseason would be a major boost for the 2023 outlook of London, because we know he has the traits to produce consistent fantasy numbers in your lineup. -- Bowen

Tight ends

Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons: A torn MCL suffered in Week 11 that required surgery might've prematurely ended his season, but Pitts nevertheless will go down as my pick for 2022's biggest bust, not to mention my biggest blown call of the year. He was a player I endorsed in the third round, judging his talent greater than George Kittle's and within range of Mark Andrews' among tight ends, but due to a perplexing level of usage in Arthur Smith's offense, Pitts totaled only 75.6 PPR fantasy points through 11 weeks, ranking him TE18. Pitts' 24% target share and position-leading 13.5-yard average depth of target look good on the surface -- and they'll again make him a prospective breakthrough candidate for 2023 -- but he scarcely got a look in scoring position (four red zone targets) and suffered mightily due to Smith's exceedingly run-oriented attack. It's not a seasonal stat line that should condemn Pitts' future, including 2023 alone, as he remains one of the brightest young tight end talents in football. Here's hoping the Falcons upgrade their offense and get him more involved next year. -- Cockcroft

T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings: I'm in on Hockenson next season as a top-three player at the tight end position. In his 10 games with the Vikings (after the trade from Detroit), which includes the limited reps he saw in Week 18, Hockenson caught five or more passes in seven games. He's a prime target for quarterback Kirk Cousins in Kevin O'Connell's system, with the ability to run all three levels of the route tree from multiple alignments. The former Iowa Hawkeye also logged six games in Minnesota with double-digit PPR production. Route running. Rugged after the catch. Red zone ability. He'll be at the top of my target list when I draft next summer. -- Bowen

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens: To think, through six weeks of this season, Andrews was challenging the aforementioned Kelce for one of the most historic campaigns by any tight end, Andrews' 114.8 PPR fantasy points at that stage ranking second best at the position and 10th best ever by any tight end through his team's first six games. In large part due to Lamar Jackson's injury issues, Andrews' season fell apart thereafter, as he scored a mere 75.7 points over his next nine games, ranking TE15 during that time span. -- Cockcroft

Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears: I missed here, yeah, naming Kmet as my breakout candidate at the tight end position this season. Now, Kmet did show his red zone ability in Weeks 9 and 10, posting back-to-back games of 22 or more PPR points. Two touchdown grabs in each game, too. With Chicago going run-heavy this year, however, and really limiting the throwing volume for Justin Fields, Kmet logged only five games of double-digit PPR production, despite having the skill set to fit as a middle of the field/play-action target in the Bears' offensive structure. -- Bowen

Defense/Special Teams

New England Patriots: The Patriots' defense/special teams scored a position-best 173 fantasy points, the second time in the past four seasons that they have paced the league. The shame of it, however, is that they missed the playoffs, the first league-leading fantasy D/ST to do that since the 2016 Vikings, and finished with a losing record, becoming the first league-leading fantasy D/ST to do that since detailed defensive stats began to be recorded. -- Cockcroft

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles' D/ST was the league's most remarkably consistent, finishing among the position's top 10 in fantasy points a league-leading 11 times while scoring in double digits seven times (trailing only the 49ers' and Patriots' eight apiece). In fact, the Eagles finished in the upper half of scheduled-to-play D/STs in every week except Week 5, when their three points ranked 17th among the week's 32 D/STs, and Week 18, when their five points ranked 20th among the 32 that played. -- Cockcroft