One fantasy football X-factor for all 32 NFL teams

Generally, I think Brown is a really underrated wide receiver. He’s a quality player who got too much flak for some bad drops in Baltimore. The Cardinals pumped him with volume prior to his foot injury last year as he averaged 10 targets per game in the first six weeks. He’s by far the most proven wideout on the team but will need to overcome likely subpar quarterback play. I’m not trying to proactively target many Cardinals but Brown may be the lone exception.

It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine Ridder being a fantasy starter on his own but how he performs is going to have a huge trickle-down effect on the rest of the roster. If Ridder is even a Ryan Tannehill-level functional starter, guys like Drake London and Kyle Pitts are in for big years playing in this concentrated passing game.

I like Zay Flowers quite a bit but Bateman graded out higher for me as a prospect and I think has shown legitimate X-receiver flashes when healthy. If he can string together a full season I think he could be a steady fantasy WR2 if this pass offense evolves as expected.

The Bills made several moves this offseason that signal they want to improve as a rushing team, including signing Harris. He has a wide range of outcomes this year that vary from being a double-digit touchdown threat to even losing out the big back job to Latavius Murray. Should Harris emerge and play like he did for the Patriots in 2021, he’d help the Bills evolve but also take some rushing work away from Josh Allen.

The Panthers added enough receivers to the mix to get to “NFL caliber” level, a place they were not in following the DJ Moore trade. But if someone is going to lift the room and become a high-end starter, Mingo is the lone option with any ceiling. We’ve seen plenty of rookie receivers take off in the second half of their inaugural NFL campaigns. Mingo is a nice bet for that guy this season.

Odds are that the Bears’ running back room is a frustrating committee all season. Johnson is most likely the lone player who could take off to the point he ices out the veterans.

It seems as if Joe Mixon is all set to be the bell cow back once again for the Bengals but the situation behind him is up in the air. If Brown has a good summer he could be that guy.

Chase Brown #30 of the Cincinnati Bengals has fantasy value

Is Chase Brown the fantasy back to roster behind Joe Mixon on the Bengals? (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

We need to know who is going to be the primary insurance back on this great offense, especially if Mixon’s legal troubles accelerate in any way.

I am a massive fan of Moore’s game. I think he showed superstar separation traits as a rookie but threw his career off course with the Jets after an ill-advised public spat with the team. Nevertheless, he got a fresh start and should be the clear-cut WR2 for the Browns. We need Deshaun Watson to get back to prior form but I remain quite bullish on Moore’s talent.

With Mike McCarthy fully in control of the offense, we should see the Cowboys transition to more 11-personnel looks and away from multi-tight end sets. Right now, I think Ferguson — who has flashed as a receiver — will lead the tight end room in snaps.

If Javonte Williams gets off to a slow start, Perine is going to have some big weeks early in the season. I’m not sure how good Denver will be as a unit but Perine will have moments.

There is so much hype around Jahmyr Gibbs thanks to his receiving ability but am I crazy for thinking Montgomery could see something like 120 more carries than the rookie? We can still expect this offense to be a quality unit and Montgomery will get end-zone chances.

We don’t typically see rookie tight ends make much noise but it sounds like Musgrave is running as the clear-cut starter for Green Bay in minicamp. This is one of the youngest wide receiver rooms in the league. Musgrave can shave off some early opportunity even if it bucks the history of the position.

Collins carries all the traits and shows the signals I like to see out of a breakout candidate at X-receiver. This guy played games with Kyle Allen last year. He’s an ideal fit with C.J. Stroud’s vertical passing ability.

Pierce is about to play with a passer perfectly suited to his skill set after being paired with the worst possible fit last season. The Colts may not have a big time passing game early on in Richardson’s tenure but Pierce could have some high ceiling weeks.

Perhaps the biggest name on my list, the Jaguars have a potentially excellent fantasy offense if the talented Lawrence takes another step. Not only do the Jags have plenty of quality options, but it could also be a highly concentrated passing game. I believe in Lawrence and will be all over this offense in all my drafts.

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The most natural slot receiver replacement for JuJu Smith-Schuster on the Chiefs roster is Moore. While JuJu wasn’t a fantasy monster he was a good real-life player for KC. Even his stats from last year would make Moore a mega value in fantasy after most have already given up on him.

If Jimmy G plays, I’m fine with Davante Adams as a WR1 and believe guys like Jakobi Meyers can have sneaky value. Should the worst fears about Garoppolo’s injury come to pass, this offense could be cast into the darkness in a hurry.

No team needed more juice injected into the receiver room than the Chargers. Johnston brings what they require both in the vertical game and as a YAC merchant. How soon can he be up to speed? The Chargers need it to happen by September.

While there is plenty of angst about the Rams roster and team-building right now, as long as Stafford and Cooper Kupp are healthy, they’ll score points. I could even see Stafford being a fringe QB1 option if he plays and the offensive line is better than last year.

Achane brings the juice Mike McDaniel craves but will need to be a historic outlier at his size to be a featured runner. If he can’t be that guy, we’re looking at Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson manning a fuzzy committee for Miami. That might work fine for their offense but will be frustrating for fantasy.

No receiver gets more defensive attention and has to play against tougher coverage than Justin Jefferson. If Addison is a pro-ready option, he should moonwalk into a breezy role that’ll earn 110-plus targets from a solid quarterback.

New England Patriots – Mac Jones

Rhamondre Stevenson is the only every-week fantasy option in New England right now. If anyone else is going to emerge it will have to come along with Jones not just improving on his 2022 play, but leaping the guy he was as a rookie. At least the coaching is better.

An obvious answer. Thomas is a former record-breaking receiver who just hasn’t been able to stay healthy since. It sounds like the Saints are getting their hopes up just a tad again this year. We’ll see if it turns into anything tangible on game day.

The Giants’ roster is littered with slot receiver options. Hodgins showed real flashes of being able to start on the perimeter late last year. He can cement that spot once again with a strong offseason.

The reports on Breece Hall’s health are a little mixed right now and no one should be shocked if he’s eased in to start the season. So it’s of the utmost importance to figure out the running back room behind him. Carter had a great rookie year but ceded work last year to Zonovan Knight, who looked good in relief action.

The Jets also added the explosive Israel Abanikanda in the draft and have reportedly sniffed around Dalvin Cook. That’s a ton of competition for Carter to fend off but he could do it with a strong offseason — if not, one of these other guys is going to matter in September.

Penny carries a ton of risk because of injuries but of any back on the roster, he projects the cleanest to an early-down banger role. That’s the role Mile Sanders is leaving behind. I could see Penny being the feature back for the Eagles (when he’s healthy) but I could also imagine a rocky offseason landing him on the game-day inactive list.

Others are far more bullish on Pickens’ star potential than I am but if I am wrong, he could dramatically shake up the volume distribution here. I think the Steelers offense could be a more efficient unit with Kenny Pickett in Year 2. Right now, I like Diontae Johnson — who is a far better route runner — and Pat Freiermuth at their draft values to be the beneficiaries of that jump. But if Pickens hits the crazy high ceiling others see out of his game, he could outpace everyone. I’m just skeptical.

It’s the chalk answer but it’s the right one. Kyle Shanahan has built something of a quarterback-proof operation over there in San Francisco but exactly who starts under center does matter for fantasy. Brock Purdy and Trey Lance would have dramatic individual impacts on the pass-catchers here. I think Purdy is the guy we ultimately want … but I’m equally unsure about that as I am who will actually get the job.

Seattle Seahawks – Zach Charbonnet

Charbonnet was absolutely good enough as a prospect to go where he did in Round 2. Most just didn’t see the Seahawks as a Day 2 running back landing spot. Just how much work he siphons from Kenneth Walker remains to be seen but will go a long way in deciding how to rank both guys in fantasy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Rachaad White

White’s periphery metrics don’t look great from last year but it appears he’s going to moonwalk into a ton of volume. He’ll need the Bucs’ quarterbacks to play at a league-average level to really thrive — but that is no lock. White is a fantasy conundrum to me right now and I’m not sure where I’ll stand on his outlook come late August.

Tennessee Titans – Chigoziem Okonkwo

Okonkwo flashed serious juice to end his rookie season. It’s not saying much considering the Titans won’t project for much aerial volume but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being their most valuable pass catcher in 2023.

Washington Commanders – Sam Howell

Easy answer. If Howell emerges as a surprising starter, Washington’s wide receiver trio is ready to take off. Even if Jacoby Brissett starts and plays at the level he did in Cleveland, all three of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel will be draft-day values. That trio is as talented as any in the league. Howell has better odds than Brissett to become a standalone fantasy starter.