2023 Fantasy Football Predictions: Welcome Back, Calvin Ridley

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Next up for SI Fantasy’s 2023 staff predictions is Kyle Wood:

Top Sleeper: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers

A player of Jones’ caliber would typically not be considered for a category like this. But with an average draft position of RB16 in the fifth (!) round, people are clearly sleeping on Jones, which therefore makes him a sleeper. Here’s his PPR finishes the last four seasons: 9, 10, 5, 2. Among running backs, only Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara have scored more points than him over that stretchAaron Rodgers’ exit does not mean it’s the end of the road for Jones. He should be even more involved as a receiver this year as Jordan Love adjusts to the starting gig and another 1,000 yards on the ground is well within reach for a runner of his caliber.

2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

Top Bust: Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers

There’s quite a few reasons to be wary of Samuel’s WR18 average draft position, but let’s start with the obvious: No one knows who will be throwing him passes come Week 1! Maybe it will be Brock Purdy, but perhaps it’s Trey Lance or we could even get a Sam Darnold sighting. The uncertainty is concerning, as is the fact that Samuel missed four games in 2022 as he struggled to a WR40 finish. His scrimmage yards were cut in half from the previous season and his opportunities were slashed as well. It’s no coincidence that dip in volume coincided with the arrival of Christian McCaffrey and Brandon Aiyuk’s breakout. There’s a lot of mouths to feed in San Francisco and Samuel is going more than a round earlier than Aiyuk and three rounds before George Kittle, both of whom finished with more fantasy points than him in 2022. I just don’t see Samuel living up to his draft price.

Top Rookie: Bijan Robinson, RB, Falcons

Don’t overthink it. Robinson is well worth the hype and if he’s good enough for the Falcons at No. 8 — the highest-drafted running back since Saquon Barkley in 2018 — he’s good enough for your fantasy team in the first round. Atlanta is going to establish the run and Robinson will be the biggest beneficiary. Oh, and he catches passes. There are other first-year players I like (Jordan Addison, Jahmyr Gibbs), but Robinson will finish well ahead of all of them.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Calvin Ridley

Comeback Player: Calvin Ridley, WR, Jaguars

It’s been a while since Ridley was last seen tearing it up on an NFL field. He was suspended for the entirety of the 2022 season and he played just five games in 2021. But back in 2020, Ridley finished as the WR5 and was top 10 in receiving yards (1,374) and receiving touchdowns (nine). He’s joining an ascending offense led by one of the game’s best young quarterbacks in Trevor Lawrence, who just got career-best years out of Christian KirkZay Jones and Evan Engram. The Jaguars took a bit of a leap trading for Ridley last fall while he was still suspended, and I believe Doug Pederson has a plan in place that will allow the former first-round pick to return to form.

Late-Round QB: Geno Smith, Seahawks

Smith, who finished as the QB5 last season, is currently being drafted as the QB15, outside the top 100. Seattle affirmed its commitment to Smith by inking him to a lucrative contract extension after his breakout season. And the Seahawks also added another weapon to their receiver room in the draft with the selection of Jaxon Smith-Njigba, a highly touted prospect from Ohio State. I understand some level of tepidness because 2022 was an extreme outlier compared to what Smith has done the rest of his career. But let me remind you he finished first in completion percentage (69.8%), eighth in passing yards (4,282) and fourth in passing touchdowns (30) last season. Even if he does take a step back, you could do far worse in the 13th round.

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