After debuting this miniseries last year, I’m excited to have the opportunity to author the 2023 iteration!
With the NFL draft now months behind us and training camp/preseason just around the corner, we are nearing the crescendo of the NFL off-season. As such, the window for making final roster adjustments is drawing to a close, with the obtainment of actionable game information just over the horizon in September. Put another way, it would not be unreasonable to assert player values are less likely to fluctuate over the next couple of months (pending injuries) as compared to when the regular season is in full force.
In that spirit, I’ve selected players to buy, sell and hold for all 32 NFL teams. This miniseries will be broken down by division, with 12 players highlighted per article and 96 overall. In a 12-team league with 20 roster spots (similar to the DLF ADP), that accounts for 40% of the players!
Before we dive in, a few notes and disclaimers:
- Player values were obtained from the combination of the most current ADP (pending the lead time necessary for authorship), and the DLF Top-250 rankings;
- The league paradigm is assumed to be PPR and 1QB (players superflex and/or 2QB leagues would likely have some divergence from those I’ve selected);
- Opinions on players are my own and do not represent all of DLF; and finally,
- Exact player values are always going to be dependent on individual leagues and owners, and may not be consistent with the assertions provided herein.
With that said, let’s continue with the AFC South! Players will be profiled individually, with a tabulated summary of all 12 provided at the article’s conclusion.
Buy: Dalton Schultz, TE (ADP = 151.0, Rank = 134.9)
Schultz functioned as a PPR TE1 in 2020 (TE10), 2021 (TE3) and 2022 (TE9), while managing to command at least 89 targets each season. 2021 was clearly Schultz’ to-date zenith, as he offered an above-average weekly output while not missing a single contest. His other TE1 finishes were more due to the paucity of talent at the position, as he failed to eclipse 10.0 PPR PPG.
So what we have is a solid if unspectacular player who has established both a reasonable floor and ceiling at a position largely devoid of both. So why is he going as the TE18 by ADP?
It’s fair to question the Texans offense, but in 2023 they will feature the #2 overall draft pick in quarterback CJ Stroud, and the team is now under the hopefully steady stewardship of new head coach DeMeco Ryans. Continuing, Schultz’s target competition is nonexistent at the position (the team’s TE2 is 2022 fifth-round pick Teagan Quitoriano), and the rest of the pass-catching hierarchy consists of rising third-year receiver Nico Collins, veteran Robert Woods, 2022 second-round pick John Metchie III, and rookies Tank Dell and Xavier Hutchinson. Woods should be a steady presence, but while the world is rooting for Metchie we simply don’t know how he’ll look on the field after a rookie year lost due to leukemia. There’s a reasonable path for Schultz to receive the second-most targets on the team after Collins, which should lead to him easily outplaying his ADP.
Sell: Devin Singletary, RB (ADP = 162.8, Rank = 147.1)
I’m a big fan of the television show Parks and Recreation, and particularly enjoy the running subplot of Ben Wyatt not understanding the town’s fascination with the mini-horse Li’l Sebastian. That’s how I feel about Singletary, and not just because he only checks in at 5’7” and 203 pounds. But rather, that my fellow dynasty aficionados believe he represents a threat to starter and second-year ball carrier Dameon Pierce.
You can throw the direct comparison of 2022 statistics out the window, because Singletary played for the Bills’ Ferrari of an offense while Pierce was trapped on the Texans’ horse-led buggy. The fact is Pierce was the only efficient ball carrier on the squad, averaging 4.3 YPC in a running back room that otherwise slogged their way to 2.9 YPC. Meanwhile, though Singletary’s efficiency appeared better, he was actually the least effective ball carrier on the Bills offense.
This is all to say a couple of things. First, Houston identified an unmet need and added talent to the position. Second, and likely the more salient point, there’s no real reason to assume Singletary is going to siphon off a non-negligible slice of the pie. He has yet to show he can handle a robust workload (career average of 11 carries per game), and hasn’t proven to be terribly effective through the air (5.0 YPT over his career). Moreover, Buffalo let him walk, and the Houston brass has likely similarly identified Singletary’s deficiencies, giving him only a $2.5 million guaranteed on a one-year deal. He’ll fill a niche role, but as the RB49 per the most current ADP, it’s not as if he’s a highly sought-after player. Still, selling low always beats selling lower.
Hold: Nico Collins, WR (ADP = 142.8, Rank = 139.8)
As I noted with Schultz’s blurb above, there are targets there for the taking in the Texans offense. In his now two years in the league, Collins hasn’t exactly compiled a CV that asserts he’s the best man for this specific job, but some nuance should be applied here. While clearly not world-beating stats, as a second-year player Collins accrued more targets, receptions, yards and scores despite playing in four fewer contests as compared to his rookie season. All told his 2022 line stood at a weekly 3.7-48.1-0.2, which could have been a lot worse for a team that averaged fewer than 200 weekly passing yards.
Brandin Cooks is now out of the picture, leaving Collins as something of the only proven entity on the team, though Woods notably adds a veteran presence and has had success elsewhere. Metchie has his own unique hurdles to surpass, and Dell would be beating the odds to succeed given his slight stature. The variables are there for a potential third-year breakout, and as such Collins stands as a sensible hold as a WR6.
Buy: Jelani Woods, TE (ADP = 201.5, Rank = 210.9)
When it comes to teams that have something of an unestablished pecking order, more often than not I’ll gravitate to the cheapest option with potential upside. Enter Woods, a large, fast human being with above-average strength who the Colts selected in the early third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. This was despite the selection of positional cohort Kylen Granson the year before, as well as having veteran Mo-Alie Cox on contract.
While far from impressive, Woods led the Colts tight ends in yards and touchdowns, while tying for first in targets with Granson. While he was very nearly in a statistical dead heat with the sophomore, it’s notable that his rookie season resulted in him achieving a robust slice of the pie, and portends well for the pecking order moving forward. Likened as a breakout candidate and the potential Dallas Goedert comp in new coach Shane Steichen’s offense, there’s a lot to like at a cost as the TE26 by ADP.
Sell: Anthony Richardson, QB (ADP = 76.8, Rank = 85.4)
This one is a fairly simple calculus for me. In college, Richardson only played a substantial amount of football in his junior season, which resulted in extremely poor passing numbers to go with above-average (if perhaps not electrifying) rushing stats. And then he broke the NFL Combine as perhaps the most athletically gifted quarterback prospect of all time.
If he pans out, he should smash his current ADP as the QB9 and a seventh-round pick. If his passing doesn’t pick up, he’ll be the next Terrelle Pryor. In a 1QB league, you can still find more proven talent for significantly less capital – they may not have the same level of upside, but the downside would at least come a lot more cheaply.
Hold: Michael Pittman, WR (ADP = 38.5, Rank = 36.9)
Following a 2021 finish as the PPR WR18 in 2021, Pittman regressed in 2022 despite an additional 12 targets. Though the Colts passing offense was subpar and provided 10 fewer aerial scores, there was an increase in both receptions (74) and yards (266), leading to more available points for pass catchers. As such it’s hard to pin it all on the team’s signal callers.
With that said, it’s nearly impossible to assert that the combo of Richardson and Gardner Minshew shouldn’t represent an upgrade on the unholy triumvirate of Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles. If that happens, Pittman should be able to outplay his current status as the WR19 by ADP. This could lead to a return to his prior valuation as a borderline first-round pick (ADP of 14.75, October 2022).
Buy: Brenton Strange, TE (ADP = 240.5, Rank = 245.5)
I’m aware that Evan Engram received a contract extension just under the gun earlier this week, but I don’t believe this fundamentally changes the scenario for the rookie. We’ll likely have to await the particulars of Engram’s deal, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see that the Jaguars have given themselves an out prior to its conclusion after three years (just as one note, only $24 million of the total $41 million value was guaranteed). Continuing, and noting that you can refer to my previous breakdown of Strange for all the fine details, despite their physical differences I believe Strange can do a lot of what Engram does. Though Engram was a lot faster entering the league, he still has a low aDOT and does most his damage after the catch. Strange similarly excels in YAC, effectively functioning as an extension in the run game with his ability to receive shovel passes and tight end screens.
This may speak to the potential plans for continuity that the Jaguars see for their tight end corps. The fact is he was still the team’s second-round pick, and at a position that isn’t expected to contribute early – as such a “succession plan” isn’t the worst thing in the world. He may be a roster clogger for the first 1-2 years, but given the dirt cheap price he’s the type of flier I want at the end of my bench.
Sell: Travis Etienne, RB (ADP = 27.5, Rank = 21.4)
Truthfully the Jaguars don’t have an obvious “sell” candidate. I selected Etienne because his to-date production as the PPR RB17 in 2022 vastly outpaces his status as the RB8 by ADP. While I understand his youth (24 years old) stands as an insulating factor, this type of draft capital should accompany a player who is either a bell cow ball carrier, or who has high utilization in the passing game.
In this regard, Etienne is something of an appetizer-sized portion of dinner entrée. The ingredients are there and it tastes pretty good, but it isn’t filling. To that point, and despite playing in all 17 contests, in 2022 Etienne was tied for the 13th most carries, and had the 22nd most targets amongst running backs. He will need to significantly increase these numbers in 2023 to return value on his cost.
Unfortunately the forces of fate seem to be aligning against him. Jacksonville added pass catchers in Calvin Ridley and Strange, along with direct competition in the backfield with their selection of Tank Bigsby in the third round of the NFL Draft. This is significant draft capital and shouldn’t be brushed aside, and given this it’s hard to envision Etienne’s usage increasing. I’d rather cash out for an aging veteran (e.g., Aaron Jones or Miles Sanders) who should offer similar production along with a sweetener on top.
Hold: Christian Kirk, WR (ADP = 62.0, Rank = 70.2)
Kirk, the 2022 PPR WR12, is currently being selected as the WR31 per the ADP despite being still just 26.5 years old, and continuing an upward trajectory that saw him set career highs in nearly every relevant receiving statistic. This is normally the type of player who would be viewed as a top-tier asset, not one who should have lost value since his October of last season. I imagine this drop correlates to teammate Calvin Ridley returning from suspension, but the likely worst-case scenario still sees Kirk as the 1a or 1b in the offense – he has experience with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and Ridley hasn’t played competitive football for years. Though Ridley adds a hurdle, Kirk remains a strong hold as a player very likely to outperform his ADP.
Buy: Treylon Burks, WR (ADP = 46.8, Rank = 45.3)
Seeing as nothing terribly earth-shattering happened in Nashville lately (definitely nothing that DLF immediately covered, for sure), let’s continue valuing Burks exactly as we did earlier in July!
In seriousness, Burks was already a bit undervalued as the WR23 by the ADP despite what appeared to be an underwhelming rookie season. Following a midyear injury he finished the season fairly strong with three of his final six games yielding 69+ yards, and on a per-game basis he nearly equaled leading receiver Robert Woods’ target output. It wasn’t the stuff of legends, but it was at least promising following a slow start.
The DeAndre Hopkins signing may further depress his value amongst owners who aren’t thinking past 2023. That may yield even more opportunity to buy relatively low. Considering Burks was regarded as a project coming out of college, dynasty owners should be holding steady – but those who are panicking may wind up functioning as good trade partners for prospective buyers.
Sell: Will Levis, QB (ADP = 216.0, Rank = 205.0)
Levis is essentially a slightly more polished and significantly less athletic version of Richardson, who I detailed above, but also one who is on the older side and regressed in his final collegiate season. Perhaps most importantly, he wound up lacking the expected first-round draft capital, with some sources putting him as a dark horse for the #1 overall pick. Instead, Levis slid into the early second round, though notably the Titans traded up to select him.
Still, we’re currently talking about the third-string signal caller on a run-first offense. It’s anticipated he’ll easily beat out Malik Willis, but it is Willis himself who should offer up a cautionary tale on overvaluing draft season hype. That he’s still going as the QB29, ahead of legitimate NFL starting quarterbacks, stands as a reason to sell to me, even if it’s for precious little. In a superflex or 2QB league I’d probably be a bit more reserved here, but in onesie leagues, I’d happily kick the can down the road for a future draft pick.
Hold: Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE (ADP = 123.2, Rank = 154.4)
As a Rockville, Maryland resident, I went to the 2021 Penn State versus Maryland game in College Park, and recalled that in this back-and-forth affair that Okonkwo’s name kept coming up over the loudspeaker. As it turned out, the senior tight end did in fact account for a whopping 12 catches for 85 yards in a losing effort. At the time, I chalked it up nothing more than a bit of trivia.
Fast forward, and Okonkwo is coming off a rookie season where he averaged a tidy 9.8 YPT, and was one of two functional pieces of the passing game along with Burks. He’s now coming off the board as the TE15 by ADP, and has the starting TE position all to himself with the free agency defection of Austin Hooper. He’ll be no worse than the third target in the passing game, and he’s a great hold as an ascending player with room to grow.
The tabulated list of the players discussed here is shown below.
|AFC South||Houston Texans||Dalton Schultz||151||134.9||Devin Singletary||162.8||147.1||Nico Collins||142.8||139.8|
|Indianapolis Colts||Jelani Woods||201.5||210.9||Anthony Richardson||76.8||85.4||Michael Pittman||38.5||36.9|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Brenton Strange||240.5||245.5||Travis Etienne||27.5||21.4||Christian Kirk||62||70.2|
|Tennessee Titans||Treylon Burks||46.8||45.3||Will Levis||216||205||Chigoziem Okonkwo||123.2||154.4|
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