2023 NFL Players to Watch, Part 1
By Lee Wakefield, Brett Walker & Simon Carroll
We made it, NFL football is almost back. To celebrate and to help you gear up for the 2023 season, today we are beginning a four-part series, earmarking one player from each team for you to keep an eye on throughout the season.
Eight players a day for four days, right up until the NFL kick-off where the Lions travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the champion Chiefs on Thursday Night Football.
Let’s dive right in with our first batch.
Bears - Justin Fields, Quarterback (By Lee Wakefield)
Justin Fields needs to take another step forward in 2023 so that the Bears can continue on their road back the relevancy. We all know from his college film and his time in the NFL that he is a great athlete and he can make plays with his legs. Now it’s time to take a step forward as a passer. Not taking anywhere near 55 sacks would also help!
Bills - Damar Hamlin, Safety (By Brett Walker)
Who else but Damar Hamlin? His recovery from an on-field cardiac arrest in January has been both remarkable and inspirational. While he will most likely only see field time in a back up role to Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, or if one of them gets injured, can you imagine how loud the roar from the crowd at Orchard Park will be when he takes the field for the first time? In fairness, he will probably get a warm reception at every other NFL stadium he appears at too.
Houston Texans - Tank Dell, Wide Receiver (By Simon Carroll)
Is C.J Stroud the man to drag the Texans out of their recent malaise? As with every quarterback at every franchise, that depends on a whole host of factors. One of which is the weapons at their disposal. And in Tank Dell, Stroud has a dynamic and exciting playmaker who has game-changing ability.
Lightning quick, Dell has the agility to make tacklers look foolish. Expect him to be used in different ways in Bobby Slowik’s offense, who comes over from the 49ers – the experts in creating bespoke playbooks for dangerous receivers. Dell will also pick up returner duties on special teams – just get this man the ball in his hands, and let him cook.
Ravens - Odell Beckham Jr., Wide Receiver (By Brett Walker)
Given his story the last couple of years – scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl before sustaining a severe injury that kept him out of action all last season – it has to be Odell Beckham Jr. The former LSU Tiger has already shown himself to be a game-changing wide receiver. Add him to an offense that also features fit-again dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson, a tight end the calibre of Mark Andrews, running back J.K. Dobbins, and statistically, the best kicker in NFL history in Justin Tucker, the Ravens could be looking to win the AFC North. Add in rookie receiver Zay Flowers and receivers Rashod Bateman and Nelson Agholor, and the Ravens could be dark horse Super Bowl contenders this season.
Giants - Saquon Barkley, Running Back (By Lee Wakefield)
After accepting an extension (of sorts) with the Giants, Saquon is ready to be the focal point of the Giants’ offense again. In year two of Brian Daboll’s tenure, the offense should be better; Big Blue will be hoping for another step forward from Daniel Jones, but they also have Darren Waller. That said, make no mistake, Barkley is still going to be the guy in the blue half of New York.
Broncos - Russell Wilson, Quarterback (By Brett Walker)
After a frankly abysmal season by his standards last year, Russell Wilson is going to want to prove he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league in 2023. Let’s see what he can cook up now he’s being coached by Super Bowl winner Sean Payton.
Buccaneers - Baker Mayfield, Quarterback (By Lee Wakefield)
Prior to the NFL, it felt like Baker Mayfield had always thrived when he had been doubted and had his back against the wall. The first ever walk-on True Freshman QB to start an FBS week 1 game at Texas Tech. Winning the Heisman at Oklahoma after transferring and eventually becoming the number one pick. After some success in Cleveland, Baker is now on team number four of his career and the Bucs will need him to scrap again if they’re going to make anything of the 2023 season.
Cardinals - Paris Johnson Jr., Offensive Tackle (By Lee Wakefield)
The Cardinals moved around the draft board on the opening night of the player selection meeting in order to take Paris Johnson out of Ohio State. The Cardinals are taking a long-term view of their roster construction, knowing that they are multiple years away from being a competitive force again. They know they need cornerstone pieces to build around, especially at premium positions. They will be hoping to see a strong rookie year from their left tackle.
Feature Image Credit: Yahoo Sports
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LEE WAKEFIELD IS A DEFENSIVE LINE ENTHUSIAST, CHARGERS SUFFERER, AND LONG-TIME WRITER AND PODCASTER WITH A NUMBER OF PUBLICATIONS. FIND HIS CHARGERS CONTENT OVER AT BOLT BEAT. @WAKEFIELD90 ON TWITTER