2023 NFL Players to Watch, Part 3

By Lee Wakefield, Brett Walker & Simon Carroll

It is Wednesday 6th September, it is the final day of the offseason! The NFL returns tomorrow!

If you’ve somehow missed parts one and two of this series, where have you been? 

Let’s get into it.

Jets - Breece Hall, Running Back (By Brett Walker)

What he did prior to his rookie season being cut short by injury showed he is among a rare breed of player, along with Deebo Samuel, Cordarrelle Paterson, and Christian McCaffrey, who can legitimately line up as both a running back and a wide receiver. Given his dual-threat and playing with a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, he could be a real difference-maker for the Jets this season.

Seahawks - Seahawks Edge Defender Group (By Lee Wakefield)

Ok, I’m cheating a little here and not having a player but a whole room. The Seahawks posted just a 34% pass rush win rate as a team in 2022, which was 28th in the NFL. They were also 20th in run-stop rate with 20% (both per ESPN analytics). Uchenna Nwosu is a nice piece and he signed a $15m APY contract this offseason – A second-tier contract for a second-tier pass rusher and he is the leader in the room currently. Seattle needs one of their edge guys to step up and become a dude.

Jacksonville Jaguars - Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver (By Simon Carroll)

After last playing in a regular season game nearly two years ago, you can be forgiven if you temporarily forgot who Calvin Ridley is. Well don’t panic – if preseason is anything to go by, Ridley is about to give you all a reminder of how devastating a receiver he was, and still is…

Ridley racked up 1,300 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns in 2020, before taking something of a sabbatical for his mental health in 2021. That break was elongated with a big suspension for betting on NFL games, and the former All-Pro was traded to the Jaguars as a result. Now working with Trevor Lawrence, this devastating route runner looks to have landed in the perfect situation to showcase what made him a first-round pick five years ago.

Commanders - Sam Howell, Quarterback (By Lee Wakefield)

It isn’t often that a fifth-round quarterback gets the opportunity to lead an NFL franchise, but Washington Head Coach, Ron Rivera has named Howell the starter for the 2023 season. The former Tar Hell has been impressive in the preseason, breaking Baltomore’s long stretch of preseason wins. Once the live bullets start flying, Washington will need him to continue to play well, otherwise, the season could go south, and fast.

Image Credit: Hog Heaven

Chargers - Austin Ekeler, Running Back (By Brett Walker)

Ekeler has been one of the leading voices advocating for the value of running backs in the league. Look for him to prove his worth this season. Guys like Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, and J.C. Jackson will surely want to show that the Chargers’ defense deserves all the predictions it had previously received as one of the best in the league too.

Saints - Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver (By Lee Wakefield)

Michael Thomas was a beast when he was healthy! In 2019, he caught 149 balls for 1,725 yards. The only problem is, he has appeared in 10 games in the three seasons since. After an injury hell over the past few years, Thomas is ready to suit up in week 1 and begin catching passes from new Saints QB, Derek Carr. Can Thomas be the big-bodied receiver Carr loves to connect with?

Browns - Deshaun Watson, Quarterback (By Brett Walker)

2023 has undoubtedly got to be a make-or-break season for Deshaun Watson. When not sexually assaulting more than two dozen women (allegedly), Watson was one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch in the league when he was at the Texans. Watson didn’t do much of anything for the Browns after returning from his suspension last season, so look for him to try to put his legal issues behind him and prove his doubters wrong this season.

Packers - Jordan Love, Quarterback (By Lee Wakefield)

This is an obvious pick but there’s simply no other way to go. All eyes are on Jordan Love this season. The keys to Lambeau Field have been turned over to the former Utah State passer and it feels like the Packers’ season rests almost squarely on his shoulders. Love has to lead a young group of skill position players and justify Brian Gutekunst’s trade of Aaron Rodgers.

Feature Image Credit: amNew York

Lee Wakefield