2023 NFL Players to Watch, Part 1

By Lee Wakefield, Brett Walker & Simon Carroll

It’s here! Today is the day! Let the 2023 NFL season commence. Get the snacks in, get something to drink, get your pre-game nap planned and your morning alarm turned *off*.

Part one, part two, and part three, from earlier in the week can be found here, but let’s get this thing rounded off and get ourselves some football.

Only one guy to kick off this piece with…

Chiefs - Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback (By Brett Walker)

The thing that set the Chiefs apart, and arguably helped them to become Super Bowl champions again, last season, was that, in the face of Tyreek Hill leaving, the team spread his touches around and diversified its offense. Opposing teams didn’t have an answer to what the Chiefs were doing offensively, as Travis Kelce, Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, and their litany of receivers, including Kadarious Toney and Skyy Moore, were all being targeted and stepping up to the occasion when needed. At the centre of it, all is Patrick Mahomes, arguably the greatest quarterback in the league right now.

Rams - Cooper Kupp, Wide Receiver (By Lee Wakefield)

Kupp is a bounceback candidate for your fantasy league and will be the main man once again for Matt Stafford and Sean McVay in 2023. Kupp had a down year but with the amount of youth that is spread throughout the Rams’ roster, coupled with Matt Stafford’s struggles to connect with younger team mates, Kupp could be primed for a massive year once again.

Kupp is struggling for health with a hamstring injury right now, but Sean McVay has him at “day-to-day” in terms of his absence. The Rams are going to need to need him.

Bengals - Irv Smith Jr., Tight End (By Brett Walker)

Precisely because everyone, including opposition defences, will be expecting the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Mixon, and Tee Higgins to be the prime targets for Joe Burrow’s passing and hand-offs, I would not be surprised if tight end, Irv Smith Jr. pops up with some important receptions for the team this season. The Bengals seem light at tight end, and Smith looks like he’ll be number one on the depth chart for the position now.

Cowboys - Micah Parsons, Edge Defender (By Lee Wakefield)

I feel that there are six tier-1 edge defenders in the NFL; Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa, TJ Watt, Trey Hendrickson, Maxx Crosby, and Parsons.

Now a bonafide edge-only player, with barely any snaps to be taken at linebacker, Parsons has a chance to become the top dog. An 18.1% pressure rate was only bettered by Hendrickson last year and Parsons has no fewer than 13 sacks in either year of his career to date, if he continues with those numbers in 2023, then I will declare him the king of pass rushers.

Image Credit: Music City Miracles

Tennessee Titans - Arden Key, Edge Defender (By Simon Carroll)

The Tennessee Titans, as mentioned by my colleague Lee Wakefield, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not enough roster talent to make a run at a Lombardi, but too well coached to tank; finding ways to improve a lacklustre offense has proved difficult. If this team is to challenge for the playoffs in 2023, it will be on the back of a developing and underrated defense…

Jeffrey Simmons is the crown jewel of this unit, but finding more pass rush is key. Arden Key has registered 11 sacks in his last two seasons and has somewhat resurrected his career after failing to move the needle with the Raiders. He comes over to the Titans from division rivals Jacksonville and has already earned a starting spot at outside linebacker in Shane Bowen’s 3-4 defense. With Harold Landry attacking from the other side, Key might be the final piece to help this front seven jump from good to great.

Vikings - Marcus Davenport, Edge Defender (By Lee Wakefield)

Davenport arrived in Minnesota on a 1-year, $13m deal to play opposite Danielle Hunter in Brian Flores’ defense. A mid-level starting contract for a veteran pass rusher. A prove-it deal for a player who has never hit double-digit sacks in his career. Both Davenport and the Vikings will be hoping that he outplays his number to boost their competitive rebuild.

Dolphins - Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback (By Brett Walker)

After last season’s injury absences and the effect it arguably had on the team’s on-field chemistry and win-loss record, it has to be Tua Tagovailoa. If he can stay healthy, given he arguably has the best wide receiver duo in the league in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, the Dolphins could have a real shot at winning what should be a very competitive division.

Falcons - Bijan Robinson, Running Back (By Lee Wakefield)

In an offseason where running backs are struggling to get paid, Bijan Robinson may be the most transcendent first-year player we have in the league. The Texas product was always box office in college and in Arthur Smith’s run-heavy Falcons offense, Robinson is going to have so many opportunities to make a huge difference. There are reasons why he is the favourite for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Feature Image Credit: Arrowhead Pride

Lee Wakefield