The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:
2023 Fantasy Football Season

By James Collier

While real life football is just heating up with the playoffs almost underway and the offseason coaching carousel in full swing, for many of us life just isn’t the same if we aren’t sweating our fantasy football matchups. But now is the perfect time for us to reflect on the season that was and see if there is anything we can learn for 2024 because it’s never too early to start preparing for next season!

After a few weeks off, I’m back with a 2023 Regular Season edition of The Good, The Bad Sad and The Ugly.

The Good

“League Winners”

“This player is going to be a league winner” is a phrase used a little too often in fantasy football but this year there were a few candidates that did fit the bill. 

Firstly, and most obviously is CeeDee Lamb. Not only was he the WR1 for the year, but he put up 40.2 PPR points in his 227 yard outing against the Lions in Week 17. If you made it to the finals with Lamb on your roster you would have found it difficult not to walk away with a ring.

The same can be said for the top scoring running back in Week 17, Kyren Williams. Despite missing four games through injury, he finished inside the top five fantasy running backs, not bad for a waiver wire pickup. The Rams were one of the NFL’s biggest surprise packages this season and Williams was a big part of that.

Sophomore Running Backs

The 2022 draft class was dominant in fantasy football this year, particularly at running back with nine of the top 24 PPR scorers at the position being second year backs. All but one of them were new entrants to the top 24, with only Kenneth Walker managing it as a rookie.

2022 PPR Rank
2023 PPR Rank
Breece Hall
Kyren Williams
Rachaad White
James Cook
Isiah Pacheco
Jerome Ford
Kenneth Walker
Jaylen Warren
Brian Robinson

Could we possibly see some of 2023’s rookies make similar leaps next season? The following rookie running backs all finished outside the top 24 in 2023, I’ve listed them in order of how good of a chance I think they have of breaking into it in their second years. 

  • Tyjae Spears: Titans lead back with a new head coach and no Derrick Henry?
  • Roschon Johnson: No D’Onta Foreman in 2024 and changing coming on offense. 
  • Jaleel McLaughlin: By far the most efficient Broncos back in 2023. 
  • Chase Brown: Will the Bengals move on from Joe Mixon?
  • Kendre Miller: Finally injury free and Kamara will be 29 when next season starts. 
  • Zach Charbonnet: Could he be favoured by a new head coach?
  • Keaton Mitchell: Flashed as a rookie but injured ACL in Week 15. 
  • Emari Demercado: Pushed down the depth chart after Michael Carter signing. 

Bonus mention – no more Arthur Smith

It’s hard to celebrate all that is good in the fantasy football world without a mention of 2023’s pantomime villain exiting the stage. Arthur Smith never managed to make the most of the Falcons offensive weapons and there will be refreshed optimism for Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts’ fantasy outlooks under a new coach. As well as the new coach, a lot will hinge on who is the starting quarterback for Atlanta come September.

The Sad - End of Eras?

Austin Ekeler

Ekeler was the second running back off the board in most drafts this season thanks to three top four fantasy finishes in the last four years. During the offseason he was publicly upset with the Chargers for not giving him an improved deal, a decision that turned out to be one of their rare wins over the last 12 months. 

His average of 13.3 points per game was down almost 10 on his league leading mark of 22.7 a season ago. While his fantasy production has never really been reliant on his efficiency as a runner, he posted a career low 3.5 yards per carry. And more worryingly his 3.6 receptions per game was his lowest since 2018, despite the Chargers suffering significant injuries to their receivers. 

With a weak incoming running back class, Ekeler likely finds himself on a new team with a pass catching role next season. But his days as an every week fantasy starter are over.

Derrick Henry

If you drafted Derrick Henry in the second round of a 2023 draft, you probably aren’t too disappointed with his RB10 finish. Sure, he’s not at his peak anymore but we still saw some signs of vintage Derrick Henry this year – just ask the Jaguars.

The sad part is that he is leaving the Titans after the “eight greatest years” of his life. He just turned 30 but he will have his fair share of suitors in the offseason and if he desires he should be able to land himself with a significant share of a backfield split on a “contending” team. His continued relevance as a fantasy asset will be highly dependant on his landing spot.

Travis Kelce

Unlike Henry, the standards for Travis Kelce have been so high that those who drafted him in 2023 will be highly disappointed with his TE2 finish. Kelce’s season completely tailed off after week 8, with him averaging just 10.5 points per game across the second half of his season. The Chiefs offense has just not clicked at all and on a personal level it’s the first time since 2015 that the tight end hasn’t managed to cross 1000 yards for the season. 

It will be easy to make an argument for five or even six tight ends to be drafted ahead of Kelce in 2024 drafts. 

The Ugly

League Losers

We’ve had our league winners but now it’s time to look at those players that killed our fantasy teams in 2023. And the answer is basically any wide receiver drafted inside the first round not named CeeDee Lamb. Every one of the other six receivers inside the top 12 in 2023 ADP has either missed significant time through injury or severely underperformed in the crunch time for our fantasy teams.

2023 WR ADP
2023 Final Rank
2023 Fantasy Playoff Rank
Justin Jefferson
WR1 (1st overall)
Ja'Marr Chase
WR2 (4th)
Tyreek Hill
WR3 (6th)
Stefon Diggs
WR4 (8th)
Cooper Kupp
WR5 (10th)
CeeDee Lamb
WR6 (11th)
Davante Adams
WR7 (12th)

Due to the high level of injuries suffered by this group, it’s nothing more than an outlier but it is a reminder that it is not only running backs that get injured!  

Bad Beats

The fantasy season ended almost two weeks ago now, so if, like me, you were on the receiving end of a heartbreaking championship loss, there has been a little time for the wounds to heal. 

But seriously, I won’t be getting over this defeat in a dynasty final until I win the league myself.

Feature image credit: Getty Images


Lead Fantasy Football Analyst

A Washington fan since the early 2010’s, James had no choice but to turn to fantasy football in search of happiness – and it wasn’t long until it became an obsession. You can follow him on Twitter @jamesc294.