Scott Engel is in his 12th year as the official Fantasy Football writer and analyst for Seahawks.com. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 13-time nominee. You can find more of his fantasy football analysis at The Game Day and on RotoBaller.com.
When drafting in fantasy football leagues, we all have certain players that are preferred targets. Who we aim to take will be based on a variety of factors, including 2022 performances and outlooks for the upcoming season based on what we read and hear. Experienced fantasy players will also have their own unique perspectives on many potential draft choices.
It is not possible to land every player that is wanted in a fantasy football draft, yet we do have guys that are certainly most desired if we can get them. I always recommend queueing up groups of players, rather than hoping to land specific draft targets, because you will frequently see other people in your league eye the same possible picks. That said, there are always players that we will be very satisfied to come away with if they are available at our draft slots.
Having participated in several drafts already, here are some of my favorite players that I have been able to draft in at least a few leagues or expert mock drafts. You will also find more of my targeted players in the later rounds in our listing of the top fantasy football sleepers for the 2023 season.
Fantasy Football Draft Board Standouts: 12 Players To Target in 2023
Saquon Barkley, Giants: The Giants superstar regained his best form last season, rushing for a career-high 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns. A versatile standout, he finished fifth in fantasy points per game (284) and average points per game (17.8) at running back in points per reception formats. The New York offense will be improved this season, potentially opening up more running room for Barkley and continued opportunities to finish off scoring drives with frequent TD runs. The 26-year-old heads into the 2023 campaign coming off the momentum of a good season while he is determined to continue proving that he is one of the premier RBs in the NFL.
I have Barkley ranked No. 3 at RB, yet you can still get him as a late first-rounder or early second-rounder to pair with a top wide receiver with your first two picks to start a draft.
Jahymr Gibbs, Lions: Bijan Robinson is the most coveted rookie RB in fantasy football this season, but you will have to draft him in the first round, often as a top 4 RB. The latest Average Draft Position reports from fantasypros.com indicate that Gibbs is the 15th RB off the board at the end of the third round. The first-year Lion is a dual threat who displays impressive speed and receiving skills. He will be a key cog in a potent Detroit offense that should continue to improve this season, and expect Gibbs to make the most of his touches even while working in a timeshare. Hedoes have legitimate back-end fantasy RB1 promise.
Alexander Mattison, Vikings: Once regarded as one of the best No. 2 RBs in the NFL, Mattison is now set to be the unquestioned featured back for the Vikings. When a team's front office clears the way for a player to be the definite starter, I do take that as a signal that there is potential for a good season ahead. Per StatMuse, Mattison has rushed for 90-plus yards in four of six career starts with five TDs from scrimmage. With regular work, he should get into a comfortable rhythm as a lead runner for an offense that ranked seventh in the league last season.
Mattison will likely see much of the RB workload for Minnesota and function as a consistent TD threat. He is a solid pick as the 22nd RB off the board, according to the latest ADP reports.
Zach Charbonnet, Seahawks: He looks the part of an ideal complement to Kenneth Walker III in the Seahawks' backfield. While Walker is an explosive runner who can score from anywhere on the field, the rookie has already shown off his physical style in the preseason, battling for extra yards. The 2023 second-round pick in the NFL Draft is also a very promising pass-catcher, which boosts his fantasy appeal. He should get enough TD opportunities and receptions to be worthy of regular fantasy flex consideration. If Charbonnet is needed to see an expanded role at any point, his fantasy value will leap from the current higher-end RB4 status.
Tyreek Hill, Dolphins: Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase are naturally the first two wide receivers picked in most drafts. Yet Hill could outscore every player at his position this season if Tua Tagovailoa plays most or all of the schedule. Last season, Hill was second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,710) and fantasy points at WR (341.2). A move to Miami last year did not bump down Hill from elite status and you should take him as early as fifth overall.
Garrett Wilson, Jets: A key to success in any fantasy sport is getting the best possible value out of any pick. Wilson is being drafted as the 10th WR off the board according to the latest ADP reports, yet he could finish as a top 5 guy in 2023. Wilson finished with 1,103 receivingyards as a rookie and now gets to work with Aaron Rodgers. Even though defenses will be well aware that Wilson is easily the top target in the New York passing game, expect him to see a hefty amount of receiving volume and function as an often unstoppable force, as Davante Adams did with Rodgers in Green Bay,
Brandin Cooks, Cowboys: He is being picked as the No. 38 WR per the most recent ADPs, which pinpoints the new Cowboy as a very good fantasy WR3 value. Cooks ideally fills a need that Dallas had at its No. 2 WR spot. He had 1,000-plus yards in two of the past three seasons, and Cooks should be targeted consistently by Dak Prescott as CeeDee Lamb commands much defensive attention.
Elijah Moore, Browns: A move to Cleveland can lead to a breakout campaign from Moore in 2023. He flashed his capabilities as a rookie in 2021, catching five TD passes in 11 games. The Browns' passing game should be improved this year, as DeShaun Watson will not have his schedule interrupted after a full preseason. Moore has drawn comparisons to former Rams great Torry Holt, and he can emerge as an exciting receiving partner for Amari Cooper.
Justin Fields, Bears: Once the "big three" QBs (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts) are taken, Fields is my top target at the position. Last season, he rushed for 1,143 rushing yards, and no other QB came close to that number. The Bears will continue to let Fields shine as a runner and the addition of D.J. Moore allows his other top pass-catchers to operate in more comfortable roles.
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins: He is being drafted just outside the top 10 at QB, but Tagovailoa arguably has the best WR duo in the league and he is an ideal fit for Miami's offensive system. If you pass on a top-10 QB, then the Dolphins' passer is worthy of prime consideration. Last season, he led the NFL in yards per attempt (8.9) and he ranked sixth in fantasy points per game after the first 10 weeks (20.1). We have not seen the best possible fantasy production out of Tagovailoa just yet.
Darren Waller, Giants: The Giants' goal in the offseason was to upgrade the pass-catching crew for Daniel Jones. Waller was the top acquisition to address the needs, and he will be the No. 1 target for his new QB. Waller may indeed recapture his Pro Bowl form of 2020 this season.
Dalton Schultz, Texans: The former Cowboy was often a reliable option for Prescott on key passing downs. Houston rookie C.J. Stroud may take to Schultz as one of his top targets. The sixth-year TE was targeted 89-plus times in each of the past three seasons, and he ranked sixth in targets at TE in 2022. Look for him to be a featured pass-catcher for Stroud as he adjusts to the NFL game.
For more fantasy football analysis from Scott Engel, visit The Game Day during the fantasy football preseason.
Seahawks get back to practice on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023 leading up to preseason game two against the Dallas Cowboys.