Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals

Week 1 Year 1 Players To Watch

Week 1 of the NFL Season is finally here! We’ve been analyzing prospects, conjuring up our best player takes, and projecting/predicting how this season will unfold long enough. It’s time to wrap it up and enjoy the point-scoring season in its glory. With the season setting to get underway, and sports bettors itching for NFL action, I thought it would be beneficial to summarize and discuss some of the most exciting and important year-one players and narratives to watch as we head into Week 1 with so much excitement and uncertainty.  

Can Sean Tucker make an immediate impact and push Rachaad White as the starter? 

Sean Tucker was one of the better running back prospects in the 2023 draft class and was primed to be a mid-round/Day 2 pick before health concerns related to a rare heart condition effectively prevented him from realizing his dream in the NFL Draft. Fortunately for Tucker, teams understand aside from health concerns, he’s by all accounts an NFL-level talent at the running back position. From 2020 to 2021 he posted back-to-back 200+ carry, 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown seasons at Syracuse. He was also effective in the passing game adding over 200 yards through the air each of those two seasons. 

I dropped this quick video discussing three of the rookie running back prospects in March during prospect analysis season, before the news of a rare heart condition, and I said he has some of the best receiving skills in the class, is explosive, and reminds me of Austin Ekeler stylistically. Tucker has some work to do in terms of vision between the tackles but he still graded out at the top of the class from a film perspective for me. It remains to be seen if he can offer what coaches often say is the best ability, availability. If he can, I’d expect him to push Rachaad White and potentially surpass him on the depth chart. Despite health concerns, Tucker was a much better prospect and possesses a more well-rounded skill set. 

NFL: Preseason Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills

Can Evan Hull solidify himself as RB1 over Deon Jackson & Zack Moss in JT’s absence? 

Hull hasn’t quite captured the fantasy community in JT’s absence like I expected. I thought many would gravitate towards Hull like other fantasy darlings when the starter sits out or goes down to an injury. He’s still going in the middle of Round 4 in dynasty rookie drafts and Round 18 in dynasty start-ups with the likes of Jeff Wilson and Tyquan Thornton. Do we really value Deon Jackson and ZACK MOSS (whose name has constantly been repeated as someone to roster over the last few days – AS IF!) that much? I certainly don’t. 

I’m much higher than the consensus on Evan Hull and was not only impressed by his ability as a runner but also his pass-catching chops. Hull finished the 2022 season at Northwestern with 55 receptions for over 500 yards! Hull’s 5’11” 210 lbs. frame makes him a perfect pseudo-workhorse back in the event JT isn’t in the lineup for whatever reason. Here’s an Evan Hull film review from February on the DFF YouTube channel to give you an idea of what I saw on tape and why I like what I see.

Deon Jackson is a fine player but I’m interested to see if Evan Hull can supplant Jackson as the would-be starter, who I’m convinced is simply receiving the veteran nod in Week 1 over the rookie. Truthfully, I expect Hull to take over and become the full-time backup to JT when and if he returns. 

Is Puka Nacua a bust or can he make an impact with the Cooper Kupp Injury? 

Nacua had an up-and-down collegiate career with only one standout season in 2021 at BYU after transferring from Washington. He posted 805 yards and six touchdowns on 43 receptions but just couldn’t stay healthy. He’s a raw talent with immense athleticism that has carried him much of the way. Nacua is 6 ‘1″ and 210 lbs., so he brings a strong frame on the boundary to the Rams wide receivers’ corps.

Head coach Sean McVay has praised Nacua constantly throughout training camp and the pre-season, even saying he expects him to be an immediate contributor.

While Nacua has all the opportunity ahead of him, he’ll still need to continue to improve his game, especially refining his route tree and technique. Here’s another short video discussing some good and some bad from his game tape! Whether or not Puka can make an immediate impact remains to be seen but is one of the big stories to watch in LA given the lack of draft capital invested in the young standout. Dynasty managers would be wise to be cautious with their own Puka Nacua investments, even with all the hype. 

Michael Wilson WR1 Hype and level of involvement…

Michael Wilson has been a very productive player on a per-catch basis, averaging 12.4 yards per reception over five years at Stanford. The issue is, the young man can’t stay healthy. He’s played just 14 games since 2020! It’s very hard to project a player’s potential when they’re rarely on the field. That, however, didn’t prevent the Arizona Cardinals from selecting him in the third round of the NFL Draft. That’s serious draft capital for a shot in the dark. That said, scouts rave about Michael Wilson’s potential and ability when healthy.  

Wilson measures in at 6’2” and 210 lbs., similar to Puka Nacua, but the word out of Arizona is that he could be slotted as the Cardinals’ starting outside wide receiver. While I hope for the best I’m left a bit skeptical that he can step into such an important role as a rookie with so little playing time over the last three years and a dreadful quarterback room in addition. That said, this is Dynasty, and if we read the tea leaves with what appears to be one of the more obvious tank jobs (I mean they are starting Josh Dobbs by choice), maybe we don’t even realize we are looking at Caleb Williams’s future WR1. Again, I am skeptical considering the uncertainty around Kyler Murray but can certainly entertain the thought as a real possibility given the state of the team. 

Is the Jaguars’ backfield split or is Etienne the workhorse? 

Last season Travis Etienne retained just under 50% of the rush attempt shares for Jacksonville with little-to-no competition. While Etienne is a phenomenal talent, the Jaguars felt it necessary to spend a third-round pick on another running back. It’s certainly true that teams often look for quality depth but Bigsby profiles as more than just depth. 

Bigsby is a former four-star recruit who imposed his will on SEC defenders for three seasons on a poorly run Auburn team. He’s proven in the preseason he can make an immediate impact both on the ground and through the air. I know the Etienne truthers don’t want to hear it but Tank Bigsby will be involved early and often, the question is just HOW often. 

Who will be the Bengals’ WR4 (WR3 next year potentially Charlie Jones/Andrei Iosivas)?

This one may not be as interesting to most but I’m a big Charlie Jones truther and I’m watching to see who can solidify themselves as the WR3 and take over the Tyler Boyd role. Both Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas are late-round dart throws who were largely unproductive until their final seasons in college. Charlie Jones is a more savvy football player with a more refined route tree and route technique while Iosivas is more physically and athletically gifted.

Both have a shot and Iosivas made some impressive plays in the preseason but word out of camp was that Jones had the edge and may not have dropped a single pass that went his direction. Jones finished his final year at Purdue with 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns on 110 receptions, absolutely dominating his competition. I planted my flag back in March and I’m sticking with my guy Charlie Jones!

Marvin Mims

Can Marvin Mims get going early?

With Jerry Jeudy nursing a hamstring injury, the burning question is can Marvin Mims get going early and replace some of that production that is inevitably lost with Jeudy sidelined? The odds could be in his favor. Mims is a quality prospect coming out of Oklahoma. He was wildly efficient downfield in his final season, proving as much with 20.1 yards per reception. He corralled 54 targets for 1,083 yards and six touchdowns. A very impressive season by any standards. 

I think it’s reasonable to expect Mims to be involved immediately considering his main competition is the ghost of Courtland Sutton who continues to haunt fantasy managers everywhere with mediocre fantasy production and injury-riddled seasons. Truthfully, this is Mims’ opportunity to carve out a role for himself, potentially even over Sutton when Jeudy returns. Here’s a Marvin Mims film review for those wanting to know more about Denver’s rookie wide receiver. 

Toney, Moore, or Rice – Which Chiefs WR stands out? 

The Chiefs have been looking for a replacement since Tyreek Hill packed his bags for Miami a few years ago but the search has been more challenging than most had hoped. 33-year-old Travis Kelce serves as the main target for the best quarterback in the league, but how long can that last? Kelce currently has a bone bruise in his knee stemming from a hyperextension and his availability for the season opener is in question. No doubt he’ll be back but the Chiefs need reinforcements, and fast. One of these wide receivers has to step up, right? 

I’d just as well draft MVS for the price but if I had to break this down, I’d expect Moore to take a leap and stand out above the rest. I think his skill set best fits the way Patrick Mahomes wants to approach the passing game. Sure, he wants to take his shots downfield to MVS but his air yards per attempt have slightly dipped over the last two seasons and I’d surmise this is due to leaning towards more of the short and intermediate passing attack where a player like Moore works best. 

There is no question Rashee Rice and Kadarius Toney are attempts to add explosiveness but these are no Tyreek Hills, not even close. I’m not very confident in Rice’s ability to consistently get open or catch the ball for that matter. Toney possesses the most upside, but I want more if I’m looking for a long-term, consistent, and potentially useful fantasy option in the Chiefs’ wide receiver room. 

Is Kendre Miller Legit?

With Alvin Kamara suspended we get to ask one of the most intriguing questions of the 2023 rookie class and potentially get an answer. Is Kendre Miller legit? I’m not so sure but I’m warming up to being wrong. Miller declared for the NFL after posting 1,399 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns for the TCU Hornfrogs. That’s an incredible stat line, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise as he was averaging more yards per attempt the season before but received just 83 attempts. 

There has been a lot of concern about his lack of work in the receiving game at TCU, but it appears to stem more from a scheme issue rather than an inability to get the job done. We already saw Miller dispel some of the concerns after catching a pass over his shoulder down the sideline from Jameis Winston in a preseason game so this all may have been a lot to do about nothing. 

If all Kendre Miller has to do to secure the RB2 role is outplay Jamaal Williams to prove himself, I’d bet he does it.

Will the Falcons’ skill positions be utilized effectively?

For years fantasy managers have been tortured by the play design and scheme that the Dark Lord Arthur Smith has masterminded but how much talent is too much talent to render the Dark Lord’s designs impractical? It feels like 2023 will be the year. Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London are just too good to ignore and not utilize effectively. 

Everyone put good vibes into the universe for a massive increase in pass volume, a 25%+ target share for Pitts and London, and at least 15% or more for Bijan. I’ll be watching with my fingers crossed but certainly not holding my breath… 

Dalton Kincaid

How involved is Dalton Kincaid? 

The Kincaid hive will have you believe he’s the next coming of Travis Kelce because he was drafted to Josh Allen’s team and Allen requested they draft him. How did that work out for Clyde Edwards-Helaire? Not great. I’d just caution against that logic when evaluating any player or prospect. That said, I do see the appeal to Kincaid but I need to see the involvement before I can buy in. We simply don’t see many rookie tight ends make immediate impacts and I don’t think Kincaid possesses all the traits that make a Kelce or Mark Andrews great. They are much more well-rounded players, while Kincaid is mainly a big slot receiver. Those are great but I know that the truly elite players also block, are in on play action, and play full-time. I don’t believe that is Kincaid and this is one player I will certainly have on my radar to see if he proves me wrong! 

The Rook or The Vet: Charbonnet or Walker?

Kenneth Walker is an incredibly talented running back, but I think that makes some blind to the fact that Zach Charbonnet is also an incredibly talented running back. Charbonnet was selected just 11 picks after Walker was, but in 2023, not 2022. Both running backs enter the NFL with second-round draft pedigree and exceptional rushing profiles. Walker amassed over 1,600 yards on the ground in his final season at Michigan State and just put up over 1,000 yards in his first year in the NFL. Walker is an absolute stud.

Well Zach Charbonnet is no slouch. He just posted 1,359 yards on the ground for UCLA, but that’s not all, he also caught 37 targets for 321 yards. Charbonnet is an exceptional pass-catcher, something Kenneth Walker does not excel in. There is a real chance Charbonnet will lead this backfield by the end of the year due to his dual-threat ability, quality pass-blocking, and reliability. This doesn’t mean Walker is useless, I think they will both be fantasy-relevant given Walker’s explosiveness on a per-touch basis. I just think Seattle will go with the more well-rounded back in the end when the talent level gap isn’t as wide as some may be led to believe. 

Thank you for reading. If you have any thoughts or questions and would like to discuss them, you can reach out to me on Twitter @WillieBeamanDFF

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