Fantasy football is often a game dominated by younger players, and when we convene to draft, it’s often a race to the shiny new toys, the next big thing, the players who appear to be on the escalator.
Let’s build a fun team! Let’s market our fake team to investors! Let’s be buzzy! Let’s overuse exclamation points!
I won’t deny any of those perceived truths, but there’s also a time to consider the older guys, the reliable vets, the boring-but-steady names you already know. Allow me to present a few 2023 cases to you, and you can decide where it goes from here.
It’s time for the 2023 All-Boring Team. Take off that cardigan, put down that warm milk. No napping allowed.
Why He’s Boring: Chubb’s been around for a while, entering his sixth pro season. He’s never had more than 278 receiving yards in a season. The Browns have only made two playoff appearances in the 24 years since the franchise has been rebooted, so this is often a dead-zone team, a team of sad irrelevance.
Why He’s Exciting: Chubb is ready for a workload bump with Kareem Hunt departed. Deshaun Watson is also a lock to improve in his first full season with the team. Chubb’s Yahoo ADP sits around 10, so he’s surely not boring to everybody — maybe it’s a cheat sliding him into this column. But if you can land him in Round 2, which often happens, you’re looking at a possible gold mine.
Why He’s Boring: He’s not the alpha in his team’s passing game, that would be DK Metcalf. And he’s not the shiny new toy in the passing game, that would be Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Lockett enters his age-31 season, and, likely, he’s already had his peak season.
Why He’s Exciting: Lockett has been a consistent charter in the last five years: WR11, WR15, WR11, WR11, WR13. And he’s currently being drafted as the WR20 in Yahoo leagues (and much cheaper elsewhere). Can I interest you in a likely profit? Drafting players at their floor — and dreaming about their upside — is a lovely way to do business. And even with JSN aboard, the Seahawks’ passing tree looks deliciously narrow.
Why He’s Boring: Montgomery is a ground-and-pound guy, sitting on an ordinary 3.9 YPC for his career. His short-yardage success rate has been mediocre in recent years. The Lions added Montgomery but also drafted a splashy first-round rookie, Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs.
Why He’s Exciting: Detroit has one of the best offensive lines in the league — every list I’ve seen has this as a top-five group — and OC Ben Johnson is a rising star. The 2022 Lions preferred to use Jamaal Williams as the puncher from in close, and Montgomery will likely inherit that role. Even if Monty isn’t a special back, this setup can offer buoyancy. A double-digit touchdown season is likely, and that sounds nifty at Yahoo ADP, 74.5.
Why He’s Boring: Just two years removed from a championship, the Rams appear skidding towards a teardown and rebuild. Matthew Stafford could be in his last season. The offensive line could be a mess. Even the Rams called themselves boring in the offseason.
Why He’s Exciting: Akers came back from injury and established himself over the final third of last season, rolling up 512 rushing yards (4.9 a carry) and six touchdowns. That graded as the fantasy RB3 for that cumulative period. The Rams must figure Akers for a big workload this year because the depth chart after him is unimpressive (Kyren Williams, Zach Evans, Royce Freeman). Volume is still gigantically important at the running back position.
Why They’re Boring: They’re all getting up there in age; Rodgers enters his age-40 season, Cousins the age-35 year, Smith the age-33 campaign. Cousins and Rodgers rarely run, and Smith is resourceful at best in that area. Cousins lacks signature moments, still stuck on one playoff win. Smith is the definition of a journeyman, and a surprisingly useful Immaculate Grid answer (I barely remember him on the Chargers or Giants).
Why He’s Exciting: Rodgers gets to throw to Garrett Wilson now (Wilson to the moon), and can likely win the Packers breakup in his 40s, much like Tom Brady did with his Patriots divorce. An upgrade in weapons, a change of scenery at the right time, it can be wonderful.
Smith is working with three terrific targets, and I don’t view his pumpkin risk as particularly high. If you’re thinking of value at quarterback, I’ll support any of these choices.
Why He’s Boring: Given that Jeudy was a first-round pick, a three-year haul of 157-2,295-9 is a little underwhelming. Colleague Matt Harmon is one of the best wide receiver analysts around, and his grades haven’t been favorable on Jeudy. Russell Wilson‘s play was a mess last year, too.
Why He’s Exciting: Perhaps new coach Sean Payton can find a way to fix Wilson. And Jeudy was really cooking with Wilson down the stretch last year, rolling up 37-523-3 over the last six weeks. The Broncos did add impressive rookie WR Marvin Mims to the mix — they traded up to draft him — but the wide receiver room has also lost KJ Hamler and Tim Patrick. This looks like a narrow tree.
Perhaps it’s the Harmon Effect, but Jeudy’s Yahoo ADP is in the mid-60s, which is anywhere from 1-3 rounds cheaper than his cost elsewhere. You’re getting a huge profit opportunity here. I’ll grab it when I can.
Why He’s Boring: He only scored two touchdowns last year, as the Steelers at times looked like they were running a mid-70s offense. Sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett still isn’t a sure thing.
Why He’s Exciting: Freiermuth ranked third in slot production among tight ends last year, and that’s where the cheddar is. Pickett’s play also picked up in the final third of the season. The Steelers’ touchdown distribution will likely bounce back to normal levels, and Freiermuth might be ready to reclaim the seven spikes he had as a rookie.
He’s not necessarily a league-winning pick, but there’s plenty of room for value here. (And another mention of my colleague Harmon; he lists Freiermuth as his target tight end for the 2023 draft season.)