Gone is the antiquated offensive scheme held under previous offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who is replaced by the forward-leaning Todd Monken. Monken comes to the Ravens after serving as the offensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs over the previous three seasons. He also brings extensive NFL coaching experience, having previously served as the offensive coordinator for the Browns and Buccaneers. Monken’s offense is designed to simultaneous stress an opposing defense in two dimensions and create space for this play makers, aimed at generating splash plays both on the ground and through the air. That’s quite the contract in offensive philosophy when compared to the grind-it-out mentality held under Roman.
Furthermore, the team recently reached an agreement with quarterback Lamar Jackson, making him the highest paid player in NFL history on an average annual value basis, and they brought in wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. through free agency and drafted Zay Flowers. Lead back J.K. Dobbins also enters the season fully healthy for the first time since his rookie season in 2020.
The change in offensive philosophy under offensive coordinator Todd Monken should not be understated as it pertains to offensive expectations and upside from this offense. As in, it’s a good “problem” to have when the biggest knock you can make on expectations moving forward is that there are significant changes expected and it could take time for the full potential of the unit to be unlocked.
This will be the first time in the professional career of quarterback Lamar Jackson where he’ll be asked to lead an aggressive offense through the air. And not only that, but this will be the most talent Jackson will have amongst his primary skill position players.
The previous regime under Roman was designed to wear down an opposing defense over time through elevated rush rates, a scheme that more managed the abilities of Lamar Jackson as opposed to maximizing them. Todd Monken is the polar opposite as far as offensive scheme goes. Monken’s offense aims to put consistent pressure on an opposing defense in multiple dimensions, resulting in the potential to get the ball to his play makers in space in addition to the ability to attack relentlessly downfield. Now add in the dynamic abilities and skill up and down the offensive roster and the upside from this new-look offense is tantalizing.
Furthermore, running back J.K. Dobbins finally gets an offensive scheme that should maximize his abilities off the edge through a dynamic run-blocking scheme as opposed to a more straight-ahead design held under former offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Dobbins’ vision and decisive, one-cut running style should be allowed to flourish in the new offense.
The additions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers continues to highlight the expected change in offensive philosophy, two pass-catchers that excel with the ball in their hands. Now consider the return to health of Rashod Bateman and the elite abilities of tight end Mark Andrews and there is a lot to be excited about for this unit moving forward.
All four primary pass-catchers possess the talent, speed, and abilities to stretch an opposing defense both vertically and horizontally, which should lead to many more opportunities for splash plays from this unit in 2023. Any dip in expected volume introduced through the addition of target competition is likely to be made up for by the expected increase in overall pass volume from this offense, meaning tight end Mark Andrews’ projected volume numbers should remain elite. Continue to draft him as the second tight end off the board with confidence.
We’ve continued to preach the necessity for mobile quarterbacks to unlock their fantasy upside through the air, something the change in offensive philosophy should facilitate for Lamar Jackson in 2023. He should be considered a locked-in, top-five quarterback for fantasy purposes moving forward.
-Todd Monken’s new-age offense is going to do wonders for Lamar Jackson and the rest of the Ravens offense.
-Lamar Jackson has a legitimate shot in this offense to reclaim his MVP honors from a couple of years back.
-Expect heightened rates of 11-personnel – some might think that hurts TE Mark Andrews’ upside; I am not one of those people.
-The WR pecking order appears to be Rashod Bateman, Zay Flowers, then Odell Beckham Jr.
-RB J.K. Dobbins reported to camp on August 15 and is looking like one of the better values on the board from this offense.
The Bengals return the bulk of their offense after finishing the previous two seasons ranked seventh and ninth in points per game, respectively. The biggest changes for the offense heading into 2023 are the additions of left tackle Orlando Brown and tight end Irv Smith, each of whom should be considered a significant upgrade at their respective positions. The offensive core of quarterback Joe Burrow, wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, and running back Joe Mixon have all played together for the previous three seasons, adding a level on continuity that is seemingly unmatched around the league. The Bengals (and the rest of the AFC North) get a solid break through the NFL schedule makers, with eight of their games in 2023 coming against AFC South and NFC West opponents, two divisions that should be considered amongst the weaker divisions in the league.
One of the more unheralded aspects of the bull case to be made for the Bengals entering 2022 is the departure of two of the better safeties in the league in Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, both of whom departed this offseason in free agency. The defense did add one of the better nickel corners through the addition of Mike Hilton, but the state of their secondary adds to a level of expected (or projected) aggression from their offense that should serve to bolster expected pass numbers this year. As in, it is possible the Bengals are involved in more shootouts when compared to the previous three seasons.
There honestly isn’t much of a case to be made for the bearish outcomes from this team in 2023 considering the continuity on offense and in coaching. The biggest knock on expectations moving forward is a relative lack of depth at the primary skill positions, but an injury to one of the primary contributors is likeliest to lead to additional concentration amongst the remaining starters as opposed to providing additional opportunity to one of the depth pieces.
The Bengals land smack-dab in the middle of the pack in strength of schedule for 2023, per Sharp Football Analysis. Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo enter their fifth season with the franchise while quarterback Joe Burrow enters his fourth professional season. All three seasons of Burrow’s career have been spent with the same group of primary skill position players and coaching staff, meaning the continuity on this offense is at one of the better places around the league. The only change in skill position players comes via tight end Irv Smith, who takes over the primary pass-catching tight end role for the departing Hayden Hurst.
Ja’Marr Chase has become one of the top alpha wide receivers in the league while Tee Higgins is one of the better X-style pass-catchers. Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon, while on the back nine of their respective careers in the league, are plus additions to the offense.
All of this comes together to form a bullish outlook for the Bengals in 2023, a team that once again has the pieces to compete for the AFC title. Joe Burrow should be considered a top five fantasy quarterback, Chase should be considered a top five fantasy wide receiver, and Tee Higgins and Joe Mixon should be considered in the conversation to push for top-12 marks at their respective positions. Most notably, Mixon’s current ADP feels entirely too low in early Best Ball Mania drafts. Mixon can currently be drafted in the late seventh and even early eighth rounds, a spot that adds a significantly biased cost versus upside profile, particularly considering backup running back Samaje Perine departed for Denver this offseason and the team’s only addition to the backfield came through a fifth-round selection in the NFL Draft (Chase Brown).
Not much change in personnel or coaching means we should have a fairly clear picture of what to expect from this offense as far as fantasy outlook goes for 2023.
-Nothing new or exhilarating to report out of Cincinnati other than the calf injury to QB Joe Burrow.
-The backup RB role behind Joe Mixon appears to still be open for the taking – my read is that the battle is currently between Chris Evans and Trayveon Williams.
The Browns doubled down on their commitment to quarterback Deshaun Watson and the trajectory of this franchise, trading for wide receiver Elijah Moore and drafting wide receiver Cedric Tillman in the third round of this year’s draft. Furthermore, the Browns sunk significant free agent capital into the defense and made a telling move in the hiring of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, all good signs for a franchise on an upward trajectory.
The free agent, trade, and draft moves the Browns made to this point in the offseason are solid fits for their expected offensive and defensive schemes. Amari Cooper remains a legitimate top-12 wide receiver from an individual talent perspective and should continue to excel in a hybrid “X” role, while Donovan Peoples-Jones remains a serviceable “Z” and Elijah Moore was brought in to fill a hybrid “Y” role. Tight end David Njoku has developed into one of the better all-around tight ends in the league and Nick Chubb remains one of the better pure rushers. Add in the dynamic abilities of quarterback Deshaun Watson and this offense has a lot of promise moving forward.
It is difficult to ignore just how poorly Deshaun Watson performed in 2022 after being reinstated by the league following a suspension stemming from violations of the league’s personal conduct policy while with the Texans organization. Head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt also seemed to be surprised by his introduction to the offense as opposed to prepared, altering the scheme and design only minimally. Maybe it was a case of established habit patterns with Jacoby Brissett under center? Whatever the case, I was left feeling underwhelmed by the transition.
The Browns managed just 21.2 points per game in 2022 after scoring just 20.5 points per game in 2021 under the same coaching staff but, as we’ll cover below, the organization has made significant additions to their team this offseason.
Even with all the positives brought up about this offense above, this unit is likely to go as Deshaun Watson goes. The good news there is that he has a proven track record of success at the NFL level and is now a year removed from the off-field issues that plagued the previous two years of his personal life. Regardless of how you feel about Deshaun Watson the person, his upside is undeniable on the football field.
The removal of Kareem Hunt from the backfield (remains unsigned) thins out the running back depth chart significantly. It remains to be seen how the Browns choose to address the situation, but as things currently stand Nick Chubb is set up to be a borderline workhorse in the second year of his three-year extension with the club. The Browns have a potential out built into his contract that comes with only $4 million in dead cap money following the 2023 season, meaning there is the potential for the team to simply ride him heavily for the coming year. I currently have Chubb ranked at RB7 in half-PPR for 2023.
The player I’m most excited about from this offense is Amari Cooper, who stands to benefit heavily from an increase in offensive efficiency as he is a player through which a solid portion of the offense should flow. With a full offseason program to develop chemistry with Watson, the sky is the figurative limit for the nine-year NFL veteran.
The fantasy expectation for tight end David Njoku mirrors that of Cooper. Njoku’s underlying metrics are a screaming value as player that was in a route at the 10th highest clip in 2022, commanded top-12 marks in both team target market share and targets per route run rate, and was on the field at a massive 83.5% clip as he’s made strides in run-blocking technique. An increase to overall offensive efficiency should benefit the heavy red zone role expected of Njoku moving forward (second most red zone targets of all tight ends in 2022 at 20).
Peoples-Jones and Moore are likely to return value in a Best Ball format via spike week potential in their respective roles for this unit in 2023. I’m less concerned with the addition of Tillman than the field is likely to be, which is reflected by DPJ’s currently depressed ADP.
In all, an upward trajectory on both sides of the ball is likely to lead to increased time of possession for the Browns in 2023 when compared to seasons past, which should benefit Chubb, Cooper, and Njoku directly while also making small contributions to the spike week potential of both Elijah Moore and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Watson also possesses a nice cost versus upside profile at his current QB9 cost.
-Not much to update with the Browns as we’ve seen very little of the starters on either side of the ball up to this point.
I mean, maybe the additions of Allen Robinson and Darnell Washington help relieve some of the pressure this offense faced last season after the departure of Ben Roethlisberger following the 2021 season? Nah, probably not. To be blunt, I don’t have much in the way of bull cases to be made regarding the Steelers. As we’ll cover below in the bear case section, this offense is largely limited by the presence of offensive coordinator Matt Canada and his antiquated play calling tendencies and scheme.
The bull case for individual players on this offense last offseason was a product of volume, primarily through running back Najee Harris and wide receiver Diontae Johnson. While no true competition for volume was added for those two, their respective touchdown expectations remain quite low.
There were two offensive coordinators in this division I was hoping to see changed in 2023 – Greg Roman in Baltimore (check) and Matt Canada in Pittsburgh (oof size, massive). So, whereas three teams in the division are continuing an upward trajectory, the Steelers remain transfixed in a perpetual state of mediocrity introduced following the ben Roethlisberger era. The Steelers averaged just 18.1 points per game in 2022 after putting up just 20.2 per game in 2021, and their big ideas to fix their issues were to bring in wide receiver Allen Robinson via salary dump trade and draft an athletic pass-catching tight end.
The identity of this team remains rooted in their defense, but the problem recently is the lack of offensive success has placed undue stresses on the defense which have been difficult to overcome. Unless things drastically change with respect to situational play calling tendencies and offensive scheme, it is highly likely we see another season of frustratingly poor efficiency and muted fantasy success.
The fantasy expectation for the Steelers starts (and most likely stops) with their offensive coordinator and his antiquated methodologies. Canada’s run-heavy, inside zone offense remains predictable, lacking the situational wherewithal to put any needed stress on an opposing defense, which routinely saw this team facing long down and distance to go situations. Then add in a rookie quarterback and we were left with an offense that ranked 19th in offensive drive success rate, 23rd in points per drive, and 22nd in net points per drive in 2022. As alluded to above, the addition of wide receiver Allen Robinson is not the fix to this static mentality.
As in, there is a reason wide receiver Diontae Johnson set an NFL record for the most targets without a touchdown in 2022, and those scoring woes are largely unlikely to change by the team simply moving on from Chase Claypool at the midpoint in the 2022 season and replacing him with aging veteran Allen Robinson. It’s honestly a shame as Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, and George Pickens are tasked with overcoming deficiencies in offensive design and philosophy in addition to suboptimal quarterback play in order to return fantasy utility.
Speaking of Najee Harris nothing changed in the backfield nor with the offensive play caller, so expect another season of poor efficiency and a fantasy profile dependent on volume. One of the biggest issues with that profile is that his reception totals almost got cut in half in 2022 with the change at quarterback. His current fourth round ADP is about right for his fantasy expectations in 2023.
Similarly, the fantasy expectations for Diontae Johnson and George Pickens remain relatively static, with Johnson the better bet to see value aided by volume and Pickens largely reliant on his own contested catch skills. As such, Pickens should see a higher rate of spike weeks with his big play abilities whereas Johnson should be the more consistent producer. Allen Robinson has not returned fantasy relevance since 2020 and has just one professional season with more than seven touchdowns, a mark he is highly unlikely to eclipse in Pittsburgh.
One of the fantasy darlings from this team in 2022 was tight end Pat Freiermuth, but the team added significant competition in the form of athletic monster Darnell Washington via the draft. Freiermuth is likely to remain the preferred pass-catching option at the position but the addition of Washington is a legitimate knock to his fantasy expectation considering the presence of preferred blocking tight end Zach Gentry.
In all, there isn’t a ton to get overly excited about from this offense through the lens of fantasy upside, and we’re currently not getting much of a discount in the way of ADP in early Best Ball drafts. In other words, there isn’t a lot of cost considered upside from any member of this unit
-Diontae Johnson is that dude for the Steelers – he should once again garner an elite target market share in 2023.
-Jaylen Warren could encroach on Najee Harris’ opportunities more than we initially thought, with most indications pointing to a more merit-based snap dispersal.
-Matt Canada’s offense looks as anemic as ever, lacking any forward-thinking concepts to get his players in the best possible position to leverage their skill sets. It’ll be up to primary skill players to create their own upside here.