Looking Ahead to the 2023 NFL Free Agency Class


Yes, I know we are still in the midst of all of the 2022 NFL free agency madness. But before you know it, we will be talking about the free agent class for 2023. And for anyone in dynasty leagues, keeping tabs on the upcoming free agents is legitimately something that you need to be doing.

So let’s dive into a super early preview at some of the top names that could become free agents this time next year. 


Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

After a dynamic first two seasons in the NFL, Saquon Barkley has slowed down over the last two years. Injuries have played a huge factor, as he’s played just 15 games during that span. He did play 13 games in 2021, but the production wasn’t there, as Barkley averaged under four yards per carry, while breaking a tackle every 40.5 rushes. Barkley only averaged 10.3 PPR fantasy points per game and after it appeared he’d be a consensus top-five running back for years to come, there are suddenly many question marks. So much to the point that there have even been plenty of trade rumors and regardless of whether he is traded, Barkley is set to hit free agency in 2023. While his efficiency has fallen off over the last two years, the situation certainly isn’t great, as the Giants have one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Meanwhile, the offense has been below average with Daniel Jones at the helm. In 2021, the Giants ranked 30th in yards per drive (26.8), 32nd in points per drive (1.36), 26th in plays per drive (5.89) and first in turnovers per drive (.164). I still believe Barkley is an elite talent at the running back position and perhaps a change of scenery could help him return to top-five fantasy status.

Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks

We have been waiting for Rashaad Penny to show consistent signs at the NFL level, and while he once again missed time in 2021, he finally reminded the Seahawks why they used a first-round selection on him in 2018. From Week 14 on last year, Penny led the NFL in rushing yards (671), rushing touchdowns (6), 100-yard games (4), yards per attempt (7.29), yards after contact per attempt (5.27) and fantasy points (110.2). Chris Carson obviously was inactive during that stretch — both Carson and Penny are back in Seattle, both the Seahawks would be wise to give Penny a long look, especially after re-signing him. Seattle was already one of the most run-heavy teams in football with Russell Wilson at quarterback so that shouldn’t change now that he is gone. Penny is on a one-year deal, while Carson is also set to hit free agency in 2023. If he can stay healthy and productive this season, there is a good chance Penny is the clear lead back in Seattle (or elsewhere) in 2023.

Kareem Hunt, RB, Cleveland Browns

Kareem Hunt has spent the last three seasons as the backup to Nick Chubb in Cleveland. During that span, the veteran has averaged right around 12 touches per game. But in five games with Chubb inactive, Hunt has averaged right around 13 PPR points and about 18 touches per game. We know he has back-end RB1 upside in fantasy when given the full workload in an offense, and it’ll be interesting to see what team he is playing for come 2023.


Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans

Brandin Cooks opened his career in some elite offenses, catching passes from Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Jared Goff (when he was in full Sean McVay peak) and Deshaun Watson from 2014 to 2020. In 2021, he played with rookie Davis Mills for most of the season, but Cooks remained productive, hauling in 90 balls for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns. Cooks was the focal point of the Texans offense, sporting a 27% target share (a top-10 number in football) while seeing double-digit targets in seven different contests. Cooks saw at least 30% of Houston’s targets in seven games, too. As a veteran on a rebuilding team, Cooks could easily be traded, but if he isn’t, he is more than likely a candidate to sign with a contender during the offseason. It is unlikely he sees the same target share on many other teams, but the offense will certainly be better. It is a bit of a low-hanging fruit, but the Green Bay Packers make too much sense.

Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Commanders

Terry McLaurin is coming off a bit of a down year in 2021, finishing as the WR25 in PPR formats. Once again, poor quarterback play held McLaurin back, as he was a lot more boom/bust during his third NFL season. McLaurin posted four 100-yard games but was also held to 40 yards or fewer in five different games. There have been talks about McLaurin and Washington working on an extension, and it’ll be interesting to see how he does with a new quarterback in Carson Wentz. The opportunity should be there, as Wentz heavily targeted Michael Pittman in Indianapolis last season. Pittman saw the 10th-most contested targets last year (28), while McLaurin led the NFL with 47 such targets. Maybe he simply needs more uncontested targets because we know he can play at an elite level in this league. 

Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

On a per-route basis, Diontae Johnson has been one of the most targeted players in the NFL over the last two seasons. During that span, Johnson has ranked third and second among all wide receivers in first-read targets (147, 112). He was the clear top target for Ben Roethlisberger in the intermediate parts of the field over those two years. It’ll be interesting to see if new quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has different tendencies, though with JuJu Smith-Schuster gone, you’d still project a healthy target share for Johnson. He will be a free agent in 2023 and although Pittsburgh has apparently been working on a contract extension, nothing is set in stone. It was so promising to see Johnson produce strong numbers in one of the league’s worst passing offenses over the last few seasons.

A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

After showing elite promise during his first two seasons, A.J. Brown took a step back in year three — though injuries played a factor for him as well. You’d be hard-pressed to find five more talented wideouts in the game right now than Brown, but playing in a run-first offense has capped his upside a bit. His career-high in targets through three seasons is 106, and he’s only seen double-digit targets in five games. As long as Derrick Henry is in Tennessee, the philosophy of this Titans offense shouldn’t change, but because Brown is so good, he doesn’t need 10 targets per game to finish as a top-10 fantasy wideout. He’s been a top-five receiver in terms of yards after the catch per reception since entering the league. But if he were to land on a more pass-heavy team in 2023, Brown would have legitimate overall WR1 potential. 

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