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The Biggest Pre-/Post-Bye Changes in Fantasy Football 2023

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There are any number of factors that can change a player’s usage — and therefore his fantasy output — over the course of an NFL season. An injury, a good matchup, the position of the moon and stars, it all comes into play.

But the single biggest inflection point of any NFL team’s season is the bye week. Teams make changes every week, but the bye is the key time they can really step back, take a breath and adjust strategies in a major way. As such, some players see big changes in their output before and after their bye each year.

 

Today, I’m looking at those players from 2023. Who rose by the most after the bye? Who fell? And what does it mean for 2024? (Players had to play at least four games on each side of the bye to qualify.)

2023 Fantasy Football Post-Bye Risers

Isaiah Likely, TE, Baltimore Ravens

PPR points per game before the bye: 2.2
PPR points per game after the bye: 15.0
Change: +596.8%

The Ravens’ bye was in Week 13. Mark Andrews got injured in Week 11. So obviously, Isaiah Likely’s spike in performance was more a product of Andrews going down than some grand strategic change during their week off. It does make me curious if Likely has shown enough to impede on Andrews’ upside going forward, though. Not “Andrews is a backup”-level, but more like “Andrews is a mid-range TE1”-level.

Ty Chandler, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Before: 3.4
After: 12.0
Change: +249.8%

Devin Singletary, RB, Houston Texans

Before: 4.6
After: 12.7
Change: +178.1%

Two running backs who came on strong down the stretch after unseating more known but disappointing starters. Devin Singletary rode his hot stretch to close 2023 into a new contract and a likely starting gig in New York, pending what the Giants do in the draft. Ty Chandler looked to be in line to be the starter in Minnesota before the team signed Aaron Jones, so his hot stretch looks less likely to roll over.

David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns

Before: 7.0
After: 14.5
Change: +107.9%

<img src="https://d2y4ihze0bzr5g.cloudfront.net/source/2020/David_Njoku_vs_Ravens.jpg" alt="

How much of David Njoku’s end-of-season hot streak was the product of Joe Flacco taking over at quarterback? I guess we’ll find out when the 2024 season gets going. But counting the postseason, Njoku has played 97 career games, and five of his top 13 games by PPR points came after Flacco started. His situation is intriguing heading into 2024.

Darius Slayton, WR, New York Giants

Before: 6.8
After: 13.9
Change: +104.7%

This felt like Year 27 of the Giants going through an offseason of maybe getting rid of Darius Slayton and at least wanting to shove him to the side in favor of new arrivals, only for Slayton to be the last man standing and producing late in the season. And pending what they do in the draft, we could be heading into Year 28.

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Before: 14.9
After: 28.5
Change: +90.9%

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Before: 14.0
After: 23.5
Change: +68.6%

Through Week 6, CeeDee Lamb was the WR17, topping out at 14.3 PPR points in a game. Dak Prescott was QB19 and had only topped 20 points once. They both led their positions after the bye, with Prescott topping the quarterback board by 16.8 points over Josh Allen and Lamb obliterating the field, putting up 212.6 points after the bye and beating WR2 Amon-Ra St. Brown by 72.8 points. Part of it was the Cowboys pivoting away from the run (48.3% run percentage before the bye, 40.6% after). But it was also just a dedication to their WR1 — per the FTN Fantasy player utilization tool, Lamb went from 7.0 targets per game at a 22.0% target share before the bye to 12.6 per game at 33.6% after. Using your best player as much as possible. Just so crazy it might work.

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2023 Fantasy Football Post-Bye Fallers

Tutu Atwell, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Before: 10.3
After: 2.8
Change: -73.0%

It’s easy to forget now, but through Week 3 last season, the Rams had two top-14 fantasy receivers. Puka Nacua, of course, was the headline, sitting at WR6. But Tutu Atwell was off to a great start as well, sitting at WR14 with at least 15 points in all three games. And then he didn’t reach that number again the rest of the season. Atwell had at least 8 targets in all four games with Cooper Kupp out to start the season, and then he didn’t top 7 again the rest of the season. Nacua exploded, Kupp returned and ultimately Demarcus Robinson thrived down the stretch, rendering Atwell irrelevant.

Sam Howell, QB, Washington Commanders

Before: 18.2
After: 5.2
Change: -71.7%

Jahan Dotson, WR, Washington Commanders

Before: 8.8
After: 2.8
Change: -68.6%

<img src="https://d2y4ihze0bzr5g.cloudfront.net/source/2020/Jahan_Dotson.jpg" alt="

The Commanders had a late bye, Week 14. Over the final month after the bye, Jahan Dotson’s combined line was 5 receptions on 9 targets for 60 yards, for 11 total PPR points over four games. Meanwhile, Sam Howell was the QB4 over the first 13 weeks of the year. After the bye, he was the QB34, despite starting all four games. Howell has been shuttled off to a backup role in Seattle, but Dotson is set up to be the WR2 in 2024 with a first-round rookie throwing him the ball. Dotson’s shine is diminished after a disappointing Year 2, but the door isn’t even close to closed yet.

Adam Thielen, WR, Carolina Panthers

Before: 21.1
After: 9.5
Change: -54.9%

Adam Thielen came out like gangbusters as a 33-year-old in his first year in Carolina. He had three 100-yard games in six tries before the Panthers’ Week 7 bye and scored 4 touchdowns, the WR6 over the first six weeks of the season. After the bye, he didn’t reach 100 yards in a game again the rest of the season and scored exactly 0 more touchdowns, the WR57 from Week 8 to the end of the year. How much of that was slowing down with age vs. how much was defenses realizing he was the only weapon the Panthers had is a fair debate, but with Diontae Johnson already added and likely more receivers due over the course of the offseason, Thielen isn’t likely to sniff his pre-bye production again either way.

A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Before: 22.6
After: 10.8
Change: -52.4%

Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills

Before: 19.0
After: 9.2
Change: -51.7%

Two star receivers (A.J. Brown went into his bye as the fantasy WR2, Stefon Diggs entered his as the WR5) who ended the season in tremendous funks (Brown was WR45 after his bye, Diggs WR56 after his) as their teams disappointed in the postseason. Now, Brown is being treated like he’s still as elite as ever, while there are questions whether Diggs will leave Buffalo and whether he’s past his prime. To be fair, Diggs courts some of the drama himself, and he is 30, while Brown is 26 and hasn’t been as dramatic, but still, the difference between the two is interesting. 

Honorable Mention

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Before: 15.6
After: 15.6
Change: N/A

Among players with at least 100 PPR points in 2023 and four-plus games on each side of the bye, only Brandon Aiyuk managed the exact same per-game average both before and after the bye. And considering his four season-long finishes in his career have been WR35, WR35, WR15 and WR14, this is a guy who likes consistency. Meaningful? Probably not. Fun? Sure.

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