Fantasy football: Justin Fields, Aaron Jones, A.J. Brown among 8 must-draft players

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is being selected until after the sixth round in many fantasy football drafts. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI
1 of 5 | Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields is being selected until after the sixth round in many fantasy football drafts. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Luck isn't the only factor in obtaining fantasy football glory, you also can give yourself an advantage by selecting players who you believe have the easiest path to success. Justin Fields, Aaron Jones and A.J. Brown lead my list of eight must-draft players for the 2023 campaign.

I formed my opinion on must-draft players by evaluating opposing defenses and considering average draft position, expected production, injury history, expected role in offense and more.


My must-roster players also can be selected after the Top 10 in most drafts, meaning they will likely be available for your squad.

My annual Top 200 and individual rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends also are available for your preparation. These rankings will be updated for injuries and other developments.

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields provides extra fantasy football value because of his running ability, giving you a weekly advantage on your opponents. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI

Justin Fields

Fields was among the most exciting players -- in real life and the fantasy world -- in 2022. The Chicago Bears quarterback finished the season with just 17 passing touchdowns over 15 starts, but also totaled 1,143 rushing yards and eight scores on the ground.

Fields' best stretch came in the second half of the season. He ran for a single-game record 178 yards and totaled three passing scores and a rushing touchdown in a Week 9 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The next week, he totaled two passing scores and ran for 147 yards and two scores against the Detroit Lions.

Fields averaged a little more than 150 passing yards, 1.4 passing scores and 95 rushing yards per game over his final 10 appearances.

The Bears made several additions to their offense over the off-season, including a trade for top-end wide receiver D.J. Moore. They also attempted to improve their running game, tight end group and offensive line through free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft.

Wide receiver Chase Claypool, who joined the Bears in a November trade, is another player who should assist Fields in improving his passing totals as the duo prepares a first full season together.


Another reason Fields is one of my favorite players to draft is because of his average draft position, which is after the fifth round in most 10-team leagues. He is often the seventh quarterback off draft boards.

Fields has the ability to be the No. 1 fantasy football quarterback in any given week. His schedule should also be very friendly to quarterbacks, based on last season's statistics.

The Bears schedule from Week 1 through Week 14 includes seven games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. During that same span, the Bears will face just two defenses that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the fewest points to quarterbacks.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones is a great sleeper target in fantasy football drafts. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI

Aaron Jones

Don't let quarterback Aaron Rodgers' departure from the Green Bay roster fool you into thinking the Packers lack offensive firepower. In fact, I would use that narrative to your advantage, boosting the value of Packers players on your draft board as other team owners avoid their playmakers.

Jones continues to go unpicked through the third round and sometimes fourth round of fantasy football drafts. The No. 7 player in my running back rankings should provide Top 5 value consistently in 2023.


Without Rodgers' trademark improvisation skills, I expect the Packers to run a bit more of a conventional offense this season, as first-year starter Jordan Love acclimates to the NFL. Jones and fellow Packers running back A.J. Dillon should see increased volume. Their abilities as pass catchers are another benefit for their stock owners.

The Packers schedule does not feature a single matchup against a team that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the fewest fantasy points to running backs. They have six matchups against foes that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the most points to the position.

Philadelphia Eagles star A.J. Brown was the No. 6 wide receiver in fantasy football in 2022. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI

A.J. Brown

Brown has the richest average draft position among my must-draft players, but should provide a stellar return on that investment. The Philadelphia Eagles pass catcher is a second-round pick in most drafts.

Brown immediately clicked with Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in 2022, after joining the team in an off-season trade. He scorched opposing defenses for career-highs in catches (88) and yards (1,496). He tied his career-high with 11 touchdown catches over 17 games.


The Eagles are expected to again be one of the most dominant offenses in the NFL, with Brown returning as Hurts' top target. They will face just one defense this season that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. The Eagles get seven matchups against teams that allowed the most points to the position.

Brown, the No. 5 player in my wide receiver rankings, is as solid as it gets for a first- or second-round fantasy selection.

Justin Herbert

Herbert is the sixth passer selected so far in fantasy football drafts, but is the No. 2 player in my quarterback rankings. His talent and health, paired with another year of experience, improved offensive line and returning and acquired playmakers should result in elite fantasy football production.

The Chargers enter the season with a friendly schedule for fantasy football quarterbacks. They will get seven matches against teams that allowed the most fantasy points to the position last season. Herbert is set to play just three games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the fewest points allowed to quarterbacks.

Herbert was on pace for 29 pass touchdowns and 11 interceptions through 11 games last season. Injuries to the Chargers' key offensive players and inconsistent play led him to throw just six touchdown tosses over his final six games. I expect a career-year from the Chargers star.

Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins is a great fantasy football option if you plan to employ a zero-RB strategy, or wait to drat the position until the later rounds. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI

J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins is a player who could almost single-handedly swing your fantasy football fortune in 2023. The Baltimore Ravens running back is a fantastic rusher, but struggled to stay on the field because of knee issues through his first two seasons.

Dobbins remains available past the eighth round of fantasy football drafts, but is the No. 15 player in my running back rankings.

If he fulfills that projection, he could be the steal of your draft. The Ravens schedule includes seven matchups against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the most points allowed to running backs in 2022. They eye just three tough fantasy football matchups for running backs, based on that criteria.

You shouldn't depend on Dobbins carrying your team, and I would add plenty of other running backs to your roster on draft day, but he is worth a mid- to late-round selection.

Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) is set to be a full-time starter for the first time in his career. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI

Alexander Mattison

Mattison played a backup role to former Minnesota Vikings lead running back Dalvin Cook through the first four years of his career. Cook is now with Rodgers and the New York Jets, clearing the way for Mattison to receive a bulk of backfield touches in 2023.


When give the opportunity, Mattison shined as a feature back for the Vikings. He totaled more than 15 touches in six games through his first four seasons. Mattison averaged 133.1 yards from scrimmage in those appearances, which included five performances with 90 or more rushing yards.

The Vikings schedule this season features six matchups against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for allowing the most fantasy points to running backs in 2022. They will get two matchups from Week 1 through Week 14 against teams that allowed the fewest points to running backs.

Mattison, a sixth-round pick in many drafts, is a fantastic target if you plan to draft wide receivers early and play a committee of running backs.

Jahmyr Gibbs

Gibbs is a projected fourth-round pick in fantasy football drafts. I don't like selecting rookies early, but the Detroit Lions playmaker could prove to be worth that value if he takes advantage of a friendly schedule.

The Lions schedule features six great matchups, based on fantasy football points allowed to running backs last season. They get just two tough matchups, based on that criteria.

Gibbs agility and acceleration, paired with catching ability, should keep him on the field and in fantasy lineups. I expect RB2 production from the rookie, but mostly when he has a good matchup.


Jordan Love

Love will be tasked with following a legend this season, when he takes control of the huddle after Rodgers' departure to the Jets. His rare performances through his first two seasons didn't provide much insight into how good he can be as a full-time starter, but the Packers still employ solid offensive playmakers, who should make his transition a bit easier.

Jones and Dillon are among the most solid backfield duos in the NFL. Emerging wide receivers Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and rookie Jayden Reed have the ability to stretch opposing defenses for long touchdowns.

The Packers schedule features six games against teams that allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2022. That slate features just two games against teams that were most-stingy to opposing fantasy quarterbacks.

Love shouldn't be your only quarterback, but is worth a spot on rosters because of his potential. He is a projected final-round pick or free agent for most leagues.

Honorable mentions

Derek Carr, Bryce Young, Javonte Williams, Isiah Pacheco, Jamaal Williams, Khalil Herbert, Miles Sanders, D.K. Metcalf, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Quenton Johnston, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Chris Olave, Michael Thomas

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