1 of 5 | Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert (R), one of the fastest players in the NFL, could help fast-track your fantasy football campaign. File Photo by Mark Black/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Justin Herbert, Raheem Mostert and DK Metcalf are among 13 players I recommend to target in drafts if you want to start your fantasy football season strong.
This list of players was formulated by analyzing each's first half of schedules, offensive roles, past performances, injury history and average draft positions.
Starting a fantasy football season 0-4 or even 2-2 or 1-3 can be very stressful. A sour start usually leads to a lackluster end-of-season record and missing the playoffs.
Use this list on draft day after the first few rounds, when you are deciding between players who can help your team win games early on.
Some of these players don't need to stay on your team for the entire season and can be traded later, when their schedules get tough or you think they could get injured.
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
Los Angeles Chargers star Justin Herbert could be the top fantasy football quarterback through the first half of the 2023 campaign. File Photo by Mike Goulding/UPI
Herbert is the No. 2 player in my fantasy football quarterback rankings, behind only Cincinnati Bengals star Joe Burrow and one spot ahead of Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Los Angeles Chargers star should be picked in all leagues and remain a star the entire season, but I particularly love his odds of starting the campaign red-hot.
The Chargers will host the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. The Dolphins, who lost star cornerback Jalen Ramsey to an injury in training camp, allowed the fourth-most passing yards and tied for allowing the fourth-most touchdown passes in 2022.
They also surrendered the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
The Dolphins and Chargers most likely will attempt to establish the run in Week 1, but I eventually expect each team to air it out, with Herbert totaling at least three touchdown passes.
Six of the Chargers' first seven games are against teams that ranked inside the Top 7 for the most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last season, including each of their first four contests.
I expect Herbert to be the best quarterback in fantasy football midway through the 14-week, regular-season campaign.
Veteran running back Raheem Mostert (C) was active for 16 games last season for the Miami Dolphins. File Photo by Thom Baur/UPI
Mostert, who is being selected after the 12th round in some drafts, should be a must-start RB2 though the first half of the fantasy football season.
Dolphins coaches and executives continuously voiced this off-season that they believe the team's running backs are capable of taking the offense to another level -- despite interest Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor. Mostert also has said he worked this off-season to improve his pass catching skills.
On Thursday, the Dolphins placed running back Jeff Wilson Jr. on injured reserve, which means he will miss the first four games of the season. That move -- paired with the Dolphins' voiced intention to increase running volume -- should result in more work for Mostert.
The Dolphins' schedule includes three matchups within their first five games against teams that ranked inside the Top 11 for the most fantasy points allowed to running backs last season.
That stretch includes the aforementioned Week 1 game against the Chargers, who allowed the second-most rushing yards (2,164) to running backs in the NFL last season.
Mostert, who is one of the NFL's fastest players, is capable of breaking a big run at any moment. He could be a key reason your team sprints past competitors through the first half of the fantasy football season.
Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins struggled to stay on the field through his first two seasons because of injuries. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
One of the reasons Dobbins made my list of must-draft players for the entire season correlates with his great early schedule.
The Baltimore Ravens will get three matchups within their first four games against teams that ranked inside the Top 9 for the most fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2022. The Ravens will face the Houston Texans in Week 1. The Texans allowed a league-high 2,411 rushing yards, 22 rushing touchdowns and most fantasy points to the position last season.
Dobbins struggled to stay on the field through the first two years of his career, but is on track to start in Week 1. He should provide RB1 upside for as long as he is in the Ravens' lineup.
Dobbins is a great target if you choose the zero-RB strategy, drafting wide receivers and other positions early and waiting to draft ball carriers for your fantasy squad.
Wilson's average draft position continues to rise, likely because of the New York Jets' off-season addition of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the team's presence on Hard Knocks, which has showcased their budding connection.
Wilson, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, totaled more than 1,100 yards and scored four times in 17 games during his rookie campaign. He averaged nearly 80 yards per game over his final 10 contests of the season.
He will start this season with a major upgrade at quarterback and a schedule that contains three matchups within the first four weeks against teams that ranked inside the Top 8 for the most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last season.
Wilson can be plugged in as a WR1 to start the fantasy football campaign.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (L) totaled a career-high 146 targets last season. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Amon-Ra St. Brown
St. Brown turned in a career-best season in 2022, with 106 catches for 1,161 yards and six scores on 146 targets for the Detroit Lions. He should continue to be among the most-targeted wide receivers in the NFL in 2023, especially because of the departure of former Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson and fellow wide receiver Jameson Williams' six-game suspension.
St. Brown, who finished as the No. 7 fantasy football wide receiver in 2022, should be a Top 5 option in the first half of this season.
The Lions will get four matchups within their first six games against teams that ranked inside the Top 10 for the most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in 2022. St. Brown can be used as a WR1, but is a fantastic WR2 if you are able to snag Ja'Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, Justin Jefferson or another star pass catcher with your first pick.
Metcalf produced another 1,000-yard campaign and totaled 90 receptions in 17 starts last season, but is flying under the radar in fantasy football drafts. His average draft position is after the third round, but the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver maintains WR1 upside.
Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith completed a league-best 69.8% of his passes and totaled career highs in yards (4,282) and touchdown passes (30) in 2022. He will lead the offense again this season, starting the campaign with two matchups within the first three weeks against teams that ranked inside the Top 5 for the most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last season.
The Seahawks will face the Lions, who allowed the second-most receiving yards to wide receivers, in Week 2. Metcalf should provide excellent return on investment because of his dirt-cheap average draft position.
The Seahawks wide receiver scored just six touchdowns in 2022, after totaling 10 and 12, respectively, in 2020 and 2021. Look for that total to get back into double digits in 2023, including a handful of scores within the first four weeks.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is among players with favorable fantasy football matchups early on in 2023. File Photo by Kyle Rivas/UPI
Bonus quick-start targets
Russell Wilson, Trevor Lawrence, Najee Harris, Brian Robinson Jr., Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Quentin Johnston