Zoltan Fantasy Football Sleepers 2023

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport
More Infallible Fantasy Football Predictions from an Exceptionally Fallible Clairvoyant

Over the past five years, this magazine has featured the predictions of Zoltan the All-Knowing, otherwise known (especially to law enforcement) as Zoltan Zamfirescu, a Romanian soothsayer who was gifted psychic abilities when he was struck by lightning while talking on his cell phone riding in a bus that went off a cliff.
I have taken great lengths to bring readers Zoltan's predictions. I have traveled thousands of miles to four countries on two continents. Endured harrowing experiences like Super 8 Motels and flying coach. I even had an imaginary intern die when he was eaten by a flying carnivorous rabbit.
Don't laugh -- Slovakian Hellhares are real.
After five years of enduring Zoltan's "eccentricities, I don't exactly look forward to our annual meetings. For one, by "eccentricities" I mean he's one of the most vulgar, unkempt and generally dislikable people on Earth. For two, for a guy who can supposedly tell the future Zoltan is wrong -- a lot. Last year he predicted that A.J. Brown of the Eagles would have a down year.
So, when my letters and calls to Zoltan went unanswered, I quietly breathed a sigh of relief. No more long trips. No more bringing him cheap booze and obscure junk food. No more flatulence.
And then I received this letter.
Dearest Gary,
I apologize for not reaching out sooner. Due to a misunderstanding with the authorities involving some livestock (hey, the heart wants what it wants) and a health issue, I was forced to leave Canada. I am now residing in Ushuaia, Argentina. I know that it's a long trip, but I could use a visit from an old friend, and I've been working on my predictions. I think I have some real winners for this year. Hope to see you soon.
Your good friend,
P.S. If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you please ship a case of Zelko vodka and some Tangy Ketchup flavored Doritos to this address? I'm running a tad low on supplies -- and cash.
Frankly, the letter was a tad unsettling, if only because the last part was the only part that sounded even a little like Zoltan. But in the interest of helping our valued readers in their quest for fantasy glory I hopped a plane to Buenos Aires and then to Ushuaia. There, in a small house off the Avda St. Martin, I found Zoltan -- and we began another encounter.
As always -- here's a transcript of our conversation.

Gary Davenport: Well, Zoltan, we meet again. I see from the empty bottles and bags strewn everywhere that the supplies got here.
Zoltan: Yep. (Belches) Got here a few hours ago. What do you think of the new digs?
GD: For you? Surprisingly nice, Appears to have both electricity and running water. Didn't realize it got this cold in Argentina. Mind if I ask why you're living in a town with the nickname of "The End of the World?"
Z: Well, as it happens with the exception of Antarctica and the Arctic, this is the part of the world with the fewest lightning strikes. After getting hit a second time, I'm not taking any chances.
GD: Wait, you got struck by lightning again?
Z: Yep. While waiting in line inside a Tim Horton's in Saskatoon. Mrs. Zoltan said she thinks God is trying to kill me, but I got a nice settlement out of it, so whatever.
GD: Wait, you got MARRIED?!
Z: No, that's just what I call the lady who comes to clean the place once a week. I do think she likes me though. She has a pet name for me and everything. "Asqueroso hombre cerdo."
GD: OK, as much as I live for our little chit-chats, do you have some predictions for me?
Z: Sure do. Even did research. Just last night I watched the Broncos/Falcons Super Bowl.
GD: Dude, that game took place over 24 years ago.
Z: Oh. I guess you don't want my Jamaal Anderson prediction then. That's OK. I got this.

Zoltan sat cross-legged on the floor, closed his eyes, and began to speak.

"With cash in hand, and weapons new, a young quarterback is about to rule. With legs and arms the points will flow, and in 2023 No. 8 will steal the show."

GD: Lamar Jackson?
Z: Yep. Your No. 1 fantasy quarterback this year.

Lamar Jackson will lead all quarterbacks in fantasy points in 2023.

It wasn't all that long ago that Lamar Jackson's future with the Baltimore Ravens appeared anything but certain. But a lot has changed since then. First, the Ravens gave Odell Beckham a one-year deal in free agency, Then the Ravens signed Jackson to a five-year, $260 million extension. Then the Ravens drafted Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers. Add the hiring of offensive coordinator Todd Monken to the list, and just about everything that could go right for Jackson has. Yes, Jackson has missed substantial time the past two seasons, But we're still talking about the only quarterback in league history with multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons. A quarterback who received a noticeable upgrade at offensive coordinator. And a quarterback who now has arguably the best passing-game weapons of his career. All the ingredients are there for Jackson to have a huge season -- and threaten to take the top spot at the position.

Z: Hold on. Before I make the next call, I need to hit the head.
Zoltan returned a few minutes later -- with no pants and a towel wrapped around his waist.
GD: Dude, what the hell?
Z: I didn't make it to the toilet. It's fine.
GD: No. No it is not fine.
"In the year of two-three with flames alight, The reborn Seahawk shall soar in flight. More than the Golden-haired Jaguar, he tallies scores, and in the fantasy realm, his legend will roar."

GD: Oh goodie, Now we're going to get all nebulous and obtuse.
Z: Don't try to confuse me with big words.

Geno Smith will score more fantasy points in 2023 than Trevor Lawrence -- again.

Trevor Lawrence of the Jaguars is a trendy breakout pick in 2023, but Chris Towers of CBS Sports cautioned that fantasy drafters may be overestimating the youngster's upside this season.
"Even with the improvements he made last season," Towers said, "Lawrence was just QB11 in points per game, and even that might be overstating how useful he actually was for fantasy - he had a five-game stretch where he averaged 28.9 points per game from Weeks 10-15, but had 20-plus points just three times in his other 12 games, including just once in five games after that stretch, including the playoffs. Lawrence is a decent athlete who will make some contributions with his legs, but his passing is going to have to carry most of the weight here."
Meanwhile, Geno Smith is coming off a top-5 fantasy season in many scoring systems and just saw the Seahawks add Jaxon Smith-Njigba to a receiving corps that already includes DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Given their relative ADPs, it's not hard to argue that Smith is the batter value in drafts.

G: OK, mind if we move on to running backs?
Z: Mind if I order in some food? There's a fantastic Asado joint not far from here that delivers, but I'm, um, a little light on pesos at the moment.
G: You give me a running back prediction, you can have your barbecue.

"In the season to come, Cleveland's pride shall rise, thanks to a back with strength, speed and size. In fantasy football, he'll reign supreme, a top-3 producer, fulfilling managers' dreams."
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb will lead the NFL In rushing and finish as a top-3 PPR option.

There's no question that Nick Chubb is one of the best pure runners in the NFL. And with Kareem Hunt and D'Ernest Johnson gone, Chubb could be set for the heaviest workload of his career -- and Yahoo's Andy Behrens expects him to take advantage of it.
"Like, can we just get to," he said, "can we just get to 40 catches for Nick Chubb? Because if we can get to 40 catches for Nick Chubb, that's-- now we're challenging 2,000 scrimmage yards, right? Now we're talking about somebody who has a profile that can ultimately finish as the overall RB1. I would take Nick Chubb over Saquon Barkley. I know I don't see it very often, but I would take Nick Chubb over Saquon Barkley."

GD: Damn. Why is the food delivery guy pounding on the door like that?
Z: Oh, that's probably my bookie. Have had a bit of a rough stretch betting on the Primera Division, and I owe him about 50,000 pesos. When he called this morning, I told him you'd make it right when you got here.
GD: The hell I will.
Z: Come on, it's only about $200. And besides, if you don't pay him, I'm pretty sure his associate will beat the crap out of us both.
GD: I hate you so much -- here's $200. This next prediction better be good.
Z: It's pretty saucy.
"From the land of Texas, a tale unfolds, of a veteran back who has been undersold. As fate unravels, he'll surpass with might, the Texans' lead back, who will lose a camp fight."

GD: Um, what?
Z: Fine, I'll translate it to dummy for you.

Devin Singletary will emerge as the lead running back and top fantasy option in the backfield for the Houston Texans.

Dameon Pierce had the third-highest share of a team's carries in the NFL last year. But per Robert Lorge of RotoBaller, Devin Singletary has both a better resume and a more well-rounded skillset.
"While Piece was impressive as a rookie," he said "Singletary has maintained similar averages across four seasons. In fact, Singletary has a higher true yard per carry average, a higher juke rate, and a higher breakaway run rate."
At the very least, Singletary's superior receiving skills and far better pass-blocking ability is going to get him on the field on passing downs. But the idea that Pierce is a far better running back just doesn't hold up to scrutiny -- and Pierce's grip on the No. 1 slot isn't as strong as many believe.

Z: OK, I'm in the zone. Let's bang one more out before my Churrasco gets here.

"Upon the gridiron of warriors bold, The King named Henry cannot avoid growing old. Struck by the curse of 370's weight, His prowess declines, sealing his fate."
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry will finish outside the top-15 at his position in 2023.

There haven't been many more productive backs than Henry over the past several years, including an RB4 PPR finish in 2022. But the last time Henry topped 370 touches (2020) he missed over half the following season. And as Jamey Eisenberg wrote for CBS Sports, the potential of the "Curse of 370" striking again is only one of Henry's problems.
"I'm afraid Father Time will catch up to Henry this season," he said. "He turned 29 in January, and that's not good for a running back. While he bounced back from the foot injury, he sustained in 2021 that limited him to eight games -- he played 16 games in 2022 -- he has a lot of mileage on his massive frame with over 380 total touches in two of the past three seasons. The Titans' offensive line is going through a makeover this year, and Tennessee reportedly was shopping Henry this offseason."
Henry's getting older, the Titans are a mess. And Henry tallied 382 touches last year. There's a lot working against him in 2023.

Z: Food's here. I'm going to go change into my dinner attire. You're buying, right?
Zoltan returned a few minutes later in a tattered set of SpongeBob SquarePants pajamas. This was not nearly as odd as the fact the food was actually quite good. Given the "food" I have seen him consume over the years, it may have been the most unsettling interaction I've ever had with him.
GD: OK, meal break's over. Let's get back to work.
Z: One sec. Nothing chases down good barbecue like cheap vodka.
Zoltan drained about half a bottle of Zelko (his fourth as near as I could tell), let loose a fart that probably merited a trip to the proctologist, sat back down and closed his eyes again.

"Rodgers' loss, though it seems a blow, won't be enough to steal Watson's show. In fantasy football, his star shall gleam, top-15 wideout, fulfilling managers' dreams."
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson will finish 2023 as a top-15 fantasy receiver.

The trade that sent Aaron Rodgers to the Green Bay Packers was one of the biggest stories of the 2023 offseason. But there are some fantasy pundits who believe Rodgers' departure won't dampen the fantasy prospects of second-year receiver Christian Watson. Per Jacob Gibbs of CBS Sports, Watson posted the third-highest yards per route run against man coverage since 2017 last year -- and Gibbs thinks that could only be the beginning.
"The sustainability of Watson's outstanding rookie season yard per route run rate going forward will be tied directly to his target rate," he said. "If he can continue to draw targets at a high rate while occupying a deep route tree, Watson has the potential to be a Julio Jones or Justin Jefferson-like outlier in the yardage department. And unlike those two players, Watson has already shown an ability to dominate his team's target distribution when in scoring distance."
Over the second half of the 2022 season (Weeks 9-17), Watson was ninth in PPR points among wide receivers. If you believe at all in Jordan Love as a viable NFL starter, then you have to believe in Watson's chances for a big year.

Z: Oh Wait! Here comes another one! It's gonna be a massive one! A real earth-shaker! And….ahhhhh.
GD: You are the most disgusting human being I have ever that the displeasure of meeting. Open a window, for God's sake.

"Oh, hear my words, this truth profound, Dotson's allure, like a sweet siren's sound. From end zone to end zone, his glory unfurls. Outscoring McLaurin, as footballs twirl."
Jahan Dotson of the Washington Commanders will amass more PPR fantasy points than teammate Terry McLaurin.

Terry McLaurin has long been a valuable fantasy asset -- he was 19th in PPR fantasy points last season. But if there's a problem with McLaurin it's that WR2 finishes are essentially his ceiling -- he was 23rd among wideouts in 2021 and 18th the season before that. However, there are some fantasy experts, including Heath Cummings of CBS Sports, who believe that a changing of the guard is in the offing in D.C.
"In the final five games of the season he matched Terry McLaurin in target share and produced 21 catches for 344 yards and three TDs," he said. "Dotson's upside involves him staying even with, or passing McLaurin in the pecking order and Sam Howell taking a step forward to average quarterback play and clicking with new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. If that happens, Dotson could be the best receiver in Washington and a top 20 fantasy option. I'm happy taking him in Round 6 on that chance."
We know what McLaurin is -- a solid fantasy WR2 with a limited ceiling. If Dotson continues to improve and develops a rapport with Howell, the second-year pro could be much more.

GD: Have a wide receiver bust?
Z: I suppose I could manage one. Give me more vodka.

"From lofty heights, a Raider descends low, His production will falter, his value laid low. Though past successes, once shone bright, Adams' star shall dim, in sorrow's night."

GD: Are you talking about Davante Adams?
Z: You aren't as dumb as you look.

Las Vegas Raiders receiver Davante Adams will finish outside the top-10 in PPR fantasy points.
Davante Adams was dominant in his first year with the Raiders, finishing second in targets, seventh in catches, third in receiving yards and third in PPR points. But that was with Derek Carr at quarterback, and now Jimmy Garoppolo is in town. And for Nick Makowitz of FTN, that's a legitimate problem.
"Adams has played predominantly with Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr the last two seasons, both of whom typically rank in the top half of the league in aDOT," he said. "His new quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, ranked 30th among qualified quarterbacks in aDOT last season and is still dealing with foot problems that came about last December. Without the deep ball, Adams can still be a great fantasy asset, especially in full point PPR, but his 100-yard, multi-touchdown upside could be limited."
This isn't to say that Adams production will careen off a cliff. But he's not as safe a fantasy investment as many think.

GD: We're just about out of time. Have a quick tight end call before I take off?
Z: Anything that will get you to leave soon. "Real Housewives of Buenos Aires" starts soon.
GD: You speak Spanish?
Z: No. Don't have a TV either. But my neighbor across the street does. And no blinds on the window.

His hands, like vises, secure every throw. His speed and agility, a wondrous show. A talent untamed, relentless in his quest, Greg Dulcich, the top-12 he shall crest.
Denver Broncos tight end Greg Dulcich will finish inside the top-12 in 2023.

ESPN's Eric Moody believes that the arrival of Sean Payton could mean big things for Dulcich in 2023. "Dulcich is someone I'll be watching very closely to see how he gets utilized in Sean Payton's offense in Denver," he said. "Dulcich has the ability to threaten defenses on all three levels and become a mismatch nightmare for opponents."

If you wait to draft a tight end keep Dulcich on your radar.

GD: Well, Zoltan, that's it. Comparatively speaking, that wasn't so bad. Maybe that second lightning strike mellowed you a little.
Z: Go **** yourself you butt-ugly hack.
GD: That's the Zoltan I know.

Gary Davenport is a 10-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Award finalist and a three-time winner. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks