Full-season fantasy games for the 2023 NFL season are here!
Underdog Fantasy‘s Pick ‘Em games let you choose from a wide variety of player statistics and whether you think the player will finish with a higher or lower total for that stat. There are hundreds of choices and you need to pick at least two or three to group together to win. If you go with standard picks, you can pick two to five with an increasing amount of return. If you choose the insured option, you have to pick at least three and up to five, but if you miss one, you still win.
The trick, as in every game that has a set statistic you’re choosing around, is to find the numbers you think are mistakes, whether it is too high or too low. Below, I’m going to give you higher/lower picks with analytical justification grouped into tiers of probability. You can then choose how many you want to include in your Pick ‘Em selections and if you want to play standard or insured style. Some of the picks will be Bills related, but a good many are also league-wide picks that are worthy of inclusion to boost your winning.
Tier 1: Near Locks
I don’t use terms like “stone-cold locks” or “guaranteed winner” because I’m not stupid. Everybody has lost at a game they thought was in the bag. Last-minute turnovers, injuries, and Antonio Browns are all way too wildly unpredictable to ever guarantee anything. However, these are lines where I think Underdog is off most, giving them the highest degree of likelihood.
Rhamondre Stevenson – 925.5 Rushing Yards – Higher
In 2022, Stevenson led the Patriots with 1,041 rush yards on 210 attempts. The only other player with a significant number of carries was Damien Harris, and he’s now been forgiven for all of his sins as a Patriot and welcomed with open arms to the Bills. Harris had 106 rush attempts for New England, The only other Pats’ player with more than 18 attempts was Mac Jones. ‘Dre averaged 5.0 YPC, was second in the NFL in yards after contact for players with more than 80 carries, and – to prove he’s not just a bruiser – he was tied for eighth in number of rushes going 10+ yards with 30 (more than explosive backs like McCaffery, Etienne, and Kamara, all of whom had more carries than Stevenson).
The Pats have replaced Harris with a collection of players who are not likely to challenge even the number of carries Harris took.
- Ty Montgomery, who is 30 years old and has never had more than 77 carries in a season and that was in 2016
- Pierre Strong, who is a second-year player drafted in the fourth round from S Dakota St. Of this group, he is the best competition
- Kevin Harris, another second-year player picked in the sixth round because the Patriots must always have an RB named either “Kevin” or “Harris”
Stevenson is the lead back by a mile for a team that will probably continue to be as close to 1:1 in terms of run/pass ratio as any in the league outside of Chicago and Atlanta.
Did I mention that Matt Patricia is no longer the OC in New England? Even if you don’t think Bill O’Brien is an amazing offensive coach, he is at least a professional, which is a huge upgrade over whatever Patricia was doing last year.
Gabe Davis – 735.5 Receiving Yards – Higher
While he didn’t fulfill the crazily unrealistic expectations of so many who foolishly projected his four TD playoff game into a full season, Gabe had a career year as WR2 for the Bills. He beat this receiving yards number by 100 yards last season while spending most of that year on an ankle injury that never had a chance to fully heal. He had a 17.4% target share on one of the pass-happiest teams in the league, and that’s even with missing a game.
If you’re worried about the Bills increasing their usage of 12 personnel, guess who those two WRs still on the field are going to be? Plus, if the Bills are increasing their effectiveness in the middle of the field with Kincaid, Knox, Harty, and Sherfield, that will eventually open more chances for Davis, who was second in the league in yards/rec for WRs over 50 tgts at 17.4 Y/REC, to be open downfield. We’re talking yards here, not receptions. Also, watch for Davis’ route tree to expand this year, so he might get involved in that MOF passing game too as Ken Dorsey utilizes him in more ways.
Tier Two – Screwgate Carabiners
We’re no longer in near-lock territory, but if you need a secure connection, you won’t do better than a screwgate carabiner.
Jared Goff 25.5 Pass TDs – Higher
Jared Goff is not a player I would typically depend on, but, throughout his career, he has been the quintessential system QB, more so than anyone in recent memory. In the second half of 2022, that Detroit system was flying. They struggled early but were close to the Chiefs in offensive efficiency in the Wks 9-18. In Wks 1-8, they ranked 20th in offensive EPA/Play, but the Knee Biters ranked second in that metric in Wks 9-18, and the vast majority of improvement came in their EPA/Dropback. I don’t think too highly of Dan Campbell as a tactician, but I do think Ben Johnson did a great job last year as their OC.
He had 29 TD passes in 2022, operates behind a top 10 OL, gets close to twice as much time with Jameson Williams in 2023, and the Lions let an RB with a Marshawn Lynch-esque nose for the endzone walk to the Saints in Jamaal Williams. A good bit of Williams’ production though came from a ton of carries inside the five, many of which DET WR1 Amon-Ra St. Brown inexplicably left for him.
Everyone's trying to give Jamaal Williams' historic amount of rushing TDs from the goal line to the next crop of RBs even though Amon-Ra was tackled inside the five-yard line *SEVEN* times.— John Daigle (@notJDaigle) July 26, 2023
Just bet on fewer ankle tackles. https://t.co/PUlZC63Lbo
Of course, Goff could crumple, but this system should keep him propped up for 26+ TDs.
Mike Evans – 950.5 Receiving Yards Lower
This is a live look at the Tampa Bay roster.
But Evans has been a 1,000-yard receiver for nine straight years. The unstoppable force of Evans’ talent is flying full speed into the unmovable object of the Bucs’ QBs. Baker Mayfield hasn’t had a receiver go over 840 yds since 2019. In 2019, both Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr went over 1,000 yards, but that was Mayfield’s second year, and defenses have since demonstrated he can be contained. Evans and Chris Godwin are still good WRs, but the combo of poor projected QB play and a Todd Bowles-led team lead me to fade everyone with an eye patch other than Rachaad White.
Tier 3 – Off Track Sliding Screen Doors
You ever try to slide open a screen door when it’s cockeyed worse than your brother-in-law at your bachelor party? Those things do not move. They get wedged in place and screech like a dad who stepped on a Lego at 3:00 am, or they simply fall completely out of the frame. These next picks are either locked in place so hard you have to go out the front and walk muttering under your breath the long way to the back yard…or they will fall on their face at the gentlest breeze.
James Cook – 600.5 rushing Yards – Higher
In 2022, Cook had 89 carries and averaged 5.7 YPC, good for second-best in NFL for RBs with more than 69 carries. Cook only played 24.8% of the Bills’ offensive snaps on the season, but his snap share went up from Wk 8 and went up another level from Wk 13 on. Cook’s DVOA would have led the league if he had been able to carry that out to a full set of carries (admittedly, that’s unlikely, but gives you a sense of how well he was playing). Remember that spike in Cook’s snap percentage starting in Wk 13? Wk 13 through 18, the Bills were the sixth-best rushing team by DVOA behind the Gants, Eagles, 49ers, Chiefs, and Falcons. And the Bills let Devin Singletary go in free agency, and while they brought in Damien Harris and Latavius Murray, all indicators are pointing toward Cook as the lead back. What could go wrong?
To maintain that lead snap share, Cook will have to prove he can protect Josh Allen.
In a pass heavy offense, RB blocking is crucial. Motor was 4th among all RB in total Pass Blocks w 93 (Cook was 2nd on BUF w 18) (PFF)— Low Ceilings l Cover 1 🏈 (@LowBuffa) June 27, 2023
How do you think the Bills plan to replace Motor’s blocking? pic.twitter.com/o6eRBYBfU9
If Cook can’t prove he can handle pass protection, he won’t get as great a volume of snaps (read carries) as so many are hoping. The chart in that tweet doesn’t mean he can’t, but it does mean he hasn’t proven it yet.
Cook will either blow the doors off this line, or it will be a nail-biter all the way to the end of the season.
Lamar Jackson – 1.5 100+ Rush Yard Games – Higher
This is really a decision about Lamar’s health. He has had two 100+ yd rushing games in each of the last three seasons, including 2022 where he only played 12 games. In his ridiculous MVP season of 2019, he had five 100+ rush yd games. Todd Monken is not stupid: he’s not going to take away one of Lamar’s greatest attributes. Monken couldn’t even if he wanted to because Lamar is such a gifted athlete that when a play breaks down, natural ability will take over. Also, we don’t need him to be a great rusher all season, just twice. He has games against the Texans, Seahawks, Browns, Lions, and Cardinals, all of which ranked 22nd or lower in rush defense DVOA in 2022.
Tier 4 – Rusty Bolts
These selections are like old bolts you need to remove from something that’s been sitting outside for 20 years. The head might pop right off and that old swing set just falls apart, or it might be the most obstinate opponent you and your wrench have ever faced. These picks could go terrifyingly wrong or look completely obvious by the end of the year.
Deshaun Watson – 3750.5 Passing Yards – Lower
Watson had gone two years without playing QB and looked every bit of it on his return to the gridiron. He completed 58.2% of his passes, his passer rating of 79.1 was a tantalizing 0.1 better than the aforementioned estimable Baker Mayfield, and his pressure-to-sack rate was second worst in the league at 27.2%, behind only dear-sweet-baby-Jesus-have-mercy Baker Mayfield again with 30.8% (PFF). There is some success to his left on short and intermediate throws, but other than behind the LOS, there is nothing to hang your hat on in this graphic.
Maybe the guy who was a top-five QB is still in there, or maybe a guy with questionable character got a guaranteed bag and isn’t worried about improving. I’m good with rooting against his success.
Tua Tagovailoa – 3800.5 Passing Yards – Lower
This is the opposite of the Lamar selection. This is based on the belief that Tua’s body is simply not designed for football. He has played one full season – 2018 with Alabama – and has missed multiple games in every other year he’s played. If his body will let him, Mike McDaniel will have Tua well higher than this passing yards number, but we have enough evidence to feel secure his body won’t allow it.
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