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Fantasy Football: 5 players poised to be league winners

2KCT14K Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Sunday, October 31, 2021. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto)

  • Tony Pollard earns his opportunity: Pollard is finally the Dallas Cowboys‘ lead back, so his opportunity can finally be as big as his talent.
  • Amon-Ra St. Brown can be a more complete receiver: St. Brown has made his name catching short passes and making players miss, but he’s looking to become a deep threat at well.
  • Justin Fields has a shot at No. 1: The Chicago Bears quarterback arguably had the best rushing half-season we’ve ever seen out of a quarterback over the second half of last season.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

These league winners are players who have an ADP in the first four rounds on ESPN and who I have ranked notably higher than their ADP. For help for sleepers, draft strategy, rankings or for more details about the players, check out the rest of my summer content below. For better filtering of the rankings along with auction values, check out our draft rankings page.

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Player Profiles
More Rankings: PPR | Half-PPR | Standard | Superflex
Dynasty Rankings: PPR | Rookie | Superflex | Superflex Rookie
Position Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE
Sleepers: Top-10 | QB | RB | WR | TE
League Winners: QB | RB | WR | TE
12-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy | Picks 1-3 | Picks 4-6 | Picks 7-9 | Picks 10-12
10-Team Draft Strategy: Overall strategy | Picks 1-3 | Picks 4-7 | Picks 8-10

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Last updated: 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, August 15

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys ESPN ADP: 19.7, From ESPN)

Pollard has graded out as an elite runner in recent seasons and finally gets a chance to shine without Ezekiel Elliott in the offense.

  • His head coach Mike McCarthy has made it clear he wants to run the ball more this year.
  • His 92.0 run grade ranks the second among running backs over the last two seasons.
  • He has been among the best backs at making big plays. He gained at least 10 yards on 16.1% of his carries and averaged 3.8 yards after contact per attempt. Both ranked first out of 31 running backs with at least 175 rushing attempts since 2022.
  • This led to 0.802 rushing fantasy points per attempt, which ranked second out of the same sample of backs.
  • He finished at RB8 last season despite Ezekiel Elliott playing every game, taking 75% of the goal line carries and leading to 12 rushing touchdowns.
  • If Pollard can take those goal-line opportunities, he should rank even higher than this. There is still a chance the Cowboys add a bigger back or bring Elliott back, and Pollard doesn’t receive as many touchdown opportunities.
  • He should also benefit from a healthier offensive line, which ranks sixth overall heading into the season. Every projected starter was on the team last season, so they should also benefit from having worked together already.
  • Pollard should also benefit from running more routes. While he was a much better receiver than Elliott, he just barely ran more routes last season at 245-234.
  • His 1.51 yards per route run ranked fifth among running backs.
  • Pollard only needs to average 6.2 more PPR points per game this season compared to last to reach RB1. With his excellent rushing efficiency, receiving production and the Cowboys offensive talent, he doesn’t need to be a 20-carry-per-game back to get there.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions (ADP: 20.0)

St. Brown is an underrated receptions machine.

  • St. Brown’s rookie season started slow in 2021 but had an excellent ending. He caught at least eight passes in each of the last six games, leading to a minimum of 70 yards and a touchdown in five of six games.
  • He scored the second-most fantasy points over that stretch, averaging 25.2 fantasy points per game.
  • He followed that up with an even more impressive 2022 campaign.
  • His 90.4 receiving grade placed third among wide receivers last season.
  • He was targeted on 28.8% of his routes, leading to a catch on 21.9% of his routes — which both ranked second last season.
  • His 0.53 receiving PPR points per route run ranked fourth.
  • The Lions no longer have T.J. Hockenson, D.J. Chark or D’Andre Swift — three of the Lions' top five receivers last season by PFF grade. This should lead to the passing game relying even more on St. Brown.
  • He’s received plenty of praise in camp so far and is looking to expand his route tree this season by becoming more of a deep threat. This would make him a more well-rounded receiver, and allow him to have more huge games rather than just consistent good ones.
  • The only problem is St. Brown ran the 43rd-most routes last season, at 483.
  • The Lions invested a lot at running back this offseason with Jahmyr Gibbs in the draft and David Montgomery in free agency. If anything, Detroit will be getting the ball more to running backs — not less.
  • If the Lions end up increasing how much they pass the ball, St. Brown has a chance at being the overall WR1.

Keenan AllenLos Angeles Chargers (ADP: 46.6)

Allen remains one of the most effective receivers in the NFL despite his age.

  • Allen’s PFF grade isn’t the same as it was during his peak from 2017-2018, but he’s continued to grade very well, including an 84.4 receiving grade last season.
  • He has run 37.9 routes per game since 2020, which ranks third out of 148 wide receivers with at least 25 games in the span.
  • He’s maintained a high reception rate on his routes despite the large sample, making a catch on 17.9% of his routes (sixth).
  • This has given him 9.3 targets and 6.8 receptions per game, ranking fourth and third, respectively.
  • His success continued into 2022 when he was healthy despite a down season by the Chargers. His 150.3 PPR points from Weeks 11-18 in 2022 ranked third most among wide receivers.
  • He will gain Kellen Moore as his offensive coordinator. His Dallas Cowboys threw to the slot more frequently than the Chargers had been in recent seasons, which could lead to more targets by Allen.
  • Allen has been Justin Herbert’s favorite target when there is no pressure, and his target share sees a significant drop when there is pressure. Los Angeles’ offensive line should be even better this season with a healthy Rashawn Slater, and Jamaree Salyer moving to guard.
  • Allen was WR3 over the last eight weeks and there is reason to believe he can do even better this season.

Justin Fields, Chicago Bears (ADP: 52.6)

A quarterback has run for 132 or more yards 16 times in NFL history. Fields logged three of those games in November and December.

  • Fields had 20.5 PPR fantasy points per game, which ranked fifth last season. Over half of that production came as a rusher.
  • When he threw, it often went for a big play, as 48.4% of his completions gained 10-plus yards over the last two seasons — third-most among quarterbacks.
  • Chicago traded for D.J. Moore this offseason, which is arguably the biggest receiver addition any team made this offseason. 
  • Moore’s achieved an 85.4 PFF receiving grade over the last four seasons, which ranked 20th among wide receivers despite sub-par quarterback play.
  • The two have already begun turning heads at the start of training camp.
  • Fields should also benefit from more general stability at the position. The Bears had seven different wide receivers run at least 70 pass routes, but none of them topped 350.
  • Fields should consistently have a top three wide receivers of Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool this season.
  • We have recently seen other quarterbacks have subpar passing seasons, gain a new top wide receiver, and propel them to be better passers.
  • This includes Hurts gaining A.J. Brown last season, as well as Tua Tagovailoa gaining Tyreek Hill.
  • Fields has the potential to have another elite rushing season. If he makes progress as a passer, he has a shot at the top overall quarterback spot.

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 50.3)

Kittle has been nearly as talented as Travis Kelce, just without the pass-happy offense and future Hall-of-Fame quarterback to boost his fantasy value.

  • Kittle has finished in the top four among tight ends in fantasy points per game in each of his last five seasons.
  • He finished second in the league last season.
  • He’s averaged 5.5 receptions per game along with 70.8 receiving yards and 15.0 PPR points over the last five seasons, which all rank second to Kelce.
  • One problem in his career has been a lack of touchdowns, but he overcame that this last season. His 0.73 receiving touchdowns per game ranked first among tight ends.
  • The big reason to be even more excited for Kittle this season compared to past seasons is Brock Purdy.
  • In Kittle’s career, he’s averaged one touchdown per game when Purdy plays 80% of snaps or more, and 0.3 touchdowns per game in all other games, including the playoffs.
  • Kittle has consistently graded among the league’s best tight ends on deep passes, but it’s been on a small sample size as most previous 49ers quarterbacks and Jimmy Garoppolo in particular don’t throw deep very often.
  • Purdy was right at league average in terms of how often he threw deep.
  • Kittle caught five of seven deep passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns from Week 13 on including the playoffs once Purdy took over. He only caught two deep passes over the first 12 weeks, and four deep passes in all of 2021.
  • Kittle led all tight ends in fantasy points from Week 13 to 18 once Purdy started playing.
  • He will still be stuck in a run-first offense, but more big plays and more touchdowns give Kittle a chance to be the overall TE1.



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