If you’re not already aware, I’m the human who creates the fantasy football player projections here at ESPN.

Although some would swear the projection numbers are totally automated or randomly generated, I assure you they are not. I have a lengthy process that involves a mixture of statistical calculations and subjective inputs. The latter is where this piece truly comes in handy. To begin each NFL season, I go team by team and thoroughly analyze historical league, team, coach and player trends. From there, on the player level, I generate projected dropback, carry and target shares for each player.

I recently completed that process and — same as in recent years — took notes. Below are my observations, as well as a brief application to fantasy football in 2023.

Be sure to also check out our sortable player projection page, as well as my detailed 2023 NFL Projection PDF Guide, which is routinely updated throughout the offseason.

1. The Cardinals ran a fast-paced offense that leaned toward the pass during all four seasons of the Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray era. However, Kevin Stefanski has called a slow-paced offense that leaned heavily toward the run during all four of his full seasons as a playcaller. New Arizona playcaller Drew Petzing worked under Stefanski during that entire span, and it’s likely he’ll bring at least some elements of Stefanski’s style to the desert. This could lead to more called runs and fewer offensive snaps for Murray (who is recovering from a torn ACL and could miss some early-season games) and the Cardinals’ offense.

2. Cardinals RB James Conner is entering his seventh NFL season having yet to appear in 100% of his team’s games in a single regular season. He has missed at least two games every year, which includes four in 2022. Conner finished the 2022 season with eight consecutive top-20 fantasy weeks, and he’s been top 10 in fantasy PPG each of the past two seasons, but it’s fair to expect the 28-year-old to miss some action again in 2023.

3. Falcons TE Kyle Pitts averaged a massive 28% target share last season. That trailed only Mark Andrews for tops among tight ends. Coach Arthur Smith has called the plays for four seasons, and all four of his tight end units had a target share in the 25-29% range. Even with Jonnu Smith reunited with his old playcaller, Pitts shouldn’t have trouble ranking near the position leaders in targets this season. I know last year was rough, but he very much fits the profile of an intriguing post-hype sleeper. Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me!

4. Ravens running backs have combined for a target share below 14% in four consecutive seasons and have been under 18% in 10 of the past 11 seasons. As much as we want J.K. Dobbins to happen, the 2020 second-round pick totaled 13 targets in nine games last season, nine of which came in two games. Dobbins is a great rusher (career 5.7 YPC), but he’ll need more of a receiving role in order to be anything more than a low-ceiling RB2/flex.

5. New Carolina WR DJ Chark is entering his sixth NFL season having missed at least one game during each of his first five campaigns. In total, he’s missed 28 of a possible 82 regular-season games (24.6%), which includes a six-game absence last season. As the Panthers’ roster stands, none of the top four wide receivers (Chark, 32-year-old Adam Thielen, Terrace Marshall Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr.) have completed a full regular season since 2018. Especially with a rookie QB under center, we may not get anything more than an occasional flex-worthy option out of this group in 2023.

6. Adjusting for game script, 2022’s pass-heaviest offenses were the Chiefs (+12% over expected), Bengals (+10%), Chargers (+9%) and Bills (+9%). None of these are a surprise, and while the Bengals did see a huge increase from 2021 (+3%), they’re likely to remain a pass-heavy team as long as Joe Burrow is under center. Kansas City (Andy Reid) and Buffalo (Ken Dorsey) will have the same playcaller in 2023 and are a near lock to remain pass heavy. The Chargers have a new playcaller in Kellen Moore and, while he did call a balanced offense in Dallas, his falling out with Mike McCarthy seemed to stem from a pass-first mindset, so we should anticipate plenty of pass attempts for Justin Herbert in 2023 and beyond.

7. Bengals WR Tee Higgins’ 19% target share last season doesn’t look so hot (he was at 24% in 2021), but keep in mind that he left three games early due to injury. If we eliminate those three outings, which included a grand total of two targets on 22 routes, Higgins’ target share leaps to 22% and his targets per game from 6.8 to 8.0 (he was at 8.1 in 2021). That may not seem like a huge difference, but considering how deep wide receiver is these days, it could be the difference between a good WR2 and a weak WR3.

8. Speaking of Bengals WR target share splits, Tyler Boyd played 11 full games behind a full-go Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins last season. In those games, he handled a 13% target share (4.8 per game). In six full games with either Chase or Higgins out/injured, Boyd managed a 15% target share (5.7 per game). Boyd hasn’t posted a top-25 fantasy campaign since 2019 and the fact that his targets are dwindling (even when Chase or Higgins are out) is a bad sign for a future boost in production.

9. While we’re on the topic of elite wide receivers, check this out: 10 of last season’s top 19 fantasy wide receivers were comprised of teammate duos: Dolphins Tyreek Hill (second) and Jaylen Waddle (eighth); Eagles A.J. Brown (sixth) and DeVonta Smith (ninth); Bengals Chase (11th) and Higgins (19th); Seahawks Tyler Lockett (13th) and DK Metcalf (16th); and Buccaneers Mike Evans (17th) and Chris Godwin (18th). If anyone claims it’s hard for offenses to support two top-end fantasy WRs, escort them back to their clown car and go about your day.

10. The Browns called pass at a rate 5 percentage points below expected when Jacoby Brissett was under center last season. That changed to -4% once Deshaun Watson returned. Playcaller Kevin Stefanski has called a run-first (if not run-heavy) scheme during all four full seasons as a playcaller. So, same as last season, it’s no sure thing that he’ll make a gigantic scheme change just for Watson. That’s perhaps good news for RB Nick Chubb, but not so much for the pass-catchers.

11. One of those Browns pass-catchers is TE David Njoku, who hasn’t completed a full regular season since 2018. He missed three games in 2022 and at least three games three of the past four seasons. Njoku finished eighth at tight end in receptions, yards and fantasy PPG last season, but his struggles with durability and touchdowns (he’s never cleared four in a season) limit him to fringe TE1 status.

12. D’Andre Swift and David Montgomery make up the new one-two punch at RB in Detroit. It’s a formidable duo on paper, but consider that neither back has completed a full regular season since 2019. After appearing in 16 games as a rookie, Montgomery has missed six games over the past three seasons. Swift has missed at least three games during all three of his professional campaigns (10 missed in total). Detroit’s RBs combined for a league-high 501 fantasy points last season, so it’s possible both of these backs are fantasy-relevant in 2023, but durability is obviously something we need to worry about.

13. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy’s past 11 offenses have posted a RB target share below the 19% league average. Those 11 units averaged a 15% share and include his time as the playcaller in Green Bay. The latter is notable with McCarthy set to replace Kellen Moore as the Cowboys’ playcaller. Tony Pollard ranked 16th among backs with 54 targets last season, but his upside in that category is likely capped in this scheme, especially if Dallas adds a capable receiving back as a complement.

14. Broncos WRs Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton played 10 full games together in 2022. During those outings, Sutton was ahead in snaps (574-543) and routes (352-342), but Jeudy led in targets (75-71 and air yards (907-886). Despite the similar usage, Jeudy (47-747-3 receiving line, 14.4 fantasy PPG) was the much better fantasy producer (Sutton: 40-486-2, 10.1). Back in 2021, the duo joined Tim Patrick for 10 full games together. Jeudy paced the trio with 55 targets (20% share), with Patrick’s 50 (18%) and Sutton’s 39 (14%) behind. Patrick (30-413-3, 8.9) was the top fantasy producer, ahead of Jeudy (38-467-0, 8.5) and Sutton (18-191-0, 4.0) in what was a much worse offense. If this trio remains in place under new coach Sean Payton, it’s possible only one (Jeudy is the best candidate) settles in as a weekly lineup lock in 10-team leagues.

15. From Week 10 on last season, Packers WR Christian Watson produced 584 yards and eight TDs on 35 touches. That equated to the 10th-most fantasy points at the position. The TD rate is obviously unsustainable, but Watson’s 23% target share (6.5 per game) and strong play suggests a breakout 2023 campaign is on the horizon. At least prior to the draft, the 2022 second-round pick has minimal competition for targets in Green Bay.

16. During a breakout 2021 season, Colts RB Jonathan Taylor put up 2,171 yards and 20 TDs en route to leading all backs in fantasy points. Last season, he missed six games and was held to 1,004 yards and four TDs, ranking 18th in fantasy PPG. That’s obviously a major drop-off, but consider this: Taylor averaged 19.5 carries and 3.1 targets per game in 2021, compared to 19.2 carries and 3.9 targets per game in 2022. Only 24 years old and still positioned as a feature back, Taylor is poised for a big rebound season (and he won’t cost you the first overall pick this year).

17. Sleeper Alert! Colts TE Jelani Woods played more than half the offensive snaps in four games last season. During those outings, which included Weeks 16-18, the 2022 third-round pick handled a generous 17% target share (5.3 per game). It didn’t lead to much fantasy production overall, but he did impress with an 8-98-0 receiving line on nine targets in Week 12. Woods will be working in a new, Shane Steichen-led offense in 2023, but the second-year tight end is a good bet for an expanded role at the expense of Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson.

18. Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley will make his return to the NFL this season having appeared in a total of five games over the past two seasons. In fact, Ridley’s only full regular season came during his rookie campaign in 2018. He missed three games in 2019, one in 2020, 12 in 2021 and all 17 in 2022 (suspension). Ridley, who has one career top-20 fantasy campaign, recently wrote about his struggles on The Players’ Tribune and expressed that he’s healthy and poised for a big bounce-back in 2023. He has the look of a boom/bust WR2/3.

19. Raiders RB Josh Jacobs put up massive rushing (340-1,653-12) and receiving (53-400-0) lines last season en route to pacing the league in touches (393) and yardage (2,053). It was an impressive showing, but league history suggests he’ll struggle to repeat. From 2011 to 2021, there were 22 backs who handled 300-plus carries in a single regular season. Only 10 played at least 15 games the following season, and those 10 saw a dip from 18.6 to 15.1 fantasy PPG. Don’t be surprised if the 25-year-old misses a few games and touches the ball 70 to 90 fewer times this season.

20. If you’re wondering why the Chargers may add a wide receiver during April’s draft, consider this: Keenan Allen (entering his age-31 season) and Mike Williams (age 28) have combined for zero complete regular seasons over the past three years. Allen missed 11 games and Williams missed six during the span. Williams has appeared in 100% of the Chargers’ regular-season games once in six seasons (2018). On the other hand, Allen handled a massive 27% target share during nine full games last season (he was fantasy’s No. 3 WR during the span) and has had a share in the 25-27% range each of the past six seasons. Both will be lineup locks when active, but a pair of 17-game seasons feels like a long shot.

21. Speaking of Chargers wide receivers and injuries, there were only four games last season in which Williams, Allen and Joshua Palmer were a full go (Austin Ekeler and Gerald Everett were also healthy and active). During those games, the target shares were as follows: Allen 29%, Williams 19%, Ekeler 13%, Everett 11% and Palmer 10%. That shows a sizable dip in usage for the latter three, and though Ekeler has had a target share in the 15-19% range each of the past four seasons, we should expect a slight to moderate dip in targets in 2023.

22. In 12 games in which QB Tua Tagovailoa played more than half the snaps last season, the Dolphins’ offense averaged 2.8 TDs per game and was the league’s fifth-pass-heaviest unit (+8%). In the six other games, Miami averaged 1.7 TDs per game and called a balanced offense (+1%). Tagovailoa played very well last season, so if he’s healthy in 2023, we should anticipate a pass-heavy, high-scoring (albeit slow-moving) offense.

23. Speaking of Tagovailoa, his presence had a big impact on the target share and production of WR Jaylen Waddle last season. In the aforementioned 12 games in which Tagovailoa played at least half the snaps, Waddle averaged 17.7 fantasy PPG and handled a 23% target share (7.3 per game). In the six other games, Waddle averaged 9.1 fantasy PPG with a 16% target share (6.0 per game). Of the 15 receiving touchdowns scored by Waddle and Tyreek Hill last season, none came during the six games Tagovailoa was out or left early due to injury. As the last two paragraphs make fairly clear, a healthy Tagovailoa will be paramount for the fantasy production of the Miami offense this season.

24. Dolphins RBs Jeff Wilson Jr. and Raheem Mostert played five full games together last season. During those outings, Wilson handled 50 carries (48% team share) and 16 targets (11%). Mostert handled 44 carries (42%) and 15 targets (10%). The two were exactly identical in terms of fantasy output (48 fantasy points or 9.5 per game). Miami’s RBs (13% to 22%) and TEs (11% to 18%) saw huge boosts in target share when Tagovailoa was out, so we shouldn’t get too caught up in the double-digit shares, but it’s pretty clear that we should anticipate a near even backfield split.

25. You may want to sit down for this one. Since Kirk Cousins arrived in Minnesota in 2018, the Vikings’ offense ranks sixth in the league in touchdowns (231). Even better, over the past three seasons, Cousins’ Vikings (147), trail only Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs (165), Josh Allen’s Bills (162), Aaron Rodgers’ Packers (155) and Tom Brady’s Buccaneers (150) in offensive TDs. Like that or not, Cousins gets his guys in the end zone.

26. Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson was shipped from Detroit to Minnesota after Week 8 last season. From Week 9 on, Hockenson racked up 87 targets (8.7 per game, 22% team share), which ranked seventh in the entire league among all players, and was fantasy’s No. 3 TE. During the same span, teammate Justin Jefferson soaked up a league-high 112 targets (11.2 per game, 28% share) and was fantasy’s top WR. With the aforementioned Cousins under center, both Jefferson and Hockenson are well positioned for another huge statistical season in 2023.

27. Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson appeared in nine full games last season in which running mate Damien Harris played 10-plus snaps. In those games, Stevenson totaled 95 carries, 48 targets and one TD and his 13.3 fantasy PPG ranked 20th at RB. In the seven weeks Stevenson was a full go but Harris was out or below 10 snaps, Stevenson totaled 92 carries, 49 targets and five TDs, and his 18.0 PPG ranked ninth at RB. Harris is gone, but the likes of newcomer James Robinson and second-year backs Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris will be competing for a role. Coach Bill Belichick tends to lean toward a committee attack, so it’s possible Stevenson settles in as an RB2 this season.

28. Patriots TE Hunter Henry reached five targets in six games last season. All six came during the eight lowest snap shares posted by ex-teammate Jonnu Smith. Henry averaged 5.1 targets per game during games in which Smith played less than 45% of the snaps and 2.0 per game in games Smith was over 45%. Smith is gone, but Mike Gesicki was signed and is an upgrade, so Henry’s fantasy value is unlikely to increase in 2023. In fact, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Henry focuses primarily on blocking and Gesicki out-targets him this season.

29. Saints RB Alvin Kamara is facing a potential suspension to begin the season, but even if that weren’t the case, we’d still need to be a little concerned about his availability. Kamara has appeared in 100% of the Saints’ regular-season games once in six seasons (his rookie year in 2017), having missed 10 games over the past five seasons. That includes four missed games in 2021 and two in 2022. Kamara’s massive passing-game usage is enough to keep him in the RB1 mix when active, but there’s enough uncertainty here that he’s a tough investment in the first few rounds of 2023 drafts.

30. Speaking of the Saints, WR Michael Thomas is back this season after appearing in 10 of a possible 50 games during the 2020-22 regular seasons. Thomas looked pretty good out of the gate last season (16-171-3 receiving line on 22 targets), but he made it through only three games, is now 30 years old, and Chris Olave is the team’s new No. 1 wideout. Perhaps Derek Carr’s arrival will lead Thomas to a big rebound campaign, but it will be hard to count on him for a full season of high-end fantasy play.

31. The Giants entered the offseason with a major need at wide receiver, and their game plan for resolving the void was a bit bizarre. Sterling Shepard (tore his ACL in Week 3 last season and has missed 34 games due to injury over the past four seasons) and Darius Slayton (on the trade block last offseason) were re-signed and Parris Campbell (appeared in all 17 games in 2022, but had played in only 15 of a possible 49 games during his first three NFL seasons) and Jamison Crowder (24 missed games over the past three seasons) were signed. Oh, and that doesn’t include the addition of TE Darren Waller, who has missed 14 games due to injury over the past two seasons. And did I mention that 2022 second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson tore his ACL in Week 11 last season? In addition, QB Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley have missed substantial action due to injury over the past four seasons. This is an intriguing situation and, perhaps more so than any other team, health will be paramount.

32. The Eagles swapped out lead backs during the offseason, subbing in Rashaad Penny for Miles Sanders. Penny has been super effective during his pro career (5.69 YPC since 2018 leads all backs during the span), but durability has been a big problem. The 2018 first-round pick has missed at least six games in four consecutive seasons and, after appearing in only five games in 2022, he has dressed for 42 of a possible 82 regular-season games since entering the league (51.2%). Penny is also a nonfactor in the passing game (he has never cleared nine catches in a season), so he’s likely to settle in as a TD-dependent flex in most formats.

33. Speaking of the Eagles, should we be concerned about TE Dallas Goedert‘s durability? The 28-year-old hasn’t completed a full regular season since his rookie campaign (2018) and has since missed 13 games in four seasons. That includes five missed games in 2022. Goedert has led the tight end position in yards per target each of the past two seasons, so while his durability and lack of scoring (he’s yet to clear five TDs in a season) limit his ceiling, he’s nonetheless a solid TE1 target.

34. One more on the juggernaut that is the Philadelphia offense. Back in 2020, WR A.J. Brown handled a 27% target share during 15 active weeks. In 2021, he managed a 29% share in 13 full games. In 2022 (his first season with the Eagles), Brown soaked up a 28% share in 20 games, including the postseason. Brown is looking to finish eighth or better at WR in target share for the fourth season in a row and is best viewed as a fringe WR1.

35. Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III took over as the team’s lead back in Week 6 last season. Excluding a Week 13 game in which he left injured, the 2022 second-round pick handled 80% of the team’s carries (19.7 per game) and 8% of the targets (2.5 per game) during 11 games in that lead back role. Walker was fantasy’s No. 8 RB on a per-game basis (17.1) during the 10 regular-season weeks atop the depth chart, though his 21-151-0 receiving line during the span exacerbates the concerns raised prior to last year’s draft related to his lack of passing-game involvement. Walker is a fringe RB1 fantasy option, but it’s possible he’ll see Nick Chubb-like usage, which would limit his ceiling.

36. Want some optimism that Seahawks TE Noah Fant will bounce back this season? You’ve come to the wrong place. The 2019 first-round pick saw his target share (and playing time) plummet from 18% in both 2020 and 2021 with Denver to 11% with Seattle in 2022. Fant’s fantasy production followed the same path, as he was a top-13 scorer (PPG) in 2020 and 2021 but finished 23rd in 2022. Even with Will Dissly out for the team’s final three games, Fant’s role didn’t change (he totaled nine targets on 125 snaps) and he was inexplicably out-produced by Colby Parkinson (17 targets on 154 snaps).

37. RB Christian McCaffrey was a terrific fantasy option after joining the 49ers last season, but his splits with/without an active Elijah Mitchell were pretty significant. In six games with Mitchell, McCaffrey played 63% of the snaps, handled 34% of the carries (11.2 per game) and had a 19% target share (5.2). In seven games with Mitchell out (excluding his Week 7 debut), McCaffrey played 82% of the snaps, handled 63% of the carries (17.7) and had a 24% target share (6.4). With Mitchell, he averaged 16.7 fantasy PPG. Without Mitchell, he averaged 27.1 points. It’s not a huge sample, and there was some garbage time influence, but Mitchell was clearly a factor in the run game and at the goal line even in neutral game scripts. It’s evident that the 49ers really like Mitchell and he will have a role (perhaps even splitting carries with McCaffrey) in 2023. “CMC” still warrants early-first-round consideration, but he’s perhaps not the best choice with Pick 1.1.

38. 49ers WR Deebo Samuel is entering his fifth season in the league having yet to complete a full regular season. Samuel missed one game as a rookie, nine games in 2020, one in 2021 and four last season. Samuel’s dual-threat role, which includes carrying the ball between the tackles at times, is great in terms of generating touches (7.75 per game last season) but isn’t ideal for durability. Samuel’s skill set and usage keep him in the WR2 mix, but it’s fair to expect additional missed time for the 27-year-old here in 2023.

39. Samuel isn’t the only 49ers pass-catcher with durability concerns. TE George Kittle has completed one full regular season (2018) in six tries. He has missed a total of 14 games during his career, including three in 2021 and two in 2022. Kittle got quite lucky in the TD department last season (his TD rate was three times his prior career rate), which overshadowed a concerning 16% target share (4.2 per game) during nine full games with McCaffrey, Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. If those three hold up for most of the 2023 season, it’s possible Kittle settles in as more of a midrange TE1 than the top-end play he has been in recent years.

40. Buccaneers’ WR Chris Godwin has struggled a bit with health, having missed at least two games in four consecutive seasons. He missed a total of 11 games during the span, which isn’t horrific, but nonetheless notable. Especially with Tom Brady gone, it’s fair to expect a step back in fantasy production for the 27-year-old (this applies to Mike Evans as well) in 2023. Both have the look of WR3 options.

41. Titans TE Chigoziem Okonkwo first played more than 30% of the offensive snaps in Week 7 last season. From that point forward, the 2022 fourth-round pick handled a 13% target share (3.3 per game) despite running a route on only 37% of Tennessee’s pass plays. He wasn’t much of a fantasy option (he ranked 26th with 6.9 PPG) and struggled with drops, but he flashed upside by finishing in the top two at TE in yards per target (10.0), yards per reception (14.1) and RAC (7.9). Unless the team replaces departed Austin Hooper via free agency or a Day 1-2 draft pick, Okonkwo will be an intriguing breakout candidate this season.

42. Commanders RBs Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson played six full games (Weeks 9-15) together without J.D. McKissic in the lineup last season. During the span, Robinson handled 50% of the carries and 5% of the targets, compared to Gibson’s 31% of the carries and 14% of the targets. Robinson was the better fantasy producer, holding a 11.9 to 9.3 edge in points per game, though Robinson’s mark was only good enough for 24th among RBs during the span. Perhaps new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will shake things up, but odds are that this will again be a backfield split. Neither Robinson nor Gibson is likely to emerge as a weekly lineup lock when both are healthy.

43. Commanders WR Jahan Dotson missed five games because of injury during his rookie season, but don’t let that overshadow an impressive finish to the campaign. The 2022 first-round pick handled a target share of at least 21% in each of the team’s final five games, which allowed a strong 21-344-3 receiving line and 14.7 fantasy PPG, which ranked 17th at the position. And that came with Terry McLaurin averaging 15.5 PPG (13th) during the same span. Dotson is well positioned for a Year 2 breakout, and it figures to come at the expense of Curtis Samuel, who saw his playing time and target share plummet in the second half of the 2022 season.

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