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John Norton ("The Guru") and Gary Davenport ("The Godfather of IDP") are two of the most experienced and knowledgeable IDP analysts in the fantasy football industry. Every week during the 2023 season here at Footballguys, The Guru and the Godfather will come together to answer five of that week's most pressing questions.
With the inaugural week of the 2023 campaign finally underway, the Guru and the Godfather have gathered to look at some players set to exceed expectations, some others who will fail to meet them, some sleeper plays, and even a bit of advice for IDP managers as they enter the fantasy octagon once again.
IDP stalwarts like Cleveland Browns edge-rusher Myles Garrett and Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Foyesade Oluokun are expected to post fat stat lines every week. But which IDPs at each of the three main positions will explode and exceed expectations in a big way in their first game action of 2023?
Guru: Week 1 is always an adventure. Without any real game tape to review, we are forced to make a lot of decisions based on what we think we know, then cross our fingers and hope we are right. Thus, a lot of these answers include a healthy dose of gut feeling, but here we go.
I like Josh Allen against the Colts this week. His sack numbers were not great last year, but Allen was credited with a lot of quarterback pressures. We've seen this before when Maxx Crosby led the league in pressures in 2021, then followed up with a breakout season. Jacksonville is a team on the rise, and nothing says "time to feast" to a pass rusher better than a chance to face a rookie QB in his first start.
Rookie Tyree Wilson missed the offseason, camp, and most of the preseason while recovering from a foot injury. Since returning to practice in mid-August, he's been impressive. With Chandler Jones away from the team for personal reasons, the door is wide open for Wilson to start or at least have a major role. Denver struggled to keep Russell Wilson upright last year. They should be a lot better this time around, but until we see it, it's not a sure thing.
Zach Cunningham was undrafted in a lot of leagues. He won't be available come week two. Cunningham emerged during the preseason as the Eagles' second starter, next to Nakobe Dean. In preseason games, both were on the field for every defensive snap with the starters. There is no guarantee that will continue into the regular season, but Cunningham is a tackling machine that can be productive even in a two-down role.
Ernest Jones gets his shot as the centerpiece of the Rams' defense and will be on the field full-time. Seattle is a run-first team that should prove a great matchup, especially if they get a lead as expected this week.
Ryan Neal is playing strong safety for the Buccaneers, but a lot of people are missing out on what that means. Traditionally, both Tampa Bay safeties have been IDP-friendly with Antoine Winfield as the best option. What many managers are missing is that Winfield has moved over to free safety this year with Neal stepping in at strong. Winfield will be fine because a lot of his value comes from big plays, but look for Ryan to produce strong tackle totals, starting this week against the Vikings.
Godfather: The esteemed Mr. Norton already mentioned Josh Allen of the Jaguars, who could be in for a solid game against a Colts team that allowed a whopping 60 sacks in 2022. But he's far from the only veteran edge-rusher with a (potentially) highly favorable fantasy matchup in Week 1.
In his first season with the Seattle Seahawks last year, Uchenna Nwosu set career highs in both total tackles (67) and sacks (9.5) on the way to finishing as a top-15 fantasy finish in many IDP scoring systems. Nwosu kicks off the 2023 season against a Los Angeles Rams team that led the NFC in sacks allowed with 59 and surrendered the most fantasy points in the NFC to defensive ends. Matthew Stafford may be back, but he's not exactly known for his escapability.
At linebacker, I have been pounding the drum for Azeez Al-Shaair of Tennessee Titans all summer—so much so that I have hyperextended both of my elbows. I legitimately think that the 26-year-old has LB1 potential in his new home. There's a good chance that Al-Shaair gets the season started on the right foot—the Saints were fourth in fantasy points allowed to linebackers last year, and we should see plenty of Jamaal Williams and Kendre Miller Sunday.
At defensive back, Kyle Dugger of the New England Patriots feels a bit like low-hanging fruit—to this analyst, the 27-year-old has already established himself as a high-end fantasy starter. But Dugger should have the opportunity to come roaring out of the gate against an Eagles team that surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to safeties last year. If there's a reason to think that Philly won't be just as potent offensively in 2023, this guy can't see it.
Of course. Just because Garrett and Oluokun are supposed to go ballistic every week doesn't mean they will (or do). What big IDP names (one at each position) will disappoint fantasy managers in Week 1?
Guru: It would be great to have Quinnen Williams on all my teams, but he could get off to a slow start. The 2022 Bills gave up less than a sack and a half per game to defensive linemen and edge defenders combined. Buffalo has some good running backs that are between the tackles guys, but their lead back, James Cook, is not exactly one of them. For most managers, Williams is too good to outright bench, but the signs say this will not be one of his better games.
I love me some Jordyn Brooks, at least when he is healthy. Brooks tore his ACL in week 17 of last year. He returned to practice a few weeks back and is going to play, but I'm not going to believe he is at full speed until I see it. Oh, and the Rams are a talent-depleted offense that is almost certain to struggle.
Kamren Curl is going to have a lot of productive games this season. That said, it is hard to produce against a toothless offense that struggles to get past the defensive line, much less the linebackers. With a backup quarterback under center and an offensive line that is rather unimpressive, at least on paper, Curl may be short on opportunity in this one.
Godfather: It's fantastic for both IDP managers and the Tennessee Titans to have Harold Landry back on the field after an ACL tear wiped out his 2022 season—two years ago, the 27-year-old edge-rusher erupted for 75 tackles and 12 sacks. But Landry's return to action comes against a New Orleans Saints team that gave up the fewest fantasy points to defensive ends in 2022. And the arrival of Derek Carr doesn't appear to help matters much—Carr's Raiders allowed the second-fewest last season.
At linebacker, it was a good offseason for Tremaine Edmunds—and his accountant. Edmunds was handed $18 million a season and $50 million in guarantees to be the foundation of the Chicago defense in 2023. But Edmunds has never been a big stat day—he hasn't hit 120 total tackles since his rookie year. And while much has changed in Titletown this offseason, it has been a while since the Packers were consistently a favorable matchup for linebackers.
Safety Julian Love was quite the find for fantasy managers in 2022—he eclipsed 120 total tackles with the New York Giants and ended the year as a top-10 fantasy defensive back. Now in Seattle, Love will be locked into the starting box safety role until Jamal Adams returns—and there's no telling when that will be. But Love's Seattle debut comes against a Rams offense that most expect to struggle mightily without Cooper Kupp—and a Rams offense that was dead last in fantasy points allowed to safeties last season.
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