NFL free agents, cut/trade candidates: Ideal fantasy football landing spots for 2023

While a newly cast Lombardi trophy has yet to be hoisted, dust is already settling on many fantasy football managers' championship crowns. And they're the lucky ones. For those who failed to take home a gold-plated prize, the wait for next season is fraught with speculation, anticipation and calculation. The first wave of which is delivered to passionate patrons via NFL free agency.

Ever the early bird, Mike Clay has already gifted readers with a thorough outline of the upcoming frenzy. In his fantasy free agency preview, Mike spotlights big free agent names, potential cut candidates and position-needy squads. Managers should read it, bookmark it and expect to come back to it.

Preparation is always paramount. However, there is some space with which to play and, perhaps, speak some big dreams into existence. Let's wish-cast while we can!

This article is for the Tony Pollard investors who have sprouted many a gray hair watching Ezekiel Elliott plod away with the bulk of the Cowboys' backfield touches. It's for the Terry McLaurin stans who know he's one signal-caller away from realizing his top-five potential. And don't forget the metrics mavens who have too long been teased by Mike Gesicki's SPARQ score.

I can't promise these landing spots will be right, but I can promise they'll be fun.


Lamar Jackson
Ideal destination: Atlanta Falcons

He's likely to remain a Raven but imagine him as a Falcon. The speed Jackson could bring to Atlanta's run-centric offense might be exactly what makes it fly.

The Falcons led the league in rushing attempts (559) with Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder accounting for more than 18% of the team's total totes. While Mariota averaged three fewer carries per game (6.5, eighth among QBs), he was also less efficient, managing 5.2 yards per carry for an 85-438-4 rushing stat line. Meanwhile, Jackson shouldered a larger load (9.3 carries per game, third among QBs) while recording 1.6 more yards per carry. That sort of seismic shift under center would keep defenses guessing and open up a receiving corps filthy with untapped potential.

Speaking of which ... if a head coach who worked for years as a TE coach won't unlock Kyle Pitts, maybe a QB who has fed the position over the length of his career will. Ravens tight end Mark Andrews has remained inside the top 10 in terms of looks and scores for four consecutive seasons. Interestingly, two of Andrews' three most productive scoring campaigns came when receiver Marquise Brown was fully folded into the offense. That suggests plenty of opportunities for Drake London to continue his ascent.

Aaron Rodgers
Ideal destination: New York Jets

The people clearly (and understandably) want a Rodgers/Davante Adams reunion. As a Bears fan, however, I've endured enough of that. Instead, I'm feeling the Jets.

First of all, Rodgers only has to mumble "Let's Fly" with Nathaniel Hackett in frame one time for the whole experiment to crush. Secondly, it increases the likelihood of the Jets being on Hard Knocks, thus improving the waning watchability of the series. And finally, it could inspire some delicious Zach Wilson memes.

From a purely fantasy perspective, the Jets have young players who could make the leap with a veteran signal-caller. Garrett Wilson flashed at the top of his rookie season with Joe Flacco under center, but he really exploded with Mike White at the helm. Garrett Wilson finished as fantasy's WR1 in Week 12 and recorded a career-high 162 yards in Week 13. Elijah Moore additionally showed chemistry with both backups, scoring four TDs in five outings with White and/or Flacco in 2021. Breece Hall, who is reportedly ahead of schedule in his ACL recovery, could certainly benefit from a lifted backfield and a QB who doesn't mind targeting his RB1.

Running back

Tony Pollard
Ideal destination: Carolina Panthers

The knock against Josh Jacobs coming out of college was he wasn't capable of carrying the full workload. After four years with the Raiders and coming off almost 400 touches and more than 2,000 total yards in 2022, however, it appears as though he acquitted himself well in Sin City. Fantasy fans are hopeful Pollard can be the Raiders' next unlikely hero. I've always been a Jacobs stan and would prefer to see him stay with Vegas, so I'm going in a different direction.

Carolina is a less popular destination but one that could prove sneakily fruitful. It's unlikely the Panthers will benefit from a brand-name QB, but that ensures a commitment to the running game. Pollard is explosive enough to create on his own (5.9 YPT, fifth among RBs) and make up for a lack of offensive zip. I'm not 100% sold on his every-down ability (especially coming off a broken leg), but I do think he could post top-10 fantasy numbers in a 60/40 split. After all, he was fantasy's RB8 while sharing 48% of the touches with Ezekiel Elliot (44% of all Dallas RB touches).

Alexander Mattison
Ideal destination: Buffalo Bills

Mattison is just 24 years old and has recorded only 474 touches during his career (118.5 per season). That means his legs are fresh and ready for a lead-back moment. Admittedly, Mattison isn't the fastest back, but he's plenty powerful and has capable hands. If the Bills are looking for an upgrade, then Mattison could produce as the backfield's new motor. His skill set complements James Cook's, leaving enough work for both RBs to thrive in one of the league's most dynamic offenses.

Aaron Jones
Ideal destination: Miami Dolphins

As is, Jones' contract carries a cap hit of $20 million. That's a lot for a 28-year-old RB on a team expected to enter next season roughly $16 million over budget. Restructuring Jones' deal is certainly possible. Finding a trade partner, however, makes more financial sense, especially considering AJ Dillon will be entering 2023 in the final year of his rookie pledge.

Sending Jones to an RB-needy team like the Dolphins would be a dream for fantasy managers, as it frees up both backs. Jones figures to flourish in Mike McDaniel's scheme, working as a safety valve in the passing game while benefiting from light boxes as defenses attempt to contain two elite field-stretchers in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Meanwhile, Dillon could finally fulfill his potential as an every-down back in Green Bay, consistently evading tackles and recording a juke rate so seismic it would cause weak knees in even the most tender-footed stat nerds.

Wide receiver

DeAndre Hopkins
Ideal destination: Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are on the hook for Allen Robinson II's contract through 2024. Given his underwhelming transition from Chicago, however, the Rams could try to make a play for a more proven vet with Super Bowl aspirations.

Hopkins has been minted as a rebound king, hushing doubters when he changed teams in 2020 and naysayers who thought he might be rusty entering Week 7 of 2022. Nuk could thrive as a physical outside presence, complementing Cooper Kupp in the slot. He might not make it through the season without an injury, but he'd be good for upward of eight looks per game until then.

Jakobi Meyers
Ideal destination: Kansas City Chiefs

A former colleague insisted I dig into Kelvin Harmon's tape back in 2019. I don't remember much of it, because I was immediately distracted by Meyers' craftiness. Harmon -- who was a sixth-round pick -- has since washed out of the league, but his former NC State teammate (who, ironically, went undrafted) has proven to be a solid slot producer.

The touchdowns have notably been missing from Meyers' game (though he managed six spikes in 2022), but with little else around him in New England, he has thrived as a sure-handed chain mover. His reliability in the short-to-intermediate passing game could be a boon to the Chiefs ... and managers who play in PPR-friendly formats.

Mack Hollins
Ideal destination: Houston Texans

Hollins emerged off the waiver wire as a surprise flex option in 2022, averaging more than nine fantasy points per game and recording seven double-digit efforts. Injuries allowed Hollins a more prominent role in the Raiders' offense, as the 29-year-old posted career highs in targets (94), catches (57) and yards (690).

With size (6-foot-4 and 221 pounds) and speed (90th percentile), Hollins could prosper as a complementary deep threat to Nico Collins in Houston. The Texans' QB situation is, obviously, less than ideal, but Hollins -- who has played with a plethora of signal-callers -- is capable of converting on YOLO balls. Enough of those would keep him in the high-upside flex conversation.

Tight end

Mike Gesicki
Ideal destination: Green Bay Packers

The Packers have a lot of needs, and Gesicki is brimming with unrealized talent. A metrics community darling, Gesicki was primarily used as a slot receiver during his first four years in Miami. Unfortunately, the Penn State product wasn't a fit in Mike McDaniel's scheme. He did, however, show chemistry with Skylar Thompson, proving he could be a valuable outlet over the middle, especially in an offense featuring a green signal-caller. That skill set could come in handy for whomever arrives in Eastern Wisconsin post-Aaron Rodgers.

Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF