It was awful to see Cowboys running back Tony Pollard go down in Sunday's NFC divisional-round loss to the 49ers, and the news got worse after the game. According to ESPN, Pollard suffered a fractured left fibula that will require surgery.
The report says it's a three-month recovery, so it sounds he'll be fine for the start of the 2023 season. But the timing of the injury is bad since Pollard is an unrestricted free agent. Hopefully, this doesn't hurt his chances of becoming a featured running back -- in Dallas or somewhere else.
The NFL Network reported prior to Sunday's game that the Cowboys would consider using the franchise tag on Pollard. Keeping him in Dallas would make sense, especially if the Cowboys move on from Ezekiel Elliott, which is a strong possibility because of his contract.
Pollard just had a career season in 2022 with 193 carries for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns, along with 39 catches for 371 yards and three touchdowns on 55 targets. He averaged 15.8 PPR points per game.
Pollard played two games this past season without Elliott, and he scored a combined 54 PPR points against Chicago in Week 8 and Green Bay in Week 10. He combined for 37 carries for 246 yards and four touchdowns over that span and four catches for 39 yards on seven targets.
He has star potential if he's the lone running back in Dallas, and he could be a first-round pick in all leagues. If he leaves the Cowboys, where he signs will determine his Fantasy value, but we hope he gets the chance to lead a backfield and not remain in a complementary role.
We'll continue to monitor Pollard's health and free agency over the next several weeks, but we'd love to see him at 100 percent in August as the No. 1 running back on his team. Hopefully, that's in Dallas and without Elliott also on the roster.
Now, let's see who else had their stock rise and fall in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs when it comes to their Fantasy value for 2023. And we'll also have the updated rankings for those of you competing in any playoff challenge.
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1. Brock Purdy is the guy in San Francisco
No matter what happens in the NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia, Purdy should be the 49ers starter in Week 1 next season. He got the 49ers to this point, and he's played more than well enough to earn the starting nod ahead of Trey Lance. Now, to be fair, Lance should be given the chance to compete for the job, but Purdy should have the advantage going into training camp given his performance as San Francisco's starter. He took over for Jimmy Garoppolo (foot) in Week 13 against Miami, and he's won seven games in a row, including two playoff outings. As a Fantasy option, he scored at least 20 points in four of five starts in the regular season. He won't be a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback to open the year, but he could easily be a high-end backup with the chance to start most weeks. If he's the starter as expected then he's a great late-round pick in one-quarterback leagues and a solid Fantasy option in Superflex and two-quarterback leagues.
2. Travis Etienne worth a second-round pick next season
Etienne had a strong game against the Chiefs in the divisional round with 10 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 18 yards on three targets. He scored 16 PPR points, and he's capable of doing that on a regular basis in 2023. He played 10 healthy games without James Robinson in 2022 after he was traded to the Jets, and Etienne averaged 13.7 PPR points over that span. But I like his chances to improve on that total next season. The Jaguars offense is trending in the right direction, and Etienne should be their featured back. We'll see if anyone of significance is added this offseason to compete with Etienne, but if that doesn't happen, I would draft him in Round 2 in the majority of leagues. He has top-10 upside in all formats.
3. CeeDee Lamb finishes off breakout campaign
I expected Lamb to have a breakout season as the No. 1 receiver for the Cowboys in 2022, and he delivered in a big way. He finished off his campaign with 10 catches for 117 yards on 13 targets in the loss at San Francisco, and he had a touchdown or 100 receiving yards in six games in a row. In the regular season, Lamb had 107 catches for 1,359 yards and nine touchdowns and averaged 19.4 PPR points per game. However, in 11 games with Dak Prescott after he returned from his thumb injury in Week 7, Lamb was on pace for 114 catches, 1,468 yards and 11 touchdowns, so he can be even better in 2023. Let's see what the Cowboys do this offseason to tweak their offense, but Lamb should be considered a borderline first-round pick in all leagues.
4. Is DeVonta Smith the best receiver in Philadelphia?
Smith had another solid game in the divisional round against the Giants with six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. A.J. Brown was held to three catches for 22 yards on six targets, and Smith finished with better stats than Brown to close the season. Over the past 10 games, including the playoffs, Smith scored 174 PPR points compared to 154 for Brown. Smith also had 93 targets over that span compared to 82 for Brown. Now, I'm still drafting Brown ahead of Smith in 2023 Fantasy leagues, but not by much. Brown is a borderline first-round pick in the majority of leagues, but Smith should be drafted toward the end of Round 2 or the beginning of Round 3 at the latest. He had a breakout season in his sophomore campaign.
5. Kadarius Toney has chance to be a star
Toney only played 20 snaps in the divisional round against Jacksonville, but he had five catches for 36 yards on seven targets and one carry for 14 yards. When he's been on the field for the Chiefs, he's gotten the ball, and it's going to be fun to see what happens in 2023 after he gets a full offseason in Andy Reid's offense. He has to stay healthy, which has been a problem in his first two years in the NFL, but the Chiefs receiving corps could be in for another makeover this offseason since JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. With a bigger role, Toney has star potential, and he's going to be a popular breakout candidate in 2023. For now, plan on drafting him around Round 6 in the majority of leagues.
1. Dak Prescott ends season on disappointing note
Prescott is only in this category because of how the season ended for Dallas in a 19-12 loss at San Francisco. He played poorly with 23-of-37 passing for 206 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, along with four carries for 22 yards, but I'm not sure his Fantasy value for 2023 has changed. He needs to cut down on the interceptions since he had 13 over his final nine games, including the postseason, but he also has plenty of upside. Keep in mind, in the wild-card round he had five total touchdowns at Tampa Bay. In his final 10 games in the regular season, Prescott had six outings with at least 22 Fantasy points and only two with fewer than 18 points. Barring drastic changes in Dallas, he should have the chance to post quality stats on a weekly basis, and he's worth drafting as a No. 1 quarterback in all leagues with a mid-round pick.
2. Daniel Jones heads to free agency after bad loss
Jones didn't put together his best performance in his last game before becoming a free agent in the loss at Philadelphia in the divisional round. He was 15-of-27 passing for 135 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, and he had six carries for 24 yards. We'll see what happens this offseason, but it would be surprising if he left the Giants. And I still consider him a borderline No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2023. He just had a solid campaign in 2022 in his first year under Brian Daboll, becoming just the ninth quarterback in NFL history with at least 3,000 passing yards and 700 rushing yards. And he did that with a receiving corps led by Darius Slayton, Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins. We'll see what the Giants do to improve the offense, including a decision on free agent Saquon Barkley, but Jones is trending in the right direction under Daboll, despite the poor performance against the Eagles. His stock is down after the disappointing loss, but overall Jones' stock is on the rise heading into next year.
3. Is Devin Singletary done in Buffalo?
Singletary might have played his final down with the Bills in the 27-10 loss to Cincinnati in the divisional round. He had six carries for 24 yards and five catches for 38 yards on eight targets, but he heads into this offseason scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. We'll see if the Bills decide to bring Singletary back, but maybe a split is best for both parties. He played well in 2022 with 177 carries for 819 yards and five touchdowns, along with 38 catches for 280 yards and a touchdown on 52 targets, and he averaged 11.0 PPR points per game. But he could potentially do more in an offense that gave him the chance for 250-plus total touches. And the Bills might be better off giving James Cook a bigger role, or adding another running back to help take pressure off Josh Allen. It's something to monitor this offseason, and Singletary, with the right team, could be worth drafting as early as Round 6. If Singletary leaves Buffalo, Cook could be a breakout candidate to target as early as Round 5.
4. Gabe Davis ends disappointing season with dud
Davis had a disappointing game in the loss to the Bengals with two catches for 34 yards on four targets. That's now 10 games in 17 outings this season, including the playoffs, where Davis scored nine PPR points or less. He was expected to be a breakout Fantasy receiver in 2022, but that didn't happen. Now, you can point to a couple of things that suggest Davis could rebound in 2023, and he should be a good value pick in the majority of leagues. Davis suffered an ankle injury early in the season that caused him to miss Week 2. He was seemingly back to full strength in Week 5 against Pittsburgh, and he combined for 48 PPR points in two games against the Steelers and Chiefs before Buffalo's bye in Week 7. Then, in Week 9 at the Jets, Josh Allen injured his elbow, and Davis suffered to close the season, scoring just three touchdowns over his final eight games in the regular season, with only one outing over 68 receiving yards. He had a big game against Miami in the wild-card round with six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown on nine targets before the dud against Cincinnati, but I expect Davis to rebound in 2023. He might not ever become a star Fantasy option, but he could be a borderline starter in most leagues, depending on what else Buffalo does at receiver this offseason. And this year you should get Davis as a bargain in the Round 6 range or later.
5. JuJu Smith-Schuster disappears again
Smith-Schuster was a non-factor against the Jaguars in the divisional round with two catches for 29 yards on two targets. He's now gone four games in a row, including the playoffs, with three catches or less, 35 yards or less and no touchdowns. He continues to get outplayed by Toney, and the Chiefs are winning without Smith-Schuster being a significant contributor. We'll see what happens in the AFC Championship Game against Cincinnati, but this is probably not what Smith-Schuster wants to play like heading into free agency. Smith-Schuster's 2023 Fantasy value will be determined by where he plays, but his Fantasy value continues to trend downward with each poor performance to close this season.
The four teams left in the playoffs all have strong quarterbacks, but Hurts and Burrow look like the two best following the divisional round. Hurts looked great with 154 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Giants, along with 34 rushing yards and a touchdown. And Burrow wasn't far behind at 242 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions at Buffalo, with 31 rushing yards.
Purdy had his worst Fantasy performance against the Cowboys with 214 passing yards and no touchdowns or interceptions and just 8 rushing yards. But you know what you're getting with him based on his limited career as a starter.
As for Mahomes, he's a questionable Fantasy option now that he's dealing with a high-ankle sprain, although he's expected to play against the Bengals. He limped through the game against Jacksonville and finished with 195 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and just 8 rushing yards.
Based on the divisional round, I'm not expecting the Eagles and Bengals to reach Super Bowl LVII. That's why I have Hurts and Burrow atop these rankings.
Even though I think the Eagles will beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, I still like McCaffrey as the top running back, and he should be fine with the calf injury that limited him against Dallas. He's scored a touchdown in every game he's played with Purdy, and if San Francisco gets by Philadelphia, it will likely be with McCaffrey having a big game. And Mitchell continues to be a factor for the 49ers as well, but he's not a reliable Fantasy option as long as McCaffrey is healthy.
Mixon was a big surprise against the Bills with 20 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 18 yards on three targets. That was his first game with over 100 rushing yards since Week 9 and only his second rushing touchdown over that span. But if he has the chance for two more games, he's worth ranking at No. 2.
The Eagles used three running backs against the Giants with Sanders, Gainwell and Scott, but Sanders is definitely the best option. He had 17 carries for 90 yards, and while it will be tough for him against San Francisco next week, he could get two more games worth of production. Gainwell and Scott are not trustworthy, although both played well against the Giants. Gainwell scored 18 PPR points, while Scott had nine PPR points.
Pacheco (12 carries for 95 yards and one catch for 6 yards on one target) outplayed McKinnon (11 carries for 25 yards and no catches) against the Jaguars, but I still like McKinnon as the better Fantasy option. He should have a bigger role in the passing game against the Bengals. At Cincinnati in Week 13, McKinnon had eight carries for 51 yards and two catches for 9 yards and a touchdown on two targets.
Chase had five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown on eight targets against the Bills, and he's now scored a touchdown in three games in a row. He also had seven catches for 97 yards on eight targets against the Chiefs in Week 13. Higgins only had three catches for 28 yards on four targets against the Bills, and he's struggled lately with 37 yards or less and no touchdowns in three games in a row. He scored against the Chiefs in Week 13, but he only had three catches for 35 yards on five targets. Despite his recent struggles, he's too good and has too much potential to keep out of the top five in these rankings.
You can read about the Eagles receivers above, and Brown and Smith have the chance to be stars against the 49ers. And in that same game, we'll see what happens with Samuel and Aiyuk.
Both struggled against the Cowboys, as Samuel had four catches for 45 yards on seven targets and four carries for 11 yards, and Aiyuk had two catches for 26 yards on four targets. Samuel has more upside given his ability to rush the ball, but Aiyuk has struggled since Samuel came back with his ankle and knee injuries. I'm not expecting much from them against the Eagles this week.
As we said above, Toney has outplayed Smith-Schuster of late, so Toney is worth trusting more against the Bengals. Smith-Schuster was also limited to three catches for 35 yards on four targets at Cincinnati in Week 13.
Kelce was a star, as usual, against the Jaguars with 14 catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 17 targets. If the Chiefs beat the Bengals then Kelce will need another huge game, although Cincinnati held him in check in Week 13 with four catches for 56 yards on six targets.
Goedert was excellent against the Giants with five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown on five targets. This was his first touchdown since coming back from a five-game absence with a shoulder injury in Week 16, and he's ranked No. 2 here with the chance that he could play two more games.
Kittle had five catches for 95 yards on five targets against the Cowboys, and he's been awesome since Purdy took over. Kittle has a touchdown or 95 receiving yards in five of his last six games with Purdy. He will likely need a big game for the 49ers to beat the Eagles this week.
Hurst scored a rare touchdown against Buffalo in the divisional round, and he added five catches for 59 yards on six targets. It would be great if he can remain that involved against the Chiefs, but he's clearly the No. 4 tight end of the group remaining.