Heading into 2023, all 32 NFL teams have at least one player who’s flying under the radar and ready for big things. What’s the term for that again? Oh yeah…”secret weapon.”
With the NFL season drawing closer, here’s a look at every team’s biggest secret weapon who could enjoy a career year in 2023.
Arizona Cardinals: Greg Dortch
Dortch finished third in receiving for the Redbirds last season, tallying 52 receptions for 467 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With star wideout DeAndre Hopkins and veteran AJ Green out of the picture, Dortch can easily compete with Marquise Brown for the WR1 roles.
The Cardinals figure to be a bottom-three team this year. They’ll be trailing A TON, which means they’ll be throwing a lot. Bodes well for Dortch!
Atlanta Falcons: Jeff Okudah
The Falcons acquired the No. 3 pick of 2020 from the Detroit Lions, and it’s simply hard not to be excited about Okudah’s potential in a change of scenery.
Injuries limited Okudah to 10 games over his first two seasons. He saw 15 games last year and showed signs of improvement. Lining up beside rising star corner AJ Terrell can only do help Okudah, too.
Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman
The Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor before using their first-round pick on speedster Zay Flowers. But let’s not sleep on Baltimore’s 2021 first-rounder in the Raven wide receiver room here…
Bateman showed promise in his 2021 rookie year with 515 receiving yards in 12 games, but injuries limited him to six contests a year ago. If he stays healthy, the big 6-foot-2 wideout could very well emerge as Baltimore’s new WR1.
Buffalo Bills: Damien Harris
In the one season where he played at least 15 games with the New England Patriots — 2021, by the way — Harris had 929 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. Rhamondre Stevenson replaced the speedy Harris as New England’s lead back, which made the latter expendable.
Now Harris joins a Buffalo team with a wide-open battle for RB1 duties. If Harris stays healthy and plays up to his usual standards, he could take over as Buffalo’s lead RB.
Carolina Panthers: D.J. Chark
Chark put up 1,008 receiving yards on a woeful Jacksonville team in 2019. Unfortunately, Chark has been limited to 28 total games ever since.
Avoiding the injury bug is the main goal. Also working in Chark’s favor: The lack of true WR1 on Carolina’s roster. Adam Thielen is the only competitor there for Chark, who could easily rebound with Bryce Young feeding him the football here in 2023.
Chicago Bears: Chase Claypool
Claypool put up over 800 yards receiving in each of his first two years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A midseason trade to Chicago didn’t help Claypool regain that strong form, but a full year with familiarity in Justin Fields’ offense can only help.
Newcomer DJ Moore and Darnell Mooney, a 1K receiver in 2021, lead the Chicago receiving depth chart. But don’t overlook Claypool’s ability to step in and put up a career year.
Cincinnati Bengals: Daxton Hill
Cincy’s 2022 first-round pick played just 14 percent of the team’s defensive snaps over the 15 games he was active for. Now it’s time for defensive wiz Lou Anarumo to unleash him.
The Bengals lost their top safety, Jessie Bates III, to the Falcons in free agency…which means it’s Hill’s time to shine.
If the Michigan product comes as advertised in 2023, the Bengals odds of returning to the Super Bowl go way up.
Cleveland Browns: Elijah Moore
Moore was traded to the Browns following two underwhelming seasons with the Jets. He’ll get every opportunity to step in and push Donovan Peoples-Jones for the WR2 role behind Amari Cooper.
Deshaun Watson is an upgrade over any QB Moore had during his two years with the Jets. If the Browns commit to a more pass-happy offense in their first full year with Watson, look for Elijah to display much MOORE than what we saw with the Jets. Sorry…we had to.
Dallas Cowboys: Donovan Wilson
Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs get most of the attention on Dallas’ defense, but it’s time to start putting some respect on Wilson’s name.
As a safety, Wilson racked up five sacks to go along with an interception and two forced fumbles in 2022. Per Pro Football Reference, Wilson allowed just a 51.3 percent completion percentage and an opposing QB passer rating of 69.0 when targeted.
You’ll get to know his name a lot more here in 2023.
Denver Broncos: Greg Dulcich
Russell Wilson and the No. 32-ranked offense of 2022 has nowhere to go but up.
Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Javonte Williams are Wilson’s top weapons. But don’t overlook Dulcich, the second-year tight end who caught 33 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns in just 10 games last season.
Sean Payton loves his tight ends. And if Dulcich can stay healthy for a full year, he could become one of Wilson’s most trusted weapons.
Detroit Lions: James Houston
Aidan Hutchinson got all the love on Detroit’s front seven last year. Even fellow rookie and sixth-rounder Malcolm Rodriguez earned a lot of recognition, and deservedly so.
But folks also slept aplenty on Houston, another rookie and sixth round pick at No. 217 overall who racked up eight sacks in just seven games. Now ready for his first full season, what can Houston do for an encore? Stay tuned.
Green Bay Packers: Devonte Wyatt
Green Bay’s second 2022 first-round pick played in just 23 percent of the team’s defensive snaps for games he was available in. Now it’s time for the Packers to fully unleash the 6-foot-3, 304-pound beast.
He should emerge as a force on that stacked front seven provided he gets a starting job
Houston Texans: John Metchie III
The standout wide receiver from Alabama missed his entire rookie year after being diagnosed with Acute promyelocytic leukemia. Metchie has since been cleared for football, and Texans fans should learn to love him early.
With Brandin Cooks getting traded, the door’s open for Metchie to step in as the top receiver for rookie QB CJ Stroud. Metchie’s lightning-quick speed make him a grade-A fit with Stroud’s deep arm and ability to extend plays.
Indianapolis Colts: Bernhard Raimann
The hulking Austrian was widely projected to be a first-round pick in 2022, but he didn’t go until round three at No. 77 overall.
Though Pro Football Focus handed Raimann a solid grade of 73.3, he also committed nine penalties and allowed seven sacks in just 709 offensive snaps. But as we all know, offensive linemen often endure a ton of growing pains.
Raimann should be a lot better in year two. His size, strength and skill set are simply too high to believe he’ll be as sloppy as he was in year one.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Brenton Strange
The Jaguars used the No. 61 pick in this year’s draft on the Penn State tight end, who had five touchdowns in his final season of college ball.
Yes, the Jaguars already have Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley and Evan Engram as their lead pass-catchers. But Doug Pederson loves his two-tight end sets, and he has a knack for getting the most out of them.
So don’t be surprised if Strange emerges as one of Trevor Lawrence’s favorite targets.
Kansas City Chiefs: Skyy Moore
KC’s 2022 second-round pick had an underwhelming rookie year, tallying just 22 receptions for 250 yards and zero TDs. But with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman all leaving in free agency, the door is open for Moore to step into a starter’s role.
Andy Reid knows how to develop his receivers, and the ultra-speedy Moore should capitalize on the additional opportunities that await him in 2023.
Las Vegas Raiders: Michael Mayer
Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow and newcomer Jakobi Meyers headline a nice set of weapons in Sin City, but don’t overlook the rookie tight end.
Mayer, the Notre Dame product, had over 800 yards receiving in each of his final two collegiate seasons and 16 total touchdowns. He’s a scary-good route-runner who can do plenty of damage in the red zone, especially with Adams and Jacobs commanding so much attention.
Los Angeles Chargers: Gerald Everett
Everett had a career year for the Bolts last year, tallying 58 catches for 555 yards and four touchdowns. Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler and rookie Quentin Johnston figure to command most of the attention from opposing defenses, but Everett proved to be a nice security blanket for Justin Herbert.
No reason to think Everett won’t do more of the same in 2023.
Los Angeles Rams: Van Jefferson
After a career year in 2021, Jefferson was limited to 11 games and finished 2022 with 369 receiving yards.
Allen Robinson is gone, so Jefferson should have no real competition for the Rams’ WR2 role behind Cooper Kupp in 2023. If both Jefferson and Matt Stafford can stay healthy, the former could hit 1K receiving for the first time.
Miami Dolphins: Jeff Wilson Jr.
Raheem Mostert is still atop the Dolphins’ depth chart, but don’t sleep on Wilson Jr. He averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry for Miami last year.
Hisaw-dropping speed makes him the perfect fit for a Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill-led offens, so don’t be shocked if the ex-49er dethrones Mostert as Miami’s lead RB. If he’s healthy, Wilson Jr. could even threaten for 1,000 yards.
Minnesota Vikings: Marcus Davenport
Injuries limited Davenport to 63 games over his five years in New Orleans. But in 2021, he showed flashes by racking up nine sacks and a trio of forced fumbles in just 11 games.
Minny handed Davenport a one-year “prove it” deal in free agency. Playing in Brian Flores’ defense, Davenport is well-positioned to regain that 2021-like form and set himself up for a major payday in 2024.
New England Patriots: Kayshon Boutte
Unless you think highly of JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Pats lack a true WR1 on their depth chart. Perhaps LSU product Kayshon Boutte, the No. 187 pick of this year’s draft, can step in and fill that role?
After Tyquan Thornton, Boutte has the best burst and set of wheels among all of New England’s receivers. If Bill Belichick gives Boutte the playing time, this kid could immediately step in as the go-to pass-catcher in New England’s offense.
New Orleans Saints: Juwan Johnson
The third-year tight end was among the few bright spots for New Orleans last year, tallying 42 catches for 508 yards and seven touchdowns. With Derek Carr now taking over the offense, Johnson is well-positioned to build off a career year.
Chris Olave, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara will continue to headline the offense, but Johnson could easily push for double-digit TDs if Carr comes as advertised. Johnson is a sleeper to keep an eye on in your fantasy leagues.
New York Giants: Jalin Hyatt
Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley carried the G-Men to the playoffs a year ago. The front office added some receiving help by acquiring tight end Darren Waller from the Raiders…but don’t be shocked if a third-round pick from April is New York’s new lead pass-catcher.
Jalin Hyatt, one of the fastest receivers in this year’s class, doesn’t have much competition for the WR1 role on the Giants’ roster. He should mesh in well with Jones and Barkley, and a Pro Bowl rookie season is not out of the question.
New York Jets: Mecole Hardman
2022 Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson and ex-Packer Allen Lazard should be Aaron Rodgers’ go-to pass-catchers this year. But don’t sleep too much on two-time Super Bowl champion Mecole Hardman, who did wonders in four years as Patrick Mahomes’ No. 3-4 option.
Hardman has averaged 13.8 yards per reception in his career. With A-Rod captaining the offense, Hardman can emerge as the Jets’ version of Marquez Valdes-Scantling — Rodgers’ favorite deep threat in Green Bay some years ago.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Davis
The monstrous run-stopping beast saw limited playing time in 2022. But with Javon Hargrave taking his talents to San Francisco, Fletcher Cox needs a new starting interior defensive linemen.
Enter Davis, who’s ready to go off after barely playing as a rookie. This was football’s best defensive line a year ago, and Davis’ presence should ensure that the Eagles’ pass rush doesn’t lose a beat.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Joey Porter Jr.
Pittsburgh landed the son of ex-Steelers star Joey Porter Sr. with the No. 32 pick. Considering he was supposed to be a top-20 selection, we’ll chalk that up as a big-time steal.
Pittsburgh has four all-world defenders in TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, Cameron Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick. It’s easy to overlook Porter Jr., but he’s got the physical tools and skill set to make the immediate rise to superstardom.
San Francisco 49ers: Drake Jackson
Jackson had three sacks and garnered a decent PFF grade of 64.1. Not bad for a guy who only played 33 percent of defensive snaps for the 15 games he was active for.
Seattle Seahawks: Uchenna Nwosu
On that note, overlook Nwosu at your own risk. He and Darrell Taylor only co-led Seattle in sacks with 9.5 last year. Nwosu also has eight pass defenses and five forced fumbles. That’s a secret weapon if we’ve seen one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Calijah Kancey
The Bucs could’ve taken a QB at No. 19, but they couldn’t pass on Pittsburgh defensive tackle Calijah Kancey. Looks to us like Todd Bowles has big plans for this kid.
Kancey will join a d-line led by run-stopping beast Vita Vea, not to mention the dangerous linebacker duo of Devin White and Lavonte David. With Vea often requiring double teams, Kancey has the chance to really go off here as a rookie.
Tennessee Titans: Caleb Farley
Injuries have limited Tennessee’s 2021 first-round pick to 12 total games over his first three years. All we can ask is this now: WHAT IF Farley stays healthy this time?
The 6-foot-2, 197-pound corner was supposed to overwhelm receivers with his size and physicality. If he can just avoid the injury bug, maybe Farley develops into the five-star shutdown corner Tennessee has lacked for a while.
Washington Commanders: Jamin Davis
After serving as a rotational piece in his rookie year, Davis locked down a starting job and showed considerable improvement in 2022. Davis had three sacks and 104 combined tackles, helping Washington finish top-10 in both total defense and scoring defense.
We know who the main stars are on Washington’s D, but this could be the year where the ultra-athletic linebacker makes the jump to stardom.
Who do you think is the NFL’s ultimate secret weapon heading into 2023?
WANT MORE FROM TOTALPROSPORTS? FOLLOW US ON GOOGLE NEWS.