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Trick or Treat? A Look at Some Surprise Top Fantasy Performers

Let's look at some of the surprise fantasy performers - and whether they will be a trick or a treat for your team over the rest of the season and playoffs!

Hello Nerds, and Happy Halloween! Before you get to drag your children out for copious amounts of candy, I wanted to look at some of the surprise performers for 2023. Evaluate them and decide if the rest of the season will continue to be a treat – or if they could be a trick. Some players could lead us to titles, but some are bound to doom our lineups and sink our chances. 

I gathered fantasy points scored thus far from Fantasy Pros and will use their performances for reference. 


Sam Howell, WAS   QB8

Howell was a popular late draft target for me. I loved the weapons in Washington and the talent he displayed at North Carolina. But he’s exceeded what I expected and had his biggest game of the season versus Philadelphia this week. He threw 52 times and had 397 yards and four TDs, all season highs. 

Courtesy of Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire

Unfortunately, Howell may be productive for you down the stretch but has a nasty schedule for the fantasy playoffs. The Rams are a middle-of-the-road pass defense, but the Jets and 49ers will limit what the second-year quarterback can do. 

VERDICT: Howell is a trick wrapped up as a treat, but you could be happy if he’s your QB2 in Superflex. He may not sink your team, but Howell has had two weeks under 125 yards passing and one week with four interceptions. The bottom is low for Howell, and the playoffs could be when he hits that low. 

Brock Purdy, SFF   QB9

Purdy has been relatively consistent, scoring more than 14.7 points in seven of eight games. But the shine is definitely wearing off, and Purdy doesn’t appear to be fantasy gold. He had a massive game against the Cowboys, with four TDs, but has been far less impressive since. 

Purdy has eclipsed 300 yards twice, including last week, but the Bengals allowed the 49ers to throw late in the game. He’s only had two passing touchdowns in two other games than the four TD outburst. He has also thrown five INTs over the past three weeks. 

Beyond the numbers, Purdy doesn’t look as comfortable and sharp as last season. He isn’t pushing the ball downfield often and is making poor decisions. Can he turn it around? 

VERDICT: Treat! The 49ers will be pushing hard for the playoffs after three straight losses, and the playoff run could be juicy for fantasy. They have Arizona in week 15, Baltimore in 16, and Washington in Week 17. Baltimore has been tougher against the pass than in recent years, but I’m not sold that it will continue. The 49ers also take on the Seahawks twice. Purdy won’t have to be spectacular for the 49ers, but he will turn it around and be better down the stretch. 

Russell Wilson, DEN   QB10

For all the negative press, Wilson has been a solid quarterback for fantasy. He even rebounded from his worst start against the Chiefs in Week 6, but had a strong outing against them last week with only 114 yards but three scores. 

Wilson has been less than spectacular after his first three games. He eclipsed 300 yards twice and worked his way into the QB1 territory. He hasn’t thrown for more than 223 yards in his last five games but only had one game with an interception. Wilson hurled a pair of them in that first matchup with Kansas City. He has ten TDs versus two picks in that span but lower yardage. 

The up-and-down scoring and the good versus the bad dictate how we think about Wilson. He appears consistent. He’s QB10, and injuries are ravaging the QB landscape. So, he’s a must-start, right? 

VERDICT: Treat – simply because you may not have any better options, and the Broncos have a nice stretch for your fantasy playoffs. The Lions in a dome, the Patriots at home on Christmas Eve, and the Chargers at home on New Year’s Eve. All three teams will be motivated, but weather could be a factor at Denver’s home pair of games. As with Howell, you are happier if Wilson is your QB2, but he is set for a nice playoff run. 

Running Backs

Raheem Mostert, MIA   RB2

It’s tough to believe Mostert is RB2 on the season, but two massive games account for nearly half of his season of scoring. In Week 3, he accounted for four TDs in the Dolphins’ thrashing of the Broncos. And in Week 6, he had three versus the Panthers. 

The veteran back has ten rushing TDs, the most in the NFL, averaging 5.4 YPC. The 31-year-old back has always been productive, and he won’t produce at this clip for the rest of the season, right? 

VERDICT: Trick – but with a caveat. If you are plugging Mostert in weekly as a must-start, you will be let down. But if he’s in your lineup as a flex, he will be solid for your fantasy squad – even after De’Von Achane returns. The Jets are a tough matchup in Week 15, the Cowboys come to town in 16, and the Dolphins travel to Baltimore on Christmas Eve. Which could be tough, but both teams will be fighting for a playoff spot. And the cold weather lends better to Mostert’s physical game. 

D’Andre Swift, PHI   RB8

An enormous week two performance, 175 yards with a score versus the Steelers, buoys Swift’s RB8 scoring, but he’s been steady since. He only surpassed 100 yards one other time, but the Eagles have kept him busy. He has 18 touches in four of the past five games (23 in the other). 

Courtesy of Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire

The Eagles have an abundance of weapons, with AJ Brown, Dallas Goedert, and DeVonta Smith through the air, and quarterback Jalen Hurts will take touches away from Swift in the run game. Provided Swift stays healthy, is he a must-start down the stretch? 

VERDICT: TREAT! Finding a better lineup for the playoffs will be challenging as the Eagles travel to Seattle and then have the New York Giants and Arizona at home. The weather will get more brutal, and the Eagles will lean on their run game. They will look to keep offensive options fresh for the playoffs. Swift is one of them, but he will still get enough touches to be an RB1. 

Gus Edwards, BAL   RB12

The Gus Bus always lingers, always produces, and never gets enough love. The points between RB7 and RB16 are less than 14, so it’s not like Edwards is miles above many other options. But don’t discount Edwards. Don’t dismiss him that easily. 

He’s received 16, 14, and 19 carries in the last three games, and he won’t give you much in pass catching. Edwards averages just over four yards a tote but has found the end zone four times in the last two weeks. 

There’s always a chance Justice Hill wrangles the job away, but I don’t see Edwards going away. He’s been steady for the Ravens for several years, and his style of running fits what the Ravens want, and he is a Ravens player to a tee. 

VERDICT: Treat – but Edwards is like a Tootsie Roll. You may raid your kid’s basket looking for a Snickers or Three Musketeers (my favorite) but ultimately end up with the classic Tootsie Roll. It will satisfy that urge, and you will be happy, but it’s not what you thought you wanted. Edwards is steady and a player I would love to plug in my flex spot. The Jaguars, 49ers, and Dolphins lurk in the fantasy playoffs, but the Ravens will continue to lean on their veteran in times of need. 

Joe Mixon, CIN   RB20

The Bengals have rebounded from an 0-3 start and now sit at 4-3. They are perched to make another deep run in the playoffs. Mixon has been… there. If you have started him, man, you have been disappointed. If it weren’t for this strong game versus the 49ers, he would be much lower in scoring than RB20. 

As the offense hums, things will open up for Mixon, but I’m still not sure he gets far over where he is in scoring. He’s getting 16 carries a game, only a few targets a game. Mixon will likely be leaned on more as the weather gets nasty, but the playoffs will be tough for Cincinnati. Mixon is averaging exactly four yards a carry, where he has been for many years now. 

VERDICT: Trick – but with a note that this recent game was likely just an anomaly and not what to expect. Mixon will still get touches and be consistent. But he’s only scored twice in seven games, and he’s not showing the juice he has had in the past. Minnesota at home, then trips to  Pittsburgh and Kansas City lurk in the fantasy playoffs. All three can be run on, but the passing game will be needed much more, particularly in K.C. Mixon can be started in the flex, and there are worse options, but he’s not what he used to be, and Mixon won’t win you a week anymore. 

Wide Receivers

Puka Nacau, LAR   WR6

It’s tough to believe Nacua is still the WR6, as he’s had a few rough weeks since Cooper Kupp’s return. He’s still getting at least seven targets a game, but he’s had two games with less than 43 yards in the last three weeks and hasn’t reached the end zone since Week 5. 

This may feel like low-hanging fruit, but it’s getting tougher to justify Nacua as a must-start like he was for the first quarter of the season. Now, Matthew Stafford is struggling, too, and the Rams’ offense seems to have lost its bite. 

VERDICT: Trick – Nacua is still going to be a flex start if you don’t have options, but I would be looking to trade him for a vet. The Rams have nice matchups in the playoffs: Washington and New Orleans at home, then at New York versus the Giants. With the return of Kupp and Stafford’s struggles, it’s too much to lock Nacua into a WR spot anymore. 

Adam Thielen, CAR   WR9

The biggest surprise in fantasy this season has been the season Thielen has been able to put together. At the age of 33, he has 57 catches and 581 yards through seven games. I’m not great at math, but that projects to be a damn good number through 17 games, and he should be able to finish as a WR1. 

The Panthers won their first game last week, and Bryce Young is mostly taking care of the ball. A receiver like Thielen is perfect for the young quarterback. They have good matchups in the playoffs, but I’m not worried about matchups, honestly. 

VERDICT: Treat! If you have Thielen, throw him in your lineup and enjoy. If you don’t, and you are contending, he should be your top target and won’t be expensive to acquire. 

Nico Collins, HOU    WR12

Collins being WR12 is very misleading. He’s had two really strong games and a few stinkers sprinkled in. His targets haven’t moved much all season, and he had 11 in Week 1 and then nine during his two big games. Collins had six targets in his two most recent games, and rookie quarterback CJ Stroud is still playing fairly well. 

Courtesy of Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire

Dalton Schultz and Robert Woods are carving out bigger roles, and rookie Tank Dell is also garnering attention from Stroud. It boils down to the fact that Stroud is spreading the ball around more and not keying in on Collins like he was in the first four weeks. 

VERDICT: This is another Trick for me; I am having trouble starting Collins, even in a flex spot. You may miss a good game, but I don’t want to get only four points. I’d instead start someone more consistent and reliable. 

Davante Adams, LVR  WR18

Let’s dive off the path I’ve taken and look at two guys who were highly valued and have, frankly, been crap thus far in your lineups. Adams has been startable but barely, and if you needed him last night for a last-minute surge – you are likely ready to trade him for a cheeseburger. Adams had a massive week three with 13 catches for 172 yards and two scores. In the other seven games, he’s had 34 catches for 367 yards and a single touchdown. That’s #BAD.

This was pretty much the worst-case scenario when Jimmy Garoppolo joined the team; many were worried he wouldn’t be able to support a receiver like Adams fully. Jimmy G hasn’t pushed the ball, and the Raiders’ offense has been abysmal. So, what do we do with Adams? 

VERDICT: Trick – I can’t see anything changing with Jimmy G at the helm. He spreads the ball around but doesn’t have the passing volume to feed a WR1. Adams is frustrated, and the only way he becomes a treat is if he’s traded or the Raiders change QBs. 

DK Metcalf, SEA   WR44

This is a tough one; I was one of the advocates for Metcalf having a massive 2023 season. Only 27 catches for 404 yards, and a pair of scores over six games is far from what I was projecting. Metcalf has only eclipsed 75 once, and veteran QB Geno Smith is playing more like he has in the past than he did in 2022. 

VERDICT: Treat – the Seahawks are 5-2, Geno is playing subpar, and rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba is emerging. So why is he a treat? As the Seahawks make a playoff run, they have some tougher tests. Geno will need his big playmaker, and Smith-Njigba and Tyler Lockett will draw attention. I see Geno leaning on Metcalf more, and we will see more games near 100 yards and scores from DK. 

Tight Ends

Sam LaPorta, DET   TE3

I had a league with TE-premium scoring, and my team had a seven-point lead, with Jared Goff going against only LaPorta. We lost. He was TE5 when I started this article, and after last night, he’s moved up to TE3. LaPorta has been phenomenal. 

He’s got 43 catches for 434 yards and four scores through eight games, six of which he started. Goff loves reliable tight ends in the middle of the field, and LaPorta is as reliable as they get. He will make a very strong case for being TE1 after Kelce fades off into the sunset – or gets devoured by the Swiftie Hide. 

VERDICT: Treat – keep plugging LaPorta in; this is a no-brainer. 

Taysom Hill, NOS   TE6

In an indication of how easy it is to be a TE1, here is Hill, once again lingering in TE1 Land. He’s got 38 rushes for 203 yards and three TDs on the ground, and 16 receptions for 129 yards. The Saints continue to use him creatively, in the red zone a lot, even without Sean Payton there. 

VERDICT: Trick – I just can’t start him when his fantasy points read like this. He’s not reliable enough, but he’s always going to be a “what the heck” type of flex player if you have no other viable options. 

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