Now that we’ve entered the second half of the 2023 NFL regular season, fan voting will soon open for the 2024 Pro Bowl Games. Which players will earn the chance to participate in the festivities at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday, Feb. 4?
Superstars like Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey and Tyreek Hill could be locks this year, but who are the sleepers? I’ve got you covered for the offensive skill positions (QB, RB, WR, TE), with five sleepers from each conference.
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Russell Wilson and the Broncos are heating up. After a disastrous Year 1 in Denver, the veteran quarterback has seemingly turned things around under Sean Payton. He has at least one touchdown pass — with zero interceptions — in each of the team’s three games during the current winning streak, which has helped the Broncos get back into playoff contention. Wilson also ranks in the top five among qualified quarterbacks in TD-INT ratio (18:4, second), passer rating (104.0, fourth), fourth-quarter comebacks (three, tied for the most) and game-winning drives (three, tied for second).
I feel like no one is talking about Gus Edwards in the Ravens’ top-ranked rushing attack. It’s not a big surprise with Lamar Jackson still an electric ball-carrier and Keaton Mitchell stealing the hearts of fantasy football managers over the last couple weeks. However, Edwards has been Mr. Reliable in the backfield ever since J.K. Dobbins was lost to a season-ending injury in Week 1, leading the team with 121 attempts and 502 rush yards. He’s only averaging 12 carries per game but has made the most out of them, especially in the red zone. Of Edwards’ eight rushing touchdowns — third-most in the NFL behind Raheem Mostert and Christian McCaffrey — seven have come in his last four games.
C.J. Stroud has cemented himself as a Pro Bowler 10 weeks into his rookie season and is even part of the MVP-candidate conversation. On the other side of his throws are a trio of playmakers in Tank Dell, Nico Collins and Dalton Schultz, who almost feel interchangeable in this space. Dell leads the team in receiving TDs (five), Collins in receiving yards (631) and Schultz in receptions (37). To me, Dell has a slight edge due to what he’s done recently (SEE: game-winning TD catch in Week 9) and because he still has so much room to grow with Stroud. I love him in this offense.
Courtland Sutton has quietly dominated defenders amid the Broncos’ up-and-down season. It was on display in what felt like a season-altering prime-time win over Buffalo. Sutton made several GREAT plays in that game, including a jaw-dropping, toe-dragging 7-yard touchdown grab on fourth down, en route to a five-catch, 53-yard performance. The veteran wide receiver leads Denver with 41 receptions, 433 receiving yards and seven TD receptions. Furthermore, Sutton has had a touchdown catch in four straight games — the longest active streak in the league heading into Week 11.
Garrett Wilson is one of the best receivers in the league, but he’s in a tough spot. In an offense that has plateaued with Zach Wilson at quarterback, the star receiver is doing all he can to keep the unit afloat. He leads the team in targets (95), receptions (55), receiving yards (642) and receiving TDs (two). His 33 percent target share is the highest of any player this season. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year has been equally as good in his second season. Unfortunately, it’s been hard for the team to showcase its star receiver amid an arduous season for New York.
Kirk Cousins was putting together arguably his best campaign in Minnesota before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 8. And now Dobbs — after being traded to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” — is playing some of his best football, helping the Vikings win both of their games since the trade, once in relief and once as the starter.
Dobbs’ numbers aren’t off the charts, but he’s playing well in Kevin O’Connell’s system. Dobbs is a big reason the Vikings are the NFC’s seventh seed heading into Week 11, and if he continues playing at this level, there is a good chance Minnesota will earn a trip to the postseason for the second straight year.
The NFL leader in passing yards heading into Week 11? It isn’t Josh Allen, Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa. It’s Sam Howell, who has compiled 2,783 passing yards despite taking the most sacks, hits and pressures of any quarterback this season. Howell, who is in his first year as the starter, has handled a rocky season quite well. No matter the circumstance or opponent, the young passer has continued to improve. He has completed 68.8 percent of his passes, averaged 344.7 pass yards per game, thrown eight TDs to just two INTs and posted a 103.0 passer rating in the last three contests.
The Lions hold the second-best record in the NFC, and David Montgomery has been instrumental in that success when healthy. In his six games played, the veteran has rushed for 100 yards in three contests and scored in every game but one. With seven rushing touchdowns through 10 weeks — including an impressive 75-yard run in Sunday’s road win over the Chargers — Montgomery is one away from matching his career high for an entire season. The reason I’m considering him a sleeper, though, is because the bulldozing running back isn’t a dual-threat playmaker like his teammate Jahmyr Gibbs or other top Pro Bowl candidates at the position (SEE: Christian McCaffrey and Bijan Robinson). That could prompt many to overlook him, but I certainly won’t be underestimating his impact on this year’s Lions team.
While George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson and rookie Sam LaPorta are getting a lot of love at the tight end position in the NFC, and rightfully so, Cole Kmet has scored more touchdowns than all of them in 2023 with five — second-most league-wide behind only Mark Andrews’ six. Kmet is having his best season to date, averaging a career-high 4.6 receptions and 41.9 receiving yards per game while catching 80.7 percent of his targets from Justin Fields and Tyson Bagent. Fields’ expected return to the lineup this week should mean more opportunities for the fourth-year tight end moving forward. Three of Kmet’s touchdowns came on passes from Fields, who has a 116.1 passer rating when targeting Kmet. This is a connection worth watching.
The NFC has oodles of great wide receivers — CeeDee Lamb and A.J. Brown among them. And in an offense with talented playmakers like Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk tends to fly under the radar. Yet, he leads the team with 38 receptions and 675 receiving yards. He keeps defenses honest with his ability to work the intermediate to deep part of the field. Among players with a minimum of 30 receptions this season, Aiyuk ranks first with 17.8 yards per catch and second with 3.4 yards per route, behind only Tyreek Hill (4.1), per Next Gen Stats. It’s time he earns a Pro Bowl nod.
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