In a 12-part series, we take a look at each DFL team, where they’ve been and where they’re going. We analyze the strength of their current roster build, what areas need improvement, and speculate what they might do in the coming months.
A look back
The 2022 season was a rough year for the Trojans as they struggled to find their footing. They finished the regular season with a .500 record, which put them right about in the middle of the pack. But they just could not finish in the Top 8 in scoring and they missed the playoffs by about 40 points. An injury to Lamar Jackson caused him to finish as the QB14 on the season. That, paired with underperformances from the heavily-paid Najee Harris and Hunter Renfrow really hampered the Trojans on the scoreboard. There were some bright spots, however, as Ezekiel Elliott and Devin Singletary were both low-end RB2s at affordable cost. Dalton Schultz was also a low-end TE1.
A look ahead
There are some question marks lingering for the Trojans ahead of the 2023 season. Lamar Jackson is in a contract dispute and his circumstances hang in the balance. Dalton Schultz changed locations and he could take a possible hit in production. The Trojans have to make a decision on Najee Harris over whether they should use a franchise tag on him or not. The team does have the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, which could yield them a decent Year 1 starter. They only have six players under contract and the fourth-most cap space available, so they have some flexibility with whom they can add to the roster. If they focus their efforts on adding a few more pieces at prices not as high as Harris’ $25 million last year, they could have a deeper roster that offers a little more consistent production in 2023.
The Stock Report
Stock Up: None
Stock Down: Lamar Jackson, QB/BAL, Dalton Schultz, TE/HOU
As noted, the situation surrounding Jackson remains a murky one. For one thing, there’s the contract dispute. It might actually be beneficial for him to experience a change in scenery, somewhere he goes to get better talent around him. For another thing, Jackson is returning from an injury-plagued season. He’s never been a great passer, but his rushing ability has always put him near the top of the league at his position. Assuming health, and that he doesn’t dramatically alter his playing style, his location really shouldn’t prevent him from being a mid-to-high-end QB1. The Trojans are investing a lot of money in him, so if they’re going to acquire depth at the position, they’re going to have to find some at bargain values.
Running Back Analysis
Najee Harris indeed was a disappointment last year, finishing as the RB14 despite being the third-highest paid back in the league. He’s still a good player at a premium position, though, so the Transition Tag might be in order for him. The Trojans can then decide if they want to match the highest offer for him. At the time of this writing, Ezekiel Elliott is still without a home, but his tag price seems a bit too high to consider bringing him back. James Robinson is the only back the Trojans have under contract at the moment, so hitting the position hard in free agency will be a high priority.
Wide Receiver Analysis
The Trojans have three receivers under contract in DK Metcalf, Marquise Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Metcalf is locked in as one of the Trojans’ 2023 starters. Brown and JJSS have been inconsistent in their short careers. They’re fine for depth and can occasionally flash talent, but can’t really be relied on as more than FLEX options. Even if the team looks at a receiver at Pick 4 in the draft, they’re going to need to sign an immediate starter at the position to complement Metcalf.
Tight End Analysis
Dalton Schultz has been a strong tight end the past three seasons, but his fortunes may have dramatically changed this offseason. He’ll likely be playing with a rookie quarterback and he may have erratic, up-and-down performances this year. The Trojans can look to add depth to the position this offseason, but might not want to spend heavily.
The Trojans need to sign two strong running back starters and another starting wide receiver to solidify their core in 2023. They also need to monitor the situations at quarterback and tight end to see where Jackson ends up and whether Schultz is catching on with his new team. They have some FLEX-worthy players, but you can never have a deep enough rotation. With the right selection at Pick 4 — and possibly another contributor at 16 — the team will have a much brighter future than they had in 2022.
“What could be…”
The range of outcomes for Greece in 2023 is broad in scope. If the worst should happen and Jackson becomes a disgruntled player because he can’t get his contract worked out, and if Schultz sees a significant drop in production after moving on from a good offense to a poor one with a young, rookie quarterback at the helm, there could be some problems awaiting the Trojans. If the team can’t manage to sign key starters at running back or receiver, that only compounds the issue. If, however, Jackson gets paid and returns healthy to the field in 2023, everything changes. If Schultz manages to maintain his production and the team adds weapons around Jackson who produce more consistently than they did last year, then Greece could very well make a playoff run. I guess this is what they pay the team executives the big bucks for!
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