Feelin’ the heat? Players facing a pivotal 2023

The “hot seat” is a term frequently used to describe someone who faces a pressure-packed situation, bearing the weight and responsibility of what is to come. Someone who is on the hot seat often faces job uncertainty or even career ambiguity.

Which DFL players are facing the pressure in 2023?

The following is a list of players, one from each team, facing a pivotal 2023 season. Some of them have their jobs on the line. Some of them are at career crossroads. And others bear a great deal — if not the lion’s share — of the burden of their teams’ fortunes.

Australia Blue Heelers

Rashad Bateman, WR/BAL — Frankly, I could have gone with Jonathan Taylor here, given that he was a big bust in 2022 and now has some questions about working with a (rookie) running quarterback. But I think Taylor, despite feeling some pressure to rebound, will be just fine. He’s too talented not to bounce back. Bateman, meanwhile, has been a disappointment thus far in his career and, despite not having a huge financial contract, signed a 4-year deal. He needs to step up and prove he can produce or risk being a costly backup the final three years of his deal. 

Bolivia Llamas

Ken Walker, RB/SEA — Fortunately for the Llamas, the team does not have a lot invested in Walker. He is signed to a one-year deal worth just $3.6 million. Unfortunately for Walker, his seat is red hot. He’ll have pressure behind him to produce or else he’ll get the quick hook. As it is now, even if he does produce, he still might lose touches. His only path to getting off the hot seat is to be so efficient and explosive when he does touch the ball that his team can’t help but keep feeding him the rock.

Colombia Capybaras

Elijah Moore, WR/CLE — The Colombia ownership has been high on Moore since his rookie year… and who wasn’t? Moore had a promising rookie season and the Capybaras inked him to a 4-year deal prior to the 2022 season. Unfortunately, he quickly fell out of favor and wound up getting shipped in the offseason. In his new location, he has new hope. But if he can’t get his once-promising career back on track, the Capybaras will be stuck with an underperforming Moore through 2025, unless they cut him and take their losses.

Greece Trojans

Lamar Jackson, QB/BAL — Once upon a time, Lamar Jackson rocked the football world and completely changed the way we look at quarterbacks. He led all quarterbacks in scoring by a wide margin, by nearly 80 points. The only problem is, that was four years ago in 2019. Over the last three seasons, he has finished as QB10, QB15, and QB14, respectively. And yet, he continues to get paid as if he is the same guy as he was in 2019. Jackson is currently the league’s highest-paid quarterback and to justify that salary, he is going to have to have a major resurgence in 2023.

Ireland Shamrocks

Dalvin Cook, RB/FA — As of press time, Cook remains without a home, which makes his $18.6 million salary a little complicated. Wherever he goes, he’s looking to get paid and get fed the ball, and as long as that happens, there’s hope that he churns out a good season. But as the league’s current highest-paid running back, and playing for a team like the Shamrocks who have high expectations for 2023, his seat is more than a little hot. 

Italy Emperors

Kyle Pitts, TE/ATL — Pitts was seen as one of, if not the consensus top TE for dynasty leagues last offseason and he got paid handsomely for that role because of it. But between poor quarterback play, an offensive system not conducive to passing, and a season-ending injury, he was a major bust in 2022. With tight ends being hit or miss, finding a good one will run up a big bill. But if the tight end is not a consistent producer of points, a high price tag can be detrimental to a team’s budget. Pitts will need to show major improvement and consistency in 2023 to bring back a better ROI. 

Kazakhstan’s Very Nice Team

A.J. Brown, WR/PHI — After placing the EFT on Brown, the Very Nice Team immediately turned up the heat on his seat. Brown finished as the WR6 last year, his highest output as a pro. He’s currently the third-highest paid receiver in the league before other tagged players hit the market and command big contracts. He has a teammate in DeVonta Smith who finished as WR9 last year. And while it’s not impossible for those two to both finish as WR1s again, the odds are not in their favor. Brown will need to have another great season to justify his price tag or risk draining the team’s resources to fill other needs.

Papua New Guinea

J.K. Dobbins, RB/BAL — Dobbins entered the league as a decorated rookie with high expectations in a run-heavy offense. But despite a promising rookie year, he has been battling injuries and ineffectiveness the past two seasons and has not returned great value thus far. The Pigs signed him to a 3-year deal at $7 million per season last offseason and he still has two years left at about $6.65 million per year. That’s not terrible, but it doesn’t help their financial situation either if he can’t stay healthy and productive. 

Peru Gurus

Jerry Jeudy, WR/DEN — Jeudy entered the league as a heralded and polished route runner with speed that would make him an ideal target hog who could rack up yards after the catch. While flashing great potential and sometimes game breaking ability, he has largely been a disappointment in his short career, whether it be because of injuries, dropped passes, or overall poor offenses. The Gurus signed him to a 3-year deal last offseason worth $12.5 million per year. He’s currently the 10th-highest paid receiver in the league, and while that number could possibly go down when non-tagged receivers are signed during the auction, it’s not likely to fall too much further down the ranks. This means Jeudy is going to have to have his best season yet and possibly put up WR1 numbers to bring back decent ROI.

Saint Kitts & Nevis Shockers

Aaron Rodgers, QB/NYJ — Rodgers is being paid $6.3 million this year, only about half of which is being covered by the Shockers. The salary will likely be one of the higher salaries among quarterbacks this season unless free agent signing gets out of hand. But the guy is clearly on the hot seat from a career perspective. He did not have a very good season last year — and in fairness to him, he wasn’t surrounded with a ton of help — and he finished as QB13. He changed locations this offseason and should receive a boost from the playmakers at his disposal. But if Father Time, who is undefeated as we know, decides to shut down the to-be 40-year-old this season, Rodgers will wind up being an expensive backup.

Sint Maarten Savages

Cooper Kupp, WR/LAR — An honorable mention goes to Trey Lance here, as he is locked up for three more years at $3 million and thus far has had a bust of a career for a third-overall pick whose team gave up a king’s ransom to acquire. But the hotter seat belongs to Kupp given his $24.3 million cap figure. Kupp was other-worldly in 2021, finishing as WR1 by almost 100 points. And in fairness to him, he was on a hot pace last year as well before he got hurt. But he has crossed the 30-year-old threshold, he’s playing for a team that has a lot of uncertainty surrounding it, and he’s had two major injuries in the last five years. Now, that could just be coincidental and circumstantial, but anybody with a salary over $20 million has somewhat a hot seat, because if they’re not scoring among the top few players in the league, they’re costing their team from a financial flexibility standpoint.

South Africa Ballstrikers

Javonte Williams, RB/DEN — Realistically, there are a few players on the hot seat in South Africa. As noted with Kupp above, any costly player will feel the heat, and Ja’Marr Chase is currently the league’s highest paid player. He needs to stay healthy and produce as one of, if not the top wide receiver in the league. Mike Williams’ seat is hot, too. He can never stay healthy and perennially underperforms even when the hype train is churning for him. Russell Wilson still has two years at an elevated $5 million per season and he is coming off a disastrous 2022. The hottest seat probably belongs to Javonte Williams, though, as he is slated to earn $16 million this year, only $10 million of which is being paid by South Africa, and he’s coming off a serious knee injury. If he takes too long to return from his injury, his salary could really hamper the team’s ability to find help elsewhere.