Dividend stocks shine in times like these. They pay investors to wait until market conditions improve, and they often deliver solid returns even when the market flounders.

We asked three Motley Fool contributors to identify dividend stocks they would buy hand over fist in 2023. Here's why they chose AbbVie (ABBV 1.35%), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -0.01%), and Eli Lilly (LLY -0.68%).

A smart contrarian pick

Keith Speights (AbbVie): AbbVie's top-selling drug Humira faces significant competition from biosimilars in the U.S. market for the first time ever in 2023. That fact alone might scare off many investors. However, I think that AbbVie is actually a smart contrarian pick for several reasons.

For one thing, the company's dividend isn't in any jeopardy. AbbVie offers a dividend yield of nearly 3.7%. The big drugmaker has increased its dividend for 50 consecutive years and will almost certainly keep that streak going in 2023.

Despite an impressive gain of roughly 20% in 2022, AbbVie's valuation remains attractive. Its shares trade at only 14 times expected earnings (a projection that reflects the looming challenges for Humira).

Most importantly, AbbVie is more than ready to weather the storm that 2023 will bring. Sure, the company will feel the impact of the steep sales decline for Humira. However, AbbVie has a strong lineup of other drugs that will help cushion the blow.

AbbVie should be able to quickly return to growth after this year. Over time, new autoimmune-disease drugs Rinvoq and Skyrizi could completely offset the negative impact of Humira's loss of exclusivity. Investors who focus only on the near-term headwinds for AbbVie will miss out on the bigger (and much better) story for the company.

This Dividend King is rock solid 

Prosper Junior Bakiny (Johnson & Johnson): There are plenty of dividend stocks on Wall Street, but very few can claim to have raised their payouts for the past 60 years running. This feat is part of Johnson & Johnson's long list of accomplishments, making the healthcare giant a Dividend King. No company can increase its dividend for that long by accident. Johnson & Johnson has been able to do so thanks to a combination of factors.

First, the drugmaker is an innovator. It spends billions of dollars every year on research and development efforts that help it create newer and better medicines, many of which go on to generate annual sales well above $1 billion. Johnson & Johnson's products are well differentiated across multiple therapeutic areas, including infectious diseases, immunology, oncology, and neuroscience.

Second, Johnson & Johnson records consistent revenue and profits, partly because its medicines fall into the category of necessary goods. Johnson & Johnson was on a streak of 36 years of adjusted operational earnings growth before that was interrupted by the pandemic.

Third, the pharmaceutical giant has a solid balance sheet. That's readily apparent by J&J earning an AAA rating from Standard & Poor's, the highest rating available, and solid proof of the company's creditworthiness.

Lastly, beyond Johnson & Johnson's core pharmaceutical segment, it has also been a leader in medical devices and over-the-counter healthcare products through its consumer health segment. Although the company is in the process of spinning off the latter into a stand-alone entity, Johnson & Johnson's medical devices unit adds flexibility and diversification to the company's operations.

With the company's strong business and solid track record, investors can be confident that Johnson & Johnson will continue rewarding shareholders with dividend increases in 2023 and beyond. Income-seeking investors with little tolerance for risk and volatility need look no further. 

Much more growth is ahead 

David Jagielski (Eli Lilly):  It's easy for dividend investors to overlook Eli Lilly's dividend. At 1.2%, it yields less than the S&P 500 average of 1.8% and many investors may wonder why they should bother with such an underwhelming payout.

But part of the reason the stock's yield is so low is because the business is doing so well and the share price has been soaring, which, as a result, has led to a lower dividend yield. Up more than 30% just this year, Eli Lilly has been a solid market-beating stock to own in 2022.

Between one of the most promising diabetes and weight-loss drugs in the healthcare industry in Mounjaro (its peak annual sales could hit $25 billion) and donanemab, an Alzheimer's treatment that's full of potential, Eli Lilly may generate some incredible growth in the years ahead. Even if your priority is collecting a dividend, a strong outlook for the future is important for a company because if it's rolling in profits, that can mean a more generous dividend in the long run.

And Lilly has been generous with respect to its dividend. In December, the company announced a hefty 15% dividend increase. Its dividend payout has doubled during the last five years. 

The potential for dividend growth over the long run is what makes Eli Lilly a compelling investment to buy and hold for income investors. Its payout ratio is a modest 57% of earnings and its business looks rock-solid today. This is a dividend stock that investors shouldn't hesitate to load up on for the long haul.