The wide receiver movement in 2022 was wild and, for the most part, successful. Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, Amari Cooper and Marquise Brown all switched teams last offseason. And aside from Marquise Brown, the other four finished as top 10 PPR receivers last year in total points.
The thing to remember about those five guys was they switched teams via trade. The free agent movement was OK -- Christian Kirk and Zay Jones made a significant impact in Jacksonville, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling helped Kansas City win a Super Bowl and D.J. Chark had a few nice moments with Detroit -- but it was an underwhelming group. And that could happen again this offseason.
- Free Agency Previews: | |
As free agency starts March 15 with the new NFL calendar year, we have to hope more teams are willing to trade receivers instead of looking into free agency if the goal is to acquire an established veteran. We already know DeAndre Hopkins is expected to be traded from Arizona, and Brandin Cooks should also be on the move out of Houston. Michael Thomas also might get released in New Orleans, although he seems excited about the possibility of playing with new quarterback Derek Carr.
Hopkins, Cooks and Thomas would be among the top free agent candidates if available. Here are my top 10 favorite free agent receivers to monitor this offseason. As you can see, it's not the sexiest list of names, but hopefully a few of these guys will emerge as quality Fantasy options in 2023 and beyond.
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Meyers was an undrafted rookie from N.C. State when he played with Tom Brady in 2019. Since then, he has had Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer, Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe as his starting quarterbacks over the past three seasons in New England, which could explain why his numbers don't stand out. But I've said many times this offseason that Meyers could be this year's Christian Kirk as an unheralded player who is about to see his stats -- and his bank account -- rise in the right situation. With the right quarterback and system, Meyers could become a weekly Fantasy starter in the majority of leagues and could get drafted as early as Round 5. He averaged a career-high 12.4 PPR points per game last season with the Patriots, but I expect him to increase his production in 2023 and beyond since he's just 26. Barring a surprise receiver getting released prior to free agency, Meyers looks like the prize of this wide-receiver class.
Smith-Schuster played on a one-year deal with the Chiefs in 2022, and he had an up-and-down campaign. It ended well with a victory over Philadelphia in Super Bowl LVII, and Smith-Schuster had a quality outing with seven catches for 53 yards on nine targets. But Smith-Schuster never took off the way many hoped in Kansas City, and he scored double digits in PPR just seven times. I'm not sure we'll find out, but I wonder how much suffering a concussion against Jacksonville in Week 10 derailed Smith-Schuster's season. Prior to that, he had his best three-game stretch against Buffalo, San Francisco and Tennessee when he scored at least 18 PPR points in each outing. He seemingly got back on track in Week 14 at Denver and Week 15 at Houston with at least 16 PPR points in each game, but he struggled from that point on until the Super Bowl. A reunion with the Chiefs is a possibility for Smith-Schuster, 26, but he'll likely be a No. 3 Fantasy option at best wherever he signs.
Lazard was the No. 1 receiver for Green Bay in 2022 after Davante Adams was traded to Las Vegas, but it never led to Lazard becoming a star. He performed well with a career-high 11.1 PPR points per game, but he only had six games with more than 13 PPR points with a high of 18 in Week 9 at Detroit. He's expected to leave the Packers and Aaron Rodgers for the first time since 2018 unless the undrafted free agent from Iowa State and Rodgers are reunited on a different roster. But Lazard will likely head back to being a complementary receiver wherever he signs. At 27, he still has much to offer, and he has 14 touchdowns on his resume over the past two seasons. But prior to getting 100 targets and 60 receptions in 2022, he never had more than 60 targets or 40 catches in a season. At best, Lazard will be a No. 3 Fantasy receiver on a new team in 2023.
Chark looked poised for stardom in 2019 in Jacksonville when he had 73 catches for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns on 118 targets in his second season in the NFL. Since then, he has combined for 90 catches, 1,362 yards and 10 touchdowns over the past three seasons in just 28 games. He has struggled with injuries, mostly over the past two years, and he only averaged 8.5 PPR points in one season with the Lions in 2022. But he's still just 26, and he averaged 16.7 yards per catch last year. Of receivers with 50-plus targets, that was fifth in the NFL behind Jaylen Waddle (18.1 yards per catch), Gabe Davis (17.4), A.J. Brown (17.0) and Corey Davis (16.8). Chark's speed and downfield ability will be coveted, and he could become a viable No. 3 Fantasy receiver with the right team. Chark might have the most upside of any receiver in this free-agent class if he ends up with the right quarterback in 2023.
What Beckham has left to offer remains a mystery, but the 30-year-old will likely still remain attractive to plenty of teams. He didn't play in 2022 after suffering a torn ACL in Super Bowl LVI for the Rams, but he was the subject of many rumors last year, including a possible signing in Dallas. If he can somehow regain his previous form, even what he showed with Los Angeles in 2021, then he could become a No. 3 Fantasy receiver once again. In 12 games with the Rams, including the playoffs, Beckham had 48 catches for 593 yards and seven touchdowns on 74 targets. That's a 17-game pace of 68 catches, 840 yards and 10 touchdowns, which would make him a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in the majority of leagues. While those stats are probably unrealistic, especially the touchdown total, Beckham will be a popular Fantasy selection in most drafts if he's with a good quarterback in 2023. I probably will avoid Beckham if his Average Draft Position puts him in the first seven rounds, but I would be surprised if he falls on Draft Day given the infatuation with his name and previous production.
I'm not sure what Woods has left since he'll be 31 in 2023, but I also don't want to completely write him off after one season in Tennessee where he was coming off a torn ACL. He had the worst season of his career at 6.4 PPR points per game, and the Titans quarterback play was awful last year, even for a run-heavy team. It's doubtful Woods can recapture his glory years when he was a star for the Rams, averaging more than 15.1 PPR points per game from 2018-21. But with the right quarterback and system -- maybe a reunion with Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay in Los Angeles -- Woods can still return value as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in 2023. He had six games in 2022 with at least seven targets, and he scored at least 12 PPR points in three of them. If given enough volume from a quality passer, Woods can still help Fantasy managers next season with a late-round pick.
Maybe, Hardman will leave Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs and do what Tyreek Hill did with the Dolphins in 2022. Hill, clearly held back in Kansas City, set career highs in targets (170), catches (119) and receiving yards (1,710) in his first year in Miami. OK, jokes aside, a change of scenery might help Hardman, who never took off with the Chiefs despite being a second-round pick in the NFL Draft in 2019 from Georgia. He just averaged a career-high 11.5 PPR points per game in 2022, but it was a frustrating season. Just when he started to take off, scoring a combined 70 PPR points over a four-game stretch from Weeks 5-9, injuries ended his year, and he underwent groin surgery in February. He could return to Kansas City, and maybe he can pick up where he left off. But another team might covet him as a receiver (25 catches, 297 yards and four touchdowns on 34 targets in eight games last year), rusher (four carries for 31 yards and two touchdowns) and return man. At best, Hardman will be a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in most leagues, but you're only drafting him with a late-round pick.
The Giants have three receivers headed to free agency with Slayton, Sterling Shepard and Richie James. And while Slayton, 26, has been less productive as a Fantasy option than Shepard and James at times over the past three seasons, he likely offers the most upside. That's because of his speed, and Slayton averaged 15.7 yards per catch in 2022. It's the third time in his career he's been above 15.0 yards per catch, and teams will likely covet his downfield ability. As a rookie in 2019, Slayton averaged 12.1 PPR points per game, and he could get back to that level of production with the right quarterback and system, which would make him a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in the majority of leagues. Shepard, 30, has been a solid Fantasy asset for most of his time with the Giants, but he suffered a torn Achilles in 2021 and tore his ACL in 2022. Those are brutal injuries to overcome in consecutive years. James spent his first year with the Giants in 2022 and proved to be a reliable weapon for Daniel Jones down the stretch, scoring at least 13 PPR points in five of his final seven games. But it's doubtful he'll earn a big role with a different team at age 27.
Landry had a rough year in his lone season with the Saints in 2022, appearing in just nine games and ending the season on injured reserve with a bad ankle. At 30, his best days might be behind him, but let's see where he signs as a free agent. With the right quarterback and system, Landy could still be a valuable slot receiver and help Fantasy managers in PPR. He's never going to be a big touchdown scorer with just three seasons on his resume of five-plus trips to the end zone. But as recently as 2020 with Cleveland he still averaged 12.6 PPR points per game, and it's not a stretch to see him play at that level again when healthy. Landry could end up as a steal with a late-round pick in PPR in 2023 depending on where he signs as a free agent.
Campbell finally stayed healthy for a full season, playing in all 17 games, and the results were somewhat encouraging. He only averaged 8.3 PPR points per game, but when he was featured on offense he was productive. Campbell had six games in 2022 with at least six targets, and he scored at least 11 PPR points in five of them, including three with at least 18 PPR points. The Colts were an obvious disaster last season, so a change of scenery with a quality quarterback could unlock Campbell's potential. Remember, he was a second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft from Ohio State, but he played just 15 games due to injury in the first three seasons of his career. He could end up as a surprise Fantasy option with the right team in 2023, and he's someone to gamble on with a late-round pick in all leagues since he's just 26 years old.