Nearly a third of the top 30 wide receivers in 2023 were drafted in the past three years. The past three draft classes have given us Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, CeeDee Lamb, Jaylen Waddle, Amon-Ra St. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and many more exciting pass catchers.
We've been spoiled.
The very idea of being spoiled is that you come to expect the things that were such a gift in the first place. If Fantasy managers do that with the 2023 draft class, I am afraid they are going to come away disappointed. There is not a perfect prospect at wide receiver this year. In fact, the consensus No. 1 receiver in the class, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, only played three games in 2022 and only had one season in college with more than 50 receiving yards.The consensus No. 2, Jordan Addison, weighs just 173 pounds. The consensus No. 4, Zay Flowers, is just 5-foot-9.
Like I said, there's not a perfect prospect in the class. That being said, some of these guys can really play. There are elite route runners in the class. There is blazing speed and some pretty insane YAC ability. There are even a couple of big, fast old school No. 1 body types. No matter what your type, you can probably find one, as long as your "type" isn't Chase or Jefferson. This class doesn't have one of those. Most don't.
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Teams with the biggest Fantasy opportunity
- Green Bay Packers
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Arizona Cardinals
- Carolina Panthers
- Houston Texans
- New York Giants
- Minnesota Vikings
- New England Patriots
- Tennessee Titans
Not all opportunities are created equally, especially at the wide receiver position. The list above is very close to a list of the teams with the most vacated targets from the year before. But there's more room for Fantasy success if the team also has a good passing game and/or hasn't added any significant weapons to the passing game through free agency already.
For a guy like Smith-Njigba, I'm not sure how much the other receivers on the roster matter. In other words, even if a team that isn't on this list drafts him, I would expect he's going to earn 120-plus targets as a rookie if he stays healthy. But for most of the other receivers, they'd benefit greatly from a lack of target competition.
It would be pretty funny if the Packers spent a high pick on a wide receiver after all of those years of not doing so for Aaron Rodgers. There are a couple of receivers in this class who could put a ding in Christian Watson's upside and more than a dozen that could spell trouble for Romeo Doubs' sleeper appeal. Unfortunately, many of the top prospects at receiver don't fit what appears to be the Packers' model.
It would be easy to look at last year and think Kansas City is actually a bad spot for a receiver to land. I do believe that eventually Patrick Mahomes will have a No. 1 wide receiver again, but I wouldn't want to bet on a rookie being that guy. In other words, the Chiefs may be a better landing spot for Dynasty than redraft. But there are some smaller, speed receivers you could absolutely envision thriving under Andy Reid.
Both Carolina and Houston should be starting rookies this year at quarterback and have room to add an impact receiver. That leaves the possibility of C.J. Stroud and Smith-Njigba remaining teammates in the NFL, I would love that for both players.
Don't sleep on the Giants as an opportunity. While they have added a ton of receivers this offseason, they don't have anyone who would stand in the way of a true No. 1 option. If they draft a receiver in the first two rounds, that receiver will be my favorite Giants receiver for 2023 redraft leagues.
Top five prospects for Fantasy
Making the case for Smith-Njigba as WR1 in this draft isn't difficult. You just have to turn back the clock. In the 2021 season at Ohio State he led the Buckeyes with 95 catches for 1,606 yards. He also scored nine touchdowns. His teammates on that team were Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, two of the breakout stars of the 2022 draft class. Wilson has openly said that Smith-Njigba was the best wide receiver on that team.
If you want to nitpick, the first place you start is that he basically played one year of college football as a starter. He missed most of his 2022 season due to a hamstring injury. He's also not particularly elite in the areas of size or speed. There are receivers who look much better getting off the bus, in the weight room, and on the track. Thankfully, you're not drafting him to do any of those things. You're drafting him to get open and catch footballs, two things he proved he was elite at in 2021.
Expect Smith-Njigba to play predominantly in the slot early on as he did at Ohio State, but there are reasons to believe he can win all over the field as he develops.
We expect Smith to be a first-round pick, and personally I would love it if he was paired up with C.J. Stroud in Houston. Barring a disaster on Draft Day, he should be a top-three rookie pick in one-quarterback leagues.
Like Smith-Njigba, Addison's best year came in 2021. That year he caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns from Kenny Pickett at Pitt. Those numbers were enough to earn Addison the Biletnikoff award for best wide receiver in college football. In 2022, Addison went to USC to play with Caleb Williams and saw a big dip in production, but still led the Trojans in catches (59), receiving yards, (875), and touchdowns (eight).
Also like Smith-Njigba, Addison is likely to find most of his success in the NFL as a slot, at least early on, but he has the route-running ability to win outside and showed that more often in college than Smith-Njigba did.
The problem is his size and strength. There's a reason so few receivers have starred in the league at south of 180 pounds. There's reason to believe that's changing because of the way offenses work and the way defenses are allowed to play, but it's still a big hurdle to overcome and the reason it's more likely Addison falls from No. 2 than rises to No. 1 after the NFL Draft.
Assuming he's a first-round pick, Addison should be picked in the top half of one-QB rookie drafts. He may be best served as a No. 2 option next to a really good outside threat. He could also thrive in Kansas City after learning Andy Reid's system. The fact that he did so well in his first year at USC should give you hope he'll catch on quicker than most as a rookie.
Dan Schneier wrote in Flowers' Draft Profile (linked above) that Flowers would be the No. 1 wide receiver in the class if he was 3 inches taller. While I think you could possibly say the same thing about Addison (especially if those three inches came with 30 pounds), it's a fair point for Flowers.
Flowers had 1,077 yards and 12 TDs in his final season at BC, which is made more impressive by the fact that his team only threw for 2,965 yards and 21 TDs. He has borderline-4.3 speed and possesses elite change-of-direction skills. He needed those skills at BC, because he constantly faced extra attention from the defenses, and beat it.
Other than his size, I don't really like the fact that Flowers will turn 23 during Week 1 of his rookie season. As a rule, younger prospects are better bets, if only because some of Flowers' college production could be a product of him simply being more physically mature than his competition.
Those concerns aside, he has elite traits and could be a Round 1 pick, so he's a first-rounder in rookie drafts, and maybe an early one. Unfortunately, one of the teams that has shown the most interest in him is the Patriots. While they have opportunity, I don't believe that's anyone's favorite landing spot for a wide receiver.
In a draft full of speedy, undersized, slots, Johnson stands out both figuratively and literally. He's 6-foot-3 and ran a 4.5 40-yards dash at his pro day. He averaged 22.1 yards per catch as a freshman, and even as his volume grew, he maintained an average of 18.5 yards per catch throughout his career at TCU.
That combination of size, speed, and explosiveness would have earned him a sure-fire first-round grade and may have made him WR1 in the class 10 years ago. But the NFL is changing and we've seen plenty of flameouts that looked and ran like Johnson over the past decade.
For all the advantages Johnson has over the three receivers listed above he's not in their stratosphere as a route runner and there are questions about his catch technique as well. Questions about your ability to get open and/or catch the ball are big questions, even for a big receiver like Johnson.
Draft capital is going to matter for all these guys, but a week before the draft the question looms larger for Johnson. He could still be a top-15 pick if the right team believes, and that would make him a top-five rookie pick. But he's also the most likely guy we've talked about so far to have a slide like Hakeem Butler a few years back.
Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
Mims was Mr. Big Play at Oklahoma over his three years there, averaging 19.5 yards per catch and scoring 20 receiving touchdowns for the Sooners in three seasons. His 13.5 yards per target is the second-highest amongst power-5 receivers since 2005. Only Jaylen Waddle was better in that regard.
Mims' 1,083 yards in 2022 was more than double the second-highest Sooner total. He also led the team in receiving and scored nine touchdowns as an 18-year-old freshman. That kind of success at that age is a very good predictor for future success. Add in elite speed and it's hard to figure out why there isn't more smoke around Mims as a first-round rookie pick.
Part of it is that WR numbers get discounted in the Big 12 because there's not a lot of defenses there. Also, Mims is just 183 pounds, which is at least a concern.
Mims is a high-ceiling, lower-floor prospect whose Dynasty value will hinge on whether he's a Day 2 or Day 3 pick in the NFL Draft. If he lands on Day 2, I'd imagine more will join me in ranking him inside their top-12 rookie picks. He could form an explosive trio with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in Green Bay, but the Packers usually like their receivers bigger.
Like many of the receivers in this class, 2021 was Tillman's best. That year he caught 64 passes for 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns. Velus Jones and Jalin Hyatt combined for 1,033 yards and nine touchdowns on that same team. Hyatt took the lead role in 2022 with Tillman playing through injuries, but I still prefer Tillman for now. We'll have to wait until the NFL Draft to see if teams do as well.
Tillman's best comp among the five receivers above is probably Johnson. They're both true X receivers, and there aren't a lot of those in this class. Tillman has the better hands between the two, but we know even less about Tillman's route tree than we do Johnson's. Will that scare NFL teams off or will they bite on the potential?
Tillman is also an older prospect, and even with Day 2 draft capital I'm not sure he can rise much higher than 18th in rookie drafts. More likely, he's a Round 3 rookie pick who sneaks into the back of Round 2 in some drafts.