Rams training camp
Allen J. Schaben

Last season was one of transition at the wide receiver position. We've been waiting for the next crop of superstars to emerge, and with Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase establishing themselves as arguably the top two players, plus CeeDee Lamb, A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Amon-Ra St. Brown taking a step forward and Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Christian Watson (among) others looking like potential stars among the rookie class, things look pretty good for the future.

But that older crew isn't just stepping aside. Cooper Kupp was on pace for another WR1 overall season before an injury, Tyreek Hill had arguably the best season of his career, and Davante Adams and Stefon Diggs still finished as top-five players at the position. This is what we wanted to see. This is the best of both worlds.

Oh, and we had all that success at WR despite nearly half of the top-30 in ADP a year ago either changing teams or playing with new quarterbacks. There's been much less turnover this season. Only Adams and Wilson are playing with new quarterbacks among the top 12 in ADP right now, and only Olave and Calvin Ridley have a new QB among the rest of the top 20; among the top-36, only 12 have either a new team or a new QB. 

So, we've got  a bunch of future Hall of Famers who are still highly productive in their late-20s/early-30s, a whole new crew of potential superstars who have joined the league in the past few years (including four first-round picks this year), and plenty of stability across the board. That seems like a pretty good combination, and it's reflected in the prices we're paying for wide receivers, with three drafted in the first round and 11 in the first two on average, compared to just three and eight last season, respectively. 

The edge flattens out as you go deeper, though when you consider we've also got eight QBs going inside the first 52 picks compared to just three last year, and it's clear that wide receivers simply cost a lot more than they did last year. And they probably should. 

Here's how the WR position looks for 2023: 

The State of the WR position

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs Getty Images

We're going to handle things a little differently than we have the past couple of days. Here are my thoughts on four of the biggest questions about the WR position this preseason: 

Does anyone have a claim to be the No. 1 WR but Justin Jefferson?

Right now, probably not. Jefferson scored 24 more PPR points than any other player in Fantasy last season, and he did it without outlier efficiency spikes – his 9.8 yards per target was just 0.1 up from the prior season, while his 4.3% touchdown rate was actually the lowest of his three seasons. He plays in what might end up being the highest pass-volume team in the league, and he's the clear No. 1. I don't think you can put a ceiling on how productive he could be.

That being said, I at least flirted with the idea of having Cooper Kupp as my No. 1 before his hamstring injury. That injury isn't expected to linger much beyond training camp, but it was enough to scare me out of that, though I think I'll be comfortable moving him back up to No. 2 once he shows he's healthy. Remember, Kupp has averaged 26.1 PPR points per game in 28 games with both he and Matthew Stafford playing 80% of the snaps over the past two seasons. 

Want to hear what might be the most ridiculous stat I've discovered this preseason? Kupp has scored a touchdown in 20 of those 28 games with Stafford. In the eight games where he didn't score a touchdown, he's averaged 19.3 PPR points. Davante Adams was WR6 last season with 19.7 PPR points per game. That's bonkers. His ceiling might be higher than any player in Fantasy. 

How scared should we be of the late-20s/early-30s guys? 

Those guys are Tyreek Hill (29), Cooper Kupp (30), Stefon Diggs (29, turns 30 in November), Davante Adams (30, 31 in December), at least among the high-end options, by the way. 

And part of the reason Kupp's injury was scary is because he's at an age where you should expect injuries to be a little more frequent, a little more serious, and a little more difficult to come back from. Wide receivers tend to peak around their age-27 or age-28 season with a fairly steady decline period after that, but the bottom can drop out pretty quickly when they hit their 30s, as plenty of studies have shown – here's one from FantasyPros.com and another from ApexFantasy Leagues.com that show pretty similar results with different methodologies.

It's not a rule of nature that wide receivers stop being good in their 30s, of course. Most wide receivers are past their peak by 30, but a wide receiver who was good as a 30-year-old will probably still be pretty good at 31 – though likely at least a little bit worse, on average. 

But the chances of a significant decline are higher once you get to the age those guys are at, and it wouldn't be a surprise if at least one of them was being drafted significantly later this time next year. Predicting which one that will be is probably a fool's errand, because we really haven't seen much sign of decline from any of them. There are reasons to fade at least a couple of them – Kupp for injury concerns for him and his QB, Adams because he has a new QB in Jimmy Garoppolo with quality and injury concerns – but it would be a mistake, in my view, to downgrade any of them significantly just because of their age. After all, if you're still an elite wide receiver at age-30, you're probably going to remain one at 31. 

How much upside is there for No. 2 WRs in their own offense? 

One thing our friend Ben Gretch talks about a lot in his Stealing Signals newsletter is the limitations of projections-based drafting, and I think guys like Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle last year are good examples of that. Both of their teams brought in high-level, Alpha wide receivers in A.J. Brown and Tyreek Hill, and a lot of Fantasy drafters faded Smith and Waddle as a result. What happened instead is that, while Brown and Hill arguably had their best seasons ever, both Waddle and Smith took big steps forward in their own right, because they played in elite offenses that were elevated by Hill and Brown's arrivals.

Too many people tend to think about wide receivers in terms of being in competition with their teammates. To a certain extent, they are – every target that goes to one player necessarily can't go to another. However, even elite target earners aren't being targeted 70% of the time, and as Waddle and Smith showed, when teams have multiple elite wide receivers, they tend to concentrate their targets heavily. 

Which is to say, the No. 2 option on a team can still be a very good Fantasy option if that player is very good themselves. Tee Higgins, Tyler Lockett, Brandon Aiyuk, and Mike Williams, among others, can all still be very, very good Fantasy options even alongside another high-level target earner. Don't overthink it – talent matters a lot more at WR than at RB, especially in a good offense. 

Who are some late-round targets? 

We'll limit the answers to players being drafted outside of the top-100 in NFC ADP right now. Here are some of my favorites to target instead of looking for boring, low-upside picks like Tyler Boyd, K.J. Osborn, or Adam Thielen

  • Quentin Johnston, Chargers (99.56) – I'm rounding up, sue me. Johnston is a first-round pick who already seems pretty locked into a role on a high-volume passing offense with an elite QB. He might open the season as the No. 3 WR here, but there's a path to top-24 upside if he establishes himself as an every-passing-downs option quickly. 
  • Elijah Moore, Browns (104.2 ADP) – Moore feels a lot like Brandon Aiyuk, another super-talented receiver who flashed as a rookie, struggled to get on the same page as his coaching staff in his second season, and then broke out in year three. If Deshaun Watson bounces back, Moore could be a must-start WR even alongside Amari Cooper
  • Michael Thomas, Saints (110.54) – Thomas isn't necessarily a high priority for me in every draft, but he was still productive last season before another season-ending injury. It's a long shot, but hey, so is every pick at this point. 
  • Skyy Moore, Chiefs (120.8) – Moore probably isn't going outside of the top 100 anymore now that the steady drumbeat out of camp is that he's clearly one of the starting WRs. We got a report Monday that the Chiefs expect Kadarius Toney to be ready for Week 1, and I'm hoping that keeps Moore's value in check, because I'd much rather bet on him than Toney, who is older and hasn't shown he can stay healthy for more than about a month in the NFL
  • Romeo Doubs, Packers (133.23) – Christian Watson rightly gets the hype, and I think he's the better player. But Doubs is going to play a big role here, and might actually lead the team in targets, even while Watson is the better Fantasy option. If Jordan Love is even average, Doubs could be a solid PPR option. 
  • Rondale Moore, Cardinals (144.35) – From Weeks 5 through 10, Moore averaged 14.1 PPR points per game. There isn't a ton of upside, but if he's healthy, I could see Moore emerging as a poor man's Amon-Ra St. Brown in an offense that really doesn't have a lot of alternatives. 
  • John Metchie, Texans (198.13) – The Texans WR group feels pretty wide open, but Metchie has been participating in training camp after missing his rookie season while receiving treatment for leukemia. He was the No. 44 pick in last year's draft and could emerge pretty quickly as a favorite of C.J. Stroud's if he wins a slot job. 
  • Marvin Mims, Broncos (216.36) – The Tim Patrick injury could move Mims' timetable up, and if there's any kind of Russell Wilson bounce back, there could be room for multiple wide receivers to thrive in this offense. Mims could be a Tyler Lockett-esque presence in this offense, as a low-volume, high-efficiency big-play threat if he develops quickly. 

Meet The Rookies

Earlier in the offseason, Dave Richard profiled the rookies at every position. Here's who you need to know about the top five from this year's rookie class::

Jordan Addison, Vikings – No. 23 overall

Draft outlook: Consider Addison among your possible WR3 options when you get to Round 7 or 8. Remember, this is a Vikings offense that threw at the third-highest clip in their first year under coach Kevin O'Connell. More of the same is expected this year, and O'Connell specifically mentioned that Addison's arrival is meant to deter defenses from double-teaming Jefferson. If defenses don't do that, Addison will be really busy.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seahawks – No. 20 overall

Draft outlook: Consider Addison among your possible WR3 options when you get to Round 7 or 8. Remember, this is a Vikings offense that threw at the third-highest clip in their first year under coach Kevin O'Connell. More of the same is expected this year, and O'Connell specifically mentioned that Addison's arrival is meant to deter defenses from double-teaming Jefferson. If defenses don't do that, Addison will be really busy. 

Zay Flowers, Ravens – No. 22 overall

Draft outlook: Flowers' rookie season may not deliver in a big way -- Beckham and Bateman are more experienced and therefore may command more plays than Flowers. So unless Flowers develops a nose for the end zone (and a strong rapport with Jackson) similar to what Marquise Brown had in his Baltimore days, he's probably going to underwhelm. Round 9 would be the absolute earliest to take a chance on Flowers in redraft and in Best Ball where his big games will help you win some weeks.

Quentin Johnston, Chargers – No. 21 overall

Draft outlook: There were weeks in each of the past two seasons when Herbert leaned on his third receivers for big games, but it wasn't consistent. So as long as Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are on the field for the Chargers, Johnston figures to see the fewest targets most weeks. Only an injury and/or bad play by Allen or Williams could conceivably change it. He's in the Round 9-or-later mix like other rookie wideouts.

Jonathan Mingo, Panthers – No. 39

Draft outlook: He's worth a late pick as a bench receiver, but only if you're willing to be patient with him because the Panthers could opt to roll with veteran receivers to begin the year. Mingo may not pop until the second half of the season, which means it's plausible to pass on him in drafts, wait for the person who takes him to drop him, then add him off waivers.

Sleepers, breakouts, and busts

Sleeper: Quentin Johnston, Chargers – Between Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler, there hasn't been a ton of room for anyone else to thrive in this Chargers offense in recent years. That could change in 2023, partially because of new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, and partially because the Chargers haven't had a complementary piece like Johnston. The Chargers figure to remain one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league with Moore taking over as offensive coordinator, but it should be an even more productive passing offense as Moore will likely push Justin Herbert to be more aggressive in pushing the ball down the field - Herbert's intended air yards fell to 6.4, one of the lowest marks in the league a year ago. That should benefit Johnston, who has the size and speed to be a deep threat in the NFL, however he also fills a niche in this offense neither Allen nor Williams does as an after-the-catch playmaker who can thrive on jet sweeps and WR screens. Johnston probably needs an injury to either Allen or Williams to be a must-start Fantasy option, but he could be a boom-or-bust WR4, and those are always nice to have around on your bench.

Breakout: Garrett Wilson, Jets – Wilson is one of the two free squares on the bingo board. He's a breakout pick for Jamey, Dave, and Heath, and probably every other Fantasy analyst in the world, too. He was quite good as a rookie, and that was with absolutely dreadful QB play - the Jets quarterbacks had just 67.5% of their passes on target last season, the lowest mark for any team in the league. Aaron Rodgers doesn't even have to rediscover his MVP form to be an upgrade on that sad group, but if he does come out playing like one of the best quarterbacks on the planet again, there's no telling how good Wilson can be. Top-five upside is not overselling it.

Bust: D.J. Moore, Bears – I think it's fair to expect Moore to have a big impact on the Bears offense, but I just don't think the Stefon Diggs-to-the-Bills comps are particularly fair. I expect the Bears to call more pass plays with Moore at the top of the receiving hierarchy, but there's still a problem there: 26% of the Bears called pass plays last season didn't end in a pass attempt, by far the highest share in the league - No. 2 was 17.9%. I hope I'm wrong on this one, because I think Moore is one of the best wide receivers in the league, but I still think pass volume is going to be pretty limited here - and the quality of his targets may not improve much with Justin Fields. If you want to bet on Moore making a big impact on this offense, I'd rather do it by drafting Fields than betting on Moore becoming a must-start wide receiver.

WR Tiers

Here's how Dave is breaking down the top tiers at RB. For the rest, and his thoughts on the position, head here

Tier 1: Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Cooper Kupp, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs
Tier 2: CeeDee Lamb, Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Garrett Wilson
Tier 3: Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, Tee Higgins, Chris Olave, Jerry Jeudy, Keenan Allen, D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley
Tier 4: DeAndre Hopkins, Deebo Samuel, Christian Watson, DK Metcalf, Amari Cooper, Terry McLaurin, Diontae Johnson

Rankings/Salary Cap Values values 

  1. Justin Jefferson, Vikings – $36
  2. Ja'Marr Chase, Bengals – $30
  3. Tyreek Hill, Dolphins – $29
  4. Cooper Kupp, Rams – $29
  5. Stefon Diggs, Bills – $25
  6. Davante Adams, Raiders – $23
  7. CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys – $22
  8. A.J. Brown, Eagles – $21
  9. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions – $19
  10. Garrett Wilson, Jets – $14
  11. Tee Higgins, Bengals – $13
  12. Devonta Smith, Eagles – $12
  13. Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins – $12
  14. Keenan Allen, Chargers – $11
  15. DK Metcalf, Seahawks – $11
  16. Calvin Ridley, Jaguars – $11
  17. Chris Olave, Saints – $11
  18. Deebo Samuel, 49ers – $11
  19. Amari Cooper, Browns – $10
  20. DeAndre Hopkins, Titans – $9
  21. Chris Godwin, Buccaneers – $9
  22. Terry McLaurin, Commanders – $8
  23. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks – $8
  24. Christian Watson, Packers – $7
  25. DJ Moore, Bears – $7
  26. Jerry Jeudy, Broncos – $7
  27. Marquise Brown, Cardinals – $7
  28. Mike Williams, Chargers – $6
  29. Drake London, Falcons – $6
  30. Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers – $5
  31. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Patriots – $5
  32. Jordan Addison, Vikings – $4
  33. Christian Kirk, Jaguars – $4
  34. Diontae Johnson, Steelers – $4
  35. Mike Evans, Buccaneers – $4
  36. Michael Pittman, Colts – $4
  37. Jahan Dotson, Commanders – $4
  38. Brandin Cooks, Cowboys – $4
  39. Gabe Davis, Bills – $4
  40. George Pickens, Steelers – $4
  41. Michael Thomas, Saints – $3
  42. Skyy Moore, Chiefs – $3
  43. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seahawks – $3
  44. Treylon Burks, Titans – $3
  45. Elijah Moore, Browns – $3
  46. Rondale Moore, Cardinals – $2
  47. Quentin Johnston, Chargers – $2
  48. Romeo Doubs, Packers – $2
  49. Kadarius Toney, Chiefs – $2
  50. Courtland Sutton, Broncos – $2
  51. Allen Lazard, Jets – $2
  52. Jakobi Meyers, Raiders – $1
  53. Nico Collins, Texans – $1
  54. Tyler Boyd, Bengals – $1
  55. Adam Thielen, Panthers – $1
  56. Jameson Williams, Lions – $1
  57. Rashod Bateman, Ravens – $1
  58. Curtis Samuel, Commanders – $1
  59. John Metchie, Texans – $1
  60. Odell Beckham, Ravens – $1
  61. Rashee Rice, Chiefs – $1
  62. Zay Jones, Jaguars – $1
  63. Zay Flowers, Ravens – $1
  64. Michael Wilson, Cardinals – $1
  65. Mecole Hardman, Jets – $1
  66. DJ Chark, Panthers – $1
  67. Jonathan Mingo, Panthers – $1
  68. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Browns – $0
  69. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Chiefs – $0
  70. Darnell Mooney, Bears – $0