Depending on what type of system you utilize in your fantasy football leagues, fantasy football projections can vary drastically, and that can affect the way you draft. Just look at the difference in fantasy football ADP from site to site and how the 2023 fantasy football rankings are sorted depending on how your league is set up. Each wide receiver has a different combination of skill sets he brings to the table, and understanding how that breaks down can help you sort each group into tiers to fit your specific league. For example, you wouldn’t want a short average depth of target (aDOT) guy who doesn’t score a ton in standard leagues, but he may provide valuable points for you in a PPR format. There is no “one size fits all” for fantasy; if there were, we’d all be winners, so it’s important to prioritize the wide receivers that reward you the most in your particular system.
You’ll also have to pay more attention to when you draft your wide receivers based on how many you’re required to start in each league. If it’s a three receiver league, you may be forced to chase upside later in the draft as the depth at the position thins out, or you may choose to follow a Zero-RB or Anchor-RB build to solidify the position early. Having players broken down into tiers helps you decide when and how to make these decisions.
Andrew Cooper does a great job of breaking down wide receiver tier groups in his Dynamic Tier Rankings, but I’m going to go a little further into detail about why these receivers belong in a certain tier and what they have to offer.
*ADPs are current as of June 24, 2023.*
The Elite “All-Everything” Tier
1. Justin Jefferson, MIN ADP 1.86
2. Ja’Marr Chase, CIN ADP 3.21
This tier is reserved for the “all-everything” guys, the guys who earn targets, yards, touchdowns, snap share…literally everything. There’s a legitimate argument to be made that Ja’Marr Chase could have finished as the overall WR1 in PPR leagues last season if he hadn’t been injured, and that argument stands again this year, boosting him into the top tier of wide receivers. Both him and Jefferson are basically neck-and-neck when it comes to average targets per game, yardage per game, and fantasy points per game, but Chase played five less games than Jefferson. You could say that Jefferson was more boom-or-bust than Chase was on a week-to-week basis, as he struggled against elite corners like Darius Slay, Jaire Alexander, and even Trevon Diggs, but his ceiling is arguably higher, as Minnesota’s defense often forces their offense into negative game script situations. Regardless of who comes out on top this year, you can’t go wrong with either of these top two options.
The Elite (But Older) “All-Everything” Tier
3. Tyreek Hill, MIA ADP 7.39
4. Cooper Kupp, LAR ADP 7.86
5. Stefon Diggs, BUF ADP 11.89
Look, no shade to these guys, but age is something that always catches up to elite receivers, and these three are getting dangerously close to the age where we see most receivers drop off or become more injury-prone. Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs are both 29, with Cooper Kupp being the oldest of the group at 30, and we unfortunately lost him to injury after just nine games last season. Still, these guys are capable of elite production for the time being.
Hill finished the 2022 season with over 1,700 yards, 119 receptions, and nine touchdowns, and he did this with a backup quarterback for four games (well, basically five if you count both of Tua Tagovailoa’s early exits). Kupp obviously finished the lowest of the group due to his missed games, but up until he was injured, he was the WR1 in fantasy points per game, averaging 22.4 points a contest, with 90.2 yards, 10.89 targets, and .67 touchdowns each week. Diggs, while only having 1,455 yards, lived in the end zone, scoring 11 times over the course of the season.
These numbers between these three are all very close, with each having massive target shares (the lowest being Diggs’ at 28.4%), so you can’t go wrong with anyone in this tier, barring injury. I think Kupp has the highest upside, especially with a presumably healthy Matthew Stafford and a middling strength of schedule. I’m also concerned about the alleged rift between Diggs and the Bills’ coaching staff and the legal issues looming above Tyreek Hill’s season, and while they seem to be non-issues at the moment, it does cause them to lose in a tie-breaker with Kupp.
Proven Top Ten WR1s with Overall WR1 Upside
6. CeeDee Lamb, DAL ADP 13.45
7. A.J. Brown, PHI ADP 14.23
8. Davante Adams, LV ADP 16.97
9. Amon-Ra St. Brown, DET ADP 18.23
To be in consideration the overall WR1, you have to have a certain level of proven upside, and everyone in this tier has proven they can hang with the best. Amon-Ra St. Brown finished the lowest out of this group last year through 17 weeks as WR7 in PPR formats, and had he not missed time, he very well could have finished top five.
Davante Adams is the most proven of the four in this tier, finishing as a top-three wide receiver the past three seasons. While there’s no doubting his talent, the situation in Las Vegas is shaky, at best, with Adams already criticizing the Raiders’ front office and coaching decisions, and no clear answer at quarterback until Jimmy Garoppolo passes his physical. If these issues aren’t resolved, Adams could just phone it in. He doesn’t have much left to prove and has no reason to put his health on the line if the Raiders tank.
CeeDee Lamb edges out A.J. Brown next, especially with the addition of a true second receiving option in Brandin Cooks. Last year, he was peppered with targets (156), but the lack of depth behind him caused him to be blanketed in man coverage at the 15th-highest rate in the league. Despite that, he still finished with 109 receptions, 1,359 yards, and nine touchdowns. With the addition of Cooks and a healthy Michael Gallup, plus the departure of Ezekiel Elliott and Kellen Moore, the sky's the limit for Lamb’s 2023 fantasy outlook.
Brown was on Lamb’s heels last year, finishing just two points behind him through 17 weeks. Although he had 19 fewer receptions than Lamb on the year, he ended up with more yardage due to his deep routes, finishing seventh in deep targets and fourth in yards per target (10.2). The Eagles did add D’Andre Swift which may eat into his target share, but as they only targeted their running backs 61 total times last year, I don’t think that will happen. Brown should continue to feast downfield.
In PPR formats, few receivers were better than Amon-Ra St. Brown in 2022. His aDOT ranked 97th in the league, but he finished eighth in targets, fifth in receptions, and fourth in yards after the catch (YAC). One little red flag about him is the addition of rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs, who has reportedly been running routes out of the slot, and we haven’t really seen St. Brown succeed on deep routes. If he is forced into more of an outside role, his 4.61 speed could inhibit his production.
If I’m drafting in this range of the draft, Lamb and A.J. Brown are basically in a tie, with Lamb barely edging out Brown in full PPR formats and Brown edging out Lamb in half PPR and standard, then St. Brown, then Adams. It hurts to have Adams that low, but I don’t trust the Raiders’ offense to support his usual stat line.
Potential/Proven Top Twelve Upside
10. Garrett Wilson, NYJ ADP 18.51
11. Jaylen Waddle, MIA ADP 23.39
12. Chris Olave, NO ADP 27.15
I wanted to include Jaylen Waddle in the last tier along with the proven top ten receivers, but since this is ADP tiers, he just didn’t really fit. By historical data, he should be going ahead of Garrett Wilson, as he finished as WR8 in PPR formats last year, but people seem wary of taking a team’s WR2 over other WR1s. Don’t let that label fool you. Last year, Waddle only saw a target share of 21.6% (32nd), but he finished tenth in yards after catch (462) using his elite speed to outrun defenders. If Tua can remain healthy in a highly competitive AFC East, he’s bound to have a similar or better finish in 2023.
Although he didn’t produce at the level Waddle did, Wilson did finish strong as WR22 through Week 17, showing flashes of his talent throughout the season. It’s also important to note that the quarterback play in New York severely limited his upside, with a target quality rating that ranked 93rd in the league. Now that four-time MVP winner Aaron Rodgers is under center, expect Wilson to thrive.
Wilson’s college teammate, Chris Olave, experienced a similar rookie season, one plagued by poor quarterback play and a wide receiver room that was decimated by injury. Despite having Andy Dalton as his quarterback, Olave still ranked ninth in aDOT (14 yards), but he was unable to create much after the catch, ranking 42nd. Although people may think Derek Carr is an upgrade, it may not be as much as they expect. Michael Thomas is also back and presumably healthy, so the depth chart will be something to monitor as training camp ramps up.
Currently, I like Wilson over Waddle and Olave due to the quarterback upgrade, but if Tyreek Hill is suspended and Waddle takes over as the WR1, expect a bump.
The “Other Guys” (WR2s on Their Teams With Fantasy WR1 Potential)
13. DeVonta Smith, PHI ADP 27.26
14. Tee Higgins, CIN ADP 30.13
Here’s where we get into that WR2 territory that people are so afraid of. Do you take a team’s WR1 or grab a WR2 who can creep into the top twelve? Well, if you take either DeVonta Smith or Tee Higgins, it’s possible you could get a WR1 at a WR2 price.
Smith experienced the “Year Two Leap” last season, improving from WR30 to WR9. He was second on the team in targets (136), but even that was good enough for 13th in the league on Philadelphia’s high-powered offense. He had a route participation of 97% and with no impactful additions to the Eagles’ wide receiver room, he should still see a high volume of routes and targets in 2023.
As good as Higgins’ finish was on paper last season, it was a little deceitful. Overall, he was WR13, but he was WR25 in fantasy points per game, and if Ja’Marr Chase hadn’t been hurt and missed five games, that number could have been way lower. The splits aren’t that drastic, but three additional targets per game and nearly 40 additional yards per game add up. I’m willing to cut him a little slack, as the Bengals started off in a rut at the beginning of the year, but this ADP seems rich.
The “Hills and Valleys” Tier
15. DK Metcalf, SEA ADP 34.88
16. Deebo Samuel, SF ADP 40.25
17. Amari Cooper, CLE ADP 41.8
18. Keenan Allen, LAC ADP 44.04
This group has name recognition and former glory written all over it, but the fact is, these guys who are the WR1 on their respective teams’ depth chart don’t have what it takes to produce at a fantasy WR1 level anymore.
DK Metcalf may have been going at a “discounted” ADP last year as WR18, but with Geno Smith at quarterback, he saw the lowest aDOT of his career (11.8 yards/40th overall), and he was even worse in creating yards after the catch (47th). He finished the season as WR16, but he was VERY boom or bust at times, with six games of single-digit performances. With the addition of rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba, his ADP feels like his ceiling.
The same can be said for Deebo Samuel. Outside of his freakishly efficient 2021 season where he finished as WR3 in PPR leagues, Samuel has finished as the WR38 (2022), WR96 (2020), and WR31(2019). Now that Christian McCaffrey is in San Francisco, there is no more “Deebo Role”...it’s the CMC role. The emergence of Brandon Aiyuk has also cut into Samuel’s workload, and to complicate the issue further, there is uncertainty about the quarterback situation going into the season.
Much like Seattle, everyone expected Cleveland to be terrible with Jacoby Brissett starting for the first 12 games, but they were surprisingly efficient, and Amari Cooper ATE. He ranked 17th in fantasy points per game but finished the season as WR10, as he was able to avoid serious injury and put up fairly consistent numbers with his elite route running ability. Deshaun Watson now has a full year in the system under his belt, so he should be able to support at least WR2 production for Cooper. As far as a solid floor, decent ceiling option goes, he delivers more often than not.
Keenan Allen was one of the oldest active receivers in the NFL in 2022, and his injury history is starting to show that. After an early exit in Week 1, Allen ended up missing seven games on the year, and he finished as WR42. However, removing those missed games from the equation, he finished as the WR3 from Weeks 11-18. We shouldn’t shy away from upside just because of injuries, and aside from last year, Allen had missed no more than two games in a season since 2016. As long as he’s healthy, he’s one of the best options in this tier.
If you want floor, we start with Cooper at the top, followed by Allen, with them swapped if you’re looking for big play ability. Next is Metcalf, followed by Samuel.
Old Faces in New Places (or with a New Quarterback)
19. Calvin Ridley, JAX ADP 47.47
20. DeAndre Hopkins, FA ADP 49.13
21. Terry McLaurin, WAS ADP 53.14
22. DJ Moore, CHI ADP 53.99
Oh, crystal ball, what do you foresee for this tier of players who have changed locations or signal callers? Calvin Ridley may be the biggest question mark in the bunch, although he seems to have landed in the best situation. We can’t deny his talent when he’s on the field, but he hasn’t played a full season since 2020, and there could be some rust to shake off. However, it seems that there’s already some developing chemistry with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and the raw talent he possesses can create big plays out of thin air.
Hopkins is the most difficult to analyze at this point in time, as he still hasn’t found a landing spot. He has an abundance of talent, and in the weeks he played after coming back from suspension last season, he was WR9 in fantasy points per game. He’s one of the oldest wide receivers currently in the league, but he is still a beast at defeating man coverage, coming in second in 2022, and he will be productive wherever he lands. Just how productive depends on where.
For Terry McLaurin, the departure of Taylor Heinicke may seem like a blessing, but the unknown that is Sam Howell is concerning. We’ve only seen Howell in one game in his professional career, and his quarterback rating was…mmm, not good. McLaurin has always thrived downfield, but he’s always ended up as a low-end WR2 or high-end WR3 with the inefficiency of his offense and/or quarterback play holding him back. I’m hesitant at going after him at this ADP, as it seems like it’s closer to his ceiling.
DJ Moore is another receiver who should have had a breakout season last year but was held back by poor quarterback play and an inefficient offense. Despite finally breaking his “four touchdown per year” curse, he still only finished as WR23 through Week 17. Going to Chicago seems like a nice change of scenery for him, but Chicago has never been a high-volume passing offense. In fact, the most receiving yards in a single season is only 1,508 yards by Brandon Marshall in 2012. While Justin Fields and Moore have reportedly been developing chemistry quickly, they will have to tweak their system to make Moore a bona fide fantasy stud.
Until Hopkins signs somewhere, it’s Ridley, Hopkins, Moore, and McLaurin in this tier.
23. Jerry Jeudy, DEN ADP 56.98
24. Drake London, ATL ADP 57.74
25. Christian Watson, GB ADP 58.44
This group is full of hyped up young guys with amazing potential. We saw some sneakily positive things from Jerry Jeudy last season, even with an atrocious offensive performance by the Broncos as a whole. He finished as WR19 in fantasy points per game and as WR22 overall on the least efficient offense in the entire NFL, and now with Sean Payton and Joe Lombardi calling the shots, he has nowhere to go but up. Payton’s track record of supporting wide receivers is among the best in the NFL, having a fantasy WR1 eight of his 15 seasons in New Orleans and 11 with a WR2. It feels like you’re drafting Jeudy at his floor, and he’s the most proven of this bunch.
Drake London had the fifth-highest target share in the league last season, but in Atlanta’s run-first offense, it only amounted to 117 targets (22nd). You have to cut him a little slack with Marcus Mariota at quarterback, and whether or not you are a full-on believer in Desmond Ridder this year, there is a lot of promise in the connection the two have built. London does struggle at separating, but his route participation (87%) and yards per route run (2.4/11th) are positives he can continue to build upon in 2023. Still, his ADP seems rich with all the proven names in the next tier.
With Aaron Rodgers out of the picture, Christian Watson is the biggest question mark in this tier. He missed three games last year and finished as the WR44, but for some reason, his ADP is inflated all the way to WR25. That may be all fine and good if Rodgers was still there, but there is so much uncertainty surrounding Jordan Love that this is a huge risk. Additionally, aside from Weeks 10, 12, and 18 he never had more than 50 yards in a game. With all the names in the next tier, there’s no reason you should be drafting Watson at this ADP.
In this tier, Jeudy seems like a steal; the remaining two may need to wait another year for their breakout.
26. Chris Godwin, TB ADP 64.65
27. Mike Williams, LAC ADP 64.73
28. Christian Kirk, JAX ADP 65.55
29. Tyler Lockett, SEA ADP 69.14
30. Brandon Aiyuk, SF ADP 70.37
Every year, it seems like there is an entire group of players who are undervalued, and the same is true this season. This tier is chock full of wide receivers with the potential to finish as WR2 or better; in fact, last year, all but one of them did.
I get the reticence to draft anyone from Tampa Bay after the departure of Tom Brady, but even with either Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask, Chris Godwin will see a huge number of targets. Last year, he ranked tenth in targets (142), and while he only had an aDOT of 5.6 (99th), he finished 6th in receptions (104) and sixth in YAC (487). We were all worried about his efficiency coming back from an ACL injury, but he crushed all expectations. His skill set out of the slot (where he ranked fourth in snaps) fits in perfectly with a low aDOT quarterback like Mayfield or Trask, and he’s all but guaranteed to be the top target on this offense. He may not fit in well in standard leagues, but he’s PPR gold at this ADP.
Mike Williams, the only one in this group who finished outside the top-24 wide receivers, is another value in this tier. He missed four games, but he still finished 20th in fantasy points per game. Yes, the absence of Keenan Allen helped boost his stat line, but with Kellen Moore coming in as the offensive coordinator, they should be a much heavier passing offense. He has a solid floor on what should be one of the top offenses in the NFL.
Everyone scoffed at the contract Christian Kirk received in free agency last year, but he ascended on this newly revamped Jacksonville offense, finishing as the WR14 through Week 17. The addition of Calvin Ridley might have people spooked, but the Jaguars passed at an average of 35.9 times per game, and the Ridley addition is much more likely to affect Evan Engram and Zay Jones than it is Kirk. He can play all over the field, and his 22 red zone targets ranked fifth in the league at the position. Even if he does take a small step back, he should still finish as a mid-range WR2.
Why is it that every year Tyler Lockett is drafted outside the top 24 wide receivers, but every year, he ends up surpassing ADP? The addition of Jaxon Smith-Njigba definitely raises some questions as to the target volume Lockett will see, but if history is any indication, JSN will be the odd man out in two wide receiver sets, leaving Lockett with a firm hold on his 93.8% route participation. Until we see a decline, Lockett is “locked” in as a high upside receiver you can currently get at a huge discount.
Brandon Aiyuk didn’t get the flowers he should have in regards to his performance last season, and even though he wasn’t the WR1 on the 49ers depth chart, his numbers say otherwise. He finished as the WR15 overall and WR23 in fantasy points per game, even with a revolving door of game manager quarterbacks. Even Deebo Samuel has said his skills have reached the next level in OTAs, and with one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, there’s no reason he should be drafted this low.
This tier is hard to classify, as they are all highly undervalued, but currently, I like Godwin, Kirk, Lockett, Aiyuk, and Williams. However, they are all very close.
Will They or Won’t They?
31. Michael Pittman, IND ADP 70.81
32. Diontae Johnson, PIT ADP 76.88
33. Mike Evans, TB ADP 79.6
34. Marquise Brown, ARI ADP 80.37
35. Treylon Burks, TEN ADP 83.53
36. George Pickens, PIT ADP 86.27
Oof, now we get to the hard part…the players who are talented and have potential, but due to one reason or another, have bold question marks next to their 2023 outlook.
Michael Pittman was headed for a breakout season in 2022, and had it not been for the utter inefficiency of the Colts offense, he very well could have. He finished 11th in targets (141) and eight in receptions (99), but four touchdowns and an aDOT of 6.9 yards couldn’t put him over that threshold. The addition of rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson and new head coach Shane Steichen should improve this offense dramatically, and with 100% route participation, Pittman will have plenty of opportunities.
Diontae Johnson is another receiver who was inhibited by his team’s lack of scoring production. He ranked sixth in targets (147) and 13th in receptions (86), but he scored exactly ZERO touchdowns in 2022. The Steelers took major steps to improve their offensive line in the offseason, bringing in three free agents and drafting a first rounder out of Georgia, so Kenny Pickett should have more time to throw the football and move the sticks. Johnson is due for some positive touchdown regression and should be a steal at his ADP.
Remember when I just praised Chris Godwin? Well, the opposite is true for Mike Evans this year. Evans thrives in the downfield role, and with Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask in charge of getting the ball there, odds are not good that he gets a fair chance for many catches. Mayfield’s yards per attempt ranked 29th in the league last year, so unless he springs for a bionic arm, Evans may be a candidate for the “All-Exercise Team” in Tampa Bay.
After the departure of DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown is once again the WR1 in Arizona. During Hopkins’ suspension early last season, Brown was a target hog, seeing an average of over ten targets per game. The glaring issues with Brown are his ability to stay healthy, and the quarterback situation while Kyler Murray continues to rehab his ACL injury. He may be a PPR monster, but his ceiling is capped on a team with a projected win total of only 4.5.
Treylon Burks had his share of struggles last season, between the asthma attacks at rookie minicamp, turf toe, a concussion, and Malik Willis taking over at quarterback at the end of the season, but the fact remains that he still has the potential to be an elite talent in the NFL. He’s currently the WR1 on Tennessee’s depth chart, and although they don’t pass the ball at a high rate, the utter lack of options in their receiving room is setting him up for a huge target share. Burks may not reach his ceiling this year, but he is still a great value as a low-end WR3.
Take everything I said about Diontae Johnson and apply the opposite to George Pickens. While he can’t create separation, he ranked 13th in contested catch win rate and third in aDOT. The problem with Pickens is that Kenny Pickett can’t or doesn’t throw the ball deep often enough to make him a premium asset in fantasy. He may be fine in a best ball format, but he’s another candidate for “All-Exercise Team” weeks in redraft.
37. Kadarius Toney, KC ADP 88.87
38. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, SEA ADP 90.1
For those of you on the borderline of the WR3 tier, here’s a little bonus for you! Kadarius Toney has yet to play a full season in his two years as a pro, but this year, with the departure of Juju Smith-Schuster, he could be in line for the WR1 spot in Kansas City’s prolific offense. Futures props also have him in line for more touchdowns than Amon-Ra St. Brown, Keenan Allen, George Kittle, Chris Olave, Deebo Samuel, and Kyle Pitts. I don’t put everything on sports books, but Vegas tends to have insider information that most of us don’t. He’s worth a dart throw at this ADP.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba has become one of the most polarizing rookies this season, with some people thinking he will immediately take over for Tyler Lockett and others thinking he’ll be the odd man out. I find myself somewhere in the middle. His talent is definitely there, but unless rookies are in a good situation to immediately take over a huge snap share, they don’t tend to return value. I’d shy away from him at this ADP in redraft, although he’s a great receiver to have in dynasty and could have spike weeks in best ball.
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