What qualifies a wide receiver as a “breakout” candidate? Does it mean they’re going to outperform their 2023 fantasy football ADP? Not necessarily, but that certainly helps. A breakout candidate can best be described as someone who hasn’t reached the WR2 threshold in their career OR a former borderline WR2 who should jump into the WR1 tier. If you play in leagues where you have to start three wide receivers, it can even include someone in late rounds who jump into the WR3 range. ADPs can make finding breakouts tricky, as so many people seem bound by where they think these players should be drafted, but consulting 2023 fantasy football rankings and wide receiver projections can help you find huge value at the position. Look at Christian Kirk last season; he was being drafted as the WR42 at the end of August and finished as the WR13! In 2021, it was Deebo Samuel, who was drafted in the eighth round of most leagues and finished as the WR3 in PPR leagues and the WR2 in standard formats.

These are just a couple of examples, but every season, there are guys who come out of nowhere and end up helping you win your fantasy football leagues. Let’s dive in and look at some of the wide receivers who could break out in 2023. 


The Obvious Guys: High Expectations (and ADP)

Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR21
  • 2022 PPG Finish: WR30
  • 2023 ADP: WR10

I don’t think there’s been a single wide receiver who has been steamed up as much as Garrett Wilson in the offseason. After the Jets acquired Aaron Rodgers, it’s all but been set in stone that the second-year receiver will take a giant leap. Even with a revolving door of Zach Wilson, Mike White, Joe Flacco, and even Chris Streveler, Wilson put together an impressive stat line, especially for a rookie. He finished as a top-24 receiver six out of 17 weeks, had three games of 100+ yards, and had over 1,100 yards and 147 targets on the year. While Rodgers did have his worst statistical season since his injury-plagued 2017 outing, you can’t place all the blame on him when he had two rookies and an injured Allen Lazard

Wilson will also have the benefit of working in a Nathaniel Hackett-led offense, and yes, while he did fail miserably at being a head coach, he has a proven track record as an offensive coordinator. In 2020 and 2021, Green Bay was top ten in passing attempts, and they led the league in scoring in 2020 with an average of over 31 points per game. Wilson already commanded a huge target share as a rookie, and even with the addition of Rodgers’ security blanket Allen Lazard, he should still see around an average of ten targets per game in a high-volume offense. With some added touchdowns thrown in there, Wilson can absolutely be a top-12 fantasy receiver in 2023.

Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR25
  • 2022 PPG Finish: WR25
  • 2023 ADP: WR13

Even with Andy Dalton throwing him the ball, Chris Olave nearly cracked the WR2 mark last season, finishing just outside by .9 points. The Saints ranked 26th in pass attempts per game, but Olave still commanded over 100 targets with a 26.7% target share. He was also incredibly efficient, ranking tenth in yards per route run (2.57), and his sub-4.4 speed allowed him to excel downfield. Quarterback Derek Carr ranked fifth in deep ball attempts in 2022, so that connection should provide several big play opportunities, even with Michael Thomas back in the lineup.

Olave’s ADP may be a little high at WR13 across platforms, but his upside cannot be ignored. The Saints should be able to improve their offensive efficiency with Carr under center, so some positive touchdown regression should be in the cards. If Thomas is injured during the season, Olave’s upside gets even higher, as the Saints still don’t have many other elite options in their wide receiver room. He should finish as a mid-range WR2, but he has the ability to sneak into that WR1 tier.

The Huge Target Share WR1s

Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR81
  • 2022 PPG Finish: WR56
  • 2023 ADP: WR35

Treylon Burks had a Mad Max level of roadblocks in his way last season, with everything from asthma during training camp, a turf toe injury, a concussion, and Malik Willis throwing him the football, but he did show flashes of why he was a first round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Against the Green Bay Packers, he had seven catches for 111 yards, and although he didn’t do much the rest of the season, his ability to move downfield and fight off would-be tacklers was promising. He’s now the WR1 on the Titans’ roster (barring any future signings), and there isn’t really another option for Ryan Tannehill aside from tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo

There is also a huge number of vacated targets available for Burks, with nearly half of the Titans’ 436 targets in 2022 up for grabs. We’ve all heard that targets are earned and not given, but it seems like Burks is well on his way to doing that. He has reportedly developed chemistry and trust with Ryan Tannehill by training in Nashville during the offseason, and he drew high praise during OTAs. A large majority of these targets should go his way, and even in a run-first offense, there will be plenty of opportunity for Burks to produce as at least a WR2.

UPDATE: July 16, 2023

After the signing of DeAndre Hopkins, Burks' value falls quite a bit. We'll have to watch during training camp whether it affects Okonkwo or Burks more, but with Hopkins now as the WR1, we can't expect that massive target share like we were before. He can still be a valuable flex option, but the dream of a WR1 season has sailed. Please give me privacy during this difficult time.

Drake London, Atlanta Falcons

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR31
  • 2022 PPG Finish: WR43
  • 2023 ADP: WR24

The Atlanta Falcons were one of the worst scoring offenses in the NFL last season, and it was clear Arthur Smith didn’t trust Marcus Mariota to move the ball downfield, as evidenced by their 32.9 rushing attempts per game. However, even in this run-heavy offense, Drake London commanded a huge target share with Mariota at 27%, and with the change at quarterback from Mariota to Desmond Ridder in Week 14, that number grew to 31.3%. He also averaged over 83 yards per game with Ridder, which would have been eighth among all receivers if it had been over the course of the entire season. 

London clearly has talent, and although Kyle Pitts should be back in the fold this year, he’s clearly the WR1 on this team and will continue to command a high target share. The Falcons also have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL due to a weak NFC South division, and that should lend itself to some increased touchdowns for London. It seems like people are expecting this leap, with his ADP currently at WR24, but he should easily be able to finish as a mid-range WR2, if not better. 

The Unproven Veterans

Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR22
  • 2022 PPG Finish: WR19
  • 2023 ADP: WR23

I debated including Jerry Jeudy on this list for two reasons. First, he finished as a low-end WR2 last season, so unless I think he can move up to a WR1, he’s already had his breakout season. Second, it seems like every year we’re touting Jeudy as a breakout and people are just tired of hearing it. However, I truly believe that this revitalized Broncos offense can put him in that tier. I mentioned this in my Wide Receiver ADP Tiers article, but Sean Payton has a proven track record of supporting top receivers. In his 15 years in New Orleans, Payton had eight WR1s and 11 WR2s. It’s clear to me that Jeudy is much more trusted than Courtland Sutton, and like so many of these other receivers, an improved offense lends itself to positive touchdown regression.

The Broncos were dead last in scoring last year, so even a minor uptick in offensive efficiency should give Jeudy the chance to improve upon his stat line from last year. He already ranked 13th in fantasy points per target and ninth in yards per target, and with Payton’s love of the air game, everything is in line for Jeudy to make a push into WR1 territory.

Update: August 24, 2023: At this point, I feel like I've jinxed half of the receivers on this list. Jeudy went down today with a hamstring injury, and while we don't know the extent or how long he'll be out, it will affect his ADP and his ability to produce at least the first few weeks. He could still finish as a WR2, but if he misses a few games, it's going to be harder for him to crack WR1 territory.

Kadarius Toney, Kansas City Chiefs

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR109
  • 2022 PPG Finish: WR85
  • 2023 ADP: WR37

This could be one of the more controversial selections for breakout candidates, but it seems like Kadarius Toney has a legitimate shot to be the WR1 on the Chiefs with the departure of Juju Smith-Schuster in free agency. The key to his success, however, is something that we can’t predict: injury. Since he joined the league in 2021, Toney has only played in 19 games, and most of those injuries have been soft tissue and muscle issues, which have a higher chance of recurrence. If he remains healthy, however (which admittedly is a big “if”), his speed and elusiveness can create huge mismatches for defenders, similar to someone by the name of Tyreek Hill.

While his snap share last year with the Chiefs was concerning, you can give him a pass due to the mid-season trade and presence of other receivers who were familiar with the offense. General manager Brett Veach had high praise for him this offseason, touting his potential ceiling as he continues to develop chemistry with Patrick Mahomes. He likely won’t be more than a low-end WR2, but at his ADP, you can afford to take a risk on his upside.

Update: July 25, 2023

Toney suffered a knee injury during practice last week and underwent surgery to clean up cartilage. Head coach Andy Reid says that “he's hopeful” Toney will be ready for Week 1, but the last I checked, hope didn't take you to he top of the fantasy charts. The dream of a Toney breakout may be dead before it even arrived.

Elijah Moore, Cleveland Browns

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR81
  • 2022 PPG Finish: WR92
  • 2023 ADP: WR44

Here comes another one that EVERYONE was touting as a breakout last season who cost people valuable draft capital, but with a change of scenery and new offense, Elijah Moore should finally be able to showcase his talent. The Jets flat out refused to utilize him last season, but we saw flashes of what he was able to do in 2021 before he was injured. Through Weeks 7-12 that year, he was the WR3 in PPR leagues, behind only Cooper Kupp and Deebo Samuel. Moore has already drawn high praise in Browns’ OTAs, firmly establishing himself as the WR2 behind Amari Cooper

We’ll have to watch how Deshaun Watson looks during training camp, as he did look a little rusty when he came off suspension last year, but that may benefit Moore if he’s working out of the slot. Last year, Watson’s average yards per attempt was only 6.5, so if he continues to run low aDOT routes, he should see plenty of targets, and his ability to get into space should allow him to tack on lots of extra yardage.

Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR111
  • 2022 PPG Finish: NA
  • 2023 ADP: WR48

After a foot injury derailed his 2022 season, Rashod Bateman finds himself in a much different situation in 2023. The departure of offensive coordinator Greg Roman and addition of Todd Monken could give this offense an entirely new look, and Bateman is now sharing the wide receiver room with Odell Beckham and rookie Zay Flowers. Monken should mix in more passing work than we’ve typically seen from the Ravens, and even with Mark Andrews as the top target earner, Bateman could still be in line for a 1,000 yard season as the team’s WR1. Monken also likes to go up-tempo, and that increased pace of play will mean more opportunity for a team that only averaged 28.7 pass attempts per game in 2022. 

Like Toney, the big knock on Bateman is his health, but his 19 yards per catch average last season was very promising. While Lamar Jackson is typically thought of as a runner, he does have some deep ball ability, with his 8.7 air yards per attempt ranking ninth in the league, and a speedy Bateman will be able to exploit those downfield matchups. He could easily creep into low-end WR2 territory as long as he stays healthy.

Update: July 26, 2023

Bateman has started training camp of the PUP list, but head coach John Harbaugh has alleviated some big concerns, saying it's unrelated to the foot injury that shortened his season last year and is just some soreness that they're being cautious about. It's something to monitor as training camp progresses, but he should be fine.

Late Additions

Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR51
  • 2022 PPG PPR Finish: WR38
  • 2023 ADP: WR38

Jahan Dotson showed some flashes in the first four weeks of last season before he missed five weeks due to injury, and by the time he returned, the Commanders’ offense was already in shambles. This year, Dotson has a new quarterback, and although the fantasy community isn’t totally sold on Sam Howell, what we’ve seen in the preseason has been a promising preview of things to come. In their defeat of the Baltimore Ravens, Dotson saw seven targets and five receptions for 76 yards, and he finished with 12.6 fantasy points.

Dotson’s skill set seems much more suited to Howell’s shorter depth of target style of play, and he may end up being the go-to guy in favor of Terry McLaurin if Howell can’t make those deep vertical throws. Last year, Dotson also ranked 27th in target separation, while McLaurin only ranked 71st. Dotson could be Howell’s security blanket of sorts in tight situations, and the target volume combined with his nose for the end zone makes him an appealing target.

Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers

  • 2022 PPR Finish: WR71
  • 2022 PPG PPR Finish: WR64
  • 2023 ADP: WR51

Sure, we may be getting into some deep cuts here, but Romeo Doubs has what it takes to have a breakout season this year. He’s already developed chemistry with Jordan Love, and he had a decent rookie season despite battling through injuries and depth chart issues. Through two preseason games so far this year, Doubs looks ready to break out in every way; in fact, Jordan Love has a perfect passer rating when targeting him through two weeks of preseason.

With Love in his first year as a starter, it’s likely that head coach Matt LaFleur will lean on the conservative side of playcalling, and with Doubs as a shorter depth of target guy compared to Christian Watson, he could lead the team in target percentage. If Doubs can continue building on the success he’s already shown with Love, he’s in a prime spot for a breakout in 2023.


Related Fantasy Football Links: