2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (2024)

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (1)

Everything you need to know about wide receiver before Fantasy Football drafts

By Heath Cummings

3 min read

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (3)

We've been privileged to see some truly elite wide receivers enter the league and perform right away over the past three seasons. The evidence shows up in our consensus PPR rankings, where half of the top-12 is 25 or younger. And if we are right about the 2022 draft class, that top 12 is only going to get younger.

There are a minimum of six second-year wide receivers our staff sees as breakout candidates. Three of them you will see below in my breakouts section, Garrett Wilson, Christian Watson, and Jahan Dotson. But even though they aren't listed, there's little doubt that Chris Olave and Drake London qualify as well, and they aren't all. George Pickens, Skyy Moore, Treylon Burks, and Romeo Doubs all have backing as well.

I rarely leave a draft without at least one of these receivers and I am thrilled if I have more. That doesn't mean I'll force them if they aren't the top wide receiver on my board, but the way I have them ranked, particularly Dotson, means they often are. We can only hope that Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, and Zay Flowers keep this streak going.

Wide receiver draft strategy

Wide receiver draft strategy is heavily dictated by how many points a catch is worth and how many wide receivers you can start. As a rule, in a full PPR league, wide receivers are going to be better flexes than running backs. In a non-PPR league it is the opposite. In half-PPR, it's a slight lean towards the backs.

In a full PPR league where you are able to start three wide receivers or more, I would prefer to have four wide receivers by the time I hit Round 7, and I would have no problem taking a wide receiver with my first four picks. In full PPR the scoring really flattens out after WR30, so after my top 30 are gone, I am more likely to wait a few rounds and then start shooting the moon with high-upside wide receivers like Skyy Moore, Elijah Moore, and the sleepers below.

In non-PPR that flattening happens much earlier. There is only one point per game difference in my projections between WR14 and WR28 and the same difference between WR35 and WR50. I'm still targeting the elite guys, but I am much less likely to prioritize the WR2s unless one falls. Of course, different receivers are better in different formats, so check the list below to find those guys.

Now let's get to sleepers, breakouts, and busts. One quick note: ADP here is current CBS ADP.

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (4)

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Sleepers

Projections powered by Sportsline

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (5)

Nico Collins WR

HOU Houston • #12
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.

Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
105th
WR RNK
47th
PROJ PTS
153.8
SOS
18
ADP
158
2022 Stats
REC
37
TAR
66
REYDS
481
TD
2
FPTS/G
9.7

Collins is entering Year 3, a common breakout year for wide receivers, with a big QB upgrade when the team drafted C.J. Stroud. He'll face competition from John Metchie, Robert Woods, and Tank Dell, but Collins is also the odds-on favorite to lead the team in targets this year. The expectation should be that he is a borderline No. 3 WR. I also love Tank Dell as a sleeper.

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (8)

Romeo Doubs WR

GB Green Bay • #87
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.

Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
89th
WR RNK
40th
PROJ PTS
158.3
SOS
23
ADP
151
2022 Stats
REC
42
TAR
67
REYDS
425
TD
3
FPTS/G
7.8

Remember Doubs' spectacular camp as a rookie? He's already off to a good start in 2023, with a touchdown in the Packers' first preseason game. Jordan Love has been raving about Doubs this summer and it's possible Doubs actually leads the Packers in targets. Doubs has a path to a top-36 season even if Watson plays every game. If Watson misses time again, Doubs could be a must-start Fantasy wide receiver.

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (11)

Skyy Moore WR

KC Kansas City • #24
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.

Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
91st
WR RNK
42nd
PROJ PTS
149.3
SOS
17
ADP
122
2022 Stats
REC
22
TAR
33
REYDS
250
TD
0
FPTS/G
2.7

After an unimpressive rookie season, Skyy Moore has a chance to be the No. 1 wide receiver for Patrick Mahomes. Moore struggled to get on the field in 2023 but he's slated to be a full-time player in 2023, even staying on the field for two-WR sets. Moore could match what JuJu Smith-Schuster did last year when healthy, which is produce like a low-end No. 2 wide receiver.

Breakouts

Projections powered by Sportsline

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (14)

Garrett Wilson WR

NYJ N.Y. Jets • #5
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.

Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
16th
WR RNK
9th
PROJ PTS
245.6
SOS
20
ADP
24
2022 Stats
REC
83
TAR
147
REYDS
1103
TD
4
FPTS/G
12.7

Wilson is an elite talent who delivered 1,103 yards as a rookie despite atrocious quarterback play from Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Mike White. Now he's paired with Aaron Rodgers, who has raved about Wilson this summer, comparing him to Davante Adams. Adams consistently averaged 10-plus targets per game with Rodgers, if Wilson approaches that he'll be the clear WR3 in Dynasty by the end of the year. I'm thrilled to take him in Round 2.

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (17)

Christian Watson WR

GB Green Bay • #9
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.

Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
35th
WR RNK
18th
PROJ PTS
213.6
SOS
23
ADP
46
2022 Stats
REC
41
TAR
66
REYDS
611
TD
9
FPTS/G
11.7

Watson averaged 2.26 yards per target as a rookie. There are five rookies who were better by that metric from 2013-2021. Their names are Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Odell Beckham, Tyreek Hill, and A.J. Brown. That's the trajectory Watson finds himself on. Jordan Love is an obvious downgrade from Aaron Rodgers, but he may not be much worse than Rodgers was last year. If he's not, and Watson stays healthy, the receiver has top-12 upside in 2023.

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (20)

Jahan Dotson WR

WAS Washington • #1
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.

Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
52nd
WR RNK
24th
PROJ PTS
178.3
SOS
4
ADP
77

Yes, Dotson, like Watson, has touchdown regression coming. That won't matter if he can match Terry McLaurin in target share like he did in the last five games. In those final five games, Dotson was on pace for 71 catches, 1,170 yards, and 10 touchdowns on 119 targets. The addition of Eric Bienemy gives this offense, and Dotson, even more upside. With McLaurin battling a turf toe, Dotson has a head start on the WR1 competition in Washington.

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (23)

Amari Cooper WR

CLE Cleveland • #2
Age: 30 • Experience: 10 yrs.

Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
44th
WR RNK
21st
PROJ PTS
203.8
SOS
3
ADP
49
2022 Stats
REC
78
TAR
132
REYDS
1160
TD
9
FPTS/G
14.5

By overall CBS ADP, it is hard to call any WR a bust. They are all going later than they are on other sites. So I'm just looking at where guys are being drafted at WR. Cooper is being drafted as WR17 ahead of DeAndre Hopkins, D.J. Moore, Christian Watson, Keenan Allen, Terry McLaurin, Christian Kirk, and Drake London. I would rather have all of those guys. Elijah Moore is supposed to take more targets than any other receiver in Cleveland did last year and Kevin Stefanski has never run a pass-heavy offense. I'm not sure there's enough volume for Cooper to justify his cost.

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (26)

DK Metcalf WR

SEA Seattle • #14
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.

Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
45th
WR RNK
22nd
PROJ PTS
198.4
SOS
6
ADP
50
2022 Stats
REC
90
TAR
141
REYDS
1048
TD
6
FPTS/G
13.3

Metcalf is being selected one spot (at wide receiver) behind Cooper and eight spots higher than I would like to take him. He has had a hard enough time separating from Tyler Lockett, but now that the team has added Jaxon Smith-Njigba I'm concerned we will never see Metcalf as a true alpha No. 1 wide receiver. I wouldn't draft Metcalf until at least Round 5 and I wouldn't draft him as a top-24 WR in full PPR.

2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (29)

George Pickens WR

PIT Pittsburgh • #14
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.

Fantasy Breakdown (PPR)
OVERALL RNK
77th
WR RNK
31st
PROJ PTS
188.6
SOS
5
ADP
61
2022 Stats
REC
52
TAR
84
REYDS
801
TD
5
FPTS/G
9.8

Pickens is being drafted more than two rounds before Gabe Davis despite being in a very similar situation, other than the fact that his QB is Kenny Pickett and not Josh Allen. Diontae Johnson is the clear No. 1 wide receiver on this team and should have at least 40 more targets than Pickens. But also, Pat Freiermuth saw 14 more targets than Pickens in 2022 despite the fact that he played one fewer game. I like Pickens better in non-PPR, and he's fun in best ball, but his profile as a downfield WR who does not get separation simply does not profile well in any format where catches count.

Numbers to know

24.8 -- Cooper Kupp averaged nearly 25 FPPG last season. If he and Matthew Stafford stay healthy, we'll look silly for not ranking him No. 1.
17 -- Michael Thomas averaged 17 FPPG last year. If he stays healthy we'll look even sillier.
42.6% -- The Ravens wide receivers only saw 42.6% of the team's targets in 2022, by far the lowest mark in the league. That will change with Todd Monken calling plays.
27 -- DK Metcalf's 27 red-zone targets were second only to Justin Jefferson last year. He was unlucky he didn't score more often.
1,606 -- Jaxon Smith-Njigba led Ohio State with 1,606 receiving yards in 2021. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were both on that team. The rookie could supplant DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett this year.
281.5 -- Calvin Ridley finished as WR5 with 281.5 PPR Fantasy points in his last full season, which was 2020.
184 -- The Packers have 184 wide receiver targets to replace from last year. There's plenty of room for both Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs to hit.
726 -- Tom Brady averaged 726 pass attempts the past two seasons. There is no way Tampa lets Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask air it out like that. It's hard to imagine Mike Evans or Chris Godwin can be more efficient either.
89.1 -- Jaylen Waddle averaged 89.1 yards per game with Tua Tagovailoa, but just 57.4 without him.
21.6 -- DeAndre Hopkins scored 21.6 FPPG in four games with Kyler Murray last year. He may fall off a cliff because of his age, but he didn't show signs of it last year.

Format matters

Most of this piece, including tiers and ADP, are based on PPR leagues. We recognize many of you still play in non-PPR. Here's a list of players who we expect to be significantly better, and worse, in non-PPR:

Better in non-PPR:Deebo Samuel, Christian Watson, D.J. Moore, Amari Cooper, Mike Williams, Gabe Davis, Mike Evans.

Worse in non-PPR: DeAndre Hopkins, Drake London, Keenan Allen, Diontae Johnson, Chris Godwin, Jordan Addison, Rondale Moore.

Tiers

Projections

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2023 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview: Sleepers, breakouts, busts, tiers and more (2024)
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