Fantasy Football: Sleeper wide receivers for 2023 drafts (2024)

  • Draft the overlooked first-round wide receivers: The first-round wide receivers that end up breaking out as rookies aren’t always the ones we expect, and Quentin Johnston is getting overlooked.
  • Take a chance on wide receivers returning from injury: Multiple wide receivers suffered injuries early on in 2022 and should be ready to go for 2023, including Rashod Bateman.
  • Fantasy draft approaching? Use PFF’s AI-powered fantasy mock draft simulator to fine-tune your draft strategy and dominate your 2023 fantasy football league.

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

These sleepers are five players with an average draft position outside of the top 120 on ESPN who I have ranked notably higher.

Some of these players will have an ADP inside of the top 120 at other sources where a higher percentage of users are experts, but a variety of players were picked so that at least some players could be considered a sleeper at any site.

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Last updated: 7:15 am, Friday, September 1

Fantasy Football: Sleeper wide receivers for 2023 drafts (2)

Elijah Moore, Cleveland Browns (ADP: 148.8)

Moore was traded to the Cleveland Browns after two years with the New York Jets.

  • Moore had a slow start to his rookie season but by the middle of the season, he started to become a fantasy star.
  • He scored 113.4 PPR points from Weeks 8-13 in 2021, which ranked fourth among all wide receivers.
  • He suffered a quad strain in Week 13 and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
  • In his second season, he was only off to an OK start, catching between 40-60 yards per game while playing over 85% of the team's offensive snaps.
  • His playing time started to decrease in Week 5, leading to an eventual trade request. He went from Weeks 6-9 without catching a pass.
  • Despite his unhappiness with the team, he still averaged 0.30 avoided tackles per reception last season, which ranked second among wide receivers.
  • He fell out of favor with the Jets but has a very real shot at finishing second in targets with the Browns.
  • Moore’s best role could be in the slot, where he played in college and parts of last season. There, he could rack up receptions, putting together a solid season in PPR leagues.
  • Coach Kevin Stefanski recently said he expects Moore to be a big part of their offense.
  • In their second preseason game, he even took snaps out of the backfield, which led to a carry for 18 yards.
  • The combination of receiving plus rushing upside makes him an intriguing late-round option.

Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 168.9)

Bateman is a former first-round pick who is still only 23 years old and hasn’t been given much of an opportunity due to injuries.

  • He was the 27th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft while being the 17th player on PFF's big board, following receivers Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
  • He suffered a groin injury in training camp of his rookie season, landing him on injured reserve.
  • Once he joined the team, he instantly made an impact with 80 yards in two of his first four games. His playing time increased in the last month of the season, and he was consistently playing more than 80% of offensive snaps.
  • He lasted only four games into 2022 before suffering a foot injury. He was WR30 in the three weeks before leaving Week 4. He returned for two more games but ultimately ended up on injured reserve.
  • Bateman's 2.38 yards per route run was tied for 11th most among wide receivers last season, albeit on a smaller sample size. He particularly shined when it came to making big runs after the catch.
  • Bateman had the worst drop rate among wide receivers with double-digit targets, at 22.7%. Drops aren’t consistent from one year to the next, so that shouldn’t be a problem this year.
  • Ravens receivers haven’t found much fantasy success in general in recent seasons, but that should change under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
  • The offense is expected to rely much more on the passing game than in the past, which should help improve Bateman's volume.
  • Baltimore also added wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor this offseason.
  • Bateman was injured for the starting of training camp which may have put him further down the depth chart, but that also made it easier for him to draft.
  • The Ravens’ depth chart could easily change throughout the season which could also impact his value.

Fantasy Football: Sleeper wide receivers for 2023 drafts (3)

Quentin Johnston, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: 136.3, From ESPN)

First-round wide receivers who also rank well on PFF's big board tend to have big rookie seasons.

  • Garrett Wilson (WR21), Chris Olave (WR25) and Drake London (WR31) all outplayed their ADPs last season, while Ja’Marr Chase (WR5), Jaylen Waddle (WR13) and DeVonta Smith (WR30) all performed well the year before.
  • The only wide receiver who was both picked in the top 32 and ranked in the top 32 of our big board last season who wasn’t an instant hit was Jameson Williams, which was expected due to his injury.
  • The one exception the year before was Rashod Bateman, who also started the season injured.
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison and Johnston are the three wide receivers who fit this criteria this season, with Johnston having the lowest ADP of the group.
  • Johnston is the best receiver from the class after the catch, and he’s the freakiest athlete.
  • Johnston joins a Chargers team where he should instantly be a starter in three-receiver sets on the outside.
  • Los Angeles' top two receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both dealt with injuries last season.
  • Both veterans had their peak season several years ago, so it is entirely possible Johnston moves to second on the depth chart even without an injury.
  • The receivers’ fantasy values will benefit from Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator. The Chargers had the lowest average depth of target last season, at 6.9, while Moore’s former team the Dallas Cowboys had an above-average 8.7 mark.
  • The Chargers have a top-10 roster heading into 2023.
  • Johnston will be a risky pick like any rookie wide receiver, but it is a gamble worth taking.

Jayden Reed, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 170.0)

Reed is a rookie wide receiver who should already have a major role in the Packers offense.

  • He’s taken every snap out of 11 personnel with the starters over the Packers' first two preseason games.
  • He’s played 19 snaps from either the slot or among the tight ends compared to four snaps on the outside. That slot percentage is a bit higher than past Packers slot receivers.
  • The slot wide receiver role has been a very important one in Matt LaFleur’s offenses in the past.
  • Packers slot wide receivers have been targeted 550 times for 392 receptions and 4,738 yards since 2019 when LaFleur became head coach, which all rank among the top-six among all teams.
  • Most importantly, they have caught 46 touchdowns, which are nine more than any other team in that span.
  • Green Bay has been below average in targets, receptions and yards to outside wide receivers in that time despite how much the Packers have preferred passing the ball.
  • His competition for targets all comes from either rookie or second-year wide receivers and tight ends, giving him less competition than most other wide receivers.

Parris Campbell, New York Giants (ADP: 168.2)

Campbell has a chance to be the Giants' top slot wide receiver, which is an important part of the Brian Daboll offense.

  • He was among the starters who rested in Week 1, but he played in the second preseason game with nine snaps inside compared to five outside.
  • He not only played in 11 of 12 snaps from 11 personnel but also saw playing time in 12 and 13 personnel, which is great for a slot receiver's fantasy value.
  • Campbell’s main competition for the slot role comes from second-year wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, who came off the PUP list earlier this week.
  • The Giants had cut both Cole Beasley and Jamison Crowder while Sterling Shepard has played on the outside throughout the preseason.
  • Campbell’s value will depend on his ability to take a clear majority of snaps over Robinson.
  • When Brian Daboll was the Buffalo Bills‘ offensive coordinator from 2018-2021, the wide receivers caught 389 receptions from the slot, which was the fourth-most among teams.
  • The Giants were unsettled at slot receiver for the start of the season, but by the end, Richie James Jr. had the role once Robinson landed on injured reserve.
  • James scored 98.8 fantasy points from Weeks 11-17, which ranked 12th among wide receivers.
  • If Campbell can be somewhere close to as good as James was to end last season, he is a steal at the end of the draft.

Fantasy Football: Sleeper wide receivers for 2023 drafts (2024)
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