2023 NFL Draft: WR Landing Spots (Fantasy Football)
The 2023 receiver class may feel like a bit of a letdown to fantasy managers on the heels of back-to-back stellar receiver classes that have produced instant-impact players. While there may not be a WR in this class you can assume will be a productive fantasy asset from the start of the season, this class offers plenty of valuable pieces for fantasy rosters. Let’s take a look at the WRs that were drafted that could be worth fantasy managers investing in for the 2023 season and beyond.
Jaxson Smith-Njigba – Seattle Seahawks
Round 1, Pick 20
Seattle used their second pick in the first round Thursday night to bolster their already impressive receiving corps, taking Ohio State’s Jaxson Smith-Njigba. JSN became the third Ohio State WR selected in the first round over the last two seasons when the Seahawks took him Friday night, but the wait was long for the first WR off the board. The Seahawks using the 20th pick to take the first WR is the latest the first WR came off the board since 2019 and the fourth-latest since 2011.
The long wait shouldn’t be an indictment of the talent that JSN brings to the table at the NFL level though. If you don’t remember seeing Smith-Njigba during Ohio State’s run to the playoffs in his final college season, it may be easier to remember his 2021 season when he posted 1,606 receiving yards and nine TDs.
While Seattle isn’t the ideal landing spot for JSN when you consider the immediate opportunity, fantasy managers should still be willing to bet on the talent that he brings to the table. Smith-Njigba has a great production profile and defenses will have their hands full with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett already staples in Seattle’s passing offense. I’d expect JSN to get comfortable in the slot for Seattle early on. While he may not come out of the gate with fantasy-relevant weeks, I’d expect Smith-Njigba to develop into a factor down the stretch of the season for fantasy managers.
Quentin Johnston – Los Angeles Chargers
Round 1, Pick 21
Maybe the worst-kept secret in the buildup to the 2023 draft was that the Chargers were looking to add a WR in the first round, and they nearly got a chance to have their pick of the litter at pick 21. Quentin Johnston has received mixed reviews throughout the draft process, but he’s seen as the top big-bodied WR in this class. While drops may be a concern from his college profile, Johnston finds a way to make plays whenever the ball is in his hands, averaging 17.8 yards per catch at TCU.
Much like JSN landing in Seattle, Johnston will have the luxury of not being the center of opposing defenses’ attention with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen established in LA’s offense already. Fantasy managers should expect to see Johnston operating on the outside in Kellen Moore’s offense from the start of the season, with Allen likely pushing inside to the slot. Maybe the biggest concern is how similar Johnston and Williams are when it comes to playing style. However, Williams isn’t known for his durability, so there is a chance Johnston is asked to do more if the injury bug comes biting again.
Round 1, Pick 22
The biggest riser during the pre-draft process, Zay Flowers’ selection by the Baltimore Ravens gives newly re-signed QB Lamar Jackson a shiny new passing weapon. Flowers uses his speed and elite route running to win and despite less than ideal size at just 5’9”, has shown the ability to win 50-50 balls regularly. Even without elite size or playing at a traditional football program, Flowers still produced three-straight seasons of at least 700 yards, capped by a 1,077 and 12 senior year.
Where the first two WRs off the board lacked an immediate opportunity to be an elite fantasy asset, Flowers should have every chance to be one of the leading receiving options for the Ravens from the start of the season. Even with Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman already in Baltimore’s WR room, I’d be willing to bet Flowers becomes Lamar’s second-favorite target behind Mark Andrews. The fist round draft capital combined with the immense opportunity should have fantasy managers moving Flowers up their draft boards.
Jordan Addison – Minnesota Vikings
Round 1, Pick 23
Minnesota picked the fourth-straight WR in the first round with USC’s Jordan Addison. Addison came into the pre-draft process with a chance to contend as the first WR off the board. The USC product is a strong route runner and uses that ability to beat both man and zone coverage regularly. Personally, Addison is my favorite receiver in this draft class and I think he’s got a chance to be the best WR in it when all is said and done.
Fun fact, this is the first time in the Super Bowl era (starting in 1967) that four straight WRs were taken with consecutive first-round picks. The closest we’ve ever seen prior was just last year when picks eight, 10, 11, and 12 were all WRs. Prior to that, you’d have to go all the way back to 1973 when picks 15, 16, 19, and 21 were used on WRs.
Putting Addison across an elite WR in Justin Jefferson could create a great opportunity for their new rookie to flourish early for fantasy managers. The exit of Adam Thielen from the Vikings presents a wide open door for Addison to contribute to fantasy lineups sooner than fellow first-round WRs Johnston or Smith-Njigba.
Jonathan Mingo – Carolina Panthers
Round 2, Pick 8
The Panthers added a receiving option for their new rookie QB with Jonathan Mingo. What Mingo’s college production profile lacks compared to the players taken ahead of him, he makes up for with physical assets that drove him up draft boards. The Ole Miss product’s 6’2” frame and 4.42 40-yard dash give him the size and speed combination that’s needed to be successful at the NFL level. Mingo can provide a deep threat for Carolina while working to get more involved in the passing attack with Bryce Young.
Carolina presents one of the best landing spots for a rookie WR based solely on vacated targets from last season, since 28% of their targets left when DJ Moore was traded to Chicago. Mingo’s main competition for targets will be Terrace Marshall Jr., DJ Chark, and Adam Thielen, so there should be plenty of chances for the rookie to make an impact. The biggest bet fantasy managers are making won’t be on Mingo’s opportunity in Carolina, but on how much scoring the new-look Panthers offense can provide after a large amount of turnover since 2022.
Jayden Reed – Green Bay Packers
Round 2, Pick 19
With Jayden Reed’s selection Friday, the Green Bay Packers have now used Day 2 draft capital on a WR for three-straight seasons. While Reed’s 2021 production at Michigan State was better than 2022, he still combined for over 100 receptions in his last two college seasons. Reed profiles as a slot receiver at the NFL level who should be able to make plays once the ball is in his hands.
It’s still to be seen what a Jordan Love-led offense will look like in the NFL, but there won’t be a lack of receiving options which could make it difficult to know when Reed can contribute for fantasy purposes. With the roster how it currently stands, Reed should be able to find snaps in the slot for the Packers early on. What fantasy managers will have to determine is if he’ll get enough snaps to be a viable fantasy option while competing for targets with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.
Rashee Rice – Kansas City Chiefs
Round 2, Pick 24
For the second-straight season, the Chiefs have spent a second-round pick on a WR from a non-power five school. Rashee Rice brings a strong production profile to the table for Kansas City. He had 233 career receptions at SMU including 96 in 2022, but there is concern about his top-end speed after running just a 4.51 40-yard dash.
Any time a rookie gets added into the mix with Patrick Mahomes, there will be interest in that direction since it’s valuable to have a piece of that fantasy production. The Chiefs lost more than 100 receptions and 1,200 yards with Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman leaving in free agency, so there’s opportunity to be had in this offense. The tricky part for fantasy managers will be knowing which WR to invest in with plenty of capable WRs already on the roster, including second-year WR Skyy Moore and the newly acquired Kadarius Toney.
Marvin Mims Jr. – Denver Broncos
Round 2, Pick 32
The Broncos didn’t get to make their first pick in the 2023 draft until late Friday, so that speaks to what they think of Marvin Mims Jr. During his time at Oklahoma, Mims was a big play machine, averaging 22 and 20 yards per reception in his final two collegiate seasons. Mims brings elite speed to the Broncos’ receiving room that could help him get on the field sooner than expected.
Despite rumors throughout the off-season, the main trio of WRs in Denver are still in town which could create difficulty for Mims to provide any fantasy relevance. Mims will be a new deep threat that the Broncos were missing last season, so there’s a chance that is his primary avenue to see the field early in the year. Maybe more importantly, fantasy managers will have to decide if they think Russell Wilson can continue the positive play we saw at the end of the 2022 season into 2023 and can sustain viable WRs on their roster.
Nathaniel Dell – Houston Texans
Round 3, Pick 6
Houston adds a sparkplug of a WR with local Houston Cougar product Nathaniel Dell. Dell has a surprising production profile for a WR who’s 5’8”, posting back-to-back 1,300 receiving yard seasons during his sophomore and junior years. To top it off, Dell posted a gaudy four yards per team pass attempt last season, easily one of the highest in this year’s class.
There will be plenty of opportunity with the Texans after the departure of Brandin Cooks via trade this offseason. The biggest issue facing Dell, or any Houston receiver in 2023, will be the uphill battle of having a rookie QB for a majority or all of the season. Still, Dell may end up being a safety net for rookie QB, CJ Stroud, by the end of the season. Long term, the only concern with fantasy managers investing in Dell may be the Texans using high draft capital on another WR in the near future that could tank some of his value.
Jalin Hyatt – New York Giants
Round 3, Pick 10
There wasn’t a more exciting WR to watch in college last season than Jalin Hyatt. All you have to do is turn on the Tennessee-Alabama game from 2022 and you could convince yourself that Hyatt should have gone in the first round. The biggest critique for Hyatt comes with concern over the limited route tree he ran for the Vols, but the one thing Hyatt doesn’t have a problem doing is running by defenders with this elite speed.
The receiving room for the Giants left much to be desired in 2022 with Wan’Dale Robinson missing most of the season and Kadarius Toney being shipped off to Kansas City in the middle of the year. Hyatt will provide a complimentary deep threat on the outside that the Giants have lacked in recent years, so there’s a good chance he could provide some fantasy value from the start of the season.
Cedric Tillman – Cleveland Browns
Round 3, Pick 11
Cleveland made it back-to-back Tennessee receivers after taking Cedric Tillman. Where Tillman stands out in this receiving class is purely based on size, as one of the premier big WRs. It’s easy to forget how good Tillman is since he missed most of the 2022 season with an ankle injury, but his 12 TDs in the 2021 season are a better example of what he can be when he’s featured in the offense.
The Browns are investing to bolster their WR room this off-season after trading for Elijah Moore prior to the draft. Tillman will likely have to compete with Donovan Peoples-Jones for playing time, which could limit his ability to have much of an impact for fantasy managers. If Deshaun Watson looks more like the QB that finished as the QB5 for three straight years prior to 2021, fantasy managers investing in Tillman could pay off if he becomes a large piece of the Browns’ offense.
Josh Downs – Indianapolis Colts
Round 3, Pick 16
Stop me if you’ve read this before about a WR in the 2023 class, but Josh Downs is a smaller-bodied, slot-based receiver. Downs had an extremely productive collegiate career despite his 5’9” frame and uses his quickness to win routes near the line of scrimmage. The consensus was down on Downs during the pre-draft process after he ran a disappointing 4.48 40-yard dash at the combine, so the Round 3 draft capital is encouraging for his believers going forward.
Luckily for Downs, he’s a very different receiver than what the Colts already have on their roster with primary receivers Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce. Downs will likely be competing for playing time in the slot with veteran Isaiah McKenzie who was signed during free agency. Fantasy managers will have to compete with a lot of unknowns – mainly a rookie head coach and uncertainty at QB – if they’re investing in Downs during draft season.
Michael Wilson – Arizona Cardinals
Round 3, Pick 31
If you’re not familiar with Michael Wilson, you may have to rack your brain back to 2019 when he last played an entire season at Stanford. Wilson played a combined 14 games over the last three seasons, due to various injuries. All that said, Wilson can bring a lot to the table physically for the Cardinals with good size at 6’2” and a decent 40-time at 4.58.
Finding a spot for Wilson to fit into the Cardinals’ offense this season may be tough, especially when it translates to fantasy success. Assuming the Cardinals move on from DeAndre Hopkins, Wilson could find his role with Arizona as a much-needed deep threat. The biggest issue will be the low amount of confidence fantasy managers should have in an Arizona defense that won’t feature Kyler Murray for most, if not all, of 2023.
Tre Tucker – Las Vegas Raiders
Round 3, Pick 37
In a head-scratcher of a pick, Tre Tucker lands with the Raiders. In classic Raider fashion, Tucker is an ultra-fast WR who probably fits in best as a kick returner to start his career in the NFL. Tucker doesn’t have the greatest production profile from college, never eclipsing more than 900 yards in a season or even being the leading receiver on his team. The only saving grace to Tucker’s game is the draft capital that was invested by Las Vegas so there’s a chance they have plans for him to be more than a kick return specialist down the road.
Las Vegas has been active in adding to their WR room this off-season, already signing Jakobi Meyers, Phillip Dorsett, Cam Sims, and DeAndre Carter via free agency. If Tucker is going to get on the field for the Raiders, it will be in the slot where the trade-rumored Hunter Renfrow typically operates. Unless Renfrow is indeed moved by Las Vegas, fantasy managers shouldn’t expect any immediate fantasy relevance from Tucker.
Derius Davis – Los Angeles Chargers
Round 4, Pick 23
The Chargers double-dipped at TCU WR by taking Derius Davis, who sits at the opposite end of the spectrum from their first-round selection, Quentin Johnston. What he doesn’t have in size at only 5’8”, Davis makes up for with elite speed whenever he’s got the ball in his hands. Davis had his most productive year in 2022 for the Horned Frogs scoring a combined eight TDs, including two that were punt returns.
Davis will primarily be used as a kick and punt returner to start his career but could try and fill the void left by DeAndre Carter’s absence in the Chargers’ offense. LA’s offense doesn’t have a real home run hitter in the receiving game currently, so I wouldn’t blame fantasy managers if they chose to invest in Davis simply because he’s connected to a high-powered offense.
Charlie Jones – Cincinnati Bengals
Round 4, Pick 29
After playing at three schools in four years, Charlie Jones had a great final collegiate season with Purdue, finishing with 1,361 receiving yards and 12 TDs. Jones feels like one of the few WRs in this class that doesn’t sit at either of the extreme ends of the size spectrum for the position when it comes to size. With decent speed, Jones can play inside or outside to complement what the Bengals already have in their offense.
Anytime fantasy managers can get a part of an offense like the Bengals, it’s worth rolling the dice. If we are forecasting for the future, Jones could begin to step into John Ross’ role as a much cheaper option with the Bengals looking to tie up Tee Higgins for the long term. Fantasy managers who choose to invest a later pick in Jones could pay dividends long-term.
Tyler Scott – Chicago Bears
Round 4, Pick 31
Possibly the better of the two WRs from Cincinnati in this draft, Tyler Scott somehow goes an entire round later than his college teammate, Tre Tucker. Scott profiles as an improving route runner who ran a decent 40-time at 4.44, so he could have the ability to help take the top off of defenses for the Bears.
There’s no doubt that there will be an opportunity with what feels like an emerging offense in Chicago, but the bigger question is where does Scott find his role with the Bears? After acquiring DJ Moore from the Panthers, Justin Fields seems to have a handful of receiving weapons with Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool already on the team. Still, none of the WRs on the team have really cemented themselves as a favorite target for Fields, so fantasy managers could take a late shot on getting some fantasy relevance down the road.
|6||185||JAX||Parker Washington||Penn St.|
|6||195||NOR||A.T. Perry||Wake Forest|
|6||205||HOU||Xavier Hutchinson||Iowa St.|
|7||219||DET||Antoine Green||North Carolina|
|7||228||TEN||Colton Dowell||UT Martin|
|7||244||DAL||Jalen Brooks||South Carolina|