Fantasy Football: Examining Strength of Schedule for WRs in 2023

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You don’t win your fantasy football league at the draft. It’s a mantra this time of year. A related tip frequently discussed on the show is viewing the season in manageable short-term “chunks.” That’s exactly what this article series is about.

I look at each position in four-week “chunks.” Weeks 1-4 are the start of the season when you set the tone. Starting hot is ideal but not necessarily required for active managers. Weeks 5-8 and 9-12 are the heart of the season when fantasy managers jockey for position and make key moves. Weeks 13-17 are the time to make a run through the fantasy playoffs and secure that #FootClanTitle.

I’ll be going position by position in this series, first looking back at last season before looking ahead to the 2023 season. I’ve already covered quarterbacks and running backs, now it’s time to look at wide receivers. The table shows where they ranked within the position during that stretch. It includes bye weeks and games missed due to injuries.


As you would expect to see at the top, Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill were each incredibly consistent. Neither of them dropped below WR12 during any four-week chunk of the season. It’s even more impressive for Hill, considering he was without Tua Tagovailoa for multiple stretches of the season.

Just below Jefferson and Hill, we find Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and A.J. Brown. They each dipped outside of the top 12 for a quarter of the season, knocking them down a peg. Unfortunately for Diggs managers, his cold stretch came during the fantasy playoffs.

DeVonta Smith was outside the top 30 for each of the first three quarters before finishing strong. He had a few great games early in the season, including the WR1 finish in Week 3. He also disappeared frequently, finishing outside the top 50 wide receivers five times over his first 11 games.

Mike Evans was rightfully left for dead near the end of last season. Even the chunks are deceiving. Performing as the WR7 over the last five weeks looks good, but 43.7 of his 73.2 fantasy points over that stretch came in a single game. That game, as you may remember, famously came during fantasy championships in Week 17.

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Positional Strength of Schedule 

So how do we use this for 2023 drafts? One way is to examine the strength of schedule (SOS) for the upcoming season. There is a plethora of SOS metrics and resources available, but most of them focus on the entirety of the season. I used the Strength of Schedule tool found in the Ultimate Draft Kit, which allows you to select and sort both by position and by different weeks. It is based on how teams performed against each position last year, and since teams have had player and coaching changes, it isn’t perfect. However, it is easier to trust early in the season, before the injuries, trades, and chaos that is an NFL season are in full swing.

Once we see the teams with the most and least favorable opening schedules, we can use that as input in the draft process. A team with a favorable SOS for a position is a definite bonus, and players from that team should get a bump. Likewise, you may want to slightly fade players that could get off to a slow start. 

Early Season Targets

Forecasting defensive positional matchups is tough, especially when it comes to wide receivers in today’s pass-heavy NFL. Still, it’s worth taking a look at the teams with advantageous matchups based on last season’s results, especially as a starting point early in the season. The following wideouts could get off to hot fantasy starts in 2023.

Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Quentin Johnston – Weeks 1-4 SOS: 1st

Maybe it’s cheating to list three wide receivers off the top, but the trio of Charger pass catchers has the best opening season schedule at the position. It’s highlighted by Weeks 3 and 4 when they face Tennesse and Minnesota, the teams that allowed the most points to wideouts in the league last season. The rookie Johnston is drafted latest of the group, but they all stand to gain value on their modest ADP early in the season.

Chris OlaveWeeks 1-4 SOS: 2nd

Olave is pretty popular around here, and Mike’s My Guy is set up to succeed right out of the gate. Three of his first four matchups come against teams that were in the top seven in fantasy points allowed to receivers last season. A lot can change over 17 weeks, but Olave and the New Orleans wideouts have the easiest schedule for the position over the entire season. This also makes Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed more interesting later in fantasy drafts.

DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-NjigbaWeeks 1-4 SOS: 3rd

Like the Chargers, Seattle has a talented group of receivers that includes a first-round rookie with a favorable opening schedule. The Seahawks open the season with three straight home matchups against teams that gave up at least 26 fantasy points/game to the position last season. It’s difficult to predict how those points get distributed among the teammates, but there should be plenty to go around.

Drake LondonWeeks 1-4 SOS: 6th

The Falcons project to be a run-heavy offense again this season, but that doesn’t doom London. His opening schedule includes matchups with Carolina and Detroit, teams that allowed more than 29 fantasy points to receivers last season. It’s easier to predict where those fantasy points will go for Atlanta, as London commanded a 29.3% target share last season, tied for fifth highest in the league.  

Slow Start Trade/Waiver Targets

As displayed by DeVonta Smith last season, a receiver can get off to a rough start before providing great value at the end of the season. These are some of my favorite trade targets, especially when I can be confident in the player’s talent. Here are some of my favorite candidates for 2023. 

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Zay Flowers, Rashod BatemanWeeks 1-4 SOS: 32nd

I mentioned in the quarterback edition of this series that Lamar Jackson’s tough opening schedule could make him my favorite trade target by mid-season. It’s the same story for these two Baltimore receivers. The opening schedule is even more brutal for the receivers, as all four matchups come against opponents in the bottom ten of fantasy points allowed to the position last season.

The opening SOS is tough enough, but Flowers will likely take some time to get acclimated to the NFL, and Bateman is still recovering from last season’s foot injury. The script gets flipped in Weeks 5-8 when the Ravens get the second softest schedule for the position.

Terry McLaurin, Jahan DotsonWeeks 1-4 SOS: 31st

The Commanders’ opening schedule is nearly as difficult as Baltimore’s, facing three teams that were bottom ten in points allowed to the position last season. It doesn’t get much better, as they have the ninth-toughest positional SOS over the entire season. Both McLaurin and Dotson are highly talented receivers, but between the SOS and the uncertainty at quarterback for Washington, you are assuming some risk if you draft them.  

DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon BurksWeeks 1-4 SOS: 30th

The Titans invested in Hopkins this offseason, and Burks is one of the most intriguing second-year receivers in the league, but it may be the Derrick Henry show early in the season. The Titans have one of the most difficult schedules for wideouts early on but the 10th easiest SOS for running backs over the first four weeks. The schedule theoretically opens up for the Tennesse receivers in the middle of the season, with the fifth softest schedule from Weeks 5-12, before flipping again to the most difficult schedule in the league from Weeks 13-17.

Davante AdamsWeeks 1-4 SOS: 28th

Adams is arguably the best fantasy wide receiver over the past seven seasons, but he has some major question marks heading into 2023. Not only is he dealing with a new quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, but he has the fifth most difficult SOS for wide receivers over the first four weeks. He has the seventh easiest from Weeks 5-8 and the eleventh easiest from Weeks 5-17, so he also becomes a trade target if he gets off to a rough start.


mmcguire0920 says:

Yea, but how do the colors work?

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