The Fantasy Footballers’ WR Rankings Countdown: 20-11
It’s finally August, which means the Ballers are here 5 days a week to get you ready for your fantasy drafts! Andy, Mike and Jason are starting by walking through their top-20 WRs heading into the 2023 season.
This is a summary of the Fantasy Footballers recent WR Rankings countdown.
WR20 – DJ Moore (CHI)
ADP 5.06 / WR23
It seems that DJ Moore may finally be getting a chance to play with a proper QB for the first time in his career after his off-season trade to the Chicago Bears. Thus far in his career, Moore has played with 7 different starting QBs, the best of which was probably in his rookie season with Cam Newton before he fell off the QB cliff. Moore has been a model of consistency, just not in the way fantasy managers would have wished, finishing no higher than WR18 even with a big jump in TD receptions last season from 4 to 7.
While the outlook for who’s getting the ball to Moore took a positive turn, the Bears passing volume could leave more to be desired for fantasy managers choosing to invest a 5th-Round pick in their new WR. In 2022, Chicago’s WRs only had 121 total receptions, the second-lowest mark in the league over the last 5 years. What’s worse is there were only 2 weeks in 2022 where a Bears WR scored more than 12 fantasy points. While Moore is a better receiving talent than what Chicago already has on the roster, not knowing exactly how much of a pie there is to feed a player like Moore should be a concern.
At the best, Moore is still probably a WR2 for most teams, but could provide a nice baseline at WR for fantasy managers given he’s the unquestioned top receiving option on the team.
WR19 – Calvin Ridley (JAX)
ADP 4.08 / WR19
After nearly 700 days away from football, Calvin Ridley will be making his return to the NFL. Ridley missed the entire 2022 season serving a suspension for violating the league’s gambling policy. It may take some remembering, but before he missed most of the 2021 season while he dealt with mental health issues, Ridley put together a WR4 finish in 2020 that featured 7 finishes inside the top-15.
While it’s tough to argue about what Ridley has been whenever he’s been on the field, there should still be concern about what fantasy managers will be getting in the 2023 version since we’ve never seen him with this scheme or QB previously. The Jacksonville passing attack produced the WR11, WR26 and TE6 for fantasy in 2022, so there is plenty of competition for targets inside this offense. At his current ADP, a bet on Ridley is really a bet that Trevor Lawrence will take a large step towards being an elite QB and can create enough opportunity for Ridley to be the main fantasy player we remember him as.
WR18 – Marquise Brown (ARI)
ADP 6.08 / WR29
HOLLYWOOOOOOD Brown finds himself in an interesting opportunity as the sole WR in Arizona who seems to have fantasy relevance coming into 2023. The departure of DeAndre Hopkins opens up 10.7 targets per game, the exact amount of targets that Brown saw through the first 6 games of 2022 before missing 5 games due to injury. In that 6 week stretch to start 2022, Brown ran the most routes in the NFL, was 5th in receptions and 7th in receiving yards.
The biggest question for Brown’s fantasy value heading into 2023 is based solely on who will be throwing him the football for the majority of the season. Kyler Murray’s ACL tear should keep him out for a large stretch of the season, which is probably the reason Brown isn’t being drafted until the 6th-Round in drafts currently. With Brown presumed to be the main receiver on a team that’s sure to be playing from behind, he should have every opportunity to outperform his ADP. In fact, Julia Papworth argues there’s a path for Brown to find his way into the WR1 conversation.
Given the value of Brown currently in drafts, fantasy managers drafting him in as a FLEX with WR2 upside could see incredible return on value.
WR17 – DeVonta Smith (PHI)
ADP 3.08 / WR14
After a breakout sophomore campaign, WR17 may feel a little low for DeVonta Smith. It’s worth reminding fantasy managers that Smith finished as the WR10 in 2022 on one of the best offenses in the league. Smith finished the season strong as well, turning in top-20 or higher fantasy finishes in 5 of the last 6 weeks of the season. In fact, from Week 10 on, Smith was the WR5.
Plenty will be made about the amount of target competition in Philadelphia with AJ Brown, Dallas Goedert and D’Andre Swift on the roster, but Smith had a healthy 27% of the Eagles targets in 2022 and should continue to see that trend in 2023. Possibly the right question to be asking about Smith’s fantasy value is if he’s worth the 3rd-Round pick managers are having to give up to get him on their roster. Jason has the most conviction in Smith repeating his 2022 season and can be a WR1 for a fantasy roster for a WR2 price.
WR16 – DK Metcalf (SEA)
ADP 3.09 / WR15
One of the largest variances we’ll find in the top-20 WR ranks comes with Andy and Mike’s ranking of DK Metcalf. Metcalf’s WR18 finish in 2022 feels a bit disappointing coming off of WR7 and WR12 years in 2020 and 2021, but there’s a strong likelihood that it could have been an outlier season for Metcalf. Aaron Larson goes into greater detail in his “Anomaly or New Norm” article on WRs and argues that there’s plenty of reason to believe that Metcalf is due for some positive regression across the board.
Fantasy managers betting on Metcalf will wager that his league-leading number of End Zone targets from 2022 will result in more than his career low 6 TDs. Despite the Seahawks spending a 1st-Round pick on rookie WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Metcalf has consistently seen more than 20% of the target share in Seattle and should provide a safe baseline for fantasy managers at his current ADP while still allowing room for WR1 upside.
WR15 – Tee Higgins (CIN)
ADP 3.03 / WR12
It’s almost been a given that Tee Higgins is a top-12 WR option all off-season. However, Andy named Higgins as one of his “Ice” picks on the annual “Ice & Fire” episode just this week. Higgins is currently being drafted as the WR12, despite his highest fantasy finish being WR17 last season. While Higgins did have 4 top-5 WR finishes in 2022, he also had 4 finishes outside the top-75. Andy also pointed out that Higgins’ target per route run numbers leave much to be desired, finishing 42nd in the metric last season.
Despite Andy’s doubts about Higgins, he is still one of the main receiving options in one of the best offenses in the league with Joe Burrow throwing him the ball. Fantasy managers investing a 3rd-Round pick in Higgins will be betting on Higgins closing the nearly 5 target per game gap between him and Ja’Marr Chase from last season.
WR14 – Amari Cooper (CLE)
ADP 4.06 / WR18
Easily the most surprising top-12 WR finish last year came from Amari Cooper. Cooper set career highs in targets and TDs in 2022 along with 5 top-12 weekly finishes as the main option in the Browns offense. What may be concerning for Cooper’s 2023 outlook is only one of those top-12 finishes came with Deshaun Watson as the starting QB. During the 6 games with Watson under center, Cooper saw a drop in targets, receptions and receiving yards compared to the 11 games with Jacob Brissett to start the year.
For 2023, Cooper’s value will completely depend on the competency of Watson going forward. If the Watson of old is back and Cooper remains involved as the main target, he could easily repeat a top-12 season. Cleveland has also added more receiving targets – Elijah Moore via trade, Cedric Tillman via the NFL Draft – which could cut into Cooper’s ability to return to the top-12. Given his current 4th-Round value, if Cooper remains a WR2 for fantasy managers he could still prove to be a valuable asset for 2023.
WR13 – Chris Olave (NO)
ADP 3.06 / WR13
Too low is my first thought seeing Chris Olave at WR13. Olave had a fantastic rookie season despite flat awful QB play for most of the year. Since 2014, only Tyreek Hill had a higher target per route run rate than Olave did as a rookie. Another mark in Olave’s favor is New Orleans’ addition of QB Derek Carr. Over the last 4 years, Carr has shown a history of hyper-targeting his best receiving option: 2022 – Davante Adams WR3, 2021 – Hunter Renfrow WR11, 2020 – Darren Waller TE2, 2019 – Darren Waller TE3.
Even with a hypothetically healthy Michael Thomas coming back to the Saints in 2023, Olave has a real chance to take a large step forward firmly into the WR1 zone for fantasy managers. While his draft cost is high, getting the shot at a WR who could have top-5 potential seems worth the shot for a 3rd-Round pick.
WR12 – Keenan Allen (LAC)
ADP 4.03 / WR17
Fantasy managers who invested in Keenan Allen during draft season last year may still have a bad taste in their mouth since he only played in 2 of the first 10 games, but those who held on to Allen were rewarded with 7-straight weeks of top-24 finishes to end the year. During that stretch, Allen was on a 17-game pace for 133 receptions, 1411 yards and nearly 10 TDs. While there should be some concern about Allen’s age at 31, he’s still plenty involved in the Chargers passing attack as Justin Herbert’s main option after seeing 27% of targets during his healthy stretch from Weeks 11-18.
Another big boost being projected for the Chargers’ offense comes with Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore’s addition to LA. Even with Mike Williams and the addition of rookie Quentin Johnston in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft, there should still be plenty of passing work to go around and keep Allen in the WR1 range.
Jason named Allen as one of his “Fire” picks for the season, though he’s got Allen ranked the lowest of the Ballers. Whenever Allen comes in fantasy manager’s queue in the 4th Round, he’s worth the draft price to have top-12 potential yet again.
WR11 – Jaylen Waddle (MIA)
ADP 2.09 / WR11
All Jaylen Waddle has done through two seasons is finish as the WR16 and WR7 and post the 6th most receiving yards ever through 2 years in the NFL. There were plenty of doubters about Waddle’s ceiling after the addition of Tyreek Hill in Miami last summer, but Waddle just continued to do his thing with 5 top-10 WR finishes in 2022. The best part of Waddle’s game is whenever he’s getting the ball, he’s getting yards in chunks after leading all WRs last season in yards per reception with 18.1.
Still, it could feel like there is a cap on Waddle’s ceiling with Hill still lining up across from him and seeing a target 10% more of the time when they’re running routes. Possibly the biggest question for Waddle’s fantasy success has more to do with Tua Tagovailoa’s ability to stay healthy for the entire season than Waddle’s own ability. In the 4 games without Tua in 2022, Waddle had an average fantasy finish of WR41, which is not what you’re looking for when spending a 2nd Round pick on a WR.