The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Jahan Dotson
Editor’s Note: This profile is part of our annual Path to a Fantasy WR1 Season series. For our methodology and an outline of the process, make sure you read the 2023 Path to WR1 Series Primer. Find out the full statistical projections for the Footballers Consensus WR1s in the Ultimate Draft Kit.
Finding a WR1 is tough enough, but finding one that starts outside of the top-24 in most rankings can be even more difficult. Enter second-year WR Jahan Dotson. Dotson’s strong rookie year silenced any concerns about being a reach at the 15th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but was it enough for fantasy managers to buy into seeing elite production in his second season?
The 2022 WR class produced high-level talent like few draft classes ever have, so it’s easy for Jahan Dotson to be overshadowed by some of the flashier names who came into the league alongside him. Dotson finished as the WR50 on the season but missed five games in the middle of the year followed by three games where he drew only four combined targets. Still, Dotson finished as a top-24 WR in six of the 12 games he played, including two top-12 finishes in the fantasy playoffs.
Whenever Dotson was involved in the offense for the Commanders in 2022, he was producing for fantasy managers. In five of the seven games where Dotson saw at least five targets thrown his way, he was a top-24 WR, averaging 13.6 fantasy points per game and catching seven TDs.
The Path for 2023
Dotson’s rookie numbers aren’t overly flashy compared to some of the other WRs in the class. What fantasy managers need to remember about Dotson is how effective he was on the field despite missing a large stretch in the middle of the season. In fact, Dotson’s 8.6 yards per target along with his seven TDs puts him in quite elite company when compared to rookie WRs since 2014.
The table below shows rookie WRs since 2014 with 8.5+ yard/target & 7+ TDs (minimum 30 rec).
|Odell Beckham Jr.||2014||10||12|
There are 14 rookie WRs who have averaged at least 8.5 yards per reception and had seven or more receiving TDs since 2014. This includes two rookies from 2022 – Jahan Dotson and Christian Watson. Of the other 12 players, in their sophomore season 75% of the time they finished as a top-24 WR and 58% of them finished as a WR1. For the most part, players who meet this threshold turn into extremely valuable fantasy assets quickly.
Interesting to note about Dotson in this dataset is that only one other player on this list played 12 or fewer games – Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014.
aDOT, Yards Per Reception, and Target Share
One of Dotson’s rookie season statistical strengths is his 13.5 average depth of target. In the last decade, Dotson ranks 12th in rookie aDOT and 13th in average yards per reception at 14.9. Better yet, Dotson was 8th in the entire last season in ADOT for players with at least 30 receptions. These numbers paint an optimistic picture going forward for Dotson’s ability to make big plays consistently which are needed to end up in that WR1 category.
Possibly the main concern for Dotson’s WR1 case in 2023 has to do with Scary Terry McLaurin lining up across from him in Washington’s offense. There is little debate that McLaurin is a talented WR, but his presence alongside McLaurin could only open up more possibilities for Dotson. After the Commanders’ bye in Week 14, Dotson saw a larger target share than McLaurin in three of their last four games. In fact, over the last five games, Dotson was on a 17-game pace for 71 receptions, 1,169 yards, and 10 TDs. What will be interesting to keep an eye on for Washington’s offense is how the pass rate increases due to the changes in their play-calling for 2023.
The Eric Bieniemy Effect
The biggest off-season transaction for Dotson’s WR1 future didn’t come from who will be on the field with him, but instead the person responsible for getting him into situations to be successful. Why Eric Bieniemy felt he had to leave the Kansas City Chiefs is a completely separate conversation to be had, but it’s going to directly benefit Dotson’s fantasy outlook in a positive way.
The Washington offense was one of the most run-heavy units in the league in 2022. The only teams that ran the ball more times than the Commanders were Philadelphia, Chicago, and Atlanta. Not surprisingly, Washington’s offense was the 7th lowest scoring offense with just 343 points scored over the year. Bieniemy and the Chiefs had the 5th-highest passing attempts in 2022 and led the league in yards per attempt as a team. Having a completely different outlook on the offensive scheme can only raise Dotson’s ceiling.
Regardless of having another strong receiving weapon in Terry McLaurin across the field from Dotson, Bieniemy has proven that he can run an offense that works to the strengths of the chess pieces he’s given. Granted there isn’t a Patrick Mahomes executing from under center for the Commanders, but the addition of a pass-friendly play-caller like Bieniemy is a mark for Dotson to continue to grow into a higher ceiling than 2022.
Howell or Brissett? No Problem.
There is the possible issue of who will be getting Dotson the ball in 2023. With starting QB competition down to Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett, fantasy managers will go into the season with a pretty decent idea of what they’re getting at QB. The primary concern for those investing in Jahan Dotson will be that whoever it is at QB can be better than Carson Wentz was in 2022.
Sam Howell is the biggest unknown of the options at QB for the Commanders, but the very small sample size that everyone got to see last season in Week 18 was encouraging for the fantasy value of the pieces in the Washington offense going forward. Jacoby Brissett on the other hand is more of a known commodity at QB. While Brissett isn’t the passer fantasy managers might prefer to have as the guy getting their WRs the ball, he did sustain Amari Cooper through the first 12 weeks of the season en route to his WR9 finish on the year.
The Ballers’ projections vary on who they expect to be the main QB throughout the season for the Commanders, but the general consensus is they’re expecting between 3,500-4,000 passing yards, which would be plenty to sustain a WR1 season for Dotson.
Calling for a WR1 season from Dotson is asking for a large step forward from the Commanders WR, however, the glimpses are there for fantasy managers to make that bet. Typically when a player projects with the upside that Dotson will in 2023, fantasy managers are having to invest much higher draft picks, while Dotson is currently going in the 8th round.
Andy has already identified Dotson as one of his breakout candidates for this season on the main podcast in June, and where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. Fantasy managers betting on Dotson taking another very big step forward is worth the gamble and could prove to be a huge difference-maker in 2023.