The TRUTH: Top WRs in 2023 Part 2 (Fantasy Football)

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Getting to the bottom of your fantasy season takes some real reflection into the truth of how much players actually helped your success. Andy, Mike, and Jason are running through the top WRs from the 2023 season to take an audit of where they were an asset or how they hindered fantasy managers this year.

To see a breakdown of the TRUTH about the top-10 WRs from 2023, check out last week’s episode of the podcast.

Before we get to the list, here’s a look at how the TRUTH data algorithm considers performances from the season using a half-point PPR scoring format:

  • Great Games are more than 20+ points.
  • Good Games are more than 12.5+ points.
  • Bust Games are fewer than 7.5 points.
  • Missed Games don’t count against consistency score.

11 Davante Adams | Raiders

Age: 31.1 | ADP: 2.05 / WR8
17 games – 175 targets for 103/1144/8
Consistency Rank: 25
1st Half: 47 / 2nd Half: 13

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
18% 35% 29%

It feels a little surprising to see Davante Adams this high on the list after such an up-and-down season from the Raiders’ offense. Despite some awful QB play in Las Vegas at times, Adams continued to be a contributor for fantasy managers throughout the season, especially after Aidan O’Connell took over as starter in Week 9. In his first eight games with Jimmy Garoppolo starting, Adams averaged just 11.9 fantasy points per game and had three top-24 finishes, but after O’Connell took over as the full-time starter, Adams averaged 13.2 fantasy points per game and had five top-24 finishes, including three inside the top-10. Adams was still a main focus in the red zone, seeing the second most red zone targets in the league.

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The biggest question for Adams moving forward will be who is responsible for getting him the ball next season. Las Vegas will have to address the QB position either through the draft or free agency, and depending on whose opinion you trust, the QB options for Adams have a pretty wide range of outcomes. Adams is tied to the Raiders for another three seasons, and his hefty contract would be difficult to move, so it’s likely he’ll be in silver and black for the immediate future. 

12 Deebo Samuel | 49ers

Age: 28.0 | ADP: 3.11 / WR15
15 games – 89 targets 60/892/7 + 37/225/5 rushing
Consistency Rank: 8
1st Half: 26 / 2nd Half: 6

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
21% 57% 21%

After a down season in 2022, Deebo Samuel returned to more of what fantasy managers expected from him in 2023. While Deebo wasn’t quite the WR2 finish he had in 2021, he was still a main part of one of the best offenses in the league. Deebo dominated when he had the ball in his hands, leading all WRs in yards after catch per reception with 8.7. Fantasy managers again got that added production on the ground they’ve grown accustomed, to including five rushing TDs, the most from any WR since Deebo had eight back in 2021.

The 49ers roster as a whole may get some tweaking ahead of next season with both Brandon Aiyuk and Brock Purdy’s contract extensions coming up while Christian McCaffrey’s cap hit increases nearly $11 million heading into 2024. For Deebo’s fantasy outlook, it’s hard to know whether that means more opportunity if the team decides to move on to cheaper alternatives or if it will allow defenses to defend him differently without San Francisco’s arsenal fully stocked. Deebo’s usage is unique, so fantasy managers should still expect whatever changes come to San Francisco to majorly affect how he’s going to be used going forward.

13 Ja’Marr Chase | Bengals

Age: 23.8 |  ADP: 1.03 / WR2
16 games – 145 targets for 100/1216/7
2023 Consistency Rank: 23
1st Half: 20 / 2nd Half: 29

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
33% 33% 33%

It was kind of a nightmare season for fantasy managers who invested in Ja’Marr Chase, thanks to the boom-or-bust nature of his production. Chase showed he was still a top-end fantasy WR option finishing in the top 10 five different weeks, but finished outside WR26 every other week of the season. It would be easier to blame a lot of Chase’s inconsistent play on Joe Burrow’s injury, but the Bengals’ offense had such a slow start that Chase was tough to predict early on in the season as well. What’s troubling for Chase’s usage this season is that 24.8% of his targets were behind the line of scrimmage for the lowest average depth of target in his career. 

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The true question for fantasy managers heading into 2024 will be exactly where to slot Chase in among the top-tier WRs. After being drafted as the second WR off the board in 2023, Chase will have more company in that top tier alongside Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, and Tyreek Hill, just to name a few. The Bengals will have a change at offensive coordinator, but it was Head Coach Zac Taylor who was calling plays, so we shouldn’t expect wholesale changes in how the offense functions. Overall, fantasy managers should just be rooting for a healthier offense around Chase next season so we can see more of the great player that we’ve seen in the past.           

14 Brandon Aiyuk | 49ers

Age: 25.8 | ADP: 6.06 / WR26
16 games – 105 targets 75/1342/7
Consistency Rank: 6
1st Half: 12 / 2nd Half: 6

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
20% 60% 13%

Another San Francisco WR in the top 15 with Brandon Aiyuk posting the best fantasy finish of his career. Aiyuk led all WRs in fantasy points per target and intermediate receptions, all while posting the eighth-highest yards per route run season for a WR since 2006. What’s most impressive about Aiyuk’s season is his consistency alongside another top-end WR option in San Francisco, finishing as the more consistent option beside Deebo Samuel.

The future for Aiyuk is more uncertain than his 49ers counterpart though. Aiyuk will be entering his final season under contract in 2024, so he’ll either need to agree to an extension or he’ll hit free agency after next season. The issue with being able to keep all the weapons in San Francisco is that they’ll run into salary cap issues quickly if everyone gets paid appropriately. The bigger question for fantasy managers will be whether or not Aiyuk will put together a WR1 type of season, which will be tough to do on just 75 receptions, which is now many he had in 2023.

15 Michael Pittman Jr.  | Colts

Age: 26.2 |  ADP: 7.09 / WR35
16 games – 156 targets 109/1152/4
2023 Consistency Rank: 15
1st Half: 14 / 2nd Half: 26

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
6% 44% 19%

Possibly the second-best WR value from drafts this season was Michael Pittman who went as the WR35 and finished as the WR15. Pittman was a model of consistency, thanks to a massive amount of volume posting 10 games with eight or more receptions, which led the league. After Gardner Minshew took over when Anthony Richardson was placed on IR in Week 6, Pittman saw his best string of weeks. From Weeks 6-14, Pittman was the WR7 in fantasy, averaging 15.1 fantasy points per game during that stretch.

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For 2024, it will be tough to know how to value Pittman for fantasy since we got such a small sample size of him playing with rookie QB Anthony Richardson. In the four games that Richardson was the starter for the Colts, Pittman only had one finish inside the top 24, but he still had a ton of targets, averaging nearly nine per game. If fantasy managers are willing to buy into the Richardson-Pittman connection, Pitty City could prove to be a value again next season.

16 DK Metcalf | Seahawks

Age: 26.1 |  ADP: 3.12 / WR16
16 games – 119 targets for 66/1114/8
2023 Consistency Rank: 21
1st Half: 38 / 2nd Half: 18

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
6% 38% 19%

Even though the Seahawks’ offense took a step back as a whole in 2023, DK Metcalf was still able to put together a strong fantasy finish, returning his value for fantasy managers from draft season. Metcalf was a monster against man coverage, averaging 2.42 yards per route run and seeing a target on 32.8% of his routes run against that defense. Being a gigantic target in the red zone might be Metcalf’s best tool, seeing the most targets in the end zone since being drafted in 2019.

The realistic outlook for Metcalf going forward for fantasy might not be the high-end WR1 option that we once thought, but he should probably be viewed as a solid WR2 with upside. With all the pieces in Seattle seemingly set in place for the near future, it’s tough to see anything changing for Metcalf’s circumstance that would raise his ceiling. Possibly the only worry for investing in Metcalf going forward is the change in the Seahawks’ coaching staff with the hiring of Mike McDonald, but with an elite athlete like Metcalf, he’s still worth betting on until we see something that tells us otherwise.

17 Calvin Ridley | Jaguars

Age: 29.1 |  ADP: 4.02 / WR17
17 games – 136 targets 76/1016/8 + 9/23/0 rushing
2023 Consistency Rank: 39
1st Half: 49 / 2nd Half: 34

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
18% 35% 53%

The visions of grandeur that many fantasy managers had for Calvin Ridley’s return turned to dust, but the season wasn’t an entire failure in his return to the NFL. Ridley had every opportunity to have a gigantic season, so the logic for fantasy managers who bought in at his ADP was solid at the time. In his first season with the Jaguars, Ridley ran the second most routes in the NFL and was tied with CeeDee Lamb for the most end zone targets which he turned into seven TDs. Ridley was great when he hit, either finishing inside the top eight or outside the top 24 altogether.

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What will be difficult for fantasy managers going forward regarding Ridley is how much longer he should be considered a WR with top-12 upside. Ridley is due for a new contract and is already 29 years old, so there’s more to factor than most WRs getting ready to hit the market for the first time. Jacksonville took the chance to acquire Ridley, so we’d assume that they’ll want to keep him in town, but exactly how long of a deal he’ll be able to get will be telling for any team’s belief in him for the long term.

18 Amari Cooper | Browns

Age: 29.6 |  ADP: 4.07 / WR19
15 games – 128 targets for 72/1250/5
2023 Consistency Rank: 22
1st Half: 15 / 2nd Half: 31

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
20% 47% 40%

Just another top-20 WR season for Amari Cooper, this time with a litany of QBs getting him the ball in Cleveland. Cooper put up his highest receiving yardage in his career with a combination of Deshaun Watson, PJ Walker, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and Joe Flacco at QB throughout the year. On the season as a whole, Cooper was hit or miss week to week, and his one huge game in Week 16 accounted for 24% of his entire fantasy production on the year.

Going forward, the Watson-Cooper connection will be one to monitor in Cleveland. In his 12 games with Deshaun Watson, Cooper has averaged two fantasy points less per game. Financially, the Browns seem pretty committed to Watson going forward, so any concerns about Cooper’s ability to still produce with him at QB could push the WR’s value down ahead of the 2024 season.

19 Chris Olave | Saints

Age: 23.6 |  ADP: 3.02 / WR12
16 games – 138 targets for 87/1123/5
2023 Consistency Rank: 11
1st Half: 18 / 2nd Half: 10

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
0% 56% 19%

Maybe one of the more disappointing players fantasy managers wanted to see take a step forward in 2023, Chris Olave still finishing inside the top 20 feels like a success. The change at QB to Derek Carr felt like Olave was being set up for a breakout season, but the ceiling was still really low for the young WR. Olave did lead the league in contested catches on deep targets, but couldn’t convert his good games into great games due to a lack of TD upside. Since 2010, Olave is one of 21 WRs with 2,000+ receiving yards in their first two seasons, but only two players on that list had fewer receiving TDs.

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Heading into 2024, Olave should still be viewed as one of the best young WRs in the league, but there are real reasons to be concerned about his ability to finish as a top-12 option. The Saints changed their offensive coordinator already to Klint Kubiak, who’s known for his running schemes, so that’s something to monitor with Olave in this offense heading into 2024. Overall, Olave still has the potential to be an elite weapon, but unless he’s used correctly, he might end up disappointing for fantasy.

20 DeVonta Smith | Eagles

Age: 25.2 | ADP: 3.07 / WR14
16 games – 112 targets for 81/1066/7
Consistency Rank: 12
1st Half: 27 / 2nd Half: 11

Great Games Good Games Bust Games
19% 50% 31%

The ambiguity in the Eagles’ passing game this season leaves DeVonta Smith with another solid season but feels capped given the ability we’ve seen from him on the field. Smith was one of the main beneficiaries of Dallas Goedert’s absence in Weeks 11-13. During that stretch, Smith averaged 17.7 fantasy points and nearly 100 yards per game. As the Ballers discussed on the top-10 WRs episode, it’s pretty tough for both AJ Brown and Smith to be great in the same game, so Smith may be capped as a WR2 with upside in this Philadelphia offense.

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Change is coming to the Eagles in the form of new Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. In the past, Moore’s offense has seen lots of targets headed to slot WRs – think CeeDee Lamb and Keenan Allen over the last two seasons. Smith has operated out of the slot 31% of the time this season, so that may be a place where there could be an uptick in production going forward.

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