Dynasty Ultimatums: 5 WRs Entering Make-or-Break Fantasy Seasons

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The 2023 NFL season is finally just around the corner, bringing with it a plethora of unanswered questions for many notable players. As dynasty managers, it is crucial to maintain honesty with ourselves regarding realistic expectations for these players. It can be challenging to lose faith in a player we once acquired with high hopes. One effective strategy is to establish dynasty ultimatums for players on our rosters who face considerable uncertainties. In this article, we will discuss controversial wide receivers who are entering make-or-break years, highlighting the specific goals that they need to accomplish in the upcoming season to fulfill their current expectations.

Check out the first two articles from this series, featuring quarterbacks and running backs.

Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers

When it comes to football abilities, there is absolutely no questioning the caliber of player that Deebo Samuel is on the field. Widely recognized as one of the toughest players in the league, Samuel is a force to be reckoned with when the ball is in his hands. However, the main challenge has been his struggle to stay healthy, often resulting in missing a substantial portion of each season due to injuries. Despite these concerns, it is worth noting that Samuel is only 27 years old and heading into his fifth professional season. On the field, Samuel stands out as one of the most unique players in the league, with more career touchdowns on the ground (14) than through the air (12). The 2023 season is a pivotal year for Samuel, as he aims to prove that his WR2 finish in 2021 was not just an anomaly or outlier season. Despite being perceived as a risky pick due to missing fifteen games in his four-year career, there is a sense of optimism that Samuel can once again conclude the season as a WR1 in 2023. The key for him will be to stay healthy and showcase his undeniable talent throughout the entire season.

2019 WR29 160.6 15
2020 WR97 64.2 7
2021 WR2 300.5 16
2022 WR38 140.4 13

The San Francisco 49ers have consistently been a top-tier team in both offensive and defensive efficiency, thanks to the creative approach of their head coach Kyle Shanahan. However, uncertainty surrounds the starting quarterback position in 2023, as Brock Purdy‘s recovery from a late-season injury keeps Trey Lance and Sam Darnold in the mix. Assuming Purdy retains the job, the 49ers should maintain their incredible efficiency. Deebo Samuel‘s fantasy outlook faces challenges due to the abundance of competition for targets and opportunities in the offense. The team boasts elite offensive weapons in Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Christian McCaffrey, and George Kittle. Due to his dynamic playstyle, McCaffrey will continue to vulture opportunities that used to be provided solely to Samuel. Additionally, Aiyuk appears to be ascending as the potential WR1 for the team moving forward. San Francisco picked up his 5th-year option after a season in which he earned a career-high in targets (114) and surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his young career. To preserve his current dynasty value, Samuel must prove he remains a dominant force in this loaded offense. 

The future dynasty outlook of Samuel is unique, considering his playstyle resembles that of a running back more than a traditional wide receiver. This raises the question of whether his dynasty value should be assessed differently from others at his position. Wide receivers typically remain effective into their early 30s, whereas running backs tend to experience a significant decline around the age of 27. Taking this into account, it is reasonable to consider that Samuel’s best years might already be behind him, potentially leading to a continued decline in his dynasty value over the next few years. Trading him away while his value remains relatively high could be a savvy move for dynasty managers. Yet, despite these concerns, Samuel possesses exceptional talent and has the ability to prove his doubters wrong in 2023. His dynasty ultimatum for the upcoming season is to finish the year as a WR1. Despite this being a rather ambitious goal, he demonstrated just two seasons ago that he can rank among the top of the league at his position. Achieving this feat would require a significant career resurgence, solidifying his place as a top-tier option in fantasy football once again.

Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Mike Williams has consistently been a tantalizing wide receiver for fantasy football, given his potential for extreme spike weeks throughout his career. However, his weekly reliability has been a major concern, making him one of the league’s biggest boom-or-bust options. Despite leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many fantasy managers over the years, it would be unwise to underestimate Williams for the upcoming season. It is easy to forget that he finished as the WR10 just two years ago. Standing at an imposing 6’4″ and 218 pounds and equipped with otherworldly hops, Williams is a formidable force for splash plays and long touchdowns. In 2020, he ranked second in the league with eight receptions of 40+ yards, further highlighting his big-play potential. As he enters the new season at 29 years old, Williams showcases a sneaky upside due to being largely disregarded and overlooked by the fantasy football community.

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The Los Angeles Chargers are poised to take a significant step forward in the upcoming season. After experiencing a regular season plagued by injuries, the Chargers suffered a disappointing collapse in the wild-card game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, with the team entering the new season at full strength and the addition of new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Chargers fans have reason to be both excited and optimistic. Moore, who previously excelled with the Dallas Cowboys, has deployed highly efficient and high-scoring offenses throughout his career. Due to this, it is respectable to assume that he will be an ideal match to unleash the full potential of Justin Herbert and the high-powered Chargers’ offense. This new offensive system has the potential to create fresh opportunities that can maximize the unique and dynamic skills of players like Mike Williams. However, it is worth noting that the Chargers also drafted Quentin Johnston in the first round of this year’s draft. Johnston is a talented wide receiver prospect who possesses ideal size and remarkable athletic traits. This addition raises legitimate questions about whether he was brought in to potentially succeed Williams and become the future alpha wide receiver for the team. 

*Team Leaders in Most Yards of Total Offense (2021): 

DAL 2021 17 6,919 64
TB 2021 17 6,901 63
KC 2021 17 6,746 57
LAC 2021 17 6,634 58
BUF 2021 17 6,493 57

Keenan Allen, even at the age of 31, is expected to maintain a dominant role as the primary target in the team’s offense. Notably, Austin Ekeler led all running backs with a staggering 127 targets last season. This would have tied him with Mike Evans for the 17th most targets in the league by a wide receiver. With a talented quarterback like Justin Herbert leading the way, the team has the luxury of a potent passing attack, even with several mouths to feed. Luckily, Mike Williams has the potential to make a significant fantasy impact with just one big catch per game. With that said, his future role could be heavily influenced by the addition of Quentin Johnston. With Williams still in the prime of his career, this season will serve as a make-or-break year. To meet his dynasty ultimatum, Williams aims to finish the season as a top-20 wide receiver in 2023. In doing so, it would be ideal to see him surpass 1,000 receiving yards and rank among the league leaders in touchdowns. These statistical milestones would help signify that Williams can continue to provide WR2 value for your dynasty teams moving forward. 

Calvin Ridley, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

In 2023, Calvin Ridley will make his long-awaited return to the field after an absence from football activities exceeding 700 days. In my article The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Calvin Ridley, I highlight the remarkable season that could be in store for the talented wide receiver in his first year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite his extended hiatus, Ridley’s elite talent was evident when he finished as the WR4 back in 2020. Now at the age of 28, with his personal challenges and lengthy suspension behind him, it will be intriguing to see if he can reclaim his previous form as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. 

With all potential obstacles aside, Ridley’s landing spot in Jacksonville appears to be incredibly promising for his dynasty outlook. The team exceeded all expectations last season and seems poised for even more success in 2023. Playing alongside a highly talented quarterback like Trevor Lawrence, Ridley has found himself in an ideal situation to thrive and extend his career. If Lawrence fulfills his anticipated leap into superstardom this season, it is reasonable to expect Ridley to benefit greatly as the primary beneficiary. It is essential to highlight that the team’s current roster boasts a wealth of competition for targets. To reclaim his status as an alpha wide receiver in this league, Ridley will need to outperform notable players on the roster like Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram by a considerable margin. Although all of these players had tremendous success in this system last season, none are comparable to the player that Ridley was prior to his extended absence.

The battle for the team’s WR1 position, mainly between Kirk and Ridley, will be fascinating to watch unfold. Kirk already made a significant impact in his first season with the Jaguars, finishing as a top-12 wide receiver in 2022. However, it is worth noting that his average of 11.9 fantasy points per game was the lowest among any WR1. Last season, Kirk hauled in an impressive 84 receptions, closely followed by Zay Jones with 82. While some may see this as a potential challenge to Ridley’s fantasy ceiling in 2023, it actually underscores Trevor Lawrence‘s tendency to heavily target the wide receiver position. If Ridley can establish himself as the WR1 in this offense, achieving similar reception totals seems very plausible. Ultimately, Ridley’s dynasty ultimatum is to finish the upcoming season as a top-20 wide receiver. By achieving this goal, he will prove to dynasty managers that he has not missed a beat, reassuring them of his ability to maintain elite production moving forward. Asking a player who has been away from professional football for multiple seasons to make such a comeback is undoubtedly a tall task. However, Ridley is the kind of player who possesses the necessary capabilities to rise to the challenge.

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Elijah Moore, WR, Cleveland Browns

Who is the real Elijah Moore? This question remains relatively unanswered as the young wide receiver enters his third professional season. While displaying tremendous promise in his rookie season, Moore struggled to find the necessary opportunities for continued success in his sophomore campaign, resulting in a highly unproductive season. Fortunately, Moore will have a fresh start with the Cleveland Browns in 2023, which comes with a clean slate to get his career back on track. Similar to their new wide receiver, Cleveland is a team looking to redefine their identity after a rather forgettable season. It will be intriguing to see if Moore can bounce back in 2023 and make the most of his new opportunity.

The 2022 season for the Cleveland Browns was significantly influenced by the aftermath of Deshaun Watson‘s off-the-field issues. Upon his return from suspension, Watson faced considerable challenges, showing signs of rust from not playing for a season and a half. However, he finished the year on a strong note, securing a spot in the top 10 at his position in consecutive weeks to conclude the season. With major improvements expected, the Browns boast a loaded offense, primarily led by Nick Chubb, but complemented by various pass-catching weapons. This includes Amari Cooper, David Njoku, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and third-round draft pick Cedric Tillman. Despite the abundance of mouths to feed, it is possible to see Moore stepping in as the team’s second-highest target earner.

After being selected with the 34th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Moore showed great promise during his rookie season with the New York Jets, despite dealing with multiple injuries. In only six games, he managed to accumulate 459 receiving yards and five touchdowns, boasting a 19% target share and an impressive 1.75 yards per route run rate. However, in the following season, he struggled to earn targets in a struggling offense, leading him to request a trade. As the fastest and potentially most athletic wide receiver on the Cleveland Browns roster for the upcoming season, Moore has a chance to resurrect his career with his new team and put last year behind him. Although the past season raises concerns, he remains under contract until 2025, providing a genuine opportunity to get his career back on track. His dynasty ultimatum is to finish the season as a top-25 wide receiver, a goal that would reassure dynasty managers of his potential to fulfill his true destiny. While uncertainties surround Moore’s future dynasty outlook, his youth, athletic profile, and strong rookie showing give him the potential to get back on track. The new season should shed light on whether he can bounce back and regain his trajectory.

Rashod Bateman, WR, Baltimore Ravens

Rashod Bateman is another talented wide receiver who has faced significant challenges staying healthy in his young career. Despite that, he holds first-round draft capital and has shown immense potential whenever he has been able to stay on the field. In his rookie year, he missed the first five games, and in his sophomore season, a Lisfranc injury kept him out for the final eleven weeks. However, during the first three weeks of the 2022 season, Bateman displayed his big-play potential, amassing 226 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Despite a rocky start to his career, Bateman is only 23 years old and possesses elite athletic traits and impressive collegiate production. This includes a 4.39 40 time at the 2021 combine and an average of nearly 100 receiving yards per game in his final two seasons at the University of Minnesota. Heading into the 2023 season, it seems to be a pivotal make-or-break season for the young wide receiver. This season presents a significant opportunity for Bateman to capitalize on his immense potential and put it all together for a full season.

Despite operating as a run-first offense with Lamar Jackson under center, Baltimore is expected to undergo a significant change in offensive approach this season. Looking to rejuvenate and reinvent their offensive identity, Baltimore decided to bring in the services of their new offensive coordinator, Todd Monken. This decision indicates a shift towards a more aggressive passing game, which can result in taking more deep shots. This change appears to align perfectly with maximizing Bateman’s potential. However, the challenge lies in the fact that the team has also brought in several big-time playmakers at the wide receiver position this offseason. This includes selecting Zay Flowers in the first round of the draft and adding free agents Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor. All three of these pass catchers share similarities with what Bateman brings to the table, creating uncertainty about who will emerge as the alpha at the position. Additionally, the team’s primary pass-catching threat remains to be Mark Andrews, who consistently receives opportunities that are on par with elite wide receivers. Adding to the obstacles for the upcoming season, Bateman is still recovering from a significant injury and has yet to return to football activities. The added competition for targets and his recovery process are significant factors that could impact his chances of having a breakout season in 2023. 

*Team TE Target Share Leaders (2022):

1 BAL 44%
2 KC 33%
3 TEN 28%
4 ATL 27%
5 CLE 26%

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Bateman’s full participation in practices leading up to the regular season is crucial, as there are currently enough obstacles that need to be overcome without any further setbacks. There is added pressure to do so after it has been reported that he may miss the first couple of weeks of training camp due to his lingering foot issue. If everything aligns, he could finally achieve the long-awaited breakout we all have been hoping for. As he enters his third professional season with only eighteen games played in his career, time is running out for Bateman to prove himself worthy of his high draft capital. Many players labeled as injury-prone at the start of their careers have put the past behind them and continued to have successful and healthy careers. This is most definitely the hope for Bateman, beginning with the upcoming season. Like Elijah Moore, his dynasty ultimatum is to finish the 2023 season as a top-25 wide receiver. Both players are young enough to hold or even improve their current dynasty values, but the upcoming season will be telling in terms of how we should value them in dynasty leagues moving forward.

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