After Bijan Robinson, the three quarterbacks, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are selected in 2023 dynasty rookie drafts, dynasty managers will see a handful of exciting wide receivers at the top of their respective draft boards. Quentin Johnston and Jordan Addison are two great consolation prizes, but there are several others who will make a dynasty impact.
Who are the top sleepers, targets, and fades at receiver in 2023 dynasty rookie drafts?
Drafting soon? Check out The Wolf’s 2023 Rookie Rankings.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the consensus rookie WR1. Who should go No. 2?
QUENTIN JOHNSTON: Jordan Addison certainly is the “floor play” as a perfect No.2 complement to Justin Jefferson. Yet, I’m more of a ceiling chaser, especially with my first-round picks. There’s simply no denying Quentin Johnston’s short and especially long-term upside within this Chargers offense. Keenan Allen will be 31 and likely has another year, maybe two, as the main cog of this passing attack. But long-term, QJ could absolutely develop into the true Alpha for maybe the best young gun-slinger in the game in Justin Herbert.
Johnston has already been incredibly impressive in OTAs, particularly after the catch. While watching tape of TCU vs. Georgia, Staley came away labeling QJ “the most impressive player on the field,” ultimately sinking a first-rounder despite no true need at the position.
He’s surprisingly shifty after the catch for a WR of his size — in fact, via Scott Barrett at FantasyPoints.com: “Despite playing hurt for 87% of his games last year, Johnston averaged 8.9 yards after the catch per reception and 0.32 missed tackles forced per reception. Both numbers rank 11th-best since 2018, among all Power 5 WRs with at least 55 receptions (212 qualifiers). The only other players to rank top-12 on both lists are CeeDee Lamb (2019) and Deebo Samuel (2018)… By career missed tackles forced per reception (0.39), Johnston ranks best of all 511 qualifying Power 5 WRs since at least 2014 (min. 75 career receptions).”
He has “Big Slot Layup Role” written all over him once Keenan is gone. Stir in Kellen Moore is now calling the shots here — a brilliant offensive mind who was fired for “throwing and scoring too much– and we’ve got so much juice to Johnston’s short-and-long-term profile. In both of the 2 seasons, Dak was healthy and McCarthy let Moore run the show without interference, the Cowboys ranked: Top 2 in passing yards, top-5 in passing TDs, No.1 in total yards, and top-6 in total TDs. The environment, surrounding talent, and individual ability are all here for Quentin Johnston to thrive.
QUENTIN JOHNSTON: I’ll give a slight nod to Johnston here. Jordan Addison is likely to make the more significant immediate impact, but I love the setup for Johnson long-term. Keenan Allen will turn to dust soon enough and Mike Williams can’t stay on the field. When Johnson ascends to the WR1 spot paired with Justin Herbert, that’s long-term gold. Addison will always be behind Jefferson (and potentially Hockenson) with a lesser QB, and Zay Flowers has to fight off Andrews, Bateman, and the Ravens’ island of misfit receivers.
QUENTIN JOHNSTON: Initially I was hesitant about Johnston, because I was getting Mike Williams vibes, but that’s not fair. Inconsistent hands and route running development are things that can be coached/improved upon. Addison has to contend with Justin Jefferson for targets, Flowers has Mark Andrews and I still like Rashod Bateman. As Mike Williams and Keenan Allen continue to get older, Johnston can emerge as the alpha WR in a Herbert-led offense that can “light the scoreboard up” with Kellen Moore (let’s hope sanity prevails and Brandon Staley sees that as a positive, unlike some head coaches).
One predictive stat of NFL success is experienced-adjusted yards per team pass attempt in college. Johnston was the only receiver from this group who exceeded the average of WRs with a top-24 fantasy season in the NFL. In addition to excellent college production, Johnston landed in the best situation of the three with Justin Herbert as his QB for the foreseeable future and limited future competition for targets.
QUENTIN JOHNSTON: The TCU product has a HIGH likelihood of inheriting the alpha dog role in year two when WRs typically make their biggest jump. He is tethered to Herbert and Kellen Moore (assuming he doesn’t get a HC job somewhere). Highest fantasy upside in the WR class by a substantial margin. High draft capital equals job security.
QUENTIN JOHNSTON: QJ is attached to the best quarterback out of the remaining wide receivers. He’s a big-body wide receiver with incredible YAC ability and is sitting behind two aging receivers. He’s prone to a solid rookie season and a major breakout in his second season if things go his way. The upside is the highest for him and that’s why I’d roll with QJ.
JORDAN ADDISON: Nothing translates to the NFL like route running, and Jordan Addison has it in spades. He also will not have to deal with the defense’s top cornerback. He seems the safest with solid upside.
JORDAN ADDISON: I ultimately side with Addison over Johnston because I feel he is in the most opportune spot. He has Justin Jefferson ahead of him to take all the attention and double coverage away. He will be going against opposing CB2 or CB3s and he is a great route runner. With Adam Thielen gone, I think he slides right into that role nicely.
Which Round 2-3 Rookie WR are you targeting? Why?
TANK DELL: I’m absolutely OBSESSED with Tank Dell, especially at his mid-to-late Round 3 price. I know, I know — like Devon Achane in the RB Round Table, betting on Tank is betting on an outlier: he’s already 23.5 years old and only 5’’8” and 165 pounds. Since 2000, there’s never been an NFL WR shorter or lighter to average 11.0 FPG in a single season.
Yet, Tank screams “special” to me. Over the past two seasons, he led all receivers in receptions (199) and yards (2,727), while also ranking second in touchdowns (29) — impressive for someone of his diminutive size, especially given how many of these came in short yardage. Tank dominated at every layer of the field, and Texans’ new franchise QB CJ Stroud begged the front office to draft him after the two established a strong rapport at the Combine, citing Dell’s routes and ability to get wide-open as something the team needed.
He’s projected to be the starting slot WR by most beat writers after a highly-impressive spring and could be in line to pace the team in targets in a potential “layup” role. Maybe he’s the next Velus Jones — too old and too small. But Dell was far more prolific from a production standpoint, and I think he’s in line to grow with Stroud to provide value from day one and well beyond.
JALIN HYATT: The former Vol slipping in the ranks, currently sitting around the WR8-10 range. I’m betting on the talent here along with the fact that the Giants are desperate for someone to step up at the receiver spot. They have a bunch of ‘meh’ guys, but with some fine-tuning and hard work, Hyatt (who was graded as a 1st/2nd round talent) has a clear path to a big role in the Giants offense.
MARVIN MIMS: It’s tough when the question is, “Was a receiver unable to run a deep route tree, or were they just not asked to?” And of course Marvin Mims, Jalin Hyatt, or any other receiver that question is posed to will say that for them it’s the latter.
So, I try to lean on what tea leaves I can to find out about how much potential a receiver has to develop his route-running from people smarter than me in that area, and I’ve found enough reason to be confident that Mims can develop into more than a deep threat. One of those reasons being Sean Payton, who believes that Mims can play multiple receiving positions, enough that Denver traded up to make him not just the first receiver, but the first player, that the Payton-era Broncos drafted.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s an analytics darling at FantasyPoints, falling only behind JSN for ’23 rookie WRs in Scott Barrett’s model of what makes receivers successful at the next level.
MARVIN MIMS: Like Johnston, Marvin Mims also had fantastic college production every year and actually ranked ahead of Johnston in Scott Barrett’s college production-only rookie model. When factoring in draft capital, Johnston is the superior prospect, but Mims would be my WR5 after the first round draftees.
MARVIN MIMS: Guy is tied to Sean Payton and, once freed from the shackles of Nathaniel Hackett, Russ looked more like the Russ we know and love/tolerate. The deep ball and play action are his specialties and Payton is an offensive mastermind. Sutton sucks, Hamler has shown nothing, and Tim Patrick is old and coming off a big injury. Great opportunity to plant breakout seeds at the end of Y1 and jump Y2.
MARVIN MIMS: I’m targeting Marvin Mims as much as I can in rookie drafts and in best ball. 18-year-old breakout age, attached to a competent head coach, and is sitting behind two wide receivers who have outs in their contracts next season. There’s immense opportunity for Mims to make an impact for this new Payton-led Broncos. I love the potential Mims has to be a WR2 in the NFL and am scooping him up every chance I get.
RASHEE RICE: If everything else is equal or close, I find myself leaning towards the guy tied to the best QB in the league in Rashee Rice. He has size, and the depth chart isn’t exactly set in stone in KC. Sign me up for Rice.
JONATHAN MINGO: I’m targeting the Ole Miss wideout. He has the size and athleticism and he already has a great rapport with Bryce Young. If they further develop chemistry, this could be a great duo for years to come.
Which Round 2-3 rookie WR are you fading? Why?
JOSH DOWNS: Some of my favorite analysts in the game (Scott Barrett, Matt Harmon) are big-time Downs guys. As a player, I can’t fault them: he’s a superb slot player who plays much bigger than his small frame. Moreover, Colts WRs coach (& former great) Reggie Wayne called Downs “the best WR of this class.”
Yet, unlike Dell, who landed with the most accurate thrower of this class, Downs is in-line to grow with Anthony Richardson. I love a lot about the highest-upside QB athlete to ever enter the league, but there’s no denying the accuracy concerns, especially on the routine short-and-intermediate throws that should be lay-ups. This is where Downs will do his damage. Given the Colts’ offense promises to be among the league’s most run-heavy, and the big mouths of Michael Pittman and impressive sophomore Alec Pierce are already here, I worry Downs will be the classic “better in real life than fantasy” type of guy for much of his early career.
MARVIN MIMS: There are too many mouths to feed in Denver. Jerry Jeudy is a beast, Courtland Sutton is talented, everyone loves Tim Patrick for some reason, and Greg Dulcich is an emerging high-end tight end. Unless they trade away some of these vets, I can’t see Mims making too much noise. Bonus pick, I’ll even throw in Jayden Reed just because I don’t trust Jordan Love at all.
TANK DELL: Size concerns of course, and though DeVonta Smith is doing just fine with similar size concerns, Tank didn’t do his damage at Alabama, or any Power Five conference team. He had to transfer twice before only leveling up to the University of Houston, and in a world where dynasty players are looking out for early-declare receivers, this five-year college player isn’t just a late-declare, but a late-late declare. He may have enough speed and shiftiness to find some success in the pros, but I’m just not feeling it.
MICHAEL WILSON: The Stanford product has a poor college production profile and also struggled to stay healthy. He is a 5th-year senior who never truly broke out. His best season was his final year, and he still averaged less than 70 yards per game while playing only six games. There isn’t enough production there for me to pass on a running back in his range.
RASHEE RICE: Nope. No, thank you. The narrative of Mahomes/Andy Reid blah blah blah has run its course. He will be buried under Skyy Moore, Phoney Toney, and Justyn Ross. We assume Kelce isn’t going anywhere for at least the next 2-3 years, even if the fall-off is inevitable. Nope.
JONATHAN MINGO: I’m fading Jonathan Mingo. I don’t like the Panthers offense and I don’t see a way that he makes an impact for fantasy football in the long run.
MARVIN MIMS: I’m fading the Oklahoma product. Denver was a dumpster fire last year, and Russ looked cooked. Rookies are already a roll of the dice, so I’m trying to minimize risk as much as possible, and staying away from anything in the Denver aerial attack not named Jerry Jeudy.
JALIN HYATT & CEDRIC TILLMAN: I’m fading both former Tennessee wideouts. Hyatt for his maturity issues and Tillman because I see him as just another body in Cleveland that will probably not see the field.
Which last-round WR sleeper are you most interested in? Why?
PUKA NACUA & MICHAEL WILSON: Similar to many responses, I can’t deny the upside of Puka Nacua, who has risen rapidly up draft boards thanks to endorsements from McVay, Stafford, and Cooper Kupp. Any player set for meaningful volume in McVay’s offense — which, after one down year, people seem to have forgotten has been top-5 in yards and scoring for the vast majority of the coach’s career — is a great spot for anyone.
To give a different player to consider, though: I’m intrigued by Michael Wilson for the Cardinals. Arizona’s depth chart is littered with pipsqueaks. Look at their projected top-3 guys: Marquise Brown is 5’9″, Rondale Moore 5’7″, Greg Dortch 5’7″. Meanwhile, Michael Wilson, at 6’1, 216 lbs, has 4-plus inches and over 30 pounds on all the other guys here. With Hopkins gone, there’s a real-shot Wilson, among the most dominant players at this year’s Senior Bowl, locks down a Day 1 outside WR role here.
KAYSHON BOUTTE: Is this a homer New England pick? Probably. Will he even make the team? Honestly, a 50/50 shot. But a guy who two years ago was a consensus first-rounder landing on a team with next to no receiver talent, the door is wide open for him to make an impact.
PUKA NACUA: The former BYU Cougar lands with the Rams where there’s no sure thing for receiving options outside of Cooper Kupp. He lands with Sean McVay, who took Robert Woods, a fantasy afterthought with the Bills, and made him not just playable, but consistently startable in fantasy. Now Puka’s been mentioned as a player who could develop into a Robert Woods role, and I say why not?
Honestly, none of them. Wide receivers drafted on day 3 of the NFL draft only hit top-24 seasons 2.9% of the time. Given that small of a hit rate, I’d rather take a shot on any running back with a path to touches such as Zach Evans or DeWayne McBride. Note that this strategy applies to lineup leagues, not best ball.
TREY PALMER: Palmer hails from the WR factory in Oklahoma and posted strong efficiency metrics while operating as a valuable field stretcher. Good signals that he will translate well to the NFL. He could be a real diamond in the rough.
PUKA NACUA: I’m liking Puka Nacua out of BYU. The Rams are thin at WR outside of Cooper Kupp and with a potentially healthy Mathew Stanford Nacua could make an immediate impact. I’m not one to follow coach speak but he has been getting some praise this off-season and if it keeps up we could be seeing a solid plug-and-play guy by the end of the season.
XAVIER HUTCHINSON: I love his size and Stroud needs a number one. Collins and Metchie haven’t exactly set their spots in stone, so give me the guy with a big catch radius and an open path to snaps.
PUKA NACUA: I’m sure you could see this coming but my favorite last-round flier is Puka Nacua. He can line up in the backfield, take jet sweeps, end-arounds, and screens. I see him as a possible heir to Kupp and the best Robert Woods replacement. They are raving about him after OTAs.