When it comes to wide receivers, targets are everything — especially in a PPR or half PPR league.
Wide receiver is always the most dependent position in fantasy football. Most people understand that their production many times is not based on what they deserve — it is usually based on how they are being played offensively and defensively.
Chase paychecks, not lottery tickets! Here are your 2023 tiers:
These receivers are the alpha dogs on their teams. They get a ton of targets and they produce big numbers. These are the guys you should consider drafting over even the top running backs in your fantasy league.
Justin Jefferson (MIN)
The Vikings let Dalvin Cook go for nothing. They won’t reproduce his production on the ground but they will try to fill that drop-off through the pass. That means more targets for Jefferson. At the end of the day it does not seem to matter how many defenders are hovering around Jefferson, he keeps finding ways to win. It also helps that he will be flanked by other talented receivers so that secondaries can’t put all of their attention on Jefferson. That helps him continue to get a ridiculous number of targets. He had 184 targets last season — there seems to be no reason why that will decrease this season.
It does not hurt that you can’t pull coverage to Chase, because there are two other receivers who can burn you if you do. It also helps that he has one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL throwing to him. As a receiver he possesses all of the tools that you want in a premier receiver — he is big, strong, fast, and agile. What makes him special is not simply his ability to catch the ball, but his ability to turn into a running back once the ball is in his hands. He is a home run waiting to happen. He received 134 targets in only 12 games played last season. Imagine what it will look like if he plays 17 games.
Tyreek Hill (MIA)
Hill is the epitome of a home run hitter. Defenses must beware of him at all times — whether it’s him going deep, catching the ball short or getting a handoff in the backfield. Secondaries have to respect his ability to take the top off, which allows him to get almost any underneath pass that he wants. The flaw is that if you give him too much space he will turn a hitch into a 50-yard touchdown reception. The really dangerous underneath routes are those that allow Hill to catch the ball on the run. If you are a defensive back in trail mode against Hill on a crossing route, he might shoot you the deuces and run away from you while smiling. Last season his 170 targets was a career high. We have seen him be highly effective on far less. There’s no reason to think far less is in his future.
Stefon Diggs (BUF)
It’s crazy to think that a player who has averaged over 150 targets, over 1400 yards, and over nine touchdowns in his three seasons with Buffalo can be getting slightly devalued… but here stands Stefon Diggs. He just continues to produce big numbers in fantasy for one simple reason. He makes the difficult look easy. He makes it look so easy that people often think others can do what he does. After all, he is not the physical specimen of some other receivers and he does not possess lightning speed. He is a pleasant blend of athleticism, size and a surgical-like tactical aptitude. The results are phenomenal production and with him believing that he has outplayed his current price tag, he will have an added motivation provided by the bag.
A.J. Brown (PHI)
Brown escaped a run-dominant, ultra-conservative offense in Tennessee and landed in a run-heavy, aggressive, opportunistic offense in Philadelphia. That allowed him to have career highs with 145 targets, 88 receptions, and 1,496 yards. He also tied his career high in touchdowns. That feels like a situation that fantasy owners want to invest in. Brown should only produce more as his supporting cast and quarterback continue to gain more confidence in their abilities. Brown’s large catch radius and big frame allows him to win against the most elite defensive backs even when he has not created separation. The normal definitions of “open” do not apply to Brown and when a quarterback has trust in him, they will throw him passes they would not throw to players who do not possess similar attributes.
These used to be receivers you draft after you have a first and even second-round running back — but in this world of fantasy if you did not get a first round receiver, you really need to invest in the second round. Many of these guys can end up being a Tier 1 performer.
Cooper Kupp (LAR)
This is where I depart from other analysts and players. Most fantasy players believe that you should rubber stamp Kupp as a top tier guy and a no-brainer first round pick — but the truth is that he has only produced first round production once in his career. Yes, last year he was on his way to duplicate his epic 2021 season but injury derailed things and therein lies the problem. Injuries have been a part of almost every season Kupp has spent in the NFL. Why should anyone believe he will be able to recreate or come close to a level he has only achieved once? I could 100 percent be wrong — but do you want to roll those dice with an aging QB and a team in transition/rebuilding mode?
Greg Scholz did a good piece on Kupp here if you want to read more about his injuries.
Davante Adams (LV)
He has been one of the most consistent receivers in the NFL over the past few years, and he is still in his prime. He is a big target who can win contested catches, and he is also a fantastic route runner. He should see plenty of targets from Jimmy Garropolo in the Raiders’ offense, especially if they need to spend time without running back Josh Jacobs. Adams has averaged 105 receptions, 1,374 yards, and 10 touchdowns per season over the past five years.
Amari Cooper (CLE)
Cooper is a proven veteran receiver who has put up big numbers in multiple seasons. He is still one of the best route runners in the game and has been successful with multiple quarterbacks throwing it to him. He’s going to be a big target for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson who will be full time now and not coming off a suspension and taking over the team on the back end of the season.
CeeDee Lamb (DAL)
Lamb is a rising star who is only going to get better. He’s already a dynamic playmaker, and he’s going to be even more productive in 2023 with Dak Prescott back at quarterback for a full season. Add to that more comfort in the offense and other weapons understanding their role — and it’s not hard to see why Lamb is a tier 2 guy and potentially a tier 1 talent.
Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET)
St. Brown is a young receiver who had a breakout season in 2022. He has a great rapport with Jared Goff. He’s a versatile player who can line up anywhere on the field, and he’s going to be a big part of the success Detroit expects to have this season. The question will be if he still can put up the 2022 numbers if the team is winning. That is a factor to consider.
You are still winning fantasy leagues and one-day fantasy with these players. Many of them are on the brink of breakout Tier 1 seasons but they may have question marks. There are things about their situations that keep you from valuing them higher… so you wait on them. There are a lot of gems in this tier.
Garrett Wilson (NYJ)
Wilson is a polished route runner with big-play ability. He’s the WR1 in New York and should see plenty of targets from Aaron Rodgers in an improved Jets passing game. He is also going against one of the best defensive backs in the league every day, so that will improve his skills.
Jaylen Waddle (MIA)
Waddle is a speedster who can take the top off the defense. He’s already shown his potential in his first two seasons as he shows the world his other receiving skills. With so much attention bring paid to Hill, he’s poised for a big year in 2023.
Chris Olave (NO)
Olave is a smooth route runner with excellent hands. He’s a perfect fit for the Saints’ offense and should be a productive receiver once again in 2023. He is a serious downfield threat who has a knack for hauling in deep passes.
Tee Higgins (CIN)
Higgins is a big-bodied receiver who can win contested catches. He is really good at using his body to shield defenders and he uses his enormous catch radius. He’s a red zone threat who will only draw single coverage because of the other receivers on his team and should see plenty of targets from Joe Burrow.
DeVonta Smith (PHI)
Smith is a polished route runner with excellent hands. He’s a PPR machine and he has a chance to be a Top 10 fantasy receiver in 2023. He really works well in the intermediate areas because he has the speed and agility to threaten deep and then get in and out of breaks.
Deebo Samuel (SF)
Samuel is a dual-threat receiver who can beat you with his speed or his power. He’s a touchdown machine and could be a Top 15 fantasy receiver because he can get you yards and touchdowns on the ground or through the air. The fear now is how he will be used, with Brandon Aiyuk and Christian McCaffrey in the lineup.
DJ Moore (CHI)
Moore is a speedy receiver with excellent route running skills. In Carolina he had to deal with multiple quarterbacks in one season; now he’s the WR1 in Chicago and should see plenty of targets from Justin Fields as Fields continues to improve his craft.
DK Metcalf (SEA)
Metcalf is a physical specimen with a big catch radius and the speed to take the top off a defense. He’s also a red zone threat who knows how to get into the end zone.
The 2023 wide receiver group is stacked with talent, even at the lower tiers. There are plenty of starters who have the potential to put up Tier 1 or Tier 2 numbers, but they all come with some risk. Some of these players have question marks at quarterback, while others are new to their teams or have injury concerns. There are also some receivers who play on teams that prioritize running the ball, which limits their target share. The challenge is finding the right player in this tier to help you win your fantasy championship. You need to consider all of the risks and rewards before making a decision. But if you can find the right guy, he could be the difference-maker in your season.
Calvin Ridley (JAC)
Ridley is a talented receiver with great hands and excellent route-running skills. He’s also a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Ridley last played football in 2021 for the Falcons, where he was the top target. Now in Jacksonville, he will be one in a collection of talented pass receivers — but he is the most talented of the bunch.
Jerry Jeudy (DEN)
Jeudy is a polished receiver with excellent speed and route-running ability. He’s also a good deep threat, with 10 touchdowns of 40 yards or more in his first two seasons. Jeudy is healthy and he will have Russell Wilson back for a second season.
Keenan Allen (LAC)
Allen is a reliable receiver with great hands and route-running skills. He’s also a consistent producer, with 100 or more catches in four of his past six seasons. Allen is still one of the best receivers in the league, and he’ll be a big part of the Chargers’ offense in 2023 — with a quarterback who is ascending and a new offensive coordinator.
Christian Watson (GB)
Watson is a big, athletic receiver with a lot of potential. He’s a good deep and red zone threat, and he has the size to win contested catches. Watson is a raw prospect, but he has the tools to be a star in the NFL. He really came on during the second half of the 2022 season when he tallied three 100-yard games and all seven of his touchdowns.
Terry McLaurin (WAS)
McLaurin is a talented receiver with great hands and route-running skills. He’s also a good deep threat, and he has 21 touchdowns in his first four seasons, despite playing with a revolving door of quarterbacks. McLaurin is the clear No. 1 receiver in Washington, and it will be interesting to watch how new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy uses him in his offense.
DeAndre Hopkins (TEN)
Hopkins is a proven veteran receiver with elite route-running skills and arguably the best hands in the NFL. He’s also a consistent producer — last season in only nine contests Hopkins amassed 64 receptions, 717 yards and three touchdowns. He joins Tennessee after spending the past three seasons in Arizona. He will be able to see less coverage because of the massive run threat the Titans possess in Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill.
Brandon Aiyuk (SF)
Aiyuk had a great 2022 season. He has all the tools to be a fantasy star but he has a few other fantasy darlings in the mix in SF, with Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey. He will have some big games this year, though, and will bring back value to any roster.
Tyler Lockett (SEA)
Lockett is one of the most dynamic receivers in the NFL, and he’s always a threat to take it to the house. He’s also a very good route runner, and he can make plays after the catch. Lockett is a great all-around receiver and he plays so much bigger than his size would suggest. He will be a valuable fantasy asset in 2023.
This is where you’ll find starters, or quality WR3 and WR4. Every week you have to monitor these players and see if they are fitting in as your Flex or your WR2. This is a group that includes young receivers expected to produce — but at what level and with what consistency? — and veterans who are beating back time. This group also includes guys who may be primed to take a step forward in their progression.
Drake London (ATL)
London is a talented receiver and should be a good fantasy producer this season.He has the size, speed, and hands to be a force in the NFL, and he’s going to be a favorite target of quarterback Desmond Ridder in their second season together.
Mike Williams (LAC)
Williams is a big-play receiver who is always a threat to score a touchdown. He’s also very reliable. Outside of his rookie year, he’s never had a season with fewer than 650 receiving yards. With Keenan Allen still around and rookie Quentin Johnston now in the fold. Williams may enjoy more favorable matchups.
Christian Kirk (JAC)
Kirk is a versatile receiver who can play in a variety of positions across formations. He’s also a good route runner and has good hands. He could have a big season in 2023 with all of the Jaguars weapons in the fold, including the addition of Calvin Ridley who could make life easier for Kirk.
Mike Evans (TB)
Evans is a proven commodity who has averaged 1000 receiving yards each year he’s been in the NFL. He’s a big, physical receiver who can win jump balls and make contested catches. Evans is always a threat to score, but who is throwing him the ball this year?
Chris Godwin (TB)
Godwin is another proven commodity who will be fully healed from the torn ACL in 2021 that hindered him in 2022. He’s a very good receiver who can do it all. He’s a great route runner, he has good hands, and he’s also a threat to take it to the house after the catch. Godwin is a great value pick in fantasy drafts, and he could have a big season in 2023 — but with the same “who is the QB?” concerns as Evans.
Diontae Johnson (PIT)
Johnson is a PPR machine who is always a threat to score. He’s a very good route runner and has great hands. He has the targets and fantasy players should view the 2022 season where he did not find the end zone as an anomaly.
Marquise Brown (ARI)
Brown is a speedster who can take it the distance every time he touches the ball. The loss of Hopkins in Arizona means that Brown could garner a much bigger share of the targets in 2023. If so, he will have elevated value for fantasy managers.
Michael Pittman Jr. (IND)
Pittman is a big, physical receiver who really understands how to use his body to shield defenders and haul in passes. He’s a decent route runner and has good hands. Pittman is a red zone target who will be a valuable fantasy asset in 2023 especially now that Parris Campbell has moved on to the Giants.
Jahan Dotson (WAS)
Dotson is a speedy receiver who can make plays after the catch. He made the most of his opportunities last season. He was able to score seven touchdowns on 35 receptions. Expect these targets to go up in 2023 with a more dynamic offense under new OC Eric Bieniemy. Jake Ciely has a very bold prediction about Dotson for 2023, showcasing his massive upside.
Gabriel Davis (BUF)
Davis is a big-bodied big-play receiver. Many thought that his 2022 was a disappointing season but his 17.4 yards per reception was the best of his three-year career. As a part of a dynamic offense in Buffalo, you have to think that his role will continue to increase.
George Pickens (PIT)
Pickens is an underrated, talented receiver who has the potential to be a star. He’s a big, physical receiver who can win jump balls and make contested catches. Pickens is a great value pick in fantasy drafts because he can be productive on touches that don’t equate to the targets that most elite receivers garner. When he does get the ball, he’s a game breaker and next to Dionte Jonhson he should garner 1v1 attention in 2023.
There are a lot of talented players here, including rookies who could break out and veterans who are capable of producing. However, there are also a lot of unknowns. Some of these players could see their roles increase due to changes in the receiver room. There are no guarantees in this group, but there are some potential gems to be found.
Jameson Williams (DET) Dynasty Alert!
Williams pretty much had a “redshirt” season in 2022 and will get another six games to be fully healthy after he was suspended for gambling on team property. When he returns, Williams could emerge as the WR2 behind Amon-Ra St. Brown. He is an explosive receiver who can really be a dynamic force. You won’t get the initial dividends but this could be a long play.
These are guys who may have had success, or have the potential to have success, but there are too many unknowns for them to be reliable weekly options. If someone gets hurt, they might be a serviceable replacement on a week to week basis, depending on the matchups. They also have the opportunity to break out any given week.
The Cowboys really need Gallup to return to the form that he enjoyed in 2019 and 2020 where he looked like a legitimate WR2 for the Cowboys. Over the past two seasons his play has been disappointing, but on a team with a lot of targets to distribute, you can’t ignore that Gallup can help fantasy managers win games.
These players are not the Hail Mary they used to be but there are considerable question marks pertaining to who is throwing them the ball, how they will be utilized, what they have left in the tank, and/or how much talent they have. Someone in this tier will help their fantasy manager win a championship.
Renfrow can be a jewel this late in a fantasy draft. He seemingly fits the prototype of what Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels has had success with: a shifty slot receiver. After a 2021 where he had 128 targets, his 2022 was a big disappointment. If he can return to previous seasons’ performances, he would be a steal at this point in the draft.
(Top photo: Megan Briggs/Getty Images; Mike Williams: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong; Garrett Wilson: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images; Cooper Kupp: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)