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Fantasy Football Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

By Matt Schauf 11:53am EDT 8/16/23

Who Should You Target and When?

Doesn’t it feel like WRs keep going earlier in your fantasy football drafts?

Well, that’s because they are … especially at the top.

That’s based on yearly data from BestBall10s drafting, a full-PPR format with three starting WR positions.

Obviously it makes sense for WRs to be highly valued in that format compared with others. But the important takeaway here is that drafters look especially hungry for wideouts this year.

That continues into WR2 range, though a little less pronounced as you get further down …

And you see more of the same at the WR3 level …

That might seem to make sense. After all, it’s a continuously more pass-leaning league, right?

Nope. As we pointed out last year, 2021 produced a three-year low in NFL team pass attempts per game.

Guess what. Last season saw that dip further, from 34.4 pass attempts per team game to 33.3.

That’s obviously not a huge drop. But two straight years of decline in passing volume is enough to make us wonder whether and how hard we should keep chasing WRs up the fantasy football draft board.

WR Scoring Isn’t Climbing

Given that, it shouldn’t surprise you to see that WR scoring hasn’t trended up.

PPR points per game are clearly not rising over the past five years. In fact, nearly every spot in the WR rankings checked in lower in 2022 than in either of the previous two seasons.

And it’s not just WR1 territory.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should wait on WRs.

If everyone’s drafting the position earlier, then you might need to just chase them where they’re going. But the higher you select a player, the more important it is that he pays off.

Should You Wait on WR?

How well did drafters do at predicting WR finish last year? Not bad.

Nine of the top 12 in the ADP used here finished among the top 12 WRs in PPR points per game. And one who didn’t – Bengals WR Tee Higgins – ranked 13th.

The next set of wideouts fared worse, with just 15 of the top 24 in ADP finishing top-24 in PPR points per game. That’s 62.5% vs. 75% in WR1 range.

The group rebounded at WR3, with 26 of the top 36 in ADP finishing top 36 (72.2%).

Takeaways from 2022 WR Performance

So, what should we do with that info?

It seems like going after a WR1 fairly early is a pretty good idea. And that agrees with what the Draft War Room cheat sheet is telling you – especially in Round 1.

It also lines up with how the Draft War Room tends to recommend picks in rounds 2 and 3.

TIP

Get a preview of those recommendations in the perfect draft guide for YOUR format.

If WRs 13-24 were less reliable and thus less worth chasing last year, then you might derive more 2023 value from using that range to target RBs – or a few top QBs/TEs – who are pushed down the draft by collective WR hunger.

Keep Fishing

Beyond that, you should collect plenty of WR3+ level options.

There will be lots of surprise performers every season. Just last year we saw:

  • Eagles WR DeVonta Smith finish 15th in PPR points from a WR37 ADP
  • 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk finish 25th, from WR38
  • Jaguars WR Christian Kirk go from WR41 to WR20
  • Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett start at WR43 and finish at WR17

Of course, most wideouts in this range and deeper will not offer such large payoffs. But the later you draft that player, the less the downside risk matters.

That’s exactly why we switch your Draft War Room to Upside Mode halfway through your draft – to highlight the importance of the ceiling and downplay the “risk.”

Want to know how "ceiling" factors into our 3D projections?

  

WRs to Target

The top names are pretty obvious. And your War Room will, of course, guide you on who to specifically target when.

But here are some of our favorites for upward mobility:

Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

DS PPR Rank: WR21

Lockett’s similar to Derrick Henry in that any downside risk with his advancing age gets mitigated by drafters pushing his ADP later.

You can commonly get Lockett well into WR3 range this year, despite his five straight years finishing among the top 25 in PPR points per game.

(Yes, we’re aware that Jaxon Smith-Njigba has arrived.)

Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills

DS PPR Rank: WR38

If you liked Davis as a borderline WR2 at draft time last year, don’t let the fact that he underperformed ADP drive you away from him.

We didn’t like the Bills wideout at cost then. But we’d have gladly taken him in this range last year, which is right where Davis finished in that disappointing campaign.

Elijah Moore, Cleveland Browns

DS PPR Rank: WR40

Nico Collins, Houston Texans

DS PPR Rank: WR48

The case for these two has been live in our 2023 fantasy football sleepers article for weeks now.

Skyy Moore, Kansas City Chiefs

DS PPR Rank: WR50

Our baseline projection for Moore doesn’t reflect his upside.

It’s impossible to know just how the Chiefs will distribute targets around a WR corps that is heavily renovated from the start of last year – and that was basically all new at that point.

But Moore has been drawing praise from teammates and coaches throughout his second offseason with the team and is operating as a top-2 WR.

Baltimore Ravens WRs

There’s room to take a shot on your favorite here. We have Zay Flowers highest in our 2023 WR rankings. And he’s generating the most buzz. But the rookie is certainly no lock to outperform Rashod Bateman or Odell Beckham Jr.

All three are going outside the top 40 WRs across formats. So you can even pair up Ravens wideouts and see who performs best.

 

How to Draft WRs

Want to know exactly where these WRs fit in your specific league?

I couldn't possibly answer that question here for every league variation. But your Draft War Room can.

Check out the video below to learn more, and create your own Draft War Room when you're ready to win.

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