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NFC South Wide Receivers (WRs): A Fantasy Football Breakdown

By C. H. Herms 11:26am EDT 8/7/23

NFC South Wide Receivers: Draft Targets and Fades

The NFC South doesn't sport a lot of stars at WR.

You'll find young up-and-comers in Drake London and Chris Olave, and wily veterans Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in Tampa. But what about the rest?

Is there value on the Panthers' roster?

Are we safe to buy back into Michael Thomas?

Let's answer those questions in this team-by-team breakdown of NFC South wide receivers.

Discover where these NFC South WRs (and everyone else) rank in YOUR fantasy league.

Atlanta Falcons Wide Receivers

Top Fantasy Target: Drake London
Other Draftables: n/a

The Falcons ran a super run-heavy offense last season.

They ranked first in rushing attempts (559) and first in run rate (51%), and produced the second-lowest pass rate over expectation (-13.7%) -- ahead of only the Bears.

Atlanta then drafted RB Bijan Robinson eighth overall, signaling that HC Arthur Smith and company plan to keep pounding the rock.

There’s little reason to believe QB Desmond Ridder and the scheme will support multiple fantasy-viable WRs in 2023, especially with TE Kyle Pitts returning to soak up targets.

London Calling

London, the Falcons’ first-round pick in 2022, is the only WR worth considering here.

The former USC standout had a tremendous rookie campaign. Among 30 WRs with 100+ targets, he finished:

  • ninth in Pro Football Focus receiving grade
  • 11th in yards per route run (2.02)
  • third in target share (29.5%)
  • 10th in weighted opportunity rating (WOPR), at 0.63.

Despite these impressive numbers, London ranked just WR47 in PPR points per game (10.5).

Blame poor QB play and the Falcons’ ground-and-pound approach.

London's 87.1 passer rating when targeted ranked seventh-worst among those 100+ target WRs. QB Marcus Mariota also ranked second-to-last in passing attempts per game (22.8) in his 13 starts.

London’s usage and success spiked over the final four games with Ridder under center. He averaged 9.0 targets, 6.3 receptions, and 83.3 yards per game and ranked 20th among WRs in PPR points per game.

Pitts' absence (knee injury) helped, leaving targets available. Pitts led London in target share before going down and returns as a challenge for 2023.

We're happy to bet on London's talent long term, but immediate upside appears limited.

Are these players valued any differently in PPR scoring?

Find out by looking at our fantasy football PPR rankings.

Carolina Panthers Wide Receivers

Top Fantasy Target: Adam Thielen
Other Draftables: Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall

This team features a lot of new pieces on offense.

HC Frank Reich takes over after five seasons with the Colts. With him comes QB Bryce Young, the first pick in the draft.

The Panthers vacated 49.6% of last year's targets, second highest in the NFL. Most of that comes from WR D.J. Moore (118 targets) being shipped to the Bears.

The leading returning WR is Terrace Marshall Jr. He finished second in targets (47), third in receptions (28), and third in receiving yards (490).

The former LSU wideout had an intriguing four-game stretch (Week 8-11) following the departure of teammate Robbie Chosen in which he averaged 5.8 targets, 64.8 receiving yards per game, and 10.7 PPR points per game, but his impact fell off quickly thereafter.

Free-agent additions WR D.J. Chark (one-year, $5 million contract) and TE Hayden Hurst (three-year, $21.75 million contract) will claim roles.

Chark is a downfield threat who closed out a six-game period with the Lions last year (Week 12-17) as the WR34 in PPR points per game (11.8), including three games with 90+ receiving yards. He could be worth a look, but Chark faces stiff competition for the X receiver role with a rookie we'll discuss later.

Our pick for the lead target in Carolina is a different fantasy managers are familiar with.

Know Him From Adam

WR Adam Thielen signed a three-year, $25 million deal after 10 seasons with the Vikings.

The 33-year-old is coming off his lowest yards per reception (10.2) and yards per route run (1.06), and the second-lowest receiving yards per game (42.1) of his career.

He managed to post a respectable 70 catches and 716 receiving yards, thanks to Minnesota's high passing volume, but tied for just 43rd among WRs in PPR points per game.

Thielen is featured among our top late-round PPR WR targets because the contract makes him look like the best bet to lead Carolina in targets.

A Rookie Sleeper?

Carolina drafted Jonathan Mingo 39th overall in April.

The 6’4 wideout struggled with injuries throughout college but turned in a nice final sason. He tied for 23rd in PFF receiving grade and ranked ninth in yards per reception (16.9) among 119 FBS WRs who received 75+ targets.

Mingo's 14.4-yard aDOT points to his downfield ability.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Cole Thompson, Mingo has already impressed GM Scott Fitterer.

“He’s been awesome,” Fitterer said. “We saw really good hands. You saw a lot of power. You do see the speed … I think he’s going to play a pretty good role for us this year.”

It’s still early, but Mingo is a player to watch through camp and the preseason.

TIP

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New Orleans Saints Wide Receivers

Top Fantasy Target: Chris Olave
Other Draftables: Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed

The Saints made a significant change at QB this offseason, inking veteran Derek Carr to a four-year, $150 million contract ($100 million guaranteed).

He’ll look to improve a Saints passing offense that ranked 17th in explosive pass rate, 22nd in Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA, and 28th in drive success rate in 2022.

Fortunately, Carr has a pair of talented WRs to help him achieve this goal.

Second-Year Star

WR Chris Olave stood out as a 2022 rookie.

He led the Saints in target share (26.7%) and air yards share (41.5%). His 0.63 WOPR ranked ninth among 80 WRs who saw at least 50 targets last season.

Olave’s 2.42 yards per route ranked seventh among that group and sits fifth among all 50+ target rookie WRs over the past decade.

Olave only finished as the WR27 in PPR points per game (13.2), due mainly to subpar QB play from Andy Dalton.

Among the 30 WRs who saw 100+ targets last year, Olave's 86.3 passer rating when targeted ranked fifth-worst.

We could see a nice sophomore breakout if Carr can help deliver better passes.

Is This Michael Thomas Comeback for Real?

And then there’s Thomas.

The former All-Pro led the NFL in receptions from 2018-19.

Thomas has only appeared in 10 games over the three seasons since, primarily due to various ankle and hamstring injuries.

When he was on the field, Thomas saw declines in receptions and yards per game.

It's tough to know how high the healthy ceiling reaches at this point. Thomas' low-WR4 ADP makes him a fairly low-risk bet for 2023. But it's also OK if you're just out on him.

Deep Ball Darling

If you are interested in a second Saints WR, consider Rashid Shaheed as a late-round dart throw.

The 2022 UDFA rookie from Weber State holds the FCS all-time kickoff return TD record (seven) and worked his way from being a special teams contributor to having a regular offensive role at the end of last season.

From Week 12-17, Shaheed ranked as the WR33 in PPR points per game (12.0) and logged three game with 75+ receiving yards. He also produced a 99.9 PFF grade (t-first among WRs with five or more targets) in 20+ yard catches. He could be a fun deep ball player to plug into your lineup in good matchups.

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3D projections show the baseline, floor, and ceiling for every player.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Wide Receivers

Top Fantasy Target: Chris Godwin
Other Draftables: Mike Evans

Bye-Bye, Brady

Well, no more Tom Brady.

That’s it, folks. Nothing to see here; on to the next article…

Just kidding. But this Buccaneers’ offense is set to see perhaps the most significant shift of any team in going from an all-time great to Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask.

We expect them to run the ball considerably more after leading the league in pass attempts the last two seasons. That would, of course, hurt the WRs in fantasy.

Whoever plays QB will have a pair of excellent WRs, at least.

Chris Godwin Will Be Healthier

Godwin provides stability.

A hamstring injury cost him a couple of early games last season, but he was otherwise healthy in his first year back from the torn ACL he suffered at the end of 2021.

Godwin tallied 104 catches, 1,023 receiving yards, and 3 TDs en route to a WR16 finish in PPR points per game (14.9).

He also recorded career lows in yards per catch (9.8), yards per target (7.2), and yards per route (1.73). And Godwin's aDOT came down from 7.6 in 2021 to 6.0.

It's fair to expect those numbers to rebound as he moves further away from the ACL repair. But the QB change will challenge his 2023 efficiency.

Risky Bet

Mike Evans figures to have an even more challenging time.

He posted his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season and tied or 14th among WRs in PPR points per game (15.0) with Jaylen Waddle in 2022.

But Evans averaged just 4.8 catches and 65.5 yards per game outside of a monster Week 17 (10-207-3).

He's a deep ball threat (15.0-yard career aDOT) who thrives on spike weeks and huge plays.

Can Mayfield or Trask deliver the ball at the same level as Brady? We think not.

When Should You Draft NFC South Wide Receivers (and everyone else)?

That answer depends on a large number of factors.

What scoring system does your league use? Do you start two or three WRs? Is this a 10-person league or more?

It's tough to weigh all of these different factors, but you don't have to do it alone...

Our Draft War Room syncs directly to your league to import your specific settings and read every team's picks as you go.

You'll receive a specific value for every draftable player at any point throughout your draft to help you make the optimal pick every time.

Ready to get started? Create your Draft War Room now.

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