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

By C. H. Herms 5:25am EDT 8/9/23

NFC West Wide Receivers: Draft Targets and Fades

Some of the NFL's best WRs call the NFC West home.

The Rams' Cooper Kupp has finished as the WR1 in PPR points per game in each of the last two seasons.

Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk bring lots of excitement, but can we trust both to produce in 2023?

Will the Seahawks support three fantasy-viable WRs?

Is anyone worth drafting on the Cardinals?

We're here to answer all of these questions in our fantasy football breakdown of NFC West Wide Receivers.

See how these NFC West WRs stack up in our award-winning fantasy football rankings

  

Arizona Cardinals Wide Receivers

Top Fantasy Target: Marquise Brown

Other Draftables: Rondale Moore

The Cardinals enter 2023 with a clean slate.

Well… kind of clean, anyway.

Following the offseason firing of Kliff Kingsbury, the franchise overhauled its coaching staff and hired its new HC Jonathan Gannon and OC Drew Petzing.

Gannon is the former DC of the Eagles that just made it to the Super Bowl, and Petzing is a long-time offensive assistant who has never held play-calling duties before at any level.

On top of that, we don't know when QB Kyler Murray will return from the torn ACL he suffered in Week 14 last season.

This is not a team we expect to be particularly good. Keep this information in mind as we discuss these WRs.

Marquise Brown to See Increased Role

Brown put up quality production last season despite injury.

He missed five games in the middle of the season with a foot fracture but still finished with 67 catches, 709 yards, and three TDs in 12 games en route to being WR28 in PPR points per game (13.0).

For as good as he was last year, Brown was even better without WR DeAndre Hopkins in the lineup. He performed exceptionally well when given the opportunity to be the Cardinals’ No. 1 target in 2022.

In eight games without Hopkins, Brown averaged:

  • 9.6 targets (23.8% share)
  • 6.3 catches
  • 69 yards
  • 0.38 TDs

Brown’s averages during that span would’ve ranked as the WR14 in PPR points per game (15.4).

With Hopkins now playing for the Titans, Brown takes over as the full-time WR1 on the Cardinals. We don’t expect the same high production level from him without Murray to begin the season, but it speaks to the scoring upside Brown’s capable of.

Draft Brown as a WR3 with tempered expectations and hope Murray returns sooner than later.

Can Rondale Do Moore?

The 5’7, 180-pound WR Rondale Moore is an exciting sleeper candidate.

He’s missed 12 games over the past two years due to multiple injuries, but he began to put things together in 2022.

Between Week 4-10, Moore averaged 8.0 targets, 5.6 catches, 59.1 yards, and 0.14 TDs per game, ranking as the WR30 in PPR points per game (12.6) with a 22.7% target share.

In the five games he ran the majority of his routes out of the slot, Moore averaged 7.4 catches and 76.4 receiving yards per game. That type of production over a full year would make for a huge value in PPR leagues.

Even with diminished QB play expected for the first few months, Moore is one of our top late-round WR PPR targets in 2023.

Curious where these players rank in PPR?

Check out our fantasy football PPR rankings.

 

Los Angeles Rams Wide Receivers

Top Fantasy Target: Cooper Kupp

Other Draftables: Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, Puka Nacua

2022 is a year to forget for the Rams.

Their offense completely fell apart in their attempt at a Super Bowl title defense, finishing 23rd in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA, 25th in pass DVOA, and 27th in scoring per game (18.1 points).

Some of this struggle can be attributed to QB Matthew Stafford missing eight games with concussion issues and a spinal cord contusion.

The health of the 35-year-old will be a major factor in how successful the Rams can be.

One player who’ll help to right the ship in Los Angeles is a familiar fantasy favorite.

Cooper Kupp is Still That Dude

A November ankle injury cut his 2022 campaign short, but Kupp was every bit the fantasy superstar managers expected him to be despite the declining Rams’ offense.

Kupp finished as the WR1 in PPR points per game (22.4), finishing as a top-15 PPR WR or better in seven of his eight healthy games. Among 50 WRs who logged 80+ targets last year, he ranked eighth in yards per route run (2.40), seventh in PFF receiving grade, and sixth in yards after catch per reception (5.6).

Not a bad follow-up to a 145-1,947-16 season in 2021 that led to Kupp finishing as the WR1 in both PPR and non-PPR scoring.

We’ll see if the hamstring issue he’s currently dealing with will affect his ability to open the season on the active roster. But assuming health, Kupp is a titanic force.

Anyone Else?

The battle for the WR2 role is up for grabs in camp.

Van Jefferson is the presumed favorite, though the job isn’t guaranteed.

He had knee surgery early last August and missed the first six games of 2022. Jefferson didn’t make much of an impact once he worked his way back from injury, finishing well outside the top-50 in PPR points.

Jefferson will need to get back to his 2021 form to make an impact. That year, he finished with 50 catches, 802 yards, and six touchdowns, concluding as the WR36 overall in PPR with 9.9 points per game.

2021 rookie Tutu Atwell is another name to remember, but his 5'9, 165-pound frame would make any major success a historic outlier.

He brings a big-play element with his 4.32 40-yard time though. Atwell is a fun deeper league stash in case he winds up finding fairly consistent snaps.

A Rookie Sleeper?

Rookie Puka Nacua will make his push to challenge Jefferson.

The BYU standout ranked second in PFF receiving grade and second in yards per route run (3.53) among all college WRs who drew 50+ targets in 2022.

He also got touches as a rusher, logging 39 carries over his last two seasons at BYU with 357 yards and 5 rushing TDs in 2022. Nacua brings a dynamic skill set to the table.

He’s already made a big impression this offseason, too.

“[Nacua’s] taken a lot of reps through the 11 OTA practices, through the six practices here… he's comfortable," said Rams OC Mike LaFleur, per Sports Illustrated. "When he breaks the huddle, you can tell the guys that are comfortable.”

Keeping an eye on which of these two wins out over the course of August will help guide us toward determining who to take a chance on late in drafts.

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Track the latest updates on camp battles and fantasy football news here at Draft Sharks.

 

Seattle Seahawks Wide Receivers

Top Fantasy Target: Tyler Lockett

Other Draftables: D.K. Metcalf, Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Who would’ve thought QB Geno Smith would be that good?

Not many people expected the Seahawks to be a productive team in 2022, let alone make it to the playoffs, but credit where it’s due.

They concluded last season eighth in Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA, 13th in passing yards per game (351.5), and ninth in scoring per game (23.9 points).

Seattle is a potent offense with the chance to produce three fantasy-viable WRs in 2023.

Potential Bounce Back for D.K. Metcalf

Metcalf recorded 90 catches, 1,048 yards, and six TDs last year en route to finishing as the WR16 overall in PPR in 2022.

The 6’3 star is a tremendous player, but his WR26 finish in PPR points per game (13.3) was less than ideal. Part of his lack of fantasy consistency comes down to his 6.7% TD rate last year, down from the 13.4% he averaged over the first three seasons of his career.

That said, Metcalf still finished third in red zone targets (27) behind only Travis Kelce and Justin Jefferson, so we can chalk some of this up to bad luck.

Positive regression is likely for Metcalf, so fantasy managers should feel good about him as a WR2 in lineups in 2023.

Battle of Old vs. New

Lockett is a model of fantasy consistency.

He finished 2022 as the WR17 in PPR points per game (14.8), marking his fifth-straight season he’s been a top-25 wideout in per-game scoring. 

He's also logged four consecutive seasons with 70+ catches, 1,000+ receiving yards, and at least eight touchdowns.

In fact, Lockett bested Metcalf in multiple statistical categories last season:

Stat Metcalf Lockett
PFF Receiving Grade
(min. 80 targets)
76.6 (24th) 78.7 (20th)
Yards Per
Route Run
1.81 (t-25th) 1.94 (17th)
Yards Per
Target
7.4 8.8

We expect him to be a solid asset again in 2023 entering his age-31 season. Our aging-curve research shows that WRs of Lockett’s quality produce, on average, 82% of their peak numbers at age-31, so we're still talking about a solid WR2.

But don't forget the rookie lurking behind him...

The Seahawks selected Smith-Njigba with the 20th overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft.

The acronymous JSN was the first WR taken off the board, and brings a spark plug element to this offense.

A lingering hamstring injury limited his impact last season, but JSN's sophomore season in 2021 was eye-popping. The former Buckeye finished that year as the team leader in catches (95) and receiving yards (1,606) with 9 TDs alongside teammates Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.

Yep, you read that right: Smith-Njigba was the leader in a college offense that featured two other first-round NFL draft picks fantasy managers already know and love.

Can They All Be Good?

The simple answer is that it's quite possible.

JSN spent the majority of his time in college in the slot (84.9% rate).

He won't interfere with Metcalf's role as the X receiver, and Lockett possesses a near-50/50 slot vs. outside usage rate.

There's enough of an archetypal difference between them that all three WRs can feasibly coexist.

If anything, Smith-Njigba's added presence means that any TE on the Seahawks will likely take a hit in receiving involvement.

Our projections peg Lockett as the safest option between the two, but fantasy managers should feel comfortable investing in either him or JSN considering the two-round gap between them in ADP.

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Our 3D projections lay out the baseline, floor, and ceiling for every player.

 

San Francisco 49ers Wide Receivers

Top Fantasy Target: Deebo Samuel

Other Draftables: Brandon Aiyuk

The 49ers have perhaps the strongest cast of offensive weapons in the NFL.

It's not just the WRs who are extremely talented pass-catchers either.

Christian McCaffrey leads all RBs in catches (442) and ranks second in targets (547) since turning pro in 2017. In that same span, George Kittle ranks third in both catches (549) and targets (395) among all TEs.

And while this team has great receiving options, HC Kyle Shanahan's offense is very run-heavy.

Outside of his first season on the job in 2017, the 49ers have ranked 22nd or lower in pass rate annually since Shanahan was hired.

It'll be difficult for QB Brock Purdy to support multiple fantasy-viable WRs every week, but not impossible.

Better Days for Deebo Samuel?

Samuel entered last season on the heels of a monster 2021.

The gaudy 21.2 PPR points per game that Samuel averaged that year were fueled by insane efficiency and the eight rushing TDs he received through the hybrid WR/RB role he occupied over the second half.

It was hard to imagine he'd be able to repeat that success, and fantasy managers saw Samuel return to primarily being a WR in 2022.

He finished last season with 56 catches, 632 receiving yards, and five total TDs, averaging 13.0 PPR points per game in 13 healthy contests (four games missed with a hamstring injury, an MCL sprain, and an ankle injury).

2022 also saw Samuel's receiving TD rate drop to 3.6%. For context, league average for WRs is about 7.5%.

Resetting Expectations

The 49ers' addition of McCaffrey means Samuel is unlikely to see heavy hybrid usage again. That fact alone caps his ceiling, but it doesn't mean he can't be useful for fantasy.

In the nine games he played with McCaffrey in 2022, Samuel averaged 4.4 catches, 53.1 receiving yards, 3.4 carries, and 14.0 rushing yards per game. That's 11.11 PPR points per game without even factoring in TDs, and the likely positive regression he'll see in scoring receiving TDs in 2023.

We still believe he can be a solid WR2 in fantasy managers' lineups, but don't draft Samuel expecting a return to 2021-type production.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Aiyuk is coming off a strong 2022.

The 2020 first-round pick set career highs in targets (114), catches (78), receiving yards (1,015), and receiving TDs (eight). He also finished 18th in PFF receiving grade and 23rd in yards per route run (1.82).

These totals are great, but they only amounted to Aiyuk finishing as the WR25 in PPR points per game (13.4).

Aiyuk's lack of weekly upside ties directly into the point we discussed at the beginning of this section when talking about the sheer number of talented pass-catchers the Niners have on their roster.

Let's look at it this way:

  • Aiyuk recorded a 22% target share across all of last season.
  • In 14 games with a healthy Samuel in the lineup, that number dropped to 20.1%.
  • In seven games with Samuel and McCaffrey? 17.9%.

See the problem? It's not for a lack of talent or age on his side (Aiyuk turned 25 in March).

Aiyuk is a perfectly good WR3/flex option in fantasy. He's capable of more, but managers just have to understand consistency will be tough to come by.

   

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

That answer varies depending on several factors.

League size, how many WRs each team starts in a lineup, PPR vs. non-PPR...

That's a lot of stuff to parse through in your head!

Fortunately, you don't have to figure out how to value these players on your own.

Our Draft War Room syncs directly to your league and evaluates every team's picks based on your specific league's settings.

Each player automatically receives a value grade, and these values update throughout your draft to help you make the best pick every time.

Don't believe us? 

Create your Draft War Room now and dominate your league this year.

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