Bateman was quietly impressive when not injured last season. Questions remain regarding his health, but there’s upside if his foot issues are behind him. Bateman has thrived with Lamar Jackson and could easily emerge as Baltimore’s WR1 this season in an offense sure to pass more in 2023.
Davis was a fantasy bust last season, but he played through a high-ankle sprain and has a much lower ADP now despite Buffalo bringing in little target competition. In fact, the addition of rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid could prove huge for Davis, who’s excelled in two-WR sets. Davis led all receivers in unrealized air yards last season, and drops aren’t sticky (or meaningful). In an awesome offensive environment that includes the desire for Josh Allen to run less in 2023, Davis remains in a terrific fantasy situation.
Cleveland Browns: Elijah Moore
Moore was a fantasy disaster in New York last season but impressed as a rookie. He still flashed as a route runner last year and had one of the best college seasons ever by a receiver. His ability to break tackles could result in a big role in Cleveland, where he'll benefit from being away from Zach Wilson.
Denver Broncos: Marvin Mims Jr.
Sean Payton traded up to use his first draft pick with the Broncos to take Mims, who lost target competition with Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler getting injured, and Jerry Jeudy is dealing with own ailment, too. Payton is one of the league’s best play-callers, and Russell Wilson looks poised to bounce back. Mims is a rookie who’ll require patience, but he was arguably the most underrated player in the draft and could be a fantasy difference-maker in the second half.
Houston Texans: Tank Dell
Dell jumped out during his preseason debut, commanding targets while pulling down a circus catch. The Texans will see far better quarterback play this season after drafting C.J. Stroud, and the team’s WR1 role remains up for grabs (350+ vacated targets). I’m high on Nico Collins, too, but Dell has become a deeper sleeper.
Ross was historically productive in college and an elite prospect before suffering an injury. He looks healthy this preseason, and Kansas City’s WR depth chart remains wide open. Kadarius Toney is a bad route runner who saw just eight snaps in the Super Bowl (while healthy) and is already injured again. Travis Kelce will turn 34 years old this season.
On the other hand, Ross' QB, Patrick Mahomes, might be the best player in NFL history (and has one of the best offensive coaches on his side as well). Ross has serious fantasy upside should he emerge as KC’s lead receiver; it was a fluke last season when Mahomes threw for 5,250 yards yet no KC WR reached 950 receiving yards. Put differently, Mahomes (the GOAT) finished as fantasy’s QB1, yet no KC WR finished in the top 36!
Shaheed is currently sidelined by a groin injury but is expected to be ready for Week 1. Chris Olave is New Orleans’ clear alpha, but the team has question marks surrounding the rest of the pass catchers (including the RBs). Michael Thomas is 31 and has averaged 13 missed games over the past three seasons. Meanwhile, new QB Derek Carr appears to have prepared for 2023 differently than 2022.
Enter Shaheed, who quietly impressed last year when the rookie’s adjusted YPRR would’ve ranked top five had he qualified. The Saints get to play 12 dome games in 2023, so Shaheed is a fantasy sleeper worth targeting.
It’s slim pickings to find another legit draft value on this Jets roster, but if there’s a slight winner in the receiver room after the unexpected retirement of Corey Davis, it's Allen Lazard. The Lazard King could benefit from the freed-up targets in an offense that led the league in passing yards without Zach Wilson last season.
Garrett Wilson is New York’s clear WR1, the Jets have a thin tight end room and as mentioned, Elijah Moore is also gone. Newcomer Mecole Hardman has never earned a target share greater than 13.1% during any season in his career. Lazard at least has the benefit of rapport with Aaron Rodgers, who clearly still has something left.
Seattle Seahawks: Jaxon Smith-Njigba
When he was last healthy, Smith-Njigba averaged a mere 192 yards and put up a truly historic 2021 college season, when he accumulated 32% of Ohio State’s receiving yardage despite sharing the field with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave (he also produced 347 yards and three scores in a bowl game they missed). JSN’s three-cone time was the same as Christian McCaffrey’s, which should play well in the same role Seattle’s OC Shane Waldron utilized Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles.
JSN worked almost exclusively out of the slot in college, and Tyler Lockett should have no problem playing more outside, where his yards per route run has increased compared to the slot. Smith-Njigba has put up monster stats while sharing the field with two other elite WRs in college — now just imagine if DK Metcalf or Lockett has to miss time. Unfortunately, Smith-Njigba suffered an injury of his own that required wrist surgery. While that will drop his ADP, it looks like he could still be ready by Week 1 or soon after, so it's still Jaxon Smash-Njigba for me.
This is your next superstar at the position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans
Evans had the third-most air yards and the eighth-most expected fantasy points per game among pass catchers last season, ahead of Travis Kelce and CeeDee Lamb. He’s approaching 30 years old, but Evans scored 27 touchdowns over the previous two seasons before suffering in last year’s dysfunctional Bucs offense.
Tampa Bay projects to be one of the worst teams in football, which could lead to a ton of targets and garbage stats for Evans, who’s routinely produced big numbers with questionable quarterbacks throughout his career; he averaged more AY/A with Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick than he did with Brady. No other player has ever had more than seven consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, yet Evans has started his career with nine straight.