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Early Wide Receiver Breakouts For 2023 Fantasy Football

Jerry Jeudy - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, Draft Sleepers

The workhorse running back, the bell-cow running back, whatever terminology you want to use to describe the likes of Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliott, they’re dying. The workhorse running back is endangered and bordering on extinction. In 2000, there were 19 running backs who totaled 300 touches. In 2010, that number dropped to 12. Last season, it was at eight. Even those who are clearing this arbitrary number are seeing fewer touches. The eight running backs to clear 300 touches in 2022 averaged 339 touches. In 2010, the 19 with 300+ touches averaged 351. You may be wondering how any of this matters for an article on breakout receivers, right?

Well, as the league shifts more and more to a running back-by-committee approach, the value of wide receivers in fantasy football is only going to continue to climb. After those 7-10 elite running backs, the drop-off is significant. Just last year, the RB10 averaged 15.4 PPG, while the WR10 was at 16.7 in full-PPR scoring. The wide receiver position in fantasy football has never been more valuable and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

All of this is to say, it is incredibly important and immensely valuable if fantasy managers are able to identify receiver breakouts. Think of DeVonta Smith and Christian Kirk this past season. Or Jaylen Waddle the year before. These players were solidly undervalued and ended up being significant fantasy producers and some of the best value picks of the season. Let’s look at a few receivers who might just have that kind of effect in 2023.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers

Underdog ADP of WR21

Christian Watson entered his rookie season with a lot of promise, largely based on his insane athletic profile, but his college production left something to be desired. There was certainly plenty of context that could be applied, but at the end of the day, we were still talking about a fifth-year player out of North Dakota State.

He played over 68% of the snaps in Week 1, but then due to injuries and some early season struggles, didn’t play more than 31% of the team’s snaps until Week 10. I’m no fortune teller, but I think there’s a good chance that in five years when we look back on his rookie season and when we get to Week 10, we’ll say, “and the rest is history…” because he closed the 2022 NFL season like an absolute freight train.

From Weeks 10-18, Watson averaged 17.2 full-PPR PPG, which was good for eighth among all receivers. It was more than Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase, A.J. Brown, and Stefon Diggs. You know, just to name a few. You might ask, did he break out already? Well, maybe. He certainly started to, but the real show is coming in 2023. There were some people who wrote off Amon-Ra St. Brown’s epic stretch because of this and that. Some will likely try to do the same with Watson or worry about the quarterback situation in Green Bay, but sometimes we just need to keep it simple. Watson showed he is a very good receiver.

From Weeks 10-18, the rookie averaged a 22.5% target share. During this time, he averaged 6.5 targets, 3.9 receptions, and 65.4 yards per game. Over a 17-game season, these averages would translate to 111 targets, 66 receptions, and 1,112 yards. Some may knock his somewhat lower target share, but it may help to know that his target per run rate was at 28%. This was tied with Justin Jefferson, DeVonta Smith, and Chris Olave during that stretch.

And while we all know he had an insane touchdown rate, scoring seven touchdowns in the last eight games of the season, and while it would be unwise to expect him to keep scoring a touchdown every 7-8 targets, it wasn’t all noise. He was tied for seventh in terms of end zone targets per game over that stretch, averaging 0.9 per game.

Even more exciting than all of that is that he averaged 103 air yards per game, which ranked ninth in the NFL among receivers. However, if we really want to get spicy, how about this? From Weeks 10-18, among receivers who averaged at least three targets per game, he had the highest yards per route run. The highest.

Despite having a snap share of just 57%, which ranked 87th among receivers, Watson still managed to rack up 569 unrealized air yards, which ranked 26th. If Aaron Rodgers is back in Green Bay, Watson is going to smash. If Jordan Love is under center, Watson is going to smash. If you don't want to take it from me, take it from Jakob Sanderson, who is one of the best fantasy football minds I've come across. This thread on Christian Watson below will surely open your eyes to his immense potential.

 

Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos

Underdog ADP of WR23

I’m sure at this point, everyone is sick of the whole “this is the year Jerry Jeudy is going to breakout” conversation, but truthfully, the breakout kind of already happened last season. We just might not fully recognize it as a breakout because he missed a few games and because the quarterback situation was atrocious.

Technically, Jeudy played in 15 games last year. However, he played 17% of the snaps in Week 2, 60% in Week 3, 1% in Week 10, and 36% in Week 11. In every other game he appeared in, he played between 77 and 100 percent of the snaps. Of the other 11 games, he played 85% of the snaps or more in nine of those contests. Why don’t we take a gander at how Jeudy performed in those 11 games, shall we?

He averaged 7.8 targets (the 19th-most among WRs), 5.5 catches (the 15th-most), and 79.9 yards (the 10th-most) per game. That’s over 11 games, so not some small sample size, and that was with one of the league’s worst quarterbacks on one of the league’s worst offenses. And yet, those per-game averages equate to 133 targets, 94 catches, and 1,358 yards. Not that touchdowns tend to be predictive, but he had six touchdowns in 11 games, which equates to nine over 17 games. Pretty, pretty good.

Now I think you know what I mean when I say, he kind of already broke out in 2022, but it’s just being hidden behind the awfulness that was the Denver offense and some unfortunate playing time stats. During those 11 contests, Jeudy had a 23.8% target share (20th among receivers) and averaged 84 air yards per game, the 22nd-most. He also averaged 2.25 yards per route run, which was the exact same average as CeeDee Lamb over that same time frame.

Want to know Lamb’s seasonal output? 107 catches, 1,359 yards, and nine touchdowns. Isn't that something?! Because using Jeudy’s 11 games where he played at least 61% of the snaps, he would’ve finished with 94 catches, 1,358 yards, and nine touchdowns. Kind of crazy, am I right?

He finished the 2022 season as the WR20 in full-PPR PPG, but check this out. In Week 2, he played just 17% of the snaps and finished with one catch for 11 yards. In Week 10, he played 1% of the snaps and finished with zero receptions. Let’s eliminate these games and see what happens.

He finished with 204.2 points, so eliminating the 2.2 points he earned in those two contests, he would have 202 points, but now we’re at only 13 games played. His PPG shoots up to 15.5, which would’ve been higher than Jaylen Waddle, who was the WR12 in full PPG. 15.5 PPG would’ve been higher than DeVonta Smith, Tee Higgins, Tyler Lockett, Chris Godwin, and DK Metcalf, just to name a few.

So yes, the breakout happened, but ideally for us, it hasn’t been fully recognized yet. Take advantage. Jerry Jeudy is of great value right now, especially if you believe new head coach Sean Payton will make Russell Wilson and the entire offense better, which I happen to believe. It can’t get any worse, right?

Oh, and there are reports that Courtland Sutton is being shopped.

 

Drake London, Atlanta Falcons

Underdog ADP of WR25

Drake London is one of the easiest breakout candidates you’ll ever find. He might as well have balloons tied to him with one of those giant neon signs reading “giant season loading” and Michael Buffer walking behind him saying his trademark “are you ready to ruuuuumble?!” Anyways, before we get to London, let’s start with the Falcons’ 2022 offense and their primary quarterback from last season, Marcus Mariota.

The Falcons averaged 24.4 pass attempts per game. This ranked 31st in the NFL. 13 teams had more than 10+ pass attempts per game. Heck, one of them had 20+ per game. Okay, so he already had to deal with a significant volume disadvantage. There was a very good reason for that… their quarterback was terrible.

Let’s look at some stats courtesy of PlayerProfiler to identify just how bad Mariota was. Don’t mind me here, I’m just going to regurgitate some stats here for a second. It’ll just take a second, I promise you. Alright, here we go.

His deep ball completion percentage (throws of more than 20 yards) was 23.5%, which ranked 33rd among qualifying quarterbacks. I don’t think I need to remind you that there are only 32 NFL teams. His true completion percentage, which eliminates throwaways and dropped passes, was 65.0%, which was 31st. His true passer rating was 74.2, the 27th “best.”

His deep ball catchable pass rate was 47.1% (30th), his catchable pass rate was 75.0% (27th), and even his clean pocket completion percentage was poor at just 67.7%, which ranked 25th. London was being tasked with having to catch passes from one of the most inefficient quarterbacks in the NFL last season. Now that we’ve made it through the mud and the muck, let’s get to London.

Remember, he’s not going to have the counting stats as a rookie because Atlanta refused to throw the ball, but we can look at other metrics to verify his breakout status like his target share, for instance. He had a 29.5% target share as a rookie. This was the fifth-highest among receivers in 2022. He had a larger target share than Ja’Marr Chase, A.J. Brown, and Justin Jefferson, which isn’t to say he’s going to be as good as those guys. It’s just to say that he was really, really good.

With London, we’re forced to use a lot of efficiency statistics because Atlanta’s 2022 offense put him at a significant disadvantage compared to his peers as he was playing in a 1970s-designed offense. One of the best and most predictive efficiency statistics for receivers is yards per run route run. That’s because it combines not only how effective a receiver was with their targets but also factors in their ability to earn targets.

London had a 2.17-yard-per-run route run average, which was tied for 16th among receivers with at least 50 targets. Who was he tied with? Oh, just Terry McLaurin. Who was he better than? Well, how about Mike Williams, Tee Higgins, DJ Moore, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Chris Godwin.

That wasn’t the only efficiency statistic where London shined, however. He also finished 16th in yards per team pass attempt with 2.09 and finished tied for fourth with a target per route run rate of 30%. Just about anywhere you look, you can see the potential in London’s game bursting through the seams.

He finished with 640 unrealized air yards, a nice parting gift from Mariota. This was the 20th-most in the NFL, which is quite impressive considering just how little Atlanta threw the football. Assuming the quarterback play will be better in 2023 – a pretty low bar to cross – London has the potential to be a league winner in the middle rounds.

Let’s hope for all of our sakes that head coach Arthur Smith takes a drive in the DeLorean and comes back to coaching an NFL offense designed for 2023. If we get that and better quarterback play, a top-12 season is certainly within grasp.

 

Marquise Brown, Arizona Cardinals

Underdog ADP of WR33

Marquise Brown has given us glimpses of a breakout in both 2021 and 2022, but it’s never occurred over a full season, and we’ve always been left wanting just a wee bit more. Let me refresh your memory.

I’m going to take you back to the 2021 season when Hollywood was still in Baltimore. Through the first 13 weeks of the season, Brown was scorching hot and finally delivering – and then some – on the promise of a former first-round pick. He was averaging nine targets per game (tied for ninth among receivers), 5.8 receptions (the 13th-most), and 74.6 yards (the 13th-most) per game. Across 17 games, we would’ve been looking at 153 targets, 99 receptions, and 1,268 yards. That surely would’ve constituted as a breakout.

Unfortunately, Lamar Jackson was injured in Week 14 and missed the majority of that contest and the following three games. However, over those first 13 weeks, he had the 10th-best target share among receivers at 23.1%, the most air yards per game at 111, and was tied for the 20th-best yards per route run average at 1.98. Although the full breakout may not have happened, the potential was sky-high going into the 2022 season, especially after his trade to Arizona, an offense with more passing volume.

Once again, Brown delivered, and once again, we were deprived of a complete breakout season. Through the first six weeks prior to his significant ankle injury, the former Raven was averaging 10.7 targets (tied for the fourth-most), 7.2 receptions (the sixth-most), and 80.8 yards (the eighth-most) per game. We were looking at a 17-game pace of 182 targets, 122 receptions, and 1,374 yards. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

During the first third of the 2022 season, the fourth-year veteran had a 26% target share (the 18th-highest), averaged 111.5 air yards per game (the third-most), and a 2.00 yards per route run average (the 26th-best). Late in the sixth game of the season, Brown hurt his ankle and the dream would once again be put on hold.

He came back later in the season, but with the Cardinals down Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy, it’s useless to try to interpret what occurred in those last few weeks of the season. Hollywood wasn’t 100% and they were playing with their third-string quarterback.

We’re finally back to the present day, but as you can see, Brown has been on the verge of a breakout for the past two years. Will it finally happen this year? There’s really no reason to say that it won’t and right now, the price of admission is pretty friendly. There may be some concerns about Kyler Murray not being ready for Week 1 and that’s likely going to keep his price tag manageable.

The Cardinals are very likely to trade DeAndre Hopkins this offseason, which will once again make Brown the clear No. 1 option for Arizona’s passing attack. He should be funneled targets, regardless of who is under center. Fantasy managers shouldn’t be surprised if Brown has the best season of his career in 2023 and solidly outplays his current ADP.

 

Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans

Underdog ADP of WR37

Treylon Burks had a somewhat up-and-down rookie season and everyone who drafts him this season is going to benefit from it because right now, he’s a screaming good value. Being able to draft a true, breakout candidate and a former first-round pick from last year’s draft this late is fairly uncommon, but there’s a reason for it.

While everyone else on this list so far has statistical argument after statistical argument to showcase why they’re a breakout candidate, Burks requires a bit more of a leap of faith. That’s not to say that his rookie season was bad, just that there are some question marks. Let’s dive in.

For starters, the Titans appear to be entering a rebuild of sorts. They’ve already cut Taylor Lewan, Robert Woods, and Bud Dupree. The team struggled down the stretch both offensively and defensively. While they were one of the very best run defenses in the league, they allowed the most passing yards and the fifth-most passing touchdowns on defense last year. That’s bad for the Titans’ 2023 prospects, but it isn’t such a bad thing for Burks. The team taking a step back competitively would mean they’re not able to lean on Derrick Henry to the extent that they have in previous seasons. This could, in theory, create more passing scenarios for Ryan Tannehill and Burks. That’s positive number one.

Positive number two is that with Woods no longer on the roster, Burks is, by default, the alpha receiver for the Tennessee Titans and it isn’t close. The guys behind him include Kyle Philips, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, and Racey McMath. We are talking about a roster completely devoid of any pass-catching talent outside of Burks and that will likely lead to a very prominent and featured role in what they do offensively.

Positive number three is simple, there’s no reason to believe that Burks isn’t a really good football player. Sometimes you just need to bet on talent. Yes, he had a bit of an up-and-down rookie season, but he got hurt. It happens. It’s part of football, but he was a first-round draft pick for a reason.

He had a 45.9% college dominator rating, which ranked in the 93rd percentile, and a 31.3% college target, also in the 93rd percentile. As a true freshman, he had 58 targets, 29 receptions, and 475 yards in the SEC. Despite his true freshmen status, he averaged 1.83 yards per route run.

Burks only got better in his second year in college, racking up 65 targets, 50 receptions, 811 yards, and seven touchdowns. According to PFF, his 88.9 receiving grade ranked the eighth-best among receivers. He averaged 7.6 yards per reception, and this was tied for the 16th-most in the country. He also shined with a 3.07 yards per route run average, the 19th-best.

By his junior year, he was ready to explode, and to his credit, he did just that. He finished with 88 targets, 65 receptions, 1,100 yards, and 11 touchdowns. His PFF receiving grade was 91.0, the fourth-best in the nation. He once again displayed his prowess after the catch, averaging 9.3 yards after the contact per reception, which was the fifth-highest, and had a 3.57 yards per route run average, which was third. Burks entered the 2021 NFL draft as an early declaration and left with first-round draft capital. These are the guys you ought to be betting on.

For all of his ups and down as a rookie with lack of playing time and the injury, Burks still managed to put up a 1.95 yards per route run average. This ranked 33rd among receivers. He was sandwiched between Tyler Lockett and Mike Evans.

He only played in 11 games as a rookie and didn’t play more than 80% of the snaps in a single game. On the flip side, he played fewer than 50% of the snaps on three occasions, including one game where he only played 17%. His route participation was at a lowly 70.7%, which ranked 72nd among receivers, according to PlayerProfiler.

Despite all of that, he still finished with 54 targets, 33 receptions, and 444 yards. That may not sound like much, but he missed six games total and averaged just 59% of the snaps in the 11 games he was active in. Still, if we extrapolate his per-game averages across a 17-game season, we end up with 83 targets, 51 receptions, and 686 yards, and remember that’s with just a 59% snap share and a 70.7% route participation rate. Context matters.

Considering the depth chart of the Titans at the receiver position, we should expect both numbers to skyrocket in 2023. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Burks with a 90% or higher snap share and route participation rate. What would that mean for him?

Well, Robert Woods’ route participation rate was at 90.8% last year and he ran 414 total routes. Burks ran 227. That’s a difference of 187 routes. The Arkansas rookie had a 23.8% target rate last year, which ranked 31st among receivers. If he were to average that target rate on an extra 187 targets, he’d add 45 targets to his name.

With the team likely to take a step back in 2023 and with Burks stepping into a prominent role on an offense desperate for pass-catchers, fantasy managers shouldn’t be surprised if Burks has a huge second season and climbs the ranks and finishes in that WR2 range.

 

Jordan Addison, Rookie

Underdog ADP of WR40

You might be wondering if is it really fair to have a rookie as a breakout candidate. Breakout candidate from what? Well, typically what I’m looking for when I’m searching for a breakout candidate are two things. The first is the player needs to be a good candidate to have the best statistical season of his career and two, they need to be able to solidly outplay their ADP. The first one cannot apply to rookies, so we’re just looking at the second criterion, which is solidly outplaying their ADP, and in that sense, Jordan Addison definitely applies.

As a true freshman at Pittsburgh, Addison finished with 87 targets, 60 receptions, 662 yards, and four touchdowns. His PFF receiving grade was 70.5. This kind of freshmen season resulted in a breakout age that fits in the 95th percentile. According to PFF, he ran 82.6% of his routes from the slot that year and he finished with a 2.00 yards per route run average. By all accounts, a tremendous first season.

As a sophomore, Addison dominated. Simple as that. He finished with 144 targets, 100 receptions, 1,593 yards, and 17 touchdowns. His PFF receiving grade jumped to 88.6. He ranked third in targets, sixth in receptions, fourth in receiving yards, first in touchdowns, and 12th in receiving grade. That’s just about as dominant as someone can be.

He sported an extremely healthy 2.94 yards per route run average and maybe more importantly to his NFL value, his slot rate dropped from 82.6% to 68.0%. He was still primarily used from the slot, but he started to play outside a bit more.

Following his sophomore season, Addison transferred to USC. He would play in 11 games after injuring his ankle in Week 7 against Utah. He ended up missing three games and returned against Colorado and finished with just two targets, one reception, and two yards. A clear indication he wasn’t 100% healthy. In fact, in the final four games of the season, he registered three or fewer targets in two games, something he hadn’t done in any of the first seven games of the season.

Despite missing three games and not appearing to be fully healthy down the stretch, Addison still finished with 79 targets, 59 receptions, 875 yards, and eight touchdowns. Not quite the same level of dominance he showed in 2021, but he did transfer to a new program, play only 11 games, and deal with a frustrating ankle injury. Again, context matters.

However, here’s what is very appealing. In his lone season at USC, Addison ran just 23.0% of his routes from the slot position. Now you might be inclined to say, “well, look… he couldn’t handle life on the outside.” His 2.78 yards per route run, which is very similar to his 2.94 yards per route run the previous year at Pittsburgh where he played primarily in the slot, says otherwise.

Here’s a guy who broke out as a true freshman, dominated as a sophomore, transferred to a new program, played a new position of receiver, and still dominated. The current ADP of WR40 leaves plenty of room for Addison to fly past that by the season’s end.

 

Quentin Johnston, Rookie

Underdog ADP of WR41

From one rookie to another, Quentin Johnston is another rookie whose ADP currently presents a lot of upside to early drafters. There are so many numbers that immediately jump off the page when you’re talking about Johnston. According to PlayerProfiler, his 18.5 yards per reception from 2022 is in the 89th percentile, his 25.3% target share is in the 75th percentile, and his breakout age of 19.0 is in the 90th percentile. You combine all of that with his early declaration status and very likely first-round draft capital, and you have yourself an easy, easy fantasy football target in 2023 at the current cost.

Unlike Addison, Johnston presents as a true “X” receiver in the NFL. He has good size, and according to PFF, ran just 10.9% of his routes in his college career from the slot. This guy is going to be able to win outside. In his three seasons at TCU, he has PFF receiving grades of 72.9 (2020), 76.4 (2021), and 77.0 this past season.

As a true freshman, he had 41 targets, 22 receptions, 487 yards, and two touchdowns. He immediately displayed his downfield skill set, averaging a robust 22.1 yards per reception. One part of his game that should have fantasy managers and NFL GMs excited is what he brings after the catch. As a freshman, he averaged 8.9 yards after the catch per reception. This is a guy who constantly makes people miss in the open field and is always getting extra yardage. He finished with an excellent 2.28 yards per route run in 2020.

His second season concluded with modest gains across the board, but maybe not quite the step forward that was expected after such a solid freshmen year. He finished with 61 targets, 33 receptions, 604 yards, and six touchdowns. Once again, Johnston excelled down the field, averaging 18.3 yards per reception and averaging 6.8 yards after the catch per reception. His yards per route run increased to 2.60, setting the stage for his best collegiate season yet.

This past year, Johnston finished with his highest marks across the board. He earned 97 targets, catching 60 of them for 1,067 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 8.9 yards after the catch per reception and had a 3.05 yards per route run average. Among receivers with at least 50 targets this past season, Johnston ranked sixth in his yards after the catch and ninth in yards per route run. He also accounted for 27.2% of TCU’s passing yards.

He’s going to be entering the NFL Draft as a downfield maven who has exceptional skills after the catch. His ability to make splash plays is going to be something fantasy managers are going to want in their lineups, especially for the second half of their season.

 

Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens

Underdog ADP of WR42

Let’s first preface this section by saying I fully expect Lamar Jackson to be the quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens in 2023. By all accounts, so do most reports that I’ve read. The Ravens are wanting other teams to do the work for them and then they’ll match it. While the situation is not ideal, it’s also not one to overly fret over.

Now, to Rashod Bateman. Injuries have pretty much snuffed out his first two years in the league and at this point, he’s starting to be labeled as injury-prone, a bust, or forgotten. That’s going to happen in this “what have you done for me lately” kind of league, but there’s no such thing as injury-prone, he’s not a bust, and you should definitely not forget about him.

The former Gopher appeared in just 12 games as a rookie in 2021. It’s also important to remember the Ravens still employed Marquise Brown at this time, so Bateman was third on the target hierarchy behind Brown and Mark Andrews.

He played over 50% of the snaps in 10 of those contests. We’ll be focusing on how he performed in these 10 games. He averaged 6.3 targets, 4.2 receptions, and 48.4 yards per game. Over 17 games, those per-game averages amount to 107 targets, 71 receptions, and 823 yards. He earned six targets or more in seven out of those 10 contests. Pretty, pretty good for a rookie considering the target competition he was up against.

He finished with a 15.4% target share, a 17% target per route run, 1.31 yards per route run, and 9.6 full-PPR PPG. All things considered, a pretty impressive rookie season. Remember, Bateman underwent groin surgery during training camp, so he missed most of the offseason workouts and the first five games of the season, which certainly isn’t ideal for any rookie.

Following the draft day trade of Marquise Brown, the expectations for Bateman going into 2022 were through the roof, and with good reason. He was walking into the No. 1 receiver role. Unfortunately, injuries would once again get in the way of what looked to be an extremely productive season. He played between 61% and 68% of the snaps the first three weeks of the season before injuring his foot in Week 4.

He would miss Weeks 5 and 6 before returning in Week 7 and playing just 54% of the snaps. He tried gutting it out in Week 8, but played under 15% of the team’s snaps and was effectively shut down after that contest. To get a better idea, albeit with a very small sample, we’ll be looking at Bateman’s statistics from the only four games he played more than 50% of the snaps.

During those four games, Bateman averaged 5.2 targets (88 targets over 17 games), three receptions (51), and 67 yards per game (1,139). While his targets per game dropped compared to his rookie season, his target share actually increased up to 20.8%. He averaged a very good 78.5 air yards per game and had an extremely impressive 3.08 yards per route run average. He also had a 24.0% target per route run rate.

While we all would have liked to have seen a bigger target share, it’s important to note that during these four games, Bateman ran a route on just 73.1% of the team’s drop-backs and played just 62.1% of the snaps. With the team’s current depth chart at receiver, there’s little reason to think that Bateman shouldn’t clear 90% for both statistics, which would significantly increase his opportunity. Despite not being a full-time player, he still managed to average 12.4 full-PPR PPG in our four-game sample.

Bateman was an excellent prospect coming out of Minnesota, which resulted in him being selected in the first round. Following his rookie season, the team must have been so confident and comfortable moving forward with him as their No. 1 receiver that they traded Hollywood Brown. He has been a productive player when he’s been healthy and that’s despite never being in a full-time role.

With the arrival of offensive coordinator Todd Monken, fantasy managers have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about a more pass-centric offensive attack in Baltimore. Bateman will be featured and as long as he stays healthy, there’s no reason he cannot easily cruise past his current ADP and have the best statistical season of his career by far.

 

Kadarius Toney, Kansas City Chiefs

Underdog ADP of WR45

Are you sick of this guy yet? He’s definitely in the running for one of the most hyped third-year players who has done so little in his first two years. And look, I’m about to add to it. I get it, I do, but come on… how can you not?

For starters, he’s going to be catching passes from Patrick Mahomes. He’ll have an entire offseason with Andy Reid and Mahomes to get more familiar with the offense. These are all good things and reasons to be optimistic. They certainly cannot hurt.

The question becomes, is Toney good or is he a mirage? He has some really fun efficiency metrics, but because of injuries and other factors, we’re dealing with a very small sample size, which always presents a risk. So which one is he? Is he the guy who just needs more snaps and an opportunity to fully breakout or is he just fooling us all? The truth is, no one really knows, but also, does it matter? Because right now, with an ADP of WR45, the price of admission is pretty much free. The risk is extremely minimal, so I can say, what the heck? I’m in for one more ride!

In 2022, despite playing for two different teams, the former Giant finished with a 2.76 yards per route run average. That is really good, but is it noise, or is it telling us something real? Because Justin Jefferson had a 2.70 yards per route run average and Jalen Reagor had a 2.81-yards per route run average. Do you see the dilemma?

Toney also had a 27% target per route run average. That’s also really good! Justin Jefferson, for crying out loud, was at 28%, but oh yes, Jalen Reagor – remember that guy? – he was at 35%. Noise or substance? Who can say?! Now, if you’re one of those “I’m so sick of Kadarius Toney” guys and thinking, “well, why the heck isn’t Jalen Reagor on this list?” Well, that’s simple. Does Reagor have a chance of being the WR1 for the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes? I didn’t think so.

We all know Travis Kelce is going to lead the way in 2023, although it’s probably worth noting that he’ll be 34 next year. Not exactly a spring chicken, you know? The end is near. JuJu Smith-Schuster had 933 yards. He had 78 receptions in just 16 games, a pretty good example of what even an average receiver can do when presented with an opportunity in this offense. But anyways, he’s a Patriot now.

The next guy is Marquez Valdes-Scantling with 687. He’s their deep ball threat and his role isn’t going to change. That’s just who he is. The next receiver is Justin Watson with 315 and then Mecole Hardman – a free agent – at 297. Rookie Skyy Moore is next with 250 and then we have Toney at 171. Toney was way more effective than Watson and Moore last season, too. So there’s definitely an opportunity here. Quite a bit of it actually.

Will it happen? I don’t know. What I do know is this… Toney has shown some really big flashes. Way more flashes than MVS ever has in his five-year career. More flashes than Watson or Moore have. Who can forget his two-game stretch as a rookie where he racked up 22 targets, 16 receptions, and 267 yards in back-to-back weeks?

He’s going to get a whole offseason to work with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. He’s going to be more comfortable in their offense, he’s (hopefully) going to be healthy, and he’s going to have a great opportunity of being the Chiefs’ No. 1 receiver. I’m in.

 

Jakobi Meyers, Las Vegas Raiders

Underdog ADP of WR47

It was a lock that wherever Jakobi Meyers signed, it would be better than where he was. Then he went to Las Vegas and with Davante Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow already in town, some very large questions loomed. Luckily for Meyers, Waller was traded to the Giants, clearing the way for Meyers' potential breakout season. The Patriots ranked 17th in points scored, 26th in overall yards, 21st in pass attempts, 20th in passing yards, and 19th in passing touchdowns. The Raiders' offense offers way more potential than that.

With Matt Patricia and Joe Judge no longer running the offense and with the newly hired Bill O’Brien, the New England offense will be much better than it was in 2022. Fantasy managers can pretty much bank on Meyers being in a more fantasy-friendly environment in 2023. That’s excellent news. What’s more… Meyers is a pretty good wide receiver.

He averaged seven targets (32nd among receivers), 4.8 receptions (27th), and 57.4 yards (31st) per game. He missed three games, but over a full 17-game season, those per-game averages would have amounted to 119 targets, 82 receptions, and 976 yards. And remember, that was on one of the more inefficient offenses and passing games in the NFL.

He finished the 2022 season with a 22.5% target share, which ranked 27th among receivers. He was very efficient with his routes, finishing with 2.07 yards per route run, which ranked tied for 22nd with Ja’Marr Chase. He was also tied for 19th with a 25% target per route run rate and averaged 1.78 yards per team pass attempt, which ranked 25th. Meyers averaged 13.1 full-PPR PPG, which was tied for 28th with Deebo Samuel.

2022 was his fourth season in the NFL, but it wasn’t his first productive season. In 2021, Meyers finished with 126 targets, 83 receptions, and 867 yards. He had a 24.4% target share, which was the 20th-best among receivers. He has had three straight seasons with a target share north of 22%, more than four receptions per game, and more than 51 yards per game.

Two of his last three seasons have resulted in a yards per route run average of over 2.00 (2.07 in 2022 and 2.18 in 2020). In 2021, he averaged 1.78 yards per route run, still a solid mark. In 2020, he averaged 1.66 yards per team pass attempt (the 22nd-best among receivers), and in 2021, he averaged 1.62 yards per team pass attempt (27th).

He’s accomplished all of that despite the Patriots being an absolutely dreadful passing team the last three years. We’ve already touched on their struggles this previous season, but the numbers weren’t all that much better in 2020 and 2021. In the two years when Cam Newton was behind center, the Patriots were 31st in pass attempts, 30th in yards, and 31st in passing touchdowns. In 2021, with rookie Mac Jones, they ranked 25th, 14th, and 15th in those three respective categories.

Target share tends to be a very predicative stat, as does yards per route run, and Meyers has performed really well in both categories. Now in Las Vegas, Meyers should settle in as the No. 2 target for the Raiders. Head coach Josh McDaniels targeted him from their days together in New England, which should make fantasy managers feel comfortable that McDaniels has a clear and identified role for him. This was made even more true after Waller was traded. Jimmy Garoppolo excels in the short and intermediate range, which is where Meyers makes his living.

He’s been 28th and 35th in full-PPR PPG and he’s currently being drafted as the WR47. He continues to be one of the best mid-round values out there and if he lands in the right spot, Meyers could be one of those league-winners. Think Christian Kirk from last season.

 

Honorable Mentions

Jalin Hyatt, Rookie – Underdog ADP of WR50

Josh Downs, Rookie – Underdog ADP of WR58

Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers – Underdog ADP of WR64

Khalil Shakir, Buffalo Bills – Underdog ADP of WR80

Terrace Marshall Jr., Carolina Panthers – Underdog ADP of WR88



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