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Draft A Wide Receiver In The First Round In 2023? How To Win Your Fantasy Football Drafts

Cooper Kupp - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

My fantasy football strategy changes every year depending on how the draft board shakes out. For instance, I think you must draft a running back in the second round this year. I also think for the first time there is an advantage to be had paying up for a quarterback

But if there is one approach you do not want to do, it is to ignore the wide receiver position in the early rounds. In the past when running backs were largely consuming the first round and receivers would get pushed down, it was a good approach to wait. But that is not the case anymore. You do not want to wait too long and you will be left holding the bag. 

Let's break down why you should scoop up a WR in the first round in 2023 fantasy football drafts.

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!


Why You Must Draft A Wide Receiver In The First Round

Wide receivers are getting pulled up the board more aggressively than ever before. Join any draft on any site, and the first round is loaded with wide receivers. Right now on FFPC, just three running backs are going in the first round. On the other hand, TE Travis Kelce and seven to eight wide receivers are going in the first round. This is consistent with what you see on other sites as well.

Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Cooper Kupp, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, A.J. Brown, and CeeDee Lamb all go in the first round. You will often see Amon-Ra St. Brown, Garrett Wilson, and Davante Adams go in the late first or early second round as well. That means that the top 10 receivers are quickly off the board. At the same time, there are usually just five running backs drafted. 

What slot you are drafting from may determine the receiver you can nab in the first round, as you typically need the first pick to get Jefferson. You need a top pick to land Chase, Kupp, or Hill -- which is the order I would take them in. That is the elite tier, but Diggs, A.J. Brown, and Lamb are all strong fallback options and are all worthy of taking in the first round. There is another gap after that, which is ideally why I stress grabbing one of the top seven in the first round.

By the middle of the second round, you are left with receivers like Jaylen Waddle, Chris Olave, DeVonta Smith, and Tee Higgins. These are all very talented receivers who are strong fantasy options. But there is a clear drop-off from the elite production you get in the first round.

Meanwhile, at running back, there are still names available like Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Taylor, Tony Pollard, Josh Jacobs, and Derrick Henry. There may be a drop-off from Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, and Bijan Robinson in the first round, but it is not nearly as large as the dip at receiver. 

The elite talent just gets gobbled up at receiver in the first round and my approach this season is to get a top option at all four of the skill positions. And it is very possible as I spoke about it on Florio’s Football Show. Pair that with the articles I have linked above and the plan and how to put it into place comes to life. 

But what should you do at receiver after the first round?


You Have To Keep Paying Up For Receivers

Wide receivers are not just being pulled up in the first round but throughout the entirety of the draft. While it is a deep position, it does still thin out and you do not want to be drafting WR3s as your top option. Looking at Underdog ADP, there are 27 receivers selected compared to 15 running backs, five quarterbacks, and two tight ends in the first 50 picks. By the time the top 24 running backs are drafted, there are on average 40 receivers already off the board. 

In the top 100 picks on average, half of them are receivers. This is not a hot take by saying you do not want to have a receiving group largely filled with late-round dart throws. In the first eight rounds of my drafts, I like to have four receivers -- including one in the first round. 

Calvin Ridley and Amari Cooper are two receivers that I love to target as my WR2 in the third or fourth rounds of my drafts. Both are receivers that have the potential to make the jump into WR1 territory. Ridley brings a very high ceiling as the best field stretcher and red zone threat on a pass-happy offense.

It also doesn't hurt that he has looked the part early in camp. Cooper was a WR1 last season in overall points and has been extremely consistent year-to-year for a while now. But he gets a potentially huge QB upgrade if Deshaun Watson can return to form.

In the fourth or fifth round, I will often target Terry McLaurin as my WR3. McLaurin is extremely talented and now gets a play-calling upgrade with new OC Eric Bieniemy. Plus, I expect the QB play to potentially improve this year.

Targeting these receivers still allows me to take a running back in the second round, and maybe another a little later on. It also allows me to take a QB early potentially, and still get one of the top seven tight ends. At times, I will even take a fifth receiver in the first eight rounds. With receivers getting pulled up the board, there is still running back value to be had later in the draft and this approach allows me to load up on them in the later rounds. 

Receivers you can target in Round 7 or later: Brandin Cooks, Gabe Davis, Jordan Addison, Quentin Johnston, Jahan Dotson, Jameson Williams, Zay Flowers, Elijah Moore, Michael Thomas, Courtland Sutton, Nico Collins

Late-Round Fliers (Round 12 or later): Rashee Rice, Alec Pierce, D.J. Chark, Rashid Shaheed, Jayden Reed, Jalin Hyatt, Jonathan Mingo, DeVante Parker, Terrace Marshall Jr., Puka Nacua

There is a way to navigate the draft so that you come away with a top option at each position without sacrificing your depth too much. To do so, you need to prioritize receivers in the early rounds.

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio. 

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