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This Year's Fantasy Football League-Winning Wide Receiver Is...

DK Metcalf - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

When it comes to potential fantasy football league-winners, it’s easy to pinpoint Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, and Cooper Kupp. They are shoo-in candidates to lead wide receivers in fantasy scoring, if healthy.

The most valuable fantasy assets can also be those picked a bit later in drafts. There are plenty of commodities outside of the top tier that carry the upside to pace their position in points, and perhaps provide a more efficient return on investment considering their draft cost.

For instance, Josh Jacobs, a 2022 mid-round fantasy choice, was found on over 61% of the top-500 Public League teams on Yahoo last year after finishing as the overall RB3 in PPR leagues. Even though he trailed Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey, that tidbit arguably made Jacobs the fantasy MVP based on ADP. The goal of this article is to not delineate the obvious overall WR1 possibilities, but perhaps find a player that closes as a top-tier option despite a less expensive price tag.

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!

 

2023 Fantasy Football League-Winner: D.K. Metcalf

It was neck and neck between two WRs as what we'll deem "co-flag plants" for this piece. Out of six season-long, half-PPR fantasy teams I’ve drafted so far, D.K. Metcalf and Mike Williams are the two players that appear most often on them. I’ve been aggressively pursuing Metcalf in Round 3/4 and Williams in Round 7/8 on Yahoo this summer. We’ll go with Metcalf here since he probably shows more convincing odds of ending as a top-shelf option than those of Williams.

Metcalf, one of the most athletic WR prospects of all time, enters Year 5 and his age-26 season in '23. The 2019 second-round pick was classified as a tantalizing rookie talent that year, unable to consistently put together his clear athletic gifts in college. The Ole Miss product logged a pedestrian 16.7% college target share to go with a 26.4% college dominator rating despite oozing with freakish talent.

Since an understandably erratic first year, Metcalf has entrenched himself as a yearly borderline WR1/2 depending on the format after his 2020 breakout. The four-year wideout has concluded as the WR24 or better in average full-PPR fantasy points in each of the previous three years. Metcalf managed an overall WR16 campaign in these settings during 2022 despite experiencing quarterback turnover from Russell Wilson to Geno Smith.

 

D.K. Metcalf's 2022 Year-In-Review

Metcalf burdened fantasy managers with a few face-plants; being held to one catch in Weeks 7 and 17 and two in Week 6. The physical receiver's role as a perimeter weapon, unfortunately, lends itself to a great deal of low-percentage targets after Metcalf played only 16.8% of his snaps from the slot in ‘22.

With that volatility, comes immense weekly upside unlike many other WRs in his draft range this summer. The former Pro Bowler didn’t spike for one of his signature slate-shattering efforts until the postseason. However, he hung a massive 10/136/2 receiving line against the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round. As for his floor, Metcalf encouragingly posted at least five receptions in 12-of-17 regular-season contests for a career-best 90 catches a year ago.

The target-commanding Metcalf garnered a career-high 141 targets and, more importantly, 27 red-zone looks. Despite the gaudy total, Metcalf scored just six touchdowns, demonstrating evident positive regression to potentially come in that area. His lack of shiftiness and route-running expertise resulted in only 1.44 average yards of separation, per PlayerProfiler (PP), but Metcalf's opportunity should remain plentiful. The veteran ranks eighth in targets (399) since 2020. He also owns 85 deep targets over this span, solidifying his stratospheric ceiling.

Coming off a career-high in receptions in Year 1 with Smith, it’s fair to expect their connection to take a leap in Year 2 together. Though I’m at least moderately concerned Smith could have been a one-year wonder.

The once-perennial backup somehow managed to lead the NFL in completion rate (69.8%), but also both PP's interceptable passes (41) and danger plays (46) categories. Let’s deduce these figures were driven up by Smith’s trust when turning to Metcalf, who boasts a tangible flair for spectacular catches, in jump-ball/contested-catch scenarios.

Metcalf also registered the eighth-highest target quality rating (6.90), and best catchable target rate (83.0%) of his career on PP. His 811 unrealized air yards left Metcalf in ninth place at his position in this department, so there’s abundant room for growth even after a career season in catches.

Smith's 63.5% completion clip versus man coverage, a scheme Metcalf should regularly victimize, can only bode well for Metcalf's prospects. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound stud boasted 2.90 yards per route run and 16.2 yards per catch vs. this defense. Smith also notched the third-highest deep ball accuracy rating (6.6) among QBs, which should have Metcalf's fantasy managers licking their chops.

 

Is D.K. Metcalf Being Overlooked In Fantasy Football Drafts?

The consensus among drafters seems to be a feared lack of volume for Metcalf in arguably the NFL’s premier three-WR set alongside fantasy stalwart Tyler Lockett and first-round rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba (wrist). Sure, there are admittedly a lot of mouths to feed here. That stipulation actually reinforces the possibility of a Metcalf ceiling season. With a backfield also featuring two difference-making running backs in Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet, Metcalf has every chance to run wild in '23 with so much defensive attention headed elsewhere.

With that, Lockett presents plenty of age risk at 31 years old this fall, and Smith-Njigba holds question marks after logging an ordinary 16.1% college target share and a lowly 14.2% dominator rating at Ohio State.

My already firm stance on Metcalf's possibility of winning leagues became intensified when it was announced that Smith-Njigba would miss three to four weeks due to left wrist surgery. It halts a buzzy training camp and preseason for the 21-year-old, who will now miss out on valuable practice reps ahead of the season. Even if Smith-Njigba is back for Week 1, Seattle's passing game figures to be even more concentrated on Metcalf and Lockett early on.

The 26-year-old Metcalf represents as good a bet as any pass catcher to lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns for the upcoming campaign. Debatably the best pure athlete at his position, Metcalf imposes a rare blend of size, speed, and experience at this stage of his career that we may not have seen since Julio Jones' prime. Metcalf is someone we should maintain plenty of exposure to, and regularly select over the likes of DeVonta Smith, Tee Higgins, Deebo Samuel, and Calvin Ridley in most situations.



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