Skip to main content

Erickson’s Wide Receiver Season Recap & Advice for 2023 (Fantasy Football)

Erickson’s Wide Receiver Season Recap & Advice for 2023 (Fantasy Football)
cameraErickson’s Wide Receiver Season Recap & Advice for 2023 (Fantasy Football)

The goal of this piece is to take a quick peek back at some of the wide receivers I was in/out on in 2022 and whether being in/out on that player worked favorably in 2022 fantasy football. The idea here isn’t to just victory lap or own up to Ls — I’m happy to do both — but to come away with takeaways that can be used moving forward into 2023 to ensure we are making the right decisions when drafting/ranking WRs in 2023.

Get the FantasyPros News App for iOS and Android now partner-arrow

Join the FantasyPros Discord Server!

Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Season Recap, Advice & Takeaways

Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN)

Justin Jefferson was my WR1 heading into the year and finished as the WR1 overall despite dropping a complete dud in the fantasy football championships. I liked him more than Cooper Kupp because I felt Kupp’s 2021 campaign was unsustainable. Also, Jefferson ranked top-3 in both target share, and air yards share in 2021. Although Kupp was elite when he was healthy, averaging almost the same points per game as Jefferson (18.5 vs. 18.4). However, it was a major dip from his 2021 season: 21.5 points per game.

Two players in 2022 that posted similar target shares and air yards shares to Jefferson’s 2021 season include DJ Moore and Amari Cooper. For a closer look at their season-long stats, check out my Fantasy Football Week 17 and 2022 Season Usage Report.

I also predicted that 32-year-old Adam Thielen‘s decline would greatly benefit Jefferson’s TD totals…which didn’t happen. Jefferson scored just eight TDs, two fewer than the year before. However, he did finish first in expected TDs (10.7). And that was despite Thielen catching just five TDs. So being off Thielen, I think, was also a good process.

In 2021 he posted his lowest yards per route run and PFF receiving grade since 2016. In 2022, Thielen’s numbers dropped even more. Career-low in yards per route run (1.08) and PFF receiving grade (65.7). Finished WR43 in points per game.

Entering his age 33-year season in 2023 with a potential “out” in his contract, I will be firmly off the Thielen draft train in 2023.

Tyreek Hill (WR – MIA)

I was firm on not drafting Tyreek Hill for fear that his QB downgrade from Patrick Mahomes to Tua Tagovailoa would be detrimental to his fantasy value. I was much more in the camp that Jaylen Waddle was the superior fantasy asset as a younger ascending player who had already performed with Tagovailoa at quarterback. I was correct on being “in” on Waddle, who finished the season as the WR7 overall and WR11 in points per game. But I took a significant L on fading Hill, who finished as the WR2 overall and WR3 in points per game. It was a simple case of missing on a situation — the Dolphins passing game being worse than the Chiefs — and not valuing the talent of Hill enough. As you’ll find out more with these hits and misses, the misses are strongly tied to misevaluation situations and not valuing proven sufficient talent.

Specifically, in the case of Hill landing in Miami, I should have been more open to the possibility that he would be the engine to get the Dolphins passing game to the next level. Instead, I was too fixated on Mike McDaniel being a former run-game coordinator when I should have looked at the players making up the passing game as elite options that would surely produce at least a league-average aerial attack.

I made the same mistake twice for two straight years. Fading a top WR from a 49ers offensive scheme for fear that they would be too run-heavy. In 2021, I did it with Deebo Samuel. In 2022, I did it with Tyreek Hill. 2023 will be the year I fade the “this team will be too run-heavy.” Unless, of course, it’s the Tennessee Titans.

The Falcons will be the tricky team to view in this regard in 2023 after how run-heavy they were last season, nuking the potential of Drake London and Kyle Pitts. But, at least with Desmond Ridder at quarterback, the Falcons threw a bit more in their last four games. Ridder attempted 26 passes in all four of his starts, a feat Mariota accomplished in his 13 starts. Ridders also attempted 30-plus passes twice, which Mariota also only accomplished twice.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

A.J. Brown (WR – PHI)

Being high on A.J. Brown was a big hit for me, as the Eagles’ WR1 finished as the WR4. I acknowledged his uber-talent from his days in Tennessee, combined with an offense that would be willing to throw more than his old team would unlock his fantasy football ceiling. I also liked DeVonta Smith as a popular middle-round WR target because he flashed talent as a rookie and played in an offense that I wanted parts of.

On Smith, I wrote…”The second-year wideout will have his fair share of spike weeks with his ability to win downfield, and there’s no guarantee AJB stays healthy all year long. Smith’s 21% target share from 2021 suggests he will be able to command targets in the offense if that scenario plays out, giving him a sneaky upside that won’t be considered enough in his ADP.”

Both Brown and Smith were also major candidates for positive TD regression, a tried-true approach to finding level jumpers at the WR position.

Barring offensive/quarterback changes from the 2023 free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft, the following wide receivers/pass-catchers in the table below are due for positive touchdown regression and are worth keeping tabs on. This is based on the players with the most total receiving yards and the fewest receiving touchdowns in 2022. Per PFF’s expected points model, Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Diontae Johnson and Courtland Sutton ranked among the league leaders in expected touchdowns scored under expectation.

Player Position Team TDs Receiving yards
Terry McLaurin WR WAS 5 1191
Garrett Wilson WR NYJ 4 1103
Chris Olave WR NO 4 1044
Chris Godwin WR TB 3 1023
JuJu Smith-Schuster WR KC 3 933
Michael Pittman WR IND 4 925
Mike Williams WR LAC 4 895
Diontae Johnson WR PIT 0 882
Donovan Peoples-Jones WR CLV 3 839
Courtland Sutton WR DEN 2 830
Pat Freiermuth TE PIT 2 732


AJB stayed relatively healthy all year, and Smith still balled out as the WR10. This a reminder that you should always be buying top-tier WR2 talent. Fade the “lack of targets/opportunities” narrative, especially when it’s already baked into the suppressed average draft position (ADP.) I was also extremely bullish on Jalen Hurts, which lent itself to being higher on all Eagles pass-catchers as well. Be sure to ask yourself if you are high on a particular WR… are you also high on their quarterback? If not, you better run a price check on how high you should be on them.

2023 NFL Draft Guide: Prospect Rankings & Player Profiles

Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET)

I was off ASB very early in the 2022 fantasy football draft process. I was buying into St. Brown’s 2021 flaming finish being solely related to him benefiting from injuries to D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson. But luckily, I was eventually able to recognize St. Brown’s accomplishments as a rookie and that any hesitance to its legitimacy was already factored into his ADP, which ranked outside the top-24 WRs. Therefore I targeted St. Brown in drafts and reaped the benefits. The main takeaway here is that players who step up and actually earn vacated targets should be viewed in high regard, even when their teammates return, especially when they deliver in such a smashing fashion as St. Brown did in 2021.

Amari Cooper (WR – CLE)

In November, FantasyPros released a Midseason Review: Fantasy Football Hits & Misses. I chose Amari Cooper as my biggest miss. I overlooked his massive volume opportunity and underrated his abilities as real-life talent. Cooper finished as the WR9 overall and WR13 overall in points per game. His 2.11 yards per route run was the second-best mark of his career. And I’d argue he could have buried me further if Deshaun Watson had returned to full form. Needless to say, I’ll be all over Cooper in the 2023 fantasy drafts. His 43% air yards share ranked 2nd among all WRs in 2022.

Eventually, the market price on a No. 1 wide receiver projected for a boatload of targets like Cooper in 2022 becomes too good to pass on, even with shoddy passes likely coming their way. It’s when these guys get steamed up that they become much more risky fantasy options (ie, Diontae Johnson). The lesson here is that if you’re going to chase wide receiver volume, do it later in the draft (Rounds 5-7 as opposed to Rounds 2-4). Let the market dictate which volume is deemed “premium” and scoop up the value. And be sure the volume you are banking on belongs to a team’s clear alpha.

DK Metcalf (SEA – WR)

Should I be taking a massive L after fading DK Metcalf this off-season? He finished the season as the WR17 overall and WR24 in points per game. However, his production was worse than it was in both 2020 and 2021. So, although the rhetoric about Geno Smith being so much better than Russell Wilson this season, it wasn’t actually reflected in Metcalf’s fantasy scoring. He was worse in fantasy with Smith than Russ. However, it was not to the extent that he was actively hurting your roster to play him. And I admitted that part of the Metcalf fade had to do with just choosing Tyler Lockett instead because he was so cheap, sometimes being drafted outside the top-20 WRs. Lockett out-scored Metcalf in 2022 as the WR12 overall and WR15 in points per game.

Both Seattle WRs ended up being much better than I thought they would be with Smith at quarterback. And that largely stems from Smith being an uber-accurate quarterback. His 70% completion percentage leads all QBs from Weeks 1-17. And that accuracy was something I overlooked last season when Chef Geno ranked 4th in that category (68.4%).

Labeling QBs bad or good won’t be part of my drafting process/strategy in 2023 but instead, viewing them as accurate or not accurate. Because when you glance at the QBs ranked last in completion rate in 2022 — Zach Wilson, Marcus Mariota, Davis Mills, Baker Mayfield — it’s no surprise that they couldn’t support pass-catching fantasy assets. Volume is great, but target efficiency matters slightly more when it comes to drafting WRs.

Christian Kirk (WR – JAX)

Even though Christian Kirk sputtered out toward the end of the season, his strong start was enough to get him as the WR14 overall and WR22 overall in points per game. I was high on Kirk at his fantasy WR3 price tag, citing how effective he was when DeAndre Hopkins missed games with the Cardinals in 2021.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF)

Brandon Aiyuk was WR19 in games played with Deebo Samuel this season. He got a boost in Samuel’s four missed games, but nevertheless was the better fantasy value scoring just 11 fewer fantasy points despite a 3-4 round ADP difference. I loved the value of Aiyuk going so much later than Samuel after he dazzled in the second half of the 2021 season. Just another reason to buy into talented No. 2 WRs, as opposed to less-talented No. 1’s in questionable offensive environments.

Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS) & DJ Moore (WR – CAR)

It seems only appropriate that Terry McLaurin and DJ Moore finished back-to-back as WR18/19 as talented fantasy WR2s consistently hampered by poor quarterback play. Since they entered the NFL, they have been locked-and-loaded fantasy WR2s, and 2022 was no different. Despite all the ups and downs and rotating QBs, each was destined to finish inside the top 20. Although from a points-per-game basis, McLaurin finished WR25 and Moore finished WR31. Until either team makes an actual worthwhile move at quarterback, expect more of the same WR2 fantasy production from TMC and DJM in 2023.

Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN) & Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN)

You all knew it was coming. My biggest stance this offseason was planting my flag on Courtland Sutton taking a massive step forward with Russell Wilson as his new quarterback. But things never transpired the way I hoped they would. Wilson was horrible from a real-life QB perspective, which tremendously hurt Sutton’s fantasy value. But what was even worse and a carryover from last season was Sutton’s lack of targets in games alongside healthy versions of Greg Dulcich and Jerry Jeudy. From Weeks 6-8, with both his teammates fully healthy, Sutton commanded just a 17% target share. In Weeks 1-5, Sutton’s target share was 28%. In Weeks 10-12 (Jeudy also missed these games), Sutton’s target share was back up to 27%. But even in the games where Sutton commanded the lion’s share of looks, he came up short more often than not. He was completely forgotten in the red zone – 11 RZ targets, one red-zone TD before Week 18 — and he failed to capitalize on 1200-plus air yards.

And although I will be firmly on the side of drafting Jeudy more in 2023 based on his healthy game performances – no player scored more fantasy points in PPR with a sub-75% overall route participation than Jeudy in 2022 – Sutton will be discounted so heavily that he will likely become a draft day value, even if he is his team’s real-life WR2. The big-bodied wideout is massively overdue for both positive red-zone TD regression and deep receptions.

Sutton finished behind only Diontae Johnson and Drake London in terms of fantasy points scored under expectation. He finished as WR28 in expected fantasy points but WR45 in actual points.

The two games the Broncos played in the post-Nathaniel Hackett era should not be ignored as we project this Wilson-led offense moving forward. 8.1 yards per attempt and two passing TDs per game. Both Jeudy and Sutton earned 24% target shares, but Jeudy totaled 12 catches for 192 yards. Meanwhile, Sutton caught just seven balls for 77 yards and 1 TD. In Jeudy’s last six games: 25% target share and 5th in receiving yards overall. From Week 10 onward, Jeudy led the NFL in yards per route run (2.71).


Michael Pittman (WR – IND)

The entire fantasy football industry as a whole seemed extremely high on Michael Pittman, and he left a lot to be desired due to shoddy quarterback play from the Colts. Many thought (myself included) that a journeyman like Matt Ryan would ignite Pittman to the next level, but that was hardly the case. His role and volume were elite — 93% route participation, 27% target share, 136 targets (eighth) — but his lowly average depth of target (aDOT) (7.7, 13th-lowest among all WRs) made it very difficult for Pittman to deliver spiked weeks of fantasy production if he didn’t score. I always knew in the back of my mind that if Pittman failed to deliver in 2022, it would be due to a lack of TDs, and that fear played out in the worst way, with him only scoring four touchdowns.

Although, Pittman will be an interesting buy-low candidate with the sour taste he left in people’s mouths. He still commanded an elite 27% target share, but the yardage and TDs just weren’t there in Indianapolis’ anemic offense. No guarantee that will improve in 2023 with how the Colts plan on addressing their glaring hole at QB, but Pittman will be drafted much closer to his floor than his ceiling heading into next season. In 2022 he was definitely being drafted at his ceiling, which was why his WR23 finish seems like a major L.

Gabe Davis (WR – BUF)

Needless to say that Gabriel Davis did not pay off his super-inflated ADP this summer. He had his fair share of spiked weeks — four WR1 finishes — but never offered any type of consistency drafters (and myself) hoped for. The sheer lack of a strong target share was his major concern entering this season, and that did not change. Davis commanded just a 19% target share and finished as the WR32 in points per game. He finished WR36 in expected points per game. In the case of Davis, his favorable situation drove his cost too high, and that’s something to be more conscious of when considering certain WRs. If he were on any other team, Davis would have been viewed as just a sleeper as opposed to a legitimate middle-round selection. I can’t help but compare him to a guy like Zay Jones, who profiled similarly to Davis with a strong finish to the 2021 season. He is also projected to be the No. 2 on an ascending offense. But Jones was also free at cost throughout 2022 fantasy drafts and finished as the WR24 overall.

Elijah Moore (WR – NYJ)

Drafting Elijah Moore was an utter disaster in 2022. He was in the doghouse early on and could barely get on the field in a regular role. And when he managed to escape the doghouse, he returned to an uninspiring QB-led offense fully overtaken by alpha rookie WR Garrett Wilson. The offense was not equipped to feature more than one fantasy-viable weapon. But when Moore was the “guy” in 2021, he was excellent. Hence, why I don’t think drafting Moore in the middle rounds was a flawed process. It was a bet on talent, but it just didn’t work out. The red flags with Moore were both the QB situation and the introduction of a top-10 pick in the offense that made him irrelevant, aside from the issues that led him to not play at all during the start of the year. The lesson here is that if a WR is to overcome the situation, they likely have to be the clear alpha.

On Twitter, I had a follower inquire whether Moore was a sell-low based on this past season, and I responded with a defiant “no.” Because the talent is still there with him, and he will be that much cheaper in 2023 drafts. A Jets QB upgrade or an injury to Wilson could easily put Moore back in the spotlight, where we have already seen him deliver as a rookie when called upon before.

Garrett Wilson (WR – NYJ)

From Day 1, Garrett Wilson was my favorite rookie WR in the class. The dude could get open at will and check off all the boxes as an early declare being selected inside the top 10. He did not disappoint. The former Buckeye commanded a 53% target share in Week 18 to close out a rookie season with a 25% target share and 146 targets (top-10), despite not being a full-time player until Week 8. WR22 overall and WR20 in expected points per game. The takeaway here is to be patient with rookie WRs with such decorated pedigree and to not fall for the preseason usage with them running with 2s etc. If a rookie WR has a realistic path to becoming the No. 1 pass-catching option on their respective squads with little to no resistance from surrounding teammates, you BUY. When you combine a real-life WR1 opportunity with great prospect profiles, you end up with reliable fantasy production – especially later in their rookie seasons.

Christian Watson (WR – GB)

Similarly, I need to do a better job of not overvaluing early-season opportunities versus talent. Because in the case of Romeo Doubs vs. Christian Watson, everything that was not written by a Packers training camp beat reporter clearly showed that Watson was the superior prospect. And all it took was for him to get healthy and for Doubs to underwhelm as a Day 3 pick for everybody else to get on board. Watson was absolutely dynamite as a rookie. His 25% target rate per route run is nothing but impressive-14th among all WRs with at least 60 targets. And in a must-win Week 18 contest versus the Lions, he was once again the target leader (23% target share), going for 104 receiving yards on a team-high five catches. From Week 10 onward, Watson ranked 3rd in yards per route run (2.58). If he takes over the downfield looks in 2023 that Allen Lazard saw the majority of, prepare for a massive second-year leap.

Diontae Johnson (WR – PIT)

Rookie quarterbacks are a bad bet for supporting viable fantasy WR production. That was my main argument against drafting Diontae Johnson in Rounds 4 & 5, which turned out to be the correct approach. Johnson underwhelmed with Kenny Pickett all season, failing to top more than 65 receiving yards or a weekly finish better than WR37. WR37 overall in points per game. In Week 18: 10 targets and two catches for 38 yards.

But that’s to be expected with a rookie QB under center, so temper fantasy expectations drafting players too highly attached to first-year signal callers. But in the case of Johnson for 2023, I’d expect a major bounce back for Johnson with Pickett entering Year 2. Johnson’s ability to command targets – 28% target share and 137 targets (7th) in 2022 – suggests he is a prime candidate for positive regression in many facets.

He scored zero TDs from Weeks 1-17, despite commanding 14 red-zone targets. Johnson also suffered horribly when targeted downfield, as he captured just four of his 24 targets of 20-plus air yards. His combined downfield targets and red-zone targets were the most of any player not to score in 2022. Those trends don’t tend to carry over from year-to-year. Buy-low on Johnson. He was the WR15 in expected fantasy points per game.

Marquise Brown (WR – ARI)

Marquise Brown was the WR6 through the first six weeks of the 2022 season. And although his season was derailed by injuries to himself and Kyler Murray upon his return, Hollywood Brown was undoubtedly a strong investment based on his early season opportunity. The lesson to learn with guys like Brown is to take advantage of their obvious early-season production window while also pairing them with rookies or players who may have delayed production to start the year. Brown himself might fall into the latter category next season with Murray’s status up-in-air coming off major knee surgery. As of right now, in January, I am buying the dip on Brown based on what he showed last year with Murray at the helm. There are also rumors swirling that DeAndre Hopkins might get dealt, further opening the WR1 role for Brown.

Kadarius Toney (WR – KC)

Kadarius Toney was a mega-bust in fantasy football for all the reasons that did not include him actually playing. Big Blue drafting Wan’Dale Robinson was the first red flag regarding Toney’s status in the Giants’ offense, as was his lack of playing time to start the year. Toney wasn’t killing your roster because you were never starting him. And although the eventual trade to the Kansas City Chiefs suggested he could be on the cusp of a second-half breakout, it’s hard to expect a 2nd-year player changing teams mid-season to become a full-time player. And up to this point, we still haven’t seen Toney play more than 28 snaps (44%) in any game this season. He hasn’t played more than 50% of a game yet. Part of it is his inability to stay healthy, but there’s no denying the guy’s talent when he gets the ball in his hands. The ex-Giants WR’s target rate per route run (23%) ranks first among all Chiefs’ WRs this season. Second in yards per route run (albeit 14 targets) since Week 10. With JuJu Smith-Schuster hitting free agency and Travis Kelce entering his age-34 season, there’s room for an explosive playmaker like Toney to make a splash in the 2022 playoffs and 2023 season.

Other overarching takeaways

Elite WRs are attached to good offenses. And the majority of high-scoring WRs are on good offenses.

  • Amari Cooper was the only WR to finish top-12 on a “bad” offense
  • Best WRs on bad offenses in points per game: Terry McLaurin (25th), Chris Olave (27th), Michael Pittman (31st), Jakobi Meyers (29th), Jerry Jeudy (28th), DJ Moore (31st), Garrett Wilson (35th)

Buy top-tier WR2 talent despite “lack of targets”

  • Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Tyler Lockett all finished as WR1s
  • Mike Williams and Chris Godwin ranked as WR20 in PPG, Brandon Aiyuk ranked as WR22
  • I need to do a better job of valuing No. 2 wide receivers on prolific offenses while also preaching caution regarding No. 1 wide receivers on bad offenses — especially if there is ambiguity about who the No. 1 weapon is. I remember debating on a mock draft live stream between Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman. The two guys were closely ranked, with the difference being that Pittman was the No. 1 in his offense versus Higgins being the No. 2. But the more that I see this scenario play out in recent years, it’s the No. 2 in the better offense (or possibly, the more talented/established player as well) that tends to prevail.

WRs who step up when others get hurt should be held in higher regard

  • Amon-Ra St. Brown, Brandon Aiyuk, Marquise Brown, Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Garett Wilson, Richie James Jr., Greg Dortch, and Elijah Moore all either increased their production or commanded targets at a high rate due to injuries to teammates around them.
  • As a side note…my early season prediction for next year’s Curtis Samuel is Hunter Renfrow. The Raiders slot WR will be completely forgotten about due to all his injuries in 2022.

When in doubt, go with talent over the situation at WR

  • As made pretty clear with these hits and misses, the misses are strongly tied to misevaluation situations and not valuing proven sufficient talent. Something I will look to improve on dramatically in the 2023 draft season.
  • Especially considering that the WR position has been the position I have struggled with the most in the FantasyPros rankings contest, finishing 99th this past year.

When two teammates share such similar peripheral usage but have a wide ADP gap, scoop up the value with the cheaper guy.

  • Those players are being priced closer to their floor than their ceiling. As we project ahead to 2023, names to keep in mind for this: DK Metcalf/Tyler Lockett. Keenan Allen/Mike Williams. George Pickens/Diontae Johnson.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | SoundCloud | iHeartRadio

If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.

More Articles

Video: 12 Undervalued Players to Target in Drafts (2023 Fantasy Football)

Video: 12 Undervalued Players to Target in Drafts (2023 Fantasy Football)

fp-headshot by FantasyPros Staff | 1 min read
20 Players Who Will Move Up Fantasy Football Draft Boards (2023)

20 Players Who Will Move Up Fantasy Football Draft Boards (2023)

fp-headshot by Anthony Corrente | 5 min read
15 Fantasy Football Draft Targets: Round-by-Round Picks (2023 ADP)

15 Fantasy Football Draft Targets: Round-by-Round Picks (2023 ADP)

fp-headshot by Tom Strachan | 5 min read
Dynasty Trade Advice: Seven Players to Buy (2023 Fantasy Football)

Dynasty Trade Advice: Seven Players to Buy (2023 Fantasy Football)

fp-headshot by Andrew Hall | 3 min read

About Author

Current Article

time 12 min read

Video: 12 Undervalued Players to Target in Drafts (2023 Fantasy Football)

Next Up - Video: 12 Undervalued Players to Target in Drafts (2023 Fantasy Football)

Next Article   arrow-image