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Dynasty Rookie Draft Primer: Wide Receivers (2023 Fantasy Football)

Dynasty Rookie Draft Primer: Wide Receivers (2023 Fantasy Football)
cameraDynasty Rookie Draft Primer: Wide Receivers (2023 Fantasy Football)

The NFL offseason is here (silently chuckles on the inside). Every dynasty GM knows there is no offseason. There's the regular season, and then there is rookie fever season. If you're like me and you've had a raging fever since February...the only prescription is my rookie primers. Check out my quarterback and running back dynasty rookie primers.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

Dynasty Rookie Draft Primer

I'll run through each skill position (QB, RB, WR, TE), laying out draft strategy, tiers, statistical analysis, and scouting reports. Let's dive into this exciting rookie class.

How to Approach Wide Receivers in Dynasty Rookie Drafts

The approach with wide receivers remains consistent regardless of league format. The only difference is in SuperFlex. Wide receivers will get pushed down the board some, with quarterbacks going early and ahead of them. I’m higher on this draft class than some. Some diamonds in the rough could break out and outkick their draft capital. If you’re looking for a viable flex option/WR3 that you can insert into your lineup in Week 1, that’s Tier 1. Every tier after that gets sketchier and sketchier, but as we’ll discuss, there are avenues for them to reach every down status.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

Dynasty Rookie Draft Positional Rankings & Tiers

Tier 1

Analysis: Each wide receiver in this tier enters the NFL with first-round capital. Addison has the clearest path laid out in from of him for a stable target share. The other three have their rookie season target projections dinged with capable veterans surrounding them. If any of those veterans smothering Smith-Njigba, Johnston, and Flowers get hurt or miss substantial time, their breakouts could be accelerated.

Tier 2

Analysis: Each wideout here was taken in the second round of the draft. Reed and Rice have easier roads to travel to a rookie-year full-time status. Mims could also achieve that, but he has some veterans to hop in the process.

Tier 3

Analysis: Each of these wide receivers has flashed high-end talent in college with several analytical boxes checked. All of these players also could hear their names called sometime during Day 2 of the NFL Draft. 

Tier 4

Analysis: This tier might be my favorite of the bunch. Each receiver here has size, talent, and a depth chart that could allow them access to a substantial target share should everything break in their favor.

Honorable Mentions

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Dynasty Rookie Draft Player Profiles

Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)

Stats:

  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 1st
    • PFF receiving grade: 1st
  • Career
    • Breakout age: 75th percentile (19.6)
    • Limited to three games played in 2022 due to a hamstring injury
    • In 2021, he was third among FBS wide receivers (minimum 50 targets) in receiving yards (1,595) and second in YAC (790).
    • 88.6% slot rate in 2021

Scouting report:

  • Smith-Njigba won't burn you in the open field with his raw speed, but that isn't necessary for him to succeed.
  • He's a route tactician with the route-running chops of an NFL veteran. Smith-Njigba's snap at the top of his stem is excellent, which allows him to create easy separation.
  • Any team investing high draft capital in him knows what they are getting: a high-volume wide receiver that can work both inside and on the perimeter. Yes, Smith-Njigba was a slot receiver in college, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have the intangibles to get loose on the boundary.
  • He wins with excellent, quick footwork at the line and in space. He's more quick than fast. Also, in saying that, it has to be mentioned that he is plenty quick to win in the NFL.
  • While it's not a huge part of his game (only 16.1% of his 2021 target volume), he can win on vertical routes. He flashes the ability to stack corners on verticals from the slot easily. Smith-Njigba was ninth in yards per route run on deep targets, tied for first in PFF deep receiving grade, and second in passer rating when targeted on routes 20-plus yards in 2021 (minimum 15 deep targets).
  • Smith-Njigba could be an immediate target hog in the NFL.
  • He will be an immediate asset to the run game. He's a tenacious blocker who engages well with defenders and anchors them. He won't blow defenders out of their cleats, but he has the functional strength to hold running lanes or clear a path.

Player Comp: If Robert Woods and Keenan Allen had a baby

Dynasty Outlook: Jaxon Smith-Njigba got the draft capital that we wanted, but the landing spot has some dynasty GMs worried. How will he earn targets playing alongside D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett? Will Seattle abandon their love of heavy tight end sets (28th in the usage of three or more wide receiver sets last year)? Will Smith-Njigba be a full-time player? These concerns are all valid, but I'm not frightened at all. While Lockett remains a stellar wide receiver, he is almost 31 years old and can be cut next year with the team saving nearly ten million against the cap. Drafting wide receivers in dynasty is a bet on talent. Situations can change quickly. Smith-Njigba has talent that is worth investing heavily in. He could be the number two target in this passing offense as soon as this season, if not next year. He's the 1.02 in 1QB leagues and a top-six selection in Superflex format rookie drafts.

Jordan Addison (USC)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 21st
    • PFF receiving grade: 22nd
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 22nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 12th
  • Career
    • 2.00 or higher yards per route run in each collegiate season

Scouting report:

  • Addison is fluid and silky smooth through his routes. He's quick in and out of his breaks. He displays nuance in his routes with pacing, subtle head fakes, and his understanding of leverage.
  • His change-of-direction ability is effortless. He can gear down easily and jab step during a route without losing speed.
  • Addison has a decent burst after the catch, but it's not likely to ever be a calling card.
  • He dealt with drops early in his collegiate career, with 14.3% and 9.9% drop rates before 2022. He displayed growth here in 2022, decreasing that mark to 3.3%. He has strong hands, though, with contested catch rates of 53.8% and 55.6% before 2022. Addison will never be confused as a body catcher, as he routinely plucks the ball from the air away from his body.
  • Addison is a versatile wide receiver that played from the slot in 2020-2021 (68.0-82.6%) before transitioning to the boundary (75.5% out wide) in 2022. His superb route running and short-area separation skills allow him to play multiple roles fluidly. Addison's varied release package at this stage of his career is impressive.
  • Addison reminds me of watching DeVonta Smith with a difference in play strength. Smith played above his weight class but Addison plays at his weight.

Player Comp: DeVonta Smith 

Dynasty Outlook: Addison will be Justin Jefferson's running mate in Minnesota after the Vikings selected him in the first round of the NFL Draft. Addison should immediately fight T.J. Hockenson for the second spot in the passing game pecking order. There's plenty of passing volume available for Addison to have a monster rookie season. Last year the Vikings were fourth in neutral script passing rate and second in red zone passing rate. With the addition of Addison and a wretched defensive unit, the Vikings will again challenge for the league lead in passing attempts.

Zay Flowers (Boston College)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 80th
    • PFF receiving grade: 74th
    • YAC per reception: 68th
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 78th
    • PFF receiving grade: 97th
    • YAC per reception: 26th
  • Career
    • 93rd percentile college dominator
    • 89th percentile college target share
    • 63rd percentile breakout age

Scouting report:

  • Zay Flowers is absolutely an outside wide receiver in the NFL. He played 65.8% of his collegiate snaps on the perimeter, which should push even higher than that at the next level. Flowers has route-running chops for days to get open on the boundary. He sets up corners with nuanced routes, explosive speed, multiple release packages, and an advanced understanding of how to get open.
  • Flowers can win at all three levels. He’s lightning-quick off the line to win short and a route tactician with intermediate and deep routes. Flowers understands how to use leverage and his fluid hips to get open on comebacks and outs.
  • Flowers has no issue stacking corners on deep routes. He has the speed to get past them and the smarts to squeeze every inch of separation out of every route.
  • Flowers is a twitch machine after the catch. His start-and-stop ability after securing the football is highlight reel worthy like Kadarius Toney.
  • He’s a high-motor, tenacious player. Flowers’ zest for the game shows up in his blocking ferocity and yearning to claw tooth and nail for every inch of grass.

Player Comp: T.Y. Hilton with YAC skills

Dynasty Outlook: Baltimore added Flowers to what has become a loaded receiving depth chart. Lamar Jackson will now have Odell Beckham Jr., Flowers, Rashod Bateman, and Mark Andrews flanking him. Baltimore’s bevy of pass catcher talent will dim Flowers’ year-one target projection, but Beckham Jr. is only on a one-year deal. If Baltimore doesn’t pick up Bateman’s fifth-year option, he can be an unrestricted free agent after the 2024 season. Flowers could be Jackson’s long-term WR1. The narrative around this Baltimore passing attack also needs to change when projecting their play volume. Greg Roman is gone. Everything we have seen from this offense with Jackson left with him. Todd Monken will change things, and those changes could be massive. In three of Monken’s last four seasons as an offensive mastermind, he’s ranked inside the top 12 (eighth, 11th, fourth) in neutral script pace. Over that span, he was also top-five in passing attempts twice. Flowers is a top-five selection in 1QB formats and a top-ten pick in Superflex rookie drafts.

Quentin Johnston (TCU)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 9th
    • PFF receiving grade: 65th
    • YAC per reception: 6th
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 42nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 75th
    • YAC per reception: 38th

Scouting report:

  • Quentin Johnston has easy and immediate speed that jumps off the screen on film. Johnson is a RAC specialist. With his loose hips, he transitions from receiver to runner fluidly. His burst is automatic. His juice and his upper body strength make him a frustrating player for defenders to wrap up consistently. Johnston ranked 11th in missed tackles forced and sixth in YAC per reception last season (minimum 50 targets).
  • Johnston has all the raw skills to fulfill his potential as a No. 1 option in a passing game as an X receiver. He still has plenty of development hurdles to cross to get there, though. Johnston isn't a nuanced route runner. While his first step is explosive, allowing him to gain immediate separation on drive routes, he lacks the extra polish that could really make him shine.
  • Johnston doesn't consistently stack corners on nines. While he won in college by running by corners, that won't be as easy in the NFL. He ran primarily comebacks, gos, and crossers toward daylight at TCU. When he's changing direction on posts and corners, he needs to do a better job of selling the vertical stem. The same can be said for comebacks and curls. While Johnston can flip his hips easily, he needs to do a better job of selling the vertical element. His jab steps are pronounced. His sloppiness with these routes allows corners to hang with him or close quickly.
  • Johnston's physicality after the catch doesn't show up at the catch point. Considering his size, he needs to be stronger at the point of attack. He limped to 34.8% and 36.8% contested catch rates over the last two years. He also dealt with concentration drops at times.

Player Comp: Brandon Aiyuk

Dynasty Outlook: Johnston is now tied to the rifle arm of Justin Herbert for the foreseeable future. That is not too shabby for a wide receiver that had been rumored to possibly fall out of the first round of the NFL Draft. The combination of the aging body of Keenan Allen and the brittle joints of Mike Williams (which combined for 23 games played last year) could leave Johnston as Herbert's defacto number-one wide receiver at times in 2023. Even with those two veterans on the field, Johnston should immediately be the team's field stretcher. Under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, this could be a bountiful role in 2023. In Dak Prescott's two full seasons under Moore, he finished five and seventh in deep ball attempts. Last year at TCU, Johnston ranked 23rd in deep receiving yards and 13th in deep receiving touchdowns (per PFF, minimum ten deep targets). Johnston should be drafted somewhere in the company of this class’s three other first-round wide receivers. He should be a top-five selection in 1QB leagues and top-ten in Superflex formats.

Josh Downs (North Carolina)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 87th
    • PFF receiving grade: 5th
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 29th
    • PFF receiving grade: 29th
  • Career
    • 87th percentile breakout age
    • 69th percentile college dominator
    • 97th percentile college target share

Scouting report:

  • Downs has been a productive slot option at North Carolina (89% collegiate slot rate). He has a nose for the soft spots in zone coverage.
  • He was utilized on screens and easy crossers to capitalize on his RAC ability. Downs weaves through traffic and sets up blocks after the catch like a running back. His first step and burst pop on film. Because of it, he can succeed on slants, drive routes, and screens.
  • Downs has some of the most dependable hands in this class. Among 53 wide receivers last year with at least 100 targets, he ranked second in contested catch rate (72.2%) and logged the eighth-lowest drop rate.
  • He varies his tempo in his routes and releases constantly. He'll utilize speed releases and then slow-play a corner on the next rep before exploding into his stem.
  • His size shows up on boundary routes where he can get pressed into the boundary and off his route. While he's elusive after the catch, this is because of his quick feet and vision. He's not a tackle breaker and can be dropped by a decent wrap or corner catching him at the ankles.
  • Downs can get open deep with subtle, smooth changes of direction on posts and corners, but if you're asking him to win on out and ups or nines, you could have a problem. His lack of a third gear deep shows up on verticals. He routinely leaves corners unstacked, and without a home-run gear, it creates problems for him at the catch point. Downs should be an underneath zone-beating option and YAC pillar in the NFL.

Player Comp: Eddie Royal/Sterling Shepard

Dynasty Outlook: The Colts nabbed the former Tar Heel slot standout in the third round of the NFL Draft. Downs should have any problems beating out Isaiah McKenzie for the starting slot position in camp. Another comforting factor towards his 2023 playing time projection is that Shane Steichen oversaw a Philadelphia offense that utilized at least three wide receivers on the field for 73.6% (seventh-highest) of its snaps. The biggest worries for Downs will be the overall passing volume, with the Colts likely to lean on the run and ease in Anthony Richardson versus NFL competition. He could be the second target in the passing attack behind only Michael Pittman. Downs is a late-second-round/early third-round rookie draft pick.

Rashee Rice (SMU)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 9th
    • PFF receiving grade: 7th
    • 64.2% of target volume against zone (minimum 25 zone targets)
      • PFF receiving grade: 1st
      • Yards per route run vs. zone: 1st
  • Career
    • 82.5-94.6% out wide in three of four years at SMU
      • 93.2% slot in 2021
    • Never crested 2.1 yards per route run at SMU until his senior year
    • Didn't post more than 700 receiving yards until his senior season

Scouting report:

  • Rashee Rice ranked ninth in yards per route run and seventh in PFF receiving grade last season (minimum 50 targets per PFF). He saw 64.2% of his target volume against zone where he ranked first in yards per route run and PFF receiving grade (minimum 25 zone targets per PFF).
  • Rice adjusts well to back-shoulder balls and displays solid body control. He does have some concentration drops in traffic on film.
  • His speed is more the build-up variety. Rice displays some inconsistencies gearing down on comebacks or curls, needing too many steps at times, or losing his balance. His short-area separation is better on slants where he can use a good first step off the line and his size. Rice, far too often, lets cornerbacks get into his body and jam him up at the top of his stem.

Player Comp: Nate Burleson

Dynasty Outlook: Rashee Rice was among the few pleasant surprises of the Day 2 NFL Draft action. Yes, I remember my Skyy Moore love, a cautionary tale for fantasy gamers before they get too attached to Rice. However, Rice could fill the void that Juju Smith-Schuster left in year one. Smith-Schuster's calling card these days is his ability to beat zone coverage. This also is a strength of Rice as he ranked first in PFF receiving grade against zone and third in yards per route run against the coverage type last year (minimum 20 zone targets per PFF). We'll see how his playing time shakes out in 2023, but he could be their starting slot receiver in Week 1. Marquez Valdes-Scantling will continue orchestrating his best Demarcus Robinson impression as a starter in Kansas City with his weekly cardio routes. After Valdes-Scantling, though, the two other starting spots are up for grabs, with Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Rice, and likely Justin Watson all vying for snaps. Rice should be an early to mid-second-round rookie draft pick.

Marvin Mims (Oklahoma)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 23rd
    • PFF receiving grade: 63rd
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)*
    • Yards per route run: 41st
    • PFF receiving grade: 85th
  • 2020 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)**
    • Yards per route run: 4th
    • PFF receiving grade: 7th

(*only 41 targets  **only 49 targets)

  • Career
    • 65.8-68.7% snaps on the perimeter in two of his last three seasons
    • 63rd percentile collegiate target share
    • 96th percentile college breakout age

Scouting report:

  • Marvin Mims is a smooth run after the catch field chewer. His long, striding open field speed sneaks up on corners. He transitions from receiver to runner well. His fluid hips serve him well with subtle direction changes on posts and working underneath with stop routes and quick outs. 
  • Mims was tasked with a limited route tree at Oklahoma, with stops, screens, crossers, and posts making up most of his repertoire. Miims should be utilized as a slot option in the NFL from the outset. His best reps come inside against off-coverage, where he can win with his speed and after the catch ability. He looks clunky when saddled with go routes and double moves on the outside. Corners that can run with him have no problem staying in his back pocket. He routinely leaves corners unstacked on the perimeter, which leads to problems at the catch point. Mims can beat man or press coverage with speed if the opposing corner isn't up to the foot race. 
  • Mims isn't a 50/50 ball dominator, but his strong vertical jump (89th percentile) shows up when asked to high-point balls. He also flashes impressive body control on these throws and near the boundary. 

Player Comp: Mark Clayton

Dynasty Outlook: Sean Payton traded up in the second round to get his guy, Marvin Mims. Mims could be a part-time player this season, with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Tim Patrick filling out three-wide sets. He may beat out Patrick in camp for the final starting spot. Patrick can be cut after this year, saving the Broncos nearly 11 million against the cap. The current coaching staff has no allegiances to Patrick, so Mims starting in Week 1 wouldn't be a shock. Mims is a borderline first-round pick, but in many drafts, he'll still be available in the early second round.

A.T. Perry (Wake Forest)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 35th
    • PFF receiving grade: 17th
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 39th
    • PFF receiving grade: 33rd
  • Career
    • 55th percentile college dominator
    • 82nd percentile collegiate target share
    • 18th percentile breakout age

Scouting report:

  • Perry understands leverage and route running well overall but needs to continue polishing his routes. He utilizes his size and a quick first step well on slants with a good feel versus zone. His fluid hips help him snap off routes at the top of his stem with average foot speed. His shortcomings in short-area agility show up on comebacks and curls and selling a vertical push. 
  • Perry isn't as physical as his size or frame would lead anyone to believe. He's not a strong YAC producer, with only 3.1 yards after the catch per reception during his collegiate career. He never ranked higher than 60th in missed tackles forced among wide receivers (minimum 50 targets). Perry does have a quick first step, though, transitioning into a runner after the reception, so while he doesn't break tackles, he can pick up extra yards and extend plays in space. 
  • He can be pushed off his routes and have issues with physical corners that get can into his body. Perry lacks a second gear to stack corners on nine routes easily. Add in that he only secured 40% of his contested opportunities in college, and we're left with a "prototypical X receiver" type who should be utilized in the intermediate areas of the field. Perry profiles as a chain-moving outside receiver that can beat zone and man coverage, but he shouldn't be asked to stretch the field often on go routes. His size and skill set are more conducive to success via corner and post routes. 
  • Perry dealt with drops at Wake Forest with a 10.4% drop rate. This could be related to technique or his 39th percentile hand size. Only time will tell if NFL coaching can clean this up some or if it lingers at the next level. 

Player Comp: Ashley Lelie

Dynasty Outlook: I was shocked that Perry was on the board in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. The Saints made sure he didn't sit out there any longer. Perry's path to playing time could be easier than it appears at first glance. Chris Olave is locked into a starting role and should lead the team in targets, but after him, things get dicey quickly in the Big Easy. It's still possible that we never see a healthy version of Michael Thomas ever again. Rashid Shaheed played well in a small sample last year, but he is also a free agent after this season. Keith Kirkwood, Tre'Quan Smith, and Bryan Edwards are his only remaining competition for snaps if Thomas can't go. Perry could be a Week 1 starter if not crack the starting lineup at some point in 2023. Depending on how the rookie draft is unfolding, I will start considering him in the late third round with the knowledge that he likely drops into the fourth round. Stash him on your taxi squads. He could be the Saints' latest late-round find that bursts onto the NFL scene seemingly out of nowhere.

Cedric Tillman (Tennessee)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 118th
    • PFF receiving grade: 155th
  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 55th
    • PFF receiving grade: 57th
  • Career
    • 44th percentile college dominator
    • 81st percentile collegiate target share
    • 28th percentile breakout age

Scouting report:

  • Cedric Tillman will never be described as a "burner," but that doesn't mean he's slow. Tillman has build up speed with the ability to pull away from corners on deep patterns. Tillman also has no problems stacking opposing corners. 
  • Tillman runs a full complement of routes with nuanced jab steps and head fakes. His foot speed won't wow you, but his quick first step allows him to get separation on slants and drive routes. Tillman has a well-developed understanding of how to use his size, especially on slants and above the rim. He flashes nice body control in the air on back-shoulder throws and errant passes. 
  • Tillman compensates for average foot speed with a strong upper body that allows him to beat press, but he needs to continue to work on his releases and footwork at the line. NFL corners will offer a stiffer test for him. He has good bend for his size. Tillman's next quarterback must become accustomed to trusting Tillman to win at the catch point. While he can get early separation on routes, late separation is usually the name of the game for him. 

Player Comp: Alshon Jeffery

Dynasty Outlook: Tillman could struggle to see the field in 2023. Even if the Browns deploy 11 personnel at a high rate, Tillman should be behind Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Elijah Moore on the depth chart. Tillman was drafted to be the eventual replacement for Peoples-Jones, an unrestricted free agent after this season. If you miss out on Tillman in your rookie drafts, it's ok because we probably get a "trade for" window during the season if he's the WR4 on the team. Tillman is a late-second-round/early third-round rookie draft pick. He makes more sense on teams rebuilding and shooting for next year to compete than a team looking for a quick contributor for 2023.

Andrei Iosivas (Princeton)

Stats:

  • 2022 (512 FBS/FCS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 55th
    • PFF receiving grade: 18th
    • YAC: 55th
  • Career
    • He had a 24.2% target share during his final season.
    • All-American track star at Princeton with a 39" vertical
    • His 6.71 in the 60m was an NCAA Indoor Championship meet record.

Scouting report:

  • Easy and immediate speed. Explosive second gear. Iosivas has "run away from you type of speed".
  • Good deep-ball tracking on go routes noted, but he does have some reps where he catches the ball with his body. He does come down with difficult catches in the air, but his hands are a worry. His hands are tiny (8 5/8 in.). Iosivas has the same sized hands as Steven Sims, Marquise Goodwin, Jakeem Grant, and Eddie Royal. He had issues with contested situations at the Senior Bowl and this could be the underlying reason why.
  • Princeton fed him on crossers, where he wove through the defense and then turned on the jets to daylight. NFL teams should look to do the same against zone coverage and get him involved on jet sweeps.

Player Comp: Chris Conley

Dynasty Outlook: The 6'3" athletic freak will be competing for a spot on the Cincinnati Bengals after they selected him in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. Unless injury strikes, Iosivas could be regulated to a situation deep threat role this season. I love taking shots on top-shelf athletes in the later rounds of rookie drafts for my taxi squads. Iosivas checks the box.

Puka Nacua (BYU)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 2nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 2nd
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 6th
    • PFF receiving grade: 30th
  • Career
    • 39 carries for 357 rushing yards (9.2 YPC, five rushing scores)

Scouting report:

  • Puka Nacua might not get the hype of some of his prospect brethren because he attended BYU, but he deserves all the praise. Nacua ranked second and sixth in yards per route run over his final two collegiate seasons (minimum 50 targets, per PFF). He flashes good footwork and a varied release package at the line of scrimmage.
  • Nacua also adds subtle nuances to his routes with pacing and head fakes. He’s strong after the catch. While he’s not a jitterbug, he’s tough to bring down with the ball in his hands because of his physicality and vision in traffic. He is a magician near the boundary, as his film is littered with tough grabs near the sideline with impressive footwork.
  • Those strong hands have also served him well in contested situations. He ranked 17th in contested catch rate in 2021 (minimum 10 contested targets per PFF). BYU tried to get the ball in Nacua’s hands in any way possible.
  • He was utilized on jet sweets and on the ground in 2022 as the fifth-leading rusher on the team, with 8.4 yards per carry and five rushing scores. Nacua has that dog in him.

Player Comp: Dollar Store Deebo Samuel

Dynasty Outlook: My man crush on Puka Nacua remains strong. Yes, I know he fell to the fifth round before the Rams selected him, but the wide receiver depth chart after Cooper Kupp is putrid. Los Angeles only has Ben Skowronek, Van Jefferson, Lance McCutcheon, Tutu Atwell, and Austin Trammell to compete with Nacua for starting reps in Week 1. Sean McVay stated that when he called Nacua to tell him they were selecting him in the draft, he loved his versatility. Do I smell a possible Bob Woods role for Nacua with the Rams? You bet I do. Nacua's 9.2 yards per carry and 357 rushing yards at BYU scream that the jet sweeps that the former Ram received could become a part of this offense again with Nacua. Nacua won't cost much in rookie drafts as he consistently falls to the fourth round or later. It wouldn't shock me to learn that he will go undrafted in smaller dynasty leagues. Nacua could be the diamond in the rough of this class. I'm trading into every rookie draft late to select him that I can.

Tyler Scott (Cincinnati)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 46th
    • PFF receiving grade: 113th
  • Career
    • 85th percentile college dominator
    • 73rd percentile college target share
    • 39th percentile collegiate breakout age

Scouting report:

  • Scott's burst and short-area quickness pop immediately on film. He's immediate lightning with the ball in his hands. Scott has easy change of direction ability with little to no speed sacrificed in the process. 
  • He flashes a deep and varied release package at the line. He can win with speed or precision footwork. Scott varies his tempo with his releases and his route pacing. He can win from the outside (96.2% of his snaps in college as a perimeter receiver). 
  • Scott has fantastic ball tracking on deep routes. He saved his quarterback more than a few times by adjusting to underthrown balls. Scott plays bigger than his size. His catch radius is larger than his frame would suggest because of his strong hands and high-pointing skills.

Player Comp: Darnell Mooney

Dynasty Outlook: The selection of Scott in the fourth round by Ryan Poles was with an eye toward the future. Chicago has a fully stocked starting lineup of wide receivers, but Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney are unrestricted free agents after this season. Scott won't be a main contributor this season unless injury strikes, but he could move into the starting lineup in 2024. Scott is a final-round dart/taxi squad stash.

Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 5th
    • PFF receiving grade: 49th
  • Career
    • 78th percentile college dominator
    • 67th percentile college target share
    • 37th percentile breakout age

Scouting report:

  • Hyatt is a speed merchant. That's the best thing he has going for him at this stage. Hyatt's blinding speed makes up for flaws in the rest of his game. The name of the game should be to get him moving horizontally with crossers at the next level to allow his speed to manufacture YAC. Screens by the truckloads also wouldn't be a terrible idea for his next offensive coordinator to deploy. 
  • Hyatt was utilized in the slot or in stacked formations to get him free releases in college. He has an 88.7% collegiate slot rate. When Hyatt was tasked with winning against man or press coverage, he couldn't. Hyatt's route running and release package are vanilla. He lacks nuance in his routes and wins only via speed releases. If corners can get their hands on him, it's over. They have free access to his body, and his lack of upper body strength shows up immediately. 

Player Comp: Anthony Schwartz

Dynasty Outlook: The Giants’ depth chart on paper looks like a logjam of slot receivers with Parris Campbell, Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson, Jamison Crowder, and Jalin Hyatt. If New York moves Hyatt to the boundary, he could struggle early if he cracks the starting lineup after seeing nothing but stacked formations and free releases in college. It’s possible that Hyatt walks out of training camp as the team’s starting slot, but it’s equally possible he will be redshirted this season. Hyatt is a third-round dart throw type of pick in rookie drafts.

Nathaniel Dell (Houston)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 27th
    • PFF receiving grade: 11th
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 43rd
    • PFF receiving grade: 12th
  • Career
    • Over the last two seasons: 50.4-67.0% slot rate

Scouting report:

  • Dell is a rail-thin speedster (165 lbs). He was utilized in the slot, in motion, and in bunch formations at Houston to give him free releases at the line. He's best suited for slot usage in the NFL.
  • Immediately his speed jumps off the page. Quick feet help him beat many nickels off the line. He drops from fourth to second gear easily on curls and comebacks.
  • Dell is an early and late separator. He is a precise route runner who is lightning-quick in and out of his breaks. While he can be pushed off his route if corners can get their hands on him, Dell also flashes the ability to separate from the outside with speed releases.
  • His ability to stretch the field is a nice wrinkle. He ranked 11th in passer rating when targeted 20-plus yards down the field in 2022 (minimum 20 deep targets).

Player Comp: Marquise Brown

Dynasty Outlook: The slightly framed Dell lasted until the third round when the Houston Texans selected him at the behest of their new quarterback, C.J. Stroud. Dell has been a high-end target earner at Houston over the last two seasons. We'll see if that translates to the NFL, but he's worth considering after the third round of rookie drafts. He'll be duking it out with John Metchie, Noah Brown, and Xavier Hutchinson for a Week 1 starting job. 

Michael Wilson (Stanford)

Stats:

  • 2022 (512 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)**
    • Yards per route run: 69th
    • PFF receiving grade: 123rd

**Only 40 targets in 2022**

  • Career
    • 62nd percentile college dominator
    • 57th percentile college target share
    • 76th percentile breakout age

Scouting report:

  • Wilson looks like a possession receiver who will see more targets against zone in the NFL. Wilson uncovers well with smooth hips. His issues come when he's asked to gear down on curls and comebacks. His feet fail him, reflected in his 38th percentile 20-yard shuttle. When he's tasked with running these routes, any separation he's gained early in the route is eradicated at the top of his stem. An NFL team should look to deploy him on slants, outs, and digs in close quarters and posts or corners deep where he can utilize his size and plus hips. 
  • Wilson struggles against man and press coverage. He lets corners into his body too easily. Once they get their hands on him, it's over. He gets tied up easily at the line with more physical defensive backs. I'd say it's fair to question his upper body strength considering the issues he displays on film, but with a 96th-percentile bench press; I don't think raw strength is the problem. He needs to work on his hand-fighting technique, so he can shake free. 
  • Wilson's strong hands served him well at Stanford, with a 62% contested target catch rate. He'll need them if he settles into a possession role over the middle in an NFL offense. 
  • He's a tenacious, high-energy run blocker. He seeks out contact and has no problems setting the edge. Wilson will earn brownie points immediately for his dirty work in the run game. 

Player Comp: Mohamed Sanu

Dynasty Outlook: Wilson was drafted in the third round heading to Arizona to compete for targets as the WR4/5 on the depth chart. Unless DeAndre Hopkins is traded, Wilson will struggle to see the field in his rookie season. Wilson falls into the fourth-round dart throw bucket in rookie drafts. He's worth getting some exposure to across your dynasty leagues, but he's definitely not a priority pick in the later rounds.

Jonathan Mingo (Ole Miss)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 94th
    • PFF receiving grade: 44th
  • Career
    • Mingo ran from the slot on 35.1% of his snaps in 2022. From 2019-2021, he played 83.3-87.9% from the perimeter.

Scouting report:

  • Mingo is an inconsistent separator. Mingo can gain enough separation to haul in contested catches, but you won't see Mingo sending anyone to the shadow realm on a route.
  • His upper body strength shows up in blocking, fighting through press, and after the catch. Mingo can make some things happen after the catch with his dense lower half.
  • Mingo was utilized on screens for 18.4% of his target volume in 2022. He ranked 11th in YAC per reception (minimum 15 screen targets) on screens last season.

Player Comp: Laquon Treadwell

Dynasty Outlook: Call me a Mingo hater. It's ok. I'm fine with this title. Mingo was overdrafted to the Panthers in the second round of the NFL Draft. None of Mingo's profile outside of his testing says he has a high ceiling in the NFL. It does, however, forecast a frightening floor. Mingo didn't crack the top 40 in PFF receiving grade or yards per route run in his final season. He was only a 40th percentile prospect in college dominator with a 53rd percentile breakout age (20.4). Carolina looks like an easy depth chart to ascend to the top of the heap, but that's also assuming that you have the talent to draw targets at a high rate which is one of my questions about Mingo. He didn't sniff above a 20% target share until his final season at Ole Miss. Mingo will get drafted in most rookie drafts in the second round around the other wide receiver prospects that were selected in the second round of the NFL Draft. If you want him, you'll have to pull the trigger there. If you're following my ranks, Mingo isn't on the board until the third round, which means you likely miss out on Mingo. Considering all the factors I discussed previously, I'm fine with being underweight on Mingo in dynasty.

Derius Davis (TCU)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 121st
    • PFF receiving grade: 210th
    • YAC per reception: 4th
  • Career
    • Last season was his first with more than 55 targets (66).
    • 91.4% of his snaps were from the slot at TCU.

Scouting report:

  • Early on, his biggest impact will come as a returner. He excelled on punt returns in 2022, ranking sixth in return average and fourth in overall punt return yards (minimum 15 returns).
  • Used creatively by TCU with jet sweeps, screens, and pop passes. The name of the game was to get him in space and let him burn people with his speed.
  • Davis also played slot receiver at TCU. He flashes early separation on slants and the ability to stretch the field. A double move or subtle jab step can give a decent cushion for a player with his raw speed.

Player Comp: Jalen Saunders

Dynasty Outlook: The Chargers took Davis in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Davis is lightning in a bottle that new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore could use creatively. A gimmicky player who likely contributes mostly in the return game isn't worth a roster spot at this point. Davis will have some splash weeks, but they aren't worth chasing because those big plays probably come in the return game or a trick play.

Tre Tucker (Cincinnati)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 79th
    • PFF receiving grade: 152nd
    • YAC per reception: 74th
  • Career
    • 2022 was the first season Tucker eclipsed 500 receiving yards.
    • 91.4% slot rate at Cincinnati

Scouting report:

  • Tucker profiles as a depth receiver in the NFL. Tucker offers special teams ability for his next prospective home with 67 kickoff returns on his résumé, with two returned for scores.
  • Tucker is a savvy slot receiver with an innate spider sense to weave in between zone coverage. He is a chain mover. Tucker can make defenders miss in the open field with his quick feet and acceleration, but I wouldn't classify him as a dynamic threat with the ball in his hands.

Player Comp: Lance Moore

Dynasty Outlook: The Raiders see something in Tucker that I don't. His profile isn't special, with a 22nd-percentile college dominator and no true collegiate breakout. Las Vegas spent a decent middle-round pick on a player that probably becomes their primary kick returner while contributing little on offense. Tucker isn't worth a dynasty roster spot.

Xavier Hutchinson (Iowa State)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 24th
    • PFF receiving grade: 4th
    • YAC: 25th
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 48th
    • PFF receiving grade: 27th
    • YAC: 21st
  • Career
    • College Dominator: 69th percentile
    • Collegiate target share: 97th percentile

Scouting report:

  • Xavier Hutchinson is a bully with the ball in his hands after the catch. Hutchinson ranked 38th (2022) and ninth (2021) in missed tackles forced over the last two seasons. He was also top 25 in YAC in each of the last two years (minimum 50 targets). Good leg drive and tenacity fuel this man’s contact balance.
  • Hutchinson is a versatile receiver who can also work from the slot. He flashes crisp cuts on short-area routes. I would love for an NFL team to give him a 60% slot rate and let him push around nickel corners all day.
  • He is patient on screens and in the open field, allowing blocks to set up in front of him before he shoots upfield.
  • Hutchinson put some acrobatic downfield receptions on tape. He has good ball-tracking skills and body adjustment on back-shoulder and bucket catches.

Player Comp: Discount Amon-Ra St. Brown

Dynasty Outlook: I'm a big fan of Hutchinson's game, but the NFL wasn't as enamored as me. He lasted until the sixth round of the NFL Draft before the Texans ran the card up with his name on it. His playing time projection this season is murky with John Metchie, Noah Brown, and Tank Dell all duking it out for the final starting spot in three wide sets. Hutchinson is worth a final round dart or waiver wire pickup to stash on your taxi squad.

Ronnie Bell (Michigan)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 35th
    • PFF receiving grade: 59th
    • YAC: 90th
  • Career
    • 56.9% career slot rate

Scouting report:

  • Ronnie Bell is not an immediate separator. He needs to hone his releases further.
  • Corners can get inside leverage on his routes or remain in his back pocket enough that it’s a familiar trend on film. This leaves him unable to stack corners routinely.
  • Bell is a tenacious blocker in the run game. He will be an immediate asset here from the jump.
  • If everything gels, he projects as a well-rounded WR3/WR4 for an NFL team. He’s solid but not spectacular in and out of his breaks and after the catch. Bell displays good burst and versatility on manufactured touches with sweeps and screens.

Player Comp: Brandon Tate

Dynasty Outlook: Bell was selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. His sub-40th percentile college dominator, college yards per reception, and breakout age form a scary prospect profile. Bell isn't worth a roster spot at this point.

Jayden Reed (Michigan State)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 160th
    • PFF receiving grade: 134th
    • YAC: 176th
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 36th
    • PFF receiving grade: 38th
    • YAC: 57th
  • Career
    • College Dominator: 72nd percentile
    • Breakout age: 98th percentile

Scouting report:

  • Jayden Reed has special teams versatility. He returned 38 punts in college with a 15.3-yard return average and three scores. Also, two seasons with at least 16 kickoffs returned (20.0-yard kickoff return average).
  • A strong lower half allows him to shed arm tackles. He has solid YAC ability with good change of direction. Reed has decent burst as soon as the ball is in his hands.
  • Overall, a solid route runner that sets up defenders well, especially on deep posts. He showed off more short-area separation skills and route-running nuance in Mobile at the Senior Bowl than I noticed on tape.
  • He has enough speed to break away in the open field. He won’t be caught from behind with a clear runway.

Player Comp: Markus Wheaton

Dynasty Outlook: Reed surprised many (including myself) when he was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft. The Packers stocked up on weapons for Jordan Love, and Reed should be a Day 1 starter in two wide receiver sets. With at least 6.0 YAC per reception in three of his four seasons at Michigan State, Reed has the solid YAC ability to fit the Packers’ passing offense. Reed has only Christian Watson (no, I’m not worried about Romeo Doubs) to contend with to become the Packers’ leader in targets this season. Reed is among my Tier 2 wide receivers that received second-round draft capital that could all be starters in Week 1. Reed is a mid-second round rookie draft pick that should come off the board around Rashee Rice and Marvin Mims.

Charlie Jones (Purdue)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 26th
    • PFF receiving grade: 13th
    • YAC: 30th
  • Career
    • 74.0% out wide in college

Scouting report:

  • Jones is a dependable chain mover. He has the quickness to gain separation on quick hitters and offers a trusty set of mitts. Jones can chew up opposing secondaries underneath on slants and crossers.
  • Jones offers little after the catch. He forced only two missed tackles beyond the line of scrimmage in 2022. He only managed 1.6-2.7 YAC per reception on short- and medium-depth targets.
  • Jones bounced around with Buffalo and Iowa before finding a home with Purdue in 2022. He refused to settle and flashed potential with his big final season. That never-quit attitude will serve him well with sticking with an NFL franchise as a depth receiver.
  • His extensive résumé as a returner (over 122 combined collegiate returns) will help him stick on a roster as he works his way up a receiver depth chart.

Player Comp: Jordan Shipley

Dynasty Outlook: The former Purdue possession receiver is an older prospect (24.5) who gets to catch passes from Joe Burrow in the NFL. The Bengals selected him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Tyler Boyd is an unrestricted free agent after this season, so it's possible Jones could be a starter next season if the team doesn't bring in more talent in free agency or the draft. Jones is a final-round dice roll/taxi squad candidate.

Trey Palmer (Nebraska)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 6th
    • PFF receiving grade: 17th
    • YAC: 47th
  • Career
    • 64.8% slot rate over his collegiate career
    • Transferred from LSU to Nebraska for the 2022 season

Scouting report:

  • Palmer is a former five-star recruit who clocked at 10.42 in the 100m in high school. Nebraska utilized him deep and on short crossers to take advantage of his blazing wheels.
  • Palmer enjoyed zone coverage in college, with most of his usage coming from the slot. I didn’t find many instances on film where he was pressed at the line, so an NFL team could be in for an adventure if they instantly convert him to an outside Z role. This isn’t to say he can’t win in this role, but it’s a projection at best.
  • Palmer’s route tree wasn’t immensely diverse in college, so an NFL team would ask him to learn new skills on the fly if a full route tree player is expected from the jump. For most of his snaps, Palmer was used on deep posts, flies, shallow crossers, and screens.

Player Comp: Kenny Stills

Dynasty Outlook: The former five-star recruit will join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after they picked him up in the sixth round. Palmer isn't likely to crack the starting lineup with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage ahead of him. He was likely brought in to serve as the team's new part-time field stretcher. A role that Scotty Miller had until he moved on in free agency. Palmer is a taxi squad candidate.

Elijah Higgins (Stanford)

Stats:

  • 2022 (286 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 160th
    • PFF receiving grade: 227th
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 162nd
    • PFF receiving grade: 158th
  • Career
    • 79% slot rate in 2022 (66.2% over his collegiate career)

Scouting report:

  • Higgins operated as the big slot for Stanford. His height and big catch radius allowed him to high-point balls over smaller nickels.
  • He needs to work on his releases. Higgins faced off coverage for most of 2022. His footwork at the line does little in the way of helping him on many reps. On many snaps, he resembles a hamster on a wheel spinning in place.
  • He is a solid red-zone weapon. Higgins uses size to his advantage in the end zone, boxing out corners or gaining inside leverage on slants. He's dependable high-pointing with late hands.
  • He is not a burner, but he does have pull-away speed in the open field. He has enough lateral agility with his size to weave through traffic after the catch.

Player Comp: Juwan Johnson

Dynasty Outlook: Higgins is following in the footsteps of my player comp for him. Higgins is headed to South Beach as the Dolphins plucked him out of the crowd in the sixth round. Higgins is worth a taxi squad spot, especially in tight-end premium leagues. With an 86th percentile speed score and 83rd percentile burst score, Higgins has the prerequisite athleticism to be a monster as a move tight end if everything comes together.

Dontayvion Wicks (Virginia)

Stats:

  • 2022 (512 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 235th
    • PFF receiving grade: 270th
    • aDOT: 42nd
  • 2021 (251 FBS WRs, minimum 50 targets)
    • Yards per route run: 9th
    • PFF receiving grade: 47th
    • aDOT: 8th
  • Career
    • Collegiate yards per reception: 85th percentile (17.7)

Scouting report:

  • Wicks is a burner and a field stretcher. In 2021, Wicks ranked sixth among all FBS wide receivers in deep targets (37.6% of his target volume), 14th in deep receiving yards, and 24th in deep passer rating when targeted (minimum 15 deep targets, 124.7).
  • He has immediate lightning-fast acceleration off the line. He consistently stacks corners downfield with speed releases. Wicks does exhibit some body catching. His ball tracking downfield has been stellar, though.
  • Drops are his big issue, as they cropped up heavily in 2022. He dropped 23.1% of his targets, which was the highest among FBS wide receivers with at least 50 targets.

Player Comp: Leonard Hankerson

Dynasty Outlook: Wicks is headed to cheesehead country. The Packers nabbed him in the fifth round. The Packers receiving depth chart is wide open after Christian Watson. Wicks could be the WR4 on the depth chart this season. If he pops in camp, I would take a shot on him through waivers, but I'm not wasting a top-four-round rookie draft pick on him.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

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*All data utilized in this article is courtesy of PFF, Football Outsiders, and Playerprofiler.com unless otherwise specified.*

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