2023 Dynasty Rookie Top 10 Wide Receivers
Most recently I covered my top-10 rookie running backs for 2023. Now I’m turning my attention to this year’s receiver group. To be sure, the premium of the class doesn’t appear to be as projected prior to the 2022 collegiate regular season, but is there enough for the 2023 rookie class, overall, to maintain a premium value?
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The primary goal of my scouting activities is to identify those rookies who have the greatest chance to have top-12 (QB1, RB1, WR1) fantasy impact within their position. Note, there is a difference between NFL impact and fantasy impact. There’s a phrase I use when scouting and ultimately ranking my players: Aim small, miss small. Simply put, this means by focusing on finding top-12 players within their respective positions, if I miss the mark, perhaps I still find a top-24 or top-36 player.
All my scouting work goes into identifying the traits which have made current NFL players successful and projecting collegiate players from that mold. I cast aside all possible subjective biases before watching tape and reviewing players and I stay away from most all Twitter scouts. I have a very large spreadsheet of statistics, metrics, and fantasy production for veteran players and a relatively complex scoring sheet for rookie evaluation which results in an overall score. When overlaid with my NFL veteran data, it gives me a reasonable evaluation and potentiality of the incoming rookie class. It is from that scoring that I offer my information here.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at the 2023 rookie class of receivers from my first detailed assessments.
Two things before moving on:
- Please follow me on Twitter: @DLF_Jeff. I always try to answer every question.
- I perform multiple rounds of assessment so values and rankings will change over time!
2023 Wide Receivers
I said this in my last article as well but the expectations for the 2023 rookie class were very high. Many dynasty coaches looked beyond 2022 and stockpiled 2023 draft selections in anticipation of a deep and talented class.
It didn’t pan out as expected.
The running backs look well-sized and possess a fair amount of intrigue. The receiver group struggled almost across the board and, by my estimation, possesses a lot of variability. It’s not good for a position within the draft class to not have a consensus top name. Worse yet when there are multiple names lumped together to form a pool. This is what we have in 2023 within the receiver position.
I always look to the receivers in a draft class to provide the ‘glue’ which holds the draft together and provide meaningful depth. The number and quality of the names within the position help determine where the pivot points are and how much quality we see into the second round of dynasty rookie drafts. Those pivot points help establish where the risk tranches are. In 2023, I see a lot of risk earlier than is typical.
Let’s get to my top-10 receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft!
1 – Quentin Johnston, TCU
Rank: WR1 Overall: R3
To be honest, I’m surprised after two full rounds of receiver scouting that Johnston remains on top of my rankings. I fully expected a lack of consistent breakout production and a limited route tree to cause him to fall on my list. But after review, Johnston plays very well to his size off the line of scrimmage and prior to the pass being thrown. With the ball in the air, he’s equally good in positioning and fluidity to the catch-point. But the most exciting aspect is his agility and speed combination following the reception. His weaknesses include blocking, limited route tree, and less-than-deal collegiate production but his ceiling given his size conjures images of Tee Higgins, but with more after-catch dynamic. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention his downside comp to Kevin White. He remains worth the risk in my assessment.
2 – Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Rank: WR2 Overall: R4
Oh, what could have been. Smith-Njigba (JSN) was primed to be the marquee name in the 2023 receiver class, but a nagging hamstring essentially ended his 2022 season before it began. What he did in 2021 is enough to keep him highly ranked as his dominance in that season was sufficient to largely erase his disappointing final season at OSU. He’s natural, fluid, runs a good route tree, and put up a single-season total in 2021 rarely seen from OSU receivers. He doesn’t possess that “leap off the page” dynamic but he profiles as well as recent OSU names such as Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Terry McLaurin, none of which had the single-season performance of Smith-Njigba.
3 – Jordan Addison, USC
Rank: WR3 Overall: R5
Jordan Addison is, arguably, my most difficult evaluation from this year’s class. On one hand, his 2021 production while at Pittsburgh (Kenny Pickett) produced stunning production: 100/1,593/17. A transfer to USC for his Junior year saw regression to a 59/875/8 stat line. His fluid routes and break off the stem are consistently next-level. On the other hand, size concerns persist, he rarely faced press coverage, and I can’t say I see enough transcendent ability to rise on my draft board. He conjures so many memories and comps, almost identically so, to Oklahoma standout receiver Dede Westbrook, who struggled in the NFL. That puts his upside south of DeVonta Smith and on par with Dede Westbrook in my scouting. That’s too wide a range for a climb to my overall WR1 and, in fact, he could drift lower after another round of nuance (more intense route-skill evaluation) scouting.
4 – Zay Flowers, Boston College
Rank: WR4 Overall: R9
The only thing keeping Zay Flowers out as my WR1 in this year’s class is his size. He checks all other boxes. Following my last round of review, Flowers is neck-and-neck with Jordan Addison and could overtake him as my WR3. He runs a full route tree and possesses undeniable dynamic at all route depths and with the ball in his hands. Similar to 2022’s Jahan Dotson, who ultimately was selected 16th overall in the first round, Flowers should hear his name called prior to the end of day one in the 2023 NFL Draft and will possess intriguing upside potential. I’ll be watching his weigh-in measurables during the NFL Combine to get a more accurate assessment of his physical size. A late-first-round selection in the NFL Draft to an upside quarterback situation would only boost his potential.
5 – Kayshon Boutte, LSU
Rank: WR5 Overall: R10
Kayshon Boutte was in discussions as the top overall receiver prospect when the 2022 collegiate season kicked off. Instead, LSU’s offensive inconsistency led to a disappointing 2022 campaign for the junior, though he did produce 107 yards and a touchdown on six receptions vs. Georgia in the SEC championship game. While not the upside prospect of former Tigers Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, Boutte still profiles well to the next level and should hear his name called on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
6 – Rashee Rice, SMU
Rank: WR6 Overall: R19
Rice is another fast riser and surprise after my early rounds of scouting this year’s class. I wasn’t prepared to be impressed by the SMU product but it was impossible to miss his presence on the field. He earns a deduction for conference (American) competition level but possesses good size, speed, and catch radius while playing with physicality and purpose. He profiles better than fellow SMU alum Courtland Sutton in my scoring and I think he’s going to surprise in being a Round-2 selection in the NFL Draft.
7 – Josh Downs, North Carolina
Rank: WR7 Overall: R11
Josh Downs is yet another undersized-yet-intriguing upside prospect from this year’s class. He’s a gritty receiver who possesses a solid route-tree resume’ with agility while playing with a chip on his shoulder. He rarely faced press coverage and possesses questionable size which could limit his upside, but quick feet could allow him to flourish at the next level. Drafted situation will be key!
8 – Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
Rank: WR8 Overall: R12
Cedric Tillman turned in a productive 2021 campaign and was a first-round prospect heading into 2022 before an early-season ankle injury ended his impressive start. His final game in mid-November against South Carolina was a productive one with 81 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. He profiles as a prototypical big-body receiver with plus-level physicality and hands. A limited route tree and inconsistent production will keep his draft stock lower than it could have been in his senior year. In a field with limited receiver size, Cedrick Tillman will stand out but he figures to be no better than a late-second-round selection in dynasty rookie drafts and will need time to develop.
9 – Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Rank: WR9 Overall: R25
Jalin Hyatt presents as a speed merchant who can quickly stack defenders. The Tennessee system does no favors for receivers like Hyatt who use agility and speed to create separation as the “spread” formation doesn’t help develop advanced route mechanics and intelligence. That said, he possesses fluid hands, and agility and is dangerous in space, all traits which should keep him on the radar early on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. He’s a candidate to fall out of my top-10 receivers during my next round of evaluation due to a narrow band of next-level traits.
10 – Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State
Rank: WR10 Overall: R35
There’s enough to like about Hutchinson’s size, collegiate production, and ability while the ball is in the air. He doesn’t possess deep speed or elusive agility pre-catch, but nor are they significant deficits. I don’t see the ability to consistently stack defenders but there’s enough to like at the short-to-intermediate route potential for early-career production with the right quarterback under center. Hutchinson should hear his name called on Day 3 of the NFL Draft and has upside similar to Denver’s Courtland Sutton.
I hope you enjoyed this look at my Top 10 wide receivers of the 2023 NFL Draft. Give me a follow on Twitter (@DLF_Jeff) and let me know your thoughts on this list. Be sure to check back as I adjust these ranks as this offseason progresses leading up to the draft.
As always, be happy, be well and, please, be good to each other!