Congratulations, folks! We’ve made it! After months of waiting, fantasy football draft season is upon us. After spending the past four months analyzing, assessing, and curating my rankings, I’ve settled on a handful of “my guys.” Here are the top five WRs I am not trying to leave any fantasy draft without.
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Top WRs To Draft in Fantasy Football in 2023
Every year is different. Some years, there are only a couple of guys at a particular position I really like. Other years, there are a bunch. So, the number in the article title will likely be different each year and for each position.
This year, I have five WRs going in various parts of fantasy drafts that I don’t want to leave without. I’ve listed them in ADP order.
Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints (ADP: WR13)
I couldn’t be more in on Chris Olave this season. Everything about his talent profile and rookie season suggests a breakout.
As a rookie, Olave averaged 13.2 PPR fantasy points per game. He finished as the WR25. Clearly, his ADP is baking in some serious progression. With good reason!
Olave was ninth with his 14.0 yards average depth of target. His 26.7% target share was 15th in the league — pretty impressive for a rookie. While he only ran a route on 88% of the Saints’ pass plays, he was targeted on 29.3% of his routes run, the 10th-highest rate in the league.
Olave proved he could win both downfield and underneath. He is a complete receiver.
Chris Olave looks like a damn superstar
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) August 17, 2023
Fantasy managers may be concerned about Michael Thomas. Don’t be. Even if Thomas somehow stays on the field this year, Olave is the WR1.
I have Olave ranked as my WR1 and am targeting him around the Round 2/3 turn in every fantasy draft.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: WR33)
Diontae Johnson’s WR33 ADP is criminal. Anyone drafting at or after his ADP should be charged with grand larceny.
Johnson is just two years removed from 17.2 ppg and a WR8 finish. All he did last year was reaffirm his status as an alpha target hog, commanding an elite 27% target share.
So, why are fantasy managers fading Johnson? Because he didn’t score any touchdowns.
Johnson averaged 10.6 ppg, good for a WR39 finish, with zero touchdowns. Given the fact that he had 147 targets, he should’ve scored at least 5-6. Had he done so, that would’ve put him around 12.5 ppg.
Even in a worst-case scenario where Kenny Pickett doesn’t improve, Johnson is being drafted at his floor. He’s not going to go scoreless this season. A similar inefficient season would make him a low WR3.
But what if Pickett improves? What if the offense scores more overall? What if Johnson’s catch rate ticks back up over 60%? What if he scores more touchdowns than expected?
There are so many ways for Johnson to absolutely smash his ADP, and there are almost none where he busts.
Johnson was my No. 1 most-drafted player back in 2021. I faded him completely in 2022. I’m back in for 2023. I’ve got him all the way up to WR26, the highest in our PFN consensus rankings, and I am hoping to roster Johnson in every league.
Marquise Brown, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: WR34)
In snake drafts, my love for Johnson and Marquise Brown poses a problem. Their ADPs are right next to each other. It’s almost impossible to get them both without reaching a full round. The fantasy gods are making me choose between my children!
This is another ADP I don’t quite understand. Brown finished as the WR27 last season, averaging 13.0 ppg. Of course, it was once again a tale of two halves. But that’s kind of my point here.
Over the first six weeks, before he broke his foot, Brown averaged 18.3 ppg. Upon his return in Week 12, DeAndre Hopkins was back, and then Kyler Murray tore his ACL. We never got to see Brown, Hopkins, and Murray play together.
Instead, we got to see Brown and Hopkins on the field together with Colt McCoy at quarterback. I’m not holding Brown’s 9.0 ppg over the final five weeks against him.
This year, Brown is the unquestioned WR1, with his only real target competition slot man Rondale Moore and rookie Michael Wilson. Brown saw a 23.7% target share last season. I expect that to push 30% this season.
Even with McCoy, Brown should be a high WR3, at worst. But what if Murray returns earlier than expected? We already know what a Hopkins-less Brown looks like. It was fantasy gold.
If I have to suffer through half a season of McCoy to get to Murray at the end, I will gladly do it at this price. Hollywood is my WR27 and someone I’m consistently taking ahead of ADP in 2023 fantasy drafts.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (ADP: WR42)
Two Saints? Yes. Two Saints. How can this be? It’s all about value and upside.
Do I think Michael Thomas is physically capable of playing football anymore? No. I think his body has betrayed him, and he will be on IR by the end of September. But when we last saw him on the field, he still looked like Michael Thomas.
Derek Carr provides a sizable QB upgrade over Andy Dalton. He can support two quality fantasy receivers. Thomas and Olave can both thrive in this offense.
Last season, Thomas only played in three games, but he averaged 17.0 ppg in them. Olave is the No. 1 now, so we shouldn’t expect anything that high, but at a WR42 ADP, Thomas could average 12 ppg and be a value.
The main reason I find myself drafting so much Thomas when I get the chance is because no player going in his range has the ceiling he does. Thomas’ upside is top-18. And the only thing stopping him is health. We know he’s good at football.
Odds are, we are dropping all of the players we draft around Thomas anyway. If he truly is done, we just drop him. But if not, he could be one of the best values in fantasy this season.
Jayden Reed, Green Bay Packers (ADP: WR79)
For many of you, Jayden Reed won’t even get drafted. I play exclusively in leagues with deeper starting lineups, so Reed is in play for me. For those of you who do as well, hop on board, the water is fine!
I’ve found myself taking Reed as early as the 12th or 13th round in PFN Discord mock drafts. There’s just so much upside and zero risk.
The Packers drafted Reed in the second round this year. He’s an older prospect, but he’s got 4.45 speed and the ability to play on the outside.
Christian Watson has entrenched himself as the Packers’ WR1, but the WR2 job is wide open. Forgive me, but I’m not a believer in Romeo Doubs.
Reed may open the season as the WR3 but could follow the traditional rookie path of surging in the second half. Fantasy managers may need to sit on Reed for a bit, but he could pay huge dividends as potentially an every-week WR2 over the most important weeks of the season. I want him to be the last WR on all of my rosters.