Justin Jefferson’s dominant 2022 saw the third-year wideout become the youngest player in NFL history to lead the league in receptions (128) and receiving yards (1,809) en route to AP Offensive Player of the Year honors. Jefferson’s historic ’22 campaign resulted in him leading all WRs in standard (240.7) and PPR scoring (368.7). Entering the 2023 fantasy football draft season, the reigning OPOY sits as the consensus WR1, and many fantasy owners are even taking the plunge on him as the No. 1 overall pick in drafts.
Sure, it’s challenging to post back-to-back top finishes in fantasy football, but given the pass-happy nature of the Vikings offense coupled with the fact Jefferson was unlucky in the touchdown department last year, there’s optimism he posts another elite receiving season.
While Jefferson’s No. 1 ranking is warranted, there isn’t a massive gap between him and the other top-tier WRs (Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp). Sure, it goes against the consensus, but there are legit cases to be made for each to be the top receiver off the board.
Last year in standard leagues, Jefferson scored just 5.2 more points than Adams, the overall WR2 (235.5), and on a PPR per-game basis, Jefferson managed just 1.6 more points than Hill. Cooper Kupp actually averaged the most PPR points per game (22.4) before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 9.
For those wondering exactly who the best wide receiver in fantasy is, we’re here to help settle that debate. Below, we’ll dive into the cases for each top-tier guy to be the first wide receiver selected before coming to a verdict on who you should draft as the overall WR1 in fantasy football.
Justin Jefferson vs. Ja’Marr Chase vs. Tyreek Hill: Who’s the best fantasy WR in 2023?
Justin Jefferson fantasy outlook
We certainly won’t fault anyone for drafting last season’s WR1 as the top fantasy wideout this season, especially after Minnesota parted ways with Jefferson’s top running mate, Adam Thielen, this offseason. As we alluded to in the intro, Jefferson could be in line for an even higher TD output given Thielen’s 22 red-zone targets (fifth among WRs) are vacated.
It will be an uphill battle for Jefferson to one-up his 1,809 receiving-yard campaign, but if there’s a wideout who can challenge Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record (1,965), it’s Jefferson. The Vikings’ offense ended 2022 passing at the third-highest clip (64.38 percent) and was one of the most efficient aerial attacks, ending the season ranking 10th in drop-back EPA (0.069).
Additionally, J Jettas was the most efficient wideout in terms of his EPA-added (+113.1), as his ability to consistently create separation (51.2-percent route win rate) should result in another massive receiving season for the reigning AP Offensive Player of the Year. The one potential hurdle in Jefferson’s path to a second-straight WR1 finish is the fact the Vikings aren’t expected to be as successful in the win-loss column as they were last season. Minnesota’s win total sits at just 8.5, as they somehow found a way to end the last season winning 11 one-score games. Given they’re the product of some negative regression, there’s a chance the offense doesn’t rack up the fifth-most passing yards (4,484) as it did in ‘22, but Jefferson will still get a big percentage of whatever Minnesota’s passing game produces.
Ja’Marr Chase fantasy outlook
Jefferson’s former college teammate has a real shot to challenge him as the overall WR1 this season. Despite playing in just 12 regular season contests following a hip injury that sidelined him for several weeks, Chase still ranked third among WRs in red-zone targets (26), which translated to nine scores (fourth among WRs). His 100-percent route participation led all WRs, as did his expected fantasy points per game output.
Chase looks to be in line for his first 30-percent target share campaign, which likely lends itself to his first 1,500-receiving yard season. Assuming Joe Burrow (calf) is ready for Week 1, the Bengals’ offense should take another step forward after ranking fifth in EPA/play last season (0.081).
Although there are plenty of mouths to feed in the Bengals’ offense, Chase remains the most stable pass-catcher with a reliable floor and plenty of upside. Given how elite of a red-zone weapon Chase is, should he post his highest receiving TD output of his short career (14-plus TDs), we could see him end the fantasy season as the overall WR1. He’s well worth a top-five draft pick in standard and PPR formats.
Tyreek Hill fantasy outlook
No Patrick Mahomes, no problem. After getting dealt to South Beach, the “Cheetah” proved the doubters wrong en route to his most productive season yet. Hill’s 2022 campaign saw the superstar wideout post career highs in targets (170), receptions (119), and receiving yards (1,710), resulting in Hill ending the regular season with an uber-efficient +107.6 EPA (second among WRs).
Hill averaged over 100 receiving yards per game on a dominant 31.6-percent target share but unfortunately had to play four games without his QB1. In those four games without Tua Tagovailoa under center, Hill’s receiving yard averages dropped from 108.8 yards per game with Tua to just 75.5 receiving yards without him.
If you’re concerned about Tagovailoa’s ability to stay healthy for the duration of the season — or aren’t sold on his chances of being a QB1 in fantasy — then it’s probably best to draft one of the other top-tier WRs as the overall WR1. We believe in Tagovaolia and think he’ll man one of the league’s most efficient aerial attacks, so we’re all in on the Cheetah hype. Hitting 2,000-plus receiving yards will be quite the task, as Hill was a bit ambitious in his claims to break the NFL single-season receiving yards record, but as we learned last season, you’d be foolish to doubt Hill’s abilities, making him a solid first-round pick.
Davante Adams fantasy outlook
Adams was another WR some doubted after his move to Las Vegas from Green Bay, but all he did in his first season with the silver and black was post career bests in yards per reception (15.2), air yards (2,130), and targets (180). Adams finished as the overall WR2 in standard and the WR3 in PPR while leading the league in receiving TDs (14).
Considering how consistent Adams has been over the past half-decade, it’s frankly uncivil to have him as our overall WR4 this season, but there are valid concerns around the effectiveness of his new QB, Jimmy Garoppolo. While Derek Carr and the Raiders didn’t live up to expectations last season, prompting a QB change, the former Fresno State tag team showcased a strong rapport, particularly downfield, leading to Adams seeing a league-best 2,130 air yards.
Last season, Garoppolo ranked fifth among all qualifying passes in average completed air yards (4.1) while completing just eight-of-28 deep passes (20-plus yards), good for a subpar 65 passer rating. While he’s a reliable passer in the short-to-intermediate parts of the field, Adams’ fantasy value is capped without a QB that’s willing to take deep shots. While Adams’ talent is sufficient enough to make a case as the overall WR1, Las Vegas’ potentially shaky QB play — coupled with Adams’ apparent unhappiness with the team — is a valid reason to take these other top-tier WRs ahead of him.
Cooper Kupp fantasy outlook
While Kupp also carries a first-round ADP per FantasyPros, we’re a bit lower on him than most. Kupp was just as dominant at the start of 2022 as he was in his elite ‘21 campaign, but a season-ending ankle injury coupled with a preseason hamstring ailment could result in a slow start to the ‘23 regular season.
Additionally, considering the Rams’ offense doesn’t have a clear-cut WR2 to take attention away from him, Kupp’s likely to lead the league double-team rate as he did in ‘21 (36 percent). There’s also an outside chance Kupp fails to show out during the fantasy playoffs, as the Rams might not be playing for much with their regular season win total sitting at 6.5.
We probably wouldn’t see Kupp sit out games if Los Angeles is several games out of a playoff spot, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. When expending high draft capital on a player as talented as Kupp, it’s essential to consider potential pitfalls (like Matthew Stafford’s shaky injury history) that could hinder your chances of winning a fantasy championship. He’s still an elite route-runner who has a real shot to average 20-plus PPR fantasy points per game, but he carries more risk than the other four top-tier receivers.
The Verdict: Who’s the No. 1 fantasy WR in 2023?
While it’s hardly a bold take, the fact that Jefferson’s target shares (specifically in the red zone) figure to increase this season without Thielen, the reigning Offensive Player of the Year should be the first WR off the board in fantasy drafts. Jefferson’s ability to consistently create separation against defensive backs while being an elite run-after-catch threat warrants his ranking as the top WR. Yes, Jefferson’s likely to be doubled and bracketed on a high percentage of snaps, but any time Kirk Cousins gets a pre-snap indication that Jefferson’s seeing single coverage, the ball’s likely going his way. That’s why Jefferson has a real case for the No. 1 overall fantasy pick.
That said, Chase and Hill aren’t far behind, and we could easily see these two WRs racking up the most fantasy points among wideouts by season’s end. Despite Chase going ahead of Hill in most redraft formats, these WRs are essentially interchangeable as the overall preseason WR2/3. However, Chase does get the slight nod over Hill, as he’s likely to end the season with a higher TD output given he drew the third-most red-zone targets (26) in just 12 games to Hill’s 11 red-zone targets in 17 games.
There’s a more profound discrepancy between the top three and Adams/Kupp, as we’re a bit skeptical of Garoppolo’s effectiveness in year one as a Raider and Stafford’s ability to stay healthy. Regardless, all of our top-tier WRs make for strong first-round picks and building blocks for your fantasy squad. When you get into the top tier, there isn’t much that separates these elites, but we tried our best to detail exactly who the best fantasy WR is entering the 2023 fantasy season.
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