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Which WRs will Fall from the Fantasy Top Ten in 2023?

By Joseph Hutchins | 8/9/23

Though I’ve been authoring this Top 10 Dropouts series since 2011, it’s always somehow difficult selecting three representatives from each position (QB, RB, and WR) to wax cynical about. These players are stars! They played amazing football last season! What makes me think they wouldn’t be equally amazing this coming season?! Any psychologist worth his or her salt recognizes this as good ol’ fashioned recency bias, which is more or less what this article is and has been about for over a decade. Last year’s stars won’t be this year’s stars because the math says they won’t but our imperfect brains, mine very much included, can’t comprehend that basic scientific fact. The end. OK, not really ‘cuz that would be a pretty short and uninteresting article. Let’s talk a bit more about WHO is most likely to disappoint in 2023 and, more specifically, why.

Note: All rankings are based on FFToday’s Non-PPR league scoring.

  Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2021
Rank Player
1 Cooper Kupp
2 Deebo Samuel
3 Ja’Marr Chase
4 Justin Jefferson
5 Davante Adams
6 Mike Evans
7 Tyreek Hill
8 Stefon Diggs
9 Diontae Johnson
10 DK Metcalf
  Top 10 Wide Receivers - 2022
Rank Player
1 Justin Jefferson
2 Davante Adams
3 Tyreek Hill
4 A.J. Brown
5 Stefon Diggs
6 CeeDee Lamb
7 Jaylen Waddle
8 Amari Cooper
9 DeVonta Smith
10 Amon-Ra St. Brown

Who Missed the Cut in 2020 (6/10): C. Kupp, D. Samuel, J. Chase, M. Evans, D. Johnson, & DK Metcalf

Last year’s 60% dropout rate was right on average for the position since 2011. Despite the high turnover, no fewer than four and no more than seven WRs have failed to preserve Top 10 status at the position during that 13-year stretch, making it more predictable than the QB and RB positions, if not exactly the most stable.

Just as with the RBs, the most prominent dropout was the one who fell from the greatest height, 2021’s WR1 Cooper Kupp. Kupp suffered a high ankle sprain in mid-November and never played again, which is a shame since his 14.3 FPts/G led all receivers, including 2022’s WR1, Justin Jefferson. 2022 was no kinder to 2021’s WR2, Deebo Samuel, who toppled even further down the ranks than Kupp (WR28) despite playing four more games than his Los Angeles counterpart. Dueling sprains (MCL and ankle) were to blame this time, but Samuel’s usage and demolition derby style make him high risk, high reward almost every season.

Ja’Marr Chase missed three more games (five) than the Top 10 receivers missed collectively, fully explaining his 2022 tumble. But he didn’t tumble far (WR12) thanks to a 13.3 FPts/G mark, putting him behind only Kupp and last year’s two best wideouts (JJ and Davante) on a per-game basis. Mike Evans, on the other hand, slipped under the 10.0 FPts/G mark for the first time since 2017. And that was WITH Tom Brady at the helm. Does he freefall down to low-end WR2 or WR3 range with Baker Mayfield (presumably) under center?

Last year’s final two dropouts were, unlike the others, completely healthy in 2022. DK Metcalf can point to a declining TD rate (6 v. 12 in 2021) and a shrinking YPC average as the reasons he failed to crack the Top 10, though those can’t really be blamed on poor quarterback play. Diontae Johnson probably could blame his 2022 death spiral to WR46 on poor quarterback play as Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett combined to throw just 11 TD passes all season. Only problem is that Johnson caught none of them. Ouch.

Most Likely Candidates to Fall from the Top 10 This Year:

CeeDee Lamb, DAL: I’ve already told you no fewer than four WRs in every season since 2011 have dropped out of the Top 10. Yet, I look down the list of 2022’s best at the position and see no obvious candidates to fade aside from those who will lose time to injury, a death-and-taxes guarantee that can’t be predicted. Lamb’s only missed one game in his three NFL seasons, amazingly, despite a very narrow frame and a lot of work in the middle of the field. Nevertheless, there are reasons he could still take a step back.

For starters, Dallas parted ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore this past February despite leading the league in total offense and scoring offense as recently as 2021 (and still ranking fourth in the latter category last year). Coach Mike McCarthy blasted Moore after the firing for wanting to “light the scoreboard up.” Last I checked, that’s the literal job description for an OC. The Cowboys’ loss will be the Chargers’ gain, it would appear, as if I needed another reason to be all in on Justin Herbert this coming season (GO DUCKS!). Dallas’ offense won’t collapse by any means, but figures to trend even more conservative than it did last season (upper third in run percentage).

When Dak Prescott does air it out, he’ll almost certainly target his WR1 less frequently than he did in 2022. Lamb’s 28.1% team target share was fourth overall, but that’s because the next most reliable target, Dalton Schultz, wasn’t even a WR. Schultz moved across the state to Houston, so Dallas brought in Brandin Cooks, the well-traveled but always reliable veteran. Cooks is near the end but does diversify the scheme. More conservative offense plus more competition for WR looks = possible trouble for CeeDee in 2023.

Amari Cooper

Amari Cooper, CLE: The most obvious reason Lamb got all those looks last season is that his former running mate, Cooper, the guy who used to command so much attention in Dallas, moved on to the AFC after the 2021 season. Most believed the trade to Ohio would darken Cooper’s prospects, especially when the NFL handed down an 11-game suspension to his presumptive battery mate Deshaun Watson several months later, but…surprise! All Coop did in 2022, playing for a worse offense, was set a PR for total fantasy points (170.0).

That offense could and probably should be better in 2023, especially now that Watson has shaken off the cobwebs, but it’s fair to question whether Cooper can replicate his phenomenal 2022 campaign. Though the Brownies weren’t quite as reliant on him as his former squad was on Lamb, his team target percentage was still very high (24.4%, good for 13th overall). Cleveland went out and grabbed Elijah Moore during the off-season, a high-potential reclamation project from the Jets who boosts positional depth. A 1-2-3 of Cooper-DPJ-Moore is inarguably better than the Cooper-DPJ-Bell trio the Browns’ braintrust rolled out last season. Don’t know who Bell is? My point exactly.

The other reason I don’t think Coop can reproduce his stellar 2022 season is, admittedly, a much squishier one: There are simply too many other great or soon-to-be-great WRs likely to elbow him out of the way and crack the Top 10 ranks in 2023. We’ve already talked about some above (Kupp, Samuel, Chase, Metcalf), but what about the guy who made Elijah Moore expendable in New York, Garrett Wilson? I hear he’s playing with a future HOF QB now. Cooper’s still a very solid WR2 in most leagues, but you’ll have to spend like he’s a clear WR1. Don’t.

DeVonta Smith, PHI: This is gonna end up sounding like Smith slander, but nothing could be further from the truth. It wasn’t too many years ago I was watching him, like a lot of you, decimate THE Ohio State University to the tune of 12 receptions, 215 yards, and 3 house calls in the span of about one NCAA Championship half (before getting injured). Anyone similarly mesmerized by his performance that evening knew Smith would be a star at the next level and, with a few good breaks and no serious injuries, a possible Canton enshrinee. It’s still too early to start chiseling that bust or fitting him for a mustard-colored jacket, but the Bama product has already benefited from at least one really good break in his fledgling NFL career: being drafted by an ascendant Eagles franchise.

Oddly, Philly’s talent base and overall success is one reason I’m ever so slightly bearish on Smith heading into 2023. Put plainly, Nick Sirianni et al. don’t need him to be a superstar yet but, rather, to complement an existing one, A.J. Brown. In other words, his star trajectory doesn’t completely match the team’s championship timeline. The Eagles are ready to win a Super Bowl now and though Smith would be a huge contributor to that effort should it happen, he wouldn’t likely be the WR1 for that Lombardi-hoisting squad.

I’m also a bit concerned about Smith’s 2022 splits, quite frankly. Through Week 12 last season, about when we were jockeying for fantasy playoff position, he’d only averaged 7.2 FPts/G. For perspective, that’s about what Isaiah Hodgins averaged last season (no Beaver shade intended). Smith ended up averaging 13.8 the rest of the way, a late-season surge that, while awesome, is probably anomalous. He’s great but be cautious.

Next: Quarterbacks

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