As Marcas Grant did for the quarterback position, I'm providing my list of the top 10 fantasy values at receiver heading into the 2023 NFL season.
The projected round range listed with each player below was chosen with 12-team leagues in mind. If you play in a 10-team league, you can wait another round or two before drafting the receiver.
Projected draft position: Rounds 6-7
Seattle drafted the extremely talented Jaxon Smith-Njigba in Round 1, and Tyler Lockett has subsequently been falling in fantasy drafts, often going last out of the Seahawks' three receivers -- which, in my view, is a mistake. Lockett is coming off his fourth straight season with over 1,000 yards and at least eight touchdowns. His 2.1 yards per route run last season was on par with his five-year norm, and his 23.3 percent target rate was his best of the Next Gen Stats era. He was also more productive in three-receiver sets (11 personnel), which Seattle is expected to run more often this season, than he was in other groupings. Lockett was more effective on a per-route, per-target and per-catch basis than DK Metcalf was last year, also scoring more fantasy points despite seeing fewer targets. But Metcalf is getting drafted in the third round, while you can secure a sizeable discount when it comes to taking Lockett. When a receiver room becomes more crowded, go with the player who has been extremely efficient. Lockett continues to be overlooked, but he remains the best value at the position, just like he proved to be a year ago.
Projected draft position: Round 1, pick Nos. 4-8
Everyone knows Cooper Kupp is very good, but I don't think many realize just how great he has been. In 2021, Kupp scored the most fantasy points ever by a receiver (439.5). In the eight healthy games he played last season, he was averaging 24.8 fantasy points -- which had him on pace for the second-most fantasy points ever by a receiver. He's averaged 25.5 points per game in his last 25 healthy games. No other receiver averaged 22 fantasy points per game last season.
Kupp brings the most upside in fantasy. There are two concerns: 1) Kupp is currently dealing with a hamstring injury after he missed most of the second half of 2022 with a high ankle sprain, and 2) his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is 35 and also lost a lot of last season to injury. If you guaranteed full health for Stafford and Kupp in 2023, Kupp would be the unquestioned 1.01. The hamstring injury and wariness of Stafford's reliability should help Kupp slide in the first round, likely making him the last of the four elite options (including Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase and Tyreek Hill) to come off the board. But Sean McVay's latest comments on Kupp's status are encouraging, and there has been no indication that Stafford is not fully healthy at camp. If Kupp is there for you, take the gift and run.
Projected draft position: Rounds 4-5
At this time last year, Amari Cooper was coming off a down season in Dallas and preparing to play the first portion of 2022 in Cleveland with a backup QB. Cooper fell in fantasy drafts but went on to reward those managers who took a shot on him, posting the second most yards of his career and a career-high nine touchdowns. He finished as the WR10 overall and 17th in points per game. He has topped 1,000 yards in six of his eight pro seasons, with at least seven touchdowns in five of his last six seasons. He is one of just three receivers to log more than 100 targets in five straight seasons, and his 16 end-zone targets ranked third among receivers last season. He has proven to be a very consistent WR2 -- and that matches the price you have to pay to get him this season. But he has a potentially huge QB upgrade coming if Deshaun Watson can return to his previous form. You are drafting Cooper for the safe floor, but he also brings a high ceiling, maybe the highest of his career.
Projected draft position: Rounds 5-6
I can never quit Terry McLaurin. Last season, he finished as the WR14 in overall points and 23rd among receivers in fantasy points per game. Yet, he has an ADP of WR24 in early drafts. McLaurin has hit 120 targets in three straight seasons, and his 28 targets of 20-plus air yards last season ranked fourth among receivers -- indicating he always has the capability to put up points in chunks. Last season, he totaled 1,191 receiving yards, while his closest teammate had 656. McLaurin seemed to struggle to find any sort of chemistry with Carson Wentz, who was more prone to throw underneath than downfield. But this season, McLaurin could be in for an upgrade at QB, whether Sam Howell is playing well in Year 2 or veteran Jacoby Brissett, who elevated a downfield threat (Cooper) in Cleveland last season, is under center. Add in a boost from having Eric Bieniemy as his offensive coordinator, and there are plenty of reasons to get excited for McLaurin -- the best, of course, being that his draft price is much closer to his floor than ceiling.
Projected draft position: Rounds 10-11
Before Jameson Williams was suspended six games for violating the NFL's gambling policy, he was going in the fourth round of early drafts. I was willing to pay that price then, so I will gladly take a shot on him in the later rounds now. Coming off a torn ACL suffered in college, Williams was extremely limited as a rookie last year, logging six games. But he showed explosiveness, and not just on his lone catch (a 41-yard TD); there were a number of times Williams was open, but Jared Goff didn't connect with him. The suspension to start 2023 is, of course, why you can get him this low. But it should be relatively easy to cover for his absence earlier in the season, when bye weeks and injuries are not as prevalent as they are later in the year. And if Williams hits when he returns? You could end up with a league-winner drafted in the double-digit rounds.
Projected draft position: Rounds 7-9
Last year was a weird one for Brandin Cooks, who finished as the WR38 on a points-per-game basis. But that does not change the fact that he ranked in the top 22 among WRs in that category in seven of his nine career seasons. He's also going to have a huge upgrade at QB after being traded from Houston to Dallas, where Dak Prescott leads a better offense that should present more scoring opportunities than Cooks had with the Texans. If I had to pay for Cooks' past production, I would be out, but he is not even being drafted as a top-40 wide receiver right now. This just seems like a buying opportunity. There's also this: Every time he's been traded in the past, Cooks has topped 1,000 yards in his first season with his new team.
Projected draft position: Rounds 3-5
Calvin Ridley would be higher on this list if he weren't being pulled up the draft board. Still, I want in on this year's breakout star. Thanks in part to a year-long suspension for violating the NFL's gambling policy, the former Falcon hasn't played in a game since October of 2021. Now, he steps into a Jaguars passing attack that took huge strides in Year 1 under Doug Pederson and should just continue to get better.
In Pederson's six previous seasons as a head coach, his top pass-catching targets have averaged 123 targets per year, and one can easily make the case that Ridley is the best receiver Pederson has worked with in that capacity. Christian Kirk was the WR12 in fantasy football last year as the No. 1 target in Jacksonville, largely because he could win downfield. But Ridley is a better field stretcher. He is also a great red-zone weapon -- and those two areas of the game just happen to present the two quickest paths for receivers to score fantasy points. I am willing to pay up to get Ridley in what could be the next great offense in the NFL.
Projected draft position: Rounds 8-9
The NFL Fantasy Football Show recently visited Chargers training camp, and my takeaway was that Quentin Johnston stands out among a group of pass-catchers that look more like a basketball starting five. Not only does the rookie have size, but he was one of the best YAC receivers of this draft class, and he has a cold spin move that leaves defenders in their tracks. He goes as a WR4 in fantasy but should be a consistent part of a Chargers passing attack that could be headed for a breakout season under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Add in the sky-high upside Johnston carries if either Keenan Allen or Mike Williams misses time, and you see why he is a value at this cost.
Projected draft position: Rounds 7-9
Gabe Davis did not live up to the huge expectations that many in the fantasy community paced on him last season. That is as much on us as it is on Davis. Now, Davis is falling in drafts, with managers perhaps not wanting to give him another chance. But it's worth pointing out that Davis suffered an ankle injury early last season, which he says hampered him. Additionally, Josh Allen suffered an elbow injury in Week 9, and the Bills quarterback's efficiency on deep passes decreased dramatically. You can still get the upside so many were excited about a year ago with Davis, just at a much, much lower cost.
Projected draft position: Rounds 9-10
Zay Flowers is extremely shifty and has the ability to get open very quickly and win at all three levels of the field. He is also the Ravens' best option after the catch. And yet, there are times when the rookie is the last player drafted from a crowded Baltimore passing attack. I will gamble on Flowers' upside rather than take one of the other Ravens receivers, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman coming off serious injuries. Flowers could quickly blossom into a go-to option for Lamar Jackson.