As early-round running backs become a dying breed in fantasy drafts it becomes ever more important to stockpile elite receivers. Unlike their rushing counterparts, there weren’t any overly-dramatic contract disputes or major trades shaking up the receiver rankings.
The first tier of receivers is the best of the best. Justin Jefferson is the consensus best receiver in the NFL, but the other five guys in this tier have realistic paths to outscoring him if things break right. Ja’Marr Chase was a little unlucky in the touchdown department last year and could take another step forward entering his third season. Tyreek Hill lost his quarterback for significant stretches, but when everything was clicking, he was on pace for over 2,000 yards. Likewise, Cooper Kupp was leading the position in fantasy points per game before his season was derailed by injury. Stefon Diggs and Davante Adams round out the tier as two of the best receivers in the league who have consistently returned elite production.
The second tier is a small one, composed of receivers with an outside chance to finish as the overall WR1 if things go perfectly for them. CeeDee Lamb is on the cusp of joining the top tier, but questions about Dallas’s new offensive direction keep him in Tier Two for now. Garrett Wilson gets possibly the biggest quarterback upgrade in the history of the sport, and managed a dominant rookie season despite spending a good chunk of it weighed down by Zach Wilson. A.J. Brown took the Eagles’ offense to new heights, but his upside appears a bit capped with DeVonta Smith right on his tail in target share.
Speaking of Smith, he slots into the third tier. These receivers seem unlikely to realistically challenge for the WR1 spot, barring injury to a teammate or a drastically different role this season, but they should have no problem providing fringe WR1 value. Amon-Ra St. Brown showed his late-season rookie heroics were no fluke, but his touchdown upside appears limited. Jaylen Waddle, Tee Higgins, and Smith are super-talented wide receivers playing second-fiddle on their own teams through no fault of their own. Their ceiling is lowered thanks to their teammates, but they shouldn’t be overlooked just because they won’t be the top dog on their own team.
The fourth and fifth tiers make up the majority of the remaining receivers who are either in a top offense or are the best option on a middling-or-worse offense. Calvin Ridley was once a Top 5 receiver before off-field issues temporarily derailed his career. He is a steal if he returns to form in an explosive Jacksonville offense. Amari Cooper managed a high level of production despite awful quarterback play and should benefit from a better version of Deshaun Watson than the one he endured last season. Drake London, Christian Watson, and Chris Olave are second-year receivers poised for huge breakouts but questions about their offenses are enough to drop them in the rankings.
The sixth tier is the best of the rest, comprised of past-their-prime receivers who formerly were elite and young players seeking to establish themselves among the game’s very best. There’s an interesting mix of high floors and enticing ceilings in this particular group.
Below are our Top 40 receiver rankings as of August 19, 2023, with notes detailing the logic behind each ranking. Be sure to check back for updates after any major receiver-related news.
Below are the other receivers on our radar heading into drafts. Michael Thomas was once the NFL’s best receiver and a coveted fantasy asset. Years lost to injuries have taken the shine off his career a bit, but he appears to be healthy; if he is, he could be one of the key inflection points this season.
Ditto Odell Beckham Jr., who the Ravens paid a lot of money to come in and help revamp their passing attack. The last time we saw Beckham, he was dominating the playoffs en route to helping the Rams capture their second Super Bowl (their first in Los Angeles). If that player is still in there, he should feast in the new Ravens offense.
Elijah Moore was a prime “change of scenery” guy entering the offseason. The Browns paid up for him, sending a second-round pick to the Jets for the once highly-regarded prospect. Moore had an elite prospect profile before last season tanked his value, so it’s easy to forgive him for struggling given the cast of characters throwing him the ball.
Michael Gallup is now a full year removed from an ACL tear. The last time we saw him and Dak Prescott healthy together, Gallup was on his way to becoming an elite deep threat. Both of them are healthy now and it doesn’t cost a high draft pick to bet on a return to form.