Fantasy Football WR Sleepers 2023: Potential wide receiver breakouts, draft steals | Sporting News (2024)

With 100 wideouts listed in our preseason wide receiver rankings for standard and PPR leagues, chances are there’s a chunk of pass catchers whom you either don’t know yet or have questions about. Fear not, as our 2023 fantasy WR sleepers list aims to identify overlooked wideouts that can help your squad make a championship run this season.

Since wide receiver remains the deepest position in fantasy football, sleepers reside in several tiers, and depending on the size of your league, there’s a chance our deepest sleepers won’t even get drafted. If that’s the case, bookmarking those undrafted sleepers will come in handy when the health or week-to-week production of one or more of your WRs is inevitably in doubt.

In today’s pass-heavy league, the most efficient passing offenses can support multiple pass-catching options in fantasy, so even a team’s tertiary option can blossom into a stable fantasy producer. Look no further than the Bengals, as three receivers (Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd) held fantasy relevancy last season. Cincinnati’s trio of WRs all finished the regular season ranking in the top 30 in standard points scored and top 35 in PPR points scored.

DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2023 Fantasy Cheat Sheet

While the Bengals are a rather extreme example of an offense with multiple fantasy pass-catching contributors, other squads like the 2022 Chargers (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Josh Palmer/DeAndre Carter) and Vikings (Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn) showed they could feed three mouths when everyone was healthy. Osborn and Palmer were two of our sleepers last season, and both ended up putting forth solid fantasy seasons as ancillary pieces in their respective offenses.

2023 FANTASY SLEEPERS
QBs | RBs | TEs | D/STs | Each Team

Speaking of health, injuries are an unfortunate reality of fantasy football. The wear-and-tear of the 17-game regular season results in fantasy owners pivoting to bench/free-agent replacement options as starters, and knowing which player is the beneficiary of an increased snap count and target share when a fellow WR goes down is critical.

2023 PPR RANKINGS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Ks | Top 200 | S-Flex | IDP

Additionally, since most of the lower-ranked rookies are relatively unknown commodities to the majority of fantasy owners, expending late-round draft capital on a rookie or two can pay dividends in the latter stages of the regular season. Keep in mind it can take months for rookie wideouts to get comfortable with the speed of the pro game while gaining the trust of their quarterback and offensive coordinator, so don’t fret if your late-round rookie sleeper pick fails to pop off in the early season.

2023 STANDARD RANKINGS:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Ks | Top 200 | S-Flex | IDP

It took Packers’ rookie wideout Christian Watson seven games to record his first double-digit PPR fantasy performance in Week 10, but he proved he was well worth the wait once Watson gained the trust of Aaron Rodgers. From Weeks 10 to 18, Watson ranked as the overall WR9 in PPR formats, and his prolific four-week stretch from Weeks 10 to 13 landed him as the overall WR3 in PPR. We’ll likely see another rookie WR or two follow a similar trajectory this year, and hopefully, we identify that breakout rook(s) in our preseason sleeper list.

2023 AUCTION VALUES (Standard & PPR):
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Ks | Overall

Since fantasy leagues come in all sizes and formats, our 2023 WR sleeper lists try to give fantasy owners a variety of sleepers that cater to your league’s specifications. Some receivers on our list are players we feel are undervalued based on their current ADPs, while others will likely go undrafted in 10-team leagues but get picked in 14-teamers.

2023 POSITION TIERS & DRAFT STRATEGY:
QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/ST

Gain an edge on your fellow leaguemates by studying up on this year’s crop of WR sleepers.

FANTASY DRAFT STRATEGY:
Snake | Auction | Best ball | Dynasty | IDP

Jahan Dotson, Commanders

Dotson’s strong start to his rookie campaign (seven receptions, 99 yards, three TDs in Weeks 1-2) had him in the early conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year, as the former first-round pick displayed a strong rapport with Carson Wentz. Following a strong start to the season that saw the Penn State product put up three double-digit fantasy point showings in four games, a hamstring injury sidelined him for five games, halting his momentum.

While Dotson failed to record more than 15 receiving yards in his first three games back from injury, he finished the season on a strong note, averaging 18.8 PPR points from Weeks 13-16. That three-game stretch saw him sit as WR11 on a fantasy point-per-game basis. With Sam Howell penciled in as the team’s QB1 and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy now calling plays, a more consistent aerial attack potentially results in Dotson outperforming his ADP (WR37 PPR, WR41 STD) and putting together a strong second season.

Kadarius Toney, Chiefs

Kansas City’s 2022 trade deadline acquisition is poised for a breakout season despite missing time during training camp recovering from knee surgery. The Chiefs once again sit toward the top of the league in vacated targets, with 135 WR targets available (sixth in NFL) following the departures of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, giving the dynamic wideout a chance to emerge as the No. 2 passing threat in an uber-efficient offense.

It’s hard not to advise fantasy owners to take a chance on a player with this type of upside, especially when Toney’s going off the board as WR38 in both standard and PPR formats. Travis Kelce’s far and away the most lethal red-zone weapon, but a seven-plus TD campaign from Toney isn’t as far-fetched as you may think.

Jordan Addison, Vikings

Minnesota’s first-round draft selection should pair nicely alongside Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson, effectively replacing Adam Thielen as the team’s No. 2 wideout. The 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner didn’t have quite as dominant of an encore in his lone season at USC, but he continued to be a reliable pass-catching option, ending his junior season with 875 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.on 59 receptions.

Minnesota’s offense ended ‘22 passing at the third-highest clip (64.38 percent) while recording the 10th-highest drop-back EPA (0.069). It also has 107 available targets with Thielen now in Carolina. It might take a few weeks for Addison to climb up the depth chart and gain the trust of Kirk Cousins, but his solid YAC abilities coupled with being able to beat defenses over the top could lead to the rookie significantly outperforming his ADP.

Nico Collins, Texans

While Houston's offense will likely rank toward the bottom of the league in most metrics come January, Collins is one of the lone Texans worth keeping your eye on from a fantasy perspective. The third-year wideout is a real threat to emerge as C.J. Stroud’s top receiving option after garnering a 24.3-percent target rate (27th among WRs) and boasting the second-highest contested catch rate (66.7 percent) in year two with primarily Davis Mills under center.

Collins’ best stretch of the season came in Weeks 10-13, where he saw 36 targets and hauled in 19 receptions for 176 yards and two TDs. Collins profiles as a worthwhile late-round draft pick going off the board as the overall WR55 in PPR formats and WR61 in standard ones.

Elijah Moore, Browns

Many fantasy owners will write Moore off and add him to their "do not draft" lists after his underwhelming sophom*ore season, but we’ll gladly buy low him now that he’s not catching passes from Zach Wilson and Mike White. The Browns' willingness to go out and acquire Moore via trade shows they have faith in the former first-round pick playing at a level similar to his rookie season.

From Weeks 7-13 in 2021, Moore’s 123.6 PPR points landed him as the overall WR3 over that stretch, showing he can win against man coverage and create separation downfield. There’s also a good chance Deshaun Watson improves from his rocky ‘22 season, adding up to a bounce-back season from Moore.

Isaiah Hodgins, Giants

Considering Hodgins joined the Giants midseason after being claimed on waivers, the second-year Oregon State product emerged as a key piece in New York’s passing offense, helping the Giants reach the NFC Divisional Round. While it didn’t count for fantasy purposes, Hodgins' eight-catch, 105-yard, one-TD showing in the Giants’ wild-card win over the Vikings is a welcomed sight for his season-long prospects in 2023.

Hodgins’ 2.13 fantasy points per target ranked seventh among all WRs, and he also showed that he can beat man coverage, posting a 56.5-percent win rate versus man. Outside of injury-prone Darren Waller seeing his fair share of looks, it remains to be seen how the Giants’ target share gets divvied up. Hodgins could see close to a 20-percent target share, making him a valuable late-round draft selection.

Quentin Johnston, Chargers

It will likely take an injury for Johnston to see significant snaps, but guess what -- Mike Williams (four missed games last year) and Keenan Allen (7) are hardly pictures of health. The 6-4, 193-pound rookie out of TCU has the size to be a red-zone contributor right away, and his career 19 ypc average in college shows he can do a lot with a little. In L.A.'s high-powered passing offense (third-most yards per game), Johnston has a chance to really pop when his number is called. --Matt Lutovsky

Treylon Burks, Titans

Although Tennessee’s offense remains a run-heavy unit after ending 2022 passing on just 50.91 percent of downs (27th), Burks has a shot to post a respectable target share as the Titans’ No. 2 receiver opposite DeAndre Hopkins. The former 18th overall pick played in just 11 games in his rookie campaign, but when on the field, he posted a respectable 1.96 yards per route run (32nd among WRs).

Burks had a two-week stretch from Weeks 11-12 that saw him rank as the overall WR14 in PPR formats, (14 targets, 11 receptions, 181 yards), showing his ability to produce despite logging a sub-70-percent snap rate in both games. Burks is likely to see an increased snap count in his sophom*ore season with fellow pass-catchers Robert Woods and Austin Hooper elsewhere. Although the emergence of Hopkins and a preseason injury lowers his ceiling quite a bit, with it comes an ADP discount for Burks, presenting a buy-low opportunity on a wideout who’s already proved he can produce at the professional level.

Rashod Bateman, Ravens

Bateman landed on our sleeper WR list a season ago, but he couldn’t stay healthy, playing in just six games before undergoing season-ending foot surgery. Bateman did post two double-digit fantasy performances to begin the season but averaged just 39.3 receiving yards per game on nine receptions in his next three contests.

With the Ravens likely employing a more pass-heavy approach under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Bateman might finally put together his first complete season that sees him approach 900 receiving yards. Mark Andrews is sure to lead the team in target share, but fantasy owners might be overestimating Odell Beckham Jr.’s and Zay Flowers’ roles within the offense leading to some draft value at Bateman’s ADP.

Jameson Williams, Lions

Williams’ ADP takes a significant hit after getting suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the league’s gambling policy, but if you’re content with Williams occupying a bench stop for the first month and a half, draft him. The Lions’ projected WR2 is flexed within an offense that ended 2022 scoring the fifth-most points per game (26.6) while ranking third in drop-back EPA (.174).

Williams had trouble getting his name in the stat sheets in the six games he played last season after returning from an ACL injury, but the lone reception of his rookie season was a 41-yard TD) in Week 14 against Minnesota. Williams is now the Lions’ premier deep-ball threat with DJ Chark in Carolina, potentially leading to a few more long TD receptions this season.

Khalil Shakir/Trent Sherfield, Bills

If Shakir’s able to carve out a role within Buffalo’s high-powered offense, the second-year Boise State product makes for an appealing late-round draft pick. Shakir showed flashes of his fantasy abilities when filling in for the injury-hampered Bills WR group during their Week 5 contest against the Steelers. In that game, Shakir logged a 71.7-percent snap share, hauling in three of five targets for 75 yards and a TD.

Isaiah McKenzie and Jamison Crowder are no longer a part of the Bills WR corps this season, so Shakir enters the season competing with Sherfield for the team’s primary slot duties. If Shakir doesn't end up winning the starting slot job, Sherfield also fits the billing of a sleeper to watch. Given how potent the Bills’ aerial attack is, it's wise to invest draft capital on one of their ancillary wideouts. Right now, we’re leaning toward Shakir, but if Sherfield takes the starting slot job, drafting him in the late rounds is wise, too.

Rashee Rice, Chiefs

Kansas City’s second-round draft selection has a path to early playing time within one of the league’s most efficient offenses. With Smith-Schuster and Hardman no longer around, the Chiefs once again have to deal with WR turnover, and Rice’s impressive body control at 6-1 could result in the SMU product being one of the most productive rookie wideouts.

Kansas City’s willingness to draft a second-round wideout one year after picking Skyy Moore 54th overall could point to Rice potentially having the upper hand over Moore as the season progresses. If you end up drafting Rice in the later rounds, try not to overreact if he doesn’t get much run in the early season.

John Metchie III/Tank Dell, Texans

Metchie missed his entire rookie season after getting diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, but the 2022 second-round pick has recovered and is ready to suit up for the Texans this fall. With the Texans leading all teams in vacated WR targets (210), Metchie could emerge as a relied-upon pass-catcher for C.J. Stroud, resulting in his current ADP (WR80 in PPR) yielding some value.

Metchie could emerge as a Week 1 starter in three wide receiver sets alongside fellow sleeper Nico Collins and veteran Robert Woods, and the crisp route runner could see a high snap share from the get-go. The same goes for Dell, as one of these guys has a shot to break out depending on whichever WR gets the edge in snap share. Houston’s offense isn’t the most desirable from a fantasy perspective, but given they’ll likely be in more negative game scripts than positive ones, a higher pass rate could lead to a couple of Texans possessing fantasy value, with Metchie being one of them.

Marvin Mims, Broncos

Mims is flexed within a deep Denver WR room, but the Broncos’ second-round draft pick could potentially vault up the depth chart with an impressive training camp. Mims is also an injury or two away from becoming a high snap share wide within Sean Payton’s offense in year one -- and Denver has already seen one injury this preseason with Jerry Jeudy (hamstring).

Drafting Mims in the latter rounds is more of an insurance policy for Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, but the fact Denver expended second-round draft capital gives Mims an outside chance to produce in year one. With Tim Patrick (Achilles') suffering a season-ending injury, Mims could see more run in three wide-receiver sets.

Josh Downs, Colts

Downs, Indianapolis’ third-round draft pick, enters training camp competing with free-agent acquisition Isaiah McKenzie in the slot. Given McKenzie signed just a one-year contract with Indianapolis, Downs could eventually take the reigns within the first-team offense. Drafting a rookie WR with a path for playing time as the overall WR94 in PPR is hardly a gamble, even though Downs has significantly more appeal in dynasty formats.

That said, a Colts team that’s not expected to do much in the AFC South race could look to give Downs significant playing time toward the back half of the season, giving the former Tar Heel some deep sleeper appeal.

Fantasy Football WR Sleepers 2023: Potential wide receiver breakouts, draft steals | Sporting News (2024)
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