Rookie wide receivers have begun to make an enormous impact on fantasy leagues each year. In 2021, Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle both finished as top-12 WRs as rookies. Last year Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave both finished as top-24 wide receivers, and Drake London (WR28) wasn’t far behind.
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Let’s examine each of the rookie wide receivers selected in the top-75 picks of the 2023 NFL Draft and see who can make a meaningful impact this season.
I’ll use RotoViz’s Prospect Box Score Scout to generate similar comparable players for each wide receiver. If you don’t have a subscription to RotoViz, we highly recommend checking them out.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle Seahawks
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Selected 20th overall by the Seattle Seahawks, Jaxon Smith-Njigba was the first rookie wide receiver off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft.
As a true freshman, “JSN” was involved but only recorded 10 catches in six games. His breakout took place as a sophomore, playing with future NFL stars Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.
Significantly leading the team in receiving, at such a young age, while playing with not one but two future stars cannot be understated. Smith-Njigba barely played as a junior but this sophomore season indicates that he is a star.
Smith-Njigba didn’t run the forty at the combine but did impress with his incredible agility. His 10.50 agility score is 99th percentile.
|100||Jaxon Smith-Njigba||Ohio State||20||0.22||0.13||0.04||0||196|
|12||Henry Ruggs III||Alabama||12||0.16||0.21||0.18||0.58||4.27||188|
|9||Chris Olave||Ohio State||11||0.23||0.27||0.22||1.18||4.39||187|
|9||Garrett Wilson||Ohio State||10||0.23||0.22||0.27||1.09||4.38||183|
|9||Parris Campbell||Ohio State||59||0.17||0.15||0.21||0.86||4.31||205|
Sim refers to the sim score for how similar each comparable player is. DP is the player’s draft position. CYMS is each player’s career receiving yards market share. CTDMS is each player’s career receiving touchdowns market share. FYMS is each player’s final year receiving yards market share. FTD/G is each player’s final year receiving touchdowns per game.
Using RotoViz’s Box Score Scout for JSN is a bit tricky. The final year receiving production is significant and JSN barely played, hence why George Pickens is his most similar comparable. Even including this and its impact on his career market shares, the inclusion of Justin Jefferson, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson highlight JSN’s explosive potential.
While DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are excellent receivers, don’t underestimate the potential of a player who has shown superstardom at the collegiate level. Many questioned Ja’Marr Chase’s potential as a rookie when competing for targets with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Despite sliding in drafts, Chase finished as the WR5.
Quentin Johnston, Los Angeles Chargers
The following pick after JSN was selected, the Chargers drafted Quentin Johnston out of TCU.
As a 19-year-old freshman, Johnston achieved a 29 percent dominator rating. That jumped to 39 percent as a sophomore before another strong junior season.
At 6’ 3” and 208 lbs., Johnston is big and wins with his 98th-percentile leaping ability.
|65||Laquon Treadwell||Ole Miss||23||0.23||0.27||0.26||0.85||4.52||221|
|65||Michael Thomas||Ohio State||47||0.24||0.29||0.32||0.69||4.57||212|
|56||Brandon Aiyuk||Arizona State||25||0.31||0.31||0.39||0.67||4.5||205|
|56||Laviska Shenault Jr.||Colorado||42||0.29||0.25||0.3||0.36||4.58||227|
Johnston looks extremely similar to superstar DeAndre Hopkins and other very exciting hits. While the profile could clearly miss (with busts like Jalen Reagor included), Johnston was much more productive than Reagor in terms of yards per team pass attempt.
The landing spot for Johnston is excellent. The Chargers threw 711 times last season and didn’t have any pass catcher reach 900 receiving yards. Austin Ekeler ended up leading the team in targets while Keenan Allen and Mike Williams both missed time due to injury. Allen (31 this season) and Mike Williams (29) aren’t spring chickens – the first-round pick will receive every opportunity to inject life into the Chargers’ offense. This is a rookie wide receiver who could make a massive difference for both this offense and your fantasy teams.
Zay Flowers, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens selected Zay Flowers 22nd overall.
Flowers broke out as a 20-year-old sophomore with a 34 percent dominator rating. He continued to improve, concluding with a 47 percent dominator rating as a senior.
|100||Zay Flowers||Boston College||22||0.29||0.38||0.36||1||4.42||182|
|100||Jahan Dotson||Penn State||16||0.28||0.34||0.36||1||4.43||178|
|50||Will Fuller V||Notre Dame||21||0.3||0.45||0.37||1.08||4.32||186|
|47||Brandin Cooks||Oregon State||20||0.27||0.3||0.36||1.23||4.33||189|
|47||Elijah Moore||Ole Miss||34||0.29||0.3||0.42||1||4.35||185|
|46||Devin Smith||Ohio State||37||0.26||0.28||0.27||0.86||4.42||196|
Flowers has some fun comparables – one of the concerns with him is that he’s not an early declare. Out of this group, Will Fuller, Calvin Ridley, Brandin Cooks, Elijah Moore, and Rashod Bateman all declared for the draft after their junior season. As Blair Andrews expertly noted, “WRs who declare early average over 200 PPR points over their first two seasons. Those who exhaust their eligibility fail to reach even 80 PPR points.” We want receivers who eschew their senior year and declare early.
Flowers joins a previously run-heavy Ravens team that will attempt to become more pass-heavy this season. Unfortunately, there is a lot of competition for targets. Mark Andrews figures to lead the team in targets, while Flowers battles Rashod Bateman and Odell Beckham Jr. for opportunities. Only time will tell where this rookie wide receiver will fall in the “totem pole” of targets in Baltimore.
Jordan Addison, Minnesota Vikings
Addison reached a 30 percent dominator rating as a true freshman at Pittsburgh. He upped his dominator rating to 36 percent as a sophomore before transferring to USC as a junior. In his junior season, Addison’s numbers dropped across the board to a 26 percent dominator rating.
At 173 lbs., Addison is small for an NFL wide receiver. Generally, receivers of this stature are fast, but Addison’s 4.49 40-time equates to just a 19th-percentile speed score. His leaping and agility aren’t above average either.
|45||Jahan Dotson||Penn State||16||0.28||0.34||0.36||1||4.43||178|
Again, Addison’s size and speed aren’t favorable. Even when looking at his comparable players, only DeSean Jackson is lighter – and Jackson ran a 4.35. Out of this group, only Marquise Lee and Robert Woods are slower. If Addison is good, he’ll likely win as a route-running technician. Addison broke out at a young age, declared early, and is a first-round pick so there are still reasons to remain optimistic.
Behind all-world WR Justin Jefferson, Addison will compete with TJ Hockenson and KJ Osborn for targets. The Vikings should have plenty of targets to go around, so I expect Addison to be productive, but he doesn’t have the profile that points to a potential breakout for a rookie wide receiver.
Jonathan Mingo, Carolina Panthers
At 39th overall, Jonathan Mingo was the first wide receiver selected in the second round.
As a freshman was involved but didn’t make a huge impact. In his junior season, he reached a 21 percent dominator rating and upped that to 28 percent as a senior. It wasn’t until his senior season that Mingo topped 2 yards per team attempt.
At 226 lbs. running a 4.46, Mingo is likely this draft’s freakiest player. He combines a 96th percentile speed score with a 91st percentile burst score.
|100||Jonathan Mingo||Ole Miss||39||0.21||0.2||0.29||0.42||4.46||220|
|92||Michael Pittman Jr.||USC||34||0.25||0.27||0.29||0.85||4.52||223|
|84||Chase Claypool||Notre Dame||49||0.22||0.22||0.32||1||4.42||238|
|65||Deebo Samuel||South Carolina||36||0.29||0.29||0.26||0.92||4.48||214|
|63||Brian Robiskie||Ohio State||36||0.25||0.33||0.27||0.62||4.46||209|
His comparables show a combination of solid hits and misses. Like Flowers, Mingo was a four-year college player. Tee Higgins was an early declare, but hits Michael Pittman, Chase Claypool, and Deebo Samuel were all non-early declares.
Mingo is the type of player that doesn’t have impressive production but his athleticism leads to a projection of what he might be capable of, even as a rookie wide receiver.
On a wide receiver depth chart led by Adam Thielen and DJ Chark, Mingo will have opportunities to climb the depth chart. However, as a player that took time to make an impact at the college level, he may not make an immediate impact.
Jayden Reed, Green Bay Packers
After the departure of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers added some pass-game weapons, including Jayden Reed, in this year’s draft.
Reed broke out as a true freshman for Western Michigan. Following his impressive first year, he sat out a year and transferred to Michigan State. He broke out for the Spartans as a 21-year-old junior but again fell below 2 yards per team attempt as a senior.
Reed has decent speed but below-average leaping ability.
|100||Jayden Reed||Michigan State||50||0.27||0.33||0.25||0.45||4.45||187|
|96||Devin Smith||Ohio State||37||0.26||0.28||0.27||0.86||4.42||196|
|70||Brian Robiskie||Ohio State||36||0.25||0.33||0.27||0.62||4.46||209|
|66||Christian Kirk||Texas A&M||47||0.29||0.36||0.28||0.77||4.47||201|
|63||Titus Young||Boise State||44||0.24||0.21||0.29||0.69||4.43||174|
Reed spent five years as a collegiate player, so he will begin his rookie year at 23 years old. Hits Randall Cobb and Christian Kirk were both three-year college players.
Reed will slide in behind Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. While his breakout age and draft position are promising, I don’t expect him to pass either second-year wide receiver in 2023.
Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs
After drafting Skyy Moore in the second round last season, Rashee Rice was selected 55th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rice wasn’t hugely involved as a freshman but reached a 22 percent dominator rating as a sophomore. He finally topped 2 yards per team attempt as a senior, while reaching a 32 percent dominator rating.
As an athlete, Rice combines solid size with impressive 95th-percentile leaping ability.
|99||Taywan Taylor||Western Kentucky||72||0.25||0.28||0.37||1.21||4.5||203|
|87||Bryan Edwards||South Carolina||81||0.27||0.3||0.35||0.6||212|
|86||Zay Jones||East Carolina||37||0.26||0.21||0.43||0.67||4.45||201|
|84||Markus Wheaton||Oregon State||79||0.24||0.2||0.31||0.85||4.45||189|
Sterling Shepard, Terrance Williams, and Zay Jones have had productive NFL seasons. However, his comparables obviously don’t provide a whole lot of reason for enthusiasm.
The Rice backers will argue in favor of his landing spot, which is a great one. With the departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Chiefs will rely on Rice, Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Skyy Moore at wide receiver. While Rice is the new and exciting toy, I’d prefer to draft last year’s second-round pick Skyy Moore as a post-hype sleeper.
Marvin Mims, Denver Broncos
Why Marvin Mims wasn’t drafted higher than some of these other receivers remains a mystery to me. Fortunately, Sean Payton and the Broncos ended his slide with the 63rd selection.
Mims hit a 24 percent dominator rating as an 18-year-old true freshman at Oklahoma. He saved his best for last, hitting 2.66 yards per team attempt as a junior.
At 5’ 11” and 183 lbs., Mims isn’t the biggest, but he did run a 4.38 forty. He also leaped to a 91st percentile burst score.
|92||Dyami Brown||North Carolina||82||0.25||0.28||0.33||0.73||4.46||189|
|91||Keke Coutee||Texas Tech||103||0.2||0.17||0.33||0.77||4.43||181|
|70||Markus Wheaton||Oregon State||79||0.24||0.2||0.31||0.85||4.45||189|
|65||Titus Young||Boise State||44||0.24||0.21||0.29||0.69||4.43||174|
Interestingly, his comparable players don’t pop off the page, but Chark and Cobb do provide some hits. Mims, however, checks a lot of boxes: he’ll be a 21-year-old rookie wide receiver, who was productive early in college and has unique athletic traits.
Mims will enter a crowded depth chart that includes Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Tim Patrick, but the Broncos did trade up to select him. The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider believes Broncos head coach Sean Payton will “design a very specific role for Mims that allows him to see the field.”
Nathanial Dell, Houston Texans
With the 69th overall pick, the Houston Texans selected Nathanial Dell.
Dell is an older prospect, who began his college career at 20 years old. With an impressive 2.91 yards per team attempt, he broke out as a 21-year-old sophomore with a 36 percent dominator rating. He upped his dominator rating to 38 percent with 1,398 receiving yards as a junior.
Unfortunately, Dell is tiny. At just 165 lbs., his 4.49 forty, when combined with his weight, leads to a 6th percentile speed score.
|33||Stedman Bailey||West Virginia||92||0.3||0.44||0.38||1.92||4.52||193|
|33||Dyami Brown||North Carolina||82||0.25||0.28||0.33||0.73||4.46||189|
|31||Brandon Tate||North Carolina||83||0.21||0.3||0.37||0.6||4.52||183|
|29||Tyler Lockett||Kansas State||69||0.36||0.41||0.41||0.85||4.4||182|
|27||Josh Reynolds||Texas A&M||117||0.27||0.35||0.31||0.92||4.52||194|
The box score scout loves his raw stats and doesn’t include any age metrics. Unfortunately, Dell will be a 23-year-old rookie wide receiver, is the lightest of any of these players, and is slower than the hits in this cohort. We like to remain optimistic for rookies, but his size and age are trouble elements of his profile.
The Texans’ depth chart remains barren. Dell will slide in behind Nico Collins, Robert Woods, and John Metchie III.
Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
After winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award, the New York Giants selected Jalin Hyatt with the 73rd pick.
Hyatt didn’t produce in a significant way until his 21-year-old junior season, in which he had a 37 percent dominator rating and averaged 3.22 yards per team attempt. Hyatt’s production as a junior was incredible but we also would’ve liked to see him an earlier breakout.
Physically Hyatt is just 176 lbs. but combines 4.4 speed and 97th percentile leaping ability.
|91||Dyami Brown||North Carolina||82||0.25||0.28||0.33||0.73||4.46||189|
|90||Keke Coutee||Texas Tech||103||0.2||0.17||0.33||0.77||4.43||181|
|73||Brandon Tate||North Carolina||83||0.21||0.3||0.37||0.6||4.52||183|
|60||Titus Young||Boise State||44||0.24||0.21||0.29||0.69||4.43||174|
|54||Markus Wheaton||Oregon State||79||0.24||0.2||0.31||0.85||4.45||189|
Hyatt lands on a Giants depth chart that is wide open. He will compete with the likes of Wan’Dale Robinson, Sterling Shepard, Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton, and Parris Campbell. Hopefully, the Giants will allow Hyatt to dominate snaps if he flashes early.
Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
Hyatt’s teammate Cedric Tillman was selected 74th overall by the Cleveland Browns.
Tillman had a five-year collegiate career. His fourth season was the first year that he topped 70 receiving yards (for the season), but finished with 1,085 and registered an impressive 37 percent dominator rating. Tillman was 21 during that season and will play his first NFL season at 23 years old.
At 213 lbs., Tillman is big and has solid speed in the context of his size. He also performed well in the leaping drills.
|76||Austin Pettis||Boise State||78||0.2||0.3||0.23||0.77||4.56||209|
|67||James Washington||Oklahoma State||60||0.26||0.33||0.31||1||4.54||213|
|46||Erik Ezukanma||Texas Tech||125||0.22||0.25||0.25||0.36||209|
Tillman’s comparable players are not the most favorable. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about a collegiate player that didn’t break out until he was already 21 years old.
Tillman will begin his rookie year behind Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, and Donovan Peoples-Jones.