As we head into the first week of training camp, the NFL news cycle never stops. How is this week’s news going to affect 2023 fantasy drafts?
DeAndre Hopkins Signs With The Titans
After an offseason of suspense, DeAndre Hopkins is reuniting with Mike Vrabel from their days together in Houston. It’s an underwhelming destination considering the other potential options like Kansas City and Buffalo, but it dramatically changes the Titans’ fantasy outlook.
It’s an obvious boost to Ryan Tannehill, who has shown he can be a fantasy asset in Tennessee with enough of a supporting cast. He’s a fine low-end QB2 option, while it becomes less likely that Will Levis sees the field barring an injury – the signing makes it clear the Titans are attempting to contend this year.
Hopkins didn’t sign in Tennessee to be the second fiddle – he is going to be the WR1 on this team. Although he’s 31 years old, elite wide receivers can continue to demand targets and perform at a high level into their 30s.
Hopkins certainly fits the mold and commanded a whopping 0.29 targets per route run from Week 7 (his return from suspension) and onward in 2022. That figure was tied for 4th (with Ja’Marr Chase) among receivers with 150+ routes run, only finishing behind Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams. He also earned a very respectable 2.19 yards per target, finishing 20th out of 95 qualifiers.
However, the signing is a clear negative for potential sophomore breakout candidate Treylon Burks. Mike Vrabel became head coach of Tennessee in 2018, the same year Derrick Henry became a full-time starter. Here is the history of the Titans’ passing volume and their WR2’s statistics since then:
|Year||Titans' Pass Attempts (Rank)||Titans' WR2||Titans' WR2 Stats (Tgts/Rec/Yds/TD)||Titans' WR2 PPR PPG Rank|
|2018||437 (31st)||Taywan Taylor||37/466/1||WR83|
|2019||448 (31st)||Corey Davis||67/43/601/2||WR72|
|2020||485 (30th)||Corey Davis||92/65/984/5||WR32|
|2021||535 (t-25th)||Nick Westbrook-Ikhine||57/38/476/4||WR71|
|2022||456 (30th)||Treylon Burks||54/33/444/1||WR56|
This paints a pretty bleak picture for Burks (and breakout candidate tight end Chig Okonkwo), though fellow 1st-round pick Corey Davis did find some success for a season as the Titans’ WR2. Burks is also likely a better player than the previous WR2s. Unless the crazy passing efficiency returns to the level of Arthur Smith’s tenure as OC, they simply don’t throw the ball enough to support more than one true difference-making wide receiver.
Burks’ best hope for success is an injury to either Hopkins or Henry (rendering the Titans potentially more pass-heavy) as a “bet on talent and hope” kind of selection. The market has certainly been reacting this way, as evidenced by his ADP since July 12th (the day Hopkins’ betting odds shifted to -300 to sign with Tennessee):
This also potentially pushes other wide receivers up the board, as there is now one less enticing receiver to choose from in the top six rounds.
As far as Derrick Henry goes, the signing has to be considered a win – Tennessee now has another weapon defenses must focus on, and Hopkins’ presence means a more successful offense leading to an increase in play volume and scoring chances. The wheels are still due to fall off due to his age and heavy usage, making him a risky pick at the end of the second round.
Garrett Wilson Dominating First Days Of Camp
After a rookie season where he earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors despite catching passes from a pupu platter of Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Mike White, Wilson finally has a competent quarterback.
Aaron Rodgers may not be what he once was, but he is still light years ahead of Wilson’s 2022 signal callers. Rodgers has shown a penchant to lock onto his top receiving options (see Nelson, Jordy and Adams, Davante) which has resulted in huge fantasy seasons.
Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman are fine complimentary pieces, but Wilson is going to dominate targets for as long as he stays healthy. While we know training camp hype is often overblown, we still like to see talented players dominate as opposed to daily inconsistency or mediocrity. This has been a theme at every Jets practice so far:
Practice is over.
Takeaway: Aaron Rodgers & Garrett Wilson are really, really good at football. #Jets
— Connor Hughes (@Connor_J_Hughes) July 23, 2023
Garrett Wilson is a classic sophomore breakout candidate and is as good of a bet as any receiver on the board after Jefferson, Chase, Kupp, and Hill are off the board. Here are a few more highlight videos that help the eyes believe what the stats and projections are suggesting:
Garrett Wilson is insane. pic.twitter.com/py1Z6TTgBl
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) July 23, 2023
Aaron Rodgers 🎯 Garrett Wilson is going to be must-see TV this season 🍿
— PFF (@PFF) July 25, 2023
If this is a preview of how Rodgers targets Wilson down the sideline and in the red zone a la Jordy Nelson, we’re looking at a bona fide superstar. He’s worth drafting anytime after the 1/2 turn in 2023 fantasy drafts.
Kadarius Toney Undergoes Knee Procedure
One of the most hyped players of the offseason, Kadarius Toney’s breakout campaign is on life support after one day of training camp:
Kadarius Toney –
Had off-season knee surgery (debridement) to address ongoing meniscus/cartilage concerns.
Tweaked the same knee, required a second arthroscopic surgery this morning.
Chiefs hoping he’s ready for week 1.
This is not good news for fantasy purposes for 2023. https://t.co/Ze7rbOCoLY
— Jeff Mueller, PT, DPT (@jmthrivept) July 25, 2023
Missing all of training camp and preseason doesn’t bode well for Toney to be much more than a gadget player to begin the season (like he was last year). Toney wasn’t even able to make it through the first day of camp without a significant injury, and his injury history now grows even more concerning:
Kadarius Toney injury history:
– Hamstring (August 2021)
– Ankle sprain (W5 2021)
– Quad contusion (W11 2021)
– Oblique strain (W12 2021)
– Shoulder strain (W16 2021)
– Knee procedure (2022 offseason)
– Hamstring (Week 2 2022)
– Hamstring (Week 11 2022)
– Meniscus (camp 2023)
— Jordan Foote (@footenoted) July 25, 2023
His ADP will surely plummet and he may be seeing a full complement of routes by mid-season, but it can be tough to use a precious roster spot on a player who may not be startable for multiple months of the year.
The best candidate to replace Toney is second-year receiver Skyy Moore, who we wrote about here. Rashee Rice simply isn’t the unique prospect to be a rookie receiver breakout candidate, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling isn’t evolving from deep threat to WR1 at this stage of his career.
Patrick Mahomes threw for 5,250 yards and 41 touchdowns with a similar underwhelming group of receivers, and the best player on the planet isn’t about to fall from grace because of a Kadarius Toney injury. Moore is the only logical candidate on the roster for a real breakout as a sophomore with significant draft capital:
The Patrick Mahomes and Skyy Moore connection keeps growing 📈
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) July 25, 2023