The NFL is consistently changing and innovating, which means that the formulas we use to make successful predictions must be continuously checked, rechecked, and updated. For predicting wide receiver success from college to the NFL, weight has historically been a very important variable. But do some current weight thresholds need updating? Let’s find out.

Estimated Read Time: 12 Minutes


  • Up until recently, ideally, highly-drafted wide receivers weighed 210+ lbs and had a BMI of 27+.
  • However, fewer and fewer of these types of players are entering the league, which means these thresholds may need to be revisited.
  • Wide receivers with a BMI under 27 are now scoring at elite levels, and the classes of 2021 and beyond are full of these kinds of players.

Are Elite Wide Receiver Prospects Getting Lighter?

On a purely anecdotal level, it appears as if the top wide receiver prospects are weighing in lighter than ever before. The days of the top wide receiver prospects weighing 210+ lbs with gigantic frames like Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, and Mike Williams are becoming rarer.

We have previously used 210+ lbs. as a threshold for identifying elite wide receiver prospects. This previous study also included wide receivers drafted in the first three rounds. However, considering only 10% of WR1 seasons since 2010 are from 3rd round picks (and of those, only Keenan Allen weighed 210+ lbs with the appropriate BMI), we are reducing the sample size to the top two rounds.

Are the top wide receiver prospects actually coming into the league lighter, or is it our imagination?

A graph showing the various weights of WRs drafted in the first two rounds

Not only are top wide receivers coming in lighter, but they are coming in significantly lighter. This difference is clearly more noticeable at the extremes with the recent decline of 210+ lb. receivers being drafted in the first two rounds, and the explosion of smaller receivers who weigh under 195 lbs. In the 10 drafts between 2010 and 2019, a grand total of 22 receivers who weighed 195 lbs or under were drafted in the first two rounds. In the three drafts since then alone, that number is 24.

Accordingly, the amount of top 210+ lb. receivers drafted in the first two rounds (except for 2019) has been trending lower and lower since 2016. This is likely for a myriad of reasons (possibilities include health/longevity, a preference for lighter/faster/more versatile players, rules forcing defensive backs to be less physical, etc.) that won’t be analyzed in this article.

This has crescendoed in the past three seasons, where we have only seen 4 of 31 receivers drafted in the top two rounds weigh over 210+ lbs. This is a change for NFL evaluation, considering that our previous threshold of 210+ lbs doesn’t seem to fit the recent trend in top prospect measurables.

Using BMI Instead of Weight

However, weight is not the only measurement of size. If we are going to consider changing the threshold, we need to make sure that wide receivers are coming in lighter while still adjusting for height. Luckily, we can use body mass index (BMI) to measure weight in relation to height. As well as a 210+ lb. weight threshold, we have also previously used a BMI threshold of 27+ to identify elite wide receiver prospects.

Are wide receivers coming in lighter relative to their weight or just smaller in general?

A graph tracking wide receiver BMIs in the NFL draft from 2010-2022

As the trendline shows, wide receivers are coming into the league smaller in relation to their height – not just in a vacuum.

As far as the 2023 rookie class is concerned, we need to continue to tread lightly when weighing BMI as a prospect variable. Only 2 out of 8 (2nd rounders Jonathan Mingo and Rashee Rice) of the top-two round prospects hit the “old” 27 BMI threshold and we likely need to focus more on age-adjusted production and efficiency than pure weight as we gain clarity into this trend. It’s possible that prospect evaluation should shift away from prioritizing weight.

Keep an eye out for our Mike Braude to soon release an article evaluating 2023 rookie wide receivers.

Are Lighter Prospects Actually Producing?

So now, we’ve established that wide receivers are coming into the league far lighter than ever before and are weighing less in relation to their height. But we are missing one final piece of the puzzle: is this trend translating to the top-scoring wide receivers, or are the heavier, larger players still dominating despite making up a smaller percentage of the pool?

We’ll start in 2011 this time to give those 2010 draftees the benefit of a sophomore breakout.

A chart showing the BMI of the top-scoring fantasy receivers over the past 11 seasons


Tracking top-scoring fantasy wide receivers by a 27 BMI threshold

Clearly, this trend is carrying over into top-end fantasy production. Considering that the wide receivers peak around the ages of 25-27 and the explosion of lower BMI wide receivers at the top-end of recent drafts, the trend of smaller wideouts being able to score fantasy points at elite levels is likely not going away anytime soon.

What Does This Mean For 2023 Fantasy Drafts?

As the 2016 and 2017 rookie classes exit their primes, the stage is only further set for recent lighter wide receivers to be some of the top-scoring fantasy options for multiple years to come. What does this mean for the current young and “underweight” receivers with top-two-round draft capital?

Unsurprisingly, there has been an explosion in recent sub-27 BMI studs. Young players with high draft capital like Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith are going to be top wide receiver selections in upcoming 2023 fantasy drafts. Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs are still elite assets. However, there are several young players with top-two-round draft capital that may need to be moved slightly up draft boards when accounting for this new trend.

Last year, we suggested being higher than the market on a few young players because of this phenomenon. We missed on Rashod Bateman and recommended Van Jefferson as “a stab at the end of drafts” but were higher on smaller guys like Marquise Brown (18.2 PPR points per game until he broke his foot),  Jerry Jeudy (WR22 finish in a disappointing offense), DeVonta Smith (WR9), and Jaylen Waddle (WR8). Here are the lower-BMI sophomores and how they project for 2023:

Christian Watson (25.3 BMI) was far and away the most explosive receiver on the Packers last year. Surrounded by rookies and a new quarterback, he’s going to be a cheaper sophomore breakout candidate than Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.

Speaking of Garrett Wilson (24.8), he’s a no-brainer superstar in the making after winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. However, his price may be getting out of control due to Aaron Rodgers’ arrival.

Chris Olave (25.4) is priced between Wilson and Watson, but his future is just as bright. He could have easily stolen the ROY award from Wilson with quarterback play just as abysmal, and will hugely benefit from Derek Carr’s presence.

Jameson Williams (24.9) was expected to miss most of his rookie year with an ACL recovery, but will now miss at least 6 games due to a gambling suspension. The Lions didn’t add any wide receivers in the draft, but early selections Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta are sure to command looks behind Amon-Ra St. Brown. His pedigree makes him worth drafting if you can hold onto him for two months, but the history of unproductive 1st round rookies is also troubling:

Jahan Dotson (24.8) missed some time and had to deal with a quarterback “1-2 punch” of Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke. However, he hit some very nice thresholds as a rookie that should turn some heads. Here is the list of top-16 picks since 2005 who had 4+ TDs, 40+ yards per game, and 8.5 yards per route run as rookies:

Ja'Marr Chase85.61311.4202121
Odell Beckham Jr.108.81210201422
Mike Evans70.1128.6201421
A.J. Green70.579.2201123
Julio Jones73.8810.1201122
Chris Olave69.548.8202222
DeVonta Smith53.958.8202123
Jahan Dotson43.678.6202222

George Pickens (24.3) showed elite ball skills and body control as a rookie. Though the jury is still very much out on Kenny Pickett, only the inefficient Diontae Johnson and the corpse of Allen Robinson are his main competition for wide receiver targets. Like Dotson, he is in elite company with his rookie-year production:

This trend is clearly here to stay, until further notice. Just how much should we adjust the thresholds we are looking for in elite wide receivers is an open question. It’s also possible we continue to place even heavier importance on age-adjusted college production (this older RotoViz article may be worth revisiting) and draft capital.