Analyzing the wide receiver landscape in dynasty leagues is always the most challenging of the four skill position groups. The other three positions are often devoid of talent, cycling through mostly definitive age cliffs, making each rookie class hold more weight than the others. With the receiver position, young talent is abundant, and dynasty managers must decide whether rookies have an upside that supersedes current NFL players. The 2023 class looks strong with potential top options at the position, but which ones will separate from the rest?
Kayshon Boutte, LSU
Junior | 6'0, 205 lbs
Kayshon Boutte has had an impressive start to his career. The LSU standout has accumulated just 1,244 yards on 83 receptions in his first two seasons, but his talent suggests he should have doubled that production. Boutte left the 2021 season after just six games with a lower leg injury, and the output would look much different had he stayed healthy. Boutte's best trait is athleticism, which translates into his work after the catch. He excels with the ball in his hands and can create explosives from screen passes. He wins at each level of the field and, despite needing development in his release packages and route running, often finds himself wide open. Boutte has a chance to become the first receiver off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft and looks like a top-five pick in rookie drafts.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Junior | 6'0, 200 lbs
Of the two top prospects, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is undoubtedly the most productive. In his sophomore year, Smith-Njigba gained 1,606 yards on 95 receptions with nine touchdowns. Smith-Njigba is unusually skilled at getting open, despite lacking a suddenness that usually cultivates separation creation. His footwork within his routes is advanced, and his release is amongst the best in the class. Smith-Njigba is a player who will likely test well in pre-draft activities but whose play speed is notably lacking. He often is caught from behind after the catch, though he is shifty and skilled in the open field. Smith-Njigba, like Boutte, has a chance to become the first receiver off the board next spring and will push to be a top-five pick in rookie drafts.
Josh Downs, North Carolina
Junior | 5'10, 180 lbs
Size matters, and Downs lacks it, but the rest of his profile indicates he could wind up in the first round of the NFL Draft next spring. As a true sophomore, Downs posted a 101-catch, 1,335-yard season with Sam Howell in 2021. He operated as a true slot receiver, and NFL evaluators may become weary if his alignment remains identical in 2022. But Downs is unique in many ways, including his ability to gain yards after the catch. He holds an innate ability to position himself optimally to avoid oncoming tacklers. He's also capable of winning downfield, with a vertical that makes evaluators question his size and ability to high point balls like he's 6-foot-5. Downs will look to build on an impressive sophomore campaign and push for a spot in the top-32, but he profiles as a volume-heavy slot receiver that could be valuable in PPR leagues. He currently projects as an early second-round rookie pick.
Quentin Johnston, TCU
Junior | 6'4, 215 lbs
Quentin Johnston is of the No. 1 receiver mold that dynasty managers traditionally think of, but with speed and athleticism reflective of the newer, smaller No. 1s. Johnston hasn't produced, but his film indicates his best football is ahead of him. Johnston is a ball-winner, consistently climbing the ladder and winning 50-50 balls at the catch point. He is also productive after the catch, displaying more lateral agility and hip flexibility than expected for a player his size. Johnston must continue to work on his ability to separate with his routes and releases at the line of scrimmage, but his skill set is one that teams will want to build around. He's projected to be a first-round NFL Draft pick and likely a late first-round rookie pick.
Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
RS Senior | 6'3, 215 lbs
Fifth-year seniors who declare late often struggle to become No. 1 receivers at the NFL level, but Tillman has skills that could make him an outlier. Tillman logged just eight receptions through his first three years in Knoxville but broke out with 64 receptions, 1,082 yards, and 12 touchdowns in 2021. He possesses excellent athleticism, showing exceptional hip flexibility within his routes, allowing for quick change-of-direction ability. Tillman wins in many ways, with strong hands at the catch point and an ability to go up and get 50-50 balls. He's physical and works through press coverage well, and he uses his frame to box out defenders at the top of his breaks. Tillman will likely hear his name on Day Two of the NFL Draft but could become the best value pick in the second round of rookie drafts.
Jordan Addison, USC
Junior | 6'0, 180 lbs
Many know Jordan Addison for his Biletnikoff Award-winning 2021 season. He caught 100 balls for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading Pittsburgh to an ACC title before transferring to USC this offseason. He's an incredibly sudden route runner, and his ability to accelerate after the catch is second only to Boutte in the 2023 receiver class. He is skilled at creating separation at all three field levels and can win from inside and outside alignments. However, Addison has unnatural and inconsistent hands, and defenders can push him off routes. Those factors may limit his draft-capital upside. He currently projects as a first-round pick, assuming he will fix those developmental flaws but could find himself slipping to the second round in the 2023 NFL Draft. He is an early second-round pick in rookie drafts and possesses WR2 upside for fantasy.
Under the Radar
Rashee Rice, SMU
Senior | 6'1, 206
Rashee Rice is technically under the radar, but NFL Draft analysts know he's projected as a day-two draft pick. Rice has improved each year but produced well as a freshman despite playing alongside three NFL-caliber players (James Proche, Reggie Roberson Jr, and Kylen Granson). Rice is a fantastic route runner with natural hands and above-average body control at the catch point. Expect to hear his name a lot following the 2023 Senior Bowl.
Jermaine Burton, Alabama
Junior | 6'0, 200
Jermaine Burton suffered from an anemic Georgia offense that struggled to throw the ball and failed to utilize its receivers properly but arrives in Alabama with the potential to fill the void left by Jameson Williams. Burton has elite athleticism, giving him supreme upside after the catch. He is raw as a route runner but can still win at every field level. Burton is only under the radar because he lacks production, but one year with Bryce Young should see his name shooting up draft boards. Burton could work himself into the first round of the NFL Draft, firmly placing him in the second round of rookie drafts.