Hello everyone and welcome to the third installment of this fantasy football free agency preview series. After covering the quarterbacks and running backs already, I will dive into some of the top free agent wide receivers today. Unlike the other positions, this is a shallow free agent class without any superstars.
Regardless, receivers are making more money now than ever, and these are players that will command significant salaries on the open market. As a result, they will certainly be big parts of an offense, and therefore have fantasy upside. With that, here are my top free agent wide receivers, potential destinations, as well as their fantasy outlook for 2023.
Jakobi Meyers continues to be overlooked in fantasy football leagues, yet he produces numbers year in and year out. After signing with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2019, Meyers has continued to grow his role within the offense. He’s improved his fantasy finish each year, posting a WR30 and WR28 in PPR leagues the last two seasons.
The rumor is that Meyers could command north of $12 million a year on the free agent market. He is likely the best player available at the position, and we saw last offseason how much receivers are cashing in. The Patriots remain the favorite to sign Meyers, however, the New York Giants and Houston Texans have emerged as possible destinations as well.
Meyers doesn’t have the athleticism or big play ability to be an elite fantasy football asset. Nonetheless, he has shown he can be a capable possession receiver, and will continue to have value depending on his landing spot. Meyers falls in as a low WR3 in my early 2023 rankings due to the upside of some of the younger players around him. Wide receiver is the deepest position in fantasy football as well, so I’d be willing to sell for any second-round dynasty pick.
After failing to meet expectations in his last couple of seasons in Pittsburgh, JuJu Smith-Schuster had a bounce-back campaign in 2023 in Kansas City. He maximized his incentive-laced contract with 933 yards and three touchdowns on his way to a Super Bowl victory. This was quite a year for a player who had just over a $1 million base salary prior to the season.
Finishing as the WR27 in PPR leagues, Smith-Schuster likely met are exceeded most fantasy managers’ expectations. Nonetheless, he only finished as a top 30 wide receiver five times throughout the course of the regular season. Smith-Schuster had strong stretches of production, with long dry spells as well. Most notably after his concussion against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
His quiet streak continued into the playoffs until the Super Bowl, where he caught a few timely passes on his way to seven receptions for 53 yards. This will leave a pleasant taste in the mouths of the Kansas City Chiefs and fantasy managers as we go into the offseason. However, the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, and Baltimore Ravens could be potential landing spots as well.
Considering possession slot receivers don’t make very much on the open market, my prediction is he lands back in Kansas City. If he’s not going to cash in, Smith-Schuster may as well continue padding his legacy, playing alongside Patrick Mahomes. Here he will be a WR3 with upside if he is still the second option in the offense behind Kelce.
A move to another team though would crater his value in my eyes. Smith-Schuster couldn’t have been in a better position last season, and still produced modest numbers. As a result, he’s not someone I’m looking to acquire in dynasty leagues or in early season-long drafts. Fantasy receivers like him are a dime in a dozen, and if he signs back in Kansas City, I’d still be willing to move him for a future second-round pick.
Allen Lazard was expected to step into the lead wide receiver role for the Packers this year and failed to live up to expectations. The offense was a disaster, and Lazard was just successful in small spurts as he battled injuries. His position in the offense was eventually overtaken by Christian Watson as well who became a focal point after missing most of the first half of the year.
It was more of the same from Lazard who finished 34th in fantasy points per game in 2022. Regardless, this was still his most productive season to date, and he will be one of the best free agents at the position. Landing spots that have been discussed include the Packers, Ravens, Giants, and Bears.
Like the other two players on this list, it’s hard to get excited about Allen Lazard either. Sorry to be such a downer on everyone in this article, however, modest wide receiver production is easily the most replaceable asset in fantasy football. He couldn’t have been in a better situation either during the last four years playing with Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers have been notorious for not addressing the wide receiver position, and there was plenty of room to produce opposite Davante Adams. Even in a starting role in 2023 Lazard is nothing more than a low-upside WR4 for fantasy purposes. In dynasty fantasy football leagues, if he lands in a good spot, trading him for an early third round rookie pick in a deep draft class would be savvy.
D.J. Chark is a breakaway from the possession receivers on this list, as he will be one of the best pure athletes available. He ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and posted a 97th-percentile speed score (PlayerProfiler). Although he missed seven games due to injury, Chark had some strong games down the stretch, with three 100-yard performances.
This is a player with a 1,000-yard receiving season under his belt, however, injuries have had a significant impact on his career. Chark has missed 21 games over the last three years. Regardless, his speed makes him a difference-maker simply by the coverage he demands, so he will be a sought after free agent.
With Jameson Williams likely taking over the deep threat role in Detroit, it seems likely that Chark finds a new home in 2023. The Ravens and Dallas Cowboys both would be intriguing options, as both offenses are wide open after Mark Andrews and CeeDee Lamb. Nonetheless, Chark is just a deeper stash, and likely only has value in leagues with multiple flex positions.
The last name I will mention here is Indianapolis Colts’ unrestricted free agent wide receiver Parris Campbell. After three seasons where he struggled with injuries, he finally put together a healthy season in 2022, posting a career best 63 receptions for 623 yards. This included multiple productive fantasy games, finishing as a top 36 wide receiver five times.
Campbell is actually one of the more intriguing names on this list, as we haven’t seen what he can do fully healthy in a functioning offense. If he lands on a great team as a second or third option, like the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills, he could have big upside in 2023. This is still a player who was a second round pick in the NFL Draft, and posted a 97th-percentile athletic score or better in every category he tested at the combine.
He is a great player to target with one of your last picks in the draft, or as a buy low in dynasty fantasy football leagues. Players like Campbell are hard to work out a one for one trade for, as he’s not worth a rookie second-round pick. Instead, if you find yourself already working out a deal with the Campbell owner, see if he can be acquired as a throw-in.