TWSN is back with the top 10 dynasty fantasy football rookie wide receivers in the 2023 NFL draft. After ranking the running backs on Monday, it’s clear the receiver class doesn’t boast anywhere near the depth as they do. There are some outstanding prospects, but size will be the theme of today. There are so few players with prototypical size that fantasy managers will need to get comfortable with smaller prospects.
1 – Jaxon Smith-Njigba – Ohio State
Jaxon Smith-Njigba quieted anyone who doubted his athletic ability with a 4.53 40-yard dash at his Ohio State Pro Day. With the fastest shuttle time for a wide receiver since the 2013 NFL Combine as well, I think it’s fair to say these concerns were overblown. Smith-Njigba is an elite route runner with fantastic hands. While he may lack top-line speed, he uses excellent technique to gain separation from defenders during his route. His largest flaw is he had 23 combined targets between his freshman and junior seasons. However, he did outproduce Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave as a sophomore with a 347-yard receiving yard performance in the Rose Bowl.
2 – Quentin Johnston – TCU
Fantasy Analysts are knocking Quentin Johnston’s 4.49 40-yard dash time, which I simply don’t understand. He ran the same time as Jordan Addison and happens to be 38 pounds heavier. The speed isn’t a concern for me, and he plays even faster on tape. Johnston is a player who could be the first wide receiver selected in next month’s draft and one of the few with alpha potential. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always play to his size, with just a 34% contested catch rate. As a result, the floor remains lower than a player like Addison, though.
3 – Jordan Addison – USC
Speaking of Jordan Addison, he checks in at third in these rankings and had one of the most productive college careers of any receiver in this draft. He was outstanding early on, boasting a target share of over 20% in each of his first two seasons. Furthermore, he finished with 1,593 receiving yards as a sophomore with 17 touchdowns. He transferred to USC in 2022, where he struggled with injuries but was impressive nonetheless. The glaring weakness is a first-percentile size-adjusted athletic score to go along with his 5’11 and 173-pound frame. Addison is a great football player but profiles more as a WR2 for an NFL team.
4 – Zay Flowers – Boston College
Zay Flowers has been a recent riser in rookie rankings and has been going earlier and earlier in NFL mock drafts. He is dynamic with the ball in his hands and was extremely productive in college despite mediocre quarterback play. Flowers is also great at tracking the ball on deep routes and has the versatility to fill multiple roles. Recent mock drafts suggest he could go ahead of Jordan Addison in the NFL Draft, which would make me reconsider this ranking.
5 – Josh Downs – North Carolina
Despite being another small receiver (5’9, 171 pounds) Josh Downs is the best contested-catcher in the 2023 class. He has outstanding hands and is coming off two very productive seasons at North Carolina (2,364 yards). Downs is a solid athlete as well, with a 4.48 40-yard dash and a 89th-percentile burst score. Downs has a lot of positive traits, but is yet another very undersized receiver in this class. I expect him to be drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft though, and have WR3 upside in the NFL.
6 – Jalin Hyatt – Tennessee
Where fantasy analysts are higher on Zay Flowers, they are lower on Jalin Hyatt. He has been rumored to be the first receiver on some NFL scout’s big board; however, he is routinely taken in the second round of rookie drafts. While he may not be extremely versatile, he is a burner that is a dangerous threat downfield. Hyatt is another great athlete (4.40 40-yard dash) and could hear his name called early, given how the NFL covets speed. Draft capital will be important, but if he is selected in the first round, this ranking will be too low.
7 – Marvin Mims – Oklahoma
There aren’t many flaws to find in Marvin Mims’ game, and draft capital is the only thing holding me back from ranking him higher. He’s fast, can line up inside or outside, and excels against man coverage. His 20.1 yards per reception is elite as it gets, and I think he is the complete package. Part of my process is trusting the executives making millions of dollars, though more than my own evaluation. He’s projected as a second-round pick, but could rise further in these rankings with top 45 draft capital.
8 – Cedric Tillman – Tennessee
Finally, a player with a strong frame, Cedric Tillman stands 6’3, 213 pounds and made a number of impressive big plays in college. He was the best receiver on the Tennessee Volunteers in 2021 too before struggling through injuries last season. Tillman’s an excellent deep ball threat and has the frame to work over the middle of the field as well. His age and athleticism will be a slight concern, but he should hear his name called early on Day Two.
9 – Kayshon Boutte – LSU
Kayshon Boutte was incredible as a freshman, with a 98th-percentile breakout age in college. He never took that next step though, struggling with injuries and inconsistency the last two seasons. In 2022, his route running and effort at times were of particular concern, and he has fallen in rookie rankings as a result. A poor NFL Combine was the nail in his coffin, and he is a third round rookie pick in many fantasy mock drafts. He is a boom-or-bust type player that is worth taking a shot on in that range, though.
10 – Xavier Hutchinson – Iowa State
Another player with a strong physical frame, Xavier Hutchinson is a physical player who had an extremely productive collegiate career. He had a target share of over 24% in each of his three seasons and was a clear focal point of the Cyclone offense. Hutchinson does have issues with drops though and lacks top-end speed. However, he quieted some of these concerns at the Senior Bowl with a very impressive performance.