We’ve reached a key benchmark in the NFL offseason. The peak of free agency is long gone, the NFL Draft has concluded, and players are starting to hit the field in preparation for the 2023 season.
Many players from rookies to veterans find themselves adapting to new teams, situations, and schemes as the summer approaches. This can have a very big impact throughout fantasy football leagues, and we are already seeing trends in the latest Average Draft Position (ADP) reports.
ADP is certainly not the only tool for evaluating value or upside, but it provides a strong understanding of how fantasy footballers across the world view each player. As we begin to receive reports and updates from offseason workouts, we can apply this information and subsequent shifts in ADP trends to evaluate players who are rising or falling. Let’s dive in!
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Wide Receivers – ADP Risers
Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars (+18)
It has been a complicated few years for Ridley, who departed the NFL for personal reasons in 2021, emerged as a trade candidate in the months following, and was eventually suspended for violating the league’s gambling protocols. The talented wideout has now gone nearly two years without playing in an NFL game, but he gets a fresh start in 2023 with the Jaguars.
Looking beyond an unstable 2021 campaign, Ridley’s last full season on the field was in 2020 when he exploded for 90 catches, 1,379 yards, and nine touchdowns. Despite competing for volume with Julio Jones, he finished as the WR5 that season.
He totaled 26 touchdowns over his first three seasons and now has a prime chance to return to his old form in the Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence-led offense. Coaches and reporters alike have sung Ridley’s praises this offseason, and it looks like he’s fully capable of being the top weapon in an up-and-coming Jacksonville offense.
Kadarius Toney, Kansas City Chiefs (+28)
The 2022 campaign featured a lot of hiccups for Toney, who battled numerous injuries and was traded to the Chiefs less than 18 months after being drafted by the Giants. He didn’t exactly find stable ground in Kansas City, continuing to battle injuries and a lack of playing time while catching 14 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
With that said, it’s difficult for any player to switch teams midseason, let alone a young player struggling to stay healthy. Now that Toney has a full offseason to recover and learn the Chiefs’ offense, he can emerge as Kansas City’s No. 1 wide receiver.
The departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency bodes well for Toney, especially because Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and Rashee Rice don’t represent massive threats to his production. Toney is absolutely worth drafting this summer, considering the upside he carries in a Patrick Mahomes-led offense.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, New England Patriots (+33)
Speak of the devil. Smith-Schuster is now onto his third team in as many years, latching on with the Patriots as their direct replacement for Jakobi Meyers. The 26-year-old didn’t turn many heads in 2022 but delivered solid production, catching 78 passes for 933 yards and three touchdowns.
Whereas Smith-Schuster lost volume to Travis Kelce in Kansas City, he has the chance to be an absolute target hog in a Patriots offense desperate for steady production at the wide receiver position. Even Meyers himself couldn’t exactly deliver for Mac Jones, totaling 67 catches, 804 yards, and six touchdowns while finishing with fewer fantasy points than Smith-Schuster.
New England’s willingness to replace Meyers, who developed with the team and knew their system quite well, with a free agent like Smith-Schuster (on a three-year deal, nonetheless) shows their commitment to giving the former Steeler and Chief a heavy dose of targets in 2023. He has high-end WR3/FLEX appeal ahead of the upcoming campaign, especially as he faces nearly zero competition in the New England offense.
Wide Receivers – ADP Fallers
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle Seahawks (-22)
The Seahawks were quickly deemed a winner of the draft as soon as the first round came to a close. Seattle spent one of its two selections on Smith-Njigba, a talented receiver from Ohio State. He caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021 but missed most of his final NCAA season due to a hamstring injury. Nevertheless, his production in college was enough to make him the first wide receiver off the board this April.
The only problem? The Seahawks already have a top-heavy wide receiver room headlined by the likes of physical specimen DK Metcalf and talented slot receiver Tyler Lockett. Metcalf certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and Lockett remains one of the league’s best slot guys at the age of 30. Where does Smith-Njigba fit into the equation?
If the Seahawks want to maximize the value of all three receivers, Smith-Njigba will play the perimeter, benefitting from Metcalf and Lockett drawing coverage away from him. However, he’ll still be third in the pecking order this season; the tweet below from fantasy football analyst Mike Clay shows how rare it is for receivers taken in the back half of the first round to truly explode in their rookie years. Smith-Njigba could certainly flourish into a star in the NFL, but for 2023 and the sake of redraft leagues, fantasy managers should temper expectations.
Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders (-40)
Dotson broke into the NFL last season as a promising rookie, totaling 152 yards and four touchdowns through his first four games. He then missed time due to injury and took a little while to get reacclimated before finishing the season with 344 yards and three touchdowns over his last five games.
While Dotson finished 2022 on a high note and generated some much-deserved hype, the Commanders’ offense isn’t exactly in a state of utter dominance. The team moved on from both Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke, ushering in a new era of football led by Sam Howell.
Howell completed just 11 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in his lone start last season. Subpar quarterback play doesn’t render Dotson, Terry McLaurin, or other Washington pass-catchers irrelevant. Still, it does bring an important reminder that we’re not talking about Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow here.
There will be growing pains in Washington this season. No matter how excited you might be about Dotson following his promising rookie year, be prepared for some inconsistency as Howell learns the ropes.
It’s also worth noting that the big-play, deep-threat style that Dotson displayed in 2022 might not be an instant match with the conservative approach the Commanders could take with Howell in 2023. After dropping 40 draft slots over the last few months, Dotson is accurately priced heading into fantasy drafts.
Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions (-42)
Williams’ ADP has plummeted over the last few months and for good reason. The wideout was one of many players (including several Lions) suspended for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. The news sparked legitimate concern about Williams’ short- and long-term fantasy value, especially after an underwhelming end to his first season in the league.
Due to an ACL injury, Williams didn’t step onto the field until Week 13 last season. Through six games, he caught just one pass: a 41-yard touchdown. The Lions had several mouths to feed, and it’s difficult to mix a new face into the offense midseason. Perhaps we can ignore the Alabama product’s underwhelming production.
Now in 2023, he will have yet another midseason return. There is no guarantee that Williams will magically carve out a larger role upon his return in Week 7 if the likes of Amon-Ra St. Brown, Marvin Jones Jr., and others have been playing well. The talent is there, and Williams remains a solid dynasty option. But there’s a case to be made for letting Williams go undrafted in redraft leagues.
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