This is the last part of my Thursday series where I do a mid-year review and rank the 2023 NFL Draft class by position group through the first half of the season. Last week, I started on the final position, wide receiver, with receivers 8 through 14. This week, in part two, I am ranking spots one through seven. These seven rookie wide receivers are all making a major impact for their team through the first eleven weeks of the season, let’s see who lands on top!
7. Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Jaxson Smith-Njigba was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Smith-Njigba was not drafted into the best situation for this season, as the Seahawks have both Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf ahead of him on the depth chart. This pick was more about next year than this year, with Smith-Njigba hopefully eventually stepping in and taking over Lockett’s starting role. I have him ranked way lower than most because I was not high on him coming into the draft and the fact that he is not pushing for more playing time so far this year makes me a little nervous for his long-term projection. He is not a big wide receiver, coming in at 6’1” and 196 pounds, but he is an instinctive and precise route runner who works well against zone and man coverages. He has shown flashes of his playmaking ability throughout the first eleven weeks of the season, but not enough, in my opinion, for a first-round pick. He is a player you want to hold onto right now in Dynasty leagues as we are hoping that a bigger role next year will unlock the potential that got him drafted in the first round of the draft this year. He currently ranks as just the WR51 in PPR scoring through the first eleven weeks of the season.
6. Josh Downs
Josh Downs was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts with the 79th overall pick in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Downs is another fast and elusive wide receiver from this 2023 draft class. He is a smaller receiver at 5’9” and 171 pounds, but he is an explosive slot receiver who separates with his ability to change speeds and direction quickly. He was drafted into a great situation with the Colts needing help at wide receiver; they also drafted Anthony Richardson to be their long-term franchise quarterback of the future in the first round, so hopefully the two can grow together in their careers and be a dynamic combination for years to come. He currently is ranked as WR39 in PPR scoring, but I believe he will finish as the WR30 or better this season and be a productive slot receiver for many years in the NFL.
5. Rashee Rice
Rashee Rice was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 55th overall pick in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Chiefs did a great job getting Patrick Mahomes some receiver help by selecting Rice in the second round. The Chiefs needed a bigger receiver after JuJu Smith-Schuster left via free agency in the offseason, and Rice provides that and more. Rice is a bigger receiver at 6’1” and 204 pounds, and he uses his size well to get open and make contested catches. He does not have elite speed, but he runs well and can track down the deep ball. He is excellent against zone coverage, but he is definitely going to be more than just a possession receiver as his career progresses. He is currently ranked as the WR42 in PPR scoring, but I would try to trade for him now in Dynasty leagues because he has the possibility of blowing up next year with Mahomes as his quarterback. I believe Rice could finish this season strong if he gets some more opportunities during the Chiefs playoff push.
4. Zay Flowers
The Baltimore Ravens selected Zay Flowers with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Ravens were looking for a dynamic playmaker at the position to help Lamar Jackson, and they found a solid WR1 in Flowers. Flowers is an ultra-quick and highly instinctive route runner. He tracks the deep ball well and flashes the ability to win the 50-50 balls even though he is not a big receiver. He comes in at 5’9” and 182 pounds, so he is not a big receiver, but he is fast and uses his second gear to get behind the defense. I probably have him higher than most in my rankings because coming into the draft he reminded me of a better version of Marquise Brown. He currently ranks as the WR32 in PPR scoring on the season. Now that Mark Andrews is likely out for the rest of the season, I believe Flowers will get an increased workload and will finish the season as a top-20 WR.
3. Nathaniel “Tank” Dell
The Houston Texans selected Nathaniel “Tank” Dell with the 69th overall pick in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and it looks like they got a steal. Dell is not a big guy at 5’8” and 165 pounds, but he is fast, with great burst to separate in and out of his breaks, and he does a great job of getting separation on his deep routes. He is going to be a solid player to pair with quarterback C.J. Stroud for the next five or six years. It has been reported that Stroud lobbied for the Texans to draft Dell after the two worked together at the NFL Combine. He is another player I have stashed away in my Dynasty leagues this year, but he is making an impact in Redraft too. He currently ranks as the WR16 in PPR scoring through the first eleven weeks of the season. The Stroud to Dell connection is real, and I believe Dell could finish the year as a borderline WR1.
2. Puka Nacua
The Los Angeles Rams selected Puka Nacua with the 177th overall pick in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and it looks like the Rams found a star receiver. He is a smooth route runner with great hands and deceptive speed. At 6’2” and 201 pounds, he is a big receiver, and he uses his size well to get open. He is a guy that I have stashed away in all my Dynasty leagues this year. He is going to be a star wide receiver in the NFL for many years. He currently ranks as the WR9 in PPR scoring through the first eleven weeks of the season. If he keeps playing like he is now, and Matthew Stafford can stay healthy the rest of the season he could finish the season as a WR1. I wanted to rank Nacua at number one, but I just believe the next player has a little better skill set right now, but it is really close for me.
1. Jordan Addison
The Minnesota Vikings selected Jordan Addison with the 24th overall pick of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and he has all the traits NFL teams are looking for in a wide receiver one. At 5’11” and 173 pounds, he is another fast and shifty receiver. He reminds me a lot of a little faster version of Keenan Allen with his size and playing style. I believe Addison is going to be a great wide receiver in the NFL for years to come, and he is the perfect complement to Justin Jefferson in Minnesota. He currently ranks as the WR13 in PPR scoring through the first eleven weeks of the season. I wish Kirk Cousins did not get hurt earlier this year because I believe Addison would have been a solid top-10 wide receiver, but Joshua Dobbs is playing well so far in Minnesota, so I will be shocked if Addison does not finish the season as the WR15 or better.