Fantasy football analyst Dalton Del Don analyzes some notable figures with 2023 NFL training camps just around the corner, focusing on four key wide receivers.
Could Mike Evans surpass the Buccaneers' quarterback situation?
Mike Evans had the eighth-most expected fantasy points per game among pass catchers last season, ahead of Travis Kelce and CeeDee Lamb. He’s approaching 30 years old, but Evans scored 27 touchdowns over the previous two seasons before suffering in last year’s dysfunctional Bucs offense. Obviously going from Tom Brady to Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask is a major downgrade for Tampa Bay, but the GOAT loved to check down and limited Evans’ target share.
One could also argue the stylistic change hurts Chris Godwin more, yet he’s drafted 1-2 rounds before Evans.
Godwin is younger and will likely perform better another year removed from knee surgery, but he was a disaster against man coverage last season, when he also relied heavily on designed targets — something his new offensive coordinator rarely does. Tampa Bay projects to be one of the worst teams in football, which could lead to a ton of targets and garbage stats for Evans, who’s routinely produced big numbers with questionable quarterbacks throughout his career; he averaged more AY/A with Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick than he did with Brady. No other player has ever had more than seven consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, yet Evans has started his career with nine straight.
He’s become a fantasy steal in 2023 (Yahoo ADP = WR33, 88th overall).
Are we hindering Hollywood?
Marquise Brown is another intriguing mid-round WR target, with a Yahoo ADP somehow sitting outside the top 100. Hollywood finished top-10 in expected fantasy points per game among pass catchers last season, and he was an actual top-10 fantasy wideout when DeAndre Hopkins was off the field (and before breaking his foot). Brown saw a dramatic increase in usage without Hopkins, who’s now in Tennessee.
Brown’s season pace for targets without D-Hop would’ve ranked fourth last year (163 targets), behind only Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson (maybe you’ve heard of them?). The Cardinals depth chart after Brown might be the thinnest in the league (and imagine when/if James Conner goes down too), so he’s going to see plenty of action in 2023. Arizona’s shaky quarterback situation is hardly ideal (and the team’s new OC might run a much slower pace), but Brown already dealt with the most inaccurate target% among all receivers last season. Hollywood looks like a potential alpha available at a beta ADP.
A potential league-winner in Seattle?
Jaxon Smith-Njigba may require a little patience, but he’s one of the clear potential “league-winners” who’s available 100+ picks into Yahoo drafts. When he was last healthy, JSN averaged a mere 192 yards and put up a truly historical 2021 college season, when he accumulated 32% of Ohio State’s receiving yardage despite sharing the field with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave (he also produced 347 yards and three scores in a bowl game they missed).
JSN’s three-cone time was the same as Christian McCaffrey’s, which should play well in the same role Seattle’s OC Shane Waldron utilized Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles. JSN worked almost exclusively out of the slot in college, and Tyler Lockett should have no problem playing more outside, where his yards per route run has increased compared to the slot. Smith-Njigba has put up monster stats while sharing the field with two other elite WRs in college — now just imagine if injuries hit DK Metcalf or Lockett. The Seahawks have a top offensive line and a quarterback who ranked first by a mile in completion percentage above expectation last season, so Seattle should score a bunch of points in 2023.
JSN looks like the next rookie wide receiver to be a major difference-maker when it matters most in fantasy leagues.
DJ Moore could lead to disappointment in 2023
DJ Moore, on the other hand, is a wideout I’m avoiding in fantasy leagues given his ADP. Moore is a very good NFL receiver but ranked 28th in expected fantasy points per game last season, just ahead of Brandin Cooks and Jakobi Meyers. Poor quarterback play can certainly be blamed on Moore never producing WR1 fantasy stats, but he’s going to be dealing with the same (if not a worse) situation in Chicago.
The Bears produced an NFL-low 15.4 catchable targets per game last year! Put differently, a 15% target share with the Chargers was worth more than a 30% target share in Chicago. Justin Fields is a fantasy monster thanks to his running and has a real chance of finishing as the QB1 this year, but his passing (in)ability might have Moore pining for the days of Sam Darnold.
Fields can and likely will improve, but a whopping 28% of his dropbacks were either sacks or scrambles last season, and he sports the highest sack% since the merger. Fields is the only QB this century with a worse ANY/A than Joey Harrington and David Carr, and only Kyle Boller has averaged fewer passing yards since the 1970s.
Moore has been the WR34 and WR28 (per game) in 0.5 PPR leagues the last two seasons, yet he’s the WR18 in expert consensus ranks and is being drafted in the fourth round of some fantasy drafts. Moore is sandwiched between Calvin Ridley and Drake London in Yahoo leagues, two receivers I rank 10+ spots higher on my WR board.
While targeting Marquise Brown yet fading Moore based on QB issues sounds hypocritical, Hollywood is going nearly 50 picks later in Yahoo drafts. Meanwhile, Mike Evans has the same number of 1,000-yard receiving seasons as the Bears have totaled (nine) since the 1990s; Chicago has also never produced a 4,000-yard QB, as the weather conditions aren’t helpful to passing. Evans has scored at least 12 touchdowns four separate times during his career; Moore has reached five touchdowns just once and has never scored more than seven TDs during his career. And Evans is going three rounds (30 picks) later in fantasy drafts.
BONUS: “Oppenheimer” is my favorite Christopher Nolan movie.