6 Wide Receivers to Avoid (2023 Fantasy Football)

July is almost upon us. At the end of the month, NFL training camps open and players will begin to battle for roster positions. It also means that fantasy leagues will be doing drafts soon, so it’s time to start thinking about which players should be on your team.

Wide receivers offer plenty of value in fantasy, especially in PPR leagues. WRs not only generate a ton of fantasy points with their yards and touchdowns, but they also deliver points with their receptions. Elite receivers tend to fly off the board early in fantasy drafts. Making the right decision with these players could be the difference between making the playoffs and having a disappointing season.

WRs to Avoid (2023)

Below are some of the fantasy wide receivers that I would avoid at their current Average Draft Position (ADP). That doesn’t mean I think they’ll be useless in fantasy football this year. It simply means that I don’t think they’re going to score enough fantasy points to live up to their current ADP.

Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)

The Rams are just one season away from winning Super Bowl LVI, a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. They had the worst title defense in NFL history, setting a record 12 losses by a defending Super Bowl champion. The Rams front office didn’t try to reload in 2023, they opted for the rebuild. The Rams unloaded Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, Leonard Floyd and Allen Robinson this offseason. They weren’t very active in free agency, instead focusing on the NFL Draft. They drafted the most players in the league this year (14), and they signed 24 undrafted free agents after the 2023 NFL Draft.

There are still some pieces left from the 2022 offense, especially Matthew Stafford and Kupp. Stafford had 4,866 passing yards and 41 passing touchdowns in 2021, and Kupp had 145 receptions for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. They were two of the best players in the league that season. They were unable to duplicate that production in 2022. Stafford missed eight games last year dealing with elbow and concussion issues. He finished the year with 2,087 yards passing and 10 touchdowns. Kupp only played nine games due to an ankle injury, but was much better than Stafford in the games he did play. Kupp tallied 75 receptions for 812 yards and six touchdowns in those nine games.

The big problem for the Rams’ offense in 2022 was the offensive line. The offensive line fell apart in 2022, their sack rate went from 4.9% in 2021 to 10.0% in 2022. This offensive line is one of the weaker units in the NFL, which means Stafford is likely going to fight to stay healthy all season. Kupp is also turning 30, it doesn’t make much sense that he is the fourth overall player and third overall receiver.

Kupp will benefit from a huge field goal percentage, he was second in the NFL at 31.3% before being shut down due to injury. That number will remain the same this year as the Rams have no other established wide receivers. The problem is, he’s an older receiver playing with an older quarterback behind a weak offensive line for a rebuilding team. There are too many things that could go wrong to make Kupp a safe pick with the fourth overall pick.

NFL Scoring Leaders – Weeks 1-10

Deebo Samuel (WR – SF)

Samuel was one of the most productive players in the NFL in 2021. The 49ers used him as both a wide receiver and running back, and he tallied 1,405 yards receiving, 365 yards rushing and 14 total touchdowns. That production dropped to 632 yards receiving, 232 yards rushing and five touchdowns in 2022. That caused his fantasy ranking to drop from the second-ranked fantasy wide receiver to the 38th-ranked fantasy wide receiver.

The 49ers’ offense has a ton of question marks. Samuel and Christian McCaffrey played just seven games together last year. Will Samuel have the same value as a running back this year as he did in 2021 with McCaffrey in the backfield, probably not. The 49ers ranked 26th in pass attempts last year, are those pass attempts enough to keep Samuel in the WR2 discussion with George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk also demanding targets? Finally, will Brock Purdy be healthy in Week 1, if he isn’t ready to go, can Samuel be the WR2 with Trey Lance behind center? What happens if neither of them start and Sam Darnold starts games?

Samuel is ranked as the 16th ranked fantasy wide receiver and the 35th ranked overall player. That seems pretty high for a player on the team with so many question marks after a season in which he had just one game with 100 yards receiving and just three games with 60 yards receiving. Some of the decline can be attributed to injuries, Samuel missed four games due to injury and was hit in several other games he played. The biggest concern for me is that I don’t think he’s going to get a big rushing role with McCaffery on the team and the 49ers have a ton of uncertainty at quarterback. Samuel is one to avoid in the third round of fantasy drafts.

DeAndre Hopkins (WR – FA)

Hopkins is the 19th-ranked fantasy wide receiver and the 42nd-ranked overall player, and he doesn’t even currently have a team. His value on a team that passes the ball a lot with an elite quarterback, such as Kansas City or Buffalo, would be very different than on a team that runs the ball more and does not have an elite quarterback, such as New England or Tennessee.

Hopkins was good in limited action last year, missing the first six games of the season with a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He played in nine games and tallied 96 targets, 64 receptions and 717 yards. The two numbers that weren’t good were yards per game. receiving and touchdowns. He averaged a career-low 11.2 yards per reception and scored just three touchdowns. He’s also 31 years old and is at the point where fantasy managers have to worry about his production declining due to age.

There’s a reason there hasn’t been a hot market for Hopkins. If he was considered a difference-maker, the Cardinals would not have released him, and several teams would be lining up to secure his services. He is expected to end up signing with either Tennessee or New England in the coming weeks. He’ll have a significant role on those teams, but New England was 21st in pass attempts and Tennessee was 30th. It also doesn’t have an established franchise quarterback. It’s hard to see him finishing as a Top-20 fantasy wide receiver on any of these offenses.

Calvin Ridley (WR – JAC)

I’m a little surprised that Ridley is currently the 20th ranked fantasy wide receiver and the 44th ranked overall player. That ranking is so high that he is currently higher than the Jaguars’ 2021 leading wide receiver Christian Kirk, who is the 25th ranked wide receiver and 53rd overall player. Kirk was a very good receiver last year. He tallied 84 receptions for 1,108 yards and eight receiving touchdowns. He had 28 targets, 15 receptions, 130 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in two playoff games last year. He was a big part of their offense and he was the 11th ranked fantasy wide receiver for the season.

We have to keep a few things in mind about Ridley. He has a ton of talent and he’s a great route runner. No one disputes his physical tools, which are a reason he was a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He also turns 29 this year, although he is playing under his rookie contract, he is not a young player. He’s been in the league since 2018, and he’s gotten over 1,000 yards in a season just once. He hasn’t had 10 touchdown receptions in a season since his rookie year. When he left football for personal reasons in 2021, he averaged just 56.2 yards per carry. game and he only had two touchdowns. He had a disappointing season for fantasy managers who drafted him in the second round as the sixth receiver off the board.

Ridley has a role in this offense and they will throw the ball to him. I just don’t know if they’ll throw him the ball enough to be a Top-20 wide receiver who scores more fantasy points than Kirk. I think Zay Jones is the player that will have a harder time being fantasy relevant with Ridley on the roster, Kirk is the better fantasy option after a solid 2022 season. I wouldn’t spend a fourth or fifth round pick on a player who is now 29 years old and hasn’t played a down of NFL football since the start of the 2021 season.

Tyler Lockett (WR – SEA)

Lockett has been one of the more underrated receivers in the NFL over the past four seasons. Locket has averaged 116.5 targets, 84.75 receptions, 1,079.75 receiving yards and 8.75 touchdown receptions. He has been a Top-15 fantasy receiver every season, yet he was not selected to the Pro Bowl in any of those seasons. Last year, he was the 45th-ranked receiver and 108th-ranked punter and ended up being one of the best values ​​in fantasy football.

The problem is that the Seahawks appear to be phasing out Lockett this year and will likely move on in 2024. The Seahawks drafted Jaxon Smith-Njigba with the 20th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They didn’t, because they plan to keep both DK Metcalf and Lockett through 2024. Metcalf signed a contract extension last year for $72 million. He won’t be a free agent until 2026. Lockett is 31 years old this year, and the Seahawks can save over $7 million in cap space by releasing him in 2024.

It certainly looks like the Seahawks will see what they have with Smith-Njigba in 2023, and that’s bad news for Lockett. I think he’ll have a few big games here and there, but there’s no way his goals will stay at the 110-120 mark if Smith-Njigba is to have a significant role in attack as well. Lockett will likely only see 75-95 targets, and that means he’ll likely see between 800 and 900 yards and five touchdowns. That will make it difficult for him to live up to being the 31st ranked fantasy wide receiver and the 66th overall player.

Mike Evans (WR – TB)

Evans has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the NFL since being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2014. Evans has been in the league for nine years and has tallied nine 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He has been fantastic in the red zone, scoring 81 touchdowns in 137 games. However, he was not a very consistent player last year. Three of his six touchdowns came in one game, a Week 16 contest against the Carolina Panthers. He had just three 100-yard games and seven games in which he had less than 60 yards receiving. He was a very frustrating fantasy player for most of the season.

This year he turns 30, and he no longer has Tom Brady throwing him the ball. Baker Mayfield looks set to win the starting job, but Kyle Trask could also earn some starts. Mayfield hasn’t had a 300-yard passing game since Week 5 of the 2021 season, and he hasn’t thrown three touchdown passes in a regular season game since Week 13 of the 2020 season. Trask had nine pass attempts last year. The combination of Evans turning 30 on a team with a below average QB situation makes Evans a risky pick as the 33rd ranked wide receiver and the 70th overall player. There are many players with more upside than Evans in this rebuilding offense.

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Derek Lofland is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Derek, check out his archive and follow him @DerekLofland.

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