Five Wide Receivers to Avoid in 2023

Saturday, Jul 15, 2023 at 2:14 pm ET

There are plenty of reasons to avoid certain players. Sometimes it's injury-related. Sometimes it's team-related. Perhaps it's simply where they're being drafted. Finding value is always important when drafting, and overpaying for a player can have season-long consequences. Imagine drafting a guy in the 4th round when you could have had him in the 5th or 6th. There is a lost opportunity cost to doing that and the consequences can be felt every week.

We've covered five running backs to avoid in 2023, so now we're turning our attention to the wide receiver position.

These are the receivers that we're (somewhat) avoiding in our drafts this season.

Mike EvansMike Evans, WR Saints
2023 may be the year where we see Mike Evans fantasy value fall. He finished last season as the 17th best WR, and if you remove his Week 15 10-207-3 outlier performance, he would have finished the season just outside the Top 24. It's not unrealistic to expect him to finish this season as a WR3/flex option at best. In addition to his sliding statistical performance, his upside is limited considerably by the retirement of Tom Brady who capped off an incredible career with the single-season completion record last year. When the Bucs line up for their first possession of the 2023 season, it will be either Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask under center. There's nothing to be excited about here.

Evans' projections for 2023 have him under 1K yards for the first time in recent memory, but he's still being taken in the sixth round of most drafts so far. That likely plays more to his name recognition than his true potential on the season. Avoid the name brand and focus on the value that can be had in that same round.

Calvin RidleyCalvin Ridley, WR Jacksonville
This one is all about risk and value. The elephant in the room is clearly the fact that Ridley hasn't played in a live NFL game since October 24, 2021. He missed most of 2021 with an injury and then was suspended for the entire 2022 season. There's no doubt that he's a talented player. He advanced significantly in his third year with the Falcons topping 1k yards for the first time in his career. He's fast and can create separation like few other players, but it's not all unicorns and rainbows here. He had Top-10 target share in Atlanta, but there is much more competition for targets in Jacksonville making it unrealistic that he regains that percentage. Zay Jones, Christian Kirk, and Evan Engram will all need to be fed. He's also playing in a completely new scheme with a new coach and QB. Ridley also carries some availability risk as he has only played one full season and that was during his rookie year.

To add Ridley to your squad, you'll likely need to spend a 4th-round pick, although this may be changing. According to recent ADP data, Ridley has started to fall into the fifth round where he presents a bit more value. He's being taken at the same spot that Terry McLaurin, DeAndre Hopkins, Joe Mixon, Jerry Jeudy, and D.J. Moore are going. For our money, those players (assuming Nuk signs with a viable team) all present safer picks. We are intrigued by Ridley's potential, but frankly, it comes down to opportunity cost. We all love the upside potential but we also don't want to overpay. It will be interesting to see the rankings movement on him as we progress into drafts next month.

Adam ThielenAdam Thielen, WR Carolina
Carolina is rebuilding. Bryce Young has the potential to turn this team around, but he's not likely to do it in his rookie year. DJ Chark and Adam Thielen look to be his top targets which brings us to Mr. Thielen. We've watched his yards and touchdowns consistently decline over the past three seasons. There's a reason why the Vikings let him go. He finished the season as the 30th best WR and saw his lowest target share of his career. He also turns 33 this season which isn't a friendly number to wide receivers. As much as we all enjoyed rostering him in the past, Adam Thielen's best days are behind him. That doesn't mean that he doesn't hold some fantasy value, but truthfully, he's not much more than a bye-week filler who can be drafted for your bench in the 12th round.

Michael ThomasMichael Thomas, WR Saints
By all accounts, it looks like Michael Thomas is back...but we said the same thing last year. To be fair, Thomas did look good last season...when he played. He scored three touchdowns in the three games that he played, but injuries are a significant issue with him. Michael Thomas and injuries go together like peanut butter and jelly. Thomas has missed 80% of his games over the last three seasons. It's not realistic to expect him to suddenly return to 2019 form, especially with new QB Derek Carr under center and rising star Chris Olave coming into his own. It's hard to believe that Thomas still holds the NFL single-season receptions record (149 receptions set in 2019) when we see him on the draft boards going in the 9th round - perhaps a round too early for our tastes.

There's no doubt that Michael Thomas has the potential to be a steal in Rounds 10+ if he can return to form and stay healthy. At least he's not coming off the boards in the fifth like he did last year. If you're comfortable with the risk, draft him in those double-digit rounds, but if you're looking for upside without the baggage, you could also take guys like Jordan Addison, Kadarius Toney, Brandin Cooks, and George Pickens instead.

Allen LazardAllen Lazard, WR Jets
Allen Lazard followed QB Aaron Rodgers to New York this offseason along with fellow teammate Randall Cobb. Virtually all of Lazard's passes have been thrown by Rodgers, but Lazard won't be the #1 on the team this year. He's coming into an offense with incredibly-high expectations for WR Garrett Wilson. Assuming Lazard plays second to the more dynamic player, we have some (albeit limited) comparisons to make. When Christian Watson started taking off last year, we saw Lazard's fantasy production fall off by an average of nearly 6 points per game. Lazard finished the season as a low-end WR3 and it's likely that he flirts with that finish in 2023 although a WR4 finish is more likely.

We would not anticipate seeing many fantasy owners start Allen Lazard, but he's still worth stashing on the bench for a plum matchup or a bye-week filler. It's not the end of the world if you pass on him this year.

Join the Discussion

mrock CommentedJul 16, 2023 10:14 am

Not sure that I agree with the call on Calvin Ridley. I think he's going to surprise people this year.

drcharlie CommentedJul 16, 2023 1:17 pm

I thought the same thing, but to be fair, it's not like they're recommending against him. They are just saying he's got some question marks and we should be careful of reaching for him. I get it.

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