NFL East divisions: Wide receiver fantasy investigation

Sunday, Aug 13, 2023 at 12:32 pm ET

Wide receiver production, both in real and fantasy football, is affected by multiple factors, none less than their quarterback. Great talents can struggle to put up numbers while similar talents are making the Pro Bowl in a similar situation. I wanted to see which players are in the best situations and who to target depending on their rankings in fantasy. I am looking at the wide receivers ranked in the top 100 in standard scoring by Fantasy Nerds, going division by division. Most stats are from ESPN, and numbers and rankings are correct as of 8/11/23.>

Additional analysis available. Check out the:

AFC East

BillsBuffalo Bills

Stefon DiggsTop-100 WR: Stefon Diggs #5, Gabriel Davis #37

Diggs became a star in Minnesota after entering the league as a fifth-round pick, but he has broken out as one of the best receivers in football in Buffalo. Over his three seasons with Josh Allen, Diggs is averaging just under 113 catches, 1,400 yards, and 10 touchdowns per year. There was a small, weird event at the beginning of training camp, but all seems to be well, and Diggs finishing the year as a top-five receiver seems likely.

Davis is boom or bust, as he topped 70 yards only four times last season, including a three-catch, 171-yard, two-touchdown performance in Week 5. On the other hand, he bumped his production last year compared to 2021 (37.1% increase in receptions, 52.3% in yardage) and has never scored less than six touchdowns in a season. Davis isn't a terrible option by any means, but I prefer more consistent performers.

Verdict: Take Diggs in the second round with confidence but beware with Davis. He will have good weeks, but he will bomb just as often.

MiamiMiami Dolphins

Tyreek HillTop-100 WR: Tyreek Hill #3, Jaylen Waddle #9

The Dolphins share a weird quirk with the Eagles in that they have only two receivers ranked in the top 100, but they are both top-15 talents, and top-10 in Miami's case. The health of their quarterback might be the most important thing, as Tua Tagovailoa has missed time in all three of his seasons and had multiple concussion scares last season.

Hill left the best quarterback in the league and somehow got better, as he set career highs in targets, receptions, and yards. In 13 games with Tagovailoa, Hill averaged 7.2 catches and 108.3 yards per game and scored seven touchdowns. In the five games he played without his starting quarterback (including a Wild Card playoff loss against Buffalo), Hill averaged 6.4 catches and 74.2 yards per game with no touchdowns, essentially losing one catch and 34 yards per game.

Waddle saw a similar drop, going from 4.5 catches and 85.2 yards per game and eight touchdowns with Tagovailoa to 4 catches and 58.4 yards per game with no touchdowns, losing half a catch and 27 yards per game. The fact that neither scored a touchdown without Tua is concerning, even if it was only five games.

Verdict: Tua's health is a concern, but Hill can be counted on to be one of the top receivers in the league. Waddle is a good receiver and close to properly rated, but I don't like taking a WR2 in the second or third round rather than a running back or top option from another team.

PatriotsNew England Patriots

JuJUTop-100 WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster #44, DeVante Parker #78, Tyquan Thornton #87

Jakobi Meyers led New Englad receivers last season with 67 receptions, 804 receiving yards, and six touchdowns; those are all underwhelming numbers for a top option. Smith-Schuster steps in as the de facto top receiver after Meyers signed with the Raiders, and he had similar numbers last year: 78 receptions, 933 yards, and three touchdowns. Smith-Schuster also came from a receiver's dream in Kansas City, so expecting him to raise those numbers is a losing proposition.

Thornton and Parker were both around last year and underwhelmed. Thornton was a second-round rookie, but he had only 22 receptions for 247 yards and two touchdowns. Parker, a former first-round pick, had 31 receptions for 539 yards and three touchdowns. They could each hope to see a bigger role, but I see production in the passing game coming from other positions.

Running back Rhamondre Stevenson led the team in receptions in 2022 with 69 and figures to have a bigger role this season with Damien Harris in Buffalo. The Patriots also brought in tight end Mike Gesicki in free agency, and he will almost certainly have a bigger role than he did his last season in Miami. From 2019 to 2021, Gesicki averaged 59 receptions and 684.3 yards per game with 13 total touchdowns. Though he scored five touchdowns last season, Gesicki had only 32 catches for 362 yards.

The Patriots have succeeded with two tight ends before (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez terrorized the league for a few years), and I see something similar as a possibility this year. Gesicki and Hunter Henry could make a bigger impact relative to their position than any receiver on the roster.

Verdict: Smith-Schuster is first on the depth chart, but there doesn't seem to be much upside. He has some value as a depth play in the later rounds. Thornton could improve in his second season, but I wouldn't count on it until he shows something. Parker has proven he's middling at best. The Patriot tight ends seem to have more value.

JetsNew York Jets

Garret WilsonTop-100 WR: Garrett Wilson #10, Allen Lazard #51, Mecole Hardman #83, Corey Davis #86

The arrival of Aaron Rodgers changes the outlook for the Jet receivers, but there is still only one player that can be trusted early in the season. Wilson only scored four touchdowns in his rookie season, but he caught 83 passes for 1,103 yards. That was with less-than-hall-of-fame talent throwing him the ball, and even a diminished Rodgers figures to be an upgrade. Wilson could become the new Davante Adams for Rodgers.

Lazard followed Rodgers to New York (along with Randall Cobb) and fits in as an ok WR2. He set career highs with 60 receptions and 788 yards last season, and his familiarity with Rodgers can only help. He could be a matchup-dependent player who shines some weeks, but he will lack consistency. Davis is in the last year of a $12.5 million per year contract and could be cut. He is a former top-five pick, but he has never hit 1,000 yards in a season or topped 65 catches or five touchdowns.

Hardman is an interesting case as a former second-round pick in a new scene for the first time, but he never found a consistent role in Kansas City. He set career highs in 2021 with 59 catches for 693 yards but missed nine games last season. He could surprise, but he's another player who needs to prove it first.

Verdict: Wilson is a true number one, and drafting him in the second or third round is a solid pick. Lazard may have some good games, but I'm not drafting him until the last few rounds as depth (and probably not at all). Keep an eye on anyone that could make a connection with Rodgers (particularly Hardman), but no one else is positioned to make a real impact.

NFC East

DallasDallas Cowboys

CeeDee LambTop-100 WR: CeeDee Lamb #7, Brandin Cooks #39, Michael Gallup #62

Lamb has increased his targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns each of the last two seasons, culminating with 107 catches, 1,359 yards, and nine touchdowns in 2022. There isn't much reason to expect regression, other than coach Mike McCarthy expressing his desire to run more, and Lamb is a safe bet to be an impact receiver week to week. He has also run the ball nine or 10 times in each of his three seasons as a little bonus.

Cooks had over 1,000 yards every year from 2015-2021 except for one, showing amazing consistency over four different teams. He struggled last year amongst the disfunction in Houston, but I see him as a perfect second option for the Cowboys and a player to target in fantasy. He won't be a weekly starter, but there will be plenty of opportunities to get Cooks in your lineup. He will turn 30 shortly after the season starts, but I believe he can bounce back.

Gallup had a few good years, but he has struggled with health and consistency the last two seasons and is the third option in 2023. He might be able to find a role, but I'm not counting on Gallup to be a fantasy option.

Verdict: Feel confident with Lamb as your top option if you want to go receiver in the second or third round. Cooks is available near the 10th round, and I am snatching him up in many mock drafts, sometimes as my WR2. Gallup has a short history of success, but make him show something before you add him this year.

GiantsNew York Giants

HodginsTop-100 WR: Isaiah Hodgins #75, Parris Campbell #76, Wan'Dale Robinson #81, Darius Slayton #82

While quarterback Daniel Jones set career highs in 2022 in completions, completion percentage, yards, and had a low with only five interceptions, he was still a below-average passer who didn't do favors for his receivers. No Giants receiver last season had more than 57 receptions, 724 yards, or four touchdowns. Continued improvement can be expected, but Jones isn't going to start slinging the ball around the field.

No receiver is rated as draftable here, and I agree. Hodgins has played 10 career games. Campbell set career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns last year in Indianapolis, but he was still middling. Slayton is the most accomplished of the group and led the team in receiving last year, but he has never topped 50 receptions. Robinson was injured in his rookie season and is still working his way back.

Only pick up one of these players if he shows a reason and/or you're desperate. Rookie Jalin Hyatt was one of the fastest players in the draft this year and could find a role, but it's hard to know how he will be used right away, and he's not ranked among the top 100. This might work out as a Chiefs-esque pass-catching corps, with new tight end Darren Waller playing the Travis Kelce role as the team's top option. Waller had at least 90 catches and 1,145 yards in both 2019 and 2020, but he has battled injuries the last two seasons and missed 14 games.

Verdict: Stay away from the Giant receivers. There isn't much value to be found, unless a top option emerges from the ashes. Waller is an interesting tight end option, but his health makes him hard to trust.

EaglesPhiladelphia Eagles

AJ BrownTop-100 WR: A.J. Brown #6, DeVonta Smith #14

Like the Dolphins, Philadelphia has two high-ranked receivers but no other players in the top 100. I see that bolding well for both players, especially as quarterback Jalen Hurts broke out last season. There should be plenty to go around on one of the best teams in the league.

Brown broke out last season with an 88-1,496-11 line, showing that he is one of the best receivers in the game. Given his rank outside the top five, I like Brown more than any other receiver this year. I would take him in the second round if he made it that far (and there wasn't a running back I loved).

Smith would be a number one receiver on many teams, but he has to settle for a top-15 ranking here. Still, he had 95 catches for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns last season, his second in the league. Smith topping 100 catches and 10 touchdowns is well within reach. There also aren't any other receivers on the team that will warrant a large share, so there will be plenty of chances for both Brown and Smith.

Verdict: Hurts jived with both of his top receivers as he broke out, and there's no reason to think that will stop. I love Brown and think of him as a top receiver in the league. Smith would be fine as a WR1 if you focus on running backs early.

WashingtonWashington Commanders

Terry McLaurinTop-100 WR: Terry McLaurin#23, Jahan Dotson #33, Curtis Samuel #69

Second-year quarterback Sam Howell is pegged to start for Washington after playing one game last season, but there is a battle of sorts in training camp. If veteran Jacoby Brissett does come into the season as starter, it will boost these receivers a little, but there is still a ceiling on what we can expect.

Over the last three seasons, McLaurin hasn't had less than 77 catches or 1,000 yards, showing consistency through a rotating cast of quarterbacks, mostly playing with Taylor Heinicke. He's a good player, but Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and DeAndre Hopkins are in the same range and more likely to have big seasons in my opinion.

Dotson started hot last year with three touchdowns in his first two games but had uneven performances the rest of the season. He did finish with at least 70 yards in three of his last four games and scored two touchdowns, including three catches and 72 yards in Week 18 playing with Howell. Dotson is another good player I think will struggle this season as Washington's offense sputters.

Samuel had the second-most catches and yards of his career last year, but he will probably lack opportunities and be a non-factor in fantasy. I see Washington's passing game struggling this year as the team looks for a new quarterback in the offseason, much like the 2022 Houston Texans with Davis Mills. No one on that Houston team had more receiving yards than Brandin Cooks, and his 699 were only the second time he failed to top 1,000 yards since 2015.

Verdict: The talent of the Commander receivers is real, but situation may be the biggest obstacle to productive seasons. McLaurin and Dotson are both too high for me, but I'd be happier with Dotson a couple rounds later. Samuel will struggle to find consistency.

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