July 20, 2024

2023 NFL Draft Class Wide Receiver 1 Dynasty Debate: Who is the Most Impressive WR from the 2023 Class?

6 min read

Dynasty Debates: Who is the #1 Wide Receiver from the 2023 NFL Draft Class?

 

Who is the rookie wide receiver who will emerge as a fantasy stalwart from the 2023 NFL draft class for years?

Nick Goodwin (@ngoodwin_tv) and I (@jgoody77) will debate which rookie wide receiver in this year’s class is not just a flash in the pan but will remain an elite option. This year’s rookie class has many names, including Puka Nacua, Tank Dell, Rashee Rice, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Josh Downs, Jordan Addison, Zay Flowers, and Jayden Reed.

Read along as Goody and Nick debate the topic, and you, the reader, get to vote at the end to decide our winner!

 

Goody: Some receivers are good players but may not necessarily be elite. JSN has shown flashes but is currently his team’s third option. Jayden Reed is talented with the opportunity, but will that offense be supportive of an elite receiver like it was with Davante Adams? As it stands, Wide Receiver Tank Dell is in the most advantageous spot to be an elite receiver for years to come and will do so in 2024.

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Nick: If you had told me entering the year that Tank Dell would have over 700 yards, seven TDs, and 70 targets through only 12 weeks, I wouldn’t have believed you. The third-round pick out of Houston shows that despite his size (5’10”, 165lbs), he can be a difference-maker at the NFL level. Even so, Dell does not currently hold the top spot of rookies heading into 2024, as that title currently belongs to Puka Nacua.

Like Dell, industry experts did not have this Nacua inside their top-5 heading into the draft. Looking back at predraft rankings, I’ve seen some that had Nucua as low as WR30 at the position (I’m looking at you, Charlie Campbell). What we have seen from Nacua this year has been incredible.

Those who thought his production would taper down once Cooper Kupp returned to action were mistaken, and fantasy managers trying to “sell high” on the rookie sensation are left with seller remorse. From what I’ve seen from Nacua this season, I’m very comfortable putting him at WR1 of his NFL draft class.

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Goody: I get Nacua had a great season and far exceeded expectations. However, is Puka able to maintain this pace? I am not willing to concede that Nacua is primed for this “level” of career after only seeing one year of production. In his final year at BYU, Nucua caught 48 passes for 625 yards and five touchdowns.

Tank Dell, on the other hand, has shown what he can do as a collegiate player. Tank Dell dominated in his last year at Houston. Tank grabbed 109 passes for 1,398 yards and 17 touchdowns. Dell is not posting numbers in his rookie year based on circumstance; Tank is putting up numbers because he is THAT talented. 

 

Nick: I see your college production and raise your NFL production. Today, Puka Nacua is 5th all-time in receiving yards by a rookie wide receiver. You can imagine the names behind him in the record books (Randy Moss, Odell Beckham). With two games remaining in the season, he can surpass Justin Jefferson and Jamar Chase (3rd and 2nd all-time in receiving yards, respectively), only needing 128 yards.

Nacua is impressive in almost every category, finding himself in the top ten this season in targets and receptions while also holding the WR7 spot in PPR formats. Despite his lackluster prospect profile, Puka Nacua is here and takes my top spot for wide receivers in his draft class.

Goody: I had been waiting to bring up this little nugget. A rookie, who will be revealed later, put up a similar rookie season to Nucua in 2014 after grabbing 73 receptions on 145 targets for 1,003 yards and nine touchdowns; at the time, it was the 5th best rookie fantasy receiver season. After that? He lasted two more seasons and failed to match his rookie season. This player was a first-round pick with all the pedigree to be a perennial Pro Bowler. Instead, he flamed out. The player? Kelvin Benjamin.

Why do I bring this up? It’s a cautionary tale when basing a long, accomplished career off a fantastic rookie season but little else to prove longevity.

Other notable rookie seasons, Willie Snead, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Sammy Watkins, show one good season doesn’t always guarantee a future. Nucua’s rookie season has been epic, but nothing else demonstrates his ability to continue this pace. The closest comp I can find is Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Less heralded from college, not a first-round pick, a lot to prove. However, ARSB is also the top receiver on his team and has shown he can function within the team concept. Puka will be the 2nd option as long Cooper Kupp is a Ram. Will Puka sustain this pace, and will the Rams offense support multiple elite receivers?


Nick: I’d argue that Nacua has overtaken Kupp as the Wide Receiver 1 in LA. Since Kupp’s return, Nacua has seen more targets and has over a hundred more yards than the former triple-crown winner. We did not see the drop off in Nacua’s production that most expected upon Kupp’s return.

The Rams have been searching for another receiver to pair with Kupp since the departure of Robert Woods and have struck gold with Nacua. Nacua has a 29.2% target share of this offense for the year, which is good for 9th in the NFL. Where I can understand the comparison to Kelvin Benjamin, he appears more of an outlier.

When looking at top rookie fantasy seasons since 2014, the names of Mike Evans, Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, Justin Jefferson, Jamar Chase, AJ Brown, Odell Beckham JR, and now Puka Nacua all appear. Tenth on that same list is where you will find Benjamin. With two games remaining, Puka sits at fifth, and I’d expect him to challenge Chase for that top spot when the season ends.

Tank Dell is sidelined with a fractured leg, and with no other rookies seeing the NFL success that Nacua has with the Rams, he is undoubtedly the Wide Receiver 1 of his class heading into the 2024 drafts.


Goody: So, I agree the rookie list is full of stars. However, all those stars were high-end talents and drafted as such. Analysts have predicted success for them because those players demonstrated their ability to compete at a high level and dominate. I don’t believe Nucua has that pedigree. Has he overtaken Kupp? I don’t think he has. The offense revolves around Kupp, which has opened opportunities for Puka. His numbers should return to that of a Wide Receiver 2 / 3.

Tank Dell will be the top receiver for a quickly improving offense, with CJ Stroud leading the team. The Rams have overachieved this season and, with a tougher schedule, will see some regression. For those reasons, Tank Dell will emerge as the Wide Receiver #1 from this draft class.

 

Ok, Twitterverse (X), Nick and I have made our cases, and now it’s your turn to vote.


 

Who is the Wide Receiver #1 from the 2023 NFL Draft class heading into 2024?