Rookie Class Progress Reports
Part 2: (The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends)
Article by: Mike Lindberg
Class has been in session for the 2023 NFL rookie class for weeks now and we are roughly a third of the way done the season. NFL teams have started to give us a real indication on how they are playing, patterns are forming, and we can now finally see a little more clarity as we head into the middle section of this NFL season. Some of the biggest unknowns heading into every NFL season are how all the rookies will adapt to their new settings. There has been a lot of information to process with these rookies, In Part 1 I started to dig deeper to help you process it all. I started to give each rookie a report card grade on how I feel they did vs. expectations headed into the year. I started to recap how each relevant rookie fared to start the year, and started to look ahead to help project what is ahead for them in the next portion of the season. In Part 1, I covered the Quarterbacks and Running Backs (INSERT LINK HERE to Part 1). This week I will cover the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends. Let’s dive back in!
The Wide Receivers
Is the 2023 rookie wide receiver class a flop? On the surface it may look as though, with 3 out 4 of the first round rookies under performing preseason expectations. Many thought Jaxon Smith-Njigba (JSN) and Jordan Addison would jump right in and make an immediate impact earning first team reps and 10 targets per game. Unfortunately it just hasn’t panned out like that for any of the first round rookies with the expectation of one, Zay Flowers. There is optimism, however, as rookies usually fare better in the second half of their rookie seasons. Guys like JSN, Marvin Mims, and Quentin Johnston are carving out bigger roles and should start living up to their lofty draft capitals. It hasn’t been all that bad for this rookie class, it’s hard not to pay attention to the way Puka Nacua and Tank Dell have stormed the scene. This rookie class was, viewed by some as a weaker, however if Puka Nacua, Jordan Addison, and Zay Flowers can keep up this pace, this class just got a huge bump up in proving that theory wrong.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (JSN) #20 Overall
Report Card Grade: C+
Many were hoping that JSN would make an immediate impact in PPR formats. JSN has had a hard time getting on the field to start the year playing around 50% of the snaps. He started 2023 slowly recovering all pre season from a broken bone in his wrist. To add to this, the Seahawks lost both their starting tackles to start the year and that caused them to have run a lot of 2 tight end sets. JSN has earned a modest 18% target share to start the year which turned into 20 receptions for 173 yards. JSN is averaging 5.3 targets per game while only playing 50% of the snaps which is an encouraging sign. JSN’s slow start to 2023 has 10 other rookies outperforming him to start the year. With all that said, JSN has disappointed and earned a C+ for his start to 2023. Looking ahead, it looks like the Seahawks will be running more 3 wide receiver sets as their injured tackles are getting healthy. Not all hope is lost, look for JSN to increase his snap and target share in this next portion of the season. I am looking for JSN to be able to work his way into flex spots in fantasy line-ups heading into the next portion of the season.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR17
My current in season adjustment: WR22
Quentin Johnston #21 Overall
Report Card Grade: C
Quentin Johnston has the X receiver portfolio with the rare size and speed that many teams covet, the same size and speed that can easily blind teams from the gaping holes in his game. The least polished out of the rookies that were selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft, Quentin Johnston was always going to be a work in progress, Johnston was as fresh as they come when referring to first round wide receiver picks. Johnston played a limited route tree in college, and that has translated through to the NFL, as Johnston has only played in limited packages playing as the Chargers 4th wide receiver on the depth chart. Johnston has earned a 7.2% target share to start the year which has only translated into 15 targets for 7 receptions and 64 yards through 6 games, thus earning him a grade of a C. Looking ahead we should start seeing a bit more Quentin Johnston with the season ending injury to Mike Williams. Johnston will still be playing behind Keenan Allen and Josh Palmer on the depth chart, but should see roughly 50% of the snaps moving forward like he did in week’s 5 and 6 the first two games without Williams in the lineup. Look for Johnston to emerge as a plug and play guy in fantasy line-ups in the final stretch of the season.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR29
My current in season adjustment: WR35
Zay Flowers #22 Overall
Report Card Grade: A-
With the most consistent start out of the 4 first round rookies, Zay Flowers has stormed in and taken a grapple hold of the number 1 wide receiver role in Baltimore. Flowers has been a target and short yardage machine to start the year. In the 7 games Flowers has played he has an incredible 29% target share which turned into 54 targets for 39 receptions and 1 touchdown. With this great start Flowers has earned an A- grade for his efforts. Flowers’ yards after the catch potential hasn’t been tapped yet either. In Week 5, the Ravens started using Flowers more down field reflected by his 158 air yards in that game. The Ravens and Lamar Jackson are now becoming more comfortable with Todd Monken’s new offense and Flowers is reaping the benefits. Look for Flowers to continue his dominant start to the season in this next portion, as he continues to develop his chemistry with Lamar Jackson. It would not surprise me if Flowers finishes 2023 as a top 15 wide receiver, and the best performing one out of the first round rookie wide receivers.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR33
My current in season adjustment: WR16
Jordan Addison #23 Overall
Report Card Grade: A
Jordan Addison was supposed to come right in and take on the role that Adam Thielen left behind when he went to the Panthers in free agency. KJ Osborn had other ideas, up until Jefferson went down, Addison was coming off the in 2 wide receivers sets, a role that many thought Addison would come in and take right off the hop, thus capping the breakout that could have been for Jordan Addison. Addison has done well with his opportunities, in 7 games Addison has earned a respectable 15.1% target share which has translated into 34 targets for 22 receptions and 4 touchdowns which lands him as the WR39 through 7 weeks. These are great numbers but not elite, thus earning him an A for his efforts in the first leg of the season. Addison has emerged as the bonafide #1 wide receiver for the Vikings in Jefferson’s absence, earning a 20% target share that turned into 15 targets for 10 receptions and 151 yards and 3 touchdowns in the 2 games that Jefferson has missed so far. Looking ahead I am confident Addison will continue his hot streak and emerge as the Vikings WR#2 once Jefferson is back finishing his first season strong as a top 20 wide receiver. 45 10 5 31
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR24
My current in season adjustment: WR15
Jayden Reed #50 Overall
Report Card Grade: B-
The opening was there for Jayden Reed to claim a starting role when Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson started the year banged up. Unfortunately Reed wasn’t able to fully capitalise and seize every an down starting receiver spot. Reed’s most active game came in Week 4 where he was able to play 67% of the snaps. Reed has earned a 16.3% target through 6 games, which turned into 31 targets for 16 receptions for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns earning him a B- for his effort to start the year. I am looking for Reed to continue to earn around 15% target share and play about 55% of the snaps, now that Aaron Jones and Christian Watson are both fully back in the mix. Look for Reed to finish the year strong, as he should be more involved when the weather turns cold. The Packers will need to lean on their slot receiver and the short passing game more than what they have to start this year.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR49
My current in season adjustment: WR39
Rashee Rice #55 Overall
Report Card Grade: A
Rashee Rice was supposed to come in and be a project, because, you know, it takes time for rookie wide receivers to come in and learn such a complex offense that is the one of Andy Reid’s and the Kansas City Chiefs. Rice has been primarily working on the outside, and has been used to stretch the field for the Chiefs. His talents have been on full display with the small sample size that we’ve seen so far, he’s been exceptional downfield and is ranked 17th in yards after the catch. Rice is climbing depth chart and fast, through 7 games Rice has earned a 13.1% target share that turned into 34 targets for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns, earning him an impressive A grade for his efforts to start the year. Looking ahead, it’s only a matter of time before Rice commands more snaps and an even bigger target share. Rice can currently be used weekly as a top 30 wide receiver. Rice is looking more and more like a league winner, getting hot at the right time as the Chiefs make their playoff push. Rice could easily finish 2023 as a top 24 wide receiver.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR53
My current in season adjustment: WR24
Marvin Mims #63 Overall
Report Card Grade: C+
Marvin Mims is a blast to watch, his big play and separation have been on full display to start the year. Mims has been exceptional with the limited snaps he has seen. I was expecting to see Mims on the field more; his 27% snap share through 7 weeks has been confusing considering how efficient Mims has been with his opportunities. In the 7 games played Mims has a 6.7% target share which turned into 13 targets for 10 receptions for 246 yards and 1 touchdown. Mims has done well with his limited role, his 24.6 yards per reception is among the league’s best, earning him a C+ for his efforts to start the year. What looked like a hot start for Mims has turned into him cooling off, simply due to the fact Sean Payton doesn’t seem to want to play the best playmaker on that team, the same Payton moved up in the draft to get. Looking ahead, it is looking more and more like Mims will be a long-term project, perplexing seeing how efficient he’s been. Rumours of the Broncos shopping Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton would surely help Mims’ case in becoming a weekly starter for the Broncos. Mims simply needs more playing time, because from what he has shown already, he is well equipped to be a successful receiver in this league.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR48
My current in season adjustment:WR40
Tank Dell #69 Overall
Report Card Grade: B
Landing in the perfect spot with a wide-open wide receiver room. Dell has a unique skill set, unlike the other receivers in the room in Houston. Tank Dell has made the most of his chances to start the year. Dell was touted coming out of college for his yards after catch, his quickness, and his speed and they have been on full display to start the year. Dell has earned a 16.2 % target share, which translated into 28 targets in 5 games. Dell looked incredible in that 2 game span of Week 2 and 3 where he had 12 receptions for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns. That 2 game span propelled Dell to a very nice B grade to start the year, Dell left the game in week 5 with a concussion that kept him out of week 6. The Texans are currently on their bye in week 7 and Dell should be returning to his slot role. I am looking for Dell to continue to build his chemistry with Stroud to finish the year strong. Dell is currently the WR41 and should finish the year in the top 36 at the position if he can stay on the field.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR77
My current in season adjustment:
Josh Downs #79 Overall
Report Card Grade: B+
Josh Downs slipped further down the draft board in the 2023 NFL draft than many expected, but he landed in the perfect situation and he was able to make an early impact for the Colts and fantasy managers. Downs has been very efficient in his role as the slot receiver in this Colts offense that relies a lot on the run and RPO’s. Downs has earned 75% of the offensive snaps to start the year and has produced well earning a 20.1% target share which turned into 33 receptions for 401 yards and 2 touchdowns. Super impressive stuff coming from a third round pick, earning Downs a B+ for his efforts to start the year. Looking ahead, Downs has carved out an important role in this offense, garnering the attention of the Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew. In the 3 games that Minshew has started he has hyper targeted Downs at a rate of 21.2%. Downs is clearly Minshew’s safety valve kit, and the #2 receiver on the team only behind alpha Michael Pittman. Minshew and the Colts will continue to lean on Downs as the season progresses. The return of Jonathan Taylor will improve the run game, further disguising the RPO and making Downs even more dangerous and an even bigger threat. Downs should finish 2023 as a top 36 wide receiver.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR54
My current in season adjustment: WR35
Puka Nacua #177 Overall
Report Card Grade: A+
Defying all odds, Puka Nacua is loudly putting together one of the most impressive wide receiver campaigns in the history of the NFL. Storming the league to start the year, many thought that Puka would cool down once Cooper Kupp returned to the lineup. That was not the case. Puka is currently the wide receiver 4 overall, he was the 20th wide receiver selected in the 2023 NFL draft, 177th overall in the fifth round! The front runner for offensive rookie of the year, Puka is averaging over 90% snap share that has turned into a 33.4% target share, only behind Cooker Kupp in the whole NFL. Puka has earned 82 targets for 58 receptions for 752 yards and 2 touchdowns in only 7 games, a torrent pace that logic would suggest being unsustainable. Puka has defied all odds and him finishing as a top 5 wide receiver is becoming more and more like a reality after every passing game. Puka has earned an A+ for this historic start. If this season keeps up, it’ll be really interesting to see where Puka will land in dynasty rankings in the offseason.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: WR100
My current in season adjustment: WR12
The Tight Ends
One of the deepest tight end classes in recent memory, the tight ends have come out of the gate and have not disappointed. These guys are for real and the future tight end landscape is rapidly and positively changing right in front of our eyes. Perhaps the days of skimming the waiver wire for tight end scraps are going to be a thing of the past. This group of young tight ends gives me hope.
Dalton Kincaid #24 Overall
Report Card Grade: B-
When the Bills moved up in the 2023 NFL draft to select Dalton Kincaid with the 24th overall pick, many thought he would slide right into the big slot receiver role. His athleticism, great hands, yards after the catch ability,, and landing spot had many thinking Kincaid would be a top 10 Tight end off the hop. Kincaid hasn’t been able to earn enough playing time to make that lofty goal a reality. Kincaid has started this good earning a 13.2 % target share that turned into 27 targets for 25 receptions for 193 yards, earning Kincaid a B- for his start to the season. There is optimism for Kincaid; he is starting to earn more playing time, earning his highest snap (60%) and target (20%) share in week 8. Looking ahead, with the injury to Dawson Knox, Kincaid will continue to emerge past Knox in target share and playing time finishing the year as a top 15 tight end with top 10 potential
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: TE8
My current in season adjustment: TE7
Sam Laporta #34 Overall
Report Card Grade: A+
This year could not have started any better for Sam Laporta. Laporta benefited from the suspension of Jameson Williams and was able to carve out a role immediately and has made one of the biggest impacts out of any rookie in this class. Laporta is playing 85% of the snaps to start the year, impressive for a rookie. To add to this, Laporta has commanded a 20% target share through 8 weeks that turned into 49 targets for 35 receptions for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns, good for the Tight End 2 overall through 2 weeks. Laporta has stormed out of the gate and is on pace to break Mike Ditka’s rookie tight end receiving record. Laporta has earned an A+ for his effort to start the year. Look for Laporta to continue his dominant season as the Lions are looking like a contending team. Laporta should finish 2023 as a top 5 tight end.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: TE15
My current in season adjustment: TE3
Michael Mayer #35 Overall
Report Card Grade: C
Michael Mayer was the third tight end off the board and many thought it was the perfect landing spot in this high passing volume offense. There was an opening to start the year for Mayer to be the number 2 target in the Raiders offense, however, not many expected Jakobi Meyers to storm the scene the way he did. Mayer started the year slowly splitting snaps evenly with Austin Hooper for the first 4 games. In week 5, Mayer started to emerge past Hooper and is now playing around 70% of the snaps. Mayer has earned a 6.4% target share that turned into 15 targets for 10 receptions for 129 yards, earning Mayer a C grade for his efforts to start the year. These aren’t eye popping numbers, however most of this production has come since Week 5 when Mayer emerged past Hooper in playing time. Looking ahead, Mayer should continue emerging in this offense as the 3rd receiving option, moving him into stream worthy territory. Mayer should work himself into the top 20 at the position by the end of the year.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: TE13
My current in season adjustment: TE13
Luke Musgrave #42 Overall
Report Card Grade: B
The Packers have needed their new fast and versatile tight end to start the year. Musgrave has created mismatches on the field which has led to some decent production to start the year for this rookie. Musgrave has played 69% of the snaps to start the year and has earned a 14.9% through the first 6 games for the Packers. That 14.9% target share turned into 28 targets for 22 receptions and 189 yards, earning Musgrave a B grade for his efforts to start the year. These numbers could have looked alot better as Musgrave has been narrowly missed on a few throws this year that were surely touchdowns if they were caught. Looking ahead, Musgrave should continue producing like he has to start the year. Musgrave should continue to be flex worthy in the right matchup and should finish as a top 15 tight end by the end of the season.
Dynasty Pros preseason dynasty ranking: TE19
My current in season adjustment: TE10
That wraps up the final part of the Rookie Class Progress Reports. I hope you got some valuable information in this two part series to help you navigate roster decisions as we head into the next stage of the season. At the end of the season, I will give these rookies a final grade for their rookie seasons. Hopefully we see a couple more rookies make this list at the end of the year that will make notable impacts to the fantasy football world.
Mike Lindberg has been playing fantasy football since 2008. He specializes in Dynasty, Keeper and Redraft leagues.
He spends a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts, and mock drafting in order to give you the best fantasy advice possible.
His DM’s are open so don’t hesitate to give him a follow on Twitter @FFCanuck99
Let’s go win some championships!