2023 Fantasy Bounce Backs | Buy Low Wide Receivers

by Connor Donald · Draft Strategy

2022 Let Downs

It is time for part three of the four part series looking into bounce back candidates who let you down in 2022. This time, we cover four wide receivers who finished with high negative Expected Fantasy Points Per Game differentials last season. Let’s identify some receivers who are looking to outperform their output from last season.

Bounce Back Candidates

Diontae Johnson

Fantasy Points Per Game Differential: -3.11

Expected Fantasy Points Per Game: 13.74

FantasyPros Expert Platform Ranking: WR32

Diontae Johnson has seen 140 or more targets in each of three of the last four seasons. That volume has been good enough to rank in the top six in targets each of the last three seasons. Even when the Pittsburgh Steelers moved to Kenny Pickett in week four, Johnson’s average targets per game was 8.1 or a 17 game pace of 146. Target volume is not the issue for Johnson.

Chase Volume

Johnson’s Expected Fantasy Points Per Game was 13.7, which would have had him finish as the WR20. Instead, he finished as the WR39, averaging 10.6 fantasy points per game. One of the biggest reasons: a total of zero touchdowns. He scored five or more TDs in each of his first three seasons. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity. He ranked No.10 among wide receivers in red zone targets, including 51.6% of targets inside the 20 among Steelers wide receivers.

Johnson may not be efficient, but he commands volume and high value opportunity. Another knock on 2022 was his Unrealized Air Yards. This metric is the difference between Air Yards and actual receiving yards. He had the second highest differential in the NFL with 875. Pair that total with low touchdown efficiency, and it equals poor fantasy performance.

While some managers drool over George Pickens. I would be all over the Steelers’ target hog, Johnson. Pickens largely appeals for his big play ability over Johnson. However, volume and opportunity are king in fantasy football!

Both the Steelers’ top two receivers spent the same amount of time with Pickett last season and yet Johnson dominated targets per game eight to five. Johnson also saw eleven more red zone targets. Based on the small preseason sample thus far, this doesn’t seem to have changed. Especially in any sort of Point Per Reception league, give me those 80-plus receptions a season like we have seen in three straight seasons for Johnson.

Elijah Moore

Fantasy Points Per Game Differential: -1.64

Expected Fantasy Points Per Game: 7.15

FantasyPros Expert Platform Ranking: WR43

It feels like such a short time ago that the Elijah Moore hype train was speeding down the tracks. Prior to a quadricep strain that prematurely ended his rookie season, Moore was rolling. He finished five of his last six games as a top-30 wide receiver. Two of those weeks, he was a top-three wide receiver. He was raising up the ranks at a meteoric pace toward the end of the 2022 season.

Then, complete and utter disappointment and frustration – fueled by lackluster quarterback play. Moore’s opportunity plummeted, seemingly due to falling out of grace with the staff. Then, a trade request. Finally, the story took a turn as Moore wound up in Cleveland with Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns.

Moore lands in a wide receiver room that has Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones as the only returning wide receivers. Otherwise, it is wide open for Moore to have a return to his late rookie season form. And last season, the Browns’ offense was a shell of what it will look like this season. Deshaun Watson will have participated for a full off-season, not two years removed from football. Watson will also start from game one versus debuting three quarters of the way through the season.

Moore’s rookie season showed a wide receiver who could win routes at a 47.8% Route Win Rate. That was good for No. 9 among wide receivers. He also was the No. 17 wide receiver in Target Premium, producing 14.1% more fantasy points per target than other pass catchers on the 2021 New York Jets. Throw in that he’s getting touches out of the backfield in training camp. At WR43 in FantasyPros expert platform dynasty rankings, you can easily buy into the bounce back.

Marquise Brown

Fantasy Points Per Game Differential: -1.42

Estimated Fantasy Points Per Game: 14.42

FantasyPros Expert Platform Ranking: WR31

The Arizona Cardinals’ wide receiver room is wide open with DeAndre Hopkins out of the picture. Hopkins, in his nine healthy games last year with the Cardinals, commanded 10.6 targets per game. The quarterback play is likely going to be spotty with Kyler Murray likely starting on the PUP list and missing a minimum of six games after tearing his ACL late last season. Thanks to a certainly negative game script and Hopkins’ vacated targets, there will be lots of passes to catch.

Brown appeared on the injury report three times last season, missing 5 games due to a foot fracture right in the middle of the season. His durability may be a concern, but when healthy last season, he averaged 13 fantasy points per game. That was good for WR27. And he finished eight of 12 games with more than 10 points.

The Quarterback Factor

With Murray likely recovering for the first part of the season, fantasy gamers can buy into the potential early season dip.  Murray will likely return for the fantasy playoffs. Six of Brown’s 12 games last season – all with Murray – were over 10 points and he averaged 18.25 fantasy points per game during that stretch. Upon Brown’s return in Week and removing Week 18, he averaged 8.96 points per game, while playing with a combination of three different backup QBs.

I am buying into a Brown bounce back thanks to a bountiful opportunity he will see early and often in 2023. He averaged 7.2 targets per game without Murray, but the real dividends could come at the end of the season when Murray returns. To get a team’s primary wide receiver as the WR31 is an easy buy. He is going to be on the field and he is going to earn targets.

DJ Moore

Fantasy Points Per Game Differential: -0.71

Estimated Fantasy Points Per Game: 12.42

FantasyPros Expert Platform Ranking: WR18

There has been no greater talent wasted over the last four years than DJ Moore, who has fought his way to great seasons despite lackluster quarterback play. He has caught passes from eight different starting quarterbacks in five seasons. He is headed to a Chicago Bears offense with Justin Fields, who will be the best quarterback Moore has had. He also enters into what is shaping up to be a more high-octane and electric offense than he had in Carolina. The Panthers’ offense was limiting. Last season was Moore’s worst season since his rookie season. His rookie season, he saw only 82 targets, 55 receptions and 788 yards with two touchdowns. That is compared to last season, when he saw 118 targets, 63 receptions for 888 yards and seven touchdowns.

Moore had over 1100 receiving yards each of the three years prior. Last year, he saw more than twice as many targets and Air Yards versus his rookie season. The volume was there last season, but the accuracy was not; Moore was No. 90 among wide receivers in Catchable Target Rate (64.4-percent). He was also No.7 in Unrealized Air Yards with 820. His 11.7 Fantasy Points per Game last season was the first time he dipped below 14 points per game since his rookie season.

Give Me Moore Yards After Catch

Moore was also used very differently last season. He earned the lowest Yards After Catch of his career, an area of the game where he specialized the four years prior. He had under 300 Yards After Catch last year for the first time in his career. He also saw the most deep targets of his NFL career. If the Bears indicated anything with his first touch in the preseason that went for a 62-yard touchdown (all 62 Yards After Catch), it looks like they want to put the ball in his hands and let him be the playmaker that made him so successful in years prior. Not only will 2023 be a bounce back season for DJ Moore. It is going to be his best season in the NFL so far.

Buy Into The Bounce Back

Every year, fantasy gamers are let down by players with high expectations entering the season. While the above players may have been on the list in 2022, it is time to turn the page. Diontae Johnson may be the most underrated wide receiver to have multiple 140 target seasons. Don’t overthink it: volume is king! Elijah Moore finally got away from the regime that was holding him back. It is time for him to show fantasy gamers the end of his rookie season was no fluke. Marquise Brown is preparing to take over the primary wide receiver role in Arizona. And we need more Moore! DJ Moore is entering the best offense of his career. Buy into these bounce backs now and win

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