The big wave of Free Agency is over, as is the 2023 NFL Draft. Now it’s time to look forward. Over the next few articles, I’ll be looking at team’s fantasy units by conference, ranking the groups. Today I’m moving on to the pass catchers, which include receivers and tight ends. I’m back to the NFC, beginning with No. 16 to No. 9. As always, squads appear in ascending order.
No. 16: Green Bay Packers
WRs on the Roster: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Samori Toure, Grant DuBose, Dontavyon Wicks, Jeff Cotton, Malik Heath, Bo Melton, Deuce Watts, and Jadakis Bonds
TEs on the Roster: Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis, Austin Allen, and Carmen McDonald
About: The Packers are undergoing a big change. As a part of that, the guys that figure to be their primary pass catchers are all first- and second-year players. They also have a first-year starter at quarterback. So, it’s not much of a surprise I have them at the bottom of this list. It’s not that I don’t think they can be good, it’s that we don’t know what they really have, and they don’t have much depth. At receiver, Watson and Doubs had a decent rookie season. Watson caught 41 passes for 611 yards and seven touchdowns. He had some big games down the stretch, but now he’s THE guy for the Packers. Doubs flashed a bit early in the season, finishing with 42 receptions for 425 yards and three touchdowns. Behind them, the Packers have rookie Reed at receiver and a pair of rookie tight ends in Musgrave and Kraft. There’s potential there but not much certainty and little depth. So, they’re No. 16 for me.
No. 15: New York Giants
WRs on the Roster: Parris Campbell, Darius Slayton, Jalin Hyatt, Sterling Shepherd, Isaiah Hodgins, Wan’Dale Robinson, Colin Johnson, Jamison Crowder, Jeff Smith, David Sills, Khalil Pimpleton, Jaydon Mickens, Makai Polk, and Bryce Ford-Wheaton
TEs on the Roster: Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Tommy Sweeney, Dre Miller, and Ryan Jones
About: The Giants have a lot of guys. The Giants even have a lot of guys who you’ve heard of, especially at receiver. But it’s just a list of guys. The Giants brought back Shepherd, who is always injured, and Slayton at receiver. They added Hyatt in the draft and Campbell as a free agent. But the team seems to have a lot of receivers that would typically profile as slot guys. The reason the Giants aren’t last for me is they have more depth at receiver, and they acquired Waller at tight end. Waller is the best receiver on the team by far. He was traded from the Raiders, where he caught 286 passes for 3,469 yards and 17 touchdowns in five seasons. He’s struggled with injuries the past two years, but if healthy, Waller gives the Giants a weapon.
No. 14: Carolina Panthers
WRs on the Roster: Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall, Jr., Laviska Shenault, Jonathan Mingo, Shi Smith, Damiere Byrd, Derek Wright, C.J. Saunders, Gary Jennings, Marquez Stevenson, and Josh Vann
TEs on the Roster: Hayden Hurst, Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble, Stephen Sullivan, and Giovanni Ricci
About: Next on the list is the Panthers, with an odd mix of veterans, young players, and prospects that have yet to hit. All of it is what’s being provided for No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young. I have the Panthers at 14 because I like the depth better overall. I liked the selection of Mingo, who has a great opportunity. I’m less bullish on Shenault or Marshall ever delivering on the hype that surrounded them when they were originally drafted. Chark is an interesting veteran, but he’s struggled to stay healthy. Thielen has been durable, but he’s on the tail end of his career. He feels more like a Red Zone threat to me. At tight end, Hurst has been a decent receiver for the Ravens, Falcons, and Bengals. He’ll be a solid security blanket. No one in this group wows me, but it feels like a better overall group than the Giants.
No. 13: Arizona Cardinals
WRs on the Roster: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Greg Dortch, Rondale Moore, Michael Wilson, Zach Pascal, Auden Tate, Javon Wims, Andre Baccellia, Brian Cobbs, and Daniel Arias
TEs on the Roster: Zach Ertz, Trey McBride, Chris Pierce, Noah Togiai, Bernhard Seikovits, Blake Whiteheart, and Joel Honigford
About: Brown is the best receiver on this list so far, helping land the Cardinals here. In his four-year career, he’s caught 262 passes for 3,070 yards and 24 touchdowns. He’s a solid receiver. If the Cardinals still had DeAndre Hopkins as well, they’d be higher. But with Hopkins gone, we have Dortch, Moore, Wilson, and Pascal rounding out the group. It’s not bad, but it’s far from incredible. The Cardinals do have two solid options at tight end in Ertz and McBride. McBride is a young player poised to take a step forward, but Ertz is coming off a major injury and could be off of the roster soon. Still, for now, the Cardinals are strong enough to land in this spot for me.
No. 12: Atlanta Falcons
WRs on the Roster: Drake London, Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, Frank Darby, KhaDarel Hodge, Penny Hart, Josh Ali, Justin Marshall, Keilhan Harris, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Xavier Malone, and Slade Bolden
TEs on the Roster: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, Parker Hesse, Feleipe Franks, John FitzPatrick, and Tucker Fisk
About: I might be too low on the Falcons, and I accept that. On paper, London and Pitts are incredible prospects. They’re easily the best duo on the list so far. The Falcons come lower for me because there isn’t much behind them. Hollins had a strong 2022—catching 57 passes for 690 yards and four touchdowns. The thing is, that was more than he got in his four previous seasons. As a piece of the passing game, it’s fine, but as the No. 2 receiver, I’m not sold. Smith was also a nice addition on paper. But he hasn’t done much in two years with the Patriots. The other thing that gives me pause is the offense itself. If Arthur Smith runs a scheme similar to his time in the Titans—and he has the backfield now to do it—we’ll see a low-volume passing attack. So, there’s potential here, but I dropped them to this spot because of the lack of depth and the offense.
No. 11: Los Angeles Rams
WRs on the Roster: Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell, Puka Nacua, Lance McCutcheon, Austin Trammell, Xavier Smith, Braxton Burmeister, Tyler Hudson, and Sam James
TEs on the Roster: Tyler Higbee, Hunter Long, Brycen Hopkins, Davis Allen, and Christian Sims
About: The Rams might feel too low, but in reality, they are only this high, thanks to Kupp. Kupp is one of the best receivers in the league. He’s caught 508 passes for 6,329 yards and 46 touchdowns in six seasons. He’s great. The rest of the group around him is a work in progress. Jefferson is the WR2, while Skowronek, Atwell, and Nacua figure to compete for roles. That is arguably a less inspiring group than Atlanta, Carolina, and New York. But the Rams do have a strong tight end in Higbee and a couple of great prospects in Long and Hopkins. That buoys the group some, but it’s really about Kupp.
No. 10: New Orleans Saints
WRs on the Roster: Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed, Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, A.T. Perry, Bryan Edwards, Kawaan Baker, Kirk Merrit, James Washington, Shaquan Davis, and Malik Flowers
TEs on the Roster: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Lucas Krull, Miller Forristall
About: The Saints are a tricky group to rank. If everyone is back healthy and strong, this could be a little low. In 2019, Thomas looked like one of the best receivers in the game. Since then, he’s appeared in just ten games and caught 56 passes total. That’s not great production for an elite receiver over three years in his prime. On the flip side, Olave delivered as a rookie. He caught 72 passes for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns. Combine Olave with Johnson, who looked solid at tight end, and the Swiss Army Knife that is Hill, and you have the makings of a decent receiving corps. But there isn’t great depth, and there are still questions. So, I have the Saints at this spot.
No. 9: Washington Commanders
WRs on the Roster: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Marcus Kemp, Dax Milne, Kyric McGowan, Mitchell Tinsley, Brycen Tremayne, Jalen Sample, Zion Bowens, and Kazmeir Allen
TEs on the Roster: Logan Thomas, John Bates, Cole Turner, and Curtis Hodges
About: Washington was another group that was hard for me to rank. We’ve seen Thomas do good things at tight end, but not recently. I also question the offense, in general, a bit. But of all the teams on this list, to me, the Commanders have the strongest trio of receivers. McLaurin, Dotson, and Samuel are a solid starting group. The team doesn’t have a lot of depth, but I like the group at the top enough that I gave them a slight edge over the Saints.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.