The top 15 WRs who will be 25 and under head into the start of the 2023 season

The wide receiver position is absolutely loaded with both fantasy and reality.

It’s so hard to put together a position ranking list without feeling like you’ve left someone out or looked down on a really good player or two. And yet, I’m going to give it a shot… and I absolutely feel the guilt mentioned.

After spending hours tracing a ton of guys drafted over the past few years for Receiving Perception, I decided to sit down and rank the top 15 wide receivers who will be 25 or younger by Week 1 of the 2023 season. (not counting rookies).

One side note: these aren’t just fantastic rankings – you can find them here – it’s more how I view these guys as pure individual NFL players, taken out of context of their circumstances.

Jefferson is the easy choice to lead this roster and he’s in talks right now with Davante Adams to be the best wide receiver in football, period. He is one of the top two or three road runners in the game and can win at all three levels. There are no limits to his game.

We talked a lot about him playing in “The Cooper Kupp Role” once Kevin O’Connell took over the attack, but that didn’t happen. Jefferson was sent on the move more often before the snap, but played in the slot less than he did in 2021.

It’s crazy that Jefferson is already an undisputed elite player at this position and is just heading into year 4. He could crack 2,000 yards at some point in his career.

Chase needs to be represented at some level when ranking the NFL’s top five wide receivers. It really is an elite talent. He has no holes in his game; he is good at everything. We know YAC’s explosive ability and ability to win the ball. However, he is one of the most underrated road runners in the NFL right now. Chase opens at a high rate despite running a ton of routes and has a detailed approach to the game as a technician.

Chase plays in an aggressive offense where he is the clear alpha receiver and is attached to one of the best quarterbacks in the league. It really is a dream scenario for a talent that “checks all the boxes”.

The Cowboys bet big on Lamb to advance to alpha-No. 1 wide receiver status in 2022 and they have been greatly rewarded. Lamb shows the ability to dominate as a slots man, where he supports half of his shots, but has also mastered the job as an X-receiver and flanker. Dallas asks a lot of him – and he keeps his promises.

The Cowboys have surrounded Lamb with a better cast in the reception hall this year. brandin cooks is a perfect speed flanker to fill a big need for this offense and Michael Gallup should be healthier a full year and more removed from his ACL tear. Nevertheless, their world will revolve around Lamb.

Eagle Companion A.J. Brown is an elite No. 1 wide receiver (who turns 26 in June, excluding him from this list). His teammate is fighting to be considered among the best 1B receivers in the game. Smith has lined up primarily as an X receiver for Philly and is one of the top press-beating wide receivers.

Smith emphasizes defenses vertically and has outrageous body control. He would be the WR1 of the majority of teams in the league. The Eagles receiver duo are a pretty enviable couple.

If you only care about raw stats, you’re going to hate that Aiyuk is ranked so high. I can’t stress how wrong it is to focus solely on output when evaluating wide receivers. Aiyuk runs the toughest routes on this offense and is a threat to keep in men’s coverage. He is explosive with the ball in his hands and has managed to develop his career by leaps and bounds since entering the league.

I’m fully confident that, given the right circumstances, he could be a 1,500-yard type receiver.

Aiyuk will face an uphill battle to be a fantastic wide receiver playing on the rushing 49ers offense alongside such stiff competition. But he has all the tools to be a No. 1 primary wide receiver and is one of the most valuable players in this passing game.

Metcalf is the only player on this list drafted before 2020 – and he always won’t be 26 until December. He’s an underrated road runner and it’s a hassle to jam the perimeter in media coverage. Don’t forget how good he is just because other younger guys are nipping at his heels in the receiving ranks. Can’t wait to see the Seahawks wide receiver trio in action now that Jaxson Smith-Njigba is in town.

7 – Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Much like Smith and Aiyuk, Higgins could be the No. 1 receiver for a ton of teams across the NFL. The Bengals aren’t going to trade him — I don’t blame them and I’d hate him if they did — but if they ever put him on the block, teams would be lining up to acquire his services. Higgins is a retro style X-receiver who can split above average and earn combative mid-air grabs.

The top of the 2022 NFL Draft receivers crop is lumped into a big group for me. The top three drafted players are very close, but I’m going to give Wilson the nod right this second. He is an exceptional road runner who separates at a high level even if he is not the most conventional technician of the moment. The more he played last year, the more comfortable he was clearing the coverage of men and away press.

Plus, he’s a weird mover after capture. He has so much juice. Wilson is the most obvious candidate to join the superstar receiver tier this coming season.

Olave hasn’t had the same number of exciting moments in his rookie season as his former Ohio State running mate in New York. However, while it may take a closer look to see it, it was just as good. Olave is a premium road runner who can split on all three levels.

He didn’t get the type of lay-up targets that most young wides do – he just dominated the middle zone of the court as an explosive separator. If you are looking for the next Stefan Diggs at the position, I think that’s your guy.

Despite a highly productive rookie season, it was clear there was still a ton of meat on the bone for Waddle. He pulled it all off in Year 2. Waddle is an extremely intelligent player who adapts well to zone coverage to break free for his quarterback in the middle. It also adds intense speed and post-catch playability. If he does even better at handling the physical press/man coverage on the outside, he’ll move up to superstar level.

I’m a big fan of Pittman’s game. He’s a smooth splitter on the NFL’s grassroots routes in the short and middle game and we’ve seen him be a big ball winner on the field. That element was missing from his game last year as the 2022 Colts played with a major roof over their heads given the state of their quarterback room. Pittman was still quite productive and one of the few positive forces in this passing game.

I know some people will think I massively overestimated Pittman. It is very good. We just need Anthony Richardson to be the guy who fully unlocks his skills and shows everyone how wrong they are about this player. Pittman is a true No. 1 wide.

I love St. Brown’s game. Reception Perception subscribers know I was ahead of the consensus on him as a prospect and for fantasy football last year. He is the best emerging wide receiver in the game. The Lions receiver is smart, detailed and has made a big step in his road against man coverage in 2022. He does not offer much on the roads verticals – that’s fine, that’s just not his game – and that’s why I put him behind some perimeter receivers in those ranks. I think you can always prepare on Sunday to give him 10 targets per week to drive your overrun attack.

London didn’t have the same raw stats as Olave and Wilson, but they also had a fantastic rookie season. He ran away as the Falcons’ true X-receiver and broke apart at a high level, especially on breaking routes. I think he’s the best breakout candidate for wide receiver this year and I’m going to draft him a ton in fantasy football. The Falcons offense won’t be the heaviest team in the NFL this year, as long as Desmond Cavalier is functional. The quarterback played at this level to finish last year and showed a strong bond with London.

Dotson’s rookie season steals path Under the radar. He has aggressive, strong hands in tight coverage. To put it more plainly, it’s stupid how good he is in contested situations at his height. Dotson is also a fantastic road runner, especially against zone coverage, but he has also shown great release moves against press coverage.

Dotson is already one of the best No. 2 receivers in the league. It’s too early to consider it a 1b for Terry McLaurin but if it is “this year DeVonta Smith” I won’t be shocked.

15 – Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos

Jeudy absolutely failed to live up to his billing entering the league, is quite inconsistent and lives off his past reputation as a road runner. However, I think he’s a solid type of No. 2 receiver and a flashy big-play threat at the position. He was also moved by many coaches far too often during his career. I don’t need to think of him as a slot machine receiver anymore. Let him flank and let him get free outs against off-man coverage. That’s when he’s at his best.

I just missed the list

I struggled mightily to choose between Jeudy and Christian Watson for last place. At the end of the day, I think Jeudy is the best player right now and has shown better against press/man coverage so far. Watson can make another jump if he refines his route by running; then, he will be ready to shoot this list. Elijah Moore And George Pickens were the next guys for me, but they have to develop their craft – in different ways – to skip a handful of those players. Rashod Bateman was one of my favorite prospects from the last few classes and showed immense ability as a road runner. He just didn’t stay on the pitch.

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