NFL News & Analysis

Wide receivers primed for bigger roles in 2023: Garrett Wilson, Treylon Burks and more

2MAGC1G New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) reacts after scoring the game winning touchdown during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)

• Calvin Ridley makes his return to relevance: Ridley was typically playing second-fiddle in Atlanta, but Jacksonville has the space for him to prove he can be a true No. 1 receiver in his return from suspension.

• A proven QB boosts Garrett Wilson's ceiling: Aaron Rodgers will be throwing to the second-year wideout in 2023, and that could be an elite connection by the end of the season.

• It's Treylon Burks' time to shine: A lackluster Titans wide receiver room means endless opportunities for Burks to break out in a big way in 2023.

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With the bulk of offseason additions made, it’s possible to start fully projecting what the 2023 NFL season will look like with each team’s new personnel.

Training camp and preseason will affect those projections, and there are free-agent signings still to be made — with injuries only ever a rep away. But for the most part, we should have a good grasp of players we expect to have a bigger or smaller role this season than they had in the past.

Here are eight wide receivers who should be in line for an expanded role in 2023.

Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars

We begin by cheating a little bit. Given that Calvin Ridley was suspended for the 2022 season due to gambling, he automatically assumes an expanded role by stepping on the field this year. But even in the broader context, he should qualify.

Ridley was typically playing second-fiddle in Atlanta, but Jacksonville has the space for him to prove he can be a true No. 1 receiver. We saw glimpses of that with the Falcons. He had 51 targets in five games in 2021 and was averaging more than 2.4 yards per route run. Trevor Lawrence was grading as well as any quarterback in the league during the second half of last season, so Ridley’s insertion into the lineup could come at the perfect time for them both to maximize their production.

Deonte Harty, Buffalo Bills

Bills fans have been crying out for a legitimate No. 2 receiver opposite Stefon Diggs for some time. It was supposed to be Gabriel Davis, but he wasn’t able to really elevate his game last year into that role. Buffalo might be instead aiming to elevate the level of the entire receiving corps, rather than that one specific position within the offense.

Enter Deonte Harty, a dynamic speedster who can make plays underneath as well as deep downfield. Harty barely played last season, but in 2021 he posted an 87.6 PFF grade and popped in almost every available receiving metric despite notching just 36 receptions. He is only 25 years old, and Josh Allen represents by far the best quarterback situation he has had to work with (given the physical limitations of Drew Brees by the end of his career).

There is very little evidence that Harty can be a high-volume player in the NFL, and at 5-foot-6 and around 170 pounds that will always be a concern, but the Bills' offense is a perfect environment for him to showcase his playmaking ability. And he has that in abundance.

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Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

One of the most obvious candidates, Garrett Wilson should take off this season with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback. He racked up more than 1,100 yards as a rookie with a disastrous quarterback situation, and if you stripped out Zach Wilson games, he would have been on pace for a Justin Jefferson/Ja’Marr Chase kind of rookie year with Joe Flacco and Mike White throwing him the football.

Wilson has exceptional ability in all areas and was particularly adept at making plays after the catch in Year 1, breaking 22 tackles — the most among all wide receivers not named Deebo Samuel.

Rodgers can sometimes take a little time to develop full chemistry with a receiver, but if he and Wilson can get even close to being on the same page, Wilson should put up some of the best numbers in the league in his second season.

Rashid Shaheed, New Orleans Saints

The Saints' receiving corps is an interesting one with the expected return of Michael Thomas. It might not leave that much room for a massively expanded role for second-year receiver Chris Olave. Without Thomas for most of last season, Olave was the team’s primary receiver, seeing 114 targets and 72 catches. Fellow rookie Rashid Shaheed was a much more unexpected success story, however, and could be the player in line for a much bigger role even with Thomas back and drawing his own target share.

Shaheed saw only 34 targets on the year, but 23 of them came in the final five games of the season and he generated a massive 2.59 yards per route run on the year. He also has the ability to carry the ball on gadget plays and generally brings to the table explosive plays that demand attention.

Elijah Moore, Cleveland Browns

For some reason, it didn’t work out for Elijah Moore with the Jets, but there is little doubt that he has significant potential at this level. With a trade to the Browns — who need a higher-volume target opposite Amari Cooper — this could be the season Moore’s production skyrockets.

Over two years, Moore has averaged just 1.23 yards per route run, with the bulk of that coming in his rookie season, but he has shown exceptional hands (just two drops) and the ability to make people miss after the catch (16 broken tackles). The Browns have the role waiting for him and a quarterback in Deshaun Watson capable of taking advantage of it. If it doesn’t happen this year for Moore, it’s probably not going to.

Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans

Tennessee’s season was a mess last year, and injury didn’t help Treylon Burks keep up with his fellow rookie receivers. But even amid the chaos, he did flash real playmaking ability. Burks was also always likely to take more time to adjust to the NFL, given the role he had in college at Arkansas, where the Razorbacks did a phenomenal job of getting the ball in his hands in as many ways as possible, but at the detriment of developing him as a true wide receiver.

If Burks can get a handle on that with a full year under his belt, his size, speed and physical tools speak for themselves and still play at this level. It’s worth noting that the Titans also have very little in the way of viable alternatives to throw to, so Burks is going to get as much opportunity to show he can play as he can handle.

Skyy Moore, Kansas City Chiefs

Skyy Moore’s rookie season was a disappointment, but it seemed as if much of that was down to his failure as a punt returner rather than his work as a receiver — which was solid; he just lacked opportunities. As a return man, Moore muffed three punts and finished with a 29.9 PFF grade, but he caught 68.8% of passes thrown his way and broke seven tackles on just 22 receptions.

With JuJu Smith-Schuster departing in free agency, all the focus is on how good Kadarius Toney can be within this offense, but Moore has a real chance to show his skills in Year 2, as well.

Within the Chiefs' offense, Marquez Valdes-Scantling has a solid role carved out, but after that the receiver targets are there to be claimed for anybody who can win favor with Patrick Mahomes and earn the trust of Andy Reid. Moore has the skill set to be a reliable option to move the chains and make plays with the ball in his hands. It may be less flashy than Toney, but he potentially becomes a bigger part of the offense.

Isaiah Hodgins, New York Giants

The New York Giants' receiving corps was a mess last season, highlighted by the demise of Kenny Golladay on the field over the year. Isaiah Hodgins, however, did emerge as the season wore on after coming over from Buffalo.

Hodgins ended up earning the best PFF grade on the team and didn’t drop any of his 45 targets. Passes targeting him earned a 123.3 passer rating, the best on the team, and his four touchdowns tied for the lead among Giants wideouts. Hodgins may never be an elite receiver, but his performance last season earned him more looks in 2023 and there is little reason why doubling his output this season isn’t a realistic aim for him.


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