Bounce-back seasons can happen for wide receivers in the NFL in many different ways– from coming back from an injury to having a poor season. Many players will look for a better 2023 than in 2022. Here I will discuss three players primed to be bounce-back wide receiver season in 2023.
DIONTAE JOHNSON, PIT
Entering the 2022 season, Diontae Johnson finished his two previous seasons, WR18 and WR8. Unfortunately, Johnson could not build upon that success, finishing as WR29 in 2022. The most significant difference in his situation was no longer having Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback and having to play with a rookie quarterback in Kenny Pickett. Johnson was tied for sixth in targets with 147 but only ended up with 86 receptions. Unfortunately, that was not the most disappointing stat for his fantasy managers in 2022. Johnson ended the season not scoring a single touchdown. Having a rookie quarterback was a downgrade, but not scoring a touchdown was not something anybody expected. Johnson had one week as a top-20 wide receiver.
The path for Johnson to have a bounce-back season is to have touchdown regression back to the mean. Suppose you took his touchdown average during his first three seasons in the NFL and added that to last year’s fantasy point total; he would have ended up as back at top 20 wide receiver. Johnson had eight endzone targets and 17 red zone targets, respectively. If he can convert some of those targets and have at least a handful more receptions, there is no reason Johnson can’t get back to his old ways. As long as Pickett and the passing game generally show progress, I believe Johnson will definitely be fighting for a top-20 season.
Johnson’s dynasty value has begun to dip, but with a bounce-back season, his value should start to go back up. He is 26 years old and has two more seasons left on his current contract. In our Dynastynerds ADP, he is currently being drafted as WR38, and I would be willing to draft him at that current value. If you are a contending team, I recommend trading for him while some people are still down on him.
CALVIN RIDLEY, JAX
Ridley has not been on an NFL field since October 24, 2021. After taking a leave of absence to care for his mental health, he was suspended for the entire 2022 season due to violating league rules on gambling. In 2020 he had his true breakout season finishing as WR5. He finished his fantasy season with 82 receptions, 1,322 yards, and nine touchdowns. Ridley also led the entire league in air yards, proving he can be a downfield threat. He did all this as an Atlanta Falcon but was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a conditional 2024 pick.
Ridley will look to have the ultimate bounce-back season this season since he hasn’t played since 2021. Most people didn’t know if we would ever see him in the NFL again. He is now with the Jaguars, which is a perfect situation for him to succeed. He will slot in alongside Christian Kirk as the top two wide receiver options for quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Last season the Jaguars’ pass play percentage was 58.2%, 16th in the NFL. With the addition of Ridley, I believe they will run more pass plays than they did in 2022. Lawrence finished ninth in passing yards, and if the Jaguars pass the ball more often, the yardage will only increase. And the biggest benefactor will be Ridley. One of the roles that I can’t wait to see him in is as a downfield threat. He might not get as many targets as he did in Atlanta, but I believe the opportunities will be very fruitful. He is the opportunity to be a top 20 season and an outside chance of being a WR1 in fantasy.
A bounce-back season for Ridley would also be an improbable season at the same time. Going into the 2022 season, Ridley’s dynasty value was almost nonexistent. In the Dynastynerds May Superflex ADP, he is being drafted at WR31. And, to me, that is too low, even being 28 years old and missing the entire 2022 season. If he is on my roster already, I would not trade him away unless I am in a complete rebuild and can get a younger player or draft picks for him. But if I were a contender, I would consider trading for him in the offseason before his value rises.
KEENAN ALLEN, LAC
Allen had a very disappointing 2022 season. Unfortunately, it was mainly due to injury. Allen was only able to play in seven games last season. Due to his lack of availability and production, he finished as WR48. Allen finished 11th in the league with 14.9 PPG if you go by points per game. In a pass-heavy offense, Allen was expected to be the Chargers’ top option at wide receiver. He proved that in his games, averaging 8.9 targets per game. Allen achieved a 22.5% target share last season, showing how much missing seven games affected his season outcome.
Allen needs to have a strong bounce-back season if the Chargers expect to be successful in 2023. He will need to stay healthy if he expects that to occur. There have been some off-season changes with the Chargers. They hired new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who will look to open the playbook and get Justin Herbert and the passing game going early in the season. If that happens, Allen must be a part of that equation. One stat that I think Moore will help improve is yards per team attempt. Last season Allen had a YPTPA of 1.84. The Chargers drafted rookie Quentin Johnson as a field stretcher and downfield threat. He won’t take Allen’s job and will be a depth piece to a position group including Mike Williams. At this point of his career, Allen could be a low-end, top-20 receiver with a bounce-back performance.
Allen will look to have a bounce-back season, even though he is on the wrong side of age 30. Due to his age and injury history, his dynasty value has taken a hit. He is currently going in Dynastynerds Superflex ADP at WR40. He is only a buy on teams that are in win-now mode. If you are in the middle of the pack or rebuilding, there is no reason he should be on your team in 2023.
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