NFL Execs Name 3 Young WRs Primed to Reach New Heights in 2023

Rashod Bateman

Getty Baltimore Ravens WR Rashod Bateman.

NFL training camps are rapidly approaching in late July, with the stage set for position battles to be waged and young players to become the breakout stars of the upcoming 2023 regular season.

In a league that puts more of an emphasis on the passing game than ever before, few positions make as direct an impact on an offense’s success as wide receivers.

During the 2022 season, 21 receivers surpassed 1,000 receiving yards, including rookies Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, along with second-year receivers Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Never has it been more vital for an offense to have at least one young, up-and-coming, explosive receiver in its arsenal.

As training camp nears and the regular season looms, Heavy surveyed a handful of current NFL executives and high-ranking scouts for their opinion on which young receivers have the best chance of taking their games to new heights in 2023. Here were their choices.

Ravens WR Rashod Bateman

The first two seasons of Rashod Bateman‘s career have been plagued by injuries, diminishing some of the potential the Baltimore Ravens saw in the former Minnesota standout before drafting him No. 27 overall in 2021.

When healthy, Bateman has offered glimpses of being a dynamic playmaker, pulling down 61 receptions for 800 yards with 3 touchdowns, through the first 18 games of his career.

“Rashod Bateman is the guy,” an AFC South Scout told Heavy. “But, he needs to stay healthy. With Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers, I don’t expect Baltimore to be as run dominant as they have been. This season could finally be Rashod’s time to shine.”

The Ravens have doubled down on bolstering the talent around franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson this offseason, and Bateman’s 6-foot-1 and 193-pound frame gives him the opportunity to be a reliable red zone target, while benefiting from the space created by teams keying in on Beckham Jr. and Flowers.

Bateman also has only dropped seven passes so far in his career, so his sure-handedness could push him up Jackson’s target hierarchy when opportunities present themselves.

Eagles WR DeVonta Smith

DeVonta Smith isn’t just among the smoothest route-runners in the NFL, but proved during a prolific second NFL season that he has the ability to be a legitimate game-changer.

Smith finished 9th in receiving yards in 2022 while catching 159 passes for 2,112 yards with 12 touchdowns through his first two seasons, after the Philadelphia Eagles chose him No. 10 overall in 2021.

“DeVonta Smith is a guy who I think still has another gear,” an NFC front office executive told Heavy. “Because he has A.J. Brown taking the top off on the other side of the field, and Jalen Hurts has all the confidence in the world in him.”

Smith certainly rewarded Hurts’ confidence last season, averaging 8.8 yards per target on the 138 passes Hurts threw his way, and pulling down 22 receptions of at least 20 yards.

Given Hurts’ track record for steadily improving each season, the quarterback having the benefit of playing behind the league’s premier offensive line, and Smith’s reliable explosiveness, the 24-year-old could make a big climb up the league’s wide receiver hierarchy.

Jets WR Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson wasted no time establishing himself as the latest dynamic receiver produced by Ohio State, and as a prolific piece of the New York Jets‘ young core on offense.

Despite a myriad of revolving mediocre quarterback play, Wilson averaged 13.3 yards per reception by catching 56.5% of his 147 targets for 1,103 yards with 4 touchdowns as a rookie.

“Garrett Wilson is definitely a guy to watch,” an NFL pro personnel director told Heavy. “Especially with the addition of Aaron Rodgers leading that passing game.”

Jets quarterbacks produced a 91.3 passer rating when targeting Wilson in 2022. Rodgers will likely provide significantly more consistency at quarterback for New York, and if the veteran pushes the offense vertically, no one will benefit more than Wilson.