Fantasy Football, Fantasy Sports

Justin Jefferson or Cooper Kupp: Who Should You Draft as Your WR1 in Fantasy Football 2023?

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The debate over who should be the first wide receiver drafted in fantasy football leagues in 2023 is shaping up to be a battle between Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings and Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams.

Both receivers have staked their claim as elite fantasy assets, but only one can be WR1. Let’s break down the cases for and against each to help decide who is the right call as the first wideout off the board in your draft.

Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp 2022 Stats:

StatJustin JeffersonCooper Kupp
Games Played179
Receiving Yards1809812
Yards Per Reception14.110.8
Receiving Touchdowns86
Rushing Yards2452
Total Touchdowns97
Fantasy Points (PPR)241126

The table illustrates Jefferson’s dominance over Kupp in their 2022 seasons. Jefferson played a full 17 games while Kupp played just 9 before his season-ending injury. Jefferson saw nearly twice as many targets (184 to 98) and had significantly more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than Kupp.

Jefferson averaged over 100 yards receiving per game compared to just 90 for Kupp. In PPR fantasy points, Jefferson outscored Kupp by 115 points despite Kupp’s limited season. The data shows why Jefferson is the preferred pick as WR1 – he has proven with huge production that he is currently the top fantasy wide receiver when both are on the field.

Projected 2023 stats for Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp:

StatJustin JeffersonCooper Kupp
Games Played1715
Receiving Yards16501400
Yards Per Reception14.313.3
Receiving Touchdowns1210
Rushing Yards3020
Total Touchdowns1311
Fantasy Points (PPR)295260

The table shows projections for key stats for both receivers in 2023. The projections favor Jefferson in games played, targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns, and fantasy points based on his age, featured role, and upward trajectory.

Kupp is projected for slight declines across the board at age 30 coming off injury. While both are projected as elite WR1 options, Jefferson gets the nod as the safer and higher upside top receiver to draft in 2023 fantasy drafts.

The Case for Justin Jefferson as WR1

Dominant Production Over First 3 Seasons

Since entering the league in 2020, Jefferson has improved his receptions, yards, and touchdowns each season. His stat lines are ridiculous – 88/1400/7 as a rookie, 108/1616/10 in 2021, and a league-leading 128/1809/8 last year. He’s finished as a WR1 (top 12) every season, with back-to-back top 3 seasons.

Target Volume and QB Support

Jefferson saw a massive 184 targets in 2022, the most for any WR. As the undisputed top option for Kirk Cousins, he should continue to command huge target share. While Cousins isn’t an elite QB, he’s reliable and locks in on Jefferson. Their chemistry and Jefferson’s talent lead to big production.

Age and Durability

At just 24 years old, Jefferson is entering his prime and should get even better. He’s missed just 1 game in 3 seasons and has no injury concerns. His youth and durability provide a high floor of WR1 production for years to come.

The Case Against Jefferson as WR1

Target Competition

The Vikings added receiver Jameson Williams in the 2022 draft and he should take some targets away from Jefferson in 2023 after missing last year with injury. Minnesota also has breakout candidate KJ Osborn, veteran Adam Thielen, and upstart tight end TJ Hockenson competing for looks.

Difficult Schedule

Jefferson faces a tough CB slate in 2023 with games against Jaire Alexander (Packers), Darius Slay (Eagles), James Bradberry (Eagles), Marshon Lattimore (Saints), and more. These tough matchups could limit his week-to-week production.

Regression Risk

It’s hard to put up over 1800 yards three straight years. Jefferson could see some statistical pullback after dominating the last two seasons. We can’t just pencil him in for 120+ catches and 1700+ yards again in 2023.

The Case for Cooper Kupp as WR1

Historic 2021 Triple Crown Season

Kupp dominated the NFL in 2021, becoming just the fourth player since 1980 to lead the NFL in receptions (145), receiving yards (1947), and receiving touchdowns (16). It was one of the best WR seasons ever.

Continued Excellence Before 2022 Injury

Last season, Kupp was on pace for his second straight Triple Crown until suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 10. At that point, he had 75 catches, 812 yards, and 6 TDs in just 9 games, extrapolating to 153/1728/13 over 17 games. He remained unstoppable when healthy.

Target Volume in Pass-Heavy Offense

Since 2020, Kupp averages 145 targets per season. The Rams attempt the 5th most passes in the NFL over that span, providing ample opportunity for Kupp. With Allen Robinson replacing the departed Odell Beckham Jr. as the No. 2 WR option, Kupp should again dominate targets from Matthew Stafford.

The Case Against Kupp as WR1

Age and Injury Outlook

Kupp suffered the first major injury of his career last season at age 29. He underwent ankle surgery and enters 2023 now 30 years old. It’s fair to wonder if injuries could hamper the aging Kupp more going forward.

Uncertainty with Stafford’s Health

A big part of Kupp’s dominance is his connection with Stafford. But Stafford is coming off a major back/spine injury at age 35. If he misses time, Kupp’s production could sink if forced to play with backup QBs.

TD Regression Looms

Kupp scored a combined 32 TDs the last two seasons, a rate that’s hard to maintain year after year. He seems likely for negative TD regression in 2023, especially coming off injury. A reasonable projection could be 8-10 TDs, limiting his fantasy upside.

The Verdict – Draft Justin Jefferson as Your WR1

While both receivers have compelling cases to be the first WR drafted, the upside and certainty with Jefferson makes him the pick. His age, durability, featured role, and dominance over his first 3 seasons provide a safer floor and higher ceiling than the aging, injured Kupp.

Kupp feels riskier coming off injury at age 30 and more TD regression can be expected. Meanwhile, Jefferson is entering his prime at 24 and profiles to lead the league in targets and production again in 2023.

Drafting Jefferson over Kupp allows you to lock down the WR position with a young, durable elite producer ready to deliver more massive seasons. Don’t overthink it – when drafting in the first round this year, take Justin Jefferson and don’t look back.

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