We have already covered the quarterback, tight end, and running back rankings as we are continuing to break down this incoming rookie class for Dynasty Rookie Drafts, startups, and even the potential these young players can have on the 2023 seasonal formats.
Even prior to the actual NFL Draft in April, rookies are available in Best Ball formats across all platforms.
Now that the NFL combine has passed, we have a plethora of new athletic data on this upcoming rookie class. That information can be applied to athletic models and used to shape the full portfolio for prospects to go along with production profiles, which is a general overlay of what these players put on tape for NFL teams.
As we get more athletic testing data coming in via pro days, we will add notes here to those prospects. However, overall, athletic testing has a low correlation to actual fantasy output and when it does, it is typically counted twice from a productive player in the first place. But when a prospect has subpar athletic testing paired with a limited or nonexistent production resume, then we are playing with fire when attempting to elevate or count on that player for NFL production.
Setting up more of the process here, although I do prospect models for each of the skill positions and will share the ranks for the players in those models. Feel free to go back and check out the 2020, 2021, and 2022 versions of this article and how my pre-draft ranks the model looked in immediate hindsight.
My personal ranks do not strictly follow those models linearly. I use the prospect models in a similar fashion as I do projection models for the NFL season. We are looking for immediate market inefficiencies in leagues where we are drafting rookies prior to the actual NFL draft.
One other housekeeping note. Since the wide receiver group runs 50 players deep, I am going to do my best to be as condensed as possible while providing as many unique nuggets as we can. That said, we may not hit on every player. I am going to group the wideouts into tiers with the linear rankings listed at the bottom of the post.
This wide receiver class is a bit of a Rorschach Test. We may not have anybody jumping off the page as clean alpha WR1 like a Ja’Marr Chase, but we inherently know that the NFL has a need at the wide receiver position. Paired with a lackluster free agent class, this draft class will have a number of players run into initial opportunities in the league.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State, Final Year Age: 20.9
Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a former five-star recruit that entered the 2022 season with as much buzz as any prospect after having the most historic sophomore season in Big Ten history.
Smith-Njigba racked up a gaudy 95-1,606-9 line playing alongside two first-rounders in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Of course, everyone remembers that Smith-Njigba capped that season off with a 15-347-3 game in the Rose Bowl with both Wilson and Olave sitting out, but JSN also posted 97 or more yards in each of the previous seven games playing with both active before that season finale.
When all was said and done, Smith-Njigba closed his 2021 season with 4.01 yards per route run.
With both Wilson and Olave leaving for the NFL, Smith-Njigba was set up to lead Ohio State and was a favorite for the Biletnikoff Award. Unfortunately, he was injured in the opening game of the season and never got any footing. At the end of the season, Smith-Njigba ran just 40 total pass routes, catching five passes for 43 yards.
Smith-Njigba’s pedigree as a prospect and insane 2021 season do buy him a bit of a hall pass for this past season. He did not run a 40 at the combine, but we did see him post a 98th percentile agility score with a 68th percentile explosion score in the drills he did do.
There still is a question on if he has the type of ceiling next level to contend with the alpha WR1s in the league. Does Smith-Njigba have the ability to access an outcome where he hits like a Justin Jefferson or is he more on the Keenan Allen/Amon-Ra St. Brown spectrum of ceiling outcomes? There is 100% nothing wrong with the latter, especially in today’s climate of zone-centric defensive approaches.
It is only a question because Smith-Njigba does still take some projection as a perimeter wide receiver. He ran just 85 total pass routes outside in college. 95 of his 110 catches in college came from the slot while he ran just 15 total pass routes over three years at Ohio State with two or fewer wide receivers on the field.
Jordan Addison, USC, Final Year Age: 20.9
The 2021 Biletnikoff Award Winner was a pivotal part of pumping Kenny Pickett’s stock a year ago when he caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns at Pitt. Transferring to USC this past season, Addison had more mid production (59-875-8) but still carried his higher-end efficiency.
Addison was still sixth in this draft class in yards per route run last season (2.78), he just ran 226 fewer routes in 2022 than he did in 2021.
Addison torched man coverage for 3.28 yards per route run this past season (eighth) while he showed plenty of versatility the past two seasons playing inside and outside. After running 67.5% of his routes from the slot in 2021, Addison only ran 24.1% of his routes inside a year ago. He also only had a 3.1% drop rate, which was the fourth-best rate in this class.
Addison gave people some pause in Indianapolis when he not only checked in at 5-foot-11 and 173 pounds, but also posted an athletic score in the sixth percentile on top of things. That is not the profile of a wideout that is set up to win outside in the NFL.
His production profile does buy him enough of a hall pass to retain front-end appeal in a softer draft class lacking blue-chip assets. DeVonta Smith (who didn’t even weigh in at the combine) has helped to open the door on betting on elite production that comes attached to a svelte frame, the question will be if Addison gets pushed back into a slot role in the NFL whereas Smith has already showcased winning outside at the next level. Addison did have some issues with contested catches last season (pulling in 2-of-9), but previously had secured 22-of-40 of those targets over the two years prior.
In the end, Addison probably cost himself being able to contend with Smith-Njigba in terms of draft capital and ends up in the back half of Round 1.
Quentin Johnston, TCU, Final Year Age: 21.3
Given Johnston’s physical attributes I would not be surprised if he is the No. 1 wide receiver for a handful of teams, but he does come with a wide range of outcomes.
Johnston takes more flack for being an imperfect prospect compared to either of the first two wideouts here, but he is definitely packing upside and comes with a significant size advantage over both Smith-Njigba and Addison.
Johnston did not run at the combine, but we have a good idea of the type of athlete he is. At 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, he logged a 94th-percentile explosion score in the vertical plus broad jumps. On the field, Johnston’s athleticism shows up in that he averaged a robust 8.9 yards after the catch per reception (second in this class) while 49.9% of his yardage came after the catch (sixth). He was credited with 19 avoided tackles a year ago per Pro Football Focus, second in this class. With his after-the-catch ability, Johnston ended his collegiate career averaging 19.0 yards per reception, third in this class.
When put into the slot (only 16% of the time), Johnston averaged a class-high 6.1 yards per route run in 2022.
Against man coverage, he averaged 3.50 yards per route (fifth) and 3.06 yards per route against zone. In this draft class, only two other wide receivers (Jalin Hyatt and Puka Nacua) averaged over 3.0 yards per route against both coverage types.
Where Johnston draws some ire is that he tends to play smaller than his profile, which is why he needs to remain elite after the catch. He caught just 8-of-23 (34.8%) contested targets this past season (35th) while tacking on an 11.8% drop rate (sixth highest). For his career, Johnston converted just 2-of-18 red zone targets for touchdowns.
He also had the tendency to disappear and be more of a boom-or-bust performer. Johnston had 50 or fewer yards in half of his 30 career games played (7-of-14 this season). The last time we saw him on the field against Georgia, he caught one pass for three yards in that bloodbath.
If you thought the top tier of this draft class carried volatility — or at minimum, red flags that we are forced to oversee in the context of this class — just wait until you go further down the rabbit hole. There is definitely upside and productivity from this class, but the Tier 2 wideouts all also have internal profiles that are all over the map. In rookie drafts, I am not looking to extend myself in this tier. The good news is that is unlikely that we will have to. Many will end up being second-round rookie selections.
Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee, Final Year Age: 21.3
We have another Biletnikoff Award Winner here from this past season as Hyatt took down the award this season after catching 67 passes for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns. This all came after grabbing just 41 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns over his opening two years at Tennessee. 71.6% of Hyatt’s career yardage and 78.9% of his touchdown grabs came solely in 2022, the highest rates of this draft class.
Hyatt’s season was punctuated by torching Alabama for 207 yards and five touchdowns. From Weeks 5-8, Hyatt caught multiple touchdowns in all four games with 11 total scores over that span.
Hyatt took advantage of the scheme that we talked about aiding Herndon Hooker’s production. Hyatt played 86.1% of his routes in the slot where he was given clean releases and oodles of cushion. He ran just three pass routes all of 2022 with two or fewer wideouts on the field and just 19 routes all year as an isolated receiver. Hyatt had just five contested catch targets all season on 91 targets (5.5%), the second-lowest rate in this class.
Hyatt gets comped to Will Fuller often because of his usage vertically, but Fuller ran a 4.32 forty compared to Hyatt’s 4.40 while coming in 10 pounds heavier. While we would have preferred to see Hyatt come in a touch quicker for his size (6-foot and 176 pounds) we do know what we have here out of the packaging. Hyatt can win as a vertical slot; the question is how much more is there to his game at the next level?
We also have to ask how much Hyatt’s explosion was aided by the injury to Cedric Tillman. Tillman played in just five full games last season. In those games, Hyatt topped 73 yards just once although he did average 6.0 receptions per game in those weeks.
Zay Flowers, Boston College, Final Year Age: 22.3
Flowers was force-fed in some anemic passing offenses, closing his career at Boston College with 78 catches for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2022. Those touchdowns were a school record while he tied the school record for receptions in a season.
For context of how much water Flowers carried for Boston College this season, he accounted for 29.8% of the team receptions (sixth in this class), 36.4% of the receiving yardage (third), and 57.1% of the team touchdown catches (first). Flowers did have the aid of running 485 pass routes (fourth in this class). That was nearly 100 more routes than the next closest receiver (Jalin Hyatt ran 387) we have touched on so far.
Keeping the theme up for wideouts expected to carry the highest draft capital this spring, Flowers is 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds. He came out of Indianapolis registering in the 26th percentile in terms of athletic score while his 29.5” arms were in the second percentile at the position. This was not an issue last season as Flowers pulled in 7-of-12 contested targets (58.3%), which was eighth in this class.
That said, Flowers does project to play more slot in the NFL than the 31.9% rate he played a year ago. That shows up in Flowers posting a pedestrian yards per route run (2.22), which came in 26th in this class. Against man coverage, Flowers averaged just 1.17 yards per route, which was 44th among the 50 wideouts invited to the combine.
Josh Downs, North Carolina, Final Year Age: 21.4
Downs (5-foot-9 and 171 pounds) is another hyper-productive slot archetype at the front of this class.
Downs was a production machine the past two seasons at North Carolina, catching 101 and 94 passes. No player in this class averaged more receptions per game for their career than Downs (7.2). He made them all count as his 12.3 yards per reception came in 47th out of the 50 combine invites. His 8.8 average depth of target checked in at 43rd.
On paper, Downs looks a lot like Elijah Moore, who is the comp you see the most often. The two have nearly identical size and stacked slot production at a young age in college. The difference is Moore averaged 3.6 yards per team pass attempt in his final season while Downs was at 1.9.
Downs ran 82.5% of his routes in the slot. As a byproduct, just 15.0% of his targets were contested catches, but he did corral 13-of-18 contested targets (72.2%), which was the highest conversion rate in this class in 2022.
When tasked with beating man coverage, Downs was among the best in this class from the interior. He was targeted on 37.7% of his routes against man coverage (third) while averaging 3.72 yards per route run (also third) against man coverage.
Kayshon Boutte. LSU, Final Year Age: 20.7
Boutte is the enigma of this wide receiver class. He is a former five-star recruit that immediately broke during his age-18 season at LSU, catching 45 passes for 735 yards and five touchdowns. He then had 38-509-9 in just six games in 2021 prior to an ankle injury.
He is the youngest wide receiver in this class, turning 21 years old this May.
This past season everything fell apart. He caught 48 passes for 528 yards with just a pair of touchdowns. The team attempted to move him into the slot full-time just three games into the season, but nothing could be done to spark production as Boutte was massively outplayed by Malik Nabers.
When the dust settled on 2022, Boutte averaged just 1.49 yards per route run (43rd), averaging 1.23 yards per route against man coverage (42nd). To compound matters, Boutte had self-inflicted wounds, dropping 12.7% of his targets, the fourth-highest rate in this class last season.
Then we had the combine.
Boutte came out of Indianapolis in the 13th percentile as an athlete. His size is still more than solid (5-foot-11 and 195 pounds), especially compared to the wideouts we have hit on thus far. But running a 4.50 forty (34th-percentile speed score) and notching a seventh-percentile explosion score in the jumping drills do not reinforce just forgetting about his 2022 on-field decline.
Boutte still has age, pedigree, and an early-career breakout on his side, however. If he can still draw tangible draft capital then the lights are still on if the cost is a second-round rookie pick. If he drops well into Day 2 or beyond, though, we are going to need to catch a strong discount.
Marvin Mims, Oklahoma, Final Year Age: 20.8
We have covered a plethora of receivers that project to largely play on the interior at the next level so far to this point. Mims breaks that mold as a true vertical flanker.
Mims increased his yardage at Oklahoma in each of his three seasons there, capped by pulling in 54 receptions for 1,083 yards and six touchdowns this season. He averaged 19.5 yards per catch for his collegiate career, which ranks second in this class.
In 2022, Mims averaged 17.0 air yards per target (second in this class) while a class-high 36.7% of his targets were on throws 20 yards or further downfield. Mims caught 20 touchdown passes over his three seasons with the Sooners. 19 of them were on throws 20 or more yards downfield.
As a byproduct of his role and leading the team in targets, Mims and his 2.66 yards per team attempt ranked fourth among all wideouts in this class.
Mims is still leaner (5-foot-11 and 183 pounds) but unlike a number of the leaner wideouts we have hit on so far, he increased his stock with a strong athletic showing at the combine. Mims reinforced his archetype with a 4.38 forty (fourth in this class) while also posting a 90th-percentile explosion score in the jumping drills.
Trey Palmer, Nebraska, Final Year Age: 21.7
Unable to crack the LSU logjam at wide receiver, Palmer transferred to Nebraska and enjoyed a breakout in his redshirt junior season.
The former four-star recruit caught just 41 passes for 458 yards and three touchdowns with LSU, but Palmer collected 71 passes for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns this past season.
It was not just the totals, but how much those totals accounted for the Nebraska passing game. Palmer averaged 3.06 yards per team pass attempt, the most of all wide receivers in this draft class. He produced 34.6% of the team receptions and 39.4% of the team receiving yards, the highest rates in this class.
Palmer checked into Indy at 6-foot-0 and 192 pounds and ran the fastest forty (4.33) among all wideouts there.
To tack onto Palmer’s potential of getting noticed, he also has a ton of experience on special teams, handling 45 career kickoff and punt returns.
The down note on Palmer is that he was credited with 10 drops last season (the most in the class). He also averaged just 1.30 yards per route against man coverage (40th) compared to 3.47 yards per route against zone (fifth).
Rashee Rice, SMU, Final Year Age: 21.7
Rice increased his receptions and touchdowns from the season prior in all four seasons at SMU. After posting 683 yards or fewer over his first three seasons, Rice broke out with 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns on 96 receptions this past season.
Rice had a senior season breakout fueled by 157 targets (second in this class). He was targeted on 35.7% of his routes (third) as SMU just tried to get him the football as much as possible. Rice received 35 targets on screens, the most in the class a year ago. He only ran 17.5% of his routes in the slot, but averaged 4.99 yards per route when inside, which was third.
Despite having the aid of so many screens, Rice also led the class with 40 targets on throws 20 yards or further downfield.
Rice led this class with 3.85 yards per route run against zone coverage but was another late-career breakout with a high disparity versus man coverage. Rice averaged 1.79 yards per route against man coverage, 25th in this class.
Rice has the size (6-foot-1 and 204 pounds), respectable speed (51st-percentile speed score) and a 90th-percentile explosion score in the jumping drills (vertical plus broad) to elevate his stock.
Cedric Tillman, Tennessee, Final Year Age: 22.7
After a 64-1,081-12 breakout in 2021, Tillman returned to Tennessee for his fifth season. He opened the season with games of 6-83-0 and 9-162-1 before suffering an ankle injury in the third game that derailed the potential of continuing his breakout (while also facilitating the breakout of Jalin Hyatt).
Tillman had surgery and appeared in three more games the rest of the season, none of which were back-to-back games. When all was said in done, Tillman caught 37 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns.
Tillman is one of the bigger bodies (6-foot-3 and 213 pounds) that we have talked about to this point. He made a living on comebacks, curls, and slants as a byproduct of his frame. 46.9% of his career targets at Tennessee came solely on those three routes, the highest rate in this class.
The knocks on Tillman are that he is not a blazer (4.54 forty) and is the oldest wideout we have covered to this point. He pulled in only 17-of-49 (34.6%) of his deep targets in college. Tillman’s 2.9 yards after the catch per reception were ahead of only two other wideouts in this class, which could force him into more of a possession role next level.
Here is where things get kind of fun. This is largely a tier of “my guys.” It’s players that do not have guaranteed draft stock but are the more intriguing prospects that I am monitoring heading into the draft. If we do see some draft capital invested in the players here, then those are guys that I will be taking third- and fourth-round rookie swings on.
Puka Nacua, BYU, Final Year Age: 21.6
Nacua is just an all-around fun player that produced. His tape is littered with toe-tapping sideline catches while his usage profile is one of the most unique in this class.
In 2021, the only players to average more yards per route run than Nacua’s 3.44 were Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jacob Cowing, Treylon Burks, Wan’Dale Robinson, and Drake London. No wide receiver in this draft class averaged more yards per route run than Nacua in 2022 (3.53 yards) as he was third in the country.
This past season, Nacua was one of just three receivers in this class to average over 3.0 yards per route run against man and zone coverage, joining Quentin Johnston and Jalin Hyatt.
24.6% of his targets were screens (sixth highest in the class) and 28.9% of his targets came behind the line of scrimmage, third), but Nacua still averaged 12.0 air yards per target in 2022 (22nd) despite creative usage that was on the Deebo Samuel spectrum.
Nacua had 39 rushes for 357 yards and five rushing touchdowns the past two seasons, used on jet motion sweeps and runs out of the backfield. In 2021, he averaged 18.7 yards per catch.
An injury prevented Nacua from working out in Indianapolis to gauge the level of if his athleticism matched his role or was a byproduct of situation and competition. That said, he did come in a 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds.
C.J. Johnson, East Carolina, Final Year Age: 22.2
Johnson began his career at East Carolina with a 54-908-4 breakout. He then failed to build on that freshman season, catching 54 passes for 925 yards and seven touchdowns over the next two seasons. Johnson was able to rebound this year to bookend his collegiate career, catching 67 passes for 1,016 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Johnson is big (6-foot-2 and 224 pounds) and effective after the catch. His 6.9 yards after the catch per reception are ninth in this draft class. Johnson led this class with 4.60 yards per route run against man coverage in 2022 while 35.1% of his targets came against man coverage (the fifth-highest rate).
Johnson is another wideout that unfortunately did not work out in Indianapolis. His pro day will carry a lot of water since he is part of a limited supply of big bodies that can be explosive in this class.
Andrei Iosivas, Princeton, Final Year Age: 23.2
Our first legitimate small school prospect, Iosivas is what you look for in a hopeful small school breakout. If looking for non-early declare hits, shopping for productive, small school prospects is the aisle you want to be in despite Iosivas being 24 years old as a rookie in the NFL.
Iosivas is going to draw a number of parallels to Christian Watson a year ago. Iosivas is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds (Watson checked in at 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds). Iosivas had more career receptions (125), yards (1,909), and touchdowns (16) than Watson did in college in fewer games played.
But Watson had a few things going for him that Iosivas still has to make up ground on. Iosivas was by no means a poor athletic tester at the combine. He has an 89th-percentile athletic score in my model. But Watson was elite in that regard, posting a 95th-percentile speed score and 97th-percentile explosion score. Those were major elements in contributing to Watson being selected 34th overall in an objectively better draft class on paper than this one. We will be happy to see Iosivas selected by the end of the second day.
Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State, Final Year Age: 22.6
Hutchinson is the Evan Hull of wide receiver prospects in this class. He may not do anything overly amazing, but he is functional all over the board and is a guy that will likely hang around the league for a long time.
No wide receiver in this class has more career receptions than Hutchinson (254). In 2022, he accounted for 34.2% of the Iowa State receptions (third in this class), 34.5% of the team targets (second), 37.3% of the receiving yards (second), and 2.45 yards per team pass attempt (10th).
Hutchinson (6-foot-2 and 203 pounds) has the frame to be a solid possession receiver at the next level. The only question is how much was he a compiler in college and does he have another gear that isn’t tethered to passing volume?
Hutchinson’s 11.5 yards per catch over his college career are the lowest in this draft class while just 5.9% of his catches went for touchdowns, which came in 46th. In 20222 he averaged 4.2 yards after the catch per reception (36th) while averaging 9.2 air yards per target (41st).
Jayden Reed, Michigan State, Final Year Age: 22.7
Reed is an intriguing player that had an early career breakout as a freshman at Western Michigan. That season he snagged 56 balls for 797 yards and eight touchdowns, outproducing D’Wayne Eskridge, who went on to be drafted in the second round of the NFL draft.
Reed then transferred to Michigan State and sat out the 2019 season. After a 33-407-3 line in his first season there in 2020, he then posted a 59-1,026-10 line in 2021, averaging a robust 17.6 yards per catch.
Trending up, Reed then oscillated back to another down season closing things out this past season as he played through a back injury, catching 55 passes for 636 yards and five touchdowns. His 11.6 yards per catch were his lowest over his four seasons. Reed could go anywhere from the end of Day 3 to undrafted, but his overall profile makes him someone to keep an eye on if he does end up going higher than expected.
Reed has some squint-and-see-it comparisons to a poor man’s Stefon Diggs coming out of Maryland due to size, physical profile, and diverse usage in college. Both had nondescript showings at the combine that did not match the way they contributed in the passing, rushing, and return game. Reed had 18 rushing attempts in college. Reed also has 70 career kick returns and three return scores on his belt. His 1,422 career kick return yards are fifth in this class.
Tyler Scott, Cincinnati, Final Year Age: n/a
Jonathan Mingo, Mississippi, Final Year Age: 21.7
A.T. Perry, Wake Forest, Final Year Age: 23.2
Bryce Ford-Wheaton, West Virginia, Final Year Age: 22.8
Matt Landers, Arkansas, Final Year Age: n/a
Grant DuBose, Charlotte, Final Year Age: 21.5
Michael Jefferson, Louisiana, Final Year Age: 23.0
Jason Brownlee, Southern Mississippi, Final Year Age: 22.8
There are going to be a number of wideouts here that jump the “my guys” tier above in terms of draft capital and rankings when the dust settles, but this tier is largely made up of athletic traits and vertical targets lacking collegiate production.
After being buried behind Alec Pierce his first two seasons at Cincinnati, Tyler Scott caught 54 passes for 899 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022. His 16.5 yards per catch for his collegiate career rank seventh in this class. Scott did come in a bit smaller (5-foot-10 and 177 pounds) and ran a tick below expectations (4.44 forty and 23rd percentile speed score) at the combine, but he still logged a 95th-percentile explosion score while a 4.44 is not exactly slow. As one of the few early declares here, Scott is expected to also carry the highest draft capital. In 2022, Scott averaged 3.47 yards per route run against zone coverages (sixth in this class) compared to 1.18 yards per route against man coverage (43rd).
A.T. Perry had two solid seasons at Wake Forest the past two years. After a 71-1,291-15 line in 2021, he closed his career out with an 81-1,096-11 line this season. No wide receiver had more air yards this season than Perry (928). He was sixth in this draft class with 73.9 receiving yards per game over his collegiate career while turning 16.4% of his receptions into touchdowns (fourth). As a byproduct of all of the vertical targets, Perry had a class-low 2.0 yards after the catch per reception with just 14.9% of his yardage coming after the catch, the lowest in the class. Perry is 6-foot-3 and 198 pounds, coming out of Indianapolis with an 89th-percentile explosion score and 87th-percentile arm length (33 ¼”).
I was really close to pushing Jonathan Mingo into the group above, but he felt like a natural fit here. Mingo never had a 1,000-yard season in college and failed to top 379 yards prior to his season year, but he averaged 15.7 yards per catch over his career, 12th in this class. Mingo built up some steam at the Senior Bowl this offseason and then carried that into an excellent showing at the combine. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Mingo ran a 4.46 forty (90th-percentile speed score) with a 90th-percentile explosion score. Mingo also has some mitts. His 10 3/8” hands are in the 96th percentile for wide receivers.
Bryce Ford-Wheaton was the talk of the combine after he ran a 4.38 forty at 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds. He then tacked on a 92nd-percentile explosion score and 89th-percentile agility score. Unlike Mingo, that athleticism is harder to spot in his production profile. Ford-Wheaton averaged just 1.53 yards per route against man coverage while 46.4% of his targets against man coverage were contested catches (the third highest rate in this class). 31.5% of his targets in 2022 were contested catches overall, the highest rate in this class. Ford-Wheaton was also 35th in this class in yards created after the catch per reception (4.3) in 2022.
Matt Landers had just 79 career receptions over four seasons spanning Georgia, Toledo, and Arkansas. But he is big (6-foot-4) and fast (4.37 forty). No wide receiver averaged more yards per reception over their career than Landers (19.6 yards) while he turned a class-high 17.7% of his career receptions into touchdowns. 50% of his targets against man coverage were contested catches (the second highest rate in this class) while 30.1% of his targets overall were contested (third). Landers pulled in 40.9% of those contested targets, which was 33rd in this class.
Michael Jefferson averaged 2.72 yards per route run this season (eighth in this class) with 15.4 air yards per target (third). Another tall (6-foot-4) and lean body (199 pounds), Jefferson was not as fast as Perry or Landers at the combine (4.56 forty) but did post a 92nd-percentile explosion score in the jumping drills.
No wide receiver in this class had a higher share of his team targets last season than Jason Brownlee (35.6%) while he was sixth in this class in yards per team pass attempt (2.57). Brownlee fits right in here at 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, logging a 93rd-percentile explosion score and 94th-percentile arm length (33 ¾”). Brownlee averaged 15.0 air yards per target in 2022 (fourth in this class) with just 28.8% of his yardage coming after the catch (40th). Against man coverage, Brownlee averaged just 1.28 yards per route run (41st) compared to 2.85 yards per route versus zone (13th).
Tank Dell, Houston, Final Year Age: 23.2
Charlie Jones, Purdue, Final Year Age: 24.2
Demario Douglas, Liberty, Final Year Age: 22.1
Parker Washington, Penn State, Final Year Age: 20.8
We have one final tier of players with tangible collegiate production to note.
Nathaniel “Tank” Dell is one of the most productive wide receivers in this class. His 6.5 receptions per game over his collegiate career are third in this class while his 90.1 receiving yards per game are the best in the class. Like Deuce Vaughn, Dell is such an outlier in size (5-foot-8 and 165 pounds) that it is hard to see him sustaining a passing game funneling through him at the NFL level like he was afforded at Houston. He is on the Andrew Hawkins-esque spectrum of slot receivers and will need to roll over a ton of volume to be a major contributor from a fantasy perspective. Dell ran a 4.49 forty at the combine at size, which was in the third percentile for speed scores for all prospects since 2000, and the lowest of this class.
If you like Dell, then Demario Douglas is potential arbitrage on what Dell offers. Douglas accounted for 34.2% of the Liberty receptions (second in this class) and 35.4% of their receiving yardage (fourth). At 5-foot-8 and 179 pounds, Douglas was a tick thicker than Dell while he ran a faster forty (4.44) at nearly 15 pounds heavier. Douglas forced 20 missed tackles, the most in this class in 2022.
Charlie Jones had just 39 catches over three seasons with Buffalo and Iowa prior to catching 110 passes for 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns this past year at Purdue. Jones is the second-oldest wide receiver in this class (he will turn 25 in October of his rookie year) and we have seen Purdue’s lead receiver churn out bonkers production before as Jones stepped right in for David Bell. Where Jones does still carry some added intrigue in working his way onto and upwards on an NFL depth chart to get receiving reps is that he has a ton of experience as a return man. Jones handled 122 career punt and kickoff returns, the most in this class.
Parker Washington never fully popped at Penn State but is a bigger slot (5-foot-10 and 204 pounds) than some of the other pure slot options in this class. Washington averaged 6.3 yards after the catch per reception (18th in the class). Only Kayshon Boutte is younger than Washington among the wideouts in this class as he opted to enter the NFL early, which could be a sign that there was more interest in him next level versus his collegiate production. Washington did participate in any athletic testing at the combine but came out with one of the more unique physical profiles. He had 10 1/8” hands (92nd percentile) but just 29” arms (first percentile).
Rest of the Class
I will have the rest of the class ranked below, but we are well into the weeds here. Many of the remaining wideouts here will not even be drafted and have a long road to relevancy. A few more nuggets on the remainder of these prospects…
If you are looking at collegiate return production to offer a lifeline to a few later-round or undrafted prospects, Derius Davis (1,803 yards), Tre Tucker (1,703), and Malik Knowles (1,691 yards) are the top three leaders in career return yardage in this class.
Davis was used this way in the passing game as well. A class-high 75.5% of his yardage came after the catch (the next closest was at 58.4%) as 34.3% of Davis’s targets were screens, the highest rate in the class.
Jalen Moreno-Cropper averaged 3.47 yards per route run against man coverage last season (sixth in this class).
Antoine Green had the most air yards per target (18.1) in this class while Jadon Haselwood has the lowest (6.9). Just 5.1% of Haselwood’s targets were contested catches, the lowest rate in the class.
Dontayvion Wicks had the highest drop rate (23.1%) in this class in 2022, followed by Rakim Jarrett (16.7%), and Michael Wilson (12.9%).
No wide receiver in this class had a lower rate of receptions resulting in a touchdown than Jalen Brooks (3.5%).
2023 Pre-Draft Wide Receiver Rankings
|1||Jaxon Smith-Njigba||Ohio State||72||196||20.9|
|5||Zay Flowers||Boston College||69||182||22.3|
|6||Josh Downs||North Carolina||69||171||21.4|
|7||Marvin Mims Jr.||Oklahoma||71||183||20.8|
|12||Xavier Hutchinson||Iowa State||74||203||22.6|
|13||CJ Johnson||East Carolina||74||224||22.2|
|15||Jayden Reed||Michigan State||71||187||22.7|
|18||A.T. Perry||Wake Forest||75||198||23.2|
|22||Jason Brownlee||Southern Mississippi||74||198||22.8|
|23||Bryce Ford-Wheaton||West Virginia||76||221||22.8|
|28||Parker Washington||Penn State||70||204||20.8|
|29||Jalen Cropper||Fresno State||71||172||21.7|
|34||Antoine Green||North Carolina||74||199||23.1|
|36||Jalen Wayne||South Alabama||74||210||23.6|
|41||Malik Knowles||Kansas State||74||196||22.4|
|42||Dontay Demus Jr.||Maryland||75||212||22.3|
|48||Mitchell Tinsley||Penn State||72||199||23.3|
|49||Jalen Brooks||South Carolina||73||201||22.7|