As the calendar inches closer toward the grind-time of the NFL Draft season, it is as good a time as any to set the board ahead of the combine and discuss where these prospects stack up before they get judged on their numbers in spandex on a field. The caveat heading into this is simple; these are how I rank these wide receivers as it stands based on the tape I have seen.
The big names out there include Ja’Marr Chase, Devonta Smith, Kadarius Toney and more, and those guys certainly warrant the attention they are receiving. It is time to dig in and take a look at my top ten receivers at this point in the process.
- Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
This should not come as much of a surprise, as Chase seems to be most draft experts’ top wide receiver. Chase is the type of big-play wide receiver NFL teams covet. The LSU product has great speed to get behind the defense, strong hands and a great frame to work with as he develops his body for play at the next level. It will be interesting to see how Chase tests at the combine, and whether or not that allows other receivers to close the gap on the WR1 title. As an all-around receiver and play-maker, Chase is very likely to be picked somewhere between pick three and seven in this draft. If he falls anywhere below that, I would be very surprised.
2. Devonta Smith, Alabama
Devonta Smith would likely not be a worry for most analysts if it weren’t for his weight. Smith is fairly rail-thin, and there are questions as to whether or not he will be able to pack on enough pounds to be a threat against the more physical corners that make receivers lives miserable at the NFL level. Put me in the camp that is not too concerned about Smith at the next level. The top-end speed and route-running ability is how Smith will get himself open at the next level. The area strength will be a concern is jams on the line of scrimmage, however, if Smith can learn to leverage his length and use footwork to beat press coverage, his size will not be too big of an issue. There will need to be a balance: how much weight can Smith pack on without impacting the traits that make him such an electric play-maker? It was a similar question facing Marquise Brown, albeit, a bit different of a situation.
3. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
Now we turn our attention to perhaps the safest wide receiver in the draft, Rashod Bateman. I don’t need any convincing that Bateman is worth a top-15 pick, because he is. Strong routes, hands, body control, length, strength, speed. I have tried to find convincing flaws in Bateman’s game, and I just can’t find them. So, why is Bateman WR3 for me? While Bateman is easily the safest wide receiver pick for me, his ceiling is not quite as high as Ja’Marr Chase and Devonta Smith. Bateman is perhaps the most likely to come in and make an immedaite impact for whichever team is lucky enough to select him, however, the other two may have more explosive play-making ability that teams covet. The gap between Bateman and the top two, however, is not much at all and if Bateman goes before either of those two, it would not be surprising.
4. Terrace Marshall Jr, LSU
Now we get to Terrace Marshall Jr, another fun and explosive athlete in this wide receiver class loaded with talent. Marshall is another athlete that could stand to add a little bit of weight to his long frame, and still has developing to do with the finer elements of the wide receiver position. With all that said, Marshall should be a first round pick towards the later portion of the round due tp the traits and upside he possesses. Marshall has good length and speed to win at the top of his routes, but will need to fine-tune the route tree at the next level. Marshall is what we call a very high-ceiling prospect.
5. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
Jaylen Waddle is perhaps the speediest wide receiver prospect and has the ability to take the top off the defense at any time in the game. Waddle needs quite a bit of work, in my opinion, however, he is electric with the ball in his hands and will command the defenses attention. The added element of bringing Waddle to your team is his ability to return kicks and punts, and take it to the house at any time. The type of value is not usually noted for potential first round picks, but this will be one of those times it is. Some will have Waddle a little higher in their rankings, I just see more potential in the others above.
6. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
This may be the first real difference between myself and other analysts, as I likely value Wallace a lot higher than others. With his ability to play bigger than his size, high-point the ball and strong hands, Wallace would be great value in the second round. Wallace could very well end up being one of the more consistent strong presences in a wide receiver room at the next level. What I look for in a receiver, Wallace checks just about every box. There are areas he needs to work on, like steps off the line and some fine-tuning of his routes and breaks, but Wallace is a solid all-around prospect.
7. Kadarius Toney, Florida
I have seen Toney named the “human joystick” and that is a pretty accurate description of his game. Toney has quick feet, is a very willing blocker in the run game, and certainly plays bigger than his size. With the ball in his hands, Toney plays like a running back and is willing to lower his shoulder to run through defenders. This will probably be a little discouraged by his coaches at the next level, as they will want him to save his body as much as possible, but that toughness and grit to earn extra yardage is never a bad thing. Toney’s biggest impact is made in the short-to-intermediate area of the field, and once the ball is in his hands, he makes plays. For a second-rounder, Toney will be great value.
8. Rondale Moore, Purdue
Rondale Moore is a prospect scouts will love for his play-making ability. In the Purdue offense, Moore was certainly the emphasis, getting the ball in his hands in all sorts of different ways to allow him to use his speed and ability to get yards. I like Moore’s ability to run the route tree, get himself open and hold onto the ball. A bit undersized, Moore will be relying on all of this at the next level. If Moore was a couple inches taller, he likely finds himself in the first round discussion, although, there have been other undersized receivers taken at the tail-end of round one in the past (Marquise Brown, Jalen Reagor).
9. Amon-Ra St.Brown, USC
Talk about length, St. Brown is a perfect example of it in a draft littered with lengthy ride receivers. St. Brown possesses strong footwork, and ability to beat the press. St. Brown will be able to get himself open and win the contested-catch against smaller corners at the next level, and will be one I will be interested to see how he tests.
10. Sage Surratt, Wake Forest
Some may think of Surratt as a late day two guy, even early day three but I feel Surratt is firmly in the mix to be a late round two or early round three pick. Big-bodied, long and strong hands are my takeaways from Surratt. Like any prospect, areas to work on, will need to refine the routes to get behind NFL defensive backs, but Surratt possesses the tangible you look for in a young receiver prospect.
After the combine, I will re-visit these rankings, and add in team fits for these prospects.