The NFL draft is on the horizon, and we just finished up the NFL combine. We got to find out who was lying about their size, and who did or did not hit the gym. Let’s dive in together while I briefly go over my pre-draft evaluation. We’ll come back after the NFL draft for a readjustment, landing spot analysis, and some long and short-term expectations

  • Analytics that matter
  • Pre-draft rank with analysis
  • My rookie rankings from previous years

Tier 1

WR1 – Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) will participate in all drills, except the 40-yard dash, at the 2023 NFL scouting combine. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
  • Age: 21.0
  • HT/WT: 6’0”/196lbs
  • wDOM: 29.86%
  • AYPTP: 3.5
  • RYPTPA: 3.25
  • Early Declare
  • Projected DC: 1st
    (Stats from 2021)
Historical:
  • 2022 WR1: Treylon Burks
  • 2021 WR1: Ja’Marr Chase
  • 2020 WR1: Jerry Jeudy

Pre-Draft Analysis

JSN is a producer. He was breaking receiving records as a high schooler in Texas against some of the toughest competition. He takes his talents to the greatest WR coach in college, Brian Hartline, and becomes the best route runner in the draft. JSN continues producing elite numbers while outproducing upperclassmen and first-rounders in Chris Olave and Garret Wilson. JSN is a possession-style wide receiver that separates through crisp routes and sharp cuts. He is smooth in transitioning into a runner after the catch and displays great lateral agility in making defenders miss as a YAC threat. JSN has great hands and does a decent job attacking the ball rather than letting it get in his body. He’s also shown the ability to a high point in jump ball situations. Given his pro size and technique, he shouldn’t struggle against press coverage at the next level. There are questions about health, with the 2022 season missed due to injury, but JSN crushed his combine performance. The downside to his game is straight-line speed. He is not a burner, so big plays may not be his future but should be a consistent chain mover with some YAC upside.

WR2 – Quentin Johnston

Photo Courtesy of TCU Athletics
  • Age: 21.5
  • HT/WT: 6’3”/208lbs
  • wDOM: 25.42%
  • AYPTP: 2.09
  • RYPTPA: 2.35
  • Early Declare
  • Projected DC: 1st round
Historical:
  • 2022 WR2: Garrett Wilson
  • 2021 WR2: Elijah Moore
  • 2020 WR2: CeeDee Lamb

Pre-Draft Analysis

This year’s size/speed freak wide receiver and his ability to move at his size go against physics. There was a disappearing act the first five games of the season, but TCU did bring in a new coaching staff and starting QB going down the first game. I believe this period was mainly from a lack of team chemistry, but production wasn’t an issue down the stretch. Johnston has an amazing ability to turn and moves as if he is a sub-six-foot wide receiver prospect. He’s shown flashes of elite ball skills, and versatile usage as a multi-level threat.  He’s great at stacking DBs using his vertical speed. Johnston has shown an elite ability to do it all but shows a lot of inconsistencies as well. He has great hands but will also body catch and has some drops. We’ve seen crisp routes and some rounded routes. Johnston needs more refinement as a route runner, often rounding his routes but winning base off his athleticism. He has traits to be an AJ Green, Julio-level prospect, and being the only size/speed prospect in this draft makes him an easy projection as a first-round pick with a team investing heavily in his development.

WR3 – Jordan Addison

Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Age: 21.0
  • HT/WT: 5’11”/173lbs
  • wDOM: 18.63%
  • AYPTP: 1.81
  • RYPTPA: 1.7
  • Early Declare
  • Projected DC: 1st
Historical:
  • 2022 WR3: Jameson Williams
  • 2021 WR3: Rashod Bateman
  • 2020 WR3: Justin Jefferson
Pre-Draft Analysis

The slim reaper Devonta Smith walked so that Jordan Addison could run. Addison has elite athletic ability with amazing hip flexibility. He has long speed, and he’s explosive out of his cuts. Addison has some elite ball skills with sticky hands and circus-level body adjustments.  He is a good manipulator during his routes, whether it’s getting a defender to flip his hips or using his speed to bring a defender in before exploding out. He does show some rounded routes but makes it up with raw athleticism. As a YAC threat, he’s an elusive runner in the open, can make multiple defenders miss, and shows decent toughness for his size. Addison has a ton of tools, but his biggest concern will be his size. The Eagles sought out additional help and got AJ Brown, which helped Devonta see lighter coverages. There’s a legit concern that Addison gets bullied at the next level or becomes dependent on the offense around him. The combine was not kinda to Addison, posting a one percentile speed score. I doubt this affects his draft capital much, but maybe get bumped down a couple of NFL boards a few spots. As an individual skillset, there’s not much more that can be asked of Addison, pro-ready.

Tier 2

WR4 – Kayshon Boutte

LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte (7)
Photo from Josh Auzenne | WAFB
  • Age: 20.8
  • HT/WT: 5’11”/195lbs
  • wDOM: 13.16%
  • AYPTP: 1.12
  • RYPTPA: 1.12
  • Early Declare
  • Projected DC: 2nd – 3rd
Historical:
  • 2022 WR4: Drake London
  • 2021 WR4: Terrace Marshall
  • 2020 WR4: Henry Ruggs

Pre-Draft Analysis

Not long ago, the debate for WR1 was between JSN and Boutte. If the conversation was about talent alone, then this conversation shouldn’t be over. Boutte required ankle surgery during his sophomore campaign but was on a 1,200-yard pace before disaster struck. Off-field distractions seem to be a major role in his 2022 season. The LSU football program underwent a big turnaround, taking in dual-threat Jayden Daniels and HC Brian Kelly from Notre Dame. Daniels had some locker room issues at ASU and clearly did not have the best relationship with Boutte. The two could be seen on the sidelines arguing a few times this year. Kelly came to the school claiming to not even know Boutte’s name. Then we had the post-bowl game fiasco. The playbook changed to a lot of short area routes and getting the ball out of the QBs hands fast. Boutte, in 2021, was a savvy route runner and a great manipulator with some high-end-athleticism. In the 2022 season, Boutte seem disinterested, ran some lazy routes, plenty of body catches with the ball often thrown behind him. QB play or coaches clearly kept the playbook simple and held the team back from more creative offensive schemes. The combine performance was disappointing and makes me feel confident that he suffered a torn Achilles his sophomore year (speculation). He’s about 1.5 years removed from the injury, but this injury takes time. Although a 4.5 40 is not terrible, Boutte was running in the 4.3’s before the injury. The rest of his agility testing was abysmal, and I’m interested in what NFL execs think of him. The first-round opportunity is certainly behind him. Given the type of prospect he was in 2021, I’m more willing than most to ignore the 2022 season.

WR5 – Josh Downs

North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Josh Downs (11) runs with the football for a touchdown against the Texas A&M Aggies in the fourth quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on Jan 2, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Courtesy of Sam Navarro of USA Today Sports
  • Age: 21.5
  • HT/WT: 5’9”/171lbs
  • wDOM: 24.8%
  • AYPTP: 1.99
  • RYPTPA: 1.96
  • Early Declare
  • Projected DC: Top50
Historical:
  • 2022 WR5: Skyy Moore
  • 2021 WR5: Jaylen Waddle
  • 2020 WR5: Jalen Reagor

Pre-Draft Analysis

Downs is the short king of the 2023 draft class. He has quick feet at the LOS combined with a great release. he runs a full route tree and can find success mostly in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Downs have been inconsistent as a deep threat with drops. He rarely wins the physical game, gets hit off his routes often, won’t break a tackle as a YAC threat, and sees little press coverage. Downs does win some jump balls and does a good job of high pointing, I wouldn’t expect this success to continue at the next level. Downs will be stuck to a slot role but demonstrates elite quick twitch ability in the short area.

WR6 – Cedric Tillman

  • Age: 22.8
  • HT/WT: 6’3”/213lbs
  • wDOM: 9.45%
  • AYPTP: 0.88
  • RYPTPA: 0.99
  • 5th year
  • Projected DC: 2nd
    (6 Games Played)
Historical:
  • 2022 WR6: George Pickens
  • 2021 WR6: Amon-Ra St. Brown
  • 2020 WR6: Michael Pittman

Pre-Draft Analysis

Tillman was a late breakout in his fourth season in the league, becoming a 1,000yd receiver with a 200-yard game performance against the 2021 Georgia defense and a 152-yard performance against the 2021 Alabama Defense. He received a Senior Bowl invite but declined to attend. Tillman is a physical beast; he wins 50/50 balls with strong hands and uses his body to box out defenders. He is good at controlling his speed during his routes to get in and out of break fluidly. His route tree is basic, but he does it well enough to get him separation to show off his physical YAC ability. Tillman is more elusive than most his size and also a tackle-breaking type of runner. His ability to turn is very impressive, given his size. At his ceiling, Tillman can be a Michael Pittman type of player at the next level.

Tier 3

WR7 – Jonathan Mingo

  • Age: 21.8
  • HT/WT: 6’1”/220lbs
  • wDOM: 26.66%
  • AYPTP: 1.72
  • RYPTPA: 2.23
  • 4th year
  • Projected DC: 3rd
Historical:
  • 2022 WR7: David Bell
  • 2021 WR7: Devonta Smith
  • 2020 WR7: Laviska Shenault

Pre-Draft Analysis

Every off-season, there has been a train of momentum for a huge Mingo breakout, and we haven’t seen it, but we’ve seen flashes of excellence and high-ceiling abilities. He’s had some amazing performances this year, and he’s had some flat-out disappearing acts. He has shown improvement this year with his hand cleaning up drops. Mingo can be seen making one-handed grabs, even catching balls on a defender’s back, and making good adjustments to poor ball placement. He’s physical, consistently beats press, and is hard to bring down in YAC situations. At the Senior Bowl, he showed off some excellent footwork that I didn’t think was possible for a player his size and demonstrated some great short-area bursts. He does struggle in long speed but had an absolutely amazing combine performance, and certainly beat expectations. During our interview early in the week with Mingo, he stated that he wanted to show off that he could run a full route tree. He did just that, winning virtually every rep during the 1-on-1 drills. Mingo has a featured WR skill set, it’s the inconsistencies that worry me, but I loved his Senior Bowl performance, and if an NFL takes a serious investment in him, then so will I.

WR8 – Puka Nacua

(Steve Conner | AP) BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua (12) catches the ball against Boise State in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in Boise, Idaho.
Courtesy of Steve Conner | AP
  • Age: 21.X
  • HT/WT: 6’2”/201lbs
  • wDOM: 18.53%
  • AYPTP: 1.76
  • RYPTPA: 1.59
  • 4th year
  • Projected DC: Late 2nd-3rde
  • (9 games played, 6 full games)
Historical:
  • 2022 WR8: Chris Olave
  • 2021 WR8: Rondale Moore
  • 2020 WR8: Tee Higgins

Pre-Draft Analysis

Puka battled injuries early in the season and only played full games down the back half of the 2022 season. Puka is this year’s gadget WR running for 25 attempts, 209 yards, and five TDs while putting on three 100+ yard performances through the air. He’s demonstrated plenty of his YAC ability on tape. He won’t make guys miss in the open but seek out an open lane, and if necessary, he loves lowering the pad level and fighting for yards. He has some phenomenal hands, grabbing sideline balls, showing body control, and ball tracking; his overall receiver play is great. Puka’s technical ability needs more short-area refinement, he’s not the best at in-breaking routes. However, at the senior bowl, he showed no issue getting out of breaks and running short area routes. He was a clear Day 1 winner, making great catches and consistently getting two feet in. I have been one of the original fans of Puka since mid-season, but even I would’ve liked to see this performance at the Senior Bowl last until Say 2. Leaving the Senior Bowl early is either a signal of high praise/interest from NFL teams, or the exact opposite, and Puka certainly was a big conversation point on Day 1. If we ignore his bowl performance, I would say he’s a gadget WR that could see a starting z-slot role at the next level with fringe Day 2 DC as a complimentary piece to an offense, possibly providing occasional flex value in fantasy.

WR9 – Zay Flowers

Zay Flowers – Football – Photo Courtesy of Boston College Athletics
  • Age: 22.4
  • HT/WT: 5’9”/182lbs
  • wDOM: 40.49%
  • AYPTP: 2.73
  • RYPTPA: 2.45
  • 4th year
  • Projected DC: Late 2nd- Early 3rd
Historical:
  • 2022 WR9: Jahan Dotson
  • 2021 WR9: Kadarius Toney
  • 2020 WR9: Brandon Aiyuk
Pre-Draft Analysis:

Flowers has some intangible talent and boasts some of the fastest feet in this wide receiver class. He’s a decent route runner, showing a decent ability to manipulate defenders. He has a mix of amazing body control catches, but he also has some questionable drops. His skill set is more suited as a slot at the next level, he does get hit off his routes and struggles against press coverage if he lets the defender into his frame. Flowers is more ‘quick’ than he is fast, although his combine says otherwise. As a YAC threat, he’ll make a guy miss in the open field and attack angles but won’t break any tackles at the next level. He should make a fine complimentary WR for an NFL roster at the next level.

WR10 – Jalin Hyatt

Jalin Hyatt - Football - University of Tennessee Athletics
Photo from Ian Cox of the University of Tennessee Athletics
  • Age: 21.5
  • HT/WT: 6’0”/176lbs
  • wDOM: 31.81%
  • AYPTP: 2.68
  • RYPTPA: 3.00
  • Early Declare
  • Projected DC: 2nd
Historical:
  • 2022 WR10: Christian Watson
  • 2021 WR10: Nico Collins
  • 2020 WR10: Chase Claypool

Pre-Draft Analysis

This year’s Biletnikoff Award winner and one of the fastest 40-yard runners is Hyatt. Those two bullet points alone guarantee a second-round draft capital. Hyatt had a lack of production his first two seasons, and many speculate his breakout this year is due to Cedric Tillman’s injury. He was used in a gimmicky offense that allowed him to get free releases in college, only seeing one snap against press coverage. He does not offer much in the intermediate or short area and lacks the footwork to make short-area cuts. Hyatt should be considered a top-tier field stretcher but also a one-dimensional player.

Tier 4

WR11 – Rashee Rice

Rashee Rice - Football - SMU Athletics
Rashee Rice – Football photo courtesy of SMU Athletics
  • Age: 22.8
  • HT/WT: 6’1”/204lbs
  • wDOM: 31.89%
  • AYPTP: 2.7
  • RYPTPA: 2.64
  • 4th year
  • Projected DC: 3rd
Historical:
  • 2022 WR13: Wan’Dale Robinson
  • 2021 WR12: Amari Rodgers
  • 2020 WR11: Denzel Mims

Pre-Draft Analysis

Rice had a huge year for SMU and excels against zone coverage. He eats up space and knows where to find the holes, and sits in them to make himself a target. Rice struggles against man competition, press coverage, and contested situations. He is a bit soft when it comes to physical play styles. Rice does have a drop issue with too many body deflections for an interception. He should still be considered a Day 2 prospect with the upside to be a consistent WR2/3 for an NFL offense.

WR12 – Parker Washington

Parker Washington - Football - Penn State Athletics
Parker Washington – Photo courtesy of Penn State Athletics
  • Age: 20.9
  • HT/WT: 5’10”/204lbs
  • wDOM: 16.27%
  • AYPTP: 1.35
  • RYPTPA: 1.45
  • Early Declare
  • Projected DC: 3rd
Historical:
  • 2022 WR12: John Metchie
  • 2021 WR12: D’Wayne Eskridge
  • 2020 WR12: Bryan Edwards

Pre-Draft Analysis

Washington is a tough evaluation for me. He was set to inherit the WR1 role with Jahan Dotson, but he gave us relatively mediocre performances outside of his game against Ohio State. Washington has some great hands, and ball tracking is reliable in contested catch situations, given his height. He has a stout build and does well in all aspects of the physical game. Washington contributes primarily in the short and intermediate and may work best to operate as a Z-receiver. He’s not a route running savant, primarily operates out the slot, and as an on-field athlete, there are no high-end NFL traits that he can hang his hat on. Washington simply does everything well but lacks the upside to be more than a complimentary WR on an NFL roster.

WR13 – Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson - Football - Stanford University Athletics
Michael Wilson – Photo courtesy of Stanford University Athletics
  • Age: 23
  • HT/WT: 6’2”/213lbs
  • wDOM: 16.29%
  • AYPTP: 1.07
  • RYPTPA: .93
  • 5th year
  • Projected DC: Late 3rd -4th
    (6 Games played)
Historical:
  • 2022 WR13: Khalil Shakir
  • 2021 WR13: Tylan Wallace
  • 2020 WR13: Van Jefferson

Pre-Draft Analysis

Wilson was a consistent winner at the Senior Bowl and certainly rising up draft boards, but how far will he climb? The fifth-year prospect has a long extensive injury history, a foot injury derailed his 2020 season, and in 2021 suffered a collarbone injury, and he has not played a full season since 2019. He certainly has flashes of high-end talent, he just can’t put it together for the majority of the season. Wilson has a nice build and shows quickness in the short area with his rapid footwork. He’s an underrated route runner and boasts a complete skillset. Wilson is bursty but lacks that long speed to break away and stack defenders. he’s an upright runner as a YAC threat, and I would like to see more tackle-breaking ability for a player his size. Of course, the injury history will warrant durability concerns. Wilson has shown that he can be a complimentary piece to an NFL offense, a safe bet that he’ll make his team and stick on a roster. The fantasy appeal is a bit hard to put a value on; maybe a late-round flyer type of player.

WR14 – Xavier Hutchinson

Xavier Hutchinson – photo courtesy of Iowa State University Athletics
  • Age: 22.7
  • HT/WT: 6’2”/203lbs
  • wDOM: 36.14%
  • AYPTP: 2.68
  • RYPTPA: 2.44
  • 5th year
  • Projected DC: Late 3rd – 4th
Historical:
  • 2022 WR14: Alec Pierce
  • 2021 WR14: Jaelen Darden
  • 2020 WR14: Devin Duvernay

Pre-Draft Analysis

Biletnikoff Finalist and JUCO transfer Hutchinson was blanketed with targets this year. The big-bodied wide receiver has some of the best receivers play in this draft. He has excellent ball tracking, physical with good hands; he did have some concentration drops but that can be cleaned up. He’s not much of a manipulator and struggles with short-area quickness. Hutchinson prefers to utilize head fakes in an attempt to get DBs to flip their hips. His long speed is also lacking to be a vertical threat. He should operate in the short area game and can find a rotational role as a team WR3/4.

WR15 – Trey Palmer

Trey Palmer breaks Nebraska receiving record, photo by Nebraska Athletics
  • Age: 21.9
  • HT/WT: 6’0”/192lbs
  • wDOM: 42.08%
  • AYPTP: 2.84
  • RYPTPA: 3.07
  • 4th year
  • Projected DC: Late 3rd – 4th
Historical:
  • 2022 WR15: Jalen Tolbert
  • 2021 WR15: Dyami Brown
  • 2020 WR15: KJ Hamler

Pre-Draft Analysis

The LSU transfer struggled to get on the field with that talent-filled wide receiver room. Palmer quickly found success in Nebraska, posting three games over 100 yards and one going over 200. He saw a wide range of usage from gadgets plays or kick returns, the offense seemed to flow through him. The offense did struggle down the stretch when QB Casey Thompson tried to play through injuries. Palmer is a speedster with a 4.33 40 time. His route running is rough and lacks footwork, often running into his defenders during his routes. He does well in the physical portion of the game. Not afraid of blocking, can beat press coverage, hand fighting, and contested situations. Palmer gets by with his high-end athleticism, but even against zone, he seems impatient and struggles to find open lanes.

Closing Thoughts

  • I couldn’t argue with anyone’s order of the top three. It’s up to the manager’s preference on which receiver type they like more. They all have some sort of elite traits/attributes
  • I expect drastic changes come post-draft, letting draft capital dictate a lot of my back-end rankings.
  • I have been putting off this article hoping for clarity in this class from the Senior Bowl or the combine. This class is still up in the air, with plenty of guys stepping up in the Senior Bowl. Turning what was mid to late Day 3 evaluations into fringe Day 2 to early Day 3 evaluations.
  • Outside of the top six WRs, I am not overly excited about fantasy producers, the WR corp is not the strength of this draft class

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