NFL Draft Positional Rankings: Wide Receiver
It’s obvious the game has changed in the NFL; what was once a game played between the tackles has evolved to incorporate spread out college concepts as offensive coordinators have become more and more creative in finding ways to put points on the board. This has made the wide receiver position even more important than it has been in the past. The rise of the “11 personnel group” (one RB, one TE, 3 WRs) has made it essential for every NFL team to have at least three wide outs they can count on any given play. To put it in numbers, the league lined up in 11 personnel on 54% of snaps in the 2018 season, with some teams (Chargers, Colts, Bengals) lining up over 70% of the time with 3 WRs on the field. Nowadays teams are looking for a bit of everything from the position, you need your boundary threat who can make plays downfield and in the red zone in the mold of a DeAndre Hopkins. You need your do-it-all guy across from him you can count on like a Stefon Diggs. You need your Jarvis Landry working the middle of the field who you know will be open on 3rd down. Ideally you’re also looking for the Tyreek Hill, Brandin Cooks speedy deep threat. Lucky for you, NFL, there’s a tremendous class of wide receivers entering the draft this year who fit every one of those profiles.
20) KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
Johnson is a savvy route runner with tremendous hands and a lot of production over four years at Fresno. He’s a consistent receiver with a high floor and he would make a lot of teams happy in the mid-rounds of the draft.
19) Penny Hart, Georgia State
Penny Hart blew up the Senior Bowl this year and made himself a lot of money. He was a player who caused many scratched heads after his invite, but proved he belonged with the best players in this class with great foot speed and route running ability.
18) Terry McLaurin, Ohio State
Another player who made himself some cash at the Senior Bowl, McLaurin is a guy with good size and incredibly quick feet. His hands leave some thing to be desired, but his route running is fantastic and his ability to get open will get him plenty of looks at the next level.
17) Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Texas
6’4 slot receivers don’t come around often but that’s where Lil’Jordan seems to profile best. He’s not an elite athlete, and he doesn’t have “sure hands” but his ability after the catch is impressive and he can win 50/50 balls when you need him to.
16) Jakobi Meyers, NC State
I love finding former quarterbacks who excel at other positions because they tend to have a better feel for the game and the field. Meyers is a converted QB who worked from the slot this year and had over 90 catches in his 1st season at the position. He has really impressive ball skills and is a good enough athlete to move around the line of scrimmage.
15) Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Hall took advantage of the rocket arm of his QB as a great deep threat for Missouri the last couple years with over 22 ypc each of the last two seasons. He has a good release off the line of scrimmage and should find a home as a deep threat immediately.
14) Andy Isabella, UMASS
I’m really excited to see Isabella’s combine numbers. He’s a burner with lightning quick feet and insane deep speed. The obvious knock here is his size as he weighed in at the Senior Bowl under 5’9 and under 190 lbs, but the other size that matters are his small hands, which show in his tendency to catch with his chest rather than extending his arms.
13) DaMarkus Lodge, Ole Miss
The first of three Ole Miss receivers you’ll see on the list, Lodge found it hard to make a name for himself in college but will be a valuable receiver on just about any NFL roster. He’s a hell of an athlete and has shown some insane body control and ball skills on the side-line. The hard thing to see with Lodge or any Ole Miss receiver is the whole route tree, which Ole Miss refused to run.
12) Antoine Wesley, Texas Tech
He’s flawed just like any other prospect coming out, but Wesley has made some of the most eye-popping plays of any prospect in the 2019 class. He’s a 6’5 outside threat who exploded onto the scene this year with 88 catches for 1,400 yards. He has a high ceiling and is worth a shot at the beginning of day 3.
11) Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
There are a lot of guys in this class who have one big time trait to lean on, but Johnson isn’t one of those guys. Instead he’s a guy who checks every box at an above-average level. There’s a lot of quality traits in Johnson’s game including his hands and ability after the catch, but there’s no special quality you can see as the “trump card” at the next level.
10) Parris Campbell, Ohio State
As we crack into the top ten we start with one of my favorite players in the draft. Parris Campbell is one of the better athletes in the class with a ton of skill with the ball in his hands. Ohio State used him in a lot of different ways including out of the backfield, and I envision the NFL using him in the same capacity.
9) JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Arcega-Whiteside fits the mold as the big red zone threat that the NFL has always fallen in love with. He stands to win or lose a lot of money at the combine as his 40 time will draw a lot of eyes. I expect him to run somewhere in the 4.6 range and solidify what we already know about his athleticism, but his jump ball ability and body positioning in the red zone will give him a shot at an Alshon Jeffrey type role.
8) AJ Brown, Ole Miss
Ole Miss receiver #2, AJ Brown is the most productive of the trio coming out this year. He filled the “big slot” role very well in his time in Oxford and has been high on the NFL radar since the start of the year. He’s not the best athlete in the class, he hasn’t shown an expanded route tree, but he’s good in and out of his breaks and he’s tough after the catch.
Late 2nd-Early 3rd Round
7) Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Hollywood Brown fills the deep threat burner role for any team that wants him. You know exactly what you’re getting out of Brown, and it’s exactly what every NFL team wants. I think he’s more John Brown than the Tyreek Hill comparison you’re likely to hear, but he’s an explosive athlete who can step into an NFL offense from day 1 and produce.
6) Hakeem Butler, Iowa State
His athleticism is his biggest question mark, but he gives you everything you look for from a boundary receiver. He’s a back-shoulder machine, a monster in 50/50 balls, a beast after the catch, and has a good feel for space in zone coverage. The athleticism limits the ceiling but there’s little doubt of him being a productive receiver at the next level.
Early 2nd Round
5) Riley Ridley, Georgia
Ultimately traits win over production sometimes. Ridley played in an offense loaded with weapons at his time in Georgia, and thus his total production is lacking. The best things you find on tape are his release and route running ability, along with his great size and athleticism. Look for him to be a top two threat quickly.
Early 2nd Round
4) Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Watching Deebo reminds me so much of Stefon Diggs it’s scary. He’s under 6 feet tall but that doesn’t limit his ability in contested catches. He’s a beast after the catch and has a knack for making plays all over the field. Put him on the outside, put him in the slot, work him out of the backfield, use him in the return game, just let Deebo make plays.
Late 1st-Early 2nd Round
3) Kelvin Harmon, NC State
My only issue with Harmon is his lack of consistent separation as he breaks off his routes. That being said he makes up for that with incredible body control, solid hands, high level athleticism, and great size for the position. Look for Harmin to step into a WR1 role early in his NFL career.
Early-Mid 1st Round
2) DK Metcalf, Ole Miss
DK is a physical specimen who looks like AJ Green but unfortunately doesn’t have a whole lot of tape available because of his extensive injury history. He’s played only 21 games at the college level but has shown a limitless ceiling due to his size, athleticism, and general feel for the position.
Early-Mid 1st Round
1) N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
N’Keal Harry is a game breaker who strikes fear into opposing defensive coordinators. He has prototypical size that he uses on every rep with his physicality before and after the catch. His hands are iron grips, he wins 50/50 balls, his field awareness is impressive, he’s a plus athlete with foot speed and long speed better than you’d expect for his size, and he’s at his best once the ball is in his hands. Harry is a nightmare to lineup against and will make a living as a true WR1 in the NFL.
Early-Mid 1st Round