We have now moved back out of the trenches and gone to the skill-positions. This week will be about wide receivers and cornerbacks, while next week we will to the tight-ends and safeties. After that it’s time to look at the quarterbacks and reveal my top 100 big board, before putting out my one and only mock draft of the year. When it comes to the receiver position, as it is with most, there is a lot of versatility and different teams or schemes ask for different skill-sets. There are your prototypical big-bodied X-receivers, smaller and shifty slot receivers, those taller guys who can almost be used like a seam-stretching tight-ends and everything in-between.
This class of wide receivers has not gotten a lot of love, but similar to the way I talked about the running backs, this is very deep position in my opinion. There might not be that bona fide stud wideout for everybody and I could see only three of them going in the first round, but there are so many quality options from rounds two to four. The twelve names I will talk about in this article all deserve to go off the board and I could easily see a run at them in the second round, where there could go seven or eight of them. As far as my evaluations go, I have two definite first rounders and my entire top ten will earn top-60 grades. I like two other guys a whole lot, who still need some development, and there is a load of talented prospects beyond that, who I will mention at the very end.
Also check out my positional rankings on the best available running backs, linebackers, interior offensive linemen, interior defensive linemen, offensive tackles and edge rushers.
1. D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
DeKaylin Zecharius Metcalf is a former four-star recruit from Oxford, Missippi who decided to join his hometown rebels. After breaking his foot after the first two games of his true freshman season, he was forced to sit out the year. In his first real campaign, he caught 39 passes for 646 yards and seven touchdowns, making the SEC-All Freshman team. Last season he looked like an absolute monster, catching 29 passes for 569 yards and five TDs through seven games, but he missed the rest of the season with a neck injury. Despite that he decided to follow the footsteps of his father, grandfather and uncle by entering the NFL draft and he has been one of the biggest internet sensations.
Metcalf blew up once everybody saw that picture of him shirtless at Exos Sports. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a more jacked up receiver in my life. He continued to make people’s jaws drop with a freakish combine performance. Metcalf is a big-bodied vertical threat at 6’3”, 228 pounds with 4.33 speed and a 40.5-inch vertical. Before being ruled out he was averaging 21.8 yards a catch before being ruled out, with a ridiculous 13.6 yards per target and his catch rate only wasn’t higher because quarterback Jordan Ta’amu tried to force some passes into double- and triple-coverage against him or didn’t lead him enough to the outside on fade routes. Metcalf eats up cushions quickly with long strides and is a threat to burn you over the top on any given play, which Texas Tech and Alabama got to know first hand when he went for touchdowns on the first snap of those games respectively. Especially against Bama it was apparent how physically gifted this kid is, as he just threw a second-day corner in Saivion Smith to the side, ran down the field and just caught the ball with his fingertips on one hand.
The physical freak invites the challenge of going against the opponent’s best cover-guy, can get pretty feisty and dish out that little extra shove after the play. Metcalf competes for the ball and uses subtle push-offs to create late separation. He shows the ability to pluck the ball out of the air with extended arms outside his frame and caught the game-winning touchdown versus fellow draftee Lonnie Johnson in the 2017 Kentucky game that way. He was bashed a lot recently about his ability to change directions, because he put up worse numbers in the three-cone and short shuttle at the combine than Tom Brady, but I think that is largely overblown. Metcalf barely got run slants or any in-breaking routes, as Ole Miss inexplicably left the middle all to teammate A.J. Brown. That doesn’t mean he can’t do it. He looked excellent at rolling his hips into smooth breaks when we did see him get the opportunitely and should be a YAC-specialist on slant and post routes.
The Footwork and hand techniques versus press still need plenty of work with Metcalf, winning mostly with physicality at this point. He took a bunch of inside releases on fade routes, but gained ground so quickly that it didn’t matter and he beat somebody deep. However, the timing of his jumps with the ball in the air is a little off at times and he lacks some awareness for the sideline. Metcalf dropped seven passes compared to just 65 catches over that two-year stretch, as he will try to bucket-catch some passes instead of using his catch-radius by attacking the ball in the air. He clearly has the size and strength to be an excellent blocker with a WR-leading 27 reps on the bench press, but he doesn’t really show a lot of tenacity and an technique in that aspect. The big target was locked up pretty good by LSU’s Greedy Williams, who could mirror his hips and disrupt the catch-point with his long arms and Metcalf was even called for an offensive pass interference at the goal-line as well as failing to bring in a back-shoulder throw versus Williams. Metcalf’s route tree was basically limited to go-routes, hitches and curls during his collegiate career and he almost solely played as the outside receiver to the left.
However, that is all he needs to run at the next level to be a weapon. If you are looking for a complete receiver, who shows nuanced route-running and wins with multiple breaks, this is not your guy. Metcalf is a raw size/speed freak, whose production was incredibly limited by Ole Miss’ baffling scheme, but he has shown the potential to dominate matchups. I think if you put him in the right system and allow him to play to his strengths, he could be a Calvin Johnson / Josh Gordon type player.
2. Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
At 130 pounds without academical qualification, Brown had to attend junior college while working multiple jobs and keeping his grades up to earn a chance. The young man who was shortly nicknamed “Hollywood” decided to join Oklahoma’s wide-open attack as a four-star juco transfer and immediately made his mark. With Dede Westbrook heading to the pro level, eventual Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield started to spread the wealth a little more, but quickly found a new favorite target in Brown, who caught 57 passes for 1095 yards and seven touchdowns. Last season with another Heisman winner in Kyler Murray he bettered his numbers by over 200 yards and three scores despite missing a game. Now he follows his cousin Antonio Brown to the NFL.
At 5’9”, 166 pounds, Brown definitely lacks some size, but he makes up for it with electrifying speed and mind-boggling playmaking ability. With that sports car-like acceleration he can just fly by defenders, win with stutter-moves or beat safeties across their face on post routes, but he can also manufacture YAC opportunities by getting the ball in his hands on quick screens or crossing route. Brown just made big play after big play for the Sooners. His start-stop ability is off the charts and when the ball is in the air, he tracks it over his shoulder very well. Brown does a good job pacing his strides to let the ball drop into the bucket while forcing defenders to go through him if they wants to get there, forcing multiple pass interference calls that way in the Big XII championship game versus Texas. He also can use that little arm-bar to press away the defender and open space for the ball to get through, plus he is tougher at the catch point than you’d expect from a guy his size.
Once Brown has the ball in his hands, he has another gear to lose any defenders in reach. He can take blows and stay on his feet as well as spin and twist out of the hands of tacklers. He is nicknamed Hollywood not only because that’s the name of his hometown, but also his style of play. Brown can just stick his foot in the ground and cut across the entire field or burn angles running towards the sideline. The suddenness of some of his jukes in the open field is just sick. He will uses some backwards jukes and almost dips underneath the grasps of some tacklers. Playing at around 160 to 170 pounds, Brown doesn’t give the defenders a lot of area to grab and he makes some basketball type moves in the open field, almost looking like crossovers. That way 639 of his yards last season came after the catch on a bonkers 8.5 YAC/reception. He also put up a ridiculous 3.56 yards per route run in 2018.
The extremely thin frame raises some durability concerns and could be a problem when facing equally athletically gifted cornerbacks, who can push him into the boundary the way I saw former Sooner Dede Westbrook get handled by Ohio State for example. Brown doesn’t have the most natural hands, especially to bring in fastballs, and dropped a combined 14 passes over the last two years. He also doesn’t give you a lot in contested catch situations and is content with going out of bounds on some plays. Brown wasn’t asked to block a lot for OU, instead drawing defensive backs with outside release. While you constantly see what he can do with the ball in his hands, Brown wasn’t used at all as a return man at Oklahoma. We haven’t see him do anything this pre-draft period due to a Lisfranc injury from the end of the season, even though you have to credit him for fighting through it the last couple of games.
Brown is so much like a DeSean Jackson or a Tyler Lockett, when it comes to guys that you want to buy time for as a quarterback, because you know they will get behind the defense eventually or if you just hold onto the ball long enough to get to him on a crosser, he will make something happen with it. Unfortunately Hollywood doesn’t bring you that extra value as a punt returner like those other guys do to give you a big play that way or at least he didn’t do it for the Sooners. However, he should continue to burn people at the next level because he has the explosive feet to release against press and rare speed, while being a nightmare to bring down once he has the ball.
3. Hakeem Butler, Iowa State
After the tragic loss of his mother to cancer, Butler moved to Texas in order to live with his cousins at an early age. He was just a two-star recruit and barely qualified academically, but Iowa State offered him a full scholarship. Butler repaid the Cyclones with an average of 17 yards per catch and seven touchdowns in 2017, which earned him honorable mentions among Big XII coaches. Last year as their go-to weapon in the passing game, he went off for over 1300 yards on 22 yards per reception, which both ranked top ten nationally and earned him second-team all-conference honors.
Butler is a long strider at about 6’6’’, 225 pounds with sub-4.5 speed and quick acceleration out of his stance. The former basketball standout goes vertical and snatches the ball at its highest point. He converted to football, because he wanted to let out more of his aggressive side and it shows up by the way he runs with the ball in his hands, where he displays good vision and loves to run over these smaller defensive backs. He is constantly fighting and twisting for extra yardage and he has a pretty mean stiff-arm in his arsenal. Butler excels in contested catch situations and is strong in terms of breaking tackles. He made one of the best plays of anybody in 2018 against Kansas, when he mossed a defender 40 yards downfield and then pushed that guy off to walk into the end-zone. He became the go-to guy whenever the Cyclones needed a play and came through for them constantly. With his large paws, Butler often times only needs one hand to bring in the catch. It feels uncountable how many spectacular plays he came up with for ISU. He could not be brought down by the Oklahoma defense last season, as he made several catches on back-shoulder throws and wrestled through tackles. There really might have been no better receiver in college football last year at making catches through contact than this kid.
With that being said, Butler is more than just a big jump-ball specialist, who is tough to bring down after the catch. The former Cyclone star is one of the best all-around receivers coming out of college, He has experience lining up on either side, in the slot and out wide. He ran square-ins and digs, went vertical, broke outside from tight splits, opened space underneath on curl routes with slight push-offs and even ran screen passes at Iowa State. Against inner-state rival Iowa last season he ran a whip-route on fourth-and-one, which only didn’t convert because the corner dragged him down out of desperation, which is mind-blowing for a 6’6” receiver. He can sink his hips surprisingly well and shows attention to detail in his route-running. In addition to that he displays excellent body-control and awareness for the sideline, where he shows impressive toe-taps. Despite being one of the bigger guys at the position, he led all receivers in college football with 721 receiving yards on passes thrown 20+ yards and he averaged a crazy 22.0 yards per reception last year. As a blocker, Butler shows excellent grip and leg-drive to push defenders around and you rarely see him lose control.
Butler gets caught up with press-coverage early on in his routes. Now, that may be to some degree because he didn’t face a lot of it unless he played Texas these last couple of years, but with how long his strides are and how little you see him actually break down into his routes instead or gliding into them, there may be some concern about his foot quickness. He doesn’t always catch the ball with the diamond in-between his hands, clapping at it, letting it get into his body and showing some double-catches on tape. That led to a total of 12 drops last season, which is the one big reason I wouldn’t quite grab him in the first round.
Outside of inconsistent hands, there are very flaws in Butler’s game. When he is active with his hands, he seems capable of releasing either way against press coverage and knows how to reduce his size when making cuts, which are the two most important areas for such receivers to work on coming into the pros. He had stretches of sheer dominance last season and could end up being the top receiver from this class if he stops dropping the ball at that kind of rate.
4. A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
This kid led Starkville to a state title in Mississippi, but decided to join hometown rival Ole Miss. Brown didn’t change anything about his decision despite receiving death threats via social media and the sanctions the Rebels received from the NCAA. Instead he focused on his work on the field, receiving first-team All-SEC honors as a sophomore, thanks to 75 catches for 1252 yards and 11 touchdowns. He even improved on his catch and yardage numbers last year, which got him voted into first-team all-conference once again.
The dynamic receiver at 6’0½”, 225 pounds, has a compact build with good thickness throughout his frame. Brown primarily lined up in the slot, where he averaged over 12 yards per target these last two years. I love the way the way he plays the game with attitude and aggression. Brown ran a bunch of quick outs to make it second-and-five consistently and also was Ole Miss’ main target on bubble screens, where he fought through tackles for extra yardage. His 1250 yards after the catch these last two years were second in the nation, as he forced 23 missed tackles back in 2017- Brown shows strong hands and no fear around defenders. He runs several defenders over and keeps his feet churning through contact to break tackles. He shows excellent awareness for defenders with the ball in his hands and is very elusive, making him hard to bring down in one-on-one situations.
However, Brown is not just a physical receiver, who does good work after the snap, he also shows some understanding for the intricacies at the position, such as widening his man to give himself more room to work the inside, changing up pace or stride length and dropping his hips to get to a dead-stop. He really snaps his head towards the quarterback coming out of his breaks and rarely loses concentration when the ball is in the air for a little longer. Brown is very comfortable working the middle of the field, as he was pretty much the only pass-catcher to come into that area consistently for the Rebels. He dropped only four of his 115 targets in 2018. Two of them came LSU with one resulting from taking his eyes off it to make something happen after the catch and another one on a really high pass along the sideline, which would have been a highlight catch. Brown takes pride in being a complete receiver as a blocker and is known for delivering some devastating blindside hits to guys in the open field. He really stepped up when teammate D.K. Metcalf was out for the final five weeks, averaging 134 yards per game on the outside against tough SEC competition, even if his team couldn’t win.
Brown doesn’t necessarily scare people vertically and isn’t as good in contested catch situations down the field as you’d expect from such a physical player. He doesn’t stick out with his ball skills or catch radius to me. Occasionally he will slow down after his break and not really come back towards the ball, allowing defenders to close on the throwing window. Brown also rarely faced press-coverage in the slot and was given easy yardage underneath, which were a big part of his production. His worst showings have come against the best secondaries he has faced – four catches for 49 yards versus LSU in 2017, one catch for eight yards versus Alabama a couple of few after that and four for 34 against the Crimson Tide last year.
Brown looked like the top receiver off the board before the start of last season, but with the emergence of his teammate D.K. Metcalf and questions about his top-end speed, he has slid a little in this pre-draft process. However, he ran an encouraging 4.49 in the 40 yard dash at the combine and for the people who have really watched his tape – his game is not built around speed. Brown is one of the more complete and productive receivers in this draft. The upside might not be as great as it is with some of these other guys, but you get a consistent pass-catchers and a guy who will give it his all.
5. Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Tyshun Samuels earned his nicknamed “Deebo” from being a bully as a child and has kept that fighting attitude when he steps on the field. The former three-star recruit dealt with hamstring problems as a freshman and that cost him three games in year two as well. Yet, he still shared team MVP honors with quarterback Jake Bentley after putting up almost 900 yards and eight touchdowns from scrimmage plus another two scores as a return-man. He once again was off to a hot start as a junior, but broke his leg after South Carolina’s first three games. Last season he was finally healthy and put it all together, earning first-team All-SEC as a return specialist and second-team all-conference as a receiver with over 900 yards and 11 TDs from scrimmage.
Injuries ruled Samuel’s first three years with the Gamecocks, but he was an absolute dynamite when on the field. He ran sweeps, reverses, tunnel screens, slant-routes and all kinds of stuff, so he could get the ball in his hands and make something happen. Throughout his collegiate career Samuel was an electric return-man with 29.0 yards per kick return and four TDs, as well as being highly dangerous on all types of gadget plays. At 5’11”, 215 pounds Deebo is also built more like a running back and kind of runs like one. He doesn’t shy away from contact as a ball-carrier, lowering the shoulder and finishing plays the right way, never being content with going out of bounds. However, he also has speed for days to run away from anybody and can shake people in space. He led all SEC receivers with 21 missed tackles forced last season.
Samuel creates separation with speed cuts, head fakes and short-area quickness. He has this sudden acceleration and unique way of setting up defenders with different footwork. Samuel doesn’t mind giving up his body when leaping for passes over the middle and taking hits. He shows nice body control and adjustments to the ball in the air, plucks it with full extension and makes some catches on balls that are heavily underthrown, showing his willingness to work back towards. The dynamic SC weapon made a bunch of big plays on deep post and dig routes across the face of the middle safety. He also drew a ton of underneath coverage and opened up opportunities for his fellow pass-catchers. Samuel ran pretty much the entire route tree at South Carolina and didn’t seem to have problems with any pattern, plus he is a pretty scrappy run-blocker who is looking for work.
Injuries are definitely a major concern for Samuel. He didn’t look quite as explosive at the start of last year after that broken leg and has yet to prove that he can stay healthy for the long run. He might benefit from shedding ten pounds as well, considering the weight he has at sub-six feet. At his size, the catch radius is very limited and he doesn’t always high-point the ball in contested catch situations. While his experience with that many routes and alignments is a plus, you don’t see perfect precision on many of them. All that makes me believe he might be more of a complementary offensive weapon than a go-to receiver after I have been praising this kid for a long time now.
Deebo was sensational all Senior Bowl week long, showing explosiveness, play strength and impeccable route acumen. He had so many fun battles with Temple corner Rock Ya-Sin and basically roasted everybody else in one-on-ones throughout the event. He made a spectacular grab in team drills and beat a couple of those longer corners clean at goal-line routes, earning Practice Player of the week. I know what he is capable of and Samuel has been one of my favorite players to watch these last three years, but I couldn’t put him any higher with that injury history.
6. Kelvin Harmon, N.C. State
After being born in Liberia, Harmon moved to the US when he was four years old. He led New Jersey in receiving yards his senior year and was an all-state selection. He also immediately made in impact for the Wolfpack, winning the team’s award for the top freshman. As a sophomore he became the program’s first 1000-yard receiver since 2003, earning second-team All-ACC honors, and he improved to first-team all-conference with 81 catches for almost 1200 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Harmon has excellent size at 6’3”, 220 pounds. He gas the wheels to threaten defenses deep (13 catches of 20+ yards) and can punish the cushion he is given on quick in, hitch and curl routes. The consecutive 1000-yard receiver doesn’t waste much time with press-coverage with a strong swipe of the hands and often gets a step on the defender instantly due to refined footwork. Harmon shows smooth adjustments to the ball, as can turn around and come over the opposite shoulder mid-air. He is back-shoulder specialist, who makes bad throws look good and wins the vast majority of his 50-50 balls. He also shows fluid movements when high-pointing the ball, bringing the ball into his body and turning it away from the defender all in one motion. Overall I love the way he secures catches and doesn’t allow anybody to knock it out of his hands. He has no problem reaching out over the outside shoulder and catching the ball with ease, displaying excellent concentration when the ball is in the air, even with defenders draped all over the him.
For as much of a big-bodied wideout as Harmon is, he also runs very detailed double-moves that have defenders jumping on the initial break or turn the wrong way. He makes the most of his tools, pushing downfield to force his corner to open up and then working back to the ball out of his breaks, while also showing excellent awareness for the sideline. Harmon runs like a wild horse after the catch, breaking arm tackles and dragging defenders on his back. Moreover, he puts in the work as a blocker for his teammates with hands inside the defender’s frame and elite grip strength. He put on a clinic on sideline catches versus Boston College with both feet in bounds already as well as pushing guys around in the run game. He also torched Clemson for 155 yards in 2017 and just tore up the Syracuse secondary, as he got behind them multiple times last season.
It might be that N.C. State lined him up that far outside, but I thought Harmon needs to do a better job giving himself space towards the sideline. He is not the most explosive coming out of his breaks, especially on routes with breaks coming back towards the quarterback, and he lacks that final gear to run under balls that are slightly overthrown. He didn’t really clock the way you want to see from an outside receiver at 4.6 flat and caught only two passes from the slot last season for people thinking about putting him inside. For as physical as Harmon is after the catch, you are not going to confuse him for a guy, who slices right through a defense for house calls.
With that lack of elite top-speed, Harmon’s ceiling might be limited compared to some other guys on this list, but he is one of my favorite receivers to watch. He wins with strong hands and outstanding route-running acumen, while being maybe the best all-around blocker on this list. He understands how to set up defenders, stacks them incredibly well on vertical routes and works hard on his craft. If you need a big-bodied guy who can contribute from day one this is your man.
7. Riley Ridley, Georgia
The brother of former Alabama and now Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, Riley got to spend a cool moment with his brother when they could hug after the 2018 National Championship game, in which the younger of the two had kind of a breakout game with 82 receiving yards. Last year as a junior he led the Bulldogs with 44 catches for 570 yards and nine touchdowns on an offense that was built around the run and had a multitude of targets to throw to. In spite of just one year of production I look at him as one of the top prospects at the position.
Ridley has good size at 6’2”, 200 pounds. He might not be the most exciting receiver for the average fan, but I really appreciate the details to his route-running and the way he plays the position. You see the drumming of the arms and footwork to put corners on their heels as well as good swipes of the hands and reduction of the shoulder in his releases. Ridley creates a lot of separation coming out of his breaks and simultaneously turns upfield while catching the ball routes going back towards the quarterback. He is borderline uncoverable on curl routes, where he comes off the ball as a vertical threat and hits the breaks in a flash. Ridley also runs this wonderful corner-post, where he nods outside and gets safeties spinning, just like he did in the LSU game last year. The nuanced route-runner shows good awareness for back-shoulder fades and immediately gets ready to go across the field and start a one-on-one situation with the safety. He might not have burner speed, but I was okay with it when he ran in the high 4.5s at the combine, plus you see that extra gear to catch up when the ball is in the air.
The former Bulldog put up a passer rating of 133.3 when targeted as a junior. He caught 44 of 60 targets, giving him an average of just under ten yards per target, and dropped just two passes all year. Ridley plays the ball at its highest point and has strong hands to maintain the catch through the swiping hands of defenders. He might be the best in this class when it comes to catches outside his frame and he also shows good concentration when diving for the ball or reaching behind himself. Once he has the ball in his hands, Ridley ducks under tacklers, starts and stops, wiggles through contact and continues driving his legs for yards after the catch. His specialty is the back-juke to make a tackler whiff in space. When he is along the sideline, he doesn’t mind dropping the shoulder into a defender either. Moreover, Ridley is an excellent blocker for his fellow receivers on screens as well as in the run game, where gets inside the chest of defenders and understands when to let go to not draw a flag for holding.
The younger of the two Ridleys doesn’t give you that vertical threat on the outside that will scare defensive coordinators. While he is a nice overall athlete, there is nothing that really jumps out and you rarely see him win over the top. Ridley has shown the ability to release against press-coverage, but he has yet to do it well consistently. Production is the biggest question mark with this kid. While Georgia obviously spread the ball around a lot and the running backs were always the stars of the offense, you don’t see a lot of guys with Ridley’s potential produce at such a low level very often. He also was arrested for marijuana possession in 2017.
One of the very best route-runners and pure catchers of the ball in this wide receiver class, Ridley might not be the flashiest guy and land on many highlight reels, but I love the all-around skill-set to win off the line in different ways, the subtleties to his routes and his dependable hands. I think his game translates exceptionally well to the pros and I wouldn’t be shocked if his receiving numbers would double his rookie year compared to where they were last season.
8. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
The son of two professional basketball players, Arcega-Whiteside moved from Spain to the South Carolina when he was six years old. He went on to win the state’s Gatorade National Player of the Year, while also being an all-state selection in basketball. However, Arcega-Whiteside decided to go with football and after a redshirt freshman year, he scored five touchdowns as a reserve for the Cardinal. In his second season he was an honorable mention All-Pac 12 selection, leading his team with 48 catches, 781 yards and nine TDs. Arcega-Whiteside was a team captain in 2018 and improved to second-team all-conference with 63 receptions for over 1000 yards and 14 trips to the end-zone.
This dude is a big-bodied target in the passing game at more than 6’2”, 225 pounds. He excels in 50-50 ball situations, as he fights his way back towards the ball and even beats two defenders to the spot on some occasions with perfect high-point timing and little basketball tricks like putting one hand on the hip of the defender. Arcega-Whiteside led all college receivers with 18 contested catches last season. He clearly has enough speed to stress defenses over the top as well though, showcased by 16 catches of 20+ yards and an average of 16.8 yards per catch. The former Stanford receiver was guarded almost like Gronk at times, when it felt like defenders panicked and grabbed whatever they could. Arcega-Whiteside does an excellent job shielding defenders from the ball with his large frame on inside-breaking route and will grab the ball with his long arms stretched all the way out with tremendous body-control, while displaying strong hands. He earned PFF’s third-highest grade among all receivers last season, as his quarterback had a passer rating of 134.9 when targeting the former Cardinal wideout.
Arcega-Whiteside pushes his routes vertical and makes defenders lean backwards in order to open up room to come back towards the ball on curl routes. He will stutter more than you would want to see in his releases, but is surprisingly sudden when he getting into his route, especially when incorporating jab-steps. He had a ridiculous performance in the 2018 season-opener versus San Diego State when Bryce Love and the Stanford rushing attack couldn’t get going and K.J. Costello just chucked the ball up for his big wideout, who caught six passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns. I’m pretty sure Oregon DBs call him daddy after what he did to them these last two years, going for about 200 combined yards and four TDs despite heavy attention. Arcega-Whiteside has experience lining up wide on either side, in the slot and even at wing-man in some instances. He has some nice peel-back blocks on tape and obviously is hard to get around when he puts hands on you.
I felt like Arcega-Whiteside didn’t run any routes developing at beyond five yards outside of those curls and he even showed some deceleration on those. The large body doesn’t seem to have the ability to drop the hips and make those sharp cuts at full speed. Even though he primarily ran vertical routes and was highly successful at it, it was more due to his ability to win the battle for the ball downfield than an extra gear to create separation. You won’t see Arcega-Whiteside just take a slant the distance or make people miss in tight quarters very often. He could be labelled as a possession receiver and jump-ball specialist more than a dynamic playmaker by some people.
Arcega-Whiteside has some very surprising tape. Obviously you see the ability to just moss defenders with incredible box-out abilities, but he is a much more nuanced route-runner than you’d expect. He comes off the ball with good forward lean, eats up space and uses a wide base to keep his man off balance. It will be interesting to see what he clocks in the 40 at his pro day, because he clearly doesn’t have the burst to simply run by people, but he has shown plenty in that area to make him more than just an underneath receiver, while clearly being a monster at the goal-line.
9. Parris Campbell, Ohio State
Campbell was an all-state selection as a star athlete on the football field and as a track specialist. When he joined the Buckeyes it was hard for him to get touches with so many guys ahead of him early on, but he started making a name for himself as a kick returner his sophomore year. Campbell was named a team captain and continued to excel in the return game the following year, while also being named third-team All-Big Ten for over 700 yards from scrimmage. As a senior he turned himself into a first-team all-conference player, leading Ohio State with 90 catches for 1063 yards and 12 touchdowns.
This kid was the primary receiver on the most explosive aerial attack Ohio State might have ever had. He can really run and that speed has to be respected by the defense. He showcased that at the combine when he ran a 4.31 in the 40, including 1.48 in the 10-yard split, and went top-five in both leaping events as well as tied for first in the 20-yard shuttle at the position, before putting together an excellent on-field workout. Unlike a lot of those YAC-specialists, Campbell has no problem catching the ball with good technique. He consistently reaches out for it with full extension and doesn’t struggle with different placement, while bringing it into his body quickly and showing the toughness to hold onto ball despite taking a hit. The 6’0”, 205 receiver finds room to sit down against zone and is a good friend for scrambling quarterbacks, as he will find a way to get open.
Campbell was incredibly tough to guard running those crossing routes, where he had the option of sitting in voids against zone and ran away from people in man-coverage, which can lead to house calls easily. The same is true for jet sweeps and those touch passes, where he can build up momentum and threaten the edges of a defense. Campbell ran bubble and tunnel screens almost to perfection for Ohio State, showing good awareness for the defenders in space as well as his blocking getting set up. The dynamic receiver can drop his hips going in and out of breaks and create instant separation that way. He so dangerous after the catch, where he can shake defenders, tilt his body different ways avoid the grasps of tacklers and obviously has the speed to outrun the entire defense.. That way he recorded over ten yards per slot target these last two year and led all Big Ten receivers with a passer rating of 139.2 when targeted in 2018. Campbell puts in the effort as a blocker and is technically sound at breaking down and mirroring defenders.
His critics would say that he primarily ran bubble screens and shallow crossers out of the slot for the Buckeyes, When he did go vertical in the passing game, he showed little awareness for the downfield coverage and how to adjust his routes. For such a speedster to have that little plays where you see him go downfield and even less actually tracking the ball over the shoulder makes him a huge projection. A lot of development in his route-running will be required if you want him to be more than a gimmick player and contributor on mesh or shallow cross concepts. Campbell also barely saw man-coverage and press looks, that you can evaluate him on.
This kid is an elite-level athlete, who only had one year of being more than a gadget player and return specialist. Similar to a D.K. Metcalf, Campbell is largely a projection-based receiver. The potential is definitely there, but I’m not willing to quite put someone like that in first round consideration, which many people have done. I don’t see anything that would make me think he couldn’t develop into an all-around receiver, but he hasn’t shown me either. There are definitely things I really like however.
10. N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
This native of the island of Saint Virginia moved to Arizona with his grandmother at a young age and turned into a top 20 national recruit. He decided to join the Sundevils and became the team’s number one receiver instantly with 728 yards and seven touchdowns from scrimmage. In year two he was a first-team All-Pac 12 selection with over 1200 yards and eight scores, leading the conference in receiving yards per game. He put almost identical numbers as a junior and decided to go pro after repeating as first-team all-conference.
Harry is a competitive player, who scares DBs as soon as he steps off the bus with the build of a Greek god. He is master in 50-50 ball situations, where his QB just lofts the ball up his way. That way he just killed those smaller cornerbacks in the Pac-12 on back-shoulder fades and overall came down with 17 contested catches last season. Harry shows outstanding body-control, tracks the ball over his shoulder exceptionally well and makes some circus one-handed catches. He had to deal with a lot of badly placed balls and needed to fight harder for it than he should have had to or didn’t get the opportunity at all. Despite that he caught two-thirds of the passes thrown his way and he recorded almost ten yards per target last season. He had a great battle with Michigan State cornerback Justin Layne and was the only one to score on that guy all year long.
Even though Harry has that classic X-receiver type body, he also has experience catching bubble screens out of the slot, can snap his hips out of breaks really well for such a big body and makes his cuts at full speed. Arizona State put the ball in his hands quickly on hitch routes or tunnel screens as well. Harry is a physical runner with the ball in his hands, won’t go down easily, running through armbars and spinning off tacklers, but also has a way of avoiding contact with a multitude of moves in the open field and a strong stiff arm. As a blocker for his teammates, he uses that large frame and puts it right in front of defenders, forcing them to try to go through him, even though he overextends at times. When the ball is going away from him or the ball-carrier gets past him, Harry turns and runs downfield with him.
With that being said, Harry rarely created major separation from the guys he was lined up against. He relies heavily on his physical advantage and needs some technical refinement. Harry has yet to learn how to stack DBs on his vertical routes by using his big body to control the pace, but rather allows them catch back up on the route. He shows some wasted motion and unnecessary steps when trying to release, plus he doesn’t always dip his near shoulder to avoid contact by the defender and lets that guy ride him out wide even though Harry is physically superior. I thought he drifted a little into some of his routes and allowed defenders to get into the throwing window.
I thought Harry might be in the high 4.6s at the combine’s 40-yard dash, but he went for 4.53 and put on a show at the ASU pro day, including a spectacular one-handed grab. I didn’t think he played as fast as he measured and he still has a lot to learn, but he beats up defensive backs with size, strength and will. While I would definitely have liked to see him detach from defenders better, there wouldn’t be a lot of open catches in the NFL anyway and I like what he does with the ball in his hands.
Just missed the cut:
Emmanuel Hall, Missouri
This kid earned scholarships not only for his play on the football field as an All-State performer from Tennessee but also as a track star. Hall won a state championship in the high jump and two AAU Olympic Track gold medals in 2011. However, his production at Mizzou was off to a slow start initially, catching only 27 passes through his first two years as a reserve. While fighting through a hamstring injury early in 2017, Hall finished with eight touchdowns and nation-second leading 24.8 yards per reception for over 800 yards. Last season he was voted second-team All-SEC with 22.4 yards a catch and another 828 yards despite playing in just nine games. At 6’2”, 200 pounds, Hall’s track speed definitely shows up on the field, flying by defenders constantly. He beats people all the time with fades out wide and in the slot, where he uses his hands to avoid contact and stacks defenders. There were plays where Drew Lock just held onto the ball until his top receiver simply ran by the deep man in the defense’s two-high safety alignment and threw him bombs down the field. in all but one game I watched Hall killed the defense deep at least once. In 2017 he had two touchdowns of over 60 yards versus Georgia. Last year he put up a ridiculous 14.3 yards per target. Hall is very sudden to create separation on slant routes. His arm-drumming and footwork off the snap put defenders off balance immediately. He shows a lot of variety in his releases, with stutter-steps and swim moves. Hall can decelerate pretty quickly on curl and hitch routes as well. He is highly elusive after the catch and had on one my favorites move on tape where he made a Wyoming defender look absolutely stupid. Missouri utilized Hall on slip screens and let him make things happen with space as well. This is an extremely competitive player who makes sure to let defenders know. Hall guides people around a bit, but doesn’t really give you much as a blocker. He gets pushed into the boundary on some occasions and doesn’t have any space to keep his feet down in bounds. Hall dropped eight passes in 2017 and has some double-catches on tape. His route tree was highly limited in Mizzou’s Air Raid offense, where he either went straight downfield or broke inside on about 80 percent of the passing snaps. He’s had nagging injuries throughout his career and never played a full season as a starter. Hall cut his number of drops in half last season and displayed the ability to high-point the ball. To me he is the second-biggest deep threat in this class after Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown. Not only does he eat up cushion with long strides off the snap, but he also has that final gear to create late separation. Hall definitely needs to develop a more complete route-tree to keep defenses guessing, but I think he could be a valuable specialist for some team.
Myles Boykin, Notre Dame
Even though he missed three games as a senior, Boykin was named Illinois’ Player of the Year and came to the Fighting Irish as a four-star recruit. After spending a year on the practice squad, he didn’t put up any big numbers in his first two years until the Citrus Bowl versus LSU, when he took home MVP honors with 102 yards including a 55-yard one-handed grab to seal the victory. Boykin became the number one target in the passing game for the Irish in 2018, leading the team with 59 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns. Once Notre Dame made the switch to Ian Book at quarterback, they really started featuring Boykin and the offensive coordinator put the ball in his hands quickly on screen passes as well as downfield shots. The body-beautiful 6’4”, 220-pound wideout picked up a combined 52 first downs and touchdowns as part of a rather run-centric ND offense and looks to be even more productive in the pros. To go with his tape, he had a tremendous combine performance with a 4.42 in the 40, a 43.5-inch vertical, an 11’8” broad jump, some of the best numbers in the change-of-direction drills and a pretty flawless field workout. Boykin can roll his hips into breaks easily for a guy his size. He ran a bunch of comebacks and deep outs from a tighter split. The big body catches the ball outside his frame exceptionally well and has the strong arms to hold onto it despite defenders ripping at him. Boykin shows good adjustments to the ball on back-shoulder throws. Once he has the ball secured, his eyes immediately turn upfield and he is looking for how to maximize the yardage. What I really like are his YAC – not yards after the catch, but after contact. Boykin is also a physical run-blocker who brings the necessary effort and keeps a tight grip on defenders. He bullies smaller cornerbacks and doesn’t mind throwing a shoulder at a linebacker on sweep or toss plays as a crack-blocker either. Boykin simply couldn’t break free from Vanderbilt’s JoeJuan Williams, who is a long press-corner and could match his physicality. He has some weird releases and doesn’t always stack his defender properly on downfield routes. Boykin tries to beat press with brute strength over finesse and footwork, which doesn’t come with too much success. He is kind of a one-speed receiver, who doesn’t really pace his steps or shows sudden burst to detach vertically. After the catch he isn’t the most elusive player and doesn’t really make people miss either. Boykin’s all-around athleticism is off the charts. He has just one season plus a breakout game on tape that really show any of his skills however. I think he is definitely worth a day two selection because of his rare physical gifts and I see the effort to translate it to the football field. If he wants to make a living in the NFL he will need to learn how to release from press and bring a little more variability to his route-running.
The next guys up:
Terry McLaurin (Ohio State), Jalen Hurd (Baylor), Anthony Johnson (Buffalo), Andy Isabella (UMass), Gary Jennings & David Sills (West Virginia), Jakobi Meyers (N.C. State), DaMarkus Lodge (Ole Miss), KeeSean Johnson (Fresno State), Antoine Wesley (Texas Tech), Stanley Morgan (Nebraska), Preston Williams (Colorado State), Mecole Hardman (Georgia), Diontae Johnson (Toledo), Keelan Doss (UC Davis), Anthony Ratliff-Williams (North Carolina), Penny Hart (Georgia State), Hunter Renfrow (Clemson) Greg Dortch (Wake Forest)