Not the best positional group in this draft by a longshot. I only have two receivers I’d even consider in the first round. I do like the projected Day Two wideouts quite a bit as productive NFL contributors with the potential for a breakout campaign or two. Most of the names beyond the top 10 are strict niche fits, be it the slot or red zone/possession or deep speed blazer more than a useful all-around WR.
1. Courtland Sutton, SMU
Well-built (6-3/218) target with soft hands at the end of sculpted long arms. Catches anything near him and has ample experience adjusting to poorly thrown balls in the air, an underrated skill. Physically tough, able to play through contact and fight off jams and holds. Tested better athletically than expected at the Combine, running a 4.54 and doing well in explosion and agility drills. If those impressive figures translate to the field, it ameliorates the biggest knock on Sutton: he does everything a half-count slower than desired. Just did not show the twitch or wiggle in his routes to get separation from better man-coverage corners in college. Gregarious personality and highly-praised work ethic will endear him to teammates and fans, very easy guy to root for. Late 1st-mid 2nd rounder, likely goes in the 20s.
2. Calvin Ridley, Alabama
He’s sort of the anti-Sutton. An excellent, precise route runner with loose hips and ankles and the ability to change speeds and timbre instantly, but he’s not physical and doesn’t win contested catches well. He also doesn’t handle press coverage if he can’t make the initial jam miss. Came in lighter (189) and with shorter arms (31 inches on his 6-0 frame) than expected. Has both acceleration and a top gear with his 4.43 40 time to make it seem more dynamic. Good blocker. Has had some drop issues and often double-catches harder-thrown balls. Is older (turns 24 as a rookie) and doesn’t have the physical growth potential to add much bulk on his frame. Reminds me some of Marvin Jones and projects similarly as a very good No. 2 WR but unlikely to thrive as a team’s top target. Will go in the top 30, shouldn’t go before about 40th overall.
3. D.J. Chark, LSU
A definite projection on what he could be in the future. Chark has outstanding size (6-3/199, 33.5-inch arms) and legit 4.33 speed with instant acceleration. He averaged almost 22 yards per catch on his 40 receptions as LSU’s top receiver in 2017. His production and development as a receiver was greatly hindered by quarterback play that would get many FCS-level QBs benched. He’s not anywhere close to the 3rd-best wideout in class right now, but with 2-3 years of legit coaching and playing with a QB who he can trust, Chark has a higher ceiling and similar game to Will Fuller, but with better hands and more natural elusiveness after the catch. Clark has ability to contribute as a return man and on jet sweeps and gadget plays. Second rounder with high boom/bust potential.
4. Anthony Miller, Memphis
Miller reminds me a great deal of criminally underappreciated Eric Martin, the Saints standout from the late 80s-early 90s. Very smooth mover, tough as nails in tight spaces, not top-end fast but nifty with changing gears. Miller doesn’t have Martin’s impeccable hands but might be a better runner after the catch. Would not surprise me at all if he winds up catching the most career passes of anyone in this class, but might not win the yardage or TD categories. Solid 2nd round talent.
5. D.J. Moore, Maryland
I wrote a scouting report on Moore for Browns Wire, check it out for my thoughts. The quick skinny: Golden Tate-lite, but not as polished coming out. I’d take him in the 60s, he’ll be long gone by that point in the draft.
6. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
An odd duck as a receiver, with the build and movement skills of a bigger outside receiver but the height and route savvy of a slot receiver, where he primarily played for the Aggies. He’s not fast nor exceptionally quick, but Kirk uses a barrage of shoulder, hip, head and foot moves and fakes to get separation. Good runner after the catch and a willing blocker. Has a great sense for the exact moment to make his moves to catch the defender off-balance or unable to react instantly. Showed some problems catching the ball while at full speed and doesn’t adjust well to throws over his head or behind the expected spot. Wildly hit/miss as a return man and might not get the anticipated opportunity at the NFL level if he doesn’t cut back on the “miss” quantity. A more physical Sterling Shepard. 3rd round.
7. James Washington, Oklahoma State
Preeminent college outside-the-hashes deep threat, but much of what he accomplished for the Cowboys was a product of their system and scheme. His athletic testing was average across the board and that limits his upside and his size and odd build (a top-heavy 5-11/213) doesn’t fit what NFL teams look for as a deep threat. Having said that, Washington is very good at shaking and baking at his release and hits top speed in proper timing. Can be physical with the ball in the air and shows great competitiveness. Flashed impressive blocking ability when runs were designed to come his way. Needs a lot of work on positional nuance but is not a diva and both teammates and opponents raved about his character. Has that intangible “baller” trait. Third round and I have no real good feel for where the NFL sees him.
8. Dante Pettis, Washington
Electric, eccentric speedster with supreme return ability in addition to his receiving skills. Son of MLB standout Gary Pettis. Runs impressive routes and his 4.40 speed is not straight-line. Has decent feet and can make sharp breaks on hooks and outs. At 6-0 and 188 has just enough size to play outside but also the feet to operate from the slot. If he could add 5-7 pounds of muscle and not slow down it would help him a lot, as Pettis doesn’t catch contested throws well and can get pushed off his routes, notably at the release point (see Stanford and Penn State games). Was limited in college with what he could do deep because of his weak-armed QB. Second-best return man (after Western Michigan CB Darius Phillips) in this draft class. Has some Desean Jackson, some Brandin Cooks to him. Third round, likely won’t last that long.
9. Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame
Built like a stretch-4 in hoops and plays football like one too. At 6-5 and 214 he has length and likes to use it on the periphery to get easier targets against smaller corners. Doesn’t play through contact consistently but did show flashes (see Michigan State) where he can physically dominate if duly fired up. Has deceptive speed and a chase gear in the open field with his long legs. I saw him in person five times and he never dropped a catchable pass. Used to catching inaccurate throws and working with improvisational QBs. Inconsistent player with high-end potential but low floor too. I predict he’ll go exactly where I want him, to the Chicago Bears in the third round.
10. Richie James, Middle Tennessee State
Quicker-than-fast slot receiver, but he’s also fast. That’s the kind of nifty feet and balance James has both in routes and with the ball in his hands. Short and small-framed (5-9/175) likely limits his usage, and a broken collarbone and ankle injury last fall marred his final season. Former HS quarterback who can play Wildcat and works well on jet sweeps, can even line up at tailback. Catches everything near him, but often not cleanly and isn’t going to reach many errant throws. Compares to Randall Cobb as a prospect though he’s not quite as tall; very similar games and NFL potential. Late 3rd-mid 4th on my board, James might go undrafted.
11. TreQuan Smith, UCF
12. DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
13. Daurice Fountain, Northern Iowa
14. Michael Gallup, Colorado State
15. Keke Coutee, Texas Tech
16. Cedrick Wilson, Boise State
17. Deon Cain, Clemson
18. Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State
19. Braxton Berrios, Miami FL
20. Auden Tate, Florida State
21. JMon Moore, Missouri
22. Justin Wilson, Penn
23. Byron Pringle, Kansas State
24. Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State
25. Simmie Cobbs, Indiana
26. Antonio Callaway, Florida
27. Jake Wieneke, South Dakota State
28. Deontay Burnett, USC
29. Korey Robertson, Southern Miss
30. Dylan Cantrell, Texas Tech
Jeff Badet, Oklahoma
Russell Gage, LSU
Allen Lazard, Iowa State
Jester Weah, Pittsburgh
Davon Grayson, East Carolina
Karaun White, West Virginia
Darren Carrington, Oregon
Devonte Boyd, UNLV
Armanti Foreman, Texas
Jamarion Grant, Rutgers
Nick Holley, Kent State
Steven Dunbar, Houston
Bryce Bobo, Colorado
Sergio Bailey, Eastern Michigan
Who you want after the top-10 largely depends on what role you want. There are big outside guys (Tate, Moore, Cain, Smith, Burnett, Scott), there are natural slot guys (Hamilton, Coutee, Berrios). There are bad boys (Callaway and Pringle, both likely undrafted due to off-field flags) and there are future Congressmen (Berrios again, Badet, Wilson). There are even several more wideouts I didn’t list here because I didn’t see enough of them to have an informed opinion but could impress enough to stick in the NFL. If you have questions about any of the players I didn’t break down here, please hit me on Twitter @JeffRisdon.