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2018 NFL Draft: Wide Receiver Rankings

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Ranking the 2018 NFL Draft prospects heading into the draft.

NCAA Football: Frisco Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Southern Methodist Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft begins this coming Thursday night, and this year I sifted through enough video to compile an 85-man draft board. These are players I’ve seen play a minimum of three games each, and I have given consideration to each prospect’s college production, size, and athletic profile. If the player was injured, and did not work out prior to the draft, he did not make the cut (sorry, Billy Price). As for others who do not appear in these rankings, I either did not see enough of them to establish a firm grade, graded them as a “free agent,” or felt they were lacking a baseline level of production, athleticism, or both. I will be happy to try to answer any specific questions in the comments section, or on twitter (@afc2nfc).

KEY

Rd = Round Grade
Pos = Projected NFL Position
Age* = Age as of 12/31/18
HT = Height (6025 = 6’2 5/8”)
WT = Weight
Hand = Hand Size (938 = 9 3/8”)
Arm = Arm Length (3418 = 34 1/8”)
Bench = # of reps at 225 lbs
40 yard = 40-yard dash time in seconds
VJ = Vertical Jump in inches
BJ = Broad Jump in inches
3C = 3-cone time in seconds
SS = 20-yard (short) shuttle time in seconds

COLOR CODING

Blue = Top of the Line
Green = Above Average
Yellow = Average
Orange = Below Average
Red = Concerning

WIDE RECEIVERS

Courtland Sutton

He’s a big receiver with a basketball background, but to me, Sutton’s greatest strengths have always been his body control along the sidelines on outbreaking routes and back shoulder throws, and his run-after-catch ability. The SMU junior stunned some analysts with his elite agility testing, but it shows up on tape when he quickly takes a short slant or crossing route upfield, and turns it into a big play. He reminds me of Josh Gordon on these reps. Sutton should be one of the first three receivers off the board this week.

Key Stat: 16.5 yards per catch and 31 touchdowns on 195 career receptions

Christian Kirk

Kirk is an outstanding “space” player, who gets open and makes defenders miss routinely. He’s a solidly built guy who plays with toughness and strength, and he’ll break out a nasty stiff arm when the situation calls for it. Kirk projects as a slot receiver - where he saw the majority of his college production - and he should see a high volume of touches. He’s also an outstanding special teams player. Kirk has been nudged out of the national spotlight since some lackluster agility testing at the combine, but something is up with those numbers. He came came up 0.3 seconds slower in the shuttle than he had at essentially the same weight in high school. Perhaps he was still feeling the late effects of an ugly rolled ankle suffered in a late December bowl game. An injury Kirk played through, by the way.

Key Stat: Averaged six catches per game and scored 33 touchdowns (26 receiving, six on punt returns, and one kick return) in 39 career games

James Washington

Washington put together an exceptional college career and drew rave reviews from Senior Bowl practices, but because he measured in at a shade under 5’11”, some analysts have questions about how his game will translate. I believe draftniks are also having trouble with his unique look: long-limbed despite not being tall, with a short torso and no neck. Washington simply doesn’t look like a receiver who would win deep, and outfight his opponent for the ball, but that’s exactly what he has done, consistently, for the past four years.

Key Stat: 19.8 yards per reception on 226 career catches

D.J. Moore

Moore is extremely popular among fantasy football and analytics specialists because of his size, speed and market-share production at a young age. As a junior at Maryland, he dealt with an almost impossibly bad quarterback situation, and still won the Big Ten Receiver of the Year award. Moore can be electric after the catch, and shows the ability to track the ball deep, but he didn’t always get the type of separation I’d like to see on the outside. There’s no denying his potential, I just think he’ll take a little longer to come along than the first three guys on this list.

Key Stat: 6.7 catches per game and nine total TDs in 12 games in 2017

Antonio Callaway

In making lists like these, I have the luxury of including a player like Callaway in my top five receivers, while NFL teams may be forced to leave him off the board completely due to a laundry list of off-field red flags. Callaway didn’t even play in 2017 as he dealt with credit card fraud charges, but his 2016 tape is some of the best out there, and he might even be the top deep threat in the class. Callaway posted a 4.41 40 at the combine without even being in good playing shape. The guy might be a headache and he might associate with unsavory characters - all I know is what’s on Google - but if he ever figures it out, he’ll be a fantastic pro player.

Key Stat: 15.7 yards per catch on 89 career receptions

Calvin Ridley

So many analysts made a big stink about Ridley’s entirely predictable combine results. He’s a thin dude, not a particularly explosive leaper, but he’s also a guy with above average speed and agility. I don’t think receivers have to be SPARQ freaks to succeed, they just need to be placed in a role that best fits their skill set. Ridley was being over-projected - no way an older prospect his size should’ve ever seen top 10-15 hype - but placed in a complimentary role, I can see a Marvin Jones-type career. That’s not bad, we just have to be realistic about the expectations.

Key Stat: 15.4 yards per catch in 2017

Anthony Miller

Like Ridley, Miller is an older prospect, and he also carries some apparent medical concerns related to a foot injury that slowed him early in the draft season. Still, he recovered sufficiently to the point of posting some eye-popping workout numbers at his pro day. I think he’s similar to Taywan Taylor from last year’s class, a receiver who can play outside or in the slot, though I don’t think quite as fast. Miller has mitts for hands, and is adept at adjusting to and pulling in off-target throws. He’s a guy who should see the field early in his career.

Key Stat: 6.3 catches per game, 15.1 yards per catch, and 40 touchdowns in 38 career games

Michael Gallup

Gallup is a physical, sturdy receiver who’s strong after the catch and can dig out tough throws. He put together two terrific seasons for Colorado State after arriving from junior college, and he tested out as more explosive than I thought he would. For a team who misses a chance at Moore early on, Gallup would serve as a nice consolation prize.

Key Stat: 16.7 yards per catch and 14 touchdowns in 13 games in 2016

Tre’Quan Smith

Hard to imagine a 6’2” receiver with sub-4.5 speed from an undefeated FBS program would still be flying under the radar, but Smith has received minimal hype from Big Draft media, and only seems appreciated by the fantasy football community. Whether out of the slot or split out wide, the Central Florida product has shown the ability to make contested catches, adjust to poorly thrown passes, and pick up tough yards after the catch. He’s also a willing blocker in the run and screen game. Smith caught at least 52 passes each of the last three seasons, and improved on his catch totals, receiving average, and scoring each year.

Key Stats: 19.8 yards per reception last season, 16.4 career

DaeSean Hamilton

Penn State’s all-time leading receiver afforded himself well with strong weeks at both the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. While he uncharacteristically battled some drops, his ability to get open at will impressed evaluators on hand at both events. Exhausted from his whirlwind all-star tour, Hamilton wisely opted not to run at the combine, but later posted a satisfactory 40-time at his pro day. He has experience inside and outside, and projects best to the slot, where his size will give him some favorable matchups. I thought Hamilton became a little bit overrated at one point in the process, but his stock seems to have settled into the early Day Three area, and I think he’ll prove to be an excellent value.

Key Stat: 214 career receptions

Equanimeous St. Brown

After a 961-yard, nine-touchdown season in 2016, I thought St. Brown was poised for a breakout junior season, but his production fell off a cliff after the departure of DeShone Kizer. St. Brown has a lanky frame, and isn’t especially sudden out of his breaks, but he does have exceptional long speed for a big man. I can’t completely give him a pass for his quarterback situation, but I still love his potential.

Key Stat: 16.1 yards per catch on 91 career receptions

D.J. Chark

With sub-4.4 speed, and positive reviews from the Senior Bowl, Chark has been marketed as the deep threat in this year’s draft class. As with Will Fuller, drafted in the first round two years ago, we’ve seen this idea work. When healthy, Fuller has flourished as a compliment to DeAndre Hopkins, and was especially dangerous with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Chark is bigger than Fuller, and has bigger hands, but his college production pales in comparison. To illustrate the point, Fuller scored 20 more touchdowns from scrimmage over his final two college seasons than Chark did. This isn’t to say Chark doesn’t have a role as a field stretcher at the next level, I’ve just never thought of him as a guy who struck fear into the hearts of his opponents. Thing is, he has the fastest timed speed in the class on offense, so whoever wants him has to consider pulling the trigger early.

Key Stat: 66 career receptions in four seasons (20.5 yards per catch)

Allen Lazard

Several receivers get a concession for playing in poor quarterback situations, but I’ve never seen one given to Lazard, whose quarterback carousel at Iowa State included current linebacker prospect Joel Lanning. Despite the instability, Lazard improved his catch and touchdown total each year in Ames, finishing his career with 241 receptions and 26 scores. Some analysts have discussed moving Lazard to tight end at the pro level, but I think that’s an overreaction. I see him as a guy who can still win matchups outside, especially in the red zone.

Key Stat: 10 TDs in 13 games as a senior

Justin Watson

Penn’s all-time leading receiver had a draft season similar to Hamilton’s, conquering the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl experiences, and capping things off with an outstanding pro day. Watson can use his frame to shield off defensive backs, but can also win downfield, and has shown a knack for acrobatic catches.

Key Stat: 286 catches in 40 career games

Deon Cain

With Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams gone to the NFL, Cain transitioned from deep threat to a higher volume role in 2017, but it never really took. His only 100-yard game came against the Citadel, and his receiving average dipped by more than six yards per catch. Cain is a good-sized guy with small hands - contested catches were not his game - but he’s still a fast guy who can get behind the defense. I’d like to see him back in that role, where he can compliment other receivers instead of trying to be the man.

Key Stat: 19.1 yards per reception in 2016

Trey Quinn

After transferring from LSU, Quinn played one season at SMU, and actually led the Mustangs in catches despite the presence of Courtland Sutton. Quinn is the consummate slot receiver with big hands, short-area quickness, and precision route running ability. It’s not a particularly rare skill-set, so Quinn will probably be available late on Day Three, but he’s a good bet to outplay his draft position.

Key Stat: 114 catches and 13 touchdowns in 13 games last season

Keke Coutee

Coutee capped a productive junior season with a strong performance in the Red Raiders’ bowl game, but I see him as more of a gadget player than a top-four receiver on a team. He’s got a small catch radius, so while he has good speed I don’t see him winning downfield consistently at the pro level. I like that he can turn the corner on a jet sweep, or even take a snap out of the backfield, and he should contribute on special teams, but I’m not sure this is a player who ever sees more than a handful of touches per game.

Key Stat: 19 total touchdowns in 25 games over the past two seasons