It has been 22 years since the NFL has seen such a talented pool of receiving draft prospects. Wait a second, I am not saying this group will be as talented or as successful as the receivers from the 1996 draft, but I cannot remember a recent draft with as much talent at this position. Usually there are a few receivers which are draft worthy in the first couple of rounds before the talent declines significantly. This year I see no drop off in talent.
2018’s receiving class is scattered with different types of receivers. There are deep threat receivers who blow defenses with their speed, precision route runners, contested catchers and red zone monsters. I will breakdown the following draft prospects based on these qualities.
Receivers who use their speed to make plays and score touchdowns.
James Washington- Oklahoma State
Washington had a spectacular senior season, amassing 74 receptions for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns. Due to these stats, he received the “Biletnikoff Award”, awarded to the nation’s best receiver. Washington had a ton of success on deep passes, using his speed to run past safeties. In addition to speed, Washington also shows great instinct after the catch, allowing him to run for huge gains. This style will give him plenty of looks from NFL teams who are missing that one player to stretch the defense.
Christian Kirk- Texas A&M
Although Kirk did not have as many long TD catches as Washington, I put him in this category due to his speed. He often used his speed to gain separation from the secondary, which led to big yardage plays. Kirk also spent time on special teams, as a kick/punt returner and showed great run ability. Like Washington, Kirk can be used in a similar role at the next level due to his speed and vision.
Keke Coutee- Texas Tech
Another kick returner receiver, Coutee showed his speed in more ways than one. Coutee was a deep threat weapon for the Red Raiders, burning the secondary with ease. Like a center fielder, Coutee shows the ability to track the deep ball well. If NFL teams are looking for a late draft flyer, he could be the guy.
Precision Route Runners
These are the receivers who use their route running ability to get free and gain big yardage per reception.
Calvin Ridley- Alabama
Rated the top wide receiver in this year’s draft, Ridley uses his great route running to get free. In addition to that, he displays great hands, ability to catch while being tightly guarded and the cherry on top, great speed. This past season, Ridley had 63 receptions, 967 yards and 5 touchdowns. Although his 2017 stats weren’t eye popping, he had been a consistent weapon for the offense dating back to his freshman season. Ridley has been compared to fellow alum, Amari Cooper. Which could be considered an unfair comparison due to Cooper’s inconsistent play. Ridley is similar but if healthy, can become a valuable weapon for an NFL team. He could be used in a similar role as Antonio Brown, creating a mismatch off the line of scrimmage. Given his ability, Ridley is a lock as a 1st round draft selection.
Auden Tate- Florida State
Tate is a big and well-rounded receiver, with great route running ability. In addition to that, he has great hands and is physical after the catch. Projected a 2nd to 3rd round selection, this gives NFL teams the ability to acquire a talented receiver later in the draft.
D.J. Chark- LSU
Chark is another receiver who can gain separation with his route running. This was evident during the Senior Bowl when he was named co-MVP, gaining 160 yards, a touchdown on 5 receptions. Another important trait Chark holds is his speed. If given space, he can turn a reception into a score. One thing I noticed while watching his 2017 tape, is his footwork. Because of his punt return duties, he uses side steps to get the defense unbalanced and gain extra yards. Chark could be a day 2 steal in this year’s draft.
Equanimous St. Brown- Notre Dame
One of Notre Dame’s best receiving weapons the past 2 seasons. St. Brown is a big bodied receiver with great speed. Given inconsistent Quarterback play during his time at Notre Dame, St. Brown showed great catching and breakaway ability. Could be considered a #2 receiver in any NFL team. If he is drafted by a team with a great quarterback, his upside will be through the roof.
Physical Pass Catchers
These are the receivers who are able to catch highly contested balls despite coverage and also create YAC because of their physicality.
D.J. Moore- Maryland
Moore was one of the most electrifying receivers in the nation. It is hard not to admire his playmaking abilities. Moore does an excellent job of getting past the defense for big plays. Although he had a handful of long TD receptions, his physicality jumped out at me. He never gives up on a run and fights for the extra yards. Moore surpassed 1000 yards receiving and scored 8 TDs in 2017.
Anthony Miller- Memphis
One of the things that makes Miller an interesting prospect is his pass catching ability. He displays great body control and has excellent hands. In addition, he provides excellent speed which allows him to produce big plays. His physicality is what I admire the most. He does not back down from any defender and makes sure to hit them head on regardless of his size. Miller had an exceptional senior season, accumulating 1,462 yards on 96 receptions with 18 TDs (That’s right 18!). The most incredible thing is that he produced similar numbers his junior year by gaining 1,434 yards on 95 receptions and 14 TDs. It’s crazy that an NFL team can acquire this type of receiver on day 2 of the NFL draft.
Michael Gallup- Colorado State
Gallup provides huge upside for day 2 selection. Gallup does an excellent job of tracking the ball and coming down with it. Not to mention, he provides speed with physicality allowing him to break tackles for YAC. Gallup had a sensational season, catching the football 100 times, with 1,413 yards and 7 TDs.
Red Zone Monsters
Big bodied receivers with great jumping ability and strong hands.
Courtland Sutton- SMU
Measuring at 6’4, Sutton provides great size and great/strong hands which makes him a perfect red zone weapon. All season long, he provided big play ability for the Mustangs and consistently gained separation from defenders. Sutton is surprisingly fast for a bigger framed receiver and runs well after the catch. Given all these attributes, he is a polished receiver who can be ready for the NFL, on day one.
Simmie Cobbs Jr.- Indiana
The first thing that jumps out on tape is Cobbs great concentration against tight coverage. In addition to his size, his physicality makes him difficult to guard. He has great jumping ability, which makes it easy for him to grab the ball at its highest point. Lastly, Cobbs runs well for a bigger receiver allowing him to gain yard after the catch. The possibility of getting this type of receiver on day 2, is mind blowing.
Marcell Ateman- Oklahoma State
Playing opposite of James Washington, Ateman produced very good numbers for the Cowboys. He was able to gain 1,156 yards on 59 receptions and 8 TDs. Given his size at 6’4, Ateman does an excellent job of coming down with the jump balls. This could be a deciding factor for an NFL team looking for a red zone threat.
These are the receivers who could definitely make an impact given their pass catching abilities. These receivers will most likely be available later in the draft which could motivate them to succeed in the NFL.
DaeSean Hamilton- Penn State
Hamilton is a solid route runner who catches well in traffic. Was a great red zone weapon for the Nittany Lions.
Jaleel Scott- New Mexico State
Scott is a big receiver with strong hands. Measuring at 6’6, he is a great jump ball catcher which makes him a red zone threat.
Deion Cain- Clemson
Cain has been a great receiving weapon for the Tigers the last few seasons. Used as a vertical pass catcher, Cain provides great hands.
This year’s NFL draft is unique in the sense that teams will be able to focus on other positions before addressing the receiver position. I know I am obsessively focused on this position mainly because it is a crucial team need for my beloved, Chicago Bears. Based on the draft prospects’ level of talent, I feel somewhat at ease that a solid NFL starter or a stud playmaker can be acquired in the later rounds. It will be interesting to see how we rate this draft in a couple of seasons.