Earlier than we hop into the column, I wish to encourage everybody to take a look at NFL Draft Warfare Room with Thor & Lindsay, a dwell NBC Sports activities EDGE authentic Twitch present I will be doing each week from now by way of the draft with NFL agent Lindsay Criminal. The present will sometimes be on Wednesday nights, however this week might be Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. In the event you be part of us dwell, Lindsay will reply any questions you may have. This week, one of many subjects up for dialogue is the Isaiah Wilson saga, of which Lindsay is aware of a lot.
Click on right here for Half 1, the place we run by way of the receivers I rank WR 1-9. On with the present!
A highschool monitor long-jumping star and highly-sought after four-star soccer recruit, Wallace selected Oklahoma State and summarily dominated within the Pokes’ wide-open offense for 4 seasons (93rd percentile school dominator), breaking out as a 19-year-old freshman (84th percentile), with a high-water mark of 1,489 receiving yards in 2018 that led the P5.
His 2019 season was shortened by a torn ACL. Had Wallace not gotten damage, he would already be within the NFL. Right here’s Cowboys HC Mike Gundy talking about Wallace’s return to OSU in 2020: “[If Tylan] would not have gotten injured, he would’ve come out and I am fairly sure he’d be a second-round choose. I really feel like he would’ve thought he was able to go. The damage set him again, from a efficiency standpoint — can run a 40, cannot have a professional day, cannot exercise — so that may’ve knocked him right down to a minimum of the fourth spherical, possibly later.”
Wallace performed the skin WR-Z position in Oklahoma State’s offense, all the time on the correct facet. Over his profession, Wallace proved to be one of many nation’s greatest deep-ball artists. He’s a cork out of the bottle off the snap, and he’s received sprinter wheels (reported 4.39 pace on the EXOS mix).
Wallace has dimension limitations, however does his greatest to fight them. He performs like a canine, aggressive, scrappy and defiant. Wallace appears to benefit from the artwork of in-air combat combating about as a lot as any space of receiver play. Maybe it’s his background in prep long-jumping, the place he was a state finalist within the triple-jump. He’s received a knack for monitoring, not tipping off his intention too early, timing his leap, getting each his toes beneath him, and going airborne.
So, certain — he’s a 6-foot downfield man. And also you doubt his potential to maintain profitable downfield within the NFL. However Wallace sometimes will get to the spot first, places himself in the most effective place to get the ball, and places his springs to good use. There’s a motive he led the FBS with 43 contested catches the final three years (and completed fourth in 2020 with 13).
And whereas I perceive pessimism about NFL translation from this offense, I’ll say, in Wallace’s protection, that, in contrast to Corey Coleman, who performed in an analogous system (or, for that matter, manufactured-touch guys on this class like Rondale Moore/Kadarius Toney), Wallace didn’t feast on straightforward throws in house near the road of scrimmage that he turned upfield like a glorified working again. Wallace ranked No. 26, No. 8 and No. 12, respectively, within the nation the previous three years in yards per route run.
Final yr, Wallace had as many catches 20-plus yards downfield as he had at or behind the road of scrimmage, and he had even distribution within the 0-9 and 10-19 sectors, lethal, specifically, on slants (and I’m not making a joke about Spencer Sanders hospital balls!).
It’s straightforward to get seduced by Wallace’s downfield acumen, however he’s an underrated route runner. He reveals the power to catch the ball outdoors his body and switch upfield, the place he turns into a troublesome runner with pace equal to teammate Chuba Hubbard.
I’ve heard questions that Wallace gained’t be capable to stick on the skin within the NFL. He’s going to must reply questions on getting off press protection. That’s the most important query about his analysis proper now, and a big unknown, since he didn’t face it a lot in OSU’s unfold schema.
Wallace additionally, after all, has a smaller catch radius for an outdoor, downfield receiver. I feel this really manifests in his drop numbers greater than different receivers, as a result of he will get to balls which are more durable to catch greater than different receivers do.
This was notably the case in 2018, when he was focused an astounding 149 instances, together with 50 targets 20-or-more yards downfield. That season, Wallace caught 86 balls however dropped 9, nonetheless a troubling quantity. His catch fee improved drastically over the past two years, with 102 mixed catches on 179 targets with seven drops.
However with this type of get-off off the road, pace, toughness, hops and confirmed downfield acumen, Wallace must be good for a powerful pop-the-top WR2 profession like Alvin Harper/Mike Wallace, if nothing else. I feel he can turn into a powerful starter, like Robert Woods, who wins in comparable methods within the NFL with an analogous body.
With individuals within the business having cooled on Wallace through the years, I truthfully thought I had grow to be the best man on the totem ballot on him, with essentially the most aggressive comp. I believed so till the evening earlier than this column printed, once I learn a quote from an NFL assistant in Lance Zierlein’s expose: “I am telling you [Tylan Wallace] would be the subsequent Steve Smith. He is the identical sort of competitor and (has the) identical sort of bounce ball abilities.”
A highschool monitor state champion and Bruce Feldman “Freak’s” alum, Eskridge’s 4.33 wheels stay his calling card (he’s alongside a weight room beast that boasts a 37.5-inch vertical). Eskridge moonlighted at nook in 2019 however moved again to receiver full-time in 2019.
He’s a big-play ready to occur that averaged 21.8 yards per catch over his remaining 74 catches and 27.5 yards per return with a TD as kick returner final yr. Due to his play energy limitations, he’s going to must kick inside to fit on the subsequent stage.
There, he’s going to must show he can promote routes, work by way of site visitors, and catch by way of contact. However he’s received world-class athleticism for the job, and in addition this: Eskridge completed No. 1 within the nation in yards after the catch final yr. Dang if this isn’t a smooth starter equipment for a pop-topping slot with gadget, particular groups, and even emergency defensive versatility.
12. Nico Collins, Michigan | 6’4/215
Comp: N’Keal Harry
Nico Collins thought-about Alabama, LSU and Florida popping out of highschool however in the end signed with Michigan. He opted out in 2020. Fascinating to ponder what might have been if he’d performed 4 years at any of the three aforementioned packages, all robust throwing groups, as an alternative of three at Michigan.
He led the Large 10 with 19.7 yards per catch in 2019 regardless of having the accuracy-averse Shea Patterson throwing him the ball. Collins wants a runway to get going, however he’s a freight prepare when he does, and when he will get a made-to-order bounce ball, he can go-up-and-get-it with the most effective of them.
Collins is a prototypical dimension/pace outdoors receiver, a rangy, muscular athlete with galloping pace. Constructed lengthy and robust, Collins does an admirable job leveraging his strengths down the sector to win separation, swiping away corners’ arms, beating press with energy and footwork, utilizing his arms to maintain tabs on the defender and preserve him outdoors his body, and enjoying energy ahead downfield on 50-50 balls, pinning defenders to his bottom earlier than going above the rim.
Collins is a kind of receivers that’s irritating to judge as a result of his flash performs will be jaw-droppers, however generally you would possibly wait a number of minutes in a cut-up, by way of a number of drives, and a number of quarters, earlier than you see anything of be aware. A few of that’s his fault. A few of it isn’t. Patterson did Collins no favors.
However it’s nonetheless troubling that Collins was a non-factor in so many drives. Focus drops will be a problem, and Collins has hassle separating in opposition to high-end corners. He doesn’t have an issue getting off the road, however he wants a runway and several other steps to construct as much as high pace, which is unlucky, since pace is his particular sauce.
The problem with Collins is that he lacks twitch, laboring to each get going and in addition change instructions. The latter challenge actually hurts his utility within the intermediate recreation, as a result of he telegraphs his intentions, permitting corners to crowd him and bounce the road. It’s potential he would have made strides on this space in 2020 with out Shea Patterson’s errant throws, however as an opt-out, we simply don’t know.
Whereas Collins has a very good understanding of route-running, he’s by no means going to be a plus in that space as a result of he loses momentum altering instructions and out of breaks and has to spherical his cuts. With little burst or twitch, and working with much less thunder than he might at his dimension, Collins is a sitting duck with the ball in his arms if you may get your arms on him (eight damaged tackles on 78 profession catches).
We all know he’s going to be a deep-ball/catch-point specialist — on the very least, a N’Keal Harry sort. If Collins returns from his furlough as a more-complete receiver, although, he might shock.
I provide the bizarro Rashod Bateman. Whereas Bateman, a real outdoors receiver, was pressured into the slot and performed down in 2020, St. Brown, a real slot, was pressured outdoors in 2020 and in addition performed down. Humorous how that works!
The issues that made St. Brown good within the slot since Day 1 of his true freshman yr at USC have been his potential to sift by way of site visitors, distinctive footwork and physique management, and his potential to hold onto the ball whereas in site visitors and switch upfield, make a man miss or break a sort out.
St. Brown persistently reveals a pleasant connection together with his quarterback, he runs good routes, supplies a pleasant throwing window, and has a very good consciousness of what he’s doing, whether or not it’s looking for a delicate spot within the zone or monitoring the ball within the deep sector. He supplied chain-moving reliability and a constant supply of YAC.
What St. Brown by no means was, sadly, was an distinctive athlete. He’s not terribly fast off the road, and he categorically lacks lengthy pace. He additionally had a problem on the boundary with bodily press corners who harassed him with extra post-snap contact than he most well-liked.
St. Brown’s strengths performed down, whereas his weaknesses have been extra clearly displayed. Within the NFL, he ought to head again to the slot, the place he might have a really Tyler Boyd-like profession.
14. Jaelon Darden, North Texas | 5’9/172
Comp: DeSean Jackson
A cheat code in Convention USA, Jaelon Darden strikes in a different way than the blokes round him, and that’s going to proceed to be the case within the NFL. He’s a basic Ferrari athlete within the vein of throttling to 100 mph in a blink.
He’ll screech the breaks on on the high of a route and switch round like any person within the bleachers requested him a query, calm together with his shoulders sq., after which he’s pivoted again upfield and again as much as full pace instantly. Darden breaks ankles within the open discipline, an especially gifted mover, capable of weave by way of site visitors reducing to make guys whereas retaining max ahead velocity, cease and beginning at will.
Darden proved in 2020 that he’s greater than a short-game, manufactured-touches man, torching defenses within the deep sector, displaying a deft contact for hauling balls in over his shoulder. He’s slight, he’s a slot-only, he doesn’t deal with site visitors effectively (no contested catches in 2020), and he’s about to make an enormous bounce up in competitors. However NFL slot corners are going to have a heckuva time staying with this man in house.
Velocity kills. And lord you is aware of you possibly can’t train it. Anthony Schwartz has it in spades. A monitor celebrity, Schwartz brings Olympic-level sprinter’s pace into the slot — for all of the pace retailers we talked about above, Schwartz most likely dusts all of them in a foot race.
Schwartz instructed MMQB’s Albert Breer just lately that had there been an NFL Mix, he would have damaged John Ross‘ 40-yard sprint report of 4.22 seconds. Schwartz set the world youth report with a 10.15 100-meter sprint on the Florida Relays in 2017. That made him the No. 1 monitor recruit within the nation. At the moment, he had a 4.27 reported 40-yard sprint. Simply previous to enrolling at Auburn, Schwartz helped Workforce USA win gold within the 4×100 relay on the IAAF World U20 Championships in 2018.
He’s extraordinarily uncooked, although. Up to now, a catch-and-run display man that Auburn would additionally ship deep. And that’s about it. He’s a completely terrifying proposition down the sector, since few human beings on earth possess that sort of pace, however Schwartz stays awkward at monitoring the ball, generally getting rotated or pressured to change his stride with the intention to find.
And with 13 profession drops, Schwartz’s arms stay a problem. Nonetheless a bit unnatural wanting on the catch level, Schwartz has a lot better effectivity numbers securing the ball in house than in site visitors. He’ll all the time be a finesse participant.
You’re going to have to show Schwartz methods to run routes, and also you’re going to have to wash up his hand approach, ball abilities typically, and monitoring consolation stage downfield. The hope is that you simply’re going to get some stage of positive factors in additional than a kind of 4 classes. He’s by no means going to get stronger.
I’ll say this for Schwartz: He was in a nasty scenario in school. Auburn QB Bo Nix has excessive accuracy points. You can write novels in regards to the quantity of yards Nix left on the sector for Schwartz and Williams in school (he hit the freebie under, give that to him).
Sure, Schwartz by no means appeared to have an ideal really feel for monitoring Nix’s downfield heaves — however that’s additionally form of like criticizing your sister for not following all your uncle’s drunken dialog tangents final Thanksgiving.
Let’s a minimum of give Schwartz the good thing about the doubt that he could have each been capable of develop faster on this space at one other college, but additionally shine extra brightly. Had Schwartz attended Clemson or LSU, he could have had a 1,200-yard receiving season over the previous two years.
The place would we be mocking him then? Could the Schwartz be with you! (Sorry).
The 2019 Wake Forest offense went from scary to unhealthy the second Sage Surratt was knocked out for the season in 2019. That’s most likely essentially the most compelling argument to be made for his worth as a participant. Particularly since that’s the final time we noticed him — he opted out in 2020.
The brother of UNC LB Chazz Surratt, additionally on this draft class, Sage is an elite deep-ball receiver who turns 50-50 balls into wins for the offense. Surratt went an unimaginable 18-for-30 in contested conditions in 2019. He tracks the ball like a looking canine downfield, and he’s a bridesmaid-going-for-a-bouquet specialist at high-pointing in site visitors, a arms catcher with a bloated catch radius.
However like J-JAW, a jump-ball specialist in school, Surratt lacks athleticism. He builds as much as high pace, and he’s sluggish altering instructions, which neuters his potential within the intermediate recreation. Unlucky, that, as a result of Surratt would in any other case profile as robust in that space as a man with an enormous body, massive catch radius, and confirmed after-the-catch ruggedness. Surratt’s tape reveals a a hellacious runner after the catch (17 damaged tackles in 2019).
If nothing else, Surratt might be a stable depth piece. However he gives the potential of a powerful WR2 if he can ever determine methods to mitigate his lack of foot quickness and agility to offer extra within the intermediate space. Such positive factors to his recreation would solely make him extra harmful deep, the special-sauce of his recreation, as opponents couldn’t sit again dead-red on the nine-route, figuring out Surratt might steal first downs in form.
17. Cade Johnson, South Dakota State | 5’9/180
Comp: Dennis Northcutt
A troublesome little slot that can run you a exact route and make life hell on the protection after the catch, Cade Johnson is somebody that NFL evaluators could come to understand extra throughout the draft course of than followers. He has a very good really feel for what he’s doing out of the slot, accelerating off the road rapidly, displaying a knack for retaining his man at distance with footwork and athleticism, and utilizing his pace to stretch the sector.
Johnson is artful after the catch, displaying the good imaginative and prescient and agility selecting by way of rubbish that he honed returning kicks for the Jackrabbits. The previous FCS walk-on is a slot-only, and his ceiling in that put up isn’t notably excessive. However his flooring is — Johnson looks as if a very good wager to develop right into a reliable starter that provides worth on particular groups.
Individuals who say Simi Fehoko is that this class’ greatest sleeper will say he’s a DK Metcalf-light outdoors presence, a big-bodied 6-foot-3 receiver with pace to burn, reported 4.4 wheels. They may say he strikes very fluidly for a 220-pounder. And, that, as was the case in DK’s case, his NFL group might be in a singular alternative to purchase at a reduction.
They’ll say he wasn’t used sufficient in 2019, when he scored six TD with a 23.6 YPR common on solely 24 catches. And so they’ll level to his breakthrough 2020 season, wherein Fehoko posted a 37-574-3 line in simply 5 video games, they usually’ll say, “See? He’s the monster I instructed you he was. And the NFL Draft group remains to be sleeping on him. Keep in mind DK Metcalf? Keep in mind Chase Claypool? Mark my phrases — Fehoko is the following in line.”
In the meantime, individuals who don’t see Fehoko as a top-25 receiver prospect, those that see him as a Day 3 afterthought, in different phrases, would return a quite simple counter-argument, primarily what the NFL instructed UCF’s Marlon Williams by not inviting him to the NFL Mix: Fehoko is almost 23-years outdated, and his breakout season didn’t happen till he was the oldest participant on the sector, with half of the numbers coming from a single dominant recreation in opposition to UCLA. How might the most important, most physically-mature, and maybe even most athletic participant on the sector not have posted robust numbers in that extraordinarily small 2020 pattern?
Persevering with, they might add that for one of many class’ oldest receiver prospects (Fehoko went on a two-year LDS mission out of highschool), it’s regarding that he’s additionally one of many class’ least skilled receivers (redshirted first yr again in 2018, 24 catches as rotation member in 2019, and Stanford performed a truncated five-game season in 2020), and that he stays noticeably uncooked, having little concept what he’s doing from a route-running perspective.
I don’t have sufficient data, no person does, so I’m enjoying Switzerland on this debate and splitting the child each with my rating and with my NFL utility/career-trajectory comp. I’ve a nasty feeling I’m both rating Fehoko too excessive, or too low. However I really feel, on the very least, he’ll be capable to make performs up the seam within the NFL. And if issues click on — an enormous, theoretical if — his mixture of dimension and athleticism will make him a steal.
I’m decrease on Brown than most. To deal with that: I’m extra involved together with his arms than the business appears to be. PFF charted Brown with solely three drops final season, however I noticed greater than that within the video games I watched. I additionally noticed a participant that, for a thin deep-ball specialist, had a disturbing behavior of hand-fighting on the catch level, drawing flags.
So sure, Brown enters the draft having posted consecutive 1,000-yard plus receiving seasons wherein he averaged over 20.0 receiving yards per catch, nothing to sneeze at for a former four-star popping out of the P5. What I like about Brown is that he’s a feisty receiver that performs with a sure aptitude and craftiness, releasing off the road easily and never keen to again down an inch even from essentially the most bodily press corners regardless of being a sub-190 pound outdoors receiver.
However this a man who was principally all the time despatched deep in Phil Longo’s offense, an Air Raid hybrid with a downhill working recreation (and UNC’s was notably nasty, as you already know). This opened loads of one-on-one photographs deep, and that was Brown’s specialty (and solely actual job). It’s an open query as as to whether he’ll grow to be a whole NFL receiver able to working nuanced routes within the quick and intermediate areas — he wasn’t requested to try this a lot at UNC.
Brown’s a stable athlete, however he lacks elite athleticism, like, say, for example, Anthony Schwartz. And it’s because of this that Brown finds himself with extra firm on the catch level downfield. For a man who’s principally, so far, a one-trick pony, Brown goes to want to start out catching the ball extra persistently, and he’s going to have to determine a sustainable jump-ball technique that doesn’t embody touching his good friend from the opposite group. The striped males do not like that.
Once I began to learn, earlier this course of, all of the steam round Dyami Brown’s identify, I used to be somewhat stunned. I feel his ceiling and flooring are each decrease than the consensus assumes. However Brown’s proven sufficient sizzle downfield the final two years, with a selected knack for monitoring bucket balls over his shoulder, that, regardless of my general pessimism, I can’t rank him a lot decrease than this.
A slot receiver with a rugged working again construct, Amari Rogers is the son of former Tennessee QB Tee Martin. Rodgers had an eye-opening 2020 as Trevor Lawrence’s go-to receiver, posting a 77-1,020-7 receiving line whereas breaking 17 tackles.
Rodgers’ recreation blends lower-body horse energy with 4.46 deep pace that he reaches extraordinarily rapidly. What you get is a brief recreation/lengthy recreation mix with him, the quick-hitters which are primarily lengthy hand-offs the place he’s a glorified working again on the perimeter, and the deep balls that greater than preserve you sincere.
It’s somewhat regarding that Rodgers didn’t flash till final yr, and that he dropped six balls (575 yards have been his earlier career-high in receiving yards in 2018; he dropped 4 that yr). That’s a troubling drop fee for a man who is meant to deal with heavy utilization out of the slot within the NFL.
Particularly contemplating the varieties of passes he is thrown. Of the top-46 receivers final yr by way of receiving yards, Rodgers had the bottom depth of goal (curiously, No. 2 was Kadarius Toney). We all know Rodgers doesn’t like being crowded (solely 5 catches on 17 profession contested targets in profession), which can make it tough for him to develop a extra fully-fleshed out recreation than the quick/lengthy factor. But when he retains dropping lengthy hand-offs, he will have a tough time sticking as even that.
Better of the remaining…
21. Seth Williams (Auburn) | 6’3/225
22. Shi Smith (South Carolina) | 5’10/186
23. Jonathan Adams Jr. (Arkansas State) | 6’3/210
24. Austin Watkins (UAB) | 6’3/205
25. Marquez Stevenson (Houston) | 6’0/190
26. Warren Jackson (Colorado State) | 6’5/215
27. Ihmir Smith-Marsette (Iowa) | 6’0 /183
28. Tim Jones (Southern Miss) | 6’1/190
29. Brandon Smith (Iowa) | 6’1/218
30. Trevon Grimes (Florida) | 6’4/214
31. Tamorrion Terry (Florida State) | 6’3/203
32. Dazz Newsome (North Carolina) | 5’10/185
33. Whop Philyor (Indiana) | 5’10/178
34. Jhamon Ausbon (Texas A&M) | 6’2/218
35. Dax Milne (BYU) | 6’1/190
36. Cornell Powell (Clemson) | 6’0/210
37. Dez Fitzpatrick (Louisville) | 6’1/202
38. Isaiah McKoy (Kent State) | 6’3/200
39. Tyler Vaughns (USC) | 6’1/185
40. Josh Palmer (Tennessee) | 6’1/204
41. Damonte Coxie (Memphis) | 6’2/197
42. Brennan Eagles (Texas) | 6’2/225
43. Tre’ Walker (San Jose State) | 5’11/175
44. Frank Darby (Arizona State) | 6’0/192
45. T.J. Vasher (Texas Tech) | 6’6/210
46. Tre Nixon (UCF) | 6’1/180
47. Racey McMath (LSU) | 6’2/221
48. Rico Bussey Jr. (Hawaii) | 6’1/190
49. Josh Imatorbhebhe (Illinois) | 6’1 /215
50. Marlon Williams (UCF) | 6’0/222