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New York Giants 2019 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers
90+: Elite, All Pro
85-89: Immediate starter, building block for a decade, franchise player
80-84: First round talent, starter and/or majority of the snaps each week
77-79: Day 2 pick, starter within their first 16-24 games as a pro
75-76: Fourth rounder, has starter traits but needs development
71-74: Fifth/Sixth rounder, should develop into weekly contributor over rookie contract
68-70: Draftable, hopeful for special teams impact and long term development
67 and under: UDFA
*NFL Comparison are not a projection of how good they are, more so their style of play.
WHERE THEY STAND
Put me in the crowd of onlookers who are completely shocked Odell Beckham won’t be wearing the NY uniform in 2019. Golden Tate and the newly -xtended Sterling Shepard will see the majority of the team’s WR snaps with Evan Engram sure to see some action out there as well. Beyond them they have a handful of roster hopefuls and/or guys who are best used for depth, not a serious amount of snaps. Bennie Fowler, Corey Coleman, Cody Latimer, Alonzo Russell, Russell Shepard, and Jawill Davis aren’t exactly fear-inducing pass catchers.
1: AJ Brown – Ole Miss – 6’0/226
Summary: Junior entry. First team All SEC and Third Team All American. Drafted out of high school by the San Diego Padres and he has not completely thrown the idea out of pursuing professional baseball at some point. Not a traditional receiver by any means, Brown brings some extra size and strength to the position that can create major issues for defensive backs, in particular those who play the slot. His physical style and reliable hands to go with dangerous after-catch ability will be a tough matchup in the middle of the field. His toughness and grit can at least somewhat hide a lack of top end speed and burst. While his game may be limited when it comes to vertical speed and burst, his impact on short and intermediate routes will be force with the right quarterback.
*I don’t see the fit with NYG because I think Brown is best suited for the slot where his plus-size and toughness can really factor. But he still enters the draft as my top overall WR in a group that is very deep but a little light at the top. In a league where tackling seems optional at times, Brown is the kind of bruiser who will create a ton after the catch. A really good route runner with the intelligence who can take it to the next level will be a stud if he can get paired with the right QB.
NFL Comparison: JuJu Smith-Schuster / PIT
2: N’Keal Harry – Arizona State – 6’2/228
Summary: Junior entry. Two time First Team All Pac 12 in which he caught 155 passes for 2,230 yards and 17 touchdowns on team that struggled to produce solid secondary targets. An all around, every-down difference maker who has enough explosion and agility to get enough space underneath. A force when the ball is in the air with his combination of power, strength, and size. Harry has the developed NFL body that will be tough for most defensive backs to hang with physically and more than enough athleticism to make plays after the catch. He has number one receiver written all over him.
*Harry was the top WR on my board last summer and he pretty much stayed there all season. Him and Brown are close enough to really label them 1A and 1B. One thing that worries me about Harry, though, is the lack of separation he can generate via route running and short area burst. That has made things very difficult for past prospects I have graded well with a similar skill set. But his competitiveness, toughness, and ability after the catch (which is very overlooked), can hide those issues a bit. He is a very healthy and twitchy 230 pounds, not something that may pro WRs can say.
NFL Comparison: Demaryius Thomas / NE
3: JJ Arcega-Whiteside – Stanford – 6’2/225
Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Son two professional European basketball players and has an accomplished background on the hardwood himself. After a breakout, 1st Team All Pac 12 season in 2018, Arcega-Whiteside vaulted into near-1st round consideration. He is a potentially dominant possession receiver who does not need to be open in order to be thrown the ball with confidence because of his plus-ability to gain the positional advantage over the cover man. He showed, over and over, both mental and physical prowess over defensive backs all year in traffic. While his speed and burst can be questioned, there is so much he can bring to the table. NFL ready right now.
*Another thicker-than-normal receiver with excellent ball skills and the competitive spirit you want out of a possession guy. Arecega-Whiteside caught my eye early in the year because of his skill set as a route runner and pass catcher. The more I saw, the more I realized his athletic ability was upper tier as well. The way he can plant his foot and burst through a window can be utilized exceptionally well in a quick passing attack. I don’t see a number one wideout here, but I do see a guy who is under appreciated around the league but whoever has him knows how valuable he really is.
NFL Comparison: Keenan Allen / LAC
4: Paris Campbell – Ohio State – 6’0/205
Summary: After a very successful high school track career, Campbell arrived at Ohio State and had to wait awhile before he made a big impact on offense. He turned from athlete to football player and ended his career with two straight All-Big 10 seasons, 2018 being a 1st Team honor. The team captain showed glimpses of elite, game breaking talent who is based on speed and easy movement. He is one of those players who is simply playing at a different speed than his opponents, no matter who is on the field. He still has some rawness to his game but receivers in the Ohio State offense don’t always get the full opportunity to show what they can really do. There is a boom or bust label next to Campbell’s name, but at the very least he will be a dangerous return man and gimmick-player who opposing defenses do not want to deal with.
*I was recently told by someone I trust that Campbell is “definitely” going to be the first WR taken. The NFL loves his skill set and top tier explosion. Campbell has the look of a star but there are a couple things missing for me. First, I think he lacks some of the toughness that is required to be an effective slot and there is an inconsistent attention to detail that isn’t always needed in the OSU offense. Upside is undeniable and I do think he will make plays, but I wouldn’t want him to be my number one guy.
NFL Comparison: Michael Gallup / DAL
5: Darius Slayton – Auburn – 6’1/190
Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Slayton arrived at Auburn as an accomplished high school track athlete and enters the NFL with a very high ceiling. His speed and burst are functional and usable on the field, he is much more than a track athlete. He consistently averaged near-20 yards per catch over his career and displayed dominant stretches against SEC cornerbacks.. He is a deep threat who will make a defense account for him at all times. While there are limitations to his game underneath and at the point of attack, this kind of deep threat and ability to extend plays after the catch is worth the risk. Boom or bust.
*I am taking a chance on Slayton, I simply have too many plus game notes over the past two seasons to ignore it. The Auburn offense is difficult to scout as it could create numerous false opportunities but at the same time it may prevent a guy like Slayton from really showing everything he can do. I love the way he moves and his worst case may be a Ted Ginn caliber vertical threat.
NFL Comparison: Ted Ginn / NO
6: David Sills – West Virginia – 6’3/211
Summary: Fifth year senior who had two different stints at West Virginia. After a highly-touted high school career at quarterback, Sills was put into the WR rotation in 2015 but left the program to pursue his QB career at junior college. Ultimately he realized his NFL future was solely at WR, thus he returned to the Mountaineers and put together two straight All American seasons. In West Virginia’s high-power spread attack, Sills was a touchdown machine who pushed 50/50 balls to 70/30 balls in his favor. 33 touchdowns over those two years were among the many highlights he has on tape. Sills lacks some important athletic and measurable testing numbers, but there is no denying how special his ball skills and awareness levels are. Pair him with an accurate thrower and Sills will be producing at a high level, but he is just a step shy of being a number one.
*I am a tad higher on Sills than the market, I think. He will have a hard time getting open via athletic ability but he is so savvy, so coordinated that I trust him as much as anyone in traffic. The internal debate I have with him centers around how physical he is. Does he have some dog on him? Or does the body type and lack of strength make him hesitant when an NFL safety is coming at him? Little bit of a boom or bust because I think he needs a specific quarterback throwing him the ball.
NFL Comparison: Tyrell Williams / OAK
7: Riley Ridley – Georgia – 6’1/199
Summary: Junior entry. Brother to Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley. A two year starter for the Bulldogs, Ridley is a bit of an unknown as he enters the league. He was the top pass catcher albeit in a run first, run second, pass third offense. There are a few constants to his game that will translate to the NFL very well. One, he is a pro-caliber route runner who shows the understanding of the subtle but vital nuances. And second, his ball skills are near-top tier which can somewhat hide his lackluster movement tools. He won’t burn by anyone and may struggle to consistently create space between him and the defender underneath, but he is a safe bet to at least be a reliable possession receiver.
*Ridley is a different kind of receiver than his brother but they both ran routes like pros in college and they both attacked the ball with their hands. I like Riley with the ball in his hands a bit more, though. He has some running back caliber traits and toughness and I’m not sure there is a more competitive blocker in this group.
NFL Comparison: Tyler Boyd / CIN
8: DK Metcalf – Ole Miss – 6’3/228
Summary: Third year sophomore entry. His 2016 season was cut short after just 2 games due to a broken foot and also missed the final 5 games of 2018 with a serious neck injury. That only leaves 2017 as his lone full season. The lack of experience is evident on tape and despite the rare combination of size and speed, Metcalf is rough around the edges. There isn’t a lot of cleanliness to his game, although his potential will be hard to ignore for long. Vertical threats like this don’t come around often and he does have impressive showings against multiple SEC schools. Boom or bust.
*Don’t mistake the #8 rank at the position for a label that I don’t like Metcalf. I was actually touting this kid back in September but the neck injury brought him down from an 80+ because even though some are giving him a clean bill of health, I know some have taken him off the board because of it. So there is something going on there. Anyway, Metcalf has some Terrell Owens in him. If he works hard at improving within the subtle areas of the game, he can be one of the top deep threats in the NFL right away. I just don’t use a 1st round pick on someone like this although I bet someone does.
NFL Comparison: Terrell Owens / RET
9: Deebo Samuel – South Carolina – 5’11/214
Summary: After an early career that was marred by injuries (hamstring and broken leg), Samuel finally put together a full year in 2018, earning 1st Team All SEC honors. The very non-traditional receiver has shown the ability to use his thickness and strength as an asset while hiding them as a liability. Samuel plays a strong, blue collar game that shows up when it matters most. While his movement isn’t anything that will scare defenders and put them on their heels, Samuel understands how to get open and he will not be deterred by contact in traffic. He would be a different kind of slot receiver but much like Hines Ward, one who can get things done at a high level for a long time.
*The name Hines Ward that I used in the report-summary keeps popping up in my head when I watch this kid. Ward had a very good career for a few really good Steelers’ teams but I think they are both players that you can rightfully question, do they need the right situation? Throw in the fact that he has had multiple issues staying healthy and I had to keep him as a day 2 pick. I like Samuel’s game, but I think you can find a guy this good any year and I don’t see a 1st round grade.
NFL Comparison: Golden Tate / NYG
10: Hakeem Butler – Iowa State – 6’5/227
Summary: Fourth year junior entry. A two year factor for the Iowa State offense, finishing Honorable Mention All Big 12 in 2017 and 2nd team in 2018. Butler set a school record for receiving yards this past season and showed several flashes of being a truly dominant player. They don’t come bigger than Butler, measuring in on the elite side across the board. He almost always has the advantage in 50/50 situations and a quarterback won’t ever be afraid to loft it up his way near the red zone. His issues revolve around attention to detail and effort, however. The question can be asked, does he truly care? Will he work hard? The tools are undeniable but that isn’t enough. Pre-draft interviews and his willingness to work are crucial.
*Butler’s public grade seems to be getting higher and higher as the game tapes get further and further from us. That is always a red flag to me. While his size is overly impressive, I can’t come away with the thought that it should be overshadowing his lack of consistency as a pass catcher and attention to detail. There are some ego problems here as well that make me keep him towards the back end of day 2 although I can see him going at the top of round 2.
NFL Comparison: Kenny Golladay / DET
11: Gary Jennings – West Virginia – 6’1/214
Summary: Two year starter from Stafford, Virginia. Honorable Mention All Big 12 in 2018, 2nd Team in 2017. Jennings is an overlooked player in West Virginia’s high octane offense but he has a chance at being the top pro from this program in a long time. Jennings brings a solid combination of size, speed, and football awareness to the table that can be molded into a versatile every down threat at the next level. His playing speed outweighs his impressive timed speed and the ability to process information quickly can make him seem even more explosive. Jennings will need to clean up his routes and get his hands stronger, but there is an upside here that most receivers in the class cannot touch.
*I know a couple guys who I really respect that say Jennings is a borderline 1st rounder and could be the top value pick at the position in the entire class. His game wasn’t very versatile at West Virginia but that had a lot to do with the scheme more than his skill set. There is more speed here than people think and he can play outside and inside. He will likely need time to adjust more so than others, but someone may be able to get a very good #2 here towards the end of day 3.
NFL Comparison: Kenny Stills / MIA
12: Jamal Custis – Syracuse – 6’4/214
Summary: Fifth year senior who was an afterthought coming into 2018. Custis entered his fifth year with 13 career receptions and a few durability issues. However a 2nd Team All ACC year with a lot of flashy tape put him right into day 2 talk. Custis is a big, physical, commanding pass catcher who started to show his true colors and the best is yet to come. His size and strength is a tough matchup for anyone who takes on the task of covering him. The ball skills and route running still have a little ways to go but he has shown enough in combination with his top tier tool set to give star-receiver thoughts when it comes to his potential.
*I am much higher on Custis than what I have seen out there, but I believe in the skill set and his mindset is in the right place. I do get nervous about a 1 year contributor, so there is a lot of risk here, but he is a guy who has the look of a better NFL player than college player. Those who love to tout Hakeem Butler as a big time prospect have to acknowledge the fact Custis has an awfully similar combination of tools and skills.
NFL Comparison: Devin Funchess / IND
13: Dillon Mitchell – Oregon – 6’1/197
Summary: Junior entry. Broke out in 2018 with a school record 1,184 yards as he was the team’s top deep and intermediate target. Mitchell is a polarizing player because he flashes elite playmaking ability paired with above average long speed, however he has attitude problems and his work ethic isn’t anything to brag about. He is on the wrong side of the line between swagger and selfish, but if a team can get him focused on cleaning up the weaknesses in his game, he has an upside that most simply do not.
*I have a few games notes from earlier in the season where I wrote “Odell” under this kid’s name. Maybe not the same level of explosion and burst, but Mitchell showed similar movement patterns and ball skills in addition to the ability to find yards after the catch. While he didn’t quite reach that level overall when it came to the final scouting process, there is still a lot of excitement within his game. He needs extra screening though, as I had a near-first round grade on him but the character issues bumped him down quite a bit.
NFL Comparison: Robert Woods / LAR
14: Preston Williams – Colorado State – 6’4/211
Summary: After two quiet years at Tennessee, Williams transferred to Colorado State and fell into trouble away from the field with a domestic violence incident. After being suspended and reinstated, Williams finally found his flow in 2018 and left an impression that left coaches saying he was the most talented receiver they have ever been around. Williams, also an accomplished triple jump track athlete, has a very unique blend of size, foot quickness, and ball skills. There simply aren’t many pass catchers who possess this combination of tools and skills. On a weekly basis, Williams would make multiple eye opening impressions with difficult catches made easy, route running, and body control. If he is and can stay clean off the field, he has star-potential.
*Similar to my top WR in last year’s class Michael Gallup, Williams comes into the league from the Colorado State program with off-field questions but enormous talent. Williams’ issues are bit more serious, however and he also didn’t impress in workouts. All things considered, Williams is worth a day 3 gamble because he has multiple flashes where he looks like an elite-ball skill guy who can get vertical as well as catch the ball in traffic. Love this kid’s upside but where you take him needs to be very calculated.
NFL Comparison: Mike Williams / LAC
15: Ashton Dulin – Malone – 6’1/215
Summary: Three year starter from Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Chose the Malone program over Division I offers so he could play football and run track. A school-record setter in the 60 M, 200 M, and 60 M hurdles. Left the GMAC as record holder in 5 outdoor track events. 2018 GMAC Offensive Back and Special Teams Player of the Year. Dulin is a ball of clay who a team will want to mold for a couple years. If done correctly, the ceiling with him can rival a few of the best receivers in the class in addition to making impact in the return game. He is a big, strong, fast competitor who is more than just an athlete. Dulin is a football player in ever sense of the word who could be one of the best day 3 picks in the draft.
*Dulin is my favorite small school prospect at the position. He will need time, probably more than a year, but the tools and flashes he has shown can be molded in a legit #1 receiver in this league. He checks all the boxes physically and I’ve been told his workout/interview process was among the best in the class.
NFL Comparison: Davante Adams / GB
16: Xavier Ubosi – UAB – 6’3/215: 76
17: Terry Godwin – Georgia – 5’11/184: 76
18: Demarkus Lodge – Ole Miss – 6’2/202: 76
19: Anthony Johnson – Buffalo – 6’2/209: 76
20: Andrew Isabella – Massachusetts – 5’9/188: 75
21: Stanley Morgan – Nebraska – 6’0/202: 75
22: Hunter Renfrow – Clemson – 5’10/184: 75
23: Kelvin Harmon – NC State – 6’2/221: 75
24: Marquis Brown – Oklahoma – 5’9/166: 74
25: Miles Boykin – Notre Dame – 6’4/220: 74
**TOP UDFA SLEEPER**
AJ Richardson – Boise State – 6’0/212
Fifth year senior who has been the #2 guy in that Boise State passing offense for 2 years. Lacking in some ideal tools, Richardson has some of the strongest hands in the class and it is amazing how many balls he comes away with in traffic. I love the late hands and ability to adjust. He is the kind of WR I point to when discussing the importance of ball skills over speed and size. The WR’s job is to catch balls, and he does it as well as anyone in the class. I see a 1-2 year project and a guy who could eventually be on the same level as a Deebo Samuel.
Before I go into how I think NYG should handle the WR position in this draft, know that this is the DEEPEST group of pass catchers I have ever seen by a wide margin. I almost posted by next 15 grades because I have 40+ who have a top 5 round grade. With that said, there will be enormous value available late day 3 and after the draft concludes. The Giants are not overly deep or very top heavy at the position, but also remember they have a plus-target at tight end and a major-plus target at running back. Would it be nice to grab one of these oversized targets in the first 3-4 rounds? Sure. But considering the holes on this team, the style they plan on playing to, and the fact there WILL BE value drops available at the end of day, I think they need to resist the urge. Wait until rounds 6 and 7 to address this spot.