Jaxon Smith-Njigba – © USA TODAY Sports
Layout of the Preview:
1) Brief Positional Overview
2) Top 20 Prospects. Includes Grade, NFL Comparison, Summary, Extra Thoughts
*Comparisons are more about physical profile and play style, NOT projection
3) Grades only: 21-49
90+: All Pro
85+ Pro Bowl
81-84: 1st Round / Year 1 Contributor / Starter
79-80: 2nd Round / Year 1 Contributor / Year 2 Starter
77-78: 3rd Round / Contribute by end of Year 1 / Year 2 Starter
74-76: Early Day 3 / Special Teams / Future Backup / Possible Starter
71-73: Mid-Day 3 / Special Teams / Future backup / Gamble Starter
68-70: Late Day 3 / Back End of Roster / Practice Squad / Developmental
65-67: Preferred UDFA
4) Positional Approach – Draft Weekend
The November waiver claim of Isaiah Hodgins saved the 2022 outlook of this group. Had it not been for him, who knows where this offense would have ended up? Not bad for a guy Buffalo waived in the third year of his career after being a sixth round draft pick from Oregon State with four catches to his name. Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson were both on injured reserve by Thanksgiving (they combined for 9 games played and 36 catches), the duo of Darius Slayton + Richie James lacked any sort of consistency, Kadarius Toney was traded to Kansas City, and Kenny Golladay…well you know. Simply put, this was arguably the worst receiver group in football. Slayton was re-signed, Golladay was released, and James left for Kansas City. The team brought back Shepard and Slayton, signed Paris Campbell, and will let Jamison Crowder compete for a roster spot. The new faces in town can lead one to the notion things look improved, and perhaps they are. Time will tell. But the needle has not been moved, NYG still has one of the worst groups of wide receivers in football until proven otherwise.
TOP 20 GRADES AND ANALYSIS
1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba – Ohio State – 6’1/196
NFL Comparison: Julian Edelman / RET
Junior entry. Two-year starter from Rockwall, TX. Played in just three games (62 snaps) in 2022 because of a hamstring injury and the Covid-shortened season led to just seven games (162 snaps). Thus, 2021 was his lone full year of action. He set the Big Ten single season receiving record, leading the Buckeyes in both catches and yards on a team that included eventual first rounders Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, landing him third team All American honors. Smith-Njigba entered the 2022 season with high expectations after leading all power five programs with 1,606 yards and finishing number one in the nation with an 84.8% reception percentage in 2021. The Big Ten record-setter lined up primarily in the slot and showed advanced route running and ball skills. The standout attribute, however, is the ability to create extra yards after the catch. He is a stocky receiver with some running back-flavor to his game when working against defenders in space once he has the ball. The vision, body control, and incredible balance make him incredibly tough to take down. That physical nature shows up in contested situations as well, another area he ranked number one in the country in by a wide margin. While his soft tissue concerns will need extra screening, Smith-Njigba is a pro-ready slot receiver day one that will be a dangerous weapon in offenses that scheme yard-after-catch opportunities. Smith-Njigba carries concerns into the league that center around a lack of experience and a nagging hamstring injury but there is no denying the ability shown on tape when projecting how quickly he can make a big impact at the next level.
*Last year I graded Garrett Wilson at 85, the top WR in the class. During my real-time draft selections I do every year for NYG – I picked him for NYG at #7 overall. Smith-Njigba is the better player. They are very different, but gun to my head I am taking this kid every time. After I decided on that, I hear that Ohio State coaching staff (including great WR coach Brian Hartline) proclaim the same thing. Then I hear Wilson himself (and Chris Olave) agree that Smith-Njigba is the best of them three. Then quarterback CJ Stroud piled on. Maybe some get weary of the average (at best) forty time, I get that. But did you pay attention to the 3-Cone and Short Shuttle? They are Odell Beckham caliber, and it shows up on the field. They are all-time great. Throw in the power/strength he runs with after the catch, throw in the elite feel he shows as a route runner. This is a player I would strongly consider trading up for if he somehow got out of the top 12 and I mean it. It would likely cost the NYG 1st and 2nd rounder. This guy could change how NYG plays football.
2) Zay Flowers – Boston College – 5’9/182
NFL Comparison: Jaylen Waddle / MIA
Fourth year senior entry. Four-year starter from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Three time All-ACC and a third team All-American in 2022. Flowers re-wrote the program’s record book, leaving school as the all-time leader in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. He plays in fast forward mode when comparing him to everyone else on the field. His movement traits are elite in all directions, all situations. Flowers creates separation both with and without the ball and a sense of sudden explosion. The ability to sharply change direction without any loss of speed and full balance is rare. A creative offensive mind will be able to use him on dump and runs, vertical routes, and underneath crossers at the snap of a finger. The lack of size and power against contact will need to be schemed around a bit, but that should not be a major hurdle between him and his playmaking ability. Flowers is an ideal fit for specific offenses that understand how to use the skill set he brings to the table and will create explosive plays from any and all angles.
*Flowers comes with some risk. That risk may be increased even further because of the NYG receiver group. He is nearly off the charts when considering weight, wingspan, and height. But let’s not make the mistake of calling him a slot-only. He lined up wide almost twice as often as he did in the slot. He knows both spots – something I have heard Daboll speak of multiple times with NYG and BUF. I have put together multiple projections of round 1 (mock drafts) – and Flowers has been the guy at #25 in almost all of them. Would it be more ideal to use a pick on a guy with more size? Yes. Is it a requirement with the Kafka/Daboll duo? Absolutely not. In some ways, this could be the identity of their passing game. A bunch of hard-to-touch guys that are impossible to cover with one defensive back and will create after the catch. Perhaps that is most ideal for a Daniel Jones-led offense, as we are a bit unsure about his deep vertical passing ability. If I had to make a bet on who NYG ends up with if they go WR, it is Flowers.
3) Quentin Johnston – TCU – 6’3/208
NFL Comparison: AJ Green / ARI
Junior entry. Three-year starter from Temple, TX. Earned All Big 12 honors all three seasons, first team in both 2021 and 2022. Johnston is a long, strong, explosive talent that has the kind of presence that changes how a defense approaches the passing game. The long strider with elite build-up speed and leaping ability is more than just a physical marvel. Johnston is a tough, hard-nosed, physical gamer that plays bigger than his already-big frame. He is a menace to tackle, he has a credible runaway gear, and there isn’t a group of defenders or space on the field where he feels too vulnerable heading into. Johnston lacks some of the experience needed to run a quality route tree right away and he has had some ugly concentration drops but match the top-notch intangibles with the top-notch physical gifts and set them up next to the glimpses of domination and production, Johnston has superstar potential. Johnston has credible number one receiver upside both physically and mentally, but his ascent will require patience as there is still considerable rawness in his game.
*A swing for the fence that has the more-than-normal chance of ending up in a strikeout. On one end, Johnston is in very rare territory historically when matching the radius, leaping ability, and production together. Of over 800 receivers since the 2010 combine, Johnston is almost in a tier of his own when matching up all of the above. But one look at his tape and one can easily pick up on the fact he just isn’t there yet. Whether it is the above average drop rate or the fact the TCU scheme had these guys line up on the same side of the ball almost EVERY snap, there are simply a ton of boxes that remain unchecked. The one receiver that played under Sonny Dykes that fits this profile, and has had some success in the league, is Courtland Sutton. Johnston’s ceiling is special, and his skill set would be an ideal complement to what NYG has on the roster right now, absolutely ideal. Whether or not he is the guy at #25 will largely depend on the value of risk/reward when it comes to the final grading process.
4) Cedric Tillman – Tennessee – 6’3/213
NFL Comparison: Tee Higgins / CIN
Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Las Vegas, NV. Father played four seasons in the NFL in the mid-1990’s. Tillman’s initial standout trait revolves around his physical presence and play strength. He measures big and plays even bigger. He has the NFL body, and it is paired with quality movement traits that show up as a route runner across all levels of the route tree. He is a powerful and aggressive player that will pick fights on the field week after week. While receivers do not get drafted to block on the perimeter, Tillman is going to impact the game with how hard he works and how reliable he is in that department. As a pass catcher, he checks a lot of boxes when it comes to running routes and ball skills. The width of his radius and competitive nature will create an attractive target for passers. Tillman fought through an ankle injury that impeded his 2022 impact. His rehab will be important to monitor and if he bounces back fully, this is a starting outside receiver in the NFL early on. Tillman did not respond well to a strong 2021 season but part of that was injury-based, he still presents a strong offer that is derived from size, speed, and a fiery competitive nature.
*If there is a receiver that comes out of nowhere and ends up being the second one taken behind Smith-Njigba, it is this guy. Watch the 2021 tape and an argument can be made it is better than both Flowers and Johnston in addition to everyone behind him on this list. What I like the most about a guy that may not have the elite gear downfield is the fact he is dominant when he gets his hands on the ball. His drop rate is low, he attacks the ball with his hands, and his contact is strong against defensive backs. This is another guy that lined up near exclusively on the right side of the line. There may be some adjustment time needed as he gets inserted into an NFL offense. One other thing that may not make him an ideal fit here is the lack of ability after the catch. He has never been very good there. It did not impact his grade much – but it may be something this coaching staff looks down upon.
5) Jordan Addison – USC – 5’11/173
NFL Comparison: Diontae Johnson / PIT
Junior entry. Three-year starter from Frederick, MD. Spent two years at Pittsburgh where he led the team in catches and yards, capping off 2021 by setting a program record with 100 receptions on his way to earning first team All American honors and winning the Biletnikoff Award. Even though the second half of his 2022 season at USC was hindered by a lower body injury, Addison showed improvement across multiple components of the position. He saw more snaps outside after lining up primarily in the slot at Pittsburgh and showed notable improvements with his ball skills. Addison is an elite route runner, showing precise and explosive cuts in and out of breaks. He understands spacing, timing, and how to keep defenders from anticipating his direction. A reliable underneath threat and excellent downfield pass tracker, there is not one level of the route tree he cannot be effective. Addison is an elite, sudden, and explosive route runner with snappy hands that will be an excellent security blanket for any passing game.
*I’m not sure where I fall in line of being “old” or “young” compared to most of you. But the name that jumps out to me the most when it comes to projecting Addison to the NFL is Marvin Harrison Sr (IND). I did not put him in the comparison slot above – but for those of you that remember watching him, there you go. Addison may have been the victim of having the bar set too high for him after winning the Biletnikoff Award and then transferring to such a high-profile situation. Anyway – this kid is an easy pro and will be around for a while. But it is hard for me to project anything special here for a guy that is slender, lacks length, has had drop issues, and may have a hard time holding up physically. The skill set is there, no question. Like Harrison, if he has the right system and quarterback, he will be very productive. But I don’t see him being someone that produces a ton on his own. Addison feels safe and I could still see him being the guy at #25 if he does well in interviews. That is one area I have not heard great things about, though.
6) Marvin Mims Jr. – Oklahoma – 5’11/183
NFL Comparison: Mecole Hardman / NYJ
Junior entry. Two-year starter from Frisco, TX. Led team in receiving and earned All-Big 12 honors all three seasons including first in 2022. Set a Texas state high school record for most career and single season yards. Mims is a production-machine with home-run ability. His explosive-play potential shows up in multiple ways week to week. He can and did line up anywhere on the field, including the backfield and runs the entire route tree like an established veteran. His smooth, but sudden acceleration creates and builds separation that very few lone corners can stick with. Mims will give an offense plenty of options when it comes to alignment and play design. He simply creates production via big plays and has several pro-ready traits. Mims will be a consistent big play threat on offense and as a punt returner that can be used in a variety of ways.
*Yet another receiver that may be considered undersized, especially if you want to use him outside, near the top of the WR stack. Mims does not have many differences in his game from the guys listed above him. The area I think he stands out among them is the vertical speed and ball tracking. He gets to his top speed in a hurry and has a way of avoiding contact by defensive backs. The area I think he falls short is with the change of direction and the ability to break tackles. He does not have a power trait to his game. I like my Hardman comparison – but I think Mims is cleaner with the skill set – but there is also some Richie James I see in his game when it comes to body type and sheer strength. When a guy does not play strong (or physical) – there need to be some key components to make up for it. That is the unknown with Mims. A second rounder all day that I would feel pretty good about if increase explosive play frequency was the goal.
7) Josh Downs – North Carolina – 5’9/171
NFL Comparison: Elijah Moore / CLE
Junior entry. Two-year starter from Suwanee, GA. Earned first team All-ACC honors in both 2021 and 2022. Left North Carolina as the program’s all-time single season reception and receiving yards leader after set as a sophomore. Downs is a slot-only that can run himself open on all levels of the route tree. The accomplished triple and long jumper in high school moves with tremendous short area burst underneath and couples that with the final gear to run away from cover men downfield. While the diminutive frame can pop up in traffic, Downs plays a strong and stable game which stems from his thick hips and thighs. He is the kind of underneath threat that an accurate passer can consistently rely on and one that will do more than his fair share of damage after the catch. Downs is the prototypical slot receiver that has all of the movement traits, toughness, and ability after the catch to come into the league right away and provide the much-needed third down security blanket.
*Downs is in a cluster of receivers in this class. He could be at the top or bottom of it based on what a specific team needs. You want a traditional slot? You probably will not find a better option than him. You want someone that can line up outside in certain looks and can win in contested situations? I would advise going with him last. I do not want to get too repetitive here with all of this small receiver talk, but Downs is more of what NYG currently has on the roster. The difference between him and a guy like Flowers is the fact Downs lined up outside under 8% of the snaps in college. This truly is a “slot only” that you may not want to force into an outside role.
8) Jalin Hyatt – Tennessee – 6’0/176
NFL Comparison: Will Fuller / RET
Junior entry. One year starter from Irmo, SC. First Team All American and SEC honors in addition to winning the Biletnikoff Award. Hyatt was one of the country’s breakout performers in 2022, leading the power five conferences with 15 touchdowns. Coming into the year, he had just 502 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He nearly tripled that in his junior season alone. This is the kind of speed that changes how an opposing defense plays. There is a lot of unknown in his game, however. He is inexperienced in contested situations, he rarely lined up outside, and the route running on anything besides vertical-routes needs a lot of refinement. While the speed is next-level and he will immediately become one of the best deep threats in the NFL early in his career, there is a lot that needs to be gained for Hyatt to be considered a formidable number one threat.
*The one prospect in this group that I would label THE swing for the fence is Hyatt. If you can recall my comparison for him, Will Fuller, and what he did for the Houston offense pre-injury (#1 in NFL in yards per target in 2020, #3 in 2018) you may want to consider taking him in the first round. Even though he is such a one-dimensional guy, his ability within that dimension is potentially special. And that dimension is also what every team in the league wants on offense and fears defensively. Credible deep speed that can get over and stay over the top of the defense. Throw in the fact he tracks and catches the ball at a high level and yes, he could easily end up a first rounder. Personally, I struggle with number of boxes that remain unchecked. The route tree, strength against contact, sudden change of direction, yards after contact. There is a lot to unwind here but I would be lying if I said he doesn’t excite me.
9) Jonathan Mingo – Mississippi – 6’2/220
NFL Comparison: AJ Brown / PHI
Senior entry. Four-year starter from Brandon, MS. Missed seven games in 2021 because of a broken foot suffered in practice midseason. Mingo is the next pro receiver coming from this program with a standout frame. His has the thickness of a running back but enough speed and juice to create plays down the field and after the catch. There is a uniqueness to his game that many other receivers do not bring to the table. Mingo’s physical nature and experience both from the slot and outside will only open more doors to his potential impact at the next level. This is the kind of player that can be used on all levels of the route tree according to matchups and situations. Mingo will have the ability to play all receiver roles for an offense that likes to move their targets around. His versatile skill set will provide options.
*It is almost scary how similar Mingo is to Brown. Both from Mississippi, height/weight almost identical, near-matching workout numbers, and similar play style. Brown was a bit more polished and productive – but I can see it with Mingo. He has a few traits this small receiver filled class do not. He stands out and whenever we see standouts that can play football well, you must consider them going high. If NYG goes into day 2 looking for size to balance out their current pass catchers, keep him in mind. There is some domination in his game – the kind of guy that can take over a game.
10) Jayden Reed – Michigan State – 5’11/187
NFL Comparison: Anthony Miller / PIT
Fifth year senior from Naperville, IL. Spent one season at Western Michigan before transferring to Michigan State for the duration of his career. Four-year starter. Career has been filled with production both as a receiver and returner respectively. Freshman All-American in 2018. Two-time All-Big Ten and a 2021 All-American as an all-purpose player. Reed is an ultra-quick, ultra-explosive threat that can produce in a variety of ways. The ability to put his foot in the ground and burst into any direction at any given moment is a headache for cover men to deal with. That same loose, but assertive speed shows up with the ball in his hands both after the catch and as a returner as well. The competitive spirit is high. He is a gamer that makes big plays in big moments, coming across as a guy that is bigger than he is listed. This inside-out threat can line up and be used all over the offense and special teams. Get him the ball, enjoy the touchdowns. Reed is a dynamic playmaker with toughness that will give an offense multiple options in addition to a weapon in the return game.
*The good tape on Reed is right up there with some of the top guys in this class. He has a lot of snappy movement to his game and a tough, competitive style of play. He was not very consistent though. Some will say it was the offense he played in, which I somewhat agree with. But the drops and lack of ball security showed a lack of concentration. Add in the fact he isn’t very big, and the movement traits are rather average – some are going to struggle to see the true pro upside. Others are going to say the gap between him, and a Jordan Addison is so minuscule that it makes them feel better about passing on WR early.
11) Rashee Rice – SMU – 6’0/204
NFL Comparison: Russell Gage / TB
Senior entry. Three-year starter from Richland Hills, TX. Two-time All AAC and a 2022 All-American. Set the all-time school record for single season receiving yards in 2022. Rice has been the number one pass catcher on this team for three straight years. But it was his final run that stood out the most. Playing on a bad foot for most of the year, Rice was used in a different way, seeing more downfield looks, and he nearly doubled his previous single season high in yards. Rice specializes in ball skills and making the difficult look easy. The body control and contact-strength he shows in traffic with the ball in the air is special. There are issues with some of the other skill-components to his game, mainly route running. He is far from a finished product and there is a boom or bust feel to his game. The right coach can mold him into a solid number two receiver that can impact every level of the route tree. Rice has the ability to make plays on the ball at a high level with a blend of size and toughness, but he has a long way to go before he can be considered dependable every-down player.
*Always a bit of a risk taking a receiver from an offensive system like this. Some are going to make the mistake of saying his 4.51 at the combine will make his speed questionable. His 10-yard split (1.49) was third best of every WR there and his 41” vertical tied for the best mark. On the field, Rice had a spurt during the season that put him in round 1 discussions. The size (just under 33” arms, one of the longest in class) in combination with his burst and ability in traffic to go up and get it is an attractive combination of traits. The sloppiness in his game screams need for development. In addition, there were some maturity question marks a couple years ago. A lot to unwind here but a guy that has exciting upside.
12) Tyler Scott – Cincinnati – 5’10/177
NFL Comparison: TY Hilton / FA
Junior entry. Two-year starter from Norton, OH. Second team All-AAC in 2022. Scott, a multi-sport star in high school, plays with top-shelf speed and fluidity. He has the kind of straight-line burst and final Mach 3 gear to get and stay over the top of the secondary. There is more to his weaponry as an athlete, however. Scott has loose and bendy lower body joints that allow him to play free, light, and easy. He should be able to get himself open on all portions of the route tree and he excels at tracking the football. Combine those traits, mix it in with a sense of competitiveness, and a receiver that ranked top four in the AAC in his two seasons as a starter respectively comes out. Scott needs to strengthen his hand-catching and smooth out the inconsistencies, but he will immediately become one of the more explosive threats in the league. Scott brings the kind of explosion that immediately changes how the opposing defense plays and if he can strengthen his ball skills, he will be a credible deep threat.
*Are we not hearing enough about Scott? Take the timed speed out of the picture for a moment. Scott may be the fastest game-receiver in the group. Add in the fact he did not play receiver until he got to college, the former running back and track star is still early on the progression curve. The track speed is functional, he brings a lot of upside for post-catch ability, and was an effective gunner on special teams. That should give you an idea on about his toughness. Scott dropped too many balls and there are concerns about his ability to hold with his style of play. But this is the kind of speed you cannot teach and there is a credible reason to believe he still has a lot to chew off when it comes to development. Sneaky prospect that is going aa little under the radar.
13) AT Perry – Wake Forest – 6’4/198
NFL Comparison: Marquez Valdes-Scantling / KC
Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Lake Worth, FL. Two-time first team All-ACC. The former high school basketball player and long jumper left Wake Forest atop the single season and career touchdown reception rankings. His 1,293 yards in 2021 and 1,096 in 2022 rank second and third among single season highs in program history. When it comes to on-field impact, Perry was a bit of a late bloomer but once he got going, the train never slowed down. Perry has an incredibly unique athlete with a rare combination of size, bend, and balance. He does not jump off the screen when it comes to speed, but the suddenness and agility he can play with, and elite-level catch radius can do serious damage short and intermediate. He needs a well-timed passing game and there is a cap on his potential impact but in a league that favors the passing game in that 7-10 yard window, Perry can do damage. Perry has a few traits that can be considered high-end, but he does not play through contact well and struggled to get over the top of college secondaries.
*If a team wants size at WR and they strike out days 1 and 2 – Perry will be the focal point in round 3. His radius is huge (right there with Johnston and bigger than Tillman), he can jump out of the building, and his body control is top-notch. Perry has such a unique blend of traits that are hard to find. Part of the reason I do not always like giving out comparisons is that it can eat up time. I am a perfectionist with them, and it took me awhile to find the ideal fit for Perry. There just aren’t many guys with his blend of length, speed, jumping and most importantly, bendy lower half joints. The way he can move is rare. It can set him up to be an elite route runner, but he needs to clean up the drops and he isn’t a tough guy at all. Perry has some softness in him. Not a fit for every team but he has things most of the guys in this class do not.
14) Nathaniel Dell – Houston – 5’8/165
NFL Comparison: Greg Dortch / PHI
Fifth-year senior. Three-year starter at Houston after playing his first two seasons at Alabama A&M and then Independence Community College. Two-time first team All-AAC and earned All-American honors in 2022 after leading the country in receiving yards and touchdowns. Dell is an elite mover in all forms of the word. The joystick quickness, burst, and agility enables him to get all open all areas of the route tree. With the ball in his hands, he creates and lengthens separation from defenders with those movement traits but he also exudes toughness and high-IQ. Dell will need every ounce of those physical and mental strengths to overcome his diminutive frame. Playing and consistently producing at under 170 pounds in the NFL is a rarity, no matter what other tools are in the shed Dell is the best slot receiver Dana Holgorsen has worked with according to the coach himself, a group that includes former top ten pick Tavon Austin. If a team with an accurate passer gets their hands on Dell, he will be an immediate weapon out of the slot.
*I liked Dell enough to put him in round 3 consideration throughout most of the process. The movement is so dynamic on tape. The kind of joystick-change of direction we would occasionally see from Kadarius Toney? Dell has that, maybe even better. But I can’t get away from the size. Since 2010, 13 out of 826 combine receivers weighed in as light as Dell or less. The guys in that size-tier that did make an impact in the league were blazers. Dell is quick and explosive, but he is not a blazer. There just aren’t good odds of this kid holding up in the NFL and there are also a few boxes that remain unchecked from a skill set perspective. I like him day three because the risk is not as high. There are things he can do movement-wise that almost nobody else can.
15) Ronnie Bell – Michigan – 6’0/191
NFL Comparison: Robert Woods / HOU
Fifth year senior. Four-year starter from Kansas City, MO. Missed all but one game in 2021 because of a torn ACL. Came back to lead the team in both catches and yards for the third time, earning third team All-Big Ten honors. Was the team offensive skill player of the year in both 2019 and 2022. Bell is a player that is greater than the sum of his parts. He has average size and speed but tremendous competitive spirit and smarts. He knows both slot and outside receiver roles well and shows the ability to impact games both on and off the traditional box score. Bell is tough and dependable, albeit with a limited tool set. He fits well on the bottom half of a depth chart where he can backup multiple receiver positions, add some return value, and increase the needed competitive intangibles of a football team. Bell will create more than what his tools provide and has value as a back-end roster player that can wear a lot of hats and increase the energy of a team.
*Bell is my guy for day three if he is there and NYG goes elsewhere in the draft with their first four-five picks. I think this is a reliable, versatile, team-guy that will find ways to contribute week to week. His measurables ended up better than I thought they would. Remember that 2022 was a year away from his ACL injury and the notion is still out there it takes 12+ months before a guy can be considered fully back. He is not a burner, but he knows how to play fast and sudden. The fact his best seasons were in 2019 and 2022 with the turmoil in between (Covid Year / ACL year) tells me a lot about the kid’s character. A kid that originally was going to play college basketball and ended up one of the lowest-rated recruits in the Michigan program.
16) Kayshon Boutte – LSU – 5’11/195
NFL Comparison: Jarvis Landry / NO
Junior entry. Three-year starter from New Iberia, LA. After earning Freshman All-American honors in 2020, Boutte continued to flash but never quite put it all together on a consistent basis. The explosive, well-proportioned receiver had his 2021 season cut short because of an ankle injury that required two surgeries. He then had a baby in September 2022. His final season on Baton Rouge was the worst of his career on a per-game basis despite seeing a major uptick in quarterback-quality. His drop rate increased, his effort looked questionable, and he was back and forth on commitment to his future at LSU and the Draft. Boutte has the talent, body, and past tape that can create long term hope for a successful career, but there is a lot that needs to be answered for. Boutte’s talent and upside are undeniable, but the lack of consistency and versatility give him a high-risk label that will cause teams screen him extra and make a decision if he is worth spending the much-needed time on trying to develop him.
*Boutte recorded a vertical of 29” at the combine. Of the 825 names I have in by database since 2010, only 11 of them put up a lower number. He also ran a below average 4.50 forty and a below average 7.14 three-cone among drafted receivers. I do not obsess over workout numbers, but I do want it to be known when we have an outlier. Boutte was a top three receiver in my stack at the start of the year. It did not last long. His effort looked poor on tape, he was dropping balls left and right, and some information came my way about his maturity. Boutte also had a rough recovery from a 2021 ankle injury that required two surgeries and then he had a baby in September. The apologists will say life got in the way of his ascent to the next start receiver from the program. Others will call it true colors. This is a kid that opted to return to school for 2023 – but an off-field incident would have likely led to a suspension. So he pulled the plug and declared for the draft. His pre-draft process has been poor. One can only make so many excuses until you just move on. I suspect some teams will cross him off the board, but others will look at the tape from early in his career and see the next Jarvis Landry.
17) Charlie Jones – Purdue – 5’11/175
NFL Comparison: Dede Westbrook / GB
Sixth year senior from Deerfield, IL. Spent two seasons at Buffalo, three at Iowa, and one at Purdue. One year starter, his final year. In that final year, Jones went from obscurity to All-American and first team All-Big Ten. He led the nation with 110 receptions after totaling just 39 from 2018-2021. This was a breakout performance of epic proportions. Jones left the anemic Iowa offense to play in high octane, spread attack. He re-kindled the chemistry with fellow draft prospect, quarterback Aidan O’Connell, as the two played youth football and baseball together. Jones’ program single season record setting year showed the NFL what he can do if the looks are there. The routes and sure hands will be the attractive traits but there will be questions around his talent upside. He measures below average when it comes to both size and speed and even though 2022 was dynamite, the overall career production is low. He may need to permanently move inside to slot at the next level while offering return value. Jones deserves a back-end spot on the roster, one that can also add return value, but he will fight an uphill battle based on tool set.
*Jones is a guy worth gambling on. The fact he bounced around, stuck with it, and absolutely dominated in a way very few have in the history of the Big Ten is worth something. Jones played against Joey Porter Jr (Penn State), Garrett Williams (Syracuse), and Devon Witherspoon (Illinois). All three will be in the NFL next year. The snaps he matched up against them? Jones won. That means something even if you feel his production was manufactured via scheme. Get this guy a shot.
18) Parker Washington – Penn State – 5’10/204
NFL Comparison: Amari Rodgers / HOU
Junior entry. Three-year starter from Sugar Land, TX. Earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in his final season. Cousin of 2022 Titans quarterback Josh Dobbs. Washington is a uniquely built slot receiver that looks like be belongs in the running back room. He carries evenly distributed muscle mass that is used effectively to break tackles after the catch and remain balanced through traffic. While the reach radius is small, Washington has proven over and over that he can make contested catches and get to balls away from his body. He is tough, hard-nosed, and creates big plays on his own. Washington is a slot-only prospect that has a unique body and play style for the position which may need the right system to be effective, but has the ability to create on his own consistently.
*In a receiver class saturated with small, shift, and speedy guys Washington is a standout. No, he does not move like some of the guys higher on the list. But this dude is a thick 204 pounds and could pass as a running back. He has 20-30 pounds on some of these other guys. Maybe not a fit for everyone, but he is unique. The biggest question mark on him is speed and agility. I saw some tightness and we rarely saw him gain any vertical separation. The ankle injury that ended his 2022 season lingered and he does not have any testing data for teams to objectify. That could cause a big drop draft weekend. Stay tuned. This is a guy I would give a look to late.
19) Rakim Jarrett – Maryland – 6’0/192
NFL Comparison: Jalen Reagor / MIN
Junior entry. Three-year starter from Palmer Park, MD. Three-time Honorable Mention All-Big 10. Jarrett is an elite athlete whose game centers around explosion and toughness. His burst off the line is next level but he brings more to the table than speed alone. Jarrett shows the feel for finding available creases with the ball in his hands and he has tremendous grit against tacklers. He welcomes contact and borderline looks for it. This is a physical, aggressive football player capable of creating the big play on multiple fronts. There are some rough edges to his game when it comes to skill set and knowing when to take the gamble on the tools will determine where he goes in the draft. Jarrett is a swing for the fence type prospect with game breaking speed and burst, but has a lot to clean up as a pass catcher and route runner before he can be an every-down asset.
*I’ll tell you what. In a scenario where NYG ignores receiver for 4-5 picks (I would be surprised, but you never know), Jarrett is a guy I am intrigued by. This is a credible vertical threat but also a thick, strong, tough dude that can be a weapon on reverses and in the return game. He plays with some swagger, the kind of guy that just catches your attention every time he is on the tape. There is some DJ Moore here (a former Terp) but I felt like Jarrett was not used correctly. The drops bother me enough and I know there is quite the learning curve after being a slot only and his skill set does not match up there. But there are very few receivers this far down with his upside.
20) Xavier Hutchinson – Iowa State – 6’2/203
NFL Comparison: Jakobi Meyers / LV
Fifth year senior from Jacksonville, FL. Three-year starter at Iowa State after transferring from Blinn Junior College. Burst onto the scene right away in 2020, winning Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. First Team All-Big 12 all three seasons and a 2022 First Team All-American. Hutchinson led the Big 12 in receptions all three years, a first in conference history. His 254 receptions set a program record and were the most ever in Big 12 history among receivers that spent just three seasons in school. To sum that up simply, Hutchinson was Mr. Automatic and had stretches of play where he appeared to be a man among boys. He did all of this despite not having any standout, dominant physical traits. He is an example of a guy that can win over and over by doing things right. Route running, attacking the ball with his hands, coordination, and awareness are lasting qualities that will continue into the future. Hutchinson is not a true number one, but he has the game that enables him to stick as a quality number two for a decade. Hutchinson is a quarterback’s best friend that will make the touch catches in traffic, get open underneath, and get the most out of himself but the lack of speed and length will limit his impact that matches up with a number two-caliber receiver.
*There is a good chance Hutchinson outlasts multiple guys ahead of him on this list. He needs the right scheme/system and make sure you know what you’re getting. He is big and he is polished. He comes across as a guy that just knows what to do. Can every offense take advantage of that? No. But an offense with a quarterback that can manipulate space, time things well, and accurately put the ball where it needs to be on a consistent basis will get a lot from Hutchinson.
21) Elijah Higgins – Stanford – 6’3/235: 73
22) Andrei Iosivas – Princeton – 6’3/205: 73
23) Michael Wilson – Stanford – 6’2/213: 72
24) Trey Palmer – Nebraska – 6’0/192: 72
25) Malik Knowles – Kansas State – 6’2/196: 72
26) Bryce Ford-Wheaton – West Virginia – 6’4/221: 72
27) Tre Tucker – Cincinnati – 5’9/182: 72
28) Jalen Moreno-Cropper – Fresno State – 5’11/172: 72
29) Justin Shorter – Florida – 6’4/229: 71
30) Deuce Watts – Tulane – 6’1/196: 71
31) Dontayvion Wicks – Virginia – 6’1/206: 70
32) Jadon Haselwood – Arkansas – 6’2/215: 70
33) Demario Douglas – Liberty – 5’8/179
34) Jake Bobo – UCLA -6’4/206: 70
35) Grant DuBose – Charlotte – 6’2/201: 70
36) Aron Cruikshank – Rutgers – 5’9/165: 69
37) Derius Davis – TCU – 5’8/165: 69
38) Joseph Ngata – Clemson – 6’3/217: 69
39) Matt Landers – Arkansas – 6’4/200: 69
40) Jacob Copeland – Maryland – 5’11/201: 69
41) Antoine Green – North Carolina – 6’2/199: 69
42) Michael Jefferson – Louisiana – 6’4/199: 69
43) Jalen Wayne – South Alabama – 6’2/210: 68
44) Dontay Demus – Maryland – 6’3/212: 68
45) Kearis Jackson – Georgia – 5’11/196: 68
46) Malik Heath – Mississippi – 6’2/213: 68
47) CJ Johnson – East Carolina – 6’1/224: 68
48) Jason Brownlee – Southern Miss – 6’2/198: 68
49) Xavier Smith – Florida A&M – 5’9/174: 68
Maybe the most interesting position group to discuss in regard to NYG and the 2023 NFL Draft. A unit that left the 2022 season hanging on by a thread did see multiple changes (in addition to a high-end receiving tight end). Were the changes good enough? Are the additions of Paris Campbell and Jamison Crowder and the return from injuries by Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson going to move the needle? This was a group that was starving for more big plays. Did NYG truly get better here? Or did they shuffle around personnel and simply find a new way to bake the same pie? Time will tell but there is no disputing the fact there is a shortage within this receiver group (no pun intended). In a league, and in an era, where exciting talent is plentiful at receiver, NYG has several question marks and very few answers.
NYG is in play for a receiver at #25. I think they could even be in play for a trade up for someone like Smith-Njigba if he falls. “They do not need another slot” is a tired argument. “They need more size” is another one. Sure, in a perfect world there is big, physical, vertically fast guy there at some point that can round out the group but by no means is a deal breaker. What NYG needs is a guy that will create more explosive plays for an offense that ranked dead last in that category in 2022. If he is small, he is small. If he is big, he is big. Beggars can’t be choosers in this scenario. The one question I have a hard time figuring out is when to draft a receiver. It is a must-get for this team, but a strong argument can be made the more necessary-get is at cornerback.
I have been on quite a few shows lately and this topic has come up often. The more I talk about it and the more I get into projecting what will happen, it is becoming more and more clear they may be best suited taking the risk of waiting until day two to get their playmaker. The gap between the top receivers in this class and the next tier is there, no question. But how big is it? And look at how many guys fit within that cluster (tiers 2 and 3). Now the longer you wait, the stronger the odds are you don’t get the difference maker you are looking for. It is a dangerous game, one that may require some draft weekend maneuvering via trades. After much debate and after going back and forth, I believe NYG will end up passing on WR at #25 overall, beef up the defense (up front or in the defensive backfield), and pursue their WR day 2. Also consider the fact that day three will be loaded with the big receivers. Look at the sizes I have on guys in that 21-49 listing. One after the other has the desired size but drafting two guys is going to cause an over-crowded receiver room. Don’t forget about Colin Johnson – he is going to get a shot at that size spot.