Breaking Down the Top Wide Receivers in This Year's NFL Draft
With just about every team in need of good pass catchers (and the instant impact of rookie Ja’Marr Chase fresh on everyone’s minds), there’s a good chance we’ll see at least five wide receivers taken in the first round for the third straight year. There isn’t a consensus #1, but there are three or four players that could make a Chase-like impact on the team that selects them.
Let’s take a look at the All-22 of the top receivers in this year’s class.
Garrett Wilson - Ohio State
At 6’0”, 183 pounds, Wilson doesn’t necessarily have the size to scare defenses. But he does have the quickness and route-running ability to consistently get open.
Here’s an example against press-man. His defender was trying to take away the inside with his alignment, which was a problem since Wilson was running an in-breaker. So he released quickly to the outside, selling the go route. That got his man to turn and run, giving Wilson access inside:
Wilson can win deep by getting on top of defenders via his route-running ability as well. Watch him attack the inside leverage of the cornerback over him here, getting him to move even further inside. That opened up a ton of space to the sideline for Wilson to separate:
Against zone coverage, Wilson has the ability to consistently get his defender off his mark with his stem, again creating separation. He also has great run-after-the-catch ability because of his quickness, change-of-direction skills, and knack for making defenders miss. He’ll be a reliable playmaker and a fit for any team that selects him.
Drake London - USC
At 6’4”, 219 pounds, London has the size to be open just by standing on a football field. His best attributes are his ability to consistently make contested catches and play above the defense:
Those traits not only makes him an effective red-zone option, but they also would make him a great security blanket for a young quarterback. He can be isolated to the back side for lots of 1-on-1 opportunties, helping to reduce some of the decision-making that tends to paralyze young quarterbacks at times.
London also spent plenty of time in the slot during his first two seasons at USC and is comfortable navigating the middle of the field. It would be nice for a second-year quarterback like Zach Wilson to have a big target like London right in front of him (The Jets have the #4 and #10 overall picks, by the way).
London won’t scare defenses with his downfield speed. But he does have good quickness out of his breaks for a receiver his size:
Those speed cuts where he doesn’t have to stop his feet are where he’s at his best. Combined with his size, competitiveness, and physicality with the ball in his hands (he doesn’t go down easily as you could see above), London should be an effective target on underneath throws.
That said, there are fair questions to ask about his ability to separate, especially vs. press-man. Cornerbacks in the NFL will force him to stop and start more frequently, which isn’t his strength. His length will help him compensate against tight coverage when the ball is in the air, as it did in college, but it’s something to watch at the next level.
Treylon Burks - Arkansas
Burks is 6’2”, 225 pounds, and the best combination of size and speed available in this year’s draft. His blend of physicality and athleticism give him the ability to win at the line, on contested throws, and after the catch. It’s this combination that might make him the best prospect in this year’s Draft.
Just look at the below play to get a feel for how dynamic he is. Burks came to a complete stop to make this catch and then was able to run away from Alabama’s secondary: