Featured Image Credit: Tammy Anthony Baker from Louisiana, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Folks, if you couldn’t tell, I absolutely love NFL Draft season. It truly is a spectacular time filled with hope no matter how bad your franchise is. I also LOVE to scout wide receivers because it’s the position that so many people overthink when it comes to the NFL Draft.
To be a good wide receiver in the NFL you really need two things: Good route running ability and good hands. If you have those two things then you can become a great wide receiver in this league. So many people just look at 40 yard dash times for wide receivers and think that because a guy is fast then they’ll be good. It’s a foolish practice and it’s a trap that many NFL teams have fallen into.
John Ross was taken in the NFL Draft before Patrick Mahomes was. Why was he taken? It’s not because he can run routes. He doesn’t have great hands. It’s just because he ran an insane time at the combine. That’s it. And the experiment has failed miserably.
So let’s go through my top 5.
1. Ja’Marr Chase- LSU
A lot of folks will rank Devonta Smith as their number one ranked wide receiver prospect this draft season but I’d say that those people have a bit of a short memory. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very close, but I’d give the edge to Chase because of his size.
Chase is an absolute weapon as a receiver. He can use his body to box players out and get the ball. Does he have elite speed? No. But he’s got great hands, a good catch radius, and excellent route running ability. His floor is a quality number 1 wide receiver in the NFL.
Comparison: Allen Robinson
2. Devonta Smith- Alabama
Smith is a much different player than Chase but he is an absolute burner. All you’ve gotta do is get the ball into Smith’s hands and he will make the magic happen. The biggest knock against Smith will be his size but his size won’t matter when he’s such an elite route runner and he has the hands that he has. He should be a top 10 pick in the draft no problem.
Pro Comparison: Marvin Harrison
3. Rashod Bateman- Minnesota
My first surprise of the list! Most people would have Jaylen Waddle here. I am not one of those people. I fell in love with this guy watching his tape. He attacks the ball so aggressively as a receiver and at times it seems like he never loses 50/50 balls. He’s an incredible route runner. His ability to catch the ball in traffic is elite. The biggest knock on him is that he lacks elite speed. He will likely run in the 4.45-4.6 range which in my eyes is more than good enough.
Pro Comparison: Kenny Golladay or Hakeem Nicks
4. Jaylen Waddle- Alabama
While I may not be as high on Waddle as a lot of other people, I can still see his appeal. I don’t think that he’s going to be the kind of player who is just a speedster. There’s nobody in college football who did more with less targets or receptions than Jaylen Waddle. He could score a touchdown every time he touches the ball.
However, I am concerned about his ability to be a true number one wide receiver. He was surrounded by a lot of talent at Alabama he doesn’t have elite size by any means. He will either become a high end receiver or a gadget guy who was taken way too early. I don’t see an in between for Waddle.
Pro Comparison: Tyreek Hill
5. Terrace Marshall- LSU
Rounding out the top 5 is yet another SEC receiver in LSU’s Terrace Marshall. Marshall has great size, standing at 6’4″, and he is effective both outside and in the slot. He’s an obvious red zone threat who is surprisingly good after the catch. If he goes to the right system, he could absolutely grow into a top 15 receiver in the entire NFL. He’s got that kind of potential.
Pro Comparison: Brandon Marshall