A quarterback is often only as good as the wide receivers he’s throwing to, and teams in the NFL now need three or even four high-quality pass-catchers to make their offense work properly. This wide receiver class may not be quite as good as some of the elite groups we’ve seen come into the NFL in recent years, but it’s still chock-full of starting-caliber talent. In this article, I’ll break down my top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft and provide some strengths and weaknesses for each one.
|Mid 1st Round
|Late 1st Round
|Late 1st Round
|North Dakota State
#1: Drake London – USC
Drake London actually played two games for the USC basketball team, and his basketball background is obvious in the way he plays wide receiver as he dominates at the catch point with physicality and the box-out mentality. He’s a bit of throwback at the position as the league shifts more towards smaller, shiftier receivers who can gain separation, but that doesn’t mean he’s not incredibly effective in an old-school way.
- Dominant at the catch point – 67.9% contested catch rate per PFF led class
- Incredible physicality from his core strength to lower body to hands
- Agile route-runner, can shake defenders better than you’d expect at his size
- Upper-body strength allows him to excel against press coverage
- Massive catch radius makes him a quarterback’s best friend
- Positional versatility – has played in the slot and on perimeter
- 2021 season ended in October with a broken ankle, shouldn’t limit his preparation for this season
- Lacks the same elite separation ability as some of the burners in this class
- Routes take a bit longer to develop downfield, needs his QB to have time in the pocket
- Occassional issues with drops on film
Calling Card: Basketball Physicality
Summary: Drake London is my favorite wide receiver prospect in this class for how seamlessly his game translates to the NFL. His limitations mostly stem from his lack of speed compared to his peers, but that’s going to be true for any big-bodied wide receiver (unless you’re DK Metcalf). London is a monster at the catch point to the point that he frequently made catches in double and triple coverage on film, and he has the versatility to line up in the slot or outside depending on what his team needs from him.
Draft Range: Top 10
#2: Garrett Wilson – Ohio State
Wilson was part of an Ohio State offense loaded with wide receiver talent, and he made big plays repeatedly on film. He’s a smaller receiver, but that’s not the same death knell it used to be as it gives him tons of advantages in the modern game. Wilson is a big play waiting to happen with his open-field running, and he’s surprisingly physical before, during, and after the catch for his size.
- YAC artist – constantly keeps defenders off balance with stop-and-start and change of direction
- Gains separation at an elite level
- Huge catch radius for his size – 36″ vertical, high points balls on film
- Play strength is there despite his smaller stature
- Awesome field vision and awareness, always seems to take the right angles
- Can also contribute as a punt returner
- Route-running is raw still, needs to be more decisive in his cuts
- Linear release is problematic against press coverage, limited to slot role for now
- Concentration drops show up on film at times
- Doesn’t use his play strength to win with physicality enough
- Elite speed doesn’t show up on film very often despite 4.38-second 40-yard dash
Calling Card: YAC Artist
Summary: Wilson is a very different prospect from London, but he isn’t too far off from being my #1 prospect. The big point of differentiation for me is Wilson’s limitations in regards to his role in the offense. Until he develops his release package, he’s limited to playing in the slot where he’ll get free releases. However, that’s not a problem so long as he continues to separate from defenders at an elite level and generate yards after the catch in bunches.
Draft Range: Top 10
#3: Jameson Williams – Alabama
Speed kills in the NFL, and Jameson Williams has PLENTY of it. It’s a shame that he didn’t get to test at the combine as I truly believe he would have put up some special numbers. Nonetheless, we don’t need the athletic testing to know that Williams can really put on the afterburners, but he’s not just a one-trick pony. The ACL injury seems like increasingly less of an issue as we head towards the draft with recent reports suggesting he should be ready for training camp with his NFL team.
- Ankle-breaking, uncatchable deep speed – rare for a 6’2″ receiver
- Can change direction on routes and after the catch without losing speed
- Smooth route-runner, quickness helps him win early in routes
- Shiftiness at the line of scrimmage helps him release from press coverage
- As tough as it gets – was a star gunner on special teams for Alabama
- Excellent ball skills with tracking and ability to pluck the ball out of the air
- Torn ACL in the National Championship game still needs to be vetted
- Needs to add some weight, particularly after showing up at the combine 10 pounds lighter
- One year wonder – still some questions as to why he couldn’t break through at Ohio State
- Doesn’t get off press consistently, narrow and indecisive at the release point
Calling Card: Speed Demon
Summary: From the day he steps on an NFL field, Jameson Williams will threaten to take the top off the defense, and he’s a big play waiting to happen. The enticing part of his game for me, though, is what he could become from a contested-catch perspective. He has the frame to add more muscle and play strength, and it’s unfortunate that the torn ACL resulted in him losing even more weight and setting him back in that process. However, if he can get stronger without losing his elite speed, the sky is the limit for how good he can become in the NFL.
Draft Range: Top 15
#4: Chris Olave – Ohio State
Garrett Wilson stole the headlines in Columbus last season, and Jaxson Smith-Njigba is already headlining everyone’s 2023 draft boards. However, the gap between Olave and his former teammates isn’t huge, and he deserves more love in the draft circuit. Olave turned in an excellent combine to help boost his stock, and the refined route-running that shows up on film should translate to the NFL right away.
- True technician with how he sells his routes and disguises movements
- Excellent Football IQ – shows up in his field vision and awareness
- Better top-end speed than he’s given credit for – ran the same 40-yard dash time as Wilson
- Short-area quickness and burst allows him to separate from defenders
- If he lands with a mobile quarterback, his intelligence to make himself available when the pocket breaks down is a huge plus
- Not a dynamic playmaker after the catch
- Smaller frame, lacks play strength to win consistently at the catch point
- Inconsistent catching the ball away from his body, especially through traffic
Calling Card: Route Technician
Summary: Chris Olave has the versatility to win from the perimeter with his route-running or from the slot with his quickness and fluidity, making him an ideal versatile WR2 in the NFL. While other receivers in this class have a lot of work to do with route-running and release packages, Olave is already so refined. He may not have elite athleticism or dominant ability at the catch point, but Olave’s consistent production should continue in the NFL.
Draft Range: Mid 1st Round
#5: Jahan Dotson – Penn State
A three-sport athlete in high school, Dotson will make the NFL team who drafts him happy he chose football over basketball and track & field. Dotson’s combine wasn’t electric, but he’s much more of a player who relies on his suddenness and short-area burst than functional speed or strength. Dotson is a true three-level threat who should be a clear first-round pick in this class.
- Keeps defenders off-balance with his suddenness in and out of his breaks
- Rarely drops passes (5.2% career drop rate per PFF) and makes acrobatic highlight-reel catches too
- Awesome vision in the open field, turns into a punt returner after the catch
- Changes speed and direction with such ease
- Creates natural separation with his loose hips and crisp footwork
- Won’t be able to win physically in the NFL the same way he did at Penn State
- Will be 22 years old on draft day and didn’t break out until junior year
- Lacks elite top-end speed, not a burner
- Inconsistent release package off the line
Calling Card: Shiftiness and Finesse
Summary: Jahan Dotson played across the formation for Penn State, but, like Garrett Wilson, he’s likely limited to the slot until he adds more play strength and learns to beat press consistently. That’s not a problem with his flair for the acrobatic catch, superb agility, and unique open-field running. Dotson plays the game with incredible finesse and his natural hands and separation will earn his quarterback’s confidence.
Draft Range: Late 1st Round
#6: Treylon Burks – Arkansas
I was already skeptical of the Burks hype train, and the numbers he put together at his combine and pro day did him no real favors. He’s a solid prospect with a combination of factors that should work in his favor, but there seems to be a growing consensus that Burks is a Deebo Samuel or DK Metcalf clone and I just can’t get there. His upside is still considerable, but there’s a lot of projection that goes into his evaluation for the time being.
- Powerful lower body allows him to break tackles like a running back
- Wants to play physical – loves initiating contact
- Former all-state outfielder in high school – tracks and snags the deep ball
- Flashed high-level ability to win at the catch point
- Solid leverage in route-running, accelerates out of breaks
- 77% of career snaps came in the slot per PFF
- You’d want more than a 33-inch vert from a player who’s supposed to dominate at the catch point
- Route-running when asked to work beyond the short area is stiff and slow
- Unpolished release package, untested against press coverage
Calling Card: Tackle-Breaking Power
Summary: In theory, Burks is a uniquely versatile offensive weapon with a rare size-speed combination that allows him to win in several ways. However, he was rarely asked to be anything other than a short-area slot receiver at Arkansas, and he lacks polish in route-running, releasing from the line of scrimmage, and winning at the catch point. Burks’s athletic profile is worthy of a first-round selection, but he has a lot of work to do before he’s the productive X-receiver many are billing him as.
Draft Range: Late 1st Round
#7: Christian Watson – North Dakota State
Christian Watson has made himself some money in the pre-draft circuit between the Senior Bowl and the combine, and he’s entering the first-round conversation. Watson ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash (92nd percentile) and recorded an explosive 38.5-inch vertical jump and 11-foot-4 broad jump (98th percentile). He did all that at 6’4″, 208 lbs, and he ranks in the 90th percentile for height among NFL receivers. The draft is loaded at receiver, but Watson has made himself a lock to be off the board in the top 50.
- Elite combination of size, speed, and length
- Improved creativity and nuance in route-running
- Massive, strong hands that allow him to dominate at the catch point
- Uses his big-bodied frame and elusiveness to create extra YAC
- Versatility to play outside and in the slot
- FCS competition could create a steeper learning curve
- Maxed out at 800 receiving yards in his senior season
- Limited contested catch production on film
- Struggled with drops sometimes, needs to improve catch focus
Calling Card: Size-Speed Blend
Summary: Watson’s collegiate production didn’t stand out, particularly in the FCS, but he earned himself a much better draft evaluation after the best combine performance in his positional class. After a dominant Senior Bowl performance, Watson could sneak into the end of the first round. If not, he’ll be a coveted early Day 2 pick with a blend of traits that are hard to find at the wide receiver position. If he can keep polishing his route-running and catch focus while transitioning to a higher level of competition, he has massive upside.
Draft Range: Early 2nd Round
#8: Skyy Moore – Western Michigan
Moore is just a former three-star recruit who played quarterback and defensive back in high school, but he worked hard to use his athleticism to become a successful wide receiver. In his junior season, he became one of the most productive wideouts in FBS, and his 1,292 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns were no fluke. Despite playing in a weaker conference, his ten catches for 123 yards and a touchdown in an upset win over Pittsburgh represented an incredible look at how his game can translate to tougher competition.
- Agility and short-area quickness fly off the screen on film
- Strong hand-eye coordination, makes catches away from his body
- Plays much bigger than his 5’10”, 195-pound frame would indicate
- Hard-noses, tough player built to take hits in the middle of the field
- Not a burner but still gets plenty of YAC with his quickness and toughness
- Struggles to manipulate his defender and create separation
- Limited catch radius with 31″ arms some of the shortest in this class
- Inconsistent results stacking against press corners
- Raw route-running will limit his immediate production
- Put up big numbers against mediocre competition
Calling Card: Elusiveness and Agility
Summary: Moore is a rocked-up 195 pounds who plays with a brand of physicality that will translate. His short-area quickness and agility are special, and his combine testing numbers showcased those traits. Moore will consistently break tackles and pick up yards after the catch. His floor in the NFL is as a high-level slot receiver, but if he can improve his ability to beat press and run a more complete route tree, Moore could develop into a complete wide receiver on the perimeter as well.
Draft Range: Early 2nd Round
#9: George Pickens – Georgia
When George Pickens worked his way back from his ACL tear to contribute to Georgia’s title-winning season, it said much more about his character than it did his on-field projection. That was important for Pickens as there will be questions about his past indiscretions with a past suspension and ejection from a game for fighting. Aside from those off-field question marks, Pickens has awesome upside as a former five-star recruit with a knack for the spectacular catch.
- Excellent at the catch point, even as a freshman in the SEC
- Natural hands catcher, makes consistent grabs away from his body
- Makes subtle movements at the top of the route to gain separation
- Outstanding ball skills, tracks it and plucks it out of the air
- Physical at the release point and throughout his routes
- Lacks high-end speed to take the top off the defense
- Weighed in at 195 lbs at the combine – needs to fill out his frame badly
- Suspended for violating team rules, kicked out of a game for fighting in 2019
- Coming off an ACL tear last season
- Needs to be more physical at the catch point to be a consistent contested-catch threat
Calling Card: Ball Skills
Summary: Pickens has work to do with building out his frame, and that’s going to be tough to accomplish until he’s fully recovered from his ACL tear. However, the former five-star recruit was seen as one of the very best players in this class just a couple of years ago, and that talent didn’t vanish overnight. If Pickens can get healthy and keep filling out his frame to be a more consistent contested-catch threat, there’s no reason he can’t be a productive outside receiver in the NFL.
Draft Range: 2nd Round
#10: Alec Pierce – Cincinnati
Pierce was a multi-sport athlete in high school who competed in football, volleyball, basketball, and track, but football was his true calling in life. Pierce’s Cincinnati numbers weren’t eye-popping – he topped out at 884 yards in his senior season – but it’s easy to see the upside for much more with his athletic profile.
- Big, physical frame with a huge wingspan that he uses to make contested catches
- 40.5-inch vertical allows him to make highlight-reel catches downfield
- Deceptive explosiveness in route-running and after the catch
- Creates late separation in routes to make himself available to quarterback
- Physicality and toughness to be a plus run-blocker
- Traits to be a dominant red-zone weapon
- Never put up elite numbers at Cincinnati
- Route tree is limited and unpolished
- Can get jammed up by press coverage – agility somewhat lacking
- Hands are somewhat smaller than expected at 9″
Calling Card: Consistent at the Catch Point
Summary: Alec Pierce’s combine boosted him to a second-round grade for me, and I believe some teams will covet his contested-catch profile with his huge frame, impressive vertical, and hard-nosed physicality. Pierce’s athleticism is underrated too, however, and his 4.41-second 40-yard dash was faster than I expected. He may have never been a high-level producer at Cincinnati, but he has awesome potential to be a big contributor in the NFL.
Draft Range: 2nd Round
#11: Wan’Dale Robinson – Kentucky
The transfer from Nebraska to Kentucky wound up being excellent for Wan’Dale Robinson’s draft stock as he finally landed with an offensive coordinator who knew how to utilize his unique playmaking traits. Robinson may have a diminutive frame at 5’8″, 178 lbs, but he makes a big impact on the field with his ability to win from all over the field.
- Excellent playmaker in space with juke moves for days
- Excels at jet motion, screen passes, dump-offs, etc.
- Tough competitor who loves fighting through contact
- Short-area burst allows him to gain separation underneath
- Not a route-running technician
- Functional speed isn’t quite where you’d want it to be – 4.44-second 40-yard dash
- Below-average play strength, won’t win consistently against press
- Short arms limit his catch radius despite solid hops
- Won’t have a big impact if he doesn’t land with a creative play-caller
Calling Card: Hard-Nosed Gadget Player
Summary: Robinson is tough as nails, which is great for his projection as someone who will be used primarily in the short-area passing game and a bit out of the backfield. His burst and shiftiness gain him separation underneath and his field vision profiles as a big strength. If you’re looking for a contested-catch, perimeter receiver, Robinson isn’t your guy, but he has huge upside in the right scheme.
Draft Range: 2nd Round
#12: David Bell – Purdue
If you’re looking for a wideout who’s proven he can be consistently productive, David Bell is your guy. Bell finished his Purdue career with just under 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he continued that production last season in a talented Big Ten despite his team not having many other options to confuse the defense. Bell’s not the standout athlete some other players are in this class, but his production should translate to the NFL.
- Highly intelligent football player – processing speed, awareness, etc. come easily to him
- Complete route tree with smooth cuts in and out of breaks
- Experienced playing inside the slot and on the perimeter
- Powerful lower body allows him to break tackles after the catch
- Excellent contact balance to battle through contact at the catch point
- Underwhelming combine results, particularly 4.65-second 40-yard dash
- Lacks a second gear to separate from cornerbacks vertically
- Not particularly dynamic after the catch
- Modest suddenness in and out of breaks
Calling Card: Football IQ
Summary: Bell is a bit of a tweener at receiver who lacks the height and physicality to be a dominant contested-catch guy and the speed, suddenness, and agility to be elite at separating from defenders. The weaknesses in Bell’s game are unlikely to be improved upon, but his strong football IQ and route-running finnessee should serve him well as a productive WR2 or WR3 in the NFL.
Draft Range: 3rd Round
#13: John Metchie – Alabama
- Technically refined route-runner with head fakes, arm movements, and crafty footwork to keep defenders off balance
- Impressive package of release moves to get off the line of scrimmage
- Improved his ability to gain YAC in 2021
- Great downfield focus and ball-tracking
- Limited catch radius, not a consistent contested-catch player
- Tore his ACL in the SEC Championship in 2021
- Average height-weight combination, 5’11” and 187 lbs at the combine
- Modest athlete – no real standout traits to build on
- Lacks physicality to box out corners downfield
Calling Card: Route Salesman
Summary: Frankly, it may have been a good thing that Metchie wasn’t able to test at the combine, because I don’t believe his numbers would have been overly impressive. He lacks elite athleticism across the board, and he’s too small to be a physical wideout in the NFL. Metchie’s route-running craftiness and technically refined release package make him a Day 3 pick despite the ACL tear, but he lacks elite upside with his lack of overwhelming athleticism.
Draft Range: 3rd Round
#14: Justyn Ross – Clemson
Justyn Ross arrived at Clemson and delivered 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns as a true freshman in his team’s championship-winning season. However, injuries limited his collegiate production past that point, and he struggled to be consistent in a 2021 Clemson offense that was well below its typical standards. The talent he showed in 2018 didn’t go anywhere, but Ross’s career has not progressed the way most hoped.
- Massive wingspan allows him to make catches away from his body
- Size and length allow him to mismatch smaller cornerbacks
- Better agility and footwork than you usually see from someone his size
- One of the best high-point receivers in the country last year
- Smooth route-runner for his size
- Injury concerns – spinal surgery in 2020, stress fracture in foot in 2021
- Lacks explosiveness to consistently separate on routes
- Release package too reliant on stutter-step, needs to be expanded
- Limited route tree but room to grow more
- Needs to add more muscle to continue to win with physicality
Calling Card: Bully at the Catch Point
Summary: Ross’s medicals will be a big part of his evaluation after his season-ending injuries in 2020 and 2021, but beyond that factor, there’s a lot to like. Ross didn’t have the opportunity to produce at the level he’s capable of with D.J. Uiagalelei struggling last season, but his massive frame and smooth route-running provide an intriguing foundation to build on moving forward.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#15: Romeo Doubs – Nevada
With a background running track & field, Doubs has excellent build-up speed which makes him a constant threat to take the top off the defense. Doubs had two straight 1,000-yard seasons at Nevada, and he has that kind of upside with his big-play ability in the NFL. Doubs didn’t participate in the combine, and I’ll be excited to see what his pro day numbers show in his athletic upside.
- Great build-up speed on vertical routes, long strides help him separate
- Excellent footwork and contact balance downfield
- Overcame drop issues that plagued 2020 season in 2021
- Productive punt returner at Nevada, special teams viability
- Route tree somewhat limited to linear concepts
- Limited contested-catch productivity throughout his career
- Mediocre lateral quickness and agility
- Didn’t enforce physically against mediocre Mountain West competition
Calling Card: Build-Up Speed
Summary: Doubs is a big play waiting to happen with his electric downfield receiving profile, but there are question marks with his game. Doubs didn’t dominate physically in a weak Mountain West Conference – will he be able to handle NFL physicality? His limited route tree and inconsistent contested-catch productivity relegate him to a deep-ball role for the time being, but he has upside to if he can improve his play strength and route-running technique.
Draft Range: 4th Round
#16: Jalen Tolbert – South Alabama
Jalen Tolbert is a former two-star prospect, but he has been one of the most productive wide receivers in college football over the past two seasons. Tolbert torches his opponents with impressive downfield acceleration, and he high-points balls at the catch point. Tolbert’s unproven against top competition, but his traits fit the mold of what many teams look for in a mid-round receiver.
- Solid top-end speed and great acceleration – takes the top off the defense
- Great ball-tracking ability, high-points balls at the catch point
- Flexibility and burst suggest a potential to run a more complete route tree in the future
- Versatile release package, should translate to better competition
- Unproven against top competition – hasn’t played a Power Five team since 2019
- Inconsistent route-running, particularly with footwork
- Will be 23 years old on draft day, one of the older players in this class
- Physical element will be lacking at 6’1″, 194 lbs
Calling Card: Downfield Acceleration
Summary: Tolbert has traits that should make him a factor in the downfield passing game with his acceleration, height/length combination, and ability to high-point balls and win at the catch point. Tolbert is already 23 years old and hasn’t been tested against top competition, but his baseline as a speedy downfield target could see him sneak into the back end of Day 2.
Draft Range: 4th Round