College football starts in less than a week and it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft. Continuing off my rundown of the top prospects at each position is the top five wide receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft.
It is obvious that I have a “type” when evaluating receiver prospects. Receivers over the height of 6-foot-3 are going to be rated higher by me than a similarly-talented receiver of smaller stature. Also with these receiver rankings, each player is raw. This top-five will probably have the most variance come April.
1. N’Keal Harry, Arizona State, Junior, 6’4″ 213
Freakish. That is how to describe N’Keal Harry. Harry’s tools are insane. For a 6-foot-4 receiver to have the type of long-speed, fluidity, and agility of Harry is rare. Harry also has great hops and is a natural pass-catcher with strong hands and high-point ability. Receivers that can make contested catches like Harry are one of my favorite types of receivers. Harry has the potential to be my highest graded receiver ever, overthrowing Sammy Watkins.
However, Harry also has the potential to be a major disappointment. His tape did show issues with effort and getting off of press coverage. He tried to outrun or juke corners out of his face rather than use his hands. This won’t fly in the NFL because cornerbacks are too good. If Harry never learns to use his hands, something I highly doubt, he’ll never reach his lofty potential.
2. Collin Johnson, Texas, Junior, 6’6″ 220
Remember in my quarterback article where I mentioned Gus Johnson and his magnificent announcing? His constant screaming of “COLLIN JOHNSON” in the game against USC was my introduction to Johnson as a player.
The lanky giant for the Longhorns oozes potential and is arguably the most polished receiver on this list. Using a variety of moves to get off the line of scrimmage, Johnson is a good route runner that makes contested catches look easy. He has the prototype build for a red-zone threat, despite not being one in college yet. However, it is fair to put a lot of the blame on Johnson’s below-average touchdown numbers on Texas’ QB situation.
Johnson’s negatives mostly revolve around his athleticism, which limits his potential to a degree. He doesn’t have the long-speed to be a consistent deep threat and he lacks suddenness to his lateral movements. Another issue with Johnson is that too often he is a “body catcher” and doesn’t outstretch his arms. If he cleans up his body-catching issues and works on lateral movement, his deep speed will be much less of a problem.
3. D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi, Redshirt Sophomore, 6’4″ 230
D.K. Metcalf is similar to N’Keal Harry in terms of athleticism and potential. Built like a tight end with freaky athleticism, Metcalf’s potential is just as limitless. The reported numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but they’re eye-popping. He’s reportedly posted a “broad jump of 11’1” and 37.5 inch vertical, power cleans 350, bench presses 330, and was timed at 4.46 in the 40-yard dash”, per Sports Illustrated.
Metcalf’s athleticism shows on the field as he was a great deep threat for Ole Miss and had no problems outrunning defenders. His leaping ability was also on display as he showed great promise as a jumpball receiver. He also moves smoothly in and out of breaks and at-times showed the potential to shed corners off the line like it was nothing.
His route tree was rudimentary and he needs more exposure and usage in the Rebels’ offense, but the redshirt sophomore has the potential to be WR1 in this class and overtake Harry. He’s that good.
4. Denzel Mims, Baylor, Junior, 6’3″ 208
Denzel Mims is the receiver I’ve seen the least of on this list, so this is a major projection.
His athleticism is very good as he showed the ability to stretch the field constantly in Baylor’s spread out offense. He also flashed an enormous catch radius because of his long arms. Baylor’s quarterback situation was rocky, but Mims still put up huge numbers.
Mims biggest issues are the scheme he plays in and the rawness of his game. Baylor receivers haven’t exactly blown up the NFL, which is not solely indicative of the scheme itself but it is notable. Baylor doesn’t ask their receivers to do a lot in terms of route-running and their professional potential does take some damage because of that. Mims also lacks a lot of the nuances of playing receiver, partly as a result of this. His breaks are quick, but not smooth. He plays with too high of a center of gravity. However, the traits are impossible to ignore.
5. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Oklahoma, Junior, 5’10” 168
If Mims was a major projection, Brown is an astronomical projection.
The pint-sized playmaker for Oklahoma has some of the most fun film I’ve ever seen. An elite athlete, Brown is the premier deep-ball receiver in the class and provides value as a ball carrier. Also, Brown is the top choice to take over Oklahoma’s return duties, adding another element to his game. He tracks the ball well into his hands and was able to get open against zone with ease at times. He’s tough to cover deep and in short-area situations.
Brown’s most obvious issue is his size. History points to him being used the majority of the time as a slot receiver and he needs to add some weight to his frame to be able to handle NFL-level play. He’s also inexperienced, only starting eight games at division-one level football. He kind of is what he is at this point in the season, an undersized, elite deep-threat receiver that should work primarily from the slot. Whether he can be an outlier and survive on the outside remains to be seen, but his athleticism should scare opposing defenses.
Other WRs to watch: A.J. Brown (Mississippi), Anthony Johnson (Buffalo), Ahmmon Richards (Miami), Deebo Samuel (South Carolina), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Kelvin Harmon (North Carolina State), Parris Campbell (Ohio State), David Sills V (West Virginia), Gary Jennings (West Virginia), Stanley Morgan (Nebraska), Jaylen Smith (Louisville), Hunter Renfrow (Clemson), Demetris Robertson (Georgia), Terry Godwin (Georgia)