NFL Draft News & Analysis

2022 NFL Draft: Wide receiver prospect superlatives

Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave (2) celebrates his touchdown during the first quarter against the Michigan State Spartans at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL wide receiver draft class may not have the top-end talent of years past, but this class will still provide a lot of productive NFL wideouts. For teams looking for specific skill sets, this draft class has a little something for everyone.

Let’s dive into the superlatives.

Best Deep Threat: Jameson Williams, Alabama

This one isn’t up for debate. The only debate is how fast Williams would have run the 40-yard dash had he not torn his ACL in the National Championship Game. He makes corners with verified 4.3s look slow, and that’s tough to do. Not only can he run fast in a straight line, but he’s also exceptional at controlling his speed to lull defensive backs to sleep. He was a starter for just one year, but he racked up 13 deep receptions for 671 yards in that year.

Best Route-Runner: Chris Olave, Ohio State

Olave has looked like a seasoned vet ever since his sophomore season in 2019. He’s a pure technician who also possesses the kind of speed to threaten every level of the football field. If teams want a “safe” pick, Olave is the man.

Best Releases: Skyy Moore, Western Michigan

Yes, it was a low level of competition. But, on 146 snaps against press coverage last season, Moore never got “got.” That includes matchups against Michigan and Pittsburgh, as well. His suddenness combined with a running back-esque build will make him a handful for whoever he’s matched up with at the next level. 

Best After the Catch: Treylon Burks, Arkansas

This was the most hotly contested superlative on this list. Burks gets the nod for the sheer number of ways he can win. He can break ankles, break tackles and stiff arm you into oblivion. He averaged 9.3 yards after the catch on the season and managed 12.2 yards per reception on 18 screen passes.

Best at the Catch Point: Drake London, USC

It’s not hyperbole to say London is the best catch-point receiver we’ve seen in our eight years of college grading. He led the FBS with 19 contested catches despite playing in only nine games last year. And he did it all at only 20 years of age. His basketball background is evident in how he attacks the football in the air every time it’s thrown his way. 

Best Hands: George Pickens, Georgia

Lest we forget just how nasty Pickens' hands are because we haven’t seen much of them in a while. As a freshman back in 2019, he hauled in 49 passes without dropping a single one. He has only two drops on 92 catchable targets for his career — good enough for the lowest drop rate in the draft class.

Pickens isn’t hauling in screens, either. His 15.4-yard career average depth of target is one of the highest marks in the class.

Freakiest Athlete: Christian Watson, North Dakota State

What Watson did in Indianapolis was nothing short of an all-time performance. At 6-foot-4, 208 pounds, he ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical and 11-foot, 4 inches in the broad jump. He capped it off at his pro day with 18 reps on the bench, a 4.19-second shuttle and a 6.96-second three-cone. Those numbers are usually reserved for your undersized receivers, not guys with near prototype size.

Best Slot: Kyle Philips, UCLA

This isn’t necessarily who will be the best in the slot at the next level. Rather, it's the best receiver who was already a slot-only at the collegiate level.

No receiver graded out higher over the week of Shrine Bowl or Senior Bowl practices than Philips. While he was facing some lesser competition in Las Vegas than the receivers in Mobile, it was still an utter demolition.

While he doesn’t have the size or speed to work from the outside, his 6.75-second three-cone and 4.09-second shuttle indicate an elite change-of-direction ability that will play from the slot.

Best Gadget Player: Calvin Austin III, Memphis

The crazy thing is, “gadget” really wasn’t Austin’s role for Memphis despite him measuring at 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds. In fact, the former walk-on took 90.5% of his snaps from the outside for the Tigers.

Given his 4.32-second 40, 1.44-second 10-yard split, 39-inch vertical, 11-foot-3 broad jump, 4.07-second shuttle and 6.65-second three-cone, Austin was tailor-made to create in space. 

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