2023 NFL Draft Rankings: Sam Monson's top 15 wide receivers, including USC's Jordan Addison at No. 1

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) catches a pass against the Utah Utes in the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

• USC's Jordan Addison at No. 1: The 6-foot, 174-pound wideout wins at all levels of the defense and is one of the best route runners in the class, with an excellent understanding of how to set up defenders and exploit space.

• Tank Dell headlines the second tier of pass-catchers: Dell may have clocked a relatively average 4.49-second 40-yard dash, but his tracking data shows elite speed. His 10-yard split was under 1.50 seconds, which is lightning fast.

• Favorite sleepers: Bryce Ford-Wheaton strikes me as a poor man’s Quentin Johnston who could be available for a fraction of the investment as a Day 3 pick. He has elite athletic traits and size and has barely scratched the surface of his potential.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


The PFF NFL Podcast has been in NFL draft mode for some time now, and we've covered everything from mock drafts to draft class awards to AFC and NFC team needs.

We recently unveiled our 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings, and I'll expound upon mine here. They are distinct from the official PFF big board ranking and based on my personal preference and interpretation of the data.

At No. 1, we have USC's Jordan Addison, who is quickly becoming the most underrated receiver in this draft.

The Big Three

1. Jordan Addison, USC
2. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
3. Quentin Johnston, TCU

There may not be a Ja’Marr Chase-level prospect this year, but there is a group that stands above the rest, even if they are very different receivers.

To me, the 2023 wide receiver class has a clear top tier of three players, and you could convince me without much effort that it’s only really two names strong.

Addison is quickly becoming the most underrated receiver in this draft as he continues to slide down mock drafts due to average workout numbers and below-average measurables. Still, his tape speaks for itself and is too good to ignore. He is the best receiver in this draft, though Smith-Njigba is a very close second.

Addison has shown that he can be a top-level playmaker in two different offenses. At Pitt with Kenny Pickett throwing him the ball in 2021 and then at USC with Caleb Williams in 2022, he was used in two different ways — first primarily in the slot and then outside — and generated at least 2.78 yards per route run each year.

The 6-foot, 174-pound wideout wins at all levels of the defense and is one of the best route runners in the class, with an excellent understanding of how to set up defenders and exploit space. He may not be exceptional at anything, but he is good at everything and has a good chance of being a productive NFL player.

Smith-Njigba has elite route-running skills and spent over 90% of his snaps in the slot at Ohio State. His numbers in the change-of-direction drills — three-cone, short shuttle — were all-time elite marks, and that’s how he will thrive at the next level. His footwork and size suggest to me that he could actually have untapped potential to play outside and have a broader role in the NFL than he did in college. If that manifests, he could comfortably emerge as the best receiver in this class.

Quentin Johnston has the frame these other guys don’t have. At 6-foot-3 and well over 200 pounds, he has prototypical X-receiver tools and the kind of game speed to outrun defenses if given a crease. However, I have concerns with his game at the catch point, where he caught just 35.6% of contested targets over the last two seasons.

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Small Playmakers

4. Nathaniel Dell, Houston
5. Josh Downs, North Carolina
6. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
7. Zay Flowers, Boston College

I think there’s a drop between that top three and the next group of receivers, a curiously small group. The next four players fall into a similar bunch to the top three, except this time, it’s three undersized speedsters and one (Jalin Hyatt) who has a prototypical size but still fits into the burner category.

Dell is my favorite of this group. He may have clocked a relatively average 4.49-second 40-yard dash, but his tracking data shows elite speed. His 10-yard split was under 1.50 seconds, which is lightning fast.

Dell saw 12 more “open” or “wide open” targets than anybody else from this draft class over the past two years and remained the top receiver against single coverage. He put defensive backs in a blender at the Senior Bowl practices all week and has an outstanding ability to track the ball and separate late in the play.

Josh Downs is an elite contested-catch receiver despite his size. He caught over 53% of his contested targets for his entire college career despite standing just 5-foot-9.

Jalin Hyatt is bigger than the rest of this group but comes from an offense so extreme in terms of its divergence from NFL concepts that projecting him to the next level is a big challenge. Previous receivers from similar systems have gone either way — from success story to total bust — so placing him is really about your appetite for risk.

Zay Flowers is a receiver many respected draft analysts love, but I question his ability to be significantly more than a slot receiver with some gimmick chops at the next level. Over the last two seasons, he averaged 2.49 yards per route run when lined up outside, but there are plays on tape where he struggles to run through contact, and I have significantly less confidence in his potential at the next level than others.

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The Middle Class

8. Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss
9. Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
10. Rashee Rice, SMU
11. Michael Wilson, Stanford
12. A.T. Perry, Wake Forest

The middle class of the wide receiver group is huge to me. I have listed the following five players in my rankings, but realistically, this group could be extended by another 10 names and the receivers would all be in very close proximity in terms of ranking and evaluation.

The biggest outlier relative to others is Jonathan Mingo from Ole Miss. Mingo surpassed 500 receiving yards and 30 catches just once in his four-year college career, but it’s difficult to see why when you watch his tape. He does a lot well and averaged 7.3 yards after the catch per reception last season.

Tillman and Perry skew more toward the “possession receiver” type, but they have been very good at that at the college level. Wilson has an excellent skill set but a very low sample size of impressive play in college.

Unpolished Gems

13. Matt Landers, Arkansas
14. Andrei Iosivas, Princeton
15. Marvin Mims, Oklahoma

The further into the draft we get, the more we come across players who have elite traits but need some work. Landers spent much of his college career buried on the Georgia depth chart before impressing at Toledo and then breaking 14 tackles on just 47 catches at Arkansas last season. He has elite athleticism at 6-foot-4 and could become a better NFL player than he ever was in college.

Andrei Iosivas has an exceptional game but will be making a big jump in competition, given that he hails from Princeton.

Favorite Sleepers

Bryce Ford-Wheaton, West Virginia
Grant DuBose, Charlotte

Ford-Wheaton strikes me as a poor man’s Quentin Johnston who could be available for a fraction of the investment as a Day 3 pick. He has elite athletic traits and size and has barely scratched the surface of his potential.

Dubose is very inexperienced, but his tape is dripping with potential. Over the last two seasons, he averaged over 2.0 yards per route run and broke 20 tackles with the ball in his hands. He could be a gem of a Day 3 pick for somebody.

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