• Stanford's Michael Wilson a Round 4 target despite medicals: At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Wilson checks the size boxes for an outside receiver. And there’s even more to like on tape, but he did miss time in each of the past three seasons.
• Does Boston College's Zay Flowers fall to Round 2?: Some do see Flowers as a potential first-round prospect, and he's an explosive, versatile offensive weapon who brings WR2 ability to the NFL.
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With so many different types of pass catchers in the 2023 NFL Draft, it’s hard to pick just one or two that you really like. So, we picked seven of our favorites — one for every round of the draft.
FIRST ROUND: QUENTIN JOHNSTON, TCU
This might seem obvious, as Johnston is WR1 for many draft evaluators, but if I’m picking my favorite receivers for each round, it would be disingenuous of me not to go with the guy who I have at the top of my list.
At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Johnston checks the boxes of a receiver who looks the part of an NFL player. Then you watch him get out of his release and into his route, and you see a player who is uniquely gifted athletically at his size. He can win vertically, but he also brings some nice one-cut separation ability in and out of his breaks. The question with Johnston is the aggressiveness and consistency with which he attacks the ball at the catch point. He hauled in just eight of 23 contested catch opportunities this past season. However, of those catches he did make, most were highly impressive. If he displays that ability more reliably, he has WR1 potential in a lot of ways.
SECOND ROUND: ZAY FLOWERS, BOSTON COLLEGE
This one might be cheating, as some do see Flowers as a potential first-round prospect, but projections have him pegged as a late first-rounder to an early second-rounder, which gives me the chance to shout out another one of my favorite receivers in this class.
Flowers’ size — 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds — might hold him back from being selected on Day 1. But that’s about the only aspect of his game that may drop him down draft boards. On tape, he's an explosive, versatile offensive weapon who lines up in the slot, on the outside and even out of the backfield, at times. He’s one of the best separators in this class due to how deadly his one-cut ability is in and out of his routes. He also has quick feet for good releases at the line of scrimmage. He feels like the perfect WR2 who can fill a variety of different roles for an offense looking to get more dynamic in the passing game.
THIRD ROUND: TANK DELL, HOUSTON
Speaking of dynamic players, there might not be one more so than Nathaniel “Tank” Dell in this receiver class.
Like Flowers (and many others in this receiver class it seems), size is ultimately what will hold Dell back from being picked higher than mid-to-late Day 2. He’s 5-foot-8 and 163 pounds. When you have smaller players, they better win with speed, and, boy, does Dell win with speed. His Houston tape and his Senior Bowl reps show he's a mismatch nightmare with his quickness. The thought when guarding him is if you can get your hands on him, he won’t be able to break free. The problem is that defenders were rarely able to do that.
We often talk about start-stop ability for receivers, but overlook the “stop” part of that phrase. Dell’s body control ability to stop on a dime creates consistent separation in his routes. His size is an outlier, and you don’t want to make a living betting on physical outliers, but if you need a dynamic slot player as a WR3, he’s worth taking a flier on in this class.
FOURTH ROUND: MICHAEL WILSON, STANFORD
If not for the medicals, Wilson would likely be my favorite third- or even second-rounder on this list, but given the fact that he’s missed time in each of the past three seasons due to leg injuries, his medicals might push him down teams’ draft boards.
At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Wilson checks the size boxes for an outside receiver. And there’s even more to like on tape. He brings such a good understanding of how to win at the position. He is nuanced in his releases, constantly trying to set up defensive backs to get them to turn their hips one way or another before getting into his routes. He can then box defenders out as the ball arrives, and he even creates good separation with cuts quicker than expected for a receiver of his size. He’s an all-around talent with questionable medicals.
FIFTH ROUND: CHARLIE JONES, PURDUE
Jones has been on a winding road to the 2023 NFL Draft, first as a special teamer and fringe rotational receiver at Buffalo, then the same at Iowa. But this past season at Purdue, the 6-foot, 188-pound receiver racked up more than 1,300 yards with 12 receiving touchdowns. He also showed that he’s not just a slot receiver, handling 726 snaps out wide as opposed to just 107 inside. He’s likely a slot at the next level, but that’s fine.
Jones is also one of the best route runners in this class. His work ethic in his craft consistently shows up in his footwork and releases, as well as how confident, precise and effective he is running variations of almost any route. Size and speed limitations could push him into the early Day 3 range, but he’s a relentless worker and a good depth receiver.
SIXTH ROUND: JADON HASELWOOD, ARKANSAS
The former five-star receiver might not last until the sixth round just based on recruiting pedigree alone. But an ACL tear in 2020 and a lack of production at Oklahoma and Arkansas in the two seasons that followed makes him feel like a wild card in this draft. Of course, if he’s available this late, these are the kind of athletes you take a chance on.
Haselwood has a slender build at 6-foot-2 and 213 pounds, but he’s a smooth mover getting into his top speed. He never blossomed into that top-tier playmaker we thought he could be during his recruiting cycle, but this past season was his best, so perhaps it’s all on the up and up for him after recovering from his injury.
SEVENTH ROUND: BRYCE FORD-WHEATON, WEST VIRGINIA
Ford-Wheaton is a strong possession type of wide receiver who knows how to use his physicality both with and without the ball. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, he likes the challenge of man coverage and embraces when cornerbacks are in press coverage against him. Drops are somewhat of an issue for Ford-Wheaton, though, with him recording six, five and six drops in the past three seasons. He has a skill set to like, and if he can clean up the drops, he’s a nice depth wide receiver.