- Jalin Hyatt excels down the field: In a class filled with speedsters, the Tennessee WR has earned the “best deep threat” moniker.
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the best route runner: The Ohio State product gets open at will against man coverage due to his excellent route running.
- Quentin Johnston creates value after the catch: The TCU WR broke 40 tackles on 148 career collegiate receptions.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
You may have heard it’s a down receiver class compared to previous years. While this is true, much of it has to do with the fact that most of the top receivers in this class have limitations in one regard or another. In certain roles, numerous receivers in this class can still flourish. Let’s examine which receiver is the best at each aspect of the position:
Best Deep Threat: Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
This one is hotly contested. Nebraska’s Trey Palmer was the fastest receiver at the combine (4.33) and at the Senior Bowl (21.15 MPH). TCU’s Quentin Johnston is the best pure go-ball receiver on the outside. SMU’s Rashee Rice led the nation with 18 deep receptions in 2022.
Nonetheless, Hyatt registered the most deep yards in college football last season (677), as he struck more fear in opposing defenses than anyone else. He’s got a game-changing gear downfield.
Jalin Hyatt: Always Open
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 30, 2022
Best Route-Runner: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
This is what JSN does. He runs cleaner routes more consistently than anyone else in the class, which is what makes him one of the higher-floor receivers and the 11th overall player on the PFF draft board. He not only can get open at will against man coverage but also understands how to find space in zone coverage.
JSN has a very easy projection to the next level. It was apparent in my film study how consistent of a plan he has off the release. Despite playing in the slot, whenever he had to deal with press his hand usage and deception were on point. pic.twitter.com/dVGVc2MjZa
— Nick Martin (@themicknartin) January 13, 2023
Best Releases: Michael Wilson, Stanford
This class isn't particularly adept in their release packages due to so many of the top guys not even facing press much, especially from the slot. While Wilson hasn’t faced much press either, it’s not because of his role, as he’s only played 14 games over the previous three seasons.
On the 133 snaps against press coverage over that span, he averaged 2.77 yards per route. Then, at the Senior Bowl, he put on a clinic in getting off the line of scrimmage. He’s one of the few receivers in the draft class who can win with burst (1.5-second 10-split) or with power (23 bench press reps) at the line of scrimmage.
Michael Wilson you have my attention@StanfordFball @seniorbowl pic.twitter.com/pbqor08xF7
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 1, 2023
Best After the Catch: Quentin Johnston, TCU
Johnston has been the single-most impressive receiver after the catch from a statistical perspective that we’ve graded at the collegiate level. His 45 broken tackles on 115 career receptions are utterly insane. For comparison, Deebo Samuel — the best YAC receiver currently in the NFL — broke only 40 tackles on 148 career collegiate receptions. Johnston can be special with the ball in his hands.
TCU WR Quentin Johnston had a dominating performance today vs Kansas with a 14/206/1 stat line. On display was his athleticism, length and YAC ability.
In case you missed the game here are all of his receptions. Enjoy! pic.twitter.com/v1T4Q0ikOH
— Brandon Lejeune (@DevyDeepDive) October 8, 2022
Best at the Catch Point: Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
Tillman has a lot of prototypical possession receiver traits, displaying long arms (32 ¾ inches), big hands (10 inches) and a propensity to “big boy” cornerbacks at the catch point. Over the past two seasons, Tillman went 19 of 32 in contested situations and dropped only five of 106 catchable targets. If you’re looking for reliability, Tillman is your man.
Most receiving yards by a returning SEC WR?
Cedric Tillman (Tennessee) – 1,081pic.twitter.com/pld9yr14wS
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 13, 2022
Best Hands: Charlie Jones, Purdue
While he doesn’t have the lowest drop rate of all draft-eligible receivers, there’s a very good chance that he has the lowest drop rate of those who’ll get drafted. Between his time at Buffalo, Iowa and Purdue, Jones let only six passes slip through his hands on 155 career opportunities. Of those, half were due to having to reach behind his body on poorly thrown balls. That will make him an attractive option on Day 3.
This 4th quarter is WILD!
Charlie Jones 55 yard touchdown????
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 17, 2022
Freakiest Athlete: Quentin Johnston, TCU
Johnston is a unique athlete in a number of ways. From his lengthy build (6-foot-3 with a nearly 6-foot-10 wingspan) to his explosiveness (40.5-inch vertical and 11-foot-2 broad jump), Johnston is in rarified air from a physical standpoint. His tools combined with how easily he can throttle down for a bigger wide receiver make him WR1 on the PFF board. You don’t often see 208-pounders stop on dimes to send corners flying like Johnston can.
Quentin Johnston(#1) vs Julius Brent’s(#23).
Annnnnnd, back to the positives.. highlighting QJs start and stop ability.. at 6’4” 215lbs. Brents doesn’t even have a chance to flip his hips and react. pic.twitter.com/6kuVQgmyMh
— Tanner James (@tjdissect) February 28, 2023
Best Slot: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
It should be no surprise that the player with more yards in a single season from the slot than any other in the draft class should get this superlative. JSN’s 1,367 yards and eight scores from the slot in 2021 should give a good indication of what he’s capable of at the NFL level.
I want JSN #nfl #football #nfltwitter #jaxonsmithnjigba #osu #buckeyes #combine #NFLDraft #wr #widereceiver #ohiostate pic.twitter.com/tQpWJI2hhS
— DEE BLACK (@deeblackmma3) March 6, 2023
Best Gadget Player: Demario Douglas, Liberty
At 5-foot-8, 179 pounds, Douglas is never going to be a do-it-all receiver. If you’re going to scheme touches for someone, though, give me the twitched-up receiver that broke 39 tackles on 129 catches the past two seasons. He’s likely to find a role as a returner somewhere in the league with two punt return scores in his career at Liberty.
He’s that guy, pal. @popshotta3 75 YARD TOUCHDOWN! ???? pic.twitter.com/TIW16ycaYq
— Liberty Football (@LibertyFootball) November 12, 2022