Our post-combine comp series rolls on to the receiving positions, which is always my favorite one to comp. (Find player comps for PFF's top quarterbacks here.)
With all the various body types and athletic profiles that can succeed at wideout and tight end in the NFL, knowing how a guy should be deployed is crucial to his fit and success at the next level.
Jeudy’s testing numbers at the Combine didn’t really do justice to the way he moves on the football field — and neither did Beckham’s. They are both such sudden route runners with a level of body control few are capable of achieving. Don’t overthink the Alabama wideout.
Both Lamb and Hopkins have ball skills that are as good as it gets for the position. It’s not only the highlight-reel catches, but also the way they attack the ball in contested situations. Then, with the ball in their hands, both are likely to make multiple defenders miss on any given play. Hopkins had a little more strength coming out, while Lamb probably has a little more speed.
Henry Ruggs: Santana Moss
Moss was a blur coming out of Miami back in the day. Even surrounded by speed, Moss always looked like he was playing in fast forward. He went on to have multiple 1,000-yard seasons for the Jets and Redskins, but his skill set was one that’s only grown in value as passing offenses have evolved. The speed at 4.3 — or in Ruggs’ case, sub-4.3 — plays at any level when it comes paired with legit hands like both possess.
Shenault is really a wide receiver in name only. Outside the way he attacks the football in the air, Shenault has little other polish as far as wide receiver attributes go. What he does have is absurd explosiveness after the catch at 227 pounds. The only compact player around that size with such explosiveness in recent memory just so happens to play running back. The offensive weapon tag is the ideal role for both.
To get by without separation ability down the football field in today’s NFL, you better be pretty darn good at everything else. Both Pittman and Jeffery fall into this category. Pittman said at the Senior Bowl that even when he’s not open, he’s open. Both share that contested catch ability and both use their physicality to separate underneath and at the intermediate range.
Adams doesn’t have elite deep speed for the position, and neither does Johnson, but they both make up for it with craftiness as route-runners. Both have excellent quicks at the line to get a clean release, and they’ll vary the speed of their routes based on the depth to lull defenders to sleep. Adams was a steal after dropping to the second round, and you can expect a similar fall from Johnson.
Both guys are a touch thin and not the most physically imposing, but if you throw the ball up to them, chances are they’re coming down with it. They have enough speed to win deep when necessary and are almost never going to let the ball hit the turf. If there was one word that could describe both, it would be “smooth.”
Denzel Mims: Braylon Edwards
This isn’t the most favorable comp on its face, but Edwards was pretty freaky coming out of Michigan. He simply never quite developed and ended up hanging his QBs out to dry with a disastrous drop problem. Mims has some drops himself, but not to the level of Edwards. The high-end athleticism with legit size is the commonality here. Mims and Edwards can simply out-jump any cornerback tasked with guarding them. Let’s hope Mims doesn’t follow the same route in the league that Edwards did.
Both Aiyuk and Garcon are at their best with the ball in their hands. Give them a crease and they’re gone. The combination of sure hands and YAC ability is a safe one when projecting to the NFL. Aiyuk is still developing as a route-runner, as was Garcon initially in Indy. By the end of his career, though, Garcon had become one of the craftier wideouts in the league.
Hamler and Austin are two players whose production is going to be heavily tied to usage at the next level. If you throw either on the outside and ask them to consistently beat top corners, you’re probably not going to get your money’s worth. Scheme them some touches, though — move them around the formation to get clean releases — and let them work vertical from the slot and you’ll get some big plays.
You can only teach a man so much about route-running before natural ability has to take over. That’s where Hill and Kupp are aligned. They just get it: how to set up defenders, use leverage, react on the fly and attack the football; it all comes easy to them. Both are going to outproduce the sum of their physical parts.
Each is undersized with plus movement skills, which makes it tough to get the job done as a traditional tight end in the league. Bryant’s usage in the NFL almost has to come similarly as an off-the-line wing player. He’s not going to go toe-to-toe with defensive ends, so why even bother? Neither is the most impressive testing athlete, but they both turn into running backs with the ball in their hands.
Kmet and Bennett both have great natural receiving ability and catch radius, but where this comp really shines is after the catch. Kmet is not the kind of guy who is going to make a defender miss. He’s going to be a value add after the catch, but it’s going to come via shrugging off safeties and corners. Bennett was almost identical in that regard and broke over 20 tackles in 2013 and 2014 for Chicago.
Both Bryant and Brate straddle the line between tight end and big slot. Each wins with exceptional ball skills and sudden route running, but neither is quite athletic enough to be a true mismatch weapon. Bryant is unfortunately in kind of a no-man’s land with his size and athletic profile at the moment.
Both Trautman and Andrews have tight end size, but the way they go about their business looks far more like a wide receiver. Andrews pretty much functioned as one because of how much he played from the slot coming out of Oklahoma, while Trautman was the featured player in Dayton’s offense last year. Both will live in the intermediate range in the NFL.