Wide Receiver Pre-Season Rankings for the 2022 NFL Draft
Starting my summer scouting series again for the 2022 NFL Draft. To preview the 2022 class, I watched 10 eligible draft prospects and rank them based on their talent, athleticism, production, and potential. My WR grading categories include route running, hands/ball skills, run after catch, athleticism, release, separation, and blocking.
This WR class doesn't look to be on par with the previous two draft classes but there is still some promising talent. Specifically half of the prospects in my rankings are strong contested catch receivers with great ball skills. A lot of these prospects can make unbelievable catches with defenders draped on them, but they struggle to get open. I only watched 10 prospects, but I wanted to give some honorable mentions. Some wide receivers to watch out for include:
Justyn Ross (Clemson) - Missed the 2020 season with a spinal injury
George Pickens (Georgia) - Suffered a torn ACL in March
Reggie Roberson (SMU) - Ranked #5 in my pre-season rankings last season
Chris Autman-Bell (Minnesota)
Beau Corrales (UNC)
Calvin Austin (Memphis)
Charleston Rambo (Miami)
Emeka Emezie (NC State)
Jaquarii Roberson (Wake Forest)
JD Spielman (TCU)
Michael Wilson (Stanford)
Tyquan Thornton (Baylor)
Now for my rankings!
At #1 we have Zay Flowers - Boston College (5'11, 178lbs)
Flowers is a quick and sudden athlete with an explosive first step. His route running is fairly advanced. He runs with sharp breaks and explodes out of them, creating separation and a passing window. He maintains speed through his breaks and runs with deception, using his hips and eyes to sell routes. He’ll use hesitation moves on vertical routes to freeze defenders and create separation deep. He does really well to create space on his releases too, utilizing quick jab steps to get defenders to open their hips. RAC ability is great with his speed and suddenness, and his vision and creativity in the open space is top notch. The main area of concern with Flowers are his hands and ball skills. There are some bad concentration drops on his tape and his ability to adjust and catch out of his frame are very inconsistent. He also needs to get stronger to avoid getting knocked off his routes. However, Flowers possesses fantastic athleticism and technique to be a top slot option in the upcoming draft. In the play below Flowers is lined up against Jason Pinnock, 5th round pick by the Jets. Flowers is explosive off the line, stacks the defender, and makes a nice catch in the endzone.
#2 - Garrett Wilson - Ohio State (6'0, 193lbs)
Wilson was a 5 star prospect coming out of high school and started contributing immediately in his true freshman year. Wilson is very fluid in his routes, exploding out of his breaks to create separation. His ability to cut on narrow and sharp angles makes it very difficult for defenders to mirror and adjust to his route breaks. He does well to avoid contact on release and over the middle of the field, and he really understands how to flatten his routes when coming out of breaks. He eats up cushion against off coverage and he has the speed to win downfield. Catching the ball out of frame is no problem and he showed he can adjust to the ball downfield in tough situations. He doesn’t offer too much in terms of RAC ability outside of speed and I would like to see him add more strength to his frame. This season he just needs to keep refining his route technique and improve his release against press. Wilson should be in the conversation for the top receiver come April. This clip below highlights his fluidity and catch radius. Wilson avoids contact after his release and makes a sharp break over the middle of the field.
#3 - Romeo Doubs - Nevada (6'2, 200lbs)
Doubs is a very explosive athlete and wins a lot of his routes with pure athleticism. He freezes defenders at the line with his quick and sudden footwork, which allows him to quickly gain a step. If he wins on release its tough to recover given his size and acceleration. He’s a fluid route runner and does well to maintain leverage on his routes. Once he receives the ball he’s got the vision and creativity to create after the catch, and he has experience a returner. Doubs has a very high ceiling and his ability to just blow by defenders makes him a potent deep threat. He still needs to improve his route running and ball skills. His route breaks are inconsistent, and his stem work is fairly basic. I would like to see him add some deception and fakes throughout his routes to separate at the intermediate level. Despite having good production on deep passes, his ball tracking and concentration wasn’t very good. His route tree at Nevada is limited, running a lot of go and slant routes. But his potential is very high and he can win at all levels of the field. In this play Doubs is lined up on the right side. He eats up cushion and hits a hard fake to the outside, and blows by the corner on his deep post route.
#4 - Chris Olave - Ohio State (6'1, 188lbs)
Comparing his 2019 to his 2020 season, I think he did a great job of improving his ability to separate. He does a good job of changing direction and tempo on his routes, keeping the defender guessing and generating space for himself. He’s a fluid route runner who can find soft spots in zone and knows how to work himself free against man. He does well to change up his angles and work himself in and out of the defender’s blind spot. While he’s more of a possession receiver, he also proved his ability as a deep threat, with an average longest catch per game of 56 yards. He’s got very sure hands, only dropping one pass last season. He did a great job of improving his overall game, but his route breaks are still raw. He curves them greatly, giving away his intended direction early and allowing the defender to make up ground. He could also add strength because there are times when physical defenders will bully him and disrupt his timing. While not perfect, he continues to improve his game and I believe he can take another step forward. Check out the silky smooth route running from Olave in this clip.
#5 - Treylon Burks - Arkansas (6'3, 232lbs)
Burks mostly plays as the big slot for the Arkansas offense. He has a lot of production on screens and shorter passes because of his fantastic RAC ability. Similar to N’Keal Harry as a prospect, Burks displays great field vision and creativity in open space for a bigger receiver. He’s physical after the catch and he’s able to beat defenders with his speed and explosiveness. He has strong ball skills, as he’s able to highpoint a pass and has the body control to make tough catches on the sideline. The areas he needs to fix are his route running technique and the ability to separate. Because of his height he doesn’t sink his hips into his routes consistently. His routes lack a certain crispness to them, and his route breaks tend to curve and look predictable. Particularly in the Georgia game, there were several slant routes he ran where the defender was able to mirror and break on him at the catchpoint. He needs to clean up his breaks and move defenders off his route path to become more than just a RAC machine, or he may face difficulties separating in the NFL. But someone with his size and athleticism doesn’t come often, so his ceiling is high. This clip below highlights his body control and ball skills. He makes a very tough catch in the endzone and gets his foot in.
#6 - John Metchie - Alabama (6'0, 195lbs)
Metchie has the versatility to play inside and outside, and he can be a threat at all levels. He’s got a quick first step off the line and he’s able to generate leverage against defenders to clear his route path. He’s a solid athlete who possesses the burst to run by defenders and the speed to win deep. Metchie also has a keen ability to stack defenders and burst out of his breaks. While he has shown he can win all over the field, his route running is still a bit raw and inconsistent. His separation at the intermediate and deep level runs hot and cold, and he tends to round his breaks. There are flashes of him utilizing head fakes on his routes but would like to see him sell his routes more. His ball skills are also just average, and he’s not the vertical athlete to win in contested catch situations. I believe he can develop into a reliable and talented possession receiver, but I’m not sure he has the ceiling to be a first round pick. In this play Metchie does really well to use a head fake to catch the corner flat-footed, and separates deep for the long TD.
#7 - Drake London - USC (6'4, 210lbs)
London has great size standing at 6’4, boasting a large catch radius. He has very reliable hands with zero drops in 2020. He catches comfortably outside of his frame and is a target for contested catch situations. Coming off the line he’s able to create leverage on his routes and he has the quickness to make hard cuts. Despite his height he’s able to get low into his breaks. He plays a lot as the big slot and creates mismatches with his size and athleticism. He’s still learning proper route running technique. His timing and the depth of his routes need improvement. He mostly faced free releases and not sure how he would handle press. He seemed to get lost and disrupted when working across the middle of the field and through traffic. While he is very athletic, his deep speed is questionable. He has the size and explosiveness to separate but he just needs to be more consistent. Hopefully this season he plays more on the outside and we can see how he plays against better corners. The clip below shows the strength and contact balance he possesses after the catch. He's breaks multiple tackles on his way to the endzone.
#8 - David Bell - Purdue (6'2, 205lbs)
Bell displayed very impressive spatial awareness and excelled against zone coverage. He has a knack for finding soft spots in zone and has a great feel for route timing and depth. His ball skills are excellent, showing the ability to track the ball deep and high point it, rising above defenders. He’s got fantastic concentration when making tough catches in traffic and there are some circus catches throughout his tape. He’s a fine athlete and he showed he can separate deep. He plays physical in his routes and creates space on his breaks using his size. While I love his ball skills, his release and ability to separate need improvements. He doesn’t explode out of his breaks and his stem work is still basic. This play is really indicative of how Bell plays. He doesn't do much on his release to separate but he uses his size and ball skills to make a tough catch.
#9 - Jahan Dotson - Penn State (5'11, 182lbs)
Dotson broke into the scene last season, recording over 800 yards and 8 touchdowns. He’s a fluid route runner and does well to fight off press coverage. He uses his hands and jab steps to fight off physical corners at the line and possesses a flexible lower half to avoid contact. He has great concentration and ball skills. Right now he is still figuring out how to separate after his release but he’s been able to win contested catches and he catches outside his frame well. While he flashes nuance in his routes, they’re still very inconsistent. He’ll curve his breaks and his route running just looks lackadaisical at times. The biggest weakness right now is his lack of explosiveness. Even when he runs a good route, corners are able to stick with him because he doesn’t burst and separate out of his breaks. He’s also an average athlete and doesn’t often win with speed. I’m not sure he has the speed, strength, or route technique to play the outside, and someone of his size can’t rely on winning 50/50 balls. I love his instincts to find the ball and make plays but he needs to learn how to separate. Here's an example of that. Nice jab steps on his release but doesn't generate separation or space for himself. He makes an unbelievable catch, rising over the defender and tracking the ball well.
10 - Ty Fryfogle - Indiana (6'2, 214lbs)
In the 2020 season, Fryfogle scored 7 touchdowns in 8 games. He was most effective working downfield on vertical routes. He’s able to win at the line with his quick footwork and explosiveness, and stacks the defender separating deep with his speed and strength. He displays fantastic concentration on contested catches and he goes up strong, attacking the ball in the air. Per PFF he won 47.8% of his contested catch situations which was actually his lowest percentage in the last 3 seasons. He needs a good amount of work on his routes. His route breaks are often rounded and he runs his routes upright, lacking the technique to explode out of breaks. His route running is very basic and raw, showing no deception or nuance. His routes are very predictable, and he struggles to generate any separation. If he doesn’t win with his release he struggles to get open, but right now he makes up for this with his contested catch ability. To win and be productive at the next level, he’ll need to improve his route running because being strong at the catch point is not reliable enough in the NFL. In the play below Fryfogle fights off press with his hands and quickness, getting on top of the corner for the TD catch.
If you made it this far thanks for reading!
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Display Image Credits
Zay Flowers: Nell Redmond/Associated press
Garrett Wilson: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire