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2023 NFL Draft: Scouting The Top Wide Receiver Prospects

The 2023 wide receiver draft class might not provide the same appeal as recent years, but there is some legit talent and upside. With that said, the class has some top-tier instant impact players at the top, starting with TCU WR Quentin Johnston and USC WR Jordan Addison.

Ohio State's Jaxon Smith Njigba was a hot name at the end of the 2021 season following one of the most outstanding single-game WR performances vs. Utah in the Rose Bowl. Njigba would miss the 2022 season with a hamstring injury that occurred in the season opener vs. Notre Dame. Njigba is widely considered in the same stratosphere as Addison and Johnston at the top. He has instant impact player upside.

Once you get beyond Njigba, there is still some solid projection-based potential starting with Boston College WR Zay Flowers and Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt. Both have late first-round projections and can increase their stock during the NFL Combine.

We have added many new features to our NFL Draft big board, including full player analysis, player comparisons, scheme fit, and player strengths and weaknesses.

Early To mid 1st Round Draft Grades

1. TCU WR Quentin Johnston: At 6-4 212lbs, Johnston is a unique prospect compared to the other top WR's we have evaluated. Johnston is a lengthy player who has natural outside X WR ability. Johnston combines his length with speed and quick twitch ability that he uses to stack defenders over the top for explosive gains. After the catch, he is freakishly elusive for a player of his size. He can take a play to the house from anywhere on the field.

2. USC WR Jordan Addison: Jordan Addison is a 6-0 175lb elite separator who can vary his route speed, lulling a DB to sleep before exploding into the top of his route. He possesses elite agility putting defenders on skates in space with bad angles after the catch. Addison is an elite-level hands catcher; he snags the ball out of the air and handles the fastball on short and intermediate throws with ease, which goes hand in hand with his ability to track the football on deep routes. Addison will likely be limited to the slot at the NFL level due to his lean frame and short stature. He has the three-level route running ability to be an elite-level go-to WR at the next level.

Mid TO Late 1st Round Grades

3. Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba: Njigba is not the flashiest receiver; he is a good route runner with excellent hands. He is also fearless and willing to pick up the tough yards over the middle—Smith-Njigba projects as a slot receiver at the next level. At 6-0, 198 lbs, he is a gritty player who can make defenders miss in space like a running back after the catch. He can stop on a dime and displays good lateral movement and loose hips. He attacks the catch point and can muscle the ball away from defenders in traffic.

4. Boston College WR Zay Flowers: Flowers is a versatile player with experience playing inside (slot), outside (X), or off the ball at the Z. At 5-10 175lbs, he projects as a slot at the next level. On tape, Flowers wins his battles with an elite ability to change direction. He is dangerous in space, where he forces defenders into bad angles. He can stop on a dime and get from 0 to 60 in a hurry leaving defenders grasping for air or stuck in quicksand trying to reel him in (Ankles beware). Flowers has quick feet and a quick release off the line. His route running ability is high level, and when you add in his elite agility, he has no issue getting separation. He can sell his routes at a high level, using his entire body to sell the defender one way before snapping his route in the other direction. His size will be a factor at the next level.

5. Tennessee WR Jalin Hyatt: Jalin Hyatt is a 6-0 185lb field-stretching WR that NFL teams will look at as a guy who can make an immediate impact. His ability to get on top of defenders by deploying elite acceleration stands out when evaluating Hyatt. Hyatt is a solid route runner who does a great job locating the openings in a defense. He has good hands and displayed an elite ability to track the football. Hyatt is a dynamic player after the catch. Hyatt runs 88% of his routes from the slot at Tennessee, so his versatility could be limited.

Early 2nd Round Draft Grades

6. North Carolina WR Josh Downs: Josh Downs is a 5-10 171lb explosive athlete who can easily accelerate in and out of his breaks. He is elite at gaining separation due to his suddenness and body control. On film, Downs shows an elite ability to change direction and stop on a dime before throttling into high gear at the drop of a hat. Downs is excellent after the catch, where he essentially becomes a running back in space, making defenders miss. At the catch point, he is not as physical as you would like him to be, but he is competitive. He plays with excellent spatial awareness and is excellent at locating the open areas of the defense. He could be an elite three-level receiver in the NFL.

7. Penn State WR Parker Washington: At 5-10 212lbs, Parker Washington provides elite versatility. He projects as a slot receiver at the next level, and if paired with a creative offensive mind, he will be fun to watch on jet sweeps and out of the backfield. His after-the-catch ability is where Washington will make his money in the league. Getting the ball to him in space where he can make defenders miss in one-on-one situations is why you draft a player like Washington. To become an elite WR1 in the NFL, he will need to continue diversifying his route running.

Mid To Late 2nd, Early 3rd Round Draft Grades

8. Southern Methodist WR Rashee Rice: At 6-2 203lbs, Rashee Rice is an explosive three-level threat at WR. Rice is one of the better high-upside route runners in the 2023 NFL Draft. He has the speed to get on top of defenders and the suddenness to stop and go quickly to gain separation. He is elite at the catch point, using his strong, dense frame to box out defenders and make difficult catches. Rice has a great football IQ. He understands how not to tip his hand, waiting until the last second to time his jump in tight coverage before snagging the football from the sky. Rice displays excellent deep ball tracking ability. He is great at getting off the line of scrimmage vs. press man using his quick feet and strong hands to gain immediate separation at the front end of his route. Rice is excellent after the catch and uses his suddenness and stop-and-go ability to force missed tackles. He can break tackles and turn short gains into home runs.

9. Wake Forest WR A.T. Perry: The NFL needs bigger-bodied X receivers. A.T. Perry is that dude. At 6-5 212lbs, Perry provides an elite catch radius and the ability to box out defenders with good body control to win one-on-one. He will often change speeds mid-route by lurching a defender before throttling down to gain a step on a defender. He provides a solid route tree excelling on in-breaking routes and the deep post. On tape, he shows his explosiveness stacking defenders, so the ability to consistently gain separation is there. After the catch, he has the athleticism to be a problem. His long arms allow him to keep a cushion after the catch using a stiff arm. He has had some issues with concentration drops and needs to work on his overall play strength.

10: Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman: Cedric Tillman is a 6-3 215lb big-bodied WR that can box out defenders. He does a great job of combining his strength, speed, and ball-tracking ability to win routes. Tillman is a hands catcher who uses his length to outstretch defenders in tight spaces making difficult catches. He is a solid route runner who will need to continue diversifying his route tree at the NFL level. After the catch, he is a strong, agile runner in space. Improving Hand usage and footwork to get off of jams at the line of scrimmage will be critical.


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