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2024 NFL Draft: Wide Receiver Rankings By Category, Outside, Slot, and Dynamic Usage - Playstyle and Scheme Fit

The 2024 NFL Draft wide receiver class could rival past WR draft classes, like the 2014 NFL Draft class, which included Mike Evans, Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckam Jr. The 2014 WR class has amassed 87K receiving yards and 589 touchdowns and counting, with Mike Evans and Davante Adams still churning out numbers in the NFL.


The success of any WR draft class often depends on where a player lands and how they fit into that particular offense at the NFL level. We can say this about every position, and unless you are a generational talent, you are unlikely to thrive in a bad situation and be out of the league in 3 to 4 years.


Now as we have done for other key positions in the past, I wanted to dive into the WR position with a more in-depth view of how each of the WRs for whom we have a current NFL Draft grade and categorize them into their positional buckets based on their usage at the college level. The three categories are as follows:


  • Outside X-Style Wide Receivers (Wide Usage: 80% Range or higher)

  • Slot Wide Receivers (Slot Usage: 65% Range or Higher)

  • Dynamic Usage Players (Blend of Wide and Slot Use)


By categorizing each WR into their projected positional bucket, we can better understand where they might fit into an offensive scheme at the NFL level. Not every WR is one size fits all, and not every big WR is an outside X style player, just like not every 5-11, 190lb WR is a slot, there are going to be outliers for one reason or another, but the goal is to identify how each prospect could be utilized in the NFL.


In the analysis below, as I mentioned, each player will be categorized as an outside, slot, or dynamic (chess piece) player. Each player is ranked using their current NFL Draft grade we compiled through film study and data analysis. In addition, I also provided the current NFL Draft projections for each prospect using current NFL mock draft data.


Outside X-Style Wide Receivers (Wide Usage: 80% Range or higher)

An "Outside X-Style Wide Receiver," commonly referred to as the "X receiver" or the "split end," is a specific role in an NFL offense. Here’s what defines an X receiver and their purpose on the field:



Positioning:

  • The X receiver typically lines up on the line of scrimmage, split farthest away from the tight end.

  • Because they are on the line of scrimmage, they must be able to get a free release against press coverage since they are eligible to be jammed by defenders at the line of scrimmage.

Skill Set:

  • X receivers are usually the prototypical big, strong, and physical wide receivers. They often have a size advantage over the defensive backs.

  • They are expected to have a large catch radius and the ability to win contested catches, especially on deep throws and in the red zone.


Purpose in an Offense:

  • The X receiver serves as a primary target for the quarterback, often in critical down-and-distance situations.

  • They are frequently used to stretch the field vertically and create big plays.

  • They draw the attention of the opponent’s top cornerback, which can open up opportunities for other receivers on the field.

  • In the red zone, their size and physicality make them prime targets, especially on fade routes.

Challenges:

  • Since they line up on the line of scrimmage, X receivers cannot go in motion and often face press coverage. They must be skilled at using their hands and body to create separation immediately off the snap.

Notable examples of X receivers in the NFL have included players like Julio Jones, Michael Irvin, and, more recently, Mike Evans. They are often seen as their team's number one wide receiver and are crucial to an offense's passing game.


Outside X-Style Wide Receivers (Wide Usage: 80% Range or higher)

1). Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State) - 6'4", 205 lbs
  • Grade: Elite (75.32)

  • Wide Usage: 79.8%, Slot Usage: 20.2%

  • ADoT: 13.1, YAC: 424, YAContact: 116, Cont. Catch Rate: 43.3%

  • Harrison Jr. showcases the archetype of an elite X-receiver with his imposing size, exceptional route-running, and reliable hands, making him a quintessential fit for teams seeking a dominant outside presence.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: Top 5 Pick

  • Teams Mocked: Cardinals, Chargers, Patriots



2). Rome Odunze (Washington) - 6'3", 212 lbs
  • Grade: Elite (75.00)

  • Wide Usage: 81.9%, Slot Usage: 18.1%

  • ADoT: 15.5, YAC: 523, YAContact: 256, Cont. Catch Rate: 75%

  • With his size and athletic prowess, Odunze embodies the modern NFL's ideal for an outside receiver, capable of winning contested catches and stretching defenses vertically.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: Top 10 Pick

  • Teams Mocked: Bears, Cardinals, Giants, Chargers



3). Adonai Mitchell (Texas) - 6'2", 205 lbs
  • Grade: Near Elite (71.18)

  • Wide Usage: 81.6%, Slot Usage: 18.4%

  • ADoT: 16, YAC: 181, YAContact: 39, Cont. Catch Rate: 36.4%

  • Mitchell stands out as a deep threat with an exceptional ADoT, underscoring his role in stretching the field and making impactful plays in the vertical game.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st Round

  • Teams Mocked: Bills, Chiefs, Ravens, Dolphins


4). Brian Thomas Jr. (LSU) - 6'4", 205 lbs
  • Grade: Near Elite (71.07)

  • Wide Usage: 86.8%, Slot Usage: 13.2%

  • ADoT: 13.9, YAC: 391, YAContact: 152, Cont. Catch Rate: 53.8%

  • Thomas Jr.'s height, speed, and physicality position him as a formidable X-receiver

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: Mid-Late 1st Round

  • Teams Mocked: Bills, Bengals, Bears, Dolphins



5). Troy Franklin (Oregon) - 6'3", 180 lbs
  • Grade: Near Elite (70.48)

  • Wide Usage: 81.1%, Slot Usage: 18.9%

  • ADoT: 12.8, YAC: 547, YAContact: 194, Cont. Catch Rate: 36.8%

  • Franklin's athletic profile and playmaking ability after the catch make him a coveted prospect for teams seeking a dynamic and versatile X-receiver.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: Late 1st-Mid 2nd Round

  • Teams Mocked: Chiefs, Patriots, Panthers, Bills



6). Jermaine Burton (Alabama) - 6'0", 200 lbs
  • Grade: High-End Starter Potential (65.96)

  • Wide Usage: 80.1%, Slot Usage: 19.9%

  • ADoT: 20.2, YAC: 130, YAContact: 33, Cont. Catch Rate: 56.3%

  • Burton's exceptional downfield ability and proficiency in contested situations position him as a critical asset for offenses looking to exploit vertical mismatches.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 2nd-4th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Steelers, Cowboys, Eagles, Broncos



7). Tez Walker (North Carolina) - 6'3", 200 lbs
  • Grade: High-End Starter Potential (65.77)

  • Wide Usage: 93.1%, Slot Usage: 6.9%

  • ADoT: 18.2, YAC: 126, YAContact: 58, Cont. Catch Rate: 58.8%

  • Walker’s towering presence and knack for making plays deep down the field earmark him as a primary target for teams favoring a deep-threat X-receiver.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 2nd Round

  • Teams Mocked: Lions, Bears, Patriots



8). Johnny Wilson (Florida State) - 6'7", 238 lbs
  • Grade: High-End Starter Potential (65.43)

  • Wide Usage: 91.2%, Slot Usage: 8.8%

  • ADoT: 13.8, YAC: 167, YAContact: 99, Cont. Catch Rate: 40.9%

  • Wilson's unique combination of size and athleticism makes him an intriguing X-receiver prospect, ideal for exploiting mismatches in the red zone and along the sidelines.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 4th-5th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Steelers, Buccaneers, Lions



9). Cornelius Johnson (Michigan) - 6'3", 211 lbs
  • Grade: Mid-Level Starter Potential (63.34)

  • Wide Usage: 94.6%, Slot Usage: 5.4%

  • ADoT: 11.5, YAC: 115, YAContact: 46, Cont. Catch Rate: 81.8%

  • Johnson excels as a traditional outside receiver, leveraging his size and deep-route proficiency to serve as a reliable downfield target.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 5th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Chargers, Vikings, Raiders



10). Brenden Rice (USC) - 6'3", 210 lbs
  • Grade: Mid-Level Starter Potential (62.69)

  • Wide Usage: 87.1%, Slot Usage: 12.9%

  • ADoT: 15.1, YAC: 230, YAContact: 112, Cont. Catch Rate: 25%

  • Rice's capabilities as a deep threat and contested catch ability spotlight him as a potential impact player for offenses prioritizing the vertical passing game.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 3rd Round

  • Teams Mocked: Chiefs, Bears, Cardinals



11). Jamari Thrash (Louisville) - 6'1", 185 lbs
  • Grade: Mid-Level Starter Potential (62.17)

  • Wide Usage: 89.2%, Slot Usage: 10.8%

  • ADoT: 11.1, YAC: 427, YAContact: 149, Cont. Catch Rate: 15.8%

  • Thrash's remarkable YAC and YAContact figures illustrate his resilience and playmaking ability, making him a valuable asset for teams needing an outside receiver with the knack for turning short gains into significant plays.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 4th-5th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Steelers, Giants, Bears



Slot Wide Receivers (Slot Usage: 65% Range or Higher)

the "Slot Receiver" has a unique role in an NFL offense, with specific responsibilities that differ from those of an outside wide receiver. Here’s what characterizes a slot receiver and their purpose on the field:



Positioning:

  • Slot receivers line up between the last man on the line of scrimmage (typically a tight end or tackle) and the outside receiver. They are positioned closer to the offensive linemen, and as such, they are "off the line of scrimmage."

  • This alignment gives them more flexibility in motion before the snap and enables them to take advantage of the space created by their positioning.

Skill Set:

  • Slot receivers are generally smaller than outside receivers, but they are quick, agile, and have good hands.

  • They must run precise routes due to the crowded space they operate in, with many defenders nearby.

  • They require the toughness to withstand hits from different angles and the speed to create separation quickly.

Purpose in an Offense:

  • The slot receiver works the middle of the field, often putting them against the opposing team's linebackers and safeties rather than cornerbacks.

  • They are crucial in creating mismatches due to their speed against typically slower linebackers.

  • Slot receivers are often targeted on third downs due to their reliability and route-running prowess in short to intermediate passing plays.

  • They also play a vital role in the screen game and are often used in jet sweeps or end-around plays because of their pre-snap motion.

Challenges:

  • Slot receivers must have a strong understanding of defensive schemes since they will face various coverage types and have to make quick decisions in tight areas.

  • They need to have excellent spatial awareness to find and sit in voids in zone coverages and must be able to absorb contact over the middle.

Examples of notable slot receivers include Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, and Cooper Kupp. These players often lead their teams in receptions due to the high volume of quick, short-area targets they receive, reflecting their importance in sustaining drives and providing reliable options for their quarterbacks.


Slot Wide Receivers (Slot Usage: 65% Range or Higher)

1). Roman Wilson (Michigan) - 6'0", 192 lbs
  • Grade: High-End Starter Potential (69.21)

  • Wide Usage: 31.3%, Slot Usage: 68.7%

  • ADoT: 13.9, YAC: 223, YAContact: 39, Cont. Catch Rate: 37.5%

  • Wilson's high slot usage, coupled with his deep-route efficiency, signifies his role as a versatile playmaker, capable of impacting the game both in the slot and on deeper routes outside.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 2nd Round

  • Teams Mocked: Eagles, Chiefs, Bills



2). Jalen McMillan (Washington) - 6'1", 192 lbs
  • Grade: High-End Starter Potential (65.69)

  • Wide Usage: 5.9%, Slot Usage: 94.1%

  • ADoT: 9.6, YAC: 291, YAContact: 106, Cont. Catch Rate: 0%

  • McMillan exemplifies the modern slot receiver with his notable ability to generate yards after the catch and agility in open space.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 3rd-4th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Chiefs, Jaguars, Buccaneers



3). Jacob Cowing (Arizona) - 5'11", 175 lbs
  • Grade: Mid-Level Starter Potential (64.80)

  • Wide Usage: 29.4%, Slot Usage: 70.6%

  • ADoT: 6.7, YAC: 491, YAContact: 99, Cont. Catch Rate: 35.7%

  • Cowing's agility and deep-route capability make him a slot receiver with the unique ability to stretch the defense vertically, a rare trait that adds a dynamic layer to his team's offense.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 4th-5th Round

  • Teams Mocked: 49ers, Falcons, Saints, Broncos



4). Malik Washington (Virginia) - 5'8", 194 lbs
  • Grade: Mid-Level Starter Potential (64.53)

  • Wide Usage: 4.5%, Slot Usage: 95.5%

  • ADoT: 8.1, YAC: 362, YAContact: 190, Cont. Catch Rate: 64.7%

  • Washington’s proficiency in the slot is complemented by his explosive playmaking ability, particularly after the catch, making him an essential component of any offense looking for a dynamic slot receiver.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 3rd-4th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Panthers, Rams, Buccaneers



5). Luke McCaffrey (Rice) - 6'2", 195 lbs
  • Grade: Mid-Level Starter Potential (64.41)

  • Wide Usage: 28.1%, Slot Usage: 71.9%

  • ADoT: 10.6, YAC: 425, YAContact: 175, Cont. Catch Rate: 60.1%

  • McCaffrey showcases a unique blend of a quarterback's understanding of the offense and wide receiver skill sets. His transition from quarterback to wide receiver at Rice allowed him to excel in reading defenses and finding open spaces. His quick, controlled feet and sharp cuts make him an elusive target, especially in the slot.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 5th-6th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Steelers, Eagles, Jaguars



6). Malachi Corley (Western Kentucky) - 5'11", 210 lbs
  • Grade: Low-Level Starter Potential (59.74)

  • Wide Usage: 14%, Slot Usage: 86%

  • ADoT: 5.5, YAC: 716, YAContact: 280, Cont. Catch Rate: 23.5%

  • Corley, known as the "YAC King," excels in creating explosive plays after the catch. His high slot usage highlights his effectiveness in quick-game scenarios, making him a vital asset in schemes that prioritize dynamic slot receivers.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 3rd-4th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Eagles, 49ers, Jaguars



7). Ainias Smith (Texas A&M) - 5'10", 190 lbs
  • Grade: Low-Level Starter Potential (58.08)

  • Wide Usage: 24.0%, Slot Usage: 76.0%

  • ADoT: 10.4, YAC: 355, YAContact: 190, Cont. Catch Rate: 56.1%

  • Smith's transition from running back to receiver is evident in his playmaking ability, especially from the slot, where his quickness and agility make him a matchup nightmare for defenses, underscoring his potential in schemes that value versatility and creativity in the slot.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 5th-7th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Eagles, Commanders, Colts



Dynamic Usage Players (Blend of Wide and Slot Use)

Receivers who can effectively play both in the slot and out wide as an X receiver or a flanker are often referred to as "versatile" or "hybrid" receivers. Here's what characterizes these multifaceted players:



Adaptability:

  • These receivers have the skill set to run a full route tree, whether it's quick slants from the slot or deep fades and post routes from the outside.

  • They possess the agility and quickness needed for the slot, as well as the size and strength to contend with press coverage on the outside.

Skill Set:

  • Hybrid receivers must have excellent hands, route-running capabilities, and the mental acuity to understand various defensive schemes they'll encounter in different alignments.

  • They require the toughness to make catches over the middle and the body control and catching radius to make plays on the boundary.

Usage in Offense:

  • Offensive coordinators can move these players around to create mismatches against specific defensive personnel.

  • They can line up against a less favorable cornerback, exploit the slower reaction time of a linebacker, or challenge the physicality of a safety.

  • These receivers provide their quarterbacks with a dependable target capable of adjusting to different roles on a play-by-play basis.

Flexibility:

  • Hybrid receivers offer an offense the flexibility to switch between different formations without substituting players, thus keeping defenses on their toes.

  • They can be instrumental in no-huddle offenses where quick changes in positioning can be a strategic advantage.

Challenges:

  • They must have a comprehensive understanding of the entire playbook, as they need to know the responsibilities for multiple receiving positions.

  • Conditioning is also critical because their versatile role can mean a higher number of snaps and more varied physical demands during a game.

Stefon Diggs, Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel, and Tyreek Hill exemplify the type of versatility these hybrid receivers possess. Contemporary players who demonstrate this ability add a dynamic layer to their team's offense and are valuable assets due to their ability to line up effectively in multiple spots on the field.


Dynamic Usage Players (Blend of Wide and Slot Use)

1). Malik Nabers (LSU) - 6'0", 195 lbs
  • Grade: Near Elite (72.78)

  • Wide Usage: 46.0%, Slot Usage: 53.6%

  • ADoT: 12.2, YAC: 625, YAContact: 291, Cont. Catch Rate: 45.5%

  • Nabers showcases his versatility and dynamism, adept at both deep routes and making plays after the catch. His balanced usage between wide and slot positions underlines his ability to fit into a variety of offensive schemes, marking him as a multifaceted weapon on the field.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: Top 10 Pick

  • Teams Mocked: Chargers, Patriots, Bears, Cardinals, Giants



2). Xavier Worthy (Texas) - 6'1", 160 lbs
  • Grade: Near Elite (70.65)

  • Wide Usage: 60.0%, Slot Usage: 40.0%

  • ADoT: 10.3, YAC: 584, YAContact: 221, Cont. Catch Rate: 23.8%

  • Worthy's explosive playmaking skills, highlighted by his exceptional YAC, make him a threat in any offensive alignment. His dynamic use across formations exemplifies his adaptability, making him a critical asset in spread offenses that utilize his speed and open-field agility.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: late 1st, early 2nd Round

  • Teams Mocked: Chiefs, Bills, Jaguars



3). Xavier Legette (South Carolina) - 6'3", 220 lbs
  • Grade: High-End Starter Potential (69.99)

  • Wide Usage: 65.5%, Slot Usage: 34.5%

  • ADoT: 13.8, YAC: 457, YAContact: 152, Cont. Catch Rate: 47.6%

  • Legette's physical attributes and considerable YAC highlight his ability to contribute in various receiver roles. His blend of outside and slot usage demonstrates his utility in offensive schemes that value physicality and versatility on the perimeter.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: late 1st, early 2nd Round

  • Teams Mocked: Colts, Bills, Chiefs, Ravens


4). Ladd McConkey (Georgia) - 6'0", 185 lbs
  • Grade: High-End Starter Potential (68.87)

  • Wide Usage: 75.1%, Slot Usage: 24.6%

  • ADoT: 12.1, YAC: 383, YAContact: 167, Cont. Catch Rate: 41.0%

  • McConkey's notable after-the-catch ability and his efficiency in both wide and slot positions make him a versatile option for offenses looking for a receiver who can excel in multiple facets of the game, particularly in space.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: late 1st, early 2nd Round

  • Teams Mocked: Panthers, Chiefs, Ravens, Chargers, Lions



5). Keon Coleman (Florida State) - 6'4", 215 lbs
  • Grade: High-End Starter Potential (68.13)

  • Wide Usage: 70.0%, Slot Usage: 29.8%

  • ADoT: 12.4, YAC: 309, YAContact: 163, Cont. Catch Rate: 33.3%

  • Coleman's imposing size and athleticism are well-utilized in both the wide and slot roles, making him a formidable target in any offensive scheme, particularly in those that value big-bodied receivers capable of making contested catches and generating yards after the catch.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: late 1st, early 2nd Round

  • Teams Mocked: Bengals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Lions


6). Ricky Pearsall (Florida) - 6'1", 190 lbs
  • Grade: High-End Starter Potential (67.32)

  • Wide Usage: 42.4%, Slot Usage: 56.8%

  • ADoT: 11, YAC: 392, YAContact: 132, Cont. Catch Rate: 50%

  • Pearsall excels in creating significant plays from the slot. He utilizes his precise route-running and ability to gain yards after the catch, embodying the archetype of a dynamic receiver capable of impacting the game from various alignments.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 2nd Round

  • Teams Mocked: Bills, Chiefs, Texans, Eagles, Colts



7). Javon Baker (UCF) - 6'1", 208 lbs
  • Grade: Mid-Level Starter Potential (64.98)

  • Wide Usage: 72.9%, Slot Usage: 27.1%

  • ADoT: 17.1, YAC: 379, YAContact: 127, Cont. Catch Rate: 56.3%

  • Baker's blend of reliable hands, physicality, and route-running finesse allows him to be effective in both outside and slot positions, marking him as a versatile receiver capable of adapting to the needs of his team's offense.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 3rd-5th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Patriots, Panthers, Bears, Lions



8). Ja'Lynn Polk (Washington) - 6'2", 204 lbs
  • Grade: Mid-Level Starter Potential (62.14)

  • Wide Usage: 58.8%, Slot Usage: 41.2%

  • ADoT: 13.8, YAC: 365, YAContact: 128, Cont. Catch Rate: 54.2%

  • Polk's ability to excel in contested catch situations and his balanced usage highlights his versatility and capability to be a significant contributor across different receiver roles, which is ideal for schemes that value adaptable and reliable receiving options.

  • Current NFL Draft Projection: 4th-5th Round

  • Teams Mocked: Texans, Chiefs, Ravens, Cowboys



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