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2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings: LSU's Kayshon Boutte, Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba Lead The Way

The Last Two Drafts Have Produced 7 WR's WIth an Instant Impact Player Grade

The 2021 WR Draft produced top-tier WR1's with Ja'Marr Chase, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle receiving Instant Impact player grades before the 2021 NFL Draft. All three proved their pre-draft value immediately during the 2021 NFL season. In addition, the 2021 NFL Draft proved to be fruitful beyond the top-tier names with Amon-Ra St. Brown (Detroit), Elijah Moore (NY Jets), Rondale Moore (Arizona), and Rashod Bateman (Baltimore).

The 2022 WR draft provided us with four players receiving an Instant Impact player grade. Ohio State's Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave led the way, followed by Penn State's Jahan Dotson (Washington) and Alabama's Jameson Williams (Detroit).

The importance of the WR position is apparent considering the amount of money NFL teams are shelling out this offseason. Having depth at WR is also crucial as NFL teams can no longer depend on just having one top-tier WR paired with complementary players. Teams are looking to pair their number one guys with an additional number one caliber player. The Bengals are the best example of this with Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd.

Some Notable Draft Data

  • In 2021, WR's listed among our top 100 were drafted in the 2nd round on average. Ja'Marr Chase was the first WR off the board, and the lowest WR drafted from our board was Oklahoma State's Tylan Wallace at pick 93 in round 4 by the Ravens.

  • WR's from the 2021 NFL Draft ranked in our top 100 played an average of 14.1 games.

  • 23% of the WR's drafted in 2021 who ranked in our top 100 became day one starters.

So what are we looking for when evaluating the WR position?

The Key Positional Factors:

  • Hands

  • Route Running/Separation

  • After Catch Ability

The Grade Scale

IIP (Instant Impact Potential)

(9.0-7.0) High-End Starter

HUP (High Upside Potential)

(6.9-6.7) Solid Starter Level

DP (Developmental Potential)

(6.6-6.5) Lower Level Starter

(6.4) Starter Level Traits

(6.3) Limited Opportunity/Shows Starter Level Traits When Given the Opportunity

1). Kayshon Boutte LSU JR 6-0 190

Current Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Boutte took the reigns as LSU's next big-time WR in 2021 before succumbing to an ankle injury midway through the season. Boutte would miss seven games in 2021 but still led the Tigers in receiving yards and TD's. He is a mismatch for opposing DB's, and his after-the-catch ability is next level. We project Kayshon Boutte as a top ten overall talent in the 2023 NFL Draft.

When evaluating the tape, Kayshon Boutte's Athleticism stands out. Listed at 6-0 200lbs, Boutte has the physical traits to play outside or in the slot as needed. Boutte possesses excellent speed and agility, which is why he is such a threat to go the distance with the ball in his hands. His long speed allows him to get natural separation. Boutte has excellent football awareness; he does a good job locating the holes in coverage. Boutte is far from perfect. He has some concentration drops on his resume and can improve his route running. Adding double moves and being a better salesman at the NFL level will allow him to take his game to the next level. Boutte will need to work on his contested catch ability in 2022; if he can improve in critical areas, he will be the top receiver off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft.

2). Jaxon Smith-Njigba Ohio State JR 6-0 198

Current Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Smith-Njigba waited his turn at Ohio State, and when it was his time to shine, he stepped up in a big way a season ago. In the 2022 Rose Bowl game, Smith-Njigba became the Buckeye's number one receiver after Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson opted out. Without Olave and Wilson, Smith-Njigba lit up the Utah Secondary for 15 catches, 347 yards receiving, hitting pay dirt three times. No wide receiver has more yards in a Rose Bowl game or any single bowl game than Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Surprisingly, Smith-Njigba led all Buckeye receivers in 2021 with 1606 yds receiving.

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.

3). Jordan Addison USC JR 6-0 198

Current Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

In 2021, Addison posted a 100-catch season with 1500 yards receiving and 17 TD's. Addison became the unquestioned star of the Pitt Panther's 2021 offense. Addison has since transferred to the USC Trojans to play with new Trojan Head Coach Lincoln Riley who left Norman for L.A. in the offseason. Addison will be a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and a favorite to bring home the Biletnikoff Trophy as the nation's best receiver in 2022.

Jordan Addison is an 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.

4). Quentin Johnston TCU JR 6-4 212

Current Grade: High-End Starter (High Upside Potential)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

In 2021, Johnston led the Horned Frogs in both yards, receptions, yards per reception, and TD catches. He would go on to earn first-team all-Big 12 honors. Johnston has a knack for the big play. As a true freshman on 2020, Johnston averaged 22.1 yards per catch, the highest ever by a true freshman Big 12 WR. Vs. the Sooners in 2021, Johnston posted a career-best 185 yards on seven receptions and three TD's. Johnston's growth in 2021 was tremendous, leaving many to believe that the sky is the limit for Johnston moving forward.

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. He is not just a deep field threat; he can attack a defense at all three levels where he defeats coverage with his elite-level short area quickness. He possesses a smooth crossover ability at the line, allowing him to get a free release vs. press coverage, but he does not always win vs. press. He tends to start his routes upright; he will need to learn how to skinny his frame at the snap if he is going to be elite at the NFL level.

5). Zay Flowers Boston College 5-10 172

Current Grade: High-End Starter (High Upside Potential)

Ceiling Grade: High-End Starter (Instant Impact Potential)

Zay Flowers is another of the many smallish but quick slot or Z (off the ball) WR's we have seen in the last few NFL drafts. In 2020, Flowers was an All-ACC First Team selection. In 2021, Flowers amassed 44 catches and 746 yards, with 5 TD's. Flowers did not shine the same way he did in 2020 as he dealt with injuries at the QB position. With Phil Jurkovec projected to be back under center, Flowers could be in for a big year.

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.


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