Draft Prospect Profiles: Wide Receiver

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NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang offers his evaluation of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft class.

D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi, 6-3, 228, 4.33

Strengths: Exceptional combination of height, weight, strength and speed that shows up on tape and easily projects to becoming a true No. 1, All-Pro caliber wideout. Blazing speed to take the top off the defense and utilizes his height, explosive leaping ability (40.5-inch vertical jump) and exceptionally long arms (34 7/8 inches) to bully smaller defensive backs with the ball in the air. Raw and yet still dominated elite SEC competition, suggesting he is only scratching the surface of his potential. First-round bloodlines with father (Terrance), uncle (Eric) and grandfather (Terry) all playing in the NFL.

Weaknesses: Missed the second half of the 2018 season with a neck injury that required surgery and a close look by NFL doctors at the Combine. Missed all but the first two games of the 2016 season with a broken foot. Ran a limited route tree at Ole Miss and is still a work in progress on the routes he ran, relying on traits rather than technique to overwhelm competition. Will drop an occasional easy one.

Marquise Brown, Oklahoma, 5-9, 166, 4.40 (est.)

Strengths: Lighting in a bottle with the explosive straight-line speed to wreak havoc on secondaries. Complements his straight-line speed with blinding quickness in and out of his breaks to leave even athletic cornerbacks in his vapor trails. Willing to run across the middle, showing the agility and vision to turn shallow crossers into breakaway scores. Good bloodlines. Is the cousin to All-Pro wideout Antonio Brown.

Weaknesses: String-bean frame that raises serious questions about his ability to stay healthy against the bigger, more physical athletes he’ll face in the NFL. Weighed in at 166 at the Combine when he knew he wouldn’t run (still recovering from the foot injury suffered in the Big 12 championship game), causing some to wonder if this is heavier than he played. Reportedly weighed just 130 pounds when he graduated high school. An undeniable deep threat but is he anything else?

N’Keal Harry, Arizona State, 6-2, 228, 4.53

Strengths: Physically imposing split end with three consecutive seasons of high-caliber play against quality Pac-12 competition. Bullies opponents with his broad frame, rare strength (27 reps of 225 at the Combine) and body control, routinely winning contested throws. Deceptive agility and speed with experience as a returner. Highly competitive, including after the catch and as a run blocker. 

Weaknesses: Viewed by some as merely a possession receiver at the next level. Does not possess ideal acceleration to take the top off the defense, generating most of his production on slants and sideline routes where his frame and physicality won rather than speed.

A.J. Brown, Mississippi, 6-0, 226, 4.49

Strengths: Pro-ready frame and game with steady production against elite competition. Physically overpowers most cornerbacks and is too quick out of his breaks for those who can match his size and power. Reliable, including out of the slot. Good burst, bend and balance to generate separation. Strong hands and disproportionately long arms (32 7/8 inches) to pluck the ball outside of his frame. Was the alpha dog at Ole Miss, not the more physically gifted Metcalf. Good all-around athlete. Drafted in the 19th round in 2016 by MLB’s San Diego Padres.

Weaknesses: Ran faster for the stopwatch than he appears on tape, lacking the extra gear to challenge most NFL cornerbacks as a traditional deep threat. Complemented by other weapons at Ole Miss, allowing him to feast on underneath routes. High floor, low ceiling type who may start but never star at the next level.

Deebo Samuel, South Carolina, 5-11, 214, 4.48

Strengths: Slot monster and return extraordinaire (four kickoff TDs over his career) with the frame, toughness and vision of a running back. Bats away attempts to press him at the line, showing good coordination between his upper and lower body to get free. Generally a reliable hands-catcher who shows terrific competitive drive after the catch, utilizing his blocks, searching for cutback lanes and fighting for every inch of yardage. Fearless across the middle and in attacking lanes as a kickoff returner. Logged just two punt return attempts at USC but projects well in this role.

Weaknesses: More quick than fast, despite what his 40-yard dash time at the Combine suggests. Shorter and thicker than preferred on the outside, projecting best as “just” a slot receiver. Ran a limited route tree at USC. Repeatedly struggled with injuries (especially with his hamstrings) over his career, missing 20 combined games over his first three seasons at South Carolina.

Best of the Rest:

Sleepers:

  • Tyre Brady, Marshall, 6-3, 211, 4.60 (est.)
  • Jazz Ferguson, Northwestern State (La.), 6-5, 227, 4.45
  • Andy Isabella, Massachusetts, 5-09, 188, 4.31

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