I hope you all had a happy Valentine’s Day! I spent it alone, writing this article.
As our dive into NFL Draft content continues and my crippling anxiety about not finding love grows, I thought now would be a good time to revisit my wide receiver rankings. I first published my top 15 receivers back in October, and boy, has my list changed since then.
There are as many as six receivers for whom I would make a strong argument to go in Round 1 this year, and there’s a deep group of prospects in the range of Rounds 3 and 4 who could develop into quality starters. The latter is especially good news for the Bears, who will likely want to add to their receiver room at some point in the 2023 NFL Draft.
To reflect I’ve watched many more prospects since then — and because I want to limit as many “what about Player X” comments as possible — I’ll be expanding this list to 20 receivers. If you’re wondering where your favorite prospect is, good news! I currently have grades on 40 other wide receivers, so the odds are very strong I’ve watched them and have notes on them already.
Here are my current top 20 wide receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Tier 1: Pure Round 1 grades
1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
I’ve seen a handful of receiver prospects have that fantastic level of body control that translates well to the next level: CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, just to name a few. Smith-Njigba has that level of coordination. Even if he isn’t the flashiest athlete, he’s super smooth out of his breaks and has an uncanny knack of how to beat different coverages. I didn’t have Lamb before Jerry Jeudy and had Jefferson too low in 2020 despite having the “it” factor. I avoided that mistake with Chase, and I hope to avoid it by having JSN as my WR1.
2. Jordan Addison, USC
Addison’s ability to translate seamlessly from Pittsburgh’s offense to USC’s offense sold me on him, as if his 2021 tape wasn’t good enough. He’s skinny and not super physical, but he’s a dynamic athlete with a very good route-running IQ and great burst coming out of his breaks. Simply put, this guy gets open.
3. Quentin Johnston, TCU
Johnston’s film grade might not be as high as a couple of the receivers he’s above in my rankings, but his upside is the highest of any wide receiver I’ve watched in this class. From a size, speed, physicality and creativity perspective, he’s the total package. If he cleans up his drops and improves his releases, he could be a superstar.
4. Zay Flowers, Boston College
Size knocks him barely out of reach of the WR1 role, but I’m still quite a big fan of what Flowers brings to the table. He’s an explosive slot weapon with very good foot speed, impressive ball skills, tremendous YAC ability and a great collegiate resume. Drops and a smaller catch radius are a concern, but he’s a playmaker who should contribute right away in the NFL.
Tier 2: Fringe Round 1 talents
5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Yes, I have a tier that consists only of two prospects. Don’t judge me. While Hyatt’s a bit of a one-trick pony to me, that one trick — athleticism — is fantastic. His deep speed and sheer explosiveness makes him unstoppable down the field, and his pure quickness makes him difficult to catch in space. Is he a super polished route runner? No, and he won’t dominate at the catch point consistently. But if you need a game-changing speed weapon to complement a true WR1, Hyatt brings immense value.
6. Josh Downs, North Carolina
Though I think Hyatt is a bit faster and is taller, Downs is more reliable coming out of his breaks as a route runner. He’s agile after the catch, he gets in and out of his cuts quickly, and he did a good job of cleaning up his drops issue in 2022. Size and physicality will limit his usage in the pros, but I think he has solid inside-outside value and could be a strong WR2 for an offense who needs it.
Tier 3: Strong Day 2 contributors
7. Rashee Rice, SMU
I can’t get behind the Round 1 hype for Rice, but that’s not to say I think he’s a bad prospect. On the contrary: he’s a very good athlete with nice deep speed, impressive ball skills and more than enough physicality to compete in contested-catch situations. His production in 2022 speaks for itself, and while I feel he’s not super refined as a route-running salesman, he should be able to contribute in some way to NFL offenses right out of the gate.
8. Kayshon Boutte, LSU
Boutte is as much of a boom-or-bust prospect as there is in this wide receiver class. On one hand, he has the size, speed, body control, route-running wherewithal and YAC ability to be a big-time player in the NFL. On the other hand, he’s had injury issues and had quite a controversial tenure during his time at LSU. The off-the-field stuff worries me with him, but if he can land in a stable environment, the potential is palpable.
9. Tyler Scott, Cincinnati
Scott is a weird case, because I felt late to the party having a high grade on a player I didn’t watch for the first time until February, but he also isn’t being hyped up nearly as much as I think he deserves to be. He’s a twitchy, explosive ‘Z’ receiver who can stop on a dime and stretches the field with burning vertical acceleration. He also attacks leverage points well in his stems, and while he’s skinny and lacks much of anything in the way of physicality, he’s electricity in a bottle.
10. Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
It’s an odd situation with Mims, who had his career-best production in 2022 but still slipped a tiny bit in my wide receiver rankings based off of film. He’s skinny and lacks ideal play strength, but he’s a dynamic athlete with the lateral quickness needed to get open and the big-play ability to break away for a huge gain. His ability to take the top off a defense is a valuable one, and it should see him serve as an explosive complementary piece in an NFL offense.
11. Jayden Reed, Michigan State
Bias towards Reed being a Naperville Central product aside, I loved watching Reed at the Senior Bowl, especially when I got my hands on clips from the practices I missed. He’s a quick-twitched athlete with significant spring in his step and ideal fluidity, and he brings ample experience as a return specialist to the table. I don’t know how much of a volume guy he’ll be in the pros, but his athleticism indicates he has starting upside at the next level.
12. Parker Washington, Penn State
I enjoy watching Washington because of how strangely fun he is as a prospect. He’s built like a running back with a dense, squatty frame and doesn’t have a large catch radius, yet he attacks the ball in the air like someone who’s 6-foot-3. I think his physical upside is somewhat limited since his deep speed is average and his measurements are just okay, but he’s simply a good football player who should get plenty of touches in the pros.
13. Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State
I’m not sure if Hutchinson has a specific trait he’s truly great at besides having plenty of size, but he’s a well-rounded target with a high floor. He understands leverage through his stems pretty well, and he’s a coordinated weapon who has very good control over his body for a taller wideout. He might not have phenomenal track speed, and his physicality isn’t as good as you’d want for a guy who’s 6-foot-2, but he’s an all-around solid receiver who could serve as a solid WR3 at the NFL level.
14. Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
Over the last month or so, I’ve been going back and forth about where to rank Tillman. I like his size, physicality, ball skills and route-running IQ quite a bit, and his 2021 was fantastic. That said, he’s only an okay athlete for his position who missed time due to injury this past year. I don’t know exactly how high his ceiling is at the next level, but I do think he’s a good enough player to have some sort of considerable involvement in an offense.
Tier 4: Day 3 sleepers
15. Michael Wilson, Stanford
An extensive injury history and a lack of great collegiate production worry me with Wilson, but the tools on tape are intriguing, and he showed exactly that at the Senior Bowl. His pure combination of length, deep speed and ball skills is extremely intriguing, and he showcased more juice than I was expected as a route runner in Mobile. I have an early Round 4 on him right now, but I could see a team taking a shot on his physical tools earlier than that.
16. Nathaniel Dell, Houston
I’m lower than the consensus on Dell, and I could write an entire article in itself about what I think about him (which I very well might do). The size is a major concern for me, as not only is he short with smaller arms, but he’s skinny. Players who are 5-foot-8 and 163 pounds soaking wet don’t have an extensive history of success at wide receiver in the NFL. However, he’s a fantastic athlete with insane lateral quickness who displayed growth as a route runner at the Senior Bowl. Speed kills, and Dell has a lot of it.
17. Andrei Iosivas, Princeton
Though he didn’t have the Senior Bowl outing I was hoping from him, Iosivas is still one of my favorite receiver prospects in the 2023 draft. He’s a blazing runner in the realm of a 4.2-4.3 40-yard dash with great size and nice ball-tracking skills who dominated at the FCS level. As raw as he is as a technical separator, he has tools that can’t be taught.
18. A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
Perry weighed in below 200 pounds at 6-foot-3 at the Shrine Bowl, which admittedly does concern me a bit from a durability perspective, considering his aggressive style of play. He’s not a super explosive route runner, either, but he has fantastic ball skills, plays hard at the catch point, offers ideal coordination in the air and has good deep speed for his size. There are concerns with him, but I’d take a flier on him early in Day 3 to see what he can become.
19. Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss
Mingo is a player I’m puzzled by and fascinated with at the same time. He has a super muscular frame, not unlike fellow Ole Miss alumni A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf. That’s not to say he’s the same caliber of player, but he has a similar build — especially to Brown — and has an impressive blend of agility and power after the catch. His deep speed might not be the best, and he isn’t a consistent separator, but he’s a player you give designed touches to in order to see what he can do in space.
20. Trey Palmer, Nebraska
An accomplished track star in high school with plenty of experience as a returner, Palmer is a dynamic athlete who took a big step in receiving production at Nebraska compared to his time as a backup at LSU. He’s a valuable deep threat with very good vertical speed, and he’s agile and creative after the catch. Though he doesn’t have a super deep route tree and lacks ideal play strength, he’s shown flashes in terms of his ability to exploit soft spots of zone coverage. I think he’ll outproduce his eventual draft positioning and stick around the league for a while.
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