What had been a somewhat lackluster class at the wide receiver position was given a huge shot in the arm with the influx of underclassmen talent. Now there’s plenty of talent on the board and, depending on what teams are looking for, there are players who fit every mold at the position.
This is the player who I feel is at the top of the class coming into the event.
D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
What’s the upside for D.K. Metcalf? Julio Jones. Josh Gordon. Mike Evans.
Think of big, physical, explosive threats on the outside who have potential to win at all three levels of the field and be a dynamic playmaker for an offense as a wideout who can consistently run past, through, or around corners.
What’s the downside for Metcalf? Laquon Treadwell. Kevin White. Breshad Perriman.
Think of big, physical, explosive threats on the outside who were questioned because of their route-running abilities coming out of college and their ability to transition to the NFL. Metcalf is extremely gifted. There’s no question about it. He was tearing up the competition in the SEC before his season-ending neck injury in October. He’s a physical marvel, reportedly listed at 6-4, 230 pounds, should test like an absolute freak show, and had some of the best highlights of the year by any wide receiver.
He also ran a very limited route tree with the Rebels, and his success rate in contested situations wasn’t as high as you’d think considering his frame. There are better players in this receiver class, guys who are ready to step onto an NFL field right now, line up, and play winning football. But there is no better "prospect" at the position than Metcalf with all of his physical gifts.
This is the player who I expect to see perform best in the athletic testing portion of the workout.
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Brown has the ability to be special, and a big part of that is due to his speed and quickness. A fluid route runner who flies in and out of breaks with ease, Brown was one of the best deep threats in college football the last two seasons and is a proven threat to stretch defenses both vertically and horizontally.
Similar to former Eagles star DeSean Jackson, Brown has instant speed, and he should light up the track in Indianapolis. I expect him to test well across the board. Brown isn’t the only guy who I expect to light up the track, however. Parris Campbell from Ohio State is a speedster who should test well across the board. Nyqwan Murray from Florida State has impressive speed and quickness on film, enough so that I was shocked he wasn’t at any of the major all-star games. Darius Slayton from Auburn, Mecole Hardman from Georgia and Emanuel Hall from Missouri form a trio of explosive options from the SEC and are all guys I’d expect to get close to the 4.3 range in the 40.
Diontae Johnson from Toledo is generating a lot of buzz for his speed and was a big-time return man in the MAC, while Alex Wesley from Northern Colorado is a track guy who I expect to really boost his stock.
Want a real sleeper, though? Ashton Dulin from D-II school Malone. Dulin was a three-year starter there and actually led the entire country (meaning all levels of competition) in all-purpose yards per game at the wide receiver position. Dulin, who ran hurdles at Malone, could put himself on the radar at the event.
Trust The Tape
This is the player who I don’t expect to test off the charts and is a better football player than he is an athlete. With that in mind, don’t drop him down the board with a subpar workout!
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
He wasn’t invited to the Senior Bowl and, I’m not going to lie, I had a bit of fear in the pit of my stomach that he was going to be left off the Combine list. Johnson is one of my favorite receivers in the class. He’s not going to wow you with his size (6-1, 204 pounds) or his speed (which has been reported in the mid-4.5s in the 40-yard dash), but Johnson is a quality route runner, one of the best in this class, and is very consistent at the catch point.
One of the best players during the week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game, Johnson should transition well as a starter in the NFL. I think Johnson plays faster than many believe he will time, but even if he has a mediocre day of testing, I’m still going to be high on him. I’m going to throw Deebo Samuel in here as well. I don’t think Samuel will test quite as fast as some may think, but I’m not going to get hung up on it. The guy plays fast and is built to play at the next level.
This is the player who I expect to see test better than most in the media believe they will perform based off of current projections.
Andy Isabella, UMass
An extremely undersized (5-8, 186 pounds), but very productive wideout for the Minutemen in three years as a starter in a pro-style offense, Isabella caught a lot of steam on the back half of his senior season. A finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver, Isabella has the build of a typical slot and has the look of it on film with the quickness and savvy as a route runner to create separation. Isabella’s game isn’t just based off short-area quickness, however, and I think he’ll surprise people with how well he runs. On film, the Mayfield, Ohio native boasted the ability to get to top speed pretty quickly, and he had multiple gears to work with on vertical routes. I think he’ll run better than most expect, although questions will remain about his body type.
Will Kill The Drills
This is the player who may or may not be a great athlete, but he will look the best in the position-specific drills after the athletic portion of the workout.
Riley Ridley, Georgia
The younger brother of 2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley, Riley also is an impressive technician as a route runner, showing good savvy and snap at the top of breaks to create room for himself to work. He rarely fights the football, something that did plague the elder Ridley at times, so when the receivers take the field, I expect this kid to shine. Is he going to run in the low 4.4s? That’s unlikely based off film study, but he’s got pretty good size (listed at 6-2, 200 pounds), and with his technical refinement and reliable hands I think he’ll show up well in drills like the vaunted Gauntlet.
Most To Prove
This is the player who has the most to prove away from the field, whether it’s during the interview process, medical examinations, or even the weigh-ins.
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Honestly, I’m cheating a bit here, but this will apply to all of the big boys at this position. I’m singling out Brown here, but this goes for N’Keal Harry from Arizona State, Kelvin Harmon from N.C. State, Tyre Brady from Marshall, JJ Arcega-Whiteside from Stanford, Hakeem Butler from Iowa State, and all of the other guys who will measure in at least 6-2 and 220 pounds. Can they separate themselves athletically? A handful of bigger wideouts were selected much later in the draft, primarily due to a lack of athleticism and the ability to separate. That will be what they need to show on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Most Productive College Player
This is the player who produced at the highest level, either in his final year in college or throughout his entire career.
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Samuel’s résumé has a boatload of accolades on it. He led the team in every major receiving category as a senior in 2018 on his way to first-team All-SEC as both an all-purpose player and as a return man. He finished his junior season tied for the team lead with six total touchdowns ... despite playing just three games before breaking his leg. He led the team in catches and yards as a sophomore as a co-Team MVP in 2016. He was the Practice Player of the Week at the wide receiver position at the Senior Bowl. One hundred forty-eight catches in his career may not seem like a ton, but when you factor in the injury-shortened junior year it’s a pretty good number and, let’s be honest, he’s one of the best receivers in this class. I’m a big fan of Deebo Samuel, who consistently finds his way into the end zone.
Best Pro Comparison
Comparing draft prospects to NFL players is tough, but here’s a player with the easiest picture to paint when looking at their NFL future through my eyes.
Antoine Wesley, Texas Tech
Wesley is a really intriguing player because he’s listed at 6-5, 200 pounds, but he is a movement receiver. Wesley has a freaky wingspan, supreme ball skills, and better quickness in and out of cuts than you’d expect for a guy his size. Can he effectively get off press coverage in the NFL? Can he improve as a route runner? Can he get bigger and stronger? He’s exceptionally intriguing outside the numbers, and so many of his positives and negatives remind me of Josh Reynolds, a former Texas A&M receiver who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams and turned into a solid contributor for them this year. I think Wesley’s ceiling is a bit higher, but I see their skill sets as being extremely similar.
Let’s face it, all of these players have great stories to tell, but which guy has taken the most unbelievable journey to get to this point in their career? Here’s the one that has caught my eyes (and ears) the most.
David Sills, West Virginia
David Sills has one of the most interesting backstories of any prospect since I’ve started following the draft. There’s definitely not enough space for me to get to it in this piece, so read the feature I wrote before the Senior Bowl instead.
This is the player who comes from a lower level of competition (outside of the Power 5 conferences) but still has a very bright future in the NFL.
Keelan Doss, UC Davis
No receiver at the Combine has more career receptions than Keelan Doss, who reeled in a whopping 321 passes as a three-year starter for the Aggies. Standing at 6-2, 207 pounds with really long 33-inch arms, Doss impresses on the hoof with his frame and really looks the part going up and playing the ball in the air. The FCS All-American turned heads at the Senior Bowl, and I expect him to do the same in Indy, where he’ll be competing with a lot of other big-bodied wideouts looking to set themselves apart from the competition. Don’t plan on Doss backing down from the challenge.
This is the player with a special tie to the City of Brotherly Love or to the Eagles who you should keep a close eye on in Indianapolis.
Kelvin Harmon, N.C. State
Viewed by most as one of the top receivers in the class, Harmon was born in Liberia but moved to America when he was 4 years old, and he grew up in Palmyra, New Jersey, literally just over the bridge from Northeast Philadelphia. At 6-3, 214 pounds, Harmon needs to prove at the Combine how fast he is, but he’s big, strong, and great at the catch point. He’s one of the best jump-ball guys in this draft, but is he athletic enough to be a starting receiver in the league? That’s the question he’ll look to answer in Indianapolis.
We get to read all about the measurements for all these players over the next few weeks ... but wouldn’t it be nice to have some context? What is considered a "good" 40-yard dash time for any given position? What about arm length? The broad jump? Here’s what the average player drafted has looked like over the last decade (by my records).
|Hand Size||9 3/8 inches|
|Arm Length||32 inches|
|Wingspan||76 5/8 inches|
|Unofficial 40 Time||4.46 seconds|
|Official 40 Time||4.5 second|
|10-Yard Split||1.55 seconds|
|3-Cone Drill||6.91 seconds|
|Short Shuttle||4.21 seconds|
|Broad Jump||122 inches|
|Vertical Jump||36 inches|
Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominated Eagles Game Plan show which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts, Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as the Journey to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team’s games, practices, and opponents.