What's more vital to playing receiver in the NFL -- separation skill or contested-catch ability? 

My answer is contested-catch ability, as it's the ultimate trump card to perfectly executed coverage. 

Below I've ranked each of the consensus top eight wideouts in the qualities I deem most necessary to be successful at the position in the pros (listed in order of importance). I've also added one player who should be available a bit later in the draft that excels at each particular trait.

Other installments in this series: Quarterbacks, Running Backs

High-Pointing/Contested-Catch Ability

  1. Courtland Sutton
  2. James Washington
  3. Michael Gallup
  4. Anthony Miller
  5. D.J. Moore
  6. Christian Kirk
  7. D.J. Chark
  8. Calvin Ridley

Sutton measured in at slightly over 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds at the combine, and he plays bigger than that. He's comfortable making grabs over his head and has the size to box out smaller defenders. He's one of the better pure high-point wideouts in this class. Despite being under 6-0, Washington is ridiculous in contested-catch situations. And that's different from high-pointing. Washington won't leap 35 inches in the air to snag the ball outside his frame. But he tracks it so amazingly well, has long arms, big hands, and outstanding concentration that allow him to consistently reel in the football in tight coverage down the field. Gallup and Miller are aggressive when the ball is in the air too, and this is an area in which speedsters Chark and Ridley struggle.

Sleeper: Allen Lazard

At almost 6-5 and 225 pounds with a 38-inch vertical, Lazard is high-pointing master. And he can take hits in the air while extending for the football and still bring it in. The former Iowa State target is athletic enough to stay at wide receiver in the NFL and dominate on the outside due to his "rebounding" ability. Auden Tate from Florida State and Oklahoma State's Marcell Ateman are two other prospects who excel high-pointing the football.

Route Running

  1. Ridley
  2. Gallup
  3. Miller
  4. Washington
  5. Moore
  6. Kirk
  7. Sutton
  8. Chark

Ridley is impressive here, frequently winning at the line with sudden movement and sharply cutting on his routes with multiple breaks. Gallup is smoother than Ridley as a route-runner, making it look effortless to create separation. Miller and Washington run excellent downfield routes -- especially double moves -- as does Moore. Sutton wasn't asked to run a variety of routes at SMU but has the movement skills to create space. Chark was mainly a go-route wideout at LSU and is super explosive yet limited with his change of direction. 

Sleeper: DaeSean Hamilton

The former Penn State star sells his routes like he's a 10-year veteran. Everything from his head to his shoulders to his hips look like he's breaking one way before he quickly turns in a different direction. 

Yards After The Catch

  1. Gallup
  2. Moore
  3. Miller
  4. Sutton
  5. Kirk
  6. Ridley
  7. Washington
  8. Chark

Flip on Gallup's film, and you'll notice him making linebackers and defensive backs miss every game on short and intermediate routes. He doesn't look particularly explosive though. Gallup is just a smart, natural runner with the ball in his hands. Moore had a handful of highlight-reel YAC plays in college because of high-end athleticism and balance. For his size, Sutton's fluidity is outstanding. Kirk and Ridley are a bit underwhelming in this area despite being smaller, lighter wideouts with serious downfield speed. Washington and Chark are more linear players than they are lateral movers.

Sleeper: Korey Robertson

The former Southern Miss standout morphs into a no-nonsense running back after the catch, using stiff arms and subtle jukes to free himself down the field. Watch the opening game of the 2017 season against Kentucky for prime examples of his YAC skills. 

Downfield Speed

  1. Chark
  2. Washington
  3. Moore
  4. Ridley
  5. Kirk
  6. Sutton
  7. Gallup
  8. Miller

Chark tested as a 4.34 prospect at the combine, and he's that fast on the field. LSU not only utilized him on deep shots but got him the football on end arounds often. Washington ran 4.54 but is a classic "faster on film" player. While capable of running past collegiate corners, neither Moore, Ridley, nor Kirk appear to have as much speed on the field as they did at the combine. 

Sleeper: Jordan Lasley

Surprisingly, Lasley only ran 4.50 at the combine. He repeatedly blew the top off deep coverage in the Pac 12. I wouldn't be shocked if he bulked up to hit the 200-pound mark in Indy, which likely slowed him in the 40. He's one of the premier deep-ball specialists in this class. 

Position Fits 


  1. Sutton
  2. Gallup
  3. Washington
  4. Moore
  5. Miller
  6. Chark
  7. Ridley
  8. Kirk

Sutton was made to play on the perimeter, and Gallup has loads of experience near the sidelines as well. Washington doesn't have ideal height to line up near the boundary but was college football's most productive receiver over the past two seasons while taking the majority of his snaps on the outside. On the outside, Chark, Ridley, and Kirk would have issues with bigger, physical cornerbacks. 

Sleeper: Marcell Ateman

Ateman was a go-to target for Mason Rudolph in a variety of high-pressure situations last season, and the tall wideout works the sideline well thanks to tremendous high-pointing ability and plus body control. 


  1. Ridley
  2. Kirk
  3. Miller
  4. Moore
  5. Chark
  6. Sutton
  7. Gallup
  8. Washington

The quickness of Ridley, Kirk, and Miller would be on full display inside, and Moore and Chark would be scary seam threats from the slot position. All of these receivers could make it work inside, but if Washington is on my team I want him in a position to run more North-South routes -- and posts -- than intricate patterns from the slot. The same goes for Sutton and Gallup. 

Sleeper: Deontay Burnett

At just under 6-0 and 185 pounds, Burnett was built for the slot, and he absolutely excelled from that pre-snap position at USC. He's fast to recognize coverage, slippery in his routes and after the catch, and displayed high-level ball skills down the field.