2019 NFL Draft: Here's an early look at seven of the potential top wide receivers
Let's peek ahead at the possible headliners in the 2019 draft class of wide receivers
Every wide receiver draft class aspires to be the 2014 group, which will seemingly go down as one of the best in NFL history. Since that class -- which featured Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, and Kelvin Benjamin -- the collection of receivers that has entered the NFL has largely disappointed.
Good news though. I feel confident writing that, before the 2018 college football season, it looks like next year's wideout class could be the best since 2014's famed troop of pass-catchers.
Here's an early introduction to the potential top receiver prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft.
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Experience: In 2016, he caught 29 passes for 412 yards with two touchdowns. Last season, Brown had 75 grabs, 1,252 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He's entering his true junior season.
Strengths: Good height and built. Long arms. Very fluid mover. Explosive with the ball in his hands. Hits top gear in a hurry, which obviously maximizes yards after the catch. Plus balance and strength to fend off tacklers. Clearly very comfortable catching passes outside his frame. Hands-catcher with flashes of good high-pointing. Overall, he has an impressive, well-rounded game.
Weaknesses: Not super twitchy nor supremely fast. Elusive for his size but not incredibly agile. Played predominately in the slot in 2017.
Early comparison: JuJu Smith-Schuster
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Experience: Played at two junior colleges before landing at Buffalo. In 2017, he had 76 catches for 1,356 yards, and 14 touchdowns.
Strengths: Checks the height and weight boxes. A solid 6-foot-2 and around 210 pounds with muscular build. Deceptive wiggle and burst after the catch, and he has running back-like vision to find cracks in the defense. Runs a variety of routes. Plays at different speeds to confuse cornerbacks. Strong hands-catcher and plays with a good amount of power through contact. Was the recipient on a variety of downfield plays last season. Mostly reliable when asked to make difficult catches with coverage draped on him. Has experience beating press at the line.
Weaknesses: Despite his deep-ball ability, he lacks game-breaking speed down the field. Had more drops than you'd like to see out of a top-tier wideout.
Early comparison: Allen Robinson
Experience: Has played 25 games thus far for the Sun Devils. As a true freshman in 2016, he had 58 receptions for 659 yards with five scores. Last season, Harry had 82 grabs for 1,142 yards with eight touchdowns.
Strengths: Tall, long, and decently-built wideout. Has the body frame of a No. 1 outside pass-catcher. Smooth movements. Battles hard against press. When he's locked in as a run-blocker, he's ultra physical. Tremendous awareness, body control, and ball skills. Routinely makes the acrobatic, high-point grab down the field in tight coverage. Understands where he is on the field and gets his feet in bounds on throws near the sideline.
Weaknesses: At times, press coverage slows him down. Good, not great speed. Same goes for his elusiveness after the catch.
Early comparison: A.J. Green
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Experience: As a freshman in 2016, he reeled in 49 passes for 935 yards with three touchdowns. Limited to just seven games in 2017 due to injury, Richards had 24 grabs for 439 yards with three touchdowns.
Strengths: Good height and length. Smooth movements for his size and twitchy when beating press or cutting in his routes. Plus concentration when the ball is approaching in contested-catch situations, especially near the sideline, where his body control and awareness stand out too. Has the top-end speed and burst to take a short pass to the house with long strides. Clearly an outstanding athlete. Large catch radius.
Weaknesses: On the lanky side. Doesn't run with a lot of power. Drops were an issue in his small sample size in 2017.
Early comparison: Martavis Bryant
Experience: In 22 games over two years at Stanford, he has 72 catches for 1,160 yards, and 14 touchdowns. In 2017, he led the team with 48 receptions, 781 yards, and nine scores.
Strengths: Imposing size at 6-3 and around 220 or 225 pounds, and he carries that weight well. Effortless athlete who runs and changes direction like he's much smaller. Uses a quick stutter move to beat press at the line or create yards after the catch. Dominant high-pointer on downfield shots and on fades in the red zone. Attacks the football at its highest point with his big, strong hands but also is proficient at boxing out. Even when he can't extend his arms, he typically comes down with the football in tight coverage. Deceptive downfield speed. Moments of impressive run-blocking.
Weaknesses: Not a make-you-miss wideout. Won't consistently create separation in the pros. May be best utilized in a vertical-based passing offense, which are becoming less popular in today's NFL.
Early comparison: Mike Evans
Experience: Amassed 1,095 yards on 57 catches in 13 games last season for the Sooners. Played the 2016 season at a junior college.
Strengths: Glider with world-class speed. Good vision to make defenders miss in space on screens and slants, but he doesn't dance. Gets North-South quickly. Hits top gear almost instantly after the ball is in his hands. Efficient YAC wideout. Equally as scary as a traditional downfield threat as he is as a gadgety screen receiver.
Weaknesses: Short with a small frame that's currently carrying minimal weight. Wiggle is good but not as impressive as you'd expect for a receiver his size. Had a handful of drops in 2017, which seemingly came from a over-reliance on body catches.
Early comparison: John Brown
Experience: Has played in 25 games for the Gamecocks. Followed a 44-590-4 stat line in 2016 by snagging 64 passes for 793 yards with five scores in 2017.
Strengths: Has the body of a No. 1 outside receiver at 6-3 and around 215 pounds. Might have the best "my ball" menality in the class, and has the athleticism and size to transfer that mindset into an assortment of tough grabs. Plus body control and leaping ability for his size. Very clearly a hands-catcher who routinely snatches the ball away from his body. Good balance and quickness to create yards after the catch.
Weaknesses: Not a downfield speedster and lacks ideal burst once the ball is in his hands. Not a wideout who consistently creates separation. Elusive for his size but making defenders miss isn't his forte.
Early comparison: Dez Bryant
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