First-Round Wideouts Lacking?
The 2023 NFL Draft’s wide receiver class has been advertised as underwhelming. According to Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy, Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the only wide receiver with a first-round grade from many franchises.
One thing has become clear on calls around league past couple weeks: NFL isn’t nearly as high on this year’s WR class as media.
Frequently seeing 4-5 wideouts in mocks. Have spoken to numerous teams that have only one first round grade at the position. That guy is JSN.
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 10, 2023
However, NFL expert picks do not expect only one first-round wide receiver. Several wideouts are being mocked in the first round, and the sportsbook has the over/under of receivers selected in the first round at 4½. Is this WR class capable of producing multiple first-round picks? Let’s look at the top wideouts in the class.
1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
After being held out for most of the 2022 season with a hamstring injury, Smith-Nigba’s draft stock took a hit. However, it rebounded after a strong outing at the NFL Combine. His 3.93-second 20-yard shuttle was the fourth-best mark by a wideout since 2007. Smith-Njigba’s 6.57-second three-cone drill was also the best among 2023 receivers.
The former Buckeye is now widely considered the top wideout once again. His short area quickness, route-running and reliable hands bring enticing upside. NFL odds have Smith-Njigba as the favorite to be the first WR selected (-200).
2. Jordan Addison, USC
Jordan Addison has been tracking for the middle of the first round for a few months. After posting a 4.49-second 40-yard dash, his stock took a slight hit. However, he remains in the running to be the first WR off of the board (+750). Addison’s smooth route-running and impressive releases off the line of scrimmage are intriguing. However, there are concerns about his top-end speed and small frame.
3. Zay Flowers, Boston College
Zay Flowers has been a steady riser in NFL predictions. At one point, he was considered a borderline first-round pick. Now, Las Vegas NFL odds expect the Boston College product to go within the top 24 picks (-250). Why the sudden jump? Flowers gained 13 pounds of muscle since the conclusion of the 2022 season, silencing size concerns. Plus, he proved his speed did not decline with his bulked frame. Flowers has an innate ability to break tackles with his elite lateral quickness.
April showers bring Zay Flowers pic.twitter.com/uxpKeCafaY
— Kyle Lindemann (@LuckIsMadeFF) April 5, 2023
4. Quentin Johnston, TCU
Perhaps the biggest faller has been TCU’s Quentin Johnston. Following the 2022 season, he was the odds-on favorite to be the first wideout selected. Most NFL picks expect Smith-Njigba and Flowers to be off of the board before Johnston. Questions surround the TCU product’s route tree and hands. However, Johnston’s athleticism and ability after the catch should still yield a first-day pick.
5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Jalin Hyatt is one of several prospects from the SEC that are considered borderline first-round picks. If Hyatt lands in the first round, over 11½ SEC players in the first round looks likely (+160). Hyatt is perhaps the best deep threat in the class with his elite speed and burst. Plus, he has upside as a do-it-all wideout thanks to impressive athleticism. A limited route tree and little experience at Tennessee call for some concern.
6. Josh Downs, North Carolina
Now we enter the second-day territory. Depending on how the first round shakes out, Josh Downs of North Carolina could be the first WR taken in the second round. Downs is undersized and mainly worked out of the slot in college. However, he was very productive. Downs is an exceptional route runner and excels after the catch.
7. Nathaniel Dell, Houston
Nathaniel Dell is another Swiss army knife prospect, similar to Flowers. Dell is a slot wideout with a small frame at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds. He has excellent quickness and change of direction, making him dangerous in the open field. Dell has the ability to play in the slot, backfield or in limited snaps on the perimeter. With the right team, the former Cougar will shine.
8. Rashee Rice, SMU
Rashee Rice could be one of the best values of the wideout class. He is an exceptional athlete that is a nightmare to tackle, and his hands are like vise grips in contested situations. Rice must develop his route tree. It’s puzzling why his stock has fallen some after posting a 41-inch vertical jump and a 10’8” broad jump.
9. A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
A.T. Perry is another prospect that could provide terrific value. He has great length at 6-foot-3½ with arms eclipsing 33 inches. Perry’s speed at this size makes him stand out. The Wake Forest product posted a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and has impressive short-area quickness. Perry has the potential to be a solid perimeter wideout in the NFL.
— Nick Penticoff (@NickPenticoff) April 7, 2023
10. Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
Cedric Tillman is a big-bodied receiver tracking for the second or third round. He stands at 6-foot-3 and is great in contested situations, making Tillman an exceptional red-zone target. His 4.54-second 40-yard dash time was also a pleasant surprise. Tillman’s injury history and his ability after the catch are two potential problems.
While the 2023 NFL Draft’s wide receiver class is weaker than normal, it’s still worth paying attention to. Several wideout prospects possess high potential. We could see as many as five WRs taken in the first round, and several prospects could provide excellent value in the second and third rounds. Check out various NFL betting lines for receivers selected in the 2023 draft at BetUS Sportsbook.