When it comes to the 2019 NFL Draft, the wide receiver class isn’t seen as a particular strength. Largely because there isn’t a heralded “blue chip” receiving prospect who has been exciting scouts for years.
This is the wrong take.
Instead, this draft class is both talented and deep, with players who could fill any role on any offense in the league. That’s good news for the New York Giants. While they are set at the top of their depth chart with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, they could look to the draft to find a long-term answer for their number three receiver, as well as insurance for Shepard’s impending free agency.
This class is deep enough that I was forced to dispense with a more concise “Top 5” ranking, and expended it to a full Top 10, and still had players left over.
Top 10 wide receivers
- D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss) - Metcalf wasn’t his college team’s most productive receiver — that honor goes to A.J. Brown — but he is the top receiving prospect in the draft. He has a blend of freakish size and athleticism that is impossible to ignore, and he makes incredible feats look routine. While the lack of a pre-combine “blue chip” prospect has stunted the hype around this draft class, Metcalf might put on the kind of show at the Combine which might change all that.
- Kelvin Harmon (North Carolina State) - There are some players who are fairly unassuming standing on the sidelines, but leap off the tape once the whistle blows, and Kelvin Harmon is one of those receivers. Over the past two seasons he has emerged as an undeniable weapon for Ryan Finley, and his ability to make circus catches despite being double, even triple, covered reminds of DeAndre Hopkins. At an unofficial 6-foot-3 inches, 215 pounds, he has a solid frame for an X receiver, as well as excellent play strength, but his ability to create windows and snatch the ball out of the air regardless of coverage are what set him apart.
- JJ Arcega-Whiteside (Stanford) - If a team is looking for a good, solid, savvy, and reliable outside receiver, Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside is a good place to start. He has the size, release off the line of scrimmage, and body control to play the X receiver, while also having reliable hands and route running to be a dependable possession receiver from the Flanker position. Arcega-Whiteside isn’t as flashy as some other receivers on the list, but he is makes up for it by being as consistent you could ask.
- Hakeem Butler (Iowa State) - Even in a crowd of NFL athletes, Butler stands out. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound receiver was a cheat code at Iowa State and looks to be an absolute monster in the endzone and tight areas. He’s bigger than whatever DB is covering him, knows it, and plays like it. He is excellent at using his massive frame to box out defensive backs, as well as using his size to bully them in man coverage or as a blocker. He struggled some with his hands, but has also shown softness and hand strength catching the ball to suggest that it is mostly a matter of building consistency.
- N’Keal Harry (Arizona State) - Speaking of athletic and physical receivers, Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry looks like a prototypical NFL “X” receiver. He isn’t an explosive athlete, but he has good ball skills, strong hands, and the physicality to bully defenders in tight coverage. He also has the ability to create after the catch which has drawn some comparison to Dez Bryant.
- Deebo Samuel (South Carolina) - Unlike the receivers higher than him on this list, Samuel doesn’t profile as a “prototypical” X receiver. At 5-foot-11, 216 pounds he is built more like running back than a wide receiver. But he is a very crafty route runner who can manipulate defenders and create separation out of his breaks and made best out of a bad quarterbacking situation. With the ball in his hands he turns into the running back he resembles and reminds of something like a younger Victor Cruz. He might get pigeonholed as a slot receiver in the NFL, but he should be a weapon in a sufficiently creative offense.
- A.J. Brown (Ole Miss) - Mississippi’s “other” receiver, Brown actually out-performed Metcalf on the college field and is a good prospect in his own right. However, he doesn’t have the same sky-high potential, and should be more of a “big slot” or possession receiver from the Flanker position. Brown should be a reliable second option at the NFL level.
- Andy Isabella (UMass) - The little receiver from UMass was one of the most dangerous weapons on this list in college. Every opponent UMass played knew that the offense was going to run through Isabella and yet nobody could stop him. He is probably going to be a slot receiver at the next level, but his toughness, quickness, long speed (former sprinter), hands, and route running will make his next offense happy to have him.
- Riley Ridley (Georgia) - Younger brother of former Alabama (and current Atlanta Falcons) receiver Calvin Ridley, Riley has tools (and a bloodline) that will interest the NFL. He has worked hard to improve his hands over the course of his career at Georgia, and has become a consistent receiver for the Bulldogs. But despite being in one of college football’s better offenses (and quarterbacking situations), Riley might not have produced up to his potential and probably still has some work to do in the NFL.
- DaMarkus Lodge (Ole Miss) - The other other receiver at Ole Miss, Lodge is an interesting prospect for a team that could use a vertical threat. With Metcalf suffering a season-ending injury, Lodge was Ole Miss’ second-leading receiver, but he was primarily a deep threat in their offense. He has the speed, ball skills, and body control to threaten defenses deep at the next level, but if he can learn a full route tree, he could be a find at receiver.
Marquise Brown (Oklahoma) - Brown might have made the list above, but a Lisfranc injury has knocked him out of the top 10. It was recently reported that he had surgery for the injury, which he suffered in the Big 12 title game and played through in Oklahoma’s loss to Alabama in the Orange Bowl. When healthy, Brown is one of the most electric playmakers in all of college football. But listed at 5-foot-9, Brown was going to need to test well to overcome any hesitation about his size, and now not only will he be unable to work out at the Scouting Combine, but he won’t be able to work out at all through the draft process. He will, reportedly, be healthy in time for the 2019 regular season, and if he is able to return to the level we saw over the last two seasons, some team could get a steal.
Jalen Hurd (Baylor) - Hurd has intrigued as the draft process picked up steam. While he was unable to perform at the Senior Bowl, but the running back turned receiver is an interesting prospect. He has been something of a runner/receiver hybrid in Baylor’s offense, lining up and running routes like any other receiver, but still playing running back on occasion. He’s taken well to his new position and looks remarkably good running routes despite just one year of doing so. He has always had a great blend of size and athleticism. If he is able to develop as a receiver with a running back’s mentality after the catch, Hurd could be a very interesting Day 3 prospect.
Antoine Wesley (Texas Tech) - Wesley only has one year of real production at Texas Tech, but it was an impressive year. Catching 88 passes for 1,410 yards (16.0 yards per catch), and 9 touchdowns, Wesley proved to be a big play waiting to happen. Given his height (6-foot, 5 inches) and massive catch radius, it might be assumed that he is a physical monster who dominates the catch point. In reality he is a whip-thin 190 pounds, but a solid route runner with an impressive ability to sink his hips and cut for a tall receiver, and long-strider who can create separation and eat up yards in the open field. Wesley could rise up draft boards with a strong showing at the Combine, particularly if he times well in the 40 yard dash and comes in bigger than expected.