The 2023 NFL Draft is considered a weak one for the wide receiver position.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t receivers in the draft who can help teams. There are quite a few talented prospects in this class, with a wide variety of physical traits and skill sets to appeal to every team. There are big, physical receivers, quick and reliable receivers, and even some explosive big play threats.
Nebraska wide receiver Trey Palmer is one of the fastest and most explosively athletic receivers in this class. The New York Giants are in the process of rebuilding their receiving corps, and could look at any type of receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft. Could Palmer fit their team vision for 2023?
Prospect: Trey Palmer (3)
Games Watched: vs. Northwestern (2022), vs. Oklahoma (2022), vs. Wisconsin (2022)
Games Played: 34
Yards (YPC): 1,501 (13.4 per catch)
Games Played: 12
Yards (YPC): 1,043 (14.7 per catch)
Best: Athleticism, long speed, run after catch, versatility, competitive toughness
Worst: Play strength, blocking
Projection: A starting wide receiver in a vertical offense.
(Palmer is Nebraska WR number 3)
Nebraska wide receiver Trey Palmer has good size and excellent athleticism to play the position at the NFL level.
Palmer is a legitimately explosive athlete who brings rare speed to the wide receiver position. He has explosive acceleration, great long speed, and good quickness and agility in a short area, all of which can make him a major threat in a variety of situations.
Palmer was frequently used in wide receiver or bubble screens, or as a ball carrier on jet sweeps. Those plays allowed the Nebraska offense to get the ball in Palmer’s hands with the minimum of risk and with the potential of a high payoff. They also allowed the offense to make use of the threat of his speed to force the defense to cover a broader area of the field.
As a downfield receiver, Palmer played as both the slot and as a true wide receiver. He was asked to run a relatively diverse array of routes in Nebraska’s offense. Crossing routes, out, dig, and curl routes, as well as vertical routes all evidenced in the tape viewed. His quickness and explosion give him solid options when it comes to releasing off of the line of scrimmage. Palmer wastes no time or motion getting into his route against off or zone coverage, quickly using up any available cushion. Against tighter man coverage, he typically uses a quick stutter-step to throw off corners’ timing before he accelerates into his route.
Palmer does a good job of pressing routes vertically when he can, using the threat of his speed to force corners to respect the possibility of a deep route. He also gives full effort when running vertical routes as a part of larger route concepts to create room for his teammates in the underneath area of the field.
He does a good job of locating, tracking, and making adjustments to the ball down the field. Palmer is also a “hands” catcher who is generally reliable down the field, and is able to contort his body to maximize his catch radius or haul in difficult receptions.
Palmer is generally more effective in run-after-catch situations or vertical routes than he is in the intermediate area. He gives full effort when pressing his stem vertically, but his raw speed and explosiveness can make sharp breaks at the top of those stems problematic. He often needs to chop his feet and visibly throttle down when running out, dig, curl, or comeback routes. That gives corners the opportunity to recover if they bite on his vertical stem and work back to the receiver.
And While Palmer’s hands are generally reliable, there are instances where he can have concentration drops or have the ball jarred loose by heavy contact at the catch point.
That speaks to the larger issue with Palmer’s game, which is a lack of play strength. He has solid size for the position, but he is definitely not a physical receiver. He is more of an annoyance than anything else as a blocker, and he struggles against physical coverage.
Overall Grade: 6.8
Trey Palmer projects as a starting wide receiver in a vertical offense.
Palmer played both wide and slot receiver in Nebraska’s offense and he has the upside to be a weapon in any offensive scheme, but his raw speed would be best utilized stretching the defense vertically. He can exploit one on one matchups, force defenses to roll deep coverage his way, or create space for teammates on underneath routes. Palmer plays hard without the ball and does a good job of selling his routes when his job is to create separation for his teammates on route combinations.
Palmer also has the potential to be a weapon in run-after-catch situations. He has good burst as a ball carrier, with good vision and toughness. His speed and agility allow him to turn short passes – or screen plays – into big plays. Palmer also has experience, and upside, as a punt and kick returner.
At times it appears that Palmer is almost too athletic for his own good. He can struggle to carry speed through his breaks and has to noticeably “gear down” when executing sharply breaking routes. That can allow corners to stay in phase when they might otherwise have been unable to keep up with him. That would, obviously, limit his effectiveness in offenses that use a lot of curl, comeback, out, or dig routes.
Palmer’s grade is heavily impacted by his play strength and blocking, which are obvious weaknesses in his game. He probably shouldn’t be used as a blocking receiver, and he can struggle in contested catch situations. His future team will need a plan of how to use him to his strengths without exposing those weaknesses.
Almost any team can make use of Palmer’s speed and deep ball receiving to create explosive plays. However, his overall contribution to an offense could well depend on the offense into which he’s drafted.