2018 Draft: Wide Receiver Rankings


For reference, my thoughts on 2017’s wide receiver class can be found here.

Additionally, my top 10, pre-Combine “rankings” can be found here.

Lastly, I highlighted what I deemed as the Raiders’ “top needs” heading into the draft over here.

What does Oakland do?

To start the offseason, the Raiders essentially handed Michael Crabtree’s money to the former Packer, Jordy Nelson. Swapping for the latter probably had something to do with the locker room, and attitude in general. On the field, it’s close enough, although I may lean the younger wideout’s way.

Jon Gruden wants to feature Amari Cooper in 2018 and beyond. Perhaps we were all one year early with the ascendance talk? If it doesn’t happen this year, it may never happen, I fear.

Outside of 33-year old Jordy Nelson and Almost Cooper, it’s a familiar cast of underwhelming characters. It appears the Raiders will be counting on Seth Roberts again as the WR3, while the “depth” behind him is as uninspiring as you remember.

The good news is that Coach Gruden has also made it a point to talk-up the need for another body or two to compete. I’m expecting a mid-round selection, perhaps multiple, at wide receiver. Whether or not any stick or push around the current depth is to be determined. Oakland needs to get better at the position; it will surely be a benefit to their signal-caller who struggled at times last season while receiving almost no support from the pass-catchers (drops remain an issue).

This year’s class:

Player’s to note:

D.J. Moore broke The Phenom Index. Age (and breakout age), plus-athleticism, plus-production (Maryland had like 20 different quarterbacks). I tabbed him as top five in the class back in October; turns out that was too low. Think Golden Tate.

Antonio Callaway has all the asterisks that you don’t want next to a prospect’s name from an off-field standpoint. He even managed to get flagged during draft week. There’s no shot he gets drafted where I have him graded obviously, but I’m going off of talent alone for these final rankings. Like the WR1, Callaway shines after the catch. He can win at all three levels. His early production as Florida was some of the best from a wide receiver (19.4 average in 2015 as a freshman).

Courtland Sutton was somewhat ignored in 2017. We know his teammate had quite the campaign, but Sutton wasn’t “bad” by any means. Perhaps we set the bar too high? Was he overrated at some point throughout the process? I know I was guilty of overlooking him; I had some questions athletically, which he ended up answering (92nd percentile SPARQ score). The common working comparison is Alshon Jeffery.

Speaking of getting overlooked, James Washington doesn’t “look” like your typical wide receiver, so I believe that leads to some hesitation regarding his projection. In reality, he’s one of the better players in this class when the ball is in the air. He averaged over 20 yards per reception in two of his four years at school, while coming annoyingly close a third (19.4 in 2016). Deep threat, obviously. Washington can play outside or inside.

Equanimeous St. Brown was a top five wide receiver for me entering the season, and that’s where he’ll end up. I was one of the fans who was selling early, given all the struggles in Notre Dame’s passing attack in 2017. Classic size/speed prospect. Underrated route runner. Adriel Jeremiah-ish the way he just glides around. Despite the gift of size, needs to play stronger and more aggressive off the line (and downfield, for that matter) in order to take his game to the next level. Can get bullied and appear uninterested at times. Ceiling remains as high as anyone’s.

Christian Kirk gets penciled in as “just a slot wide receiver”, which may be partially true, but still seems unfair to one of the more polished route runners in this year’s class. Additionally, his hands are about as strong and sure as they come, while being one of the better players after the catch. Also known to impact the game in special teams. Intangibles (character, work ethic, etc.) are about as good as they come, we’re told.

Dante Pettis didn’t test quite as well as I had thought he would (still recovering from an ankle injury), but that shouldn’t really impact his stock too dramatically. We know he’s a good athlete. Much like Christian Kirk, we also know that Pettis offers some special teams value, as well. Additionally, the route-work is another plus; he’s really smooth. Factor lining up inside or outside, and either short, intermediate, or deep. Only “knock” is his toughness/strength.

The ball skills are there with Tre’Quan Smith, who feels a bit underrated at this point in the process. He produced efficiently, and produced deep, while at Central Florida. 4.4-speed to go with a 37″ vertical. We like athletes at the position.

Michael Gallup‘s best football is ahead of him. Sure, there are some level-of-competition questions, but you can’t knock the way he plays the postilion. He reminds me of a juiced-up Anquan Boldin. Adequate, quick feet with noticeable body control. He feels “safe” at wide receiver this year.

Anthony Miller took the former walk-on, feel good story, and turned it on it’s head with some wild production while at Memphis. Doubled-up on 1400-yard seasons, with 14 and 18 touchdowns in 2016 and 2017 respectively. He’s just so natural with his adjustments; makes the spectacular look routine. His feet off the line, like some of the names listed earlier, are really good.

Now, if we’re talking about some of the best footwork, and route-work in general, hand that trophy to DaeSean Hamilton. Not a player I was too focused on early (with some many bigger bodies in Happy Valley), Hamilton’s done nothing but rise on my board.Should mash out of the slot. Football ability aside, check out some of these character notes. I always love stumbling on kids like this.

I’m going to get yelled at again for my Calvin Ridley ranking. I think he’s going to be “fine” on Sunday’s (he’s like the running back version of Leonard Fournette for me, in a sense), while obviously getting drafted a lot earlier than where I have him listed. That said, can’t ignore the age and athletic profile. My friend Justin Higdon sums it up nicely here.

Justin Watson might be another D.J. Moore-level crush for me; a gem hidden amongst a largely mediocre class in general. He’s a plus-athlete (90th percentile SPARQ score) while boasting some of the best production in the class (FCS competition, I know, I know).

I’m thinking D.J. Chark goes earlier than the 4th off his athletic-upside alone (96th percentile). It seems like every year, Louisiana State has one of these kids coming out.

Allen Lazard had an impressive and somewhat surprising Combine for a player his size (4.5 speed with a 38″ vertical). He could be a tight end conversion candidate; simply a mismatch working out of the “big slot”. Clearly, given the size, a threat in the red area.

It’s hard to call where Korey Robertson will be off the board, but I like this range for him (NFL Draft Scout has him in the 5-6). He’s one of the more competitive players when the ball is in the air. Dez Bryant-ish, in that regard.

Notable players that just missed the top 20 cut are as follows: Cedrick Wilson (Boise State), Trey Quinn (Southern Methodist), Jordan Lasley (California, Los Angeles), Keke Coutee (Texas Tech), and Simmie Cobbs Jr. (Indiana).

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive