2023 NFL DRAFT: TOP 10 WIDE RECEIVERS

BY ADAM GREENE

While there doesn’t appear to be a potential superstar in this wide receiver class, this might be the deepest the NCAA has delivered to the NFL. Which means one or more of these guys will turn into highlight reels.

It was difficult to narrow it down to just a Top 10, but here’s what my eyeballs, the stats and actual play on the field tells me before each guy strips down to his skivvies to exercise in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine.

10. MARVIN MIMS, OKLAHOMA

2022: 5-11, 177 pounds, 54 receptions, 1,083 yards, six touchdowns

Mims has great hands, great body control and real frontline speed (he’s been clocked at a 4.46 40 yard dash), regardless of what he runs at the combine. He was a big play machine for the Sooners in 2022, averaging 20.1 yards per reception. Which, to be fair, was down from his sophomore season where he averaged 22.0 yards per reception. Out the gate, he’s probably not a WR1 in any offense, but he’s a WR2 or 3 and one that will take the top off most defenses and open up runs (and passing routes) underneath, even when he’s not the primary target.

9. JAYDEN REED, MICHIGAN STATE

2022: 6-0, 185 pounds, 55 receptions, 636 yards, five touchdowns

Reed looks smooth in all his routes and has great body control. He’s a multipurpose weapon and, as a sophomore and junior, returned punts for the Spartans, averaging 23.5 yards a return in 2021. He was too valuable at receiver as a senior for the team to use him in that manner last season, but an NFL team, investing a second or third round pick here, will have no trouble dropping him back to return punts. He has the rare ability, like former Greatest Show on Turf wideout Az Hakim, in converting those punt return moves to after the catch elusiveness in the passing game with his shiftiness 4.44 speed.

8. KAYSHON BOUTTE, LSU

2022: 6-0, 190 pounds, 48 receptions, 538 yards, two touchdowns

While I might not have Boutte ranked as high as some others, it doesn’t mean I don’t like him. I feel like he could blow up as a pro, mainly because his physical size (he’s a good 10 pounds heavier than most 6-0 guys) and his speed (4.40 in the 40). The problem for me is, the speed doesn’t really show up on the film and he’s not particularly special as a route runner. In the right system, with the right coaching, he could really turn into something and be a steal somewhere in the third round. Which is where Cooper Kupp was nabbed by the Los Angeles Rams back in 2017.

7. ZAY FLOWERS, BOSTON COLLEGE

2022: 5-10, 177 pounds, 78 receptions, 1,077 yards, 12 touchdowns

Flowers is a guy that could steal a WR3, slot receiver job from a veteran in training camp. He’s definitely the prototype of the modern NFL hash pass catcher, with the route running and body control you’re looking for to pick up first downs and yards after the catch. He’s small and “5-10” might be generous, but he’s super fast and should put up a 4.3 40 at the combine. Plus, weight wise, he’s built sturdy.

6. TYLER SCOTT, CINCINNATI

2022: 5-11, 171 pounds, 54 receptions, 899 yards, nine touchdowns

Cincinnati getting national attention the last couple of years is a good thing for Scott, who could find himself in the late second, early third round conversation. The Bearcats’ offense didn’t require a lot of intricate route running, but Scott has sure hands and a blistering 4.29 speed. He had to up his production and step in as WR1 for Cincinnati after Alec Pierce was drafted in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts last year. In that spot, he outperformed Pierce by three catches and 15 yards and a touchdown. So he’s pretty much the same guy, just shorter, is what I’m saying.

5. NATHANIEL DELL, HOUSTON

2022: 5-10, 155 pounds, 109 receptions, 1,398 yards, 17 touchdowns

Any team that drafts Dell is going to try to force feed him and keep his speed (4.42), because if he was 20 pounds heavier, he might be a first round pick. The last guy his size that entered the draft with Dell’s kind of resume was Tutu Atwell, who just broke out with the Rams this season. For whatever fears anyone has over Dell’s slender frame, he started every game in 2021 and 2022 and recorded more than 1,300 yards receiving in each year. And, like Reed, was the team’s primary punt returner the year before, averaging 15.5 yards per return.

4. JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA, OHIO STATE

2022: 6-0, 197 pounds, five receptions, 43 yards

Smith-Njiba missed pretty much all of 2023 with an injury, but remains a potential (and likely) first round selection simply because of how phenomenal he was as a sophomore in 2021. Smith-Njigba caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns on a team that was loaded with NFL talent at wide receiver, legitimately six or seven guys deep at the time. He outperformed 2021 first round selection Chris Olave (65 catches, 936 yards, 13 touchdowns) on most parts of the stat sheet and would have been a first rounder if he was able to declare after a sophomore. The injury will drop him, maybe from the top or second spot, but Smith-Njiba should still be a Day One selection.

3, JALIN HYATT, TENNESSEE

2022: 6-0, 175 pounds, 67 receptions, 1,267 yards, 15 touchdowns

The last Tennessee wide receiver to be this highly regarded in the NFL Draft was Robert Meachem, selected in the first round at No. 27 by the New Orleans Saints back in 2008. Hyatt is probably better and Meachem had a solid six year NFL career and caught nine touchdowns in 2009. Hyatt blew the doors off all expectations in his junior year, becoming the most dangerous receiver in the Volunteers’ arsenal and a big play machine, catching 15 touchdowns and averaging 18.9 yards per reception. What you love about Hyatt is how he showed up in the biggest games of the season when, at that point, every team he was facing knew the damage he could do. Hyatt had 6 receptions for a ridiculous 207 yards and five touchdowns against an Alabama defense that will see every starter drafted in the first three rounds over the next few years. Against eventual national champion Georgia, he caught six balls for 63 yards. In a game when not much else was working on offense. I’ve seen him rated as a second rounder, but once he puts down a 4.3 40 time at the NFL Combine, don’t be shocked to see him go at the bottom of the first round.

2. JORDAN ADDISON, USC

2022: 6-0, 175 pounds, 59 receptions, 875 yards, 8 touchdowns

Addison reminds me of two former NFL wide receivers, both Pro Football Hall of Famers — Jerry Rice and Isaac Bruce. When you watch Addison’s highlights, it sure looks like Jerry Rice agrees with me. Teams higher up in the draft might be scared off for his reported 40 time (somewhere in the 4.5 area), but I’d like to inform you that Rice himself ran a 4.71 40 and he’s the best wide receiver in history. Bruce ran a 4.55 and Cooper Kupp, the guy that took the 2021 Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl LVI MVP, ran a 4.62 40 at his combine. So much of the NFL route tree is about elusiveness, the ability to stop and start on a dime and juke a guy out of his jock. It’s why Kupp is the best and guys like Justin Jefferson are right on his tail. Addison is a WR1 and a Day One starter for pretty much any NFL team, but especially those picking in the top half of the draft.

1. QUENTIN JOHNSTON, TCU

2022: 6-4, 193 pounds, 60 receptions, 1,069 yards, six touchdowns

You like comparisons to former pros? How about Randy Moss, because that’s who Johnston reminds me of with his size, ball tracking skills and body control. This guy is the total package. There’s no knock on his speed as he should unleash a 4.4 40 yard dash at the combine. He’s tall, nearly hitting the average size of an NBA player, and runs all the routes, from the deep bombs to the shorter, first down plays, averaging 17.8 yards per catch as a senior. He hit 19.2 yards per reception as a junior. If you were building the prototype of what every NFL team was looking for as a pass catcher, Johnston would be it. Like Hyatt, he showed up when it counted, recording 180 yards and a touchdown against No. 8 Oklahoma State, 74 yards and a score against No. 17 Kansas State, 66 yards and a TD against No. 18 Texas, 139 yards against Kansas State again in the Big 12 Championship and 163 yards and a touchdown against Michigan in the College Football Playoff and Fiesta Bowl.

Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.

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