These rankings were inspired by work done for the 2018 ITP Draft Guide, which is now available for purchase!
Continuing along with my top 2018 NFL Draft Wide Receiver prospects I’ll be unveiling receivers 10-6. This group features some versatile pieces that can win from the outside as well as from the slot position and should hear their names called early on day two.
10. Antonio Callaway, Florida, Z Receiver, 5-11, 197 pounds – Tier 3
Strengths: Good quickness and footwork on his releases and can use his arms to fight through contact. Able to vary his pace to set up opposing cornerbacks. Extremely fluid athlete with excellent speed in and out of his breaks. Uses strong deceptive outside fakes to create inside leverage on in-breaking routes and speed to get on top of the defensive back. Very smooth route runner with good separation quickness. Good hands to extend and make catches prior to quickly turning up field. Flashes ability to high point ball in middle of the field with defenders in the area. Very good run after catch player displaying the acceleration and burst to outrun a defense. Also has the physicality to finish forward by lowering his shoulder into a defender.
Weaknesses: Suspended the entire 2017 season. Character flags are a real concern and made what could be a potential late 1st/early 2nd round talent a difficult evaluation. Inconsistent hands as he isn’t always able to look the ball in. Drops are caused by a lapse in concentration while tracking the ball. Overall size is a concern as he lacks the play strength to consistently win against physical cornerbacks.
Scheme Fit: A Z receiver who can also play some slot should he struggle against larger and more physical cornerbacks. A threat in the screen game due to his quickness and burst in the open field. Also has the tools to become a very good route runner with his fluid movements which should help him win in the intermediate areas of the field. Excellent speed makes him a vertical threat that can take the top off a defense.
One- and Three-Year Projection: Solid rotational WR3/WR4 in year one playing majority of his snaps from the Z and working a bit from the slot. Should he maintain a clean slate off the field Callaway has all the raw ability to develop into a good complimentary starting wide receiver by his third year in the NFL.
Draft Grade (Based off tape evaluation only): Late 2nd Round
Teams to Watch: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets
9. Dante Pettis, Washington, Z Receiver, 6-1, 192 pounds – Tier 3
Strengths: Pettis is the most well rounded wide receiver in this class. Very good football intelligence to diagnose coverages. He shows good burst and acceleration off the line of scrimmage into his releases. Uses his hands to swat away press coverage at the line off scrimmage and get into his route. Able to stay vertical into his release and not give away his break to hold the positioning of the cornerback lined up across from him. Excellent route runner who takes efficient steps and has very good flexibility to sink his hips and execute hard breaks. Possesses a strong double move. Very good body control to create good positioning and adjust to passes along the boundary. Good catch radius to extend beyond his frame and adjust to both low and high throws. I like how he explodes back to the ball on comeback routes to corral passes in. Embraces for contact in traffic to secure and maintain the catch. Good improviser when the play breaks down. Flashes good potential contested catch ability with good leaping skills and extension to high point jump balls. Dangerous player in the open field with very good elusiveness to slip by defenders and break low tackles.
Weaknesses: Hands could be better, but not overly concerned. Ball sometimes gets into his breastplate causing drops. Pettis also isn’t the ideal contested catch receiver, but that’s not his game. Overall, he’s a complete player who does everything well. It’s difficult to say he’s weak at one particular thing. He’s going to be a really good complimentary Z receiver in the NFL.
Scheme Fit: A complimentary Z receiver who fits best in a vertical passing attack where he can use his speed and route running ability to create separation deep.
One- and Three-Year Projection: First year starter on special teams as a punt returner. Possesses very translatable traits that should help him become a quality starting Z receiver in his first year in the league. By year three he should solidify himself as a very good WR2.
Draft Grade: Mid 2nd Round
Teams to Watch: Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings
8. Michael Gallup, Colorado State, X Receiver, 6-1, 205 pounds – Tier 3
Strengths: Good burst off the line of scrimmage and ability to physically separate from the cornerback into his route with hand and arm fighting. Good ability to stick a jab outside and force corners into speed turns to gain separation. Creates separation via quickness and contact at top of his route. Displays very good speed to quickly get on top of cornerbacks and pull away from the defender. Able to gain strong positioning in relation to the defender and uses sticky hands to pluck the ball while extending away from his frame. Great manual dexterity. Very good ability to work back to the ball on comebacks and curl routes. Absorbs contact extremely well in traffic situations. Strong contested catch receiver with very good 50/50 ball skills. A true finisher with the ball in his hands. Loves contact and attempts to run through defenders for run after the catch. Able to break low tackles using a violent stiff arm and a strong lower half to churn yardage after initial contact.
Weaknesses: A bit undersized for the X receiver position, but style is definitely in line with one of a true X receiver. Occasional concentration drop when he loses track of the ball on it’s path to his hands or attempting to determine what he’s going to do with the ball prior to securing the catch. Inconsistent effort where he’ll occasionally take plays off. This was something I noticed down in Mobile, but it’s worth noting.
Scheme Fit: X receiver in an offense that leverages the intermediate areas of the field. A threat inside the 20 on fades and back shoulder throws where he can create strong positioning to body opposing cornerbacks.
One- and Three-Year Projection: Solid WR2 who may struggle to find his way due to his style of play in year one. By year three I expect him to be a fringe WR1 who excels in the intermediate areas of the field and in contested catch situations.
Draft Grade: Mid 2nd Round
Teams to Watch: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers
7. Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame, X/Big Slot Receiver, 6-5, 214 pounds – Tier 3
Strengths: Possesses incredible athleticism with speed, quickness and change of direction ability. Good acceleration into his route against and defeats press coverage by using length to prevent jams at the line. Smooth and fluid route runner that should help him develop into a strong route runner as he learns more of the route tree. Long strides to eat up cushion quickly and test defensives vertically. Large catch radius to extend above his head and beyond his frame. Good boundary awareness and concentration to stay in bounds. Measureables make him a candidate to consistently come down with acrobatic catches. Very good speed and agility to outrun defenses in the open field for run after the catch.
Weaknesses: Could add weight to his frame and he’s already added 11 pounds according to how he weighed in at the NFL Combine. Hand technique needs to be improved. Allows the ball to get into his body when he could utilize his long arms and extend for the ball. Needs to more aggressively attack the ball in the air and come down with more contested catches for a receiver of his size. Signs of frustration due to poor quarterback play may have impacted his on field performance in 2017.
Scheme Fit: X receiver in a vertical spread attack that allows him the flexibility to also play as a big Slot.
Projection: Raw tools, but he’s destined to be a good starting wide receiver in the NFL. Year one may be a developmental year depending on the environment he’s put in. However, he should at the very least develop into a strong complimentary WR by year three and push to be the focal receiving target in an offense.
Draft Grade: Early 2nd Round
Teams to Watch: Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers
6. DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State, Slot/Z Receiver, 6-1, 205 pounds – Tier 3
Strengths: Possesses excellent foot quickness and has the best pure release ability in the entire draft class that leaves corners grasping at air in their attempts to jam him at the line. Efficient and nuanced route runner – second in this class to only Alabama’s Calvin Ridley in that respect. Sudden in and out of his breaks with deceptive head fakes to manipulate defensive backs hips. Excellent separation quickness at the top of his routes. Very good contested catch ability displaying very good body control and positioning to get in front of defenders to win in traffic.
Weaknesses: Hamilton does not possess natural hands as he often has to fight the ball to secure it. His mitts are the main concern revolving around his game despite his ability to win contested catches. However, I think he can still become a very good slot receiver in spite of this flaw in his game.
Scheme Fit: Slot receiver in a quick passing offense that also likes to work the intermediate parts of the field. Excellent separation quickness is perfect from the slot to consistently beat man coverage. While he’s an excellent slot receiver, Hamilton’s foot quickness on his releases may also allow him to play from the Z as it’s very difficult for cornerbacks to get their hands on him with his release technique.
Projection: Immediate starter from the slot in his first year in the league due to easily translatable traits like his release and route running skills. By year three he will be one of the better slot receivers in the NFL because of his ability to create separation.
Draft Grade: Early 2nd Round
Teams to Watch: Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks