[dt_divider style=”thick” /]During the cross checking process for the 2018 ITP Draft Guide, our fearless Director of Personnel decisions – Dan Hatman – made a note to the wide receiver scouts saying, “WR is a fascinating position, as every scout values skill sets differently.” This is undoubtedly true. There are a lot of different receiver types that can succeed in the National Football League, but some evaluators prefer different types in favor of the other. At least that’s the case when evaluating and valuing the position.
The 2018 WR class is unique in that it offers a lot of variety and the differences in skills are marginal. There is not much consensus on who the top receivers in the class are. Calvin Ridley is mainly everyone’s pick as their WR1, but even he has doubters due to age and production flags. Flags I vehemently disagree with by the way.
At the Scouting Academy we use a 1-7 scale to assess player’s traits. For the purpose of my own WR rankings I used the 1-7 scale to place each player into a tier based on their Film & Projection grade. Note, there are no Tier 1 receivers in this class, but plenty of talented Tier 2 and 3 which signifies the depth at the position this draft season.
|Rare – 1|
|Excellent – 2|
|Very Good – 3|
|Good – 4|
|Solid – 5|
|Adequate – 6|
|Marginal – 7|
There are still some solid players that just missed the cut of my top 20 WRs in the 2018 NFL Draft, and there are definitely roles at the next level for these players.
Tier 4: Dylan Cantrell (Texas Tech), Allen Lazard (Iowa State), Braxton Berrios (Miami)
Tier 5: Simmie Cobbs (Indiana), Marcell Ateman (Oklahoma State), Jaleel Scott (New Mexico State), Tre’quan Smith (University of Central Florida)
With honorable mentions out of the way, here are my rankings 20-16.
20. Deon Cain, Clemson, 6-2, 202 pounds, Z Receiver – Tier 4
Strengths: Raw athlete with good speed to test cornerbacks deep and get behind a defense. Can vary his pace to set up the cornerback into his routes. Creates separation with hand fighting and arm maneuvers to fight through contact. Good flexibility to sink his hips in and out of his breaks and execute hard breaks. Very good sudden movements to create separation at the top of his routes. Able to pluck passes thrown away from his frame and tracks the ball well to make over the shoulder catches. Quick to secure catches and I like how he shields the ball from defenders once he corrals the grab. Athleticism makes him a strong run after the catch player.
Weaknesses: Struggles releasing against tight press coverage and needs to add more deceptive moves on his releases. Doesn’t always attack the ball when he has positioning, causing him to lose leverage and create a pass break up opportunity for the defender. Focus drops are an issue as he’ll sometimes take his eyes off the ball while tracking it into his hands. Not a strong contested catch receiver – allows contact to impact the result of the play. Prime example during the season is when he failed to make a contested catch opportunity against Alabama CB Levi Wallace who weighs 183 pounds. Raw skill set will make him a project receiver.
Scheme Fit: Best suited as a Z receiver in a West Coast offense that relies on the quick passing game with slants, hitches and screens to use Cain’s athleticism in the open field. Deep ball ability makes him a candidate for a primarily vertical scheme as well, but contested catch concerns make this less of a fit.
One- and Three-Year Projections: A backup WR in year one who’ll need to develop his hands and play strength to contribute. By year three Cain is likely a solid WR3.
Draft Grade: 4th Round
Teams to Watch: Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs
19. Cedrick Wilson, Boise State, 6-3, 188 pounds, Z Receiver – Tier 4
Strengths: Smart player who displays good route running ability to create separation with his quickness at the top of his routes. Uses head and shoulder fakes to manipulate the defensive back’s hips. Gains leverage on quick slants with sudden movements. Very good at running double moves with his ability to stop and get back up to speed. Possesses very good long speed to separate from defenders on deep routes and has good ability to track deep balls downfield. Very good body control to adjust to passes thrown behind him and near the boundary. Very good concentration and sideline awareness to maintain in bounds with multiple defenders in the area. Very savvy after the catch using shakes, cuts and elusive moves in addition to good burst to make defenders miss.
Weaknesses: Struggles against press coverage due to a lack of play strength and inability to sell his fakes with deception. Cannot consistently fight through contact as displayed against Boise State’s contest with Wyoming this past season. Pins passes using his body to complete catches that may result in more drops at the NFL level. Drastically different blocker from 2016 to 2017. Was pushed around way more and saw less effort than a season prior.
Scheme Fit: A Z receiver who can also align as a slot in a vertical offense that runs spread concepts to open the defense. Can also fit in a West Coast offense with quick game concepts.
One- and Three-Year Projections: Can contribute as a solid kick returner in year one. As a receiver his route running and after the catch ability to make plays in space should translate immediately to the NFL game. However, his inability to consistently fight through contact into his route might hinder his development in year one. By year three should he not get thrown off his route as much and he can be a quality WR2.
Draft Grade: 4th Round
Teams to Watch: Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans
18. Deontay Burnett, University of Southern California, 6-0, 186 pounds, Slot Receiver – Tier 4
Strengths: Athletically gifted slot receiver who uses his quickness to create separation in the short to intermediate areas of the field. Excellent suddenness and variation of pace on angle route to burst by defender. Good hands and extension displaying the ability to adjust for low throws, behind throws, and throws out in front. Excellent competitive toughness – many examples of him laying out for passes and taking hard blows to the upper body/head area while maintaining possession of the ball. Good burst and change of direction ability to make shifty cuts in space with the ball in his hands. Not afraid to get physical and lower his pads embracing contact despite his size to finish plays. Displays very good balance along the sideline.
Weaknesses: Size combined with adequate play strength hurts his ability to play anything other than the slot. Which isn’t a huge concern in today’s NFL if we’re being honest. However, it affects his blocking in the screen game should he be asked to throw a quick cut down block to free the targeted receiver. Occasional concentration drop when a defender is lurking nearby. Doesn’t have the play strength to make contested catches. Against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl he loosely carried the ball in traffic resulting in a fumble.
Scheme Fit: Pure slot receiver who’ll fit best in a West Coast offense that allows him to use his quickness underneath.
One- and Three-Year Projections: Fringe starting caliber slot or rotational slot receiver in year one depending on the team he’s drafted to. By year three Burnett will be a solid slot receiver working the short to intermediate areas of the field with the occasional deep play.
Draft Grade: Late 3rd Round
Teams to Watch: Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins
17. Trey Quinn, Southern Methodist University, 6-0, 212 pounds, Slot/Z Receiver – Tier 4
Strengths: Good frame and thickness for a slot receiver. Good athletic ability and short area quickness. Highly intelligent player that is able to diagnose zone defenses and settle in the voids – as well as positioning himself away from the defender’s leverage to open up easier throwing lanes for his QB. Creates separation using good quickness in the short to intermediate areas of the field. Will make a living on quick slants, outs, pivot routes, hitches and curls. Uses subtle movements to get behind defenders on vertical routes. Possesses the strongest hands in the entire draft class. Displays natural hands able to extend and secure passes away from his body. Very good concentration to see tipped passes into his hands. High level of toughness to go over the middle and make contested catches in traffic. Displays very good play speed with the ball in his hands to outrun DBs to the edge on shallow crossing routes and similar routes of that nature going horizontally.
Weaknesses: Does not look very flexible. Inability to sink his hips fluidly and execute hard breaks concerns me. I think his intelligence and short area quickness is enough to overcome it; however, future shortcomings can be foreseen if he’s not utilized in the proper scheme. Doesn’t have explosive downfield speed to test defenses vertically and projects to struggle against press man coverage as a Z receiver on the outside. However, he apparently ran very well in his time at LSU (transferred after true sophomore season) and gained mass in his lower half that could be slowing his down a bit.
Scheme Fit: An offense that allows him the opportunity to win in the short to intermediate areas of the field from the slot. Similar to how the Dallas Cowboys use Cole Beasley as he’s not going to be the type to consistently win vertically, but has the short area quickness to stretch the field horizontally. Overall, will have a niche role, but a valuable player who can help out as a complimentary piece from the slot winning with quickness and intelligence.
One- and Three-Year Projections: A WR3 on a roster playing the majority of his snaps from the slot position and minimal snaps from the Z in his first year in the league. By year three he’ll be a reliable starting slot receiver who excels on 3rd down opportunities using his short area quickness to create separation and strong hands to haul in catches.
Draft Grade: Late 3rd Round
Teams to Watch: New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers
16. Javon Wims, Georgia, 6-3, 215 pounds, X Receiver – Tier 4
Strengths: Wims displays the ability to separate with his physicalness at the point of attack. I’m not expecting much of a year one impact outside of the red zone for this reason, but Wims is a more flexible player than other red zone only players like FSU’s Auden Tate. Wims has very good ball skills and strong hands at the catch point. His hand strength is on display on contested catches where he can leap above the CB with very good body control to reel in catches. Wims is also a good blocker displaying good effort and solid technique that can be further refined in the NFL.
Weaknesses: Raw player. Lacks initial burst off the LOS and doesn’t have the vertical speed to separate consistently. Needs to develop more of a route tree as he didn’t run many different routes while at Georgia. As of now he’s red zone threat who’ll be able to win on back shoulder throws down the sideline.
Scheme Fit: Fits in a balanced offense where he can utilize his blocking ability. An offense that designs their receivers open and creates opportunities for him to face 1 on 1 match-ups to out physical CBs at the point of attack. Overall, Wims is going to need time to develop before he makes a real impact, but he has the makings of a solid WR2 in a run oriented/balanced offense.
One- and Three-Year Projections: Developmental backup WR that’s primarily used in jump ball and back shoulder throws until he can learn to run more of the route tree in year one. By year three Wims should develop into a solid starting WR2 who’ll work the short/intermediate parts of the field, over the middle, and win on back shoulder throws/goal line fades with strong hands and high point ability.
Draft Grade: Mid 3rd Round
Teams to Watch: Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars