(Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire)
We are quickly coming to an end of the college football season, and that means we are coming closer to getting our last looks at the incoming rookies of the 2019 class. While the combine is great and allows us an up-close look at these players who will be populating our fantasy rosters after our rookie drafts. It often doesn’t give an accurate representation of the players, like seeing them against their counterparts in real game action. Last year by looking at these players in game action and analyzing their stats, we were able to let you know about guys like Phillip Lindsay and Ito Smith household names now yes, but at the time players given little thought by fantasy players. While of course, we got players wrong as well me personally I had Ronald Jones II ranked fourth in his class, he obviously has fallen short of those expectations so far this year. Over the next month, I will release an article on a different position of players to start watching out for, for those of you in dynasty leagues who want to get a leg up on your competition. I will give you their current stats and where I have them ranked. As we come to a close to the college season I will revisit each position and show you where players values have changed.
For this article, I will discuss my current top 10 college wide receivers I expect to declare for the 2019 NFL draft. This list could change from now when I will release a new list after bowl season. All of the stats listed will be from their play in the 2018 season. Their play for last few weeks of the regular season, bowl season and playoffs will increase and decrease players value ahead of the draft. How I analyze the wide receiver is a mixture of how good they have played against ranked opponents and top defenses. I also take into account who is playing with a good quarterback and who isn’t. Once my top 10 are listed I will list a few more players that are right on the cusp of being listed in the top 10, and still players to watch as the college season comes to a close.
Kelvin Harmon (NC State)
Kelvin Harmon is a considerably young wide receiver who joined NC State as a four-star prospect from Palmyra New Jersey per Rivals.com. Harmon will likely be the top wide receiver of the class though some may argue. After a very productive sophomore season in which he was one of two wide receivers to go over 1,000 yards, and likely will continue that trend in 2018. While he has struggled to score touchdowns so far in his college career, one could argue scoring touchdowns is fluky. Regardless he’s been paired with one of my top quarterbacks as well in Ryan Finley and has produced. His skill set and playstyle makes him one of the most interesting wide receiver prospects this year.
Harmon is one of the better route runners of this class and shows quick feet in and out of breaks. He does a good job adjusting his routes on the fly and finding the space in coverages proving a target for his quarterback. He continues to show excellent execution in timing routes or working to a spot on the field. He shows off an elite “air attack” the ability to high point the ball, or attack it and win in contested situations. Add in his ability to pull the ball out of the air makes him fun to watch. One of the best in the class at deep ball tracking and adjust to the ball at the last minute, so defenders don’t realize the ball is on them.
Harmon has a tendency to jump for balls he doesn’t need to and tends to drift to the sidelines a bit much at times causing his quarterback to have to make the perfect throw. While he is a good route runner at times he doesn’t hold his vertical line and strays making it difficult for his quarterback to place the ball. He is usually not quick off the line and struggles in start/stop situations at times. While it’s rare to see he does at times not look the ball into his hands causing him to catch it twice, or allowing it into his chest and missing the catch instead of extending his hands and catching it.
In this clip, Harmon contorts his body and makes a beautiful one-handed catch for a touchdown.
In this clip, While this may seem like an easy pitch and catch if you watch slowly Harmon has to slow up to catch it but doesn’t break stride. He slows down enough to allow the ball to hit him in the shoulders and carry the defender in for the touchdown.
In this clip, Harmon makes another beautiful one-handed catch. He leaps above the defender makes the one-handed catch and pins it to his shoulder pad for another great touchdown catch.
D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss)
DeKaylin Metcalf is one of the most promising prospects in this class and might easily be the number one prospect if he ended up playing his entire 2018 season. Metcalf at hometown prospect of Mississippi joined Ole Miss as a four-star prospect out of high school per Rivals.com. Metcalf has everything you’d want in a wide receiver, the real question for him is will he stay in school one more year? Being a redshirt sophomore he can come out this year. However, this is a loaded class for wide receivers prospects and even though he could be the best of all of them he will have to prove it during the draft process. He’s only played in seven games in 2018 and will miss the whole season with a neck strain.
Metcalf has incredible size and height combination. His speed is undeniable, has shown the ability to blow by corners on multiple routes. He has also shown a second gear when being chased rarely being caught from behind. His route running for such a young wide receiver could be considered “elite” his hand usage to get off press coverage and footwork to get off the line of scrimmage are advanced for his young age. With his size, he does a great job high pointing the ball and winning jump balls. Has shown a willingness to run block and takes it seriously. Shown the ability to break tackles on multiple plays.
Metcalf most of his questions come from the fact that we have seen very little of him at the college level just 21 games so far. Due to his lack of playing time he doesn’t seem to run many routes. Most the routes on tape are streaks running right down the field rarely running any in routes. With that being said some will question if he can cause separation on in routes or short yardage plays. Has played almost exclusively at the X receiver role. His size begs to question why he struggles to win contested catches. He seemed to lose more 50-50 catches than wins, and at times would let the ball get in on him too much and struggled with drops. He didn’t receive a lot of targets last year, so it would have been nice to see if his volume increased this year.
In this clip, We take a close glimpse of what is possibly one of Metcalf’s most infamous catches. He beats the one on one coverage and goes up to make a nice catch over the defender in the back of the end zone while securing it with one hand. Last second catch to win them the game coming up clutch in a huge moment.
In this clip, Metcalf breaks down the field and adjust to the flight of the ball with the defender on him. He then turns upfield shows off his strength fighting off the defender and scoring the touchdown. Questionable celebration
In this clip, Metcalf once again gets by his defender and makes a beautiful one-handed catch, enough said!
A.J. Brown (Ole Miss)
A.J. Brown another Ole Miss wide receiver in my top 10 and one who has had an amazing college career so far. While he had himself a good freshman year he burst onto the scene in his sophomore year having a great year and firmly putting himself on everyone’s dynasty radars. A homegrown prospect from Starkville, MS he signed with Ole Miss as a four-star recruit out of high school per Rivals.com. He has continued to impress in his junior year especially being the main offensive weapon this year for the Rebels. If he continues his incredible junior year he might even jump to the top wide receiver of this class.
Brown has excellent strength and size and a good wingspan. He has shown quick feet on in breaking routes allowing him to create separation. He does a good job changing pace while running his routes allowing him to separate from defenders. While he doesn’t run many vertical routes he showed at times to get open deep when needed. He has not been put in many contested catch situations but when he does he tends to come out on top. Has strong hands and can pluck the ball out of the air around defenders, and showed the strength and elusiveness to break tackles and be dangerous in the open field. A very physical blocker in the run game.
Brown has some consistency and effort plays called into question often. He has played almost exclusively in the slot with Ole Miss and some will question his ability to play on the outside on a consistent basis. Struggles as a route runner at times, not finishing the routes or looking for space to catch the ball. Has shown at times to give up after trying to fake a defender and it did not work, causing him to look almost lazy finishing out route. Most of his yards and touchdowns have come against “lesser” college opponents. Seemed inconsistent in games against the top SEC corners.
In this clip, Brown does a good job to watch the balls into his hands, easily makes the defender miss and takes it to the house.
In this clip, Brown takes a simple out route and makes the first guy miss to move up the sideline. He squares up with the second defender and shows off his elusiveness by effectively “breaking” the defender’s ankles getting him to go the wrong way and scoring the touchdown.
In this clip, Brown comes back to the ball, high points it over the defender. He then breaks the tackle and takes it to the house, showing off almost all of his skills in one play.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (Stanford)
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside a senior at Stanford is one of the smarter players you’ll meet in this draft class. He was a three-star prospect out of high school per Rivals.com. Whiteside has been a great wide receiver for the Cardinals and looks to have the skill and ability to be a great wide receiver in the NFL. He has shown off some great speed and some really good catches especially in his senior year. His stock continues to rise even though the Cardinals have struggled this year. While they should play in a good bowl game it will be interesting to see if he plays in it or starts to focus on the NFL draft process.
Whiteside does excellent work at the line of scrimmage, he does a great job using his hands if they try and jam him. He does a good job using a nice stutter step to freeze defenders at the line. He does a great job of stringing together jab steps and head fakes to get defenders to bite and blow by them. His acceleration and stride allow him to almost effortlessly glide and eat up yardage quickly. Has some of the best body control in this class. His concentration and body control when the ball his in the air to make acrobatic catches is stunning at times. He does a good job using his leverage to create space and locates the ball quickly. He has shown the ability to catch the ball away from his body, while also doing a good job on the sideline or near the end zone to create enough space to secure the catch. He does a good job using his hands and body to create an excellent an big catch radius. His start/stop speed is incredible and one of the reasons he is a YAC monster.
Whiteside struggles in the short and intermediate area to produce big plays. Tends to be caught or brought down which may be because he tends to tip his breaks at times. His hands aren’t the best and probably his biggest issue. He has struggled with drops through college. He also plays very physically which could lead to offensive fouls called in his direction at the next level.
In this clip, Whiteside gets by his defender does a great job tracking the ball as its overthrown. He does a great job going up and laying out for a nice touchdown catch.
In this clip, Whiteside gets by his defender with some ease. He goes up to make the catch while fighting with the defender, once he comes down with the ball he immediately turns upfield and turns on the jets. This kind of acrobatic catch and run is what J.J. will bring to the NFL.
In this clip, Whiteside gets to the side of the end zone and shows off his hands and body control. He jumps and extends his hands to make the catch while using his body to shield the defender away from the ball. Just another beautiful acrobatic catch.
N’Keal Harry (Arizona State)
N’Keal Harry is one of the best prospects in this class and will likely be ranked anywhere from 1-5 for most rankings sites. Harry is an Arizona native who left high school as a five-star prospect per Rivals.com and joined Arizona State. He has had an impressive college career so far and looks even better in his junior year. He has great size and speed. Harry might easily be the best wide receiver in this class and could be someone who breaks out big in his rookie year in the NFL especially if he gets drafted by a good team, which seems likely knowing how loaded this draft class is with defensive prospects. While many right now like Harry they will likely fall in love with him during the NFL draft process, as he will likely blow through all the drills and test with ease.
Harry is an excellent downfield threat and is one of the elite receivers at high pointing the ball. His leaping ability and hands are beyond impressive. His start/stop ability is some of the best I’ve seen in a long time, his ability to get five yards and cut with great body control causes issues for defenders, especially those who bite as then Harry can get downfield in a hurry. His tracking of deep balls is incredible and can he does a good job of slowing down to still allow the ball to hit him in stride in case he’s outrun the quarterbacks throw. His big and strong hands allow him to almost pull the ball out of the air at ridiculous angles or even in short routes when thrown at high velocities. While he uses his physicality in blocking well he could improve some in that area. He has been used some in the wildcat for ASU and I think that has increased his running vision after the catch, as he has improved over the years in that aspect of his game.
Harry struggles to create separation, especially in short area runs, relying sometimes too much on his hesitation or stutter step to fake defenders. Fails to use his hands at times around the line of scrimmage to create separation needed to create a throwing window. Working across the middle he tends to often let the ball get deep on him and pin the ball against his body, instead of extending his hands to secure the catch. Tends to take wide angles when going downfield to attempt to avoid contact with deep cornerbacks. When he doesn’t use his hands tries to use his burst to0 much to create separation against cornerbacks, allowing speedy cornerbacks to keep pace and closing the throwing window. Though I personally haven’t seen this he has been “accused” of not running hard on routes at time.
In this clip, Harry does a good job tracking the ball even slowing up some to let it drop right into his hands, then turning it on to get to the end zone.
In this clip, Harry beats his man off the line and again shows off the elite ball tracking skills leading him to make a diving catch.
In this clip, Harry with the defender right on him again tracks the ball and makes a beautiful diving one-handed catch.
Hakeem Butler (Iowa State)
Hakeem Butler has become a talking point in 2018 due to his one-handed catches that have been flat out amazing. Many didn’t have high hopes for Butler as he was a two-star prospect out of Texas per Rivals.com. He didn’t produce in his freshman and sophomore years as he has so far in his junior year. His big plays this year have already helped make a bigger name for himself and he will likely continue to rise up draft boards through the remaining season and the draft process.
Butler has a huge frame long arms and strong hands. He uses all these to help create a large catch radius, making all kinds of catches with ease over the shoulder, back shoulder, and high points the ball with the best of them. His long stride allows him to glide down the field and eat up yards in a hurry. Plays very physical and does well boxing players out. While not greatly elusive he does a good job racking up yards after the catch. He also does a good job breaking arm tackles and usually requires multiple defenders to bring him down, consistently covers the ball and fights for extra yards or to the first down marker.
Butler, while is extremely strong, has not shown to be particularly agile or elusive. His route tree has been limited this year, last year he had a more diverse route tree including time in the slot where he thrived. He has been limited to more vertical routes this year, though he has succeeded at that as well. Mostly relies on speed and being physical to create separation as he doesn’t have any real stand out moves such as a stutter step or head fake. He will need to continue to work on them as likely the “bully” mentality won’t work on most defensive backs in the NFL. Allows balls to get in on his frame a bit too much, needs to use his hands more in catches.
In this clip, Butler comes back and makes a beautiful one-handed catch over the defender. He then almost throws him to the side to take it to the house.
In this clip, Butler goes across the middle and makes a great jumping catch. At which point he turns upfield and breaks a total of 4 tackles to get in the end zone showing off his great hands and physicality.
In this clip, Butler shows off his amazing hands yet again tracking the ball and making a one-handed catch pinning it against his shoulder pads. He then shows off his strength to fight off the defender and take the ball in for a touchdown.
Deebo Samuel (South Carolina)
Deebo Samuel is a bit of a smaller wide receiver at South Carolina who has really made a name for himself in 2018. Samuel was a three-star prospect out of high school per Rivals.com. He has since gone on to have an interesting college career, after a great sophomore season he suffered a broken leg in 2017 his junior year after just three games his season ended. He has come back with a vengeance this year, and while at times not looked fully healthy has shown flashes of what we saw in 2016. Coming back for his senior year will likely help his stock, though seeing him in the combine and pro days to make sure he is fully healthy will boost him up even more.
Samuel has shown consistent and terrific footwork and speed off the line of scrimmage. His head fakes tend to tilt corners allowing him to burst the other direction and quickly create separation. While he has a smaller but well-built frame he plays tough and physical in press situations. His route running is some of the best in the class, he consistently creates space with his sharp cuts, exploding back to the ball or in the opposite direction. He has shown to be a natural runner with the ball doing a great job picking up chunk plays and is elusive in avoiding tackles. He has not been afraid to throw himself in the air for a ball and made some spectacular catches. He has shown he can be a great return player as well showing great patience in the run game waiting for blocks to be set up.
Samuel shows off tremendous speed but isn’t a true burner/deep threat. He doesn’t show off a great vertical so struggles in jump ball situations, and contested catches. Likely will be moved from an outside threat to a slot role (in my opinion that’s a better fit for his skills.) If not he could be limited as a vertical receiver. Has struggled with drops throughout his college career. He tends to drop his shoulder a few too many times taking unnecessary hits.
In this clip, Deebo shows off great concentration not only to make the one-handed catch but also to keep his feet inbounds.
In this clip, Deebo has created separation and again see his concentration and hands here in another beautiful one-handed catch for a touchdown.
In this clip, Deebo shows off his return skills patiently waiting for his blocks and almost going untouched to the house.
Riley Ridley (Georgia)
Riley Ridley will immediately get noticed being Calvin Ridley’s younger brother. Riley was a four-star prospect out of high school per Rivals.com and had committed early to South Carolina. After an apparent discussion with his brother who was at Alabama at the time, Riley de-committed from South Carolina and joined Georgia he hasn’t looked back since. While he hasn’t put up quite the numbers his brother did in college he has still been productive but does look like he needs to improve some. His lack of usage is a little concerning and if he does come out in this class will have a lot to prove during the NFL draft process.
Ridley has the size and weight to be an ideal receiver in the X spot. Has shown great body control and shows off a big catch radius and strong hands. While still working on a more refined route tree he has shown good speed in and out of breaks and does great finding space in coverages. He hasn’t been put in many contested catch situations but in the few, he was in he won. Has shown he is willing to be physical in run blocking and not afraid to go at corners.
Ridley his production and usage over the past two years has been limited which is concerning. Will need to put more tape out to be considered an elite talent like his brother. Doesn’t do a good job using his hands at the line of scrimmage to create separation. Doesn’t seem to have great long speed and hasn’t shown much burst after the catch or a good job racking up yards after the catch.
In this clip, Riley does a good job showing off his hands and catch radius going up and catching a ball while staying inbounds.
In this clip, Riley shows off a great back shoulder catch showing off his great body control. He also shows great awareness to stay inbounds and run in for a touchdown.
In this clip, Riley shows off his hands yet again and great concentration to tip the ball to himself for a touchdown catch.
Marquise Brown (Oklahoma)
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown may be the fastest wide receiver in this class and another product of an explosive Oklahoma offense. Brown was a four-star prospect out of high school per Rivals.com. He has only been a starter for two years but has put up massive numbers in the so-called “no defense” conference of the Big 12. While he has a smaller frame than most in this class his speed will likely separate him from the pack. Watching Brown finish out the year and throughout the draft process will be fascinating, as many will likely fall in love with his skill set.
Brown is able to accelerate to his maximum speed in almost an instant allowing him to separate vertically with ease. If he is able to hit open space due to his speed he can eliminate almost all angles defenders try to take on him. He is one of the best lateral movers in this class seamlessly moving in between cuts and defenders. His agility and natural elusiveness make him hard to bring down. In the open field, he is by far the best prospect in this class and fun to watch as his vision allows him to hit open space and will avoid tacklers will ease most of the time making him the best YAC receiver in this class.
Brown has one glaring weakness and that is his size. He has a slight frame and lacks overall strength and contact balance. While he can avoid tackles he is very easy to bring down once hit. Has had issues with drops during his college career and doesn’t seem to be a “natural” catcher of the ball at times. Consistently loses contested catches or jump balls. He doesn’t always show the best body control and doesn’t shield himself from incoming defenders on a catch allowing himself to take big hits.
In this clip, Brown makes the easy catch turns upfield and flashes the speed as he leaves everyone in his dust in a matter of five yards.
In this clip, again Brown shows how speed kills getting by two defenders tracking the ball beautifully, and once he catches it he’s gone to the house.
In this clip, Brown takes the screen shows his elusiveness by slipping an arm tackle and yet again showing off his speed not allowing himself to be caught for an easy touchdown.
Collin Johnson (Texas)
Collin Johnson is a big bodied wide receiver who looks to have a lot of promise. A four-star prospect out of high school per Rivals.com joined the Texas Longhorns and has been putting up good numbers the past two years. Johnson could be classified as your “typical” big receiver but there really isn’t anything wrong with that as he excels in his game. Watching him throughout the draft process will be fun, especially if he can show some speed he hasn’t really shown in college. Add in the win this weekend and Texas and himself have a shot to play in the Big 12 title game which could help his stock even more.
Johnson uses his hands against physical corners with the best of them. Rarely does he get jammed at the line allowing him clean breaks into his routes. His cuts are very efficient for a big receiver and rates near elite especially when breaking off vertical routes or on curls. Johnson excels in using his body and hands in all facets of the game. He consistently wins in contested catches, easily plucks the ball out of the air with his hands making difficult catches look natural. Utilizes his size to highpoint the ball and has a massive catch radius (right near the top with Hakeem Butler.) His body control to make over the shoulder, back shoulder, or even laying out for catches is among the elite of this class. He is one of the most physical and active blockers of this class.
Johnson doesn’t show elite burst on his routes and so at times seems slow moving through his routes, which seems to have limited his route tree. At times he flashes as a vertical threat but it’s not as often as some would like. Despite being a smooth runner his cuts lack the immediacy possibly due to his size needing an extra step here and there. Due to his lack of burst can be caught from behind. While he has improved especially this year he has shown to be prone to the occasional body catches, which he needs to eliminate.
In this clip, Johnson shows off his hands and the fact he isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body laying out for a beautiful touchdown catch.
In this clip, Johnson goes up and catches the ball in the air over a defender and holds onto the ball showing off his hands in a contested catch situation.
In this clip, Johnson shows off his hands and great body control again making a great contested catch on the sideline.
These three wide receivers are right outside my top 10 and could likely jump into my top with strong performances to finish out the year.
DaMarkus Lodge (Ole Miss)
Anthony Johnson (Buffalo)
Parris Campbell (Ohio State)