It has taken longer than normal, but the fourth and final part of this series has finally arrived! The good news is that with the NFL season kicking off, the shift for most owners switches from potential to production. This makes it the perfect time to swoop in and make some offers for rookies who don’t start hot right out of the gate. The question is who to buy and who to lean away from.
Over the course of this series, I’ve outlined the upside or ceiling for the entire class (so long as I had the necessary data). In this final part, I’ll talk about my personal top-seven receivers – their strengths, weaknesses, and what I expect in both the short and long term out of them.
If you missed any of the previous three parts, especially part one, go take a look. (Here are the links for part two and part three.) They will help you understand the metric and what the score means. The order is based on their score in the metric, with my own ranking as well as DLF’s current ranking listed as well. On with the show!
Parris Campbell, WR IND: 6.897 (7.313)
My ranking: second, but very close to first and third.
DLF Ranking: fifth
This section of the article has been re-written about four times now. Unfortunately for Campbell and his owners, his situation keeps changing. Between his injuries, Andrew Luck’s injuries, and now the retirement of Luck, things have been far from consistent for the young receiver. Nonetheless, I still think Campbell has a very bright future in the NFL with the skill set to be a future number one target for an offense.
While Campbell might be slightly undersized at his six foot height and 205 pounds, he has every other physical trait you look for in an alpha receiver. He has great explosiveness, acceleration and speed to help him get open and stay open. He has a strong upper body to help him fend off press coverages and a solid pair of hands to go with it. Once he has some time with NFL coaches and an NFL training program, I only except all of this to get even better! If he perfects his route running, I think he has the skills to be a fantasy WR1, assuming the Colts can find another starter to take over the team at the quarterback position.
Speaking of quarterbacks, you can’t talk about Campbell without addressing the situation.
Luck retiring really hurt Campbell’s chances of having huge success as a rookie. Prior to Luck retiring, I had Campbell penciled in as my top producing rookie receiver this year. With Luck out of the picture, I don’t think that is going to happen. Bad quarterbacks can still support one receiver at a fairly high level, which is good news for TY Hilton owners; however, the second receiver is the one who often suffers. For the Colts, that means Campbell could start slow. Maybe this will open up a window to buy him at a discount, which I’m definitely going to try to do. I think he is going to be a stud!
DK Metcalf, WR SEA: 4.380 (1.820)
My ranking: sixth, fairly close to fifth but a long way ahead of seventh.
DLF ranking: third
Leading up to and during the combine, all of the hype was around DK Metcalf and his Mr. Universe level of physique. As impressive as the pictures were, there were certain parts of the combine which raised some red flags for the young Seahawk.
He does have a phenomenal build, great straight-line speed, and great jumps. However, his ability to change directions and his initial burst are severely lacking. Players who have this kind of skill set in the NFL often struggle to develop into great receivers. They can still be good, but very seldom are they elite. One of the more recent receivers who had similar issues was Dez Bryant. Metcalf’s numbers in the shuttle run and three-cone drills were even worse than Bryant’s, which means he will likely have even more struggles than Bryant did when it comes to turning into a complete receiver.
In terms of his situation, it is a very mixed bag. He has a fairly open depth chart in front of him, thanks to the retirement of Doug Baldwin. However, he is also on an offense which historically doesn’t throw the ball very much. This means even if he becomes the second receiver on the offense, he is probably looking at a lower volume of targets. Things can of course change as the years go on, but it is still something to consider.
Another large concern: injuries. The majority of his college seasons were cut short due to physical ailments. Monitoring his health is going to be of the utmost importance. He has already had some issues during his NFL career which should concern owners. He just had a “minor” operation on his knee. Even if it is was just a scope, it is still concerning for his long term outlook. I’m mostly staying away from him.
AJ Brown, WR TEN: 2.609 (3.025)
My ranking: third. Very close to second, and a ways ahead of fourth.
DLF ranking: second
Prior to the combine and draft, I had AJ Brown pushing pretty close to my number one slot in the receiver rankings. The unexpected performance by Campbell combined with Brown’s less than ideal landing position has made him slide into the third spot on my rankings, but still sitting in the top tier of the position.
In terms of an NFL prospect, Brown is probably the safest receiver in this entire class with a very small chance of being an outright bust. However, he doesn’t have the supremely gifted athletic profile that most elite receivers possess. This means he is likely to be a player with high end WR2 upside if the Titans offense can develop into one of the better offenses in the NFL.
When it comes to his situation, I don’t think Brown has the same upside at the position as new teammate Corey Davis. I believe Davis profiles as the alpha in the offense while AJ Brown has the perfect skill set to be the complementary part of the offense. Think back to the Julio Jones and Roddy White combo. White was still highly productive when the offense was one of the best in the league. That is what will need to happen for Brown to reach high end WR2 numbers. I’m not sure if the current quarterback and system can get there, but Brown does have the skills.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR PHI: 2.250 (1.485)
My ranking: fifth. Very close to both fourth and sixth.
DLF ranking: Seventh
Arcega-Whiteside didn’t do anything other than be measured at the combine, so his score in this metric is highly suspect. He has great size, and I would expect his leaping ability to be on the plus end of the spectrum as well. It would have been nice to see where his change of direction abilities were though, because as I mentioned with Metcalf above, I think that is one of the bigger indications on just how high someone can go as a receiver in the NFL.
Landing with the Eagles is a great place long term, but it is likely to suppress his short term production. There are a lot of bodies in front of him on the depth chart. His skill set largely duplicates what Alshon Jeffery brings to the table. Jeffery and most of the rest of the receivers for the Eagles, however, are at or nearing the end of their current contracts. Most of them are also at the point in their careers where they will start to see a decline in their physical abilities. This should allow JJAW the chance to build chemistry with Carson Wentz and step into the starting lineup within the next year or two.
He is one of my larger buy targets this year. It is my hope that his lack of opportunity this year will make some owners a little more willing to sell him off. Long term, I think he has a ton of potential to be a high end WR2 on an offense that should continue to trend upward if Wentz can stay healthy.
Deebo Samuel, WR SF: 1.992 (4.098)
My ranking: fourth. A ways behind third and very close to fifth.
DLF ranking: fourth
Samuel is one of my favorite prospects in terms of how he plays the game. He is built like a running back and extremely fearless when it comes to running his routes. He pushes hard at all points in time with a fire that all of the greatest players possess. He is going to be an instant favorite of the 49ers coaching staff and the rest of their offense. He is going to work harder than just about anyone else on the team and has a little bit of that Steve Smith quality in terms of a smaller receiver who plays with a massive chip on their shoulder.
I think his game and potential upside actually profile similar to Smith in a lot of ways. Even though he is a little bit smaller, his burst and quickness will allow him to play outside just as much if not more than playing on the inside of the formation. He does have the ability to play in both spots. Once he gets a little more polish on his routes and adjusts to the NFL game, I think he has the potential to be a very good NFL receiver, slotting into that high end WR2 tier. He is joining a lot of other younger, unproven players on that offense, which means there could be a bit of a delay in seeing the production, but I believe it will happen.
N’Keal Harry, WR NE: 1.942 (1.387)
My ranking: first. Slightly ahead of second.
DLF ranking: first
The shining jewel of the receiver class, Harry has had many in the dynasty community salivating over him for a few years now. His combine numbers as well as his lack of good press during the preseason (and now his placement on IR) has caused his stock to slip a little bit. However, I would caution against letting him slide down your rankings because he definitely has what it takes for him to be a top-tier receiver in the NFL.
If you go back and watch some of Harry’s games from college, it doesn’t take very long for you to see why he was ranked number one by almost everyone. His hands, body control, instincts, and general ability to play the position all stand out to me. There were times where he outright dominated defenses even though his quarterbacks and the rest of the offense as a whole were very underwhelming.
That said, I think it will take a little bit for Harry to transition into the NFL game. The competition level at Arizona wasn’t anywhere near what he will face on Sundays. That is where the largest concern comes in for Harry. If it is going to take him some time to adjust, what will the Patriots look like by the time he is ready? Tom Brady can’t play forever, no matter how much avocado ice cream he eats. Harry could be dealing with a new, young quarterback just when he is ready to take the next step. Time will tell what that means.
Andy Isabella, WR ARI: -4.290 (0.044)
My ranking: seventh. Big gap between him and sixth.
DLF ranking: eighth
The final player in my top seven was also the lowest score by the metric. He is the only one of the seven in my third tier of receivers. I thought about making it only a top six, but every year I’ve done a top seven at the end and I decided to stick with tradition.
Isabella is a bit of a wild card for several reasons. In terms of his skill set, notice the extremely large gap between his size score and his score without size factored into it. This is a very good sign for him, because it means while he is undersized, he has the physical attributes in terms of speed, burst, and acceleration to be an NFL level receiver. The upside for players like this is the Hilton level of production. They aren’t going to be your traditional alphas, but in a creative offense with a high quality quarterback they can still be very productive.
The system is where most of the questions come in for me. Isabella joins a team with a first time head coach, a rookie receiver, and what sounds like a college-style offense. He is also one of four players at his position who were drafted in the last fifteen months. Who rises to the top out of the four and how well the coach, quarterback, and offense mature is anyone’s guess. It could be huge, but history also tells us that the chances of sustained success are a bit on the lower end. This likelihood of the entire system failing makes me hesitate a little bit on Isabella or any other parts of that offense. He’s worth a shot in the early to middle second round off rookie drafts, but don’t get caught up in the hype!
Personal Wide Receiver Rankings:
- N’Keal Harry
- Parris Campbell
- AJ Brown
- Deebo Samuel
- JJ Arcega-Whiteside
- DK Metcalf
- Andy Isabella
- Several other receivers including Diontae Johnson, Terry McLaurin, Miles Boykin, and KeeSean Johnson
That’s it for this year! Sorry it took so long, but life happens. Good luck with the season and don’t forget to target some of these guys in trades when everyone else is focusing on current production.
- Final 2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Round Three - April 28, 2021
- Final 2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Round Two - April 26, 2021
- Final 2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Round One - April 25, 2021