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2018 NFL Draft WR Rankings

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Ranking the draftable receiver prospects from the 2018 class, out of Southern Pigskin's coverage area.

These rankings are comprised of what are the draftable/PFA worthy prospects from our coverage area here at Southern Pigskin -- the ACC, SEC, Sun Belt, and SoCon.

These rankings include a basic rundown of strengths and weaknesses, from the pre-combine rankings, plus new round projections, player comparisons, and a more in-depth summation of my personal opinion on each respective player.

Starting with the quarterbacks, they will be released one day at a time until all of the position groups are up. After that, they will be easily found in a comprehensive database from a homepage that includes an updated mock draft.

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | IOL (OG/C) | EDGE (DE/3-4 OLB) | DL | LB | CB | S

​WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Calvin Ridley, Alabama: 6’1, 189

Strengths: Full route tree. Elite speed, separation. So effortlessly smooth. Devastating deep threat. Continues to improve as a run blocker. Has good hands, despite the drops -- plucks the ball out of the air. Can be effective outside or in the slot.

Weaknesses: Has struggled with drops throughout his career, in large part due to lapses in concentration. Slender frame and lack of strength allow him to be redirected by bump and run.

Player Comparison: Shorter A.J. Green

IMO: Ridley’s speed, acceleration, and near perfect route running make him a devastating threat at all levels of the field. Showing ample efficacy both outside or in the slot, he can line up anywhere and do damage. He also a handful after the catch, piling up a ton of yards on screens, especially in 2016. The drops are mildly concerning, he was literally one of the worst in the country throughout his career, by catch rate, but it’s not like he doesn’t have hands. He can make the highlight grabs, it’s mostly a matter of concentration. Even so, in a fairly deep receiver class, Ridley stands out head and shoulders above the rest.

Round Grade: Early 1st

2. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M: 5’10, 201

Strengths: Big time playmaker -- picks up a lot of yards after the catch. Very shifty. Gets in and out of his breaks quickly. Natural pass catcher, improved his drop rate despite shaky QB play and a lot of double coverage last year. One of the great punt returners in SEC history.

Weaknesses: Below average catch radius. Quarterback play at Texas A&M has limited his ability to showcase how effective he can be as a deep threat, consistently.

Player Comparison: Golden Tate

IMO: I’m curious to see what Kirk looks like catching passes from an NFL caliber quarterback, a luxury he never enjoyed in college. In fact, it was he who was the luxury being taken advantage of by a carousel of lesser benificiaries. The Golden Tate comp is one of my favorites in this entire draft guide. Tate, neither the biggest guy, the fastest guy, the best route runner, nor the guy with the softest hands is arguably one of the ten best receivers in the league based almost entirely on his ability after the catch. That’s Kirk. Best suited in the slot, he can also line up outside on occasion and stretch defenses from either alignment. It seems like Kirk may slip to the second day, but he exactly fits the bill of one of those guys that gets looked back at with everyone wondering, “how did he fall so far?”.

Round Grade: Late 1st

3. Antonio Callaway, Florida: 5’11, 200

Strengths: A homerun threat anytime he touches the ball. Gets from zero to sixty in a flash. Was able to overcome inconsistent (to put it nicely) quarterback play at Florida.

Weaknesses: Persistent character concerns. Struggled with drops throughout his career. Didn’t play last season.

Player Comparison: Nelson Agholor

IMO: Similar to Kirk, Callaway’s career production at Florida was hamstrung by poor quarterback play. And, again like Kirk, his greatest value may be what he can do with the ball in his hands after the catch, making him a special weapon on screens and short crossing routes, although he has the speed to beat defenses over the top, as well. His size, to some, may dictate a move inside, but he did not gain much experience from the slot in college. That said, his skillset would translate well if he does. He does have a history of drops that must be addressed, but from a pure talent perspective this is a first round caliber prospect. The character concerns and various off the field issues must be taken into account, however, which sees him slip to the late second round in my book. On the one hand, his career could very well be derailed if he can’t get his non-football life in order. On the other, perceived character concerns are one of the greatest market inefficiencies in professional sports and Callaway could turn out being one of the steals of the draft.

Round Grade: Late 2nd

4. Javon Wims, Georgia: 6’3, 215

Strengths: Great size for the position. Plus body control helps him to reel in some spectacular catches. Made the most of limited opportunities at Georgia. Deep threat.

Weaknesses: Limited route runner. Doesn’t accelerate in and out of breaks. Lacks top end speed to separate downfield against pros.

Player Comparison: Marvin Jones

IMO: Wims’ route running has some work to do, but he’s not one that teams wil have to start from scratch with. Most of his catches last year did come on the left side of the field outside the hashmarks, and he does round off the top of routes, but there’s some nuance with the way he accel/decels to create separation so it seems like just a matter of getting some proper coaching and putting in the work. He regularly made extraordinary snags look casual with his incredible body control, excellent catch radius, and attack mentality on jump balls. His top end speed will diminish his ability to seperate downfield, but if he can improve as a route runner, he can more than make up for it.

Round Grade: Late 2nd

5. D.J. Chark, LSU: 6’3, 199

Strengths: One of the fastest players in the class. Above average hands. Double moves leave defenders in the dust. Not afraid to go over the middle.

Weaknesses: Nearly half of his targets came on routes 20+ yards downfield... What can he do in the short to intermediate range?

Player Comparison: Mike Wallace

IMO: Chark had all the makings of a combine killer and he did just that, committing a triple homicide on the 40, vertical, and broad jump. With his size, speed, acceleration, and jumping ability, there may not be a better deep ball receiver in the class -- something at which he excelled at in college, as well. He also saw a good bit of action on screens and over the middle at LSU, but his lack of after the catch ability could mitigate that vaue in the pros. He may never be a true go-to-guy in the league, but if he’s your second receiver and primary deep threat, you should be in good shape.

Round Grade: Mid 3rd

6. J’Mon Moore, Missouri: 6’3, 207

Strengths: Good size and athleticism. Makes plays after the catch. Works the sideline well, as it was his primary utilization in college. High upside.

Weaknesses: Limited route tree. Missouri’s scheme kept things easy for him. Still pretty raw.

Player Comparison: Rishard Matthews

IMO: Moore may not have the long speed to run past NFL cornerbacks but he does possess plus acceleration and he gets on top of guys in a hurry. That, combined with his length and leaping ability could help him to continue to be a solid deep threat early on. Still, he has a lot of work to do in the way of route running to become a starting caliber player. At Missouri, he basically just ran combacks, hitches and go routes, rarely venturing inside the numbers. There is also some cause for concern with his drop rate, although some of that is just concentration. There’s enough to work with as a deep threat to take on as a project, but patience is key. He will have to deal with more of a learning curve than some of his peers, but the upside could be rewarding.

Round Grade: Mid 3rd

7. Deon Cain, Clemson: 6’2, 202

Strengths: Dominant deep threat with Deshaun Watson; not so much with Kelly Bryant, but has the tools to get back into form at the next level. Good size and athleticism.

Weaknesses: Often underperformed his physical tools. Far too many drops. Not very well-rounded.

Player Comparison: Cody Latimer

IMO: Most people have Cain a lot higher on their boards, but there are more than a few causes for concern with him. For one, he was most effective as a third or even fourth option for Deshaun Watson in 2016, but failed to live up to expectations as Kelly Bryant’s primary target. The physical tools that made him such an elite deep threat two years ago are still undeniable, but he notably underperformed said tools as a junior. He also struggled with drops and is basically a non-factor over the middle, as currently constituted. Picking Cain on the first two days would be a gamble on upside, and the odds are a little too steep for my liking. There’s no doubt that he, physically, has what it takes to be good, even great, but why wasn’t he at Clemson? I would have liked to have seen him return to college, but understand the decision as some team or teams will almost certainly fall in love with what he could be as opposed to what he has been.

Round Grade: Mid 4th

8. Braxton Berrios, Miami: 5’9, 184

Strengths: One of the premier slot receivers in college football last season. Great route runner, maintains speed throughout. Above average hands.

Weaknesses: Underrated downfield threat, but it’s still not great. Subpar lateral agility.

Player Comparison: Trent Taylor

IMO: Berrios is really good. He’s tiny and awesome at football. I’ve got him too low, you have him too low, everyone has him too low. I know I’ve got him too low, I just said it, and yet I still won’t move him up because I’m an idiot. Some brilliant GM is going to take him a full round earlier than anyone thinks he should go, get ripped for it, and then gloat as his sure-handed, lowkey explosive, dynamic route runner that uncovers like few others from the slot builds an unparalled rapport with his quarterback and is one of the most consistent receivers in the league for the next decade.

Round Grade: Late 4th

9. Auden Tate, Florida State: 6’5, 228

Strengths: Tantalizing size. Red zone threat. Cut down on the drops from 2016 to 2017. Above average hands. Physical mismatch for most cornerbacks.

Weaknesses: Probably could’ve used another year of college, unpolished. An upside gamble, higher bust-ability than some.

Player Comparison: Ricky Seals-Jones

IMO: I’ve seen Tate listed much higher on various other draft boards, as well, but for all of his length, there’s really not much of a track record for guys having successful NFL careers with Tate’s overall lack of athleticism. That’s why the Ricky Seals-Jones comp was about as good as could be done, as there’s not really another NFL pass catcher that falls within Tate’s athletic profile -- and Seals-Jones played tight end this year, which Tate is not equipped to do. If there’s reason to belive that Tate will be the exception, it’s his spectacular catch ability. You can count on one hand the number of guys that caught a higher rate of contested balls in 2017. That and the way he uses his body could make him an interesting option in the red zone, but the lack of precedent for guys like Tate is mildly worrisome, at best.

Round Grade: Late 4th

10. Cam Phillips, Virginia Tech: 6’0, 201

Strengths: Sure handed, reliable pass catcher. Plus route runner and run blocker. Works back to the ball. Consistent.

Weaknesses: Doesn’t win many jump balls. Not as athletic as one would like.

Player Comparison: Tyler Boyd

IMO: Phillips was the best receiver in the ACC last year, but he’s a quintessential example of a guy who is built for the collegiate game. The NFL? Not so much. He might very well be the greatest pass catcher Virginia Tech has ever had. Extremely sure handed and even more consistent, Phillips made freshman quarterback Josh Jackson’s life exponentially easier, because he was such a safety valve. He was athletic enough for his hands to allow him to shine last year. That won’t be enough against pros. He’s not especially big, nor athletic. He’s a good route tunner but not a great one and not good enough to cover up for his speed deficiencies. He doesn’t win many 50/50 balls. He’s earned a day three selection based on just having been a pillar consistency for the Hokies, but there’s just no obvious path for him to ever set himself apart beyond perhaps carving out a long term backup role in the league.

Round Grade: Late 5th

11. Jester Weah, Pittsburgh: 6’2, 211

Strengths: Good size, top end speed prospect. More potential than production. Improved route runner.

Weaknesses: Minus acceleration, quickness. Way too many drops.

Player Comparison: Ricardo Louis

IMO: Weah is like the anti-Phillips -- there’s so much to work with but mayb eeven more work to do. He showed flashes of the ability to become a premier deep threat at Pitt, and was really good on deep balls in 2016, but his catch rate severely dropped on those last year. He’s also shown a willingness to go over the middle and compete but hardly caught any balls between the hash marks and had a decisively poor catch rate on 50/50 balls. He’s got the lenth and speed to develop, and has some really impressive highlight grabs, but has got to improve his route running and reliability.

Round Grade: Early 6th

12. Quadree Henderson, Pittsburgh: 5’8, 192

Strengths: Elite acceleration. Picks them up and puts them down. Playmaker with the ball in his hands, be it after the catch, on jet sweeps, or especially in the return game.

Weaknesses: Runs so fast and decisively that he’s almost out of control. Not a good route runner. No real route tree at Pitt.

Player Comparison: Michael Campanaro

IMO: Henderson’s primary value in the NFL will be as a return specialist, but he’ about as good as any in the class in that respect. Even at Pitt, a lot of his touches came on jet sweeps and screens designed to get him the ball. His lack of polish will only amplify his need for that in the NFL and pro teams will be less inclined to work so hard to give him opportunities. The right coach will properly utilize him as a gadget player when necessary, but many will probably see him strictly as a returner.

Round Grade: Late 7th

13. Robert Foster, Alabama: 6’2, 196

Strengths: Elite speed. Good size for the position. Gets on top of defensive backs quickly. Good after the catch potential.

Weaknesses: More of track star than a football player. Minimal production at Alabama. Poor route runner. Ball security issues.

Player Comparison: Rodney Adams

IMO: Foster is a total project. He’s got elite speed and acceleration but lacks any sort of feel for the position. He should be in a camp because of the physical traits and any posiiton coach worth his weight in salt will probably convince himself that he can turn Foster into a good receiver, but I question how realistic that is. Perhaps he has special teams value but has never proven it.

Round Grade: PFA

14. Ray-Ray McCloud, Clemson: 5’10, 190

Strengths: Extremely sure handed. Above average straight line speed, acceleration. Experience as a returner.

Weaknesses: Less than ideal size. Low ceiling.

Player Comparison: Quan Bray

IMO: Of the six receivers in this draft class to not drop a pass in 2017, McCloud had the most receptions. He proved to be an invaluable safety valve for Kelly Bryant. That said, he may be about as good as he’s going to get. He does have experience as a return specialist but had some ball security issues with it last year. A guy that reliable should be in a camp, but has a tough road ahead to make a team.

Round Grade: PFA

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP