In the NFL Draft, typically at least 30 WR are selected. I’ve watched tape on roughly 90 WR prospects that will be eligible this upcoming season. The type, extent and quality of tape I’ve reviewed varies from prospect to prospect. I gave 45 players a top-30 grade but chose to trim the list down to 30. Here are my Top 30 2018 Draft Eligible WR.
- Richie James – Middle Tennessee State
Richie James is on pace to become the FBS career leader in both yardage and receptions. At 5’9” and 181 pounds, James is the smallest player on this list – but he doesn’t play like it. He has one of the more impressive catch radius’ of any player in this class. He is an RB playing WR and displays incredible vision, balance and burst. James is an outstanding route runner and once he gets open he is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He leads the nation in explosive plays over the past two seasons with 26 catches of 30+ yards. While James plays at a smaller school, against teams from power conferences he averaged 9.8 receptions and 128.6 receiving yards per game. James projects as the top NFL slot WR in this class.
- Auden Tate – Florida State
At 6’5” and 225 pounds, Auden Tate presents a matchup nightmare for defenses. Tate is a very natural receiver that has strong hands and knows how to use his size to out-physical smaller defenders. Tate’s vertical jump from his high school testing is 30.8 inches which is very poor but he has enough length to help overcome that deficit. He is a major threat in the red zone but his productivity outside of it has been lacking in his career. Tate is just 20 years old with upside and potential but very little production at the collegiate level. He will need to improve his route running, greatly increase his production and show that he can win in every area of the field in 2017. If he does those things, Tate can be an NFL WR1.
- Equanimeous St. Brown – Notre Dame
Two-time Mr. Universe John Brown, passed down both a killer name and some pretty nice genetics to his son, Equanimeous. The 6’5” 204-pound receiver is a very gifted athlete. His size and length are the first things that stand out about him as he smoothly glides down the field with deceptive speed. EQ, as he will hereby be referred to, needs to continue to work on his route running, improve his burst and perhaps hire his father as a personal trainer to put on some more muscle. If he can improve in those areas, he has unlimited potential and could be a dominant WR1 at the next level. He tracks the ball well, can make athletic grabs and with height advantage and strong hands, he already has a leg up on many others in his class.
- Jaylen Smith – Louisville
In 2016, Jaylen Smith was one of the best deep-ball threats in the entire country. Smith steps into a favorable situation in 2017 where he will be Louisville’s leading returning WR on what should be an incredibly dynamic offense. While he is a two-year contributor, it wasn’t until last season that Smith was used to really stretch defenses vertically. Smith has great speed, jumps well and has strong hands. At 6’4” and 210 pounds he has great length and pairs that really well with nice burst, strength and agility in the open field. Smith missed much of the 2017 spring with a foot injury but will have the opportunity this fall to cement himself as one of the top WR targets in this class.
- DJ Chark – LSU
DJ Chark is coming off of a 2016 campaign where he showed flashes of his brilliance. The 6’3” and 187 pound senior is one of the fastest players on LSU’s roster. Chark has a smooth, almost hypnotic stride, and runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. He was an RB in high school until his junior season and his ability to create in the open field is a testament to his heritage. Chark had 26 catches for 466 yards at nearly 18 yards per catch in 2016. New LSU OC Matt Canada, has a track record of getting the most out of his playmakers and I expect him to greatly surpass last year’s 466 receiving and 122 rushing yards in 2017. Chark is an incredible athlete that has strong hands, great jumping ability and outstanding length. He can make some real money if he adds good weight and runs consistently crisp routes in 2017
- Cedrick Wilson – Boise State
Cedric Wilson, Sr. won a Super Bowl ring with the Steelers in 2005. Cedrick Wilson, Jr. is a former high school QB from Tennessee that has just scratched the surface of his potential at WR. At 6’3” and 188 pounds, Wilson uses his great length, outstanding body control and strong hands to catch the ball at its highest point. Wilson was a deadly deep threat in 2016 as he averaged 20.2 yards per catch on 56 receptions. His game more than just vertical though, as Wilson proved to be extremely elusive in the open field in the short and intermediate passing game. Wilson played the majority of 2016 on a severely injured ankle that was recently repaired and I believe if he adds some good weight he will be a very nice NFL WR1.
- Michael Gallup
If Michael Gallup were a better standardized test taker in high school, it is quite possible he would be entering his second season at the University of Georgia as their WR1. Gallup, a Monroe, GA native, was discovered by Mike Bobo and staff when they coached at Georgia. He ended up going to JUCO and had a great 2014 season. Then, an ankle injury cut his 2015 season very short and likely contributed to him ending up in Colorado Springs. Gallup is a former high school QB and record-breaking high-jumper on the track team. At 6’1” and 200 pounds he has the size and hops to consistently win on jump balls. Gallup has outstanding speed and elusiveness in the open field. He wins in a variety of ways and is coming off a terrific 2016 season with 76 catches for 1,272 yards and 14 TD. Gallup should soon be a household name.
- James Washington – Oklahoma State
James Washington has been dominating college football for what seems like forever. The 6’0” and 205-pound senior has made 152 catches for 2,923 yards and scored 26 TD in his career. His average yards per catch is 19.2 which illustrates just how dangerous he is as a deep threat. Washington isn’t the biggest guy, but he makes an abundance of crazy circus catches which often make me forget he isn’t considerably longer than he is. He regularly beats defenders on contested balls and he has strong hands that help him finish. The biggest issue I see in his game is he drops too many easy passes. I’m certain it’s not an issue with his hands, but more of a loss of focus. Washington has good speed and a lot of good tape proving he is a top 2018 WR.
- Dante Pettis – Washington
Dante Pettis is an incredible athlete. The 6’1” and 188-pound senior recently posted a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, 41-inch vertical jump, 10.5-foot broad jump and is a long jumper on Washington’s track team. Pettis comes from an athletic family. His father played eleven seasons in MLB and his cousin is former Boise State standout, WR Austin Pettis. He pairs his elite athleticism with outstanding route running. He is the most polished receiver in this class and has three years of production under his belt. Pettis has caught 100 passes for 1,495 yards and 17 TD in his career. In addition to being a great receiver, Pettis showed his excellent hands and elusiveness in the open field with five punt return TD in his career. He will need to put on some weight and prove he can be Washington’s WR1 in 2017.
- Courtland Sutton – SMU
The 6’4” and 215-pound junior went to SMU as a safety. While he is now a top WR, you can see evidence of his defensive background in the way he plays the game physically. He has an attacking mentality. Sutton was actually athletic enough to have an opportunity to play in a couple of games on the SMU basketball team. He has terrific leaping ability and has the body control that many players with a solid basketball background possess. He is an outstanding red zone weapon as he knows how to use his size and strong hands to his advantage. Sutton has shown the ability to win across the middle of the field and moves really well in space for such a big WR. He has room to grow as a route runner as he often relies too heavily on size and athleticism to take advantage of smaller, less athletic defenders. I believe Sutton is the best WR prospect in 2018 and a very clear future NFL WR1.