Top Names to Watch for the 2019 NFL Draft: WR part 1

It’s that time of year again, where everybody resets after the Draft is over and begins work for the next year. I’ve spent some time watching the wide receivers for next year’s draft and this upcoming class has a bevy of talent available and could make an impact as large as the 2014 class did at the next level Here are some of the top wide receivers to keep an eye on for the 2019 NFL Draft. If two players play for the same school (for example Ole Miss and South Carolina), I will put them in at the same post so as not to clog up the list. This list will be put into two parts, so as not to be completely overwhelming with a bunch of names at one time. This is part one. Part two will be linked at the end.

Note: this isn’t a rankings of wide receivers in this list, merely a guide list highlighting some key names to know. This is also not a full player profile and breakdown of these players, just a highlighted glimpse. If I left off anybody, I apologize (I only have so much time in the day) but feel free to hit me up on Twitter @AJDraftScout and tell me about him.

Before I get into the list of names, there is a category here called ‘positional lineup expectation’, where I project where I think the receiver will line up in a formation at the next level with the letters X, Y, and Z. With the variety of schemes in today’s NFL and a real lack of clarity on each position, I want to clarify what I mean by these letters based on what I have learned.

X-typically the #1 receiver on the field, your AJ Green, Julio Jones, Deandre Hopkins, etc. Passing offenses usually revolve around this player.

Y-Slot receiver, pretty straight forward. Offers mismatch potential. Think guys like Doug Baldwin, Adam Thielen, Larry Fitzgerald, and Keenan Allen.

Z-Specialized receiver. Either a possession receiver or a team’s main deep threat. Typically a team’s WR2. Players like Will Fuller, Marvin Jones, Tyreek Hill, Allen Hurns fit this mold.

Another thing here is pro comparisons. My comparisons are a mix of play style, physical build, and projection. I am not saying these players will turn out like their pro comparisons. Those are a reference point for their play style in my view.

N’Keal Harry, Arizona State:

The near-consensus top receiver, N’Keal Harry is a physical phenom on the football field. 6’4 215 pounds of muscle makes Harry look like an NFL veteran and he’s only a junior. Harry is one of the most physical receivers in college football and manhandles opposing corners. This physicality and ability to high point the ball lets him box out corners and make some outstanding 50/50 catches.

After he makes these insane catches, Harry is a force to bring down. He isn’t super shifty or fast like some other receivers, but he is tough to bring down due to his running back physicality in the open field.

Had N’Keal Harry been draft eligible last year, he would easily have been the first receiver taken. His size, physicality, contested catch ability, and playmaking ability on the outside makes Harry an enticing target for the NFL and he can easily establish himself as the WR1 on almost any team he lands on.

Positional lineup expectation: X receiver

Pro comparison: AJ Green, Cincinnati Bengals

A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and DeMarkus Lodge, Ole Miss:

Ole Miss has three talented draft-eligible receivers for 2019, which was a big reason Ole Miss finished 11th in the country in passing offense last year. Each receiver has a different skill set, and they all balance out and complement each other very well.

A.J. Brown was the Rebels’ leader in receptions, yards, and touchdowns last season, operating primarily in the slot.  Brown was arguably the SEC’s top receiver last year, leading the conference in touchdowns, yards, and yards per game. PFF noted AJ Brown had 674 yards after the catch and forced 23 missed tackles on his way to a 16.7 yards per reception mark last season. Brown uses his quick feet and breaks to get open on corners and does a great job of running his routes cleanly. While he isn’t as fluid through his breaks as Calvin Ridley was last season, Brown still does an excellent job getting open with routes. While Brown does have an issue with drops, he demonstrated strong hands and an ability to make tough catches.

D.K. Metcalf might be my favorite receiver on the Ole Miss roster because of his tremendous catch radius. While playing on the outside (and with Shea Patterson) hurt his production because the passing offense revolved around the slot and AJ Brown, Metcalf has an incredible knack for the football and has some seriously strong hands. Metcalf isn’t the fastest receiver or the cleanest route-runner, but he is a good athlete with potential to be a very good starter on the outside in the NFL.

DaMarkus Lodge is the oft-forgotten receiver at Ole Miss, and it’s more than likely due to his lack of real production. Last season, he emerged as a solid outside deep-threat for Ole Miss with a 17 yards per reception mark and 7 touchdowns. Lodge is a playmaker who does a great job of making contested catches, but he wasn’t super athletic or a savvy route-runner which hurts his chances for the NFL. Nevertheless, he can prove himself to scouts by having a big year in 2018.

Positional lineup expectations:

A.J. Brown: Y receiver

D.K. Metcalf: X receiver

DaMarkus Lodge: Z receiver

Pro comparisons:
A.J. Brown: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
D.K. Metcalf: Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles

DaMarkus Lodge: Cody Latimer, New York Giants

Kelvin Harmon, NC State:

In football, most, if not all, teams have what I like to call a “hail-mary receiver”, the guy you just chuck the ball up to and have faith he catches it. That’s Kelvin Harmon at NC State, bringing in 69 receptions last season for the Wolfpack as Ryan Finley’s go-to target. Harmon is an incredible athlete, with great burst off the line, play speed, and leaping ability. This athleticism is backed up with a 6’3 frame and strong hands to make some fantastic catches.

While Harmon isn’t a technician as a route-runner, he demonstrated quick and clean route-running ability at NC State to quickly release and cleanly separate. This skill when combined with his athleticism makes him a big playmaker (14.7 YPC).

His production would be better were he not at NC State, where other weapons and his quarterback limited his production last season. With running back Nyheim Hines and versatile weapon Jaylen Samuels now in the NFL, Kelvin Harmon will see more targets in 2018. If he can continue his production and growth, Harmon can boost himself to be a top-tier receiver prospect in the 2019 draft.

Positional lineup expectation: X receiver

Pro comparison: Deandre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuel, South Carolina:

Bryan Edwards is one of the most physically gifted wide receivers I’ve scouted. 6’3 216 and will only be 20 years old on draft day. Guys his size shouldn’t move as quick as he does, but Edwards defies natural law and shows off great quickness and fluidity in his routes. He’s a savvy route-runner and separates easily from defensive backs. Edwards also has outstanding ball skills and great hands. He makes great adjustments to the ball and demonstrates a great catch radius, easily plucking balls out and away from his frame. Edwards is a rare blend of size, speed, hands, and route skill. This skillset will get him drafted early next spring.

Edwards’s teammate Deebo Samuel is also an excellent player at his position as well. Samuel is a versatile do-it-all playmaker, scoring through rushing, catching, and special teams before he got injured. Samuel has great speed and quickness and plays extremely fast, which makes him a deadly YAC receiver. His outstanding playmaking ability makes him a tough target to bring down in the open field and tough for defensive backs to keep up with him.Deebo Samuel is an electric playmaker, capable of making several splash plays when called upon. If he can stay healthy and prove his durability, he can bring much needed speed and playmaking ability to an NFL team.

Positional lineup expectations:

Bryan Edwards: X receiver

Deebo Samuel: Z receiver

Pro comparisons:

Bryan Edwards: Josh Gordon

Deebo Samuel: Kenny Stills

Ahmmon Richards and Lawrence Cager, Miami:

Ahmmon Richards is a stud route-runner in this draft class. He’s quick and squeaky clean out from breaks and does a great job of using his hands and feet to swat off coverage. He runs the most complete route tree of every receiver in this class, and does it so fluidly he beats just about every defensive back that tries to cover him. Richards is yet another receiver in this class limited by their quarterback play, so don’t let that lack of production fool you. Richards has demonstrated an ability to separate consistently and cleanly from defensive backs. The two biggest concerns with Richards are his health and his hands. Richards struggles with drops at times during games. If he returns to form healthy and fix his concentration issues, he should be a top target for NFL teams.

Lawrence Cager is your typical big red-zone threat receiver. Cager is 6’5 218 and has a great catch radius but possesses almost no athletic ability or route-running skill. It’s tough to really see him being anything more than that, which means late-round to UDFA grade from the NFL.

Positional lineup expectations:

Ahmmon Richards: Y receiver

Lawrence Cager: Y/TE receiver

Pro comparisons:

Ahmmon Richards: Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

Lawrence Cager: Brandon Coleman, New Orleans Saints

Collin Johnson, Texas:

Collin Johnson is a big man. He’s an athletic phenom, standing 6’6, and 220 pounds and has incredible length and hands. For his size, he’s surprisingly quick through his routes and boxes out opposing corners with ease. He demonstrated an ability to separate quickly from defenders and keeps his head on a swivel locating and tracking the football. Once the ball is up in the air, it’s his.

Johnson’s real lack of production can be attributed to two things: lack of elite speed and quarterback play. Johnson can catch the ball with no problem but is not a real YAC threat, which limits him to a WR2 at the next level. His quarterbacks also had a tough time really doing anything. If Texas wants to succeed next season, they should target Johnson often each game.

Johnson’s physically gifted size and catch ability will make him a highly touted prospect for the NFL. If he can improve his production or play speed, Johnson will be a top 5 receiver for next year’s draft.

Positional lineup expectation: Z possession receiver with X potential

Pro comparison: Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers

Tyre Brady, Marshall:

There are a lot of guys in this year’s receiving group that fall in that small-school stud mold. Brady is the first guy and he stood out a ton when watching Chase Litton last season. Tyre Brady was easily the top option for Litton and dominated the C-USA last season, hauling in 62 receptions for 942 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Brady does a great job of catching and adjusting to the ball. He’s got some of the strongest hands in the class. He isn’t a superb athlete, but he’s a well-rounded and smooth route runner. He doesn’t possess home run speed, which could limit him at the next level, but he is still a YAC threat.

Tyre Brady is one of the more polished receivers in this class. Unfortunately, he isn’t a standout in really any category which will limit him at the next level. However, he is definitely a solid option for a team needing a wide receiver opposite their star, as he is dependable and can offer some solid value. 2nd-3rd round draft value.

Positional lineup expectation: Z receiver

Pro comparison: Cam Meredith, New Orleans Saints

Anthony Johnson, Buffalo:

When evaluating smaller-school prospects, production is a huge factor in evaluation because you want to see these guys dominate their level of competition to show they can make it in the big league. Johnson’s got production in spades. 76 receptions, 1,356 yards, and 14 TDs. He’s a big physical dude who does a great job of using his hands to pluck contested balls out of the air. He isn’t a nuanced route-runner, relying more on his size and physicality to win against corners.

The surprising thing about Johnson was his downfield ability. I had noticed it on tape, but it didn’t actually surprise me till I saw Johnson’s stats from Pro Football Focus. Anthony Johnson had 7 touchdowns on deep balls and 599 deep ball yards, which put him near the top in the country. It caught me off guard because I wasn’t expecting those numbers from such a big dude who isn’t extremely athletic. When I went back and watched the tape, the numbers made more sense. He isn’t a burner and struggled to separate, but his ball skills downfield and great hands brought in a lot of deep balls.

Johnson isn’t a flashy speedster or a nuanced route-runner, but he’s a great possession receiver and can be a great WR2 for a team in the NFL. Johnson can be a mismatch slot receiver at the next level, and I project him to be that depending on the team that drafts him. I expect him to repeat his outstanding production from a season ago, and if he does, he’ll get some hype and a mid-round selection.

Positional lineup expectation: Y/Slot receiver

Pro comparison: Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford:

Arcega-Whiteside established himself as one of football’s best at his position last season. He was the most targeted player for Stanford’s nearly woeful passing game and he won almost all the time. On jump balls and contested catches, he’s on par with, if not better than, fellow Pac-12 receiver N’Keal Harry. JJ catches everything.

He isn’t the most athletic receiver ever, but he doesn’t need to be because he is a clean, fluid route-runner and boxes out every corner he plays. When the ball is in the air, Arcega-Whiteside will come down with it, which is something NFL teams will covet.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside can quickly become one of the best slot receivers in the NFL when he gets there. If he continues to dominate at Stanford like he has, I fully expect him to be drafted high and become a team’s top option or mismatch weapon, depending on where he lands. If Stanford can get its quarterback situation resolved, Arcega-Whiteside’s production and hype may skyrocket next season.

Positional lineup expectation: Y/Slot receiver

Pro comparison: Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

Juwan Johnson, Penn State:

Johnson is a big, physical man and has the desired size to be an X receiver at the next level. He’s just got to prove he can. He looks more like a big red zone threat/ solid possession receiver right now until proven otherwise. However, that still has value and he still has room to grow. Much like Collin Johnson, Juwan Johnson’s size and physical style of play are how he wins. He boxes out defensive backs and snags the ball very well.

He isn’t fast or a clean route-runner, which lends credence to him being a possession, red-zone threat at the next level. He has the ability to make YAC plays, but right now that is not his strong suit.

I want to see Johnson live up more to his hype and produce better. Until I see his growth, it’s hard to project him to be anything more than a number two option at the next level. While that has value in the NFL, it’ll hurt his draft stock if he can’t improve.

Positional lineup expectation: Z with potential for X

Pro comparison: Dez Bryant

Felton Davis, Michigan State:

Felton Davis struggled in 2016 but rebounded with a strong 2017 with Brian Lewerke at QB for the Spartans. He’s a very athletic receiver with great hands and ball awareness. He’s very quick off the line and quickly shifts gears to accelerate down the field. He doesn’t run a lot of routes (from what I noted he ran a bunch of posts, seams, basically anything that allowed him to quickly shift and accelerate), but what he did run he ran smoothly and cleanly.

Davis is one of the more cerebral players at receiver and uses his body and head to confuse defenders, something Sterling Shepard excelled in doing at Oklahoma and now with the Giants. This, when combined with his natural athletic ability, makes Davis a lethal player in the open field and a weapon on the outside.

Davis’s biggest problem is his frame. If he can add some more weight to his frame and continue to play well, Davis can emerge as the Big 10’s best receiver this year and boost his draft stock immensely. He’s got potential to be a starter right away in the NFL and can quickly develop into one of the better weapons in the NFL.

Positional lineup expectation: Z receiver

Pro comparison: Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers

Tyler Johnson, Minnesota:

Tyler Johnson was the Minnesota passing offense in 2017. No, I am actually not exaggerating on this one. He had 35 receptions, 677 yards, and 7 touchdowns of the 9 touchdowns Minnesota threw for last season. The next highest receiver caught 9 passes and the other 2 touchdowns. In a massively run-first offense, Tyler Johnson showed up and downright dominated. He’s one of the most explosive receivers off the line and has tremendous playmaking ability.

Johnson also does a good job using his length and hands to catch 50/50 throws that are thrown his way. Once he catches the ball, Johnson’s off like a rocket.

Johnson is salmonella-raw at running routes and learning the mental nuances of the position, but he is one of the best playmakers in this class. If he can clean up his game, expect him to emerge as a top prospect for the 2019 class.

Positional lineup expectation: YZ weapon with X potential

Pro comparison: Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers

Marquise Brown, Oklahoma:

“HOLLYWOOD!” Marquise Brown and Gus Johnson have some sort of connection, as Gus Johnson had a way of making Marquise Brown even more exciting than he already was. Brown is lightning quick and downright dangerously explosive. He’s got speed that’ll burn just about everyone, and he’s extremely hard to catch in the open field.

When he activates his special gear, good luck keeping up with him. He’s got speed I’ve only seen in one player ever. His playmaking ability and solid hands will make him an enticing playmaker for a team looking to find that for their receiving corps.

Brown is extremely small at 5’11 162. That will certainly limit him and keep him from being a true WR1 in the NFL, but his explosive playmaking ability will definitely get him into the NFL and carve out a role.

Positional lineup expectation: Z receiver

Pro comparison: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs


This is the end of part 1. Part Two is linked here



Amateur scout for the NFL http://Draft.Here to talk sports and have fun. Keep learning! Writer and editor for @DFF_Dynasty and @DFF_College. You can follow me on Twitter @AJDraftScout.

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