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 two. Part one will be linked here.
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.
Stanley Morgan, Nebraska:
Stanley Morgan is an interesting evaluation. He’s really been limited by his quarterback play the last few years at Nebraska and still showed off his skill set. I’m honestly glad to see him go into a Scott Frost offense and I bet he is too. His greatest skill is definitely his length and contested catch ability. He’s a big play threat, even though he doesn’t have the speed or explosiveness of other guys on this list.
He’s very well-rounded, with clean routes paired with his catch radius and playmaking ability. His size limits his potential at the next level on the outside, so I think he’ll be forced to play in the slot in the NFL.
Stanley Morgan does have a drop issue, which I think is attributed more to concentration than butter fingers. He does have some past marijuana issues, which will red flag his stock for teams. His overall polished skill set and playmaking ability will be a boon for the Nebraska offense this season, and he could really break out on the national scene this year under Scott Frost.
Positional lineup expectation: Y receiver
Pro comparison: Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
David Sills V, West Virginia:
David Sills broke out last season putting up a ridiculous 18 touchdowns last season for West Virginia. This production put him in the national spotlight and made people label him as a star bound for success in the NFL. He needs a lot more work to be that type of player. He’s got great height and length, along with great hands. He does a great job of finding the ball and secures it with strong hands away from his body.
His background as a QB is a boon for Sills, as he can read the coverages and find holes in the schemes and get open.
Sills is still learning how to run routes, as they were sloppy at best last season. He’s also a very limited athlete, with very little separation ability and struggles to get off press. He doesn’t offer much as a true YAC threat, either. His thin frame will limit him to playing solely in the slot at the next level. It’s hard to project an NFL future for Sills without further growth at his craft.
Positional lineup expectation: Y receiver
Pro comparison: Tanner McEvoy, Seattle Seahawks
Jaylen Smith, Dez Fitzpatrick, and Seth Dawkins, Louisville:
Jaylen Smith was a huge deep threat for Lamar Jackson these past two seasons. He’s got impressive speed for his size (6’4 219) and has an outstanding catch radius. He isn’t the sharpest route-runner, but he doesn’t need to be that kind of player with his H/W/S ability. With the departure of Lamar Jackson, his numbers might dip this year, but make no mistake: Jaylen Smith is a playmaking stud.
Dez Fitzpatrick is hard to predict. He’s been inconsistent at Louisville and has just way too many drops to be considered a reliable target. However, when he’s on, he’s awesome. He’s an impressive athlete with great length and size (6’2 200) and plays the ball very well. He’s got mismatch potential written all over him as long as he’s in the zone. He isn’t super crisp as a route-runner, so that is something he’ll need to improve on going into next season. If he can improve upon his drops and consistency as a receiver, he can become a hot commodity going into the next level.
Seth Dawkins is probably the most impressive athlete on the Louisville roster, which is saying something considering the two I just covered. At 6’3 214, he’s been timed at a 4.38 40, has a recorded 36 inch vertical, and has 11 inch hands. He’s an all-around playmaker who has the explosiveness and size to play all over the field. Of the three receivers, he has the potential to be the best at the next level, which speaks to his potential. With his strong hands, he’s an incredibly reliable receiver and a definite mismatch guarantee at the next level if he continues to play well.
Positional lineup expectations:
Jaylen Smith: Z receiver
Dez Fitzpatrick: Y receiver
Seth Dawkins: X receiver
Jaylen Smith: Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions
Dez Fitzpatrick: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Seth Dawkins: Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders
Nick Westbrook, Indiana:
Nick Westbrook was Richard Lagow’s top target in 2016, hauling in 54 receptions and 6 touchdowns that year before an unfortunate ACL injury kept him out of the 2017 season entirely. When he’s healthy, Westbrook did a great job of getting open running routes and hauling in some impressive catches. Like most of the receivers in this class, Westbrook does a fantastic job of locating and snagging the football in contested situations.
Westbrook is not a burner like some of the receivers of the 2019 class are, but he’s very quick off the line and does a great job beating press coverage. When he catches the ball, he’s very good in the open field and can pick up huge yards or even score on every catch. At 6’3 215 pounds, Westbrook brings a lot to the table.
Nick Westbrook has to stay healthy this upcoming season if he wants a shot at the NFL. If he does, expect to see him produce big numbers at Indiana this year. He’s got WR1 upside if he can stay healthy.
Positional lineup expectation: Z receiver with X upside
Pro comparison: Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans
Denzel Mims and Blake Lynch, Baylor:
Mims is the next Baylor great wide receiver. He’s an impressive athlete who showed off fantastic size and speed. He’s a great YAC threat and can take it to the house on every reception. He’s a fantastic H/W/S prospect who has extremely high upside. Like most Baylor wideouts, Mims runs an extremely limited route tree and isn’t the cleanest runner of the ones he does run. If he can improve on that, he’ll have another year of outstanding production with Big 12 co-freshman of the year Charlie Brewer at QB for the Bears.
Blake Lynch is the swiss-army knife of the Baylor Bears. He’s been lined up at QB, RB, WR, CB, and even safety for the Bears. He’s a fantastic athlete with a great build at 6’3 217 pounds. He plays like a defensive back and is very physical at the catch point. He’s got great hands and length, giving him a great catch radius. Once he’s in the open field, he’s tough to bring down and can eat up huge yards. While his versatility has limited his growth as a receiver, I think he is a natural fit at receiver and will line up there at the next level.
Positional lineup expectations:
Denzel Mims: Z receiver
Blake Lynch: Y receiver
Denzel Mims: Paul Richardson, Washington Redskins
Blake Lynch: Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin:
Wisconsin might not have been the most pass-happy team in the country, but when they did throw the ball, Cephus was their top target before missing the final games of last season with a leg injury. Cephus has the size and frame of an NFL starter and the hands of an elite possession receiver. Cephus caught nearly everything that went his way. Pro Football Focus noted Cephus has a 147.2 QB rating when targeted, which places him tops of all returning receivers. While that number may be slightly skewed by a low number of targets, Cephus demonstrated the hands and length to back those numbers up.
Despite his size and thick frame, Cephus demonstrated great quickness in the open field and sharp route-running ability. I once heard Cephus described as a technician at his position and I cannot help but agree with that. If he played in a different offense, he’d be hyped up more.
If he can come back healthy and play at the same level, Cephus will be a breakout player in 2018. He’s extremely reliable catching the football and is one of the cleanest route-runners in this class. Cephus should breakout and when he does, I fully expect him to develop into one of the more refined receivers in the NFL. I would line him up in the slot at the next level and let him be a top-tier mismatch weapon.
Positional lineup expectation: Y/Slot receiver
Pro comparison: Larry Fitzgerald (current)
Hakeem Butler, Iowa State:
Allen Lazard and David Montgomery got a lot of the media attention last season for the Cyclones, but Hakeem Butler was just as vital to Iowa State last season. Butler in many ways is more talented than Lazard was. Butler is an incredible athlete and smooth in the open field. He’s got great hands to pair with his natural athleticism.
Butler is also great at tracking the ball and coming down with it in contested situations, which is expected given his 6’6 frame. He’s a clean route-runner and separates easily from defenders. He isn’t an explosive burner, but he certainly has the long speed to take the top off of defenses.
Butler is getting very little hype, but make no mistake, he’s a top-tier wide receiver in college football. With breakout QB Kyle Kempt and star RB David Montgomery returning, Iowa State quietly has themselves a fantastic offensive triplet. Butler has WR1 potential as an X receiver at the next level if he continues his level of play.
Positional lineup expectation: X receiver
Pro comparison: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Jauan Jennings and Marquez Callaway, Tennessee:
Jauan Jennings has been….rocky at Tennessee (Rocky Top pun-intended). He was extremely productive in 2016 before being suspended entirely after getting injured in 2017. Apparently cussing out your coaches is a bad thing (who knew?), and that is a major red flag for Jennings to have trying to make it into the NFL. He’s a physical, tough player who excels at making tough catches, but the rest of his game needs some work. Tough to project where he’ll end up with only one year of tape, but right now I would say a Y receiver based on his lack of athletic ability to play outside. He’s got the size and physicality to be a middle of the field mismatch player at the next level.
Marquez Callaway looks like a linebacker playing receiver, albeit a slow linebacker. He’s a fantastic size possession receiver and makes some outstanding high point contested catches. Definitely a top red-zone threat. Outside of that, Callaway doesn’t offer much. He’s not an above-average athlete even though he played on special teams and he isn’t a nuanced route-runner at all. He’s a solid possession receiver, but looks more like a WR3 at the next level until he improves his route-running.
Positional lineup expectations:
Jauan Jennings: Y receiver
Marquez Callaway: Z receiver
Jauan Jennings: Jordan Matthews, New England Patriots
Marquez Callaway: Donte Moncrief, Jacksonville Jaguars
Cody Thompson and Diontae Johnson, Toledo:
Cody Thompson has some outstanding production at Toledo, with 20 career touchdowns and 2600 career receiving yards. His production likely would have been much higher had he not gotten injured in 2017, where he had 4 touchdowns and 537 receiving yards in 5 games. Thompson is a highlight reel player, and it starts with his outstanding route-running ability. He’s quick and squeaky clean through his breaks and possesses that extra gear to separate from defenders. If he can return back to form healthy, expect to see him put up big numbers once again.
When Cody Thompson went down, Diontae Johnson stepped up for the Rockets, filling that big play hole that Thompson’s injury left vacant. Diontae Johnson is one of the best deep threats in the country, recording 8 touchdowns on deep passes and averaged 48.6 yards per deep reception (per PFF). Much like Thompson, Johnson wins with elite route-running and hands. Johnson is quick and physical off the line and does a great job of using his speed to pick up huge chunks of yards. His limited size will force him into the slot at the next level, but he can quickly become one of the game’s top slot receivers depending on his landing spot.
Positional lineup expectation:
Cody Thompson: Z receiver
Diontae Johnson: Y receiver
Cody Thompson: Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers
Diontae Johnson: Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
T.J. Vasher, Texas Tech:
Oh, you thought Texas Tech was done putting out NFL receiver talent after putting out Jakeem Grant, Dylan Cantrell, and Keke Coutee in the last few years? Meet the next dude who will light up the Big 12: T.J. Vasher. With Cantrell and Coutee off to the NFL, Vasher is going to see a massive increase in targets and subsequently, a massive increase in production. Vasher’s got incredible length at 6’6, but also has outstanding acceleration, which makes him a great deep threat.
At 6’6 with great speed, Vasher also has the ability to separate quickly from DBs due to his quickness at the line of scrimmage. He’s quick and clean through his breaks and does a great job at faking out defenders with his route-running ability.
For all of his potential, Vasher does have some weaknesses. For one, his hands. He dropped the ball enough for me to label it as inconsistent. He’s also got a wire-thin frame, only weighing 190 pounds for a 6’6 dude. He definitely needs to add some weight to his frame. If he can and develop into a consistent target, T.J. Vasher is going to be a breakout star and can be a true X, WR1 in the NFL.
Positional lineup expectation: X receiver potential
Pro comparison: Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tyler Vaughns, USC:
Tyler Vaughns was overshadowed by Deontay Burnett on the national scale, but Vaughns was easily the Trojans’ top receiving threat last year and Sam Darnold’s hail-mary catcher. He’s a physical receiver who thrives off of 50/50 balls. If the ball is in the air, Vaughns will fight tooth and nail to make sure it is his.
Vaughns is by no means a speedster or a refined route-runner, so he will need to clean that up to make it at the next level. He’s tough to bring down in the open field after the catch because he plays with a running back physicality and runs through tacklers.
Vaughns has all the makings of a solid possession receiver at the next level and has the ability to be a quality red zone target. With Deontay Burnett’s departure into the NFL, Vaughns will quickly become the top target for J.T. Daniels at USC next season. Expect him to put up big numbers.
Positional lineup expectation: Z receiver
Pro comparison: Allen Hurns, Dallas Cowboys
Small school alert: Penny Hart, Georgia State and Brendan O’Leary-Orange, Nevada
Penny Hart, Georgia State
I can’t take the credit for finding Hart, but it felt criminal to leave him off the list. He may be small at 5’8, but he is lightning quick and a decisive and crisp route-runner. He put up over 100 yards against Oregon…as a freshman playing in his 3rd game. Yeah, he’s that good. An injury sidelined him last year, but I fully expect him to return healthy. If he does, he’ll put up some huge production.
Positional lineup expectation: Y receiver
Pro comparison: Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins
Brendan O’Leary-Orange, Nevada
This guy flashed a ton while I was watching Nevada’s quarterback Ty Gangi. He looks the part of a star H/W/S receiver, but he was extremely raw at the position, relying solely on his athleticism to win. He’s got incredible athleticism for his size and frame at 6’4, 210 pounds. Has very strong hands to snag the football and a massive catch radius. He’s got incredible upside to develop, and if he can put in the mental side of the position into his game, O’Leary-Orange can be a dark horse small-school receiver target. Another season of experience and development will help out his production. He’ll stand out when scouts start to evaluate Gangi for the 2019 draft.
Positional lineup expectation: Z with potential for X
Pro comparison: Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers