To kick off each dynasty profile from the 2022 skill position draft class, a dated positional ranking will be presented, relevant to that prospect’s position. As the profiles have been published, the rankings have evolved. The number of WRs that are either declared underclassmen or seniors exhausting their eligibility – at least the ones that have publicly declared their intention to pursue a career in the NFL – currently stands at a crowded 168. And that isn’t even an exhaustive number since the WRs who have zero chance of being drafted have already been filtered out from the very long list of those testing at a collegiate Pro Day. Without further delay, here are the top-25 WR rankings from the 2022 class as of publication:
|Age (Week 1)
|North Dakota State
|John Metchie III
|Calvin Austin III
|Kevin Austin Jr.
Moorpark High School was gifted with two years of athletics out of Drake London. He made them count. Following a 7-2 regular season, London led the Musketeers to four straight victories in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs and the chance to play in the championship game as a junior. While Moorpark fell 49-28 to Melquan Stovall and Amir Bankhead’s Paraclete Spirits, Drake announced his arrival loud-and-clear. A 51/1,023/11 receiving line (20.2 YPR) delivered selections to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Juniors Third Team, All-CIF Division 5 Second Team and All-Area Second Team.
Did I forget to mention London was a dual-sport stud? He manufactured 19.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG and 3.9 APG on the hardcourt at 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds. Did I also forget to mention that it was all accomplished during London’s Age 16 season? Like several other preps that joined USC during that time frame, London reclassified in order to hit Los Angeles with his skills a full year early. Moorpark HC Ryan Huisenga likely dreamed about what could have been after Drake threw together a 62/1,089/12 line (17.6 YPR) in his final year.
Losing 62-21 in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 Playoffs in 2018 likely wasn’t quite the curtain call they expected after their success from the previous season. However, that defeat came at the hands of the eventual champ, Sierra Canyon — a Trailblazers’ roster featuring talents such as Chayden Peery and DJ Harvey. And London did everything he could to alter that outcome, putting up an 8/93/0 receiving and 2/67/0 rushing line – 41% of his team’s total yardage. His efforts were certainly appreciated, honored as a PrepStar All-American and All-Camino League co-Wide Receiver of the Year.
Placing an emphatic stamp on his Moorpark career, London blew up on the court, as well, collecting All-CIF Division 4 and All-Area distinction after fabricating some ridiculous numbers (29.2 PPG, 11.9 RPG and 3.8 APG). In fact, Drake was still far from convinced on his future career path. Jumping back to prior to the end of his junior year, London was invited to test at The Opening Regionals. The table below lists those results:
A trio of factors that included playing for a smaller school, his desire to play both football and basketball and to play on the West Coast, prevented London from drawing national powerhouse attention during the recruiting process. It seems it was all part of his master plan. He ultimately fell for the recruiting efforts of Tee Martin and Keary Colbert toward taking his many talents 55 miles south to the University of Southern California. With Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Tyler Vaughns already capably leading the way for the Trojans, London took a backseat as the fourth option during his first season on campus.
After Pittman left for the NFL, London’s featured opportunity alongside ARSB came during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. His 33/502/3 line brought him a Second Team All-Pac-12 selection. He also played in three games for the USC basketball team, but they would serve as his last. Drake made the decision that his future career lay on the gridiron. And the numbers he generated in only eight games last season before fracturing his ankle cemented his status as one of the elite wideouts from the ‘21 draft class.
His list of honors and awards for those eight games is extensive, including being a Biletnikoff Award and Maxwell Award semifinalist, Second Team All-American (FWAA and Walter Camp), Third Team All-American (AP), Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and First Team All-Pac-12.
In regards to the ankle, the fact that he fractured the ankle on a slide route where he was already walking into the end zone makes the injury pretty frustrating. Yes, he was already crossing the goal line when the defender felt it necessary to jump on and pin his ankle to the field. London was involved in so many violent plays last season, yet this meaningless effort out of frustration from Christian Roland-Wallace resulted in the significant injury.
At the ‘21 NFL Combine, London provided us with the physical measurements in the table above. However, since the rehab process on his ankle was incomplete, he was unable to participate in any athletic tests in Indianapolis (table below). While that includes each of the Pro Days set up at USC, London was able to work through positional drills on April 15:
With great anticipation, the evaluation of London’s ‘21 footage led to an immediate shake-up at the top of the top-25 ranks. Previously identifying some details to his game from his ‘20 tape for last season’s draft guide, London blew my mind while checking off each of those boxes with flying colors. To the extent that you might have already noticed that Chris Olave and London are now adorned with 2a-2b rankings. But let’s hit the brakes and run through the full receiving tool gauntlet to detail out exactly why the excitement level should be so very high for London.
We’ll begin with his release, and it’s a category where Drake will actually need some continued development. London has a very inconsistent release that doesn’t adhere to get-off fundamentals. Around a quarter of the way through his tape, it was clear London was distributing some of his weight to his back foot on very specific plays. And it appears to be a slight tell to the particular route he’s set to run. Further investigation cemented the belief that London was giving away tells inside his pre-snap stance and foot movement at the snap.
For example, we see a significant tell from London when it’s going to be a designed screen, as his pre-snap stance is more relaxed with his weight distributed on both feet. Further hints Drake provides when it’ll specifically be a tunnel screen include taking one clean step forward, before his facemask comes up, the elbow angle decreases and then pushes his left leg well out in front of his body to kick his frame backward. When it’s going to be a bubble screen, London is far more relaxed at the snap and makes a very slow, awkward turn to look back over his shoulder.
And these tells go much deeper. On routes with deeper stems, his pre-snap stance follows the precise textbook, forward lean with his weight heavy over his front foot – understandable to maximize his get-off explosion. He will also keep his facemask more toward the ground, while keeping his arms outstretched several steps further into his release. Each of these variables are, of course, influenced by the pre-snap spacing provided by the CB.
Does this information really mean anything? NFL CBs invest hours of their time each week in tape study in an endless search for these exact types of tells from the QB and receivers on the upcoming schedule. We really want to see London clean all of this up. A routine that strictly adheres to an identical setup into each of his routes would eliminate the issue entirely. In addition, Drake sacrifices a fraction of a second by hopping slightly to reset his feet before pushing into his get-off. Just don’t sound the alarm bells, London will be able to have all of these issues coached out of him.
Moving on to greener pastures, let’s focus our attention over to London’s route precision. Noticeable right away, Drake’s outstanding footwork instantly perks the eyebrows. His confidence is unmistakingly high in his ability to create space through his route breaks. London is a wideout who obviously puts a lot of work into the technical aspect of his route running.
Just like during Michael Pittman Jr.’s final season at USC, the Trojans integrated a high number of designed screens to quickly place the ball into London’s hands. Just don’t use that information to assume he ran a watered-down route tree. London ran a heavy collection of outs, ins, hitches, and slants. That’s just about everything we need to see.
What’s missing? Flys, drags, and posts – three of the most vitally important routes every NFL WR will need to master. Unfortunately, drags/crossers and posts were not a big part of the USC rotation. However, considering Go routes are the most important route, London gave them to us through the back-shoulder-go (9b) variety.
Drake is not a burner. While we are putting that out there, let’s be clear that we don’t need London to provide us with a 40-time. Let’s all move on from that business. By consistently using a corner’s momentum against him on those 9bs, London checks the fly-route box without the need for sub-4.5 speed to win. When his 9bs are appropriately-placed, London is a maestro of a man among children. Nothing short of routine dominance through exquisite phone booth manipulation of a corner with the slightest of shoves.
London is the most dangerous 9b receiver in the class, it’s not even close. But he’s no one-trick pony. The turn on his digs are very sudden. And only the quickest of corners can close on his curls. As for his outs and ins, don’t even trip, dawg. His breaks are too crisp for CBs to jump in time.
Should we be concerned with Drake’s ability to separate? The faith London ingrains into his route-running mechanics doing the work to create separation for him is well-placed. The player that comes to mind is Keenan Allen. For those that don’t remember, Allen suffered a Grade 2 PCL sprain in his right knee that forced him to miss his final three games of his California Golden Bears’ career. When he provided scouts a 40-time at his Pro Day, peeps freaked when the stopwatch read 4.71 seconds. Nine seasons later, Slayer is piecing together a decent resume for Hall of Fame consideration.
Many believe separation can only be achieved through world-class speed. In reality, considerable separation can be collected by route ministers devoted to the fundamentals of their craft. London is an early enrollee in that philosophy. First of all, he cuts right through jam attempts like warm butter. He’s very efficient with his hip movement and stutter-steps prior to his breaks that keep a corner guessing.
As identified last season during his tape study, London is a natural at stemming opposing corners. Drake extends his long legs mid-route to really toss a wrench into a CBs expectations. He can capture the leverage advantage in an instant with sudden cuts or a swipe of his 69th-percentile right arm. Again, London is not a burner, but he has fully weaponized his slight speed alterations. Making the numbers he put up even more impressive, DL played with DBs literally hanging off of him play-after-play — just check out Week 5 at Colorado for a prime example.
Among his litany of gifts, London’s ball skills are extraordinary. After scouring over Jameson Williams’ last two seasons of footage, it’s such a refreshing sight to see London actually using his hands to snatch the ball out of the air. He has a nice routine of running through the throw on hitches and comebacks to give himself a head start into his YAC weaponry. Drake maintains a sterile catch radius for his QB – tapping into his basketball skills – by boxing defenders out with his backside.
London truly wants the corner to hand fight with him so he can green light some physicality in return, when needed. He embraces all forms of contact from defensive backs. Drake isn’t just NFL-ready with his contested catches, he’s going to enter the next level as a considerable contested force. When London identifies a secondary defender closing on his throw, he will adjust his frame to shield the defender away.
We have another opportunity to see his basketball talents at work, as London’s high-pointing skills are nothing short of beautiful. That’s why it was painful seeing the placement on some of his end zone fades, where the ball wasn’t positioned high enough to take advantage of London’s tools. Get those 50/50 balls up, trust that London will lay claim.
|Optimum Comparison Career Path (6-foot-1+)
|Andre Johnson Sr.
1One season of data from Taft High School and two seasons from Ohio State University
2Two seasons of data from Lake Marion High School and four seasons from Clemson University
3Two seasons of data from Moorpark High School and three seasons from the University of Southern California
Closing out his receiving tool grading, searches for flaws in London’s improvisational approach were in vain. We’re talking about some seriously sexy scramble drill tools. It’s more than obvious that London has spent his career with a bully’s mentality. Rather than pussy-footing his way in circles toward an opening, London “posts-up” on his assigned defender and gives him a considerable shove when his QB is ready to present the target. When he has a choice, his QB already knows what side of the field he wants to scramble toward — the one where London’s working. For very good reasons since Drake seems to have a second-sense in sliding his zone landmark to match his QBs movement.
The occasional concentration drop is never out of the ordinary, but try seven drops during his first four games last season on for size. And one of those drops hopped into the hands of the corner, after which he converted into a pick-six. Before we overreact, London only dropped one in his last four and didn’t butter-finger any last season. If not for those drops, the grade London received in the ball skills category would top this WR class. Just keep in mind that that potential is there.
In more of a comical sense, comfort is not the word that stands out when describing how London reacts when he realizes he’s uncovered. Awkward is a descriptor that’s far more fitting. The kid is just not accustomed to finding himself wide open underneath. He became a bit greedy, unsure how to handle his hot read and led his QB into tossing an INT on one occasion.
While sorting through London’s YAC armaments, the narrative that this young man is something special is fastened into stone. The harder you hit him, the more it fires him up. And this kid will lower his pads to really punish defensive backs. If he so desired, Drake could make a seamless transition to move TE. But that’s not going to happen with the paydays NFL WRs are collecting.
While he’s made a career thus far while packing around multiple defenders, London’s far more than that. He’s surprisingly fluid in the open field, chaining his stiff-arm with a sweet spin move. Safety’s be warned, do not over-pursue London or under-appreciate his elusiveness. Your momentum will carry you in the wrong direction with nothing but a weak arm left behind for him to blast through. Save those arm tackles for sneaks by the punter, London will giggle his way through their obliteration. And Drake is not above posterizing low tackle attempts with a clean hurdle.
With London’s size alone, we know we aren’t getting another Wilson, Olave, or Williams. The NFL desperately needs that trio – quartet if we include Christian Watson – of world-class speedsters to rehabilitate its fledgling deep passing reputation that plagued the vast majority of teams last season. We can instantly place London safely ahead of Williams in elusiveness simply due to Drake’s capacity for employing the simplest of jump cuts. London is Wilson with 20% more body mass.
No other wideout in the class is comparable to Olave — a vertical genius with an NFL veterans hands and coverage scheme mastery. Unwilling to waste even a second of his time trying to convince anyone he needs to absorb contact to be elite. Keep in mind, when Olave opted out of running his second 40 attempt at the combine, he had been informed that he had unofficially ran a 4.26. When the time was adjusted to 4.39, it was too late to improve on the time. However, take it to the bank, Olave has a speed range between 4.28-to-4.33. His 20-yard split (2.46) tested in the 98th-percentile and 10-yard (1.45) in the 100th-percentile.
London and Olave are among the purest of talents in the entire ‘21 class of athletes. Both are the absolute best at what they do. Wilson is right next to London in his ability to shed tackles, using his sub-4.4 speed and twitchy moves to glide right past defenders. While Drake offers his own toolsy collection of maneuvers, he is also satisfied running right over a defender. Breece Hall should still sit above all others for 1.01 rights in rookie drafts, but no effort will be made to discourage the thinking of London as a worthy 1.02 candidate. Wilson, Olave, London and Kenneth Walker III should all be on the tip of your tongue after the Breece domino falls.
2021 Video Recommendations: Week 1 vs. San Jose State, Week 2 vs. Stanford, Week 3 at Washington State, Week 4 vs. Oregon State, Week 5 at Colorado, Week 6 vs. Utah, Week 8 at Notre Dame and Week 9 vs. Arizona
Optimal Landing Spots: All 32 rosters would benefit from London’s addition
Film Review Comp (2021): Michael Thomas
Overall Comp (Factoring size, athleticism, tape and level of collegiate production): Michael Thomas