2023 Pre-NFL Draft Rookie WR Dynasty Rankings


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2023 Pre-NFL Draft Rookie WR Dynasty Rankings

In this article, I will be ranking the top rookie wide receivers for your dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts. This is the exact same article I’ve written every year around this time – Barrett’s Rookie Model: Wide Receiver Rankings (2022, 2021) – only now with a more SEO-friendly name.

Scott Barrett’s Wide Receiver Model and Rankings

My rankings are heavily influenced by my prospect model, which looks only at the most predictive production, efficiency, and athleticism metrics for the position. In other words, I try not to be influenced by subjective factors this early into my process – industry mock drafts (and other forms of projected draft capital), rumors regarding off-the-field concerns, and the like. Instead, I focus solely on the objective – a player’s cold, hard, brutally honest numbers. I’ll run each player’s college statistics and Combine/Pro Day numbers through my model for an initial ranking: “Who leads this class? How does that player compare to the leaders of previous classes?” Consider this “‘Phase I” of my model, which you can take as something akin to a production-plus-efficiency-plus-athleticism score.

“Phase II” of my model includes draft capital — the most predictive variable for any position — and to a lesser extent, various subjective factors: “How good was this landing spot? What did the team’s GM say in their post-draft press conference?” I will release these updated rankings following the NFL Draft.

Important Position-Specific Background

It’s really tough to evaluate WR prospects. That’s true from a fantasy perspective and from an NFL perspective – WRs have among the highest bust rates of any position in the NFL Draft (just look at Bill Belichick’s track record). From 2015-2019 there were 17 WRs drafted in Round 1. Of that list, only one – Amari Cooper – ever made the Pro Bowl. As far as why this is, well… it’s a myriad of factors, all detailed in this thread here.

Among the primary points – WRs in college rarely ever face press coverage or man coverage as often as they will in the pros. Slot WRs are especially difficult to evaluate, as it’s a lot easier to rack up production from the slot in college (generally in zone and against safeties and linebackers with plenty of room to work) than in the pros (against sticky nickel cornerbacks who press). Deep slot production feels especially fraudulent, for reasons outlined in more detail here. It’s also important to sift through a WR’s numbers to see how much of his production came padded on manufactured touches, specifically a high number of screens and quick low-aDOT catches.

All of these concerns apply to every WR in this class.

In an attempt to control for these various issues (and more) — and without giving away too many ingredients from my secret sauce — here is some of what my model deems as extremely important (i.e. predictive) when it comes to WR prospects: breakout age and age-adjusted production/efficiency, competition-adjusted production/efficiency, QB-adjusted production/efficiency, usage and scheme-adjusted production/efficiency, target competition-adjusted production/efficiency, and the ability to create yards on your own after the catch.

In the four years since I’ve been doing this, there has only ever been one WR prospect without any red flags, and that was Ja’Marr Chase. But this year’s class seems riddled with red flags.

Of course, I did say something similar in this space last year. But last year’s class was also a whole lot better. I hate to say it – especially now when you still have about 12,000 more words to read – but, I don’t think this is a really great WR class after the WR1 (Jaxon Smith-Njigba).

Note: Especially dank stats were highlighted in bold by the editor.

1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State Buckeyes

Height: 6’1”, Weight: 196 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.52*

SPORQ: 69.0*, Former: 5-star, Age: 21.2

Projected Draft Capital: WR1, pick 12

Smith-Njigba was a 5-star recruit and a Texas high school legend, averaging 165.4 YPG as a junior and then 2.43 touchdowns per game as a senior. He ended his high school career with the 3rd-most receiving yards (5,414) and the 3rd-most touchdowns (63) in Texas state history.

As a freshman at Ohio State, Smith-Njigba struggled to see the field behind future 2022 top-12 draft picks Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jameson Williams. He saw only 13 targets all year, but then again, one of those targets was this one.

As a sophomore, C.J. Stroud replaced Justin Fields, and Jameson Williams left for Alabama, with Smith-Njigba’s potential ascendence into the starting lineup being the likely catalyst behind that decision. Or at least that was my takeaway from when Williams told Bama Insider’s Andrew Bone: “To me, things were just unclear, I wasn't certain of my role in the offense. The receiver room got crowded. I just decided I needed a fresh start."

What happened next was one for the record books – by my estimation Smith-Njigba’s sophomore season was one of the three greatest age-adjusted and target competition-adjusted seasons in college football history.

Smith-Njigba was competing for targets alongside Garrett Wilson (a future top-12 pick who is 1.5 years older) and Chris Olave (a future top-12 pick who is 1.6 years older), Smith-Njigba racked up 28.4% more receiving yards per game than Wilson, and 45.2% more than Olave. He would end his sophomore season with 95 catches, 1,606 yards, and 9 touchdowns. For perspective, 1,606 receiving yards is the most in Ohio State history, and 343 yards better than the next-best season (Marvin Harrison Jr.’s 2022 — our Devy WR1).

Smith-Njigba averaged 157.1 YPG over his final 8 games, with a low of just 97 yards. For perspective, we’ve seen only one FBS WR eclipse 147.0 YPG in a single season since 2000 (Michael Crabtree’s 150.9 in 2007). And Smith-Njigba put together a hell of a grand finale, recording 15 catches for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns in the Rose Bowl. That was good for the most receiving yards by any player in any bowl game all-time, and the 5th-most yards by any FBS WR in any game all-time.

As if it wasn’t impressive enough that Smith-Njigba averaged an absurd 92.6 YPG when sharing the field with two future top-12 picks, he also averaged an impossible 288.0 YPG in the 2 games Wilson missed.

Across the full season, he averaged 123.5 YPG – the 2nd-best mark by any Power 5 WR before their age 20 season since at least 2000, and 2nd only to Ja’Marr Chase’s 2019 (127.1). He averaged 4.01 YPRR – the 2nd-best mark by any Power 5 WR since at least 2017, and well ahead of the next-closest underclassman (Ja’Marr Chase’s 3.52 in 2019).

And he averaged +89% depth-adjusted YPT over expectation, the 2nd-best mark by any WR since at least 2017, and again on another stacked list.

Unfortunately, Smith-Njigba’s follow-up season would be derailed before the train ever left the station; he picked up a hamstring injury in the first quarter of the team’s season opener and finished the year with only 40 total routes run.

With 87% of his career targets coming in his all-time-great sophomore season, it should not be too surprising that he leads this class in career YPRR, career depth-adjusted YPTOE, and just about any meaningful career-anything stat you can think of.

There are very few red flags within Smith-Njigba’s analytical profile, but here are the three I feel are worth mentioning: 1) We really have only a one-season sample size to work with. That’s something of a concern – how much more would we like Kayshon Boutte if we didn’t have his underwhelming 2022 season to look at? But – to me – that one season for Smith-Njigba was so impossibly absurd by every and any stat that matters to me, that it overshadows any small sample concerns.

2) 83% of Smith-Njigba’s career receiving yards have come from the slot, and so, he may be pigeonholed as either a slot-only or at least slot-predominant WR at the next level. Both points are concerning for a variety of reasons – and I’ve written many words on this in prior versions of this article – but, basically I’m not too worried because… Smith-Njigba’s slot production isn’t at all fraudulent like it is for many other slot WRs even in this class (e.g. Josh Downs, who saw a lot of his production come on screen passes and other forms of “manufactured touches,” and Jalin Hyatt, who saw an absurdly high percentage of his production come on deep slot targets 1-on-1 against a safety, etc.) Further, although slot WRs are being devalued in today’s NFL, slot WRs aren’t at all worse in fantasy – and in fact, may actually be more matchup-immune and underrated comparatively. In a worst-case scenario, I think Smith-Njigba will be an elite slot WR at the NFL level and a beast for fantasy. In a good-case scenario, all of that is still true, but he’s also more than competent on the outside, as Brett Whitefield suggests in the clip below.

3) It’s possible that we’re thinking about things the wrong way when we want to adjust Smith-Njigba’s production upwards when considering the elite levels of target competition he faced. It’s possible that, instead, opposing defenses paid so much attention to Wilson and Olave that Smith-Njigba’s production is in some way fraudulent. (I’m thinking something along the lines of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s splits with/without Antonio Brown.) It’s certainly possible, but I don’t find it too compelling when considering the fact that he averaged 6.33 YPRR across the two games Wilson missed. And more importantly…

To supplement our analytical evidence with some anecdotal evidence, I want to remind you just how good Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were in their rookie seasons. Wilson totaled 1,103 receiving yards (averaging 17.3 FPG in games Zach Wilson missed) and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Chris Olave averaged 2.42 YPRR, good for the 5th-best season by any rookie WR since 2010, and on an absolutely stacked top-12 list.

And now consider the fact that – not only was Smith-Njigba the most productive of the three receivers – but just about anyone who would know has said Smith-Njigba is also the most talented of the group.

In August of 2021 – before Smith-Njigba ever started a game for the Buckeyes – Wilson said Smith-Njigba was “probably the best I’ve ever seen” play wide receiver. When asked again in 2023, Wilson doubled down, confirming he thinks Smith-Njigba is the best of the three Ohio State wideouts.

In November of 2021, Chris Olave also said he thought Smith-Njigba was the best of the three of them, and that he thought he would go on to be the best or one of the best NFL wide receivers of all time. And like Wilson, he doubled down in 2023.

WR coach Brian Hartline also ranks JSN above Wilson and Olave, and has said he thinks Smith-Njigba is going to eventually lead the NFL in receptions and receiving yards. He’s also spent all off-season Twitter clowning on any Draft tout who has Smith-Njigba as anything less than their WR1.

QB C.J. Stroud has said Smith-Njigba is “probably the best route-runner I’ve ever played with in my life.”


To me, Smith-Njigba isn’t just “the best fantasy WR in this class”, he’s probably the 2nd-best fantasy WR prospect we’ve seen since at least 2012. Maybe NFL teams don’t see it that way, but I think this is definitely true from a fantasy perspective.

And from a fantasy perspective, I don’t know why we’re not viewing him as a Bijan Robinson-level WR prospect. He’s not at all priced like it, going 31 picks later in dynasty startups.

If you’re looking for a player-comp, things get tricky – he might be the best slot WR prospect of all time. And so, on that point, I think Cooper Kupp, Keenan Allen, and Amon-Ra St. Brown are legitimately fair comparisons. And I do believe he offers a similarly astronomical ceiling for fantasy. How astronomical? Well, in 2021, Cooper Kupp (64% slot rate) scored the most fantasy points of any WR in NFL history. Keenan Allen has finished top-12 in FPG in six straight seasons (46% slot target rate over this span). And Amon-Ra St. Brown (61% slot rate) averages 19.0 FPG over his last 22 games (more than that of Ja’Marr Chase).

2. Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma Sooners

Height: 5’11”, Weight: 183 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.38

SPORQ: 78.0, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.1

Projected Draft Capital: WR8, pick 75

As a high school senior, Marvin Mims gained 2,629 receiving yards, the most by any player in our nation’s history. He also ended his high school career with a Texas state record 5,485 receiving yards. It’s hard to argue which feat is more impressive when you remember Texas is roughly double the size of most European countries, and its chief export is Pro Bowl-caliber wide receivers.

Of course, high school production doesn’t always neatly correlate with NFL success… or at least nowhere near as neatly as collegiate success does. So what happened next?

Mims found immediate success at the college level, averaging 4.07 YPRR as an 18-year-old freshman. This was good for the 7th-best mark by any Power 5 WR (min. 150 routes) since 2015. And, if age-adjusted, it’s the 2nd-best season in my database, which includes over 2,200 qualifying Power 5 WR seasons.

In 2021, Mims averaged 17.2 yards per target. For perspective, that was the most by any Power 5 WR (min. 40 targets) since at least 2015. That mark is also well ahead of the next-closest qualifying season (CeeDee Lamb’s 2019), and joins an impressive cohort inside of the top 10 (since 2017).

In 2022 – with his 3rd different QB, his 2nd different head coach, and 3rd different WR coach – Mims had his most productive season yet, gaining 1,083 receiving yards (2.1X as much as the next-closest receiver on the team).

And this was again a hyper-efficient season from Mims. His 32.7% yardage market share ranked 5th-best, and his 2.66 yards per team pass attempt average ranked 4th-best among all Power 5 WRs from this class. Better yet, he averaged 8.2 yards after the catch per reception, the 2nd-best mark of any WR Power 5 WR in this class. The only Combine-invite WRs from this class to beat that mark were Quentin Johnston in 2022 (8.9) and Jaxon Smith-Njigba in 2021 (8.3).

And then at the 2023 NFL Combine, Mims recorded a 91st percentile 40-yard dash and a 91st percentile SPORQ Score.

When looking at his collegiate resume in totality, things look even more impressive. Among all Power 5 WRs from within this class, he ranks behind only Jaxon Smith-Njigba in career YPRR (2.95) or career touchdown-adjusted-YPRR (3.44). He leads the class in career YPT average (13.5), and ranks behind only Jaxon Smith-Njigba in career depth-adjusted YPT over expectation (+42%). Perhaps most impressively, he leads this class in career YPRR when lined up out-wide (2.96).

If you can’t tell, yes, I absolutely love Marvin Mims. My pre-draft model is telling me that this is a historically great prospect, probably the 2nd-best WR prospect in this class, well deserving of a Round 1 pick. So why is his projected draft capital (proj. WR6) so bad?

Truthfully, I have no idea. I’m really struggling to find any warts. He has phenomenal hands – he’s dropped only one out of every 25.3 career targets (in contrast to Jordan Addison’s 13.5), and he’s fumbled the ball only once since middle school. And I’m struggling to find any fraudulent production from within his analytics profile. Only 9% of his career receiving yards came on screens. Only 46% of his career routes run have come from the slot, and, again for emphasis, he leads the class in YPRR when lined up out wide.

But of course, I understand I look like an insane person for listing the consensus WR6 as my WR2. So, after doing a great deal more research than I felt was necessary, here are the best red flags I could come up with:

1) Mims’ true freshman season was insane, but he also only ran 150 routes that year. And you can argue that’s not a fully stable sample. Or, perhaps it matters more that he wasn’t really a full-time player (38% route share). I think this is a really fair point, but it also doesn’t really move the needle — if I fully exclude his freshman season, he still ranks as my model’s WR4. And even if I deweight it by 50%, he still shows up as my overall WR2. (Also… With the exception of CeeDee Lamb, it’s pretty rare to see an underclassman dominate in a Lincoln Riley offense.)

2) Mims leads the class in percentage of career receiving yards (58%) and percentage of career receiving touchdowns (95%) coming on deep targets. If my model has historically had a weakness, it’s overrating one-trick ponies who are really good at their “one trick.” That said, his numbers aren’t that far ahead of many potential Round 1 wideouts from within this class (for instance, Zay Flowers, Jalin Hyatt, and Jordan Addison all saw 46-49% of their career receiving yards come on deep targets). And Mims’ deep production is a lot less fraudulent than it is for players like Josh Downs and Jalin Hyatt, because the bulk of it came when lined up out wide.

3) He never really dominated in terms of raw production, at least not at the level of a Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, Josh Downs, or Jalin Hyatt. He never commanded targets at a very high level – just three career games with more than five receptions – and so, might not be as dominant in full-PPR formats. (However, that wasn’t far off players like Demaryius Thomas, Andre Johnson, Jaylen Waddle, D.K. Metcalf, etc.) And he was insanely efficient on a per-target basis, which is exactly what you want to see from players lacking in volume.) His production also tended to fluctuate wildly week-to-week – 9 career 100-yard games and 10 career games under 30 receiving yards. I think these are all fair points, but ultimately very minor in contrast to the efficiency metrics that matter more to my model. Or, at the very least, apply just as strongly to the next name on our list (Quentin Johnston).

4) Beyond that – if you’re really making me look for weaknesses (and all of these mock drafters are) – he was competent but not quite as comparatively elite against Cover-1 throughout his collegiate career. And so, it’s possible he may struggle against physical cornerbacks and against press coverage in the NFL. And as such, he may be better suited for the slot at the next level – (where I’m sure he’d be excellent) – just as his slight frame implies.

But ultimately, these all felt like overly nitpicky concerns, and certainly, nothing compelling enough to make me budge from this ranking, which I know full well is going to make me look like a madman when he falls out of Round 2.


To recap – Mims might have been the most accomplished high school wideout in United States history. His NCAA freshman season ranks as one of the most efficient seasons of all time on a per-route basis. His sophomore season ranks as one of the most efficient seasons of all time on a per-target basis. And then his junior season was one of the most productive and most efficient seasons (by any number of stats) of any WR in this class. Oh, and then the Combine confirmed he’s a freak athlete.

Add it all up, and Mims has the 2nd-best analytics profile of any WR in the class. And it’s a historically great profile without many warts. I have no idea why NFL teams aren’t as high on him as I am, but I’m sure the analytics departments from those teams like him just as much.

I’m not sure when or where he’ll be drafted – and how that draft capital might alter my projection for him – but I imagine he’s still going to be my No. 1 target in 2023 rookie drafts.

3. Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU Horned Frogs

Height: 6’3”, Weight: 208 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.51*

SPORQ: 59.3*, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.5

Projected Draft Capital: WR2, pick 17

Johnston was a highly rated 4-star recruit coming out of high school — actually the 2nd-highest-rated recruit HC Gary Patterson had signed in 20 years at TCU.

As a true freshman, Johnston led TCU in receiving yards (487) and total touchdowns (2 rushing, 2 receiving), posting a 22-487-2 receiving line on 41 targets (9 games played). His 22.1 yards per reception were the most by a true freshman in Big 12 history (min. 20 receptions). Despite missing one game, Johnston earned a 24.8% YMS and a 1.78 yards per team pass attempt average (Y/TPA). No other Power 5 WR from this class bested those marks as a freshman.

Johnston was more productive as a sophomore – catching 33 of 61 targets for 604 yards and 6 touchdowns in 8 games. If accounting for the four games he missed, Johnston would see his YMS improve to 25.8% and his Y/TPA jump to 2.35. For perspective, 2.35 Y/TPA ranks as the 5th-best sophomore season from any Power 5 WR in this class.

Sonny Dykes replaced Gary Patterson as HC in the following season, implementing a modified Air Raid offense. Both Johnston and TCU would see immediate improvements from the change. The Horned Frogs improbably improved from 5-7 to 13-2, losing to Georgia in the National Championship. In 14 games, Johnston caught 60 of 97 targets for 1,067 yards and 6 touchdowns, showcasing the sort of near-perfect linear improvement we like to see from a WR prospect – 54.1 to 67.1 to 76.2 YPG.

That’s an impressive enough number on its own, but Johnston was also disadvantaged by injury. Johnston dealt with a lingering ankle injury as early as Week 4 (per Sonny Dykes); an injury which forced him out of a Week 9 game after he played only 2 offensive snaps. He would return the next week, but again leave early, and then miss the following game against Iowa State. This injury would continue to bother him throughout the team’s playoff run.

If only excluding that Week 9 2-snap performance against Texas Tech, Johnston’s YPG average would improve to 82.1. And his Y/TPA average jumps to 2.67, which, alongside his 3.05 YPRR average, both ranked 3rd-best among all Power 5 WRs from this class.

And we haven’t yet gotten to the most impressive part of Johnston’s 2022 season, which was just how insanely efficient he was at creating yards on his own after the catch. And, yes, again, despite playing through injury for possibly 87% of his games.

Last season, Johnston averaged 8.9 yards after the catch per reception and 0.32 missed tackles forced per reception. Both numbers rank 11th-best since 2018, among all Power 5 WRs with at least 55 receptions (212 qualifiers). The only other players to rank top-12 on both lists are CeeDee Lamb (2019) and Deebo Samuel (2018).

And Johnston’s analytics profile looks even better within the broader context of his career. For instance, he ranks 3rd-best in the class by career YPRR. By career missed tackles forced per reception (0.39), Johnston ranks best of all 511 qualifying Power 5 WRs since at least 2014 (min. 75 career receptions). And by career yards after the catch per reception, he ranks 18th-best. Some of the players above him on that latter list include DeVonta Smith, CeeDee Lamb, Deebo Samuel, Jaylen Waddle, Brandon Aiyuk, Marquise Brown, Jameson Williams, Kadarius Toney, and Parris Campbell.

For emphasis, it’s insane that Johnston is the best tackle-breaking WR to come out in nearly a decade. But the most impressive stat I’ve seen thus far might be this one…

Throughout his career, TCU averaged 247.3 passing YPG in the games he played (31 games), but only 171.7 passing YPG in the 6 games he missed. It’s typically pretty hard to divorce WR production from QB play, or to exactly quantify a player’s impact on their passing game, but in this case, it’s easy – TCU was 42% better with Johnston on the field. And that’s still somehow underselling it. Last season, 247.3 passing YPG would have ranked 31st-best among all 64 Power 5 schools, while 171.7 passing YPG would have ranked 3rd-worst.

In comparison to the many other players we’ll discuss in this piece, I am seeing a few green flags from within Johnston’s profile. For instance, he offers ideal size (6’3”, 208 pounds) and he ran only 11% of his career routes from the slot. And that’s a key point – all of his numbers look far more impressive within that context (see below).

And better yet – when he was advantaged with slot routes in 2022, he was ludicrously efficient. Last season, Johnston averaged 6.1 YPRR from the slot, the 3rd-best mark by any Power 5 WR (min. 50 slot routes) since 2015. It’s hard to say how much more impressive all of his numbers might look had he spent as much time in the slot as Josh Downs (89%), Jalin Hyatt (88%), or Jordan Addison (60%).

Unfortunately, I’m also finding a whole slew of red flags. In order of importance:

1) 27.1% of Johnston’s career targets came as contested targets. That number ranks 2nd-worst in the class (ahead of only Dontayvion Wicks) and puts him among a truly frightening list of names.

Basically, the concern is this – “If a high number of your targets are contested, that probably means you’re probably not getting open a lot. And if you’re not consistently getting open in college, you're definitely going to struggle to separate in the NFL. And if you’re struggling to separate in the NFL, you’re not going to be a productive fantasy asset. In fact, you might be a colossal bust, as is surely the case with Johnston’s closest cohorts.”

But wait, it gets worse. Although Johnston saw a high number of contested targets, he wasn’t very good at converting them into receptions. In fact, his career contested target conversion rate (40.7%) ranks worst among the projected top-15 WRs in this class.

Truthfully, I don’t have a great counter for this, other than to say I imagine poor QB play may be making these numbers look worse than they are. (Although this was also infamously said of Jalen Reagor when he was coming out at TCU.) Max Duggan graded out fairly well as a passer per PFF, but he also ranks as only the projected QB13 in this year’s class, and his aforementioned on/off splits without Johnston were highly suspect. Further, in Duggan’s own words, “Quentin makes my job pretty easy. I can just kind of close my eyes and throw it up to him, and he usually bails me out.”

But yes, this is a very big red flag, unlike the next two.

2) Like with Mims, Johnston was never terribly productive in any season (career-high of 76.4 YPG vs. Mims’ 83.3). Like with Mims, Johnston doesn’t really profile as a high-volume receiver (which is especially important in full-point PPR leagues). Johnston cleared 5 receptions only 4 times in his career (vs. Mims’ 3, or Jordan Addison’s 22). Like with Mims, Johnston’s production was highly volatile throughout his career, averaging 116.3 YPG in his top 50% of games vs. just 18.6 in his bottom 50% of games. (Mims was at 26.3 vs. 103.6.) Like with Mims, an extremely high percentage of Johnston’s career receiving touchdowns have come on deep targets (79% vs. Mims’ 95%). This is especially weird in Johnston’s case – you’d think a 6’3”, 208-pound WR would have more than just 3 (!) career red zone touchdowns.

Obviously, because I like Mims so much, I don’t find these secondary concerns all that alarming. But also – now I’m reminded yet again – why exactly does the NFL Mock Draft Cognizanti have Johnston 58 picks higher than Mims by projected draft capital?

3) He may or may not be injury-prone, given all of the games he’s missed and injuries suffered over the past several seasons. He has one of the worst career drop rates in the class (10.2%). And he recorded a 7th percentile 3-Cone (7.31).

Want to know I think of this class as a whole? This guy is my WR3.


Yes, that one red flag is legitimately worrisome. But Johnston was good enough in a number of our most-predictive metrics (such as yards after the catch per reception, age-adjusted YPRR, etc.) to rank firmly as my model’s WR3.

As far as comparisons go, he’s unique — he’s a big WR who plays small, and although he’s a YAC superstar, he’s more of a finesse guy after the catch than a true bully like so many other WRs at his size. But I did like this one a lot:

4. Jordan Addison, WR, USC Trojans

Height: 5’11”, Weight: 173 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.49

SPORQ: 16.0, Former: 3-star, Age: 21.1

Projected Draft Capital: WR3, pick 39

Addison was a 3-star prospect who played quarterback and wide receiver in high school. He was recruited by Notre Dame to play cornerback but instead opted to remain at wide receiver and play for Pittsburgh.

Addison was immediately productive as an 18-year-old true freshman, leading the Panthers in targets (87), receptions (60), yards (662), and touchdowns (4). Among all Power 5 WRs from this class, only Kayshon Boutte had more yards as a freshman (735).

As impressive as Addison was as a freshman, he was arguably the best WR in football as a sophomore… or at least that’s what the Biletnikoff Award voters decided in 2021. Through 14 games, he totaled a 100-1,593-17 line as a receiver and a 7-56-1 line as a runner. For perspective, that was good for Power 5-highs in yards from scrimmage (1,649) and total touchdowns (18), and the 15th- and 11th-best marks by any Power 5 WR since at least 2000. Across this sample, we’ll find only five Power 5 WRs besting both marks in a single season: Larry Fitzgerald (2003), Ja’Marr Chase (2019), DeVonta Smith (2020), Michael Crabtree (2007), and Justin Blackmon (2010).

Addison then transferred to USC, linking up with Lincoln Riley and QB Caleb Williams (the 2022 Heisman winner and consensus No. 1 overall player in the 2024 Draft). He would go on to lead the team in receptions (59), yards (875), and touchdowns (8) despite missing three games. Per HC Lincoln Riley, Addison suffered “a really bad high ankle sprain” against Utah, and “wasn’t the same after that.” That said, he wasn’t significantly less productive over those final four games (83.5 vs. 72.5 YPG), but he did see his YMS fall from 28.5% to 20.6%.

He finished the season ranking 4th in YPRR among all Power 5 WRs in this class (2.78) and would have remained at 4th even if we removed those final four games (2.88). But, interestingly – and much unlike with Quentin Johnston – USC’s passing game was actually more productive without him, and significantly so, averaging 411.7 passing YPG in the three games he missed versus 314.8 in the 11 games he played.

Addison finished his career ranking 4th-best among all Power 5 WRs in both career YPRR (2.71) and career depth-adjusted YPT over expectation (+25.1%).

These numbers are objectively good, but under the surface, are far less impressive than they appear.

Sure, Addison was insanely productive as a sophomore. But his sophomore season doesn’t come anywhere close to matching that of Smith-Njigba – Biletnikoff voters be damned! That same year Smith-Njigba had 2 more receiving yards on a whopping 143 fewer routes. That’s a massive advantage – Smith-Njigba led the Power 5 in YPRR that year (4.00), but Addison ranked only 8th (2.94). Although both played exclusively with Round 1-caliber QBs throughout their NCAA careers, Smith-Njigba was disproportionately disadvantaged in terms of target competition – Addison was surrounded by future UDFAs in comparison to Smtih-Njigba’s future Pro Bowl WRs.

And, digging deeper, things only get scarier from here.

Addison’s 2021 play-caller was Mark Whipple, and, as any profitable CFB DFS player would know, Whipple has long been known as something of a fantasy cheat code for WR1s.

So, sure, it’s impressive that Addison averaged 2.94 YPRR in 2021, even if it’s not Smith-Njigba-levels of great. But it also looks far less impressive within the context of Whipple’s career norms (2.56 YPRR). And it looks far less impressive in comparison to Round 2 bust Andy Isabella’s 4.15 in 2018. Or worse yet, in comparison to consensus WR16 Trey Palmer’s 3.26 YPRR last season. Sure, Isabella wasn’t playing against Power 5 opponents. But Palmer was – and he wasn’t playing with a Round 1-caliber QB either!

And then, as we dig deeper into his numbers, more warts begin to appear.

At the top of this article, I talked about the worrisome or somewhat fraudulent nature of college slot production, especially deep slot production. And in that 2021 season, Addison gained a whopping 522 yards on deep passes coming from the slot (33% of his total receiving yards).

Further, 33.3% of Addison’s career catches have come on screens, the most by any projected top-15 WR in this class, and well ahead of next-closest Jalin Hyatt’s 25.9%. This isn’t as alarming of a statistic as our previous point – manufactured production such as screens can be viewed in a positive light, as teams trying to get the ball in the hands of their best play-maker – but is generally more of a negative than a positive.

On top of that, 21.5% of Addison’s career targets have come on rub routes and pick plays – implying he was often being schemed open rather than winning via true route running prowess and athleticism. This led all projected top-7 WRs in this class, with Jalin Hyatt – this draft class’ poster boy for problematic production profiles – ranking next-closest at 9.9%.

All of this manufactured production and schemed volume also becomes a little more concerning in light of the fact that Addison never did much damage on his own with the ball in his hands.

And we have one more red flag before we get to Addison’s biggest one – he’s dropped one out of every 13.5 career targets, the worst mark of any projected top-15 WR in this class. For perspective, that’s more than half that of Cedric Tillman’s one drop every 33.4 career targets.

This all may feel a little nitpicky, but it does help explain why he ranks where he does – in spite of his hyper-productive sophomore campaign. And it also makes his other big crimson-red flag a little more worrisome.

At the Combine, Addison measured in at 5’11” and 173 pounds. Only 29 WRs since 2000 weighed in at less, and only 33 posted a worse BMI (24.1). Of these names, DeSean Jackson was the only clear hit, and Addison certainly doesn’t have Jackson’s speed. Instead, he recorded the exact same 40-yard-dash time as Delanie Walker (4.49), weighing 67 pounds lighter. In other words, he posted a 10th-percentile Speed Score (85.1) to go alongside a 31st-percentile vertical jump (34.0). Again, there were few successful fantasy WRs with a similar Speed Score – you’ll only find names like Brandon Lloyd, Lance Moore, Hunter Renfrow, Bernard Berrian, Mario Manningham, Danny Amendola, and Harry Douglas, who were more “rosterable” than “consistently good’ or “great.” This all added up to a death knell-equivalent 16.0 SPORQ Score.

Addison’s athletic profile is very concerning and is factored into his final ranking here. But I will say that the NFL seems to care less about height, weight, and BMI in recent years. Athleticism is also pretty overrated for WRs in general, and seemingly irrelevant for slot WRs. (Addison profiles to me as a prototypical PPR-cheat-code slot WR, given that 57% of his career yards have come from the slot.) Further, if Addison is so unathletic, why was he so frequently used as a runner and returner, and was so successful in those roles? On that last point, I’m reminded of a few SPORQ outliers in Antonio Brown, Jarvis Landry, and Tyler Boyd.


There are definitely some pretty serious concerns from within Addison’s analytics profile, but every prospect we’ve yet to discuss has his own flavor of concerns. And this shouldn’t entirely overshadow Addison’s boxscore dominance. Ultimately – after fully weighing all pros and cons – his profile is still strong enough to rank as my overall WR4 in this year’s (fairly weak) class.

5. Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina Tar Heels

Height: 5’9”, Weight: 171 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.48

SPORQ: 22.3, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.6

Projected Draft Capital: WR6, pick 50

Downs was a track star in high school (finishing 3rd at the 2018 7A Georgia state championships in the triple jump and 4th in the long jump), as well as a top-100 recruit nationally for football. He passed up a dozen other offers from Power 5 schools to link up with his uncle Dre Bly (current DB coach and former Pro Bowl CB) to play at North Carolina.

After an unspectacular true freshman campaign (7-119-3), Downs put together a sophomore season that only Smith-Njigba and Addison from this class could rival. Through 13 games, Downs racked up 101 receptions, 1,335 yards, and 8 touchdowns. In other words, he was only 4 receptions shy of the Power 5-high, and behind only Power 5 WRs Smith-Njigba, Addison, and Jameson Williams in receiving yards. His 1,335 yards were 2.2X more than the next-closest UNC receiver and accounted for a staggering 40.2% YMS. That was the best single-season mark in the class and the 15th-best mark by any Power 5 underclassman since 2000. He also averaged 3.52 yards per team pass attempt — the best single-season mark in the class, and the 11th-best mark by a Power 5 underclassman since 2000. Every player in the top 10 above him on that list (minus Tyler Johnson) was drafted on Day 1 or Day 2.

Downs was productive again in 2022, turning 116 targets into 94 catches, 1,029 yards, and 11 touchdowns in 11 games. This would make him one of only two Power 5 WRs from this year’s class to record multiple 1,000-yard seasons (the other being A.T. Perry). And he accomplished this feat, despite missing three games, and conceivably playing hurt for some early part of the season (suffering a knee injury in his team’s season opener). He also earned an 86.5 receiving grade from PFF, which ranked 2nd-best in the class.

All that happened, and it matters. But…

89% of his career receiving yards have come from the slot (most among all top-30 projected WRs from this class). Remember, it’s a lot easier to produce from the slot in college that it is on the outside, or than it will be in the pros. But this number (plus his size) suggests he projects as a slot-only WR at the next level. (With this being far more likely for Downs than it is with Addison and Smith-Njigba.) As such, I could see him being taken off the field in 2WR sets, limiting both his ceiling and floor. And this will also make him far more landing spot-dependent than any player we’ve already discussed (ideally, he goes to a team that lives in 11 personnel and has a long history of featuring slot WRs in the passing game.)

Downs also benefited from high-level QB play throughout his career – Drake Maye is the consensus No. 3 overall player in the 2024 Draft, and although Sam Howell only had Round 5 draft capital, he is the presumptive opening day starter for the Washington Commanders. Downs also further benefited from minimal target competition throughout his career.

Downs’ production is also the sort of production I tend to devalue – which is to say, he benefited from a high number of manufactured touches coming on screens and throws with a negative aDOT. Without screens, Downs would have fallen from 102.7 YPG to 84.9 in 2021; only 4 other WRs in this class have ever bested 102.7 YPG in a single season, but 8 other WRs have bested 84.9 YPG if excluding screens. Further, a whopping 19% of his yards were generated from throws coming from behind the line of scrimmage. If excluding all such throws, his YPT average would jump from 9.3 to 10.0, but his yards after the catch per reception (YAC/R) would fall from 7.5 to a pedestrian 5.9.

And Downs didn’t seriously pop in any of the metrics that matter most to my model. He ranked 5th-best in the class in YPRR in 2021 (2.80) but fell to just 19th-best in 2022 (2.17). And he averaged only 4.0 yards after the catch per reception (14th percentile) in his final season. Without screens, his career YAC/R ranks near the bottom of this class, which is especially concerning in light of his low-aDOT slot archetype.

And we haven’t yet discussed Downs’ biggest red flag… like Addison, Downs’ size and athletic profile are both troubling. At the Combine, Downs checked in at 5’9” (3rd percentile) and 171 pounds (2nd percentile), good for a 25.3 BMI (1st percentile). So the weight and BMI issues we discussed with Addison also apply here. But that height is also worrisome – since 1997 there have been only two WRs to measure in at the same height or less and post multiple 1,000-yard seasons throughout their career: Steve Smith Sr. and Wes Welker. As expected, Downs was impressive in the jumps (92nd percentile Burst Score), but he recorded a 10th-percentile Speed Score based on his 4.48 40-yard dash. All of this added up for a death-knell equivalent 22.3 SPORQ Score, only slightly above Addison.

This isn’t great. And unfortunately, nearly all of this seems to support and then amplify all of the common film-related complaints. From an anonymous scout (courtesy of Bob McGinn):

“Good little player, but just no explosiveness at all. They scheme the hell out of him with all the little gadget stuff they do to get him open. He runs the little herky-jerky, little route stuff. He’s not a crisp route runner. He does his own thing kind of to get open, which doesn’t really transfer well [to the pros].”


When first looking at Downs’ box score stats, I thought I’d love him in spite of his short stature, slight frame, and underwhelming athleticism. Instead, following a more thorough investigation, I came away pretty underwhelmed. Nonetheless, at least his projected draft capital is good. And if it’s accurate, my post-Draft model will like him quite a bit more – it will overlook a lot of the metrics I value in which he fell short, and instead primarily use his draft capital as a proxy for talent, and then boost him from there based on his PPR-cheat-code archetype (7.2 catches per game in his career).

Ultimately, I don’t really love him. But, at least, I do like him more than all of the names I have ranked beneath him in this article.

6. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College Eagles

Height: 5’9”, Weight: 182 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.42

SPORQ: 54.8, Former: 3-star, Age: 22.5

Projected Draft Capital: WR4, pick 26

As a 19-year-old true freshman, Flowers led Boston College’s receivers in YFS (536), with a surprising 36% of that coming on the ground (27-195-1, 7.22 YPC). The next season, he led the team in total touchdowns (10) and receiving yards (892), well above the next-closest receiver – future NFL TE Hunter Long (5 touchdowns, 685 yards). As a junior, Flowers again led the team in receiving yards (746), with 2.1X more than the next-closest Boston College receiver. And then, as a senior, his 1,077 receiving yards were a whopping 2.8X as much as their next-closest receiver, and his 12 touchdowns were a school record.

By Dominator Rating – the average of a player’s receiving yardage market share (YMS) and his receiving touchdown market share (TDMS) – Flowers has finished 2nd-best (2020), 2nd-best (2021), and best (2022) among all Power 5 WRs in this class. And his 2022 season was a historically great mark, ranking 10th-best among all Power 5 WRs since 2015.

Unfortunately, Dominator Rating isn’t a very predictive metric (as the above chart clearly shows). And, even more unfortunately, this was just about the only metric in which Flowers flashed. Well, this metric alongside its composing parts – YMS and TDMS – which are similarly overrated in predictiveness, and especially so if we fail to adjust for a player’s level of target competition (Hunter Long was Boston College’s only other non-UDFA-caliber receiver).

The NFL is telling us that Flowers is a likely Round 1 Draft pick. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler is telling us that this is possibly the first wide receiver drafted in Round 1. But my model is telling me that this is a player who is quite “mid” in comparison to all of the names we’ve already discussed…

Among all Power 5 WRs, Flowers – in his best seasons – recorded scores ranking in the: 82nd percentile for YPRR, 91st percentile for age-adjusted YPRR, 94th percentile for yards per team pass attempt, and the 76th percentile for yards after the catch per reception. These numbers are fine, possibly quite good, but nowhere near Round 1-worthy. At the very least, he stacked up poorly with the rest of the top projected WRs in this class, in spite of the advantage of being older and having more seasons played than any of the following names:

The above chart doesn’t account for games missed, which hurts Quentin Johnston. It doesn’t remove screens in yards after the catch per reception, which helps Josh Downs. And it doesn’t account for target competition in all market share metrics, which helps Flowers and definitely hurts someone like Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Flowers certainly wowed in the market share metrics but also didn’t come out well ahead of names like Trey Flowers or Charlie Jones.

The pro-Flowers argument is basically: “Boston College was an abject dumpster fire throughout his four years there. So, understandably, he underwhelmed in many key metrics. But his dominance clearly showed in all market share metrics, which might be the only place it would show if you’re playing in a dumpster fire-like offense.” Although I think that’s fair, you can say the same thing about a million prospects who never panned out. Maybe he’s one of the true outliers – like Antonio Brown and Steve Smith Sr. (his most common NFL comps). But analytically speaking, he looks indistinguishable from Navy SEAL and Boston College-alumnus Alex Amidon.

To aid in Flowers’ defense, only 30% of his career yards have come from the slot. And his QB play wasn’t just bad, it was easily the worst of any player we’ve discussed thus far. Among all 65 Power 5 teams, Boston College ranked 55th (2019), 32nd, 47th, and 57th (2022) in PFF Pass Grade throughout his tenure. But now, a few more negatives…

Flowers was a four-year player, which is typically a major concern for most dynasty analysts. But this doesn’t bother me so much, because 1) he (per sources) had late-Day 2 grades as a junior, 2) this doesn’t really matter as much now that we’re in the NIL era, 3) he wanted to become the first person in his family’s history (which includes 13 siblings) to earn a college degree.

But a clear red flag is that he’s exactly the same height as Downs, so all of the same concerns apply here as well (only four WRs this height or shorter to reach 1,000 yards in a season since 1997). He’s thicker and more athletic than Downs, but with much shorter arms. Due to his limited catch radius, he may be more landing-spot dependent than most — he may especially struggle without a hyper-accurate QB. But to be fair, that didn’t seem to slow him down too much in college – he saw contested targets at one of the lowest rates in the class (implying above-average levels of route running and separation).

In spite of his size, he still tested out as an average athlete for me (54.8), rather than in the potential death-knell range like Downs and Addison.


Flowers’ production profile was more “fine” than “great,” and his size is definitely a concern. But he still checks in as my WR6 in spite of that. And I could see him jumping up a spot or two in my final rankings if Fowler is right on his projected draft capital.

7. Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee Volunteers

Height: 6’0”, Weight: 176 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.40

SPORQ: 42.2, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.4

Projected Draft Capital: WR5, pick 38

Hyatt was a highly sought-after 4-star recruit, who left high school with four state championship victories in four seasons, as well as the most career receiving yards (3,624) and receiving touchdowns (57) in South Carolina state history.

Despite starting in only one game as an 18.9-year-old true freshman, Hyatt ranked 3rd on the team in receiving yards (276), not too far behind NFL Day 2 picks Josh Palmer (475) and Velus Jones Jr. (280), and well ahead of projected Day 2 pick Cedric Tillman (67). And this should look a little more impressive when factoring in that these players are all (respectively) 2.0, 4.4, and 1.4 years older than Hyatt.

As a sophomore, Hyatt started the first game of the season and led the team in receiving yards with 62. However, he played off the bench in the team’s next game, and then added injury to the insult. Whether due to that leg injury, mental health issues, and/or due to a lack of focus and attention to detail, Hyatt wouldn’t start another game throughout the remainder of the season, finishing with a modest 21-226-2 line in 13 games.

But in 2022, Hyatt bounced back in the biggest way possible, winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award and putting together one of the most productive seasons of any player we’ve discussed thus far. Through 12 games, Hyatt turned 89 targets into 67 catches, 1,267 yards, and 15 touchdowns. There’s no way around it, this was an elite season by nearly all of our favorite metrics…

Among all seasons from all Power 5 WRs from within this class, Hyatt’s 2023 season ranks: 3rd-best by YPG (105.6), 2nd-best by touchdowns per game (1.25), 3rd-best by YPT (14.2), 3rd-best by YPTOE (+54%), 4th-best by YPRR (3.27), 4th-best by yards per team pass attempt (3.00), and 6th-best by yards after the catch per reception (7.30). And although it may not be as predictive, he did hand Alabama one of the biggest ass-whoopings in their program’s history, catching 6 of 8 targets for 207 yards and 5 touchdowns.

My model really liked Hyatt. Without adjusting any of his production downwards (for a multitude of reasons) it could have him as high as WR3 in this class. Unfortunately, I feel just about all of his production needs to be heavily retrenched.

For one thing (which we’ll discuss again at length later), Hyatt certainly benefited from Cedric Tillman’s injury — it was an ankle injury that required surgery, capping him at only 6 games played (and, according to his HC, “not even close to 100%” in at least half of those games). Excluding just the one game Tillman initially suffered that ankle injury (in the 2nd quarter) and Tillman’s first game back with a limited workload, Hyatt failed to reach 75 receiving yards in each game Tillman played over the past two seasons. In the 6 games Tillman completely missed, Hyatt averaged 123.5 YPG.

But more than that, Hyatt seems to be a perfect example of why “not all college production is created equal.”

Tennessee HC Josh Huepel’s offense – often called the “veer and shoot” – is most heavily influenced by and most stylistically similar to that of former Baylor HC Art Briles. During his 13-year tenure as a college HC, Briles saw eight different WRs eclipse 1,000 yards in a single season. Four Briles-coached wide receivers were drafted in the third round or earlier, and another was an early supplemental pick. And yet just one receiver – Josh Gordon, the 2012 supplemental second-rounder, who had 714 yards in his best season at Baylor – became an impact player for fantasy.

This offense is commonly criticized as “gimmicky,” an impossible playstyle for the NFL, or at least a nightmare for us to project any player from this system into the NFL. For the wide receivers, Tennessee prioritizes generating free releases into space. They accomplish this with extremely wide splits (far wider than seen in the NFL) featuring stacks/bunches that implement switch releases, often creating confusion via rub routes and/or pick plays. This may be somewhat common for a number of prospects within this class, but no prospect was a bigger beneficiary of this defensive manipulation than Hyatt, who was often hidden within the stack, basically ensuring a free release where Hyatt could lean solely on his 4.40-speed.

Hyatt faced press coverage on only 31 snaps last season, recording just one reception against press coverage. He ran only 19 routes as an isolated receiver. 88% of Hyatt’s career routes have come from the slot, and 49% of his career yards have come on deep passes.

Remember, we spoke earlier about the fraudulent nature of deep slot production, especially with speedy wideouts lined up against slower slot cornerbacks and safeties — this is a major efficiency hack and a borderline cheat code at the college level. Hyatt wasn’t used at all like your typical deep threat, because all of his routes were coming from the slot. And he wasn’t used at all like a typical slot WR, because so much of his production came deep, and so few of his receptions actually came inside the numbers.

Instead, it was as though he was being deployed deliberately to exploit this loophole or efficiency hack. The PFF Draft Guide had this to say of Hyatt: “Role was comical for projecting to NFL. Just vertical routes from the slot.” Indeed, last season Hyatt gained a whopping 527 yards on deep slot targets (42% of his total yards), well above the next-closest Power 5 WR from this class (Trey Palmer’s 270). He averaged 21.1 YPT on all such throws, but without that, his YPT average falls from 14.2 (best in the Power 5 last year) to 11.6 (10th-best).

Throughout his career, Hyatt has gained 329 yards in stack formations (19%), the most by any Power 5 player since 2014. The next-closest player who was actually drafted by an NFL team was Heupel's former player Gabriel Davis (217).

Hyatt also gained 292 yards on busted coverage over the last two seasons — again, the most by any player over this span.

Within this context, perhaps now it’s a little understandable why PFF gave the Biletnikoff winner a grade of just 77.4 (24th among Power 5 WRs).

On top of all these concerns, Hyatt then seriously underwhelmed at the Combine. After months of Will Fuller comparisons (6’0”, 186 lbs, 4.32 40), Hyatt showed up a lot skinnier (6’0”, 176 lbs) and tested significantly slower (4.40 40). In fact, he showed up just one pound heavier than DeVonta Smith (6’0”, 175 lbs), which is – you guessed it – another massive red flag.


Basically, Hyatt was advantaged by a number of efficiency hacks stacked on top of each other. And his season looks far less impressive within this context.

So, we’re left with a balancing act between “This dude won the Biletnikoff Award last year, he’s really freaking good” and “He has a massively fraudulent production profile. Who cares that he won the Biletnikoff? Corey Coleman won the Biletnikoff in the same scheme.”

Although both points are true, it’s tough for me to accurately determine just to what extent his numbers need to be handicapped without having full access to some of the data I listed above. In any case, I feel pretty good about this ranking as an appropriate middle ground between both points.

8. Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU Fighting Tigers

Height: 5’11”, Weight: 195 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.50

SPORQ: 43.3, Former: 5-star, Age: 21.4

Projected Draft Capital: WR14, pick 103

Boutte was a vaunted 5-star recruit, as well as the No. 24-overall player and the No. 2 WR from the 2020 recruiting class.

As an 18.3-year-old true freshman, Boutte took great advantage of Ja’Marr Chase’s opt-out year as well as Terrace Marshall’s late-season injury. He finished the season with 73.5 YPG, the 6th-best mark by any age <18.5 WR since at least 2006. Amari Cooper, Rondale Moore, Sammy Watkins, Marquess Wilson, and Xavier Worthy (a player still in school) are the only players ahead of him on this list.

Over the final 3 games of the season (uncoincidentally, the 3 games Marshall missed that year), Boutte averaged an obscene 157.7 YPG with a single-game low of 108. Included in that number is an SEC record 308 yards in their final game of the season.

The following season, Boutte was leading the Power 5 in receiving touchdowns (9) and was regarded as the front-runner for the Biletnikoff Award before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. At the time of his injury, he had 2.5X as many career receiving yards and 3.5X as many career receiving touchdowns as Smith-Njigba.

Boutte’s numbers looked dominant in 2020, dominant in 2021, and then dreadful in 2022. In fact, my model might have had him six spots higher had he simply opted out of his 2022 season. And maybe that would have been for the best – Boutte’s broken ankle required multiple surgeries to repair it. He told The Athletic just shortly before the season opener: “I still go to practice every now and then kind of scared to plant a certain way.” Add to that, he was forced to learn a brand new scheme despite not being able to practice with the team until August.

Within that context, his 2022 season doesn’t seem so bad. And, indeed, the second half of that season did look a lot better than the first – 68.0 YPG vs. 26.0 YPG. So, you can definitely argue there’s some upside here.

But, unfortunately, after the Combine, I stopped finding that argument as compelling as I wanted it to be. And instead, I worry he’s simply now a shell of his former self. For instance, as a high school senior, Boutte ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and posted the 3rd-fastest 200-meter time in the nation (20.89). However, last month at the Combine, Boutte ran the 40-yard dash in just 4.50 seconds. He opted not to re-run at his Pro Day.


Basically, he’s this year’s version of Justyn Ross. So, of course, I’m probably way too high on him.

9. Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee Volunteers

Height: 6’3”, Weight: 213 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.54

SPORQ: 81.5, Former: 3-star, Age: 22.8

Projected Draft Capital: WR7, pick 72

Tillman was a less highly-regarded prospect in comparison to his teammate Hyatt — Tillman was only a 3-star prospect and the No. 246 WR in the 2018 recruiting class.

He struggled to see serious playing time throughout his first three seasons with the Volunteers, compiling a modest 127 yards through 23 games. Although, in his defense, he was playing behind future NFL WRs Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings, Josh Palmer, Velus Jones, and Jalin Hyatt.

Tillman then broke out in 2021, catching 64 of 86 targets for 1,081 yards and 12 scores. Competing for targets against Day 2 NFL pedigrees in Jones and Hyatt, Tillman earned a 32.3% YMS – the 5th-best single-season mark by any Power 5 WR in this class, and better than Hyatt’s 29.9% in 2022.

Tillman started out hot in 2022, posting a 15-230-1 line through two full games (in contrast to Hyatt’s 13-101-1). Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle injury in the team’s third game that required “tightrope” surgery. He would return for three more games (20-171-2), but – according to his HC – was far from 100% in those games.

Tillman certainly benefited from the so-called “gimmicky” nature of Josh Heupel’s offense, but nowhere near to the same degree as Hyatt. For instance, only 11% of Tillman’s career routes in college came from the slot, and only 16% of his yards came on deep slot targets over the last two seasons.

Although Hyatt’s numbers were insane in his Biletnikoff Award-winning campaign, those numbers weren’t head and shoulders above Tillman’s. In fact, they were basically identical over their last 11 healthy starts:

Over the past two seasons, Hyatt never once reached 75 receiving yards in any game Tillman played in full.

Over his final eight games prior to injury, Tillman was averaging an obscene 127.1 YPG (better than that of Hyatt without Tillman). So, who is to say what might have happened had he stayed healthy in 2022? It’s certainly plausible that his 2022 campaign might have overshadowed Hyatt’s, and all mock drafters today would all be viewing Tillman as the superior prospect.

We can play these “what if” games all day. But, ultimately, Tillman did get hurt. And Hyatt was extremely dominant without him. And although their numbers aren’t too dissimilar, things tilt more in Hyatt’s direction when we age- or experience-adjust, factoring in that Hyatt is also 1.4 years younger with two fewer seasons of college experience.


Tillman does offer some rare size (6’3”, 213 lbs) and athleticism (81.5 SPORQ) for this class. And he played predominantly on the outside (11% career slot rate), unlike so many of the names we discussed. But beyond that, there are similar scheme concerns to that of Hyatt. And he’s ultimately just a 5th-year senior with only one impressive season under his belt.

Other / Notes / Quick Hits

* Yeah, in case you can’t tell, I think the dynasty community is massively overrating this class. Even if a lot of these players are drafted early, I suspect positional value and bloated WR contracts may be a driving factor.

* There wasn’t a single non-Power 5 WR among the above list of names, and that wasn’t a coincidence; my model has a major bias against small school WRs.

* Nathaniel “Tank” Dell (WR10, age 23.5): Among the non-Power 5 WRs, my Production Model definitely liked Dell head and shoulders above the rest. Over the past two seasons, he leads all WRs in receptions (199) and yards (2,727), while also ranking 2nd in touchdowns (29). All of this is very impressive, and I think Houston is of a higher caliber than most of the teams in the Group of 5 – they’ll be joining the Big 12 in 2023 alongside Puka Nacua’s BYU Cougars and Tyler Scott’s Cincinnati Bearcats. But also, he’s 23.5 years old and only 5’’8” and 165 pounds. Since 2000, there’s never been an NFL WR shorter or lighter to average 11.0 FPG in a single season.

* Tyler Scott (WR11, age 21.5): After Dell, Scott stands out as the most enticing non-Power 5 WR from this class. His production profile looks similar to that of his former teammate, Round 2 NFL WR Alec Pierce. And in my opinion, his profile appears significantly more impressive than Pierce’s if age-adjusted, experience-adjusted (Scott was an RB all throughout high school), and QB-adjusted (Desmond Ridder went in Round 3, but Ben Bryant might not even be starting for the Bearcats this year). On that last point, Scott did appear dominant by one important metric (see below), which isn’t at all influenced by QB play. Granted, he’s nowhere near the same level of athlete as Pierce (95.4 SPORQ), but he did post a 4.37 40-yard-dash time at his Pro Day.

* Rashee Rice (WR12, age 23.0): Rice led the FBS and set an SMU record with 112.9 YPG in 2022, just ahead of 2008 Aldrick Robinson (104.7), 2016 Courtland Sutton (103.8), and 2009 Emmanuel Sanders (103.0). And he did this despite playing with a broken toe for 75% of these games. Last season, he ranked behind only Jalin Hyatt, Trey Palmer, and Marvin Harrison Jr. in YPRR (min. 275 routes run). We don’t typically like small school (non-Power 5) WRs and WRs who don’t break out until their fourth season, but – in his defense – he was playing behind Danny Gray (Round 3), Kylen Granson (Round 4), and James Proche (Round 6) for much of his career.

* Xavier Hutchinson (WR13, age 22.9): Although Hutchinson never had a season quite as productive as Rice’s 2022, he was more consistently productive and productive a lot earlier (and against tougher competition, playing in the Big 12 for Iowa State). He averaged 2.07 yards per team pass attempt in 2020, which ranked 3rd-best among all Power 5 WRs in this class. And he would see an improvement upon that number in 2021 (2.22) and again in 2022 (2.45). In 2022, he boasted a 37.3% YMS, which ranked 2nd-best among all Power 5 WRs in this class, and his PFF grade of 89.7 led the class (slightly above his 3rd-best finish in 2021). He was initially higher than both Scott and Rice, but lost some ground due to a lackluster performance at the Combine (36.1 SPORQ).

* Jonathan Mingo (WR14, age 22.0): Mingo is an elite athlete (97.3 SPORQ) and a former 4-star recruit. But he’s also a 4-year player who didn’t break out until his final season. Although, in his defense, an injury did rob him of what may have been a breakout junior campaign. (In September of 2021, he fractured his left foot, which required surgery. This caused him to miss seven games as a junior, and required a second surgery in April of 2022.) Before missing those seven games in 2021, Mingo was averaging 5.3 receptions, 101.3 yards, and 1.0 touchdowns per game through 3 games (2.67 YPRR, 30.1% YMS). So, perhaps within this context, it’s understandable why he didn’t break out until his 4th year. But then again, it wasn’t much of a true breakout either – Malik Heath (consensus proj. WR51) actually led the team in receiving yards. Or at least, it only seems that way… To play devil’s advocate yet again, Mingo was averaging 3.45 YPRR through the team’s first 6 games. If that number held across the full season, he would have led the Power 5 in YPRR. So why did his numbers drop? According to Director of the Senior Bowl Jim Nagy via the Fantasy Points Podcast, teams started focusing in more on Mingo with “extra defensive attention” and so the offense turned away from him to Heath’s benefit. But digging deeper, I think Mississippi Score Board has the right answer – “Mingo caught 51 passes for 861 yards and five touchdowns last season. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story. When Ole Miss ran out of tight ends due to injuries, Mingo filled in a lot of the time. His 6-foot-2, 220-pound body allowed him to do so. It certainly cost him catches.” Indeed, Mingo’s 6-game hot-streak and then decline perfectly coincides with an in-game Week 6 injury to Ole Miss TE Michael Trigg. From that point on, Mingo spent 23% of his snaps lined up inline (up from 2%). So within this context, his analytics profile does appear significantly more impressive… Ultimately, my model – once athleticism was factored in – didn’t dislike him anywhere near as much as I expected it to. And I personally find the upside argument to be quite persuasive.

Notes: This blurb was re-written post-Draft to account for the added context I missed (regarding Michael Trigg’s injury). His ranking and all rankings in this article remain unchanged post-Draft for the sake of credibility. But know that had I noticed this pre-Draft, I’m sure I would have had Mingo much higher in my rankings. Mea culpa for missing it.

* A.T. Perry (WR15, age 23.5): Perry joins Josh Downs as the only Power 5 WRs in this class to record multiple 1,000-yard seasons. (Have I mentioned this is a fairly underwhelming class?) There wasn’t much fraudulent about his profile – 9% of his career routes from the slot, only 4 career receptions on screens – and he does offer ideal size (6’ 3.5”, 198 lbs) for the position. But he failed to fully pop in any of the efficiency metrics my model truly values. And by one key metric – career yards after the catch per reception – he ranked worst among all Combine-invite WRs from this class (3.1). Further, although Perry’s 1,293 yards and 15 touchdowns are the most by any Dave Clawson WR since 2010, Clawson has had a high number of similarly productive WRs who all went undrafted by the NFL (e.g. Jaquarii Roberson, Kendall Hinton, Sage Surratt, Greg Dortch, and Kamar Jorden). So, I suspect there may be something weird going on with this scheme that the NFL is more cognizant of than my model might be. As such, I bumped him down a few spots in my rankings.

* Jayden Reed (WR16, age 23.0): Reed is interesting, if only because I mentioned him in this space last year as a reason why I wasn’t so high on Skyy Moore – “Reed’s 2018 season (age: 18.4) with the Broncos was significantly more impressive than Moore’s breakout 2019 season (age: 19.0).” In 2021, after transferring to Michigan State, Reed averaged 2.57 yards per team pass attempt, which ranked 5th-best among all Power 5 WRs from this class (behind Downs, Smith-Njigba, Addison, and Tillman). His 2022 season was plagued by injury.

* Trey Palmer (WR17, age 22.0): Palmer’s 2022 season – his fourth season of college ball but his first with Nebraska – was insanely impressive, legitimately one of the best seasons by any player in this class. But more than anything, I think that season serves as a reminder that Jordan Addison is being a little overrated by the dynasty community. Still, I suppose, he is a freak athlete (91.9 SPORQ). And if Jordan Addison is going in Round 1 of your rookie draft, why not take Palmer a few rounds later?

* Puca Nacua (WR18, age 21.9): I think Nacua is an interesting deep sleeper, despite his Round 6 projected draft capital. He wasn’t quite a full-time player at BYU for much of this sample – which is definitely a concern – but he did average 3.48 YPRR over the past two seasons. Among all Combine-invite WRs from this year’s class, that ranks 2nd-best, behind only Jaxon Smith-Njigba (3.73). Over this span, he added a whopping 39-357-5 line as a runner (9.2 YPC). And, last season, he earned a 90.1 PFF receiving grade, which led all FBS WRs from this year’s class.

* Michael Wilson (WR19, age 23.2): Because Wilson was so dominant at the Senior Bowl – (he would have earned my vote for Senior Bowl Player of the Week) – I wanted to like him a lot more than my model did. Wilson dealt with injuries all throughout his playing career, but still hit a 20% YMS in each of his last four seasons (in games he was active). That said, even after injury adjustments, his analytics profile still looks inferior to that of Stanford WRs J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Simi Fehoko. As such, my model didn’t like him quite enough for him to earn anything more than this throwaway blurb.

* Parker Washington (WR20, age 21.1): To me, Washington looks a lot like a poor man’s Jahan Dotson (his former Penn State teammate). How much is that worth? According to my model, not much more than a mid-Round 4 pick in rookie drafts.

* Charlie Jones (WR21, age: 24.5): Similarly to Trey Palmer, I think Jones’ impressive 2022 season exists only to remind us that Rondale Moore and David Bell probably aren’t significantly better than a player like Greg Dortch.

Scott Barrett combines a unique background in philosophy and investing alongside a lifelong love of football and spreadsheets to serve as Fantasy Points’ Chief Executive Officer.