2024 Pre-NFL Draft Rookie WR Dynasty Rankings


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2024 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.

I will be approaching this year’s article only slightly differently from past seasons (2023, 2022, 2021). Rather than rank these prospects entirely by their analytics profile, I am now more heavily weighting both projected draft capital (courtesy of NFL Mock Draft Database) and Brett Whitefield’s film score as key variables. However, the bulk of the analysis below will remain very analytics-driven.

For a deeper dive into a player’s film-based evaluation, please consult the (totally free to read) Fantasy Points Prospect Guide.

Macro Thoughts on the 2024 Class

This is supposedly one of the best and deepest WR classes in recent memory.

The deepest? Maybe.[1] Just be sure to remember that the NFL’s conception of “deep” is much different than ours. In fantasy football, upside is everything; a WR1 like Drake London is still worth something like 1000X that of Tre Tucker, Velus Jones Jr., Danny Gray, and Jalen Tolbert combined. The NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti can get very excited about WR4s who contribute on special teams, but those players shouldn’t be very high on our radar.

The best? Almost certainly not.

ESPN’s Matt Miller speculated we could see eight WRs drafted in Round 1. But I’d give only three WRs from this class a Round 1 grade. Granted, those three WRs are freaking awesome — I have this year’s WR3 ranked above any WR from the last two Draft classes. But after the Big-3, I’m not seeing any WRs with real WR1-upside. I’m just seeing a whole lot of landing spot-dependent WR2s and WR3s.

The most overrated? Possibly. This is not a great draft class based on the analytics. At the very least, it doesn’t look anywhere near as strong or as deep as 2021.

Genuinely, I don’t ever remember a WR class where the film and analytics were so misaligned. And it almost felt as though the less I liked a player’s analytics, the more highly regarded they were by the Mock Draft Industrial Complex. (The inverse of this was true as well.)

Perhaps it’s just that our most predictive metrics don’t matter as much as they used to, now in the COVID / NIL / transfer portal era. Multiple WRs from this class lost their high school senior season or had a shortened college freshman season due to COVID. This would, understandably, impact age-adjusted production or efficiency metrics – our most predictive variables at the WR position. Furthermore, early declare status (which, mind you, was overrated to begin with) should be considered far less predictive now as players are financially incentivized to stay in school longer. But even with all of this factored in, the class looks massively overrated from an analytics perspective.

What metrics are actually predictive at the WR position? Basically, all of the stats I’m using in this article. Generally, the more often a stat is referenced (such as career YPRR), the more predictive it is. For a more thorough breakdown of what matters, or what red flags I typically look for (also what forms of production I deem to be fraudulent) I’d encourage you to read the “Important Position-Specific Background” section from last year’s article.

I don’t know that the analytics are wrong, but I’ll nonetheless be leaning heavier on projected draft capital and Brett Whitefield’s film score more than I ever have previously, while still giving my thoughts on each player’s analytics profile in my writing below.

1. Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State Buckeyes

Height: 6-3, Weight: 209 lbs, 40-yard-dash: N/A

SPORQ: DNQ, Former: 4-star, Age (on Draft Day): 21.7

Proj. Draft Capital: top-6 (WR1)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 93.3 out of 100 (WR1)

Brief Bio

High School: 4-star recruit.

Freshman: Harrison barely played in the regular season — stuck behind Round 1 WRs Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba — before making his first start in the Rose Bowl. With Olave and Wilson both sitting out, Harrison caught 6 of 7 targets for 71 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Sophomore: With Wilson and Olave gone, and Smith-Njigba hurt for the near-entirety of the season, Harrison Jr. exploded for 77 catches, 1,263 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Or, perhaps interestingly, only 3 more catches, 112 more yards, and 2 more total touchdowns than fellow sophomore (5-star recruit, current Devy WR4) Emeka Egbuka on 12 additional targets.[2] However, he ran 92% of his routes from the perimeter (versus Egbuka’s 31.6%) and led all Power 5 WRs in YPRR when lined up out wide (3.18).

Junior: Target competition was similar for Harrison in 2023, but QB play got a whole lot worse, with Harrison’s close friend and high school QB Kyle McCord replacing C.J. Stroud. Harrison more or less replicated his numbers from the previous season (67-1,211-14) but was more dominant in market share metrics. For instance, Harrison’s 100.9 receiving YPG was almost perfectly double that of the next-closest Egbuka’s 51.5.[3]

Analytics Profile

Harrison’s numbers are great — they’re just not quite “generational.”

Before manual adjustments, my model actually viewed one of the other WRs from this class (Malik Nabers) as one of the top-5 best WRs of this past decade, more than a few spots above Harrison. But Harrison beat him out in the end because his analytics profile — unlike that of every other WR in this class — is wholly without warts or red flags.

Well, I mean, we could be a little nitpicky here. Harrison’s numbers stack up nicely next to all of the great Ohio State WR prospects we’ve seen in recent years. But Harrison also had far lesser target competition. Throughout his career, Harrison never did much after the catch – his best seasons by yards after the catch per reception and missed tackles forced per reception only ranking (respectively) in the 39th and 18th percentiles among all Day 1-2 WRs over the past 10 years. And players showing a deficiency in this area rarely make a dramatic improvement at the next level. Further, his contested target rate was almost a little concerning. But probably only “almost” a little concerning – as this was largely a function of usage.

Beyond all of this, his athleticism is a technical question mark, as he opted out of all events at the Combine and then his Pro Day.

But again, these concerns feel nitpicky in light of some more important points.

Harrison easily leads the class in career YPRR when lined up in the slot (3.63) or out wide (2.87). Since 2019, only DeVonta Smith ranked better out-wide (min. >500 routes run), and only Smith and Jaylen Waddle ranked better from the slot (min. >200 routes run). The best comp for Harrison that I’ve heard thus far has been from PFF’s Sam Monson – “Imagine if DeVonta Smith was 40 pounds heavier.” Harrison is probably the most complete and well-rounded WR to come out since Smith, having reached 90-plus yards on all stable routes last year: corner, crossing, go, hitch, in, post, and slant routes.

Harrison Jr. was clearly elite by alignment-adjusted YPRR, but he also leads all Power 5 WRs since 2019 in career first downs per route run (0.137). Since 2014, only Smith (4.21) and Ja’Marr Chase (3.59) averaged more career YPRR against man coverage than Harrison (3.31). He also easily smashes this class in EPA per route run (0.232), and looks historically great by EPA per snap.

Since 2016, Harrison has been one of only seven WRs to post multiple seasons ranking above the 75th percentile by age-adjusted YPRR and to also run fewer than 66% of his career routes from the slot. The other six WRs are CeeDee Lamb, DeVonta Smith, Chris Olave, Tee Higgins, Marquise Brown, and Tylan Wallace.

But, I mean… We could do this all day.

Conclusion / TLDR

Don’t overthink it. Harrison is easily one of the best WR prospects to emerge in a number of years. He’s well worth the 1.01 pick, even in Superflex drafts.

2. Malik Nabers, WR, LSU Tigers

Height: 6-0, Weight: 200 lbs, 40-yard-dash: u4.38

SPORQ: u96.2, Former: 4-star, Age: 20.8 (youngest)

Proj. Draft Capital: top-6 (WR2)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 91.1 out of 100 (WR3)

Brief Bio

High School: 4-star recruit.

Freshman: As an 18-year-old true freshman, Nabers ranked 5th among LSU WRs in routes run but led all WRs, save for Kayshon Boutte, in YPG. He finished the season with a 28-417-4 line in 11 games, with an impressive 1.95 YPRR.

Sophomore: Nabers recorded a 72-1,017-3 line through 14 games. This was 1.5X as many YPG as the next-closest receiver (Round 6 draft pick Kayshon Boutte), and 2.6X as many as projected Round 1 pick Brian Thomas. His 2.44 YPRR was the best mark by any age 19 WR in this class, and easily cleared Boutte (1.49) and Thomas (1.35).

Junior: Through 13 games, Nabers posted an 89-1,569-14 line, leading the Power 5 in YPG (120.6) and YPRR (3.64). By yards per team pass attempt, this was the 7th-best age 20 season in 20 years. And he was even better as the season dragged on, eclipsing 100 receiving yards in 9 of his last 10 full games.

Analytics Profile

My model adores Nabers, who easily has the best age-adjusted profile in the class.[4]

In fact, before manual adjustments, my model viewed Nabers as one of the top-5 WR prospects to come out this past decade.

The issue is… he was quite severely dinged after manual adjustments, due to serious concerns within his profile.

This isn’t merely a pedantic nitpicking[5] of Nabers versus Harrison Jr. – another elite prospect. Although Nabers was insanely productive, nearly half of his production (at least in 2023) is what I typically deem to be “fraudulent production.”

Last season, Nabers led all Power 5 WRs in fantasy points per game (25.4). But if we exclude screens and deep slot targets, that number nearly gets cut in half, and he falls to 19th (13.1).

We can’t entirely write off production coming on screens and deep slot targets, but I do typically discount this sort of production to a high degree. In both instances, the WR is not being asked to beat a cornerback with their route running, athleticism, or physicality – the real determining factor for future NFL success.

Screens are just “manufactured touches” or “gimme/layup throws.”[6] It’s nice to know a player has the sort of athleticism or after-the-catch abilities to be featured in this role. But it’s agnostic to what’s truly going to matter at the next level.

Slot production is only slightly devalued in my model, but deep slot production is heavily discounted. Slot fades are not really indicative of a WR's skill or talent, but rather highlight an at least borderline level of competency from the offensive play-caller, who – even if they don't know a lot – at least knows enough to exploit one of the most obvious and potent efficiency hacks at the college level. Even if it were true that Nabers was the best “slot fade artist” in college football history, I don’t know how well that will translate from the college to the pros, where you lose the wide hashes and slot fades become significantly less common. (Nabers scored 120.9 fantasy points on deep slot targets; more than 2X that of any player in the NFL last season.) That’s the key point here. But some other minor points involve the disparity in talent between slot and outside cornerbacks at the college level, the avoidance of press coverage, the popularity of two-high and quarters coverage at the NCAA-level, etc.

Anyway, this is all fairly concerning relative to Marvin Harrison Jr., who appears wholly without warts. But it’s probably not that concerning overall for Nabers.

Nabers wasn’t all that reliant on screens and deep targets in 2022. He still averaged an impressive and team-best 2.75 YPRR from the perimeter in 2023, and had a fairly diversified route tree – gaining 90-plus yards on six different routes (not including screens). And it doesn’t not matter that he was so absurdly productive on screens and deep slot targets, even if that production is more cheaply earned relative to that of Harrison.

Nabers doesn’t have a perfect prospect profile, but in all the years I’ve done this, I’ve only seen one perfect prospect profile from a WR – Ja’Marr Chase. The bottom line for Nabers is that he was freakishly elite from the slot[7], still great out-wide, and although he saw a high number of screens, that was largely due to how gifted he is after the catch:

By career missed tackles forced per reception (0.31), Nabers ranks best of all Power 5 WRs since at least 2014 (min. >150 career receptions), tied with Drake London and Dazz Newsome (0.31). This trump card, in combination with SEC-highs in receptions in each of the last two years, hints at massive PPR cheat code potential in the pros.

Conclusion / TLDR

I wrote a great deal about Nabers’ potential red flag, but it doesn’t come close to overshadowing his historically great age-adjusted profile. In combination with his freakish athleticism (96.2 SPORQ Score based on his Pro Day numbers), Nabers is easily the WR2 in this class, not at all far behind WR1 Marvin Harrison Jr., and still glaringly one of the best WR prospects in a number of years.

We should root for Nabers’ future GM to tell us his team plans to keep him in the slot. If so, a CeeDee Lamb comp feels just about perfect.

3. Rome Odunze, WR, Washington Huskies

Height: 6-3, Weight: 212 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.45

SPORQ: 90.0, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.9

Proj. Draft Capital: top-6 (WR3)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 92.3 out of 100 (WR2)

Brief Bio

High School: 4-star recruit. Nevada’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior.

Freshman 1: Recorded a 6-72-0 line as the Huskies’ WR4 in their COVID-shortened 4-game season.

Freshman 2: Posted a 41-415-4 line through 9 games. Had twice as many touchdowns and led the team in YPG in games he was active (46.1), ahead of Terrell Bynum (36.7), and projected Round 3 pick Jalen McMillan (32.8).

Sophomore: Perhaps partly due to a major upgrade at QB – Dylan Morris to projected Round 1-2 pick Michael Penix Jr. – Odunze exploded in his age 20 season. Through 12 games, Odunze recorded a 75-1145-7 line. Although he recorded 4 fewer receptions and 2 fewer touchdowns than McMillan (in one fewer game), Odunze still edged him out by YPG (95.4 vs. 84.5) and YPRR (2.51 vs. 2.32).

Junior: Washington took another step forward in their 2023 season – appearing in the National Championship – and so did Odunze, who posted a 92-1,640-13 line through 15 games. In other words, he led all FBS WRs in receiving yards (although he did have a whopping 129 route advantage on runner-up Nabers, who finished just 71 yards short). He also further separated himself from his teammates and improved by all key market share metrics, although McMillan was negatively impacted by a knee injury in all but two games. But then again, Odunze played through an injury of his own, averaging 136.0 YPG (low of 107) before suffering a broken rib and a punctured lung against the University of Arizona (their fifth game of the season). He played through these injuries throughout the remainder of the season, although his production only somewhat diminished (99.6 YPG).

Analytics Profile

PFF’s Trevor Sikkema compared Odunze to “a bigger Chris Olave,” and I think that fits almost perfectly based on the analytics. Both benefited from high-end QB play. Both were hyper-efficient despite the disadvantage of highest-end target competition – both WR Ja’Lynn Polk and WR Jalen McMillan are projected Day 2 picks. And both Odunze and Olave seriously underwhelmed in all after-the-catch metrics – Odunze’s best season by yards after the catch per reception (minus screens) ranks in just the 14th percentile among all Day 1-2 WRs drafted since 2014.

There’s not much fraudulent about Odunze’s production, as he ran 80% of his career routes from the perimeter. Although it’s a little concerning—even if he was always clearly the WR1—he never really separated himself all that much from a healthy Jalen McMillan. However, McMillan did have the luxury of playing in the slot on 92% of his routes over the past two seasons.

I liked that Olave comp, but it felt a little lofty to me earlier in my process. For instance, Odunze’s best season by age-adjusted YPRR ranks only in the 65th percentile (8th-best in the class) among Day 1-2 WRs since 2014. Olave, meanwhile, had multiple seasons above the 85th percentile.

That’s concerning, but I’m willing to overlook this somewhat, as I think age-adjusted production/efficiency metrics are becoming increasingly less important in the COVID era/NIL era. Certainly in Odunze’s case, I don’t think it’s his fault that Washington plated only four games in his COVID-shortened true freshman season. Just like it’s not his fault he was forced to play with a broken rib for 73% of his games in 2023. Even if non-age adjusted, seven different Power 5 WRs from this class have posted a better YPRR than Odunze’s career-best 2.93 in 2023. But then again, that number narrows to only two (Malik Nabers and Marvin Harrison Jr.) if we go with the 3.36 YPRR he was averaging prior to injury.

Again, the Olave comp felt lofty to me initially. But the deeper I dove into Odunze, the more I liked him. We should also be adjusting Odunze’s YPRR upwards based on a personnel-based disadvantage – Washington lived almost exclusively out of 3-WR sets. According to Matt Harmon's Reception Perception, Odunze might also be the best pure separator in the class, registering as the only ever “all-green” prospect. And then, on the rare instance he’s not actually open? He’s still basically open because he’s also elite at contested catches.[8] Odunze converted an unreal 21 of 28 contested targets into receptions last year (75.0%). That’s the highest mark by any Power 5 WR since 2014, and well ahead of Drake London’s 65.4% in 2021.

Conclusion / TLDR

I initially viewed Odunze as a slightly poorer man’s Chris Olave, a slight tier behind Harrison and Nabers (but a massive tier ahead of anyone else). But by the final analysis, he coasted into that top tier, and I am now viewing him as a slightly richer man’s Chris Olave.

4. Brian Thomas Jr., WR, LSU Tigers

Height: 6-3, Weight: 209 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.33

SPORQ: 93.9, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.6

Proj. Draft Capital: top-20 (WR4)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 89.2 out of 100 (WR4)

Brief Bio

High School: 4-star recruit.

Freshman: Thomas ran the 3rd-most routes of any WR on the team, but finished 7th in YPG (29.9), posting a 28-359-2 line through 12 games.

Sophomore: Thomas recorded a 31-361-5 line through 13 games, averaging 2.1 fewer YPG than he did as a freshman. By YPRR, he finished as LSU’s WR5 (1.35), behind Malik Nabers (2.44), Kayshon Boutte (1.49), Jaray Jenkins (1.40), and Kyren Lacy (1.40).

Junior: Thomas fully broke out as a 20-year-old junior, catching 68 passes for 1,177 yards and an FBS-best 17 touchdowns through 13 games. Heading into the season, QB Jayden Daniels was viewed as a likely Day 3 pick. How much of his Heisman-winning season was due to Thomas taking that crucial “next step?” It’s difficult to say, but not much else changed beyond that. (LSU QBs earned a near-perfect 148.8 passer rating when targeting Thomas, versus 123.2 when targeting all other pass-catchers.)

Analytics Profile

With Thomas, we see two seasons of sub-mediocrity followed by one terrific breakout year. The track record with “one-year wonders” is really bad, but that’s most strongly applicable to four- or five-year players – we wouldn’t want to penalize Thomas for being an early-declare; I’m sure he would have had a tremendous senior season had he stayed in school.

Thomas’ terrific 2023 season definitely matters. But it matters less than the totality of his career — career YPRR is significantly more predictive than final season YPRR. And when looking at Thomas’ career in its totality, things look pretty grim.

When evaluating college prospects, we typically use 2.00 career YPRR as a very low threshold a player needs to clear in order to get into the Day 1-2 conversation. The track record of all Day 1-2 prospects who failed to clear that mark is abhorrent.

In reality, we’ve only ever seen two players fail to clear that mark and not become a total bust at the NFL level – Terry McLaurin and D.K. Metcalf.[9]

Admittedly, Thomas only narrowly missed this benchmark (1.95 career YPRR), and again, we don’t want to penalize him for being an early declare (which is predictively good). But also…

I don’t know that his final season was all that impressive. Last season, he ranked just 15th-best by YPRR (2.61), or 12th-best by touchdown-adjusted YPRR (3.36) among all Power 5 WRs with at least 300 routes run. More damningly, he ranked just 33rd-best in first downs per route run (0.106). Ryan Heath would raise up a red flag based off this stat and refer to him (derisively) as a “big play merchant” – last year 18% of Thomas’ receiving yards came on just 3 plays. Although, granted, Thomas was competing for targets against another projected Round 1 WR in Nabers, and his production appears in many ways less fraudulent, with only 13% of his routes coming from the slot and 5% of his targets coming on screens. In fact, with screens and deep slot targets removed, he averaged more YPG than Nabers last year.

Ultimately, draft capital is always going to be the most important variable in any prospect model. And the NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti is convinced Thomas is the sure-fire WR4 in this class, and an easy top-20 pick overall. But right now, I’m not seeing a WR deserving of a Round 1 draft pick (real NFL, not fantasy) – 12th percentile career YPRR, 56th percentile best-season by age-adjusted YPRR (which would look even worse if he was only one month older), 23rd percentile best-season yards after the catch per reception.[10] He also ranked as one of the worst perimeter WRs in this class against press coverage. And we haven’t even yet touched on Thomas’ biggest red flag…

There’s also the glaring concern that he’s something of a one-trick pony or less of a complete receiver – last season, a whopping 42.7% of his yards came on just one route (the go route). Thomas would have fallen from 90.5 YPG to just 51.9 without the go route, while Nabers would sit at a lofty 112.9 (2.2X that of Thomas). Sure, Thomas is probably the best deep threat in the class – last season, he averaged 30.5 YPT on deep targets, the best single-season mark of any Power 5 WR since at least 2014 (min. 20 deep targets) – the question is, is that all he can do?

When you think of players like Will Fuller, Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson, Torrey Smith, Brandin Cooks, etc., what do you think? To me, this is a list of WRs who were much better in real football than fantasy football.[11]

Granted, Thomas looks excellent on a per-target basis[12] and did dominate one of my all-time favorite metrics – he leads the class (+28.6%) in career yards per target over expectation (controlling for depth of target). But if that metric has any one blindspot, it’s that it favors one-trick ponies who greatly excel at their one “trick.”

Conclusion / TLDR

Ultimately, Thomas feels more than a little overhyped. Even if we concede that his early-declare status negates any concerns with his career marks, it’s a good but not great profile – but to be fair, that’s true of every WR in this class (minus the Big-3 and a few others with glaring size concerns.) Given his freakish speed and elite athleticism (93.9 SPORQ, WR4), his top-20 projected draft capital (WR4), and his Round 1-caliber film score (89.2, WR4), I can’t in good conscience rank him any lower than WR4. Still, he’s not someone I’m at all excited to draft at his likely cost. (I’ll recommend a few arbitrage options later in this piece.)

5. Ladd McConkey, WR, Georgia Bulldogs

Height: 6-0, Weight: 186 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.39

SPORQ: 75.0, Former: 3-star, Age: 22.5

Proj. Draft Capital: top-35 (WR6)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 87.4 out of 100 (WR5)

Brief Bio

High School: Played QB as a high school senior, was a 3-star recruit.

Freshman 1: Zero snaps, redshirting as an 18-year-old true freshman.

Freshman 2: Posted a 31-447-5 line through 15 games. Despite running significantly fewer routes, he finished 50 yards shy of (proj. Round 3) Jermaine Burton and 21 yards ahead of (proj. Round 1) Adonai Mitchell for second-most on the team behind TE Brock Bowers. He easily led all Georgia WRs in YPRR, with 2.71. This also ranked as the best age-19 season in the class (min. 150 routes run).

Sophomore: With lesser target competition, McConkey was more clearly the team’s WR1 (but still behind Bowers), posting a 58-762-7 line through 15 games. His YPRR dipped in a more full-time role with a still-respectable 2.16 on the run-heavy Bulldogs. But he dealt with turf toe and knee tendinitis “throughout much of the season,” which might also explain the slight efficiency decline.

Junior: McConkey was more heavily plagued by injuries, missing the first four games of the year with a back injury. McConkey was on something of a pitch count in his first two games back (39% route share). Over his next four games, McConkey averaged 92.3 YPG and an absurd 4.45 YPRR, but he rolled his ankle in the first half of that final game. (Brock Bowers played in only two of these games: a game in which he exited in the second quarter due to an ankle sprain, and then his first game back after undergoing tightrope surgery.) McConkey played sparingly over the team’s next three games (34% route share). He finished the season averaging 3.26 YPRR – 4th-best in the class, behind Nabers, Harrison, and Franklin.

Analytics Profile

I feel like I could convincingly argue that McConkey’s profile is very good, and almost just as convincingly argue that it’s pretty bad. But more than anything, it just feels incomplete.

On one hand, McConkey has only two 100-yard games across his collegiate career, and Brock Bowers sat out in one of those games. On the other, his career (per route and per target) efficiency metrics easily rank among the best WRs in this class. And he accomplished this despite multiple injuries, despite his relative inexperience playing the position, and despite a much tougher-than-average level of target competition.

McConkey was a tad overreliant on screens for my liking. But that may just be proof he’s dynamic after the catch. His best season by receiving missed tackles forced per touch (minus screens) ranks in the 81st percentile. And he also carried the ball 13 times throughout his career, gaining 216 yards and 4 touchdowns (16.6 YPC).

McConkey is a first-in, last-out sort of guy. Scrappy. High motor. High IQ (3.85 GPA, graduated in only three years). And sneaky athletic – 75th percentile SPORQ Score, which improves to the 77th percentile if we include his Pro Day (96th percentile short shuttle). But breaking a key stereotype – he’s not just slot only. McConkey was lined up on the outside on 79% of his routes last season, and he averaged 3.15 YPRR – the 3rd-best single-season mark from any WR in this class (min. 100 routes), behind only Troy Franklin’s 2023 (3.19) and Marvin Harrison Jr.’s 2022 (3.18).

According to multiple metrics [1, 2], McConkey might be the best separator in the class. He has high-end PPR cheat code-upside – Marvin Harrison Jr. (0.137) and Malik Nabers (0.129) are the only WRs from this class ranking above him in career first downs per route run (0.123). And he was also hyper-efficient on a per-target basis, ranking 3rd-best in the class by both career yards per target over expectation (+25.7) and career WR Rating (133.7). By career first downs or touchdowns per target, he ranks 5th-best since 2016 (min. >135 targets), behind only Ja’Marr Chase, CeeDee Lamb, DeVonta Smith, and Chris Olave.

McConkey’s biggest red flag – similar to that of Brian Thomas – is not only his lack of raw production but his lack of raw production relative to Georgia TE Brock Bowers. There’s no question who Georgia’s top receiver has been. And Bowers crushes McConkey so thoroughly that we’d still be taking Bowers multiple tiers ahead of McConkey, even if they both were listed as WRs. Obviously, Bowers is probably just a demigod and a generational TE talent, as I argued here. But the issue for McConkey is that there’s no wiggle room if that evaluation is wrong.

The counterargument is that Georgia has long underutilized its WRs, and McConkey appears to be the best one they’ve ever produced. George Pickens ranks next-closest behind McConkey by career YPRR (2.54 vs. 2.35). And even then, Pickens averaged just 2.64 YPRR in his best season, a mark McConkey has cleared twice. Still, Bowers’ shadow looms throughout this entire write-up.

Beyond that, his small sample size is a serious concern, muddying the projection or at least diminishing our level of certainty behind it. And then there are obvious durability concerns as well.

Conclusion / TLDR

In a tier littered with NFL WR2s, McConkey stands out as one of the best. I’ve seen Emmanuel Sanders – McConkey’s athletic clone – thrown out a lot as a comp, and I think that fits perfectly.

Combining his analytics profile with his high-end athleticism, his WR6 projected draft capital, and his WR6 film score, I feel good about McConkey as my WR5. (Even if the main takeaway from this section was just that you need to be amassing as many shares of Brock Bowers as you can get your hands on).

On Draft night, root for McConkey’s GM to say something like, “He can play inside or outside, but for us, he’ll be a slot.” McConkey was effective on the perimeter but does seem better suited for the slot – he was 23% more efficient from the slot throughout his career (2.84 YPRR vs. 2.30), and also ranked 3rd-worst among the projected Day 1-2 WRs against press coverage.

6. Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas Longhorns

Height: 5-11, Weight: 165 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.21

SPORQ: 70.3, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.0

Proj. Draft Capital: top-35 (WR7)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 80.7 out of 100 (WR13)

Brief Bio

High School: 4-star recruit.

Freshman: Worthy put together the most impressive freshman season (or age 18 season) from any WR in this class, recording a 62-981-12 line through 12 games. He scored 41% of his team’s receiving touchdowns and his 981 receiving yards were 2.6X as much as the next-closest receiver on the team – Jordan Whittington (proj. Round 6).

Sophomore: Worthy again led Texas in catches, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, but lost some ground compared to his teammates. His 60-760-9 line through 13 games amounted to only 108 more yards than Whittington, but he also played with a broken hand throughout the second half of the season.

Junior: Through 14 games, Worthy posted a 75-1,014-5 line. Or, 6 fewer touchdowns than new WR2 Adonai Mitchell (proj. Round 1) with only 169 extra receiving yards. Although it’s encouraging that he led Texas in receiving yards in all three seasons, he was never quite as efficient as in 2021, when he hit career-highs in YPRR and YPG.

Analytics Profile

The Ringer’s Danny Kelly (based on film) and Fantasy Points’ own Nick Spanola (based on the analytics) have both comp’d Worthy to Ravens WR Zay Flowers. And I think that comparison works almost perfectly. (Remember, although Flowers was drafted in Round 1, I didn’t think he had a Round 1 caliber analytics profile.)

Last season, 33% of Flowers’ catches came on screens (2nd-most in the NFL), and 39% of his yards came on deep passes (6th-most). Worthy was used in a very similar way at Texas – 46% of his career catches have come on screens (most of any projected top-25 Power 5 WR in this class), and 28% of his career targets have come on deep passes (most of any projected top-10 Power 5 WR in this class).[13]

Worthy would be valuable in this role if he can get it at the next level. But that’s a big “if.” More than anything, an overreliance on screens and deep targets raises all of the same issues we brought up previously in the Nabers section.

But this gets amplified with Worthy. We know he has freakishly elite speed. But how’s his route running? How are his ball-tracking abilities? Because his 9.2 career YPT average on deep passes ranks worst of any projected non-UDFA Power 5 WR in the class. Again, for emphasis: The fastest WR of all time is ostensibly the worst deep threat in his own Draft class.[14]

Worthy leads all of the projected top-25 Power 5 WRs in this class by career yards after the catch per reception minus screens, which is one of the most predictive metrics we have at our disposal. He had an 81st percentile age-adjusted YPRR (5th-best single-season mark in the class) in his true freshman season. But he also ranked in the 38th percentile by career YPRR and the 11th percentile by career YPT. Ultimately, I think this is an “very good but maybe not quite great” profile, so long you’re paying attention the important caveats I have buried in the footnotes[15]. I’d say his analytics profile is at least on par with Brian Thomas.

Or, at least, this is the case until we discuss Worthy’s Combine performance when he broke the Combine record with a 4.21 forty-yard dash, but not before weighing in at only 165 pounds.[16]

On one hand, it’s cool that Worthy is going to be one of the fastest players in NFL history the second he steps on the field. That’s certainly going to bolster his draft capital.

On the other hand, Worthy’s low weight (1st percentile) and low BMI (1st percentile) are significantly more predictively detrimental to his future fantasy success than his fast 40 time is good.

Without getting too deep into the weeds here (we’ll save that for the footnotes), I’ll just say that… Worthy’s 22.8 BMI ranks the 10th-lowest of any WR since at least 2000. Among the 45 lightest WRs, DeVonta Smith (24.1)[17] is the only one to post a 1,000-yard season in the NFL. So, even if the NFL appears to care less about low-weight / thin-frame WRs in recent years[18], the overall track record is pretty abhorrent.

Conclusion / TLDR

Truthfully, I think the Combine hurt Worthy more than helped him in my eyes. But Worthy’s profile was quite strong for this class and well ahead of any other WR we’ll discuss, save for maybe Troy Franklin, who has similar BMI concerns without the freakish athleticism.

Remember, Worthy is going to be massively landing spot-dependent, so don’t be surprised if I bump him up for down by more than a few spots after the Draft. And, again, may God have mercy on our souls if he lands in Miami (or Kansas City).

7. Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon Ducks

Height: 6-2, Weight: 176 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.41

SPORQ: 52.6, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.2

Proj. Draft Capital: top-45 (WR9)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 83.2 out of 100 (WR10)

Brief Bio

High School: 4-star recruit. No 3 WR in the 2021 recruiting class.

Freshman: Played sparingly (WR6 by routes run) as an 18-year-old true freshman, posting an 18-209-2 line through 10 games, including 4-65-1 in the Alamo Bowl.

Sophomore: Was easily the team’s leading receiver with 61-891-9 through 13 games.

Junior: Franklin’s 2023 season was one of the most impressive seasons of any WR in this draft class, returning an 81-1,383-14 line through 13 games. His 14 receiving touchdowns ranked behind only Brian Thomas Jr. in the Power 5, and he probably would have led in receiving had Oregon’s games been more competitive (+27.7 average point differential) – he averaged a Power 5-high 76.7 YPG in the first half of games, just ahead of Rome Odunze (70.1), Marvin Harrison Jr. (69.0), and Malik Nabers (66.8). Absurdly, all of this production came before his 21st birthday… But perhaps most impressively, Franklin averaged 3.19 YPRR from the perimeter (where he ran 85% of his routes), which ranked as the best single-season mark in this class.

Analytics Profile

It’s much easier to argue that Franklin has no worse than the fourth-best production profile in this class than to argue that he’s the WR9 — as the NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti suggests.

There are very few of the typical warts or red flags within Franklin’s production profile. He ran 85% of his routes from the perimeter last season and returned a class-best 3.19 YPRR. He ranked best in the class against single coverage (5.10 YPRR). He also has one of the most diversified route trees in the class – he had 100-plus yards on five different routes (not including screens), compared to only two for Brian Thomas and zero for Keon Coleman.

But I am seeing two concerns:

  1. Franklin benefited from highest-end QB-play and lowest-end target competition throughout his career.[19] QB Bo Nix is a projected early draft pick. And just about every receiver Franklin has played with has been UDFA-tier, with the lone exception being current Devy WR25 Tez Johnson. Johnson – a relatively obscure prospect heading into the year, only known for being Nix’s high school teammate and adopted little brother – transferred to Oregon from Troy in 2023. Although Franklin easily bested Johnson in YPG (106.4 vs. 84.4), Johnson came out ahead in YPRR – his 3.45 ranked behind only Malik Nabers in the Power 5 (3.64). Although Johnson did benefit from running 92% of his routes from the slot.
  2. Far more alarmingly, Franklin showed up at only 176 pounds at the Combine and returned the 3rd-worst Speed Score and the worst 10-yard split in the class (of 27 qualifiers). Looking at some of the prospects who busted out at the NFL level but who had a terrific production profile, the vast majority of those names had similar size or athleticism concerns… Franklin did show up to his Pro Day seven pounds heavier less than two weeks later, and blamed his poor numbers on a bout with the flu. Although that’s a likely excuse, and it’s notable he didn’t bother to re-test at his Pro Day, AI tracking suggests he’s still easily one of the fastest players in the class.

Ultimately — and I still don’t know whether or not we should view this as a compliment — but Franklin certainly comes closest to being my “2024 version of Marvin Mims.” Mims still had the better profile, mind you, but Franklin’s profile is at least considerably better than his projected draft capital implies.

Perhaps the better comparison is to Jordan Addison, another low BMI WR (3rd percentile). Franklin isn’t strictly an explosive play-threat like Mims – he ranks 4th-best in the class by career first downs per route run (0.118) versus Mims, who would have ranked 8th (0.108). Franklin’s analytics score is close to identical to Addison’s, but I was admittedly probably a little too low on Addison when he was coming out.

Conclusion / TLDR

I’m just not sure how much we should want to penalize Franklin for his low BMI. Even if we go off of his Pro Day weight, he moves from being the 8th-lightest WR (22.7 BMI) since 2000 to being the 21st-lightest (23.6 BMI.) This is a legitimately massive red flag, given the historical bust rate among WRs at this size. (This was discussed in great detail all throughout the Xavier Worthy section.) And just know that Franklin will be massively landing spot-dependent in the same way that Worthy will be.

But if we ignore this, Franklin easily has the 4th-best analytics profile in this class. Combined with a WR9 ranking by projected draft capital and a WR8 ranking by Brett Whitefield’s Score, Franklin ultimately checks in as my WR7.

8. Ricky Pearsall, WR, Florida Gators

Height: 6-1, Weight: 189 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.41

SPORQ: 91.1, Former: 3-star, Age: 23.6

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 2 (WR10)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 88.1 out of 100 (WR5)

Brief Bio

High School: 3-star recruit.

Freshman: Posted a 7-128-0 line through 13 games (1.00 YPRR), playing behind Round 1 WR Brandon Aiyuk, Round 6 WR Frank Darby, and UDFA Kyle Williams.

Sophomore: Pearsall posted a 6-86-1 line in Arizona State’s 4-game COVID-shortened season. He was Arizona State’s WR5 by routes run per game, finishing 4th among the WRs in YPG (21.5), behind projected Round 3 pick Johnny Wilson and two other players you’ve never heard of.

Junior: As a 21-year-old junior, Pearsall finally emerged as Jayden Daniels’ WR1, recording a 48-580-4 line through 13 games. Still, this amounted to only 1.70 YPRR despite high-end QB play and poor target competition (Johnny Wilson missed 8 games with an injury). He edged out RB Rachaad White by just 3.1 receiving YPG for the team-high.

Senior 1: Pearsall transferred to Florida, recording a 33-661-5 line through 13 games. Yet again, he benefited from technically elite QB play (top-5 pick Anthony Richardson) and minimal target competition. And once again, he underwhelmed within that context, falling behind teammate and Round 5 WR Justin Shorter in YPG (64.1 vs. 51.5) and YPRR (2.42 vs. 2.41).

Senior 2: Pearsall was more clearly dominant in his age 23 season, recording a 65-965-4 line through 12 games. While catching passes from Graham Mertz (Devy QB94), he averaged 1.5X as many YPG than the next-closest receiver – true freshman and Devy W11 Eugene Wilson III. However, he declined by YPRR (2.23), not too far ahead of Wilson (1.97).

Analytics Profile

Okay, so this is pretty bad.

Pearsall only just barely missed our arbitrary 2.00 career YPRR benchmark, with 1.99. But remember, this is a very low bar to clear. The NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti believes Pearsall can be a high-end possession receiver at the next level, but he ranked even worse by first downs per route run and ranks in only the 10th percentile by TPRR.

For further (negative) context into these bleak figures: Pearsall benefited from running 57% of his career routes from the slot, he had among the best QB play in the class (catching passes from a Round 1 QB in 4 of his 5 seasons) alongside mostly sub-mediocre target competition, and he benefited from a massive age advantage, recording just his 4th career 100-yard game on his 23rd birthday.

There’s not really much else to say beyond that, but I suppose… He is an elite athlete, with a 91.1 SPORQ Score (96th percentile 3-Cone). His career 21-253-5 rushing line is probably a testament to that fact, even if he underwhelmed by all key after-the-catch efficiency metrics (29th percentile best-season yards after the catch per reception). And his QB play probably wasn’t as great as my model thought it was.

Pearsall spent four of his five seasons catching passes from a QB the NFL deems worthy of being a top-5 pick, but 17.9% of his career targets were deemed off-target by PFF charting – one of the highest rates in the class. Anthony Richardson was the 4th-overall pick in 2023, but he was largely an upside-based projection. Daniels is projected to be drafted inside the top-3 in April, but he might not have been even been drafted had he stayed at Arizona State. And remember, both of these QBs were more run-first / low-pass volume QBs when Pearsall was on their team. Richardson averaged only 14.7 completions per game in his lone season as a starter. And Daniels averaged only 15.2 completions per game in his final season with Pearsall. For perspective, Bo Nix was at 25.7 completions per game last season.

I think that’s the best upside argument for Pearsall — that, contrary to the draft capital on these QBs, Pearsall was always on really bad teams. So, although his numbers underwhelmed, he at least appeared dominant on a market share basis (see below), which might be the only way Pearsall could appear dominant if his teams were really that bad. That, plus he did so while operating successfully from an area of the field we should put greater emphasis on (unlike with Worthy and all of his screens).

Conclusion / TLDR

Analytically, it’s really hard to make a compelling argument in favor of Pearsall. I genuinely tried my hardest (perhaps too hard), and I still didn’t find those arguments too compelling. So, Brett Whitefield’s WR5 film score is doing much of the heavy lifting with this WR8 ranking. (And remember, this isn’t a great class analytically.)

The NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti assures us Pearsall is “not just a slot WR,” but the analytics would disagree. He was significantly more efficient from the slot (2.30 YPRR) than out-wide (2.08) last season and also ranks 2nd-worst in the class against press coverage (1.08 YPRR). So he’s another guy for whom, on Draft night, we should be hoping to hear his GM say, “He can play both inside and out, but he’s going to be a slot for us.”

9. Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan Wolverines

Height: 5-11, Weight: 185 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.39

SPORQ: 47.1, Former: 4-star, Age: 22.9

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 2 (WR11)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 87.0 out of 100 (WR7)

Brief Bio

High School: 4-star recruit.

Freshman: Played in all 6 games during Michigan’s COVID-shortened 2020 season. Serving as the team’s WR5 by routes run per game, he caught 9 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown (1.53 YPRR).

Sophomore: As a 20-year-old sophomore, Wilson recorded a modest 25-420-3 line through 13 games. He was only a part-time player (51% route share), but easily led the team in YPRR (2.30).

Junior: Wilson remained only a part-time player, serving as the Wolverines’ WR3 (59% route share), but this time fell behind Ronnie Bell for the team-high in YPRR (2.57 vs. 2.15) … For the record, yes, it’s a bit of a red flag that Round 7 draft pick Ronnie Bell (13 months older) and projected UDFA Cornelius Johnson (6 months older) were given substantially more playing time. The excuse – if you’re looking for one (although I still don’t know how compelling it is) – is that both Bell and Johnson had an extra year of experience within the Michigan system, and it probably didn’t help Wilson’s development that his freshman season was cut short by COVID. That … or Wilson projects to be a slot-only player at the next level, which is another concern.

Senior: Wilson finally broke out as a 22-year-old senior, finishing with a 48-789-12 line through 15 games. That amounted to 140 more yards than 19-year-old TE Colston Loveland and 185 yards more than Johnson, and as many touchdowns as all other Michigan receivers combined. Again, he didn’t lead the team in routes run (73% route share vs. Johnson’s 84%), but did easily lead in YPRR, with 2.68. This ranked best of any Michigan player since at least 2014, and 14th-best among all Power 5 WRs in the class. His 37.4% Dominator Rating ranked behind only Malik Washington (47.3%) and Marvin Harrison Jr. (44.2%). And although that’s not really a predictive metric, I suppose it does become more predictive if your team was good enough to win the National Championship.

Analytics Profile

If I could sum this all up in one word, it would be “meh.” Not quite “yikes,” but, at best, “meh.”

The best thing I could say for Wilson is that he was clearly his team’s best receiver in a year his team won the National Championship. That, and I suppose, he did clear that 2.00 career YPRR threshold we keep talking about. His 2.33 career YPRR ranks 9th-best among all Power 5 WRs in this class.

The worst thing I could say? Well, he’s eclipsed 100 yards only twice in his 46-game career. He’s not merely “a late breakout” but “a late full-time player.” And he’s all of those things with minimal target competition and high-end QB play (J.J. McCarthy is a projected top-7 pick).

Again, he ranked 9th-best in the class by career YPRR. But that number needs to be adjusted down, as he had the 5th-highest expected YPRR based on personnel. And that should be adjusted further down, as (more importantly) he benefited from heavy slot usage – over the past two seasons, 79% of his targets have come from the slot – another big concern.[20] Remember, it’s easier to produce in the slot, slot players are extremely landing spot-dependent, and NFL teams tend to devalue slot players on Draft Day.

Conclusion / TLDR

Wilson’s analytics profile wasn’t great. His athletic profile is a bit of a mixed bag – 89th percentile 40-yard dash, 89th percentile short shuttle, but 16th percentile in height and 14th percentile in weight. (He was slightly above average in weight-adjusted 40-yard dash time, and slightly below average in weight-adjusted 3-cone.) So, projected Draft capital (WR11) and Brett Whitefield’s film score (WR7) are doing much of the heavy lifting to justify this WR9 ranking. And, remember, there isn’t much to like analytically from these projected Round 1-2 WRs after the Big 3.

10. Adonai Mitchell, WR, Texas Longhorns

Height: 6-2, Weight: 205 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.34

SPORQ: 95.0, Former: 4-star, Age: 22.6

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 1 (WR5)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 82.9 out of 100 (WR11)

Brief Bio

High School: 4-star recruit. Took a gap year between his high school senior season (2019) and his freshman season (2021).

Freshman: At Georgia, ranked behind Brock Bowers (proj. Round 1), Jermaine Burton (proj. Round 3), and Ladd McConkey (proj. Round 2) in YPG.

Sophomore: Mitchell posted a 4-65-1 line in the team’s opener against Oregon, but that would be his season-high. He suffered a high-ankle sprain in the team’s next game, and that injury would bother him until at least the team’s penultimate game (~14 weeks)[21]. During his injured stretch, Mitchell played in just two games, running a total of 14 routes. Across the team’s final two games of the season, Mitchell ran the most routes of any Georgia WR and gained 65 yards (3rd-most).

Junior: Mitchell transferred to Texas to be closer to his daughter, posting a 55-845-11 line. He had more than twice as many touchdowns as any other receiver but finished squarely in between proj. late-Round 1 WR Xavier Worthy (1,014) and proj. Round 2 TE Ja’Tavion Sanders (682) in receiving yards. He cleared 80 receiving yards in 3 of 14 games and exceeded 3 receptions only 4 times.

Analytics Profile

If Ricky Pearsall and Roman Wilson were somewhere in between “yikes” and “meh”, I would sum up Mitchell’s analytics profile with a different one-word response: “nigthmare-fuel.”

It’s impossible to justify Mitchell’s projected draft capital based entirely on his analytics profile. He barely has the profile of an early Day 3 pick, let alone a mid-Round 1 pick, as the NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti expects.

The Good: He’s a freak athlete – 95th percentile SPORQ Score. He played in five CFB playoff games throughout his career and scored a touchdown in all five. He leads the class in career drop rate, dropping only one of 103 targets over the last two seasons.

The Bad: 2023 was easily Mitchell’s best season, and he still ranked just 109th in the Power 5 by YPRR (1.72).[22] In contrast to all Day 1-2 WRs since 2014, that’s a 3rd percentile ranking. He ranks in the 5th percentile by career YPRR (1.68). He ranks worst in the class by career yards after the catch per reception (2.96), and ranks in the 1st percentile historically – with only Josh Palmer ranking worse since 2014. He has minimal PPR upside – only four career games with more than 4 receptions. He was held under 50 receiving yards in 13 of his last 20 games (65%). And he earned a 71.9 PFF grade in his best season, a mark eclipsed by 36 other WRs from this class.

Make no mistake: this is a legitimately abhorrent profile. He’s in the bottom left of every graph ever created, and he looks the least like a Round 1-caliber WR of any Round 1-caliber WR in over a decade.

We can certainly make some excuses for him – his QB play probably wasn’t great[23], but his target competition was always very tough; although also comprised of a number of receivers likely to be drafted behind him in April (including Xavier Worthy who was more productive at Texas, despite being 1.6 years younger). And – although it was very weird he had a high-ankle sprain that lingered for at least 14 weeks – he was (apparently) unfairly robbed of his age-20 season, which might be making all of his numbers look worse.

But these excuses all feel flimsy in light of everything else. Or in light of the one burning question — If Mitchell is so good at football, why was he so bad at football (at least analytically)? Mitchell can certainly be an outlier, but we never want to be betting on outliers ex ante.

Conclusion / TLDR

So, if he has only a Day 3-caliber analytics profile, why does he rank as my WR10? Well, because projected draft capital is the most predictive variable we have, and the Mock Draft Industrial Complex is calling him a Round 1-lock (WR5). And because, again, this isn’t a great class analytically, and there’s a massive tier after the Big-3 WRs.

But, if I can be totally honest, I absolutely detest him. Hate his guts. (Analytically, of course.) And I’d be all too pleased to bury him in my rankings if he falls out of Round 1.

11. Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide

Height: 6-0, Weight: 196 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.45

SPORQ: 84.9, Former: 4-star, Age: 22.8

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 3 (WR16)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 83.5 out of 100 (WR9)

Brief Bio

High School: 4-star recruit.

Freshman: Posted a 27-404-3 line through 10 games as a 19-year-old freshman. Finished 3rd in receiving YPG (40.4), behind Round 2 WR George Pickens (64.1) and Titans UDFA Kearis Jackson (51.4).

Sophomore: Posted a 26-497-5 line through 14 games. Led Georgia wideouts in receiving (35.5 YPG), ahead of projected. Round 2 WR Ladd McConkey (29.8) and proj. Round 1 WR Adonai Mitchell (28.4). Was Georgia’s leading WR throughout Georgia’s three playoff games in their National Championship-winning season (6-121-1). He then transferred to Alabama.

Junior: Posted a 40-677-7 line through 13 games. Led Alabama WRs in receiving yards, but with only 3 more than Devy WR36 Ja’Corey Brooks in exactly as many games (39-674-8). He ranked just 61st in the Power 5 by YPRR (2.03), behind Brooks, who ranked 35th (2.29). And now remember, Benson benefited from the highest-end QB play in this season (Bryce Young, last year’s 1st-overall pick.) And also remember, his team-high 52.1 YPG was a far cry from Jameson Williams’ (104.8) and John Metchie’s (87.8) marks in the previous year.

Senior: Posted a 39-798-8 line in 13 games, catching passes from Devy QB10 Jalen Milroe. Again, he led Alabama in receiving yards (61.4 YPG), well ahead of the next-closest receiver, Devy WR6 Isaiah Bond (51.4). This time, he led the team and finished 9th among all Power 5 WRs in this year’s class by YPRR (2.75).

Analytics Profile

Burton was the WR1 on Georgia’s National Championship-winning team in 2021 (ahead of two other proj. Day 1-2 WRs), and then led Alabama in receiving yards in back-to-back years. I know this sounds great – he was the clear WR1 for two powerhouse programs! But Alabama has become a sort of shadow of its former self. His numbers in 2022 were underwhelming relative to his highest-end QB play (Bryce Young), and he only barely led his team in receiving (3 more yards than Brooks on 40 additional routes.) His best season by age-adjusted YPRR ranks only in the 61st percentile, and drops to the 41st percentile if we exclude his age-22 season (as I typically do.)

Despite the team-high figures, he never had much raw production – just three career 100-yard games against Power 5 opponents. Burton eclipsed 5 receptions only three times in his 50-game career. He never led his team in receptions, and he never eclipsed 40 receptions in a single season.

Given this stat, alongside a 6th-percentile career TPRR rate, Burton definitely projects to be of the “better in real-life football than in fantasy football” archetype, as his PPR upside is a little suspect. But the flip side of that is that Burton appears to be a historically great deep threat, ranking behind only Ja’Marr Chase and Marquise Brown in career yards per deep target.

Again, although we saw merely a little raw production from Burton, he was freakishly hyper-efficient on a per-target basis, which is exactly what you would need to see from a low-volume receiver. By my favorite stat – yards per target over expectation – Burton ranks 2nd-best in the class (see below), just a hair behind Brian Thomas Jr. By career first downs / touchdowns per target, he ranks 4th-best of any Power 5 since 2016 (min. 165 targets), behind only CeeDee Lamb, DeVonta Smith, and Chris Olave.

Conclusion / TLDR

Burton’s analytics profile wasn’t perfect, but was probably closer to good than for several of the WRs we’ve already discussed. And there’s certainly a sizable amount of upside here relative to his current ADP (WR19) or projected draft capital (WR16).

We keep talking about that 2.00 career YPRR benchmark. And Burton was already at 1.98 heading into last season, when he ultimately finished 9th-best in the class with an impressive 2.75. And he was even more impressive on a per-target basis, leading the class in career YPT and finishing practically tied with Brian Thomas Jr. for the class-high in YPTOE. And that’s really my biggest takeaway here – Burton appears to be a tremendous arbitrage play off of Thomas.

Both appear to be elite deep threats while offering little beyond that at this point in their careers. Thomas gained an unreal 42.7% of his yards on just one route last season (the “go” route). Similarly, a class-high 51% of Burton’s career receiving yards have come on deep targets.

Although Thomas has the trump card of elite athleticism (93.9 SPORQ), Burton wasn’t all that far behind him either (84.9 SPORQ).

So, although they’re not quite close in my rankings (mostly due to projected draft capital, which from what I understand is largely due to off-the-field concerns with Burton), I much prefer Burton at cost. And, obviously, to Mitchell as well.

12. Xavier Legette, WR, South Carolina Gamecocks

Height: 6-1, Weight: 221 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.39

SPORQ: 97.3, Former: 4-star, Age: 23.3

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 2 (WR12)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 85.5 out of 100 (WR8)

First, let’s start with the bad – Legette wasn’t just a 5th-year breakout. He legitimately did nothing through his first four seasons: He had just 423 yards on 561 routes run. He had exactly as many starts as first downs (17). And he had just 167 yards in his best season before his breakout, despite averaging 10.3 games per year. Typically, these players are dead to me.

OK, Legette was good in his super-senior season. Who cares? He was nearly 23 years old, feasting against CBs still at the tail-end of puberty. That’s a massive advantage at the college level! Analytically, a player’s career in totality is more important and more predictive than a player’s best or final season. And if a player doesn’t break out by the time they’re 20 years old, let alone by the time they’re nearly 23, we’re almost always better off pretending they don’t exist.

And it’s really hard to make an excuse for Legette’s late breakout — his target competition at South Carolina was always UDFA tier, and he played WR in all but one high school season (the same as Ladd McConkey), so I don’t find the excuses for the late breakout all that compelling.

But now the good – Legette is easily the most athletic WR in the class, with genuinely rare and legitimately freakish athleticism (97.3 SPORQ). And although he was just a one-year wonder, it was a truly wonderful, elite one season. Legette’s 1,255 yards were over 4.0X as much as the next-closest Gamecock receiver. His 3.15 YPRR ranked 5th-best among all Power 5 WRs in the class, or 4th-best when lined up out-wide (2.93), where he ran 67% of his routes. Perhaps even more impressively – because he was apparently the only receiver defenses needed to account for in the passing game – Legette averaged 12.9 YPT (4th-best among all Power 5 WRs in the class), earning his QBs a 126.3 passer rating. When targeting all other Gamecock receivers, his QBs averaged just 6.5 YPA and a 92.7 passer rating.

Conclusion / TLDR

Ultimately, we’re left with a balancing act between Legette’s terrific 2023 season (which probably wasn’t even all that great if age-adjusted) in comparison to Legette’s horrific “every other game he’s ever played.” (Legette has played in 51 career games and 31% of his career receiving yards came in just three of the games he played last season – against Jacksonville State, Mississippi State, and Furman in the FCS.)

But this isn’t really balanced at all. A player’s career in totality matters far more than a player’s age 22 season, which my model would argue shouldn’t even matter at all. Genuinely, Legette’s lack of production prior to 2023 is probably more of a death knell than a red flag.

And yet in spite of my better judgment, I can’t help but get excited about Legette. Simply put, I see more upside for him than for many of the WRs we’ve already discussed. Even though he had a massive advantage in 2023 due to his advanced age, as well as benefiting from exclusively UDFA-tier target competition alongside higher-end QB-play (Spencer Rattler, proj. Round 2), this was still far more impressive to me than anything Adonai Mitchell has ever done.

13. Keon Coleman, WR, Florida State Seminoles

Height: 6-3, Weight: 213 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.61

SPORQ: 73.8, Former: 4-star, Age: 21.0

Proj. Draft Capital: top-40 (WR8)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 82.7 out of 100 (WR12)

Based on his analytics profile, it’s very difficult to justify Coleman’s projected draft capital (fringe Round 1). He looks a lot like Kelvin Benjamin—or, actually, a slightly worse version of his teammate Johnny Wilson (proj. Round 4).

The “Good”: Coleman is one of the youngest WRs in the class (he won’t be legally allowed to drink alcohol until after the Draft), and didn’t focus exclusively on football until his sophomore season.[24] In that season, at Michigan State, he immediately out-produced Round 2 WR Jayden Reed (3.0 years older), averaging 66.5 YPG to Reed’s 57.8, although Reed reportedly fought through injuries for much of the season [25]. His 1.93 YPTPA and 2.07 YPRR both ranked 3rd-best of any age-19 Power 5 WR in this class, behind only Malik Nabers and Troy Franklin … Coleman didn’t lead Florida State in YPG in 2023 but did have 5.5 times as many receiving touchdowns as the next-closest receiver (11 to 2), a trait he excelled at in high school as well. And he never ran more than 31% of his routes from the slot in any season.

The Bad: Literally everything else. 10th percentile career YPRR (1.87). Best season by yards per team pass attempt ranks in the 19th percentile. Best season by age-adjusted YPRR ranks in the 45th percentile. Career YPT ranks in the 9th percentile. 20th percentile by career yards after the catch per reception. He gained more yards on screens than any other route last year (36% of his total catches). If excluding the two games Johnny Wilson missed in 2023, Coleman loses three touchdowns and falls to just 45.2 YPG (versus Wilson’s 61.7). And perhaps worst of all – an alarmingly high number of his targets came as contested targets.

After looking at this chart (featuring the greatest busts of the past four classes, with Nico Collins as the only exception), my working theory is this: If you're overly reliant on contested catches (even if you’re an exceptional contested catch artist[26]), 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.

Granted, Johnny Wilson's appearance on the above chart twice could be more indicative of poor quarterback play. But this is still a massive concern. Coleman’s lackluster athleticism — 17th percentile Speed Score (for a Day 1-2 WR) — further amplifies this concern.

Sure, Coleman makes some insane “wow” catches. But that skillset never translates as neatly to NFL fantasy points as a separation artist. See (in a best-case scenario): Mike Williams, Courtland Sutton.

Conclusion / TLDR

Analytically, Coleman just looks like an inferior version of his teammate Johnny Wilson. But there are enough excuses here (and his 2022 season was impressive enough) where I could see him being a value if his projected draft capital is accurate.

14. Johnny Wilson, WR, Florida State Seminoles

Height: 6-6, Weight: 231 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.52

SPORQ: 92.1, Former: 3-star, Age: 23.1

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 4 (WR20)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 73.8 out of 100 (WR23)

We could just immediately write off Wilson due to an apparent inability to consistently separate against NCAA CBs. (See above.) But if we don’t, Wilson easily looks like one of the best sleepers in the class.

Wilson was plagued by hamstring injuries throughout his two-year tenure at Arizona State. He played in only 8 games, but his per-game production wasn’t too far off that of teammate Ricky Pearsall (39.2 YPG vs. 29.6).

Wilson transferred to Florida State, and immediately dominated as the team’s clear WR1, recording a 43-897-5 line through 13 games. He averaged 3.36 YPRR – the highest mark by any Power 5 WR that season, and the 3rd-best single-season mark of any WR in this class.[27]

The following season, Wilson’s production dropped as he again dealt with injuries (missing 3 games with an undisclosed injury) and now faced tougher target competition (proj. Round 1 pick WR Keon Coleman). But he was still pretty freaking great. He averaged more YPG than Coleman (61.7 vs. 54.8) despite leaving multiple games early, and his YPRR was significantly better than that of Coleman’s (2.42 YPRR vs. 1.74).

And there’s really nothing fraudulent about Wilson’s production, beyond having minimal target competition in 2022. He’s seen only 8 career screen targets (versus, for instance, Malachi Corley’s 145), and has run 96% of his routes from the outside over the last two seasons. And remember, he was great on the perimeter – Marvin Harrison Jr. and Troy Franklin are the only other Power 5 WRs from this class to have ever cleared 3.00 YPRR from the outside in any season. Not bad for a guy whose supposed only pathway to NFL success is as a “big slot” WR or TE.[28]

Wilson is also far more athletic than the typical slot WR, far more athletic than Coleman (73.8 SPORQ), and actually what I would quantify as freakishly athletic (92.1 SPORQ). Wilson's 84.5” wingspan is the longest ever recorded by a WR (offering a uniquely massive catch radius for his lucky QB), but Wilson’s height (6-6) has been so often held against him, you’d think his name were Ed Jones. To me, he’s merely one inch taller than Calvin Johnson, Plaxico Burress, Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Mike Williams, etc.

Bonus Dank Stats: 5th-best in career YPRR among exclusively Power 5 WRs (2.52), ahead of Rome Odunze (2.50). Or, better yet, 3rd-best in the class by career YPRR minus screens (see above). 4th-best in the class by best-season age-adjusted YPRR (82nd percentile). Best in the class against press coverage. Wilson is an extremely high-end target-earner (without the benefit of screens), ranking 3rd-best in the class by career TPRR. And to account for missed time, Wilson has a career 35.9% YMS (when actually on the field), which ranks 3rd-best in the class.

Bonus Warts: In spite of his size, Wilson was weirdly averse to scoring touchdowns. Wilson has found the end zone only 8 times on 182 career targets. For perspective, Keon Coleman had 11 touchdowns on 87 targets last year… Has the worst hands of any projected top-25 WR in this year’s class, dropping one out of every 12.9 career targets (versus a class average of 20.2, or Malik Washington’s class-high 53.5.)[29]

Conclusion / TLDR

Wilson is definitely one of my favorite WRs in this year’s class. His analytics profile is similar to that of Keon Coleman, but significantly better. If not for the big crimson-red flag regarding his career contested target rate, you could argue this was maybe the 4th-best analytics profile in the class. And even with that factored in, he still might have the 4th-best WR1 upside in this class.

I considered pushing Wilson farther down in my rankings, to more closely align with projected draft capital (WR20) and Brett Whiefield’s film score (WR23). But I decided against it for three reasons. For one thing, I’m not sure what I’m missing — Wilson has the exact same red flag as Keon Coleman, who could be getting drafted in Round 1. Secondly, we must remember our key tenet from Upside Wins Championships: a player’s upside is vastly more valuable than their downside is detrimental (especially when that player goes later in drafts). Thirdly, I actually think Wilson’s floor is underrated. Because even if a team drafts Wilson as a WR and he busts, I think he’ll get a second chance as a TE.

Heck, if Wilson were to be drafted as a TE (which is still a very real possibility), he’d immediately become my TE2 in this year’s class. At that position, we want freak athletes who are basically just “Big Slot WRs” with a TE designation for fantasy. And such a move (lining him up against linebackers and safeties, or getting his free access off of the ball) would wholly negate the separation concerns we brought up previously.

15. Jalen McMillan, WR, Washington Huskies

Height: 6-1, Weight: 197 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.47

SPORQ: 74.4, Former: 4-star, Age: 22.4

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 3 (WR17)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 78.6 out of 100 (WR15)

19. Ja’Lynn Polk, WR, Washington Huskies

Height: 6-1, Weight: 203 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.52

SPORQ: 57.0, Former: 3-star, Age: 22.1

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 3 (WR15)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 74.9 out of 100 (WR19)

I’m not sure why Polk is expected to be drafted ahead of McMillan, when McMillan was always clearly the team’s WR2 when healthy.

McMillan is also significantly more athletic than Polk (74.4 SPORQ vs. 57.0).

And McMillan’s analytics profile is legitimately better than many WRs projected to be drafted ahead of him as well – he eclipsed the 2.00 career YPRR benchmark we keep talking about (although just barely at 2.04) while Polk just barely missed it (1.95, 13th percentile). And he’s one of only eight Power 5 WRs from this class to clear 2.30 YPRR in multiple seasons. (Polk never once cleared this benchmark.) Keep in mind, this is despite arguably the toughest target competition in this year’s class.

The major knock on McMillan is that he ran 67% of his career routes from the slot (versus Polk’s 27%), and projects to be slot-only at the next level. Remember, my model has a strong bias against slot WRs. But based on his analytics, he looks like an excellent arbitrage play on fellow slot WR Roman Wilson. Polk, meanwhile, is an “OK” arbitrage play on Jermaine Burton. (Among all proj. Day 1-2 WRs in this class, only Burton ranks higher by percentage of career receiving yards coming on deep targets. And only Legette ranks worse by career first downs per route run.)

16. Javon Baker, WR, UCF Knights

Height: 6-1, Weight: 202 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.54

SPORQ: 53.1, Former: 4-star, Age: 22.2

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 3 (WR18)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 78.5 out of 100 (WR16)

Baker, a 4-star recruit, was buried on Alabama’s roster through two seasons (back when they were a lot more stacked at the position) before transferring to UCF.

As a junior at UCF, Baker just barely led the team in YPRR over Ryan O’Keefe (2.03 YPRR vs. 2.01), and just barely missed O’Keefe for the team-high in YPG (56.9 vs. 57.9). O’Keefe then transferred (before ultimately retiring from football due to medical reasons), paving the way for a far more dominant performance from Baker in 2023.

In his senior season, Baker posted a 52-1139-7 line through 13 games. He averaged 3.32 YPRR, which ranked 4th-best of any Power 5 WR in this class, behind only Nabers, Harrison, and Franklin.

Bonus Dank Stats: UCF joined the Power 5 in 2023. But if we lie and say they actually joined in 2022, then Baker would have ranked 5th-best among all Power 5 WRs in this year’s class by career YPRR (2.53), behind only Harrison, Nabers, Franklin, and McConkey. He ranks 2nd-best in the class by career YPR (17.5). His best season by YPTA ranks 4th-best of any Power 5 WR in this class (81st percentile). His best season by age-adjusted YPRR ranks 7th-best. With a minimum 35-catch threshold, his best season by yards after the catch per reception (minus screens) ranks best in the class (74th percentile). His 1,139 receiving yards were the most by any Gus Malzahn WR in his last 15 seasons as an OC or HC.[30] And he wasn’t too heavily involved on screens and ran 77% of his career routes from the perimeter.

Bonus Warts: 2nd-worst hands of any projected top-25 WR in this class, dropping one out of every 13.1 career targets. Only an average athlete, registering a 53.1 SPORQ Score.[31]

This is a seriously muddied analytics profile that left me with a number of questions and caveats. Baker’s career marks look great, but he benefited in these metrics by barely seeing the field (a bad thing) in his first two seasons. What sort of target competition does Ryan O’Keefe represent – would he have been drafted had he not retired for medical reasons? (Per sources, he probably wasn’t going to get drafted.) And then, should we pretend UCF was a Power 5 school in 2022? (My model would have liked Tank Dell a whole lot more if I did this for him.)

Still, this is a pretty strong profile (better than some WRs listed ahead of him), and one that hints at a significant amount of upside. Given that 50% of his yards came on deep passes last year, he’s yet another strong arbitrage play off of Brian Thomas.

17. Brenden Rice, WR, USC Trojans

Height: 6-2, Weight: 208 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.50

SPORQ: 55.7, Former: 4-star, Age: 22.1

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 4 (WR20)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 80.1 out of 100 (WR14)

Rice led the Colorado Buffaloes in YPG as a sophomore, although just barely and with a modest 27.2 YPG. He then transferred to USC to play with Caleb Williams in HC Lincoln Riley’s first season with the Trojans. He underwhelmed in this season, finishing 3rd among the WRs in routes run and 4th in YPG (43.6). But Rice finally broke out as a 21-year-old senior, posting a 45-791-12 line through 12 games. His 2.75 YPRR ranked 10th-best of any Power 5 WR in the class. That’s pretty good, but it still wasn’t quite as impressive as teammate Tahj Washington’s 3.06, who also easily led in YPG (81.7 vs. 65.9).

So, Rice was pretty efficient in his final season, although not the most efficient nor productive receiver on his own team. And he did benefit from highest-end QB play (Caleb Williams, proj. 1st overall pick) alongside fairly soft target competition in his final year.[32] Yeah, it’s hard to get too excited about that…

…Or at least it initially was. But the deeper I dug into Rice’s analytics, the more excited I began to get.

Rice cleared the career 2.00 YPRR threshold we keep talking about, with 2.10. His best season by age-adjusted YPRR ranks 9th-best in the class, in between Rome Odunze and Brian Thomas. He ranks 7th-best in the class by career yards per target over expectation (+22.7%), behind only Jermaine Burton and the WRs within the top 6 of my rankings. He ranks 2nd-best of the projected top-20 WRs in this class by career yards after the catch per reception minus screens (5.4). He ranks 5th-best by career EPA per route run (0.179), with only WRs in my top-6 ranking ahead of him.

Clearly, there’s some upside here.

The one really weird thing about Rice’s analytics profile is how much better Tahj Washington – a projected Round 6 pick – has looked over the past two seasons (68.4 YPG vs. Rice’s 53.9). Without getting too deep into the weeds here (I’ll save that for the footnotes), I’ll just say that I’m not at all concerned. Washington (who is nearly a full year older than Rice) benefited from the luxury of the slot (93% slot rate over the last two years vs. Rice’s 1%). More than that, he has what I would call the most fraudulent production profile I’ve ever seen. And a deeper investigation into Washington’s numbers[33] should leave you all the more encouraged by Rice.

Add it all up, and Rice checks in comfortably as my WR17, three spots ahead of his projected draft capital. And he did it all on his own, without me nepotistically boosting him up in my rankings for being the only player from this draft class whose dad has more fantasy points than Marvin Harrison Jr.’s dad.

18. Malik Washington, WR, Virginia Cavaliers

Height: 5-8.5, Weight: 191 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.47

SPORQ: 55.2, Former: 4-star, Age: 23.3

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 3 (WR19)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 74.6 out of 100 (WR19)

Washington scored only 4 receiving touchdowns through his first four seasons, and didn’t lead Northwestern in receiving yards until his senior year (only 148 yards more than RB Evan Hull). Washington then transferred to Virginia, and had a breakout season, posting a 110-1,426-9 line through 12 games.

So, if we wanted to, we could just totally write off Washington for being too old, for being too short (5-foot-8.5) but not too skinny (191 pounds), or for being a 5th-year breakout. Within each leg of this profile, we’ll see a massive bust rate. But the problem is, Washington was legitimately freakishly great in that breakout fifth season.

*takes a deep breath*

Through 12 games, Washington caught 110 passes for 1,426 yards and 9 touchdowns. This amounted to 47% of Virginia’s passing yards and 47% of their passing touchdowns. Or, in other words, this was the best season by Dominator Rating of any Power 5 WR since 2019 (47.372%), narrowly eclipsing DeVonta Smith’s Heisman-winning 2020 campaign (47.371%).

Washington’s 1,426 yards were the most in UVA history, eclipsing Dontayvion Wicks’ 2021 season by 223 yards. Washington’s 111 receptions were the 4th-most by any Power 5 WR since 2014; tied with Justin Jefferson, and just behind seasons from Amari Cooper, DeVonta Smith, and Rondale Moore. His 115.3 YPG ranked behind only Malik Nabers last season. Among all Power 5 WRs in the class, his 2023 season ranked tied for 5th-best in YPRR (3.15, tied with Xavier Legette) and tied for 4th-best in 1D/RR (0.132, tied with Rome Odunze). He forced 35 missed tackles in this season – 2nd-most of any Power 5 WR since 2014, behind only Rondale Moore’s 2018. And this was one element of his game that didn’t appear to come out of nowhere.


Beyond all of this, it feels easier to write off Washington’s late breakout relative to someone like Legette, because Northwestern was a smoldering dumpsterfire of a program. Washington actually did clear 2.00 YPRR throughout his career, and cleared 1.80 YPRR in each of his last two seasons at Northwestern. In fact, he’s the only Northwestern WR since at least 2014 to clear 1.40 YPRR in multiple seasons (min. 200 routes).

Ultimately, he’s just a small, small-school, slot-only (93% slot rate last year), late-breakout guy. But there’s some upside here, and I ended up liking him a whole lot more than I ever expected to.[34] He’ll be very landing-spot dependent, but it wouldn’t shock me if (in the right spot) he turns out to be a rich man’s Rondale Moore.

20. Malachi Corley, WR, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Height: 5-11, Weight: 215 lbs, 40-yard-dash: u4.56

SPORQ: u21.6, Former: 2-star, Age: 22.1

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 2 (WR13)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 74.3 out of 100 (WR22)

Again, my model has a major bias against small-school players, and so do I. So, although Corley was hyper-productive at Western Kentucky (career-high 92.5 YPG in 2022), I don’t know how much it matters – especially when Jerreth Sterns (135.9) and Mitchell Tinsley (100.1) were significantly more productive in the previous season.[35]

To argue back in favor of Corley, although he benefited from a softer strength of schedule in the Group of Five, he was productive against tougher competition, averaging 8.8 catches and 80.6 YPG (low of 69) against the five Power 5 schools he’s faced over the last three seasons. His production through four seasons also looks a little more impressive within the context that he initially was recruited as a CB, and didn’t play WR in high school.

The key metric in favor of Corley is that he appears supremely dominant after the catch, which helps explain the occasional comparisons to Deebo Samuel, Anquan Boldin, and Laviska Shenault from among the NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti. Among all 216 FBS WRs with at least 170 career catches (since 2014), Corley ranks 6th-best in YAC/R (8.17) and 14th-best in MTF/R (0.27). Those are truly elite numbers, but this is also a sort of a double-edged sword for Corley. Because he’s not only just a slot-only WR (92% career slot rate) but is also one of the biggest screen merchants in NCAA history.

Without screens (excluded for all players), Corley falls a sizable distance from best in the class by career yards after the catch per reception to 6th-best, from 5th-best in career missed tackles forced per reception to 14th-best, and from 9th-best in career YPG to 23rd-best.

In addition to all of the obvious concerns, a limited route tree is another one. Last season 46% of his yards came on just two routes (screens and crossing routes). That said, he was asked to run a more complete route tree at Senior Bowl practices, and impressed enough to be voted the top WR on the National Team (ahead of names like Roman Wilson and Ricky Pearsall).

Ultimately, it’s really hard for me to get too excited about an unathletic (unofficial 21.6 SPORQ) small-school screen merchant — a glorified RB in a RB’s build. To me, he just looks like a poor man’s Malik Washington, although he’s projected to be drafted over a full round ahead of him. And that’s the best argument for him – his projected draft capital is really high, and that’s probably the most predictive metric we have at our disposal. That, and I suppose, who knows – there’s probably a 5% chance he’s the next Deebo Samuel, even if there’s a closer to 70% chance he’s simply the next Amari Rodgers.

21. Jacob Cowing, WR, Arizona Wildcats

Height: 5-8, Weight: 168 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.38

SPORQ: 16.7, Former: 2-star, Age: 23.2

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 4 (WR23)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 74.5 out of 100 (WR20)

Cowing is supposed to be this year’s Tank Dell, which is to say he’s yet another hyper-productive but older (23.2 on Draft Day), seriously undersized (5-8, 168 lbs), and unathletic prospect (16.7 SPORQ) prospect.

Cowing was UTEP’s WR1 through all three seasons at the Group of 5 school, averaging 104.2 YPG in his final season. Although my model intentionally underweights non-Power Five production, it's important to recognize that this season was exceptional, ranking 6th-best since 2006 by yards per team pass attempt (3.71). Cowing then transferred to Arizona, and was the team’s No. 2 receiver in each of his final two seasons, although up against higher-end target competition. First, he finished 71 yards behind Devy WR56 Dorian Singer (who soon transferred), and then 554 yards behind Devy WR1 Tetairoa McMillan. Over this stretch (2022-2023), he ranked 2nd among all Power 5 WRs in receptions (174), 7th in yards (1,902), and 5th in TDs (20). But he wasn’t nearly as impressive by YPRR, averaging just 2.05 YPRR (74th-best).

Ultimately, Dell’s analytics profile was still quite a bit better than Cowing’s. And although Dell certainly feels like a “hit” today, he looked like much more of an outlier at the time. And I don’t know if we want to be betting on Cowing as an outlier.

22. Jamari Thrash, WR, Louisville Cardinals

Height: 6-0, Weight: 188 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.46

SPORQ: 43.1, Former: 3-star, Age: 23.3

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 4 (WR22)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 78.0 out of 100 (WR17)

It took Thrash until his fourth season at the Group of Five Georgia State to eclipse 35.0 receiving YPG, but he was truly dominant in that fourth season (albeit against lesser competition and alongside UDFA-tier target competition), earning a whopping 3.0X as many receiving yards as the next-closest receiver. Among all non-Power 5 FBS WRs with at least 1,000 yards in a single season, he ranked 5th-best since 2014 in YMS (46.3%) and also 5th-best since 2006 by yards per team pass attempt (3.76).

Thrash then transferred to Louisville at age 22, and again dominated as the WR1 (against exclusively UDFA-tier competition), earning 2.0X as many YPG as the next-closest receiver (71.5 vs. 36.2). But then again, he averaged just 2.37 YPRR (17th-best among Power 5 WRs in this class). And his 71.5 YPG still paled in comparison to UDFA Tyler Hudson’s 86.2 in the previous season.

Ultimately, Thrash is just an older late-breakout and a below-average athlete (43.1 SPORQ) with only one Power 5 season who was just “fine” in that one season.

23. Devontez Walker, WR, North Carolina Tar Heels

Height: 6-1.5, Weight: 193 lbs, 40-yard-dash: 4.36

SPORQ: 96.1, Former: 2-star, Age: 22.9

Proj. Draft Capital: Round 3 (WR15)

Brett Whitefield Film Score: 73.0 out of 100 (WR23)

After transferring twice (North Carolina Central, Kent State), Walker broke out as a 22-year-old in 2023, averaging a team-high 87.4 YPG for the Tar Heels.[36] Impressively, his 2.28 YPRR edged out Josh Downs’ numbers in the previous season (2.17), even though Walker didn’t have the same benefit of playing from the slot (only a 12% slot rate vs. Downs’ 86%). But that said, neither number was as strong as Round 7 pick Antoine Green’s 2.34 YPRR in 2022.

And, well, that’s the best pro argument I can seem to make for Walker – at least without mentioning his athleticism, which is freakishly elite (96.1 SPORQ, 2nd-best in the class), but isn’t ever enough on its own.

Digging even deeper, things look pretty grim. In comparison to all other Power 5 WRs with at least 60 targets last season, Walker ranked in the 2nd percentile by yards after the catch per reception, 5th percentile by missed tackles forced per reception, and 31st percentile by first downs per route run. He also saw 1.7X as many air yards as he gained real yards (13th percentile). Keep in mind, he was catching passes from a projected top-3 pick (Drake Maye).

Outside of the Top 20

All other WR prospects were excluded because they did not have the pre-requesite projected Draft capital necessary to be included in this article. (They’re all projected to be drafted in Round 5 or later.)

But I’ve already written up many of these players, so hit me up on Twitter (ScottBarrettDFB) if you want to hear my thoughts on your favorite deep sleeper.


This class is really deep in the sense that there are an abnormally high number of fantasy-relevant players with upside. It just seems like the NFL Mock Draft Cognoscenti is on a lot of the wrong ones. For this reason, I’ve been trying to accumulate extra Round 3 picks wherever I can.

Matt Harmon via Reception Perception charted Marvin Harrison Jr. with a 16.8% career double-covered route rate, the highest in his history of scouting prospects. This might help explain the narrow gap between them, but PFF charting had Harrison closer to 3% by the same stat.

Prior to injury, Emeka Egbuka was averaging 65.8 YPG to Marvin Harrison’s 84.0.

Malik Nabers also happens to be the youngest WR in this class; he won’t be legally able to drink a beer until late July.

Although we could do that too, of course: “It’s a little weird that Malik Nabers never once led his team in receiving touchdowns, with only 3 in 2022. His target competition was tough, but not quite elite (at least not until Brian Thomas’ breakout in 2023). And he did benefit from high-end QB play, unlike so many other WRs from this draft class — Jayden Daniels, the Heisman-winner, is a projected top-5 pick, whereas Kyle McCord (Harrison Jr.’s QB in 2023) is a projected insurance salesman.”

FBS WRs had a 91% catch rate on screens last year. It’s not obvious to me why we don’t view this similarly to or even count this as rushing production.

Malik Nabers averaged 4.35 YPRR from the slot in 2023, the 2nd-best single-season mark from any Power 5 WR (min. 175 slot routes) since at least 2014.

Fret not! This isn’t a red flag. Rome Odunze saw contested targets at one of the lowest rates in the class (16.7%.) (This is a further indication that Odunze might be an elite separator.) He was just really good at converting contested targets into catches when he did see contested targets.

D.K. Metcalf was averaging 2.83 YPRR in his final season – while catching passes from a UDFA QB and competing for targets against NFL-level talent in A.J. Brown, Elijah Moore, and Dawson Knox – before suffering a season-ending injury. He almost certainly would have cleared this benchmark had he stayed healthy, as he was on pace to finish with a career 2.23 YPRR.

Brian Thomas ranked in only the 23rd percentile by best-season yards after the catch per reception, but slightly above average after controlling for alignment, target depth, and screen rate.

This archetype might even be less valuable in today’s NFL given the increasing rates of two-high coverage league-wide; a coverage scheme designed to take away the deep passing game .

Per-target metrics can help in spotting future superstars who might have been underutilized at the college level but are, on the whole, far less predictive than per-route metrics. So, while it’s cool that Brian Thomas led the class in career passer rating when targeted (142.0), this gets completely overshadowed by the fact that he ranks just 32nd-best in the class by career first downs per route run (0.083).

Zay Flowers was also heavily reliant on motion, as is likely to be the case with Xavier Worthy once he gets to the NFL. Flowers ranked 24th among all WRs in first-read target share (27.8%) On plays with pre-snap motion he jumped to 9th (37.6%).

But it doesn’t appear as though Worthy is to blame for this – a staggering 39.6% of his career targets coming 15 or more yards through the air have been deemed uncatchable by PFF charting. No other proj. Round 1-3 WR from this class was above 28%, including Adonai Mitchell at 23.0%. It’s still unclear to me how much a WR influences these metrics. But even if it’s not entirely on the QB, I think this stat serves as a feather in Worthy’s cap, hinting at massively untapped potential.

The important caveats here are that:

1) Xavier Worthy’s target competition was (at least supposedly) very tough in his final season, but perhaps only in his final season. I’m not quite as high on these players, but Adonai Mitchell is a projected Round 1 pick and TE Ja’Tavion Sanders is a projected Round 2 pick. Slot WR Jordan Whittington – who played with Worthy in all three seasons – is expected to be drafted in Round 7.

2) More importantly, Worthy suffered from inaccurate QB play all throughout his career. A whopping 22.4% of his career targets were deemed to be off-target throws according to PFF charting, which might have ranked as the single-worst mark in the class. Things are a little more nuanced by other metrics. For instance, Quinn Ewers was PFF’s 10th-highest graded passer in the Power 5 last season, one spot below J.J. McCarthy and two spots above Caleb Williams. Worthy, meanwhile, ranked just 95th of 149-qualifying Power 5 WRs in PFF Grade (68.9). But it is at least notable that Ewers – the top overall recruit in the 2022 class – went from being the projected QB4 in the 2024 Draft class to now being a projected Round-2 pick in 2025. So, I’m far more inclined to side with their charting than their grades.

Xavier Worthy was 4 pounds heavier at his Pro Day, five weeks before the Draft. This would bring his BMI up to 23.4 (the 17th-lightest since 2000). It’s possible his playing weight is quite a bit heavier than this, and he intentionally dropped weight in an effort to break the Combine record.

Steve Sarkisian was Xavier Worthy’s HC throughout his three seasons at Texas. Before that, he was Alabama’s OC in DeVonta Smith’s Heisman-winning 2020 season.

This isn’t just an interesting coincidence to me, but a potential concern that although Sarkisian was able to mitigate Worthy’s size-related limitations, Worthy’s future NFL OC might not be as enlightened or successful in this regard.

Over the last three seasons, we’ve seen 9 WRs with a BMI of 25.0 or less earn Round 1-2 draft capital. That’s more than over the previous 16 years combined!

A 25.0 BMI is still far from Xavier Worthy’s 22.8 BMI, but this is a recognizable trend. Anecdotally, Jordan Addison is the 37th-lightest WR by BMI (24.0), and last season finished as the rookie WR2 by fantasy points scored. Tank Dell finished 2nd among the rookies in YPG (64.5) and is exactly the same weight as Worthy (165 pounds), although a little thicker (24.8 BMI).

And this might not just be a coincidence. Mike McDaniel has mildly revolutionized the copycat National Football League since taking over as Miami’s HC. Or, at least, he’s helped popularize the rate of motion in the NFL. The use of motion can help WRs gain "free access off the ball" (manufactured low friction looks where collision, press, and impeded route stem opportunities are limited), mitigating their size limitations.

Given where the NFL is now headed – see: the increasing rates of motion league-wide – Worthy’s BMI might not be as damning as it once was. But of course, this also means that Worthy is going to be massively landing spot-dependent. (Root for Worthy and, by extension, Franklin to land on a motion-heavy team with a forward-thinking OC.) But the flip side is that Worthy could be a fantasy league-winner if he lands with Miami.

Troy Franklin also benefited from playing against softer competition in the Pac-12 (relative to every other WR we’ve so far discussed), but he did well against ranked opponents, averaging 83 YPG and 0.9 touchdowns per game over the last two seasons.

To be fair, Roman Wilson averaged 3.33 YPRR on his 94 perimeter routes last year, which would have ranked as the best season from any Power 5 WR in this class (if I reduced my typical threshold). But this isn’t very predictive – Elijah Moore, Treylon Burks, Jalin Hyatt, Rondale Moore, and Tutu Atwell were all slot-only types with elite YPRR when lined up out wide.

Missing 14 weeks with a high-ankle sprain is extremely abnormal — the typical timeline to return is typically 4-6 weeks. So, I asked Fantasy Points Injury Expert Edwin Porras about this. Here’s what he had to say: “To be honest, it sounds like he got a case of the yips, or maybe there was an off-the-field thing going on. There’s a chance he actually had an avulsion fracture. That’s impossible to know, but this is definitely super weird.”

Adonai Mitchell ranked only 79th by touchdown-adjusted YPRR (2.16).

As we alluded to in earlier footnotes, Twitter keeps telling me that Quinn Ewers is terrible. Even if so, that’s no excuse for Adonai Mitchell (1.72) ranking behind Xavier Worthy (2.14) and Ja’Tavion Sanders (1.86) in YPRR last year.

Paraphrasing from Dane Brugler’s The Beast, Keon Coleman missed roughly half of his high school senior season due to injury. As a high school junior, he turned 35 catches into 1,143 yards (32.7 YPR) and an insane 22 touchdowns (one touchdown every 1.6 catches), while adding seven interceptions on defense. He was his high school’s all-time leading scorer in basketball (with nearly 2,500 career points). As a senior, he averaged 30.8 points per game, and walked away with state MVP honors. He earned a basketball scholarship to McNeese State, and only considered schools that would allow him to play both sports. Coleman played in only six games for Michigan State’s basketball team as a freshman before focusing on football full-time as a sophomore.

Throughout the 2022 season, Jayden Reed missed practice time with a foot injury, missed one game with a hip injury, and also dealt with a back bruise and laceration that required stitches. In the previous season, Reed averaged 2.57 YPTPA and 2.67 YPRR.

Which, mind you, Keon Coleman isn’t. He ranks slightly below average for this class by career contested catch rate (45.8%). For perspective, Malik Washington is 6.5 inches shorter and caught 56.7% of his career contested targets.

In this season, Marvin Harrison Jr. was the only Power 5 WR to rank ahead of him by YPRR from the perimeter. Johnny Wilson’s 4.55 YPRR against man coverage also ranked as the best single-season from this year’s Draft Class.

Theoretically, if Johnny Wilson really was miscast in college, this might mean he offers even greater upside in the pros. To this point, he ranks behind only Javon Baker and the Big-3 WRs in YPRR from the slot over the past two seasons (3.10 YPRR), although, granted, on a small 60-route sample size.

Analytically, this isn’t something I greatly care about. As it’s almost negatively predictive of future NFL success.

Over this span, Gus Malzahn has coached NFL WRs Seth Williams (high of 830), Anthony Schwartz (high of 636), Darius Slayton (high of 670), Ricardo Louis (high of 716), and Sammie Coates (high of 902).

Given his poor athleticism, Baker might be better suited for the slot. And this aligns with the analytics. Javon Baker ran 77% of his routes from the perimiter last season, but averaged 3.87 YPRR from the slot. This ranks as the 2nd-best season of any Power 5 WR from this year’s class (min. 95 slot routes).

Tahj Washington is a proj. Round 6 pick. Underclassmen Zachariah Branch, Duce Robinson, Makai Lemon are highly-regarded top-35 Devy prospects, but barely saw the field ranking as the (respectively) WR5, WR8, and WR10 by routes run.

Remember from the Malik Nabers section how I talked in-depth about the fraudulent nature of screens and deep slot production? Well, consider this – over the past two seasons, Tahj Washington averages 68.4 YPG, but without screens and deep slot production, he falls to just 25.2 YPG! An astounding 63% of his total receiving yards are what I would deem to be fraudulent.

So, although it might not have initially looked like it based on the raw numbers, Brenden Rice was glaringly USC’s WR1 in my eyes; in fact, the only one actually doing real WR-type stuff like, you know, beating CBs in coverage. If we excluded all screens and deep slot targets from USC’s numbers last year, Rice would have averaged a whopping 2.2X as many receiving YPG as the next-closest USC receiver (58.9 vs. Duce Robinson’s 26.6).

As alluded to elsewhere within this article, Malik Washington also leads all Power 5 WRs in this class by career contested catch rate (56.7%). And he has the best hands in this year’s class, dropping only one out of every 53.5 career targets.

Granted, QB play (Bailey Zappe, Round 4) was much better for Jerreth Sterns and Mitchell Tinsley than Malachi Corley (Austin Reed, proj. Round 7). But it wasn’t for Lucky Jackson (87.5) in 2019, who caught passes from UDFA Ty Storey… I don’t know. This feels nitpicky. Maybe I’m just not yet fully over my Taywan Taylor-induced PTSD.

His only Power 5 season.

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.