BillsMafia 2019 NFL Draft WR Astro-Rankings

Photo of Arizona WR N’Keal Harry from arizonasports.com.

Don’t you just love all the “Way-Too-Early” 2019 Mock Drafts you’ve been seeing?

They’re “way too early” because it takes time for analysts to learn about all of the prospects, look at JUCO transfers, consider players injured in the previous year, factor in changed coaching staffs and schemes, consider the quarterbacks throwing to these guys, and account for the O-Line giving time for downfield routes to develop, not to mention watch video, read articles, and look up stats. In fact, I haven’t even finished all of the above, but I’ve already logged over 50 hours on this draft class. That’s plenty enough of a look to offer up my initial Wide Receiver Astro-Rankings.

Click “Watch” after the player height and weight to see some video. Click “Read” at the end of each player description for my link to the most interesting article on each player I could find.

I’ll circle back to update this list during the season, move players up or down, add significant stats, and earmark some for my Buffalo Bills. I hear they might be looking for receiver.   -Astro

The Top Ten:

Photo of Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown from oxfordeagle.com.

A.J. Brown,     Ole Miss (6-1, 225)Watch 
Arthur “A.J.” Brown is the best in the upcoming draft 
on slants (142.4), crossers (158.3), and screens (132.6), per PFF. One of the most productive WRs last year, breaking Laquon Treadwell’s records, Brown had a breakout soph season (75 passes for 1,252 yards and 11 TD). He led the SEC in the latter two categories. He’s a tackle-breaking YAC attack who’s a junior this year. He may forgo his final season if he’s the top pick on offense –and he is, for now. Mel “Hair” Kiper has him as the 2019 draft’s top offensive prospect (Oliver, Bosa, and Ferrell head his list). Brown wants to work on endurance and disguising his route tree this spring. There’s no disguising his talent.  Read

David Sills,    West Virginia (6-4, 203)Watch 
Grier to Sills will be a deadly combination this year. Factor in Sills’ skills and his height, and you have a top-5 talent in the making. Now, mix in Sills’ work ethic and character, and you know he’ll be very high on Bills’ HC Sean McDermott’s board. Watch his nation-leading 18 touchdown catches. Sills’ chemistry with Grier pops off the screen, especially on outs, slants, and fades.   Read

N’Keal Harry,   Arizona St (6-4, 216) —Watch
Harry is best at crossers (152.9) and go routes (134.5). The feisty N’Keal caught fire down the stretch in 2017, with five TDs over his final five forays (he’d had only 3x in his first eight games). He’s almost the entire Sun Devil offense; 35% of ASU’s receiving yards and 40% of their passing TDs went through Harry. With  N’Keal’s height, weight, and momentum in his favor, Harry could vie for Top-3 status among draftable WRs. Read

Terry Godwin,    Georgia (5-11, 185) —Watch
PFF says Godwin’s a good one, and I agree. He has the highest wide receiver rating of any draft-eligible receiver at 146.8, and he’s certainly in the convo for Day One. If you’re the Bills and are losing confidence in, say, Zay Jones, he’s worth a look.  Read

Parris Campbell,    Ohio St (6-1, 208)Watch
Campbell battled nagging injuries late in the 2017 regular season, but hauled in 40 catches for 584 yards and three touchdowns nonetheless. If Campbell can stay healthy, along with also-injured stars Deebo Samuel and Ahmmon Richards, they’ll all be Day-Two picks. Campbell is electricity when he’s on the field, no matter what QB will be throwing to him. He leads the country in average yards after catch with an obscene 13, and in yards per route run with 3.46. Campbell’s healing up, and I love Parris in the Springtime.  Read 

Michael Pittman *,     USC (6-4, 215)Watch
Pittman’s game against Stanford for the conference championship included this 54-yarder, and potential big-play ability. Pittman (yes, his Dad was an NFL veteran at RB)  came up big in big games, catching 7 of 7 targets including a touchdown. The junior’s 6-foot-4, 215-pound size is impressive, as is his toughness, as he battled a high-ankle sprain. No Darnold this year may hurt his numbers, but that toughness and size are hard to teach. Read

Anthony Johnson,    Buffalo (6-2, 207) —Watch
A local favorite, Johnson boasts a 124.2 passer rating when targeted, and he’s college football’s best at corner routes (146.6) and hitches (136.1). Red-shirted in 2016, Johnson has had eight games with at least six catches, and six games with 100 yards or more receiving. The career tally so far: 76 catches for 1,356 yards (113 ypg) and 14 touchdowns. He’s athletic (All-State in basketball at his South Carolina high school), and the DNA checks out (three cousins in the NFL, including Jadeveon Clowney).  Read

Deebo Samuel,    South Carolina (6-0, 215)Watch
Deebo is in the final stages of recovery from a left leg injury (I’ve heard both tibia and ankle, so we’ll say his “tibankle”), which ended his 2017 season. Samuel is sure-handed, boasting a Top-3 ranking for drop rate (3.28) among Power-5 WRs (or would that be Bottom-3 ranking? This is why I can’t sleep nights). Once Samuel catches the ball, Deebo is like a greased banana in the cartoons, with 18 missed tackles forced, which is tops among SEC wideouts.   Read

Kelvin Harmon *,    NC State (6-3, 213) —Watch
Ryan Finley to Kelvin Harmon will be alarmin’ this year. Harmon’s tied for 14th overall in deep-target catches (20+ yards), and is on the field a lot. Harmon has size, work ethic, and output to match (69 receptions for 1,017 yards). And this one-handed TD grab is just sick. But so is this TD catch in the other corner. While he’s just a junior, Harmon’s character will certainly have him on McBeane’s short list. Read

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown,   Oklahoma (5-11, 162) —Watch
Brown is a slot receiver whose 3.78 yards per route run is the highest of all returning FBS wideouts. Marquise is just videogame-fun to watch. I especially like his darting moves and tight cornering on screens like this one. But then you have this layout for a catch… then his sideline swag on this play. He always seems to make the defender covering him look inept. This year, he won’t have Baker Mayfield throwing him the ball, but I bet he’ll still be in my Top Ten.   Read

Photo of Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf from oxfordeagle.com.

The Middle Ten:

D.K. Metcalf **,    Ole Miss (6-4, 225) Watch
D.K. is the son of Guard Terrence Metcalf, the Bears’ RD3 pick in 2002 who played for 7 seasons back when you had acne. While D.K. is just a redshirt sophomore, he’s eligible to declare this year.  As a true freshman, Metcalf had 2 receptions for 2 TDs but broke a foot bone on that 2nd end zone catch and had to redshirt the ensuing year.  You’ll see his laser-like focus on fades, toughness vs tackles, and end-zone excellenceRead

Stanley Morgan Jr.,    Nebraska (6-1, 194)Watch
While he’s not any relation to the 4X Pro Bowler for the Patriots, Morgan was on the receiving end of 61 passes for a school-record 986 yards in 2017. He shows elite traits in the short game and some downfield productivity, as well: 16.2 ypc average. He could’ve gone to the NFL, but he’s a Husker through and through: he returned for one more year. Coach Frost’s return made Morgan’s decision easier given his up-tempo scheme. This isn’t your Daddy’s Nebraska playbook, and Frost should continue to heat up Morgan’s numbers. Read

Ahmmon Richards,    Miami (6-1, 190)Watch  
I could see Richards in the Top Five WRs …if he stays healthy. Richards broke Michael Irvin‘s 31-year-old Miami record for most yards in a season by a freshman. What he broke next wasn’t as fortunate. Ahmmon’s recovering from November surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, which followed hamstring issues. When healthy, though, I could see Richards’ comp being Randy Moss (stride, elusiveness, style, nose for the end zone, even Toe-Drag Swag). I see Richards as a high-risk, high-reward consideration, one that could drop his stock a bit.  Read

Preston Williams,    Colorado St (6-4, 210) —Watch
Williams’ game is defined by NFL skills. He’s fast with twitchy quicks, yet he’s smooth as he changes directions on you. He extends his height with above-average leaping ability, and shows soft hands.He keeps practices fun, but there’s not a harder worker while he does it. One writer thinks Preston’s the next Michael Gallup. There’s not much film on Preston Williams yet, but I think that’s all about to change. Read

Juwan Johnson,    Penn State (6-4, 226) —Watch
Juwan is Trace McSorley’s likely No. 1 option in 2018, with Nittany Lions losing 162 receptions, 2,111 yards, and 21 TD to the NFL. Hey, somebody has to catch the ball, especially without that Barkley fella. Johnson is fully healthy (wish I had a dollar for every…never mind) after a “tweaked” left foot kept him out of spring practice. Juwan looks like an NFL receiver, one who could be a QB’s best friend.  Read

Keelan Doss,    Cal-Davis (6-3, 206)Watch
I’ll argue that Doss is the best small-college WR prospect in the nation. Doss led the FCS in yards per game in 2017, and I don’t see a prospect eligible for the upcoming draft catching him this year. You can see his Toe-Drag Swag, his speed and elusiveness, and his “my ball” mentality at the catch point.  Read

Tyrie Cleveland,    Florida (6-2, 205)Watch
Cleveland runs a 4.36 forty-yard dash (watch) at 6-foot-3, 194 pounds. He’s the guy whose TD catch in the end zone vaulted Florida over Tennessee on a last-play Hail Mary in 2017 (Watch). Speed, separation, size are Dire “S” traits for the next level (Yes; I meant to pay homage to that great band). Don’t you think Cleveland should end up in Baltimore? Me neither.  Read

Dillon Stoner,    Oklahoma St (6-1, 198) —Watch
There is likely a big 2018 in store for Stoner with Washington, Ateman, and Lacy gone…oh, and Mason Rudolph. Stoner’s 2016 season was cut short with injury but he was one of current Steeler Mason Rudolph’s most sure-handed targets in 2017. He logged the highest catch rate (76.9 percent) of any Oklahoma State WR (not Washington, not Ateman). I still think “Dylan Stoner” should be the proper spelling, and it is only fitting that he should end up in Mile High.   Read

Hunter Renfrow,    Clemson (5-10, 181) —Watch
I’m ranking Renfrow right now as a Bills Target. A slot receiver and punt returner who was a walk-on hero at Clemson, Renfrow is a community guy with effort. ‘Nuff said. Renfrow caught the game-winning pass with six seconds left to beat No. 1 Alabama 35-31 in the Nat Championship, and Renfrow was the MVP in both National Championships. Why’s he so low right now? He’s 2″ and 200 wings short of NFL size. Read

DeAndre Thompkins,    Penn St (5-11, 187) —Watch
Similar to Trenton Irwin, Thompkins was playing third fiddle to DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall on a “Saquon-first” offense,  That meant limited playing time and lowered 2017 statistics: His 18 catches and 239 yards were fourth on the team), but Thompkins’ 75 % catch rate was second only to Barkley’s, as was his yards-per-target average (10 ypt). I could see Thompkins picking up the slack with DaeSean and Saquon moving on. Grabs like this will make Pegula pull some strings.   Read

Photo of Texas WR Collin Johnson from nfldraftbible.com.

The Bottom Ten:

Collin Johnson,    Texas (6-6, 215) —Watch
Short of the watermark game against USC this year, Collin Johnson has had disappointing stats in most games so far. I blame the QBs he’s had, line play, and Collin’s consistency thus far, but he has prototypical size –likely the best at the position– to be an early pick. He also has the drive to be better. You’ll see some lazy mocks with Collin Johnson in RD1 already. I’m daring him to be great, and great for me means back-to-back dominant games, and that didn’t happen in 2017. Read

Bryan Edwards,    South Carolina (6-3, 215)Watch
Edwards has 1,383 career yards receiving and 9 TDs. He’s tied with Sidney Rice for career TDs with 23. Finally fully healthy after dealing with meniscus, hamstring, and sports hernia injuries since his last year in high school, the hard-working Edwards could make his climb despite a crowded WR room. Read

Gary Jennings,    West Virginia (6-1, 210) —Watch
Jennings had started just one game prior to the 2017 season, but then caught at least two passes in each game in which his QB (Grier) played. Jennings was the team’s lone 1,000-yard receiver last fall, hauling in a total of 1,096 yards across 13 games. He’s ranked as PFF’s 2nd-highest slot receiver.   Read

Greg Dortch,    Wake Forest (5-9, 165 ) Watch
A nifty slot receiver, Dortch hauled in 53 of 74 targets for a catch rate of 71.6%, which is elite.  Read

Trenton Irwin,    Stanford (6-2, 205) —Watch
Irwin was used in the slot a lot, so he was a mismatch at his size. Nevertheless, Irwin’s numbers are mediocre (43 catches for 461 yards, 2 TD in 2017) mainly because it’s a “Love-first” offense. Bryce Love, that is.  Read

Dez Fitzpatrick **,    Louisville (6-2, 200) —Watch
Dez is an eligible underclassman, hence the double asterisk. Watch the tape and you’ll like what you see: Comeback catches and a catch radius/skill combo to snatch inaccurately-thrown passes from now-Ravens’ backup Lamar Jackson. He was the Spring Game’s Offensive MVP, for what that’s worth.  Read

JJ Arcega-Whiteside,    Stanford (6-3, 222) —Watch
Arcega-Whiteside was born in Zaragoza, Spain (here’s the Trip Advisor link).  I’m nicknaming him J-JAWs right now; you’re welcome.  J-JAWs hauled in a team-high 41 passes for 633 yards and six TD in 2017, and caught game-winning touchdown in a 22-13 win over Rosen’s UCLA.  Read

Tyre Brady,    Marshall (6-3, 201) —Watch
Tyre Brady caught 11 passes for 248 yds and one TD vs NC State in 2017 –that’s 2nd only to Marshall alumnus Randy Moss for yards in one game. Brady was at 4 high schools in 4 years, and is now at his second college.  Brady’s senior year in high school saw him catch 39 passes for 600 yards and 10 TDs, run back kicks, and play DE and DB. If he also runs out and gets the kickoff tee and sells popcorn this year, we’ll move him up. He’ll make you yards after the catch. He’ll give you the end-zone fade with superb foot awareness. He uses his toughness and grit to eke out the extra yard. He can sign with anyone except the Patriots; I would so easily tire of hearing “Brady to Brady”. Yeccchh.  Read

Ricky Jeune,    Georgia Tech (6-3, 205) —Watch
Jeune is a physical, go-route receiver who can win in contested-catch situations downfield. Think “effort guy” in both senses of the word: he has the moxie to win balls in the air and block, but Day 3 athleticism. He won’t set the Combine afire with his forty time, for example, as he’s not a burner. However, Jeune’s bigger body helps him more than most “size guys” at the catch point, as does his “my ball” mentality in his fight for the pigskin. He’s undeterred after the catch, too, as he’s not willing to go down easily. He’s caught 74 passes for 1,492 yards (an insane 20.2 yards-per-catch average) and 11 TDs over his career.  Read

Jaylen Smith,    Louisville (6-4, 219)Watch
An undisclosed injury has once again kept Smith out at the beginning of spring practice. Same deal last year. We’ll keep him in the bottom tier until his dominant ability is availability. There are moments of  toughness, but many more moments where Lamar Jackson’s athleticism allowed Smith to profit from the broken play. Read

Photo of Ohio State WR Terry McLaurin from mydaytondailynews.com.

Waiting In The Wings:

Terry McLaurin,   Ohio St (6-1, 205) —Watch
McLaurin’s made 25 game appearances over the past two seasons, but only 4 starts. This year promises to be his year, at least in part. Sidekick Parris Campbell will give McLaurin more 1-on-1s. But only 11 career catches for 114 yards and two TD puts him here until he proves he can be a 1A receiver. McLaurin is a character guy, team-first (McBeane Alert), and he’s made 370 special teams plays over 2 seasons.. Read

Damarkus Lodge,    Ole Miss (6-2, 198) —Watch
Like others on this list, Lodge didn’t see a lot of snaps while behind Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore’ea Stringfellow. In fact, Lodge only caught 16 passes in his first two seasons.We’ll see lots more of him this year, although he’ll still be in the shadow of A.J. Brown in the SEC’s second-best offense, which reeled off 462 yards and 33 points per game in 2017. Coach Longo doesn’t believe in taking his foot off the accelerator even for a moment, so maybe there will be enough touches to go around. Read

Mecole Hardman*,    Georgia (5-11, 183) —Watch
Hardman’s calling card is his speed. In fact, he made Jake Fromm look better. Mecole was used as the return man in 2017 although the jury’s out if he’ll be filling that role this season. Hardman’s experience as a high-school QB contributes to his football instincts and intelligence. His understanding of what the defender will do comes from his background as a Safety. In fact, Hardman originally signed as a DB, and Kirby Smart moved him to WR based on Hardman’s hands, athleticism, and elusiveness. Read

Emanuel Hall,    Missouri (6-2, 200)Watch
Hall was Drew Lock’s favorite deep ball target in former OC Josh Heupel’s air raid-spread hybrid offense, but Heupel’s gone. Hall will have to expand his route tree in the new system, and, frankly, in order to play in the NFL. Read

Emmanuel Butler,    Northern Arizona (6-4, 220) —Watch
Butler’s returning from a season-ending shoulder surgery sustained in September 2017, for which he obtained a medical redshirt. It’s very possible he’ll take full advantage, as he was a Day 3 receiver going into last year. He stands to make up some ground. His patience would be rewarded next year.  Read

Cody Thompson,   Toledo (6-2, 205) —Watch
Thompson is still recovering from a broken leg suffered last season.  When healthy, he’ll vault up the board with his skillset and size. Read

Andre Lindsey,    Sacramento St (6-3, 190)Watch
FCS phenom Lindsey’s yards per catch was 22.3 in 2016. In 2017, Lindsey tripled his receptions and boosted his ypc to 30.2. Yes, it was against FCS competition, but he made the FCS his chew toy. Read

Johnnie Dixon,    Ohio St (5-11, 195) —Watch
Because of injuries, Dixon only has one year of contributions on tape, so he’s back for 2018. Read

Nyqwan Murray,    Florida St (5-11, 185) —Watch
A slight meniscus tear in March has Murray sidelined for spring, but Murray led his Seminoles in 2017 with 40 catches for 604 yards and 4 receiving TDs. He can be the top dog in the WR room, but attitude and effort will have to be consistent. Read

Quintez Cephus*,   Wisconsin (6-1, 205) —Watch
Cephus had caught 30 passes for 501 yards and six TD in just nine games in 2017 (right leg injury ended his sophomore season at Indiana on Nov. 4.), but he still hauled in 60 catches for 980 yards — both team-highs. The Badger offense will be balanced once again, with Hornibrook throwing to Cephus and three other talented wideouts and handing off to Jonathan Taylor, a Heisman candidate. Read

Kavontae Turpin,   TCU (5-9, 153) —Watch
Academic issues caused Turpin to have to sit out of spring practices, and that gnawed at him. After setting things right academically, Turpin was cleared to play in the team’s spring game. He only played in 8 games as a sophomore due to injuries, but showed some promise. This board’s most-diminutive receiver, Turpin was still second on the Horned Frogs with 986 all-purpose yards serving as receiver, kick returner, and punt returner. Is it Turpin Time? Read

Felton Davis,    Michigan St (6-4, 195) —Watch
Davis had 55 receptions for 776 yards and nine TDs in 2017 as a junior, a season which showed promise after Davis was hampered by leg injuries in 2016. In his early years, Davis’s devotion to  preparation and film study were sparse for the Spartan. He made the mistake of trying to get by on athleticism.. With more dedication, Davis can climb this board.  Read

Editor’s babble: Wow… Dean Kindig’s work here is simply fantastic. Thanks to Dean, we can get prepped before the college season starts and know who to look at on the field. Given the Bills’ need for improving the WR corps, this list will come in handy during the season. You can find Dean on Twitter @ TCBILLS_Astro and if you’re not following his timeline, you should. Thanks, Dean!