NFL Hot Press: Teams Feel 2018 NFL Draft is Weak at Wide Receiver

Teams Feel 2018 NFL Draft is Weak at Wide Receiver

Updated Oct. 26, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Over the past few years, NFL Drafts have featured a series of strong classes at wide receiver. The 2014 NFL Draft had five first-round receivers, the 2015 NFL Draft had six, the 2016 had four receivers taken as top-25 picks, and last year, three wideouts went as top-10 selections. The 2018 NFL Draft looks, however, poised to break the string of talented classes of receivers as scouts from around the league say that it is a down year at the position.

Surveying sources from five teams revealed the most common top receiver as Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. The talented junior gets a lot of praise for his route-running, quickness, and generally having good hands. Ridley has 41 catches for 523 yards with two touchdowns on the season, but his production is held back by Alabama featuring its ground attack while using a running quarterback with passing limitations. While Ridley is the top consensus wideout, he doesn’t come without some concerns as multiple sources say independently that his thin frame worries them for the NFL. He is listed at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, but team sources say that he has weighed in somewhere in the 180s. With that being one factor, some scouts have said they are grading Ridley as a late first-rounder. He could end up going high out of team need at a premium position.

One national scout told that if it weren’t for a broken leg suffered in September, South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel might be their highest-graded receiver. Another source who likes Samuel said they had him graded similar to Sterling Shepard. Samuel is hoping to return to the field this year and pick up where he left off after dominating as a receiver and returner to open the season.

Another national scout said that he has Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown in the discussion with Ridley as the top receiver. They think that St. Brown has an intriguing skill set with size and speed, but his production is getting killed by Notre Dame using a running quarterback who struggles to pass the ball. Other team sources said they graded St. Brown as a second-day prospect.

Other players mentioned as candidates to be first-round picks, too, particularly Florida State’s Auden Tate and SMU’s Courtland Sutton. Both Tate (6-5, 225) and Sutton (6-3, 205) are bigger receivers, so their timed speed is going to be important for each of them.

Another receiver who has created some positive buzz in the scouting community is Memphis’ Anthony Miller. However, Miller is viewed as more of a second-day talent who could be a weapon as a slot receiver in the NFL.

Some other highly touted receivers have disappointed evaluators this fall. One of those disappointments is Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk – see below -, while another is Clemson’s Deon Cain. Kirk is receiving a large variety of grades. Cain is seen as a one-trick pony vertical receiver, he has had some bad drops this season. Cain is going to need development to be more than just a vertical receiver.

Another receiver who has gotten a lot of media buzz but isn’t high rated by some teams is Oklahoma State’s James Washington. Sources say that Washington has a running back’s build, is not really twitchy, and while he is deceptively fast, he needs to build up in order to hit that speed. They say that Washington has really good hands and makes plays vertically, but doesn’t make defenders miss after the catch or run through tackles despite his thick build. One director of college scouting said he graded Washington as a late fourth-round pick.

There still is a lot of games left to be played and plenty of receivers could rise up with strong performances at all-star games, the NFL Scouting Combine and pre-draft workouts. Heading into the final stretch of the regular season, however, sources from around the NFL think this is a down year at wide receiver.