As the NFL draft draws closer, let’s look at some of the wide receiver prospects that could become your next fantasy league winners as rookies next season. Whether you’re playing Dynasty fantasy football and want to start scouting rookies early or get ahead of your redraft league mates, you’ve come to the right place to crush your competition.
Rashee Rice– Rice, the son of GOAT WR Jerry Rice, stands over 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds. He’s got the size and pedigree indicative of star NFL player potential, but as a senior WR with only one year of big production in college despite playing at a non-NFL pipeline in SMU, I’m concerned about how he’ll fare against NFL competition.
Kayshon Boutte– Boutte was an elite prospect coming into college and projected to be a first-round WR entering this season, but he had an abysmal junior season with hardly any production and alleged off-field incidents which forced him to declare for the draft despite having already publicly committed to playing his senior season, perhaps his potential finally blossoms in the league, but I’m skeptical because, throughout his LSU tenure, his season-long production dipped, but he would sporadically have a week where he looked unstoppable.
Zay Flowers– Flowers‘ is likely to measure in at less than 6 feet tall and around 185 pounds. He played at Boston College, which isn’t known for producing NFL talent, he’s a senior with mediocre production, but Social media GMs are infatuated with him for a reason I haven’t been able to pinpoint.
Josh Downs– He’s fast, but he’s small and from UNC. Downs played with a high-quality college QB in Drake Maye but saw his production dip in his final season, which is a bit concerning. There are many more John Ross-type players than there are Tyreek Hill types; where Downs falls within that spectrum remains to be determined.
I hate the SEC bias and how the playoff committee gives Alabama the benefit of the doubt when it comes down to comparing their record to other schools vying for a top 4 ranking, however…Jalin Hyatt benefits from just that. He had the greatest receiving game against Alabama that I can recall, so I can’t help but include him in the top 4 wide receivers in this draft class.
Hyatt is a slender-built receiver with one year of spectacular production, but what a year it was. As a Junior, Hyatt had 67 receptions, 1267 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns. Most astonishing is that in one game alone, Hyatt had 6 receptions, 207 yards, and 5 touchdowns…against Alabama. Nobody torches Nick Saban’s (The Bill Belichick of college football) defense as Hyatt did. He was able to dominate such a well-coached program and help elevate Tennessee into a contender. This season was remarkable, and I think he emulates a former Bama WR. I’m talking about Devonta Smith.
Former Alabama superstar receiver Devonta Smith (The Slim Reaper) stood at 6-0 and weighed 175 pounds at the NFL combine (though he played at 170). Despite winning the Heisman in college, there were concerns about how he’d do against bigger, stronger defensive backs in the NFL. Two seasons into Smith’s NFL career, he’s managed to average over 1K yards and 6 touchdowns per season, so he’s undoubtedly dispelled concerns about whether or not he could play with larger competitors, but that concern still stands for Hyatt, who in my opinion is less of a physical receiver than Smith when it comes to ‘Mossing’ defenders.
Hyatt is an electric playmaker, but to truly set the league on fire, he’ll need to prove that he can face off against bigger defensive backs with regularity despite his small stature.
Quentin Johnston is arguably the top wide receiver in this class and undeniably one of its largest. Johnston entered college as a four-star wide receiver out of Texas. A multi-sport athlete, Johnston dabbled in basketball and was a state medalist in the high jump, two sports that show up in how he plays football. Johnston was considered one of the best football players in his 2020 high school graduation class and opted to stay in his home state, deciding to go to TCU after initially committing to Texas.
During his first two college seasons, Johnston only combined with having 55 receptions, 1121 receiving yards, 20.7 yards per reception, and 8 total receiving touchdowns. In his Junior season alone, he put up 60 receptions, 1069 receiving yards on 17.8 yards per reception, and 6 receiving touchdowns. This drastic increase in production is somewhat alarming, considering the lack of production early on in his career.
The receiver Johnston reminds me of coming out of college is Kevin White. White was a freak athlete back in 2015 when the Chicago Bears drafted him seventh overall, but his lack of a refined skill set and injuries ultimately derailed his boom potential and led to him being labeled as a bust.
White recorded 109 receptions, 1447 receiving yards, 13.3 yards per reception, and 10 touchdowns as a senior (his second season playing college football) versus his junior season, where he had 35 receptions, 507 receiving yards for 14.5 yards per reception, and 5 touchdowns.
The red flags that White had been present with Johnston as well, meaning that both declared following one season of massive production and could be one-season wonders coming out of smaller schools in TCU and West Virginia. The hope is that Johnston capitalizes on his tremendous upside and can stay healthier than White did. Coming out of college, White was arguably a better prospect than Amari Cooper, but ultimately Cooper would go on to be in four pro bowls, while White would never break 200 yards receiving in an NFL season. Due to his upside, I’d place Johnston as the third-best receiver entering this draft class, but if he can polish up his route running and reduce his concentration drops/body catches, he has some of the highest upside in this class.
Unlike Johnston, Jordan Addison has been producing at a high clip since he was a sophomore when he won the Biletnikoff award, which goes to the best receiver in the nation, while playing with Kenny Pickett at Pittsburgh. As a freshman, the four-star wide receiver put up 60 receptions, 666 yards, and four touchdowns in 10 games. He followed it up by having a stellar sophomore campaign with 100 receptions, 1593 receiving yards, and 17 receiving touchdowns in 14 games played. For his junior season, Addison transferred to USC to play with eventual Heisman-winning quarterback Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley. In 11 games, he had 59 receptions for 875 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns and improved his hands. In his final collegiate season, he had only two drops versus the 10+ he averaged in his first couple of seasons.
Having said all of that, Addison is a Junior coming out of college and can still put on some size, but even if he stays at his current size, I believe his best comparison is a light version of Calvin Ridley. Ridley’s calling card is his elite route running and playmaking ability. I don’t think Addison is the athlete Ridley is, but I believe he has a similar play style, albeit in a more petite frame. There’s pro bowl potential with Addison and his route running, and that’s why I have him as the No. 2 ranked receiver heading into the combine. Though his frame isn’t ideal, the former Pitt/USC star WR proved he could get it done against the competition in multiple conferences when healthy.
Addison, who’s not as elite of a prospect when compared to Ridley coming out of college, in my opinion, in part due to what I believe was just an overall athletic difference. Ridley was 6’1, 189lbs at his combine and ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. Entering college Ridley was the top receiver in the country, and upon entering the NFL, he quickly established himself as a top-tier receiver and route runner before his gambling scandal, which kept him out last season. If Addison tests well at the combine, I believe that in time he too could be viewed as a high-end WR.
The number one receiver in this class for me, hands down, is Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Injuries derailed his final year at Ohio State University, but what needs to be focused on is his sophomore season as a sophomore Smith-Njigba was the WR1 in an offense that featured: Chis Olave (Senior), Garrett Wilson (Junior) and Marvin Harrison Jr. (Freshman). That’s right. He was the alpha over last year’s NFL rookie wide receivers. To those unfamiliar with Marvin Harrison Jr., WAKE UP because he’s developed into one of the most outstanding wide receiver prospects you’ll ever see and essentially the second coming of Megatron!
Ohio State churns out some of the best WRs to enter the draft year after year. Iron sharpens iron, and that’s why players like Jameson Williams leave OSU and still go on to be first-round draft picks out of schools like Alabama. If you have a WR1 season at OSU, it means something because of the level of competition you face within the offense, and that’s why I’m ok disregarding a lackluster final season because, with players like Olave, there’s precedent showing that it’s ok not to continue ascending within their college offense, so long as you had WR1 success there at one point in your tenure you can be a legit difference maker at receiver upon entering the league.
JSN only had 15 receptions in his collegiate career outside of his extraordinary sophomore campaign, but his second-season performance ranks him as the No. 1 WR entering this draft. In 2022, Smith-Njigba had 95 receptions, 1606 receiving yards, and 9 touchdowns on 16.9 yards per reception. I must reiterate this was in a locker room that featured three first-round receivers in last year’s draft class and the consensus WR1 in next year’s draft class. JSN is HIM!
JSN is a slot receiver which some might say is negative. Others will likely knock him for not being the fastest receiver. However, when it comes to fantasy football, these are both positives. If you’re too fast of a receiver, you’re often stuck being boom or bust depending on if you catch a long touchdown, but a slot receiver is a QBs best friend when things break down, and they don’t have to be the fastest player on the field, they need solid hands and good routes.
Some of the best slot receivers in the league today include Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Jerry Jeudy.
After looking at the measurables, I believe Godwin and St. Brown are fair comparisons for JSN as slot receivers that are roughly his size, and we’re known for their routes rather than their speed coming out of college. I am willing to predict his entire combine based on averages of how his aforementioned peers performed.
JSN Predicted Measurements (make a graphic)
9 1/8” hand size
4.5 40-yard dash
2.6 20-yard split
1.59 10-yard split
37.25 inch vertical
126-inch broad jump
3 cone: 6.95
20-yard shuttle: 4.13
Depending on how he comes back after suffering a foot injury, JSN could be the best Ohio State receiver to enter the league in a while, and that’s saying a lot, considering that Garrett Wilson just won offensive rookie of the year. If the sophomore version of JSN is the one that enters the league, he could be a star from day 1.
For more fantasy football advice, be sure to check out the #1 Fantasy Football Podcast and get yourself the 16-round draft solution to get ahead of your competition with help from the best fantasy football analyst in the industry, Joseph Robert K’Amo!