College football is on a historic run of wide receiver classes. The 2020 and 2021 classes have produced exciting talent like Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, DeVonta Smith, CeeDee Lamb, Jaylen Waddle and many more. The 2022 NFL Draft does not have the top five, blue chip types that the previous years have had, but it has a handful of players who are bound to be really solid, if not very good players. The gaps between the top players are small, with very little separating the best receiver from the sixth best receiver. It really can come down to fit and preference. That being said, here are the ten best receivers in the class, what they do well, what they can improve on, and their pro-comparison.
Chris Olave, Ohio State, 6’, 187 Pounds
What he does well: Chris Olave was a prolific deep threat at Ohio State due to his easy acceleration, game breaking second gear and tremendous ball skills. Calling him a deep threat, however, undersells his skill set. Olave is a silky smooth route runner with great feels for the defense. Playing with Garrett Wilson meant Olave’s role was simplified, but he has shown he can win in a variety of ways.
Where he can improve: Olave rarely saw contested situations due to his play style and usage, so there are legitimate questions as to if he can win in traffic. However, that might be an irrelevant concern because he is just open so often. He could stand to put on some size, but probably shouldn’t if that would compromise his speed.
NFL Comparison: Terry McLaurin
Drake London, USC, 6’4”, 218 Pounds
What he does well: Drake London looks and plays like a power forward. He has great size and strength to out-muscle defensive backs at the line of scrimmage and the catch point. His leaping ability and strong hands make him a contested catch maestro and he is far more athletic than his size should allow for. USC’s quarterbacks consistently made catches harder for London than they should be, but somehow London still ended up making them look good.
Where he can improve: London is a really solid route runner, but leaned more on winning with his physical gifts. If London can become more consistent as a technical player, he would be a force to be reckoned with. Also to be seen how he recovers from a fractured ankle.
NFL Comparison: Tee Higgins
Treylon Burks, Arkansas, 6’2”, 225 Pounds
What he does well: Treylon Burks was a big play machine for the Razorbacks this season. Burks has great playing speed for his size and was a danger to house the ball on every touch. He is a bit unconventional in the way he plays and is built as a wide receiver, but he makes it work. His powerful running style and long speed make him an offensive weapon and NFL teams are going to want to get him the ball.
Where he can improve: The better Burks get at being a pure receiver, the better. He can be a dangerous role player, but his upside screams number one receiver. For a big receiver, he could be so much more physical at the catch point and could generally improve his ball skills. Burks can be so, so good and just needs to land with a team patient enough to bring him along.
NFL Comparison: Quincy Enunwa
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State, 5’11”, 183 Pounds
What he does well: Garrett Wilson was another dangerous cog in the Ohio State passing offense last season. His speed and ability to pick up yards after the catch meant Ohio State fed him the ball early, often and all over the field. Wilson plays much bigger than his listed size which is a perfect mentality to pair with his raw talent.
Where he can improve: Calling Wilson unpolished would be a disservice to the moments of brilliance he has shown as a route runner. The better assessment is he will need to rely on technique over athleticism more often than not in the NFL. Wilson’s talent is very obvious, but he will need to be more consistent in the NFL to be seen as a viable target instead of a reduced role player.
NFL Comparison: Jeremy Maclin
Jameson Williams, Alabama, 6’1”, 180 Pounds
What he does well: In terms of pure deep threat, Jameson Williams is the best in the class. His has blinding speed from the jump and can somehow hit a second gear to gain late separation against coverage and run away from defenses. He had 11 touchdowns of 30 yards or more in 2021, which is just a preposterous number. Factor in two return touchdowns and Williams is a big play waiting to happen.
Where he can improve: Williams is lanky at 6’1” and may struggle with more physical coverage. His speed negates the amount of traffic he typically plays in, but it could limit his role in the NFL. His recovery from an ACL injury in the title game is worth monitoring.
NFL Comparison: Will Fuller
David Bell, Purdue, 6’1”, 212 Pounds
What he does well: David Bell is just about as polished and well rounded a receiver in this class. He is physical, a technically sound route runner, and possesses strength and ball skills to outmuscle cornerbacks down the field. He ate up targets at Purdue and consistently showed up in their biggest games, posting 200 yard performances against Iowa and Michigan State. He is a gamer.
Where he can improve: Poor athletic testing has definitely soured many on David Bell, but he is definitely the type of player where you can shelve many athletic concerns by seeing the way he wins on tape. He will need to be technically perfect in the NFL to compensate for lesser speed or suddenness, but there is nothing about his track record to suggest he won’t eventually be a contributor in an NFL offense.
NFL Comparison: Gabriel Davis
Jahan Dotson, Penn State, 5’10”, 178 Pounds
What he does well: Jahan Dotson has a blend of speed, acceleration, and agility that would put cornerbacks in a blender during his time at Penn State. Dotson’s athleticism combines with sharp route running to frustrate defenses and make easy separation. With the ball in his hands, Dotson is a natural runner who can pick up big yards after the catch.
Where he can improve: Dotson’s game is very much below the rim. He is not a big or physical player that can win consistently in traffic, and will need to improve against stickier coverage if he wants to see targets in the middle of the field.
NFL Comparison: Elijah Moore
George Pickens, Georgia, 6’4”, 195 Pounds
What he does well: There is so much to love about Geroge Pickens. Any time there is a 6’4” receiver with sub-4.5 speed, he deserves a lot of attention. More than being an impressive athlete, Pickens is a fearless player on the field. His toughness comes out at the line of scrimmage and down the field against contested coverage. He does not shy away from contact and, more often than not, will beat up on defensive backs.
Where he can improve: Pickens is still less than a year removed from an ACL injury that held him out of much of the season. His continued recovery process will need to be monitored. Beyond that, Pickens is still raw in many aspects of receiver play and played in a run-first offense. However, it is hard not to see the appeal given Pickens’ frame , speed, and mentality.
NFL Comparison: Devante Parker
Christian Watson, North Dakota State, 6’4”, 205 Pounds
What he does well: Christian Watson’s athleticism is incredibly surprising given his size. He is agile and explosive before and after the catch. He was a weapon his whole college career as a receiver, a runner and a kick returner. Some might expect a gifted athlete dominating at the FCS level to at least be a bit unpolished in the technical aspects of the game, yet Watson impresses there too. He is a solid route runner with very good awareness on the field.
Where he can improve: The biggest question will be level of competition jump, but there is no question Watson has NFL talent. If he can consistently use his frame against coverage more often, he will quickly become a difference maker in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Denzel Mims
Calvin Austin III, Memphis, 5’8”, 170 Pounds
What he does well: When in doubt, draft offensive players from Memphis. Calvin Austin III is next in line after the Tigers have sent Tony Pollard, Antonio Gibson and Kenneth Gainwell to the NFL. Austin III has sprinter speed at the wide receiver position and used it to produce two straight 1,000 yard seasons. He is a great route runner and rarely drops open passes, making him a perfect big play threat in a passing offense.
Where he can improve: As is obvious, Calvin Austin is smaller than most NFL wide receivers. Being 5’8” on a good day will concern many NFL teams. Austin’s success will hinge on teams deploying his speed properly and keeping him away from contested situations. He might not have number one receiver upside, but he can be a dangerous player in the right situation.
NFL Comparison: Marquise Goodwin