By Andy Moore (@AJMoore21)
There’s unprecedented depth to this year’s wide receiver class, with headliners Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs all tipped to go in and around the top twenty picks in the draft.
A whole host of receivers sit just behind the leading trio in terms of rankings, Justin Jefferson and Denzel Mims are regularly being drafted in the latter part of the first round, with Leviska Shenault, Brandon Aiyuk and Tee Higgins not too far behind.
But, with such a stacked class, who are the guys that aren’t being talked about? There’s a fair amount of them, and we’ve picked three who can make a splash on the team they’re drafted to.
Bryan Edwards – South Carolina
Edwards has emerged in recent weeks as a someone to upset the current rankings and potentially punch his was into the late second round, but for now we’ll include him due to his third/fourth round initial grading.
At 6ft 2”, 215 pounds, the South Carolina prospect set school records for career receptions and career receiving yards (234 receptions for 3,045 yards). He also earned Second Team All-SEC honours in 2019, behind Jeudy and another top-prospect, Ja’Marr Chase.
Edwards is all about his hands, he’s a reliable pass catcher who excels when making contested catches (see his grab when fighting projected first rounder CJ Henderson against Florida last season). He’s also got the ability to make the show stopping catches you expect to see from elite NFL receivers, anyone who’s scouted him will have seen the one-handed grab against Tennessee.
With good acceleration, Edwards is also a threat after the catch, often evading tackles and picking up first downs with smooth moves after coming back to get the ball on curl routes. Add to that an all-round aggressive nature and there’s a big chance that the Gamecocks product makes a mark in the NFL.
Collin Johnson – Texas
Texas’ Collin Johnson came into the 2019 season expecting to be near the top of the wide receiver rankings in this year’s draft. Coming off the back of a record breaking 177 yard Big 12 Championship Game, the optimism around him was understandable.
A nagging hamstring injury ended up putting a dampener on the hype and Johnson finished the season with 559 yards and 3 TDs from seven games, still averaging an impressive 14.7 yards a catch.
The injury hit 2019 campaign might turn into a blessing for an NFL team come the third round of the draft. Johnson comes from NFL stock, being raised by a father who earned a spot in the CFB Hall of Fame and played 10 seasons in the NFL as a defensive back, and it’s fair to say that talent has passed down to junior.
With a 6ft 5” frame, long arms and reliable hands, Johnson is a huge target on the perimeter. He shows good balance and body control whilst route running and is adept at creating separation with sudden breaks. He also adds a lot of help in the run game as a willing downfield blocker.
There are a few examples on tape of Johnson not taking advantage of his size, failing to high point the ball over smaller corners is a particular concern. However, it feels like this is simply a matter of technique and a fairly simple fix.
Johnson has the frame, talent and bloodline to succeed in the NFL, his ceiling is high and it feels like a natural comparison is Lions’ receiver, Kenny Golladay.
Gabriel Davis – UCF
Where the previous two receivers are slightly below the radar, Gabriel Davis is lying deep under the surface. The Central Florida receiver was a three-year starter for the Golden Knights, in a time that they firmly established themselves on the national stage.
Davis ranked 8th in the league last season in yards per game, averaging 103.4, a remarkable turnaround for a three-star prospect who didn’t receive a single Power 5 offer.
UCF’s spread offense has done a great job of showcasing his main skill as a wideout, tracking the ball over his shoulder on vertical routes to pick up large chunks of yardage in one go. The threat he poses as a vertical receiver is further complemented by his contested catch ability, often reaching back around the defensive back to pull in a catch at the last second (see TD catch vs South Florida in 2019).
Davis is also a big physical receiver when he needs to be, using his 6ft 2” frame to good effect in the run game and to shrug off smaller defensive backs. There’s clearly questions on some aspects of his game, such as his stop-start quickness and lack of experience running a full route tree.
However, given a chance in a pass happy offense there’s every chance that Davis could prove himself a valuable asset, looking to further develop a story that has already seen him overcome the odds once before.