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This year’s glut of receiving talent may not have a No. 1 consensus pick, but it does have A LOT of depth. None of the prospects are without their flaws, of course, but an uncharacteristically large number of these players offer strong foundations from which to build.
My guess is that only one of the below players will be selected in the first round. It’s entirely likely, however, that the second and (early) third round(s) could feature a run on the position.
The below names are my top-five picks. For a deeper dive, download the most recent episode of the Yahoo Fantasy Football Podcast, wherein Matt Harmon and I continue to scout the incoming class of receivers.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Claim to fame: Brown’s most obvious trait is his cheetah-like speed. What truly sets him apart, however, is his explosiveness. Not only can the Sooner take the top off of a defense, but he’s also in possession of excellent vision and body control which make him a menace after the catch.
Trying to tame: At 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds, Brown isn’t exactly swole, which has led some talent evaluators to worry about his long-term durability. It’s a fair concern, especially when noting that the 21 year old is coming off of a Lisfranc (foot) injury, which prevented him from participating at the Combine and OU’s pro day.
The Take: What Brown lacks in girth, he makes up for in exuberance. Whether he’s tripping up DBs with a mix of dizzying footwork and lateral agility or simply leaving them in his wake, Hollywood is always competing. The timing of his foot injury is far from ideal, but recent reports seem to indicate it won’t be a limiting factor. Regardless, the potential reward from a player of this caliber is well worth the risk.
Comp: DeSean Jackson
Fantasy fit: By Brown’s own admission, he’s fashioned his game after Tyreek Hill. Given the domestic abuse investigations levied against Hill and the whispers that the Chiefs were considering moving the star receiver, Hollywood could find a new home in Kansas City. He’s a fantastic fit for Andy Reid’s offense and would be dynamic when paired with Patrick Mahomes.
A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
Fun Fact: Highly recruited to play football and baseball out of high school, Brown was signed by the San Diego Padres in the summer of 2016. The outfielder trained and played with the Arizona League Padres.
Claim to fame: An efficient and dependable receiver, Brown is fearless across the middle of the field. His sticky mitts, solid route technique, and high football IQ make him a reliable chain mover who excels as a weapon in the short-to-intermediate passing game.
Trying to tame: Not all tests are evidence of skill … and Brown’s measurables don’t jump off the page. He’s not a burner or particularly explosive, and he lacks eye-popping agility.
The Take: Brown doesn’t have the measurables of teammate D.K. Metcalf … but he was more productive. While he may not be an athletic freak, Brown is a smart and physical player whose game oozes with poise and polish. He’s the most pro-ready WR in this year’s class, and projects to be a solid No. 2 WR at the next level who could emerge as a security blanket for his quarterback.
Comp: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Fantasy fit: After busting on Josh Doctson and losing Jamison Crowder in free agency, Washington would be prudent to grab a high-floor prospect like Brown. That, however, assumes logic from one of the most sideways franchises in the NFL.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Claim to fame: Metcalf’s physical gifts make him a unique prospect. With awesome size (6-foot-3 and 228 pounds) and deep speed (4.33), the 21 year old is a 99th percentile SPARQ athlete that has the tools to become an absolute beast at the position. Throw in his explosiveness (in-and-out of breaks) and strong hands (useful for fighting off DBs and pulling down high/wild throws) and you’ve got one heck of a red zone weapon.
Trying to tame: There’s legitimate concern about the Rebel’s durability as he’s suffered two season-ending injuries (a broken foot in 2016 and a neck injury in 2018). More troubling, however, is Metcalf’s lack of polish and versatility. His route tree is limited, and his agility is Tom Brady-esque. Additionally, he has trouble working back to the ball and doesn’t consistently win contested catches.
The Take: Metcalf is a lightning rod player. One has to either believe in his ceiling or fear his floor.
Comp: Josh Gordon, Martavis Bryant, Kevin White
Fantasy fit: The Steelers are clearly in need of pass-catchers. They could take any number of receivers in this deep class. Metcalf, however, could fill the X/speed role in an offense that once successfully showcased the skills of Martavis Bryant.
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Fun Fact: Harry was born in Toronto before moving to the Island of St. Vincent as a baby. At age four, his grandmother brought him to the Phoenix area in the hopes of providing him with more opportunities.
Claim to fame: Harry’s size (6-foot-2 and 228 pounds) in combination with his excellent ball skills make him a special prospect. A physical competitor who efforts on every play, Harry is tough to take down. He also has strong hands, good balance, and meticulous timing, all of which help him get vertical to win 50/50 balls.
Trying to tame: Harry could struggle to gain separation at the next level, not for lack of trying, but for lack of physical tools. With average burst and speed, he tends to use his size to win. He also has the tendency to round his routes and lose focus when targeted over the middle of the field.
The Take: More effective than inspiring and more assertive than aggressive, Harry is like a slightly less impressive and polished version of A.J. Brown. While he has the size and experience to work on the outside, he projects to be a “big” slot receiver at the next level.
Comp: Allen Robinson
Fantasy fit: Harry could be in play for teams hoping to add a physical chain mover and YAC monster. Whether it’s Tampa Bay attempting to fill the hole left in the wake of Adam Humphries’ departure (though given the Bucs’ number of pass-catching options, that seems like a stretch), Arizona aiming to secure a successor to Larry Fitzgerald, or Seattle endeavoring to find Doug Baldwin’s eventual replacement.
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Claim to fame: As productive as he is creative, Samuel manages to make splash plays whenever given the opportunity. Per Yahoo Sports’ draft analyst Eric Edholm, Samuel scored 28 touchdowns on only 217 college touches (sixteen as a receiver, seven as a runner, four on 42 kickoff returns, one on a fumble return after a muffed punt snap and two as a passer). A gritty player who doesn’t shy away from contact, Samuel’s most valuable trait is his versatility. The 23 year old can line up all over the field (slot, outside, backfield, and via jet sweeps), employing crisp routes and loads of physicality to taunt defenders and eat after the catch.
Trying to tame: Built like a running back, Samuel’s size might turn some teams off, as he looks a bit like a fire hydrant when used on the outside. That’s a slight concern, however, in comparison to his biggest obstacle, which has been staying healthy. In addition to being plagued by soft tissue issues, the South Carolina native also broke his leg in 2017, which limited him to just three appearances that year.
The Take: He’s not a perfect prospect, but Samuel’s competitiveness in tandem with his resourcefulness make both his floor and ceiling attractive. Assuming he can clean up some concentration drops and work on his conditioning, the Gamecock could be a massive multi-dimensional threat at the next level.
Comp: Golden Tate, (a more explosive) James Washington
Fantasy fit: Likely to go in the second round, Samuel would be a nifty gadget for Kyle Shanahan whose team currently owns the thirty-sixth overall pick. If he were to fall to the bottom of the round, New Orleans — a team desperate for a multi-dimensional pass-catcher — could make a move with the sixty-second overall pick.
Which prospects intrigue you the most? Where would you like to see them land? Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF and start a conversation.