GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a mock draft for Pro Football Focus, Sam Monson delivered Georgia receiver George Pickens to the Green Bay Packers with the 22nd overall selection.
PFF’s own Mock Draft Simulator gave the pick a D-minus.
“The Packers need receiver help in a big way after trading away Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders,” Monson wrote. “Adams is arguably the best receiver in the league, and even with him in the offense, the Packers haven’t had enough firepower at the position in critical situations in recent seasons. Pickens is one of the few receivers in the draft who has a true No. 1 “X” receiver skill set and can replace some of what Green Bay gave up in Adams. Pickens is being underrated because of a torn ACL and a small sample size, but he has elite potential.”
Oddly (or humorously), PFF’s draft page for Pickens calls him a third-round target. He is our sixth-ranked receiver. Chances are Monson is right and its draft grade is wrong.
At No. 28, Monson went with an edge rusher who, for what it’s worth, is typically mocked in the top half of the round.
Fox Sports Mock Draft: Packers Going Green
Longtime draft analyst Rob Rang drafted a receiver in the first round – but not at No. 22. In his mock draft for Fox Sports, Rang went with Texas A&M lineman Kenyon Green. Green is a guard by trade but started at four positions last year alone.
“While Packers fans (and perhaps Aaron Rodgers) will be clamoring for a wide receiver here to replace Davante Adams (at least on paper), the smarter move might be to take advantage of the depth at the position and nab a plug-and-play left guard such as Green,” Rang said. “His size, strength and agility made him a star wherever Texas A&M asked him to play, and that versatility has always been prioritized by the Packers.”
Another PFF Mock: Packers Start With Burks
In his latest mock, PFF’s Brad Spielberger grabbed Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks at No. 22.
“Even after signing free-agent wideout Sammy Watkins, the Packers still desperately need to add, at least, one pass catcher, so here, they stop Burks’ slide,” Spielberger wrote. “Burks can win in so many different ways — his acceleration ability as a big-bodied wide receiver on screen passes and other quick-developing routes is impressive, and he can win on contested balls downfield. He can line up anywhere in the formation and would be an offensive chess piece that head coach Matt LaFleur would have a lot of fun deploying all over.”
An offensive tackle was the choice at No. 28.
NFL.com: Packers Take Jahan Dotson
With five receivers gone in the first 17 picks, NFL.com’s Peter Schrager had the Packers taking Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson at No. 22.
“I think the Packers take the best WR left on the board,” Schrager wrote. “Dotson isn’t going to be Davante Adams anytime soon (or likely ever), but he’s a quality receiver who can contribute right away from multiple spots on the field. Eventually, by the end of the season, he could be the Packers’ No. 1 or 2 option.”
At No. 28, Schrager went with athletic Georgia defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt.
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It’s an interesting combination. The Packers could use an impact player at both spots. The question is whether the Packers believe Dotson – at 5-foot-10 5/8 – can play on the perimeter. With Randall Cobb back and the third-round investment in Amari Rodgers, the Packers don’t need a slot receiver.
Wyatt, meanwhile, turned 24 last month. Normally, age might take him off the first-round board but the Packers are in win-now mode and might not care about anything beyond what Wyatt can deliver on his rookie contract.
USA Today’s Draft Wire: Olave at No. 22
In his latest mock, Luke Easterling went with Ohio State’s Chris Olave at No. 22. Coach Matt LaFleur wants speed and Olave would deliver it – along with route-running expertise.
“Olave is a smooth operator who runs precise routes, and can turn any catch into an explosive play with deceptive speed. Even in a loaded receiver class, he might be the most polished prospect in the group, ready to make an immediate impact for a playoff contender.”
At No. 28, Easterling filled the hole at right tackle with a player who will turn 25 in September.
NFL.com: Packers Take Jahan Dotson (Again)
In his latest mock, NFL.com’s Charles Davis also went with Dotson, the acrobatic Penn State receiver.
“Fast, fast, fast,” Davis wrote. “Dotson improved his play each year at State College, capping his collegiate career with 91 catches last season. A huge added bonus is Dotson’s beyond-his-years maturity, which will help him acclimate quicker with the Packers and all-world QB Aaron Rodgers.”
At No. 28, Davis went with a powerhouse right tackle.
The 33rd Team: Packers Use First Pick on Treylon Burks
In a three-round mock draft in which The 33rd Team’s panel of writers and former scouts and executives divvied up the teams, the Packers started with Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks at No. 22.
“Let’s give Rodgers some weapons. Following the Davante Adams trade, Green Bay had a huge hole at receiver. They find a potential No. 1 guy here in Burks, who has the size and talent to be successful at the NFL level.”
With their other first-round pick, the Packers took an injured edge defender. With the first of their second-round picks, they selected an injured receiver. The second of their second-round picks was used on an offensive tackle.
In the third round, they wound up with Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson, the grandson of legendary Barry Alvarez.
“The Packers select a third weapon for Rodgers in their first five draft picks. Ferguson, an in-line TE from the state of Wisconsin, should be an effective blocking asset and middle of the field pass catcher for Rodgers.”
Packers NFL Draft Preview: Receivers
Ranking the Draft Need
Out of 11 position groups, receiver ranks as our most important need.
Never mind the immediate need, if you can. Lazard, Cobb and Watkins will be free agents next offseason.
Perhaps You Can Forget These Prospects
Based on Green Bay’s draft history, the likes of Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore (height) and Purdue’s David Bell (speed) won’t be a consideration.
For this story, we will not include any short, slot-only receivers, working under the assumption that Cobb and Rodgers will be enough.
Ranking the Receivers
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Measureables: 5-11 3/4, 183 pounds. 9 7/8 hands. 4.38 40, 4.36 shuttle, 36 vertical.
Stats: Wilson was a first-team All-American in 2021 following a season of 70 receptions for 1,058 yards (15.1 average) and 12 touchdowns. In three years, he scored 23 times.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had six drops (7.9 percent), averaged 6.0 YAC and had nine receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 61.5 percent. He averaged 29 missed tackles per 100 touches, third-best out of 45 receivers in the draft class ranked by Sports Info Solutions, and was ninth with 10.4 yards per target.
Personal Touch: At Lake Travis High School – the same school that produced Baker Mayfield – Wilson was the 2017-2018 Central Texas High School Athlete of the Year for The Austin American-Statesman. He averaged 21 points per game in basketball. That skill came from his father, Kenny, who ranks No. 7 on Davidson’s all-time scoring list.
“He’s a guy who pushes for that and stresses for that,” Kenny Wilson told 247 Sports. “He’s had a chance to win championships at a national level when he was younger. That feeling is something he wants to feel again. He’s always driving toward it. I think that striving for greatness was the biggest factor in his recruitment.”
Ohio State is a football factory but hasn’t had a first-round receiver since Ted Ginn 15 years ago. With speed and skill on the perimeter and in the slot, Wilson is sure to break that streak. “That’s something that being a receiver, taking a lot of pride in what I do, I wanted to have that in my game,” he said at the Scouting Combine of his inside-outside versatility “I feel like this past season, moving back outside was good for my development. Seeing DBs up in my face, a lot of good cornerbacks, I feel like that translates everywhere. So, I feel like I can do both for sure.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Garrett Wilson is a twitched up athlete with excellent suddenness and flexibility. He displays inside-outside versatility with a diverse route tree. Excellent overall release package vs a variety of techniques and coverages. He sets up releases as games go on by working them into different route stems. Good understanding of attacking leverage in his route stem and changing up aiming points. He knows how to attack blind spots and shows very good timing. He is sudden and violent with his hips in and out of breaks.
Drake London, USC
Measureables: 6-3 7/8, 219. 9 3/8 hands. DNP testing (ankle).
Stats: The only thing that could stop London was a broken ankle. In eight games, he caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards (12.3 average) and seven touchdowns. He was the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year even while missing the final four games.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had eight drops (8.3 percent), averaged 5.2 YAC and had 15 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 67.8 percent on the strength of a national-best 19 contested catches. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 23 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 10 in the draft class, and was 29th with 8.9 yards per target.
Personal Touch: When he was a little kid, London said he cried the first time he saw a basketball hoop. He dominated in football and basketball to such an extent that he played both sports at USC as a freshman before giving up hoops to focus on football.
“It feels like a part of me has left. That was my first love,” London told The Orange County Register. “I never really told anybody that, but [basketball] was my first love. That was the first ball that I picked up, the first sport that I started playing.” He added, “Football had more pros, basketball had a little bit more cons so I just had to go with the golden egg that was right in front of me.”
London was all-state in both sports at Moorpark (Calif.) High School. So, “Why not?” play both sports, he told The Ventura County Star. “It’s something I’ve done all my life. I love both sports. It’s what I do. I want to get my degree, play two sports and, hopefully, become a pro athlete. That’s my dream.”
London had a pro day workout last week in which he ran routes but didn’t run a 40. “Everybody has six to eight weeks, couple months to really train for [the 40-yard dash],” London said. “I was just trying to get back running at the end of the day. The tape is out there, you’ve seen it. …
“Separating when the dude is right below me, over the top of him. Separating at the release. Separating running by him,” he said. “You can see all sorts of separation on film, so, at the end of the day, just go watch that.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Natural catcher of the ball. Tough runner after the catch and runs with an edge to him. Possesses good body control and a large catch radius to haul in passes in his relative area. Excellent concentration in traffic and over the middle of the field to keep his eye on the ball throughout the catch process. He is aware of where the space is in the defense to attack the holes. Sudden footwork at the top of his routes to keep defenders a step or two off of him. Slippery with the ball in his hands.
Jameson Williams, Alabama
Measureables: 6-1 1/2, 179. 9 1/4 hands. DNP testing (knee).
Stats: Williams caught 15 passes at Ohio State but had 79 receptions for 1,572 yards (19.9 average) and 15 touchdowns upon transferring to Alabama. He was a first-team All-American and the SEC’s leader in receiving yards and touchdowns. As an added bonus, he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had six drops (7.1 percent), averaged 9.3 YAC and had 13 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 40.0 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 16 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 23 in the draft class, but was No. 1 with 13.1 yards per target.
Personal Touch: The native of St. Louis won Missouri state track and field championships in the 300-meter hurdles and 400 meters, and he broke Ezekiel Elliott’s state record in the 300 hurdles. “I have speed you can’t teach,” Williams said at the Combine. “I’ve got a lot of speed.” If not for the torn ACL, he might have won a national championship.
“Going through the practices,” he said at pro day. “Seeing Coach Saban’s defenses, it’s one of the best defenses I’ve ever seen. It has a lot of things in it and I really think it’s an advanced defense. So if you get a chance to go against this defense, it helps you a lot.
“The competition, everything that’s about Alabama football helped me become a better man, a better football player, a better receiver. … It all came together and hit me. I want to be the best. I’ve been wanting to be the best but when I came here, it just upped it to another level.”
As noted by The Sporting News, Williams had more touchdowns of 70 yards, 60 yards, 50 yards, 40 yards 30 yards and 20 yards than any receiver in FBS.
“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve coached a ton of great receivers,” Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien told Sporting News. “And Jameson, relative to the stage of his career that he’s at, being a college football player and having a chance probably to play pro football … Excellent speed, excellent route-runner, very competitive guy. He’s a very instinctive player. He’s a very smart player. And I can’t say enough about his competitiveness. He’s a player that goes out and practices every day like it’s a game.
“And so I think that’s something that the great ones have – those traits. Everybody’s a little bit different. Everybody’s built differently. Everybody has different skill sets, different speed, things like that. But the best ones that I’ve been around, and Jameson’s in that category, they all have that competitive spirit that’s really hard to find sometimes.”
Williams told NFL Media’s James Palmer that he is ahead of schedule in his recovery. He is also “getting a lot of movement” as he works in the pool and does some slight jogging. All of this progress has Williams hopeful that he’ll be ready to take the field to start training camp.
“That’s what I’m shooting for,” said Williams of possibly being ready for training camp. “What overrules that is just making sure I’m 100% before I do anything. That would be my timeframe, but I’m just going to make sure everything is 100% before I come back just so I can be right.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Williams displays track-level speed and explosiveness at all times. Hard cuts at the top of routes are able to create separation. Has a unique ability to drop his hips and stop his momentum instantly. Shows the advanced route-running ability to change speeds throughout his stem. A threat to overtop and can win downfield. Will do a good job finding and adjusting to the ball. After the catch, Williams has the ability to make people miss and make plays in space. Extremely gifted athlete with quick feet and can run any route in a system.
Treylon Burks, Arkansas
Measureables: 6-2, 225. 9 7/8 hands. 4.55 40, 4.40 shuttle, 35.5 vertical.
Stats: Burks was the Arkansas offense in 2021, when he caught 66 passes for 1,104 yards (16.7 average) and 11 touchdowns. He was first-team all-SEC and set the school record with six games of 100-plus receiving yards. In three seasons, he grabbed 146 passes for 2,399 yards and 18 scores.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had four drops (5.8 percent), averaged 9.3 YAC (No. 4 in the nation)and had 12 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 43.7 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 24 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 8 in the draft class, and was second with 12.3 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Burks’ talent was a hot topic among NFL decision-makers. So is his longtime passion for hunting – including wild boar.
“You have to go out there with dogs and the dogs find them and we come up behind them and tackle them and take them out,” he said at the Scouting Combine.
It’s muscle against muscle. Knife against tusks.
“We do not use guns,” he told ESPN.com recently. “Using a gun takes the fun out of it. Having a knife, it’s more of a thrill that you’re getting up on a wild boar that could kill you. Honestly, it’s just a thrill being out there with your friends and family and having a good time.”
Dangerous? Sure. But if Burks can tackle a hog and put it on the dinner table, then he can break a tackle attempt by Harrison Smith and take it to the house.
Burks plays for his great-grandparents, who helped raise him in Warren, Ark. “It’s an honor to have my name on the back of a helmet,” Burks wrote as part of a photo montage marking his first practice at Arkansas. “My family always pushed me and my (great)- grandpa kept telling me when I was younger that I was going to be something in life. My (great)-grandma took that role once my grandpa died and was always pushing me to be better. For me to have the name ‘Burks’ on my back is really an honor. I want to rep my grandpa’s name and his legacy.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: A stout frame that embodies much of what you look for in a running back much less a receiver. Outstanding after the catch where he uses strength and quickness to gain extra yards. Catches the ball naturally as evident by his use in screens and routes over the middle of the field. Never see him dance around and gets north quickly with a solid burst. Was used primarily as an F receiver in the slot but can work around the offense. Once he sees green grass, he possesses a second gear and is seldom caught from behind. A durable commodity, Burks is reliable in his availability and as a security blanket for his quarterback.
Chris Olave, Ohio State
Measureables: 6-0 3/8, 187. 9 1/2 hands. 4.39 40, DNP shuttle, 32 vertical.
Stats: Olave was a big-time performer for each of his final three seasons. As a senior, he caught 65 passes for 936 yards (14.4 average) and 13 touchdowns to earn first-team All-American. That gave him a four-year total of 176 receptions for 2,711 yards (15.4 average) and 35 touchdowns.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had five drops (7.1 percent), averaged 4.2 YAC and had 10 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was an excellent 62.5 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged five missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 43 (tied for last) in the draft class, and was 24th with 9.2 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Olave’s path to the draft started when Mission Hills (Calif.) High School coach Chris Hauser pulled Olave out of class to Ohio State coach Ryan Day could see the quarterback throw passes to someone. Having just moved into the school district, Olave hadn’t even played and certainly wasn’t on Day’s radar.
“Yes, that happens a lot, for sure,” Day told The Columbus Dispatch. “And usually, if the coach is saying, ‘I’ve got another guy for you over here,’ that means you’re not getting the (preferred) guy. So it’s usually not a good feeling. But in this case, it was kind of the perfect storm.”
Olave is driven by his family. His brothers were FCS cornerbacks. “That’s my purpose,” he said. “That’s why I go so hard. Both my brothers, we’re so close. I can’t even explain the love I have for them. I can’t even explain into words the love I have for my parents, what they did for me throughout my whole life and how they continue to support me.”
Mission Hills coach Chris Hauser appreciated Olave’s approach to football and life. Here’s this elite football player, elite athlete, a four-sport kid his senior year — football, basketball, baseball and track at same time — competing at a high level, and there’s no excuses anymore for anyone. It was: ‘My, oh my, look what this young man is doing.’
“He could have been resistant to that, he was going to be playing at a Power-5 school as a receiver, and he wasn’t recruited as a special teams phenom. But he played safety for us, as well as returned kicks for us, and to be able to talk about him to your current team, know what he’s doing for Ohio State, just has tremendous value. He always wants to be that teammate that [said], ‘If you need me to do something, I’m going to do it full-tilt.’”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Olave constantly threatens secondaries with his speed. Defenders always have to stay on their toes from the snap of the ball and leave cushion which opens up a lot for Olave’s overall game. He times the snap well and has quick burst off the line to get upfield and into his route. He can go from complete sprint to stopping on the dime to come back to the ball. Even though his frame is thinner, he demonstrates excellent effort when tasked with run blocking. Displays control of his body during the process of running his routes, as well as at the catch point to control himself in the air. As a route runner, he has the speed, footwork and quickness to make himself an elite route runner.
George Pickens, Georgia
Measureables: 6-3 1/4, 195. 8 3/4 hands. 4.47 40, DNP shuttle, 34.5 vertical.
Stats: Pickens suffered a torn ACL during spring practice but was back for the end of the season. In four games, he caught five passes for 107 yards. Pickens showed his promise as a freshman with his 49 receptions for 727 yards (14.8 average) and eight touchdowns.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, Pickens in 2020 had two drops (5.3 percent), averaged 3.1 YAC and had five receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 64.3 percent. He averaged 10 missed tackles per 100 touches in 2020, according to PFF.
Personal Touch: Pickens suffered a torn ACL on March 23 while participating in the Bulldogs’ spring practices. On Nov. 27 – barely eight months later – he was back for the game against rival Georgia Tech. He had a 52-yard reception in the national championship game against Alabama on Jan. 10.
“I’m very healthy right now,” Pickens, who had a predraft visit with Green Bay, said at the Scouting Combine. “With me coming back playing the last four games, trust and really preparing is no longer a problem.”
Pickens got his first scholarship offer as a sophomore – before he played his first varsity game.
“I watch Davante Adams a lot,” Pickens said. “I’m bigger than Davante Adams. That’s kind of the lane I kind of want to go into because with the size I am, a guy who can move is almost unguardable.”
His older brother by seven years, Chris Humes, plays for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. “Since we were kids we always used to play against each other,” Humes told Dawg Nation. “I was his big brother so I always used to rough him up. He kind of grasped the concept he had to be a ‘Dawg.”
When Humes was a high school corner, he’d send 12-year-old George out on routes.
“He was the little brother,” Humes said. “Maybe 12 years old, but he was going to get pressed up. He had to see and learn what it was all about.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Very competitive receiver in all phases of the game. Pickens possesses impressive length and strong hands to pluck the ball away from his frame. He is not afraid to go over the middle and lays out for passes. A ball winner with the pass in the air, Pickens tracks it, adjusts and makes a play at the high point. When running verticals against press, he uses his quick first step to get on top of corners before stacking them. His speed is good. After the catch, he does not go down easily and is elusive to avoid defenders. Pickens is a competitive blocker looking to finish.
Jahan Dotson, Penn State
Measureables: 5-10 5/8, 178. 9 1/2 hands. 4.43 40, DNP shuttle, 36 vertical.
Stats: Dotson practically doubled his production every year, going from 13 receptions in 2018 to 27 in 2019 to 52 in 2020 to 91 in 2021. He earned third-team All-American as a senior with 1,182 receiving yards (13.0 average) and 12 touchdowns. He returned 25 punts for his career with a 13.5 average and one touchdown.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had two drops (2.2 percent), averaged 5.3 YAC and had 11 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 41.6 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 10 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 36 in the draft class, and was 35th with 8.3 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Of his 11 100-yard games, he recorded 11 catches for 242 yards at Maryland this past season. “He makes plays,” cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields said. “Even when guys know the ball is coming to him, you still have to really guard him to try to stop him. He’s just quicker than you think, stronger than you think, faster than you think. I think he’s the best receiver in the country.”
Dotson’s drive comes from his parents. Dotson gets that from his parents. Robin and Al Dotson moved their family from East Orange, N.J., to Nazareth, Pa., more than a decade ago, yet commuted daily back to New Jersey for work. The drives were a grind (still are) but became worth it with Dotson’s success at Nazareth High.
Robin Dotson fights in other ways. She is undergoing cancer treatments for the second time, having been first diagnosed in 2019 and learning earlier this year that the cancer had returned.
“2019, I had a procedure done,” Robin said. “I went to the doctor for results which I thought was just normal results, by myself, got the news. Jahan was in school, so we decided to wait until he got home. He came up to the hospital, and he was there for a while, and I finally broke it to him. I told him I had cancer.”
With his mom watching the game in a hospital, Dotson scored his first career touchdown. “I literally could not stop smiling,” Dotson said. “Coming back to be able to see me play, it kind of brings me life,” Dotson added. “My mom’s fight is basically my fight. My mom went through so many tough things. I’m just trying to repay it for her.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: As a receiver with extremely quick feet and flexible ankles, Dotson excels as a receiver on underneath routes. He makes it hard for defenders to stay with him completely because of his acceleration into the top of his route. He creates extra separation with sudden movements, leaving defenders on skates at times. Even though he is a smaller target, his catch radius has proved to be bigger than his size as he is capable of hauling in passes away from his frame. Doton has the important trait of always maintaining good body control throughout all parts of his game. Understands how to catch the ball at all angles, no matter how the delivery is. He is simply a natural pass catcher and makes every reception look easy.
Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama
Measureables: 6-0 1/8, 194. 10 hands. 4.49 40, 4.24 shuttle, 36 vertical.
Stats: Tolbert caught 64 passes for 1,085 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior and 82 passes for 1,474 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. His four-year totals: 178 receptions, 3,140 yards (17.6 average) and 22 touchdowns. He owns most of the school records.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had eight drops (8.9 percent), averaged 7.1 YAC and had 16 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. The latter figure ranked sixth in the nation. His contested-catch rate was 44.4 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 27 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 27 in the draft class, and was seventh with 10.9 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Tolbert was only a two-star recruit and was headed to an FCS school before his hometown school offered him late in the process. “I started playing kind of late, and I have been constantly learning even back during the spring,” Tolbert told AL.com. “I’ve learned about different coverages and schemes team might play. I’ve also learned about reading defenses and just becoming a better wide receiver. I trained with some NFL guys over the summer and they just showed me some steps and other things I can work on to improve my game for this season.”
Tolbert impressed first-year coach Major Applewhite, the former Texas quarterback and Alabama assistant. “I talked to Jalen before I even met him in-person and he is a great human being,” Applewhite told AL.com. “As a coach, you relish the opportunities to coach great players with great attitudes. And sitting in the wide receiver room the last couple of years at Alabama, I had an opportunity to be around a guy like DeVonta Smith. And I see a lot of the same traits (in Tolbert), in terms of really wanting to learn the finer points.
“The devil’s in the details and trying to see these things — how did (Smith) look at this? How did (Henry) Ruggs do this … watching film, always being in there. It’s just a great sight to see, and it’s a wonderful blessing as a coordinator to have a guy who’s got skill, but also a desire to get better every day.”
He was a three-sport player in Mobile, Ala. “I think playing basketball and baseball really helped pave the way for me to further develop as a football player,” he told The Draft Network. “A lot of people don’t know that I didn’t actually start playing football until the 10th or 11th grade in high school. Playing basketball and baseball exposed me to a wide variety of skills that translated to the football field.
When you think about playing these sports, you have to high-point the ball in order to secure a rebound in basketball. You can’t let your opponent take the ball away. … You have to track the ball in baseball of course. Baseball teaches terrific hand-eye coordination. That little ball comes at you fast in the outfield.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Tolbert possesses great speed and acceleration to eat up cushions and fly past defensive backs. He is sudden and nuanced in his releases off the line, allowing him to separate against press coverage if cornerbacks are unable to land their punch. Tolbert is best on vertical routes, where he can use his speed to get behind defenses in a hurry. Ball tracking is a strong suit of his, as he can adjust to off-target passes and attack the ball at the high point. After the catch, he attacks angles with his speed.
Christian Watson, North Dakota State
Measureables: 6-4 1/8, 208. 10 1/8 hands. 4.36 40, 4.19 shuttle, 38.5 vertical.
Stats: Playing for the run-first Bison, Watson caught 43 passes for 801 yards (18.6 average) and seven touchdowns as a senior. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns as a junior and was a second-team All-American as a senior. For his career, he averaged 20.4 yards per reception.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had five drops (10.4 percent), averaged 8.0 YAC and had eight receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 50.0 percent and he averaged 12.9 yards per target and 14 missed tackles per 100 touches.
Personal Touch: Watson’s father, Tim Watson (now Tim Wajed), was a sixth-round draft pick by the Packers in 1993. “From the day I was born, I’ve been around football. It’s a love and a passion,” he said at the Senior Bowl. “My entire family’s life revolves around football. I just have a different love for the game of football. I really don’t see life for me outside of football in some way, shape or form. It has pushed me to try to be the best player I can be and make a name for myself and represent my family well by making a name for myself.”
How did this freakish athlete with NFL DNA wind up at North Dakota State?
“I was a late bloomer in high school,” Watson said at the Scouting Combine. “I didn’t really shoot up until my junior year. I went from 5-9, 140, to 6-1, 160, in a matter of months. So, I was a late bloomer. I just didn’t get that interest early from any Power 5 schools, big schools, and North Dakota State came in. They were one of the first schools that was talking to me and I fell in love with the program early and they fell in love with me, and I was a hundred percent committed to them.”
Those “matter of months” came from the end of his junior season to spring practice before his senior year.
“I’m out there watching practice with some other guys. I’m watching Christian thinking, ‘This is a guy I can develop. This is a guy I can work with,'” then-NDSU receivers coach Atif Austin told InForum.com. “Then it starts raining. Just pouring. Everybody else leaves and I keep standing there watching Christian going through drills. I was so intrigued I stood in the rain thinking about the possibilities with this kid.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Tall and long legged wideout who lines up at X receiver and operates on a vertical route tree. Watson has great build up speed when he opens his long stride which he uses to run past coverage. His speed also makes him dangerous as a kickoff returner and should translate to other special team roles. Watson uses his hands to get past and stack defensive backs downfield. After the catch, he falls forward to gain extra yards.
Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
Measureables: 6-3 1/8, 211. 9 hands. 4.41 40, 4.20 shuttle, 40.5 vertical.
Stats: Pierce led the Bearcats with 52 receptions for 884 yards (17.0 average) and eight touchdowns as a senior. A three-year starter, he had 106 receptions and 13 scores during those 34 games. He was limited to six games in 2020 by knee and shoulder injuries. He was an Academic All-American as a senior.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had four drops (7.1 percent), averaged 3.7 YAC and had 13 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 30.0 percent, a disappointing figure considering his size and jumping ability. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged eight missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 39 in the draft class, and was 12th with 10.3 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Pierce earned a five-year degree in engineering in three-and-a-half years while competing in high-level football. “I’ve learned time management and being able to prioritize things in your life,” Pierce told school web site. “Sometimes you have to stay in and do school work and get the important things done. Sometimes you have to get up early when you don’t want to, but I’ve learned that by getting up early you can get things done when you are fresh and focused.”
Pierce comes from an athletic family. His father played football at Northwestern, his mom played volleyball at Northwestern, and an older brother, Justin, finished his basketball career at North Carolina and plays professionally in Europe.
As a freshman, the Bearcats experimented with him at linebacker, where he made six tackles, before emerging as a go-to receiver for Desmond Ridder. “He’s a go-getter,” Ridder said. “He’s a person we can look to go get the ball. He’s got a great vertical jump, great speed and we put the ball up and know he’s going to come down with it … I know I can count on him whether to top something off or go out and do what he does.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: The Cincinnati standout maintains separation after gaining a step or winning leverage with his size and speed. He regularly dips his shoulder to avoid physicality up his stem and before his break. He can win with a push-off at the top of his route stem. At the catch point, Pierce plays to his size and is an incredibly reliable hands catcher when open or through contact. He tracks the ball seamlessly and uses his outstanding body control and catch radius to high point or adjust to errant passes. Pierce shields the ball from defenders with his large frame. He is fairly dangerous after the catch. The talented receiver has special teams experience in high school and college.
Khalil Shakir, Boise State
Measureables: 5-11 7/8, 196. 9 1/2 hands. 4.43 40, 4.21 shuttle, 38.5 vertical.
Stats: Shakir was a three-year all-conference selection with 19 touchdowns during those seasons. After catching 63 passes as a sophomore and 52 as a junior, he caught 77 passes for 1,117 yards (14.5 average) and seven touchdowns as a senior.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had 10 drops (11.5 percent), averaged 6.0 YAC and had 10 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 44.4 percent. Given the number of circus catches he’s made, the drop total is a disappointment. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 18 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 18 in the draft class, and was 21st with 9.4 yards per target.
Personal Touch: In high school, he played receiver, defensive back, safety, wildcat and returned kickoffs and punts. He took that versatility to Boise State. He was called a Swiss Army Knife; he didn’t understand the comparison.
“The little red one that flips out all the different tools,” teammate Kekaula Kaniho explained while standing nearby at Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas. “Oh yeah,” Shakir said. “You think a good nickname would be Swiss? Just call me Swiss.”
This story involving some advice from teammate Sean Modster would warm Allen Lazard’s heart. “He made me fix my bed at the hotel and I would be like they are going to clean the room right when we leave,” Shakir told Idaho News 6. “He was like it’s not what it’s about, it’s called respect you get up out of bed, you made it a mess so you fix it up.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: He is a nuanced and refined route runner using change of tempo and attacking of leverage to manipulate DB’s. The Boise State wide receiver shows good football intelligence reading coverages and finding soft spots vs zone. Shakir is a very fluid, loosed hip athlete that showcases impressive quickness and change of direction. Additionally, he does a good job getting in and out of breaks with violent hip drops and footwork. When the ball is in the air is when Shakir is at this best.
Velus Jones, Tennessee
Measureables: 5-11 3/4, 204. 9 3/4 hands. 4.31 40, 4.51 shuttle, 33 vertical.
Stats: Jones spent four seasons at USC and his final two seasons at Tennessee. With the Volunteers, he caught 84 passes for 1,087 yards (12.9 average) and 10 touchdowns. Not just a deep threat, Jones earned All-American accolades as a senior, when he averaged 27.3 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown and 15.1 yards per punt return. He returned kickoffs for five seasons and boasted a career mark of 24.4 yards per runback with two scores. He returned punts for the first time in 2021.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, Jones had three drops (4.6 percent), averaged 8.3 yards after the catch and had three receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 50.0 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 34 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 1 in the draft class, and was 15th with 9.9 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Jones earned his master’s degree in agricultural leadership, education and communications. “Me and my father talked about how we’re going to buy a lot of land,” Jones said at the Combine. “Being from an old-fashioned family, being raised by my grandmother and my granddad, they have their own crops. Their own tomatoes, collard greens and stuff. That was real interesting to me. I want to buy some land and have some livestock. Right now in the back of our neighborhood, we call it the goat field, we have goats, chickens, hens, horses. I’m a country boy, rode horses, liked to fish a lot.”
Jones, who had a predraft visit with the Packers, said his return ability is what separates him from some of the other prospects in the draft. “I’d say my playmaking ability in different phases of the game when it comes to punt return, kickoff return, and playing receiver and having the ability to make plays out of the backfield as well,” Jones said at the Scouting Combine. “When it comes to me, I feel I’m four players in one. I can make plays in any phase of the game.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Average-sized slot receiver with great speed who operates on a primarily vertical route tree. Jones uses his great acceleration and speed to be a consistent vertical threat by eating up cushions and blowing past flat footed defenders. Above-average hip sink and lower body flexibility allow him to perform speed cuts without losing significant momentum. Jones can hang on to the ball on passes slightly outside of his frame and maintains his balance to pick up yards after the catch.
Kevin Austin, Notre Dame
Measureables: 6-2 3/8, 200. 9 hands. 4.43 40, 4.15 shuttle, 39 vertical.
Stats: Austin was suspended for 2019 for violations of team rules and missed most of 2020 following foot surgeries. Thus, in three years at Notre Dame, he had just six catches on his resume headed into 2021. In finally reached expectations in 2021 wiht 48 receptions for 888 yards (18.5 average) and seven touchdowns.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, Austin had five drops (9.4 percent), averaged 6.7 yards after the catch and had 11 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 52.0 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 17 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 20 in the draft class, and was ninth with 10.4 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Austin was the only receiver in this draft class to rank in the Top 5 in the vertical, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. “He’s just like a physical specimen. You guys see it,” safety Brian Hamilton said. “First-team guy off the bus. Big, strong, athletic, knows how to use his body really well. Has great hands, great ball skills. Really indescribable watching him play because he’s so smooth, as big as he is. And he’s competitive at the same time. He’s not complacent. A lot guys his caliber can tend to coast but he’s a really hard worker. He’s diligent and it motivates me to grind every day.”
Austin could have sought a fresh start and greener pastures. “I have really great teammates that have helped me and supported me throughout this process, knowing I can play here and that I will play here,” Austin said. “They always say, ‘You will. You will.’ That’s great to hear. When you hear stuff like that every single day, it keeps you going, keeps you motivated and you want to come back.”
One of his favorite receivers to study is Davante Adams.
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Big and strong receiver. Great at playing the deep ball, he has incredible tracking skills and can adjust his body accordingly to make the catch. He also has really strong hands and makes contested catches look fairly easy. Good route runner and is very decisive in his movements, you can tell he understands the route tree. He is fluid in his routes and knows the optimal body position to get open and make the catch. He has a surprising ability to change direction and that makes it extremely difficult to cover him on comeback routes.
John Metchie, Alabama
Measureables: 5-11 1/4, 187. 9 1/4 hands. DNP testing (knee)
Stats: Metchie caught 96 passes for 1,142 yards (11.9 average) and eight touchdowns before missing the two playoff games with a torn ACL. He added 55 receptions for 916 yards (16.7 average) and six scores in 2020.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had eight drops (7.7 percent), averaged 6.7 YAC and had seven receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was an excellent 61.1 percent. He ranked fourth in the nation with 33 catches on screens. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 23 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 10, in the draft class, and was 32nd with 8.8 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Metchie was born in Taiwan, moved to Ghana and spent most of his childhood in Canada. When he was a 14-year-old with a bright football future, he decided to move away from his family to Maryland to better position himself for a career in football. That future was put on hold in 2014, when he was hit in the chest and he could feel his heart beating unusually hard. An exam discovered an enlarged heart.
“It was hard,” Metchie told The Toronto Sun. “I think that was one of the hardest times of my high-school career, especially dealing with this whole thing in a different country, being away from my mom and my brothers and things like that.”
He sat out the rest of the season, then redoubled his work ethic to return in 2015. “He walks around with a chip on his shoulder, like he has something to prove,” said his brother, Royce, a cornerback for Toronto Argonauts. “He’s a kid (for whom) mediocrity is not a thing … He hates just being average, especially on the field.”
The pandemic prevented him from visiting his family for two years. “My family was staying safe and all, but I wasn’t able to see them or go back home for about two years, couldn’t see my mom for about two years,” he said at the Combine. “It was tough, but I was just staying focused and I knew a day would come where I would see her again. Of course, technology nowadays helps for sure, it’s not the same thing as seeing them in person or being around them in person, but it definitely helps for sure.”
How is he so fast? From sprinting away from the numerous guard dogs in Ghana.
Metchie is the No. 1-ranked player in the CFL Draft.
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Great route-runner who has the tremendous foot speed and ankle flexion allowing him to change directions at high speeds. Metchie sells his routes, keeping his head and pads square. He can separate on all three levels from the outside or on the slot, getting in and out of breaks very suddenly. From off he is nearly impossible to guard as he runs on the toes of corners and explodes out of his breaks. Tracks the ball very well and is not phased by traffic, coming down with it through contact.
Danny Gray, SMU
Measureables: 5-11 7/8, 186. 9 5/8 hands. 4.33 40, 4.37 shuttle, 34 vertical.
Stats: A junior-college transfer, Gray caught 82 passes for 1,251 yards (15.3 average) and 13 touchdowns during his two seasons with the Mustangs. He was first-team all-conference as a senior with his 16.4 average and nine scores.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, Gray dropped seven passes (12.5 percent) and averaged 8.6 yards after the catch. His contested-catch rate was 57.1 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 16 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 23 in the draft class, and was fifth with 11.2 yards per target.
Personal Touch: To get his grades in order, he spent his first two seasons at Blinn Junior College. “JUCO is tough,” he told The Draft Network. “I definitely had some obstacles I had to overcome. It made me grow as a man and player overall, though. It wasn’t always the experience I wanted, but I came to realize it was the one I needed. It made me accept the little things and I learned to never settle for less. I worked extremely hard.”
He has big expectations for himself in five years. “I see myself deep in my career, with two to three Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl, a player that’s well respected around the league,” he told NFL Analysis. “Some future goals, I would love to give back to the community just by opening recreational centers, open up more jobs, just to allow kids to be kids and keep them busy as they grow up.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Gray offers good size at the position to play on the outside full-time. He plays with speed and quickness that gives him good ability before and after the catch. In his route progression, he really turns on the burners and has an elite second gear to pose a threat downfield. Excels on crossing routes over the middle because of his ability to extend plays after the catch with straight-line speed.
Romeo Doubs, Nevada
Measureables: 6-1 7/8, 201. 10 hands. DNP testing (knee)
Stats: Doubs is one of the most productive receivers in the class. In four seasons, he caught 224 passes for 3,322 yards (14.8 average) and 26 touchdowns. He had 40-plus receptions in every season and 1,000-plus yards as a junior and senior. In 2021, he caught 80 balls for 1,109 yards (13.9 average) and 11 touchdowns. Plus, he averaged 12.5 yards per punt return with one touchdown in four seasons.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had four drops (4.8 percent), averaged 4.0 YAC and had 12 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 60.0 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he forced 15 missed tackles per 100 touches, good for 25th in the draft class, and was 14th with 10.0 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Doubs’ older brother, Jarmaine, who played cornerback at Southern Utah, got Romeo hooked on football when he was 4. “The Lord’s definitely blessed me with him because everything I learned was with him,” Doubs told Nevada Sports Net. “Eventually I was going to have to come here to college and grow up on my own, so whenever things didn’t go my way, whether it was in a harsh way, he had to be on me. Or if it was just me talking to him being able to figure out and just get advice and learn then elevate from there.”
At the Scouting Combine, he said he watched a lot of A.J. Green. The Senior Bowl was a key piece to his path to the NFL. “I learned Senior Bowl week that I can compete with anybody, whether if you go to Alabama, if you go to Penn State,” Doubs said. “I’m just a kid who comes from from the city of L.A. who’s just got a chip on his shoulder. So I think up into that, I just knew that I had to give my best shot out there. And I thought I did great at doing that because I got some I got some people’s attention.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Doubs is the definition of a true vertical threat. Doubs has a high-cut 6’2 frame and uses this to really open up his stride and hit a true second gear downfield. Very good vertical separator who stacks DB’s downfield with an innate feel for keeping on defenders back. Juice to separate vertically, but also capable of stopping on a dime. Doubs has inside/outside versatility and a clean release package when allowed to release freely. On vertical routes, Doubs shows the ability to high point with a wide catch radius.
Charleston Rambo, Miami
Measureables: 6-0 5/8, 184. 9 3/4 hands. 4.52 40, 4.21 shuttle, 33.5 vertical.
Stats: Rambo spent four seasons at Oklahoma – he caught 43 passes in 2019 – before shifting to Alabama for his final season. He was superb, catching 79 passes for 1,172 yards (14.8 average) and seven touchdowns. The yardage record set a school record.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, Rambo four had drops (4.8 percent), averaged 4.9 yards after the catch and had 13 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 52.2 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 13 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 27 in the draft class, and was 16th with 9.8 yards per target.
Personal Touch: At Oklahoma, he played with CeeDee Lamb in 2019. The expectation was that he’d fill his shoes in 2020. He did not, and he sought a fresh start. “My confidence, it never fails,” he said before the season. “I feel I’m way better than I was in 2019.”
Rambo fancies himself as more than just a catcher of passes. “In the weight room I will tell the running backs to come my way when they run the ball,” Rambo said. “I am good at blocking, route running, speed, and getting open. That is what we want to do, get open and get the ball.”
And about the last name? Yes, he was a fan of the Sylvester Stallone movies. He watched them, “All the time,” Rambo told The Oklahoman. “Just cause my name was on there and I was little. I watched them all the time.” He added: “Playing football when I was little, they thought that was my nickname because I hit hard on the field. They were like, ‘You go so hard they call you Rambo?’ No, that’s my legal name.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: With the direction the NFL has moved on the offense, teams want more separation and explosiveness on the outside. Charleston Rambo brings all that and more. Mixes his releases off the line and has great command over his repertoire of route stems. Controls a decent route tree and has developed some intricacies within routes to create separation. He’s quick off the line and wastes little motion as he accelerates.
Erik Ezukanma, Texas Tech
Measureables: 6-1 7/8, 209. 9 3/8 hands. 4.54 40, 4.38 shuttle, 36.5 vertical.
Stats: Ezukanma led the Red Raiders in receiving each of his final three seasons, with 136 receptions for 2,117 yards and 14 scores during that span. As a senior, he caught 48 passes for 705 yards (14.7 average) and four touchdowns.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, four had drops (7.8 percent), averaged 7.8 yards after the catch and had six receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 56.3 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 26 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 5 in the draft class, and was 24th with 9.2 yards per target.
Personal Touch: In a photo essay for Texas Tech, he gushed about his mom, who worked long hours as a nurse to take care of the family. My mom is strong for still going to work everyday with the same attitude she’s had my entire life. She’s a grinder and doesn’t take “no” for an answer. I love that about her and love how much she cares for me and my brothers and sisters. Her job didn’t always allow her to be at every one of my games growing up. I knew that and never wanted to pressure her to be there. I already knew she wanted to be there each and every time I put on a helmet. She always made sure to make it for the big games, though.
As a high school junior in Fort Worth, Texas, he predicted that in five years he’d be making his NFL dream come true. As he told The Timber Creek Talon: “I’ve been playing football since the second grade and still, to this day, I can’t explain how it feels to be on the field. My mind goes blank when the adrenaline rush starts to kick in. I could have had an injury all week, but when I’m on the field, all those worries go away.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Ezukanma flashes nuanced releases to beat press coverage, using his feet as a serious weapon. His go-to is a stutter release and he does great to gain ground and close space on the CB, rather than just staying sedentary and not creating an advantage. For a changeup, Ezukanma uses a glide step and will vary the pace+cadence of his footwork to keep cornerbacks guessing. He’s got deceptive deep speed due to rolling-build-up acceleration which accompanied with calculated hand fighting throughout the phase leads to Ezukanma being an adept deep threat.
David Bell, Purdue
Measureables: 6-0 7/8, 212. 9 1/4 hands. 4.65 40, 4.57 shuttle, 33 vertical.
Stats: Bell delivered three superb seasons, finishing his career with 232 grabs for 2,935 yards (12.7 average) and 21 touchdowns. In 2021, he was a first-team All-American and the Big Ten’s receiver of the year after piling up 93 catches for 1,286 yards (13.8 average) and six touchdowns.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, Bell had five drops (5.1 percent), averaged 5.8 YAC and had 10 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 42.3 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 24 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 4 in the draft class, and was 19th with 9.6 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Bell, an Indianapolis native, was a hot recruit who chose to go to Purdue to be near his beloved grandmother. “The No. 1 reason was my grandmother,” Bell told The Athletic. “She’s handicapped, and I wanted her to come to as many games as possible. She’s never missed a game since I first started playing football in first grade. I just wanted that tradition to stay alive.”
The two have lived together since Bell was born. “When he started playing basketball, I’d be in the hall playing basketball,” Karen Butler told WTHR. “Then when he decided to try baseball, I’m out in the yard with him doing the baseball thing.” She added: “I’m in a wheelchair now, so this is like a prize for me to get out of the house and go see him. I don’t want you to tell me what he did, I want to see it for myself.”
Will his production save him from his poor testing numbers?
“He is as cool as the other side of the pillow,” offensive coordinator Ja’Marcus Shephard said. “He is a smooth, silky runner. There’s no herky-jerky to anything. Man, he’s like a hot knife through butter. That’s what is deceptive, the speed that he has, the quickness of some of his movements. That’s why some people sort of underestimate him. ‘This guy can’t really run past me, can he?’ And then all of sudden he’s running by you.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: He has great ability to locate the ball when it’s in the air and haul in some spectacular catches. As a route runner, his footwork is very smooth which gives him the edge when he breaks off his route. His feet are more sudden than anything and makes him a good separator underneath. After the catch, he is quick and agile, making defenders miss in open space. His route tree is very developed and can a multitude of different variations of routes. Manipulates defenders well, sending them the wrong way because of his body positioning and footwork. Bell is a natural catcher, making almost all receptions look very nonchalant and relaxed.
Justyn Ross, Clemson
Measureables: 6-3 5/8, 205. 9 5/8 hands. 4.63 40, DNP shuttle, 31.5 vertical.
Stats: In three seasons, Ross caught 158 passes for 2,379 yards (15.1 average) and 20 touchdowns. He looked like one of the next great prospects when he had 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman and 66 receptions and eight touchdowns as a sophomore. However, he missed 2020 following spinal surgery, missed three games in 2021 with a foot injury and tested horrible. During his final season, he caught 46 balls for 514 yards (11.2 average; 10.5 less than 2018) and three touchdowns.
Deeper Stats: According to PFF, he had one drop (2.1 percent), averaged 4.5 YAC and had three receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. His contested-catch rate was 50.0 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 13 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 27 in the draft class, and was 41st with 7.1 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Ross is from Alabama but chose Clemson over Alabama. He capped his freshman season by rolling up 153 yards for the national championship vs. the Crimson Tide. “I was thinking about the 30-year-old Justyn. This decision right here could change my life for the better or for the worst,” Ross said after signing. “(Developing and playing professionally) is the main goal right there. I feel like I have a good chance to do that there.”
He was unable to build upon his massive freshman year, though. During spring practice, he caught a slant and was hit by a linebacker and lost some feeling in his arms. A bulging disc was discovered and he had surgery.
“I’m very grateful,” he said in March 2021. “I’m taking advantage of every route I can get. I was smiling (the first time he put the pads on last fall) because I realized how quickly the game could be taken away from me. It’s been hard, but I just put everything in God’s hands like my grandma said to do. So I just put everything in God’s hands and went on and did everything the doctors told me to do, everything my coaches told me to do.”
His mom, Charay Franklin, had Ross when she was 16. She did two tours with the Navy and is a longtime member of the Alabama National Guard. “Back in 2001, there wasn’t FaceTime or anything like that,” Franklin told The Post and Courier. “Being out on the ship, I didn’t have any way to talk to him, to talk to Justyn the way I wanted to and things like that. Because he couldn’t read, I could send an email to my mom and she could tell me how he was doing and send me pictures of him and things like that. But it was really hard not to see him that whole six to eight months at a time when on deployment.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Long wideout who has lined up on the outside and in the slot. Possessing good route running abilities at that size, Ross can run a variety of routes displaying hip sink, foot speed and lower-body flexibility to turn tight corners. His releases are sudden and he uses his hands to beat the punch of press coverage defenders. Displaying high football IQ, he understands the spacing of concepts and makes himself available for the quarterback scrambling out of the pocket.
Tyquan Thornton, Baylor
Measureables: 6-2 3/8, 181. 8 1/4 hands. 4.28 40, 4.39 shuttle, 38.5 vertical.
Stats: The fastest receiver at the Scouting Combine caught 62 passes for 948 yards (15.3 average) and 10 touchdowns as a senior and averaged 15.7 yards for his career. His breath-taking speed might be enough for the Packers to overlook his small hands.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, Thornton had three drops (4.6 percent), averaged a mere 3.1 yards after the catch and had nine receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 55.6 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged five missed tackles per 100 touches, tied with Chris Olave and Alabama’s Slade Bolden for last in the draft class, and was 23rd with 9.3 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Thornton had a predraft visit with Green Bay. “I think he’s matured,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda said in November. “Ty has been, from the very beginning, blessed with great length and speed and athleticism. I think where Ty has really grown is his practice habits, his mindset, his attitude towards work. I think those things have really taken off, and I think there were some probably hard lessons in all that.”
Among his scholarship offers was one to run track at LSU. That speed showed during his 40, which for a brief moment beat the Scouting Combine record. “I felt I was running super fast — I couldn’t feel my body,” Thornton said.
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Tyquan Thornton displays very good athletic ability with very good burst, speed, body control, and explosiveness. He displays a big catch radius with his long arms and frame. Thornton is a vertical burner that excels on vertical routes. Once he gets even with a DB he stacks with his excellent speed and long strides. Good downfield tracking ability and will high point the ball with good hand catching technique. When breaking back towards the QB he is a friendly target. Displays explosive cuts to get in and out of breaks pretty fluidly at his size.
Ty Fryfogle, Indiana
Measureables: 6-1 1/8, 204. 9 3/4 hands. 4.53 40, 4.47 shuttle, 39 vertical.
Stats: Fryfogle delivered four productive seasons, finishing his career with 158 receptions for 2,231 yards (14.1 average) and 14 touchdowns. He scored seven times in eight games in 2020 to earn third-team All-American and the Big Ten’s Receiver of the Year award. In 2021, he caught 46 passes for 512 yards (11.1 average) and one score.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, Fryfogle had eight drops (14.5 percent), averaged 3.4 yards after the catch and had only four receptions out of a whopping 30 passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 31.8 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged five missed tackles per 100 touches, tied for last in the draft class, and 5.1 yards per target.
Personal Touch: He is a quiet star. “I had to let my game do the talking,” Fryfogle told The Indy Star. “I just watch, try to model my game after guys like (former Atlanta Falcons receiver) Julio (Jones), (former Packers star) Davante Adams, guys that don’t really talk that much on the field but they make big plays in big games.” Said his Hoosiers receivers coach, Grant Heard: “He’s a man of few words, but he is fun to be around. He does have a good personality. A lot of people don’t get to see it until you’re around long enough. … He’s just an old country boy from Mississippi that likes to fish and hunt.”
He gained the nickname “Jump Ball.” His athleticism became obvious while in high school. “He took a ball on the baseline and went up and did a two-handed reverse down between his legs and brought it back up behind his head and dunked it,” football coach Matt Caldwell told The Herald-Bulletin. “I was like, wow, you know, this kid just jumped 3 or 4 foot off the floor and did something you don’t see high school kids normally do at 6-2.”
He was nominated for the Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I FBS senior or graduate student and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character, and competition.
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: There is a lot to like in Ty Fryfogle’s game. First and foremost, his most robust ability is his ability to win at the point-of-attack in contested catch situations. He can snag balls out of the air and hang onto them through contact. Fryfogle attacks corners blindspots. He is an excellent boundary player. Fryfogle uses the boundary to cut off angles of attack and break back towards the football.
Bo Melton, Rutgers
Measureables: 5-11, 189. 9 hands. 4.34 40, 4.10 shuttle, 38 vertical.
Stats: Melton caught 164 passes for 2,011 yards (12.3 average) and 11 touchdowns in five seasons. He finished with a bang. As a fifth-year senior, he caught 55 balls for 618 yards (11.2 average) and three touchdowns. He was not a primary returner but he averaged 26.6 yards on 11 kickoff returns and 19.2 yards (with one touchdown) on five punt returns during his final two years.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, he had five drops (8.2 percent), averaged 6.3 yards after the catch and had eight receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 25.0 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 20 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 15 in the draft class, and was tied for last with 6.5 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Melton has played the drums since he was 2. He dominated high school games on Friday and played at church on Sundays.
Going to Rutgers is the way of his family. His father, Gary, played football for Rutgers, and his mother, Vicky, played on the basketball team. A brother, Max, started 10 games in 2021 as a freshman cornerback.
“It was completely my decision, and they told me that from the start, even before I got my first offer. They said I might not know now, but I’ll know later. My dad has been through it before and he told me to take everything and make it fun, don’t make it stressful,” Melton said. “I knew Rutgers was the spot for me.:
Bo and Max are featured on a billboard. “Growing up, we always did things together,”’ Bo Melton told The Press of Atlantic City. “We’ve been playing football our whole life together. Now, having a billboard in our own city, it just feels crazy. It just feels amazing.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: For teams looking to add a shifty weapon to their offense, Melton is an intriguing prospect. He plays mostly as a Z on the outside, but he also has the ability to win in the slot. Melton does all of the little things well. He is a willing blocker and a physical player. Melton doesn’t run an advanced route tree, but his solid change of direction helps him get open. His best attribute is his quickness.
Tanner Conner, Idaho State
Measureables: 6-3, 226. 9 1/2 hands. 4.49 40.
Stats: Conner caught a career-high 47 passes in 2019, averaged a career-high 20.1 yards per catch in 2020 and finished his career with a season of 43 receptions for 735 yards (17.5 average) and four touchdowns. For his career, he averaged 17.4 yards per reception and scored 15 touchdowns.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, five had drops (10.2 percent), averaged 7.1 yards after the catch and had eight receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 50.0 percent. Facing FCS-level competition, he averaged 30.2 missed tackles per 100 touches and 9.25 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Conner was recruited by schools for his track prowess. During his visit to Idaho State, he brought his football highlight film. The coaches were impressed, gave him a scholarship and allowed him to compete in both sports. He won Big Sky titles in the 60- and 110-meter hurdles.
His father, Andy, was a linebacker who competed in some NFL training camps. “I talked with my dad about how signing day came and went and I didn’t get any offers or anything or sign anywhere,” Conner told The Idaho State Journal. “He was like, “I still think you can play. If you really want to, you can do it.’ Track would have been good but I don’t think it was where my heart was at. I knew football was where my true passion was.”
He took part in Washington’s pro day. “I’ve heard a lot of things,” he told The Athletic. “Can you play tight end? Can you play H-back? Can you play fullback? Are you too stiff to play receiver? Can you run routes fluidly? I think right now, I’m just a big bottle of potential with a lot of versatility. That’s why they’re having me do extra workouts with blocking and stuff, because they really don’t know what my fit is. I can run pretty fast. I can track the ball. I feel like I run decent routes, and I’m pretty strong and explosive. … I think I can fit a lot of different roles for an NFL offense and team in general.”
Isaiah Weston, Northern Iowa
Measureables: 6-3 1/2, 214. 9 1/2 hands. 4.42 40, 4.40 shuttle, 40 vertical.
Stats: Weston is a bundle of potential. In 40 career games, he caught 109 passes for 2,468 yards (22.6 average, tops in FCS) and eight touchdowns. In fact, he averaged at least 21.7 yards per catch during each of his final three season. Of receivers who tested at the Combine, Weston ranked No. 1 with 20 reps on the 225-bench press and No. 2 on vertical jump.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, Weston had three drops (7.9 percent), averaged 6.7 yards after the catch and had 11 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 45.5 percent. He missed 5.7 tackles per 100 touches and averaged 12.8 yards per target. He caught only one pass for Iowa State but ripped powerhouse North Dakota State for five catches and 181 yards.
Personal Touch: Weston missed the 2018 season with a torn ACL but came back with a vengeance in 2019. “Very frustrating being that it was my first serious injury,” Weston told The Northern Iowan. “It was really a huge hit to me […] I would say it was probably one of the lowest points of my life, because throughout my whole career I’ve always been a three-sport athlete […] it was definitely a big learning point for me though. This game can be taken away from anyone at anytime.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: Weston is a long limbed receiver with a good combination of size and speed. Northern Iowa was able to attack downfield on the outside and on posts with Westons’ ability to open up his stride and run past middle field defenders. Besides being able to threaten vertically, there’s not a full skillset to work with as an NFL wide receiver. Limited as a route runner, Weston doesn’t have the movement skills to be a separator and win in the short-to-intermediate levels of the field. With a more physical playing style, Weston could work his way into special teams with his athletic ability.
Makai Polk, Mississippi State
Measureables: 6-3 1/8, 195. 9 1/2 hands. 4.59 40, 4.34 shuttle, 31.5 vertical.
Stats: Polk transferred to MSU from California and had a banner season with 105 receptions for 1,046 yards (10.0 average) and nine touchdowns. The receptions and yardage figures broke school records. The height is great. The athleticism is not.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, Polk had six drops (5.4 percent), averaged 3.2 yards after the catch and had nine receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. His contested-catch rate was 44.4 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 10 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 36 in the draft class, and was 39th with 7.5 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Polk was the focal point of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. “It was timing by God. I feel that’s what it was, just getting a lot of passes thrown my way and catching the ball,” Polk told NBC. “As a receiver, you dream of catching 10-plus passes a game, so that was really good.
“I didn’t go in wanting to break records, I just had my own personal goals that I wanted to achieve, and I feel like working hard in practice and workouts was going to help me achieve those goals that I set.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: On the field, he flashes lateral burst and sufficient long speed to capitalize on a defensive back’s mistakes. He decelerates cleanly. The Bulldogs’ star primarily wins with his route running. Polk combines his lateral twitch with salesmanship in his releases to force opponents off balance. Once into the route stem, he actively attempts to manipulate defenders with directional work, speed adjustments, jab steps, head fakes and body language. Polk is a hands catcher who tracks the passes well and exhibits strong body control.
Jalen Nailor, Michigan State
Measureables: 5-11 1/4, 186. 9 1/8 hands. 4.50 40. 4.28 shuttle, 38 vertical.
Stats: Nailor caught 86 passes for 1,454 yards (16.9 average) and 12 touchdowns during an injury-plagued career. He missed four games as a senior with a hand injury, bringing his career total to 18, and caught 37 balls for 695 yards (18.8 average) and six touchdowns. He led the Big Ten with 19.8 yards per catch in 2020, the only seasons that he didn’t miss at least four games.
Deeper Stats: According to Pro Football Focus, four had drops (9.5 percent), averaged 9.9 yards after the catch and had six receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards. He ranked second in the draft class in YAC per catch, though that was more getting behind the defense on deep balls than actually beating defenders for additional yards. His contested-catch rate was 0.0 percent, a woeful zero catches in eight chances. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 13 missed tackles per 100 touches, No. 27 in the draft class, and was 33rd with 8.3 yards per target.
Personal Touch: Nailor’s nickname is “Speedy.” And for good reason. He won Nevada state titles in the 100 and 200 meters as a high school senior. “Nobody around here calls him Jalen,” fellow receiver Cody White said. “He’s just Speedy.”
He got the nickname when he was 5. “When you got the ball, and you’re the fastest one out there, ain’t nobody going to catch you,” Nailor told The Review-Journal. “I don’t know how to describe it.” The speed even predates football. “Then it was him running around the yard,” his father said. “I’m like ‘Damn, he looks fast. That isn’t normal speed right now.’ He walked at a really, really, really, really early age. I guess it means something looking back on it.”
As a high school sophomore, he ran a double-move that remain stuck in his coach’s memory. “He runs that route like I’ve never seen,” said former Bishop Gorman offensive coordinator Louie Rodriguez to the Lansing Statesman. “Running a corner-post route in the middle of the field at full speed is unstoppable … how he transitions his feet and his body to do it full-speed. It’s unfair to the DB.”
NFL Draft Bible Scouting Report: You know what you’re getting with Nailor and it’s homerun ability on go routes. Nailor appears on tape to have sub 4.4 speed and compliments that with a natural ability to stack defenders deep on vertical routes. This demands some extra cushion for corners who can’t match the speed, which Nailor will punish with a good ability to plant his feet and turn on curl routes.
Jalen Virgil, Appalachian State
Measureables: 6-0 1/8, 207. 9 3/8 hands. 4.40 40, 4.35 shuttle, 36.5 vertical.
Stats: For his career, he caught 100 passes for 1,441 yards and 11 touchdowns on offense and averaged 30.1 yards on kickoff returns with three more scores. He did not return punts. As a senior, he caught 15 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown.
Deeper Stats: Virgil caught two deep passes (out of 11 chances), averaged 7.4 YAC but had three drops (16.7 percent). Out of his 100 career receptions, he forced 22 missed tackles and averaged 7.6 yards after the catch. He dropped only one pass with 22 receptions in 2020.
Personal Touch: Virgil was a four-time member of Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freaks” list for The Athletic; he finished fourth overall and first among offensive skill players in 2021. Virgil is behind only Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton in an annual feature that aims to “showcase guys who generate buzz inside their programs by displaying the type of rare physical abilities that wow even those folks who are used to observing gifted athletes every day.”
At pro day, Virgil said: “I’m pretty pleased with what I got accomplished,” Virgil said. “I trained pretty hard for the last couple months just trying to put the best version of myself on the field and in the weight room. I tried my best, and I’m pretty pleased with today.”