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Former NFL Players and Executives Scout the Draft’s Top Wide Receivers

Former NFL Players and Executives Scout the Draft's Top Wide Receivers

We are now only a few short days away from the NFL Draft, and The 33rd Team continued its build up to the draft in our most recent Wednesday Huddle with a breakdown of some of the top wide receivers available when the commissioner steps on stage Thursday.

This week’s breakdown came courtesy of former Jets first round CB Kyle Wilson and former Pro-Bowl WR Laveranues Coles.

Garrett Wilson, Ohio State:

Wilson came to Ohio State as a five-star prospect out of perennial powerhouse Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. He was an immediate contributor for the Buckeyes and was a two-time All-Big 10 selection. He hauled in 70 receptions for 1,058 yards and 12 TDs in 2021.

According to Kyle Wilson, Garrett Wilson is a “deep threat who creates space by making the DB turn one way and breaking across the other.” 

“[He] shows shiftiness and versatility in his route running…[and] creates good yards after the catch.” 

Moving on to his ability to run after the catch, Wilson said: “What I see is really good RAC-ing. Made a few people miss. Creates space [with] nice vertical cuts.”

Coles added that Wilson is “Great in and out of breaks. Can high point the ball. I don’t see any deficiencies in the game based off of what we’ve seen today. That’s why he’s a top-5 guy. You can put him anywhere and he can make plays. He’s a plug and play guy in any offense.”

Wilson concluded with “I think from a DB perspective, he’d be a tough cover because he’s running multiple routes, lined up in different positions. But the way he’s able to make different catches can get you frustrated because he’s not going to line up and catch everything the same way. Awesome young guy coming out.” 

Drake London, USC:

London played both football and basketball (one season) during his time at USC. Despite only playing in eight games this past season, he caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and 7 TDs and was named the PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year. He missed the back half of the 2021 season with a fractured ankle but will be recovered in time for the 2022 season.

One of the aspects of London’s game that Wilson likes is his ability to adjust to the ball and fight for yards after the catch, proclaiming that he is “really tough to bring down.”

Wilson also pointed out London’s route awareness and ability to “find the soft spot in the zone, stay balanced, and get completions for the first down,” along with his, “body control, [ability to get] feet in bounds, and nice hands, really good hands.”

“What I see is definitely a tough cover for a DB. He’s big and physical, looks like he’s not really worried about the DBs. What I will say is a patient DB, with technique and heavy hands, will give him lots of problems. Why? Because he’s not a blazer.”

In Coles’ eyes:

“I see a good Z. I don’t see him lining up at X and getting separation all the time. I think an offense that he goes into will have to fit his skill set, and the offensive coordinator will have to work with him on moving him around and allowing him to get open based on scheme. He’s not a guy that you can look up at every time and expect to get open at X.”

Jameson Williams, Alabama:

Williams was originally a part of the crowded receiver room at Ohio State before transferring to Alabama and breaking out as a junior in 2021. He hauled in 79 catches for 1,572 yards and 15 TDS on top of being named a First Team All-American, a First Team All-SEC WR, and the SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year. He suffered a torn ACL in the National Championship game against Georgia, but it has been reported that he is ahead of schedule in his rehab. 

To begin the review of Williams, Wilson had six simple words: “This guy is the deep threat.”

“You see the breakaway speed. It’s just amazing… [He can] recognize the soft spot in the zone. Obviously, the yards after the catch, beating multiple guys. He’s shifty and you can see the speed in the open field. You just want to get him the ball. [He] beats multiple defenders and multiple angles…nobody is catching this guy.”

Wilson also broke down what it would be like to cover Williams one-on-one by saying “you miss, or you hesitate, or you have a stutter…it’s done.”

According to Wilson “his worst nightmare I would say, because of his speed, is going to be Cover 2, Cover 2 Man, him being double covered, some type of loaded zone. You’re going to have to find a unique or long corner somebody ran track, or something or somebody to disrupt the timing because this guy is a one-on-one matchup nightmare.”

For Coles, Williams is “a clear-cut game changer. On my board he’s No. 1 if I was picking. I don’t get to make decisions but just based on what I’ve looked at on film, I know you have Injury looming but, in my opinion, I don’t think he should drop. He’s the best, probably the [best] one out of the group.”

One question posed was that considering how it seems that Williams is the game changer with his speed, “How much does the ACL play into that decision come Thursday?”

“I don’t think the ACL is as big of a concern anymore the way they repair these things, and how much success these guys are having coming back,” said a former long-time NFL executive.

“But I don’t think that’s as big a factor as it was, you know, 10-15 years ago because these guys come back pretty fast, and it seems like it doesn’t affect their performance or whatsoever. But he was the most dynamic guy. I just have never seen a guy at the SEC level just run away from people like he runs after the catch. 

“A little bit of a body catcher catches it tight, needs a little bit of rough refinement, but he is really explosive with the ball in his hands,” the executive continued. “Whereas the kid from Ohio State, Wilson, I thought was a little smoother…but when you see him adjust to the balls, he can really torque his body to go up and get balls in different angles or different levels. I don’t know if he’s as explosive, but he is an explosive playmaker. And then Olave I just think he has a ceiling. I think he’ll be a good receiver; I just don’t know how high a ceiling is compared to those other two.”

Chris Olave, Ohio State:

Olave contributed from the moment he set foot on the Ohio State campus. Olave was a two-time first team All-Big 10 selection and a 2021 second team All-American and Biletnikoff Award semifinalist while catching 65 passes for 936 yards and 13 TDs.

In Wilson’s eyes Olave’s route running is “really smooth. Definitely able to stop his momentum,” and in regard to his YAC ability he has “nice tunnel vision as far as reading blocks in and out, and accelerating all the way through.”

Further elaborating on his route running ability, Wilson said “he recognizes who is covering him, where they’re going, where he wants to cross over, manipulating the hips and using his feet to his advantage.”

Coles added that Olave is “a very savvy wide receiver. Very QB friendly, which is something QBs love once he’s on the team for sure.”

Wilson concluded with:

“I see his worst nightmare being a physical and aggressive press corner because I see a lot of the time that he likes to use his vertical releases, so I think he needs to work a little bit more horizontally. That would sort of give him problems but anything vertical, he would excel at multiple positions.”

In the opinion of Greg Cosell: “There’s no question he’s smooth, and I know that he lined up in the slot at Ohio State, but I didn’t think there was really any physical dimension to his game.”

Wilson responded “That’s what I was saying. It’s the potential thing. I would start him on more of the vertical routes, and the vertical releases, and get him going and then work off of there. But again, like the specific routes, and him going over the middle, again with the contested catches, versus tight coverage, not so high on that, but I liked the way he runs vertical.”

Cosell then brought up that Olave was only targeted 17 times on 3rd down, and wondered if it had more to do with Ohio State blowing opponents out or if it was more along the lines of him not being the type of receiver that makes the tough catches or if he was “more of a specific kind of receiver? That’s not really an Alpha Dog kind of guy. That’s more of a compliment?”

Wilson answered that he would “think of him as more of a compliment. Not to say he couldn’t but if I think he would grow into it, it would come more off of his vertical game…if you put a press guy in front of him who really knows how to sit there and make him go lateral. Because everything he sees, he looks way more comfortable versus off coverage, and he’s used to just running free, you know through zones and stuff because he can run. I just don’t want to ask him to do things that don’t necessarily come naturally. And so, I will kind of lean towards what he is really good at and it looks like he likes to run.”

Christian Watson, North Dakota State:

Watson has been something of a rising star throughout the draft process after a strong showing at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile. Starred as both a receiver and a kick returner during his time in Fargo, ND. Was an extremely versatile weapon for NDSU and was a two-time All-American during his career.

“I see burst in and out. I see acceleration…I’m seeing stride length on the back half…Just like automatically he’s pulling away,” said Wilson. 

“Played in a run heavy offense, acting like he’s blocking and he runs by a guy who’s not paying attention. He’s able to track the ball…fake block, accelerated. Then he accelerated again and he’s pulling away on the back half. Just looks like an incredible athlete.” And he should look the part when one considers his father spent four years in the NFL with the Chiefs, Giants, and Eagles in the mid-90s, and his brother played linebacker at Illinois.

Wilson was a fan of Watson’s versatility and “the ability to move him around, and just get him the ball,” as well as his ability to “get behind the defense with pure straight-line speed.”

“His adjustments while the ball is in the air is amazing, and we talk about a guy just running by guys…I think to cover this guy, you’ll need more than one person. You’ve got to double him, Cover 2 Man, something. He’s the one-on-one matchup nightmare.”

For Coles, Watson is “probably one of my favorites probably because a lot of people haven’t talked about him a lot. He’s my sleeper in this draft and whatever team gets him is going to be very lucky. I’m sure if he’s not one spoken about in those first six or seven guys and is a Day Two or Day Three guy, when [a team] gets him in they’re going to be excited about what they have. I can tell you that.”

To that Wilson concisely replied: “Totally agree.”

When asked for his opinion of Watson, Cosell said:

“Obviously he can run and he played in the FCS and he ran by all those guys like they were in ninth grade. I don’t know if that’s going to happen in the NFL. I mean, I think he can run. I’m curious to see as he develops if he’s more than a vertical threat. I thought he struggled a bit catching the ball inside when he ran dig rounds. I actually talked to a wide receiver coach that knows a lot more about it than I do, and he said that he needs to learn how to catch certain kinds of balls. 

“He doesn’t know how to catch certain kinds of balls with his hands. What was interesting to me as I was watching him, I started Marquez Valdes-Scantling coming out of South Florida in 2018. Their pre-draft measurables were exactly the same height (6’4”), weight (~207), 40 times (~4.36s). They were exactly the same. I’m really curious to see how teams see him when he gets in their camp. We know we can run.”

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