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2022 NFL Combine preview: 15 wide receivers the Lions should be watching

Who and what to watch at the wide receiver position during the 2022 NFL Combine.

Arkansas v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Combine on-field drills begin Thursday, March 3 with the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver groups being the first up for testing.

This is the latest in a series of articles that will explore the participants at the Combine that the Pride of Detroit staff believes the Detroit Lions should keep a close eye on during positional activities. Previously, we reviewed the quarterbacks and running backs groups.

Next up: Wide receivers.

Team need

If it’s up to Lions’ wide receiver coach Antwaan Randle El, the Lions will be adding two receivers in the draft after also landing one in free agency. Basically what that means is, they’ll be looking for all sorts of wide receiver styles, and with Amon-Ra St. Brown’s positional versatility, they can go after the best receiver available instead of trying to land a player with a specific skill set.

With that in mind, the POD staff has picked an eclectic range of prospects that may be available at different points in the draft.

What to watch for

You can learn a lot about a wide receiver based on the drills they run at the Combine as they are each designed to highlight traits and expose flaws. How natural are their hands? Do they fight the ball or let it into their body? Do they maintain body control during their routes or are they trying to run beyond their capabilities and wobble? Do they maintain speed in and out of breaks or do they need to throttle down? How are their ball tracking skills? Can they locate the ball while maintaining speed? Can they maximize their speed by not reaching early? There is a world of information.

Now, on to the prospects.

Treylon Burks, Arkansas, 6-foot-3, 224

Suggested by John

If you’re an A.J. Brown (Titans) fan, you’ll love Burks, who has the potential to be the first receiver off the board. A size/speed mismatch, Burks can operate out of the slot and at the WR-X—which is a glaring need for the Lions.

He’s a smooth route runner—which should stand out in drills—can track the ball downfield, and has a second gear to go get the ball when it's in the air. He won’t be there at pick No. 32, but if the Lions get a trade offer that lands them a pick between No. 10 and 20, he’d be a game-changer for their offense.

Drake London, USC, 6-foot-5, 212

Suggested by Ryan

Like Burks, London is a WR-X/Big Slot mismatch receiver that would fit perfectly with what the Lions are looking for. London doesn’t have elite speed, which could drop him down to the latter part of Round 1, and the Lions will surely be hoping he slides to pick No. 32. St. Brown’s teammate at USC would look good lined up next to him in Honolulu Blue. He’s going to look much more impressive in his game film than he will in Indianapolis.

Chris Olave, Ohio State, 6-foot-1, 185

Suggested by Hamza

If you’ve been tracking mock drafts, you’ve probably noticed Olave often slides to the end of Round 1 or into Round 2. Personally, I’d be surprised if he isn’t selected on Day 1 because he is one of the best separators in the class. Like many of the others on this list, Olave has inside/out positional versatility, and his ability to stretch the field makes him a perfect WR-Z with situational slot potential. He should be one of the smoothest receivers in the Combine drills.

George Pickens, Georgia, 6-foot-3, 203

Suggested by Morgan

After suffering an ACL tear in March of 2021, Pickens was still able to work his way back into the starting lineup for the Bulldogs. He is still developing as a route runner but there is some suddenness to his game that will be appealing. He’s not ready to take on WR1 responsibilities but the potential is there for him to grow into the role. His sure hands should be on display during drills.

Wan’Dale Robinson (Kentucky, 5-foot-10, 185)

Suggested by Erik

Not quite as quick as Rondale Moore and not quite as strong as Deebo Samuel, but he’s a fun combination of the two. He can be used out of the slot, on screens, as a vertical threat, and out of the backfield. There would be a lot of crossover traits between him and St. Brown, but his pure speed and ability to separate makes him a legitimate complement piece.

Fun fact: Liam Coen, who is expected to be named Rams’ offensive coordinator (and was a Rams’ assistant coach in L.A. when Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes was there), was Robinson’s offensive coordinator last season.

Calvin Austin III, Memphis, 5-foot-7 12, 173

Suggested by Jeremy

Austin has primarily played on the outside at Memphis, but at his size, his future is in the slot, and that’s where the Lions played him at the Senior Bowl.

“He’s picking it up. That’s good to see because he’s going to need to do that,” Randle El said at the Senior Bowl. “He can burn you outside with some speed, but his stature, he’s probably going to have to play inside in this league. But you can see him picking it up and being able to understand the inside, what it takes to understand the coverage of the backers, the nickels buzzing out, not just hook and turn. He’s getting some of that.”

His intelligence—Randle El called him “one of the smartest” receivers at the Senior Bowl—heart, and confidence will carry him far in the league, but it’s his physical intangibles that will make him an offensive weapon. Austin is a rare player that possesses both elite speed and quickness and is makes him almost uncoverable during his pinpoint route process. Defensive backs will want to get physical with him, but by getting him into the slot, he’ll face mostly off-coverage, which he should chew up.

At the Combine, his size and speed/quickness combination should stand out.

Quick thoughts

  • Garrett Wilson (Ohio State, 6-foot-0, 186) is potentially the best receiver in this class, but unless the Lions trade back from pick No. 2, he probably isn’t in their pick range.
  • Alabama receiver’s Jameson Williams (6-foot-2, 189) and John Metchie III (5-foot-11, 196) both suffered ACL injuries late in the year and their stocks will likely take a hit because of it, potentially dripping them a full round. If they attend the Combine, it’ll be for medicals only.
  • Skyy Moore (Western Michigan, 5-foot-10, 195) will want to prove he has the physical talents to match his expansive route tree.
  • Christian Watson (North Dakota State, 6-foot-4, 211) was the belle of the ball at the Senior Bowl and he’ll want to solidify himself as a Day 2 WR-X at the Combine.
  • Justyn Ross (Clemson, 6-foot-3, 205) was a dominant receiver before missing 2020 due to spinal surgery and didn’t look like the same player last year. Medicals will be huge.
  • Velus Jones Jr. (Tennessee, 5-foot-11 12, 203) is a bit of an inconsistent athlete, but he is an inside/out receiver with punt return abilities and can separate during routes.
  • Bo Melton (Rutgers, 5-foot-11, 191) has some St. Brown-like skills but he is very much a developmental project who could sneak in the back end of a roster due to his special teams contributions.
  • Danny Gray (SMU, 5-foot-11 12, 182) might be the sleeper in this wide receiver class. Holmes’ preference for GPS speed over 40-yard dash times is well documented and per Zebra Technologies, Gray was the fastest (22.01 MPH) wide receiver at the Senior Bowl. (Note: Velus Jones Jr. was the second-fastest at 21.75 MPH, while Calvin Austin had the highest acceleration mark at 5.86 yards per second).

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