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2022 NFL Draft: Ranking the top 17 wide receivers in this year’s class

Tiered rankings, profiles, projections and more.

Arizona v USC Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images

With free agency in full swing and the NFL Combine coming to a close, we continue to inch closer to the NFL Draft and attempt to put together the pieces of the puzzle that make up this beautiful crapshoot of an event. The Detroit Lions find themselves in a spot where they certainly have many holes on the roster to address, but they’re fortunate enough to have plenty of draft capital and cap space to work with.

One of the major areas of need that the Lions have already begun to address is wide receiver. After re-signing Josh Reynolds to a two-year deal, adding DJ Chark to a one-year deal in free agency, and re-signing Kalif Raymond to a two-year deal, the pieces are starting to come together. However, these are short-term deals, and shouldn’t deter the Lions from taking a wide receiver early in the draft. If anything, it might make it even more likely, considering they still need long-term options and more top-end talent to the position.

If they choose to add some receiving depth via the draft, this is a perfect year to do so, because this year’s class is littered with talent, especially near the top.

Here is a list of how my personal rankings are stacking up this year when it comes to this year’s WR class:

Tier 1

Drake London (USC), 6-foot-4, 219 pounds

There is no better marriage between prospect and team than London and the Detroit Lions if you ask me. Though he did not test at the NFL Combine due to an ankle injury that he suffered in October of 2021, London is very gifted athletically for his size and has the best ball skills of any receiver in this draft class.

London is at his best on the outside and projects as an “X” receiver but can be used in a variety of ways, including playing in the slot or motioning underneath to create mismatches. In college, USC did a fantastic job of simply getting him the ball any way they could and letting him do the rest of the work. For his size, he’s surprisingly elusive and extremely tough to bring down with the ball in his hands.

It’s unlikely that London will be available by the time the Lions are making their second pick. They will either need to trade up or pray for a miracle to reunite London with the Sun God in Detroit.

Round grade: 1st round

Jameson Williams (Alabama), 6-foot-1, 179 pounds

Next on the list is another receiver that also did not test at the combine and probably won’t be there by the time the Lions are on the clock with the second pick. Despite not testing, we know who Williams is. He’s the fastest receiver in the draft and has been said to have hit 23 mph in practice per Alabama’s GPS tracking system. To put that in perspective, the highest MPH output in 2021 was Colts RB Jonathan Taylor at 22.13 MPH. And only Tyreek Hill (23.24 MPH) and Raheem Mostert (23.09 MPH) have surpassed the threshold since the NFL introduced Next Gen Stats.

Speed is the most desirable trait in the NFL when it comes to most positions, but especially at wide receiver. We’ve seen many speedy prospects selected in the first round that are dealing with serious injuries because teams are willing to take that risk for the potential of a player that can change the game. Look at Hollywood Brown, selected 25th overall despite dealing with a Lisfranc injury and a fragile frame. Or John Ross at 9th overall who decided to test before undergoing torn labrum surgery prior to the Draft.

Williams has a larger frame than those two and is coming off of a torn ACL, an injury that the sports medicine world has been able to treat much better over the years. Considering this, plus the talent, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get selected prior to the Lions’ second pick in the first round. Teams put too much value on speed for him to be there, and he’s more than just a speed demon when you watch him play. Get this kid the ball in space and he’s going to make plays. Simple as that.

Round grade: 1st round

Treylon Burks (Arkansas), 6-foot-2, 225 pounds

When asked about who he models his game after, Treylon Burks presented one name: Deebo Samuel. Considering the fact that Burks has two inches and 10 pounds on Samuel, it might seem like a surprising answer, but not when you watch what he can do after the catch.

Burks is a “do-it-all” receiver that wins at all levels of the field, whether he’s turning a screen pass into a big gain, catching the ball in traffic over the middle, or using his elite vertical separation to catch the deep ball.

Some were turned off from Burks’ scores at the combine, but I think the expectations for him were unreal, to begin with. His speed and explosion numbers are very similar to CeeDee Lamb’s from a couple years ago and when I see Burks taking it to the house against the entire Alabama defense, then the speed concerns go out the window for me.

Like the others, I don’t expect Burks to be available for the Lions at the end of the first round, but with so many top-tier talents going in the same range, something has to give and maybe they get lucky with someone falling. If he does, this one’s a no-brainer.

Round grade: 1st round

Garrett Wilson (Ohio State), 6-foot-0, 183 pounds

Wilson rounds out my top tier of receivers and is currently tied with Drake London as the betting favorite to be the first WR selected in the draft. That just goes to show you how loaded this WR class is with talent near the top. All four of these prospects deserve top-15 consideration.

You really have to be careful as a defense game-planning for Wilson because he’s got legitimate 4.38 speed, but if you play him too soft, then he’ll carve you up underneath. What I love the most about him is when he does get that target underneath, he’s always looking to get the most yards he possibly can rather than immediately taking it to the sidelines.

Wilson projects best as a slot or “Z” receiver in the NFL and will thrive in an offense that focuses on setting itself up for a deep passing attack.

Round grade: 1st round

Tier 2

Christian Watson (North Dakota State), 6-foot-4, 208 pounds

No one is having a better offseason than Christian Watson who has seen his draft stock go from late Day 2-early Day 3 to a potential first-round pick. After a very impressive Senior Bowl week and testing out of this world at the NFL Combine, it makes a lot of sense, and I’m starting to believe there is a chance that he goes before the Lions even have a chance to select him at 32.

Watson didn’t put up the production you’d hope to see from a player in the FCS, but he has the elite tools and athleticism that teams are going to want to take a swing on early. If I’m the Lions and Watson is available at 32 or 34, it’s an easy choice for me. There aren’t many players I’d want over him. Watson can fill an “X” or “Z” role for the Lions and provide flexibility for himself and others.

Round grade: 1st-2nd round

George Pickens (Georgia), 6-foot-3, 195 pounds

Pickens is another prospect that has seen his stock rise recently and is even being linked to the Lions at the end of the first round in some mock drafts. It’s easy to see why.

Pickens jumps out at you as a player that Dan Campbell and the Lions staff would love to get their hands on. He’s big, he’s athletic, and he’s got a mean streak to him when it comes to run blocking.

After a dominant Freshman season in 2019, Pickens was considered by many as one of the best receivers in the country, but since then, injuries (torn pectoral muscle in 2020 and torn ACL in 2021) have taken a toll on him.

Pickens has arguably the best ball skills in this entire class and an insane propensity for making highlight-reel catches. He would be an ideal fit as an outside receiver in a scheme that loves to throw the deep ball.

Round grade: 2nd round

Chris Olave (Ohio State), 6-foot-0, 187 pounds

Olave is an interesting case, where heading into last year, he was the clear go-to guy for Ohio State after leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns in 2020. He was overshadowed a bit by teammates Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (projected first-rounder in 2023 NFL Draft) in 2021, but saw his production increase and led the team with 13 receiving touchdowns, nonetheless.

Despite not seeing as many targets as his teammates, Olave is still one of the top receiving prospects in this draft and might be the best separator of them all. One of the main concerns surrounding his game is his lack of catches in contested situations, but that becomes less of an issue with an accurate QB and Olave’s knack for getting open.

Olave fits well with what the Lions are trying to do with heavy play-action and occasional deep shots down the field and would be the perfect “Z” or No. 2 receiver for any offense if he can reach his potential.

Round grade: 2nd round

Tier 3

Alec Pierce (Cincinnati), 6-foot-3, 211 pounds

Those who have had the pleasure of watching Pierce on film will not be surprised by his insane athletic profile. Pierce looks like a tight end, but runs a 4.41 40-yard dash and has a knack for the deep ball. Watch his tape against Notre Dame and you will see why folks are raving about him, but watch his Tulane tape and you can see how he can disappear at times due to his average agility and lack of fluidity.

Round grade: 2nd-3rd round

Skyy Moore (Western Michigan), 5-foot-10, 195 pounds

Moore could end up being the best pure slot guy from this draft class. He’s got elite quickness and is the type that can make you miss in a phone booth. He has a shot at making it work on the outside with his jacked-up physique and footwork, but some teams will likely see him limited to playing in the slot.

Round grade: 2nd-3rd round

John Metchie III (Alabama), 5-foot-11, 187 pounds

Due to suffering an ACL tear in December 2021, Metchie III did not test at the combine this year. There are concerns about his speed and overall athleticism, and he is likely to be a slot or No. 2 receiver in the NFL. His defining characteristic, to me, is being one of the best route salesmen in this class.

Round grade: 2nd-3rd round

Jahan Dotson (Penn State), 5-foot-11, 178 pounds

I am admittedly a bit lower on Dotson than most, but that is more due to this class being stacked than me not being a believer in his abilities. He is very good, still. In “got to have it” situations, Dotson is reliable as they come, but his lack of physicality and slight frame could prevent him from being anything more than a slot receiver.

Round grade: 2nd-3rd round

Justyn Ross (Clemson), 6-foot-4, 205 pounds

Ross has all of the physical tools you want in a receiver, but his injury history (spinal surgery in 2020) and lack of production since 2019 are enough to scare some folks away. I like him as a late-Day 2 flier and teams are going to want to take a swing on a prospect with his size, catch radius, and elite ball skills.

Round grade: 3rd round

Tier 4

Calvin Austin III (Memphis), 5-foot-8, 170 pounds

At Austin’s size, he needed to put up some good numbers at the combine and he did not disappoint. He has elite speed, explosiveness, and agility which makes him a difference-maker with the ball in his hands. The problem is his size, and he will definitely be limited to some type of gadget player role in the NFL, but he can still be effective as well as provide value on special teams. You’re basically drafting him hoping that he can be prime Tarik Cohen. With the Lions bringing back Kalif Raymond, I don’t know if it makes sense for them to add Austin, who would likely play a similar role.

Round grade: 3rd-4th round

Khalil Shakir (Boise State), 6-foot-0, 196 pounds

At Boise State, Shakir was used exclusively as a slot option and will likely see the same treatment in the NFL. He is a demon with the ball in his hands and does a remarkable job of maintaining his balance and creating yards after the catch. Think Amon’Ra St. Brown, but with bricks for hands.

Round grade: 3rd-4th round

Jalen Tolbert (South Alabama), 6-foot-1, 194 pounds

Tolbert had elite production in college, but obvious concerns about the level of play, considering he did not see action against a power-five school since 2019. He turned 23-years-old back in February which will turn some teams off from drafting him early, but he has the traits to be a productive outside receiving threat in the NFL.

Round grade: 3rd-4th round

David Bell (Purdue), 6-foot-1, 212 pounds

Bell has good tape out there and simply makes plays when he’s targeted, but his testing was extremely unexpected and disappointing. He might see the same type of treatment that saw Quintez Cephus drop to the fifth round in 2020, but if you trust the tape, then he could end up being a steal later on.

Round grade: 4th round

Wan’Dale Robinson (Kentucky), 5-foot-8, 178 pounds

It’s normal to measure in smaller than your listed size at school, but Robinson coming in a full three inches shorter than his listed height is concerning, but not surprising when you see him on the field. Robinson is electric and a perfect fit for any team looking for someone to fill a speedy slot/scatback type role.

Round grade: 4th round