2022 NFL Draft: Ohio State, SEC pass catchers highlight deep wide receiver class

I’ll come out and say it — the 2022 class of wide receivers isn’t as spectacular at the top as the Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith led collection of pass-catchers in the 2021 draft or the Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson highlighted contingent we got the year before. 

But it’s a deep group of talented wideouts, many of whom feel like Day 2 prospects right now with Round 1 upside if they piece together quality 2021 campaigns. Here’s a comprehensive preview for the 2022 receiver class.

Chris Olave, Ohio State

Reminds me of: Corey Davis
Feels like: Round 1 talent
Trump cards: Route-running expertise, ball-tracking
Needs to show better: YAC capabilities

Olave is that dude to begin the season, the most NFL-ready, likeliest first-round selection at the receiver spot in this class. Why? Because he runs routes like he’s been coached by a former pro receiver — oh, wait, he has! — and has produced since his freshman season at Ohio State as a “lowly” three-star recruit. There are plenty of retweetable snags downfield — mostly near the boundary — on his film too. I just need to see more from Olave after the catch to get super-pumped about him as a prospect. 

Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

Reminds me of: Jalen Reagor
Feels like: Round 1 talent
Trump cards: Suddenness, burst, acrobatic-catch skills
Needs to show better: Route-running crispness, speed

Mash Olave’s route-running mastery and Wilson’s athletic chops together, and you have a slam-dunk, no-questions-asked Top 10 pick. As someone who idolized Allen Iverson during middle school, I adore Wilson’s “bag” with the ball in his hands and how he crosses defenders at the line to free himself. But Wilson should separate more frequently given his physical gifts. And I don’t know how truly fast he is in a straight line. 

Treylon Burks, Arkansas

Reminds me of: Kenny Britt
Feels like: Late Round 1 – Early Round 2 talent
Trump cards: Size, box-out mastery, above-the-rim play, deceptive YAC
Needs to show better: Routes, wins on the outside

Stylistically, Burks is a replica of Britt on the field. Their build, the way they run, how they catch, how they jump. It’s freaky. Burks is a sneaky athlete for being a towering target, and he plays to every single inch of his frame, meaning he’s intimidating when the quarterback just throws it up and says “go get it.” It doesn’t really matter to me, but some teams won’t love Burks predominantly aligning in the slot. If he proves he can win against press and maintain his productivity on the outside in 2021, he’ll get picked high. Burks is a chiseled specimen. 

George Pickens, Georgia

Reminds me of: Allen Robinson
Feels like: Round 1 – Round 2 talent
How he wins: Separation at his size, bounce
Needs to improve: Strength against physical corners

Pickens was a one of four five-star receiver recruits in the class of 2019, and boy does it show on the field. He’s a sleek 6-3 and 200 pounds with trampoline bounce to provide his quarterback a soccer goalie esque catch radius. And Pickens has no fear when needing to fully extend to catch the football. There’s serious snap in his routes, and the speed element of his game isn’t lacking either, although he’s not a lightning bolt on the field. If you’re able to pinpoint weaknesses to Pickens’ profile as a receiver, you have a better scouting eye than me. 

Jahan Dotson, Penn State

Reminds me of: Diontae Johnson
Feel like: Early Round 2 talent
How he wins: Twitch, surprising catch radius
Needs to improve: Physicality

Dotson could get drafted by his 2020 Ohio State film alone. It was that dominant (then again, I didn’t think very much of Shaun Wade, whom Dotson roasted all game). Anyway, he’s quietly been accumulating stats since his freshman season and has averaged 17.1 yards per grab at Penn State. And he’s done it with mostly blah quarterback play the past two years. Dotson is a touch small, but the NFL is in a small-receiver renaissance, right? Dotson, a good, not yet great route runner and does need to bulk up to power through contact within the first five yards off the line. 

Zay Flowers, Boston College

Reminds me of: Curtis Samuel
Feels like: Round 2 talent
Where he wins: After the catch, downfield
Needs to improve: Physicality at the line, hands in tight spaces

It took a fair amount of time, but then it struck me. Flowers’ movement on the field bears a striking resemblance to Samuel. He’s similarly sized too. And like Samuel at Ohio State, Flowers is an electric change-of-direction authority after he catches the football. It was hard tracking a play in which Flowers was complacent in a YAC situation. Love that. There’s serious speed once he explodes through the second level too, as evidenced by back-to-back years averaging over 15 yards per receptions to start his Boston College career. And there’s barely any buzz for Flowers heading into the season. I don’t know why. He’s a major talent. 

Drake London, USC 

Reminds me of: Brandon Marshall
Feels like: Round 2 talent
How he wins: YAC power, towering size, deceptive quicks
Needs to improve: Speed

London is a monster truck in the open field. He opts to run completely through defenders, and has the frame and on-field mindset to do it. The budding USC star is listed at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds. Now I know what you’re thinking — how is that style going to work in the NFL? Well, if that’s all London brought to the field, he’d be a limited prospect. Except it’s not. He’s one of the smoothest 6-5 receivers I’ve scouted. Seriously. London even moonlighted on the basketball team in 2019-2020. Those movement capabilities — and we all know how athletic Division I basketball players are — help London create separation despite his tall frame, and his balance is impeccable. If he’s gotten faster this offseason, London can be the exception to the trend in the NFL and be picked early as an oversized wideout in the 2022 draft.

Romeo Doubs, Nevada

Reminds me of: Michael Gallup
Feels like: Round 2 talent
How he wins: Downfield juice, assertiveness after the catch, rebounding
Weaknesses: Limited routes, slender-ish frame

Maybe it’s just me — I had problems finding clear weaknesses to Doubs’ game. There’s suddenness off the ball and definitely down the field. He tracks it naturally, and there is urgency, wiggle, and some power after the catch.

Any knock on him has to be centered around size and his role. He’s a little skinny and Nevada uses him in a “new-age” screen or go route type of role. What’s working in his favor — NFL teams don’t need wideouts to have expert-level skills on 15 different routes like they used to for them to be effective early in their careers. 

Justyn Ross, Clemson

Reminds me of: Mike Williams
Feels like: Round 2 – Round 3 talent
How he wins: Over you
Needs to improve: After the catch, burst through his routes

After not playing in 2020 due to a serious neck injury, Ross is an enigma right now. And I respect his toughness for being willing to return to the field. I couldn’t do that. In 2018, Ross was the more impressive wideout at Clemson — on a team with Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers. He was a circus act with the ball in the air and won down the field over, and over, and over again to the tune of 1,000 yards on a mere 46 receptions. Don’t hit that calculator app. I got you. That’s 21.7 yards per catch. And he did it as a freshman. In 2019, Ross wasn’t as dominant in rebounding scenarios, and his lack of burst was evident. Ross is the biggest boom-or-bust wideout in this class. He could go in the Top 20 or land on Day 3. 

John Metchie III, Alabama

Reminds me of: Tylan Wallace
Feels like: Round 3 talent
How he wins: On the vertical route tree, tracking it with defenders on his back
Needs to improve: Productivity after the catch, separation underneath

Metchie did something pretty incredible last season. He made a name for himself on an offense with the Heisman winner and the month of September with Waddle in the same receiver group. He’s a revved sports car waiting for the garage door to open, and although he’s only entering his third season on the field, Metchie’s experienced running a variety of intricate vertical routes that confuse cornerback-safety communication. I’d like to see more suddenness to match his speed as a route runner and once the ball is in his hands. With Smith and Waddle gone, Metchie should be the guy for Bryce Young and the Alabama offense this season. 

Ainias Smith, Texas A&M

Reminds me of: Isaiah McKenzie
Feels like: Round 3 – Round 4 talent
How he wins: With the ball in his hands
Needs to improve: Route-running sharpness, urgency underneath, tracking the ball in congested situations

I’ll admit, I didn’t see “it” with Smith as much as some others. He’s fun after the catch, and I like how Texas A&M got him the football as a running back in 2020. But the speed/quickness element of his game has to improve for him to successfully carry that role into the NFL. As a rather short, stocky receiver, Smith’s natural catch radius is tiny, and he’s bumped off his intended routes too early. The creativity after the catch made him worthy of this article. 

David Bell, Purdue

Reminds me of: Cooper Kupp
Feels like:
Round 3 – Round 4
How he wins: With a complete game, centerfielder-type ball-tracking
Needs to improve: Power through contact, after the catch

Bell isn’t particularly flashy. He’s not a tremendous athlete. He’s not overly big or physical or ultra fast. He just produces. Kind of like Kupp. He went over 1,000 yards as a freshman with seven scores then tacked on eight more receiving touchdowns in just six games last season. If there is one “trump card” to his game — Bell thrives in the body control/ball tracking departments down the field. He feels like a receiver who’ll start his NFL career as a WR3 and become a quality No. 2 by his third pro season. 

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