It’s time to dive into the film and metrics to unearth the next great players of the NFL, and one of my favorite exercises is finding the most important and useful stat for each prospect I evaluate. Today, we will be taking a look at 10 of the top receivers in the 2019 NFL draft class and their most important stat from the 2018 season.
1. D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss – 21.9 Yards per Reception
The consensus top receiver in the 2019 NFL draft class is D.K. Metcalf of Ole Miss. Despite playing in only seven games last season, Metcalf’s potential was on full display as he dominated in the SEC. He is arguably the best deep threat in the entire class, at times flashing the potential ceiling of a player like Calvin Johnson. At the NFL combine, Metcalf stole the show, running a 4.33 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds.
It’s not hard to see where Metcalf’s athleticism translates to production. He averaged an incredible 21.9 yards per reception, the
fourth-highest in college football last season. According to PlayerProfiler, Metcalf’s 21.9 yards per reception rank in the 96 th percentile among all receivers entering the NFL since 2000.
Metcalf’s game is built on being bigger and faster than his opponent, and even in the NFL, there aren't going to be many cornerbacks that can match his level of athleticism. He is going to need to improve on the technical areas of being a receiver, but his ability to make big plays down the field make him a valued commodity in the 2019 NFL draft. I think his talent and skill set falls somewhere between Josh Gordon and Martavis Bryant.
2. Hakeem Butler, Iowa State – 25 receptions of 20 or more yards
Everything that was said about D.K. Metcalf could also be said about Iowa State's Hakeem Butler. In 2018, Butler was third in the nation in yards per reception, averaging an incredible 22 yards per catch (
97). His 25 receptions of at least 20 yards paced FBS as Butler consistently made play after play down the field in the Big 12. th percentile since 2000
Despite his wiry frame, nobody is a bigger threat when it comes to creating big plays. Butler's 4.48 speed at 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds was a major talking point at the combine. And he not only ran fast in Indianapolis, his track record of making splash plays in college should make him an early selection.
3. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford – 9 Red Zone Touchdowns in 2018
If a team is looking to solve its red zone woes, look no further than Stanford's J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. In 2018, the Pac-12 receiver scored 14 touchdowns, nine of which occurred inside the red zone. No other draft-eligible receiver scored more touchdowns inside the 20 than Whiteside, and it's easy to see why.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Arcega-Whiteside has the elite size and body control that allows him to be a big-time weapon in the red zone. It wouldn't be a surprise if he quickly replicated this kind of success in the NFL, where he can immediately be used on fades and back-shoulder throws. Arcega-Whiteside needs to refine his game in other places, but his value will always be tied into his red zone dominance. Look for Arcega-Whiteside to come off the board within the top 100 selections.
4. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Oklahoma – 1 Pass Defended in 2018
One statistic that often isn't brought to attention for draft-eligible receivers is the number of passes defended. If defensive backs can't deflect or defend a pass, it typically means that the receiver is consistently creating enough separation where that is not possible. Texas A&M's Christian Kirk (selected No. 47 overall last year by the Cardinals) led the nation with the
fewest passes defended (1) in 2017.
Last season, Oklahoma receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown allowed the fewest passes defended (1). Brown is one of the fastest receivers in the draft, and his speed will be his trump card in the NFL. Brown averaged an incredible 17.6 yards per reception in 2018 and 18.3 throughout his career. I fully expect Brown to continue to create massive amounts of separation at the next level and be used in a DeSean Jackson-type of role. Like his cousin Antonio, Marquise Brown is one of the toughest receivers to cover in one-on-one situations.
5. Parris Campbell, Ohio State – 83 Percent Catch Rate
Some of the stats listed in this article can tell you a lot about a player, such as Hakeem Butler's big-play ability, D.K. Metcalf's yards per reception, etc. In the case of Parris Campbell, there are two potential conclusions that can be formed after looking at a specific stat. In 2018, Campbell caught 83 percent of the passes intended for him, leading the nation. In total, Campbell caught 90 passes for 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns.
However, what is somewhat misleading about this statistic is that it doesn't take into account the type of routes Campbell was asked to run. Usually, he was running underneath routes, and that is why he averaged a measly 11.8 yards per reception at Ohio State. If Campbell is asked to run deeper routes in the NFL, will he be able to sustain this absurd catch rate? Probably not. However, his ability to be a safety blanket for a quarterback will be valuable at the next level.
6. Andy Isabella, UMass – 47.5 Percent of Team’s Yardage Share
A popular phrase that is uttered during the draft process is "market share" in regards to receivers. To make things simple, market share is the percentage of the passing offense a receiver is responsible for. In college, the "magic" number most are looking for is at least 20 percent, with the top prospects reaching 30 percent. Last season, D.J. Moore, who was the first receiver drafted,
led the nation with a market share of 51.7 percent of Maryland's offense.
In 2018, it was University of Massachusetts receiver Andy Isabella leading all receivers in yardage share at 47.5 percent as he caught 102 balls for 1,698 yards.
According to PlayerProfiler, Isabella accounted for 52.2 percent of UMass’s passing offense, good enough to be in the 97 th percentile of all receivers since 2000. Isabella won't be as highly regarded as Moore, but he is an outstanding prospect who has the production and athleticism to be a dynamic receiver in the NFL. Drafting Isabella any time on Day 2 would be a steal.
7. Riley Ridley, Georgia – Big-Play Rate of 16 Percent
One of the most controversial receivers in the 2019 draft class is Georgia's Riley Ridley, the younger brother of Falcons' receiver Calvin Ridley, who was a first-round pick last April. Riley isn't quite the same talent, but he does have a lot of fans around the draft community.
The biggest argument against Ridley is his lack of production. In 28 career games at Georgia, Ridley totaled just 69 receptions for 1,015 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. In his final season as a Bulldog, he accounted for just 22 percent of Georgia’s passing offense
(28). th percentile
But my biggest concern is the lack of big plays. In 2018, Ridley had only seven receptions of at least 20 yards — a big-play rate of 16 percent. He just doesn’t have the top-end speed (4.58 40-yard dash) to scare defenders. Ridley is going to have to make his money in the short to intermediate part of the field, and considering his lack of production, he is going to be a hot-button player during this draft season.
8. Emanuel Hall, Missouri – 43 Percent Big-Play Rate
One of the most underrated receivers in the 2019 NFL draft is Emanuel Hall of Missouri. Despite putting up fantastic numbers in the SEC, he hasn't received a lot of buzz throughout the draft process. Hall is one of the best deep threats in the entire class, averaging 22.4 yards per reception in his final season at Mizzou.
In 2018, Hall caught a pass of at least 20 yards on 43 percent of his receptions. That was by far the highest rate of any receiver in the 2019 draft class. In total, Hall had 15 receptions of at least 20 yards in just eight games for the Tigers. If a team is looking to acquire a receiver who can make plays down the field at a reasonable cost, Hall should be a target.
9. N’Keal Harry, Arizona State – 16.9 Yards per Punt Return
If you are searching for value at receiver, one thing to search for is how productive a player was on special teams. Many of the NFL's top receivers (Antonio Brown, Tyreek Hill, Julian Edelman, Adam Thielen, etc.) started their careers on special teams, and the same holds true in college. For whatever reason, players who succeed on special teams usually have a pretty smooth transition to offense.
N’Keal Harry of Arizona State is widely considered one of the top receivers in this class. Over the past two seasons, Harry caught 155 passes for 2,230 yards and 17 touchdowns. His receiving tape is good enough alone to warrant a top-50 selection, but it's his special teams ability — specifically his punt return skills — that make me confident he is going to thrive in the NFL.
In his final season at Arizona State, Harry averaged 16.9 yards per punt return, one of the highest in all of college football. Harry doesn't have elite top-end speed (4.52 40-yard dash), but he is elusive enough to make defenders miss and to create big plays for his team. If nothing else, expect Harry to contribute in Year 1 as a dynamic punt returner.
10. Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State – 17.4 yards per reception on 1 st down
Kelvin Harmon of North Carolina State is one of the most well-rounded receivers in the class. You won't find many flaws in his game. He might lack any single "elite" trait, but what Harmon does so well is create chunk plays on early downs. In 2018, Harmon averaged an incredible 17.4 yards per reception on 1
st down, the most in all of college football. Harmon has some Michael Thomas in his game, and his efficiency per target in college is quite similar. Expect Harmon to be a top-50 selection and instantly make an impact as a WR2.