Prospect Preview: Christian Watson

Position: WR

College: North Dakota State

Height: 6’ 4”

Weight: 208lbs

Age: 22

247 Rating: N/A

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

One of Trey Lance’s ($8,526,319) favorite targets in college, it’s easy to see why they were averaging over 20 yards per connection. Watson is an incredible size/speed combo that if coming out of the SEC or the Big 12, he would likely have been considered one of the top wideouts in this year’s class. Despite playing at the FCS level, his dominance of the lower-level competition combined with one of the best combines of all time have led to him becoming just about everyone’s favorite sleeper in the upcoming NFL Draft.

College Production:

Here’s an interesting part about Watson’s production, not only was it in the FCS level, but North Dakota State steamrolled just about every team they went up against. So therefore, Watson’s numbers overall aren’t that impressive. But he was efficient with every touch he got, pulling in 95 receptions for nearly 2,000 yards over the past three years. When evaluating small school prospects, you want to see them show that they are above everyone else on the field, and Watson did that consistently.

Strengths:

  • High-Pointing- When you combine Watson’s frame and reach with his strong hands and physicality, it makes it hard not to believe that any ball thrown his way could be considered a 50/50 ball. But once again we have to remember he was playing against FCS competition; not to completely disregard it but we need to take into account the defenders at the next level are quite the step up. Watson has a knack for making the most of his length though, and no matter how good the defender is, it’s hard to stop someone at his size when he gets up in the air.
  • Home-run Threat- Watson was used in a variety of ways while at North Dakota State. He tested the defense deep quite often, but the coaches made sure to get him the ball as quickly as possible and gave him many opportunities on sweeps and screens. Watson took advantage of this and created plenty of chunk plays. Many times, he would split the closing defenders and gain extra yards down the sideline before being forced out of bounds. Even if it takes some time for Watson to polish his game at the pro level, he still brings big-play potential on every play that he is on the field.

Weaknesses:

  • FCS Level Competition I’ve mentioned it many times already, and I don’t want to discredit Watson’s achievements as you can only play who is in front of you, but I want to caution anyone who expects Watson to make a Day 1 impact. While it’s always possible, I would expect the transition could take up the majority of his rookie season. This makes him a possible “post-hype buy” midway through the season. Keep that in mind when you see him go early in your rookie drafts.
  • Route Running – Watson has dominated his opponents because he’s bigger, faster, and stronger. He should have been playing on the FBS level, and that much is very clear. At the pro level, he’s still an elite athlete, but the gap will be significantly closer between him and the defenders on the other side of the ball. Watson needs to become a better route runner to succeed at the next level, to get in and out of his breaks cleaner and create more deception with his body. This will likely be the biggest hurdle for him as he makes the transition to the NFL.

Things to Watch:

Watson had a combine for the ages, and he’ll go down as one of the most athletic wideouts to ever grace the field in Indianapolis. Now we wait for the draft, as he’s done everything he could possibly do in this pre-draft process to raise his draft stock. Starting from an exciting week down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl and ending with testing out of the building during the NFL Combine.

Projected Round/Contract:  

There will be some mocks that have Watson at the end of the first round, and while I appreciate the optimism, I think he is simply just a bit too raw of a prospect to go that early. I do think that he is locked into Day 2 draft capital and likely won’t see himself slide much farther than the Top-50 or so picks.

I’d expect him to come off the board around the middle of the second round which could see him sign a 4-year deal worth about $7 million total. This would put Watson’s cap hit around $1.75 million a year, an incredible value if he reaches half of his potential while on his rookie deal.

Team Fits:  

A lot of times with wide receivers, a specific landing spot isn’t as much of a big deal compared to running backs or quarterbacks, but in Watson’s case he needs some time to develop and grow into a role. A team can absolutely get him involved right away in the offense, it would just likely be limited and more so with manufactured touches. A team that fits the bill here would be the New York Jets. Zach Wilson ($8,787,670) has a huge arm, and the team wants to surround him with talent on the offense. Watson could be part of a great young duo with Elijah Moore ($2,235,107) and take some time to develop behind Corey Davis ($12,500,000), who many have forgotten about due to his injuries last year. The tide is turning for the Jets (hopefully), and Watson would fit the new look offense that Robert Saleh is looking to build.

With the recently acquired 50th overall pick, the Kansas City Chiefs seem like almost too perfect of a fit for our fantasy football hope. Sure, they probably need a more polished prospect to step into the Tyreek Hill ($18,000,000) size hole, but Watson would be most intriguing if they want to double-dip early at the position. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a QB with a big arm throwing to a big and fast wideout, and that’s exactly what this pairing could provide us. It might be a pipe dream, but there are already plenty of rumors swirling about.

Prospect Preview: Chris Olave

Position: WR

College: Ohio State

Height: 6’ 0”

Weight: 187lbs

Age: 21

247 Rating: 0.8875 (3 Stars)

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

In a somewhat surprising move, Chris Olave decided to return to college football for the 2021 season. A return to Ohio State meant he would be competing with Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and many other highly rated recruits. It worked out decently well for Olave, who was viewed as a mid-day two pick last year and now has seen himself sneak into the back end of the first round in many mock drafts. He’s got the talent to make an impact in the NFL, but how high can he climb?

College Production:

A very productive receiver over the past three years, Olave has consistently been good, but never truly great. Averaging 54 receptions, 835 yards, and about 10 touchdowns a year, Olave was a solid weapon for Justin Fields ($4,717,989) and C.J. Stroud, but never topped 1,000 yards or truly took over the Ohio State receiver room. In fact, his senior season he was out matched by both of his counterparts. It certainly is a talented corps that he had to compete with (similar to the Alabama wideouts we’ve seen over the past few years), but many are asking if he has what it takes to become a top option for an NFL offense.

Strengths:

  • Route Running Technician- One of the most refined route runners in the draft, he shows the ability to use his quick burst to catch defenders on their heels. His cuts are great as he is able to sink his hips when breaking down at the stem, or pace himself in the first five yards. He’s a great space finder, and while he’ll do well against man coverage, his ability to find holes in zone coverage could be his calling card in an offense. He also showed the ability in 2021 to play both inside and outside, with a deep understanding of route concepts.
  • Smooth Operator- Before the catch, Olave does well to get off the line and start developing his route. The transition from release to the first couple steps of his route are smooth and help him get an early step on defenders. After the catch, he offers the ability to make people miss on the first tackle and gain extra yardage down the sideline. He’s got great burst in and out of his cuts and enough wiggle to keep defenders on their toes.
  • Soft Hands- Doesn’t have many drops on the tape and has made his fair share of impressive catches all around the field. A good hands catcher who is comfortable with the ball away from his body, he can be a reliable option for any quarterback who needs a quick throw-and-catch.

Weaknesses:

  • Upside?- Olave is viewed as one of the safest prospects in the class, he does everything you need a wideout to do, and honestly does it pretty well. Despite this, he seems to lack a truly elite trait to stand out from the crowd. While this certainly does not mean he is doomed to fail at the next level, it brings caution when teams are trying to select the elite talent at the top of the draft. Olave could be a great WR2 on a team across from a strong X receiver, but if he is left with handling the majority of an offense’s volume, he may struggle to keep up his efficiency.
  • Lack of Physicality- With a slender frame, Olave does not play up to his height and he certainly doesn’t play like a player 10 or 20 pounds heavier. He gets pushed around by bigger defenders and is more sneaky and quick than thick and strong. Not every player can be A.J. Brown ($1,413,092), but you’d like to see him offer a bit more in contested catch situation and prove that he can hold his own once the defenders become even stronger and more athletic.

Things to Watch:

Olave had a great combine, posting a 4.39 40-Yard Dash. The burst shows up in the tape, he does have the ability to pick up yards quickly and can stretch the defense at times, but I think his play speed is a bit slower than his testing numbers. He certainly isn’t slow, but I wouldn’t be so quick to label him as a true down-the-field threat. Overall, the combine showed that he has been training and is putting in the work to maximize his talents. You like to see that in a player like Olave.

Projected Round/Contract:  

The rumors are he could find himself drafted in the back end of the first round next month, but I still have him projected as a second rounder myself. Teams are going to swing for upside in players like George Pickens and Jameson Williams before they “settle” for Olave. I would expect a contract around $2.2 million a year for Olave, similar to Elijah Moore ($2,235,107) who was selected at the 34th overall pick in 2021. But don’t be surprised to see him in the first round, the vast majority of mock drafts have him there at the moment.

Team Fits:  

Going off of what I said earlier, Olave would do well across from a strong X receiver, it helps narrow it down to a couple teams that would be able to use the strengths that Olave brings to the table. One of the easiest fits to hope for is the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers ($33,500,000) is back and apparently happy, so the front office really needs to bring in some receiver help if they want that to continue. Olave should be available at the 28th pick and would be a solid option in that offense across from Davante Adams ($20,145,000), assuming Adams and the Packers work out a contract.

Another team in a similar situation, pushing for a Super Bowl and needing a crafty WR2, is the Tennessee Titans. With the recent announcement that they will release Julio Jones on June 1st, the depth chart is shallow behind A.J. Brown ($1,413,092) and the team could use a good Z receiver for the ball to go to on a more consistent basis. This is the role that Olave would thrive in, and with a run-first team and a physical receiver across the field from him, he would likely post great efficiency numbers. Olave does some of his best work when given some freedom, and with heavy play action usage, the connection between Olave and Ryan Tannehill ($29,500,000) could lead to taking the pressure off the rest of the offense.

Make sure to follow Nate Christian over on Twitter at @NateNFL and check out all the work he is doing with the Dynasty Rewind (@DynastyRewind).

Prospect Preview: George Pickens

Position: WR

College: Georgia

Height: 6’ 3”

Weight: 195lbs

Age: 21

247 Rating: 0.9880 (5 Stars)

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

Coming off an incredible recovery from a torn ACL, Pickens didn’t have the chance to put up eye-popping numbers this season. Although he didn’t play until the playoffs, when he helped the Georgia Bulldogs win the National Championship, Pickens enters the draft as one of the top wideout prospects. After a very promising start to his college career, don’t let the majority of a year missed to injury distract you from his potential to be a top Dawg in the NFL.

College Production:

As a 5-star recruit, Pickens came into the Georgia program with a ton of natural talent. He fought for a spot in the lineup, and as a true freshman compiled 49 receptions for 727 yards and 8 touchdowns. He continued this success in the following year as his target share went up and he posted 36 receptions, 513 yards, and 6 touchdowns in just 8 games. In the off-season, he tore his ACL but still came back in time for the end of the 2021 season. He only caught 5 passes, but he averaged over 20 yards on those receptions. Now, a fully healthy Pickens is boosting his draft stock and trying to find his way into the first round, where he surely would have been if he had never missed games with the knee injury.

Strengths:

  • AcrobaticIf you have watched highlights of some of the best saves in the English Premier League, you’ll understand how Pickens catches the ball outside of his frame. If it’s anywhere near him, he is giving his all and putting his body at risk to make the catch. Whether it’s stretching out horizontally or out-jumping his defender, Pickens is going to win a lot of 50/50 balls at the next level.
  • Physical MatchupOne of the most physical wideouts in college football the past couple of years, Pickens certainly plays with an attitude. While that attitude has gotten the better of him in the past (see below), often times it gives him the edge to beat his man one on one. Pickens wants the ball, and we’ve seen that he is willing to do almost anything to win at the catch point.

Weaknesses:

  • Red Flags?In 2019, Pickens got into a fight with a defender from Georgia Tech and was ejected from the game. He was also then suspended for the first half of the following game. There were some rumors of immaturity his freshman year, but since then he’s been pretty clean, and no issues have arisen. While you’ll see some people point to “character concerns” with Pickens, they may not remember being 18 years old, and certainly don’t understand being that young and a superstar on one of the top teams in college football. Basically, I’m not worried about it at this point.
  • Healthy KneeWhile I don’t believe many teams will be worried about his knee and he’ll have plenty of time to be fully healthy by the start of the 2022 season, it will be a small concern going forward. We have seen some players struggle to come back 100% from knee injuries and while we did see some of Pickens at the end of the season, it was certainly not at full health.
  • Above-Average not Elite Route RunnerNot much to elaborate on here, as the title really is simple. Pickens does well to get in and out of his cuts for his size, but he’s doesn’t consistently create separation out of his breaks. Where he wins on his routes consistently is with leverage against his defender, making him a hard matchup in man-to-man situations.

Things to Watch:

After impressing at the combine with a 4.47 40-yard dash, I don’t expect Pickens to re-run the 40 at his pro day. He will likely retest on his vertical and broad jump as those could certainly be improved upon. Either way the numbers he posted are pretty good for a player his size. He did weigh in right under 200 pounds, and while the physicality is obviously there, teams would likely like to see him gain some more muscle on his frame. Something that he could absolutely do now that he is healthy and moving up to the pro level.

Projected Round/Contract:  

There are plenty of people hoping that George Pickens ends up in the back end of the first round, and I certainly think it’s possible, but I’m a bit more conservative with my projection. A couple years ago we saw both Tee Higgins ($2,171,696) and Michael Pittman Jr ($2,153,213) go at the very beginning of the second round, and I think that is one of the sweet spots for Pickens to be selected. This would obviously give him a similar contract to the two players listed above, meaning he’ll be making just over $2 million a year.

Team Fits:  

If I am going off of my early-second round projection (and it’s a good one as the first five teams could all be realistic landing spots), then one of the top teams ready to draft George Pickens would be the Detroit Lions in my eyes. They are going through quite the rebuild and they have a lot of holes to fill, the wideout position being one of the largest. I’m not the biggest Amon-Ra St. Brown ($1,066,313) fan but he could be a great WR2 across from a big physical X-receiver like Pickens. Pickens would give Jared Goff ($33,500,000) a safety blanket to throw to and a field stretcher to help open up the running game. Pickens would also be a great building block for any young quarterback the Lions may choose whether it’s in this year’s draft or in 2023.

If Pickens goes in the first round, a team that could be willing to make the splash with him would be the Miami Dolphins at pick 29. Mike McDaniel may try to replicate the 49ers offensive scheme and Pickens could do great in the Brandon Aiyuk ($3,132,835) role, with Jaylen Waddle ($6,771,498) playing the Deebo Samuel ($1,811,869) role of course. Yeah just think about that for a couple moments and get excited.

Make sure to follow Nate Christian over on Twitter at @NateNFL and check out all the work he is doing with the Dynasty Rewind (@DynastyRewind).

Prospect Preview: Jahan Dotson

Prospect Preview: Jahan Dotson

College: Penn State

Height: 5’ 10”

Weight: 178

Age: 21

247 Rating: 0.9228 (4 Stars)

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

One of the top playmakers in college football over the past two years, Jahan Dotson comes into the NFL Draft as an elite talent but with a couple question marks surrounding his size and translatable profile. The transition to the pros can be hard for many, but if the talent is there then the talent is there. Dotson has that talent and will be an undervalued asset come Draft Day.

College Production:

College production is hard to come by when Sean Clifford is your quarterback, yet Dotson made it happen. In 2020, his junior season, he caught 52 passes for 884 yards and 8 touchdowns. That season he showed some flashed of greatness and was an early sleeper for the 2022 NFL Draft. In 2021, he shed the sleeper label and became one of the best in the country with 91 receptions for 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns. I was lucky enough to see Dotson live this season when he played my hometown Maryland Terps. In that game Dotson pulled in 11 catches for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns, nearly single-handedly leading his team to the victory.

Strengths:

  • Speed- I told Steve (our editor) that this article was going to be a little late, and while I did have some life events that slowed me down by a couple hours, I also wanted to have Dotson’s official 40 time for this piece. He ended up running an unofficial 4.41 and it shows on the tape. He’s got the game-changing speed that teams are going to drool over.
  • The “It” Factor- In 2021, nine out of Dotson’s 12 touchdowns were from 20+ yards out, and not all of them were just deep shots down the field. Dotson has great YAC ability to make people miss and get down the field with the ball in his hands. He’s truly an electric player and was the main offensive weapon for Penn State these past two years.
  • WR Profile- Not just a plus-athlete, Dotson is a solid receiver who will translate to the NFL well. He has some of the best hands in the class and holds his own in contested catch situations down-the-field. He’s got a great release off the line with very quick feet that help him gain leverage within the first few steps. A player that can create a lot of separation, Dotson is going to be a promising prospect for a lot of NFL teams.

Weaknesses:

  • Strength- Likely his biggest weakness, Dotson doesn’t have great play strength, which is almost to be expected at his size. He’s not going to push around cornerbacks, and gain that physical edge against defenders. What he lacks in strength he makes up for in speed, but this could limit his usage as he finds his role at the next level.
  • Inside/Outside?- Dotson played both inside and outside at the college level, and projecting forward many think he’ll be limited to the slot at the next level. While I do think the slot would be his best fit, I also see no reason why he can’t play outside at the Z position just like many other good route runners his size.
  • Size- With Dotson being (slightly) under 180 pounds, there are going to be some people out there that doubt his chances of being a top WR in the NFL. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter. He’s about the same size as Diontae Johnson ($1,070,241), Brandin Cooks ($16,200,000), and Tyler Lockett ($10,250,000), all who clearly have not had any issues with playing in the NFL. The talent is there, and that’s what matters.

Things to Watch:

This segment should almost be named “Things to Have Watched”, because you should have watched his 40-yard dash by now. Coming into the NFL combine, Dotson was up near the top of the list for projected 40-yard dash times and he came through with a great run at an unofficial 4.41. He posted an impressive 36” vertical and will likely have a great 3-cone drill. Dotson has had a great draft process so far and I expect the media to keep up with it. He will be one of the more exciting players in the lead up to this year’s draft, so be ready for more good news at his pro day.

Projected Round/Contract:  

I believe that Dotson is going to find his way into the end of the 1st round come Draft Day, and a team is going to be very happy to scoop him up. I’m thinking there’s a nice sweet spot for him around the end of the 20’s which means he’ll get a nice contract around $3,000,000 a year and that 5th year option for whomever is lucky enough to draft him.

Team Fits:  

At the end of the first round, the team that immediately sticks out to me is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Chris Godwin ($15,983,000) leaves in free agency, the Bucs can replace one Penn State receiver with another. Next to Mike Evans ($16,500,000), Dotson would have CB2 coverage and would be able to provide a great compliment to the physical style that Evans brings to the table. The biggest question mark here though is the who will be throwing the ball from under center, as that picture is still very murky for Tampa Bay going forward.

Another team that is screaming for a playmaker like Dotson, are the New England Patriots. Right now, they lack a true WR1 (sorry, Jakobi) and Dotson would provide not only someone the offense can rely on, but his ability to create separation all over the field would mesh well with Mac Jones ($3,896,588) and his style of quarterback play. This could be a match made in heaven, with serious potential for fantasy football. Gone are the days of looking for the next Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, and Vincent Jackson. Now we look for the PPR magnets who can handle the focus of their offense and be productive. Jahan Dotson fits that mold.

Prospect Preview: Drake London

Position: WR

College: USC

Height: 6’ 5”

Weight: 205

Age: 20

247 Rating: 0.9087 (4 Stars)

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

A somewhat controversial prospect, Drake London was one of the best and most productive receivers in college football this season until he suffered a foot injury against Arizona in late October. While the injury doesn’t affect his long-term outlook, the film he put together has some question marks for many. Was London simply the lucky recipient of a very concentrated offense or is he a future top wideout at the next level? Depending on who you ask you will get a variety of answers.

College Production:

Throughout his first two years at USC, London put up decent numbers of 72 receptions and just over 1,000 yards with 8 touchdowns. This was over 14 games, so overall rather impressive numbers. But the real breakout was in 2021, in the injury-shortened season, when London handled 88 catches for 1,084 yards and 7 touchdowns… in 8 games. That’s an average of 11 receptions a game for over 130 yards. London was the USC offense in 2021 and he was on a historical pace before the injury. Now going forward, where does he fit into the 2022 draft class? There’s a lot more to London than just a high volume of receptions.

Strengths:

  • Small Forward Size- Most football fans get excited when they see a 6’ 5” wide receiver join their team. That size can give them an advantage in many situations, and people will get even more excited when the announcers mention something about a basketball background. Yes, London was a two-sport athlete at USC, playing on the basketball team as well. But don’t be fooled by that knowledge, as impressive as it is to be on the USC basketball squad London only ever appeared in two games for a total of six minutes. Still, the basketball background only helps this wideout as he bodies up defenders and gets up for those contested catches.
  • 70/30’s- Simply put, 50/50 balls are not 50/50 balls when they are headed London’s way. Not only does he have the size and length, but he’s obviously got the timing and body control down to take advantage of jump balls against smaller defenders. This works for him up and down the field as any ball thrown his way has a chance to end up in his hands.
  • Volume/Efficiency- In 2021, London showed us that he could contribute at a high level and handle the workload of a WR1 on a team. He’s capable of having an offense run through him and not letting his quarterback down. Opposing defense knew where the ball was going on every pass play and still London would come down with the catch. On the flip side though, it doesn’t seem like London has to be the main target to produce. In 2020, he averaged 15.2 yards per reception and has shown the ability to make big plays down the field when given the opportunity.

Weaknesses:

  • Separation?- Often times when we think of receivers who handle a ton of volume and short yardage receptions we imagine great route runners like Kennan Allen ($20,025,000) or Diontae Johnson ($1,070,241) who create a lot of separation quickly and often. London doesn’t fit that mold. Despite the high volume he carried at USC, he’s not a consistent separator like some of the other wideouts mentioned. This brings up some concerns, as good as his contested catch ability is, what will it look like in the NFL? Will he manage to win at the same high-rate? Or is he a little too reminiscent of N’Keal Harry ($2,524,587)?
  • Is He The X?- At 6’ 5” you expect London to come into a team and become the bona fide X receiver out on the sideline right? Well, he played mostly in the slot until this past season and while he did well on the outside, it was against PAC-12 corners and I’m not convinced he has the strength and physical dominance to continue that production at the next level in that position. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the big slot receiver, in fact it could even be better for fantasy football production, but let’s take a moment to temper our expectations. I don’t have London pegged as the next Vincent Jackson or Mike Evans ($16,500,000) just yet.

Things to Watch:

Is London going to be healthy enough to do any testing during the pre-draft process? I’m really not too sure either way, but I will certainly be watching for anything that he may take part in. For his size, I’m not too worried about his athleticism. He’s not a burner but he’s got enough juice to compete at the next level. Would I love to see some numbers attached to his name? Yes. Do the numbers really matter? No.

Projected Round/Contract:  

Everyone has Drake London as a first round draft pick and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I agree or not (I do not), so that’s where we will project him. The injury shouldn’t cause too much of a drop, unless there are reports of a setback, so I’d expect London to hear his name called at the back end of the first round, in that sweet spot for WRs between 20-28. He’ll likely have a contract hit similar to Rashod Bateman ($3,149,853), earning a deal of about $12m -$13m over four years.

Team Fits:  

So many teams could use a big receiver like London. Whether he develops into that dominate outside receiver or if he becomes the ultimate mismatch in the slot, either way a team should be able to use him. Does a team want to pair him with another big, physical receiver? Then look no further than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Chris Godwin ($15,983,000) moves on to another team, then the Bucs will likely need to find a new pairing for Evans. Now we don’t know who will be throwing the ball, but with two 6’ 5” receivers on the team, it might not matter that much. Bruce Arians is going to air it out no matter who is under center, so the front office might as well give him another wideout to catch it.

A team I really haven’t heard mentioned in the same sentence as London is the Miami Dolphins. Jaylen Waddle ($6,771,498) has shown the potential to be a great playmaker, but the team needs a physical receiver to pair with him and Devante Parker ($7,625,000) doesn’t seem to be the future of that position. London would be the strength to Waddle’s speed, giving Tua Tagovailoa ($7,568,859) the wideouts he needs to continue building confidence in the Dolphins offense. As Mike McDaniel starts to build his team and dynamic offense, it will be certainly worth watching how he address the wide receiver position this year in the draft.

Make sure to follow Nate Christian over on Twitter at @NateNFL and check out all the work he is doing with the Dynasty Rewind (@DynastyRewind).

Prospect Preview: Garrett Wilson

Position: WR

College: Ohio State

Height: 6’ 0”

Weight: 192lbs

Age: 21

247 Rating: 0.9903 (5 Stars)

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

Viewed as one of the top of the prospects for this draft class since high school, Garrett Wilson has done nothing but impress throughout his time at Ohio State. Despite being in a crowded room of Chris Olave, Jaxson Smith-Njigba, and at one point Jameson Williams, Wilson has been able to shine and produce for the Buckeyes. Now as one of the top prospects in this year’s draft, do we really expect him to be one of the best?

College Production:

Over Wilson’s first two years with the Buckeyes, he combined for 1,155 yards and 73 receptions. Good production for the opportunities that he had, and during that time he flashed that he was capable of much more. In 2021, he surpassed Chris Olave as the #1 receiver and finished with 70 catches for just over 1,000 yards while finding the end zone 13 times (1 rushing). In the last four games of the season (against Top 25 teams) he had 34 catches for 453 yards and 6 touchdowns (plus the 51-yard rushing TD), a great ending to his final season.

Strengths:

  • Route Technician- A true three-level threat, Wilson wins all over the field. Inside and outside, short and deep; his ability to create separation throughout his routes often leaves defenders a step or two behind by the time the ball is released. Wilson ran a full route tree in college and has shown great pacing leading up to the top of his routes, and then explosiveness as he makes his way out of his breaks.
  • Long Reach- Despite coming in at 6’ 0”, Wilson plays much larger than his listed size. Usually when you hear this about a prospect you think they play heavier than their size, but I wouldn’t be so quick to say that about Wilson. Wilson plays taller, wider, and longer. He is great in contested catch situations and is very comfortable catching the ball outside of his frame. This combined with his ability to create separation could make him a quarterback’s best friend.
  • Soft Hands- As silly as it sounds, many players don’t catch with their hands. Many wideouts rely on using their body to corral the ball into their arms. Wilson has no issues attacking the ball in the air and using his hands to pluck the ball and tuck it safely away.

Weaknesses:

  • Weakness?- Wilson doesn’t really have many issues that I would really point out as true weaknesses. All around a very complete receiver. While things can always be improved upon, Wilson is one of the most pro-ready receivers I have seen as a prospect recently. Wilson gives you not only a safe floor, but plenty of upside, making him a great prospect anywhere in your rookie draft.

Things to Watch:

Wilson may not be the fastest receiver on the field, but he has plenty of athleticism for the next level. I’m very interested to see what his exact numbers are though, because as fluid and smooth as he looks, he doesn’t always show an elite level of speed and burst. If the 40-yard dash looks as good as his three-cone drill, I doubt anyone will have much to say.

Projected Round/Contract:  

A bona-fide first-rounder, I haven’t seen a single mock draft without Wilson being selected in the first 25 picks, often times within the Top 15. The draft capital will certainly be there, and there’s a good chance Wilson is the first receiver off the board come Draft Day. His pro-ready profile is going to make a lot of teams very excited about his chance at immediately making an impact on their offense.

His contract will likely look pretty similar to Devonta Smith’s ($5,035,348). This will give his Dynasty Owners a solid $5 million a year salary to work with, which could be a good value for the production they could likely get from him in his rookie year.

Team Fits:  

As with many of the top wideout prospects, Wilson is rather landing spot proof. He doesn’t need a specific style of offense to fit his strengths and most any coach will be able to use him.  But as always, there are some teams out there that could really use a player like Wilson. For example, with an aging Jarvis Landry ($15,100,000) and a now OBJ sized hole in the offense, Baker Mayfield ($8,170,745) needs some help. Wilson is an immediate impact player for that offense and would be able to help that team find some rhythm in the passing game. At pick 13, the Browns have quickly become the consensus partner for Wilson.

If Wilson ends up sliding a bit on Draft Day, a team that would be more than happy to scoop up some receiver value would be the New Orleans Saints (pick #18). Long gone are the days of Drew Brees and Sean Peyton, now the future is cap-strapped and full of unknown player personnel. If the Saints want to find a veteran quarterback and give him a weapon outside of Michael Thomas ($19,250,000), who has plenty of his own question marks, then Wilson would be one of the best possible matches. A great route-runner like Thomas, Wilson would be able to grow under the tutelage of Thomas, another former Buckeye, and eventually maybe even take over that role for the future Saints offense.

Make sure to follow Nate Christian over on Twitter at @NateNFL and check out all the work he is doing with the Dynasty Rewind (@DynastyRewind).

Prospect Preview: Jameson Williams

Position: WR

College: Alabama

Height: 6’ 2”

Weight: 189 lbs.

Age: 20

247 Rating: 0.9621

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

Alabama has been churning out NFL talent at the wide receiver position for years now, and for the 2022 NFL Draft, it will continue. But the story with Jameson Williams is a little different. After two uneventful years at Ohio State behind Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Williams found greener pastures down south. In one year with Alabama, Williams went from a no-name backup to one of the best players in all of college football. An incredible story and testament to the new-age transfer portal, a late-season injury ended his rise to fame with a slight question mark. What lies in store for one of the most electric players in the nation?

College Production:

In his two years at Ohio State, Williams totaled 15 receptions for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. This production wasn’t painting a great future for his football career, so he decided to find another place with more opportunity. Alabama saw something in Williams and took a swing at him. It’s hard to pass on Nick Saban so Williams made the jump and immediately inserted himself into the starting lineup by August. In 2021, Williams blew past his previous seasons and collected 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns. Unfortunately, in the championship game Williams suffered a non-contact knee injury (ACL) and will no longer be able to participate in the NFL Combine or the Alabama Pro Day.

Strengths:

  • I Am Speed- There is no player faster on the field in this draft class than Williams. His ability to get down the field shows up in more than just his Yards After The Catch, but also in the constant separation he creates behind the safeties. It’s very impressive and something you don’t often see so consistently at that level of football. With Williams on the field, there’s always a chance to score.
  • Creates Hesitation- If you can get a corner to fall on their heels when backpedaling, you’ve won the matchup. Williams does this often. His speed and explosiveness is constantly running through the defender’s mind and the pacing of his routes and release off the line often have the corner falling back before he takes off on his route. Once he gets the first step on the defender, anything can happen.
  • Quick-Twitch- Not just a straight line kind of speedster, Williams can take screens and sweeps to the house. He’s able to break tackles and make defenders miss with his agility and impressive balance. This lets him be a weapon for the offense on all plays and can help coaches manufacture touches in any situation.

Weaknesses:

  • One-Year Wonder- As with any player who breaks out the same year they then declare for the draft, people will always nit-pick that there isn’t a history of production. Why couldn’t Williams beat out his competition at Ohio State? Why is he now considered a better prospect than some of those players? Truthfully, it’s a very complicated situation and we’ll never really know, but what he did for Alabama in 2021 was truly incredible.
  • Knee Injury- This is less of a concern overall and more of just a concern regarding his draft capital. I still believe there is no doubt he goes in Round 1, but a team may hesitate to select him where they had originally planned if he is unable to contribute much his rookie year. Will certainly be something to keep an eye on, but it shouldn’t impact his overall career.

Things to Watch:

With the knee injury and rehab, it’s unlikely we hear too much out of Williams’ camp leading up to the draft, outside of some rehab updates. He won’t have any measurables and testing numbers to compare, which is unfortunate as he would have lit up the 40-Yard Dash. As we head to the draft, just keep an ear out to make sure that he hasn’t suffered any setbacks.

Projected Round/Contract:  

Jameson Williams is a first rounder, injury or no injury. The only difference now is that he may be a value at the back half of the first round rather than a Top-10/15 kind of player. Whatever team that drafts Williams will likely have to wait a year until they get full production out of the receiver, but it will be well worth the wait. Looking at potential draft slots, his contract will likely come in around $3.5 million a year over the first four years of his rookie contract. And of course, as a first rounder he will have that extra fifth year option.

Team Fits:  

A player like Williams could excel in just about any offense or scheme. He’s not just a down-the-field burner, as he offers upside all around the field. But there are certainly a couple teams that could really use a player like him. First up is the unfortunate story of the Raiders and Henry Ruggs. It’s highly unlikely that Ruggs ever sees the field again and the Raiders have already moved on from him. They need a new receiver to pair with Hunter Renfrow ($708,987) and they have shown throughout their history they love players with speed. While having to wait a while for Williams to get healthy could turn them off, there is almost no better match for the Raiders in this draft. His ability to not only stretch the field, but create plays out of nothing, could finally give them the WR1 of their dreams. At pick 22, this could be a realistic fit.

Three teams in a row, #26 Tennessee, #27 Tampa Bay, and #28 Green Bay could all use one Jameson Williams on their squad. Tennessee has A.J. Brown ($1,413,092) on the roster but if Julio Jones ($22,000,000) can’t stay healthy then it could be time to look elsewhere. Tampa Bay has Mike Evans ($16,500,000) who is great, but with most of the rest of receiving core sitting as free agents, Williams could be a great compliment. And then you have Green Bay. With the unknown at the quarterback position, anything is on the table for them, but if they finally want to create some depth at the wideout position, Williams would be an incredible pick.

Make sure to follow Nate Christian over on Twitter at @NateNFL and check out all the work he is doing with the Dynasty Rewind (@DynastyRewind).

Prospect Preview: Treylon Burks

Position: Wide Recieiver

College: Arkansas

Height: 6’ 3”

Weight: 225 lbs

Age: 21

247 Rating: 0.9544 (4 Stars)

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

Treylon Burks is going to be a lot of people’s favorite prospect this year. The size, the speed, the production profile. There is so much to love about Burks and his potential. Is he all that and a bag of chips? Well… yeah, most likely. Could he be the next N’Keal Harry ($2,524,587)? Well… we always run that risk.

College Production:

A member of the 2019 SEC All-Freshman Team, Burks has produced at a high level every year since joining the Razorbacks. Impressively, he has improved year over year and finished 2021 as one of the best receivers in the nation. Over his three-year college career, he averaged over 16 yards per catch each year and was used in a variety of ways, logging 38 rushes over that time as well. The 2021 season saw the Razorbacks finish 9-4, their best finish since 2011, and one of the key contributors was Burks. As a Junior, he finished with 66 receptions, over 1,100 yards, and found the end zone 12 times (once on the ground). An impressive finish to a great college career.

Strengths:

  • Alpha Size- “You can’t teach size”, a great word of advice to NFL head coaches and scouts everywhere. When we look at some the most dominant receivers in the history of the NFL many of them won with great technique and athletic ability on top of impressive size (the top four leaders in career reception yards were all 6’ 2” or taller: Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss). Burks’ size sets him apart from many other receivers in this draft class and past classes, as he is able to use his size to win at the catch point. As an outside receiver, he is going to match-up well against NFL defenders and shouldn’t find much struggle with the transition to the next level.
  • Back-Shoulder King- Back shoulder catches catch our eyes as impressive feats of physicality and control. Burks has no problem making these tough catches and making defenders look small. His ability to use his length, thick frame, and strong hands to make contested catches is very impressive, and he’s bound to hit the SportsCenter Top 10 plays at least twice a season.
  • High Level Athlete- The size is impressive, we’ve gone over that multiple times now. But he is no lumbering giant out there on the football field. Burks is a player who is used on screens, sweeps, and even out of the backfield at times. Think about how Chase Claypool ($1,654,156) has been used with the Steelers so far, that’s what we saw with Burks at Arkansas. The speed and acceleration is there, the home run threat is there. Let’s hope an NFL coach is comfortable making Burks a focal point.

Weaknesses:

  • Strength After the Catch- I will not doubt Burks’ ability to be physically dominant, we see it often during contested catch situations, but once the ball is in his hands he doesn’t always keep it at that high level. When he’s running with the ball you would expect him to run people over and carry defenders along the sidelines for extra yards. While he’s not necessarily “soft”, he lacks that aggression after the catch that could really set him apart from other big receivers.
  • Run Blocking- Not sure what the reason is behind this one,. He has the frame to be a great run blocker and to really make an impact for his team on every down, but the effort and technique just doesn’t consistently come together in this facet of his game. Hopefully this will be one of the first coaching points for Burks in minicamp and we can see quick progression to get him on the field early and often.
  • Average Technique- As with many prospect who rely on physicality and athletic ability to win against their competition, Burks is not the most polished receiver as a prospect. He’s able to run a variety of routes but his cuts are often rounded, and he doesn’t breakdown low and smooth. Nothing bad here, but if he wants to be one of the best he will have to continue to improve in this area.

Things to Watch:

Burks is going to blow up the NFL Combine. Just get ready for it now. It’s going to happen. A 4.3 isn’t out of the question, and as a player who will come in at 6’ 3” and 225 pounds, it’s going to create a ton of hype. That’s about all there is to prepare for, the eventual explosion after the NFL Combine. It’s going to be great.

Projected Round/Contract:  

Being one of the top receivers in this draft class I believe that Burks is a lock for the first round this year and could be as high as Top-10 if a team loves his athletic traits enough. It seems that the media is not as high on Burks as Twitter scouts and fantasy football enthusiasts, but it’s only a matter of time before the two come together in consensus.

If Burks goes in the middle of the first round, I expect his contract to be somewhere close to $4,000,000 a year over four years, with that fifth-year option at the end of his rookie contract. With the type of production he could provide over his first couple years, this will be a great value.

Team Fits:  

A player like Burks is a rather “landing spot proof” player. He doesn’t need a specific system to excel, and his experience both in the slot and outside along the sideline gives him versatility for any offensive coordinator. But when looking at the 2022 NFL Draft, there are a couple teams in the middle of the first round that could use an X receiver like Burks.

With three picks in the middle of the first round, the Philadelphia Eagles could look at a first-round receiver for the third year in a row. While it is a need for the team they might look elsewhere before spending another valuable draft pick on a wideout. But if they do look Burks’ way with one of those picks it could be a great match. DeVonta Smith ($5,035,348) is a talented player, but he could be the technician to complement the power and physicality of a player like Burks. This pairing could lead to a great situation for Jalen Hurts ($1,506,292) to take another step forward if he is to be the future of the Eagles franchise.

Depending on the future of upcoming free agent Mike Williams ($15,680,000), the Chargers could be looking for a new outside receiver to pair with Keenan Allen ($20,025,000) and Justin Herbert ($6,644,688). Burks would be a great replacement for Williams and would be a dream landing spot for fantasy football players as he would be tied to one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. The Chargers have the 17th overall pick, and I would say there’s a decent chance for Burks to head to the City of Angels.

Make sure to follow Nate Christian over on Twitter at @NateNFL and check out all the work he is doing with the Dynasty Rewind (@DynastyRewind).

Prospect Preview: Kenneth Walker III

Position: Kenneth Walker III

College: Michigan State

Height: 5’ 10″

Weight: 210

Age: 21

247 Rating: .08122 (3 Stars)

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

Kenneth Walker was a name that popped up a couple times a year ago for me. I noticed his production at Wake Forest and liked some of the tape I watched, but with the competition he was playing didn’t see him being a focus of the 2022 conversation. Once he transferred to Michigan State, I’d figure it would be a help, but I never imagined that he would jump onto the national stage like he did this past season. With his name being mentioned in the Heisman conversation, Kenneth Walker used the 2021 season to jump into the top tier of the running back class.

College Production:

At Wake Forest, Walker ran for exactly 579 yards in his both his Freshman and Sophomore seasons. But the film looked good, there were flashes of big play ability and explosiveness, but the literal agility to be elusive really stood out. Then the move to Michigan State for his Junior season. In the 2021 season, Walker amassed 1,636 yards on the ground, to go with 18 touchdowns. In addition, he also brought in 13 receptions, surpassing his previous season high of three. A truly incredible season, Walker was one of the best running backs in college football last year and comes into draft season with plenty of momentum.

Strengths:

  • Side-to-Side Elite- There are a lot of players over the years that have demonstrated the ability to get in and out of their cuts like Walker has this past year. But what sets Walker apart from the crowd is his tenacity to run North-South rather than trying to force it outside or to the sideline. Whether it’s behind the line of scrimmage or out in the second level, Walker is consistently making people miss and moving around the field as he makes his way closer to the end zone.
  • Stays Upright- Walker is able to get extremely low to the ground when breaking down in front of a defender or trying to evade a tackler. With what should be top-rated balance stats on Madden 23, the ability to stay on his feet no matter the situation helps him achieve plenty of yards after contact despite not being the biggest player on the field.
  • Yard Creation- What sets Walker apart from many of the running backs in this year’s class is his ability to create his own yards. He has the potential to outplay his offensive line. With the Next Gen stats from NFL, I’ll be very interested to see what Walker does in his rookie season. He has shown that he can take a broken play and make something big happen. That is an important trait.

Weaknesses:

  • One-Hit Wonder? As with many prospects that breakout their Junior year, we’re going to question whether or not the production is real. Did everything just break perfect for Walker to have one of the best seasons? Possibly, but despite the great situation, and things just working out, the talent that he showed this season was still there in the film from Wake Forest. The question will come up, but I won’t be too worried about this one.
  • Third-and-Long- Walker had only 19 receptions over his college career. Now we can’t always look at that raw number and jump to conclusions but there is usually some kind of context to explain. Walker seems like a decent enough pass catcher to me; the problem is with his pass protection. He does a decent job of getting in the way of defenders, but he isn’t consistently blocking them and taking them out of the situation. An area that needs to be improved if Walker wants to see all three downs at the next level.

Things to Watch:

As always we have to look forward to the NFL Combine and all the excitement that it will bring. I have a feeling that Walker will test well. He may not have elite long speed, but his short area burst is really great and that will likely show once we see his measurables. One thing to keep an eye on will be his height and weight, I don’t expect it to differ from what is listed but if he comes in a 5’ 9” rather than 5’ 10”, I promise you that we will hear about it much more than we should.

Projected Round/Contract:  

If any running back is going to sneak into the first round this year, I believe it will be Kenneth Walker. He’s got the momentum and has shown enough upside that a team could fall in love with his traits and potential fit into their scheme. Most likely though Walker is a Day 2 pick, somewhere in the second round. He’ll likely have a similar contract to what I projected the other running backs in the top tier this year (Breece Hall and Isaiah Spiller), somewhere between $2 million and $2.5 million a year over his 4-year rookie contract. If he does happen to sneak into the back end of the first, we could see something similar to Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($2,705,393) and his deal that has a fifth-year option at the end.

Team Fits:  

Kenneth Walker has the potential to be a full-load running back at the next level, but if you’re expecting him to be playing every snap his rookie year you’ll be pretty far off on his final snap count. He’ll get the opportunity (with the expected draft capital), but he’ll be limited to mostly run situations until he improves his pass protection and shows consistency catching the ball. This means he’ll likely find himself in a time share with a veteran back who excels on third and long situations, giving whatever team drafts him a pretty good 1-2 punch.

One team that currently fits this mold is the Miami Dolphins. Giving Tua Tagovailoa ($7,568,859) a top running back would allow him to do what he does best and work off of play action. Myles Gaskin ($651,694) would be able to handle the passing downs with enough skill to get the team heading in the right direction and then Gaskin will be a free agent after the 2022 season. The situation seems perfect for Walker to walk into and develop. The Dolphins currently have the 30th overall pick as well as the 50th, both spots that Walker could end up being selected.

Another team with a similar situation would be the Houston Texans. Running back might not be the top priority as the team has a lot of holes to fill, but they need to overhaul their backfield with some youth. David Johnson ($5,000,000) is a 30-year old free agent and 31-year old Rex Burkhead just signed a one-year extension with the Texans for $2,350,000. If Walker is the selection for them at pick 37, they could always sign another veteran free agent to pair with Walker and Burkhead, as there will be a bunch of them this year.

Make sure to follow Nate Christian over on Twitter at @NateNFL and check out all the work he is doing with the Dynasty Rewind (@DynastyRewind).

Prospect Preview: Breece Hall

Position: RB

College: Iowa State

Height: 6’ 1”

Weight: 220lbs

Age: 20

247 Rating: .8955 (4 Stars)

By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

The prototypical running back by many standards, Breece Hall does everything well at the position. Unfortunately, he seems to fail to produce an elite talent that stands out among the rest of the position group. Being a well-sized, production heavy, do-it-all running back just doesn’t get the same ohhs nor ahhs as the speed freaks or the scatbacks.

College Production:

The only unanimous All-American in Iowa State history, Breece Hall has been one of the top college running backs since the moment he stepped on the field as a freshman. In 2019, he made an instant impact with over 1,000 scrimmage yards for the Cyclones and has never looked back, amassing 4,675 scrimmage yards over three years with 56 total touchdowns. He has a true nose for the end zone with 46 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’s not just a bruiser either, as he’s managed 20+ receptions in every season and had a career high 36 catches in 2021. A true do-it-all back for Iowa State, he seems pro-ready heading into the NFL Draft.

Strengths:

  • Throwback to the Frame of the 90’s: At 6’ 1” and 220 lbs., Hall boasts a thick frame that reminds me of some of the runners from the late 90’s. He’s built to run up the middle, win at the goal line, and carry the rock at a high volume. NFL teams are going to love this as it should help him translate to the pro-level quickly.
  • Patience to Develop: When behind the line of scrimmage, Hall doesn’t just put his head down and run forward, he understands the concepts of the run game and how the blocks develop. If the hole is not open right away he does well to decide whether it’s going to open back up or if he needs to go with his plan B.
  • Two-Time All-American: The college production of running backs is usually a pretty good indicator of success at the next level. Hall has plenty of production and has shown a well-rounded skillset that should enable him to fit into most NFL offenses. Pretty close to “landing spot proof”.

Weaknesses:

  • Not Slippery: Hall’s game does not depend on elusiveness and it’s likely one of his biggest weaknesses, as he won’t make many players completely whiff on their tackles. He does do enough to step out of ankle biters and shrug off arm tackles, but he won’t be the flashy type to break defenders’ ankles in the open field.
  • Contact Balance Disappointment: While Hall does a good job of breaking through the weaker tackles, his contact balance can leave something to be desired. There are some inconsistencies throughout his tape that could be the consequence of him playing at different weights and speeds throughout his career. Overall, I’d rate it well, but when looking for the top prospect in his position, you’d like to see a bit more.
  • Athleticism?: As I will mention more about below, there are plenty of question marks around the athleticism of Hall, some founded and others not. At the end of the day the tape shows us he has enough to make it in the NFL, but the armchair scouts will look for the measurables to make their final decision of yay or nay.

Things to Watch:

The combine could make or break the consensus on Hall. We’ve seen his ability to bulk up and handle a large workload, but we’ve also seen flashes of great athleticism and balance. The combine testing number, for better or worse, will push those who are on the fence. If Hall puts up a 40-Yard dash 4.55 or below, we likely won’t hear too many complaints. If he goes above that, and into the 4.6 range, we’re going to see people bashing him for a lack of speed and acceleration. According to his past numbers he should end up in the high 4.4/low 4.5 range, but if he misses that mark, the wolves will come out.

Projected Round/Contract:  

Hall is in the running to be one of the first running backs off the board come draft day. While I doubt that any running back sneaks into the first round, there’s always a chance for a team to fall in love with a player and make a move. I would expect Hall to end up somewhere in Day 2 of the draft, in the second or third round.

I project Hall’s contract to look similar to A.J. Dillon’s ($1,321,458) from the 2020 NFL Draft. Dillon was picked at the end of the 2nd round (62nd pick) by the Green Bay Packers.

Team Fits:

First and foremost, the Miami Dolphins, and whomever they choose to be their next head coach, could use a running back like Breece Hall. The team screams for a strong running game to go with Tua Tagovailoa ($7,568,859) and Jaylen Waddle ($6,771,498), and Hall is a running back you can work off of. With his high-volume frame, the Dolphins could better control games and use play action and a strong defense to win.

The Atlanta Falcons are another team that could use a runner like Hall in their backfield. Head coach Arthur Smith comes from Tennessee where he had the pleasure of working with Derrick Henry ($12,500,000), not that Hall compares 1:1 to Henry, but he would give that team the chance to have a true workhorse. If Smith is looking to extend the career of Matt Ryan ($30,000,000) at least one more year, then this move would make sense.

Make sure to follow Nate Christian over on Twitter at @NateNFL and check out all the work he is doing with the Dynasty Rewind (@DynastyRewind).