Here’s a sneak peak into the WR class for the 2023 NFL Draft.
It’s been fascinating to witness the impact that young receivers have on the NFL game in recent years. Players like Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, and AJ Brown – just to name a few – are making serious putting the NFL on notice, and they’re doing it much sooner than we’ve seen from WRs in the past.
Receiver prospects are entering the NFL Draft with pro-ready polish and elite natural tools. It’s a combination that’s getting them selected early and often. A total of 17 WRs have been selected in the first round over the last three NFL Drafts. That’s an average of about 6 per year. That number isn’t dropping anytime soon.
There are a few prospects that have already flashed an NFL-ready skillset. Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Kayshon Boutte, and Jordan Addison are three players that are garnering early first-round attention – and for good reason.
Jaxson Smith-Njigba is cheating.#RoseBowl
— TRP 🎙 (@trplive) January 2, 2022
Kayshon Boutte is my early WR1! A reliable 3-level wr with play strength & explosiveness. YAC prowess is evident!
— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) May 13, 2022
Jordan Addison's 17 TDs led P5 WRs last season 👀
Where will the former Pitt WR end up?pic.twitter.com/8MOICGukJs
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 18, 2022
There are a couple dozen WR prospects that we could label as ‘early sleepers’ for the 2023 NFL Draft but for the sake of the word count of this article, I’ll limit it to three of my favorites.
Pay attention to these players as we travel through the 2022 season.
Isaiah Neyor – Texas, Junior (RS)
This Wyoming transfer has an attractive blend of size and speed. Isaiah Neyor can fly and is listed at 6’ 3”, 218. As a Cowboy, he used those natural tools to dominate as an outside deep-threat. He matches those tools with great ball-tracking ability. Last season, he won 15 of 25 contested catches, and was able to track down 13 of 33 deep balls – both totals are elite.
Quinn Ewers with a beauty of a deep ball to Isaiah Neyor! pic.twitter.com/F9vgeWk5zd
— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) April 24, 2022
Now with Texas, Neyor will be front-stage. He’ll need to show scouts and NFL Draft analysts that he’s more than just a deep threat. Neyor will have the opportunity to showcase improved footwork and body control at the stem, and more contact strength along the route and upon his release.
Another thing we’re waiting to see from Neyor is some run after catch ability. He’s far from dynamic with the ball in his hands and has forced just 7 missed tackles on 65 career touches.
Even if Neyor never becomes a serious threat after the catch, he still has real WR1 traits that the NFL will covet. His size/speed combo is rare, as is his ability to track the football. If he can find his footing with Quinn Ewers and the Longhorn offense, Isaiah Neyor has the potential to compete for WR1 status for the 2023 NFL Draft class.
Julian Fleming – Ohio St, Junior
The Buckeyes had arguably the most exciting passing attack in the NCAA last season, led by CJ Stroud, Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Chris Olave, and Garrett Wilson. Stroud and JSN will likely pick-up where they left off but who’s going to step into the roles vacated by first-rounders Olave and Wilson?
We saw last season that this passing attack can keep three receivers happy. Marvin Harrison Jr – the Sophomore – looks poised to assume one of the three starting roles but the third is still up for grabs.
My money is on Julian Fleming winning the job.
If you follow NCAAF recruiting at all, you’re already familiar with the #3 – or #2 depending on who you follow – overall prospect from the 2020 recruiting class. Fleming re-wrote the record books for the state of Pennsylvania with 5,514 high school receiving yards and 77 TDs. He’s an ELITE athlete that’s capable of wearing a number of hats for the Buckeye’s offense and return units.
But we haven’t seen much of Fleming at the college level, other than in spot duties in some four-receiver sets. He was buried by an obviously talented Buckeye’s receiver room but he’ll have the opportunity to work himself into a starting role this season.
It’s unclear to those outside the program exactly where he’s is at in his development but if he’s taken advantage of the teaching that the Ohio St staff has to offer, Julian Fleming has a chance to join the ranks of first-round wide receiver prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Antwane Wells Jr – South Carolina, Sophomore (RS)
For @GamecockFB fans: here's some video of Antwane Wells Jr. this past season at James Madison. He set #JMU single-season programs records for receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs pic.twitter.com/IXspewLoUY
— TJ Eck (@TJEck_TV) January 10, 2022
Antwane Wells Jr, an FCS transfer and 2nd-Team All-American, will follow his former school – James Madison – into the Division-I level of competition. He’s landing in an ideal situation with the Gamecocks as the likely #1 receiver for fellow transfer Spencer Rattler.
Wells will not only be given an opportunity to showcase his skills on a brighter stage but he’ll also be given the opportunity to add some variety to his tape. As the Dukes’ primary X-receiver, Wells was used almost exclusively as a boundary receiver on the left side of the formation.
He has zero career rushing attempts and not many reps in an offensive weapon or screen-game role. Most of Wells’ targets come from traditional drop-back passing snaps. That’s definitely not a negative but it would benefit Wells if he can flash some versatility and explosive RAC ability on his tape.
That may not be Wells’ game, however. One of the biggest knocks on him is a potential lack of athleticism and game-breaking long-speed. Against SEC competition, he’ll be given an opportunity to answer those questions.
We like what we already know about Wells. He’s got a thick build for the position with Alpha-X traits and a serious mean streak. He shows up ready to compete and from those close to him within the James Madison program, it sounds like he’s a great character and locker room guy.
If Wells can come even close to replicating the record-breaking production we saw from him with the Dukes, he’ll be climbing big boards in a hurry. He’s on the short-list of players to watch for the 2023 NFL Draft.