Seemingly each and every year, the NFL Draft features one or two standout position groups loaded with premier talent. In 2022, one of those positions is definitely wide receiver, where this year’s draft class features an insane amount of pass-catchers that will make instant impacts on their new teams at the next level. However, based on who you ask or where you look, it is tough to find the separation among the elite of the elite at the top of the board.
The problem with many of today’s ‘draft experts’ is that too many of them don’t really watch all that much college football. These guys check in on the big games and mostly grade what they see based on highlight film and primetime performances. I dont consider myself anywhere near a draft expert, but I certainly watch far more college football than most of these dudes. Need I remind you that following these ‘experts’ is how we wound up with guys like Sam Darnold and Eli Apple getting taken early in the first round, both of whom were bad college players despite what the analytics at the time may have said.
Sure, busts happen. I get that. But if you watch enough of the sport, you can get a pretty good idea of which guys are being overhyped during the pre-draft process. This year is no different, and while it’s odd to see these ‘experts’ already starting to value Aiden Hutchinson over Kayvon Thibodeaux — who, in my mind, is a far superior player in every way — that is a topic for another day. Here, I want to focus on this excellent group of wide receivers, because while I dont think you can go wrong with really any of the top five or six at the position in the first round, I do believe there is a distinct order.
No. 1: Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Garrett Wilson was a five-star prospect coming out of high school at Lake Travis in Texas, and he is the equivalent of a five-star prospect coming out of Ohio State and entering the NFL Draft after three spectacular seasons in Columbus. Don’t let the so-called draft experts lead you astray — Wilson is far and away the best wide receiver prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The No. 20 overall player in the 2019 recruiting class and the No. 2 wide receiver in the cycle, Wilson made an immediate impact for the Buckeyes. Despite joining an already loaded position group at Ohio State, Wilson would go on to finish fourth on the team in receiving as a true freshman with 30 catches for 432 yards and five touchdowns. It came as no surprise that Wilson quickly earned a starting role, being the 1B to Chris Olave’s 1A during the shortened 2020 season with 43 catches for 723 yards and six scores. He was then sensational in his final campaign under position coach Brian Hartline, catching 70 passes for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Wilson is truly a do-it-all type of receiver. One of the best wideouts in program history, the 6-foot, 183 pound pass-catcher showcased a tremendous set of hands with nearly perfect route-running and body control. His ability to create separation from opposing defenders is second to none, and he has experience playing both outside and in the slot. It is rare among NFL prospects, but there truly is no shortcomings to Wilson’s game. Some were worried about his physical traits, but any skepticism there was dashed after his 4.38 40-yard dash. It is easy to see him becoming a team’s WR1 from the jump, and I could see him making an immediate impact similar to that of Ja’Marr Chase on the Bengals.
No. 2: Drake London
Unlike Wilson, London was not as highly touted a receiver coming out of high school. A Moorpark, CA native, London committed to USC in 2019 as the No. 35 wide receiver and No. 247 player in the class overall. While still a good rating by anyones standards as a four-star prospect, the talented wideout was able to far exceed expectations in Southern California.
Playing behind guys like Michael Pittman Jr. and Amon-Ra St. Brown as a freshman, London showed a glimpse of what he could be with 39 catches for 567 yards and five touchdowns in year one. He was able to overtake St. Brown as the Trojans’ leading receiver during the shortened 2020 season, catching 33 passes for a team-high 502 yards and three scores. As the team’s true star on offense heading into 2021, London was off to a phenomenal start in his final season at USC, catching a whopping 88 balls for over 1,000 yards and seven TDs. Unfortunately, his campaign was cut short after a fractured ankle in Week 9 against Arizona ended his season.
One of London’s biggest assets is his stature, standing at 6-foot-4, 219 pounds. NFL teams love a big-bodied receiver they can target in the red zone, and London will provide exactly that. Having played basketball in the past, it certainly shows as London possesses stellar body control and leaping ability, in addition to the ability to high-point the football and win those 50-50 balls. He doesn’t quick have that top-end speed, but he definitely makes up for in almost every other area and will likely parlay that into a long NFL career.
No. 3: Chris Olave
Chris Olave has become the poster child for what a three-star prospect can become. A California native like London, Olave was the No. 399 player in the 2018 class and just the 68th-ranked wide receiver. In fact, if it weren’t for Ryan Day going to scout his high school quarterback Jack Tuttle, the Buckeyes would’ve never ended up with the program’s all-time touchdowns leader.
Olave made a name for himself as a freshman, but it wasn’t until Ohio State’s final game of the regular season, wherein he scored a pair of touchdowns in The Game against rival Michigan and also blocked a punt which was returned for six. The hype grew heading into 2019, and Olave would wind up finishing that season as the team’s leading receiver with 840 yards and 12 touchdowns. He put together another solid campaign during the shortened 2020 season before closing out his collegiate career with 936 yards and a team-high 13 touchdowns as a senior. His 35 career scores are the most by any receiver in Ohio State history.
At 6-foot, 187 pounds, Olave’s measurables don’t jump off the page. He is an interesting prospect, as he doesn’t quite have that elite speed but was also so good at taking the top off of defenses. His 4.39 40-yard dash time likely helped him in that regard, but Olave’s best traits are the intangibles. Olave is a highly intelligent receiver with a knack for route running and finding the holes in the defense. He was also exceptional at keeping plays alive and working his way back to the football when he quarterback was in trouble, a skill that is becoming more and more important in the NFL as QBs get more mobile. Despite being pegged by some as an early second-rounder, it’s hard to not think Olave is one of the draft’s top receives.
No. 4: Jameson Williams
Ohio State fans know the Juiceman well, as before he was a star at Alabama he was catching passes alongside Olave and Wilson in Columbus. Originally committing to the Buckeyes by way of Saint Louis, MO, Williams was the No. 13 wide receiver and the No. 82 overall player in the 2019 class.
Unfortunately, it seemed as though for whatever reason Ohio State could never figure out how to use Williams to the best of his potential. He caught just 15 total passes in his first two seasons with the Buckeyes, totaling 266 yards and three TDs. Williams was clearly a deep threat, but with Olave returning and Wilson/Jaxon Smith-Njigba all ahead of him on the depth chart, Williams would wind up transferring to Alabama. Williams quickly became a star for the Crimson Tide, finishing the 2021 season with 79 catches for over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. Sadly, Williams would go down with a torn ACL in the National Championship Game.
That injury may leave some concern in the eyes of NFL Draft scouts, as Williams’ best trait is far and away his speed. Williams is a true burner, and showcases electric track speed that allows him to easily get behind opposing defenses. He really only ever ran slants and go-routes in college for the most part, so he will likely need to adapt his route tree a bit at the next level, but his athleticism is off the charts and he catches everything that comes his way. Williams has a nice frame, standing at 6-foot-1 and 179 pounds, but is a bit lean. NFL teams love to have a big-play guy, and Williams is certainly a threat to score on any given play. It would not be surprising at all to see him go before Olave based on team needs.
No. 5: Treylon Burks
This is an incredibly deep wide receiver draft, as evidenced by a guy like Treylon Burks being the fifth-best player at his position despite being a star at the collegiate level. The Arkansas native was just outside the top-100 as a high school prospect, ranking as the No. 16 wide receiver in the country before committing to the in-state Razorbacks.
Not playing in exactly the most air-raid of offenses, Burks came out of the gates hot as Arkansas’ leading receiver as a true freshman despite finishing with only 475 yards and zero touchdowns. In fact, Burks was the Razorbacks’ leading receiver in all three seasons with the program, totaling 820 yards with a team-high seven touchdowns as a sophomore in 2020 before his true breakout season in 2021. Burks went off as a junior, racking up over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns on 66 receptions. He was far and away the biggest receiving threat on the team, as no other Arkansas receiver finished with more than 24 catches or more than two scores.
Burks is a big dude, coming in a 6-foot-2, 225 pounds. His size provides for a mismatch against many smaller cornerbacks, and he showed an ability to make plays from all parts of the field. Burks’ speed leaves a bit to be desired, and he didn’t help himself a ton with his 4.55 40-yard dash time at the combine. However, that doesn’t take away from his strong hands, quick cuts, and great body control. He isn’t the fastest guy on the field, but he seems to be able to turn it up to a second gear when needed. Burks will be a more than solid pass-catcher at the next level.
Sleeper: David Bell
I just wanted to throw David Bell in at the end here because I feel like he is being severely overlooked. On top of the guys I've touched on here, you also hear names like George Pickens and Jahan Dotson, but I haven’t heard a ton about Bell.
Sure, playing at a place like Purdue certainly doesn’t work in your favor in terms of the national conversation, but Bell is an incredibly talented wide receiver. Taking over as the heir apparent to Rondale Moore for the Boilermakers, Bell put up a casual 1,286 yards and six TDs on 96 catches this past season. At 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, Bell is a much different player than that of Moore, much less predicated on speed and moreso on clean routes and excellent footwork. A guy with a propensity to pick up yards after the catch, Bell has experience working both outside and in the slot.
I think Bell is going to be a very good wide receiver at the next level, and a team could be getting a real steal if he falls lower in the draft because of the depth at this position.