The Home of Fantasy Sports Analysis

2019 NFL Draft Watchlist: Wide Receivers, Part 1

The NFL Draft is a distinctly undemocratic process, where players are picked not by popular vote, but by the elite general managers and owners of NFL teams in their ivory tower war rooms. We of the unwashed masses don’t always know what goes into the making of a draft pick, what secret flaws and hidden skills they have.

That’s why I decided to let you, the people, vote to determine the order we would analyze the records of the top candidates (read: prospects) for the 2019 NFL Draft here on Fantrax.

We have already gone through our running backs, so we are here to run down the top wide receivers for dynasty or developmental (devy) fantasy football players. Going forward, there will be individual evaluations of players, but this article is a quick “get to know you” for the potential class as a whole.

For more on devy leagues, check out John Laub’s devy league rankings here.

Measurables projections are courtesy of, and an asterisk (*) after the name means they are an underclassman and may decide not to declare for this draft class.

Previous watchlist articles
Running Backs, Part 1
Running Backs, Part  2

Which wide receivers should you be watching heading into the 2019 NFL Draft?


1. A.J. Brown, Mississippi*
6’1”, 225 pounds
Age at 2019 Draft: 21 yr., 10 mo.
Projected 40-yard dash: 4.50

Despite being in one of the most stacked wide receiver corps in the nation, A.J. Brown has begun to truly make a name for himself as a pending NFL prospect. Perhaps his best quality is the crisp route-running that enables him to be exactly where the quarterback throws the pass, when he throws it. Brown does all the little things right, from footwork and hand fighting at the line to clean breaks at the top of his route and high-pointing the ball. At a sturdy 225 pounds, Brown’s project 40-yard dash gives him a projected Speed Score of 109.7 – on par with the likes of Brandon Marshall or Mike Evans.

Brown saw his first year at Ole Miss redshirted, but he turned in a big-time breakout in his redshirt freshman 2017 season. On a strong 75 catches, Brown posted 1,252 receiving yards (16.7 average) and 11 touchdowns (14.67 percent rate). He has the measurables and production to make a legit case to be the first receiver off the draft board in 2019, and he should instantly fit as an NFL team’s true top receiver.


2. N’Keal Harry, Arizona State*
6’3”, 216 pounds
Age at 2019 Draft: 21 yr., 4 mo.
Projected 40-yard dash: 4.52

Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry has been beating up on college cornerbacks since he was a true freshman in 2016. The rocked-up, massive receiver runs at a solid speed – with a projected 103.5 Speed Score – but he more than makes up for a lack of quickness with his bully-ball style of physical play at the wide receiver position. Jump balls are never a concern for Harry, as he wins at the catch point both by beating the defender and with insane body control. With the ball in his hands, he’s like a bulldozer to opposing defensive backs; yards after the catch are won with sheer force.

His dominance shows in his stat line, too: Harry has accrued 140 catches over the past two years, earning a whopping 1,801 receiving yards (12.9 average) and 13 touchdowns on them (9.29 percent rate). Harry will instantly upgrade a team’s end-zone presence, but he should be a strong possession receiver that a young or middling quarterback can rely on and a better passer can truly unlock.


3. D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi*
6’3”, 225 pounds
Age at 2019 Draft: 21 yr., 5 mo.
Projected 40-yard dash: 4.57

DeKaylin (D.K.) Metcalf went from a four-star recruit and just the 16th-best wide receiver in the 2016 recruiting class by 24/7 Sports to a locked-in star prospect for the NFL once he reached Ole Miss. Metcalf has the size to be a dominant force on the boundary, not to mention the short-area quickness to create separation. The only question is his straight-line speed, which tested at a 4.68 40-yard dash coming out of high school but has apparently rocketed up to a 4.45 in workouts. That would range between a 93.8 projected Speed Score (very reminiscent of his predecessor, Laquon Treadwell) or a hyper-elite 114.8 (more on the order of Calvin Johnson); we’re splitting the difference in our projection.

Metcalf’s true freshman 2016 season at Ole Miss saw him earn just two catches for 13 yards – though they were both touchdowns – before breaking his foot against Wofford in just the second game of the season. In his redshirt freshman 2017, Metcalf had a mini-breakout with 39 receptions for 646 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, proving that he could bounce back from the injury and be a big player even in a loaded wide receiver group with the likes of the aforementioned Brown and DaMarkus Lodge. Metcalf’s best immediate pro fit will be as a red-zone threat, but if he tests well at the NFL Combine and shows long speed, he could easily be developed into a true No. 1 receiver at the next level.


4. Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
5’11”, 215 pounds
Age at 2019 Draft: 23 yr., 3 mo.
Projected 40-yard dash: 4.50

Our only “short” receiver in the top-five of this list is South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel, a stocky receiver built thick like a running back. He uses this low center of gravity as an anchor to help him break quickly and cleanly, running precise routes with urgency and speed. His footwork is impeccable and his speed is more than adequate deep as well (projected Speed Score of 104.9), but he doesn’t have the catch-point “my ball mentality” that some of the other receivers in this class do. Gaining separation and after the catch, Samuel is a monster, and should be a high-target PPR dream in the mold of Julian Edelman.

Unfortunately, Samuel hasn’t been able to put his tools into production all at the same time, however, seeing the field for just 18 games over his three-year college career. His most recent injury, a broken fibula, limited him to just three games in 2017. However, he has a solid career line of 86 catches for 1,194 receiving yards (13.9 average) and five touchdowns (5.81 percent rate), and even added 17 rushes for 128 yards (7.5 average) and seven touchdowns (41.18 percent rate). He’s a versatile threat that will find a home in a versatile NFL.


5. Jaylen Smith, Louisville
6’3”, 219 pounds
Age at 2019 Draft: 21 yr., 9 mo.
Projected 40-yard dash: 4.52

Rounding out the top-five is another member of a stacked receiving group, as Louisville’s Jaylen Smith is proving his mettle as a pro-caliber prospect. After a relatively slow freshman 2015, Smith burst onto the scene in 2016 and 2017, putting up 87 catches for 1,579 receiving yards (18.1 average) and 13 touchdowns (14.94 percent rate). A deep threat with the frame of a possession receiver, Smith is the human embodiment of the phrase “go route”; he runs solely in a straight line, but he has soft hands and is reliable down the field where many receivers are not.

Smith is not a physical freak like some other receivers, but he has true No. 1 size and speed (projected 104.9 Speed Score). He’ll have to polish up his technique, but he returns to the Cardinals to round out an impressive college career and prove an upside prospect in the pros.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.