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Thor's Wide Receiver Rankings

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: April 22, 2020, 12:42 pm ET

11. KJ Hamler (Penn State) | 5'9/178

hamler

SPARQ percentile: N/A

Adjusted SPARQ: N/A

RAS: N/A

Comp: Tavon Austin (Zierlein)

An undersized slot with a glaring issue of letting balls gobble him up, Hamler nonetheless declared for the NFL Draft following his redshirt sophomore season. It was difficult to blame him due to the one elite trait he possesses: Athletic explosion. He has it in spades.

But oh those hands. Hamler dropped 12 balls on 70 catchable targets last year (17.1% drop rate). Hamler also had four drops in 2018. He’s a body-catcher with a tiny catch radius. You have to fit it in there just so, and even when you do, he may not haul it in. Over the past two years, according to PFF, Hamler ranked No. 103 out of 106 qualifying slot receivers in percentage of catchable balls caught (80.7%). He gets lost in traffic, and he hasn’t yet learned how to naturally locate the ball over his shoulder while traveling at high speeds.

Luckily for Hamler, he isn’t often in contested situations. His athleticism is a true trump card – PFF ranked him No. 4 in the country last year on percentage of balls thrown 10+ yards downfield where he had his man beat by at least a step. He’s a bullet off the snap and a blur from there. And on any ball he hauls in, hold your breath – Hamler has a knack for slicing into open spaces and hitting the jets. 

This kind of athleticism out of the slot, coupled with the punt return contributions Hamler will make from Day 1, give him a Draft Day floor of Round 2. Despite all the drops. 


12. Chase Claypool (Notre Dame) | 6'4/238 

claypool

SPARQ percentile: ~98

Adjusted SPARQ: .83

RAS: 10

Comp: Evan Engram

Those Notre Dame wideouts know how to prepare for the NFL Combine, eh? A year ago it was Miles Boykin posting a 99th percentile SPARQ score. Claypool just about matched him at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds. Another 10 pounds or so and Claypool is at or near the top of an underwhelming tight ends class. 

He’d be a nightmare up the seam. He’s so hard to deal with downfield because of his size/speed combination – he ranked No. 11 in the country in PFF’s receiving grades 20+ yards downfield last year. But he was scarcely used in the intermediate area. 

He’s a straight-line athlete on the field; his breaks lack snap, which telegraphs his intentions in advance. You get it to him quick and let him bamboozle would-be tacklers – he had 14 forced missed tackles last fall – or you chuck it to him deep.

Like former Irish receiver Will Fuller, Claypool bedevils with drops, with seven in 2019. He dropped six passes in 2017, four in 2018. But Claypool will offer his quarterback is a huge and accessible target downfield. He knows how to use his frame in jump ball situations, and his hands seem to play up in contested situations – he ranked No. 17 in the country with 15 such catches last year, according to PFF. 

Claypool offers sneaky value in other phases, as well. He’s a vicious blocker. He’s an ace special-teamer. And you have the potential to bulk him up for a shift to move-TE if the whole wide receiver thing doesn’t work out. He can already block – let’s just do this thing. All of that raises the ceiling and makes Claypool, in my mind, a safe Day 2 pick.


13. Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty) | 6'4/223

gandy

SPARQ percentile: 57.0

Adjusted SPARQ: .67

RAS: 6.72

Comp: Michael Floyd

Gandy-Golden is a wildcard in this historically stocked wide receiver class. He was overlooked in recruiting. He went to tiny Liberty, which didn’t even move up to the FBS until 2018. He was a childhood gymnast. He didn’t reach six-feet tall until his junior year of high school. 

You get regular flashes of the smaller gymnast he once was. In particular: Balance and body control. The agility and ability to throw on the brakes at high speeds are rare for a rangy, well-built 6-foot-4, 223-pounder. And with his hops and arm length, Gandy-Golden can steal balls over the centerfield wall that others can’t.


His technique, release and route-running need work. Gandy-Golden does damage when he’s left to his own devices at the line of scrimmage. But when teams press him, he sometimes appears to be a man without a plan. It’ll be interesting to see how he does against more of that in the NFL, because it’s coming – Gandy-Golden’s large frame and lethargic setup off the snap will invite press coverage until he proves he can beat it.


14. Lynn Bowden (Kentucky) | 5'11/204

bowden

SPARQ percentile: N/A

Adjusted SPARQ: N/A

RAS: N/A

Comp: Randall Cobb

Bowden starred all over the field in Lexington on his way to winning the Paul Hornung Award as the country’s most versatile player in 2019. Bowden did the following in the fall at various times: caught passes, returned punts, returned kicks and (due to multiple injuries at the position) started the final eight games of the season as a Wildcat quarterback. 

He wreaked havoc as a rusher out of the ‘Cat, rolling for 1,468 yards rushing on 185 attempts. It was an incredible display – a slot receiver shifting to quarterback in the middle of the season, running into the teeth of SEC defenses that knew he was coming and averaging over seven yards a carry. Bowden simply sees the field differently, and he’s a banshee to tackle despite his diminutive size, with 48 broken tackles on his rushing attempts last season and 17 broken tackles on 67 receptions the year before. Which is good, because he lacks true top-gear athleticism.

Bowden is ticketed for the slot in the NFL, along with return duties and gadget plays. His NFL team will need to work with him on his receiving craft, as Bowden exasperates his lack of elite juice with a one-size-fits-all pace to his routes. Because he has struggled at the catch point, it’s imperative that Bowden clean up his routes to buy separation. If he can, Bowden could be a dangerous slot for a long time.


15. Devin Duvernay (Texas) | 5'10/200

duvernay

SPARQ percentile: 68.2

Adjusted SPARQ: .93

RAS: 8.24

Comp: Albert Wilson (Renner)

Only Henry Ruggs, Quez Watkins and Denzel Mims out-blazed Duvernay’s 4.39 seconds in the combine 40 among receivers. No surprise from the former trackster. Duvernay was used heavily on screens at Texas -- 42 of his 106 catches in 2019 came on screens -- with his route-tree pruned by the system. He dropped just five balls on 180 career catchable passes, per PFF, one of the best rates in the class. He’s also a tackle-breaking machine, ranking No. 3 in the class with 23 last year. That combination of speed, hands and elusiveness will need to carry the day early as Duvernay acclimates to pro ball, where he will surely be asked to do a bit more than the Longhorns did. Nifty starter kit, though.


16. Bryan Edwards (South Carolina) | 6'3/212

edwards

SPARQ percentile: N/A

Adjusted SPARQ: N/A

RAS: N/A

Comp: Marcell Ateman (Marino)

Edwards broke his foot while prepping for the NFL Combine but should be fine going forward. His breakout age 17.9, the youngest age in the class, with an ethos that blends violence after the catch and majestic beauty in the air on 50-50 balls. But Edwards’ lack of a top gear and wiggle allows defenders to crowd him, and he’s not as good in contested situations as he needs to be for a player who’ll rarely separate on his own. 



17. Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State) | 6'4/210

hodgins

SPARQ percentile: 70.7

Adjusted SPARQ: .45

RAS: 7.04

Comp: Geronimo Allison (Zierlein)

The former four-star recruit finished No. 16 (31.96%) in the nation in market share last fall, a target hog for Jake Luton. Hodgins brings a sturdy frame, nice length and utterly sensational hands to the field. He only dropped three balls on 179 catchable balls over his career and recorded an absurd 67.4% contested catch rate, per PFF. A clever player who doesn’t create much separation but opens throwing windows despite lacking high-end athleticism with nifty feet and good feel for leverage, Hodgins has WR2 upside. 



18. Tyler Johnson (Minnesota) | 6'1/206

johnson

SPARQ percentile: N/A

Adjusted SPARQ: N/A

RAS: N/A

Comp: Mohamed Sanu (Solak)

Johnson was snubbed by the Senior Bowl – indicative of NFL pessimism – before pulling out of the Shrine, citing preparations for the Combine. He then pulled out of Combine testing, citing a need to work on his technique more for pro day. You know what happened next – Johnson won’t be testing at all. Johnson has reams of strong game film. He’s a big slot who feasts over the middle, with 953 of his receiving yards last year coming on catches 0-20 yards downfield in the middle of the field (with 547 of them coming between 10-20), per PFF. His ball skills are insane – his highlight reel of top catches can compete with any prospect in this class. 


But Johnson lacks short-area quicks and long speed. That’s the reason he was ducking – er, waiting on – the testing. It’s the reason for the NFL’s reported pessimism. He didn’t do much damage downfield in college. It’s great that he’s so skilled in contested situations. Not so great that he’s always in them despite not working downfield much. He should have just tested. It doesn’t feel like the NFL is going to give him the benefit of the doubt on that front.


19. John Hightower (Boise State) | 6'1/189

tower

SPARQ percentile: 74.3

Adjusted SPARQ: .46

RAS: 9.05

Comp: Kenny Stills (Renner)

It’s easy to envision Hightower being ragdolled in the NFL with that frame, but it’s just as easy to envision him roasting a pro corner down the sideline. Hightower’s 18.5 yards per catch in 2019 were fifth most in this class and his 4.43-second 40 at the combine confirmed what we already knew. He’s a pop-the-top guy who isn’t going to win many contested situations or break many tackles, but your safeties must account for him.



20. Van Jefferson (Florida) | 6'1/200

vanjefferson

SPARQ percentile: N/A

Adjusted SPARQ: N/A

RAS: N/A

Comp: Rashard Higgins (Marino)

Jefferson runs professional routes, using subtle quick steps and even subtler hand maneuvering to break himself open. He doesn’t rely on supreme athleticism -- because he doesn’t have it -- but he makes up for that at least in part with an intrinsic feel for manipulating the defense, even if that manipulation trick wears off after he gets the ball in his hands (Jefferson forced just three missed tackles in 2019, per PFF). By the time September rolls around, he will be 24 years old. And on top of that, it was reported at the end of February that Jefferson required Jones surgery. An older rookie undergoing foot surgery and lacking for standout athleticism is a difficult sell to make, creative as he might be.



21. Gabriel Davis (Central Florida) | 6'2/216

davis

SPARQ percentile: 38.9

Adjusted SPARQ: .51

RAS: 7.11

Comp: Quincy Adeboyejo (Benjamin Solak)

The big-bodied wideout packs a punch down the field, using brute force physicality to bully his way through single coverage downfield and in one-on-one jump ball matchups. A size-speed brawler, Davis’ physical potential is obvious, but there’s a real danger he falls flat in the pros if he can’t shore up his messiness with the basics. Put it this way -- he had a tendency toward running blasé routes in a system that was demanding nothing of him at UCF. 


 


22. Quintez Cephus (Wisconsin) | 6'1 202

cephus

SPARQ percentile: 48.9

Adjusted SPARQ: 0.26

RAS: 4.62

Comp: Justin Blackmon


23. K.J. Hill (Ohio State) | 6’0/196

hill

SPARQ percentile: 18.9

Adjusted SPARQ: .32

RAS: 3.77

Comp: DaeSean Hamilton (Zierlein)

Hill considered declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft but backed off at the last second. He left Ohio State as one of the best statistical receivers in school history. Hill’s upside is capped as a sub-200 pounder who lacks burner speed, but he’s going to carve out a long NFL career due to the work he’ll do in the short-to-intermediate areas with his hands, quicks and craftiness. 



24. Collin Johnson (Texas) | 6'6/222

johnson

SPARQ percentile: N/A

Adjusted SPARQ: N/A

RAS: N/A

Comp: Malcom Floyd (Renner)

Johnson probably should have declared for the NFL Draft following the 2018 season. His 2019 was riddled with injuries. When he did make the field, slot WR Devin Duvernay saw far more targets. Johnson is an enormous outside option with elite length and catch radius who’ll plant a corner in the turf when run blocking. But he gets suffocated in coverage because of labored cuts and breaks at his size. And while Johnson dropped only 11 balls over 306 targets at Texas, his low contested catch rate troubles when considering the issues he’s going to have separating.


 


25. James Proche (SMU) | 6'6/222

proche

SPARQ: N/A

Adjusted SPARQ: N/A

RAS: 3.99

Comp: Hunter Renfrow


Best of the rest

Name Rank Ht Wt Comp SPARQ RAS Adj. SPQ
Donovan Peoples-Jones WR26 6'2 212 Charone Peake ~99 9.83 0.97
Kalija Lipscomb WR27 6'0 207 Andrew Hawkins 53.8 6.06 0.64
Quez Watkins WR28 6'0 185 Zach Pascell 49.2 7.37 0.64
Darnell Mooney WR29 5'10 176 Paul Richardson 66.3 7.17 0.69
Jauan Jennings WR30 6'2 215 Tajae Sharpe 8.4 2.58 0.13
Isaiah Coulter WR31 6'2 198 Allen Hurns 27.3 6.2 0.43
Quartney Davis WR32 6'1 201 Marqise Lee 52.4 8.21 ---
Joe Reed WR33 6'0 224 Cody Latimer 88.7 9.64 0.58
Dezmon Patmon WR34 6'4 225 Brian Quick 85.3 8.67 0.91
Omar Bayless WR35 6'1 212 DaMarkus Lodge 30.2 4.2 0.41
Juwan Johnson WR36 6'4 230 Auden Tate 64.1 6.73 0.58
Malcolm Perry WR37 5'9 194 Joshua Cribbs 78.1 3.06 ---
J.F. Thomas WR38 5'9 170 Antonio Callaway 53.8 6.34 0.33
Trishton Jackson WR39 6'1 197 Paul Richardson 46.8 7.4 0.16
Marquez Callaway WR40 6'1 205 Russell Shepard 73.5 8.02 0.58
Cody White WR41 6'3 217 Marcell Ateman 29.3 3.46 0.22
Aaron Parker WR42 6'2 209 Brandon LaFell 7 4.22 0.04
Austin Mack WR43 6'1 208 Isaiah Ford 9.1 3.75 0.13
K.J. Osborn WR44 5'11 203 Jeremy Ross 81.4 8.09 0.79
Freddie Swain WR45 6'0 197 Jermaine Kearse 68.7 8.1 0.53
Aaron Fuller WR46 5'11 188 Dede Westbrook 11.4 2.85 0.07
Kirk Merritt WR47 5'11 208 Stacy Coley --- --- ---
Lawrence Cager WR48 6'4 220 Justin Watson --- --- ---
Ja'Marcus Bradley WR49 6'0 198 DeAndrew White --- --- ---
Josh Pearson WR50 6'3 205 Josh Reynolds --- --- ---
Tyrie Cleveland WR51 6'2 209 Ashton Dulin 89.4 9.52 0.69
Kendall Hinton WR52 5'10 193 Rashard Higgins --- --- ---
Kendrick Rogers WR53 6'4 208 Martavis Bryant 63.0 7.99 0.59
Binjimen Victor WR54 6'4 198 Darvin Adams 58.5 5.74 0.65
Chris Finke WR55 5'9 186 Jeremy Gallon 70.5 3.12 0.17
Stephen Guidry WR56 6'3 201 Aaron Dobson 27.7 6.66 0.57
Scotty Washington WR57 6'5 217 Marlon Brown --- --- ---
Maurice Ffrench WR58 5'10 194 Hunter Sharp --- --- ---
Cedric Byrd WR59 5'9 172 Quan Cosby --- --- ---
Tyler Simmons WR60 5'11 204 Clyde Gates --- --- ---
Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!