2019 NFL DRAFT RANKINGS – WIDE RECEIVERS
By Greg DePalma, OFN Host/Football Analyst
Scouting Combine workouts for wide receivers begin today and no position in this year’s draft will provide more true sleeper options than this one.
In this series of 2019 NFL Draft reports, I list the top 12 pre-Combine sleepers at the wide receiver position who I believe will out-perform their current draft status c/o Ourlads’ official ranking boards and become anywhere from above-average to elite professionals.
Make sure to tune in to the Ourlads’ Guide to the 2019 NFL Draft podcast, as Dan Shonka and I go in-depth on all the latest draft coverage.
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TOP 12 PLAYERS: WIDE RECEIVERS
1 JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Ourlads’ 10th-ranked WR
One of the best receiver prospects with tremendous end-zone jump-ball skills I’ve ever seen.
Arcega-Whiteside uses his excellent size and strong hands to shield defenders and pluck balls with ease. He made huge strides in production over all three of his seasons with the Cardinal totaling an excellent 28 career TDs.
If Arcega-Whiteside can run a quality 40-yard dash today, I see no reason why he couldn’t go off the board by the second round. If he’s available past the second round then he’s a steal.
2 Preston Williams, Colorado State
Ourlads’ 16th-ranked WR – Not invited to Scouting Combine
Very good size/speed receiver with big-play ability.
Williams follows recent Colorado State receivers Rashard Higgins (Cleveland) and Michael Gallup (Dallas) as the latest to break through in the NFL. And in my opinion, Williams has an excellent shot to be the best.
The reason you probably haven’t heard much about Williams, a former 5-star prospect, is because after two non-descript seasons with Tennessee, he decided to transfer from a struggling SEC program to a mediocre Group of 5 one.
Then he was arrested in 2017 following a domestic violence altercation with his ex-girlfriend. After a suspension was handed down, Williams wasn’t cleared to re-join the Rams until last July.
Even though Williams hadn’t played a college game since 2016, he broke out immediately in the 2018 opener against Hawaii (9-188-2 TDs) and never looked back. A matter of fact, he was so dominant last season, he ended his one-year career with the Rams as a top-3 all-time single-season receiver along with both Gallup and Higgins, totaling 96 receptions for 1,345 yards and 14 TDs.
Even though Williams, thanks to his off-the-field past, will slide down most draft boards, he still has a legitimate shot to be one of the top receivers in this class.
3 Jalen Hurd, Baylor
Ourlads’ 45th-ranked WR
This is one polarizing player. Between injury issues and rumors surrounding his desire to play the game, Hurd’s draft stock is going to be all over the place. But after taking a year off from transferring out of Tennessee, I’ve been impressed with how he transformed under the direction of HC Matt Rhule.
And this is important to note, because no matter how much some people want to continue to keep this kid down for the way things turned out in Tennessee, there’s no way you can convince me that Hurd was a ‘slacker’ under a tough-minded coach like Rhule.
As far as his talent on the field goes and the reason why I believe he should be taken seriously as a true sleeper pick, we have to start with his time in Knoxville.
In 2015 as a sophomore running back, Hurd showcased his rushing skills by ranking fourth in the SEC in rushing yards (1,285) behind only three current NFL backs including Heisman winner, Derrick Henry. Fast-forward to Baylor last season, and Hurd’s receiving skills took over when he changed positions and proceeded to catch 69 passes for 946 yards with four scores. He was also used at his old running back position and carried the ball 48 times for 209 yards and three TDs.
It’s this type of versatility as well as his size, speed and physical running style that makes him too good of a prospect in my eyes to not see past his past. A matter of fact, I’m more concerned with his injury issues than anything else.
NOTE: Hurd will be unable to work out at the Senior Bowl due to a knee injury sustained in the regular season finale.
So, would I risk taking a player like Hurd early in the draft? No. I’m not endorsing such a risky move. But Hurd is just way too talented to be taken as late in this draft as he undoubtedly will end up. That’s why once we get towards the 5th-round, I would have to seriously consider taking a shot with a player who I believe could end up as the best bargain of this entire class.
4 David Sills V, West Virginia
Ourlads’ 20th-ranked WR
A good athlete with size, quality hands and legitimate big-play ability.
Sills notched an impressive 33 TDs over his last two seasons in Morgantown, which happens to lead all of his class competitors for this position.
Not bad for a player from a Power 5 school who should be available in the middle rounds.
5 Stanley Morgan Jr, Nebraska
Ourlads’ 26th-ranked WR
The son on an NFL star (Stanley Sr. was a first-round pick by New England in 1977), Stanley Jr. is a polished receiver with excellent hands, plays physical and has no issues going into traffic to make the tough catch. He’s also a bit bigger than his father was.
6 Hunter Renfrow, Clemson
Ourlads’ 27th-ranked WR
While his career stats don’t amaze, the main reason why Renfrow is the closest player in this class to a Julian Edelman or even a Wayne Chrebet, is due to the fact that when the light shines on the brightest stages, Renfrow has proven to shine as good as anyone.
Renfrow was a true revelation for former Clemson QB DeShaun Watson over two playoff runs including one championship win. In four playoff games under Watson, Renfrow caught 26 passes for 289 yards and a whopping five TDs including the game-winner as time ran out to win the 2017 National Championship.
While it’s true that Renfrow’s game has slipped a bit following Watson’s departure, if ends up with the right quarterback and runs a solid 40, Renfrow has the type of important skills necessary for limited athletes like him to be around the game for a long time.
And if Houston doesn’t pick this kid up, or at least fails to try hard to make the reunion happen, then someone needs to have their head examined over there.
7 Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Ourlads’ 24th-ranked WR
Dortch might be tiny for the position, but as long as he runs fast on Saturday, at the very least he’s going to be a valuable addition to any team’s kicking game as a dynamic kick returner.
Dortch also proved himself as one of the top receivers in the ACC in his two seasons at Wake Forest, catching 142 passes for 1,800 yards and 17 TDs.
8 Felton Davis III, Michigan State
Ourlads’ 36th-ranked WR
Davis was the main offensive threat for the Spartans last season that basically concluded on October 13th when his 25-yard TD reception with 19 seconds left stunned the Lions in Happy Valley. That’s because the very next week against Michigan, Davis tore his Achilles and Michigan State was never the same.
I’ve watched overrated Michigan State receivers for years, but Davis was underrated in my book and his career stats are not a good indicator of just how good he was last season.
I also believe strongly that Davis is a better pro prospect than many former Spartan receivers who were statistically better over the years like Aaron Burbridge, Tony Lippett, BJ Cunningham, Blair White & Devin Thomas. A matter of fact, you have to go all the way back to 2002 when Charles Rogers starred at East Lansing to find a better pro prospect than Davis. And let’s not forget that Rogers busted out after three seasons in Detroit as the No.2 overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft.
If Davis returns to form following the injury, I’m confident he’ll surpass Rogers as the best Michigan State pro since Plaxico Burress.
9 KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
Ourlads’ 33rd-ranked WR
Fresno State’s career leader in receptions (275) and receiving yards (3,463) ended his career 42 catches ahead of Green Bay rising star, Davante Adams.
Johnson was fourth in the nation this past season with 93 receptions and had 50 plays of 10 or more scrimmage yards.
But what I like the most about Johnson’s game is his physical presence and how it helps him battle for every pass. That’s a trait that can help him go a long way at the next level.
10 DaMarkus Lodge, Ole Miss
Ourlads’ 28th-ranked WR
With most every analyst preoccupied with the appearance of D.K. Metcalf and the production of AJ Brown, Lodge also has the talent to quietly play in the NFL for a long time. And on top of that, he won’t cost you a first-round pick either.
11 Shawn Poindexter, Arizona
Ourlads’ 41st-ranked WR – Not invited to Scouting Combine
This former high school volleyball star is a late bloomer and one of the top developmental receivers in the draft.
Not only does Poindexter have excellent height for the position, but he also brings his volleyball experience to the field by demonstrating elite leaping skills. That’s a great combination for any NFL team smart enough to take advantage.
Poindexter broke out in a huge way last season (New HC Kevin Sumlin installed more passing to the offense) to tie the program record for receiving TDs in a single season with 11.
And his work ethic and desire to get better will also make it easier for a kid like Poindexter to continue honing his craft and make him a smart developmental addition to any team that gives him a chance.
12 Scotty Miller, Bowling Green
Ourlads’ NR WR – Not invited to Scouting Combine
Miller could end up as one of the more interesting free agent rookies to watch this fall.
Even though he’s only around 165 pounds, Miller has excellent speed, hands and has become a very good route-runner that enabled him to lead the Falcons in receiving over the past three seasons with 208 receptions, 2,838 yards and 23 TDs.
Miller also showed he could be on top of his game against the best competition when he registered 13 receptions for 166 yards and 2 TDs in a Week 1 game at Oregon and then added 10 receptions and 117 yards later that month against Georgia Tech.