This article is part of our Dynasty Watch series.
I broke down the Senior Bowl running backs here, but this article will be more lengthy since there are more than twice as many wide receivers.
The initial table of contents will group by team and sort alphabetically, but the actually written blurbs underneath will just be a descending order of current prospect grade.
1. Andy Isabella, Massachusetts (5-9, 186)
I already wrote up Isabella for the rookie top-45 I posted Jan. 14, so I'll block quote that blurb.
Isabella isn't there yet, but he'll be on the mainstream radar in a few minutes here. He's good. He'll be a starter in the NFL. The question is whether the NFL realizes it yet and, if not, if it will come to its senses by the draft.
Isabella was monstrously productive at Massachusetts, and this will be a rare case where the dominant small school guy is among the best athletes in his class as well. He famously beat Denzel Ward in a 200m race back in 2015, and while Isabella may have been some 10-to-20 pounds lighter at the time, he's still expected to run in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash since Ward burned up the combine with a 4.32-second 40 at 183.
Isabella's production is compelling, in any case. He totaled 229 receptions for 3,519 yards and 30 touchdowns on 368 targets over the last three years, good for a catch rate of 62.2 at 9.6 YPT. That includes 101 catches for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018 alone.
According to PFF's Brendan Leister, Isabella has struggled a bit with his releases from the slot early in Senior Bowl practices. Isabella's speed plays outside, but he evidently might be a bit raw on inside snaps as a result of primarily playing outside for UMass. This is a significant concern in his NFL projection, but for now I'm inclined to bet on Isabella's athleticism and production as indicators of adjustment ability.
Projected round: 2-4
Comparison: Randall Cobb
2. Keelan Doss, UC-Davis (6-2, 207)
Doss may be a small school player with potentially advanced age as a redshirt senior, but his production at UC Davis was compelling to the point that he's among the draft's best bets to emerge as a standout starter in the NFL. His projection has a wide range of outcomes, but players with high upside tend to display utterly dominant production like Doss did in college.
Doss was beyond unstoppable for his final three years of college, catching 299 passes for 3,744 yards and 26 touchdowns in 35 games. He caught 13 passes for 106 yards against Stanford in 2018. Even more notable than the volume is the volume weighed against his market share numbers – over that same stretch he claimed 32.7 percent of completions, 35.2 percent of receiving yardage, and 30.6 percent of receiving touchdowns. Doss is almost certainly at least as good as a player like Kendrick Bourne, but very likely better. If Doss' workout metrics check out he could easily end up one of the top receivers of this draft.
Projected round: 3-5
Comparison: Justin Watson
3. Deebo Samuel, South Carolina (6-0, 216)
Samuel doesn't jump out on tape with burning athleticism, yet his propensity for big plays at South Carolina was too constant to be a coincidence. Even if he doesn't time in the low 4.4-second range, Samuels appears the sort of player who's more of a smooth athlete than a fast one specifically, and when combined with his field instincts he proves slippery even if he isn't straight up dusting defenders.
Over the past three years Samuel caught 136 passes for 1,915 yards and 15 touchdowns while adding 154 yards (6.2 YPC) and seven touchdowns on the ground, adding four more touchdowns on just 41 kick return attempts. That receiving production occurred on 208 targets, leaving him with a catch rate of 65.4 at a 9.2 YPT average over that span. That occurred in an offense that completed 61.6 percent of its passes at 7.3 YPA. Samuel emphatically outplayed his environment from a reception and yardage standpoint, though his touchdown share of 18.3 percent is a tad underwhelming.
If there's a concern with Samuel it'd maybe relate to the age at which he accumulated this production, as he turned 23 on Jan. 15. The numbers from an age-22 season are often not all that insightful, but that concern is held in check somewhat by Samuel's age-20 season from 2016, when he caught 70.2 percent of his targets at 9.3 YPT. South Carolina's passing game was awful that year, completing only 61.7 percent of its passes at 6.9 YPA.
Projected round: 3-5
Comparison: Pierre Garcon
4. Jaylen Smith, Louisville (6-2, 221)
Few players in recent memory were as badly misled by the NFL Draft Advisory Board as Smith, who the board instructed to return to school even though Lamar Jackson was headed to the NFL. Smith predictably got owned for it, as his production fell off a cliff while Louisville collapsed, and his mainstream recognition went with it. If you adjust for context, though, there's still reason to believe Smith can emerge a starting receiver in the NFL.
Despite Smith's brutal numbers from 2018 – 36 catches for 550 yards and one touchdown on 72 targets (50 percent catch rate, 7.6 YPT) – the disappointment is rationalized easy enough. He still led the team in receptions and receiving yardage, and the one touchdown can't be held against him since Louisville only threw 10 as a team. Louisville averaged nearly 20 fewer points per game post-Lamar Jackson, so there's more insight to be found in Smith's pre-2018 history.
Prior to 2018, Smith was the best receiver of the Jackson era, and he established himself as superior to Jamari Staples and James Quick, two non-prospects who nonetheless received combine invites and brief attention from the NFL. Smith more specifically outplayed them at a younger age. Smith is young generally – he only turned 21 in August.
In 2016 and 2017, Smith turned 149 targets into 87 catches for 1,579 yards and 13 touchdowns (58.4 percent catch rate, 10.6 YPT), and that was with Jackson completing 57.7 percent of his passes at 8.6 YPA. No matter the events of 2018, Smith is a big wideout who outproduced his playing circumstances at a young age for his experience level. To outplay those circumstances at 19 and 20 is a great insight into Smith's upside.
Although Smith worked a lot as a downfield target of Jackson's, he also had plenty of reps running from the slot and with underneath/intermediate routes generally. It remains to be seen how Smith does with athletic testing, but I'm almost positive his upside is overlooked at the moment.
Projected round: 3-5
Comparison: Riley Cooper
5. Alex Wesley, Northern Colorado (6-0, 191)
I'm less familiar with Wesley than the FBS players, but at a quick glance he may have among the best upside at the position in the draft. That's mostly because Wesley is one of the fastest receivers this year, as his track background implies sub-4.4 speed. That speed comes with standout production at Northern Colorado. Over the last two years he turned 112 catches into 2,060 yards and 10 touchdowns on a team that threw for only 5,639 yards and 38 touchdowns in that span, leaving him with 36.5 percent of the team's receiving yardage and 26.3 percent of its receiving touchdowns.
Wesley was a redshirt senior this and so his breakout production is weighed down by his still undisclosed age, but if he can kill the combine like his track background suggests he might then he might be able to offset the drag of his age in his prospect profile. As a skinny receiver he'll never project as a reliable touchdown source, but he might project similarly to a player like Dante Pettis if he acquits himself well this week and at the combine.
Projected round: 3-UDFA
Comparison: Johnny Knox
6. Terry McLaurin, Ohio State (6-0, 205)
McLaurin is an interesting player who might have flown a bit under the radar due to Ohio State's embarrassment of riches, but for whatever volume limitations in his production McLaurin was distinctly explosive at Ohio State, and could supplement that explosive production with standout athletic metrics.
McLaurin was a redshirt senior this year and that does diminish the significance of his numbers a bit, but his production in 2018 especially was so explosive that it can afford to be taxed a bit. Over the last three years he's turned 113 targets into 75 catches for 1,251 yards and 19 touchdowns, including a bonkers 2018 where he caught 35 of 43 targets for 701 yards and 11 scores (81.4 percent catch rate, 16.3 YPT). He didn't show any especial standout skills and should be able to play inside or out,
Projected round: 4-6
Comparison: Taylor Price
7. Gary Jennings, West Virginia (6-1, 213)
Jennings was generally overshadowed at West Virginia by David Sills, but Jennings strikes me as the easier NFL application between the two, and I'm not convinced that Sills was the better player at West Virginia generally. Sills scored more touchdowns, but Jennings was the team's most reliable target. Playing typically but not exclusively out of the slot, Jennings turned 224 targets over the last three years into 161 receptions for 2,178 yards and 16 touchdowns (71.9 percent catch rate, 9.7 YPT).
It's hard to imagine that Jennings is a standout athlete, but even if he turns out a below average athlete he might still be able to earn meaningful wide receiver snaps in the next few years. His slot viability at bigger than 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds is somewhat novel and he even outplayed the circumstances in the otherwise explosive West Virginia offense.
Projected round: 3-6
Comparison: Jerricho Cotchery
8. Anthony Johnson, Buffalo (6-2, 211)
Very few receivers in recent memory produced like Johnson did at Buffalo, and in this class he's among the most skilled outside receivers. His exact prospect projection is difficult at the moment, though, because he's old for his experience level – around 24 and maybe pushing even 25 – and it's anyone's guess what his workout metrics are otherwise. Anthony Miller was a bit old for his level last year, but it didn't hurt his pro projection any because his production was stellar and he eventually worked out well. Johnson needs to do something similar to hold off the age concern.
If Johnson can test well athletically, then I think he'd be a reliable bet for the third or fourth round. In the meantime I think his range of outcomes is wider than that, even if he does well in the Senior Bowl practices.
But now the good: since arriving to Buffalo as a JUCO transfer and then redshirting in 2016, Johnson went on to torch his 2017 and 2018 opponents to the tune of 133 catches for 2,367 yards and 25 touchdowns on 233 targets (57.1 percent catch rate, 10.2 YPT). Johnson isn't an electric athlete but he seems to flash good speed at times and his ball skills are otherwise convincing.
Projected round: 5-UDFA
Comparison: Jarett Dillard
9. Jakobi Meyers, North Carolina State (6-2, 196)
Meyers is a tough prospect for me because he's a late bloomer, which distracts me from the fact that he otherwise put forth brilliant production in 2018. My concern is that the brilliance of that production was the result of said advanced age as a redshirt junior, and that the rise to NFL competition will negate whatever edge he had. The context is more complicated than that, though.
If Meyers can maintain his dominance as a slot receiver, the fair warning was his 2018 season, which saw him turn 122 targets into 92 receptions for 1,047 yards and four touchdowns (75.4 percent catch rate, 8.6 YPT). That is elite efficiency, no doubt. The catch is that he was far less effective in 2017, which was his third year with the school. You'd normally like to see a player show better at that age, but Meyers finished the year with 63 catches for 727 yards and five touchdowns on 97 targets (65 percent catch rate, 7.5 YPT). That just doesn't move the needle, especially if he was 21 or 22 at the time.
But Meyers' underwhelming 2017 may warrant an exemption. It was only his second year playing wide receiver after initially joining North Carolina State as a quarterback recruit. I think even an optimistic read of Meyers' prospect profile would describe his ceiling as that of a merely adequate third receiver – it's hard to think of why he would be better than someone like Trey Quinn, for instance – but that position switch is no small difficulty, and he got on the field quickly at his new position.
Projected round: 5-UDFA
Comparison: Ryan Grant
10. David Sills, West Virginia (6-3, 210)
Sills was once a national sensation as a quarterback recruit, when then-USC coach Lane Kiffin offered Sills a scholarship at age 13, but following a broken knuckle and ankle and a general devaluing of his prospect grade, the quarterback track and USC connection specifically fell apart. He played receiver for West Virginia for one year in 2015 before attempting to reignite his quarterback career with El Camino College in 2016. The attempt failed and Sills returned to play receiver at West Virginia in 2017.
Sills was dominant in his age-21 season, turning 100 targets into 60 catches for 980 yards and 18 touchdowns. His production fell off a bit in 2018 with 65 catches for 986 yards on 120 targets, but he once again came through with the touchdowns by scoring 15 times. So for his age-21 and age-22 sample, Sills combined to turn 220 targets into 125 receptions for 1,966 yards and 33 touchdowns (56.8 percent catch rate, 8.9 YPT).
Sills is a complicated projection because I don't know how to weigh his touchdown production, which could very well be a systemic product, against his uneven per-target efficiency. The big plays are there, but it's hard to tell how efficient it was at a catch rate under 57 percent at 21 and older. Figuring this out isn't made easier by his position switching.
Sills isn't an obvious standout athlete but his athleticism seems functionally sufficient, and he appears a relatively precise route runner. His hands might not be as good as you'd presume of a jumpball wideout, though, and at 6-3, 210 he might not have the body density to play bully in the NFL. I think he projects less like a red-zone target and more like a big slot receiver in the NFL, and I don't at the moment have any read on what sort of demand there might be for a prospect like him. He needs to do well at both the Senior Bowl and combine to safely project as a draftable player for me.
Projected Round: 5-UDFA
Comparison: Jeff Fuller
11. Penny Hart, Georgia State (5-8, 180)
Hart is a player I want to like, because he was dominant as a true freshman at Georgia State and even outplayed eventual NFL draft pick Reggie Davis at a couple years younger. But Hart's game fell off toward the end of his Georgia State career, including after a nasty season-ending broken foot in 2016, and his very small frame leaves him with little margin for error in his pro projection. The odds of him contributing outside snaps just aren't very good.
From the slot, though, Hart very much knows what he's doing. He caught 71 passes for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns as a true freshman, and then 74 passes for 1,121 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games in 2017. But in 2018 his 88 targets yielded only 49 receptions for 669 yards and two touchdowns. I'm inclined to blame that on the quarterback, but Hart may need to run well to preserve his route to an NFL roster.
Projected round: 5-UDFA
Comparison: Trent Taylor
12. Hunter Renfrow, Clemson (5-10, 175)
Renfrow doesn't look like an NFL prospect at a glance and didn't produce like one either, but both statements were true of Adam Humphries out of Clemson as well. Not to say Renfrow is the same player, but if he sticks in the NFL it will be because of his slot skills.
Renfrow will turn 24 in December and never exceeded 602 yards in a season, so his application is probably limited to the slot. As a former walk-on and fifth-year senior this year, there's not much reason to suspect athletic upside. But he has the functional quickness necessary to run routes well in the middle of the field, and in the last three years his 214 targets went for 153 receptions, 1,641 yards, and 10 touchdowns (71.5 percent catch rate, 7.7 YPT).
Projected round: UDFA
Comparison: Adam Humphries
13. Tyre Brady, Marshall (6-2, 206)
Brady is interesting enough as a bigger receiver and former Miami (FL) transfer who produced at a high level for Marshall, but he wasn't a particularly high recruit by Miami's standards and his positive production at Marshall might be cheapened significantly by his advanced age, as he'll turn 24 in April.
It's less impressive considering he was 22 and 23 years old over the two seasons, but from 2017 to 2018 Brady did well for himself, turning 249 targets into 133 catches for 1,944 yards and 17 touchdowns (53.4 percent catch rate, 7.8 YPT). The per-target numbers are not good, but to be fair Marshall's quarterback play was a drag. My inclination is to mostly ignore Brady unless he puts up some top-level workout metrics to ease concern over the shoddy age-adjusted production.
Projected round: UDFA
Comparison: Bennie Fowler
14. Travis Fulgham, Old Dominion (6-2, 210)
Fulgham is a bigger receiver with a lot of experience and a strong 2018 season to his credit, but he's a former redshirt walk-on at one of the FBS' least prestigious schools, and he was a late bloomer despite the low level of competition and advanced age. It's a good look for Fulgham that he turend 109 targets into 63 receptions for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns this year, but there's more insight in the 872 yards from the two prior years at 7.2 YPT. He was a much lesser player for Old Dominion than Zach Pascal was, for instance.
Projected round: UDFA