By: Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17)
With the Reese’s Senior Bowl on the horizon, the football world will be adjusting their eyes towards Mobile, Alabama in just a couple of days for the storied event. The pre-draft process is just about to heat up, and the group set to embark towards the Senior Bowl is a strong one.
This will be my third consecutive season covering the Senior Bowl in person, and this group of wide receivers will be the most talented I’ve been able to cover in person. In fact, the entire class of wide receivers has a chance to be a historical group, with seemingly unrivaled depth. Both the underclassmen and senior groups have hordes of talented players, and the Senior Bowl will benefit from their presence.
Looking at the 14 wide receiver prospects who will be participating in Mobile, it’s really not out of the realm of possibility that any of them emerge as the strongest among them. That’s going to make for an interesting week for the position, as the competition will be fierce during the practices. Looking at the prospects, they can be grouped into categories based on skill-set and physical profile. Here’s a breakdown of the Senior Bowl wide receivers, and what to look out for with each prospect.
Size, Strength, Ball Skills
Chase Claypool, Notre Dame
Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty
Collin Johnson, Texas
Collin Johnson has been an intriguing talent ever since he stepped foot on the Texas campus. He’s got incredible stride length and long arms, and the ability to expand his catch radius with his body control. Separation during his routes is his major concern, and the Senior Bowl will be an opportunity to show that he’s healthy and has improved his route running.
Chase Claypool finally broke out this past season, posting over 1,000 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. The former decorated basketball player out of Canada has an impressive combination of size and strength, but may be an underrated athlete. His ability along the boundary should bode well during redzone periods in Mobile.
Antonio Gandy-Golden, known as AGG, entered school at Liberty when the school was still competing at the FCS level. Now playing with the heavy hitters in the FBS, Gandy-Golden’s production has continued to increase. After consecutive seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns, AGG will look to prove that he can play consistently against the best cornerbacks in college football.
Size, Strength, And A Little More
Michael Pittman Jr., USC
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
Jauan Jennings, Tennessee
While all of these prospects have impressive physical profiles, their games aren’t limited to over-reliance on their size.
Michael Pittman Jr. is a danger for defenses whenever he steps on the field, as he has a unique ability to drop his hips and accelerate through route breaks. Coupled with his size and how he’s able to anticipate coverage, his explosiveness becomes a major weapon.
Denzel Mims is an intelligent, crafty route runner for his size who is at his best on the vertical plane. While there can be instances of Mims over-relying on his athletic traits, he’s able to make some preposterous receptions along the boundary. He’s a starting caliber X receiver in the NFL.
Bryan Edwards has been a productive receiver since arriving at South Carolina, and his shiftiness is nothing short of remarkable considering his size. Explosive after the catch and showing physicality at the catch-point, Edwards has a uniquely all-around game. Still, he’s left some to be desired along the way, and can use the Senior Bowl to eliminate any doubts about his game.
Despite Jauan Jennings’ lack of production up until his redshirt senior season, he’s been an intriguing prospect with impressive athletic traits. Smooth and slippery for 6’3″ and over 200 pounds, Jennings consistently separates with his horizontal breaks. That should bode well during one-on-obe periods during Senior Bowl practices, as his frame makes it difficult for defensive backs to recover and compete at the catch-point.
Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
Quartney Davis, Texas A&M
Devin Duvernay, Texas
Brandon Aiyuk could be an NFL Scouting Combine hero, as the well-built Arizona State product has plenty of speed to burn. He can be lethal in the vertical third of the field, but doesn’t come without concerns. Aiyuk can be sloppy with his footwork, including in his stance. However, with his play-making ability, there is plenty of intrigue surrounding his evaluation. Look for him to be out to prove that he’s more than capable as a route runner in the entire route tree.
The secret is out on Texas A&M wide receiver Quartney Davis, as his declaration after his redshirt junior season has turned more eyes towards his game. Explosive out of his cuts and able to beat press coverage with crisp footwork, he’s a player just scratching the surface of his athletic gifts. Despite mediocre production, partly due to the Aggies offense, the Senior Bowl could set up Davis as a potential Day 2 selection.
Devin Duvernay played a unique position for the Longhorns this season, accumulating a lot of production close to the line of scrimmage. Still, he caught essentially everything thrown his way, impressive considering his mark of 106 receptions. Duvernay isn’t the most elusive slot receiver prospect, but when he gets going, he gets going. That gives him plenty of yards after the catch ability when he’s able to get the ball in space.
Experienced, Refined Route Runner
Van Jefferson, Florida
K.J. Hill, Ohio State
James Proche, SMU
Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt
These four wide receiver prospects feel like the easiest evaluations and projections among the entire group, as all of them have immediately translatable skillsets due to their route running.
Van Jefferson is one of the purest route runners in the entire wide receiver class. With good size, Jefferson has inside-outside versatility, but is best featured along the boundary due to his releases against press coverage.
James Proche, similar to Jefferson, will be one of the oldest prospects in the draft class, but his production makes up for any worry about his age. He should fit best in the slot upon entering the NFL, as he is a nuanced-focused route runner with an innate knack at adjusting to off-target passes. Though his projection currently sits around Day 3 of the NFL Draft, his possession traits should give the team that pulls the trigger a high return on investment.
K.J. Hill is Ohio State’s all-time leader in receptions, and his fluidity and soft hands are the main reason why. On tape, Hill gets open at will from his slot position, sifting through zones or being able to uncover against man-coverage because of crisp route breaks. He’ll need to prove his plan of attack against press coverage, as he’s rarely been aligned along the boundary during his college career.
Though Kalija Lipscomb’s production dipped this season, his spot in the Senior Bowl was never really in doubt. Lipscomb was still getting open on tape, able to separate on the outside because of his understanding of coverages and footwork. Though he won’t blow the doors off the NFL Scouting Combine with his athletic testing, he’s a solid prospect with a high floor.